12/21/18 Carmel FC team headed to Disney Tourney, Man United Fire Mourinho, Champ League Games Sweet 16 Games Set, Happy Holidays TV Game Schedule

As we head into the Holiday Season I want wish each of you a very Happy Holiday and thank you for being part of soccer nation with me.  Its been an interesting year – and circumstances this year have reminded me just how precious life is and how lucky we are to get to coach, and ref  and play and enjoy this beautiful game of soccer.  Click thru to the Ole Ballcoach and read the beautiful story about former US National Team star Claudia Reyna and his family story of life, loss and soccer.  2018 was an interesting year as we had to watch a World Cup without our US men’s team in it for the first time since 1990 (that’s 28 years), we got to see our own Indy 11 move into a new league and into the friendly confines of Lucas Oil, and we got to enjoy a State Championship for the Carmel Girls Soccer team and 8 former Carmel FC players.

CFC05Goldboys

Huge congrats to our Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold Team coached by Doug Latham (right) and Commish Jeremy Slivinski (left).  They went 5-2-1 to claim first in the Premier Division becoming the first ever Carmel FC boys team to do so.  They also were Grand Park Festival Champs this fall and finished 3-0 in the top flight of the Indianapolis College Men’s Showcase in early December.  Up next a move up to the National League (old MRL) in the Spring and a trip to Disney over the holidays for the famous Disney Soccer Showcase arguably one of the best youth soccer tourney’s in the country held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.  (see full story below) Best of luck boys !!

CHSGirls_state_champs2018

What A Season for the Carmel High Girls Soccer Team as they Won their 10th IHSAA State title with legendary Coach Frank Dixon and 8 former Carmel FC players (All-State Keeper Erin Baker, Emma Antoine, Brooke Bailey, Olivia Fray, Carly Jessup, Riley Pennington, Anna Springer, Emily Roper and former Carmel FC Coach coach Carla Baker.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wow some juicy games in the Sweet 16 as Atletico Madrid will face last season’s semi-finalist Juventus, Tottenham will face Borussia Dortmund and US star Christian Pulisic (assuming he can get that starting spot back-he started and went the full 90 this past weekend), Man United (post Jose) vs PSG, Schalke and US Weston McKinney against Man City, and perhaps the toughest draw defending finalist Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

MLS

I was excited to see MLS is adjusting the Playoff Schedule starting next year – reducing the season length by 3 weeks which will allow the season to end in mid Nov.  Part of the change will include reducing all of the playoff series to 1 game knockout games instead of 2 game Champion League like series.  I love both changes !!

Indy 11

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season as new teams Memphis FC, Birmingham Legion FC, Hartford Athletic and Loundon Uited will join the Easter Conference with the Indy 11 with 18 teams, 36 total across the Eastern and Western Divisions.  The Season will start March 9 with the 11 traveling to St. Louis.  Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Check out the new jersey for the 2019 Season on sale now just in time for the Holidays! I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !  Oh I forgot think your good enough to play for the Eleven? Open Try-outs start Jan 12, 10-2 pm at Grand Park.

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1             FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City 

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

 EPL

Manchester United Runs Out of Reasons to Stay Course With Mourinho– SI Avi Creditor

Sam Borden: Jose Mourinho’s Last Stand

Mourinho’s sacking overdue

Inside Story of how Man United and Mourinho Broke Down

Mourinho finally speaks

Why Man U’s Decision to appoint former player Solskjaer is so Surprising Michael Cox ESPN.com

Top Priorities for New Manager Solskajaer At Man United

Who is this New Manager for Man United – Sam Wallace the Telegraph

Spurs must Show Pochettino what he would miss if he left for United or Real Madrid- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Liverpool’s Lovren says they can match Arsenal’s Invicibles

Liverpool Fans Ridicule Shows how Far Jose Mourino has Fallen- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Shaqiri, Liverpool Add to Man Uniteds Woe – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Mo Salah goes GQ

 WORLD

What do the  Big Teams Need in the Jan Transfer Window?

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

UCL draw: United face PSG, Liverpool vs. Bayern

Manchester United will face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16, while Liverpool have been drawn against Bayern Munich. ESPN

 Klopp meets the team he turned down

Gab Marcotti digs into each of the round of 16 matchups in the UEFA Champions League as the draw put together some heavyweight teams.

Spurs will face different Dortmund in UCL – Vertonghen

Vertonghen is expecting a tougher test when the north Londoners meet Lucien Favre’s side, who are leading the Bundesliga by nine, in February. Ben Pierce – ESPNFC

Less of the ball is more: Praise for football’s minimalists

While the likes of Pep Guardiola have made control of the ball a central part of how their teams play, two notables are thriving without it.

Man United drew PSG, and social media loved it

“Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani against that Man Utd defence …” pretty much sums up the reaction to the Red Devils drawing PSG in the round of 16. Chris Wright ESPNFC

USA

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018

Zack Steffen talks to ESPN FC about his move to Manchester City, the future of the U.S. national team and ignoring all the haters.  Noah Davis ESPNFC

 The Reynas’ Story of Loss and Legacy

Claudio and Danielle Reyna experienced tragedy upon the death of their son, Jack, but his memory and legacy endure and are carried on in part by another son and U.S. youth national team standout, Giovanni.by Grant Wahl  SI

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

Josh Sargent scored less than two minutes into his Bundesliga debut as Bremen beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-1.

Bill Simmons on US Youth Soccer’s and MLS’s ‘Pro’s and Cons   SI

MLS

MLS shortens playoffs, goes to single elimination

The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams.

Zlatan signs Designated Player deal with Galaxy

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018.

Why are LA Galaxy, MLS’s most decorated club, such a mess?

No one has more MLS Cups than LA Galaxy, but for the second straight year, they’ve missed the playoffs. What’s plaguing MLS’ original glamour club?

Ibrahimovic has unfinished business with Galaxy, MLS

Ibrahimovic scored plenty of goals in 2018 but his club missed the playoffs. He’ll try to put that right next year.

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?

Indy 11 

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season

Indy 11 Opening Game March 9 @ St. Louis

Indy 11 Roster Starts to Take Shape

New Players added

Open Tryouts Sat Jan 12

Full Update on the Carmel FC 05 Gold Team headed to the Disney Showcase over the Holidays

CFC05Goldboys

The Disney Soccer Showcase is arguably one of the most coveted showcase and tournament opportunities for youth soccer in the country.  Any travel team can apply but the tournament is known for being invitation centered and bringing in the top teams from around the country.  It is held on two sites, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and additional facilities nearby.  The Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold team was the only Indiana boys team accepted in the 14u age division this year.  There are 48 teams in their age group in the tournament out of 100’s that applied.

Families will be heading to Orlando on December 26th.  Games are scheduled for the 27th, 28th and 29th.  The finals are on the 30th.  The competition looks fierce as they will be playing teams from multiple levels of national league.  This will be a good first test for these boys as they are moving to national league for the 2019 spring season.  They are the first boys team from our club to ascend to this level of play.  They did so by winning ISL 1st Division twice and then ISL Premier Division this past fall season.  They were the Grand Park Soccer Festival champions this fall and also finished 3-0 in the top flight at the Indianapolis Men’s College Showcase at the beginning of December.

Our hope is this 05 Boys team is representative of the great things to come for our club.  This team was not recruited/built.  It was developed.  Of the 16 players on the team 14 have spent their entire travel experience with Carmel FC.  Four of these players come from the original 2005 academy group when they were formed at u9 before the US Soccer age mandate change.  Two come from the original 2006 academy group.  The remainder joined the program the following couple of years.

This opportunity demonstrates the reality of player development that sometimes gets missed.  Over half of the 05 Boys team played on our 2nd (Blue) or 3rd (White) teams at some point when they were younger.  Our club’s and this age group’s focus on technical development over wins at a younger age has led to these players graduating to elite level play.  They developed technically on their respective teams over the years and now physically they are catching up.  John Carter, the past Indiana Soccer Director of ODP who passed away this fall used to say, (paraphrasing) “A player’s real ability and potential isn’t truly known until their teenage years.  At younger ages bad technical ability can be hidden by physical play.  Good technical ability may not be realized simply due to slower development of physical ability.  It all evens out when they get to 11v11 and growth spurts slow down.”  Carmel FC and specifically the 05 Boys team has taken those concepts to heart and is now seeing the results of patience.  At the younger ages they focused on every player on every team in their age group.  We think teams following in their footsteps will realize the same success.   Big thanks to Carmel FC General Manager and coach Jeremy Sklivinski for the full rundown and good luck boys!!

Bill Simmons on U.S. Youth Soccer’s Issues and MLS’s Pros and Cons

  • After getting involved heavily on the Southern California youth soccer scene with his daughter and becoming an LAFC season-ticket holder, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons notes the many flaws in the U.S. youth system and has some ideas for MLS.

By GRANT WAHL December 13, 2018

On the latest episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, SI.com interviews HBO’s Bill Simmons, the founder and CEO of The Ringer, about his experience over the last five years getting deep into Southern California youth soccer with his daughter—including being part of starting a new youth club. Simmons shares his thoughts on the youth soccer system in the U.S. and, as an LAFC season-ticket holder, on what MLS is doing and not doing well.You can listen to the full conversation in the podcast console below and subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Recent guests include ESPN’s Katie Nolan, former U.S. women’s national team forward Abby Wambach, former U.S. men’s national team forward Eddie Johnson, broadcasters Bob Ley and Derek Rae and U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Planet Fútbol with Grant Wahl

Bill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US SoccerBill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US Soccer

Here some of the highlights of the conversation:

On youth soccer and U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy:

“If you play on a Development Academy team, they say you can’t play for your high school. Right? So now you’re basically turning your kids into professional athletes when they’re 15. There’s no way in hell I wouldn’t want my daughter to play … in high school next year as a ninth-grader. What is better than playing for your high school team? That’s the single most important thing you can do as an athlete until you go to college.”

On what MLS owners need to do:

“It’s crazy to me that rich people just haven’t said, Let’s make the MLS a real thing. Let’s like quintuple the salary cap. Let’s just go for it.”

On being an LAFC season ticket holder:

“They were able to build a tradition in the span of like three weeks. There’s the eagle at the beginning, and they have the whole side behind one of the goals, everyone’s standing and doing chants the whole game and people are holding scarves up. And the logos. It kind of felt like the team had been around for 28 years, and meanwhile they’d been around for, you know, two weeks.”

On the quality of play in MLS:

“Unfortunately, the problem with the MLS is that the soccer is not as good as the experience. I think people love going to soccer games and being fans and emulating what they see in Europe and all these different places, and the soccer just isn’t good enough yet. It’s fine. It’s probably somewhere between double- and triple-A baseball, I would say.

“But the stands are major league. The fans and the experience and the stadiums, and you have all these rich owners now that are frustrated because they can’t get into the NBA or the NFL oh, so this is where they’ve taken their sports ownership juices, basically. But if you actually watch the games? It’s like, I went to this LAFC-New England Revolution game in [September], it was honestly one of the worst sporting events I’ve ever been to. It was so awful. The Revolution had like 20 fouls. They were just being thugs, they just weren’t that talented. And it was just awful. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is not a fun way to spend a Saturday.’ But then you go to other games, and the soccer is close enough that it’s fine. Every team has a couple really good players they can kind of latch onto.”

WAHL: Atlanta Raises the Bar as an MLS Champ–and Soccer City

On why the Krafts are perhaps the best owners in the NFL but maybe the worst in MLS:

“It’s too bad. It’s so easy and simple. They just need to build like a 22,000-seat soccer stadium somewhere in Boston that everyone can get to by an Uber. And put it in Cambridge, put it in the Seaport, wherever the hell you’re going to put it, put it next to Suffolk Downs, whatever. It just needs to be 22,000 people, and they’ll get a lot of college kids. You can’t go to those games in Gillette. It’s the same problem the WNBA has. The WNBA insists on putting their games in these NBA arenas, and then there’s 2,000 people there and it’s the most depressing place in the world. And you look at the Revs, and they’re in the 70,000-seat football stadium, it’s ludicrous. There’s no energy at all. It’s the worst. LAFC is like 28,000. So I would say either sell or try to build that stadium. Honestly, 22,000 is probably not big enough. Maybe 25,000?”

On sexism in youth soccer:

“Everything is geared toward boys’ soccer, especially in Southern California. These big clubs, they just care about the boys teams more. Their boys teams get better practice times, better fields, better everything. Better resources. Better coaching. It’s kind of shocking. I had never considered myself a sports feminist. And it was weird to go through this situation where you’re like, ‘Wow, my daughter is getting the short end of the stick because she’s female.’”

