11/30/17 MLS Playoffs Tonite – Seattle vs Houston 10:30 ESPN, IU Hoosiers 1 Game from College Cup Fri Night 7 pm, World Cup Draw Fri 10 am, Champs League Tues/Wed  

 So the MLS Western Conference finals will wrap up tonight at US star Clint Dempsey looks to go to the finals for his first time.  Seattle will host Houston tonight on ESPN at 10:30 pm with a 2 goal lead coming in.  The winner will face Toronto who edged Columbus last night in a 1 – 0 thriller where Jozy Altidore scored a screamer in the 60th minute.  Honestly Columbus played their hearts out on the road and had every chance to win – they just couldn’t find the net – despite their keeper making spectacular saves including a PK – Toronto pulled it off.  The winners tonight will square off at Toronto next Saturday, Dec 9th at 4 pm on ESPN for the MLS Cup. Here’s hoping for a rematch of last year’s thriller !

The World Cup draw will be tomorrow live from Russia at 10 am on Fox Sports 1 – the 32 team field will be announced and the pods drawn as we get set to see who’s in the group of death this year.  Go Iceland!  Champions League will set the final teams for the Sweet 16 on Tues/Wed of this weekend.  Dortmund is out but all 4 English teams look to advance for the first time in a long time.  Speaking of Dortmund US 19 YO Superstar Pulisic is expected to return this weekend as they face Leverkusen at 9:30 am on FS2 Saturday morning.  Arsenal of course hosts Man United on NBC Sat at 12:30 pm as both hot teams battle for 2nd in the EPL, while US youngster Weston Mckinnie and Schalke host Koln in the German Bundesliga at 12:30 on FS2.  I do want to big a fond farewell to one of my favorite websites – as ESPNFC – is no more.  They have added a soccer tab to ESPN – but it is not the same and it appears many of the featured writers they had might well be gone.  Sad to see – as Soccer was really catching fire in the US – what effects the US not being in the world cup will bring.  If ESPNFC going away is an indication – boo hoo.  (so I have been swamped this week – but I will update the Champions League stories before kickoff on Tuesday check out and Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

Champions League permutations: Who needs what to go through?

Monday 4 December 2017 by Paul Saffer

Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Beşiktaş, Manchester City, Paris, Real Madrid and Tottenham are through. What do the 14 teams vying for the eight remaining places need to join them?

 Barcelona , Bayern München, Beşiktaş, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and 14 teams will compete for the eight remaining berths on 5 and 6 December. UEFA.com explains the permutations.

  • Through to round of 16: Barcelona*, Bayern München, Beşiktaş*, Chelsea, Manchester City*, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur* (*group winners)
  • Can qualify on matchday six: Atlético Madrid, Basel, CSKA Moskva, Juventus, Leipzig, Liverpool, Manchester United, Napoli, Porto, Roma, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Spartak Moskva, Sporting CP
  • Cannot finish in top two: Anderlecht, APOEL, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic
  • Will finish fourth: Benfica, Feyenoord, Maribor, Monaco, Olympiacos, Qarabağ 
  • Full standings

All information in this article is subject to final confirmation from UEFA. These examples may not cover all potential situations.

TUESDAY 5 DECEMBER

Group A: Manchester United (12 points) v CSKA Moskva (9), Benfica (0) v Basel (9)

  • Manchester Unitedwould qualify in first place with a point (and can afford to lose by six goals and still go through). If they lose to CSKA and Basel do not win, United and CSKA will go through with first place determined by head-to-head results between the two; United won 4-1 in Russia and would have the superior overall goal difference if they lose 4-1. If CSKA and Basel win, the top two will be decided in a three-way head to head; United would be through in this situation unless they lost by seven goals, and would be top unless they lost by five goals).
  • Baselwill go through if they better CSKA’s result, or if both teams draw or lose due to their superior head-to-head. If CSKA and Basel win, the top two will be decided in a three-way head to head, and Basel would be through unless CSKA win by a margin of between three and six goals inclusive).
  • CSKAmust pick up more points than Basel to ensure second place (if both win, CSKA must win by a margin of three goals to go through in the three-way head-to-head and by a margin of five goals to finish top).
  • Benficawill finish bottom.

Group B: Bayern München (12) v Paris Saint-Germain (15), Celtic (3) v Anderlecht (0)

  • Paris and Bayernare both through, with top spot still to play for ahead of their matchday six meeting. Paris won the first game between the sides 3-0 and also lead on overall goal difference so Bayern must win by a four-goal margin to finish top.
  • Celticand Anderlecht can both still finish third. Anderlecht were beaten 3-0 at home by Celtic so the Belgian side must win by a three-goal margin in Glasgow to go into the UEFA Europa League (if they win 3-0, Anderlecht finish third on overall goal difference).

