11/16 US ties Portugal, World Cup Teams Set without Italy, MLS Champ Games Tues, Champs League Tues/Wed, IU Butler, ND in NCAAs   

 Ok soccer fans – what an amazing week of World Cup Playoffs for Qualifying for next summer’s World Cup as Italy, Nigeria, and Ireland all fall out. Yes I just said Italy – 4 time WC Winning Italy – made every World Cup since 1958 Italy.  Unbelievable how 1 bad manager (Ventura) can ruin a team that made the finals of the European Championships in 2016.  So along with the US – the Netherlands, and Chile – 2 more World Class teams are out of the World Cup.  The only good news out of this – is the US is trying to put together a Tourney involving these top rated teams in a pre-World Cup tourney in the US next summer.  That would be cool since my favorite 3 world teams – the US, Italy and the Dutch (the big orange machine) are not playing in the World Cup.

Speaking of Cool – the US youngsters looked ok vs #3 Ranked Portugal in a 1-1 tie at Portugal on Tues afternoon.  Honestly the US out played Portugal – who while Renaldo wasn’t there – had plenty of starters from their normal team on hand. The US struck early when 17 year old Schalke man (German team) Weston McKennie scored a beaut just 15 minutes in.   Of course who takes over at goalie came to head as 22 Year Old Ethan Horvan gave up a howler to allow Portugal’s only goal.  Ethan did make some fine saves after that but look for other players to get a shot like Bill Hamid 26 who played the 2nd half and played ok.  We’ll see how he does in Europe after his recent move from DC United.  Also I think some of the other youngsters Jesse Gonzales 22, of Dallas or even 20 year old Klinsmann from the U20 squad should get their chances.  Either way – I thought John Brooks, 22, and Matt Miazga, 22,  looked solid in the middle D – and John Carter-Vickers held up well in the 2nd half for Brooks as well.  The midfield actually had guys running as Mckennie and Kellyn Acosta were all over the field as double #8s with a solid Captain Danny Williams (    ) at #6 behind them running box to box.  Finally Tyler Adams was electric up front on the wing and even Juan Aguadelo looked fine on the other wing with CJ Sapong up top.  I enjoyed watching the future – what I didn’t enjoy was the nightmare that having Bruce Arena – the coach who didn’t get us in the World Cup in the studio.  That was both painful and idiotic. I have always supported Bruce – I think he is the best US National Team coach we have ever had.  But he blew this qualification – there was no excuse for not winning that last game or at least tying the game.  How could he leave Cameron on the bench?  How?  Lots of personell decisions were blown down the stretch and him being there on the Broadcast was just IDIOTIC by Fox.

This weekend – The Madrid Derby – Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid on beIN Sports Sat at 2:45 pm at the new Atletico stadium.  In the EPL – Arsenal hosts Tottenham at 7:30 am on NBCSN, while Leicester City host Man City at 10 am.  At 1 pm Man U will host Newcastle United and US defender Yedlin on NBC.  Sunday has 2 US youngsters McKennie for Shahlke and Woods for Hamburger facing off in the Bundesliga on FS1.  MLS Conference Championships are back on Tues Night with Columbus hosting Toronto (Bradley) at 7:30 pm on ESPN and Houston hosting defending champs Seattle at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The return legs are the following Sunday evening.

Congrats to Louisville FC for their exciting USL Championship win Monday night in Louisville – I wonder if the Indy 11 might soon be matching up against local USL teams like Louisville and Cincinnati FC?

Good luck to local college men’s teams Butler, Indiana University and Notre Dame as they all won their first round tourney games in the NCAAs. On Sunday – Butler and former Carmel High GK Eric Dick will travel to VCU at 5 pm, while #2 Indiana University hosts Old Dominion at 1 pm on BTN plus and Notre Dame hosts Big 10 Tourney Champ Wisconsin. See the Bracket  PDF

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Nov 18

7:30 am NBCSN               Arsenal vs Tottenham

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man City

1 pm NBC            Man U vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beiN Sport  Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Sun, Nov 19

9:30 am FS1                       Schalke (McKennie) vs Hamburger (Woods)

11 am NBCSN               Watford vs West Ham

1 pm BTN+                      Indiana U vs Old Dominion  NCAAs Men

Mon, Nov 20

3 pm NBCSN                      Brighton (Johnson) vs Stoke City (Cameron)

Tues, Nov 21  – Champs League

2:45 pm ESPN2?             Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1    APOEL vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State&Soc                  Sevilla vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ??                         Man City vs Feyenoord

8 pm ESPN                          Columbus Crew vs Toronto  (MLS East Conf Final Leg 1)

10 pm Fox Sport 1        Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders (West Conf Final Leg 1)

Weds, Nov 22  – Champs League

12 noon Fox Sport 2    Qarabag vs Chelsea

2:45 pm ESPN2?             Juventus vs Barcelona

2:45 pm                                PSG vs Celtic

2:45 pm Fox Sport2     Basel vs Man United 

2:45 pm ??                         Atletico Madrid vs Roma

Thurs, Nov 23  – Europa League

1 pm Fox Sport 2           Koln vs Arsenal

3 pm Fox Sport 1           Everton vs Atalanta

3 pm Fox Sport 2           Milan vs Austria Wien

Sat, Nov 25

9:30 am                                Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Schalke (McKinnie)

10 am NBCSN                   Man United vs Brighton (Williams)

12:30 pm Fox Sport2  Borussia MGladbach (Johnson) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN ?       Liverpool vs Chelsea

Sun Nov 26

7:30 pm ESPN                  Toronto vs Columbus Crew (MLS East Conf Final Leg 2)

10 pm Fox Sport 1        Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders (West Conf Final Leg 2)

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

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

USA

US Youngsters Impress in Draw with Portugal – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Take Aways from US tie with Portugal – Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle – MLS.com

Player Ratings USA – ESPNFC

US Manager Sarachan Happy With Youngsters – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Youngsters Tie #3 Portugal ESPNFC

US Next Goalkeeper Battle at Hand ESPNFC

Uncertain Futures for these 3 Youngsters  ESPNFC

5 Take Aways from US Draw with Portugal – Goal.com

Pulisic – Says US must Develop Players from U16-U18 better – ESPNFC

Here’s Christian Pulisic’s Well Written – Write-up about the World Cup  – Players Tribune

US Eyes hosting Pre World Cup Tourney with Italy, Dutch, Chile, Nigeria maybe?  Jeff Carlisle

US Ladies Tie Canada – 3 Thoughts Goal.com

WORLD

Italy’s Catestrophic playoff Failure  Marcotti – ESPNFC

Manager Ventura Missteps responsible for Italy’s ouster of WC – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Eriksen hat trick sends Denmark past Ireland into WC

Dortmund plan to keep Pulisic Long Term ESPNFC

Sweden Players Crash TV Set – after their huge upset win

Week Discussions – Italy failings numerous – Marcotti – ESPNFC

Italy Should have picked Sebastian Giovinco from Toronto for team

What Mexico learned from Euro Friendlies

Player Ratings Mexico beat Poland 1-0

11 Superstar Players Missing from World Cup 2018

MLS

Toronto vs Columbus Preview

Eastern Conference Preview – Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew 11/22 + 11/26

3 Things Houston Needs to Do to oust Dynamo

Western Conference Preview –  Seattle vs Houston

ET Radio – does Toronto – or Dempsey need an MLS Cup to Justify Their Worth to League?

NE Revs name former US GK & Announcer Brad Friedel Manager

Cincy & Nashville make Moves in NLS Expansion Battle

MLS Hopeful North Carolina FC – leaves NASL for USL in 2018

Caleb Porter Departs as Coach of Portland Timbers

U.S. youngsters impress in 1-1 draw in Portugal, end 2017 on positive note

LEIRIA, Portugal — The U.S. men’s national team closed the book on a thoroughly disappointing 2017 with a credible 1-1 draw against reigning European champions Portugal.U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie, making his international debut, put the visitors on top in the 21st minute but a terrible error from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath allowed Portugal defender Antunes to equalize 11 minutes later.  Here are three thoughts from the Americans’ final game of the year.

  1. A glimmer of hope after disastrous 2017

Heading into Tuesday’s friendly, there were questions as to why the U.S. even opted to play this game given the bitterness at failing to qualify for the World Cup. But not only was it a chance to get a glimpse of some up and coming players, but the proceeds from the match will be donated to victims of wildfires in north and central Portugal earlier this year.As it turned out, the match was worth the Americans’ while. Caretaker manager Dave Sarachan had spoken all week about the group’s “youthful energy” and his lineup certainly trended in a youthful direction, with both McKennie and Tyler Adams being handed debuts while Matt Miazga earned just his fourth cap. That said, there was experience as well in the form of defender John Brooks and midfielder Danny Williams, both of whom performed well on the night.It’s worth noting that Portugal was fielding an under-strength side as well. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho were both left off the roster, though a smattering of regulars like Nelson Semedo and Pepe (the latter of whom was forced off early through injury) were included.The U.S. was on the front foot to start the match. A combination of aggressive pressing and sloppy Portuguese passing created a pair of chances inside two minutes, only for C.J. Sapong to fire straight at Portugal keeper Beto and Kellyn Acosta to then fire wide. The match soon settled a bit, but it was the U.S. that was creating the better opportunities.Sapong was causing all kinds of problems by drifting into wide positions and running at defenders. He put one pass on a platter for Adams in the 20th minute only for the New York Red Bull to fire straight at Beto. It proved to be a brief respite as Sapong soon found McKennie on the run and the Texas native darted around one defender before firing home to put the visitors on top.The U.S. looked solid in the back with Miazga and Brooks but Portugal equalized due to a horrible error from Horvath. Antunes’ volley from wide on the left had some venom in it but Horvath looked perfectly positioned to gather it in. Instead, as he moved low to collect the shot, the ball squirted through both hands and legs to trickle into the U.S. goal.The U.S. rebounded to start the second half as Beto denied Adams’ close-range header, Lichaj forced another smart save and McKennie saw his header hit the crossbar.The parade of substitutions that is typical of friendlies seemed to benefit Portugal as the home side began carry more of the game. Goncalo Paciencia struck the bar with an effort of his own in the 66th minute and Hamid later collected a shot that Paciencia shot straight into the air.All told, a draw was a perfectly satisfying result for the U.S. and proved to be a valuable exercise. Granted, it will be years before the disappointment at missing out on next summer’s festivities will wash away. But the process of putting some distance from that calamity has to begin at some point and given the promising performances of some of the young players, this was a match that served that purpose.Now the U.S. can head into 2018 with some more data points on who will form the core of the team going forward. 

  1. McKennie, Sapong, Miazga impress

There was plenty of anticipation surrounding the debut of McKennie given the minutes he’s logged with Bundesliga side Schalke already this season. He didn’t disappoint, either, effective at getting into the attack and timing his run to perfection in the run-up to his goal. He nearly added a second with his aforementioned header.Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was Sapong. The Philadelphia Union forward was an absolute handful for the Portugal back-line. His holdup play was outstanding, as was his ability to link play with his teammates. In a lineup that was devoid of anyone who could be categorized as a playmaker, those traits were a boost to the U.S attack. Of course at age 28, there is the question of how much more time Sapong has at international level but he certainly did plenty to help his cause on this night.Miazga also delivered an impressive performance, partnering well with first Brooks (and later Cameron Carter-Vickers) and putting out plenty of fires. If he continues to progress at the club level, one would expect him to be part of the backbone of the side in the future.The night proved to be more of a mixed bag for Adams. His energy and defensive hustle aided the U.S. cause; so too did his running off the ball. But he needed to be better on the ball, especially in the first half when he connected just four of 15 passes, something he did improve in the second half. He’ll also rue his missed opportunities in front of goal.

  1. Hamid takes step ahead in goalkeeper battle

There was a certain logic to starting Horvath in goal. He’s logged fairly steady playing time over the course of 2017 while D.C. United’s Bill Hamid was benched for the last month of the MLS season and Jesse Gonzalez’s campaign ended a few weeks ago.

But Horvath was also benched recently by his club side, Club Brugge, and it was easy to see why. His basic error on Antunes’ goal was bad enough, but he nearly gifted the home side a second when his pass out from the back when straight to Danilo. Fortunately the Portugal midfielder could only hit his shot straight at him. Whatever hopes Horvath had of carrying some confidence back to his club were dashed.Hamid certainly did his prospects no harm, making the plays he needed to make, though one punch in particular looked a bit awkward before collecting. But club form will do plenty to dictate how the keeper battle shakes out going forward, and now it is up to him to make the most of his move to Danish side Midtjylland.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and t

Armchair Analyst: A few takeaways from USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Portugal

November 14, 20176:52PM ESTMatthewDoyleSenior Writer

It’s a friendly. More than that it was a “B” team friendly featuring few of either squad’s best players. So don’t go reading too much into the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Portugal on Tuesday.

However, don’t make the mistake of reading nothing into it, either. One of the frustrating things about friendlies for the better part of this decade is that they have often been treated as meaningless, process-deprived mad scientist-style experimentation. They can occasionally be that, but there are better ways to make use of that time.With that in mind, here are a few takeaways:

Start Weston McKennie

Have you been watching him with Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga this year? He’s been something close to a full starter for the past two months, and he brought that form with him to his full national team debut (volume up for analysis):

McKennie, so far, looks like more of a No. 8 than a No. 6 (and despite the above clip he’s not a No. 10), though the whispers I’ve heard out of Gelsenkirchen are that they think he projects, long-term, as a defensive midfielder.Whatever, wherever, I don’t care at this point. What matters is that whoever is in charge has to get him as many reps with the full squad as is possible over the next 18 months. If he fits better as a No. 8 than as a No. 6, then so be it. If it’s vice versa, that’s fine as well. I just need to see him in Red, White & Blue every time he’s available.And for the record: He was hurt during the first two weeks of October, which is why he wasn’t called up for the final qualifiers. That said, I doubt Bruce Arena would’ve given him minutes.

Get Reps for the Center Backs

John Brooks was sold for over $20 million this summer, and Matt Miazga, at age 22, has already 1) been sold to Chelsea, 2) led Vitesse Arnhem to their first significant trophy in the club’s 125-year history, and 3) been linked with a move to Ajax, as well as upper-tier Bundesliga teams.McKennie is important. Getting Christian Pulisic healthy and in his best spot is important, and getting Jonathan Gonzalez in the mix sooner rather than later is important. So is finding the right role for Tyler Adams and for Kellyn Acosta, and so is identifying the best forward option, and obviously the goalkeeper situation needs to resolve itself (I still think Brad Guzan is the right call, though obviously that can change between now and when games start to matter again).Fundamentally, though, none of the above is as important as getting a central defensive pairing together, and then giving them reps. Given their ages, performances and pedigree, right now it’s Brooks and Miazga.