On what U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro should do with the youth soccer system:

“Carlos Cordeiro. Listen, Carlos, if you’re listening, this sucks, what’s going on right now. It’s really bad. We’re in a situation now with this club that we’ve built. We have 130 girls, one-third of them are scholarship. We’re playing the style that everyone wants America to play but we don’t. And we’re on the outside because we’re not one of the Starbucks clubs. I would love to know what the solution is for that. Your system that we’ve created for youth soccer does not allow for outliers.”

On his advice to youth soccer parents:

“To the parents out there, pick a side in the games. Then all get your chairs and stuff, and then you go on that one side. You don’t get to do the things where you’re kind of on both sides, because that’s how fights happen in games. Pick a side.”

THE REYNA’S STORY OF LOSS AND LEGACY

Following the Tragic Loss of their son as they make their way thru life in Soccer

By Grant Wahl  Sports Illustrated  December 12, 2018  

They were American soccer’s royal couple. In the summer of 1994, not long before the U.S. hosted the World Cup, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams were both staying in Laguna Beach, Calif., at the Holiday Inn. Claudio Reyna, a three-time NCAA champion at Virginia, was an emerging star, a gifted playmaker who had just made the first of his four World Cup squads. Danielle Egan, on her way to winning four NCAA titles at North Carolina with players like Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, was a speed demon on the wing who had recently scored her first goal for the world champion U.S. women. Their futures had no ceiling: Reyna and Egan were both 20 years old.Reyna was handsome, with thick, dark hair in a bowl cut, the New Jersey-born son of immigrants from Portugal and Argentina. Egan was gorgeous, a blonde tomboy, the pride of an Irish-American family on Long Island. They met in the hotel lobby. Reyna was speaking to some women’s players. Egan was looking for her roommate. He still remembers his pickup line: “Do you like pizza?” She did. They talked that night. They kept talking all summer. In three years they were married.From 1995 to ’99, a time when European soccer seemed exotic and was almost never broadcast on U.S. television, the Reynas lived their own two-person continental adventure. Claudio played in the German Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen, and then Wolfsburg. Danielle competed for a period in the German women’s third division, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as her Carolina days. Teammates smoked cigarettes and drank beer at halftime, and the eight-hour bus rides to games were brutal. So she stopped, and whenever Claudio had an off day husband and wife would pick a random spot on a paper map and drive there. Amsterdam, Brugge, Rotterdam. “Even little towns,” says Danielle. “We’ve been to more places in Holland than most Dutch people.”So much was happening. They lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment, drove a Volkswagen Beetle and hosted college friends for visits. Claudio’s career was taking off. Life was simple and pure and thrilling.And it got even better when their son Jack was born in April 1999. Claudio had just transferred to Rangers, a storied club in Glasgow, and the couple’s first months in Scotland were marked by a domestic league title and the joy of being around their newborn.“He was the easiest baby, the perfect firstborn child,” says Danielle. “He was like the first baby of everyone, soccer-wise. I’ve been told so many times: ‘The reason we had our baby was because of Jack.’”In the years ahead, whenever Claudio joined up with the national team, Jack was the unofficial team mascot, running up and down the sideline at practice.“I never saw anyone laugh and smile as much as him,” says Claudio. “He was so enthusiastic about everything.”Ultimately, as Claudio moved from Rangers to Sunderland to Manchester City to the New York Red Bulls, the Reynas would have four children in all, each with their own personalities and interests. Jack, who once recited poetry in UK speaking competitions with a full posh British accent, loved geography and architecture, and he fell for soccer by memorizing the names of famous stadiums.Giovanni (aka Gio), born in 2002, had a Manc accent that he lost, just as Jack did with his once they came to live in the States in 2007. Always more quiet than Jack, Gio is now one of the U.S.’s top soccer prospects, a 16-year-old forward who blends Claudio’s soccer IQ and Danielle’s athleticism, has his own Adidas video ad and just moved to Germany, where he’s expected to join Borussia Dortmund soon. (Former NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira has compared Gio to his French World Cup-winning teammate David Trezeguet.)Joah-Mikel, now 11, likes cooking and soccer, especially the tactical side of the game. And Carolina, the Reynas’ daughter, whip-smart at age 9, plays several sports and makes sure Joah doesn’t forget anything on his way to school.After his playing days, Claudio became the youth technical director for U.S. Soccer and then, in 2013, the sporting director at New York City FC. Don’t get him wrong, he was deeply disappointed when his team lost to Atlanta United in the recent MLS playoffs. But the Reynas also have a perspective on what matters in life that they earned in the most excruciating way possible. In May 2010, shortly after Jack’s team won the New York State Cup for his age group, he complained to his parents of a splitting headache.“At first,” says Danielle, doctors “thought maybe it was meningitis or Lyme disease or a sinus infection. But he had no other symptoms. None.”Then a neurologist noticed an issue with Jack’s peripheral vision in his left eye, and a subsequent CAT scan revealed a golf-ball-sized brain tumor. Surgery came next, followed by an agonizing three-week wait for a diagnosis.The result: Jack had stage IV glioblastoma, the kind of tumor John McCain and Ted Kennedy had—an extremely rare and aggressive condition, one that affects mostly men in their 60s and 70s.Jack Reyna was 11.

Jack (lying on his parents’ bed): Mom, am I going to die?

Danielle: Well, we all die. We just don’t know when. We don’t know if we’re going to be young. We don’t know if we’re going to be old. We don’t know if we’ll be hit by a truck, or get cancer. No one knows. It just kind of comes. When God is ready for you, he will come.

Upstairs, in the boys’ bedroom, the Lego structures are still intact. Intricate and towering, with as many as a thousand pieces each, the creations are a window into the mind of the boy who built them. A four-foot-high Eiffel Tower with the French tricolore on top. A block of three-story townhouses on a British streetscape. An elaborate recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars, replete with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and stormtroopers. Whenever Jack was suffering from his chemotherapy—from the nausea and the pain—he would repair to his room and work with the plastic bricks.“This was like his relaxation after chemo,” says Danielle. “He was very proud of this.”Adds Claudio: Each one “took a couple of weeks. He would go in here and sit. It was like his distraction. His therapy.”It’s a cloudy fall morning. The Reynas’ house in Bedford, N.Y., an hour outside Manhattan, is a monument to their children, to sports, to art and to the warmth of a family that welcomes a steady stream of friends and relatives through an open door. A basketball hoop stands sentry out front, and the backyard opens onto a soccer field, the fencing around its goal having been repaired not long ago after years of pounding by the kids.On the boys’ bedroom walls: a Lionel Messi jersey signed by the Argentine national team; an autographed Thierry Henry Barcelona shirt; jerseys dedicated to Jack by the Dutch national team and by Inter Milan legend Javier Zanetti. There’s also a wall-sized mural of a world map, designed for Jack, with the names of all the countries. Down in the living room, Claudio and Danielle sip coffee and share Jack’s story for three hours, their memories punctuated in nearly equal parts by smiles, laughter and tears.Back in their playing days, Claudio and Danielle shared a similar reputation for setting up teammates with perfectly-weighted passes—just the right speed, touch, direction and placement to give the receiver the best possible opportunity to do something positive with the ball. They do the same with each other when describing their firstborn son.

Danielle: “He was really smart. Super into geography—”

Claudio: “—geography, architecture, capitals. The second I got into the car, wherever we drove, he didn’t stop asking me questions. I couldn’t believe how happy he was with everything, including when we took him out to dinner. Do you remember?”

Danielle: “Especially in Europe. They didn’t always love when kids came. But we knew we could bring him to any restaurant, no matter how fancy. We would show up with this toddler, and they would gasp and say, ‘He’s so well-behaved!’”Claudio: “He always liked trying new kinds of food. The joy he had for life was just incredible. He would amaze us all the time—”

Danielle: “—and he loved chatting with adults. He was kind of like an old soul, talking about his travels and asking people about where they had been. He was super-inquisitive about other people’s lives.”Claudio: “We didn’t even talk about his dancing.”Danielle: “He loved music.”Claudio: “If music was on, he was dancing. Pop. Hip-hop. Everything.”A long pause. Slow, deep breaths. Tears.

Claudio: “He taught us how to love more, to trust more. You could count on him. You knew the love he had for his family.”Danielle: “And he loved how good Gio was t soccer. He [always] let Gio play with him and his friends. He always included him.”From the start, Gio was a freakish natural athlete, a child who could watch golf on TV for a few minutes and then pick up a club for the first time and hit picture-perfect iron shots in the backyard. He could dunk a basketball in the eighth grade. By the time he was 5, he was dominating Under-9 soccer games in the park. Claudio remembers how parents would give him the wink-wink, nudge-nudge look, assuming he was running Gio through countless hours of soccer drills, Marv Marinovich-style, on their backyard field. “What do you do with him?” they asked.“Nothing,” replied Claudio, who’d once helped coach Jack’s youth team but by now did little more than mess around with his boys in the backyard. They had no idea, Claudio thought to himself. Gio’s “training?” He was just playing with Jack and his older friends.“That’s what carried Gio, what launched him,” says Claudio. “He played with Jack. He fought with him. Jack would go in goal and let him shoot—not always let him win, though, that’s for sure. And Gio fought and fought, and that’s why he played. That’s who he wanted to be. He idolized and worshipped Jack. The one who made him what he is today, his talent, was really Jack.”

Jack is a boy. He has curly dark hair and soft brown eyes.

Jack’s smile is everybody’s favorite.

Jack has lots of favorites.

Jack loves food. He likes strawberries and salad and especially Lela’s Milanese.

But sushi is his favorite. His favorite restaurant is Nobu in New York City. He went there for his 13th birthday.

Jack plays lots of sports. He loves basketball and football, especially the Baltimore Ravens.

But his favorite sport is soccer. His favorite soccer team is Man City.

Jack has played on many soccer teams. His favorite coach is his dad, and his favorite player is his mom.

– From Jack’s Favorites, a children’s book written by Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher at Greenwich Country Day School

Jack fought. Oh, he battled. Chemo started right after the World Cup in 2010: Once every five weeks, for nine months, Jack and his parents would visit New York University’s Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. It always made Jack sick afterward. So did the radiation treatment he received for another six weeks.“The bravest person I ever met,” says Kristian Shkreli, who played youth soccer with Jack and later with Gio on NYCFC’s U-19 team. “Always, no matter what, he had a smile on his face.”After Jack’s diagnosis, Claudio had taken a leave of absence from his job with U.S. Soccer.“A complete fog,” he says of those days. “I couldn’t even take in information. I would sit with Jack all week. [Danielle and I] would live at the hospital and see the doctors and tag-team sleep.”Then, in April 2011, came what seemed like a reprieve. After nine months of chemo, everyone celebrated Jack’s 12th birthday with fantastic news: His MRIs were clear. No cancer.“The doctors were amazed,” says Danielle. “They said, ‘We’ve never seen a kid bounce back from radiation or chemo like this. He is such a fighter, he is always so positive.’”Tim Gerber, another old friend, remembers meeting Jack for the first time that September, at the start of seventh grade. He heard Jack talking to a teacher about soccer, and he could tell this kid knew his stuff.“I was a big soccer fan, and you don’t find many in our town,” says Gerber. “So I butted into the conversation, and we made a fast connection.” They would spend hours and hours playing FIFA.In December, though, Danielle noticed Jack’s speech was a little off, and so she and Claudio took him back to NYU. The bad news: Doctors said his cancer was back. The worse news: They would treat Jack, but it would only slow down his steady deterioration.“That’s when we knew,” says Claudio. “There was nothing you could do.”Over Jack’s final seven months, whenever he had the energy, he and his family would attack his bucket list. The Reynas traveled to Mexico (where at the hotel swimming pool Gio switched roles, helping Jack when he needed it). They toured the top of the Empire State Building, dined at Nobu, watched the Ravens from field level and met Dirk Nowitzki at a Mavericks-Knicks game. But there were other days when Jack didn’t want to go out at all. Or his parents didn’t.“Days I couldn’t even leave our bed,” says Claudio. “We couldn’t even move. Didn’t want to go anywhere.”For the most part, though, the Reynas kept their front door open, and visitors poured through. Gerber came by on Champions League matchdays or to play FIFA and talk sports and girls.Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher, always stopped over on Wednesdays to see Jack. When 3-year-old Carolina saw her, she said, “You’re Jack’s favorite teacher!” On her drive home one day, Johnson decided to write a children’s book for Carolina about her brother called Jack’s Favorites. When she read the story to Jack, he flashed one of his brilliant smiles.

