10/20/17  US U17s vs England Sat 10:30 am FS2, US Women Sun 3 pm ESPN, Indy 11 host PR on Sat 3 pm special game.

The Indy 11 will host Puerto Rico this Saturday at 3 pm at the Mike – in a game to benefit the victims of the hurricane tickets are just $5 order here!

The US U17 Men will face England Saturday at 10:30 at with a spot in the Final 4 on the line on Fox Sports 2.  The U 17s demolished Paraguay 5-0.  Winner will meet the Brazil vs Germany winner on Wed.  Meanwhile the US Ladies fresh off a 3-1 win last night – will face Korea again on Sunday at 2 pm on ESPN.

The MLS Season wraps up this Sunday with decision day on Oct 22  featuring multiple games with the playoff implications across Fox and ESPN networks. The playoffs will begin the following Wed/Thurs.  ESPN will start coverage at 4 pm and bounce around from game to game until 6:30 pm following all the playoff action!!   This Atlanta United and US National Team Goalie Brad Guzan is currently sitting on a shutout streak of 482 minutes. If he and Atlanta United hold Toronto FC scoreless, he could have the third-longest individual shutout streak in MLS history – in front of what Is expected to be the biggest ever MLS crowd of over 75,000 expected in Mercedes Benz Stadium!

Big World games this weekend include Everton vs Arsenal Sun at 7:30 am on NBCSN, and Tottenham vs Liverpool at 11 am.

 MLS

Crew could be leaving Columbus?  Jeff Carlisle -ESPNFC

Atlanta Sets to Break MLS Single Game Attendance Record with 75K + vs Toronto

Playoff Scenarios – on final Decision Day Sunday – MLS.com

Records that May Fall on Decision Day Sunday in MLS

Who will Win on Final Day of Season

DC United Hope to Close RFK Stadium in Style vs NYRB  – MLS.com

Kaka Not returning to Orlando City in 2018

USA

Landon Donovan Considers Run for US Soccer President

US Set to Choose Interim Coach this weekend to Coach Nov Friendly

Claudia Reyna Says US Soccer Way to Arrogant

Fox Changes Plans with US Eliminated- more Mexico, Stars

US Ladies down South Korea 3-1

US Ladies 3 -1 Highlights

 

US U17s Advance to Quarterfinals vs England on Sat 10:30 am

US U17s WC – Preview of Quarter Final vs England Sat 10:30 am on FS2

5 things to Know About US U17 Run to WC

World

Champions League ½ Way Point

Messi scores 100th Champ League Goal & Complete Wrap-Up

World Power Rankings – Barca, PSG, Man City, Man U, Tottenham

Indy 11

Indy 11 add Puerto Rico Home game on Sat Oct 21 at 3 pm

Indy 11 out of Playoff hunt with loss to Miami

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am Fox Sport 2       U17 WC Mali vs Ghana

9:30 am Fox Sport 1      Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

10:30 am FS2               USA U17 WC vs England – Quarters

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2   Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

3 pm myindy Tv        Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN         Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Spain vs Iran – Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer      U17 WC Germany vs Brazil – Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN               Tottenham vs Liverpool

2 pm ESPN                   USA Ladies vs Korea Republic

4 pm ESPN                  MLS Decision Day

Weds, Oct 25

7:30 am FS 2                  Semi Final U17 WC (Rd of 4)

10:30 am FS 2               Semi Final U17 WC (Rd of 4)

2:45 pm ESPN3            Chelsea vs Everton (League Cup)

Fri, Oct 27

2:45 pm beIN Sport    PSG vs Nice

Sat, Oct 28

7:30 am NBCSN          Man U vs Tottenham

7:30 am FS2                   U17 World Cup 3rd place

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Hanover vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Liverpool vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC??              Arsenal vs Swansea City

10:30 am FS2             U17 World Cup Final

12 pm beIN Sport?    Milan vs Juventus

12:30 pm NBCSN?      West Brom vs Man City

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2  Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig

Sun, Oct 29

7:30 am NBCSN         Brighton vs Southampton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN          Leicester City vs Everton

4 pm + 7 pm            MLS Playoffs? 

5 pm MyindyTV    Indy 11 vs North Carolina

Full MLS Schedule

Indy Eleven vs Puerto Rico FC -Saturday, October 21 at 3:00 PM!

Indy Eleven is hosting Puerto Rico FC this Saturday, October 21 at 3:00 PM.  Your “Boys in Blue” were originally scheduled to play this match in Puerto Rico.  However, the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Maria requires the match to be played at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. And here’s the best news of all…For this match only, Indy Eleven is offering the best prices ever on single-game tickets, starting at only $5. This ticket offer is available through the ticket link at the bottom of this email.  As we did back on October 4, we will again be offering you the opportunity to support Puerto Rico hurricane relief efforts by contributing to Carmelo Anthony’s fundraising link at bit.ly/Unite4PR. See you this Saturday!  If you have any questions or want to learn more, please send us a note at tickets@indyeleven.com or call us at 317-685-1100 today or Friday during regular business hours!     Order $5 tickets Here.

To Soothe The U.S. World Cup Failure, Watch The Under-17s Play

OCTOBER 20, 2017 By Brian Willett

If you need a break from the lamentations over lack of coaching, poor talent, and general malaise of the U.S. Men’s National Team, perhaps the U-17s, where international soccer teams with players younger than 17 compete, can offer some respite. The United States faces England in the U-17 World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday (10:30 a.m. EDT/FS2). A win would see the U.S. U-17s advance farther in the World Cup than they have in nearly two decades.

Put simply: They’re a fun team to watch and promise a potentially bright future for the senior national team. In the group stages, they beat host India 3-0 and eternal foe Ghana 1-0 before losing to Colombia 3-1. They ended the group stage tied with Ghana and Colombia on points, but dropped to third place because of that loss to Colombia (they advanced as one of the best third-place finishers). The “Baby Nats” put on a clinic against their first knock-out opponent Paraguay, scoring five goals that you most definitely should watch. Three wins in four while playing the style of soccer that many American fans wish the senior team could, including three minutes of possession to close out the Paraguay game. It’s enough to give hope to even the most cynical fans.

Youth Development Is Paying Off

This side also enjoys a more professional set of players, showing the sort of youth development this country needs for future national team success. A handful ply their trade outside this country, with one each at Monterrey (Mexico), Ajax (Netherlands), Benfica (Portugal), and Paris Saint-Germain. About half come from Major League Soccer clubs, with a few having made at least one club appearance (remember, they’re barely old enough to drive).

The U-17 World Cup does not guarantee success at the senior level, neither for players nor nations. American soccer’s biggest “what-if,” Freddy Adu, regularly performed well in youth tournaments. The most successful American squad took fourth place in 1999, and only five of those played any significant role in the full men’s national team. Nigeria has won three of the last five tournaments since 2007, with Switzerland and Mexico taking one each during that time. Those countries have all been competitive in recent international tournaments, but none have made a significant impact.But that 1999 squad featured Landon Donovan, Damarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onwewu, Bobby Convey, and Kyle Beckerman, all of whom appeared in at least one World Cup. Donovan and Beasley contributed significantly to the USA’s quarter-final run in the 2002 World Cup. And the last four in recent U-17 World Cups includes countries whose success and talents the United States can only envy: Spain, Germany, Argentina, Belgium.Most importantly, it gives potential men’s national team players experience in playing and winning in an international tournament. That could make a big difference in 2022 or 2026, especially since the national team looks likely to skew much younger for at least the next two years.

The U-17s will face an England side that scored 11 goals in the group stage and has only conceded two goals in four games. But the United States will be boosted by the absence of England’s Jadon Sancho. The Borussia Dortmund prospect scored three goals in the group stage, but was recalled by his club before the knockout stages.

Three Players to Watch

Andrew Carleton—The Powder Springs, Ga. native has two goals and three assists in this tournament. He made his professional debut at 16 with second-division Charleston Battery. The midfielder is Atlanta United’s first Homegrown Player and one of the most promising young Americans.

 Tim Weah—Weah has good pedigree as the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year and aspiring Liberian presidential candidate George Weah. He became the fifth American to net a hat trick in a World Cup after scoring three against Paraguay. He’s the first to do it since Adu a decade ago. Weah joined Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy in 2014 and signed a professional contract this summer.

Josh Sargent—The occasionally goofy-haired forward already played in one youth tournament this year, scoring four goals in the U-20 World Cup this summer. The O’Fallon, Mo. native parlayed that performance into a contract with German club Werder Bremen, following training stints with Dutch club PSV and Schalke in Germany.

PREVIEW: U-17 MNT TAKES ON ENGLAND IN WORLD CUP QUARTERFINALS ON SATURDAY | 10:30AM ET | FS2, TELEMUNDO

GOA, India (Oct. 19, 2017) — The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team continues its incredible run in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup when it takes on England in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa, India. The match will be broadcast live beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS2 and Telemundo. Fans can also follow the match on Twitter at @ussoccer_ynt.The United States is coming off Monday’s Round of 16 encounter with Paraguay, where the USA utilized a stunning hat trick from Tim Weah and single strikes from Andrew Carleton and Josh Sargent to earn a comprehensive 5-0 victory in New Delhi.The result was the USA’s second win all-time in the U-17 World Cup Knockout Stage and first since 1999. John Hackworth’s side also becomes the first U.S. team to advance to the tournament’s Quarterfinals since the 2005 squad, which coincidentally was the first team he led at the U-17 World Cup.Following Monday’s victory, the U.S. turned its attention to Tuesday’s clash between England and Japan. Both teams traded chances during the steamy match in Kalkota, but a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes led to England running out 5-3 winners on penalty kicks, setting up Saturday’s meeting with the USA in Goa.

U.S. U-17 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)
DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)
FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

TIM WEAH MAKES HISTORY IN 5-0 WIN VS. PARAGUAY
Chief among the highlights of the USA’s memorable 5-0 shutout of Paraguay in the Round of 16 was the hat trick scored by Tim Weah. The Paris Saint-Germain forward gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute, made it a brace with a stunning strike in the 53rd and capped his hat trick with a tap-in in the 75th.

READ MORE: Five Things to Know About Tim Weah

The performance made Weah the sixth U.S. male player at any level to score a hat trick in the at a World Cup and the first to do it in the Knockout Stage. Learn more about Weah’s historic night by clicking here.

FIRST TIME U-17 WORLD CUP ENCOUNTER
While the two nations have met twice at the Men’s World Cup (1950 and 2010), Saturday’s encounter between the U.S. and England will be the first at the U-17 tournament. And while it’s the first World Cup meeting at this level, the current iterations of the squads have familiarity with each other going back to their U-15 days.

On August 16 and 19 2015, a John Hackworth-led U.S. U-15 Boys National Team squad visited England for a set of games, which ended in fitting 2-2 and 3-3 draws. As part of the friendlies, the teams agreed to take penalty kicks to decide a winner, with England coming away victorious in the first match and the USA doing so in the second.Just a few months later, much of the same U.S. squad and coach Hackworth faced England in the very first match of the current U-17 cycle, opening the 2015 Nike International Friendlies with a 3-2 defeat to the Three Lions. A high contingent of both World Cup rosters were part of that match, with 12 from the U.S. and 13 from England in their respective squads for the Nike International Friendlies.The teams last met on March 24, 2016, when the USA bounced back from a two-goal deficit, using a pair of goals from George Acosta to earn a 2-2 draw on the way to winning the Mondial Football de Montaigu Tournament in Le Poire Sur Vie, France.

USA, ENGLAND YOUTH TEAMS JOIN RARE COMPANY
Adding to the occasion of Saturday’s meeting is the fact that the United States and England are the only two countries that have reached the Quarterfinals of both the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was held in May and June in Korea Republic.Led by the goal scoring exploits of current U-17 MNT captain Josh Sargent, the USA took Venezuela to extra time before falling 2-1 in their Quarterfinal clash. Venezuela would advance to the Final where it fell 1-0 to England, who in turn earned their first World Cup championship at youth level.The USA and England’s achievement marks the 10th and 11th times in which a nation has reached the Quarterfinals of both youth World Cups in the same year since the U-17 event expanded to 24 teams in 2007.
It is the third time the U.S. has achieved the feat, having previously done so in 1993 and 2003.

WORLD CUP ROSTER FEATURES 18 PLAYERS WITH DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY TIES
Hackworth’s U-17 World Cup squad has been largely bolstered by players that have cut their teeth in U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. Eighteen of the 21-player roster have played in the DA at some point, with nine currently involved, six having signed M.L.S. Homegrown contracts and three holding past DA affiliations.

Current Development Academy Affiliations: George Acosta (North Carolina FC), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake), Alex Budnik (Sockers FC), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club) Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers)

M.L.S. Homegrown Signings Promoted to First Team: Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), James Sands (New York City FC)

Past Development Academy Affiliation: Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (Former: Philadelphia Union, Now: SL Benfica/POR), Indiana Vassilev (Former: IMG Academy; Now; Unattached), Tim Weah (New York Red Bulls/ Now: Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

TEAM CAPTAIN JOSH SARGENT CHASING PERSONAL HISTORY
Having already scored four goals for the USA at this past summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, Sargent joined Freddy Adu as the only American male player to compete at both youth World Cups in the same year when he took the field in the tournament opener against India. Thirty minutes into that match, Sargent bested Adu by becoming the only U.S. player to score in both tournaments held in the same year. He also joined the small club of U.S. players that have found the back of the net at both tournaments, namely, Adu, Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson.

READ MORE: Five Things to Know About Josh Sargent

Here’s the breakdown of the USA’s all-time youth World Cup scoring leaders:

Overall FIFA U-17 World Cup FIFA U-20 World Cup
Player Goals GP Goals GP Goals GP
Freddy Adu 7 17 4 4 3 13
Josh Sargent 6 9 2 4 4 5
Taylor Twellman 6 7 2 3 4 4
Eddie Johnson 5 8 1 3 4 5

Sargent shined for the USA during the U-20 World Cup, earning the competition’s Silver Boot with four goals and an assist. His two-goal performance in the team’s opening group game against Ecuador went into the record books as he eclipsed Jozy Altidore as the youngest U.S. player to score at the FIFA U-20 World Cup at 17 years, 91 days. After scoring his fourth goal of the tournament in the Round of 16 against New Zealand, Sargent tied Taylor Twellman (1999), Eddie Johnson (2003), and Jozy Altidore (2007) for most goals scored by a U.S. player at a FIFA U-20 World Cup.

HACKWORTH TIES U.S. U-17 WORLD CUP WINS RECORD
In the midst of his third U-17 World Cup as U.S. head coach, John Hackworth (2005, 2007 and 2017) recorded his sixth career win at the tournament in Monday’s 5-0 victory against Paraguay, tying him with Roy Rees (1987, 1989, 1991, 1993) for the most all-time wins by an American coach at the tournament.After serving as an assistant for John Ellinger at the 2003 tournament, Hackworth led the 2005 team, which included current U.S. MNT stars Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, to a top of the group finish, going undefeated against Korea DPR (3-2), Italy (3-1) and Ivory Coast (1-1). In their quarterfinal matchup against Netherlands, the USA fell 2-0 in a hard-fought game that saw five cautions and two players sent off.Two years later, Hackworth brought his 2007 U-17 side back to the World Cup, leading the team to a second-place finish in its group. In the Round of 16, the USA was matched up against a tough Germany squad that sent the USA home with 2-1 defeat.

FAMILIAR WITH GOA
The U.S. will take in its fourth different venue of the tournament on Saturday, playing at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on India’s west coast. While it will bethe team’s first time there during this competition, Hackworth’s side has plenty of familiarity with the area thanks to its participation in the 2016 AIFF Youth Cup, which was held there last May. Playing five matches during the tournament, the U.S. advanced all the way to the Final where it fell 2-1 in extra time to Korea Republic.

HOW THEY GOT TO THE WORLD CUP
The USA finished second at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Panama City, Panama, last April, scoring 20 goals while allowing six. The USA opened the tournament with a 5-0 win vs. Jamaica, led by a brace from Ayo Akinola and goals from Chris Durkin, Tim Weah, and Josh Sargent.

The USA followed that result with four more wins, defeating Mexico (4-3) and El Salvador (1-0) to win the group. Victories against Honduras (3-0) and Cuba (6-2) in the classification stage earned a berth to the World Cup. In the final, a rematch against Mexico, the USA held a 1-0 advantage into stoppage time before seeing the game forced into penalty kicks on a 92nd-minute equalizer. Despite the USA converting four of its five attempts, Mexico converted on all five to take home the regional title.

Nine different players scored for the USA during the qualifying tournament. Golden Glove honoree Justin Garces, Jaylin Lindsey, James Sands, Chris Durkin, and Josh Sargent earned selections to the tournament’s Best XI. Sargent’s five goals and Akinola’s four placed the pair in third and fourth, respectively, in the Golden Boot standings. Carleton and Weah each added a pair of goals, while Blaine Ferri, Bryan Reynolds Jr. and Indiana Vassilev also scored a goal apiece. Midfielder George Acosta led the team with three assists.

U-17 WORLD CUP PEDIGREE
The USA had its best tournament showing in 1999 when future U.S. MNT stars DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan led the team to a fourth-place finish after falling to Ghana in the Third-Place match. The game was played in front of a roaring crowd of nearly 16,000 at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.

READFive Things to Know About the USA’s History at the U-17 World Cup

The USA has participated in 12 of the previous 13 U-17 World Cups, missing 2013’s tournament in the United Arab Emirates. Including the team’s run in 1999, the USA has made it out of the group stage eight times, reaching the Quarterfinals five times (1991, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2005).  Over 46 matches in its 12 runs at the U-17 World Cup, the USA has posted a 16-23-7 record with the most success coming against Italy, defeating the Azzurri twice (1991, 2005).

England U-17 MNT Roster by Position (Club, Club Country)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Curtis Anderson (Manchester City), Josef Bursik (Stoke City), William Crellin (Fleetwood Town)
DEFENDERS (6): Timothy Eyoma (Tottenham Hotspur), Lewis Gibson (Everton), Marc Guéhi (Chelsea), Jonathan Panzo (Chelsea), Joel Latibeaudiere (Manchester City), Steven Sessegnon (Fulham)
MIDFIELDERS (10): George McEachran (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Tashan Oakley-Boothe (Tottenham Hotspur), Angel Gomes (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund/GER)*, Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)
FORWARDS (2): Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Danny Loader (Reading)   * Jadon Sancho recalled to Borussia Dortmund following Group Stage

HOW THEY GOT HERE
England qualified for the World Cup by finishing as runners up at the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in May. The Three Lions finished on top of their group with a perfect record, downing Norway (3-1), Ukraine (4-0) and the Netherlands (3-0). England then bested Republic of Ireland 1-0 in the Quarterfinal and Turkey 2-1 in the Semifinal. In the Final, England played to a 2-2 draw with Spain before falling 4-1 on penalty kicks.

England continued its qualifying form at the World Cup, going a perfect 3-0-0 in wins against Chile (4-0), Mexico (3-2) and Iraq (4-0). Meeting Japan in Tuesday’s Round of 16 match, England played to a spirited 0-0 draw before advancing 5-3 on penalty kicks.

Playoff Scenarios: How teams can clinch on Decision Day presented by AT&T

October 19, 20174:45PM EDTIt all comes down to Decision Day presented by AT&T.

There’s still plenty on the line come this Sunday, when all 22 MLS clubs will kick off at 4:00 PM ET/1:00 PM PT. Here’s what they’re fighting for:RELATED: Live updating playoff seeding and bracket

Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Atlanta United win vs. Toronto FC on Sunday and …
  • New York City FC tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday

Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Chicago Fire win vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • New York City FC tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Columbus Crew SC win vs. New York City FC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • Atlanta United tie or lose vs. Toronto FC on Sunday

FC Dallas

FC Dallas will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • FC Dallas win vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie or lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • FC Dallas tie vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday

New York City FC

New York City FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • New York City FC win vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • New York City FC tie vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • Atlanta United tie or lose vs. Toronto FC on Sunday

Portland Timbers

Portland Timbers will clinch No. 1 seed in Western Conference if:

  • Portland Timbers win vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday

Portland Timbers will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Portland Timbers tie vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Seattle Sounders FC lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • Real Salt Lake win vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie or lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas tie or lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Real Salt Lake tie vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday

 San Jose

San Jose Earthquakes will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • San Jose Earthquakes win vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas tie or lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • FC Dallas lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday

 Seattle Sounders FC

Seattle Sounders FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Seattle Sounders FC win vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Portland Timbers lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday

 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Sporting Kansas City win vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday and …
  • Portland Timbers tie or lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday

 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver Whitecaps FC will clinch No. 1 seed in Western Conference if:

  • Vancouver Whitecaps FC win or tie vs. Portland Timbers on Sunday

Vancouver Whitecaps FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday
  • ATLANTA UNITED TO BREAK ATTENDANCE RECORD SUNDAY
  • Atlanta United FCwill break a couple of records when they host Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in their regular season finale on Sunday.The expansion club will set the all-time MLS records for highest attendance in a single game and single season on Sunday.Atlanta set the all-time single-game MLS attendance record on Sept. 16, when 70,245 fans attended their 3-3 draw against Orlando City. They surpassed that number of tickets sold for the TFC match two weeks ago.Though the final number of tickets sold isn’t yet available, Sunday’s contest will push Atlanta well above the all-time MLS single-season attendance record of 752,199 set by the Seattle Sounders in 2015. The Five Stripes have sold 747,530 tickets through their first 16 home games, and should end the regular season with a total near 850,000.Atlanta are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They can still climb to second and avoid the Knockout Round with a win against Toronto on Sunday coupled with draws or losses by NYCFC and Chicago.

MLS Decision Day predictions: Who will pick up wins on the league’s last day?

The final week of the MLS regular season is nigh, with a playoff spot up for grabs and postseason seeding still to be decided. ESPN FC’s team of MLS writers take a crack at predicting the outcomes of five of the weekend’s key matches.

Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC: Even with both teams already qualified for the playoffs and TFC locked in as the top seed in the East, there is a lot of intrigue about this one. From Atlanta’s perspective, it’s crucial to finish in the top four in the conference, as it would guarantee a home playoff match. Gerardo Martino’s team has flexed their muscles in their new digs, and currently in fourth, they could even finish as high as second and earn a bye in the knockout round. To boot, playmaker Miguel Almiron is expected to be back in the fold.

TFC will present a different challenge altogether. Far and away the best team in MLS during the regular season, Sunday’s clash will give the Toronto players a chance to sample Atlanta’s attacking style in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Arch Bell: Toronto FC
Jeff Carlisle: Draw
Matt Pentz: Atlanta United
Graham Parker: Atlanta United

 

FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy: This is it for FC Dallas. Currently on the outside looking in, it has to beat the LA Galaxy in order to give itself a shot at the postseason. While technically a draw and a San Jose loss to Minnesota could also do it, Oscar Pareja’s team need to be thinking three points here.

The fact that it has come down to this for FC Dallas is astounding, and it’s not like the Galaxy will be a cakewalk. Granted, Sigi Schmid’s team sit rock bottom in the west, but there are still the Dos Santos brothers to contend with and the Galaxy have actually played fairly well in their past three outings, including last week’s 3-0 win against Minnesota.

Arch Bell: FC Dallas
Jeff Carlisle: FC Dallas
Matt Pentz: Draw
Graham Parker: FC Dallas

 

Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City: Also in the mix for a playoff spot in the West is Real Salt Lake. A point behind Dallas and San Jose, RSL would require some good fortune to sneak into the postseason, but first and foremost there is the task at hand of defeating the best defensive team in the league.

Jefferson Savarino is still listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and after throwing up a goose egg last week in Colorado, coach Mike Petke might have to swallow his pride and give Yura Movsisyan a start to get the attack going. As for Sporting KC, things have been rocky of late, with two draws and two losses. Not exactly the strongest way to go into the playoffs.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: Real Salt Lake
Matt Pentz: Draw
Graham Parker: Draw

 

Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps:Top seed in the West will be up for grabs in Portland when these two meet. In 2017 this slice of Cascadia has belonged to the Timbers, who defeated the Whitecaps in their previous two meetings, each time by a 2-1 scoreline. While Diego Valeri is earning all the headlines for the Timbers, and rightly so with his 11 goals in the past 11 games, Darren Mattocks has also been troublesome for opposing defenses and Vancouver’s sturdy back line led by Tim Parker and Kendall Waston will have their hands full.

On the flip side, this will be Portland’s first real look at Yordy Reyna. The Peruvian came off the bench and played the final half hour in the last meeting in July, but since then Reyna has been in scorching form, with four goals and three assists in his past six starts.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: Portland Timbers
Matt Pentz: Portland Timbers
Graham Parker: Portland Timbers

 

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United:Just when you are ready to count out San Jose, it’ll go on a three-match unbeaten run to poke its nose back in the playoff race. Just last month the Earthquakes were walloped 4-0 by D.C. United and then 4-1 to Chicago Fire, yet here they are needing just a win at home against 10th-place Minnesota on the final day to reach the postseason, thanks in part to Dallas’ fall from grace and a gutsy point in Vancouver last weekend.

Quakes fans should not expect an easy ride on Sunday, though. Adrian Heath’s Minnesota will fight and scrap the whole way, especially on the heels of last week’s poor display in Los Angeles.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: San Jose Earthquakes
Matt Pentz: Minnesota United
Graham Parker: San Jose Earthquakes

Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .

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10/11/17 US loses to T&T out of World Cup 2018, IU vs Butler Oct 18 @ Butler, Champ League Tues/Wed & full TV Game Schedule

Wow soccer fans – I can’t believe I am writing this but the United States will not be playing in the World Cup in 2018.  I have to admit I just never dreamed the USA would lose and miss the World Cup – after our win on Friday night vs Panama.  We had to lose and Honduras had to beat top seeded Mexico (3-2) and Panama beat 2nd seeded Costa Rica (2-1) for us not to advance (did you see this bogus goal by Panama).  I just never, ever dreamed all of that would happen.  A 2-1 catastrophic loss to Trinidad and Tobago sealed the fate of this US team that only won 3 games out of 10 in the final round of qualifying losing or tying the likes of soccer powerhouses Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica (twice).

 

Let’s start with what went wrong Tues night.  Arena rolled out the same starters as he did in the last game vs Panama. While this might have seemed logical – and Cobi Jones (he’s a horrible analyst by the way) was ok with it. I thought from the start this game was going to need some changes.  First and foremost was to add defender Geoff Cameron (1 of only 2 American players starting for their team in the EPL)  back to the starting defense either for Gonzales or as part of a 3/5 man back line.  T&T had speed at forward and wing something Gonzales does not deal well with.  His first goal deflection (didn’t close fast enough for the challenge & should have given up a PK 5 min later).  Seriously how do you not play Cameron – one of your best and most experienced players?  I just don’t understand??

I also thought the muddy conditions required Guzan to be in goal tonight.  Listen I respect Tim Howard, he is truly one of the best goalkeepers to ever play for the US, but he is a shell of the GK he was 4 years ago in Brazil.  His leg injury from last year costing him bounce and leaping ability   This was Brad Guzan’s game – I guarantee you he saves 1 of the 2 goals scored.  I also thought either McCarty or Acosta should have replaced Paul Arriola to help give more defensive help to Bradley in the middle.  (I think that wide open wonder goal shot would have been challenged with another D mid on the field).  Finally I thought this was a game for a mudder – which means you had to have Dempsey in the ballgame much earlier- I would have started him.  Beyond the tactics though seriously this US team just doesn’t have players with that never say die, won’t be denied attitude. They don’t play with a chip on their shoulder.  Left back continues to haunt us as both goals came where Villafana was supposed to be?  Bradley while he hustles his but off all over the field – just doesn’t have that bite.  That Jermaine Jones – I am going to crack your a$$ in half if needed to win.  This team just didn’t play with enough intensity to win this game?  They slept walked thru the first 30 to 40 minutes of this game.  And even later – down 2-1 – just not enough urgency, not enough want to.  Here I will give Arena credit – he subbed Dempsey at the half, Feilhaber later and pulled a defender for a d mid in Acosta.  Man I thought Dempsey’s shot was going in – just off the post. Another shot just missed.  Benny had a chance on a header late. It just wasn’t to be.  Man I really feel sorry for our 19 year old sensation Christian Pulisic – he played his but off and carried this team down the stretch run of games (he’s our Messi) but its going to be 4 more years before main stream America knows who he is because of this.

Listen lets not mince words – this comes from the top down.  The US is doing some things, heck, many things fundamentally wrong.  MLS – sure.  While I think MLS is finally starting to develop players thru their academy’s that can make a difference – the truth is our best player was trained in Germany at Dortmund.  I think thru about U15 the US is strong – heck lets see how our U17s do at the U17 World Cup.  But from U16-U20 is where we don’t develop players the way other countries do.  Unfortunately high school and college are not where professional soccer players are developed – worldwide.  Perhaps its time to re-think it here in the US.

Pay to play – lets be realistic it costs between $1000 to $2000 to $5000 per year to have a kid play travel soccer in the United States.  So unlike the rest of the world – where its often the working class kids who use soccer to escape (much like football and hoops here in the US) in the US if you aren’t the kid of a middle to upper middle class family – chances are you may not be able to afford to become a superstar soccer player.  Yes things are better and “scholarships” to travel clubs and DA programs are available – but lets be real – 90% of the players families still have to Pay to Play.  (by the way – that’s why we started Carmel FC – using all licensed but parent coaches so the cost to parents is not nearly as much as most other travel programs in the state).

One MLS impact and one I hear a lot is with our best players – or at least our US Nat team stars/starters now coming home to play in MLS – our best players no longer train at the highest level, against the best players in the world.  Honestly this US team had just 3 players on the field who play in Europe – arguably the best 3 in Yedlin, Woods and Pulisic of course.  The other 8 all have comfortable jobs making big money in the MLS – no worry of losing their jobs in practice to better players.

With regards to MLS and its impact on US Soccer – a thing that I think is loss is the improvement of players in other countries in CONCACAF who make a living playing in MLS.  The winning scores in both the Honduras and Panama games tonight were scored by MLS players.  So while some younger US Players are being developed in our professional league – a ton these smaller countries are having their best players play in MLS.  I think overall MLS has helped improve the overall professional talent in these smaller CONCACAF Countries who in the past would have been stuck playing in their own not high quality domestic leagues.

Lots more to come on what needs to be done to Fix US Soccer.  I think at this point obviously Bruce Arena will resign and we’ll see how many heads roll across the system.  More on this later.  For now I am just sad and tired and frustrated. 

ON TO THIS WEEK 

The MLS Season wraps up next Sunday with decision day on Oct 22  featuring multiple games with the playoff implications across Fox and ESPN networks. The playoffs will begin the following Wed/Thurs.  This Sunday Fox Sports 1 features 2 games with huge Playoff implications as the New York Redbulls host Atlanta United at 4 pm currently 3rd in the East Standings.  Defending Champ’s Seattle will host FC Dallas at 7:30 pm on FS1 as both teams fight for the final playoff spot in the West.  Champions League is back next Tues/Wed – see full schedule below.   Big World games this weekend include Liverpool vs Man United Sat at 7:30 am on NBCSN, and Atletico Madrid hosting Barcelona at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport.

Lost in the World Cup Qualifying Weekend – was the great story of a young US soccer fan donating his Pulisic signed Jersey to earn money for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief.  Pulisic’s response was fanastic !!

Locally – #1 Indiana University (10-0-2)  will play #15 Butler (7-3) Wednesday night, Oct 18th at the Butler Bowl.  Senior GK Eric Dick, a former Carmel High GK, is fresh off winning Big East Goalie of the Week for the 3rd time this season.  Tickets start at just $4 for kids and $7 for adults.  The Carmel High School girls lost a heartbreaker 1-0 in a shootout loss to Guerin High in sectionals last weekend.  Congrats on a great season and good luck to Guerin.  Also the Guerin High boys with 7 Carmel FC’ers on the roster lost 2-0 to North Central in the sectional finals.

USA

ESPNs Taylor Twellman Says Blow This Up Video

Jeff Carlisle What Needs to Happen to US Soccer – ESPNFC

Worse loss in US Sports History?  USA Today

Worse Night Ever in US Soccer History – SI – Grant Wahl

US misses World Cup after Doomsday Scenario – SI – Grant Wahl

US out of Excuses after defeat leaves US out of World Cup – Jeff Carlisle EPSNFC

US World Cup Hopes End in Shambolic Loss to T & T – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Fails to Qualify for World Cup 2018 – USA Today

No one to Blame But ourselves – Bradley ESPNFC

Arena – Nothing Needs to Change – we are Close – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Gulati – Disappointing Result ESPN

Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer

Landon Donovan – WC Ouster is Disheartening and Unacceptable – SI

Slow Walking Death – How the US Failed out of WC – Charles Boehm MLS.com

Minute by Minute – how the Night Fell Apart

Historic Failure – Facts and Figures

Final Hex Standings

WORLD

Phantom Panama Goal at Costa Rica– Cost US World Cup

Who Has Qualified World Wide

Messi Hat Trick Punches Argentina’s WC Ticket

Renaldo’s Star Quality is Russian Bound as Portugal Qualify

The World’s Best Players who Will Miss the World Cup

What’s Trending

MLS

Week 31 Update

Playoff Race where does your team Stand

Atlanta’s Carlos Bocanegra – Extended as Technical Director

Handicapping the Golden Boot Race – with 2 games left

Kaka to Leave Orlando City and MLS at end of Year

Indy 11

Indy 11 host Hispanic Heritage Night vs Miami Oct 14 7:30 pm

Indy 11 add Puerto Rico Home game on Sat Oct 21 at 3 pm

GAMES ON TV 

 

Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs Miami

Sun Oct 15

7:30 am NBCSN               Brighton vs Everton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg

11 am NBCSN                   Southampton vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Inter vs AC Milan

Mon, Oct 16

7:30 am FS 2                  2A vs 2 C  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1B vs 3 ACD  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

Tues, Oct 17

7:30 am FS 2                  1C vs 3 ABF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1F vs 2 E  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Real Madrid vs Tottenham (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Man City vs Napoli (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Maribor vs Liverpool

Weds, Oct 18

7:30 am FS 2                  1A vs 3 CDE  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1d vs 3 BEF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Barcelona vs Olympiakos (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Chelsea vs Roma (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Bayern Munich vs Celtic

7 pm                           Butler vs Indiana University at Butler Bowl !!

Thurs, Oct 19

1 pm Fox Sport 2        Crvena vs Arsenal (Europa League)

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1   USA vs Korea Republic

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2   Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

3 pm myindy Tv           Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN               Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Liverpool

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

EPL 2017 Schedule

USMNT’s failure to make the World Cup is the biggest embarrassment in U.S. sports history

By: Andrew Joseph | October 10, 2017 11:07 pm  USA Today

It’s been 31 years since May 31, 1986 — the last World Cup that didn’t feature the United States. That’s 11,456 days of progress for a sport that’s come so far in a country that still hasn’t fully embraced it.  All of that gone.

With U.S. soccer’s dreadful 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of CONCACAF’s qualifying hexagonal for the 2018 World Cup, next summer’s tournament will not feature the USMNT. No Christian Pulisic. No Tim Howard. No Michael Bradley. With that loss, the USMNT gave a nation the lowest point in its sporting history, and it’s not really close. CONCACAF is a grind, but compared to the other qualifying regions, the 3.5 World Cup spots out of six teams mean that the United States should be a lock to qualify. When it beat Panama, 4-0, on Friday, the U.S. put itself in position to escape a lackluster qualifying round with a spot in the tournament. All it really needed to do was take care of business at lowly Trinidad and Tobago. They couldn’t even do that. With no sense of urgency, USMNT players and coaches had to watch as their CONCACAF counterparts did them no favors. Four years after the USMNT saved Mexico’s World Cup dreams, El Tri instead blew a lead to Honduras and helped seal the USMNT’s fate. Costa Rica also blew a lead to Panama on a goal that shouldn’t have counted and gave up a late winner as the U.S. decided to score-watch rather than take matters into its own hands. A mostly empty stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, felt even emptier on this night.  It’s really difficult to quantify how bad this loss was for U.S. Soccer. Sunil Gulati and Bruce Arena should both be gone. Tim Howard, whose last World Cup appearance was a legendary performance, will likely leave U.S. Soccer with the lasting image of his worst performance with the national team. As bad as things got for the USMNT, the possibility of missing the World Cup didn’t actually seem real. It’s that arrogance that likely brought the team to where it is right now — out of the World Cup. When U.S. soccer legend Alexi Lalas called out the USMNT, its biggest star, Pulisic, laughed off the attempted gut-check rant.  But when it comes down to it, though, the sport of soccer in the U.S. is going to feel the lasting effects the most. Every World Cup is an opportunity to grow the sport on the biggest stage.  Even the growth from 2010, to 2014, to now has been tremendous. A nation went crazy when Landon Donovan sent the USMNT into the Round of 16 with his late winner in 2010 (a loss would have meant an early trip home). A nation went crazy when John Brooks put the U.S. ahead against Ghana in 2014, as he ran around not fully processing what he had done.  Those moments forge memories and make lifelong fans of the sport. It creates momentum that makes it possible for an MLS team to draw 71,000 fans for a regular season match. Those moments inspire a young fan to kick around a soccer ball rather than throw a football. Those moments make it possible for a 19-year-old wonderkid to break through into the next level of international stardom. That’s not happening anymore. It’s five years — at best — of the USMNT out of the forefront of American sports. All because U.S. soccer let 95 minutes of arrogance erase 31 years of progress. And that is truly a shame.

U.S. out of excuses after defeat in Trinidad leaves it out of World Cup

COUVA, Trinidad — Bruce Arena called it “disappointing.” Michael Bradley referred to it as “a perfect storm.” Omar Gonzalez said: “It’s the worst day of my career.”No doubt, everyone associated with the U.S. national team is hurting in their own way, but Gonzalez’s comment seemed to crystallize the pain that was a byproduct of the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago — a result that, when combined with scores from elsewhere, resulted in the U.S. being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for the first time since the 1986 cycle.”I just want to say sorry to the fans, all the U.S. fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia, that believed in us,” Gonzalez said. “We let down an entire nation today.”It’s a result that is difficult to process on many levels. But let’s be clear: It’s the most embarrassing defeat in U.S. soccer history and one that will be impossible for this group of players and coaches to live down.CONCACAF is a massively forgiving region from which to qualify. And the Americans were in control of their destiny going up against a team that had nothing to play for. The U.S. roster and starting lineup had loads of experience compared to their T&T counterparts and the team had a manager, in Arena, who had led the U.S. to the World Cup on two previous occasions.So what happened? The U.S. essentially sleepwalked through the first 45 minutes of the match, and was second best in too many phases. The half ended with T&T deservedly two goals up. The first came from a Gonzalez own goal in the 17th minute, in which T&T forward Shahdon Winchester got a faint touch to a cross, which deflected off Gonzalez’s shin and looped over Tim Howard in the U.S. goal.”It’s one of the most unlucky goals ever I think for myself,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one that will haunt me forever.”Alvin Jones then unleashed a 30-yard dart that cleanly beat Howard, and the U.S. was in huge trouble. A Christian Pulisic goal two minutes into the second half pulled them back within one, but the players couldn’t find an equalizer as Clint Dempsey hit the post.At which point, the rest of the improbable dominoes began to fall. As the minutes ticked by, Honduras was already beating Mexico 3-2, proving the long-held sentiment that El Tri wouldn’t return the favor from four years ago when the U.S. essentially saved Mexico from elimination by denying Panama.As it turned out, Panama got its revenge thanks to a ghost goal equalizer and a late winner by Roman Torres, and when news of his effort wafted through the Ato Boldon Stadium, the U.S. was sunk. Players walked off the field in a daze, save for Matt Besler, who simply sat down on the pitch in disbelief.And so the rampant inconsistency that plagued the U.S. throughout this World Cup qualifying cycle proved fatal. But it elicited a mystifying question: How is it that the U.S. team that took apart Panama on Friday night could play so poorly with a spot at the World Cup on the line?”Nerves play into it, they had a good game plan, 1,000 different things,” Howard said. Bradley added: “Different games.”That is certainly true, as T&T wisely sat in and soaked up pressure and then tried to exploit the spaces available on the counter. But there were also moments when the Soca Warriors pinged the ball around with ease, with the Americans unable to get near them.So what was stopping the U.S. from doing the same? What was stopping them from converting more of their chances? What was stopping them from making the defensive plays that needed to be made, and putting their opponents under pressure? lack of ruthlessness at both ends of the field for one. Had Jozy Altidore converted early when given time to turn and shoot, who knows what would have happened. He didn’t though, and T&T duly took advantage.That was by no means the only time that teamwide frailty cropped up this cycle either. How else do you explain the inability of the U.S. to follow up dominating performances with impressive displays on the road? The away 1-1 draw in Panama is one example. And while dropping the first two games of the Hex put the U.S. in a hole, it was one they climbed out of relatively quickly, only for their inability to close the deal to return.Perhaps the biggest problem of all was that the U.S. struggled to break down teams that were content to sit back and soak up pressure. It happened against Costa Rica and it happened for much of the game against T&T. To be fair, this is something that the U.S. has grappled with for decades. Yet previous U.S. teams always managed to do enough. Many of those teams had Landon Donovan, or a younger version of Clint Dempsey, players who could pull off a special play.This team didn’t have that creative magic, or at least enough of it to get through qualifying. This generation has been touted as the most talented team in U.S. history. Certainly it possesses a once-in-a-generation player in Pulisic, but this side proved to be entirely too dependent on the Borussia Dortmund attacker. The teenager played a part in 12 of the last 17 goals the U.S. scored. Against Panama he had plenty of help from his supporting cast, but on too many other days he didn’t.Something else was missing as well. The best teams — or at least ones that qualify for World Cups — are those that can fuse the individual pieces into a collective that was greater. That has long been a trademark of the U.S., but one that was lost during this cycle no matter who the manager was. This was felt acutely on the defensive side. “We weren’t hard enough to play against on too many nights,” Altidore said.Without question, this night will haunt these players for years to come, and result in some introspection as well.”If you don’t look at yourself after this individually, then you’re f—ed up in the head,” Altidore said.That is not to say Arena doesn’t bear responsibility either: In the past two fixture periods, several of his decisions backfired.For Tuesday’s match his decision to not go with Geoff Cameron looms large. Yes, Cameron was just coming off an injury, but he had made it through a league game with Stoke City just prior to joining up with the U.S., and he remains one of the most talented players on the team. Fabian Johnson’s exclusion, especially on a night when T&T repeatedly attacked Jorge Villafana, also can be questioned.Arena and the team also seemed prone to making excuses, often speaking of adverse playing conditions or a lack of home support. On this day, the U.S. ran out of them. Now they will spend next summer watching the World Cup from home.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

USA’s Haunting World Cup Qualifying Failure Emits Blame, Shock and Calls for Change

QUICKLY  -USMNT flirted with disaster throughout its floundering World Cup qualifying campaign, and it paid the price: A first missed World Cup since 1986 and a boatload of soul-searching to follow in U.S. Soccer.

By Grant Wahl October 11, 2017 SI

COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — Let’s be perfectly clear: The most embarrassing failure in U.S. Soccer history was consummated on Tuesday night in a near-empty stadium in the Caribbean tropics, culminating in a soul-crushing 2-1 defeat to a last-place opponent in which the U.S. men’s national team had only needed a win or a tie to qualify for World Cup 2018.But this miasma of futility—causing the U.S. to miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986—was only the endpoint of a long series of felonies and misdemeanors over the last 12 months in Columbus, Ohio, and in San Jose, Costa Rica; in Harrison, N.J., and in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The dateline for the autopsy of this U.S. team may read Couva, a tiny town that no U.S. soccer fan will ever forget, but the seeds for this dark day were planted in several locations.When it comes down to it, CONCACAF is a frighteningly forgiving region for World Cup qualifying. Mexico qualified for Brazil 2014 after winning just two of 10 Hexagonal games. The U.S. was eliminated from Russia 2018 after just three victories in 10 qualifiers. The Americans started with a giant margin for error and then proceeded to whittle it down, in chunks large and small, from two opening defeats to last month’s home loss to Costa Rica to the finishing blow on Tuesday—a catastrophic capitulation to a team that had lost six straight Hexagonal games.Afterward, players fought back tears. One of them was defender Omar Gonzalez, who saw the hosts’ first goal bounce off his shin and into the U.S. net for an own goal.“It’s one that will haunt me forever,” he said. “I never thought I would see this day. It’s the worst day of my career … What was supposed to be a celebration is now … I don’t even know what to say. It’s terrible. I just want to say sorry to all the fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia, that believed in us. We let down an entire nation today.”Another player who was disconsolate was forward Jozy Altidore, who made little impact on the game.“If you don’t look at yourself after this individually,” he said, “I think you’re f—ed up in the head.” U.S. captain Michael Bradley had 90 minutes by himself in doping control after the game to digest the doomsday scenario that had just played out; a U.S. loss combined with Panama and Honduras wins was the only way the Americans could be eliminated.“It was a perfect storm kind of night,” he said after emerging. “Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, in this stadium and in two other stadiums across the region. To give away the first goal like that [on an own goal] is a killer. It comes from nothing and it ultimately gives them life, gives them energy. It means that all of the sudden they believe, that there’s something there for them. The second goal, the guy [Alvin Jones] hits a great shot that flies into the far corner … We got back to 2-1 and at that point couldn’t make a play to unlock them, couldn’t get the final pass, the final shot, the final action. You can go around in circles a million times over again. But the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”He’s right. The U.S. deserved to drop all the points it did during this miserable qualifying campaign. There were no horrible referee calls that changed results, no bad bounces that somehow rolled into the goal. Trinidad and Tobago, like Costa Rica before it, realized that this U.S. team could be beaten if you sat back, soaked up pressure and picked the right spots to move forward and threaten the goal. The U.S. proved time and again that it didn’t have the ability to break down a team defending that way. You can’t ask 19-year-old Christian Pulisic—who scored the U.S. goal on Tuesday—to do everything.“Teams certainly have shown they’re going to sit back and frustrate us,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “So you’re probably going to need to break some teams down. Until we do that, teams won’t come out of their shell.”Under Arena, the U.S. had appeared to recover much of its old identity—namely, being hard to play against as a unit—between March and June. But that identity mysteriously disappeared again in three of the last four qualifying games over the past month.“Collectively one through 11, we weren’t able to defend well enough,” said Altidore. “You can’t go and score four or five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against. We weren’t hard enough to play against too many times.”Most of the U.S. players appeared shellshocked. When the Netherlands was eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday, the Dutch players knew it was coming, since they had to win by an unrealistic seven goals over Sweden. But the Americans fully expected to qualify for Russia on Tuesday, and at the very least they thought they’d be heading to the intercontinental playoff against Australia. Full elimination wasn’t in the picture, and their dazed looks suggested they were having trouble processing it.A full reckoning will now have to take place by U.S. Soccer. Arena’s days are numbered, for one thing. He took responsibility for the failure after the game, as he should have: The home loss to Costa Rica and Tuesday’s fiasco were inexcusable.“I’m clearly very disappointed,” he said. “We had everything there for us today … We should not be staying home from this World Cup.”ut Arena wouldn’t go so far to say that major changes should take place in U.S. Soccer.“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” he argued. “Certainly, I think if our league continues to grow it benefits the national team program. We have some good players coming up. Nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy changes I think would be foolish. We’re building a consistent professional league. We have players playing abroad of a certain quality. There’s enough there. There’s no excuses for us to not qualify for the World Cup.”

As Arena spoke, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati sat nearby with a blank look on his face, as if he didn’t know what had hit him.“Extremely disappointed,” he said. “We certainly expected to qualify throughout the process and especially after Friday night [a 4-0 win over Panama]. So it’s a huge disappointment for everybody: The players, the staff, the coaches, for the federation. It’s not good enough, obviously.”But when Gulati was pressed on whether wholesale changes were necessary after this debacle, he shook his head.“So wholesale changes aren’t needed if the ball that hits off the post [from Clint Dempsey] goes in?” he said. “You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in. We’ll look at everything, obviously, and all our programs, both the national team and all the development stuff. But we’ve got a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along. Tonight obviously wasn’t what we hoped for.”Yet this American failure wasn’t due to one shot hitting the post. It was due to repeated fatal flaws that were exposed time and again over the last 12 months. If you can’t qualify from one of the easiest and most forgiving regional competitions on Earth, how are you going to compete at a World Cup? It remains to be seen now whether Gulati will run for reelection in February—and whether he’ll have a chance to win if he does. The drumbeat for change, real change, will ring loudly now.At the same time, be wary of those who promise easy answers for complex problems. Too many people in the U.S. soccer community think there are lightning-bolt answers—Promotion and relegation! Send all the youngsters to Europe!—that will solve everything. They won’t. There should be an honest discussion, though, of the factors that led to this day that will live in infamy. It will take some time.On Tuesday night, though, everyone was still processing the shock and what had led to it.“We dropped too many points on too many days,” Bradley said. “We put ourselves at a disadvantage from the very beginning when we lost the first two games. When you lose the first two games and drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes. So you know you’re at the mercy of a night like this where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games.“That’s just reality. That’s on us.”And then Bradley walke away, by himself, into the darkness and an uncertain future for U.S. Soccer.

USA Misses World Cup as Doomsday Scenario Plays Out Across CONCACAF

By Grant Wahl October 10, 2017

COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — On the most surreal and embarrassing night in U.S. soccer history, the U.S. men’s national team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago (the worst team in the CONCACAF Hexagonal) and was eliminated from contention for World Cup 2018.The doomsday scenario happened.All the U.S. needed to do to qualify for the World Cup was to win or tie. And they lost, a deserving defeat that ended a miserable qualifying campaign—three wins in 10 Hexagonal games—and will raise enormous questions about the overall direction of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the players and coach Bruce Arena. The U.S. loss opened the door to Panama and Honduras, which both needed to win to ensure the U.S. elimination, which was exactly what happened. Honduras rallied from two deficits to beat Mexico in San Pedro Sula, while Panama rode a controversial Blas Perez opener and a Roman Torres late winner to beat Costa Rica in Panama City.Here are three thoughts on the USA’s ouster:

THE U.S. SHOULD BE UTTERLY EMBARRASSED

On a night when Arena’s team had control of its own destiny, the Americans had one of the most infamous belly-flops in U.S. soccer history, losing to the already-eliminated Trinis with everything on the line for the United States.In a pitiful first-half performance, the U.S. lacked urgency and went through the motions while the hosts looked like the ones who had a chance to qualify for the World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago took a 2-0 halftime lead on an own-goal by Omar Gonzalez and a golazo from distance by Alvin Jones, and the U.S. response was tepid at best. This was a team with players acting like they thought they had already qualified for the World Cup, and it showed.