Learn the Lessons of Losses

Dave Sarachan will probably never manage another USMNT game, but give him credit here: He did not make the same mistake that Arena did vs. Trinidad & Tobago. The US were out-manned in central midfield a month ago, playing a 4-1-3-2 with chalk-on-their-boots wingers and basically going 1-v-4 in central midfield. It was a high-risk/high-reward proposition that failed spectacularly because of some bad luck, but also because the gambit allowed the Soca Warriors so much time and space on the ball. They got comfortable, pushed numbers forward, and took advantage of a sleep-walking US.Sarachan trotted this team out in a 4-1-4-1. Some of the pieces were mismatched – neither Juan Agudelo nor Adams is really a winger (though both played well), and Pulisic was missed – but the structure was sound and made it difficult for Portugal to play through the middle. With the exception of about a 10-minute stretch around the hour mark, the hosts weren’t able to exert concerted pressure. 

And that’s about it from this one. Again: It’s a friendly, so don’t go off celebrating or anything, but at the same time, don’t write it off entirely. The partnerships and structure that were ripped down over the past six years need to be rebuilt now, and every outing is a chance to do just that.McKennie, Miazga, Adams, Acosta, Agudelo, Brooks, C.J. Sapong et al just took this program’s first tiny step forward, and it’s time to begin a new cycle. Let’s hope we don’t make the same mistakes that doomed the previous one. he U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 Weston McKennie man of the match as U.S. earn draw in Portugal

The long march back to the world stage for the United States after failing to make the 2018 World Cup began in Leiria, Portugal with a friendly featuring a host of fresh faces under interim head coach Dave Sarachan. With little to play for but the launch of a new generation of players, the Americans played to a 1-1 draw with a Portuguese “B” squad.

Positives

The youth. Even before the match commenced, the theme of the day was established through the American lineup. Young players who could be a major part of getting the U.S. to Qatar in 2022 littered the field, with Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams starting together in midfield. Matt Miazga started alongside John Brooks at the back, and 22-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath started in goal.The young group pressed Portugal early and established a refreshing energy in the midfield that directly led to the Americans getting the opening goal in the 21st minute through McKinnie. In the second half, as the game slowed down and Portugal had more of the ball, the Americans still managed to create chances and give themselves a chance to win.

Negatives

It’s hard to be overly critical considering the circumstances surrounding the game and the makeup of the U.S. lineup, at least from a team perspective. Without much preparation, the young and new American team held their own against Portugal’s rotated team. Defensive communication was occasionally poor and Horvath’s howler took the shine off what was otherwise a positive first half.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — On the job for likely this single game, Sarachan got the most basic part of the task right: he called up a young, hungry, and talented group of players and set them up to start the American rebuilding process. The choice to put out Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKinnie, and Tyler Adams showed there was no tendency towards conservatism. Sarachan got a second wave of youngsters on with Lynden Gooch and Cameron Carter-Vickers coming off the bench.

The Americans seemed tactically sound and generally understood their roles. That’s all it takes for Sarachan to get a passing grade.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Ethan Horvath, 2.5 — Spent a half hour with little to do, he then committed a terrible mistake to gift Portugal a goal and change the tone of the match. Looked nervous throughout his half on the field.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 — Caught up-field on Portuguese counters more than once, but benefited from his recovery speed and covering of teammates. Played an up-and-down game against his opposite number.

DF Matt Miazga, 8 — Played 90 minutes and was solid for most of this. Took a few risks that didn’t result in real danger. Stepped up into midfield too good effect.

DF John Brooks, 7 — Mostly solid on the defensive in during a half of play. Showed his intelligence and savvy with timely midfield interventions. Should have had a goal that was disallowed for a foul off the ball.

DF Eric Lichaj, 6 — Defended competently. Pushed into the attack well, especially in the second half and provided an extra option in the final third.

MF Danny Williams, 7 — Worked well in combination with Acosta and McKennie ahead of him. Passed well and created a dangerous chance with a cross in the second half.

MF Juan Agudelo, 5.5 — Guilty of a few sloppy moments while trying to create opportunities on the left side of the attack. Showed flashes of technical brilliance but never impacted the game.

MF Kellyn Acosta, 7.5 — Provided strong set-piece service and never looked out of place with the speed of the game. Tracked back to eliminate several opportunities for Portugal.

MF Weston McKennie, 8 — Scored the lone U.S. goal on his debut for the U.S. in a Man of the Match performance. Covered ground, passed smartly and won several recoveries.

MF Tyler Adams, 7.5 — Aided in the press that served the Americans so well in the first half. Cut inside with intelligence runs that opened up space. Had a header saved off the line.

FW C.J. Sapong, 7.5 — Much more effective in the first half when the U.S. was able to press high and find him with runs into wide areas. Held the ball up well and won several fouls in the attacking half.

Substitutes

GK Bill Hamid, 6 — Made one save that wasn’t as clean as he’d like. Otherwise, he was mostly untroubled in the second half.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 6 — A step slow to start his appearance but settled into the game as the half progressed. Missed his chance to give the Americans the lead on the attacking end.

DF Jorge Villafana, 5 — Didn’t provide the attacking threat of Lichaj and largely played simple soccer, avoiding turnovers and mistakes.

MF Lynden Gooch, 7 — Used speed and power to provide a threat in wide areas after coming on. Showed the potential to be a crossing threat for the national team.

FW Dom Dwyer, NR — Had a limited impact in less than 15 minutes. Contributed three defensive actions with Portugal on the ball towards the end of the game.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR — Touched the ball just a handful of times as the clock approached full-time.

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

U.S. boss hails young Americans’ draw vs. Portugal after ‘difficult’ 2017

LEIRIA, Portugal — Acting U.S. manager Dave Sarachan said he was proud of the way his young side delivered in securing a 1-1 draw with reigning European champions Portugal after a “difficult” 2017.Both teams put out under-strength sides, with Portugal missing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho. But with the MLS Cup playoffs still going on and with some U.S. players dealing with injuries, it was the Americans that were more shorthanded, as Sarachan handed international debuts to Schalke youngster Weston McKennie and New York Red Bulls 19-year-old Tyler Adams.The reverberations from the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup are also still being felt, and will no doubt hang over any memories of 2017. But the youthful American team acquitted itself well in this match, with McKennie netting the U.S. goal.”It is a friendly, they had a mixed group and all the rest, but we still had to come here and play on their soil, with a group of players that have only been together for six days,” said Sarachan. “Some knew each other, some didn’t, and obviously we put a lineup out with a plan. But they were the ones that went out and executed.”And what I told them after the game was 2017 was a difficult year for U.S soccer, and there were a lot of people out there that weren’t sure what this was going to look like tonight. I said to the group that I couldn’t be more proud, and the future is bright, because there were a number of players on this field that [could] have a really, I think, good and long career with the national team.”It was a night in which the number of positive individual performances far outweighed any bad ones. But Sarachan lauded the play of McKennie, Adams, and Matt Miazga. McKennie even came inches away from delivering the game-winner, only to see his second half header hit the bar.”I thought all three were very good tonight, I really did,” said Sarachan of the aforementioned trio. “I thought as a starting point they played with a lot of confidence. There was no fear. The moments that came for each player that were difficult moments I thought they handled well.”Weston obviously getting the goal but not only that, his calmness on the ball and his ability to collect balls and play the next pass was very good tonight. Tyler, his engine is remarkable, and his energy was great throughout. And Matt was very solid in the back. I thought all three guys over the course of 90 minutes had really a solid performance.”If there was one player who didn’t deliver on the night it was goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. With the U.S. leading 1-0 after McKennie’s goal, Horvath appeared to be in perfect position to collect Vitorino Altunes’ drive from the left wing, and went low to scoop the ball into his chest. Instead, the ball trickled through both arms and legs and into the U.S. goal to make the score 1-1. Horvath then misplayed a pass right to the opposition, only to have the subsequent shot hit right at him. The U.S. keeper did recover to save well at the feet of Bruma just before half-time, but the damage was done. Still, Sarachan emphasized Horvath’s eventual recovery rather than his blunder.”Ethan if he had it to do over again I think he would have saved it,” he said. “But these things happen and the thing that I’m very pleased about, and I told him this after the game was the goal goes in, and obviously it’s a big blow for him personally. But the team backed him up, said let’s get on with it. And the plays he had to make after that were excellent.”That tells you a lot because I think for even a young goalkeeper you could be so rattled that maybe you’re not ready for the next play. These things happen, I thought our team handled it great, and in the career of a goalkeeper you’re going to have moments like that.”Sarachan also singled out forward C.J. Sapong and midfielder Danny Williams for praise, Both players put in hardworking shifts, with Sapong assisting on McKennie’s goal and Williams helping to clog the middle of the field in a holding midfield role.”C.J was huge for us tonight,” said Sarachan. “Playing as lone striker is a difficult task, and you do a lot of dirty running, and a lot of grafting. I thought the moments when we needed to have some holdup play, he did well. But being able to do the work, to put some pressure on their center backs over the course of time that he played was just very important for us.”I thought Danny Williams did a great job too, being a veteran presence, a little bit deeper in the midfield, in [back] of Kellyn Acosta and Weston. He picked his spots to help cover and help defend, even the moments of the calmness out of the back. I can’t find much fault with those guys.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM USA’S DRAW WITH PORTUGAL

Ives Galarcep

Teenagers Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams shined, while John Brooks took on a leadership role in an encouraging USMNT performance to end 2017

You couldn’t blame U.S. national team fans for wishing they had a time machine they could have jumped into Tuesday to go back and beg Bruce Arena to call up youngsters like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Matt Miazga.

All three looked impressive in a 1-1 draw against Portugal. Their performances may have come in a meaningless match against a Portuguese B team that looked disinterested at times, but it was still a meeting against high-level competition. The U.S. played with real purpose and energy, looking nothing like the lethargic squad that sleepwalked through the October loss to Trinidad & Tobago that ultimately cost the team its place at the 2018 World Cup.Instead of looking back at what might have been, it is a much healthier exercise to look ahead at what could come from this young nucleus of talent in the year and a half between now and the next truly meaningful matches the U.S. will play. Plenty can change in that time. Some prospects could see their trajectories stall, while others could see theirs skyrocket. Some older players will be fighting against not only a new generation of talent, but also the natural decline that comes with aging.

RELATED

The good news is Tuesday’s draw suggests there is serious talent in the pipeline to hopefully ensure that Christian Pulisic isn’t alone in his quest to revive the U.S. after the nightmare of missing out on a trip to Russia.

Here is a closer look at some key takeaways from Tuesday’s USA-Portugal draw:

MCKENNIE AND ADAMS SHINE IN DEBUTS

You couldn’t have drawn up a better moment to excite U.S. fans than having McKennie dribble through Portugal’s defense for the match’s opening goal Tuesday, a moment that perfectly encapsulated the Schalke midfielder’s considerable promise. It was McKennie who made the sliding interception to start the goal sequence before he raced down the left channel, perfectly collected a C.J. Sapong pass and deftly maneuvered to strike a collected finish he made look much easier than it was.

The goal was the key highlight, but it was McKennie’s poise and engine in midfield that made his overall performance so encouraging. It shouldn’t have been a complete surprise considering McKennie has shown enough to break into Schalke’s starting lineup, but it was still exciting to watch in a U.S. uniform. It was also a chance for McKennie to show there is more to his game than being a ball-winning defensive midfielder.Adams also showed off the considerable versatility that makes him such an exciting prospect. The 18-year-old Red Bulls midfielder has already shown in MLS that he can thrive both in central midfield and as a right wing back, and Tuesday he impressed working on the right wing. He put himself in dangerous spots on multiple occasions, and came within a diving one-handed save of joining McKennie on the score sheet.For those who hadn’t seen much of Adams before, they were treated to the wide array of strengths in his game, from his speed and tenacity to his ability to deliver sharp passes and get into effective attacking positions, along with his ability to effectively defend. These are traits that could let him thrive as a right back, right wing back or potentially even as a right winger, though it’s still a good bet his club and international future lies in central midfield, where he has the characteristics to one day be a box-to-box dynamo.

BROOKS LOOKS READY TO LEAD

Injuries kept John Brooks from taking part in any of the U.S. national team’s qualifiers in the fall, and his showing against Portugal served as a painful reminder of what the U.S. was missing against Costa Rica, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago. Brooks played well against Portugal — and had an excellent headed goal nullified by a Miazga foul — but the most promising aspect of his 45-minute appearance was how much he embraced being the leader of the back line. He was vocal and demonstrative, directing his young teammates and communicating in a way we haven’t really seen from him before.It’s an excellent sign for a player who is still just 24, but who has now made the transition from youngster to veteran. With the older central defenders in the player pool looking very likely to be passed up by a strong generation of younger options, Brooks will be called on to be more of a leader than he has been before. The key for Brooks will be for him to continue to stay healthy, an issue that has dogged him throughout his career.

HORVATH ENDURES ROUGH DAY

There may not have been a sadder sight than the image of Ethan Horvath sitting slumped on the U.S. bench with his head down as the final minutes of Tuesday’s friendly ticked away. It was clear he wasn’t about to forget the calamitous blunder he committed that gifted Portugal its goal, an error sure to live on in highlight reels for years to come.What won’t make highlight reels, but should be remembered, is how he responded after the blunder. He made several solid plays to keep Portugal from adding another goal, and while he did have one other extremely shaky moment with an ill-advised pass that led directly to a Portugal chance, Horvath was able to steady himself enough to finish out the first half.Horvath’s second U.S. appearance was a disaster, but perhaps that shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise considering his form has dipped at Club Brugge enough to lead him to be benched recently. The goalkeeper position is very much a confidence position, and it was clear that Horvath’s confidence is in the gutter. That being said, he is still just 22, and writing him of for a shaky showing at that age would be extremely premature.Along with reminding us that young goalkeepers can be an adventure to follow, Horvath’s blunder should also remind us that the U.S. starting goalkeeper position is wide open heading into the next World Cup cycle. Brad Guzan isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet, and at 33, he may still have a part to play when meaningful matches return in two years. But a promising group of young goalkeepers is emerging to join Horvath in the chase for that coveted starting job.Bill Hamid, Zack Steffen, Alex Bono and Jonathan Klinsmann are all in their early to mid-20s and they all still have time to develop into starting options for whichever coach is handed the keys to the next qualifying cycle. Horvath may not be ready to lead the race for the top spot, but he isn’t someone who should be written off because of one bad game.