Group C: Roma (8) v Qarabağ (2), Chelsea (10) v Atlético Madrid (6)

  • Chelseaare through. They will secure first place with victory or if Roma fail to win.
  • Roma will go through with a win, or if Atlético fail to win. If Roma win and Chelsea do not, Roma win the group.
  • Atléticoneed to win and hope Roma do not to finish second (if they both finish on nine points, Atlético have the superior head-to-head).
  • Qarabağwill finish bottom.

Group D: Olympiacos (1) v Juventus (8), Barcelona (11) v Sporting CP (7)

  • Barcelona are through as group winners.
  • Juventus will be through with a win, or if Sporting fail to gain victory (if they finish level on points, Juve have the superior head-to-head).
  • Sportinghave to win, and will reach the last 16 if they win and Juventus do not.
  • Olympiacos will finish bottom.

WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER

Group E: Maribor (2) v Sevilla (8), Liverpool (9) v Spartak Moskva (6)

  • Liverpool will qualify with a draw, and will clinch first place with a win, or a draw if Sevilla fail to win. If Liverpool lose they are out unless Sevilla are also defeated (as Liverpool would be below Spartak in a two-way head-to-head or would be third in a three-way head-to-head on nine points).
  • Sevillawill qualify with a draw, or if Spartak fail to win. Sevilla clinch first place if they win and Liverpool do not.
  • Spartakwould be through with a win or third with any other result. If Spartak win they will finish top unless Sevilla also win.
  • Mariborwill finish fourth

Group F: Feyenoord (0) v Napoli (6), Shakhtar Donetsk (9) v Manchester City (15)

  • City are through as group winners.
  • Shakhtarwill be through if they avoid defeat or if Napoli do not win.
  • Napolimust win and hope Shakhtar lose; in that case Napoli would finish second on head-to-head.
  • Feyenoordwill finish fourth.

Group G: Porto (7) v Monaco (2), RB Leipzig (7) v Beşiktaş (11)

  • Beşiktaş are through as group winners.
  • Portoare through if they win, or as long as they are at least level on points with Leipzig due to their superior head-to-head (on goal difference).
  • Leipzigmust pick up more points than Porto to finish second.
  • Monacowill finish fourth.

Group H: Real Madrid (10) v Borussia Dortmund (2), Tottenham Hotspur (13) v APOEL (2)

  • Tottenham have qualified as group winners due to their superior head-to-head over Madrid.
  • Madrid have qualified as group runners-up.
  • Dortmund and APOELwill contest third place. In case both teams draw Dortmund will be qualified due to superior goal difference in all matches. In case both teams win or lose the final ranking will depend on the number of goals scored and conceded in the last two matches.

Standings are provisional until all matches have been played.

No. 2 Hoosiers Host No. 7 Michigan State on Friday in NCAA Tournament Tix $10

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The No. 2-seeded Indiana University men’s soccer team will host the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Dec. 1 at Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Kickoff for the match is set for 7:00 p.m. ET. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth (18 & under) and can be purchased at IUHoosiers.com.  Indiana University students will get in free as IU Athletics will purchase their tickets for each round of the NCAA Tournament that the Hoosiers host. Students must show student ID at the ticket window to redeem free ticket.  A free live-stream of the match is available on BTN2Go.com, with live stats for the match at IUHoosiers.com.

SETTING THE SCENE
• The No. 2-seeded Hoosiers will host the Michigan State Spartans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.
• Indiana earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the season undefeated with an overall record of 15-0-5.
• Indiana finished the regular season undefeated for the third time in program history, ending with a 13-0-4 mark. IU also finished regular season unblemished in 1976 (15-0-1) and 1997 (18-0).
• Freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse has played well this season, posting a NCAA-best 17 shutouts while allowing just five goals with 53 saves.
• Freshman Mason Toye leads the Hoosiers with a Big Ten-leading 10 goals and 22 points on the season, while Cory Thomas has seven goals on the year.
• Trevor Swartz leads the team with seven assists on the season.

IU legacy builds as they try to make the College Cup  Indy Star

#1 IU to Host #7 Mich State at IU on Friday Night to see who goes to College Cup

Chance is there for Unbeaten IU

Men’s Bracket –  Louisville and Indiana U still alive

WORLD CUP 2018 The GROUPS – Draw on Friday Morning

 GROUP A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

GROUP B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco

GROUP C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia

GROUP D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

GROUP E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

GROUP G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama

GROUP H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

 GAMES ON TV 

Thurs Nov 30

10:30 pm ESPN         Houston  vs Seattle Sounders  (2-0)  (West Conf Final Leg 2)

Fri, Dec 1

10 am   Fox Sport 1   World Cup Draw 2018 from Russia

2:45 pm beIn Sport Napoli vs Juventus

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Frieburg vs Hamburger (Woods)

5 pm ESPNU                   Stanford vs South Carolina (NCAA Final 4 Womens)

7 pm  Big 10 Stream                        Indiana U Men host Mich State at IU – live stream