ONLY ONE U.S. PLAYER HAD A DECENT GAME

Christian Pulisic pulled one back for the Americans early in the second half with a laser from outside the box. Pulisic was largely bottled up otherwise, but at least he had one dazzling moment. His teammates could hardly say the same. Forwards Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood were nonexistent. Wings Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola were invisible. Goalkeeper Tim Howard could have been in better position on both goals. And Gonzalez showed with his own-goal and what should have been called a penalty soon thereafter that he was a poor choice by Arena to be on the field, especially with Premier League starter Geoff Cameron on the bench.

TEAR IT ALL DOWN

The far-reaching impacts of this colossal failure will be felt for a long time, not just by the figures on the field on Tuesday but also by the millions and millions of dollars lost by any number of stakeholders in the sport in the United States. The men’s World Cup only comes around once every four years, and the missed opportunity to create millions of new soccer fans in the U.S. is a crushing blow. Missing the World Cup won’t cripple the sport in the U.S., but it will be a huge step back for a sport that had been on the rise for a long time.

U.S.’s Michael Bradley: ‘Nobody to blame but ourselves’ for missing out

United States captain Michael Bradley said no single result led to the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, while believing he and his teammates “have nobody to blame but ourselves.”Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago left the Americans outside of the qualifying positions in the final CONCACAF Hexagonal round by a single point after 10 games.”You can go around in circles a million times over again but the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Bradley said.The U.S. fired Jurgen Klinsmann last November after the national team lost its first two games in the Hex — at home against Mexico and away to Costa Rica.But Bruce Arena only managed a draw in Panama in his second game in charge in March, and ultimately managed a record of three wins, three draws and two defeats in the rest of the qualifiers.And Bradley could not place the blame U.S.’s failure to qualify on any particular result over in the Hex.”It’s not the easiest time to make bigger-picture analysis,” he said. “Obviously we put ourselves right behind the eight-ball with our start, losing the first two games.”We came back in a strong way in March, even through — I mean, look, you never complain about points on the road, but there was probably more there for us in Panama.”June, all things considered you say great, you take your four points, and then obviously given the way we started there’s not much margin for error and when you lose to Costa Rica at home then the margin is virtually gone. And it was.”We responded in a strong way in Hondruas [a 1-1 draw], we responded in Orlando against Panama in a big win and came into the last matchday with everything in our own hands. That was all we could ask for.”ESPN FC’s Sam Borden spoke briefly to Klinsmann by phone after Tuesday’s results, but the former U.S. coach declined to comment.”Yes, I watched, but I don’t want to give any comments right now. It wouldn’t be right,” Klinsmann said.Before Tuesday’s games, the U.S. appeared likely to secure at least a spot in the intercontinental playoff against Australia with a draw. But the stunning loss, combined with wins from Panama and Honduras on the final matchday, combined to leave Arena’s team on the outside looking in.An Omar Gonzalez own goal and a spectacular strike from Alvin Jones had T&T leading 2-0 at halftime, but Christian Pulisic clawed one back for the U.S. early in the second half to give his team hope of securing at least a point from a draw. But the equalizing goal never came.One goal proved to be the difference, as even a draw would have been enough for the U.S. to automatically qualify. And Gonzalez said his own goal, which put the U.S. behind on the night, would stay with him for the rest of his life.”The player hit an early cross and I went to clear it. He touched it first and it hit off my shin and it happened to go right over [U.S. goalkeeper] Tim Howard,” Gonzalez said. “One of the most unlucky goals ever, I think, for myself, and it’s one that will haunt me forever.The massive slip-up by the U.S. means the team will miss out on its first World Cup since not qualifying for the 1986 edition in Mexico.”I never thought that I’d see this day,” Gonzalez said. “Like I said in Spanish, it’s the worst day of my career. I’m extremely sad right now; I don’t even know how to put it into words what I’m feeling. What was supposed to be a celebration is now … I don’t even know what to say. It’s terrible.”When I look over at the bench and everyone was sitting down, I could just see from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t good. I just want to say sorry to the fans, all the U.S. fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia and believed in us. We let down an entire nation today.”

Arena accepts blame in passionate defense of U.S. Soccer setup

COUVA, Trinidad — United States manager Bruce Arena took responsibility for the shock 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the Americans from the World Cup, but he also said nothing needs to change with the approach of U.S. Soccer.The U.S. started the night in third place in the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, but its loss, combined with Honduras’ 3-2 win over Mexico, and Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica dropped them to fifth place in the Hex, allowing the Canaleros to claim third place on goal difference, and the Catrachos to contest a playoff against Australia.”I think it’s disappointing. It’s a blemish for us,” said Arena. “We should be not be staying home for this World Cup. I take responsibility for that.”Arena’s contract expires next July, while U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati will face opposition if he decides to stand for re-election in a vote set for February.But asked how U.S. Soccer should respond to the defeat, Arena answered in a manner that is likely to infuriate American fans everywhere.”There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” he said. “Certainly as our league grows, it advances the national team program. We have some good young players come up.”Nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy changes I think would be foolish. We’re building a good system in our professional league. We have players playing abroad of some quality.”There’s enough there. There’s no excuses for us not qualifying for the World Cup.”The U.S. played with none of the verve and aggression that it showed in Friday’s 4-0 hammering of Panama. Instead it looked tentative, allowing the home side to take the initiative. An own goal from U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez put the Soca Warriors on top in the 17th minute.”I think we foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal,” said Arena. “At that point we started to get into the game and it was going to be OK.”That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. It got them motivated and they closed out the half in good form. That was a big play in the game.”Alvin Jones then compounded the Americans’ difficulty with 30-yard blast eight minutes before halftime.”I thought maybe the first 5-10 minutes we were okay,” said Arena. “But I think their energy, and dropping off [defensively], they got in good spots. Our center-backs were not confident enough with the ball, and really we often in the first half we were playing eight against 10 because they really needed to carry the ball and bring a player to the ball and move it a bit quicker.”Our forwards were not able to hold the ball, we did a poor job there. We didn’t get [Christian] Pulisic into the game, we played poorly. The first goal was unfortunate. Those things happen. The second goal was an incredible shot. What can you say?”Borussia Dortmund star Pulisic pulled a goal back minutes into the second half, but the U.S. couldn’t find the breakthrough it needed to keep its qualification hopes alive, with substitute Clint Dempsey’s shot bouncing off the post in the 77th minute.”Give our opponent credit,” said Arena. “They played well, they played hard, on the day they won a lot of individual battles against us, and they deserve all the credit for their win.”Arena added that he didn’t inform his team of what the scores were in the other games, as a draw would have put them through regardless of results elsewhere.”It never mattered to us the score of the other games at any time today,” he said.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 USMNT Player Ratings: Excruciating World Cup elimination leaves no victors

Greg SeltzerContributor

he US national team put on a depressing display in Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night, breaking hearts nationwide with a galling 2-1 loss that left them without a World Cup finals berthfor the first time since 1986.

The visitors looked like soccer zombies in the opening frame, operating with a maddening lack of intensity and no discernible organization. Two gut-punch goal leaks later, and the USMNT were in a do-or-die position that has so often seen them rise to the rally occasion over the past few decades. There would be no such excitement on this dreary, utterly shocking night.

Starting XI

Tim Howard (2)
Though the Colorado Rapids netminder made a couple of second-half stops to keep the US in it for the needed result, in the end, there was no coming back from how poorly he played in the first half. Incredibly clumsy footwork kept Howard from stopping the own goal, and there is absolutely no reason to be left flailing so wildly at a 40-yard shot. If that wasn’t enough, he also committed a couple of bad spills that nearly cost the team.

DeAndre Yedlin (4.5)
The Newcastle right back had several decent moments supporting the attack, but he was caught up by his own mistakes too often, and also oddly troubled by counterattack runners.

Omar Gonzalez (2)
A sloppy clearance attempt ended up in the back of the net to put the US behind early, and Gonzalez was then fortunate not to give up a spot kick moments later. He also repeatedly misfired on passes near midfield.

Matt Besler (6)
The Sporting KC defender is one of the few US players who should come out of this game unscathed. Besler largely did his duty at the back and bravely pushed up to support possession while the team was chasing a goal in the second half.

Jorge Villafana (3.5)
Whle the Santos Laguna left back made no great mistakes in his own end, he was a major letdown on the ball. Villafana was far less useful in the build than usual and his crosses floated awry on the few occasions he did gain a good position on the overlap.

Michael Bradley (4)
There is plenty to be said about leaving the captain to cover too much ground, but it’s still quite telling that he failed to manage even a single defensive stop in the middle of the field. Following a sub-standard first half, Bradley’s passing was more effective after the break.

Paul Arriola (2.5)
The D.C. United right-sider had little to no effect on the game during his 45 minutes of work. Arriola constantly left Bradley without both defensive support and a passing outlet.

Darlington Nagbe (4)
During the opening frame, the Portland midfielder strangely committed four cheap giveaways in the US end and coughed up another while attempting to lead a promising attack rush. Perhaps it’s just as well he left Bradley stranded on the ball so often. Nagbe improved considerably after intermission, and even picked up a cheap assist.

Christian Pulisic (6.5)
While his fine strike just past the break gave the visitors hope of a rally and a late cross nearly helped complete it, this was a hot-and-cold outing for the youngster. Pulisic was quite invisible for large swaths of the first half and was caught dribbling far too often on the night.

Bobby Wood (3.5)
One could certainly be forgiven for failing to notice Wood was on the field until his header from the Pulisic serve mentioned above was cruelly pawed away.

Jozy Altidore (4)
The Toronto FC striker suffered through an abysmal first half with his hold-up game. Like several of his teammates, Altidore was better after halftime – without being good enough to make the needed difference.

Coach

Bruce Arena (0)
Last week Arena stated that he had not given any thought to this Trinidad & Tobago match prior to Friday’s home clash vs. Panama. Tuesday’s game plan and the resulting US performance compels one to wonder if there was any thought put into it after the Panama win, either.  Sticking with a winning lineup is much more applicable to club ball than it is to the World Cup qualifying game, where the team generally has only a few days between matches and then several weeks, or even months, apart. Simply throwing out what worked in Panama was oddly lackadaisical, and that’s exactly how the team played in a game that was meant to secure their place at Russia 2018.  It pains me to say it, but that was inexcusable. And if that wasn’t annoying enough, Arena then stunted any potential comeback (again, in a situation where their very World Cup hopes were dying on the fire) by making a highly curious second sub and waiting far too long for the third. The coach has had many great days on the bench. This was his worst, at the worst possible time.

Subs

Clint Dempsey (6.5)
On a night when the USMNT seemed to collectively lack a belly fire, there was no such issue with Dempsey. The Sounders stalwart came off the bench ready to lift the team on his back, and twice came painfully close to finding the goal needed to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Kellyn Acosta (5)
The FC Dallas man offered some helpful hustle, but not much else as a makeshift left back.

Benny Feilhaber (-)
It might have been nice to see what the SKC playmaker could accomplish given more pitch time.

Facts and figures on U.S.’s historic failure to qualify for 2018 World Cup

The United States will not be playing at the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The Americans’ 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night ended a run of qualifying for seven straight World Cups — the longest streak in CONCACAF.

The only way the U.S. could have been eliminated Tuesday night was with a loss and wins by both Panama and Honduras, who were facing opponents that had already clinched World Cup berths.

ESPN’s Soccer Power Index projected only a 3 percent chance that all three events would happen tonight and thus eliminate the U.S. from the World Cup.

Here are some other statistics surrounding the outcome:

— The U.S. lost five games in this qualifying cycle, its most losses in a single campaign in team history, and four in the final Hexagonal round, also a team high.

— Before this cycle, the U.S. had two home losses in its previous 53 home qualifiers since 1980. This time they lost to both Mexico and Costa Rica.

— The 12 points earned from the 10 games in the Hex are five fewer than in any other cycle since the current format began in 1998.

— From Hex games 6-8, the U.S. went winless in three straight World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 2001.

— The 2018 cycle is the first time since 2002 that the U.S. has not finished first in the Hex. The U.S. was second in 1998 and third in 2002 and is now fifth in 2018.

— The U.S.’ streak of seven straight World Cups before this cycle was the seventh-longest in the world after only Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and South Korea.

The last time the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1986:

— Goalkeeper Tim Howard was the only one of Tuesday’s U.S. starters who had been born.

— Only two teams from CONCACAF qualified (Mexico as hosts and Canada). The World Cup also featured the Soviet Union and West Germany.

— The only professional outdoor soccer league in the U.S. was the Western Soccer Alliance. Major League Soccer was 10 years from starting.

Here’s where your team stands in the playoff picture heading into Week 32

October 9, 20178:00PM EDTMLSsoccer staff

We’re in the home stretch of the 2017 MLS regular season and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Here’s where your team stands in the race for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs:RELATED: Seedings & Playoff Bracket if the playoffs started today …

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto FC
19W-5L-8D  |  65 points  |  +36
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. MTL, Oct 22 at ATL
The Reds’ 4-2 win over RBNY on Sept. 30 clinched the 2017 Supporters’ Shield, the first in club history and the first for a Canadian MLS side. It also assured them of the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs bracket and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including MLS Cup, should they reach that stage for a second straight season.

 

2. New York City FC
16W-8L-8D  |  56 points  |  +14 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at NE, Oct 22 vs. CLB
NYCFC earned a hard-fought draw in Bridgeview in Week 30, and with Atlanta losing 3-2 to Minnesota last Tuesday, the Cityzens are guaranteed to enter Week 32 at No. 2. And with the Supporters’ Shield now securely in Toronto, Patrick Vieira’s team are simply looking to hold on to that No. 2 position which would afford them a Knockout Round bye.

 

3. Atlanta United
15W-9L-8D  |  53 points  |  +30 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at NY, Oct 22 vs. TOR
The Five Stripes had the look of a team that could battle NYCFC for the No. 2 seed and a Knockout Round bye. However, a Week 30 draw against New England, coupled with last Tuesday’s stunning home loss to Minnesota, their first at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, blew their big chance to vault past NYCFC. They still have a shot, but their final two matches against playoff-chasing RBNY and record-hungry Toronto FC won’t be easy.

 

4. Chicago Fire
15W-10L-7D  |  52 points  |  +16 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. PHI, Oct 22 at HOU
A win in Week 30 could have placed Chicago just one point behind NYCFC for second place in the East. Instead, with a draw, they are now four points behind their East counterpoints. Their main objective at this point is likely to secure a home Knockout Round match by staying ahead of surging Columbus Crew SC.

 

5. Columbus Crew SC
15W-12L-5D  |  50 points  |  +3 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at ORL, Oct 22 at NYC
With their 2-0 defeat of D.C. United in Week 30, Crew SC officially booked their spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. It marks the third time in four seasons under Gregg Berhalter and the seventh time in the last 10 years. Now in fifth place, two points behind Chicago and with two games remaining, Crew SC still have a chance to improve their seeding position, but they will need other results to go their way down the stretch.

 

6. New York Red Bulls
13W-12L-7D  |  46 points  |  +5 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. ATL, Oct 22 at DC
The Red Bulls took care of business in Week 31 against a weakened Vancouver Whitecaps side to clinch the sixth and final playoff berth in the East. With six points separating them from the Chicago Fire in 4th place, the Red Bulls are looking at hitting the road for an Eastern Conference Knockout Round match.

 

7. Montreal Impact
11W-15L-6D  |  39 points  |  -4 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at TOR, Oct 22 vs. NE
The Impact’s playoff chase was all but over after Week 30’s gut-punch 2-1 loss at Colorado, and the New York Red Bulls’ 3-0 win over Vancouver on Oct. 7 officially ended their pursuit.

 

8. New England Revolution
11W-15L-6D  |  39 points  |  -10 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. NYC, Oct 22 at MTL
Like Montreal, the Revs were hoping for some help from Vancouver after dropping two more points at home with a Week 30 scoreless draw against Atlanta. Their hopes were dashed, however, when the Red Bulls stampeded past the ‘Caps on Oct. 7.

 

9. Philadelphia Union
10W-13L-9D  |  39 points  |  -1 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at CHI, Oct 22 vs. ORL
Philadelphia kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 2-0 win against the Sounders in Week 30, but the help they needed from Vancouver was nowhere to be found as the Red Bulls sealed Philly’s fate with a win on Saturday.

 

10. Orlando City SC
10W-13L-9D  |  39 points  |  -13 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. CLB, Oct 22 at PHI
Orlando‘s hopes, already slim heading into Week 30, took a huge blow after their home draw vs. Dallas. And they were also mathematically eliminated when the Red Bulls clinched the final available Eastern Conference playoff spot on Oct. 7.

 

11. D.C. United
9W-18L-5D  |  32 points  |  -24 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at POR, Oct 22 vs. NY
D.C. United were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Sept. 27 and will be looking to use the rest of the season to build some momentum towards a big 2018 during which they’ll open their new Audi Field home.

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Whitecaps
15W-11L-6D  |  51 points  |  +2 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. SJ, Oct 22 at POR
Whitecaps FC became the first West side to book their place in the postseason, thanks to their Week 30 road win over Sporting KC. It’ll be their third trip to the playoffs in the past four seasons. However, they were unable to extend their lead at the top of the West when a shorthanded lineup fell in a resounding 3-0 loss against the New York Red Bulls. The result means they missed a chance at a Knockout Round bye, though a win next week at home against San Jose would still be enough to guarantee a top-two finish in the West.

 

2. Sporting Kansas City
12W-7L-12D  |  48 points  |  +13 GD
Remaining Matches (3): Oct 11 at HOU, Oct 15 vs. HOU, Oct 22 at RSL
SKC missed out on another chance to clinch a playoff berth when they settled for a 1-1 draw in Week 31 at Minnesota. Though still favorites to eventually claim a spot (and now in the No. 2 position in the West thanks to the Minnesota result), a tricky stretch run and the potential absence of star ‘keeper Tim Melia mean SKC can’t get complacent.

 

3. Portland Timbers
13W-11L-8D  |  47 points  |  +5 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. DC, Oct 22 vs. VAN
The Timbers missed a chance to clinch their playoff spot in Week 30 by losing 2-1 to the Quakes, and they now find themselves back in a Knockout Round spot after Sporting picked up a point in Minnesota on Oct. 7. Unfortunately for PTFC’s chances at a bye, Sporting KC still have a game in hand on the Timbers, who finish their schedule with home games against D.C. United and Vancouver.

 

4. Seattle Sounders
12W-9L-11D  |  47 points  |  +6 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. DAL, Oct 22 vs. COL
Seattle failed to clinch a playoff spot in Week 30, losing to the Union 2-0 in Chester. However, with two home games remaining on the schedule, a Knockout Round bye is still within reach.

 

5. Houston Dynamo
11W-10L-10D  |  43 points  |  +8 GD
Remaining Matches (3): Oct 11 vs. SKC, Oct 15 at SKC, Oct 22 vs. CHI
After dropping valuable points in their two most recent home outings against West bottom-dwellers Colorado and LA, the Dynamo reversed the trend in Week 30 with a hard-fought 2-1 home win against Minnesota. The three points give them some breathing room before two difficult matches coming up against Sporting Kansas City. The job is far from done, though, as FC Dallas are now tied with them on points with Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes just one point behind.

 

6. FC Dallas
10W-9L-13D  |  43 points  |  0 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at SEA, Oct 22 vs. LA
FC Dallas missed a big opportunity to jump in the Western Conference standings when they went to the already-eliminated Colorado Rapids in Week 31 and came away with only a draw. They now sit in the 6th and final playoff spot, tied on points with the Houston Dynamo. But with Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes just one point behind, Dallas are in a precarious position.

 

7. Real Salt Lake
12W-14L-6D  |  42 points  |  -6 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at COL, Oct 22 vs. SKC
Kyle Beckerman‘s dramatic 95th-minute equalizer earned 10-man RSL a 1-1 road draw at the LA Galaxy in Week 30, a result which reverberated across the tight Western Conference playoff race. The point for RSL kept them a nose ahead of San Jose, but FC Dallas used their game in hand during the international break to jump one point ahead and into sixth place, the final playoff spot. Given how tight the grouping around the playoff line is in the West, a rivalry match win in Colorado is likely a must-have on Oct. 15.

 

8. San Jose Earthquakes
12W-14L-6D  |  42 points  |  -22 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at VAN, Oct 22 vs. MIN
The Earthquakes picked up a vital 2-1 home win over Portland in Week 30 to keep pace with FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake, who are fighting for the sixth and final playoff spot. A spot as high as fifth place, currently occupied by the Houston Dynamo, is also still within reach. San Jose hope they can survive a Week 32 trip to Vancouver and get some other favorable results in order to enter that final home match against Minnesota with something to play for on Decision Day.

 

9. Minnesota United
10W-16L-6D  |  36 points  |  -19 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at LA, Oct 22 at SJ
The Loons’ season is done as of Oct. 7, when a home draw to Sporting Kansas City combined with an FC Dallas draw mathematically doomed Minnesota’s playoff chances. They’ve gone 4W-2L-2D in their last eight games but it just wasn’t enough to make up the deficit in the standings.

 

10. Colorado Rapids
8W-18L-6D  |  30 points  |  -18 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. RSL, Oct 22 at SEA
A Sept. 27 loss in Dallas officially ruled the Rapids out of playoff contention. But they can now revel in their role of playoff spoilers, playing FC Dallas to a draw in Week 31 and next welcoming rivals and playoff chasers Real Salt Lake for a visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

 

11. LA Galaxy
7W-17L-8D  |  29 points  |  -21 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. MIN, Oct 22 at DAL
The Galaxy were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Sept. 27 and are now hoping to avoid finishing with the worst record in the league, a development few saw coming in 2017.

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10/10/17 US must win or tie vs T&T tonight 8 pm beIN Sport, Pulisic was magical, Argentina must win to go to WC

So the game is on beIN Sport tonight – and I know a lot of folks don’t get that channel – anyone up for gathering someplace to watch?  RE: and let me know if so.  Perhaps Stacked Pickle on Old Meridian or downtown Carmel?

The US had their backs to the wall on Friday night vs Panama and boy did they come thru !  Bruce put out an offensive attack with Altidore and Bobby Wood up front with Pulisic underneath them in the middle as attacking mid.  Then Nagbe and Arriola on the wings and Bradley handling the #6 by himself in the middle.  They came out possessing and attacking – gave Pulisic room to run and man did he come thru.  The first run up the middle off a neat flick from Wood to Altidore who would flick it to Pulisic on his sprint was brilliant – especially by Pulisic.  His control unbelievable, his finish sublime.  He followed this a few minutes later with a fake to the right, a cut to the left, and a fantastic feed across goal to Altidore for the tap in and the rout was on.  This Pulisic kid is truly fantastic!

I also thought DeAndre Yedlin reminded us what we have been missing at right back with him injured. Man he was world class – and showed he has really learned to play defense in the EPL.  Was surprised to see Cameron left off for Gonzales in the middle of defense.  My guess is Gonzo and Besler have this communication having played together so long that Bruce felt this was a key.  Overall the defense bent some but honestly the shutout was deserved.  Finally – I thought Bradley did a workman job in the middle.  He was really strung out in an up and down game – but I thought he held his own until fellow #6 McCarty came in to help in the middle after the US went up 3-0.   Not sure what the US should do tonight. Obviously in muddy conditions I think you play a little more conservatively tonight. Perhaps a back 3/5 with Cameron inserted in the middle of defense.  That and I think McCarty gets the start in the midfield with Bradley to help protect.  Also I think Dempsey maybe gets the start tonight in the mud –he’s a classic mudder and I can think of no better way for Dempsey to break the US Scoring record he shares with Landon Donovan than by scoring a goal tonight to put the US thru to World Cup 2018!

Here’s how the USA can qualify for Russia, win, lose or draw in its finale:

Win: It’s simple. Win, and the USA is in. The USA has qualified in Trinidad before–starting its streak of World Cup qualification in 1989 with Paul Caligiuri’s famous goal. T&T is out of the tourney and has little to play for other than to ruin the US chances.

Draw: If the U.S. draws, it’ll go to 13 points. A Panama win would bring Los Canaleros level on points, but the goal differential tiebreaker means it’d take a huge win over Costa Rica to pass the Americans. Honduras is in a similar boat, but in an even worse position than Panama. It would need to make up a 12-goal gap while beating Mexico and hoping the USA loses handily. It’s quite unlikely, and in short, a draw should definitely send the USA through in third place.

Loss: A loss would be fairly catastrophic, but it would not necessarily eliminate the Americans from contention–it would leave them looking for help from Costa Rica and Mexico. Panama would need to beat Costa Rica Tuesday in order to bump the USA out of third. Honduras could bump the USA out of third as well with a win over Mexico. One of them winning and the USA losing would force the Americans into a playoff against either Australia or Syria. The death scenario: If the USA loses and Panama and Honduras both win, then the USA is out altogether. It’s unlikely, but it’s in play.