VETERANS STATE STRONG CASES

Danny Williams has largely been in the U.S. national team wilderness for the past two years, having essentially been cast off by Jurgen Klinsmann after his decision to leave the Bundesliga for the English League Championship. He was then ignored by Bruce Arena. On Tuesday, he looked very much like a player with something to offer in a defensive midfield role. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given his exploits with Huddersfield Town in the Premier League. The 28-year-old embraced this new opportunity, impressing the U.S. coaching staff enough to earn the captain’s armband ahead of other players with more national team caps. Sapong also made the most of his chance, earning a start and then showing all the qualities as a target forward to make him a player capable of offering some much-needed depth in that role. For too long it has been Jozy Altidore or bust, with Bobby Wood used in the role when Altidore has been unavailable. But Sapong showed why he finished as the top American goal-scorer in MLS in 2017, with his improved hold-up play and passing, as well as his willingness to provide defensive pressure.

Both Williams and Sapong are 28, which puts them on the outer range of potential 2022 contributors, but they both showed enough Tuesday to suggest they should be considered as options in 2018.

ARENA’S TV APPEARANCE WAS A DISASTER

If you were left shocked to see Arena on the Fox broadcast of the USA-Portugal match, you definitely were not alone. How anybody thought having the former U.S. coach serve as an analyst in the first USMNT match since he led the team to its fateful World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad & Tobago is mind-boggling, and the result was a tone-deaf broadcast that served to sour an otherwise encouraging day for U.S. fans.Arena’s decision to actually accept the role was shocking in its lack of self awareness, but it didn’t take long to understand why he took it. Arena basically spent his time on air trying to put the team’s qualifying failure into a context that made it seem like less of a damning indictment of his handling of the job.It wound up having the opposite effect, though, with Arena dropping several head-scratching statements, such as his claim that he should have gone with essentially a full MLS-based squad in September’s qualifying loss to Costa Rica (count me among those who will give Arena the benefit of the doubt that he meant to count Pulisic as an exception). His flippant remark suggesting no players fall through the cracks in U.S. Soccer’s player development setup surely infuriated the viewers who hadn’t long since tuned out.Someone needed to save Arena from himself and tell him just ho bad an idea it was. The sad part is the appearance only did more damage to a reputation of a coach who deserves plenty of respect even with last month’s failure. Arena’s resume is unmatched among American coaches, but Tuesday’s broadcast only served to further tarnish the public’s view of him.Arena made several comments that just left you cringing, but the overarching sentiment generated by his Fox appearance was that it was an absolute disaster, not only because of what it wound up producing on air but because of the fact it served as a painful and unnecessary reminder of October’s World Cup qualifying nightmare.

 Christian Pulisic: U.S. must better develop top players from ages 16-18

In the wake of the United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup, Christian Pulisic has called for top American teenage players to be given more opportunities to develop at an earlier age.At just 19, Pulisic was an instrumental part of the U.S.’s qualifying campaign, and he admitted he’s been “pretty depressed” since the Americans lost to Trinidad and Tobago last month. Since then, youth development in the U.S. has come under question, particularly from candidates for next year’s wide-open race for the U.S. Soccer Federation presidency.In a story for The Players’ Tribune, Pulisic suggested the best American players aged 16-18 need to be better tested during the most crucial years of their development.”For a soccer player … man, ask anyone and they’ll tell you — those age 16-18 years are everything,” Pulisic wrote. “From a developmental perspective, it’s almost like this sweet spot: It’s the age where a player’s growth and skill sort of intersect, in just the right way — and where, with the right direction, a player can make their biggest leap in development by far.”In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a ‘star’ — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot.”In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been ‘the best player,’ and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day — both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.”FIFA rules prohibit players from leaving their native countries for clubs in other countries before they turn 18. In 2014, FIFA gave Barcelona a transfer ban for a full year for breaching these regulations, with their Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also subsequently punished.The only exceptions are if “the player’s parents have moved to another country for non-related reasons; the move takes place within the European Union if a player is aged between 16 and 18; [or] the player’s home is less than 50 kilometres from the national border being crossed.”Because his grandfather was born in Croatia, Pulisic was able to obtain dual citizenship and move to join Borussia Dortmund at age 16, and he said “there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today” had he not made the switch at that time.But he questioned why FIFA allows European players to move countries, which he sees as an unfair advantage to some players.”Why is it that E.U. players are allowed to move country once they turn 16 … but non-Europeans can only do so at 18? Why aren’t we campaigning for a level playing field, where our best 16-year-olds — who may not have an E.U. passport like I had — are free to move when they turn 16, like the best young players in Europe can?”nd for those Americans who can’t go early to Europe, Pulisic urged Major League Soccer teams to give top players in their academies more opportunities to play at the top level, though he also said the league has made “great strides” in improving “soccer culture” in the U.S.”Are we doing everything in our power to make sure the level of play in U.S. soccer is high enough so that they can continue to develop up to their maximum potential?” he asked. “So that they can continue to develop until they are allowed to play at the top level their talent dictates — wherever that is in the world?”I also understand, of course, that — even with the option to leave — leaving the States might not be for everyone. Staying is fine, and I totally respect it.”But at the same time, I’ve gotta say: It really does frustrate me, when I watch MLS, and I see our best U-17 players — who, again, are so talented and so capable — being rostered … but then not being put on the field much to actually play. I watch that, and I just think about how I was given a chance … a real chance … and it changed my life. Why then are we seemingly hesitant to allow these other talents to blossom?”Pulisic also insisted that his emergence on the world stage at such a young age is not a fluke, and that more players would be able to follow in his footsteps if giving the same opportunities.”I’m not a prodigy — or a ‘wonderboy,’ as some have put it. I was always, you know, a decent player growing up. And yes, I was born with a certain amount of so-called ‘natural ability.’ But I also worked and sacrificed a lot to try to maximize what I was born with — which I think is important to point out. I think it’s important to make clear, you know, that the problem with American soccer … it isn’t talent.”He added: “The path to the U.S. winning a World Cup — it doesn’t start with having ‘more talent.’ It starts with developing the talent that we already have, in the right way.”

CHRISTIAN PULISIC– BORUSSIA DORTMUND / U.S.M.N.T.

In my heart, I knew it was over when we walked off the field.I think we all did. There were all of these complicated mathematical scenarios, but we knew the biggest one: We had to at least tie. Had to have that last goal. And we were grinding for it like crazy, right up until the very end. But we didn’t get it. And once we didn’t get it, and we were walking off that field — well, that’s when I pretty much knew.I knew it was over.But I still had to know.I asked one of our assistants, “What were the other scores?”You ever have a question that you really need to ask someone, but you’re almost too embarrassed to say it out loud — so you just sort of rephrase it? That was me, I think, right there in that moment, asking our assistant about the other matches.

What were the other scores?

That was my way of avoiding the question that I really needed the answer to, but couldn’t bring myself to ask.

Are we going?

And I’ll just never forget the look on his face, or the sound of his voice, or the feeling of utter devastation in my body — when he turned to me and said, “We’re not going. We didn’t make it.“We’re not going to the World Cup.”

There have been many opinions voiced over the past few weeks about our failure to reach the World Cup — and I hope people can understand why one of them hasn’t been mine. Playing for the U.S. in the World Cup has been my dream ever since I can remember. World Cup Final … minute to go … ball on Pulisic’s foot … and he scoooores! — that’s what I would dream about. For me, that’s always been the pinnacle of what I could accomplish in this sport.I remember watching the 2014 tournament in my cousin’s basement in Virginia. We threw this big party for the first U.S. match against Ghana — and before I could even sit down with my food, I’ll never forget it: Clint made that sweet cut to the right, put the ball on his left foot, and went post-and-in.29 seconds in, 1-0, USA.We went crazy.I couldn’t believe the electricity in the air after that goal. It was like the entire country was with us in that basement, running around with our hands in the air, screaming out, “Gooooooooaaaaaaaaaaal! Gooooooooaaaaaaaaal!” Just going insane. It was this amazing realization of, like, “Wow — American soccer can do that. We can do … that.”So to have come this far, in these four years since that goal was scored — to have made the team, and to have been a goal away from qualifying … and then to have fallen short? It hurt more than I can really put into words.

Which is why I decided to wait a few weeks and write something like this on my own time. I do have a lot of thoughts on American soccer — and I have definitely wanted to get them out. But I also wanted to make sure that I had enough time, first, to pause and reflect. And that when I did write something, it wouldn’t be to look backward.It would be to look forward.

The first thing I want to say here, obvously, is that I’m not an expert. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about national soccer programs than I do — and I hope those are the people we’ll have in charge of American soccer over the next World Cup cycle. Me, I’m just a 19 year old, in my first full year with the national team. So any insight that I can offer is only based on what I’ve experienced and observed in my career so far.The second thing I want to say here is that I’m not a prodigy — or a “wonderboy,” as some have put it. I was always, you know, a decent player growing up. And yes, I was born with a certain amount of so-called “natural ability.” But I also worked and sacrificed a lot to try to maximize what I was born with — which I think is important to point out. I think it’s important to make clear, you know, that the problem with American soccer … it isn’t talent. In fact, I’m sure there are kids who are going to be reading this article who are more talented at their age than I ever was.And then the third thing I want to say here is that I love American soccer. Which maybe sounds obvious — but I think a lot of people have this weird idea of USMNT players who have come up in Europe. They’ll talk about how we’re somehow less passionate about U.S. Soccer, or less American about it. That we’re these ringers or something — these outsiders brought in as, like, a cheat code to beat European sides. And it couldn’t be further from the truth.It really frustrates me when people say, “Oh, he’s barely American,” or, “He grew up in the Dortmund academy,” or anything like that. First of all, it’s not true: Until I was 16, I came up through the U.S. youth system. I did all of the camps, the academies, the residency programs, the travel teams, and everything else it had to offer. I’ll always be a part of that system, and I’ll always be indebted to it. Second of all, I think that’s just a dangerous attitude in general: Having a closed-minded view of what does or doesn’t constitute being an American. And I hope it’s an attitude that we can keep out of this conversation in the years to come.

When people ask me what has been the biggest game-changer of my career — when they ask me, you know, “What’s the one thing that has had the biggest impact on your game so far” — that isn’t the easiest question to answer. I’ve had a lot of good fortune over the years: from supportive parents, to amazing youth academies, to incredible teammates, and on down the line.But one thing that I’m not sure people realize, when they talk about my game, is just how lucky I’ve been to have a Croatian passport — and just how much of a difference it’s made for me.wAs a result of my dual citizenship, I’ve been able to play in Europe, training at the Dortmund academy, since I was 16. Without it? I would have had to wait until I was 18. And for a soccer player … man, ask anyone and they’ll tell you — those age 16–18 years are everything. From a developmental perspective, it’s almost like this sweet spot: It’s the age where a player’s growth and skill sort of intersect, in just the right way — and where, with the right direction, a player can make their biggest leap in development by far.

In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a “star” — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot. In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been “the best player,” and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day — both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.

Without those experiences, there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today.

And so I really just wonder, you know: Why is it that E.U. players are allowed to move country once they turn 16 … but non-Europeans can only do so at 18? Why aren’t we campaigning for a level playing field, where our best 16 year olds — who may not have an E.U. passport like I had — are free to move when they turn 16, like the best young players in Europe can? And in the meanwhile, as long as some of our best young players aren’t getting the opportunity like I had to go to Europe when they’re 16 … are we doing everything in our power to make sure the level of play in U.S. soccer is high enough so that they can continue to develop up to their maximum potential? So that they can continue to develop until they are allowed to play at the top level their talent dictates — wherever that is in the world?

I also understand, of course, that — even with the option to leave — leaving the States might not be for everyone. Staying is fine, and I totally respect it. But at the same time, I’ve gotta say: It really does frustrate me, when I watch MLS, and I see our best U-17 players — who, again, are so talented and so capable — being rostered … but then not being put on the field much to actually play. I watch that, and I just think about how I was given a chance … a real chance … and it changed my life. Why then are we seemingly hesitant to allow these other talents to blossom?

Anyway, I’m not sure what the answers to all of these questions are … but I still think they’re worth asking. And I am sure of this: The path to the U.S. winning a World Cup — it doesn’t start with having “more talent.” It starts with developing the talent that we already have, in the right way.

Another thing that I’ve really found myself thinking over is the idea of American soccer as culture.

Soccer … it’s just this way of life in other countries. It’s part of the fabric of who they are, and of what they do. There’s this sense of identity that I think is baked into global soccer — that touches everyone, and connects everyone together. If your city’s club team is having success, or if your national team is having success, there’s just this amazing sense of personal pride that comes with it. I saw a spark of that with Clint’s goal in 2014 — it almost felt like that one moment changed the mood of the entire country. And it’s hard to put into words how powerful that is.

Which is why I feel so crushed that we won’t be giving people that feeling this summer.

Something that I think is important to point out, though, is that — even with us coming off of this terrible loss, and even with everyone wanting to talk about what’s wrong with American soccer — our soccer culture in the U.S. is getting better all the time. MLS has made great strides as a league, over the last few years, and there are so many incredible American soccer markets that have emerged. You look at what they’ve built in cities like Portland and Seattle, and what they’re building in places like Atlanta and Cincinnati, and what’s happening with the movement to try to save soccer in Columbus — and it’s inspiring. And I mean, the atmosphere that we had going on that field in Orlando, in that stadium, for our qualifier against Panama … it was unlike anything that I’d ever experienced in the U.S. before. Those fans were unreal — and I was so proud to be a part of that match. It really felt like we were all working together that night to make something special happen.

And it’s not just American fans of American soccer now — what’s just as inspiring, to me, is how many people I’ll see from the U.S. who are invested in soccer in other places. Like, catching a kid at the airport in a PULISIC USA jersey is one thing. And that’s obviously such a thrill. But to catch an American kid in a PULISIC Dortmund jersey? This … club team in Europe? That’s, like, another thing entirely. Once I started seeing those around — man, that’s when it really hit me: that this is a country where people are starting to take their soccer seriously, at a global level.