7:30 pm ESPNU            UCLA vs Duke (NCAA Final 4 Womens)

Sat, Dec 2

7:30 am NBCSN            Chelsea vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

9:30 am FS 1                  Bayern Munich vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Leverkusen vs Borussian Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Brighton vs Liverpool

10 am CNBC                    Tottenham vs Watford

12:30 pm NBC              Arsenal vs Man United  

12:30 pm FS2                Schalke (US 19 yr old Weston Mckennie) vs Koln

Sun, Dec 3

9:30 am FS 1                  Hertha vs Frankfurt

11 am NBCSN                Man City vs West Ham

Tues, Dec 5 – Champs League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2    Man United vs CSK Moscow

2:45 pm Fox Soccer     Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm ESPN3 FS+      Barcelona vs Sporting CP

2:45 pm ESPN3               Olympiakos vs Juventus

Wed, Dec 6  Champs League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2    Liverpool vs Spartak Moskva

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1    Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:45 pm Facebook Live Shahktar vs Man City

2:45 pm ESPN3, Fox local   Tottenham vs APOEL

Sat, Dec 9

7:30 am NBCSN               West Ham vs Chelsea

10 am NbCSN                    Tottenham vs Stoke City (Cameron)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2      B. M’gladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (Mckinney)

4 pm ESPN                       Toronto vs Seattle  MLS Cup –

Sun, Dec 10

7 am NBCSN                       Southhampton vs Arsenal

9:15 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

11:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Man City – Manchester Darby

EPL 2017 Schedule  

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

 MLS Playoffs

Seattle looks to finish off Houston Tonite – MLS.com

Columbus did all it could vs MLS Stalwart Toronto

Altidore Overcomes Injury to score winner for Toronto – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

4 Cities Named for next 2 MLS Teams – here’s hoping for Cincy – since Columbus is gone! Dec 6th

 World

No Groups of Death this World Cup?

What to Expect of the Draw – Gab Marcotti ESPN

Ranking the Top Club Teams –

Man Uniteds Best Successes at Arsenal

 USA

Projecting the Ladies US WC Roster

Things to watch for in 2018 for the US Men

Is Youth Training to Blame for US Failure to Qualify LA Times

Resigning Italy President Remarks – give path to US  

Indy 11 Happy ThanksGiving from Owner  

US Players Abroad- Washington Post

US U17s lose to England 

College Cup Opportunity Beckons Unbeaten Indiana

Pete DiPrimioIUHoosiers.com

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The College Cup is there for the taking.Indiana aims to take it.The No. 2-seedeed Hoosiers (17-0-5) are one soccer victory away from a Final Four berth in Philadelphia.
Standing in their way — No. 7 seed Michigan State (13-3-3) Friday night at Armstrong Stadium. The teams played to a 1-1 tie at the end of the regular season.
That was significant because it cost IU the Big Ten title. “We drew them 1-1 when we needed to win the Big Ten regular season title,” senior Grant Lillard said, “so having a little revenge game is kind of nice.”History suggests revenge will be sweet. Indiana is 14-0 in NCAA Elite Eight matches at home, although the last one came in 2004.
“It will be fun,” coach Todd Yeagley said. “We want the fans to pack this place.” Added Lillard: I’m sure the place will be pumping.” IU and Michigan State are the last remaining Big Ten teams still in contention. The Hoosiers are eager to knock that down to one. “It’s nice being the two last two Big Ten teams,” Lillard said. “It’s kind of like, who wants to dominate the Big Ten and be the best team in the Big Ten.” The Spartans are making their third Elite Eight appearance in the last five seasons. They’ve allowed 12 goals this season while scoring 27.
“The focus is to execute what we do well,” Lillard said. “They’re a good defensive team. They’re tough to break down. We have to make sure we’re connecting simple passes. Being dangerous in the final third will be important.”IU has played in 18 College Cups, the last one coming in 2012, when it won its eighth and last national championship. Yeagley played on two College Cups as a player, in 1991 and ’94. “There’s nothing quite like the Final Four,” Yeagley said. “We want them to have that.” These Hoosiers, a dominant blend of offense and defense, are built to break through, Yeagley added.
“We’ve been so close with this group the last couple of years. In this sport, there are so many small factors that come in, but I feel confident this team has the make-up to move on.
“Balance in this team is a strength. Balance in our staff is a strength.” As far as any danger of looking past Michigan State, Yeagley said, “This group hasn’t looked ahead all year. They’ve stayed in the moment, in the process.”They knew this could be a special year. They never got hung up in that. They did things consistently and in the right way.” IU dominates the national statistics. It leads the nation in goals allowed, with just four. It’s also first in save percentage (0.917), shutout percentage (0.773) and team goals against average (0.213). The Hoosiers rank second in the nation in shots per game (17.5) and shots on goal (7.86). They’re 10th in scoring at 2.14 goals. Honors have followed. The staff of Yeagley associate head coach Brian Maisonneuve, assistant coach Kevin Robson and volunteer assistant Zac Brown were named Midwest Region Staff of the year by the United Soccer Coaches. They are in the running for national staff of the year. Also, Lillard is one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Herman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best soccer player. “It’s nice to be recognized like that,” Lillard said. “It speaks a lot of the guys on this team who don’t get recognized. “Our team defending has been wonderful this year, and not just because of me. It’s because a lot of guys have been contributing to that all season long.” Still, Lillard set the tone.”Grant has had a fantastic year,” Yeagley said. “There’s no doubt that he’s hit another gear. “We’ve pushed him. He’s challenged himself. You want that little bit more in there. Grant looks the way a senior and All-American and player of the year candidate should look. “He reminds the younger players what’s necessary. He understands all the situations. He’s been through everything. It’s the confidence you have when Grant is back there. That winning mentality.” Yeagley understands that winning mentality as well as anyone. He grew up with it under his father, Jerry, a Hall of Fame coach with six national titles on his resume.
The younger Yeagley has that 2012 championship, and wants more. “It’s overwhelming to think about what’s come before,” he said, “the unbelievable success my father had. You always feel like you’re chasing something that might be unattainable. “But if we stay to the plan with the right mentality and preparation, it often takes care of itself.”