Jack likes school and he’s good at it. He solves math problems faster than his friends, and he reads lots of books.

His favorite subject is geography. Jack knows all the countries and all the capitals in the world almost.

One of Jack’s favorite things to do is travel. He likes to fly on airplanes and visit new places. Jack has been to many cities, including Paris, Rome, London, Milan, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, just to name a few.

Jack loves dancing and music too. His favorite concert was Jay-Z in Carnegie Hall in New York City. He went there with his dad in 2012. He even got to go backstage and meet Jay-Z in person.

P.S. Jack has moves.

At home, Jack was put on a morphine drip to ease the pain. But even as he lost his abilities to walk and eventually to speak, the visitors kept coming. Claudio and Danielle still marvel at the 12- and 13-year-old classmates who would sometimes spoon-feed their dying friend.“I don’t know how we did it,” says Claudio, “but despite all the sadness we had this really happy place. People wanted to be here. It was loud, and he loved it. [We] felt it was important for him to see that everyone was still happy.”The Reynas had resolved that they still had to have joy in their family, Danielle explains, but their emotions were complex.“Nobody should have to watch their child, someone they love, die,” she says. “It’s horrible. You could tell he was fighting it. We had him in the house, and there were almost always at least 20 people around, sometimes more. He got good energy from them. People also needed to see him. And from what friends have said, they needed to see us. And they got strength from us. The day he died, we called the hospice near us. We kind of knew it was coming. She came and said it was. And we sent Gio to two of our best friends here. Then Jack passed. You’re so numb at that point. You don’t want him to go, but you don’t want him to be in pain anymore.”

Jack Reyna passed away on July 19, 2012, at the age of 13, surrounded by people who loved him.

One day after Jack’s funeral, Claudio and Danielle were sitting in their backyard with some friends and family. A recent rain had cleared, and everyone gazed up at the sky to witness an upside-down rainbow shaped like a human smile. Jack.“I had never seen one in my life,” says Claudio. “None of us had. It was perfect.”Six years after Jack’s death, his presence remains palpable in so many ways. A half-dozen friends wrote about him in their college application essays. A few years ago, Gerber penned a 25-page diary entry about Jack (“My Hero”) that he plans to give to Claudio and Danielle. Now a sophomore at Dartmouth, Gerber is studying economic development, dreaming of someday working for a nonprofit or starting a social entrepreneurship company.

“A lot of what I think about my future is because of what Jack taught me about the importance of being kind to others and about the privilege that we have,” Gerber says. “Not just getting to go to great schools and have the chance to travel and have different experiences, but also the ability to wake up every morning and see the people you love and be a good brother, a good teammate, a good family member.”  Claudio and Danielle remember seeing a family therapist when Jack was sick, and their counselor was struck by how they managed to still spend time with their other kids, preventing their home from descending into total gloom, maintaining support for one another. They’d heard stories about couples divorcing after losing a child, and they wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to them.Asked if they have any advice for parents in a similar situation, Claudio and Danielle point out that every case is different. But then Danielle says: “Keep laughter in your family. Respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and grieving processes, because we’re all different humans, and you’re not always going to be on the same wavelength or in the same mood. Be as happy as you can with the kids. Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s a cheesy little saying, but it’s really true.”For Claudio, this shared experience brought even more perspective to the idea of what’s important and what isn’t.“You’re living for your children. But this took it to a whole other level,” he says. “You have to be really strong every day, but also understand that I would feel very good one day and she wouldn’t—or vice versa. There are these different waves.”The notion that it gets better with time, though? That’s not true, Claudio says. Every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every birthday without Jack is still painful. Not long ago, when the family was driving through New York City, their car’s GPS system had them pass by the NYU hospital where they’d spent so much time with Jack.“We didn’t even say a word, but I knew Danielle was thinking about it,” Claudio says. “There are constant reminders.”And those reminders lead frequently to hypotheticals. “Where would he be now?” Danielle asks of Jack, who would be 19, a college sophomore. “Would he be playing college soccer? Would he be at UVA? At Carolina? Because to me he was that kind of player. Would he have a girlfriend? What would he be studying?”

One question they feel comfortable answering: What would Jack think about Gio’s emerging soccer stardom?

Claudio tells a story. In Jack’s final months, just before he started using a wheelchair, he went with his dad to see Gio’s tryout for a basketball team. Jack was slurring his words by then, but 30 minutes into the session he turned to Claudio, with his trademark smile, and said, “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.” And he was right.

“He wasn’t jealous about anything,” says Claudio. “He absolutely thought Gio was incredible.”The feeling was mutual. Gio was 9 when Jack passed away. And while Danielle says Gio was mostly quiet about it, she could tell it was extremely difficult for him. The evening after Jack died, she says, her voice breaking, Gio told her: “I’m never going to be a good soccer player now, because my big brother taught me everything.”Years later, Jack’s presence is felt every time the Reynas watch Gio play. His rise to the top of the U.S. soccer prospect pool was swift and at times overwhelming for the family. In April 2017, when Gio was 14, his NYCFC team won the Generation Adidas Cup, a tournament for MLS U-17 teams, and Gio was named the event’s best player.The following month, at the Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy, he had four assists and four goals, including the game-winner in the final against England, as the U.S. U-15 national team won one of the world’s most prestigious youth tournaments.

Europe’s top clubs scouted the event, and afterward Claudio started receiving calls from teams in Germany, the Netherlands, England and Italy.

At 14, Gio hired an agent, and he signed a long-term endorsement deal with Adidas after a bidding war with Nike. He also secured a Portuguese passport (through Claudio’s mother), which allowed him to sign officially with a European club when he recently turned 16—as opposed to having to wait until he turned 18 per FIFA rules if he only had a U.S. passport. In August, Goal.com reported that Gio was set to join the academy of Borussia Dortmund, the club of fellow American Christian Pulisic. (Claudio said he had no comment for now on Gio’s club future.) For the past couple months, Gio has been in Germany acclimatizing to the environment as he waited to turn 16.The decision for Gio to leave for Europe was hardly an easy one. When Pulisic joined Dortmund at 16, he was able to live with his father, Mark, for the first two years. Claudio and Danielle can visit Gio, but they have to stay in the New York area for their two younger kids and for Claudio’s job. Meanwhile, Claudio has received criticism from some quarters of MLS and from NYCFC supporters for not keeping Gio with the team he works for, or even signing him to an MLS pro contract and then selling him for a transfer fee to, say, Dortmund.“I believe 100% in what we’re doing at NYCFC,” says Claudio, “but I have to remove my hat as a sporting director for him. I’m his dad first, second and third, and I’m going to support him” and what Gio decides to do.Danielle, meanwhile, says that, as a mother, part of her desperately wanted Gio to stay at home with NYCFC—at least until he turned 18.“The thought of him leaving at 16 is pretty heart-crushing,” she says. “I’m sure it has something to do with Jack, too, in the sense that I have relied on [Gio] as the big boy. … I cry a little just thinking about it.”

But it’s hard for anyone to argue against the notion that, in soccer terms, Dortmund would be the best possible place for Gio’s career. The club has a proven track record of developing young talent and for giving those players opportunities with the first team, even in Champions League games. And Gio’s potential is tantalizing.“He’s much more of an athlete than I was, much more of a goal scorer,” says Claudio. “He’s very technical and has a good feel for the game. He has a great free kick and can strike a ball well. Danielle was a great runner—and he’s a runner.”It’s no wonder that Gio’s first ad campaign with Adidas focused on creativity, presenting him as part of the solution in reviving U.S. soccer after the World Cup 2018 qualifying failure. And while Gio has his own distinct identity, the influence of Claudio, Danielle and Jack is unmistakable.

Never was that more clear for Claudio and Danielle than on April 8, 2016, one day before Jack would have turned 17. Gio, then 13, was playing against Uruguay in his first international appearance for the U.S. U-15 team. The game was in Rosario, Argentina, the birth country of Claudio’s father, Miguel, who had traveled with his wife, Maria, to watch alongside Claudio and Danielle.Gio was magical that day in a 2-0 U.S. victory, and in the 38th minute he scored a truly remarkable goal. Running at speed onto a pass down the right side, Gio was tripped by a lunging Uruguayan defender and fell to the ground in a somersault, then somehow vaulted back up to his feet without missing a step. The assistant referee raised his flag for a foul, but the referee played the advantage, and Gio beat two more defenders before coolly slotting his shot past the goalkeeper into the net.Claudio can’t tell the story of that day without breaking down in tears.

“It’s hard for us,” he says between sobs. “We do bring up Jack to Gio. We talk about Jack all the time, but we don’t want to push it on him. Sometimes we say, ‘Your brother is with you.’ And that day [in Rosario] there was no doubt. The next day was Jack’s birthday. The whole game Gio was ridiculous. You don’t know how your kid is going to do, and he had such an amazing game.”

That day, the Reynas couldn’t help but imagine Jack turning to Claudio again, flashing his proud smile and saying: “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.”

Michael Bradley, Zack Steffen included in Gregg Berhalter’s first U.S. squad

erhalter details what he believes the DNA of the U.S. national team should be after being introduced as the team’s next head coach. (1:07)

10:00 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The first squad picked by new U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter features a 27-man roster comprised entirely of Major League Soccer players. Among those set to attend the annual January training camp are Michael Bradley, the most-capped player in the squad with 142 international appearances, and U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year Zack Steffen.Also included are MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, Rookie of the Year Corey Baird and Comeback Player of the Year Gyasi Zardes. One notable omission from the initial list is Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, who underwent ankle surgery in October.The team will meet in Chula Vista, Calif. starting Jan. 6, and the camp will conclude with friendlies against Panama in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 27 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and against Costa Rica in San Jose, Calif. six days later. A 28th player is expected to be added some time prior to the start of camp.”In putting together this domestic-based roster, we started with a number of players who we think can be a core part of the group moving forward,” Berhalter said. “We then looked at players that excelled this year in Major League Soccer, and finally chose players that can play a specific role in our game model.”We are very excited to start to implement our ideas about the style of play and the culture we want to develop in the national team.”The average age of the team is 24 years, 230 days, with the average number of U.S. appearances standing at 10.The roster also includes 12 uncapped players, seven of whom — Baird, Russell Canouse, Jeremy Ebobisse, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Djordje Mihailovic, Tyler Miller and Auston Trusty — have been invited to a U.S. camp for the first time at senior level.The camp has usually been held at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., but Berhalter opted to hold the gathering at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, formerly the Olympic Training Center.”Being in Chula Vista will help us create a team environment as we start to establish our culture and really be able to work on the details of our style of play,” he said. “The facilities are outstanding and provide everything we need to accomplish our goals both on and off the field. They are accustomed to hosting elite athletes, so we believe this will be a great place for this group to get started.”

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)

DEFENDERS (10): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati; 10/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 6/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018, is ready for Man City

12:06 PM ETNoah DavisU.S. soccer writer

At the beginning of 2018, Zack Steffen hadn’t played a minute for the United States men’s national team. At the club level, he had been a starter with the Columbus Crew for just a single season, and the team’s future in Ohio was very much in doubt.Twelve months later, the Crew are saved, Steffen is the U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper and he has just completed a multimillion-dollar transfer to Manchester Citythat will see him head back to Europe in July. That’s enough to get a player named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year, which was confirmed for Steffen on Tuesday.On the eve of the announcement, Steffen chatted with ESPN FC about #SaveTheCrew, his former club manager Gregg Berhalter taking over the U.S. job and whether he will ever get between the posts for Manchester City.

ESPN FC: This year was a whirlwind for you. Can you put the experience into words?

Zack Steffen: I think you’ve put it in the best of terms. It’s a testament to hard work, dedication to your craft, being humble and using your support system when you need it to keep going through the ups and downs. You need to persist.

ESPN FC: What’s the best save you made this year?

Steffen: I would have to go with the double save against France in that game in Lyon. That knuckling ball, and then having to go low and get just a touch to keep it out.

ESPN FC: You got your first national team minutes in January against Bosnia and Herzegovina. What do you remember from that match?

Steffen: I remember that I wasn’t nervous. I remember just telling myself to go out and play the game. Have fun. Don’t do anything that I didn’t normally do. Just try to reach back and be calm. That’s exactly what I did.

Zack Steffen was named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year for 2018. USA Today Images

ESPN FC: Do you feel like the U.S. No. 1?