And to me, the global level — that’s the next big step for our country. Because that’s when soccer stops being this “cool new thing,” this novelty item that is part of our lives once every four years … and becomes something so much better than that.

It becomes part of our culture.

Growing up, my dad and I, we used to play H-O-R-S-E in our driveway pretty much every night. I’d come home from training, and we’d take out that basketball, and we’d just play game … after game … after game. And it’s funny, because — the idea was, it was supposed to be very low-key, you know? After a day of taking soccer so seriously, we’d get to come home, and just shoot a ball around for the fun of it. But man, for the life of me … I could never do it. I could never do it just for fun.

had to win.

I’m telling you, it was like, this thing — no matter how many times in a row my dad beat me at H-O-R-S-E on a given night. I’d have to keep playing, and keep playing, until I finally won one. Some nights, honestly, it’s like I would even take it more seriously than soccer training. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than as an obsession. I would be obsessed with winning at H-O-R-S-E.

And the more I think about it, you know, I’ve really been like that my whole life. Obsessed with winning. No matter what I’d be doing — whether it was a game of H-O-R-S-E with my dad, or capture the flag as a little kid, or FIFA with my friends, or a match with Dortmund … the idea of needing to win … it would just eat at me. Which isn’t to say that I’d even win all the time. Like — I’m not even that good at FIFA. But I’ll just get so angry about it, so consumed by it. If I’m doing a thing, then I want to be the best at it. I’m not sure what that means … but it’s just who I am.

It’s who I’ve always been.

And I won’t lie — I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this past month. The thought of having to wait four more years, just to get the taste of losing our last qualifier out of my mouth … just to find out if we’re going to the next World Cup? Man, that’s tough. Four years, yu know? It feels like a lifetime. I mean, in soccer, four weekscan feel like a lifetime! Look at my last four: failed to qualify for the World Cup … first defeat in the league … lost to Bayern at home … and now facing a very hard task to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. For a guy obsessed with winning, lately I’ve been doing a lot of losing.

But I just want you to know — I’m still obsessed, all the same.

I just want every USA soccer fan reading this to understand, that no matter what decisions are made over these next couple of years … no matter what changes are implemented … no matter who the coach is, or what the roster looks like: I’m going to be obsessed with winning. And I’m going to be obsessed with doing my part to help U.S. Soccer get over the hump.

Because yeah, O.K. … we’re not going to the World Cup.

But there’s going to be a World Cup after that. And a World Cup after that. And a World Cup after that. And I think — I hope — that we’re going to be able to build something, here, with U.S. Soccer, where it’s not just going to be about one lost match, or one lost cycle, or one lost team. It’s going to be about an entire country, rallying around an entire sport, in a way that lasts.  So let’s plan on it, then — 2022.  Get your basements ready, and mark it down.  We’ll be there.CHRISTIAN PULISIC / CONTRIBUTOR

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11/8/17 Butler Host Xavier Tonight 7 pm at Butler Bowl, IU in Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tourney at Grand Park 11/10-12, WC Playoff Qualifiers Weekend, US faces Portugal 11/14 3 pm,  MLS Conf Finals Set

Locally Fans will have a chance to see Big East Championship soccer tonight as Top Seeded Butler hosts Xavier at the Butler Bowl at 7 pm.  Tix are just $7/$4.  Former Carmel High and Carmel Dad’s player Eric Dick was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year while Butler coach Paul Snape was named Coach of the Year.  Dick tied for the BIG EAST lead with eight shutouts during the 2017 regular season. The Butler captain is among the BIG EAST leaders in goals against average (0.85, third), save percentage (.833, second), and saves per game (4.38, first). Dick has been named the conference’s goalkeeper of the week four times in 2017. Previously, Dick was voted to the 2015 All-BIG EAST Second Team. Dick was the 2016 BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

This Weekend Big 10 Championship Collegiate soccer will be at Grand Park in Westfield on Field 1. The Men’s Championships include top 5 ranked IU and Michigan.  I am planning to head over for the IU game on Friday afternoon at least.  The games will also be on the Big 10 Network.  Also I forgot to mention a huge Congrats to Coach Jonathan McClure and Guerin Catholic High School on reaching the Women’s Finals before losing to 3A Power Penn High School.

BIG 10 MEN’S Championships
Friday, November 10:
12 pm Michigan vs Wisconsin  Field 1 – Big 10 Network
2:30pm Indiana U vs Ohio State  Field 1  Big 10 Network
Sunday, November 12: 12 pm FINALS  – Big 10 Network
Tickets: $12 for adults, $7 for students

World Cup Qualifying and friendlies headline the Games to Watch this weekend as the International Break is upon us meaning no league games.  Of course the US has announced a very young squad made up mainly of European players along with some of the U20s to face Portugal on Tuesday afternoon at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The US Ladies have a pair of match-ups vs Canada Thurs night at 10 pm on ESPN2 and Sunday night at 9 pm on FS1.

Meanwhile huge games involving teams from around the world start playoff games trying to grab those last spots in this summer’s World Cup in Russia.  Italy faces Sweden Fri/Mon 2:45 pm on FS1, Northern Ireland vs Switzerland Thurs/Sun 2:45 pm on ESPN2, Ireland vs Denmark Sat/Tues on Fox Sports and Honduras (not the US) vs Australia Fri/Wed beIN Sport.

MLS playoffs are in full swing and have had some great battles as the Conference Finals are set with defending East Conference Champs Toronto facing the Columbus Crew in a 2 game showdown starting Nov 21 on Fox Sports 1, and Defending MLS Champs Seattle traveling to Houston for the first leg of the Western Conference Finals on Nov 21.  Sad news on the Federal Court of Appeals turning down NASL’s injunction vs US Soccer on D2 Status – I think NASL will head back to the courts again – no idea what this means for our Indy 11.  Oh and good luck to Louisville FC – hosting the USL Championship Final Monday night.

JeremyFusion2017

Congrats coaches Doug Latham and Jeremy Slivinski and the U13 Gold Boys for Winning the Fall Fusion Tourney with 23 goals scored and only 2 conceded.

GAMES ON TV 

(WCQ-World Cup Qualifying)

Thurs, Nov 9

2:45 pm ESPN2             Northern Ireland vs Switzerland WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN 3?        Croatia vs Greece WCQ

10 pm ESPN2             Canada vs USA Ladies

Fri, Nov 10

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Sweden vs Italy  WCQ

2:45 pm FS2                   England vs Germany

5 pm beIN sport?        Honduras vs Australia WCQ

10:15 pm beIN Sport  New Zealand vs Peru WCQ

Sat, Nov 11

8 am ESPN3?                  Russia vs Argentina

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Denmark vs Ireland WCQ

3:30 pm ESPN3?          Spain vs Costa Rica  freindly

Sun, Nov 12

2:45 pm ESPN3??        Switzerland vs Northern Ireland WCQ

2:45 pm                            Greece vs Croatia WCQ

9 pm Fox Sport 1           USA Ladies vs Canada

Mon, Nov 13

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Italy vs Sweden WCQ

Tues, Nov 14

11:30 am beIN Sport   Argentina vs Nigeria Friendly

2:45 pm Fox Sp 2       Ireland vs Denmark  WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs France – Friendly

3 pm ESPN3                    England vs Brazil

3:45 pm Fox Sport 1            USA men vs Portugal

Wed, Nov 15

4 am beIN Sport          Australia vs Honduras

Sat, Nov 18

7:30 am NBCSN               Arsenal vs Tottenham

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man City

1 pm NBC                     Man U vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beiN Sport  Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Sun, Nov 19

9:30 am FS1                       Shahlke vs Hamburger (Woods)

11 am NBCSN               Watford vs West Ham

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

USA

USA Ladies vs Canada – Gameday – Stars and Stripes

US Ladies Relish Return to Vancouver vs Canada Thurs Eve – Graham Hays ESPNFC

US Coach Sarachan talks Portugal Friendly – MLS.com

US Names Young Squad vs Portugal – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Questions Answered on young US Roster – Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle MLS.com

Yanks overseas – Stars and Stripes

 Cordeiro, Martino enter Presidential Race – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Development Academies Hurt Local Indiana High School Soccer – Indy Star last week

WORLD

Who Needs to do What to Win in WC Playoffs – ESPNFC

Italy and Sweden both Lack Stars as they Battle for WC Spot

Italy Looking for 15th Straight World Cup Appearance must beat Sweden

How can New Zealand upset Peru over 2 legs – ESPNFC

Greece looking to Qualify

Can Modric save Croatia like he does Madrid?

All you need to know – WCQ Finals – Last Steps to Russia – SI

World Rankings of Club Teams

MLS

MLS Final 4 Set – Columbus vs Toronto, Seattle vs Houston – Jeff Carlisle

MLS Conference Brackets – Finals Set to Start Nov 21

Toronto FC – ½ time – Altidore Red Card being Appealed

Toronto Barely Survives NYRB to Advance to Con Finals

Clint Dempsey Set to Return to Seattle in 2018

Kaka/Pirlo tenures reveal risk of leaning on Legacy Players in MLS

NYCFC Andrea Pirlo Announces Retirement with Heartfelt Letter – see some of his best assists!

Pirlo Among Last of Dying Breed in MLS – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Brad Friedel leads New England Coaching Wish List

Club by Club – Review of 2017 – Greg Doyle

Top 10 MLS Moments This year

Extra Time Radio – MLS – Playoff Edition

 Indy 11

Court Denies NASL Injunction for 2nd Division Status

NASL Hopes for Different Interpretation

Louisville FC to host USL Finals Mon – Soctakes.com

Sarachan talks US roster for friendly vs. Portugal: “We have to look ahead”

November 7, 201712:22PM ESTCharles

The cold shadow of the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup still hangs heavy over the US national team, but this month’s friendly at Portugal can help turn the page.That’s the message from caretaker coach Dave Sarachan as he announced the youth-inflected 21-player roster that will face the defending European champions in Leiria on Nov. 14 (3:45 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN).“The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” Sarachan told ussoccer.com in a Q&A released alongside the roster. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the national team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent. It’s an opportunity for our national team to finish out 2017 in a positive way. It’s also just an opportunity to move on.“As much as we’re still gutted from how things turned out with qualifying, we have to look ahead and finish out the year the right way.”Sarachan, who is leading the program on an interim basis while the federation conducts a thorough search for former boss Bruce Arena’s long-term successor, called on eight MLS standouts, but elected to leave out anyone still involved with the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.“It was a combination of things in terms of availability, timing, and having an opportunity to look at players that have been on our radar and in some cases haven’t had a chance to get a look,” he said. “Obviously the European-based players are available with this international break, and the idea was to bring in those players to balance that out with a few Major League Soccer players that are available. We are steering clear of those that are still involved with the playoffs.”Sarachan’s squad features many young faces, as well as solid 2017 performers with little USMNT experience like Philadelphia Union striker CJ Sapong. So he’s relying on a select few experienced players like Sapong’s Union teammate Alejandro Bedoya and former Seattle Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin to provide leadership and guidance for the newcomers.He’s also urging all involved to make the most of a rare chance to play a world-class opponent, even if Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t taking part.“We’ve also tried to bring in a few veteran players who can lend leadership – guys that have been involved with the national team and have played in what I would call higher-profile games,” said Sarachan.“For a lot of the younger players coming in this is the start of a new era in our program and so it’s important to set the right tone and make sure they all really get a grasp of what this means and the honor that comes with playing for your national team. It’s not something to be taken for granted. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. That understanding will be important for all the players that come into camp.”

Read the full Q&A here.

 U.S. seize opportunity to name young, inexperienced squad to face Portugal

Dave Sarachan may only be a caretaker manager for the U.S. men’s national team, but he has struck the right balance in naming his roster for the Nov. 14 friendly against Portugal.In the wake of the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there was certainly a “throw the bums out” mentality permeating the U.S. soccer community. The anger and frustration is understandable but if the U.S. is to really turn the page from the debacle that was the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago last month, there will need to be a hand-off of sorts from more experienced performers to younger ones. To do otherwise is to risk a shellacking that will damage confidence.”The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” said Sarachan. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the national team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent. It’s an opportunity for our national team to finish out 2017 in a positive way.”It’s also just an opportunity to move on. As much as we’re still gutted from how things turned out with qualifying, we have to look ahead and finish out the year the right way.”

So there is still value to having an Alejandro Bedoya around to pass along his knowledge to the likes of Schalke’s Weston McKennie and New York Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams. Yes, they both are talented and have loads of potential but they still have plenty to learn, even for a player like McKennie who is at a major Bundesliga club.

To be clear, Sarachan has rightly leaned on youth to comprise most of the roster. With 12 of the 21 players age 24 and younger, Sarachan is clearly looking to the future even if his involvement with the national team is set to perhaps last just this one game.”It was a combination of things in terms of availability, timing and having an opportunity to look at players that have been on our radar and in some cases haven’t had a chance to get a look,” said Sarachan about the construction of this roster. “Obviously the European-based players are available with this international break and the idea was to bring in those players to balance that out with a few MLS players that are available.

“We are steering clear of those that are still involved with the [MLS] playoffs. Beyond that, we’ve also tried to bring in a few veteran players who can lend leadership — guys that have been involved with the national team and have played in what I would call higher profile games to give us a little leadership in this camp and for this particular game.”

In goal, the process of finding a replacement for Tim Howard has been delayed for too long, and now FC Dallas’ Jesse Gonzalez, new FC Midtjylland signing Bill Hamid and Club Brugge keeper Ethan Horvath will get the competition going.

Most of the U.S. roster’s experience is in the back, where you have performers such as John Brooks, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks, Villafana and Yedlin in particular figure to part of the solution going forward, so there is every reason to include them in the current roster. Center-backs Matt Miazga (on loan at Vitesse) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (on loan at Sheffield United) figure to get long looks when the 2022 World Cup cycle begins in earnest.

In midfield, there is a great deal of focus on the presumed debut of McKennie. The FC Dallas academy product has done plenty to impress with Schalke, starting seven of his team’s 11 matches. That kind of breakthrough is rare indeed for an American teenager, even if the exploits of Christian Pulisic (who is being rested during this international window) have made it seem more common than it actually is.