 

No Groups of Death; rankings rule — What to expect at the World Cup draw

  • Gabriele Marcotti

For many, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup has been a procession — going through the motions toward the inevitable. For others, there has been suffering and insecurity right down to the final whistle of the final playoff game. And for others still, whether because they’ve been absent for decades or because it’s their first time, it’s been a magical journey, a flight into possibility.Then there are those who took for granted that they’d be a part of the World Cup and stumbled along the way: We don’t need to talk about them, but we know who they are. ADVERTISEMENT

But now Friday’s World Cup draw is nearly upon us. This is when things become a little more real, when teams can start to really dream and begin to map out pathways to immortality. This is when they project ahead seven months and try to learn as much as you can about their opponents, some of whom might be age-old rivals, some of whom they might never have seen (or even thought about). When they start to fret and anticipate in equal parts. When Russia stops being a concept and becomes a spiritual home. And when the world — at least for the 32 chosen ones — becomes a common ecosystem.Draw ceremonies are always rather awkward exercises: Former icons paraded around, quips from officials in suits, some music, some eye candy, montages about faraway cities (some of which you might never have heard of) and balls being drawn out of pots. But here are some things to consider as the event unfolds.

  1. Say goodbye to the Group of Death?

For the first time, pots will be based on FIFA rankings, rather than geographical factors. The only exception is Russia, who will be a top seed as host, as well as the stipulation that there can’t be more than one team from the same confederation in each group (two in the case of UEFA). Before, after the top seeds, teams were allocated to pots based on confederation, which facilitated unbalanced groups.What does this all mean? Theoretically, more balanced groups. Consider the “Group of Death.” It’s a trite, ugly and ultimately nonsensical term, but the good news is we likely won’t get one — at least not to the degree we did in the past.It also means that watching the draw unfold will feel a little different. It will be more like a Champions League draw, in which teams can get only certain opponents. Brazil, for example, know they will face either Spain, Switzerland, England, Mexico or Croatia from Pot 2.

  1. FIFA rankings rule

The seeds are based on FIFA rankings, which we know are imperfect and, to the casual observer, might seem a little screwy. You can live with Russia being given an edge by enjoying the top seed (they’re actually the lowest-ranked team in the World Cup), but to a casual observer, seeing Poland in Pot 1 and the likes of Spain and England in Pot 2 will feel weird, particularly when Poland failed to qualify for the past three World Cups and exited Euro 2016 at the quarterfinal stage.Blame the fact that the rankings, to some degree, can be gamed. But mostly, blame the fact that comparing nations who very rarely play one another is extremely difficult. And a ranking based over four years — perhaps necessary to account for freak results — becomes less relevant over time.

  1. Who gets Spain? And will England get Germany?

One obvious theme is that nobody in Pot 1 will want to get Spain, who most bookmakers have as fourth favorites, in Pot 2, but all are in danger of facing them. The prospect of an England vs. Germany group game — a tie drenched in history, and not just sporting — is also a real possibility. Further down, you might have your own choices of teams to avoid. In Pot 3, Senegal combine high-end defensive muscle (Kalidou Koulibaly, Cheikh Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye) with attacking flair (Sadio Mane, Keita Balde), while in Pot 4, Serbia have likely been flying under the radar and have plenty of big names and experience. (If you insist on having a Group of D—-, then Brazil, Spain, Senegal and Serbia might just be it.)But remember this, too. For all the familiar names you might spot, it really matters very little come June next year. Factors like chemistry, form and coaching carry far more weight than pedigree. Four years ago, Costa Rica were thrown in a group with three previous World Cup winners: Italy (4), Uruguay (2) and England (1). Guess who won the group and went on the quarterfinals? That’s right, Los Ticos, a team whose second-biggest name was — no disrespect — Bryan Ruiz.History matters less and less. We saw this very clearly last time around. Spain, the defending world champion, exited in the group stage. Germany and Brazil were nearly bounced out in the round of 16 by Chile and Algeria respectively. Switzerland made Lionel Messi and Argentina sweat into extra time.We can project who we fear and who we’d rather face. But, as with a horror movie, the threat can increasingly come from anywhere. The flip side of that is that anyone can dream and be made to look like a fool.At least until next June.