Steffen: I mean, I know all the spots are up for grabs. We have a whole new coach and a whole new staff. It’s going to be a brand-new year. So, I do not. I think that’s the way I’ve been raised, to be humble, stay down in it and always train like it’s your spot to take and your spot to lose. I’m going to go into training with the attitude of building off this year, trying to get better, trying to push my teammates and become a leader.

ESPN FC: Can you take that spot?

Steffen: Yeah. I think it’s anybody’s spot to take. It’s open. Right now, every position is wide open. But I feel confident in what I’ve done. Those games and the camps have given me a good foundation to keep working hard and hopefully do well in the coming games.

ESPN FC: Gregg Berhalter was coach at Columbus and now he’s the U.S. national team coach. How does that change your relationship with him?

Steffen: Gregg’s great. I think it’ll change our relationship a little bit just because I don’t see him every day and joke around with him every day. He’s not out there pushing me every day. But at the same time, it’s going to be great. He has great respect for me and great respect for soccer in this nation. He’s a demanding coach, and I can see him being even more demanding with me than he was with the Crew. I’m ready for it. He’s going to bring in a plan and give us a character as a team and as a nation. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes and what exactly he’s going to be like.

ESPN FC: Have you talked to him about this at all?

Steffen: Nah. We’ve only texted here and there, congratulations for each other and happy holidays.

ESPN FC: How good can this U.S. team be?

Steffen: There’s a lot of young talent. We’re very explosive, quick and powerful. I think we can use that to our advantage. I think Gregg will use that to our advantage. This year, we really needed a plan going into games, a style going into games. Personality. That was obviously tough when we had so many guys debuting for the national team. It’s nice to get this year as a foundation for the youth.

Shaka Hislop explains why Zack Steffen chose Man City

While Shaka Hislop doesn’t see Zack Steffen dislodging Ederson as Manchester City’s No. 1, he still sees benefits from the move for the American.

ESPN FC: Who’s your closest friend on the team?

Steffen: I have a lot of close friends. It helps that Wil [Trapp] and I are on the Crew together. We go to national team games together, and that’s great. Gyasi [Zardes] is a great guy, as well. Then we have Shaq Moore, Tim Weah, Kellyn Acosta. There are a lot. Ethan Horvath and Alex Bono. I could keep going. Tim [Howard]. Tyler [Adams]. That’s the good thing about this group: There aren’t really any big egos. Everybody is coming into work hard, and everybody is coming in to get better.

ESPN FC: A big story off the field was the “Save the Crew” movement. Where were you when you found out that the team was going to stay?

Steffen: I was in my hotel room in Tampa Bay when the U.S. was playing Colombia. I think I got a call from somebody or saw a tweet. I started making calls and checking Twitter. It was an awesome day. Before that, there were some times where you were caught thinking about what was going to happen next year. Gregg and the coaching staff did a pretty good job in helping us focus on soccer and the season because they are very detailed. But when that day came and the news broke, it was definitely a feeling of relief and happiness, for ourselves, but also for the fans of Columbus and the community. It was a testament to their dedication to us, the team and the community. They are the ones who did it in the end.

ESPN FC: What most excites you about moving to City?

Steffen: It’s a new opportunity and new challenges. I can look forward to that. Getting back over to Europe and playing at a little bit higher level, then hopefully becoming a leader for the national team.

ESPN FC: When did you first know they were interested in signing you?

Steffen: I knew in mid-August. That’s when it all started. David Rouse, a goalkeeping scout for Manchester City, came over for maybe a week in October. He was an awesome guy. He showed me what kind of club they were like. We talked about Manchester City. He watched me and watched a game.

ESPN FC: What’s that like, knowing that there’s a scout from one of the biggest teams in the world watching you play live? Were you thinking about him in the stands?

Steffen: Yeah, that was in the back of my mind. But at the same time, you just have to go out, play your game and not do anything that you’re not used to or uncomfortable with. They’ve scouted you. They wouldn’t be watching you if they didn’t like you and didn’t trust you. You have to keep playing and not think about it. Think about it afterwards. It worked out.

ESPN FC: You went to Freiburg in 2014. What did you learn about playing in Europe during that stint that will help you at City?

Steffen: When I was over there, I learned a lot about the style of soccer and the lifestyle. Off the field, I learned a lot about myself. I wasn’t ready at that time. I wasn’t happy. Coming back was a smart call. Now, I’m much more mature. I’ve had my stint at Columbus. My family has been right by my side throughout, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I found my happiness. I’m ready to head back over and take on the challenges. I don’t think it’ll be as hectic and hard this time.

ESPN FC: Have you spoken with Pep Guardiola?

Steffen: I have not. When I went over for meetings, I met a bunch of the coaches. I went out to dinner with the goalie coach and some of the other higher-ups. They are all great people, welcoming and caring. It’s great.

ESPN FC: The British press can be brutal. One recent headline was, “Zack Steffen is unlikely to ever play for Man City. So why did he join them?” What’s your reaction to that?

Steffen: Negative press is always going to come out. There are always going to be your supporters, and then there are going to be haters. I kind of laugh at them. I’m confident in my abilities and what I can do if I continue to work hard and focus. I don’t really care what other people think.

ESPN FC: City Football Group has clubs all over the world, and there has been some talk that you’ll get loaned out. Are you going there to play for Man City?

Steffen: Of course. I want to get there as soon as possible and compete. Or whenever that happens, I think I’ll be ready. And they know I’m ready to compete.

ESPN FC: Would you be disappointed if you weren’t on a Premier League roster next August when the season starts?

Steffen: I trust in Man City and what plans they have for me. So no, no, I won’t be.

ESPN FC: Can you be their No. 1?

Steffen: If everything works out and everything falls into place, anything can happen.

ESPN FC: Best-case scenario for you in 2019?

Steffen: I would love to be in Manchester on the roster. We’ll start with that.

Major League Soccer changes playoff format, increases number of teams

Dec 17, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Major League Soccer announced its new playoff structure on Monday, introducing a new single-elimination format to be used in the 2019 season.The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams, and will also see the playoffs take place entirely between the October and November FIFA international windows. The playoffs will begin on Oct. 19, while MLS Cup will be held on Nov. 10.The changes address several criticisms of the format that has been used for the last several seasons. The most recent format was comprised of an initial, single-elimination knockout round followed by conference semifinals and finals that were contested over two legs. The MLS Cup final was then held at the home field of whichever team had the better regular season record.But there had been complaints that the format didn’t do enough to reward teams for regular season excellence. In single-elimination games the higher seed advanced 67.3 percent of the time, while in 78 examples of two-game series over the years, the higher seed advanced just 55.1 percent of the time. Now the higher seed will host every match, with the top seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye.The schedule also reduces the impact that the two FIFA windows had on the competition. The November window was especially problematic given that the playoffs essentially went on hiatus for two weeks, disrupting the rhythm of the postseason. Now that break has been eliminated, while the October window can be used by teams as a recovery period ahead of the playoffs.The earlier finish to the season will increase the odds of better weather for the season’s most important games. The calendar will also allow for more compatibility with the 2022 World Cup, which is set to begin on Nov. 21 of that year.The upcoming MLS season begins on March 2 and will consist of 34 matches. The regular season will end on Oct. 6.

Transfer window: Man United, Arsenal, Real Madrid need defenders; Man City, PSG to wait?

3:01 AM ETESPN

The transfer window is nearly upon us, but clubs across Europe are already planning for their January business. Who will come in? Who will depart?ESPN FC’s club correspondents delve into the deals which may be on the cards.

Premier League

MAN CITY: In need of a holding midfielder

TRANSFERS

What does the team need in January?

Manchester City have two quality players for every position, with the exception of defensive midfield and left-back. The holding role in the centre of midfield is a crucial position within Pep Guardiola’s setup — acting as a pivot going forward and crucial defensively — and while Fernandinho plays the role perfectly, at the age of 33 he can’t be overplayed and any injury would be a serious setback.Benjamin Mendy is the only left-back at the club and is ruled out until February, although Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko have done a good job as replacements.

Who are the major targets?

Guardiola has ruled out any major new signings in the January transfer window. The City boss is aware that his squad is short in the centre of midfield and wanted Italy international Jorginho in the summer — before he opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Chelsea. Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong is now a leading target for the position, but with Ajax reaching the Champions League knockout stages and battling PSV for the Eredivisie title, the 21-year-old wants to wait until the summer before considering a move. City are prepared to be patient.

Who will be leaving?

Highly-rated young forward Brahim Diaz has turned down a new contract, and with his deal running out in the summer, he looks set to leave in the January transfer window. Sources have told ESPN that Real Madrid are leading the chase for the Spain under-21 international and are prepared to spend around £10m to show their commitment, rather than waiting until the end of the season and picking him up for free.Centre-back Eliaquim Mangala has not played this season and could leave, while fringe players Philippe Sandler and Yangel Herrera could also go out on loan.

Any new contracts?

City have already been busy tying up some of their most exciting young talent to new deals over the past 12 months. Guardiola has revealed that the club have opened talks with Leroy Sane over an improved contract, although the Germany winger’s current deal doesn’t run out until the summer of 2021. John Stones is also seen as part of the long-term future but is signed up until 2022.City have three players out of contract at the end of the season: Diaz turned down a new offer, and Mangala will be allowed to leave for free, which leaves captain Vincent Kompany. The 32-year-old has had injury problems in recent years, but has played his part this season. After a decade in Manchester, he wants to stay. — Jonathan Smith

LIVERPOOL: Will injuries force them to spend?

What does the team need in January?

Liverpool’s position up until to the past few weeks has been that there would be no January incomings. Injuries, however, may force Klopp, who has been reluctant to make additions midway through a season, to reassess his thinking. Liverpool currently have just two centre-backs fit and available.Will that mean Liverpool make a move for a centre-back next month? It remains unlikely given that Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are expected to return shortly after the New Year, but Liverpool will be open to activity in January.

Who are the major targets?

The links to Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, whom Liverpool have tried to sign in the past, will not go away. Sources have told ESPN FC that the U.S. star is keen on a new opportunity, with his Dortmund contract expiring in 2020 and no sign of a new deal forthcoming. However Dortmund’s stance, both publicly and privately, remains that no “essential” player will be sold in the winter as they sit atop of the Bundesliga.World Cup-winning right-back Benjamin Pavard has been linked with a move recently, although there are suggestions that the €35m release clause in his Stuttgart contract only comes into force in the summer.

Who will be leaving?

There should not be any high-profile departures this January. This time 12 months ago, Philippe Coutinho was gearing up towards his £142m move to Barcelona. But Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have all signed long-term contracts at Anfield in recent months.

An agent for Simon Mignolet told ESPN FC that his client is seeking a move next month but appreciates that it will be difficult for Liverpool to grant that wish. Elsewhere, a number of teams desperate for a striker may take a punt on Divock Origi, and Dominic Solanke could leave on loan, having not made a single appearance this season.

Any new contracts?

Liverpool have been proactive in locking down top players to new contracts, but it’s a different story for Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno. Both of their contracts expire in the summer, and Moreno is expected to leave on a free transfer, with sources telling ESPN FC that his former club Sevilla are monitoring the left-back.Meanwhile, teams will be keeping close tabs on Sturridge’s betting case with the English Football Association. Sturridge has been given until February to respond his charges from the FA of allegedly breaching rules on betting. That could rumble on. — Glenn Price

 

MAN UNITED: Quiet January ahead at Old Trafford?

What does the team need in January?

In terms of personnel, Manchester United need a centre-back and a right winger but more importantly, they need to find some inspiration from a new manager after the sacking of Jose Mourinho. There’s a chance that bolstering the squad may offer some of that, but the problems at Old Trafford extend beyond the players and former manager. A new signing might lift the mood ahead of the second half of the season, but it’s difficult to know what position is most important because United are struggling at both ends of the pitch.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that despite Mourinho’s exit, the club are still happy to spend in January if long-term targets become available. There is, though, an acknowledgement that it is not an easy window in which to do business, and they will not panic-buy just for the sake of it. If defenders like Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar or Nikola Milenkovic were made available for a reasonable price, United would be interested.

Who will be leaving?

There is discontent among the players who are not featuring regularly, although Mourinho went on record to say no one has asked to leave. Andreas Pereira, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian will consider their options if offers are made in January, but the bulk of the squad should stay together unless individuals push to leave.Sources have told ESPN FC that United will reject offers for Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, but they are braced for their resolve to be tested with cut-price offers — particularly from Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Any new contracts?

Sources have told ESPN FC that United are in talks with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Ashley Young, who could all be free agents in the summer. David De Gea and Anthony Martial are also priorities but they have deals until 2020 and United have time on their side. — Rob Dawson

ARSENAL: Defensive help is a priority

What does the team need in January?