Lynden Gooch is another intriguing prospect who has been called in. Danny Williams provides a bit of experience though at the age of 28, it remains to be seen just how much of a future he has with the U.S. squad. As for Kellyn Acosta, this is a chance for him to finish an up and down year on a bit of an upswing.

Most of the forward options are either occupied by the MLS Cup playoffs or nursing injuries. Included in that list is Bobby Wood, while Pulisic is being rested. “Christian has really pushed the limits mentally and physically,” said Sarachan. “With those things in mind, we felt this was an opportunity for Christian to get a break and recharge for the rest of an important campaign with Dortmund.

“Bobby was excited about the opportunity to come into this camp and was on board to be a part of it, but he has had a lingering knee issue that has gotten to the point where it needed to be addressed. He was excited to be a part of this last game of 2017 but like with Christian, we felt it was better for Bobby to get a little extra time to rest and recover.”

As a consequence, the U.S. forward line looks a little thin. Juan Agudelo is the most experienced call-up with 26 caps, while Philadelphia’s C.J. Sapong wins this roster’s Man Who Came in From the Cold Award, having last appeared for the U.S. back on Jan. 25, 2012. That said, Sapong is coming off an outstanding season that saw him score a team-high 16 goals. Dom Dwyer gets another look after having some bright moments at last summer’s Gold Cup.

Josh Sargent, who becomes the first player in U.S. history to appear in a U-17 World Cup, an U-20 World Cup and a senior men’s national team camp in the same calendar year, is another player to keep an eye on.

If there is one minor disappointment, it is the absence of Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez. The 18-year-old has been an ever-present force this season for Los Rayados, starting 13 of 16 games so far. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fared in a U.S. national team camp. Mexico has reportedly been dangling a one-time switch in front of Gonzalez, a dual citizen who represented the U.S. at U-20 level. Yet the Santa Rosa, Calif. native has remained steadfast and with the Liga MX playoffs fast approaching, the decision was made for Gonzalez to remain with his club.That said, there are plenty of other players on the roster who U.S. fans have wanted to see at senior level. That opportunity should present itself in Portugal.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Armchair Analyst: Your questions answered on young USMNT roster

November 7, 201711:59AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is simple and easy. Keep your back straight, put your tongue against the roof of your mouth and purse your lips just a little bit.Now… BIG, whooshing exhale through your mouth. Then close your mouth and take a slow, quiet inhale through your nose to a four count. Hold your breath to a count of seven. Then exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of eight. Now close your mouth again and take a slow, quiet inhale through your nose to a four count. Hold your breath to a count of seven. Then exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of eight.Repeat until you calm down.Ok, we all good? The US national team roster for Portugal is out and it’s always a stressful day, so I thought some pre-column breathing exercises would be helpful. I know the vast majority of the fanbase gets pretty worked up on roster day, but I have your continued good health in mind, dear readers.Here’s a thing to remember: It’s 600 (or so) days until the next official USMNT games. We’ve already hit the low point, and now begins the process of climbing off the bottom of the pit, step by step. It’s not going to happen all at once, and quality players who aren’t on this roster will surely get at least a look for future rosters, and it’ll be under a coach other than Dave Sarachan, the current acting head coach.Let’s take a look at what the US have for Portugal next week…

Youth is served

There are four teenagers on the roster (Cameron Carter-Vickers; Weston McKennie; Tyler Adams; Josh Sargent), which is a lot. There’d have been a fifth if the US had pushed and demanded that Borussia Dortmund release Christian Pulisic, and maybe a sixth if Djordje Mihailovic hadn’t ruptured his ACL in the Knockout Round. Then there’d be a seventh if the US had stupidly wanted to force Monterrey’s hand on Jonathan Gonzalez (more on that in a minute).So yes, this roster could conceivably have been younger. But we’re still getting a look at four guys under the age of 20 who most have pegged as long-time centerpieces of the program. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t be. Either way I’m glad the discovery process starts now.

Why no Jonathan Gonzalez?

MLS isn’t the only league that occasionally plays through an international date. Monterrey are currently top of Liga MX with a game in hand, and that game in hand comes this Thursday. Gonzalez, an 18-year-old d-mid who chews up ground in the center of the park and is a simple and efficient passer, is their Ozzie Alonso. He is essential to their hopes.Calling him in and forcing him to miss such an important game – Rayados would be obligated to release him, as per FIFA regs – would have been counterproductive. It would for sure have alienated the team, and would also have risked alienating the kid. The first is bad, but the second is worse since Gonzalez is a dual-national who still has the option to represent Mexico.There are, so far, no indications he’s going to use that option. Gonzalez signed with Monterrey over Chivas three years ago specifically because he’s committed to the US program, and recent indications are that commitment is solid (reports in the Mexican press say so, as does a friend of mine who’s very involved with the US team and just spent a week consulting for the Monterrey academy).Even if it wasn’t solid, though, calling him up for this game does… nothing. Gonzalez can’t be cap-tied until the 2019 Gold Cup, so just keep doing your breathing exercises, folks.(For what it’s worth, that game on Thursday is against Santos Laguna, and the US did in fact call Santos left back Jorge Villafaña for this roster. Villafaña is a sometimes-starter for los Laguneros, but this game means next to nothing for for them – they’re not in danger of relegation, and they have no chance at making the liguilla.)

Cristian Roldan could do that midfield job, too!

Perhaps, and so too, perhaps, could Marky Delgado or Wil Trapp or Michael Bradley. All those guys are busy with the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, though, and it’s good of U.S. Soccer not to force them to fly across an ocean for a friendly. It’s the right move.We’ll see plenty of those four guys in the camps to come.

 Josh Sargent!

I know, right? I’m kind of excited about that, too, even though I don’t rate Sargent quite as high as many other folks do. And I generally hate calling in non-professionals, no matter how talented. The last US player to get that honor, of course, was Jordan Morris.But I get it with regard to Sargent. He’s a high-level prospect, and it’s very unlikely the US will get to see him in January camp, and there’s kind of a risk he could end up disappearing until 2019 or even 2020, since he’s signing with a team that’s in a relegation scrap. Werder Bremen are objectively terrible (five points through 11 games) and are probably going to be playing in the 2.Bundesliga next season, which means Sargent’s going to a team that will first be A) clawing to stay up, and then likely B) clawing to get back up.Young players, even in Germany, tend not to get a lot of run in situations like that. Managers in relegation battles are notorious for turning to old hands.That doesn’t mean Sargent can’t get called in the future, of course. Even if he’s going to be spending more time than I’d like from him in the reserves, he’s still a talent. But my guess is that his next 18 months consist of a lot of time with those reserves and a lot of goals with the US U-20s, and not too many full USMNT camps and caps.Hopefully I’m wrong. Dude understands how to make runs and has looked like the best pure finisher in US youth set-ups since Steve Snow:Truth be told, the US could’ve called in all three guys on that above goal and I’d have been mostly ok with it.

 Why the olds, then?

Only two (Alejandro Bedoya and Tim Ream) of the 21 players on this roster are over 30. Have you ever started a new job and learned a few tricks of the trade from guys who’ve been at said job for a while?Nobody’s saying that Bedoya and Ream are going to be around til 2022. But both have experience on two continents in good leagues, and neither’s particularly busy at the moment. Any coach in the world will tell you it’s good to have a few guys like that in the locker room just to help set a tone.

That defense looks niiiiice… wait, no Justen Glad????

I don’t get it and am a little bit heated, but here’s the thing: Any time I talk about Glad to someone in U.S. Soccer they talk about how he needs to get stronger (and I don’t disagree). It’s universal.Now, it’s not going to be Sarachan making these picks in the future. But Glad should spend a lot of time this winter eating protein and then going to the gym, and then eating more protein and then going to the gym again. He’s got a good frame that should fill out, but the sooner the better.

Well, at least we can begin the Ethan Horvath era!

Calm your jets, hoss. Horvath just lost his starting job with Club Brugge. My guess is that it’s a wide open competition for the USMNT No. 1 kit over the next two years, with the three guys in this camp as well as veteran Brad Guzan and fellow youngsters Zack Steffen and Alex Bono.

Who else should be here?

I’d have called in both Fire fullbacks, Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent. I’d definitely have taken Christian Ramirez as well, over one of either Dom Dwyer or Juan Agudelo. And – not kidding here – I think I’d have figured out how to get a young, creative attacker like Jonathan Lewis or Andrew Carleton (hey, if Sargent can make it, why not Carleton?) onto this roster as well.The US, in the years to come, are stocked at center back and central midfield, and seem to be in a better place with regard to both fullback slots than they’ve been previously. It’s not clear, however, if there are any elite attackers out there besides Pulisic. I want to see some creativity pushed through the ranks.We saw guys like Benny FeilhaberSacha Kljestan and Lee Nguyen marginalized for a decade. We didn’t get to see Kelyn Rowe (who I’m happy is on this roster) til he was 25, and didn’t get to see Sebastian Lletget until he was 24. Culturally speaking, we have a nasty habit of not trusting our own attacking talent at the club level, and that means they don’t get to show out for the national team until years after they should.A big chunk of the next two years should go toward fixing that.

 Who’s who in the race to be the next U.S. Soccer Federation president

This is an updated version of a feature that was originally published on Oct. 25. 

For the first time in more than a decade, the election for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation will be contested.

The reason why is simple math. In the past, Sunil Gulati had votes from the Pro Council, Athletes Council, life members and board members locked up, getting close to the threshold needed to win. It never required much more support to push him into an unassailable lead; not so anymore.

In the wake of the failure by the men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Gulati’s base of support has eroded within the USSF National Council, the group that will actually vote in the election. Just how much remains to be seen, but it has created an opening whereby candidates have stepped forward to challenge him.

The current list of candidates seems to fall into two categories: Those with high-level playing backgrounds but little business experience and those with more modest playing careers but greater involvement in business and administration.

Here’s the latest on a fluid field.

 

The incumbent: Sunil Gulati

In the wake of the failure by the U.S. men to qualify for the World Cup in Russia and manager Bruce Arena’s subsequent resignation, Gulati has become public enemy No. 1. Given the reported USSF surplus of $130 million, the financial side looks to be in good shape, but it is Gulati’s judgment on the playing side — in particular his hiring of coaches — that has been called into question.

Gulati still has yet to declare his intentions, though he has been politicking in the background, meeting with various constituencies and working to secure the three required declarations of support.

The entry of USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro into the race complicates matters for Gulati, since they would presumably be going after many of the same voters. But Gulati is the incumbent and has the advantages that title brings. Assuming he runs, he knows how to win elections and has an entrenched base, especially on the Pro Council, as well as elements of the USSF Board.

Chances of winning: 25 percent (unchanged)

 

The heir apparent: Carlos Cordeiro

Cordeiro’s candidacy offers advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, he’s not Gulati, but his close association as a member of the hierarchy means he’ll have to explain how he would do things differently. Cordeiro has been heavily involved on the business side of the USSF, serving as the organization’s treasurer since 2008 and on the budget committee. He joined as an independent director the year before that.

He has also won USSF elections and, like Gulati, will be well versed in the politics needed to secure votes. But he has no known experience of dealing with the playing side of the house and, given its emphasis in this election, that will be a difficult gap in his resume to overcome. Cordeiro has vowed to take less of a hands-on role, be more inclusive and transparent and will allow a technical director to decide the next manager of the men’s national team.

The crowded field could  see the protest vote against the establishment splinter, aiding his candidacy. At some point, however, either he or Gulati will need to become the standard bearer for the establishment wing.

Chances of winning: 25 percent (unchanged)

The firebrand: Eric Wynalda

Wynalda has long been the U.S. soccer community’s resident gadfly, willing to say just about anything, regardless of the subject matter. That persona has tended to obscure some of his ideas about the game and without question, he is taking a populist approach to his campaign.

He is a staunch advocate of promotion/relegation, though by his own admission, he admits it doesn’t fit within the current system. He will “tear up” the recently agreed CBA between the USSF and the union representing the women’s national team in a bid to give them equal pay. His proposed changes for MLS involve moving to a fall/spring calendar in line with that of Europe, as well as a media-rights deal for all divisions similar to what MP & Silva proposed in September.

Such views make Wynalda a polarizing figure. His lack of business experience is also something he’ll need to address, which in part explains his praise for current USSF CEO Dan Flynn. Name recognition alone gets Wynalda in the running, but he’ll need to sell his ideas — and temperament — to constituents, who might be concerned by what he’ll do to the system.

Chances of winning: 18 percent (down from 20 percent)

The all-rounder: Steve Gans

Gans will likely be viewed as a safe candidate and boasts a strong business background, having been a COO as well as a lawyer, who has advised youth and Premier League clubs on various aspects of their business. He engaged in what he calls a “listening tour” of people associated with the youth and amateur game and said he has found great dissatisfaction. His biggest challenge is convincing people he’s also a “soccer guy,” so he’s been bringing up his long affinity for the game as well as the fact he played professionally in the MISL.

Among his ideas is to use the USSF surplus to address the pay-to-play issue in youth soccer. He has also said he will work to make the youth soccer landscape “less fractured” and, as a parent of two Development Academy players, he has seen it up close. Gans has also vowed to improve the working conditions of the U.S. women’s national team, who even after agreeing to a new CBA, have been subjected to playing games on artificial turf.

On the business side, Gans said he wouldn’t change much, noting that he things there are a lot of good people working for the USSF already.

Chances of winning: 15 percent (unchanged)

The idealist: Kyle Martino

Martino insists his entry into the race is not “a person for a person” and that nobody alone will save U.S. Soccer. He made that comment as it relates to Gulati, but his presence seems to make him the anti-Wynalda. Martino may not have had such an illustrious playing career, but his knowledge is not in question but what he offers is a candidate with many of the same qualifications as Wynalda, but one who is less controversial. That might appeal to voters less inclined to big changes.

Martino’s platform consists of three planks. The first involves making the USSF more transparent, while making the president a paid position. He is also emphasizing equality, which includes making the game more accessible for kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as better treatment of the women’s national team. The third is loosely titled “Progress” and includes setting up training centers around the country that would be free of charge to players, as well as creating an advisory board to aid with the selection of national team coaches and technical directors.

Martino has some catching up to do in terms of establishing relationships with voters and he’ll need to find a way to expand his base beyond the anti-establishment crowd.

Chances of winning: 8 percent (new entry)

The wild card: Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is arguably the U.S.’ greatest player. But does he have a future in soccer administration?