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo
Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Championship  CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
10:30 pm ET – Nov. 30, 2017  WATCH: ESPN, ESPN Deportes (USA) | TSN1, TVAS 2 (CAN)

The Houston Dynamo entered the first leg of their Western Conference final perhaps sensing they had nothing to lose. They could hardly be blamed for approaching the second wondering what may already be lost.After going down a goal and a man early and eventually succumbing to a 2-0 home defeat against the Seattle Sounders last Tuesday, only the Dynamo’s best away performance of 2017 would be enough from keeping holders Seattle from returning to MLS Cup.It could’ve been even worse if not for Joe Willis‘ save of a penalty conceded by Jalil Anibaba. With Anibaba dismissed for his foul and Houston playing a man down, Will Bruin‘s goal later in the first half to add to Gustav Svensson‘s opener ensured that Seattle left BBVA Compass Stadium with a two-goal advantage and the Dynamo with a steep hill to climb.Anibaba and striker Alberth Elis (yellow card accumulation) will also be suspended for the return leg. The latter’s absence means coach Wilmer Cabrera will almost certainly need offensive contributions from forwards Mauro Manotas or Erick Torres.Seattle centerback Roman Torres must also sit after receiving his second yellow card of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, which will disrupt his effective partnership with Chad Marshall. And it’s unclear if No. 1 goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s hamstring will have healed enough for the second leg after he missed the first.But the Sounders have suffered only one home defeat this season, a 1-0 loss to Toronto on May 6. Including the playoffs, they’ve won last four at CenturyLink Field (including the playoffs) by a combined 12-0 margin.Still, the residue of Houston’s stunning 2-1 win at Portland in the second leg of the conference semifinals shows there’s always a chance. How much of one? We’ll find out on Thursday.

Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of Seattle vs. Houston in West 2nd leg

November 30, 20179:15AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

Sorry Houstonians, but I’m with Landon on this:I think Seattle ended this series in the first leg by hanging a pair of goals on the Dynamo. I just don’t see how Houston figure out a 3-1 result or better in Thursday night’s Leg 2 (10:30 pm ET; ESPN & ESPN Deportes in the US | TN1 & TVAS2 in Canada).

But there’s a reason they play the game, right? Strange things can happen in this league.

Seattle’s tactical plan: Capitalize on turnovers

The Sounders are without Roman Torres (yellow card accumulation), and likely without Ozzie Alonso (injury), and… yeah they’re still going to be fine. They might have to shuffle some pieces around – Gustav Svensson at center back? Nicolas Lodeiro as the No. 8? – but they’ve shuffled before, and mostly come up aces.

And in this case, they can shuffle with the knowledge that Houston’s going to have to get on the ball and carry most of the play. The Dynamo have to go out and score at least two goals, which they’re not going to be able to do unless they push numbers forward. Pushing numbers forward, of course, comes with risks specifically around turning the ball over. Turning the ball over leads to counterattacks. Counterattacks lead to goals:

Don’t expect Seattle to dominate possession. Do expect them to generate chances like this one.

Houston’s tactical plan: Spread Seattle from touchline to touchline & go in isolation

The Dynamo can’t afford to get cute and can’t afford to be passive. They’ve got to go out from the first whistle and drive at the Sounders with numbers using the whole width of the field.

Here’s how that looks:

Key to this: Wilmer Cabrera has to drop his fascination with Alex as a winger and start three true attackers across the frontline. Maybe that means giving Vicente Sanchez the go-ahead from the first minute, or maybe it means Mauro Manotas as a sort of miscast winger with Cubo Torres as the center forward, or maybe it means Andrew Wenger?

Whatever the case, there’s no use playing conservative for Cabrera. Go out like Butch & Sundance, please.

X-Factor Part 1: I’m gonna say Eric Alexander again

He didn’t have a great game in Leg 1, but he’s good enough to control things and put those wingers into space like he did against Portland, especially if Seattle are playing without a true defensive midfielder.

It’s not just that, though. It’s the fact that if Alexander plays his best and Lodeiro is used as a No. 8, it will make Lodeiro a more defensive and less influential attacking player.

X-Factor Part 2: Chad Marshall‘s fitness

He’s 33, and he’s just crested 35,000 professional minutes, and he’s already had one minor knock this postseason. If he takes another, then suddenly the door’s open for Houston.