A defender, preferably two. A proper winger would be nice as well, but shoring up the injury-ravaged back four must be the priority for Arsenal. They currently only have three fit centre-backs in the squad, with Laurent Koscielny only just coming back from a seven-month layoff, while all four of their full-backs have had injury problems this season.Arsenal’s unbalanced attack also needs a natural wide player, but those are expensive and the club might be reluctant to ruin the prospects of starlet Reiss Nelson when he comes back from his loan at Hoffenheim next season.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that both Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly are on Arsenal’s radar, but that would require either club being willing to sell to a direct rival. Real Valladolid’s Fernando Calero has also been linked and could be a more realistic target. Then there’s always the possibility that recruitment head Sven Mislintat will take everyone by surprise by unearthing some relatively unknown talent. In terms of attackers, Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, Roma’s Cengiz Under and Boca Juniors’ Cristian Pavon have all been frequently linked, but it’s unclear whether Arsenal can afford a deal for them at this point in time.

Who will be leaving?

It’s unlikely we’ll see any major departures unless other clubs come in with good offers for players that are surplus to requirements. Arsenal would probably entertain bids for Mohamed Elneny, for instance, but the Egyptian has shown an unwillingness to move in the past. Aaron Ramsey’s contract is up in 2019, but he is expected to stay in order to collect a major signing bonus when he leaves as a free agent in the summer, although Arsenal would want to cash in on the player while they can.

Any new contracts?

The possibilities of Ramsey’s contract talks being resurrected seem slim to none, while Danny Welbeck isn’t expected to get a new deal either. Goalkeeper Petr Cech’s contract also expires in the summer and Arsenal might consider giving the 36-year-old a one-year extension — if he’s willing to remain a backup to Bernd Leno. A few mistakes have crept into Leno’s game lately, so the club might be wise to keep Cech around a bit longer. — Mattias Karen

CHELSEA: Can they get a top striker?

What does your team need in January?

Chelsea clearly need an elite goal scorer, as Maurizio Sarri’s faith in Alvaro Morata fades with every passing game and Eden Hazard required to be as much of a creator as he is a goal threat. Strikers of such proven calibre are rare, though, and none appear to be available in January.Sarri’s reluctance to look to the transfer market for solutions, coupled with his insistence that his current first-team squad is too big, will likely dull Marina Granovskaia’s sense of urgency. Only the threat of an imminent FIFA transfer ban could significantly alter the landscape.

Who are the major targets?

Borussia Dortmund starlet Pulisic fits the profile of a Chelsea signing perfectly, particularly since both Willian and Pedro Rodriguez are getting older and Hazard could leave next summer. But there is little sense in Granovskaia making a concerted push in January unless FIFA action or the threat of a Premier League rival — Liverpool have also been heavily linked with Pulisic — forces the club to bring forward their plans, particularly since Dortmund sound determined to charge a hefty premium for any midseason squad disruption.

Who will be leaving?

Chelsea will drive Danny Drinkwater to Fulham if Claudio Ranieri decides he wants a Leicester City reunion at Craven Cottage, while Sarri has made it clear that club captain Gary Cahill and Victor Moses are not in his planCesc Fabregas seems to be linked with a move to Serie A in every window these days, but Sarri would require a replacement if the man he regards as his only cover for Jorginho is confirmed as a departure. Denis Suarez, unsettled on the fringes at Barcelona, could be a reasonably priced successor. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen will stay unless they agitate to leave. There could also be loan moves for Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi — the latter only if he signs a new contract first.

Any new contracts?

Hazard remains adamant that he will keep his options open until the summer, but Chelsea have other decisions to make. David Luiz and Fabregas are both set to be free agents next summer, although there is an option to extend Olivier Giroud’s stay by one more year

Hudson-Odoi’s contract situation is also causing some concern at Stamford Bridge — his current deal expires in 2020, the same year as Hazard. Chelsea regard him as one of the brightest talents their academy has produced, and they are well aware that the example of Jason Sancho’s defection from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund is an enticing one for many youngsters. — Liam Twomey

TOTTENHAM: Midfield depth is thin

What does the team need in January?

Spurs need to increase the proportion of homegrown players in their squad, having been forced to leave three out of their Champions League squad because of rules limiting the number of non “locally trained” players. Their inability to sell unwanted foreign players in the summer was just as big a problem as their failure to sign anyone, so there is every chance that Tottenham’s squad will get smaller in January. But the north Londoners could do with a central midfielder as Mousa Dembele seems to be coming to the end of his time with the club, while the injury-plagued Victor Wanyama cannot be relied upon.

Who are the major targets?

Tottenham tried to sign Jack Grealish in the summer, and he would tick a couple of boxes, but the 23-year-old signed a new five-year contract with Aston Villa in September. Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake has also been linked with Spurs amid ongoing uncertainty about Toby Alderweireld’s future.

Who will be leaving?

Striker Vincent Janssen has not made a single appearance this season, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is also wasting time at the club having had only one substitute outing this campaign. Dembele and Fernando Llorente are out of contract in the summer and seem unlikely to sign new ones; if Spurs want to get any money for them, they will need to cash in next month. Michel Vorm will also be a free agent in the summer and having lost the No. 2 goalkeeper spot to Paulo Gazzaniga, he’d be allowed to leave if an offer came in.

Any new contracts?

Jan Vertonghen’s deal expires in the summer, but he has stated he expects Spurs to activate a clause that will extend his stay until 2020. Meanwhile, Alderweireld is out of contract in the summer, and although Tottenham can activate a one-year extension, that would also activate a release clause making the Belgian centre-back available for £25m in the summer. Outside of those two, the priority is to get Christian Eriksen to commit his long-term future to the club as he’s entering the last 18 months of his deal, and his status is a growing concern. — Ben Pearce

Transfer Rater: Zidane to Premier League? Morata to Barca?

ESPN FC’s Ale Moreno breaks down the latest transfers surrounding Zinedine Zidane, Alvaro Morata and many more in Transfer Rater.

Europe

BARCELONA: Will they spend big on a centre-back?

 

What does the team need in January?

Barcelona don’t feel they can improve their starting XI in January but may turn to the transfer market to ensure their relatively thin squad doesn’t become a problem in the latter stages of the Champions League. In that sense, they may move for a centre-back on a short-term deal if Samuel Umtiti’s knee injury doesn’t improve. Other plans, though, such as signing a midfielder and a long-term Luis Suarez replacement, are likely to wait until the summer.

Who are the major targets?

The club have been cagey on defenders they could target if Umtiti is going to be out for a long time. Their options will be limited (Diario Sport say Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen is the preference) given they only want a stop-gap to fill in until the summer, when they will go all out for Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt.Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is also a target for next season, while Adrien Rabiot, who could be available for free in six months, is also on the table.

Who will be leaving?

Barca’s squad size — they have just one senior left-back, for example — means there’s not much room for departures. Midfield is one area where they could potentially subtract, but only if the players themselves are desperate for more minutes elsewhere. Rafinha might have fallen into that category, but an injury has ruled him out until next season. That means Denis Suarez is the only player with an uncertain future next month. There’s plenty of interest from Spain, Italy and England.Another to keep an eye on: B team midfielder and England youth international Marcus McGuane.

Any new contracts?

The Catalan club have the biggest wage bill in the world largely thanks to Lionel Messi’s renewal last year. Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have all been tied to new terms recently, too. The only player, then, waiting on a pay rise is Jordi Alba. His deal is up in 2020, and talks have begun between the club and his agents, although an agreement is not yet close.Munir and Thomas Vermaelen are out of contract in the summer but both, as things stand, look set to leave for free. — Sam Marsden

REAL MADRID: A January “Galactico” is unlikely

What does the team need in January?

The first six months of the season have shown huge issues in a Madrid squad that suddenly appears to have grown old together. They could really do with a new big name attacker to fill some of the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, as goal scoring has been a big problem for both Julen Lopetegui and his replacement Santi Solari. Some experience in defence would also be very welcome: ideally someone who could cover both centre-back and left-back.

Who are the major targets?

The most discussed options in the Madrid media continue to be PSG pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two long-term targets of club president Florentino Perez. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is also regularly mentioned, although there is a widespread acceptance that a “Galactico” name is unlikely in January. Instead Madrid look set to continue their policy of snapping up the best available young Spanish talent, with sources confirming to ESPN FC that a move for Man City starlet Brahim Diaz is close.

Who will be leaving?

Sources have told ESPN FC that homegrown midfielder Marcos Llorente will push through an exit in January should he lose his place in the XI when Casemiro returns to fitness. Another youngster, Jesus Vallejo, could leave having barely featured this season. Bigger names like Isco and Keylor Navas are unhappy at a lack of playing time under Solari, but have not yet done enough to force the situation far enough for a January exit.Marcelo has been linked with Juventus — by former teammate Ronaldo himself — but the Brazil left-back has denied the possibility of leaving midseason.

Any new contracts?

A policy of keeping all their players tied down to long-term deals means there are no players out of contract next summer. It had been expected that Luka Modric’s stellar year would lead to a pay rise, but there has been no change yet to the deal that is set to end in 2020. The contracts of Navas and club captain Sergio Ramos are also entering their last 18 months, with both those situations more likely to come to the boil after this season ends. — Dermot Corrigan

JUVENTUS: Marcelo would be great if they could get him

What does the team need in January?

Cristiano Ronaldo summed up Juve’s plans this winter by saying they do not need to add anybody to their already competitive squad, although he would welcome former Real Madrid teammate Marcelo. The Bianconeri already have excellent cover in all departments, with the return to fitness of Emre Can ensuring that the midfield also has great depth. Any new arrival could depend on whether any player asks to leave.

Who are the major targets?

The only players Juve would theoretically target would be ones who could improve the current quality of the squad and add depth. Marcelo would certainly fit in that category, giving coach Massimiliano Allegri another option at full-back or wing-back.Otherwise, Paul Pogba continues to be linked with a return, and while Juve already have many options in midfield, they would not turn down a player of his calibre — who already knows the club inside out and would not need time to settle in — if the price and conditions were right.

Who will be leaving?

Central defenders Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani have both expressed agitation at their lack of opportunities, and if Juve were to offload any players this winter, one of their back four would be a prime candidate.Left-back Alex Sandro, who has suitors in the Premier League, has also been tipped to move if a significant offer is received even though he recently extended his contract. Young Moise Kean could also be loaned out (as he was a year ago) since his first-team opportunities have been limited so far this season, although Juve are not keen on letting him leave on a permanent deal.

Any new contracts?

Mario Mandzukic is becoming a fan favourite in Turin and Allegri knows he can rely on the Croatian forward, whose contract is up in 2020. An extension is likely to be signed before next summer, with the 32-year-old seemingly keen to dedicate the final years of his career to the club. Central defenders Andrea Barzagli, whose contract expires in the summer, and captain Giorgio Chiellini, could also extend their stays, with both expected to end their careers at Juve. —Ben Gladwellplay

BAYERN MUNICH: Need a statement signing and depth

What does the team need in January?

Nine points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and with a lack of squad depth, Bayern need a statement signing to show they’ve not given up hope of winning a seventh consecutive title. However, lacking full-backs and pace in central defence, they must also add depth if they want a deep run in the Champions League.

Who are the major targets?

Bayern have signed 18-year-old winger Alphonso Davies and have reportedly agreed a summer transfer for France and Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard. Ahead of a summer of upheaval at the Allianz Arena in which the Bundesliga record champions will invest big, Munich are yet undecided whether to spend in the winter.

The club have been linked with Ajax midfielder de Jong, along with a host of other clubs (including Man City), and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, but with Joshua Kimmich getting more playing time in central midfield and right-back Rafinha entering the last six months of his deal, Bayern could look into reinforcing the full-back positions.

Who will be leaving?

James Rodriguez has reportedly contemplated cutting his loan at Bayern from Real Madrid short. But despite the Colombian star’s discontent, the club will not allow him to leave without a suitable backup. Striker Sandro Wagner could depart amid a lack of playing time, yet the 31-year-old remains the sole backup for star attacker Robert Lewandowski. There is also an outside chance that one of Jerome Boateng or Mats Hummels could leave if Bayern bring in Pavard in January.

Any new contracts?

Arjen Robben has already announced he will leave next summer, and 35-year-old Franck Ribery has no future at the club so won’t be offered new terms. Serge Gnabry has been in fine form this season and is set to enter the final 18 months of his contract, so the 23-year-old should land a new deal as Bayern look to the future. — Stefan Uersfeld

DORTMUND: Sales will be the priority in winter window

What does the team need in January?