USA

Tactical Approach to Tonights Game – ArmChair Analyst – Matt Doyle

Going to Be a Nightmare Field Situation Tonight – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Check out the Field at Trinidad and Tobago

US Have 1 foot in Russia – Ian Durke – ESPNFC

US Ability to perform under Pressure both a Blessing &  A Curse – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Still has Work to Do –

US – Arena pushed All the Right Buttons – Matt Doyle – mls.com

Bruce Arena’s Line-up Gamble Pays off with huge win – Charles Boehm MLS.com

US Wins big over Panama – SI – Grant Wahl

Pulisic Finally Gets some Help in Win over Panama – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Player Ratings – Pulisic a 10 – Jason Davis ESPNFC

Players Ratings – MLS.com Greg Seltzer

Preparation was Key for US vs Panama – SI – Grant Wahl

US 4- Panama 0 –US Soccer Players

Pulisic Sends Game Jersey to young Fan Raising money for Puerto Rico –

What’s Pulisic’s Best Position – SI  Brian Straus – Oct 5.

US Defender John Brooks – Close to Returning from injury at Wolfsburg

US U17s win 2nd Advance to WC Round of 16

US u17s Win first Game 3-0 vs hosts India

WORLD

Around the World of Qualifying – Argentina Struggles, England Formation Switch Gab Marcotti ESPNF  

Argentina and Chile battle for last spot – if Brazil loses to Chile – that could knock out Argentina

Iceland Makes It In to World Cup

Wales left Heartbroken in loss to Ireland – out of WC

Mexico looks to Shut out Honduras from World Cup Tonight

World Cup Draw Seeding Implications for Qualifying Finals- for US –

GAMES ON TV 

Tues, Oct 10                     World Cup Qualifying

5 am ESPN3                     Australia 1-0 vs Syria (US might play the winner here?)

7:30 am FS 2                  Spain U17 vs Nigeria U17 WC

10:30 am FS2                 Brazil U17 vs Korea U17 WC

2:45 pm  FS 1                Portugal vs Switzerland

2;45 pm FS 2                 France vs Belarus

8 pm  beIN Sports      Panama vs USA 

Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs NY Cosmos

Sun Oct 15

7:30 am NBCSN               Brighton vs Everton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg

11 am NBCSN                   Southampton vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Inter vs AC Milan

Mon, Oct 16

7:30 am FS 2                  2A vs 2 C  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1B vs 3 ACD  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

Tues, Oct 17

7:30 am FS 2                  1C vs 3 ABF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1F vs 2 E  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Real Madrid vs Tottenham (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Man City vs Napoli (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Maribor vs Liverpool

Weds, Oct 18

7:30 am FS 2                  1A vs 3 CDE  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1d vs 3 BEF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Barcelona vs Olympiakos (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Chelsea vs Roma (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Bayern Munich vs Celtic

7 pm                                    Butler vs Indiana University at Butler Bowl !!

Thurs, Oct 19

1 pm Fox Sport 2        Crvena vs Arsenal (Europa League)

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         USA vs Korea Republic

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2                      Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN               Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Liverpool

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

EPL 2017 Schedule

 

Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of USMNT at T&T World Cup qualifier

October 9, 20171:21PM EDTMatthew Doyle  MLS.com – Senior Writer

Consider, first, the pitch conditions at the Ato Bolden Stadium:

View image on Twitter

Nothing about Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier (8 pm ET; BeIN Sports, NBC Universo) looks like it’s going to be pleasant. There will be puddles, and there will be highlight-reel-for-all-the-wrong-reasons slide tackles, and I simply doubt that there will be much in the way of build-up play from either side.Lucky bounces will be important, and set pieces will be especially important. It’s one of those “just find a way to get a result” games, and if the Yanks manage that, they’ll have officially punched their ticket to Russia.

What Trinidad & Tobago Will Do

  • Sit deep and counter

The Soca Warriors had 32 percent of the ball in Friday’s 3-1 loss at Mexico. They completed a decent-enough 69 percent of them, but that number cratered to below 30 percent in the attacking third, and zero percent on crosses. More than 25 percent of their passes were long-balls.This is just pure, Route 1 goodness:

There’s an obvious difference between playing at Mexico and playing at home, of course. T&T will be a little more aggressive in getting on the ball and trying to do actual soccer things, and Kevin Molino and(*) Joevin Jones will probably start, so the US can expect to see at least a few dangerous, inverted runs coming in off the wings of the likely 4-1-4-1 the Soca Warriors will trot out.(*) Molino’s out via yellow card accumulation. Thanks Phil!

But the basic gameplan will be the same on Tuesday as it was on Friday. Sit, be compact, then go long and direct as hell. And maybe in the process, ruin the USMNT’s chances of going to the World Cup.

What the US Should Do

  • Dominate in the air and on second balls

No Kenwyne Jones means no big, strong, dominant target forward for T&T, which should make knockdowns of those long-balls a little bit less dangerous (the above goal notwithstanding). Still, the Trinidadian forward contingent here aren’t tiny, and they are not afraid to contest literally anything hoofed out of the back. And there will be tons of balls hoofed from the back.The US need to win those first headers, and in guys like Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, they have the ability to do so. More important, though, is that they have to win those second balls at midfield once the header is either knocked down, or cleared back up into the scrum. Thus far that has simply not been a strong point for the US under Bruce Arena.Part of the reason for that is Arena’s habitually gambled upon leaving central midfield relatively barren in exchange for a more attack-oriented approach. We saw this in its glory on Friday, that 4-0 win over Panama fired by the US overwhelming the opposing defense with five attackers.We could very well see the same thing at T&T. What I’d prefer, though, is this:

Wood/Dempsey

Pulisic

Villafana//McCarty//Bradley//Yedlin

Besler//Cameron//Gonzalez

Guzan

It’s a 3-5-2/5-3-2. I chose Dax McCarty ahead of either Kellyn Acosta or Alejandro Bedoya as Michael Bradley‘s deep central midfield partner strictly because Dax is the best of the bunch at winning those second balls. I also chose Clint Dempsey over Jozy Altidore because Dempsey’s a mudder – if there’s anybody destined to score a record-breaking goal in a swamp, it’s Deuce.I also just want to get three center backs on the field. First, it helps when dealing with the inevitable fusillade of T&T punts. Second… set pieces. The US haven’t been great (or even “good”, really) defending them for half-a-decade now. Adding a third center back makes sense, given the stakes.It also makes it much less likely that the US will be able to send numbers forward and just overwhelm the hell out of T&T like they did to Panama, but the field conditions would make that a risky strategy anyway. For this one, I’m content with the idea of a Dempsey – Bobby Wood – Christian Pulisic triumvirate with occasional up-the-flanks help from Jorge Villafaña or DeAndre Yedlin. That really should be enough.

A few more variables we’ll tackle bullet-point style:

  • Arena has been a big believer in squad rotation, so don’t be surprised if we see the likes of Tim Ream and DaMarcus Beasley out on the field. YMMV on how much you approve or disapprove of this.
  • People freaked out of Cameron not making an appearance on Friday, but I’m convinced it was because they didn’t want to overwork his balky hamstring. He’d missed most of September for Stoke, only coming back last weekend – during which he played 90 minutes at the center of a back three. The turnaround from Saturday-to-Friday was probably a little bit too tight. Now he’s got an extra four days rest, and I’ll bet you an arm he’s in the XI.
  • A win and the US are officially in. A draw would certainly do it as well, given current goal differential (the US are +5, Panama are -2 and Honduras are -7). A loss… a loss and the US could end anywhere from third to fifth place, depending upon other results.It’s all still there to play for.

Stejskal: Who should the US start against Trinidad & Tobago?

October 9, 20173:49PM EDT  Sam Stejskal Contributor – MLS.com

Last week, I took a crack at putting together my preferred starting lineup for the US national team’s do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Panama.I called for a 3-5-2 formation, which was way, way different than the 4-4-2 diamond that Bruce Arena rolled out in Orlando. That setup worked out just fine, of course, with the US romping their way to a dominant 4-0 win against Los Canaleros.

The victory put the US in full control of their World Cup qualification hopes heading into Tuesday’s match at Trinidad & Tobago (8 pm ET; beIN SPORTS, Universo). A win against the Soca Warriors, and the Americans are in. A draw would more than likely do the trick, too. A loss would make things tricky – let’s hope we don’t have to worry about any of those permutations.

While the US were rampant on Friday against Panama, I don’t expect Arena to be as aggressive with his lineup on Tuesday. The field will likely be a mess, the US are on the road and they only need a draw. Those circumstances lend themselves to a more conservative approach than what we saw on Friday, and they played a pretty big role in determining how I’d line things up.

The biggest change I’d make would be in the formation. I’d be excited to see the US use the diamond again, but it’d be more prudent to shift to a 4-2-3-1. That means switches in the midfield and up top, including bringing in the responsible, smart and experienced Alejandro Bedoya to play alongside defensive midfielder Michael Bradley. I’d also make a switch in net, starting Brad Guzanover Tim Howard to keep that goalkeeping competition kicking as the US edge closer to a probable trip to Russia next summer.

Here’s how I’d lineup the full team:

4-2-3-1, left to right

GK: Brad Guzan – Jorge Villafaña, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin – Michael BradleyAlejandro Bedoya – Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola – Jozy Altidore

Pitch will be far from perfect as United States aims to lock up World Cup spot

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF never ceases to amaze. There is drama, crazy incidents and even crazier weather conditions. is that last aspect that has taken center stage ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago. When the U.S. arrived for its usual prematch practice at the game venue — in this case, Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva — it witnessed a partially flooded playing surface, a surrounding running track that was almost completely submerged and a solitary water pump gamely trying to move the water into a nearby drain.This of course led to a bit of back and forth between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association on social media and elsewhere. Turns out that the TTFA didn’t take kindly to a few tweets from the USSF’s Twitter account highlighting the state of the field. The TTFA was thoughtful enough to include a picture of the “Snow Classico” with the press release insisting that the track “was the only area affected at the Ato Boldon Stadium,” even though that wasn’t the case.U.S. keeper Tim Howard admitted that he has seen worse in England.”Those games get canceled, though,” he quipped.There have been some differing explanations as to exactly why Ato Boldon Stadium was chosen as a venue. The official line is that problems with the lighting system at Hasely Crawford Stadium, the usual venue for Trinidad and Tobago national team matches, necessitated the change. Another T&T official said back in June that it was done to cut security costs (Crawford Stadium’s capacity is 27,000, while Boldon Stadium’s is 10,000).Regardless, as of now, the game is going ahead as planned, though that could all change if there is additional precipitation. The current forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain around midday Tuesday, with skies expected to clear late in the afternoon.”There’s always something,” said U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley about playing on the road in CONCACAF. “It doesn’t faze us. It’s the reality of qualifying for a World Cup for us. You take it for what it is, you get a good laugh about it, and ultimately you make sure that in no way it throws off what we’re trying to do and what we’re all about.” And for all of the head-shaking and tut-tutting over the condition of the field, it doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. still has a World Cup qualifying berth to secure. A win on Tuesday guarantees a trip to Russia. Only an otherworldly set of circumstances will deny the U.S. should it tie the match. But a loss opens the door for one or both of Panama and Honduras to jump over the U.S. and either condemn the Americans to fourth place and a playoff against Australia or Syria or knock them out of qualifying entirely.The varying scenarios create a bit of an awkward situation for the Americans. Friday’s 4-0 win over Panama was as close to a must-win as you can get. That, obviously, won’t be the case on Tuesday, and that can create a mental trap for the players.”Obviously, that’s a slippery slope,” Howard said. “A tie in the end will be great, if that happens, but it’s not something that we’re planning on doing. We’re going to try and be aggressive, get our goals and play well enough to win.”There also is the added wrinkle of playing a T&T side that already has been eliminated, with manager Dennis Lawrence opting to field younger players. Kenwyne Jones wasn’t called in, and midfielder Kevin Molino is suspended, due to accumulation of yellow cards. Given that the field will be littered with players trying to prove themselves, T&T could be a dangerous opponent — and it looked the part in a 3-1 loss to Mexico on Friday.Those circumstances, along with the playing conditions, require many things from the U.S. They need to be confident in their approach but adaptable, as well.”It’s having an idea before the game of what we think the game is going to be like and how we think it’s going to play out,” said Bradley, during a roundtable with reporters. “But you also have to have guys who then, that when the game gets going, can read things and understand what’s going on, because things change, things change quickly, especially in these games where there is so much on the line.”The biggest concern for the U.S. heading into the match surrounds the health of Christian Pulisic, who sustained a calf injury against Panama. Pulisic indicated the calf has improved but stopped short of saying he would play. Manager Bruce Arena sounded a bit more optimistic that Pulisic would recover but stressed that a final decision would be made Tuesday morning.If Pulisic does play, Arena will engage in his usual ritual of determining where to play the 19-year-old. Pulisic dazzled in a central role against Panama, but on the road, Arena has tended to play him out wide in a bid to provide a bit more defensive stability alongside Bradley in the center of midfield. That could mean that one of Dax McCarty or Alejandro Bedoya will get the nod in the center of midfield and Pulisic will move ostensibly wide but with plenty of license to drift into central positions. If Pulisic can’t go, then the supporting cast that performed so well against Panama will need to provide the kind of collective effort that can compensate for the midfielder’s absence, conditions be damned.”I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be a night where there’s tons of perfect football, that’s for sure,” Bradley said.Given the stakes and the odyssey that this team has endured in qualifying, there doesn’t need to be perfection. If the U.S. can get the job done, it can leave crazy behind and let the celebrations begin.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

United States have one foot in Russia after a fraught qualifying campaign

Ronald Reagan was president and the movie “Top Gun” was breaking box office records the last time the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1986.Back then, outside a tiny minority of soccer diehards, nobody in America even cared; the tournament might have been held on Mars, for all most people knew. After all, the list of failures to qualify dated back to 1950, the year of a fabled 1-0 win over England in Belo Horizonte.How times change: The U.S. has been at every World Cup since 1990 and a growing army of fans not only care, but expect to see their team on the big stage. Moreover, a generation has grown up watching live action from the top European Leagues, while Major League Soccer has gained increasing traction.In 2014, TV ratings went through the roof and, as we covered the team in Brazil, stories reached us of business people in Wall Street timing their lunch break to watch the Americans play and new converts were not disappointed.Jurgen Klinsmann’s team won hearts and minds in advancing from a mighty tough group that also featured comprising Germany, Portugal and Ghana. The U.S. even found themselves adopted as lovable underdogs by neutrals until their campaign ended in an extra-time defeat to Belgium in the Round of 16, despite the heroics of goalkeeper Tim Howard.It was a run that did much to spread word that the U.S. were not some kind of joke team and, to emphasise that point, Klinsmann also engineered away friendly wins at Italy, Germany and Netherlands during his tenure.But attempts to qualify for Russia next year have been beset by problems.Klinsmann lost his job after defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two games of the “Hex” — the final, six-team round that decides the three automatic qualifiers from the CONCACAF region. Back came Bruce Arena, the grizzled MLS coach who took the U.S. to the quarterfinals in 2002.He repaired the damage until a costly 2-0 home defeat in September to the clever Costa Ricans, who took their chances and ruthlessly squeezed America’s teenage talent Christian Pulisic out of the game.Suddenly the U.S. were outside the prized top-three places and staring at an unthinkable failure to make the World Cup. Such a failure would cost millions of dollars, as well as the loss of kudos and the damage done to the image of the sport across the nation.But with the pressure on and amid tangible tension, Pulisic ripped a hitherto miserly Panama defence to shreds during a 4-0 win in Orlando on Friday.The 19-year-old Dortmund attacker from the chocolate bar town of Hershey, Pa., insists upon his name being pronounced the American way: “Poo-liss-ick.” Mature beyond his years, he wears the No. 10 shirt of former poster boy Landon Donovan and has emerged as the team’s headline act.Now one more victory, away to bottom-of-the-table Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, will take Arena’s team to Russia at the end of this white-knuckle ride. Indeed, even a draw should be enough, such is the U.S.’ goal-difference advantage over Panama and Honduras. But might there be a sting in the tail?The American defence, which has had 19 changes in the Hex so far, does not inspire confidence and the T&T team can play with freedom with nothing but pride on the line. What’s more, they created several good chances against the U.S. earlier in the campaign, despite a 2-0 loss.Away games in CONCACAF are tough for everyone given the usual heat, imperfect surfaces and raucous intimidating crowds. So even against what is likely to be an experimental line-up, this is no formality for the Americans, who have taken just three points from four previous road qualifiers.Yet having grasped a lifeline in Orlando and with the attacking trio of Pulisic , Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood in top form, it will be a shock if the U.S. fail to clinch a spot at an eighth successive World Cup.Perhaps if those three fail to get the job done, 34-year-old Clint Dempsey can come off the bench to get the goal that would put him out on his own as the country’s all-time record scorer. After that, he can go about trying join Pele, as well as Germans Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose, as the only players to score at four World Cups.Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN’s lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.

United States’ ability to perform under pressure both a blessing and a curse

ORLANDO, Fla. — The United States has been flirting with danger for much of this World Cup qualifying cycle. But on Friday, with everything on the line, the Americans took a massive step toward securing qualification, as they obliterated Panama 4-0.This backs-to-the-wall response is nothing new, of course. After dropping the first two games of the final-round Hexagonal, the U.S. hammered Honduras 6-0. In the semifinal round, a loss at Guatemala also imperiled the Americans’ qualifying hopes, but the U.S. responded with a 4-0 victory in the return encounter a few days later. The U.S. then cruised from there with victories over St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.On the one hand, it’s an impressive trait to be able to respond with a dominating performance when the pressure is highest. But looked at another way, why does it take such circumstances to bring the best out of the U.S.?Granted, summoning a performance like Friday’s isn’t like ordering a pizza, where you dial it up and get exactly what you want in the allotted number of minutes. It takes equal parts preparation and execution. The quality and form of the opponent, along with the varying conditions between home and road games, obviously play a part as well.But the performance against Panama, as good as it was, does highlight just how inconsistent the U.S. has been this cycle. There have been times when the team has been dominant and others when it seemed to lack urgency, which explains why that word came up so often during the team’s stay in Orlando. Certainly there has been a lack of continuity from game to game in terms of lineup choices, which no doubt also has had an impact.Manager Bruce Arena isn’t looking at it that way, of course.”We’ve had a great year despite what some of you people think,” he said at his postgame news conference. “We’ve come a long way. We’re well positioned to hopefully qualify for [the 2018 World Cup in] Russia.”He later added, “We’re doing well. I know everyone thought we were going to qualify in six games in 2017. It doesn’t happen that way. I think we’re moving along well, we’ve advanced from sixth to third, we’re positioned well with goal differential, and now we have to finish it off on Tuesday in Trinidad.”Arena has some numbers to back him up, the biggest being that the U.S. has lost but one game since he took over late last year. His overall record is 10-1-6. That record includes the Americans’ run to the title at a watered-down Gold Cup, but in World Cup qualifying, Arena’s record is 3-1-3. There has also been a 10-goal swing for the U.S. since the start of the year — from minus-5 to plus-5 — in terms of goal differential.Other figures aren’t as kind. Some predate Arena’s arrival, but others don’t. The home form, with losses to both Mexico and Costa Rica, has been spotty, to say the least. The Americans’ road form has been subpar as well compared to previous cycles. If the U.S. fails to secure victory against T&T on Tuesday, it will mark the first time since the 1986 cycle that it failed to produce at least one victory outside the U.S. in its final round of qualifying. And even if the U.S. wins against T&T on Tuesday, the six road points in the Hex will be the fewest since the 2002 cycle, when the Americans secured just five points, and one victory.That inconsistency is the biggest concern heading into Tuesday’s match. The pressure on the Americans has been relieved to a degree, not only by the win against Panama but also by Costa Rica’s dramatic tie against Honduras on Saturday. The results leave both Panama and Honduras on 10 points, two behind the U.S., and now a win on Tuesday will clinch third place outright.Given the immense advantage the U.S. has in goal differential over its rivals — it has a seven-goal cushion over Panama and a whopping 12-goal advantage over Honduras — even a tie against the Soca Warriors ought to be enough.So will the U.S. relax, or bear down even more in a bid to finish the job? Outwardly, the U.S. players seemed determined to not let any complacency creep into their collective transom. After Friday’s match, there was universal recognition among the players — from Michael Bradley to Christian Pulisic to Jozy Altidore — that the job is not done. That isn’t to say the U.S. shouldn’t draw inspiration from Friday night. Clearly it should.”We’ve got to enjoy this, use it for confidence and spirit, and make sure that come Tuesday, we’re ready to finish the job,” said Bradley, the U.S. captain.It’s been a habit of the U.S. during the Hex that whenever it seemed ready to put some distance between itself and its rivals, it has been dragged back into the mire with a lackluster performance. Clearly the U.S. team’s psyche is in as good a place as it’s been all year. Keeping lineup changes to a minimum — health permitting — should enable Arena to keep it that way. Then it’s down to the players to get it done on the field.The U.S. has a firm grip on qualification after Friday’s impressive performance. Now it’s time for them to make it secure, leave nothing to chance, and get a victory in Trinidad.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

Warshaw: US national team fans beware – Arena’s team still has work to do

October 9, 201710:58AM EDT Bobby WarshawI’m about to say something, and not support it, because I’m pretty sure you know it’s true: The subconscious is stronger than the conscious. This girl is right for me; this girl is definitely not the one. My mom keeps driving me crazy; I should call my mom. It’s okay for me to leave only a 12 percent tip for this guy; I’m a bad person.We can work really hard to want something or to make the logical decision, but it never compares to the subconscious desire within us. We are always kinda at the mercy of the little seed planted deep in our minds.It’s the same for the players you see out on the field. Players can say the right things – “It’s gonna be a battle out there and we’re gonna have to fight for every inch” – and do the right things like showing up early to training or staying late to do extra work in the weight room. But they can’t change the little thought in the back of their brains.

US still has work to do

The country celebrated Friday evening when the USMNT trounced Panama 4-0, but it may have all been a bit premature.The US still is not mathematically set for Russia. In fact, it’s not even totally logically locked.

Bruce Arena and Co. currently lead both Panama and Honduras by two points. It’s a super slim margin given 1) Panama and Honduras both play at home and 2) both Panama’s and Honduras’ opponents, Mexico and Costa Rica, have already qualified and do not have anything to play for and 3) it’s CONCACAF.

As such, it’s very possible that both Panama and Honduras could win on Tuesday night, forcing the US to need at least a point on the road in Trinidad and Tobago.As US fans, we tend to take matches like T&T for granted. But I remind you once again, it’s CONCACAF; and an everything-on-the-line game. Put both of those in a pot and find out what comes in an hour-and-a-half. It definitely won’t be whatever they had on the box.The USMNT needs to plan to get a point on Tuesday to qualify for the World Cup. And yet, those words are more easily logically understood than subconsciously registered. Like, we can all mathematically say we know the US needs a point, but Friday was so amazing! And are Panama and Honduras really going to win? Panama was so bad last game. And even if we don’t play our best, we can still beat Trinidad, right? I mean, it’s Trinidad. And they don’t even have Stern John anymore.See what I did there? It’s really easy to convince yourself that the game isn’t important, that you don’t need to bring the I-will-kill-you-for-this-seemingly-and-probably-worthless-loose-ball-in-the-middle-of-the-field mentality.Human brains are lazy. Players are no different. If you give a player an inch, he will take a mile. National team players are a little different, of course – it’s how they got to make the national team. But they are still human. They still have sub-conscious tendencies; they’d still prefer to coast at 4-0 than fight to the death at the end. If the brain gets a sliver of a sense that it can relax, it will.

Complacency: It happens

It’s happened to every player. You look at the schedule and you see what should be an easy game coming up. It’s kind of nice to see; it’s nice to get a break from the never-ending grind. You’re just so tired. You tell yourself, though, not to get stuck in the trap.

You promise to double your efforts in the week to stay sharp. You do your reps and your preparation. You show up to the stadium a few minutes early to make a mental statement. You go through the usual pre-game routine, maybe doing a couple extra knees-to-chest to make sure the body know what’s coming.

Then the game starts and you are a second slow on everything. Your brain isn’t clicking at the same speed and your muscles aren’t firing with the same intensity. The dude who has no business running by you is running by you. You hate yourself for letting it happen.You did everything you could, but your brain never got past the “easy game” thought. The subconscious won.

If there’s one line I will use over and over and not apologize for it: The margins at the top level are slim and every percentage point makes a huge difference. If a player drops his intensity or focus by one percent, he loses his margin of advantage.

Think about all the players who have moved down a level and struggled; their ability hasn’t diminished, they just haven’t been able to get their brain to same level of desire. If your subconscious brain thinks it’s going to be easy and drops your focus by that one percent, you’re not going to be the same player. And it’s really hard for the logical part of your brain to convince your subconscious to change.

Can they avoid the trap?

What can a player do to protect against the complacency? I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t know. Tell me how to manipulate the subconscious and we’ll go make a billion dollars together.Some players naturally have a high level of intensity. When you hear players mention each other’s professionalism, this is largely what they mean: how much desire does he bring every day to the job? Does he provide the same work rate in everything he does? It generally aligns with what you’d guess from watching on TV.A coach plays a huge rule, as well. The staff can show clips of the opponent’s best moments, creating a sense that the team is better than previously perceived. Some coaches also just have that sense of “if you drop your intensity for one second I will kill you with my bare hands” vibe. Or sometimes a manager can rotate players, and start a group who will be excited to be on the field at all.Training environment, too, has a huge effect. If a player or team trains at a certain level all the time, it doesn’t have it in its muscle memory to drop its performance. Again, though, it’s tough to get humans to that level every single day. Coaches who try don’t tend to last very long.Complacency is one of the top problems all teams and players face. It’s always lurking around the corner. You even know it’s there. But it’s only when you stop looking for it that it pops out.The USMNT might not need a result on Tuesday. But call your moms, y’all. 