At this stage, it’s not even clear if Donovan will run; he said recently that he was still mulling his options. But with each passing day, and as the field gets more crowded, it seems less likely that he’ll take the plunge.

Donovan certainly won’t lack for name recognition; he’s easily the most famous name on the list of presumptive candidates. From the outside, it looks as though Donovan’s presence could siphon away support from Wynalda, given his playing background, as well as the fact that he would carry far less baggage into the race.

But Martino’s entry seems to give Donovan less reason to run, and Donovan’s lack of business experience represents a gap in his resume.

Chances of winning: 5 percent (down from 10 percent). 

The outsider: Mike Winograd

A corporate attorney, who played professionally in Israel and coached at the youth and collegiate levels, Winograd has a skillset that allows him to bridge the business and playing sides. He has touted his experience in legal negotiations as proof of his ability to build consensus but it looks like he has too much ground to make up to win the election.

Winograd is not of the opinion that everything in the system needs to be burned to the ground and his platform contains three major planks: Transparency by which critical decisions are made, addressing the inequities that the women’s national team faces, and tackling the costs affecting coaching education and youth soccer.

He “would love to see” promotion / relegation but stopped short of saying he would implement it full bore; instead he is interested in a more incremental approach. He is a big supporter of training compensation / solidarity payments and feels that is a piece to the puzzle of funding youth development. He would also leverage his experience in the corporate world to create more avenues of funding, as well as make use of the USSF’s reported surplus.

Chances of winning: 2 percent (unchanged)

The legend: Paul Caligiuri

The 53-year-old, best known for scoring the goal that clinched a place for the 1990 World Cup, is banking on his lengthy playing career to set him apart from other candidates; given the presence of old teammate Wynalda and Martino, that could prove difficult. That said, he could weaken support for his other ex-players.

Since his 15-year professional career ended, his time has been spent coaching collegiately at Cal Poly-Pomona and with Orange County FC in the NPSL. He has also served on the USSF Athletes Council and on the USSF Board of Directors. His “Goal 2019 & 2022” plan aims for the women’s national team to defend its World Cup title in 2019 and the men to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Caligiuri’s plan so far is light on details, but he is in favor of promotion / relegation and said two other areas of emphasis would be culture and values. In terms of the business side, he emphasized that he’s there to chair the committees, not be a day-in, day-out person to run the business. Instead, a “qualified CEO” would be in charge of that.

Chances of winning: 1 percent (unchanged)

The lifer: Paul Lapointe

Lapointe has a long history of playing in various indoor and outdoor leagues, then working in the game at youth and amateur levels. He is currently the Northeast Conference manager of the amateur UPSL. In his professional life, he has worked in the automotive industry, owning car dealerships and tire stores after working for Goodyear.

Easily the biggest plank in his platform is his idea for instituting promotion / relegation at every level except MLS and then, after a period of time evaluating how well it works, for the full conversion to happen naturally.

In terms of youth soccer, Lapointe would like a more clearly-defined path to the national team and believes the Development Academy doesn’t reach enough kids. In terms of the women’s game, he believes that having a women’s version of the U.S. Open Cup would be a way to further market that side of the sport.

Chances of winning: 1 percent (unchanged)

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 

World Cup Qualifying Finales: A Guide to the Playoffs, Last Steps on Road to Russia

By Avi Creditor SI – November 06, 2017

Congratulations, everyone! We’re almost there. 

The end of the multi-year quest that is World Cup qualifying is upon us, with the final nine berths set to be claimed over the next nine days. UEFA’s playoff round, a pair of intercontinental playoffs and the outcome of three African groups will determine the remainder of the field, give us draw permutation fodder for the two weeks leading into the Dec. 1 event in Moscow and set us on course for a 32-team showcase in Russia this coming summer.

Here is a day-by-day guide at what to expect and watch for as the road to Russia finally reaches its conclusion (all times Eastern).

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9

UEFA playoff (first leg)

Croatia vs. Greece, 2:45 p.m.

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland, 2:45 p.m.

Greece has qualified for the last two World Cups via the playoff round, but with all due respect to Romania and Ukraine, neither posed a challenge like star-laden Croatia will, with Mario Mandzukic leading the line and Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic manning the midfield. They surprisingly haven’t played one another in six years and have only met six times in their footballing history, with Greece holding a slight edge in their all-time meetings (2-1-3).

Northern Ireland was stingy at Euro 2016 in reaching the knockout stage and was stingy again in qualifying, conceding just six times in the 10 group games. Will Grigg may no longer be on fire, but Michael O’Neill’s side is disciplined and organized enough to make life difficult for the opposition. It meets a Switzerland team cruelly dumped into the playoff round despite winning its first nine qualifiers, only to stumble at the last hurdle vs. Portugal and miss out on goal differential.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10

Intercontinental playoff (first leg)

CONCACAF 4th place (Honduras) vs. AFC 5th place (Australia), 5 p.m.

OFC 1st place (New Zealand) vs. CONMEBOL 5th place (Peru), 10:15 p.m.

Neither of these series are logistically ideal, but all four nations will have to deal with the absurd level of travel involved. Given the adjustment required after the first leg, that could favor the opening hosts. That’s good news for Honduras, which is hoping to carve out a lead at home against a Socceroos side that is expected to be missing Tim Cahill, and New Zealand, which faces a Peru opponent that will be without captain and star forward Paolo Guerrero, who is banned for failing a doping test.

UEFA playoff (first leg)

Sweden vs. Italy, 2:45 p.m.

Italy stumbled toward the finish line in World Cup qualifying. You would expect the Azzurri to figure it out, not miss a World Cup for the first time since 1958 (when the competition was ironically held in Sweden) and extend its string of taking part in 14 straight World Cups to 15. The first leg in Sweden, against a side itching to return to the World Cup stage for the first time since 2006, will dictate plenty. Italy holds a 10-6-6 advantage all-time, including a 1-0 win over Sweden at Euro 2016. Sweden hasn’t beaten Italy since 1998.

CAF

South Africa vs. Senegal, 12 p.m.

Algeria vs. Nigeria, 2:30 p.m.

South Africa-Senegal is the one to watch, as the two must replay their qualifier from November 2016 after the referee at the center of it was found to be guilty for match-fixing and awarded a dubious–and game-changing–penalty South Africa’s way. Senegal clinches first place in the group and a World Cup berth with a win but would leave the door open for three other sides with a loss.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11

UEFA playoff (first leg)

Denmark vs. Ireland, 2:45 p.m.

Ireland stormed its way into the playoff round thanks to a win over Gareth Bale-less Wales on the last day of group play, and it’ll look to make good on that new life vs. the Danes, who are led by Tottenham standout Christian Eriksen. These two hardly play one another, with Ireland holding a 5-3-5 advantage in the all-time meetings. It won the last two by a combined 7-0 scoreline, but the games came in 2002 and 2007–hardly an indicator of present fortunes. Ireland’s last appearance in the World Cup qualifying playoff round resulted in Thierry Henry’s “non-handball” and heartbreaking elimination at the hands of France in 2009.

CAF

Zambia vs. Cameroon, 8 a.m.

Gabon vs. Mali, 9:30 a.m.

Tunisia vs. Libya, 12:30 p.m.

DR Congo vs. Guinea, 12:30 p.m.

Ivory Coast vs. Morocco, 12:30 p.m.

All the focus should be on Tunisia-Libya and Ivory Coast-Morocco. Tunisia clinches its World Cup berth with a win or draw, though a loss would open the door for DR Congo to steal first (Tunisia leads DR Congo by three points and has a goal-differential edge of +2). Morocco nurses a one-point lead over Ivory Coast and would win its group with a win or draw, but Les Elephants would return to the World Cup stage with a home victory.

NOVEMBER 12

UEFA playoff (second leg)

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland, 12 p.m.

Greece vs. Croatia, 2:45 p.m.

Everything depends on the opening legs, with Switzerland and Greece hoping to have away goals under their belt to provide an advantage and margin for error as they return home. The Swiss, who have qualified for the last three World Cups, are in line for a place in Pot 2 in the World Cup draw, should they advance.

CAF

Congo vs. Uganda, 9:30 a.m.

Ghana vs. Egypt, 10:30 a.m.

Nothing to see here, carry on. Though for Egypt, playing at Ghana is a fine tune-up for its return to the World Cup stage.

NOVEMBER 13

UEFA playoff (second leg)

Italy vs. Sweden, 2:45 p.m.

Sweden scored the most goals in qualifying out of any of the teams who made the playoff round, with only Portugal, Poland, Germany and Belgium scoring more during the group stage. Sure, that included drubbings of Luxembourg and Belarus, but that should put the Azzurri on notice that the Zlatan-less Swedes are to be reckoned with. Marcus Berg led the way with eight tallies. Trying to stop Berg and his teammates will be Gianluigi Buffon, who could be playing the final match of his international career, should Italy fail to qualify.

NOVEMBER 14

UEFA playoff (second leg)

Ireland vs. Denmark, 2:45 p.m.

Nobody throws a world football party quite like the Irish, and the scenes in Dublin are sure to be memorable for this return leg, which will secure UEFA’s 14th and final place in the competition.

CAF

Senegal vs. South Africa, 2:30 p.m.

Burkina Faso vs. Cape Verde Islands, 2:30 p.m.

All four teams in this group could remain alive on the final day, depending on what happens in the first Senegal-South Africa clash. Of course, if Senegal wins it, this day loses all of its potential drama and features a pair of dead rubbers.

NOVEMBER 15

Intercontinental playoff (second leg)

AFC 5th place (Australia) vs. CONCACAF 4th place (Honduras), 4 a.m.

CONMEBOL 5th place (Peru) vs. OFC 1st place (New Zealand), 9:15 p.m.

The last two tickets two Russia will be punched in places halfway around the globe from one another. Peru could end its lengthy drought and clinch its first berth since 1982 on home soil.

Major League Soccer’s final four: Columbus, Toronto, Houston, Seattle

After a weekend that had a little bit of everything, Major League Soccer’s final four is set. As is so often the case in the MLS Cup playoffs, the postseason has seen its share of upsets, with the Houston Dynamo’s victory over the Portland Timbers, the top seed in the Western Conference, the most notable.The Dynamo’s win sets up a date with the Seattle Sounders, who booked their place in the conference final by overcoming the Vancouver Whitecaps. There was drama and bad blood as well in the East, with Toronto outlasting the New York Red Bulls, while Columbus continued its run (despite plenty of off-field distractions) by hanging on to get past New York City FC.Here are the storylines to follow in the conference finals.

  1. How will the international break affect the teams that are left?

The four remaining teams must now wait more than two weeks before they play again thanks to the international break. For sides such as the Sounders and Dynamo that are banged up, the respite isn’t the worst thing to happen, as it will give some preferred starters the chance to heal and get closer to their best. That said, the Dynamo’s Honduran contingent (Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia) will be contesting a World Cup qualifying playoff against Australia, so the concern there is that Houston won’t be as rested as Seattle will.Toronto won’t mind the break either; the time will be needed to get its collective head — one that it lost to a degree against the Red Bulls — back together.About the only team that might rue the time off is the Crew. Columbus saw its 12-game unbeaten streak across all competitions snapped in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to NYCFC, but overall, the Crew has been in arguably the best form of any of the remaining sides. At the very least, the break will give Gregg Berhalter ample time to come up with a tactical plan to thwart TFC.

  1. Crew’s date with destiny still on

The Crew’s run so far has borne an uncanny resemblance to the movie “Major League.” As a consequence, #SaveTheCrew isn’t just what goalkeeper Zack Steffen has been doing during the playoffs, but it has become a galvanizing force of fans backing the team, this despite owner Anthony Precourt’s public flirtation with moving the franchise to Austin, Texas.But give Berhalter and his players credit. They’ve managed to tune out the noise surrounding the team’s future and have been playing for the present. The concerns about the team’s defense, and in particular central defender Jonathan Mensah, will persist, but Berhalter has enough pieces playing well that a trip to its second MLS Cup final in three years is well within reach for the Crew. 

  1. Toronto’s depth to be tested again

TFC’s deep roster has been lauded throughout the season, and with good reason. It seemed like no combination of injuries and international absence was enough to knock the Reds off their stride. But now manager Greg Vanney will have to look to his bench again when the stakes are highest. Starting forwards Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco will be suspended for the opening leg against Columbus on Nov. 21 — Altidore for his rather foolish exchange with the Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan, and Giovinco for the silly pair of yellow cards he received over two legs.It seems likely that Tosaint Ricketts will be asked to deputize for Altidore, while Victor Vasquez will slide into the Giovinco role, leaving one of Jonathan Osorio or Armando Cooper to move into Vasquez’s normal role deeper in midfield.The situation certainly isn’t unfamiliar for Vanney. Toronto’s record when both Altidore and Giovinco weren’t on the field this season is 2-2-0, but the playoffs are a different beast, and how TFC copes on the road in front of what will no doubt be an intense Columbus crowd will largely determine if the Reds will be hosting MLS Cup for the second year in a row.

  1. Is it Dempsey time?

The MLS Cup playoffs haven’t always been kind to Seattle forward Clint Dempsey over the years. Prior to the second leg against Vancouver, Dempsey had managed just four goals and three assists in 19 postseason appearances. His strike rate with the Sounders was a bit better, but still a rather pedestrian three goals in 10 matches. But after bagging both goals in the second leg, Dempsey’s numbers are now a quite respectable five in 11.Given that Jordan Morris, Victor Rodriguez, Ozzie Alonso and Gustav Svensson have been nursing injuries, Dempsey’s performance came at an opportune time. The aforementioned break figures to help the Sounders heal up. But this seems like the playoff year where Dempsey will really shine, and a repeat performance will almost certainly catapult Seattle into its second consecutive MLS Cup final.