Borussia Dortmund’s squad depth and the right mix of experience, hunger and youth in all positions make January signings unlikely. The Bundesliga leaders, however, are hoping to offload several players to reduce the size of the squad.

Who are the major targets?

BVB already unveiled Paco Alcacer in November and plan to sign on-loan Real Madrid defender Achraf Hakimi on a permanent basis in the summer; there are no targets for January.

Who will be leaving?

Only a huge bid in the region of €80m could change Dortmund’s mind over a Pulisic transfer amid the club’s first title challenge in seven years. Germany midfielder Julian Weigl, whose stock has dropped under Lucien Favre, might be allowed to leave if the price is right. While the media focus will be on Pulisic, Dortmund will hope to offload several fringe players.Japan international Shinji Kagawa has flirted with La Liga for a while and midfielder Sebastian Rode’s services are also no longer required. Once hailed as the new Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Swedish attacker Alexander Isak, 19, could also leave the Westfalenstadion after two years in which his impact has been limited.

Any new contracts?

Midfielder Mario Gotze and versatile Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro are entering the final 18 months of their deals. Dortmund look in no rush to prolong Gotze’s contract as he’s still finding his feet in his second stint at the club. Although he struggled with injuries last term, Guerreiro has shown his worth with four goals in the Champions League and a return to form in the Bundesliga. — Stefan Uersfeld

PSG: Summer spending is more likely

What does the team need in January?

Thomas Tuchel has been vocal in his desire to have a defensive midfielder added to his ranks by sporting director Antero Henrique. However, financial fair play (FFP) uncertainty could mean that Tuchel has to wait until next summer.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN that the club met with the representatives of Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong, although the player himself doesn’t want to leave in January and would cost €75m. Elsewhere, Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz have been mentioned, while Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka and Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl have also been regularly linked since Tuchel arrived.If PSG do move for a player in January, only Lobotka looks reasonably within reach. With Marquinhos growing more and more comfortable in midfield, do not be surprised if PSG opt against winter reinforcements and instead focus on contract renewals with the intention of significant transfer activity next summer.

Who will be leaving?

Henrique is desperately trying to move forgotten man Jese Rodriguez on, so there could be movement there if there is a club willing to take a risk on the Spaniard. Otherwise, Lassana Diarra will be allowed to leave if a suitable offer materialises, and U.S. international Timothy Weah is almost certain to leave on loan until the end of the season.

Any new contracts?

Adrien Rabiot and Alphonse Areola are about to enter the final six months of their contracts, and PSG do not want to let them reach the point where they can start discussions with other clubs. Layvin Kurzawa has also been offered a two-year contract extension, and discussions with Marco Verratti over a new deal have been ongoing, but Rabiot and Areola are the two most pressing issues.– Jonathan Johnson

Top priorities for Solskjaer at Man United

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports 21 hours ago

What are the five things Solskjaer must do if he is going to be successful at United?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United’s caretaker manager until the end of the season and his remit is clear: restore positivity to the club.

How will the United legend do that?

Below is a look at his top priorities to salvage something from United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season, as the post Jose Mourinho era begins at Cardiff City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Reintegrate Pogba
One of the things which has flown under the radar a little is that Solskjaer managed United’s reserve team which included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard back in the day. At the start of this season Solskjaer told the media he would “build the team around” Pogba, so that is great news for the World Cup winner. Mourinho’s issues with Pogba no doubt played a big factor in the rest of the dressing room turning on the Portuguese coach, but if Solskjaer is respected by the French star then it could well get the best out of him. Whatever you think about some of Pogba’s antics on and off the pitch, there’s no doubting that he is a wonderful midfield player in the right situation. In Mourinho’s last few weeks he spent most of the time on the bench. That will not be the case anymore. Having a coach later in your career who was influential in your formative years often allows a player to feel more comfortable and regain their best form. Maybe hiring Solskjaer was Pogba’s idea…

Forgot defensive solidity
If Jose Mourinho can’t get this team to defend, no coach in the world can. So Solskjaer should forget about it. Seriously. United have already conceded more goals in 17 games this season than they did in the whole of last season. With defensive injuries piling up and the likes of Eric BaillyPhil JonesMarcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof basically told they were not good enough due to Mourinho’s desperation to sign two new center backs in the summer, they all get a fresh start. That could bode well, but Solskjaer needs to focus on scoring goals and getting the best out of United’s strikers.

Get support for Lukaku
Whether it is playing Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial up front alongside him, playing two playmakers underneath him or just chucking more balls into the box from wide areas, whatever it takes you have to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. The lack of support the Belgian forward has had in recent seasons has been shocking at times, and you almost feel sorry for him when United go away to some big clubs and he hardly has a sniff of the ball and has two center backs to hold off before he even gets a chance to get a shot off. Lukaku’s form has been up and down due to a lack of confidence and he has missed some big chances, but some one-on-one training from one of the best finishers in the game (who just so happens to be the new gaffer) should do him the world of good.

Tap into the knowledge around him
Mourinho basically did everything on his own at United, and that was fair enough. He had won enough trophies at big clips to warrant doing things his way. But Solskjaer has the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson to lean on, Mike Phelan who is returning to assist him and several of his former teammates in Gary Neville, Ryan GiggsPaul Scholes and Co. who can lend him a hand and be sounding boards. All of the aforementioned people are United fans and want the club to do well. Solskjaer would be silly to ignore their advice, while of course sticking to his own playing style and philosophies as a coach.

Involve the fans
The majority of United’s fans tried to stick with Mourinho until the very end but he is a tough guy to like at the best of times and it never felt like he bought into the identity of the club. He lived in a hotel for over two-and-a-half years at United and went back home to London whenever he could. Solskjaer is a Man United fan and his goals delivered some of the greatest moments United’s fans have ever witnessed. Getting them on his side should not be difficult, but keeping them on board for the rest of the season will be key if he’s going to be successful. If United claw back the 11-point deficit and finish in the top four, plus make a deep run in the Champions League, who is to say Solskjaer isn’t the man for the job long-term.

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12/14/18 Atlanta United Wins MLS Cup/Record Crowd, Champ League Sweet 16, Indy 11 New Look, Full TV Schedule thru New Year’s

How refreshing to see the MLS Cup Final in Atlanta with almost 80,000 fans on hand – a standing room only wild and crazy 5 stripes crowd on hand.  And they said soccer wouldn’t work in the South eh?  Atlanta United has been a model soccer expansion team and man have they done it both first class and the right way.  It all started with my favorite US National Team defender Carlos Bocenegra being signed as their GM.  What an amazing team and organization he has helped put together.  This season almost winning the Supporter’s Shield (most wins in Regular Season) and now the MLS Cup in just their 2nd season in the league.  Truly amazing – both the team, how they play and of course a soccer crazy Atlanta filling an NFL Stadium each and every week.  The crowd on TV was impressive Saturday night on Fox as was Atlanta United’s play with the MVP Martinez extending his goals scored in 1 season record with an early goal and an assist on track to MVP for the game honors.  He also had the top selling jersey in the US among all sports this past weekend.  (First time a soccer team in the US has ever done that!!) The MLS Cup coverage on FOX had over 2 million tune-in (on US and Spanish TVs) making it the top rated Final since 1997.     MLS is definitely trending up and with the Columbus Crew staying in town – and now Cincinnati FC coming on board next season – fans in Indy will have lots of options to catch an MLS game within an easy drive of town.  (on a non-Indy 11 game-day of course)

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League has finished about like we expected as we head to the road of 16 drawing on Monday.  Liverpool needed a 1-0 win and got that – just barely as new Goalkeeping Signing Brazilian Alisson made a spectacular extra-time point blank save to secure the win and their place in the Sweet 16.  Dortmund won their game 2-0, and Pulisic played the full 90 to secure the top slot over my Atletico Madrid who tied to finish 2nd.   Also advancing to the Sweet 16 is American Weston McKinney with German side Schalke.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

IU

Congrats to Indiana University men for making their record 20th visit to the College Cup.  They dropped a heartbreaking 2-0 game to eventual National Champs Maryland who defeated Akron for the title 1-0.

WTW4

This weekend on TV Liverpool vs Man United leads the way on Sunday at 11 on NBCSN as the Reds look to hold onto the top slot they took over last weekend when Man City lost.  Man City hosts Everton in another top matchup this on Saturday at 7:30 am on NBCSN.  Sunday gives us Barcelona hosting Villarreal on beIN Sport at 12:30 pm.  This week we get English League Cup play Tues/Wed as Leicester City hosts Man City Tues 45 pm on ESPN+ and Wed Arsenal hosts Tottenham at 2:45 pm.  Also Tues we get the World Club Cup at 11:30 am on FS1.

Indy 11

Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Now they have Introduced their new jersey for the 2019 Season and its pretty spiffy. I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !

Indy11NewJersey
New Indy 11 Game Jersey for 2019 Season

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Dec 15   

7:30 am NBCSN          Man City  vs Everton

10 am NBCSN              Tottenham vs Burnley

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Fulham vs West Ham United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Werder Breman (Stewart)

Sun, Dec 16  

8;30 am NBCSN        Brighton vs Chelsea

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Mainz

8:30 am CNBC?        Southhampton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Man United

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

Tue, Dec 18  

11:30 am FS1           River Plate vs Al Ain  *FIFA Club World Cup: Semi Final 1

2:30 pm FS1          Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Dusseldorf

2:45 pm ESPN+     Leicester City vs Man City – League Cup

Wed, Dec 19  

11:30 am  FS2       Kashima vs Real Madrid – World Club Cup

2:30 pm FS1          Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:45 pm ESPN+     Arsenal vs Tottenham – League Cup

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1              FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City  

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

WORLD

What to Watch For EPL

Alisson’s Big Save Could Define Liverpools Season

Man United Trail Liverpool in more than just the Table – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

World Power Rankings – ESPNFC

MLS

Crew finalizes record Steffen move to Man City

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?  Jeff Carlisle

Atlanta United finally ends city’s championship nightmare

After two plus decades of coming within touching distance of glory but falling short, Atlanta has a champion again in the form of Atlanta United.

Atlanta ends Portland’s road magic to lift MLS Cup

Portland has been an impressive road team throughout the playoffs, but it was beaten by a decidedly stronger Atlanta United at MLS Cup. Jeff Carlisle

Martinez powers Atlanta United to MLS Cup win

Josef Martinez was instrumental as Atlanta United secured the MLS Cup in just its second season on Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers 2-0.

Savarese criticizes officiating as Portland falls

After losing 2-0 in MLS Cup, Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese lamented the “foul that wasn’t a foul” that led to Atlanta’s second goal.

Galaxy to re-sign Ibra as DP, hire Porter – sources

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018. Jeff Carlisle

Garber: ‘No doubt’ MLS can expand beyond 28

MLS commissioner Don Garber used his annual State of the League address to raise the possibility that the league could continue to expand.

Cincinnati picks five in draft; trades for Garza

FC Cincinnati added five players to its roster on Tuesday, with its selections in the 2018 expansion draft, while executing two trades. Jeff Carlisle

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SWEET 16

Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

Don’t call Spurs’ result ‘mission impossible’ – Poch

On Tuesday, an 85th-minute equaliser from Lucas Moura earned a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and a place in the round of 16.

Kane, Eriksen put in 9/10 showing in draw at Barca

Tottenham played admirably at Barcelona, with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen particularly convincing, but they could only manage a late draw.

Cillessen 9/10 as Barca draw vs. Spurs

Jasper Cillessen was absolutely superb between the posts and was unlucky to concede late as a rotated Barca side settled for a 1-1 draw.

Alisson’s big save could define Liverpool’s season

Liverpool needed to beat Napoli to move on in the Champions League, and Alisson’s save ensured they did. Could it prompt a deep European run?

Liverpool’s Alisson a ‘lifesaver’ in goal – Klopp

“The goal Mo scored — what a goal, unbelievable. And the save Ali made — I have no words for that,” Klopp said at his post-match news conference.

Alisson, Salah both earn 8/10s as Liverpool advance

Alisson and Mohamed Salah both turned in inspired performances as Liverpool clung to a 1-0 win over Napoli to move on to the UCL round of 16.

Dortmund take group with win over Monaco

Borussia Dortmund deepened AS Monaco’s misery with a 2-0 win that ensured they finished top of Champions League Group A ahead of Atletico Madrid.

 Atletico draw with Club Brugge to slip behind Dortmund

Atletico Madrid were denied top place in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday after a goalless draw away at Club Brugge in Belgium.

