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

 Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com , Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

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