  1. Will Houston crash the MLS Cup final party?

Not many expected the Dynamo to prevail against top-seeded Portland on the road, but Wilmer Cabrera’s side did exactly that. This is a side that on the one hand seems like a mishmash of spare parts, but it’s also one that has grown over the course of the season, and in the process it has revealed that there is more to its game than just the simple defend-and-counter. It also has shown it can get results on the road when it needs them.The two teams split the season series at one win apiece, though it’s worth noting that they haven’t played each other since early June. Defensively, Houston has been stellar over the past month, conceding just three goals in its past seven matches across all competitions. Offensively the team has done just enough.Given its outstanding home form this season — it went 12-1-4 — as well as the recent history of lower seeds prevailing over higher seeds, another Dynamo ambush could be in the offing.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 Kaka, Pirlo’s MLS tenures reveal risk in leaning on legends made elsewhere

A few minutes before the end of New York City FC’s Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against Columbus Crew SC, with the team needing a goal to complete an unprecedented comeback, coach Patrick Vieira subbed on Andrea Pirlo.Time was, a tiring team like Columbus might have reacted with panic at that development; a close-fought series was coming down to the wire and now its opponent was sending in a World Cup winner with a sublime touch on the ball, to probably tilt the game decisively.But this was not that Pirlo. This was a peripheral player being sent on for what would be his last few minutes as a professional, in the hope rather than expectation that he could supply a telling pass to win the game.To put into perspective the disconnect between reputation and effectiveness, as decisive substitutions went, Gregg Berhalter’s introduction of Lalas Abubakar as a third defender for Crew SC had a much more impactful effect than Pirlo’s cameo. And the likelihood of another Crew SC substitute, Kekuta Manneh, stripping the Italian veteran before streaking away for an away goal to end the contest looked much more on the cards than NYCFC’s not-so-secret weapon finding his range.But can’t we just remember Pirlo as the player he was, rather than dwelling on the leggy anomaly he became in NYCFC’s retooled 2017 midfield? In time we will. Pirlo’s deftness on the ball at its peak, and his vision and economy of touch, will be what determines his legacy — along with his trophies, of course. His MLS period will be a tiny footnote on a great career.

The trouble is, the paradigm of Pirlo — or for that matter, Kaka, who left Orlando City SC at the end of this season and whose career may be at its end — persists in MLS, even when these types of players retire. Both those players leave 2015 expansion teams who will spend this offseason reflecting a little more ruefully than before that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” but will other teams learn the lesson?

Both Orlando and NYCFC started their existence playing without a permanent home. Orlando has since acquired a great downtown stadium to house whatever incarnation of the team comes next, while NYCFC continues to couch-surf at Yankee Stadium, MLB playoffs permitting. Both teams determined that the best way to make an initial splash in their respective markets was to attract marquee names, perhaps hoping to make up for the fact that neither owned their marquee.]

For Orlando, that meant targeting Florida’s substantial Brazilian population, as well as those just curious about seeing a former World Footballer of the Year. For City Football Group it meant trying to bludgeon its way into a cramped New York sports market, with a clutch of brand names: David Villa, Frank Lampard and Pirlo.We know how that turned out: in its first season, NYCFC endured rather than enjoyed the effects of signing big-name talent. Villa, younger than the other two and with more of his lasting legacy at stake, was the sole success, and is woven into the foundational mythology of the team. Lampard had his effective moments when he eventually got here, but was never here long enough to matter, and Pirlo never racked up enough dead-ball highlight-reel moments to make up for what the team lost in mobility with him on the field.The Orlando and NYCFC front offices might argue that this is besides the point when considering all the factors that go into marketing an expansion team from a standing start — and yes, Orlando already existed as a successful USL side, but there’s still a leap in the demands and imagination needed to make a successful MLS team. NYCFC would say that it couldn’t, for example, take the route its neighbors did, not only for not having a long-running academy like the Red Bulls, but in needing the oxygen of attention in the most competitive media market in the world. Orlando had to make an instant splash in an often moribund Florida sporting market.But, Atlanta. Unless you count Kenwyne Jones as a marquee name, Atlanta United had perhaps the most successful launch in MLS history by putting its name-brand faith in its coach rather than putting a big name on the field and asking the moving parts around that name to compensate for qualities it no longer reliably possessed. In fact, for what it’s worth, Jones has been a peripheral figure under the speed-first philosophy of Tata Martino, while the younger profile of designated players at Atlanta has shown a viable alternative for the mechanism that, already, a few short years on, has made the approach of NYCFC and Orlando look tired.Big names will continue to come to MLS to see out their careers; a tier or two down, big-name U.S. players may continue to benefit from a market skewed in their favor (though their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup probably represents a moment where that market massively corrects); shirt sales will still be monitored as a metric of success. But if soccer in the U.S. wants to use the fallout from World Cup failure to critically examine itself, one factor for its club owners to consider is the exact nature of the value they are adding when they tell their stories by borrowing from legends made elsewhere.Graham Parker writes for ESPN FC, FourFourTwo and Howler. He covers MLS and the U.S. national teams. Follow him on Twitter @grahamparkerfc.

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11/3/17   Juergen Sommer Joins Carmel FC, MLS Playoffs Sunday, EPL Huge Games Sun, Big 10 Soccer Tourneys at Grand Park 11/3-5, 11/10-12,  

Huge news for Carmel FC  – with the addition of former Indy 11 Manager, US National Team and former Indiana University star Goalkeeper Juergen Sommer as Director of Soccer Operations to work along with DOC Matt Coyer.  Sommer, who was the first American goalkeeper to play in the English Premier League and was named GK of the year back in 1993, will be responsible for all Carmel FC programming and will also play a major role consulting in CDC recreation soccer programs. (More to come on this).  CFC and CDC families don’t forget this is Dick’s Sporting Goods Weekend 20% off – check your email and good luck to those CFC teams playing Fusion Fall Festival this weekend!

MLS playoffs are in full swing and have had some great games so far.  If you have never watched MLS soccer – tune in for a playoff game this weekend it’s a different atmosphere.  Leg 2 games to decide who advances to the Conference Finals are all Sunday.  Toronto vs NY Red Bulls 3 pm on ESPN, NYCFC vs Columbus Crew 5 pm on ESPN, Portland vs Houston 7:30 pm on FS1.  Sunday also features 2 huge games in the EPL with Man U facing Chelsea at  on NBCSN and Arsenal hosting Man City at  on NBCSN.

Congrats to the England U17 boys as they win the World Cup – at least the US was knocked out in the Quarterfinals by the team that ended up dominated the Tourney.  Good sign of things to come with the U20s and the U17s making the Quarterfinals this past year. The Indy 11 finished the season in exciting fashion with a tie vs North Carolina at the MIKE last Saturday.  Sure hope we have a team next season – we’ll wait to see if its in the NASL or USL or what?

Locally Fans will have a chance to see big 10 Championship Collegiate soccer this weekend and next at Grand Park in Westfield. The Men’s Championships are next weekend and should include top 5 ranked IU, while the ladies championships are this weekend:

BIG 10 LADIES FINALS
Friday, November 3:
1:30pm Ohio State vs Penn State
3:30pm Northwestern vs Wisconsin
Sunday, November 52:00pm Championship.
Tickets: $12 for adults, $7 for students
Groups of 15 or more: $10 for adults, $5 for students

Men’s and Women’s Big 10 Tourney’s Will be Held at Grand Park Nov 3-5 Women, Nov 10-12 Men Tickets $12/$7

 

cfcu11bgoldrock.jpg

Congrats to the U11 Boys Gold and coach Mark Flanders (right) for Championship at Nightmare at the Rock last Weekend.

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Congrats to Coach Dustin Palmer and his U13 Girls Blue for this Championship at Socctoberfest

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Congrats to Bill Spencer’s U14Girls Gold for reaching the Finals at Soctoberfest.

MLS

Dempsey Delivers Seattle into Conference Finals

MLS Playoff Schedule

Dependable Duece Comes thru for Seattle Again –MLS.con

Playoff Bracket

USA

US U17s+U20s Reach Quarterfinals of WC in Same Year first time since 2003.

Mexico Trying to Snag US U18 Gonzales

Men’s and Women’s Big 10 Tourney’s Will be Held at Grand Park Nov 3-5 Women, Nov 10-12 Men Tickets $12/$7

WORLD

4 Teams thru to Who’s Next –Champions League

Power Rankings Top Teams in World

What to Watch 4 EPL  – 2 Huge games on Sunday

Arsenal will not hide vs City on Sunday

Arsenal/City teams headed in different directions

Indy 11

Indy 11 Tie – What does the Future Hold?  Indy Star Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Sign off with thrilling draw vs NC FC

Indy 11 defender Franco and Zayed named to NASL Team of Month

Clint Dempsey comes up huge to lead Seattle into the conference finals

SEATTLE — Three thoughts on the Seattle Sounders’ 2-0 Western Conference semifinal win against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

 Dempsey turns in one for the ages

There had been speculation prior to kickoff as to whether this could be Clint Dempsey’s final match at CenturyLink Field. It is the Sounders’ call whether or not to pick up the 34-year-old’s team option for 2018 — and after earning close to $3.89 million this season, that decision is going to be agonized over in the front office.

Dempsey’s arrival in the summer of 2013 was a watershed moment in the modern history of the club, a personification of its long-term ambitions. It would be unfair to label him a bust, or anything close to it. The Texan has netted nearly 50 goals in more than four seasons in Seattle, and he helped deliver the memorable Open Cup/Supporters’ Shield double back in 2014.

There is a bit of a sense, however, that he hasn’t completely lived up to the outsized hype that heralded his arrival. Through no fault of his own, Dempsey missed out on last year’s dramatic MLS Cup run with an irregular heartbeat, and he had yet to deliver the type of transcendent moment that so defines legacies.He went a long way toward changing that on Thursday night with a classy double that came at a time his team was struggling to find a goal.Vancouver’s stubborn rearguard frustrated Seattle for more than 145 minutes stretched over the two legs of the series, and it was beginning to look as though the Sounders would never find their way through. The 39,587 rain-soaked fans girded themselves for the possibility of extra time, and penalty kicks beyond it.Then in the 56th minute, Dempsey found himself in a little pocket of space atop Vancouver’s box. He shimmied himself free, swung his left leg back and splashed a perfectly placed strike into the corner of the Whitecaps net. Then 32 minutes later, when a ‘Caps goal still could have knocked Seattle out, Dempsey added the insurance tally from close range.He wheeled away in triumph, kicked the ball toward the heavens and broke into a wide grin, a snapshot that will live long in these parts.

 

  1. Carl Robinson’s negative tactics backfire

The Whitecaps played for a scoreless draw last Sunday at BC Place, turning that first leg into a 90-minute slog in front of their own underwhelmed fans. The team mostly packed numbers behind the ball on Thursday, too, only pushing men forward once they went behind.In some ways, that’s just how Vancouver plays. It defends with discipline and burns you on the break. Especially in the first leg, with Seattle depleted due to injury, it could have stood to be a bit more ambitious.Robinson put all his chips on the idea that Vancouver could steal an away goal, and with it, the series. Had it worked out, he would’ve had some justification in gesturing toward the scoreboard. The ends justify the means, all’s fair in love and soccer, etc. In defeat, he and his charges were left with little to fall back upon.They turned what would have been a thrilling series between local rivals into a war of attrition, and now they’ll have a long offseason to consider what might have been if they’d only been a bit more aggressive.

 

  1. Portland-Seattle conference final beckons

Get ready for the real possibility of multiple weeks of Seattle-Portland hype.The Timbers have to hold up their end of the bargain, of course, on Sunday against the Houston Dynamo at Providence Park. But if Portland does advance, and with the international break looming on the other side of the weekend, prepare for the MLS hype machine to shift into overdrive.The league’s most passionate local rivalry would decide the Western Conference, with the two most recent MLS Cup champions going toe-to-toe to produce another finalist.Houston still might have something to say about that, but soccer fans will be excused if the prospect of a Portland-Seattle conference final topped their playoff wish list.Matt Pentz is a Seatt

When the clock strikes Deuce: The dependably dangerous Clint Dempsey

November 3, 20173:55AM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

You’ve heard the old saw about Clint Dempsey a thousand times by now, the one handed down to us by the grizzled Bruce Arena, a testament to the ingenuity and bravery of the stone-faced striker from Texas: “He tries sh*t.” As far as three-word descriptors go, it’s a moving compliment, and an apt phrase for a one-of-a-kind player in the annals of American soccer.

But it actually obscures an important truth about Dempsey: The famously unpredictable attacker is actually pretty reliable, especially when it comes to big moments.Thursday night, Dempsey’s brace led Seattle to an Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal victory against Vancouver. He raised his career postseason tallies to 6 goals and 3 assists in 7 career MLS playoff campaigns, alongside his already-sterling 71 and 41 in 172 career regular-season games. Few players in the league have earned more of a right to be trusted when a goal absolutely, positively has to be dug out, as was the case for the Sounders in Leg 2 of that continuously cagey series.

Dempsey is 34 now, and he remains the most dependable performer in the clutch for both club and country, despite months – maybe years – of talk about his advancing years and aging legs and the awkward questions facing him and the Sounders as that historic Designated Playercontract of his winds towards its end.

The litany is even familiar to us: His future is uncertain. He might have to accept a supersub role. This is really Nico Lodeiro’s team now. His club finally won the big one last year – without him, thanks to that heart condition that raised the specter of forced retirement, however briefly. His US national team failed to qualify for Russia 2018 in the most humiliating fashion imaginable. And of course, he’s not getting any younger.

ESPNFC’s headline blared out the encapsulated version this week: “Time is running out for Clint Dempsey to make his mark in MLS Cup playoffs.”This isn’t actually a new phenomenon for the kid who honed his cheeky, swaggering style of play on the hardscrabble, sun-baked fields and trailer-park driveways of East Texas. He’s spoken vividly over the years of the race against time, the urgency of being the one at the periphery, a clock over his shoulder as he hustles to get noticed, hustles to prove that he’s worth the spot, hustles to stay king of the hill in the face of relentless competition and advancing age.

From Nacogdoches to Furman to New England to Fulham to Tottenham to Puget Sound, with memorable diversions to Germany and South Africa and Brazil. Roaming the right flank in midfield, leading the line, drifting in the hole, in and out of his preferred position, in and out of the starting XI.Somehow he’s gotten his hands on nearly everything his childhood self could’ve dreamed of and more, and still retains that restless, furtive, slightly angry aura – still the outsider, even as a million-dollar man. Even with a championship ring sitting on the desktop at home.“He didn’t get to be a part of the run to the MLS Cup last year, one that you can tell just hurt him, and one that he didn’t really feel was his,” said former USMNT colleague Stu Holden during the final moments of Thursday’s FS1 broadcast. “So he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, wanting to make sure he leads this team to back-to-back championships.”

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer boiled it down a bit further.“He’s been through a lot. And he’s hungry. He’s hungry.”Packed with talent, but somehow still lacking in killer instinct, Seattle let the Whitecaps hang around in this series far longer than they deserved to. Showing precious little ambition or attacking cohesion, Vancouver rarely seemed threatening to the defending champs, but they remained unbowed as the minutes ticked away in Leg 2, dustily defiant like a bloodied bull trotting around the ring.