Inter Milan knocked out after home draw vs. PSV

Inter Milan were knocked out of the Champions League after they could manage only a 1-1 draw at home to Group B’s bottom club PSV Eindhoven.

Spalletti carries the can for Inter’s UCL implosion

Tuesday night at the San Siro could serve as a “how-not-to” manual for clubs attempting to seal a place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

Galatasaray to Europa League after loss to Porto

Porto got a 3-2 away victory over Galatasaray in their final Champions League group match on Tuesday but the Turks stayed third in Group D.

TV Ratings Up Big-time for MLS Final

USA

What is USMNT Getting in New Coach ?  SB Nation

Pulisic Where Should he Transfer and When?

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

IU

IU Soccer National Title Quest Ends with College Cup loss to Maryland 2-0  Barry Punzal Special to Indy Star

IU Falls to #15 Maryland in College Cup Semifinal 2-0

Maryland Wins National Title with 1-0 Win over Akron

Alisson’s stoppage-time save could come to define Liverpool’s season

Dec 11, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

They like a defining moment at Anfield, especially when it comes to the Champions League, and they now have one to cling to all the way to Madrid next June, thanks to Alisson.You get what you pay for, and Alisson — who cost a then-world-record-for-a-goalkeeper £67 million when he arrived from AS Roma during the summer — earned his place in Liverpool folklore with the stoppage-time save from Arkadiusz Milik that proved the difference between success and failure in Group C. Had Milik’s effort ended up in the back of the net, Liverpool would have been facing a Europa League campaign in the second half of the season.But thanks to Alisson getting in the way of the shot — Milik directed his effort too close to the Brazil No. 1, but he still had to be in the right place at the right time — Liverpool can look forward to next Monday’s draw for the Champions League round of 16 with hopes still alive of a place in next June’s final at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.”I have no idea how Alisson made a save like this,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said after the game. “It was amazing.”Champions League glory can often be decided by such fine margins, as Liverpool know better than most.This 1-0 victory over Napoli came 14 years to the day after Steven Gerrard’s late goal against Olympiakos at Anfield confirmed a crucial 3-1 winning margin that took Rafael Benitez’s team into the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of the Greek champions. Six months later, Liverpool were lifting the European Cup for a fifth time in Istanbul after their remarkable fight back against AC Milan, and it could all be traced back to Gerrard’s goal against Olympiakos.Will Alisson’s save prove to be as pivotal as Gerrard’s goal? Time will tell, but there was another pivotal moment in last season’s campaign, and that also involved a goalkeeper. On that occasion, Loris Karius’ failure to hold onto Gareth Bale’s long-range strike in the final against Real Madrid in Kiev put the Spanish team 3-1 ahead and out of reach.Big moments decide big games, and Liverpool discovered in Kiev the cost of not having a world-class goalkeeper.Against Napoli, they enjoyed the flip side. They spent big to get their man in the summer, and he repaid a huge chunk of his fee with the save from Milik that took Liverpool into the business end of the Champions League.Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal had given Liverpool a 1-0 lead that they knew would be enough to secure qualification, and it was a sensational goal by the Egyptian. Salah forced Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly into his one mistake of the night by ghosting past the Senegalese international before beating David Ospina with a low, right-footed strike.On its own, that moment of magic would deserve to claim any headlines, but Alisson’s save was the decisive contribution. Milik was unmarked inside the 6-yard box when he received the ball. He shot goalward, but Alisson spread himself to smother the shot and was able to block it with his outstretched right leg.

A year ago, Liverpool were preparing to sell their best player by sanctioning Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million transfer to Barcelona. At the time, it looked as though Liverpool were selling the family silver and surrendering once again when a giant club came along to take their top talent, with Coutinho following the likes of Michael Owen, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling out of the door at Anfield.But instead, Klopp was allowed to reinvest the Coutinho money by signing Virgil van Dijk for £75 million in January and Alisson in the summer. With the money they banked from Coutinho’s sale, Liverpool recruited Van Dijk and Alisson, and they have become a stronger team as a consequence. The two players have given Liverpool a solidity at the back that is borne out by the fact that this 1-0 win was their 15th clean sheet in their past 19 home games.

Van Dijk, who was fortunate to escape a 13th-minute red card for a bad tackle on Dries Mertens, is a totemic figure who has organised the once-leaky back four. The yellow card he received for the Mertens foul will see him suspended for the first leg of the round of 16, and Liverpool will miss him.

With Alisson behind the back four, Liverpool have a last line of defence up there with the best in the world. His save from Milik evoked memories of Peter Schmeichel at his best at Manchester United or Gianluigi Buffon in his pomp for Juventus. It was that good and that important.

Was it a defining moment? It could well be. With Alisson in goal, Liverpool know they can beat anybody.

Can Liverpool complete power shift over Man United? Will strain show for Spurs?

5:37 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer

W2W4 previews the week’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines

Can Liverpool complete the power shift over Manchester United?

This season has been defined by moments of progression for Liverpool. Every time they keep a clean sheet, every time they close out a game in a calm and mature fashion without conceding two late goals, every time they keep pace with and now overhaul Manchester City, it represents another step forward from the thrilling but flawed team of last season.However, one of the things remaining on their checklist is beating Manchester United, something they haven’t done in the league since a few weeks before David Moyes was sacked in 2014. Liverpool are, this season, an objectively better team than United: they have a a manager still at something like his peak versus one who looks like he should find a job he enjoys more. A team maturing versus one which seemingly refuses to learn. One at the top of the league versus one already 16 points back in sixth.The point of a rivalry as big as Liverpool and Manchester United is not just to be better than the other lot, it’s to let them know you’re better with such emphasis that they can’t forget it. League positions are not immediately, viscerally obvious: a fan of the inferior team can come up with a million ways to write that off, or ignore it, but beating them in a derby, and beating them emphatically, it’s not as easy to forget that.Even if Liverpool lose on Sunday, they will still be the superior team. But if Jurgen Klopp’s side do win, it not only represents another way in which they are streaking ahead, but shouts it in the face of their rivals.

Will any Arsenal defenders make themselves known?

Theoretically, a trip to Southampton shouldn’t be that tricky for Arsenal. This is, after all, a side who haven’t won a league game since September hosting one who haven’t lost one of any kind since August. But Unai Emery will travel to the south coast a little light on defenders. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, Rob Holding is out for the season, Nacho Monreal has only played 42 minutes since the start of October, Konstantinos Mavropanos was last seen being sent off in May, and Laurent Koscielny only returned on Thursday in the Europa League, after seven months out.So Emery will have to gamble significantly on half-fit (at best) players, mix and match with someone like full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner in the middle or a combination of both. Again, theoretically, Southampton are not the most fearsome opponents, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has now had a little time to work with his troops, and they already looked refreshed in defeat to Cardiff last weekend. It could be a trickier afternoon for Arsenal than you might think.

Will Spurs start feeling the strain?

It’s around this point of the season when the thinness of Tottenham’s squad might start to look most apparent. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in the middle of a run that sees them play 12 games in 38 days, the sort of run that will test any squad to cracking point. Pochettino indicated that this run might be a problem by resting Harry Kane for their last league game against Leicester, and Tuesday’s intense encounter with Barcelona will have taken plenty out of his players.aturday’s contest against Burnley is another fixture in which Pochettino might be tempted to rotate, but the trouble is Spurs don’t really have the players, other than maybe in the attacking trio behind Kane, to chop and change too much. Sean Dyche’s side have shown signs of life recently, the win over Brighton last time out finally rewarding them, so this will be a tricky affair for this weary Spurs.

Palace have to deal without Zaha … again

Roy Hodgson tends to smile thinly and look as if he’d rather be anywhere else when he’s asked about Crystal Palace’s reliance on Wilfried Zaha. Perhaps it’s because he knows very well how serious the problem is, but this week it might have been because the problem presents itself once more: Zaha is suspended for their game against Leicester, meaning they have to try to win without him, something they haven’t managed in the league since September 2016.In fairness, Palace haven’t been winning much with their talisman in the team of late, so perhaps being without him won’t make much difference. But should they lose to the Foxes, they will have collected just five points from 11 games, the sort of record that gets trigger fingers twitchy in boardrooms. Palace need to learn how to win without Zaha, and it needs to be now.

Cardiff need to improve their away record

Things have started to look up in the past few weeks for Cardiff. The team widely tipped to plummet straight back from whence they came by, well, pretty much everybody, have won three of their past five and are inching up the table. One point that should be made, though: they have won all of those three at home, whereas they have only collected a single point on their travels. A rampant away record isn’t necessarily required for survival (Brighton were the worst team on the road last season and survived handily), but it certainly helps, and it also takes some pressure off those home games.They might have a chance this weekend. Watford have been vulnerable lately, only collecting two points from their past six games — the brilliance of their early season form merely a memory. A win for Neil Warnock’s side would really start convincing people they could stay up.

Man United’s lack of team spirit, Mourinho’s negativity explains wide gap to rivals Liverpool

Dec 13, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

The last time Manchester United went into a league game against Liverpool with a bigger deficit than the 16-point gap between the two clubs, the men from Anfield were just weeks away from clinching their 18th — and last — English league championship.Back in March 1990, when Alex Ferguson’s relegation-threatened team were languishing in 16th position of the old First Division, two points above third-bottom Manchester City, United faced Liverpool at Old Trafford no fewer than 21 points behind their century-old rivals.Liverpool would win that game 2-1 and leave United in even deeper trouble at the foot of the table, so while the picture looks bleak right now under Jose Mourinho, it has been much worse at Old Trafford in living memory. But everything United do or achieve is measured against Liverpool, both in the present and in the past.United have won 20 titles to Liverpool’s 18, while Liverpool have five Europeans Cups compared to the three won by United and both sets of supporters proudly boast about those respective tallies.Right now, though, United are on the downside of the comparison with Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s team going into this weekend’s clash at Anfield as the unbeaten Premier League leaders.Liverpool look to be the real deal, with optimism high on Merseyside of a first title since 1990, but United are a club and a team that appears to be drifting dangerously off course under Mourinho.Things were bad for United under David Moyes in 2013-14, but back then, they only trailed Liverpool by 11 points when they met during the closing weeks of the season, so Mourinho’s team are plumbing new depths in the Premier League era.But how has it come to this? Only last season, United finished in second place in the Premier League, six points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool, so the points swing since May has been dramatic and, from a United perspective at least, alarming.The difference, from a football standpoint, is that one team — Liverpool — has become a formidable unit thanks to its sense of the collective under Klopp, whereas United are now limping along with an expensively-assembled squad of individuals that Mourinho has been unable to mould into a cohesive unit.Liverpool’s famed front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have, in the opinion of many observers, so far failed to replicate their goalscoring heroics of last season, yet they go into the United game having scored 20 league goals between them, despite not hitting their best form.United’s front four of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have scored 17 combined Premier League goals in comparison, but it is further back that United really fall short in relation to Liverpool.The tight defensive unit marshalled by Virgil van Dijk has conceded just six goals in the league so far, with only one of those coming at Anfield. United, meanwhile, have no Van Dijk-like figure to knit it all together at the back, which is why they have shipped a remarkable 26 goals in just 16 league games so far.But United’s defenders, who have been publicly dismissed as not being good enough by Mourinho this season, are only part of the problem. In front of them, they are protected — or not, as would seem to the case — by a dysfunctional midfield inhabited by players who are either not good enough or not trusted by Mourinho to do what he asks of them.If the midfield is a team’s engine, United’s would be that of an unreliable old family car with too many miles on the odometer, with Liverpool instead being blessed by a powerful, energetic, if slightly functional, motor driven by the ultra-reliable Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. Reliability and energy are two crucial qualities that United do not possess in midfield.Paul Pogba, if he plays on Sunday, would be able to stake a claim to being the most talented midfielder on the pitch this weekend, but Mourinho simply cannot get the best out of him. Pogba is careless in possession, he slows the team down and, while he is capable of moments of brilliance, he has become a player this United team cannot accommodate successfully.Nemanja Matic is proving too slow and immobile to make a positive impact, while Ander Herrera is not good enough to affect a game against a top quality opponent like Liverpool. Fred, the £53 million summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk has become Old Trafford’s “Invisible Man”, and Marouane Fellaini is too often used as a desperate Plan B in the closing stages, when every other avenue has proven to be a dead end.Klopp has been able to build a team at Liverpool that works as a collective unit, with overlapping full-backs complementing the forwards when attacking and midfielders prepared to work at both ends of the pitch. As a team, Liverpool have become greater than the sum of their parts, but United are now a group of underperforming individuals who appear to have forgotten the old maxim that there is no “I” in team.But it all comes back to the men in charge of the team and tactics.Klopp exudes passion and belief in his players and they share a bond with the ex-Borussia Dortmund coach, perhaps best exemplified by his on-pitch celebration with goalkeeper Alisson following the stoppage-time victory against Everton earlier this month.Liverpool’s players want to play for Klopp and are motivated to do so, but that cannot be said for United under Mourinho. Where Klopp is positive and upbeat, Mourinho is critical and dour and there is no warmth shown towards the Portuguese from his players. Liverpool have found themselves with the perfect blend under Klopp, while it is all going sour under Mourinho at United.Back in 1990, there was light at the end of tunnel under Ferguson. At present, Mourinho is taking United deeper into the gloom with his team and the mood around it becoming the direct opposite of Klopp’s at Anfield.That is why United are now so far behind their old rivals.