Match-up No. 1: Joevin Jones vs. whoever’s at right back for Houston

With A.J. DeLaGarza‘s injury and Jalil Anibaba‘s suspension, the Dynamo have to go all the way down to No. 3 on the right defensive depth chart. Good luck!

Match-up No. 2: Tomas Martinez vs. Cristian Roldan

If Alonso’s out and Svensson is used in central defense, that leaves Roldan as the No. 6. He can do the job, but is much more of a No. 8. It’s not that Martinez will be able to totally lose him, but rather Martinez should be able to trouble Roldan in terms of distribution and tempo-setting – two areas in which he struggles anyway, and two ares that could lead to exploitable turnovers.

What’s it all mean?

I just don’t think the Dynamo have a chance. Great season, lots to build on going forward, but put a fork in this series.

Columbus could not have done any more vs. MLS’ elite team in Toronto

Graham Parker

It’s hard to see what else Columbus Crew SC could have done.The moment after a playoff loss is often the moment when the picture of a team falls sharply into focus; playoff momentum and the stories that go with it have a way of hiding deficiencies that seem glaring when a team’s campaign comes definitively to a halt. But looking back at Columbus picking its way through a playoff field to go within inches of eliminating Toronto — and all with an existential angst of relocation hanging over its head — there are few moments or traits that jump out as fatal flaws. Gregg Berhalter kept his machine competitive to the end, but the bigger, better machine of Toronto was ultimately able to make the fine-tuning adjustments to end Crew SC’s campaign.It’s been a season of two halves for the Crew. In early August they looked set for a second successive season of anonymity after the heights of hosting MLS Cup in 2015. Federico Higuain was missing, Ethan Finlay had been traded and the team was struggling to hold off Orlando for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff place.But slowly and surely, the team began to come together. Pedro Santos was signed and proved to be a versatile, key component of the team’s revival as Berhalter tinkered with the side and eased Higuain back to full effectiveness. Ola Kamara continued to score goals and gradually, and with few neutral observers taking notice at first, Crew SC stopped dropping points and began an inexorable climb up the standings — building dangerous unbeaten momentum as they arrived in the playoffs.Once there, the Crew’s playoff campaign was managed by Berhalter in resolutely organized fashion. Despite the revelation that the team could be no more in Ohio after 2018, and the emotions and rhetoric of the subsequent #SaveTheCrew campaign, Columbus’ players always looked more likely to take advantage of an opponent’s emotions than to get swept up by their own.Atlanta was dispatched in a febrile atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with the help of some woodwork and a performance for the ages by Zack Steffen, then New York City FC fell apart after Alexander Callens’ red card in the first leg. Even offered the chance to bully a weakened Toronto at home in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final, Berhalter elected to play the percentages and set himself up for an away goal at BMO Field.And it nearly paid off. Crew SC going three at the back from the start of the second leg had Toronto scrambling throughout the first half, as Berhalter got the tactical jump on Greg Vanney, the newly crowned MLS coach of the year. Right to the end of the game, Berhalter stayed cool in his adjustments. Hector Jimenez initially looked like an odd replacement for the influential Santos, but his introduction gave more space for Kekuta Manneh to look for space out wide to stretch a tiring and compacted Toronto defense.It was all very … efficient. The Crew have been an efficient machine at their best this year, even if it’s hard to point to any single element of the team, other than Steffen’s penalty-saving ability, and call it the best in the league. Such stutters as there were in the final series included Justin Meram twice wasting great scoring chances that could have really put the pressure on Toronto, and the loss of Artur to suspension in leg two. But on the other hand, it was possible to write those events off within the margin of error for any playoff team.And yet it wasn’t enough. In the end, Crew SC’s normal time record in these playoffs included one emphatic home win over NYCFC, a thrilling goalless draw in Atlanta and two nail-biting losses on the road to NYCFC and now Toronto — a modest return. And ultimately, when the time finally came for them to chase a game, Columbus did not have a player, or combination of players, on the field capable of the mix of grit, vision and speed of thought to do what Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore did on the decisive goal.So in the end, if there were a fatal flaw for Columbus, it’s that it played to the best of its abilities, but that the sum total of those abilities generally falls just short of those possessed by the elite team of the league. On the basis of Wednesday night’s performance, nobody could have complained had Kamara got a shoelace width closer to the ball in the dying moments of the game to advance the Crew. But by the same token, anybody could look at Columbus being eliminated at this stage of its campaign and conclude that this is about as fair a conclusion as the team deserved.

