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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