Armchair Analyst: Arena whispering in Caesar’s tomb

October 7, 201710:29AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior

Most of my takes are in the video above or in the special edition of ExtraTime Radio linked below, but I’ll give you the short version here: Bruce Arena’s made a career out of taking calculated risks. In general most of those risks – the 5-4-1 at Mexico in June, or the 3-5-2 vs. Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, or the seen-them-too-often-at-the-time-but-in-hindsight-I-sorta-get-it double d-mid formations of the 2002 and 2006 qualifying cycles – were defensive in nature.On Friday night, in a must-win game against Panama, he went in the other direction. Our man Charlie Boehm covered it in detail in his column, and here’s the telling quote from the manager: “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”Wait no, that quote’s from something else. Here’s the real one: “We wanted to push five players forward into the attack as aggressively as we could.”They did exactly that, again and again and again, until the scoreline read 4-0 and Hernan Dario Gomez read the Panamanian press the riot act. They played a wide diamond, which I’d not have done and which displeased me when I saw it; they played Christian Pulisic as a burst-through-the-lines No. 10, which I most certainly would have done and pleased me greatly; they used the fullbacks to support rather than overlap, which gave a solidity and structure to the back four that has, at times, been lacking.  And also this:View image on Twitter

Bradley is not a perfect player, and a lack of consistency in formation and squad selection has led to some subpar passing numbers relative to what he’s done in the past, and what he does on the weekly with Toronto FC. But you don’t take this chance – you don’t go full Mark Antony – if you have just any old defensive midfielder covering that spot. Your risk calculations probably push you in the other direction, toward a grit-and-grind one-goal result.The US have had a lot of those over the decades, and Arena was particularly masterful at pulling them off during his first tenure as manager. His teams did so with such frequency that it was a point of unquestioned belief amongst the fanbase that he was a conservative, defensive manager first and foremost.This win over Panama, and the 6-0 over Honduras to start his eight-game run-in as resuscitator of the program Jurgen Klinsmann nearly smothered to death, gives the lie to that belief. Arena’s not an ultra-defensive manager; he’s an ultra-pragmatic manager. And sometimes pragmatism demands that you’re Antony in Caesar’s tomb, vowing total war via all-out attack.Not against Mexico, mind you, and not against Costa Rica either. Panama was a different sort of challenge and so it was a different sort of calculus for the manager and the players. But the idea of “let’s make Bradley’s job a lot harder so that the attack’s job is a bit easier” was a worthy trade-off. What comes next will be interesting to see. Even after a 4-0 I still think we’ll get a more defensive set-up at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday for the final qualifier of this cycle, because it just feels like the right call for a road game where all that’s needed is a draw. That could mean a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2 or even a 5-4-1 (that last one feels a step too far).After that, assuming the US does indeed qualify for Russia, it becomes a more open question of what the US can become over the next eight months rather than the question of what the US mustbecome that dominated 2017.Arena’s pragmatism in answering that second question has revealed him to be something of an idealist. That’s not the risk I thought he’d take. I’m glad I was wrong, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out what it might mean next summer, with the whole world watching.

Boehm: Bruce Arena racks up latest big-game win as lineup gamble pays off

October 7, 201712:38AM EDTCharles BoehmContributo

ORLANDO, Fla. – This is just a hasty, back-of-the-napkin calculation, so don’t take it as statistical gospel.But by my approximate count, going all the way back to his University of Virginia days and including his long career in MLS and the US national team, Friday’s World Cup qualifier vs. Panama was the 1,020th high-level soccer game that Bruce Arena has head-coached.People often toss around phrases like “I’ve done this a thousand times,” but in Arena’s case, he really has seen just about everything in his three-plus decades on the sidelines. So as the USMNT gathered in central Florida this week, their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance as fans and the media fretted and probed, the players could look to their grizzled, wisecracking leader and know that he’s been there, done that.“He prepares his teams well for whatever situation that we’re in,” defender Matt Besler said of Arena postgame. “He did a great job of motivating us and preparing us the right way. Then at the end of the day it’s in our hands. He gives this team confidence and he has an experience about him, the way that he goes about things, because he’s been in these positions before. And that carries over to his teams.”And when the opening whistle blew at Orlando City Stadium, all the careful planning and intense preparation clicked, unleashing a vicious storm of attacking soccer that left Panama bruised, breathless and humiliated, to the tune of a 4-0 rout.“In all my years with the national team, this is probably the most prepared I think the team has been, in terms of the work that the coaching staff put in,” said Jozy Altidore, who scored two goals and set up a third. “It’s a huge, huge A+ to them.“From Sunday, since the guys landed, they were showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game. They made us understand how important the game was to them. Kudos to Bruce and his team for preparing everybody.”Details matter at this level. And though Arena makes a good show of dismissing the game’s complexities with his wry smile and smart-aleck demeanor, he’s shown time and again that he can master them, and deploy them to help his teams win.On paper, the USMNT started in a 4-4-2 (or 4-1-3-2 if you’re being pedantic) that many – this correspondent included – were quick to depict as more of the same for a squad whose recent performances seemed to suggest they needed something much more dramatic. There was even a whiff of recklessness, perhaps overconfidence, in a setup that piled a great deal of responsibility on Michael Bradley, the sole defensive midfielder behind five attack-minded colleagues.“I think we’ve played some of our best games like that,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “Michael is as honest and hard-working as they come. The guys who played in alongside of him were asked to do two jobs: spring the attack, get in off the shoulder, and then also protect the fullbacks. So tough job for Darlington [Nagbe] and Paul [Arriola], but they did it well tonight.”As it turned out, the home side weren’t leaving their backsides exposed so much as baring their teeth – and their guests were quickly devoured, falling behind 2-0 before 20 minutes had elapsed.“They smelled blood from the beginning,” Howard said of Altidore, his strike partner Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic, deployed underneath them as a classic No. 10. “Any time they picked up the ball it was either a yellow-card foul or some sort of breakaway. They clearly recognized that from the beginning. We spoke about being aggressive, not just ‘being up against them and kicking them’ aggressive, but getting the ball, playing forward, putting them on their heels. We stuck to the game plan – it was good.”The USMNT had spoken repeatedly of the importance of scoring first in the lead-up to this game, which is easy to say. But Arena set up a starting XI that made that easy for his players to achieve, too. When Panama got up off the canvas and began to mount a response, Arena had a plan for that, too.“Yes, it was,” he said postgame when asked if he considered his team’s tactics and shape a gamble. “We wanted to push five players forward into the attack as aggressively as we could. The way Panama plays, we could afford to do that.“They made a change when they took [Edgar Yoel] Barcenas out [in the first half] and they went to some version of a 4-2-1-3, maybe, and put a little bit more pressure on Michael, had three players in the central part of the midfield. That’s why we brought Dax [McCarty] in, to play next to Michael, give him a little bit more help.”While their fans were fretting, the US were building the tools for victory, secure in the knowledge that their boss had a solid plan for success in a big moment, in front of an appreciative, partisan crowd.Turns out, he did.“Everybody was relaxed,” Altidore said. “We knew we were coming to a place where we were going to have heavy support, as we did here tonight, and we knew we just had to make sure we were the protagonist tonight, and put them under pressure from the first minute, and we did that.”

Christian Pulisic finally gets some help as U.S. teammates step up vs. Panama

ORLANDO, Fla. — The debate has raged for much of this calendar year. Where do you play Christian Pulisic?The 19-year-old usually plays out wide for his club, Borussia Dortmund, though the particular wing he plays on changes every so often. U.S. manager Bruce Arena has alternated Pulisic between wide and more central positions, but the discussion has tended to obscure an even larger truth about this U.S. team: If the players around Pulisic don’t play well, it doesn’t really matter where he lines up. He’ll be smothered, kicked and largely shut down.So on a night when Pulisic was reinserted into a central role in the U.S. attack and excelled, it was the collective contribution from players not named Christian Pulisic that proved to be a huge difference in the 4-0 victory over Panama on Friday night.”We played in a way from the get-go that left no doubt as to who was going to win the game,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “Across the board we had guys ready for a big game, and come through in a huge way.” Without question, Pulisic reveled in his newfound (or was it regained?) freedom, drifting up field in a bid to provide closer support to forwards Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood. It allowed him to find pockets of space and when the U.S. lost the ball, he was intent on attacking as quickly as possible before Panama could get sufficient numbers back.Pulisic pushed forward even when the U.S. didn’t have the ball, relying on Darlington Nagbe, Paul Arriola and even Altidore at times to put in more of the defensive dirty work. It’s what allowed Pulisic to score one goal, assist for another and run at the Panama defense countless other times that led to plenty of near-misses.”I think with Christian playing in the hole like that, he’s able to just sniff stuff out, and I thought he was the difference, between playing him in the middle and on the wing,” Altidore said. “He was able to disrupt them in so many ways, and you saw the difference he can make in the middle of the park, being able to go each way and just being so dynamic. I thought that was a big plus for us.”But instead of waiting for Pulisic to carry the load in the “save us Christian” offense, his teammates were right there with him, taking the initiative. Wood and Altidore were dynamic in their movement and precise with their touches. Or at least precise enough, as evidenced by Altidore’s layoff to Pulisic for the Americans’ opener, one in which Pulisic had to reach back and touch the ball into open space and before rounding Panama keeper Jaime Penedo and scoring into an empty net.”We needed a lot of movement against a physical Panama team that was going to sit in and not make it easy for us,” Pulisic said. “Our movement was good today. I was able to play off [Wood and Altidore]. They had some great layoffs to me and think the spacing was pretty good for most of the night.”Wood and Altidore got on the scoresheet as well, with Altidore scoring twice before half-time — including a deft, Panenka-style penalty — and Wood scoring the Americans’ lone goal in the second half. It amounted to a complete performance from both players.That was by no means the extent of the attacking help supplied to Pulisic. Nagbe and Arriola excelled on the wings, albeit in different ways: Nagbe served as the crafty playmaker, while Arriola used his speed to offer a more classic wing presence. It seemed that whenever the U.S. engaged the hyper-drive in its transition game, Arriola was joining the attack to provide another passing option for Pulisic, or whomever else was manning the controls on a particular counter-attack. And it was Nagbe who at times provided the pressure-breaking pass, like the ball he played into space for Pulisic in the run-up to Altidore’s 19th minute goal.”We were dynamic; we could play on either side tonight, and I think that makes it tough on defenses,” Altidore said.That mobility was an aspect with which the Canaleros simply couldn’t cope, leaving Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez playing tactical catch-up. He subbed out Edgar Barcenas after 26 minutes and changed his formation to put more pressure on Bradley. While Panama did threaten a few more times thereafter, it proved unable to do anything to slow down the U.S. offense, which continued to find opportunities on the break.The irony is that this was a night when the U.S. didn’t finish all that well.”We could have scored a lot more goals,” Arena noted.Wood and Arriola in particular had opportunities to pad the U.S. lead but such was the dominance displayed, both individually and collectively, that it didn’t matter. Even though the Americans had some shaky moments early on in defense, it recovered to deliver a better second half.Credit is due to Arena as well. He took some deserved heat for his decisions during the September fixture period. But on this night, he sensed a weakness in Panama’s defense and set his team out with a tactical plan that used their speed advantage.”In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared,” Altidore said. “Since the guys landed on Sunday, the coaching staff were showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game. They made us aware how important this game was to everybody. At the end of the day, the players have to go out and do it but I thought we were very well prepared today.So Arena will be keeping Pulisic central for the foreseeable future, right? If only it were that simpl.Arena may very well keep the same formation against Trinidad & Tobago. But against more potent teams — like the kind the U.S. will encounter at the World Cup, assuming they qualify — the single holding midfielder setup will likely come under more pressure.This is not intended as a knock on Bradley, rather an acknowledgement that one less defensive domino needs to fall in order for teams to get a chance at goal. Even a team like Trinidad & Tobago, who the U.S. will face on Tuesday, stretched the U.S. defense to the breaking point in their World Cup qualifier last June. Right now that appears to be a tradeoff Arena is willing to make.”Yes, it was [a gamble]. We wanted to push five players forward in the attack as aggressively as we could,” Arena said. “The way Panama plays we could afford to do that.”That won’t always be the case, but that is a concern for another day. The U.S. team’s World Cup qualifying campaign is back on track, the swagger has returned and while Pulisic’s play remains a source of confidence, this time so were the performances of everyone else on the field.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Pulisic makes his case for a central role as U.S. crushes Panama 4-0

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. men’s national team got its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 4-0 victory over Panama on Friday night. The Americans did most of their damage in the first half as Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore scored inside the first 20 minutes, and Altidore converted a penalty in the 43rd minute. Bobby Wood closed out the scoring with a 63rd-minute tally.Here are three thoughts from the match:

  1. U.S. transition play instrumental in crushing Panama

There was tension in the U.S. camp heading into this match. Altidore admitted as much. But tension isn’t always a bad thing. It can create a reservoir of focus, determination and resolve. That proved to be the case.The U.S. clearly learned its lesson from its last home match, a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. In that game, the U.S. — for all of its possession — rarely threatened the Ticos’ back line. Panama was expected to do much the same, but the U.S. was determined not to fall into the trap of constantly having to break down a set defense. The plan was simple: break as quickly as possible with every opportunity, and if Panama did get set, play quickly through clever touches and off-the-ball running.Panama had no answer for this approach, as the Americans connected twice in the first 20 minutes. A long ball in the eighth minute from U.S. keeper Tim Howard was flicked on by Wood to Altidore, whose quick pass was touched into space by Pulisic. In alone on goal, Pulisic rounded Panama keeper Jaime Penedo and slotted the ball in from a tight angle to put the U.S. up 1-0.The explosion of joy both on the field and in the stands was understandable. The U.S. spent much of the past two games trailing, and going a goal up in this match meant it could now dictate the game tactically, with Panama forced to come out of its shell a bit.It wasn’t long before the U.S. was up 2-0. A clever ball over the top by Darlington Nagbe put Pulisic in the clear. He beat Michael Murillo and made a low centering feed that found Altidore for an easy tap-in. Altidore helped himself on the play as Felipe Baloy bit hard on the U.S. forward’s near-post feint, allowing Altidore to move toward the back post and convert.Panama threatened a few times, with Alberto Quintero going on one mazy run that was thwarted only when his shot was blocked by DeAndre Yedlin. But the U.S. capped its dominant half when Panama substitute Armando Cooper hauled down Wood in the box, and Altidore converted the ensuing penalty kick with a “Panenka” that sailed just under the bar as Penedo dove hard to his left.The U.S. was largely untroubled in the second half as it continued to threaten on the counter, even after Pulisic was subbed out in the 57th minute. Wood fired home a shot on the turn in the 63rd minute to complete the rout.

  1. Pulisic states his case for a central role

One of the big talking points surrounding the U.S. side has been where to deploy Pulisic. Coach Bruce Arena has tended to position the 19-year-old in a central role at home, and in a wider position on the road. On this night, Pulisic certainly drove home his point in terms of how effective he can be in the middle. He was free to drift wherever he liked, and he played well off Wood and Altidore. Pulisic, an attacker for Borussia Dortmund, linked up especially well with Altidore.But this was also a night when Pulisic’s teammates stepped up in a big way. A case can also be made that Pulisic benefited from the speed in the U.S. lineup. Paul Arriola was constantly providing an outlet in transition moments, giving the Panama defense no easy answers as to who to defend. The Americans’ off-the-ball movement was also much sharper, as Altidore didn’t hesitate to go wide to drag defenders with him. Of course, Pulisic was dynamic too, darting into spaces to spark the U.S. attack.The U.S. needs a win against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday to all but guarantee third place in the Hexagonal — and a spot in the World Cup — and the case for keeping Pulisic in the middle is strong indeed.

  1. U.S. can exhale, but job is only half-done

While Pulisic’s central role seems cemented, some other areas of the Americans’ game still need some sharpening. The weakness created by Pulisic playing in the middle is that it leaves Michael Bradley with an immense amount of defensive work to do in the center of midfield. On this night, Arriola and Nagbe did their bit to tuck and provide some help.But there were also some moments when Panama was able to break pressure, including one instance in the 30th minute when several defensive dominoes fell, allowing Gabriel Torres a clear look at goal, but Howard was able to parry the shot. Center-backs Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez had to engage in some emergency defending at times, and each had some difficult moments, but it seemed that when one was beaten, another defender was there to scramble the ball away. The return — and speed — of Yedlin also put the U.S. in a better position to recover.Arena seems to understand the defensive limits of the diamond midfield and the amount of punishment that Pulisic should have to take. He was the recipient of some heavy hits again, both on and off the ball. So with the game in hand, Arena substituted Dax McCarty for Pulisic to give the boy wonder a rest and to add some defensive stability.Arena can look to hone those issues in the coming days. But this was precisely the kind of performance the U.S. needed, enabling the side to exhale a bit after enduring a month of doubt and anxiety about its World Cup qualification bid. The U.S. now sits in third place, two points ahead of Panama and three points ahead of Honduras, pending the Honduras-Costa Rica match on Saturday.The U.S. job is only half-done, however. The team hasn’t won consecutive games in this round, yet will need to if it is to hang on to third place — which still wouldn’t be guaranteed if Honduras overturns a minus-12 goal differential to the U.S. Trinidad and Tobago is in last place, but that can be a tricky proposition. Unlike the U.S., Trinidad and Tobago will have nothing to lose and no pressure Tuesday. But based on Friday’s performance, it appears the U.S. has regained its form just in time.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Christian Pulisic just short of perfect 10 leading U.S. to massive win

Facing the possibility of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the United States men’s national team responded with a resounding 4-0 win over Panama at Orlando City Stadium on Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Christian Pulisic starred, but the win was a team effort for a beleaguered group in desperate need of a strong performance.

Positives

With an ultra-attacking mentality that brought as much risk as it did possible reward, the Americans made their chances count to take a 3-0 halftime lead. Pulisic stole the show, illustrating that it’s not necessary to get the teenager a wealth of touches for him to impact the game. The attacking group as a whole — Pulisic, Jozy Altidore, and Bobby Wood — worked well in combination, especially on the counter.

Negatives

The flipside of the attacking posture the Americans took was acres of space left in front of their backline. Michael Bradley did what he could floating across the field as a lone shield, but a reactive posture from the center-back pairing exacerbated problems at the back. A lack of defensive work from the flanks of the “diamond” contributed as well. Luckily for the U.S., Panama wasn’t good enough to take advantage.

 

Manager rating out of 10:

8.5 — Bruce Arena took a chance and it worked. Whatever tactical naivety Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez showed with his choices, the U.S. boss deserves credit for trusting his team to score goals and mitigate the defensive vulnerabilitiesinherent in the formation. If there are any bones to pick with Arena, it’s regarding his choice to leave Pulisic on th field as long as he did with the youngster facing physical play from Panama.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Tim Howard, 6.5 — Not asked to do much, with just two simple saves on the evening.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 8.5 — Showed why he’s the first-choice right-back whenever healthy. Used his speed to help cover for a shaky central defense on more than one occasion.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 5.5 — Shaky and reactive for much of the night. Made a few important clearances in the air. Seemed unsure of his partnership with Matt Besler.

DF Matt Besler, 5.5 — Dropped too quickly and allowed space for Panama players at the top of the box, especially in the first half. Improved in the second half.

DF Jorge Villafana, 6 — Competent, professional display on a night when he was not overly tested or asked to involve himself in the attack on a consistent basis.

MF Paul Arriola, 6.5 — Just a touch or two off an excellent performance. Went missing at times but added more midfield defensive work in the second half with the U.S. leading.

MF Michael Bradley, 7 — Left isolated in front of the back line until Dax McCarty’s introduction, did what he could to slow down Panama. Pushed the Americans forward to establish tone in the first half.

MF Darlington Nagbe, 6 — Started brightly, driving the ball out of midfield to set up American dominance. Played a perfect pass on the second goal to spring the break, but was lost on defensive side of the ball much of the night.

MF Christian Pulisic, 9.5 — A near perfect performance from the teenager. Provided danger on every touch of the ball, and set the game up for the Americans with the opening goal. His star rises higher.

FW Bobby Wood, 8 — Rewarded with a goal a half hour from full time after a full night of providing energy and danger. Won a penalty that led to a goal and was key to more than one counter-attack.

FW Jozy Altidore, 8.5 — Did everything asked of him, including scoring a goal. The tap-in finish was simple, but his work dropping in and flicking on balls for advancing midfielders was crucial to the excellent first half and his cheeky Panenka penalty was well taken.

 

Substitutes

MF Dax McCarty, 7.5 — Did exactly as asked when inserted to change the U.S. midfield and get Pulisic out of harm’s way. Passed the ball with precision and intelligence.

FW Clint Dempsey, NR — Had limited touches and never really impacted the game.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR — Helped see out the match in a late cameo.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

 

SMNT Player Ratings: Attacking trio shines in blowout victory

October 6, 201710:46PM EDT

Greg SeltzerContributorThanks to the stylish efforts of their attack hydra, the US national team easily got their backs away from the World Cup qualifying wall with a convincing 4-0 rout of Panama in Orlando on Friday night.

Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood got the home side off to a racing start and would eventually provide all the goals needed to lift the Nats into prime position for another World Cup ticket.

Tim Howard (6.5): The US netminder was rarely tested, but he comfortably made an important first-half save. Howard also completed a handful of long boots, including one that led to the opener.

DeAndre Yedlin (7): The Newcastle right back made the biggest defensive play of the night when he raced over to wipe out an Alberto Quintero penalty area chance near the half-hour mark. Yedlin didn’t threaten much on the overlap, but he ably supported possession when called upon.

Omar Gonzalez (6.5): Gonzo was turned early, but was solid defensively the rest of the way. The defender also played some smart passes to ignite the break.

Matt Besler (6.5): Though sent scrambling by pace in space on a couple of occasions, Besler effectively shut down Panama’s crossing game. Like his partner, the Sporting Kansas City man offered some incisive passes into attack.

Jorge Villafana (6.5): The Santos Laguna left back played conservatively on the ball, but smothered most of the Panama attackers that ventured into his corner.

Michael Bradley (6): Guilty of a couple of cheap giveaways in the opening frame, the skipper kept it safer after intermission. Bradley covered a lot of ground defensively until the subs gave him some late help.

Paul Arriola (7): The D.C. United winger was ever eager to provide pressure valve work and turn these moves into counterattacks. He eventually picked up a smart assist to go with his eight total defensive stops.

Darlington Nagbe (5.5): It was a somewhat vanilla outing for Nagbe, even if he completed 22 straight passes after committing a weak early turnover in central midfield. The Portland Timbersmidfielder definitely could have offered more defensive resistance.

Christian Pulisic (8.5): The Borussia Dortmund phenom’s fancy feet were in full effect. Pulisic’s technical skills were key on both his icebreaker and the set-up for Altidore’s first. He also beat five defenders on the dribble in the opening 25 minutes, setting the tone for this important romp.

Bobby Wood (8): The Hamburg ace’s movement on and off the ball thoroughly unsettled Panama’s defensive set-up. Wood’s insistent dribbling earned the US a spot kick, and after a couple of missed chances he chalked up a deserved goal with a splendid turn-and-finish in the box.

Jozy Altidore (8.5): The team’s cobra head was in a strike pose from the onset. Altidore repeatedly plowed the road forward with his link touches, most notably on Pulisic’s quick opener. The Toronto FC star then got to the end of some moves to bag a double.

 

Coach Bruce Arena (7.5): The boss took a tactical gamble and it paid off big time. While the US were worryingly stretched at the back a few times, they never broke and the team’s aggressive game plan lit up the scoreboard early and often.

Subs

Dax McCarty (7): The 57th minute sub put in one of his most assured US performances. McCarty moved the ball shrewdly and offered Bradley some needed help guarding the gate.

Clint Dempsey (5.5): The Seattle Sounders goal monster was never in a position to strike for the USMNT scoring record, but typically kept the ball moving.

Alejandro Bedoya (–): Just a few touches in a late cameo.

 

Unstoppable Pulisic, Altidore Set USA Back on Course for World Cup Berth

  • Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were dominant early, while DeAndre Yedlin’s return made a difference and the USA took a big step toward qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.Grant WahlOctober 06, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. responded to the threat of missing World Cup 2018 by unleashing one of its best performances in recent memory on Friday night, thrashing Panama 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier the Americans were desperate to win.Emerging U.S. star Christian Pulisic had a game to remember, scoring a brilliantly poised goal in the eighth minute and assisting on Jozy Altidore’s strike 11 minutes later to give the Americans a cushion they would not relinquish. Altidore added another goal from the penalty spot, followed by a Bobby Wood insurance goal in the second half.The victory vaulted the U.S. (12 points) past Panama (10) into third place in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal with one game left. The top three teams will qualify automatically for Russia, while the fourth-place team will face Australia or Syria in a two-game playoff in November for a World Cup berth.The four-goal margin of victory was also helpful for the U.S.—it left the Americans with a plus-5 goal difference and Panama at minus-two. That means the U.S. would almost certainly have the tie-breaker over Panama as long as the U.S. can tie at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

PULISIC HAD HIS BIGGEST GAME IN A U.S. JERSEY

The 19-year-old has played in important games in front of 80,000 fans for his club, Borussia Dortmund, against opponents like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but Friday was a defining moment for Pulisic in a U.S. jersey.His eighth-minute goal was a masterclass of skill, athleticism and speed of thought. He followed his first touch—a mind-bending reach-back to corral Altidore’s pass—by torching Román Torres, cutting wide to evade goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and finishing at a perilously acute angle at dizzying speed. How many attackers anywhere would have had the poise to pull that off? Just 11 minutes later, Pulisic skinned Michael Murillo on a textbook cutback out wide before delivering a pinpoint cross to Altidore for the goal. Pulisic had a ton of pressure on his shoulders Friday, and he delivered. He has now been directly involved in eight of the U.S.’s 15 goals in the nine games of the Hexagonal so far.