Jozy Altidore shrugs off ankle injury, delivers winning goal for Toronto FC

Jeff CarlisleSoccer

TORONTO — Jozy Altidore knew he had to come off the field.The ankle that he had injured at the beginning of the year had been hurt again when Columbus Crew defender Harrison Afful got tangled up with him. Altidore went down, got treatment, played and went to the sidelines for more treatment. He went back out to the field again hoping to just grind out a few more minutes.”I just needed to try to get some support on it so it didn’t move around too much,” he said after the game. “We taped it up, tried that out, but I just really couldn’t put any weight on it. So it kind of defeated the purpose of trying to stay on there. We’d be like a man down, so I just wanted to give the chance for whoever was coming on [for me] to get some runs in and be ready to help contribute.”I knew if there was a play, if I can get a chance to make a play, then I wanted to be on the field for it. It all worked out in the end.”That it did. As the game reached the hour mark, Altidore received a backheel from Sebastian Giovinco, worked a combination with Victor Vasquez and fired past Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen to hand Toronto a 1-0 aggregate triumph and a return trip to the MLS Cup final.The tension had been building in dribs and drabs at the start of the match, as the five-man back line trotted out by Crew manager Greg Berhalter flummoxed the TFC attack. The anxiety then increased 10-fold after Vasquez had his penalty saved by Steffen.Toronto’s attack had made little headway since. But the eruption of joy in BMO Field as Altidore’s shot settled into the net shook the press box — equal parts relief and primal scream. The striker then jumped into the joyous arms of his teammates, but he insisted there was no shot of adrenalin that made the pain go away.”I felt it. I felt it the whole time, actually, unfortunately,” he said of his ankle. “But these moments, this is what you live for.”These have not been the happiest two months for Altidore. As if he needed any reminders of the U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, he’s been booed and taunted on the road as a kind of penance. His goal will do little to change that, nor does it come close to erasing what happened, but Altidore insisted there has been no hangover for him, that he has compartmentalized the national team disappointment and not let that creep into his games for Toronto.”People keep thinking I’m some wounded animal,” he said. “[Not qualifying] didn’t only happen to me, it happened to a group of guys and a lot of fans. It is what it is. It’s disappointing, but you have to move on from it and learn from it and become stronger for it.”The national team program isn’t broken. It definitely needs to be patched up in places, and we need to do a better job as individuals, of identifying players, all that. But there’s still some good things there. What happens in Toronto has nothing to do with what happened to the national team.”As much as U.S. fans don’t want to hear it, what Altidore says is true. It’s a professional survival mechanism that demands that players engage in selective amnesia. It has no doubt helped that Altidore plays his club soccer across the U.S. border — Toronto’s fans have long embraced him, his form for the U.S. national team having no bearing on the level of support he receives from his club. That can help the recovery process, and Altidore was pleased to repay the fans who have cheered him on.”It’s a big goal. I’m happy for it because the city means a lot to me,” he added. “I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t know what to expect from me. We were feeling each other out. But it’s a beautiful love story because I fell in love with this city, and I think the fans have fallen in love with me. I hope it’s the last club I play for.”There has been love from teammates, too. Michael Bradley has been on the receiving end of jeers since that October night in Trinidad as well, but he has long been grateful to have Altidore by his side.”When you’re standing in the tunnel on nights likes this, and you look behind you, when you see Jozy, it’s a damn good feeling because you know what he’s going to be about,” Bradley said.”You know that he’s going to give you everything he has. And on a night when it didn’t necessarily come easily or simply, and in a moment when nobody would have thought twice if he had gone off, he found a way to keep going and make a big play for us. I’m so proud of him, so happy for him, and we’re going to need one or two more the next week.”Given the state of Altidore’s ankle, there are some doubts about his health for the MLS Cup final on Dec. 9 and what level he’ll be able to play at. He doesn’t have any, however.”I’m playing in the MLS Cup final,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how or what the ankle is. You’re not taking that game from me.”The chance to complete a Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double is now in sight.

Four finalist cities named for next two MLS expansion teams

November 29, 20179:18AM ESTSimon BorgEditor-in-Chief

Four cities will be competing for the next two MLS expansion slots that are scheduled to be announced before the end of the year.MLS announced on Wednesday that the following four expansion bids (listed in alphabetical order) will make formal presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s Expansion Committee on Dec. 6 in New York:

Cincinnati

  • Carl H. Lindner III – Co-CEO of American Financial Group and Owner, Chairman and CEO of FC Cincinnati
  • Scott Farmer – CEO of Cintas Corporation

Detroit

  • Dan Gilbert – Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans, Inc.
  • Tom Gores – Owner of the Detroit Pistons and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity

Nashville

  • John Ingram – Chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. and CEO Nashville Soccer Holdings
  • Wilf Family – owners of the Minnesota Vikings
  • Turner Family – Managing Partners of MarketStreet Enterprises

Sacramento

  • Kevin Nagle – Managing Partner of Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings and Minority Owner of the Sacramento Kings
  • Jed York – CEO of the San Francisco Forty-NinersMark Friedman – President of Fulcrum Property Group and Minority Owner of the Sacramento Kings, and other limited partners.
  • Following the presentations on Dec. 6, a meeting of MLS’s Board of Governors on Dec. 14 in New York City will have additional discussions on expansion with ownership representatives from every MLS club.”The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” Commissioner Garber said in a league statement. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”The four ownership groups above were among 12 markets that submitted formal bids in Januaryfor a total of four expansion slots as part of the league’s expansion to 28 teams. Los Angeles Football Club, which kicks off in 2018, will be the league’s 23rd club, while expansion discussions continue in Miami.The league made it clear that while only Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are being considered for the next two expansion teams, all remaining markets are under consideration for the following two expansion clubs that will be announced at a later date. Those include Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Is youth soccer training to blame for American team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup?