Seattle needed a closer, a matador. And no one else in the building can do the job like Deuce.

As our own Sam Stejskal reported earlier this season, the Sounders have an option year on Dempsey in 2018. They may check that box enthusiastically, or perhaps might try to talk him down to a smaller, more budget-friendly salary number. Some have even raised the possibility of him calling time on his career altogether – though that prospect seemed distant, even faintly ludicrous under the rainy Seattle skies on Thursday, as he yet again did what he does best.“While they’ve been in negotiations, we were told yesterday by Seattle that they have ‘a warm, fuzzy feeling’ about him coming back next year,” noted Holden, “which makes it seem – and we know they’ve been in advanced discussions – but that Clint Dempsey will be back here next season. At what number, we do not know, but that is good news and he’s certainly proving his worth, yet again, to this franchise.“When you need him, he has turned up.”There’s hardly anyone like Deuce – in MLS, in a Sounders uniform, in US soccer history. And it hardly seems like he’s done making noise.Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

 MLS Playoff Schedule

It’s playoff time. Following the conclusion of the 2017 MLS regular season, the postseason is set to begin ahead of MLS Cup, which is set for Dec. 9 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) and will be hosted by the surviving team with the best regular-season record.

Conference Semifinals

All kickoffs are Eastern time zone

Sunday, Nov. 5:
East series 1, leg 2: Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls – 3 p.m., ESPN,
East series 2, leg 2: New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew SC – 5 p.m., ESPN,

West series 2, leg 2: Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo – 7:30 p.m., FS1

Conference Championships

Tuesday, Nov. 21:
East, leg 1 – 8 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
West, leg 1 – 10 p.m., FS1

Tuesday, Nov. 28 or Wednesday, Nov. 29:
West, leg 2 – Time TBD, FS1

Thursday, Nov. 30: 
East, leg 2 – 10 p.m., ESPN, WatchESPN

2017 MLS Cup

Saturday, Dec. 9:  4 p.m., ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas

Will Mourinho let Man United attack Chelsea? Can Arsenal stop Man City?

ohn Brewin previews the weekend’s Premier League action and highlights five key storylines in this edition of W2W4.

Mourinho’s revenge mission at the Bridge

Will Manchester United pounce on Chelsea’s vulnerabilities and pull off the victory their manager craves perhaps most of all? The champions, hapless when losing 3-0 at Roma on Tuesday, look to be there for the taking. It could lead to Jose Mourinho throwing off the ultra-conservatism he employs in big away matches and go for all three points.

Being sacked by Chelsea in December 2015 as the defending champions languished 16th in the table, after nine defeats in 16 matches, was the lowest ebb of his career. He was removed after what sporting director Michael Emenalo labelled “palpable discord with the players,” many of whom remain at Stamford Bridge.

In the 23 months since that sacking, there has been criticism cast by both sides, with Eden Hazard remarking in February that Antonio Conte’s tactical preparation was superior while Mourinho has made repeated digs about Chelsea’s style of play. “They played defensive football and counter-attack football,” he said in September, but Mourinho might now fancy United can get at an increasingly leaky defence.

Chelsea hope N’Golo Kante can return after he ruled himself out in Rome, for they’ve missed him badly since he injured a hamstring on international duty last month. Tiemoue Bakayoko, himself struggling because of a knee injury, so far unable to provide the same protection for the back three and command of midfield. If Bakayoko struggles this weekend as he did at the Stadio Olimpico, the wisdom of letting Nemanja Matic defect from Chelsea to United will be brought into sharp focus.

Mourinho will still be without Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, two key midfielders of very different facets, but Matic provides the ballast United needed. Another former Chelsea player, Romelu Lukaku, came so close to rejoining in the summer but offers another thread between two clubs that have recently become interwoven.

A United victory would open serious daylight, a gap of seven points, on the defending champions. Is the prospect of that enough to make Mourinho consider letting his team play?

November rains for Arsenal

For Arsenal, November is the cruellest month as they average just 1.56 Premier League points per game. So where better to begin it than Manchester City, whose 4-2 midweek destruction of Serie A leaders Napoli lifted them towards the top of the betting for the Champions League?

City appear unstoppable and no worse off having failed to lure Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in the summer. With Leroy Sane in stunning form and Raheem Sterling rampant ahead of playmakers Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, and Sergio Aguero now the club’s all-time leading scorer after notching his 178th goal in Naples, it has become difficult to see where Pep Guardiola might fit the Chile international. Perhaps we will find out in January should City make a renewed bid, but Arsene Wenger will need him at his best if Arsenal are to continue their recently respectable record against City this year. After all, their 2-2 home draw on April 2 and 2-1 Wembley win in the FA Cup semifinal were victories that helped keep Wenger at the Emirates.The City of this season, though, seem a rather different prospect.

 Spurs must stop Zaha

Wednesday night saw a true glory game for Tottenham Hotspur. Double Champions League winners Real Madrid were soundly beaten 3-1, and a sulking Cristiano Ronaldo headed straight to the tunnel at full-time. Now it’s back to Wembley and to reality on Sunday where Spurs must try to make up the ground lost after last week’s disappointing defeat to Manchester United.

Crystal Palace are the opposition, buoyed by a 2-2 draw with West Ham that felt like victory after Wilfried Zaha’s 97th-minute equaliser. Zaha was a player Mauricio Pochettino fancied adding to his team last summer, only for the winger to sign a new deal that kept him close to his South London roots. With goals against Chelsea in last month’s 2-1 win and that West Ham equaliser responsible for Palace’s four points so far, Zaha is definitely the man to stop if Spurs are to stay on the coattails of City and United.

 Everton continue in limbo

David Unsworth’s extended audition to be permanent boss at Everton continued Thursday with a 3-0 defeat in Lyon that sunk a dreadful Europa League campaign, while Sunday’s home match with Watford surely completes an ill-starred experiment with the club’s Under-23 coach. There are whispers about Sam Allardyce, and Sean Dyche has not ruled himself out, while Nuno Espirito Santo has stated his desire to remain flying high in the Championship with Wolves.

Those names each add to the confusion at Goodison Park as Everton were clearly unprepared for Ronald Koeman’s sacking, even if it became a fait accompli as his team slid into the relegation zone. Former player Unsworth had the fans’ sympathy on his side, but they cannot suffer much more punishment. Should Watford, led by Marco Silva, just the kind of progressive coach a club like Everton is looking for, win on Sunday, then a barracking for the board must be expected.

Overlooked Sturridge has point to prove

Liverpool’s trip to West Ham is the highlight of Saturday’s fixtures. If there’s a repeat of last season’s 4-0 away win, the pressure once again returns to Hammers boss Slaven Bilic but then again, he’s well used to that by now.

The opening goal scorer back in May was Daniel Sturridge, who was at the time linked with a potential move to West Ham. Having scored in his past two Liverpool appearances, the first time he has achieved that since January, he found himself omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad on Thursday along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.Only more goals and appearances can get Sturridge back in the reckoning. West Ham’s obliging defence seems a good place to start proving Southgate wrong.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.

U.S. U-17, U-20 MNTS REACH WORLD CUP QUARTERFINALS IN SAME YEAR

U-20 MNT U-17 MNT Oct 17, 2017

hat trick from Tim Weah and comprehensive 5-0 win by the USA in Monday’s Round of 16 match against Paraguay at the U-17 World Cup in India perhaps overshadowed a significant achievement for the USA’s Youth National Team program.The win pushed head coach John Hackworth’s U-17 side into the tournament Quarterfinals, matching the finish that head coach Tab Ramos’ U-20 team achieved at their World Cup in Korea Republic earlier this year.The USA joins England, who the U-17s will face in Saturday’s Quarterfinal, as the only two nations to accomplish the feat in 2017. The U.S. U-20 MNT took Venezuela to extra time where they eventually fell 2-1 in their Quarterfinal defeat in June, while England advanced to the Final, where they eventually downed La Vinotinto 1-0 to win their first youth World Cup. Notably, U-17 MNT captain Josh Sargent (below) also took part in the USA’s run at the U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic.

The U.S. and England are far from the first two teams to reach the Quarterfinals of both tournaments in the same year. Since 1985 it’s happened 45 times, with the U.S. previously doing it in both 1993 and 2003.That number decreases significantly when counted from 2007, the year in which the FIFA U-17 World Cup expanded to 24 teams and added an earlier knockout match before the Quarterfinals.Prior to this year’s instances, it’s taken place just nine times and on eight occasions, at least one of the nation’s representative teams moved on to the Semifinals.

Indy Eleven earn draw in season finale, await NASL’s uncertain future

Kevin Johnston, IndyStar correspondentPublished 8:26 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2017 | Updated 9:54 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2017

The Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC met Sunday at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium under vastly different circumstances.Win or draw, North Carolina would avoid having to play at Miami FC in the first round of the North American Soccer League playoffs. A loss would entail a trip to Ricardo Silva Stadium to face perhaps the best team in all lower-division soccer.The Eleven, contrastingly, had nothing to play for, having been eliminated from playoff contention a couple of weeks ago.The teams played to a 2-2 draw.The highly motivated visitors struck early when Billy Schuler buried a pass from Daniel Barrow in the fourth minute. Barrow played a short ball straight up the seam into space, connecting with Schuler’s diagonal run. The 27-year-old striker took one touch past Indy defender Cory Miller before finding the side netting inside the far post.But despite playing for pride, Indy responded with a vengeance.“I’m very happy to see the team play the way they did,” said Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “If we had played this way consistently through the season we’d probably be looking at playoffs next week.”A goal in the 20th minute by forward Eamon Zayed and another in the 65th by Miller propelled the home side to a 2-1 edge. Midfielder Ben Speas provided the helper on the first one, left back Nemanja Vukovic on the second.Daniel Keller was originally announced as a starter among the back four, but injured his hamstring during warmups. Miller replaced him in the starting lineup.“I ended up kind of tweaking my hamstring,” Keller explained. “(The coaches) got together and didn’t think it was worth it in case I further injured it in the first 10 minutes, so we would’ve had to use a sub early in the game.”Feeling a sense of urgency, the visitors cranked up the intensity in search of an equalizer. They eventually found it in the 89th minute, again through Schuler, this time on a pass from Marcel Kandziora.The teams settled for a draw, but it probably felt like a win for North Carolina FC. They’ll still face a stern road challenge next Sunday against the San Francisco Deltas, but will avoid a semifinal matchup against Miami FC. Miami won both the NASL spring and fall titles, and proved a dominant force in doing so.For two veteran Eleven midfielders, it was the last time they’ll play: Gerardo Torrado and Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Both players announced they’d retire at season’s end.Hankinson, who confirmed his contract expires at the end of November, faces an uncertain future — much like both the NASL and club. The league claimed it won’t be able to survive a demotion from Division II during a September conference call. Its divisional fate for 2018 likely will be determined at an Oct. 31 hearing regarding its federal antitrust lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.“I’m at the end of a contract, so we have to see (what direction) ownership and our team president (go),” Hankinson said. “Obviously, they’re waiting for the court ruling Tuesday to decide the direction of the league. So those things have to happen first before they start making clubs decisions.”

RECAP | Indy Eleven Signs Off Season with Thrilling Draw against North Carolina FC

Goals from Zayed, Miller help “Indiana’s Team” earn point at home to close the season

Published Oct 29, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (October 29, 2017) – Indy Eleven ended the 2017 season at Carroll Stadium with a draw against North Carolina FC, 2-2.

Quick on the draw, the visitors opened the scoring inside the first five minutes through forward Billy Schuler. Making his debut for NCFC, midfielder Danny Barrow weaved through a pair of Indy Eleven players before feeding a ball in for Schuler to latch onto. Taking a touch away from goal, Schuler then rolled one past Indy ‘keeper Jon Busch at the far post.

Determined to go out on a high, Indy would press the NCFC backline and found the majority of their success from wide positions. In the 20th minute, midfielder Ben Speas continued his heavy impact on the match when he created a near tap-in for teammate Eamon Zayed to pull one back. Taking his man near the byline, Speas picked out Zayed dead center of the six-yard box where the forward beat ‘keeper Brian Sylvestre to go level.

A second half of relatively few chances between the pair, Indy would end up in front in the 65th minute thanks to a goal from defender Cory Miller. Earning a free kick just outside the box, defender Nemanja Vukovic – known for his ability to fire on goal from a set-piece chance – opted to instead lift a cross to the back post where Miller stood waiting. The late August re-addition side-footed the curling cross to the far post past substitute ‘netminder Macklin Robinson to give his side the lead.

Late on, a flurry of chances for NCFC were all blocked or beaten away as the visitors turned desperate for an equalizer. In the 89thminute, though, Carolina found an equalizer – another goal from Schuler – after substitute playmaker Lance Laing found the forward from close range.

With today’s match being the last in NASL regular season action, Indy Eleven ends the Fall Season in 8th place with a record of three wins, four draws, and nine losses (13 points) but locks in 6th place in the Combined Season table with seven wins, 12 draws, and 13 losses (33 points).
NASL Fall Season
Indy Eleven 2 : 2 North Carolina FC
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Danny Barrow 4’)
IND – Eamon Zayed (Ben Speas 20’)
IND – Cory Miller (Nemanja Vukovic 65’)
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Lance Laing 89’)
Discipline Summary:
NCFC – Danny Barrow 19’
IND – David Goldsmith 88’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-1-3-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Nemanja Vukovic, Cory Miller, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco; Gerardo Torrado © , Ben Speas (Sinisa Ubiparipovic 58’), Tanner Thompson (Paulo Junior 75’), Don Smart; Eamon Zayed, David Goldsmith

IND bench: Keith Cardona (GK); Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Cory Miller, Christian Lomeli, Adrian Ables

North Carolina FC lineup (4-5-1, L->R): Brian Sylvestre (GK) (Macklin Robinson 32’); Paul Black, Connor Tobin, James Marcelin, Kareem Moses; Austin Da Luz (Lance Laing 79’), Tiyi Shipalane, Bolu Akinyode, Daniel Barrow (Nazmi Albadawi 64’), Marcel Kandziora; Billy Schuler

NCFC bench: Saeed Robinson, Jonathan Glenn, Brad Ruhaak, D.J. Taylor

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