YEDLIN AND ARRIOLA WERE WELCOME STARTERS

The right back position got a big upgrade with the return of DeAndre Yedlin, who hadn’t played in any qualifiers since June due to injury. Yedlin’s speed allowed him to push up in the U.S. attack, and his work with Rafa Benítez at Newcastle United has turned him into a much more astute defender with more tactical awareness. The 24-year-old Yedlin made a series of good defensive plays and reminded everyone that he can make a difference.

As for Paul Arriola, his motor ran non-stop on Friday, creating space and chances for the U.S. and putting the Panamanians on their back foot. Arriola can still add some nuance to his game, but his energy is infectious. He’ll deserve to get more starts moving forward.

THE VIBE AROUND THIS U.S. TEAM CHANGED IN AN INSTANT

All week long we heard stories asking what it would mean if the U.S. missed its first World Cup since 1986. And while that talk would return if the U.S. lost on Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago, the talking points changed dramatically on Friday night.How good can Pulisic end up being? How impressive was the understanding between Pulisic and Altidore—who scored twice and showed remarkable poise on his Panenka penalty? And wasn’t it refreshing to see the U.S. score early and then continue to drop the hammer instead of letting the opponent back in the game?On Tuesday the Americans will have a chance to string together their first consecutive wins in this entire angst-ridden Hexagonal. It would be the perfect time to do it—and seal a berth in World Cup 2018 on a high note.

USA Stars Point to Planning, Aggressive Approach in Curing World Cup Qualifying Woes

  • “In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared.” It showed for Jozy Altidore and the USA, who moved within reach of a World Cup berth after routing Panama on a memorable night in Florida.

Grant Wahl October 07, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the days before the U.S.’s tension-soothing 4-0 World Cup qualifying blowout of Panama on Friday, the players went through what Jozy Altidore called some of the most detailed preparations he had ever encountered in his national team career to ready a gameplan that would attack Panama mercilessly from the opening whistle.The key, captain Michael Bradley said, would be found in movement, especially among the three lead men—Altidore, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood—in a bold five-man attack.“I thought we were smart in how we went about it,” Bradley said on Friday night. “We talked a lot about making sure that Jozy and Bobby and Christian were mobile and not making things so clear and easy for [Panama], not giving them reference points. I thought the three of them did a really good job.”Added Pulisic: “We needed a lot of movement against a physical Panama team that’s going to sit in and not make it easy for us. Our movement was good today. I was able to play off those guys, and they had some great layoffs to me. I think the spacing was pretty good for most of the night. Still some things we can do better, but I think the gameplan was pretty much executed.”

The Panamanians had conceded only five goals in the first eight games of the Hexagonal, but the U.S. attack tore them apart on Friday, scoring two goals in the first 19 minutes and four overall in a victory that put the U.S. on firmer footing in its quest to reach World Cup 2018. After a week in which many wondered what would happen if the U.S. failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the discussion changed on Friday. A win at last-place Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday will clinch a spot in Russia, while a tie will likely do so as well.What stood out the most for the U.S. was the renewed brilliance of Pulisic, the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star who’s already the U.S.’s best player, and his often telepathic understanding with Altidore in both directions. It was Altidore’s early lay-off passes that created chances for Pulisic, including his expertly taken eighth-minute goal. And it was Pulisic’s ankle-breaking drive that created space down the left wing before his cross hit Altidore for a ruthlessly efficient finish and a 2-0 lead.“They smelled blood from the beginning,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “Anytime they picked up the ball, it was either a yellow-card foul or some sort of breakaway. They clearly recognized that from the beginning. We spoke about being aggressive and not just being up-against-them and kicking-them aggressive, but getting the ball forward and putting them on their heels. We stuck to the gameplan.”As Altidore said, “In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared. The coaching staff from Sunday since the guys landed was showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game … At the end of the day, the players have to go out and do it … This game is an easy game when you play with good players, and [Pulisic] is a quality player. Such a young kid, and he gets it. Every time I play with him, you can see he keeps improving every game.”Wood did well too, earning the penalty that Altidore converted before Wood himself scored the fourth goal later on. Wood is at his best when he’s stretching defenses, as he did often on Friday, with Altidore more focused on holding up balls underneath and laying them off for Pulisic.“That’s one of Jozy’s best qualities,” said Pulisic, who has now been directly involved in eight of the U.S.’s 15 goals in the Hexagonal. “He scores goals, but he’s a great passer. He knows where I am. He knows where everyone is. He’s a great guy to play with.”Pulisic was walking with a noticeable limp after the game, the result of the disgraceful repeated physical targeting by the Panamanians (who did the same thing in the teams’ 1-1 tie in Panama back in March). U.S. coach Bruce Arena pulled Pulisic out of the game in the 57th minute with the U.S. up by three goals.“He was kicked a few times,” Arena said. “He’s been getting beat up in these games in CONCACAF. That’s the way it is. It doesn’t look like anything is going to change. He took a few shots, and we thought it was smart to get him off the field.”For his part, Pulisic said he would be fine for Tuesday’s game. The environment will be significantly different in Trinidad, with all the usual challenges of playing on the road in CONCACAF except perhaps for the menacing crowds. (The Soca Warriors, who led at Mexico late before succumbing 3-1 on Friday, are already eliminated.) But the stakes are just as high. A World Cup berth is still up for grabs. If the U.S. is as aggressive as it was on Friday, the objective will be achieved.“On a night when so much was on the line—maybe everything—we played in a way from the get-go that we gave no doubt as to who was going to win the game,” Bradley said. “Across the board, we had guys ready for a big game and come through in a huge way. So we feel good about that. But now we’ve got to understand that the job isn’t done yet.”On Tuesday, they hope, it will be.

 

Why Argentina are struggling, France’s clutch win, England’s formation switch

So it all comes down to Tuesday night in Quito, at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Argentina need to beat Ecuador, otherwise they won’t be going to the 2018 World Cup. (A draw might suffice too, but that would require three other results to go their way, and it’s not something you want to count on.)You can blame 101 different factors for why they’re in this situation. They’ve had three different coaches and used 38 different players, suggesting a lack of clear thinking. They’ve been without Lionel Messi for eight games during which they collected just seven points, as opposed to 18 in the nine matches he played. South American qualifying is a legitimately tough affair — with six nations in the top 16 of the FIFA rankings — and margins are slim. Plus, in their past two matches, they ran into two goalkeepers (teenage sensation Wuilker Farinez of Venezuela and Peru’s Pedro Gallese) who stood on their heads and pulled off a gaggle of stunning saves.For all their woes, they could just as easily have beaten Peru and Venezuela, and if they had, they’d be second right now, behind only Brazil, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.It’s important not to lose sight of this fact, especially when considering Jorge Sampaoli, the man who was called over from Sevilla this summer to steer them to Russia. Sampaoli was never given a real shot in his native country, emigrated to various lower-profile South American countries (Peru, Ecuador and Chile) to pursue his dream and eventually made history at Universidad de Chile and with the Chilean national team, winning the Copa America. He came back to Argentina with a point to prove and quickly found himself embroiled in the national psychodrama.Sampaoli’s brand of football (pressing all over the field, interchangeable positions) requires work — hours of it — on the training pitch. He’s the opposite of a quick-fix type of guy. His football needs to be learned, metabolized and understood. Knowing he’d have no time to do this, he set up Argentina far more conventionally, hoping there would be enough there for the team to respond. They did, to some degree, in terms of performances. They did not in terms of results.Should the unthinkable happen and they come up short in Ecuador, the worst thing Argentina could do is make yet another change. Folks will want a scapegoat, fine. But it’s not him. After all, they haven’t seen the real Sampaoli. On the flip side, if they do make it, he will have time to show what he can do, including a three-week pre-World Cup training camp. Then, and only then, will we see the genuine article. Then, and only then, can we judge him as a manager.

 

Credit Deschamps for France’s vital win

It could have gotten hairy for Didier Deschamps. Really hairy.Since World War II, France had played eight times away to Bulgaria, losing seven and drawing once. Bulgaria had taken 12 of 12 possible points in the group. Oh, and then there was the small matter of this, when David Ginola failed to keep the ball in the dying moments of a qualifier, Emil Kostadinov scored at the other end, and France were condemned to watching USA 1994 on television.These past performances shouldn’t really weigh on the present, but inevitably they do. And when your psyche has already been rattled by things like that Twilight Zone home draw against Luxembourg, you’re bound to be vulnerable.Credit Deschamps here. He opted for a 4-3-3 formation, dropped Olivier Giroud for Alexandre Lacazette and gave Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe licence to roam rather than forcing them to operate as traditional wingers. Blaise Matuidi bagged the only goal and while Les Bleus are not out of the woods yet — they need to beat Belarus at home to be mathematically sure of first place — it’s a giant step towards “mission accomplished.”

 

Why are England experimenting now?

With England comfortably qualified, Gareth Southgate sought to change things around in his final group game Sunday, and that was to be expected. The likes of Kieran Trippier, Aaron Cresswell, Harry Winks and Harry Maguire started, and it’s a full competitive cap under their belts, which matters. What was curious was Southgate’s decision to switch to a 3-4-3 after playing most of qualifying in a 4-2-3-1 and his belief that the former is a better option against better teams at the tournament level. I’m all for trying out different things, and sure, a number of big Premier League sides have gone with a back three of late, from Chelsea to Arsenal to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on occasion.”It gives us more stability in transition, and the passing angles [are better],” Southgate said.Maybe so, but there’s also a question of personnel. A back three requires depth at center-back. Even if you count Eric Dier as a central defender, are there really enough high-quality options there that you want to shoe-horn another guy into the mix? Dier and John Stones? Sure. But Gary Cahill may not be a regular for Chelsea come the end of the season. The same goes for Chris Smalling at Man United, while Phil Jones has a horrendous injury record. That leaves Maguire, Michael Keane and, going forward, maybe Ben Gibson.Not to mention the fact that while many English sides play a back three, only Cahill’s team plays one every week. And that’s before we get into the wing-back issue.

 

Sympathy for Dick Advocaat

Sometimes it must really feel as if fate is conspiring against you.Take Dick Advocaat: before Saturday, his Dutch team were chasing France and Sweden in Group A and despite a roller-coaster qualifying campaign, he still felt moderately bullish for a playoff place. After all, Sweden traveled to Amsterdam for the final group game, and with the Dutch three points back, they would control their destiny.If both countries won their games Saturday — Advocaat’s men away to Belarus and the Swedes at home to Luxembourg — it would be merely a question of goal difference. And ahead of the Saturday games Sweden had a six-goal edge in that department — nothing that a 3-0 Dutch win on Tuesday couldn’t cure.That’s when Advocaat was asked in the prematch press conference about the possibility of a big Swedish win over Luxembourg (say, 8-0) and how it might affect the group.”They won’t win 8-0; what a stupid question that is,” he said.

 

“They won’t win 8-0, what a stupid question that is. 8-0? Well, no, I don’t believe that.” – Dick Advocaat. pic.twitter.com/9JWHWoDQ9M

— 🇸🇪 (@SwedeStats) October 7, 2017

 

Famous last words, eh? Sweden did win 8-0 while the Dutch won their game 3-1. That meant Sweden’s goal difference was now a massive 12 goals greater than the Oranje and that the Dutch will need to not just win, but win by at least seven goals.It’s hard not have a teeny, tiny bit of sympathy for Advocaat.

Egypt’s heartwarming World Cup return

By the time it rolls around, it will have been 28 years, which is longer than most of these players have been alive. That’s how long it has been since Egypt last qualified for a World Cup, and that’s why we witnessed this reaction to Mohamed Salah’s penalty deep in injury time.What made the whole wait more emotional — and unusual — is that Egypt have been a continental powerhouse in that time period, winning the Africa Cup of Nations on four different occasions, yet somehow coming up short in World Qualifying, often falling at the last hurdle, often in dramatic circumstances. It’s one thing for a minnow to live a fairy-tale dream and make it to the big show; it’s quite another when you’ve endured nearly three decades of underachievement.This time, it was different and somehow fitting that it was Hector Cuper who led them to the promised land. Sixteen years ago, he was one of the hottest managerial commodities in the game, capable of leading Valencia to consecutive Champions League finals. He made the big leap to Inter Milan, a side with the likes of Christian Vieri and Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf and Javier Zanetti, and from there, his career took a downward spiral.Now, at 61, he gets another shot at the big stage late in life — much like his goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary, who turns 45 in January and should comfortably become the oldest player ever to appear in a World Cup game next summer.abriele Marcotti is a Senior Writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.

 

 

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10/5 US Must Win to Qualify for WC, US vs Panama Fri 7:45 pm ESPN2, Argentina, Chile, Dutch on WC bubble, Indy 11 win, CHS Girls onto semi’s tonight

So we have reached the end of World Cup Qualification for most teams across the world – including for the US.  Bottom line the US Men’s National team needs a win in Orlando vs currently 3rd place in the HEX Panama to guarantee they go to World Cup 2018 in Russia as an automatic qualifier.  Now they can tie or maybe even lose and still find a way to back door slide in as the 4th place playoff team assuming Honduras loses to Mexico and Costa this week.  But then they would need to win a 1 game playoff with the Australia/Syria winner.  But honestly the US have their destiny in their own hands – win Friday night at 7:45 pm on ESPN 2 vs Panama and we are going to the World Cup.

Lots of traditionally strong countries do find themselves in an uncomfortable situation heading into today’s final 2 games of qualification, most notably Argentina must win at home today vs Peru (who are in the WC if they win) if they want to slide in as the playoff qualifier.  Chile and Paraguay play a winner basically advances game today (follow South American games on beIN sport).  Still work to do for teams like England, Germany, Portugal and Italy (all on Fox Sports) the latter two both might have to win playoffs to advance.  See the stories below and full games on TV schedule below to follow all the action Thurs thru Tues.

Congrats to the Indy 11 – with a big win last night at home vs Puerto Rico 2-1. The 11 return home next Sat night at the MIKE vs the NY Cosmos 7:30 pm.  Also locally – the #3 Carmel High girls soccer team advance to the sectional Semi vs #2 and defending champs Brebeuf at Guerin High school TONIGHT at 5 pm.  #5 Guerin will face Westfield at 7 pm with the title game Sat at 7 pm.   On the boys side the Carmel Boys lost a heartbreaker 1-0 on Tuesday.  7th ranked Guerin Catholic (13-2-1) knocked off 4th ranked Zionsville 2-1 and Westfield in PKs as Carmel FC U18 Goalie Will Oberndorfer made 3 saves on the PKs.  Guerin with lots of Carmel FC players will play at 5 pm vs North Central at Carmel High School Murray Stadium Saturday night.  Good luck!

CFCU13G_Cincy

Congrats to the Carmel FC 05 Gold team and coach Michael Upton as they made it to the Championship Game in the Platinum Division (top division out of 5 divisions in the age group) at the Cincinnati TFA Fall Ball Tournament this past weekend.  They ultimately lost to North Toronto FC in the final.

US

Whats Wrong with the US Team – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Needs Orlando to Deliver the Home Field Advantage

Why Losing and Missing the World Cup in 2018 Would be a Huge Blow to Soccer in the US – SI

US Picks Contraversial Group for US final Qualifiers – Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle

Arena Focused on Job at Hand in Must Win Qualifiers

What US Must Do to Qualify –

CONCACAF Who Needs What to Qualify for WC

Match-Day 9 – Preview

How did the US Get in this Predicament

Christian (Pul-is-sick) Story on 60 Minutes video

Pulisic How the now 19 year old compares to Say Messi and Renaldo at 19?  ESPNFC

3 Things we Learned about Pulisic from 60 minutes Segment – Stars and Stripes

World Cup Qualifying

World Cup Qualifying – What you need to know

How Chile and Argentina Can Qualify

A World Cup without Messi and Argentina is Possible?

England Expects Kane to Deliver them the 2 pts Needed to Qualify

GAMES ON TV 

 

Thurs, Oct 5                      World Cup Qualifying FINAL ROUNDS

12 noon Fox Sport2     Azerbaijan vs Czech Republic

2:45 pm FS1                      England vs Slovenia                         

2:45 pm Fox soccer     Northern Ireland vs Germany

4 pm beIN Sport            Bolivia vs Brazil

7:30 pm beIN Sport     Colombia vs Paraguay

Fri, Oct 6                             World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS2                      Columbia U17 vs Ghana U17 WC

10:30 am Fox Sport 2 India U 17 vs USA U17 World Cup

12 noon FS 2                    Azerbaijan vs Czech Republic

12 noon Fox soccer     Georgia vs Wales

2:45 pm FS2                      Italy vs Macedonia

2:45 pm Fox soccer     Turkey vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN3                Ireland vs Moldova

7:45 pm ESPN 2 USA vs Panama 

9:30 pm Fox Sport1     Mexico vs T & T

10 pm beIN Sport          Costa Rica vs Honduras

Sat, Oct 7                            World Cup Qualifying

7;30 am FS1                    Brazil U17 vs Spain U17 WC

7:30 am FS2                   Germany U17 vs Costa Rica U17

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Bulgaria vs France

2:45 pm Fox Soccer                          Switzerland vs Hungary

Sun, Oct 8                          World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS1                    Chile U17 vs England U17 WC

12 noon FS1                   Lithuania vs England

12 noon FS2                   Slovenia vs Scotland

2:45 pm ESPN                Norway vs Northern Ireland

2:45 pm FS1                   Germany vs Azerbiajan

2:45 pm FS 2                 Czech Republic vs San Marino

Mon, Oct 9                        World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS 2         USA U17 vs Ghana U17 WC

10:30 am Fox Soccer                        India U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

2:45 pm FS 2                  Wales vs Ireland Republic

2:45 pm ESPN3/Desp                       Isreal vs Spain

Tues, Oct 10                     World Cup Qualifying

5 am ESPN3                     Australia vs Syria (US might play the winner here?)

7:30 am FS 2                  Spain U17 vs Nigeria U17 WC

10:30 am FS2                 Brazil U17 vs Korea U17 WC

2:45 pm  FS 1                Portugal vs Switzerland

2;45 pm FS 2                 France vs Belarus

8 pm  beIN Sports      Panama vs USA 

Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs NY Cosmos

 US U17 World Cup Games on TV Fox Sports 2

Oct 6 Fri 10:30 am  FS2         US U17 vs India

Oct 9 Mon 7:30 am  FS2        US U17 vs Ghana

Oct 12 Thurs 10:30 am  FS2  US U17 vs Columbia

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

EPL 2017 Schedule

GOALIES

Dallas GK Jesse Gonzales (who looks like GK coach Christian Lomeli 🙂 with Super Saves

Wow Look At these Reaction 4 Saves in 4 seconds

MLS Save of the Week

Top Saves of Week 7 EPL

Septembers Best Bloopers EPL

WORLD

Barca Wins Game in Front of Empty Camp Nuo

Misery on Merseyside as Liverpool and Everton Struggle

Arsenals Turn Around Remarkable

Indy 11

Indy 11 vs New York Cosmos Sat, Oct 14 at 7:30

Indy 11 beat PR 2-1

What the US Must Do to Qualify for The World Cup 2018 In Russia

 The Stars and Stripes sit outside the automatic qualification spots, and are tied on points with fifth-placed Honduras, with only two qualifiers remaining.

USMNT are in a sticky scenario in the World Cup qualifiers. The Stars and Stripes’ hopes of booking a ticket to Russia for next year’s tournament hang by a thread, as Bruce Arena’s side sit in fourth in the standings.With only the top three teams sealing automatic qualification, only two straight tickets to World Cup 2018 remain – Mexico have already qualified as group leaders. United States sit in the playoff spot, but are tied with Honduras on points.Here are the permutations for USNMT to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Finishing in third

Only two qualifiers remain, meaning it’s do or die for USMNT. They take on Panama on October 6 and then Trinidad & Tobago four days later. The easiest way for Bruce Arena’s side to grab an automatic qualification is by winning both games.  The Stars and Stripes have a superior goal difference of seven over Honduras, which will be hard to make up. A win against Panama would also see USMNT leapfrog Los Canaleros into third.

Other ways USA can finish third

  • Beat Panama and draw with Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain four or fewer points without making up for the goal difference.
  • Draw with Panama, beat Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain four or fewer points without making up for the goal difference.
  • Beat Panama, lose to Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain no more than three points without making up for the goal difference.

 Finishing in fourth

A win for Panama in their final qualifier on top of a superior goal difference than USA would see the Star and Stripes miss out on the automatic qualification.

What happens if USA lose to Panama?

USMNT will kiss an automatic qualification goodbye, as the last two spots will go to Costa Rica and Panana. USA will have to hope Honduras slip up in order to maintain their grip on the final play-off spot.

Assessing the U.S.: What’s wrong? Pulisic-dependent? Arena succeeding?

Since 1998, qualifying for the World Cup has been relatively straightforward for the United States. Sure, there has been the occasional bad result and matches have typically been tense, but, as the U.S. approached the end of the Hexagonal round, there was usually a fair amount of breathing room.That hasn’t been the case in the current cycle, though. After going unbeaten at home for three cycles in a row, starting in 2006 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. has dropped two matches on home soil. The road hasn’t been much kinder, with just three points collected.And so, as the fourth-place U.S. heads into the last two qualifiers, against Panama (Friday, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN/WatchESPN) and Trinidad & Tobago, it finds itself in the position of probably having to win both games to make it to Russia next year.To get a sense of how the U.S. got to this point and what it will need to qualify, ESPN FC asked a quartet of former U.S. internationals — Marcelo Balboa plus ESPN analysts Kasey Keller, Taylor Twellman and Herculez Gomez — for their perspective.

What has been missing from the U.S. during the Hex?

 Balboa: I think it is leadership. I think they’re missing that guy who can put the team on his back, the two or three veteran guys to get the result. I get that John Brooks has been hurt; that’s been key for them, and I think it showed the last two games, when they’ve been missing that strong center back. I don’t think anybody in CONCACAF is scared of the U.S. anymore because of MLS. There are so many players from [the region] that are playing in our league, playing against those guys, playing with those guys, that intimidation and fear factor isn’t there anymore.

 Twellman: I think defensively, they haven’t been as clean. You look at the Costa Rica game at home; Costa Rica had maybe two or three chances, and those two were really bad mistakes. Then you look at the Mexico game at home, a set piece; so I do think the lack of killer instinct at both ends of the field has really hurt them. I don’t think they’ve been nearly as dangerous as they should be. The ability to finish games and grind out results, that just hasn’t been there, where in years past they haven’t played great but got the results through their experience and other ways.

 Keller: There was nothing that upset me more than in the Costa Rica game. You can lose a game. That’s part of sports. But when you lose a game by being outworked, that’s the hardest thing for me. You can go and you can fight and you can scrap and mistakes are going to happen and you’re going to give up a bad goal, you’re going to pass the ball out of the back wrong. But when collectively you got outhustled, you got outfought, so in the end outplaying somebody — “Oh, we had 65 percent possession” — who cares? We’ve got to get it back to the point where we’re saying: “You know what we did? We outfought, we outworked, and guess what, if we have more talent, that will shine even more.”

 Has this team become too dependent on Christian Pulisic?

 Balboa: He’s a special player. You can see the talent he has, and the upside is huge. But he has to be a piece that helps the team win, not the key factor in whether the team wins or loses; if he doesn’t play well, the U.S. doesn’t win. It can’t be that way. Jozy Altidore has to play well. We don’t have a [Lionel] Messi or a [Cristiano] Ronaldo. In order for us to win, all 11 players have to do their job and do it well. There’s not one guy that can say: “If we give the ball to Christian, he’s going to win the game for us.” We’ve always been a team that has to play as a unit, has to play together, and everybody has to be on the same page to get a result.

 Gomez: Simple numbers would tell you yes. I think his numbers (Pulisic has had a hand in nine of the 12 U.S. goals in the Hex) speak for themselves, but he has that type of impact on the game not just at the CONCACAF level but at Dortmund. He’s been nominated for the Golden Boy Award. He has that talent about him. But at the age of 19, to have one nation’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders, it’s a little much at this point. I think you need other players around him being able to affect the game in the same way that he can affect it at this level in CONCACAF.

Where should Pulisic line up, centrally or out wide? Does it even matter?

 Balboa: I don’t think it matters. I think every coach has their thoughts of where they want him to play. We’ve seen Jurgen Klinsmann move him around to quite a few different spots; we’ve seen Bruce Arena do the same. My opinion: I like him playing as the second forward. I like him free; I like him being able to go find the ball and not have too much defensive responsibility; I like him to go find the game and get it.

 Gomez: I think it’s a game-by-game approach. Obviously the majority of teams in CONCACAF have now scouted and measured the U.S. and they know that shutting down Pulisic is a good way of making sure the U.S. doesn’t tick. They’ve been very physical with him. You saw against Costa Rica they really zeroed in on Pulisic and wanted to disrupt his rhythm. By disrupting his rhythm, they disrupted how effective the U.S. could be going forward. It goes game by game.