The U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup raises questions about youth soccer training in the United States. (Eric Sondheimer)Eric SondheimerContact

 

ReporterVarsity Times Insider

The vision statement for US Club Soccer is pretty ambitious for an organization with some 500,000 youth participants and 70,000 registered coaches: “US Club Soccer will be the finest soccer organization in America and an integral part of U.S. National Team success.”Since the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in three decades after a stunning loss to Trinidad and Tobago last month, the knives are out, the second guessing is plentiful and the panic is evident in resignations and recriminations.evin Payne, the CEO of US Club Soccer, isn’t going anywhere. He’s planning to dig in and try to help solve the issues of why American soccer is facing some immense challenges and what can be done to soothe a collective psyche that is reeling.“What is needed is to stop thinking there’s a single thing we need to do like throwing a light switch,” he said. “There’s a number of reasons countries produce better players than us. I would argue what they are taught in training is more important than where they are training. We lost a soccer game. We need to get better. Those in the business know we need to get better.”US Club Soccer is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and Payne believes there needs to be a “culture change” in how to develop youth players.“The best way to measure soccer experience isn’t by wins and losses,” he said. “Our country for 30 years has encouraged youth soccer coaches to win games. That’s their mission. If you go to Argentina, Brazil, France or Germany, that’s not what the coaches are working on. They want to win matches, but the idea is how do we develop individual players?“We have to reorientate our thinking away from winning youth soccer games and more to developing good players. We have to convince parents and then convince coaches to look at their jobs that way.”Payne was chairman of a technical committee that helped create the elite Academy leagues in 2007 that were supposed to bring together top teenage boys’ players to train under top coaches in high-quality competitions. The league has resulted in numerous players being prevented from playing high school soccer in Southern California, leading to ill feelings and debate. They’re forced to choose one or the other.Now more trouble is brewing. U.S. Soccer is trying to do for the girls what it did for the boys, creating the girls’ version of the Academy league. This will be its first season, and girls’ players are abandoning high school teams in droves. West Hills Chaminade has lost eight players this season to the Academy league. Granada Hills lost its top two players.“Are these kids guaranteed a better opportunity for a national team spot or a college scholarship?” Chaminade girls’ coach Mike Evans asked.Boys’ players thought that was the case, but many have started returning to their high school teams. Payne does not agree with the way the Academy league has evolved and the conflicts it’s creating.“I’ve said long before we lost a soccer match in Trinidad the Academy program needs to be much more connected to youth soccer than it is,” he said. “It needs to be much more of a positive influence on the rest of the soccer environment in the way kids are trained.”Marvin Mires, the boys’ soccer coach at Downey, offered this opinion: “Payne and club soccer need to address the development of a player at the initial stages he is introduced to soccer. We are doing it all wrong, even the basics. Our players don’t know what foot to receive a ball with and what body position to have when receiving it. This would be the equivalent to how to pass a football or shoot a basketball.”Payne does not agree that a pay-to-play mentality is part of youth soccer. That’s what many critics say exists. If you have money, doors open.“If a kid has any talent to play for a club, they end up playing for the club,” he said. “The club will scholarship him. I don’t think there are too many kids missing out on soccer because they can’t afford to pay the fees to the club.”He said there are initiatives trying to bring more first- and second-generation Americans into the soccer movement.

So where does American soccer go from here?

“At the same time our nation was failing to qualify for the World Cup, our under-17 team won a game in the knockout round over Paraguay,” he said of a U.S. squad that reached the quarterfinals of the Biennial International Championship. “We shouldn’t look at the national team failing to qualify and scream, ‘We have to blow everything up because it’s all wrong’ just like we shouldn’t look at the win over Paraguay as everything is going great.“We do have to be willing to be more clear-eyed and self critical about the relative qualities of the players we’re developing. If I watch the national team for the top teams in the world, their players look different than our players. They’re more comfortable on the ball. They’re more natural in the way they move. They’re more tactically aware. Everything looks easier.“We’ve improved in the quality of players, but we’ve traditionally been able to bridge the gap through effort, athleticism and determination. We need to get to the point we have have the same but the soccer part gets better.’’Mires said one lesson must be learned.“Until club soccer decides how to coach coaches and how to develop players at the initial stages, we will always be behind,” he said.

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