 Twellman: To say: “Why doesn’t the U.S. play him wide left and get the same production that he does with Dortmund?” is apples to oranges. You can’t compare these two. But if you’re going to play a CONCACAF team that’s going to sit in with 10 players behind the ball, I’m not sure playing him in the middle does him any justice, either. The reality is if Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, whoever is in there, it shouldn’t matter where Pulisic is playing. Christian has had a rude awakening. You can’t compare Dortmund and playing in Champions League to CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, either. It’s a different animal, and even after the Costa Rica match, you can tell he learned some things. He was taking too many touches, taking on four or five defenders. That’s not going to work in CONCACAF because the game is a little bit different.

 Are the players good enough, or is the U.S. just caught in a down cycle?

 Gomez: I think anyone who tells you it’s a down cycle isn’t being honest with themselves. There is more talent now in the player pool than there ever was. That doesn’t mean they’re a better team. But if you’re telling me the players aren’t better now than one through 60 in years past, I don’t buy it. You can say whatever you want about the 2002 team. That was a better team. But look at where those players were during that World Cup. To look at the body of work at that exact moment and compare the body of work that these players have now, it’s a much more talented team. But you’re not seeing the best out of these players, and that’s a real problem. That’s a scary thing to see. The mental aspect of this game affects a lot of players — you saw Mexico last cycle — and when you look for help, and you can’t find it, you just feel like you’re sinking. Sometimes the mental part of the game is a lot more impactful than the physical.

 Keller: It happens to every country. You get little down cycles; you get little groups that don’t perform when you need them to perform. You get little situations, and I would say, over the years, we’ve found ways to overachieve more than we’ve probably merited. So I think where that is coming from is these players are supposedly better than the players before them. What was it that the players before them had that allowed them to get past this point? Some of it was a little chip on the shoulder; some of it was the determination to prove themselves every time they go out with the national team because maybe they weren’t getting the respect with their club teams, whatever it was that they were trying to do. Somehow Bruce Arena has to find the right combination of players that understand that fight.

Twellman: Some ex-players will tell me this is the most talented group we’ve ever had. I’m not sure I agree with that. I think a couple of positions are not as strong as years past. Left back is still an issue, and it’s been an issue for a long time. Bob Bradley used Carlos Bocanegra at left back. If not for DaMarcus Beasley’s conversion, Klinsmann doesn’t have a left back. To answer the question, do I think it’s a down cycle? No. But do I think it’s a down cycle in a couple of positions? I do.

 What needs to change for the U.S. to get the results it needs?

 Keller: I think we were more pragmatic in the past: understanding who we were, what we needed to do. And I think Jurgen got criticized for coming in and saying we wanted to be more proactive and the way we play. But then in the end, you have to say at times: “We are what we are. That’s great and that’s fantastic.” We now have this Fantasyland that we’re going to play like Germany or play like Spain. We have one player in the Champions League. If we had seven players playing in the Champions League for marquee teams, then yeah, maybe you’ve got a chance. I think we have to alter our expectations as a team, and then as media and fans and say: “Let’s get back to the good old-fashioned, fight your way to get victories.” You’re not just going to show up and play your way off, because we never won games like that.

 Twellman: For me, no matter what, the U.S has to be way more dangerous. How many chances are they creating from the run of play? They’re not, whoever that falls on. They’ve just got to be more dynamic. There’s got to be a level of urgency of putting a team away from the opening whistle, and for me it’s a collective, because I haven’t seen this urgency within the team over the last four or five games. I’m not including the Gold Cup because that doesn’t matter. But in the big games, the must-win games, there’s this propensity to say: “We’re going to knock it around, we’re going to play beautiful soccer, we’re going to play possession.” Listen, at some point you’ve got to be a threat, and at some point, you’ve got to put pressure on the opposition.

Has Arena done a good job since taking over?

 Balboa: That’s almost an unfair question because he’s been thrown into the fire. He didn’t have much time to prepare this team or get it together. They get together five days before they play a game. Did he get the results right off the bat that we expected? Yeah, he got some wins, he got us into the race. Was there a huge hiccup against Costa Rica, oh yeah, 100 percent. And then against Honduras I think there were a few questionable changes in the heat and humidity. We all makes mistakes; we all go and move forward. But he’s been thrown into the fire and he’s had to fight and scratch and do the best he can with three days in between games.

 Twellman: I’m undecided on that. People say he won the Gold Cup, but to me the Gold Cup meant absolutely nothing. I would have preferred, that, with just 18 months to do a job, I would have had zero issue if Arena would have called in Weston McKennie, Haji Wright, all these young players we don’t know anything about in Europe. And if they had lost in the quarterfinals, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have rather had answers on younger players. Obviously if the U.S. qualifies [for the World Cup], then in terms of his task, yes, but I’m undecided on whether it’s been a great World Cup qualifying for Arena. I think there have been some decisions that have left me a little surprised. I thought tactically the Costa Rica home game was set up in a way that didn’t suit a game against Costa Rica’s first team that would see 10 guys behind the ball. That’s the negative. On the positive side, he has got results when the team hasn’t played well, and that’s Bruce’s strength.

 HAs Arena been guilty of making too many changes to his lineup of late?

 Keller: If you look at most teams around the world, when they’re playing well, one of the key factors to a team playing well is a consistency of lineup. The notion that our guys aren’t fit enough to play four days apart, I don’t understand that, and how do you not know at this stage that this is my best lineup? Of course, you have situations where you’re saying: “This guy is injured and I think this guy is in my best lineup so I’m going to play him in this position. OK, maybe this guy isn’t playing well and this guy is looking good. I’m going to make those one or two changes.” But how do you make seven changes and think you’re going to play well, when, statistically throughout the world, the teams that are playing well are the teams that don’t have to make changes?

 Twellman: It’s interesting, I think Bruce has such a focus on being 180 degrees different than Klinsmann on certain things. He traditionally has not been a coach to use 22 of 23 guys. So the T&T/Mexico thing is difficult to assess because you lose a full day of recovery. I understand that. I think, with Costa Rica/Honduras, I think it’s a fair criticism, I really do. The center-back pairing has been interesting to me. Everyone’s trying to tell me that it’s the deepest position we have, but how do we not have a center-back partnership? Now, you could say Brooks’ injury is a big part of that. But everyone wants to tell me Geoff Cameron is a center back, but is he? I would argue that he’s playing so many roles at Stoke City that I’m not sure he is. I still think Cameron may be better off playing a different position. He may be really good next to Michael Bradley.

But I do think it’s fair to criticize some of the personnel decisions.

 Gomez: There hasn’t been a consistent center-back tandem as well with Brooks. Cameron has had his fair share of injuries. You still have not found a consistent partner for Bradley, and that’s been one of the biggest issues for the U.S. So there are a lot of underlying factors, some of them out of his control. You find a guy like Sebastian Lletget and then he gets hurt for the rest of the year. But they happen to every national team; no national team is immune to these problems.

Aside from a player like Pulisic, who needs to step up for the U.S. over these next two games?

 Gomez: There’s a few. I’d like to see whoever is playing alongside Bradley stake their claim and cement themselves and say: “This is my spot for the World Cup. This is my position.” That would be one. Then whoever is in goal. There isn’t a goalkeeper controversy, but there still hasn’t been one player to raise his hand and say: “This is my position.” This is something to keep an eye on.Balboa: Everybody. I don’t think one or two players can show and think they can get the job done. There’s always going to be the clear-cut leaders, so you go from Howard to Cameron to Bradley and Altidore. Those guys have to show up and have to be on top of their game. So does Christian, so does the other center back, whoever that is. Jorge Villafana if he plays. I don’t think there can be a guy out there who isn’t a leader on the day, and that’s not yelling and screaming and not helping them getting a result. I don’t think the U.S. is in a place where two or three guys have to lead this team.

 This U.S. team has been accused of being soft. Is it?

Keller: I don’t think the team is soft. They didn’t match the fight against Costa Rica. But if they were soft, they would have just rolled over and let Honduras win. Now, if you can play that poorly for 75 minutes, find a way to keep it at 1-0, and then steal a point on the road, it’s hard to claim that you’re soft because it’s not a great place to play. The weather is horrible, the conditions are horrible, the pitch was slow. And they fought through it and found a way to not make it a complete disaster. So that’s hard for me to say, that it’s completely soft. But is there an element that needs to be harder? Yeah, because in the Costa Rica game there was maybe one foul in the first half, maybe two, against a good team. No, you have to understand the way the game is played. You can’t just walk around the field and hope to beat somebody. There’s a time when you’ve got to be physical. I’m not saying you’ve got to go around booting people, but it’s part of the game. It’s a physical game, and we weren’t physical. You got outmuscled, you got outworked, and that’s part of where that is coming from.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

U.S. counting on Orlando to deliver much-needed home-field advantage vs. Panama

ORLANDO – With the U.S. national team set to play a mammoth World Cup qualifier on Friday against Panama, the issue of home field advantage is still very much on the collective mind of the U.S. team.Last month, the U.S. played Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena, and in the run-up there was concern that playing the game in the New York metropolitan area would allow plenty of Tico fans to attend, and blunt whatever home field advantage the U.S. had. The U.S. team’s worst fears were realized. It ended up losing 2-0, with the Ticos’ fans in full voice at the final whistle.In many respects this was nothing new. The game in the U.S. has come a long way, and it can now expect majority support for its home matches. But given the diversity in the U.S., it’s still not unusual for opposing fans to make up a sizable contingent of those in attendance. What was different in this case was that the U.S. lost, imperiling the team’s World Cup qualification hopes. And the match left it in something of a mental quandary. The Americans didn’t want to use the venue as an excuse for the defeat. Prior to the 1-1 tie with Honduras, Arena said during a roundtable with reporters, “I don’t think it made any difference in the game.”But he also said, “”I don’t think we should play in a venue that’s comfortable for the visiting team,” indicating that the U.S. didn’t maximize the home field advantage it could have had. Arena added that the USSF needed to be “shrewd” in terms of its venue selection.

“It probably makes a difference for Costa Rica,” he said. “Imagine if we were playing this game [against Honduras] in Dallas or San Diego. It would be nicer for us, even though it’s not a good analogy because we’re playing in our country. We don’t get any luxuries in going on the road and [where] everything is nice and comfortable, we get a good fan base coming out for the game and all of that.”It’s a sensitive subject in USSF circles, in that no one else in the organization wants to take shots at those who selected the venue. To be fair, there are a lot of moving parts in deciding where the U.S. plays, and the decisions are made far in advance, so far in fact that the decision to play at Red Bull Arena was made before Arena was hired last November.According to the USSF the factors in venue selection include “availability of the venue, what other events the venue may or will have going on (you want the field condition to be as good as possible), the type of surface, size of the field, seating capacity, number of locker rooms, infrastructure available for broadcaster partners and working media, demographics in the metro area, cost of the venue, expected demand for tickets sales, level of U.S. support, time of game – which includes working with broadcasters -competing events in the market, how many times we’ve played in the city or region recently, the climate that time of year, the ease of travel in and out of the venue, and more.”In terms of ticket sales, the USSF tries to make sure most of the tickets end up in the hands of supporters, but of course, there is nothing to stop those from being resold on the secondary market and ending up in the hands of visiting supporters.

So ahead of Friday’s match at Orlando City Stadium — one that is essentially a must-win — and with the Costa Rica result in mind, Arena made a request to local fans that sounded borderline desperate.”I’m going to make a plea to the people in Orlando: We need you out supporting the U.S. team,” Arena told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think the last time out in New York, we didn’t have the kind of venue that we need to have in these games. That’s important. Hopefully we have a crowd that is very supportive of the U.S. team and they can maybe drown out the supporters of the visiting team if that’s the case.”Fortunately for the U.S., Orlando City supporters have a reputation as being among the most passionate in MLS. The standing supporters section known as “The Wall” is particularly vociferous. The question of course is whether that can be replicated for a national team game.”I think the support we are going to receive on Friday will be fantastic,” said U.S. midfielder Dax McCarty, a native of nearby Winter Park. “Soccer fans in the south, specifically Orlando City and Atlanta United fans, have proven this year to be some of the most passionate fans in the United States. We know that everyone is well aware of how big this game is, and we are expecting tremendous support from the first whistle until the last.”

Sean Levy, the president of the Orlando chapter of the American Outlaws, stopped short of saying the atmosphere would be identical to an Orlando City match given the diverse backgrounds and international loyalties that comprise the club’s fan base. But he also sounded optimistic that Orlando will deliver the atmosphere the U.S. team craves.

“I believe it’s going to be a good crowd just because of how important this game is,” he said via telephone. “I think we can try our best to match the atmosphere that you see at an Orlando City game. Everyone knows it’s a must-win game and will bring their voice and definitely push the U.S. on to a win.

“I’ve been to a lot of stadiums traveling with the American Outlaws and for Orlando City games. With The Wall, I just don’t think there’s any other stadium like ours out there. Being in The Wall is amazing.”Of course, one somewhat overlooked aspect of the Costa Rica match is that the U.S. team didn’t give its fans much to cheer about on the night. The Ticos took the lead in the 30th minute and maintained their grip on the game for the rest of the night. So does the crowd drive success on the field, or is it the responsibility of the team to give the fans something to celebrate? McCarty said they go hand-in-hand.”The onus is definitely on a team to give the crowd a reason to scream, stand, and clap, but in tough moments during the game, the crowd is the X factor most of the time,” he said via email. “When you’re tired and trying to close a game out, nothing is better than hearing the fans get loud and push you to either make a big defensive stand or score a last-minute game winner.” Given the stakes involved, that is a scenario the U.S. will gladly take.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Armchair Analyst: Zardes, Johnson & controversy on the USMNT roster

October 2, 20172:11AM EDTMatthew Doyle MLS.com Senior Writer

he first thing to understand here is this: You’re getting all heated about the 24th man on a 26-man roster. I understand why – everybody likes to feel outraged from time to time, since it’s vivifying in its way – but let’s just process the above and hold onto it and make it the foundation of any discussion going forward.The second thing to understand: Gyasi Zardes isn’t going to be playing a minute in the next two games, anyway. He limped off the field after 33 minutes of the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw against RSL on Saturday night, and did not look very much like a man who would be able to play a soccer game any time in the next 10 days. I bet he’ll be replaced tomorrow (fingers crossed for Matt Polster).The third thing is this: For all the flack Zardes takes from the fanbase (some of which I participate in from time to time), he has been a reliably productive two-way wide player for the USMNT over the past two years. Do you remember the Gold Cup?Do you remember the Copa America? Against Paraguay, and then against Ecuador? You can bag on Zardes for his first touch and his club form, but he has a history of production in big moments for the USMNT. I’m not saying that should put him in the team, but the conversation about this roster can not ignore that he’s got six goals and seven assists, many in big moments.The fourth thing is this: Zardes’s inclusion is going to be tethered to the surprise absence of Fabian Johnson. This is probably a fair framing, since they fill the same gap in Bruce Arena’s regime – two-way wide attackers, be it in a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 or a 5-4-1.There is a strain of discussion out there suggesting Johnson has been mostly poor and disinterested for the US since the 2014 World Cup, but I’m going to push back on that, as he was excellent in last summer’s Copa America. That, however, has been the exception more than the rule, and Johnson was mostly a non-factor in the recent September qualifiers. He failed to even contest a midfield 50/50 that led to Marco Ureña‘s game-winning goal in the Costa Rica game, and when he did get on the ball he was happy to drift away from physical confrontations and toward the touchline.Johnson was not close to being a difference-maker to the good despite being played in a position that he swears is his best. Worse, he didn’t look up for the fight, and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is nothing if not a fight. Especially against Panama. Against Honduras, he didn’t get off the bench.Given that and his poor club form – he’s played just 180 minutes for Borussia Mönchengladbach this year, though 90 of those were pretty good ones this weekend in a 2-1 win over Hannover – I’m not finding reasons to be upset about Johnson’s absence.There are also this summer’s comments to consider. “I still really enjoy playing for my country, but there is an agreement with head coach Bruce Arena that I will only play in the more important matches,” Johnson told Bild. From the outside looking in, that appears to be less than full buy-in from a guy who should be a team leader. Let’s recall that Jurgen Klinsmann had doubts about Johnson to that effect as well. There is precedent.There is also zero question that Paul Arriola has been a more effective wide player for the US over the past 12 months. It was him, Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood who changed the game (along with a timely switch to a 3-5-2) against Honduras.

A few other notes:

  • I thought Matt Miazga would get a call, but Arena went with Michael Orozco instead. Orozco isn’t as talented as Miazga, but Orozco knows how to function in CONCACAF, and he’s well-versed at playing in a three- or five-back system. I have a suspicion, given how good the US were for the final 20 minutes against Honduras, that we could see a 3-5-2 or a 5-4-1 in one or both of these upcoming, must-win games.
  • Sporting KC playmaker Benny Feilhaberis jacked to be called in.“I think my exact words were, ‘If you need me to be a cheerleader, I’ll be a cheerleader,’” Feilhaber said to Sam McDowell of the KC Star. “Hopefully I get more of a role than that, but it’s just exciting to be part of that group. Literally whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to do.”Feilhaber is a string-pulling midfield playmaker who’s got a history of performing in big moments, for both club and country. One of the issues the US had in the most recent set of qualifiers was that too much of the creative burden fell to Christian Pulisic. Putting Feilhaber on the field would mean that there’s another guy out there who can hit the final pass, or punish an unbalanced defense. He’s done it against some pretty damn good teams, remember:
  • New England’s all-around-attacker-who-should-just-be-a-center-forward, Juan Agudelo, is the other surprise call-in. Agudelo hasn’t scored since July, but that’s largely because he’s not been played as a forward since July. The Revs are, for some reason, married to him as a pseudo No. 10 or a possession-based winger.Agudelo has been good, especially in possession, in both roles. He’s also been a committed defender. Given his talent I don’t mind seeing him here.
  • Bobby Wood saved the US in San Pedro Sula, but on the club level he’s running out for a team that has no idea where the goal is. Hamburg haven’t scored a goal since August 25, and are 0-4-1 since then in the Bundesliga. Wood missed one of those games with a knee knock, but he’s 100% fit now.Wood still looks good – Hamburg’s issue stems from a couple of injuries on their playmaking line, so it’s not like he’s out there blowing chances. He’s just not getting any.Regardless, he, I’m sure, play a huge role in these games.
  • Jozy Altidore, Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin are all fully fit after recovering from hamstring issues in September. Altidore went 90 and had a hand in three goals in TFC’s win on Saturday, including drawing the Supporters’ Shield-clinching penalty and adding an icing-on-the-cake assist a few minutes later. Cameron put in 90 as the middle defender in Stoke’s 3-6-1/5-4-1 from their 2-1 win over Sunderland, and Yedlin had a mostly quiet but reliable 90 as an overlapping fullback in Newcastle’s 1-1 home draw against Liverpool, including some nice defensive plays down the stretch.Let’s hope both Yedlin and Cameron are fit to get 180 minutes. With all due respect to Graham Zusi, the gap between him and Yedlin is significant.
  • Matt Besleris something of a question, however. He didn’t play in Sporting’s 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Saturday:

He should be fine by Friday, though. Omar Gonzalez seems to have rediscovered his form, with 180 good minutes for Pachuca this week, and Tim Ream keeps going 90 minutes every week for a Fulham team starting to push its way up the standings in the Championship (3-1-1 in their last five). I understand that fans will have bad memories of Ream, Cameron and Gonzalez from last month. Try instead to remember how excellent all three were in the 1-1 draw at Mexico. This is another data point that leads me to think we’ll see a three- or five-man backline.

  • If that defense plays well and Pulisic, Altidore, Wood and Clint Dempseyplay like they should, the US will qualify for the World Cup. Three years into this miserable cycle, it’s disappointingly clear that remains a big “if.”

USMNT Roster (Oct. ’17 World Cup Qualifiers)

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders (10): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)

U.S. boss Bruce Arena focused on the job at hand ahead of crunch qualifiers

Leave it to Bruce Arena to insert a wrinkle or two into what is the most critical roster of this World Cup cycle.

The objective for the U.S. is clear. Despite a dysfunctional World Cup qualifying campaign, the Americans are still in control of their own destiny, tied for fourth place heading into the last two matches of qualifying. Two wins will get the job done and secure the third and final automatic qualification spot.

As such, the usual faces are on the roster, from Tim Howard in goal to Michael Bradley in midfield to Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey up top. It is these players upon whom Arena will rely, and he’s comfortable in doing so.

“The players always give the commitment, that’s never an issue,” Arena said. “The issue is whether or not we get the results we need, and I think we’re positioned to do that. When I took the job last November, if you said to me, ‘You’d be in position in Game 9 to play a game at home that you had to win, would you take that?’ I would say, ‘Yes.'”

But scanning the 26-player list, one name jumps out: that of Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber. Practically from the moment Feilhaber first appeared on the national team scene, he has been an enigma.

He has clearly possessed first XI talent in terms of his vision and technical ability. There was a time when it seemed he might even be the kind of creative force that the U.S. would build itself around. Yet even at the apex of his national team involvement during the 2010 World Cup cycle, he couldn’t rise above a super-sub role. Since then, Feilhaber hasn’t even been an afterthought.Yet such is Feilhaber’s ability — and effectiveness during this time with Sporting Kansas City — that the U.S. hasn’t been able to completely give up on the midfielder. And with the U.S. team’s World Cup qualifying hopes hanging in the balance, Arena has once again decided to give Feilhaber a chance to contribute, naming him to his 26-man roster for the crunch World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

There is the chance, of course, that Arena won’t need Feilhaber, and the U.S. will take care of the Canaleros and the Soca Warriors without too much fuss. But that would mean breaking the habit that the U.S. has set for itself this cycle of making the qualifying journey as tension-filled as possible. And should the U.S. need a player to pick the lock of a packed defense, Feilhaber is certainly one who can do so.Feilhaber’s inclusion, along with that of New England Revolution attacker Juan Agudelo, is also an acknowledgement that the U.S. needs a spark of some kind — any kind — to get its offense going. As much as the U.S. might not like to admit it, it has become entirely too dependent on Christian Pulisic to kick-start the offense. Of the 12 goals the U.S. has scored in the final round of World Cup qualifying, Pulisic has been involved in nine of them.

This is not to say that the U.S. shouldn’t be leaning on Pulisic. Clearly he is the kind of attacking talent that the Americans need to utilize. But the frequency with which Pulisic has been getting fouled — seven times in the past two games alone — reveals that the rest of CONCACAF has come to the conclusion that if you stop Pulisic, you stop the U.S. attack. That, more than anything, is what needs to change for the U.S. during these next two games. For the Americans, balance needs to return to the attacking force.So if Feilhaber’s inclusion counts as a surprise, so does the exclusion of Fabian Johnson, especially when you consider the roster’s inflated numbers. To be clear, Johnson has underwhelmed during the last two fixture periods, in particular his anonymous performance against Costa Rica. He has also logged just 181 minutes with club side Borussia Monchengladbach this season, which is why he won’t be joining up with the U.S. in Orlando, Florida.

But leaving him off the roster appears to give Arena one less option at outside back, where the U.S. looked especially vulnerable against Honduras. Without question, the return to health of DeAndre Yedlin as well as that of center-back Geoff Cameron will ease Arena’s defensive worries to an extent, but Johnson would have provided some cover on the left. Now that responsibility will be left to Jorge Villafana and DaMarcus Beasley, both of whom have experienced their share of ups and downs.Regardless, this is a side — from the goalkeeper, to the center-backs, right through the midfield to the forward line — that will need to raise its collective game, and obtain the results it needs to claim the third and final automatic qualifying spot. Doing so will not be easy, especially against a Panama side that has tied the U.S. the last four times the two teams have met.

“It’s like any team in CONCACAF and the Hex,” Arena said of Panama. “The games on the road are difficult. They’re a fairly defensive, physical team. You need the right day in terms of playing well, getting the right officiating, having the right surface to play on. I think all of those factors come into play. The bottom line is that we need to go out on the field and play well, be aggressive to start and get the first goal.”And find a way to win.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying – how United States can make Russia 2018

The final rounds of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup take place on Oct. 6 and 10, with only one of the 3.5 available places currently confirmed after Mexico secured safe passage in September.

 Already qualified: Mexico
Places to be decided: 2 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff

Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there.

The top three teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fourth facing a two-legged playoff against either Australia or Syria for a place at the finals.Mexico are through, Costa Rica are all-but through and means it realistically comes down to a fight between Panama, United States and Honduras for the last automatic place and the playoff berth.

 

  1. Mexico, 18 points (h-Trinidad & Tobago, a-Honduras)
    Mexico qualified with plenty in hand, but they could have a major say in who joins them when they go to Honduras on the final day.

 

  1. Costa Rica, 15 (h-Honduras, a-Panama) 
    With a six-point advantage over United States and Honduras, Costa Rica’s place is all but assured. They will be through without kicking a ball if USA and Panama draw in Orlando in the first match to kickoff on Oct. 6, otherwise a point at home to Honduras will see the job done that day.

 3) Panama, 10 (a-United States, h-Costa Rica) 

  1. Panama may going into the final games in an automatic place, but they have two very difficult games to navigate through. They are probably going to have to take at least a point away to USA to retain realistic hopes of finishing third, before facing what should be an already-qualified Costa Rica in their final match. But they do know that two wins definitely send them to Russia.

 

  1. United States, 9 (h-Panama, a-Trinidad & Tobago) 
    It’s been a stuttering campaign for United States, but they go into the final rounds knowing they do not have to play one of the region’s so-called heavyweights. With Honduras’ goal difference being so inferior, they know that two wins will take them directly to Russia, and it might be that four points is enough if they can beat Panama.

 

  1. Honduras, 9 (a-Costa Rica, h-Mexico)
    Honduras are eight goals worse off than United States in the head to head differential, and that means they are going to have to better United States’ results to get above them. With Costa Rica and Mexico yet to play, that looks a tall order — on paper at least. Edging in front of Panama for the playoffs could be more realistic, but again goal difference means they are going to have to outperform their rivals, but by two points.

 

  1. Trinidad & Tobago, 3 (a-Mexico, h-United States)
    A place in the playoffs is the best Trinidad & Tobago can cling on to, but that requires United States and Honduras losing both their games and huge goal difference swing of 12 with the United States. Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

World Cup qualifying hopes of Argentina, U.S., others are on the line

Europe (UEFA) — Full Permutations

At least three of Europe’s traditional big hitters are in for an uncomfortable week. Italy are all but resigned to a playoff spot, sitting three points behind Spain in Group G but with a vastly inferior goal difference, while Netherlands are in severe danger of missing out on the World Cup altogether.

The Dutch lie third in an intriguing Group A, three points behind Sweden, whom they host on the final matchday next Tuesday. A win in Belarus on Friday will keep Dutch playoff hopes alive until the end. France lead the group by a point from Sweden but will be vulnerable if they drop points in Bulgaria, who are not out of the equation themselves.

Portugal’s campaign looks certain to boil down to a first-place decider with Group B leaders Switzerland in Lisbon. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. are three points behind the Swiss but boast superior goal difference; assuming they win in Andorra and Switzerland defeat Hungary, next Tuesday’s tie is set up perfectly.

Germany and England are on the verge of securing automatic qualification, while Belgium are already through. Meanwhile, one more win for Serbia will see them qualify, leaving Republic of Ireland and a Gareth Bale-less Wales to fight it out for second in Group D.

There are few surprise packages although Northern Ireland, guaranteed at least second in Germany’s group, should make the playoffs and Montenegro currently occupy the runners-up berth in a tight Group E. The most nip-and-tuck section is Group I, which could be won by Croatia, Iceland, Turkey or Ukraine. — Nick Ames

 South America (CONMEBOL) – Full permutations

When just seven points separate second position from eighth, it is easy to find the right place to look in South America: everywhere!

Brazil’s visit to Bolivia on Thursday has no relevance — Brazil are long home and dry, while Bolivia have no chance — but much is riding on everything else. Venezuela can’t qualify, but they host second-placed Uruguay, who go on to complete their fixtures at home to Bolivia; their weakness on the road means that Luis Suarez & Co. should have a place in Russia in the bag.

Which leaves everyone else scrapping for the remaining two-and-a-half slots. Most eyes on Thursday will be on Buenos Aires, where under-pressure and fifth-placed Argentina take on Peru. Failure to win would leave the hosts in desperate trouble and, to add spice to the occasion, history resonates: In 1969, a 2-2 draw vs. Peru in the same Bombonera stadium cost Argentina a place in Mexico the following year; it remains the only World Cup for which they have failed to qualify.

And the stakes are high elsewhere. To keep their slender hopes alive, Paraguay probably need all three points away to third-placed Colombia, while Chile against Ecuador is a must-win game for two sides that sit outside the automatic places ahead of what is sure to be a tension-filled week. — Tim Vickery

 North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) – Full permutations

For all practical purposes, the focus will be on the race for the third and final automatic qualification spot, as well as fourth place, which will send a team to a playoff against a side from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Leaders Mexico have already clinched, while second-placed Costa Rica have secured at least fourth and are widely expected to seal their passage to Russia 2018 when they host Honduras on Friday. Therefore, most eyes will be focusing on the logjam underneath, with particular attention paid on Friday to Orlando, Florida, where the U.S. host third-placed Panama.

The U.S. is crrently fourth, level on points with Honduras — but ahead on goal difference — and just a point behind the Canaleros. Bruce Arena’s men are favorites but little has gone according to plan during this final round of qualifying, in which the they have already lost twice at home. Even if Panama are beaten, the U.S. must win in Trinidad and Tobago next Tuesday to guarantee third.

Panama finish qualifying at home vs. a Costa Rica side that probably will have secured qualification. Honduras have the toughest road given their poor goal difference, as well as the fact that they will face the Ticos on Friday before hosting Mexico four days later. — Jeff Carlisle

 Africa (CAF) – Full permutations

Unlike elsewhere, this is not the final week of games in Africa but, by the end of play on Matchday 5, two of the region’s representatives could be known. But rather than giants facing off against giants, it is upstarts who are going head-to-head against the big boys, several of whom face a battle to avoid the fate of already-eliminated Cameroon.

For example, Congo DR, who last appeared at the World Cup in 1974 as Zaire, are pushing Tunisia to the limit in Group A. Meanwhile, Group B has seen Zambia emerge as challengers after beating Algeria home and away and, if they can upset leaders Nigeria on Saturday, could pip them to the post on the final day.

Burkina Faso lead a tight Group D on goal difference against Cape Verde who, like Zambia, got themselves into contention with back-to-back wins over giants, in this case South Africa. The situation is complicated somewhat by the annulment of South Africa’s 2-1 win over Senegal on Matchday 2, a decision the Burkinabes have appealed. In Group E, Uganda are just two points behind Egypt and will keep the pressure on if they beat rejuvenated Ghana, who are without the dropped Ayew brothers.

But that is where the simplicity ends. While Ivory Coast, who visit Mali on Friday, lead Group C on seven points, Morocco, Gabon and Mali are still in with a shout; that might explain the return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the Gabon squad as they prepare for a trip to Morocco. — Colin Udoh

 Asia (AFC)

With the final round-robin stage complete, Syria and Australia, who finished third in Groups A and B respectively, will meet in a two-leg playoff on Thursday and Tuesday. The winner goes on to meet the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation in a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff between Nov. 6 and 14 to qualify for the World Cup. — ESPN staff

 Oceania (OFC)

Just like in Asia, regional qualifying has been completed. Winners New Zealand will face the fifth-placed CONMEBOL country in a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff between Nov. 6 and 14; the winners will qualify for the World Cup. — ESPN staffFollow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

Five Aside: The best U.S. player right now, Christian Pulisic, turns 19

Christian Pulisic is widely considered the best American male soccer player right now. He’s been the most important U.S. player during this World Cup qualifying cycle and also starts for one of the world’s top club teams in the world’s top club competitions. And he turns 19 years old this Monday.So how good have things been for the U.S. phenom over the past 365 days?

How good is Pulisic? How good is Borussia Dortmund?

– Pulisic is a regular starter on the wing for Borussia Dortmund. He’s started five of six games in all competitions this season for Dortmund, which leads the Bundesliga and has already won the German Super Cup, in which Pulisic became the first American to score in that preseason showpiece.

– Dortmund is considered the second-best team in the Bundesliga (behind Bayern Munich) and one of the 10-15 best clubs in the world. Dortmund is seventh in FiveThirtyEight’s global soccer rankings, while Forbes this year valued Dortmund at $808 million, the world’s 12th-most valuable club. Last season, Dortmund reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, the world’s top club competition.

– Pulisic’s final game before turning 19 was Sunday’s 5-0 win against Cologne, in which he came on as a second-half substitute. He then has two more league games before resuming Champions League play against two-time defending champion Real Madrid.

– In 44 career Bundesliga games (14th-most by a U.S. international), Pulisic has six goals (tied for sixth-most). If he plays every game the rest of the season, he’d crack the top 10 on the U.S. list and could also become the fourth American with 10 career Bundesliga goals.

– Pulisic is the youngest non-German and fourth-youngest player to score in the Bundesliga (April 17, 2016 vs Hamburg), and is the youngest player with two career Bundesliga goals (April 23, 2016).

What else has he done before turning 19?

– Pulisic has already done more as a teenager than any other American man. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated ranked him 13th in the world among players under the age of 20. Comparing Pulisic to two other top American attackers at the same age: Neither Landon Donovan nor Clint Dempsey played a first-team professional game before turning 19. Donovan debuted in MLS a month after turning 19, and Dempsey was a Furman University freshman at that age.

– No one is saying Pulisic is near the level of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but his club and country numbers before turning 19 do compare favorably with both.

– Including Wednesday, Pulisic has already played 11 UEFA Champions League games, fourth-most by any American international and nearly halfway to the U.S. record held by Jermaine Jones (23). He made his UCL debut at 17, making him the youngest American to play in UEFA Champions League.

– His round-of-16 goal against Benfica in March made him one of three U.S. internationals to score in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage (Jones, DaMarcus Beasley), and he became the first American with a goal and an assist in a UCL knockout game. From there, he became the fourth American to play in the UCL quarterfinals.

Pulisic has already hit several big milestones before turning 19 this Monday. How far can he go?

How important is Pulisic to the United States?

– Pulisic has played in 11 of the United States’ 14 World Cup qualifiers during this cycle. His five open-play goals are tied for the team lead, and he leads the team with five assists and 22 shots. He also brings a dynamic that few other on the team offer: a willingness to take on opponents. His 68 one-on-ones are 40 more than anyone else on the team.

– Opponents are starting to key on him defensively. In the final round of qualifying, he’s been fouled 17 times, six more than any other American.

– The U.S. continues World Cup qualifying on Oct. 6 in a virtual must-win at home against Panama and concludes at Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 10. Right now, the U.S. is fourth in the Hex, holding what would be a playoff berth against Australia or Syria. Winning the final two games virtually guarantees the U.S. an automatic World Cup spot.

– Pulisic has done all this as the youngest player on the team. He’s the youngest American ever to play in a World Cup qualifier and the youngest American man to score an international goal (both at age 17 in 2016).Follow ESPN Stats & Information on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo 

PREVIEW: THE HEX MATCHDAY 9

TAKE A DEEPER LOOK AT CONCACAF’S THREE HIGH STAKES GAMES ON MATCHDAY 9 OF FINAL ROUND QUALIFYING FOR THE 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP.MN Oct 1, 2017

The penultimate day of CONCACAF’s Final Round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup could see the region’s two remaining automatic spots locked in, or more likely, heat up the drama for the final matchday on Oct. 10.Here’s a preview of the three Hex matches set for Friday, Oct. 6:

USA vs. Panama, Presented by Volpi Foods
Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, Univision & UDN
USA Roster | Panama Roster 

All-Time Record: USA leads 12-1-6
All-Time WCQ Record: USA leads 5-0-2
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-1 draw on March 28, 2017 in Panama City

The most consequential encounter of the night comes first in USA-Panama, presented by Volpi Foods. Just a point separates third-place Panama from the MNT, making a win for either side as good as gold. A U.S. victory would put Bruce Arena’s side two points clear of Los Canaleros heading into Matchday 10 and a visit to sixth-place Trinidad & Tobago. But if Panama is able to flip the coin with an upset victory, they would actually punch their ticket to Russia and the country’s first World Cup berth.The U.S. holds a sizable all-time advantage against the Central American nation, going 11-1-6 all-time and 5-0-2 in World Cup Qualifying. One of those five wins came on the last day of the Hex in 2013, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson tallied two stoppage time strikes to hand the already-qualified U.S. team a 3-2 victory and eliminate Panama from World Cup contention in the process. Ever since that meeting the two sides have been even keel, playing to four 1-1 draws – three in Gold Cup play and one qualifier earlier this year in Panama City.A typically physical side, Arena indicated he expects defensive, counter-attacking tactics from his opposite number Hernan Dario Gomez when the teams meet in Orlando.READ MORE: Arena Discusses October World Cup Qualifying Roster  “I think they’ll be very aggressive coming at us – fouling, looking to get out on the break and trying to create some chances off restarts,” he said. “They’ll be tough to play against. We have to have a good mentality in that game, be very aggressive going forward, try to get a goal and make Panama chase the game.”For his part, Gomez is experienced in the rigors of World Cup Qualifying. Having led his home nation to France ’98 and Ecuador to Korea/Japan four years later, the Colombian savant is on the cusp of joining a very small club of international managers to qualify three different countries to the World Cup. Clearly proud of what his team has been able to achieve this cycle, the man nicknamed “El Bolillo” (“The Baton”) is experienced enough to know that nothing has yet been accomplished. Speaking to reporters following the team’s 3-0 away win at Trinidad & Tobago on Sept. 5, Gomez said, “…if we don’t get the results in our next matchdays it’s as if we did nothing today.”

The Lowdown: A U.S. win puts the MNT in the driver’s seat as it finishes the Hex in Trinidad & Tobago, while a Panama victory sees Los Canaleros through to its first World Cup. A draw in USA-Panama would mean all three games on Matchday 10 will have massive implications for third and fourth place.

SUSPENSIONS
USA – none
PAN – none

CAUTION WATCH
USA – Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin
PAN – Abdiel Arroyo, Edgar Barcenas, Harold Cummings, Erick Davis, Ismael Diaz, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Valentin Pimentel, Alberto Quintero
 

Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Estadio Alfonso Lastras; San Luis, Mexico
9:30 p.m. ET; FS1, Univision & UDN
Mexico Roster | Trinidad & Tobago Roster 

All-Time Record: Mexico leads 13-3-5
All-Time WCQ Record: Mexico leads 7-3-2
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-0 Mexico win on March 28, 2017 in Port of Spain 

With Mexico already qualified and Trinidad & Tobago only holding a slim shot at finishing fourth, this match is the least consequential of the trio of games. Perhaps with that in mind, the Mexican Federation has elected to host the match at the 25,000-seat Estadio Alfonso Lastras in San Luis, rather than the much larger capacity Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The match marks the first time since 2012 that El Trí will play a qualifier away from the country’s de facto national stadium.READ MORETrinidad & Tobago names young roster for last two qualifiers

Though Mexico is already qualified, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio has still summoned a strong roster as El Trí looks to win its first Hex since the 1998 cycle. With plenty of players still competing for a place on next year’s World Cup roster, Mexico will be heavy favorites against a Trinidad & Tobago side that has won only once in its eight Hex matches. Things also may come easier for Mexico as Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence elected to call up a more experimental team after his side was all but eliminated from qualifying last month.

The Lowdown: A Mexico win would all but clinch the Hex for El Trí, while a Trinidad victory would rank among their biggest in qualifying and serve as a nice consolation for a lost campaign.

SUSPENSIONS
MEX – none
TRI – Sheldon Bateau

CAUTION WATCH
MEX – Oswaldo Alanis, Javier Aquino, Juergen Damm, Jesús Dueñas, Jesús Gallardo, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Luis Reyes, Carlos Salcedo, Jorge Torres, Carlos Vela
TRI – Radanfah Abubakr, Kenwyne Jones, Joevin Jones,  Carlyle Mitchell, Kevin Molino, Leston Paul, Willis Plaza, Jan Michael Williams, Jomal Williams, Mekeil Williams

Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica
10 p.m. ET; beIN Sports, UNIVERSO
Costa Rica Roster | Honduras Roster 

All-Time Record: Costa Rica leads 21-18-20
All-Time WCQ Record: Honduras leads 10-5-7
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-1 draw on March 28, 2017 in San Pedro Sula 

Though Mexico were already qualified, they kept things quite interesting for the teams still duking it out for spots by playing to a 1-1 draw at Costa Rica on Matchday 8. That result left Los Ticos still needing one more point in order to clinch qualification as they welcome fifth-place Honduras to Estadio Nacional on Oct. 6.

While all but certain of making it to the World Cup, Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez has also called a strong team to see out Los Ticos’ qualifying campaign and in turn, confront a Honduras side that will need to claw for every point it can get. SCENARIOS: What needs to happen for the USA to qualify for Russia

Of the three teams still vying for the third automatic qualifying place, Honduras has the toughest road because of their placement and highly negative goal differential, and also because of their schedule. Los Catrachos will need to aim to win at Costa Rica and home to Mexico on Matchday 10, and even if they do they’ll still need help along the in order to figure into either third or fourth place.

Making things more difficult for the visitors is the fact they’ll be without suspended defensive stalwarts Jorge Claros and Henry Figueroa. While the deck may be stacked against Honduras, they’ve historically been able to get results in tough moments, and with the game’s late kickoff they’ll have the benefit of knowing what transpired in the USA-Panama clash earlier in the night.

The Lowdown: A Costa Rica win or draw puts them in Russia, while a Honduras win would push them at least to fourth place.

SUSPENSIONS

CRC – Francisco Calvo
HON – Jorge Claros, Henry Figueroa

CAUTION WATCH
CRC – Christian Bolaños, Joel Campbell, Crisitan Gamboa, David Guzman, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Bryan Ruiz, Jose Salvatierra, Michael Umaña, Marcos Ureña,  Kendall Waston
HON – Wilmer Crisanto, Carlos Discua, Alberth Elis, Maynor Figueroa, Luis Garrido, Eddie Hernandez, Emilio Izaguirre, Alfredo Mejia, Oliver Morazan, Johnny Palacios
 

Three things we learned from Christian Pulisic’s 60 Minutes segment

American soccer’s golden boy appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes. What did we find out that we didn’t already know?by Rob Usry  Oct 3, 2017, 7:05am PDT

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a more than great chance you know who Christian Pulisic is. Whether it’s the post-a-week we do about him or the countless other headlines the 19-year-old receives, he’s a very well-known commodity in the soccer community. Sunday night, a wider audience got their first sweet taste of the boy from Hershey. Pulisic had his own segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes, a weekly news program that’s aired for 50 years.It’s rare for soccer — especially American soccer — to be put under a major mainstream microscope like this. The last time I can remember a soccer profile like this on 60 Minutes was them talking about Lionel Messi a couple of years ago. That’s how big this is on the general landscape of covering soccer in this country.Most of us know Christian’s story like he’s one of our distant relatives. But, after viewing the 13-minute segment, there was some knowledge to be gained for even the most diehard of Pulisic worshipers. Here are three interesting things we saw or found out in the full segment, that you can watch here.

The kid is making bank

At just 19 years old, Christian Pulisic is already making north of $8 million a year according to the 60 Minutes report. He signed a contract extension this past January, but I can’t recall ever seeing the financial details of the deal. That’s a nice chunk of change for a young adult to be making. He’s apparently just recently escaped the allowance system with his parents too.For reference, Kaka is the highest paid player in MLS at $7.1 million a year. At his young age, Pulisic would be receiving the biggest yearly salary in his home country’s domestic league by about $1 million. This is only his second-ever professional contract too. If he continues on his current career trajectory, he’ll be making a ridiculous amount of scratch by the time his current deal expires in 2020.

U.S. Soccer needs a Footbonaut

About 10 minutes into the segment they highlight a very cool machine called the Footbonaut. A training device developed by Borussia Dortmund that they use to help improve a player’s technical skills. It flings balls out at up to 60 MPH at an angle to help a player with his first touch.If a club like Dortmund entrust this machine to help develop technical ability, it must be pretty good. Their track record for player development speaks for itself. Christian needs to pull some strings and get one sent to U.S. Soccer or something. Do it for your country, Christian!

He and Ethan Horvath have an amazing secret handshake

It seems there’s a bromance brewing between two of the USMNT’s youngsters. In a 60 Minutes Overtime segment, we get to see Pulisic and Ethan Horvath unveil their over-elaborate ‘secret handshake’. Everyone had their super cool handshakes with their friends in school. It’s cool to see what these young guys on the national team come up with. Horvath has appeared in the comments section of Pulisic’s Facebook Q&A’s cracking jokes about rooming together on the road with the national team. Maybe we’ll see both playing together for the U.S. one of these days…

South American World Cup qualifying – how each nation can still make Russia

The final rounds of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup take place on Oct. 5 and 10, with only one of the 4.5 available places currently confirmed after Brazil secured safe passage and top spot in the group. 

Already qualified: Brazil
Places to be decided: 3 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff

Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there. Brazil are through, and Uruguay all-but qualified. However, the rest of the places are wide open with several nations to play each other.The top four teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fifth facing a two-legged playoff against New Zealand for a place in the finals.

 Brazil, 37 points (a-Bolivia, h-Chile)

  1. Brazil qualified as runaway leaders some six months ago, but they could have a major say who joins them when they entertain Chile on the final day. 
  1. Uruguay, 27 (h-Venezuela, a-Bolivia) 
    With a healthy three-point advantage over Argentina in fifth, other teams playing each other, and fixtures against the bottom two teams in the group, it would take some collapse for Uruguay to fail to make the finals. They need one win to be absolutely sure of going through. 
  1. Colombia, 26 (h-Paraguay, a-Peru) 
    Victory at home to Paraguay will take them to the finals if there is no winner between Argentina and Peru, or if Chile fail to beat Ecuador. Three points in that first fixture is looking imperative, as if they fail to win and then lose to Peru on the final day then they could very well miss out. 
  1. Peru, 24 (a-Argentina, h-Colombia) 
    After starting the campaign in disastrous fashion, Peru are the in-form team and will be in with the top seeds for the finals drawif they win their remaining two qualifiers. But they start with the small matter of a trip to Argentina in what looks like a pivotal match in the group. Peru can’t qualify on the first matchday, but a win will make them hot favourites. They may target a draw in Buenos Aires and hope than a win over Colombia in Lima will be enough to see them through without a playoff. 
  1. Argentina, 24 (h-Peru, a-Ecuador)
    Argentina’s stuttering campaign continued in September when they drew both games against Uruguay and Venezuela. Defeat at home to Peru could mean they make the playoffs at best, but it remains in their own hands and they know that two wins will take them directly to Russia. The only problem is they are three games without a win and have only managed back-to-back wins once in qualifying, and that was 18 months ago. 
  1. Chile, 23 (h-Ecuador, a-Brazil)
    Double Copa America winners Chile are in very real danger of failing to make the finals, though they know they will be guaranteed at least a playoff place if they win both their matches. They have lost three of their last four qualifiers to drop out of the top five, and with a trip to Brazil on the final day they are going to have their work cut out to make it to Russia. 
  1. Paraguay, 21 (a-Colombia, h-Venezuela)
    The best Paraguay can probably hope for is to sneak into the playoffs, and their negative goal difference means they need two victories with other results going their way.

 8) Ecuador, 20 (a-Chile, h-Argentina)

  1. Like Paraguay, Ecuador’s hopes are most definitely slim. They must win both games and hope for a miracle to make fifth place.

Both Bolivia and Venezuela have already been eliminated.  Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

RECAP | Indy Eleven Back to Winning Ways With 2-1 Victory Over Puerto Rico FC

“Indiana’s Team” earns three points for second consecutive win at Carroll Stadium

Published Oct 4, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (October 4, 2017) – In only their second home game in three weeks, Indy Eleven once again rocked “The Mike” with a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico FC despite late match drama that saw PRFC pull one back on a penalty.Head coach Tim Hankinson opted for a set of personnel that featured together for the first time, with Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Gerardo Torrado, Don Smart, Eamon Zayed, and Daniel Keller all returning to the starting line-up. Scrapping for chances in the opening half-hour, neither team was able to break the deadlock despite a pair falling for both sides. However, in the 37th minute, Zayed was able to put his team in front on the first time asking. Midfielder Ben Speas broke into the box but saw a deflected effort fall into the path of Zayed, he slotted first time past Spangenberg.Going into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead, Indy Eleven would double their tally, again from Eamon Zayed, who celebrated his birthday with a brace. Taking a ball down from Marco Franco, Zayed again pushed his way through a crowd to get on the scoresheet. However, “La Naranja” would not go quietly, and a penalty in the 92nd minute pulled one back to make it 2-1.“Indiana’s Team” would hold onto their lead through the fulltime whistle and collect an important three points as their push for the playoffs continues.Indy Eleven returns home to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium to host the New York Cosmos on Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 P.M. Et. Tickets for the game – and all remaining 2+ NASL matches at “The Mike” in 2017 – can be purchased for as little as $11 online at www.IndyEleven.com or by phone at 317-685-1100.
NASL Fall Season
Indy Eleven 2 : 1 Puerto Rico FC
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
IND – Eamon Zayed 37’
IND – Eamon Zayed (Marco Franco) 62’
PRFC – Giuseppe Gentile 90+2’
Discipline Summary:
IND – Gerardo Torrado 55’
PRFC – Giuseppe Gentile 67’
IND – Cory Miller 86’
IND – David Goldsmith 90+2’
IND – Kwame Watson-Siriboe 90+3’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Daniel Keller (Cory Miller 58), Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Colin Falvey ©, Marco Franco (Craig Henderson 75’); Gerardo Torrado, Brad Ring; Nemanja Vukovic, Ben Speas (David Goldsmith 83’), Don Smart; Eamon Zayed
IND bench: Keith Cardona (GK); Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Tanner Thompson, Paulo Junior

Puerto Rico FC lineup (4-3-3, L->R): Trevor Spangenberg (GK); Seth Moses, Phanuel Kavita, Ramon Soria, Kyle Culbertson; Michael Kafari (Mario Rubio 56’), Jordi Quintilla, Connor Doyle; Jairo Puerto (Jackie Marrero 41’, Michael Ramos 76’), Giuseppe Gentile, Sydney RiveraPRFC bench: Austin Pack (GK); Cristiano Dias, Rudy Dawson, Jake Stovall, Michael Ramos

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