Man United supporters frustrated at present but can look to past for Anfield inspiration

Andy MittenManchester United writer

Three long-standing Manchester United fans just made the train out of Valencia on Thursday morning, having gone first to the wrong train station. Dave, Graham and Eddie from Knutsford, 20 miles south of Manchester, have been watching United away in Europe for decades. Eddie’s first European away game was at Ajax in 1976, a £19 return coach trip from Manchester to Holland. Graham’s was a preseason trip to Nuremberg in 1980.”We hitched it from Knutsford Services on the M6; it took us a couple of days to get to Germany and few more to get back.”Dave’s debut was a journey to Eindhoven in 1984 on an Interrail ticket which was shared among friends.The trio drove to Budapest in 1993 in a Bedford van. One had access to red diesel and put several five-gallon drums in the back, ensuring they got to Hungary and back for free. They parked the van outside the United team hotel and followed the team bus under police escort to the stadium, where, despite having no tickets, they were escorted to the main stand to sit with the players who weren’t playing.They’ve broken down on Paris’ ring road, seen two Champions League wins and the Cup Winners’ Cup lifted. Between them, they’ve attended over 400 European away games with Manchester United.They still love the buzz, visiting beautiful cities like Valencia where Wednesday saw bright sunshine and temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius — a fine summer day in Manchester. They meet up with friends they’ve known all their lives, but as a flag that is seen at United games states: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

It’s United being poor on the pitch which is sorely vexing United fans. The 2,000 Red Devils fans in Valencia didn’t walk around with their heads down. They had a great time, they know they’re fortunate to attend such matches and despite all the club’s problems, their team are still playing top level European games in magnificent cities and stadiums like Mestalla. These fans wouldn’t have such privileges if they supported the vast majority of English football clubs. But they also know that they’re following a team in flux.”My loyalty is to the club, to my mates, to our community,” declares Eddie, whose first season ticket in the Stretford End cost £6 in 1976. “I don’t care that much about the players — we don’t get near them these days. They’re in a bubble.” The actual games can be the low point of European trips — as Wednesday night in Valencia was.”Another [Jose] Mourinho performance,” is Graham’s verdict.”We missed a chance to win the group,” adds Eddie. “I can’t see where this team is going.””The football is dire,” agrees Dave. “I was encouraged when we won two trophies in Mourinho’s first season, that hadn’t been done before by a new United manager and it was a decent achievement, but we haven’t kicked on. We have a minus goal difference. We’ve bought poorly, especially compared to City who buy well. I’m not convinced at all. “”I’ll still stick up for Jose,” Eddie cuts in. “I think he might turn it around, but he’s made some bad buys. What was the logic in signing Fred?”Liverpool await next. The trio have been going to Anfield with United since the 1970s. “Trips there were lively then,” recalls Graham. “We’d get the service train to Lime Street. There would be 400 United on the train and we’d be met by loads of police when we arrived. They were needed because Liverpool were always waiting for us.””I’ve been on the Kop watching Manchester United,” Eddie tells me. “I stood near the bottom and we didn’t last long. The Scousers soon realised who we were. Liverpool were the best team in Europe for much of the 70s and 80s, but United had a real good record there. We’d beat Liverpool but then lose to Middlesbrough. That’s why they won league titles and we went 26 years without winning the league.”With their side clear underdogs for Sunday’s game, they’re hoping for some of that 80s spirit. Liverpool have gone 28 years since being the champions of England, surpassing even United’s title drought.Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have sailed past Liverpool’s once seemingly insurmountable haul of 18 league titles to 20, an incredible haul. Ferguson knocked the Liver bird so firmly off its perch that it has been struggling to fly back up since, but it’ll soon be six years since United’s last title. Sixteen points behind the Scousers after only 16 games, United have little chance this year. Liverpool, the club’s greatest historical rivals, in contrast, are second favourites. Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded only six goals, Mourinho’s 26.Dave points out why. “They play with pace, a high tempo — they’re good to watch. They have a buzz at Anfield that we don’t have at the moment. Liverpool are most similar to United in terms of success, history and fan base. Scousers and Mancs are pretty similar — I work with a lot of Scousers and they love their football like we do. But while Klopp has improved them a lot, they still haven’t won a trophy.”

Eddie dares to voice the unthinkable. “It would be a nightmare if Liverpool won the league.” Given a choice between Liverpool and City winning, I’d go for City. Liverpool are United’s greatest rivals. Liverpool have done well to keep their fan base for so long.”|Graham doesn’t feel able to answer the question. “Choosing between whether I’d like City or Liverpool to win the league is like choosing what I want to die of,” he concludes, shaking his head as the train nears Barcelona ahead of a flight back to Manchester. All agree that United need to come out fighting.

Where could Pulisic land in January: Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United or Bayern?

e Christian Pulisic is most likely to go should he leave Borussia Dortmund this campaign. (2:55)

1:56 PM ETRaphael HonigsteinGermany writer

“We will not sell a player in winter who’s essential to us achieving our sporting aims, of course,” Borussia Dortmund’s Michael Zorc told Sport-Bild in relation to Christian Pulisic this week. “I strongly expect Christian to be wearing the BVB shirt in February,” the sporting director added.The league leaders’ overriding concern is to ensure that the squad stays strong and deep for the second half of a campaign that promises to deliver silverware for the first time since 2012. At the same time, the wording of Zorc’s statement reveals an amount of flexibility on two fronts.In purely financial terms, a significant offer for a player unwilling to extend his contract beyond 2020 will be hard to turn down. Secondly, it’s debatable just how “essential” the 20-year-old is actually still regarded by his coach Lucien Favre. Pulisic has played regularly, chipping in with decent numbers (three goals and four assists in 16 games), but he’s neither an automatic starter nor among the club’s most prolific forwards. For the right price, Dortmund could well be tempted to let him leave six months early.But given the choice, where should he go? Here’s a look at the four likeliest contenders for the 20-year-old’s signature.

Chelsea

Why it could work: Maurizio Sarri’s possession football, once fully formed, will provide an ideal environment for Pulisic’s qualities. As an attacking midfielder who’s neither a true No. 10 nor an orthodox winger, he’s arguably best suited to a slightly slower build-up game, where his ability to take up intelligent positions between the lines will come to the fore. Manchester City aside, Chelsea play the most cultured game in the Premier League, and there’s likely to be a real need for his type of services in the wake of Eden Hazard’s expected departure. Transitioning from Favre’s Dortmund, a team employing similar patterns of play in possession, would be pretty a frictionless affair. The pull of London, too, will prove huge.

Why it wouldn’t work: Sarri has been too busy re-imagining the Blues’ approach post-Antonio Conte to spend any significant time honing younger players. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have only featured marginally, and the pressure to compete in the most competitive league as far as Champions League places are concerned will ensure that patience will remain in short supply. A high transfer fee will mitigate these disadvantages — Sarri would be more or less forced to play him — but Pulisic’s development might be smoother in a team that doesn’t expect goals and assists in every single game. He’s still growing and inconsistent. As Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah can attest, Chelsea haven’t always done well when it comes to giving highly talented younger players enough time to hone their skills.

Liverpool

Why it could work: The success of Xherdan Shaqiri has proven that Jurgen Klopp’s high-octane game can benefit from the addition of a different type of forward. What Pulisic lacks in directness, he makes up for in short diagonal movement and passing. Liverpool are easily the most accomplished Premier League side among the contenders for his signature, and there’s a strong chance that the combination of a functioning team and excellent man-manager will see him vastly improved in a short space of time. The Reds’ U.S. owners will furthermore help him utilise his huge marketing potential.

Why it wouldn’t work: The competition for starting places he has encountered at Signal Iduna Park this season will be just as tough at Anfield, if not tougher. There’s no natural position in Liverpool’s default 4-3-3 formation for him; he will have to rely on Klopp’s nascent transformation into a 4-2-3-1 team in order to become a mainstay. In addition, the strength of his supposed friendship with Klopp has been overstated. Their relationship is good but won’t afford him any special dispensation in a squad bursting with more-incisive and prolific attackers.

Manchester United

Why it could work: American-owned United, like Liverpool, naturally covet Pulisic as one of the emerging superstar brands in the U.S. On the pitch, however, they need him even more than their Merseyside rivals. Jose Mourinho’s team are in desperate need of a player who’s both quick and able to bring coherence to their rather random attacking game. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor his predecessor Henrik Mkhitaryan have been able to find the kind of solutions needed against defensive opposition; Pulisic’s intricacy would make a tremendous contribution and could soon prove invaluable. Continued doubt about Paul Pogba’s future at Old Trafford would strengthen his hand, too.

Why it wouldn’t work: Man United are unlikely to make it into the Champions League next season and don’t look as if they’ll be able to get any closer to City and Liverpool any time soon. Their game plan lacks clarity; attacking midfielders, in particular, routinely find themselves isolated and chasing second balls from deep starting positions. There’s also strong suspicion that Mourinho prefers warriors to artists. Young, technical players don’t necessarily thrive in the Portuguese manager’s dressing room, and few have become significantly better duding his spell at Old Trafford.

Bayern Munich

Why it could work: The impending departure of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery creates an opening for creative players of Pulisic’s ilk. He could also leverage Bayern’s longstanding interest in signing a prominent American player that could further their growth prospects in the U.S.: the rebuilding process at Sabener Strasse affords a real opportunity to become one of the faces of one of Europe’s most successful sides, with all the financial and sporting opportunities that would entail. Bayern’s more measured attacking game provides a very good fit as well.

Why it wouldn’t work: There’s no guarantee that the aforementioned changes at Bayern won’t extend to the coaching staff by the time Pulisic would swap yellow for red, which makes it difficult for any player to properly evaluate their opportunity for personal development in the near future. In either case, the Bavarians face an uphill battle to remain competitive in Europe as the ancient regime of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness looks for successors while the Premier League’s firepower becomes more pronounced. What’s more, a move to England will probably sit better with Pulisic’s personal sponsors.

Verdict

Chelsea look the best fit as things stand, slightly ahead of Liverpool. It’s just as well, too, considering the Blues are considered in pole position, having pushed hardest to secure an agreement with Dortmund.

No. 1 Hoosiers Fall to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in College Cup Semifinal

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A historic season for the No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came to a close on Friday night in Santa Barbara, Calif., as the Hoosiers fell to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in the College Cup semifinals.

KEY MOMENTS
• In the 37th minute, the Terrapins (12-6-4) scored off a corner kick, as Matt Di Rosa’s shot took a deflection and found the back of the net.
• Indiana (20-3-1) pressed forward offensively in the second half, out-shooting Maryland, 11-4, in the frame. For the match, IU out-shot UM, 15-10.
• Four players had two shots for the Hoosiers in the match, with both Justin Rennicks and Griffin Dorsey each getting a shot on-goal. Andrew Gutmanalso had a shot on-goal for the Hoosiers.
• Maryland added an insurance goal off a free kick in the 79th minute as Donovan Pines toe-poked it across the line.

NOTABLES
• Indiana finishes the season with an overall record of 20-3-1. IU’s 20 victories on the season were the most for the program since going 21-3 in 1999.
• The Hoosiers won both the Big Ten regular season championship (15th time) and Big Ten Tournament championship (13th time) in the same season for the first time since 2006.
• Indiana advanced to the NCAA Tournament College Cup for the second-straight season and for a NCAA-record 20th time in program history.
• The back-to-back College Cup appearances for IU was the first since 2003-04.
• Indiana was seeded No. 2 overall for the 2018 NCAA Tournament, marking the 14th time in the last 16 years since the current seeding format began in 2003 that IU has earned a top-16 seed.
• The berth for the Hoosiers was the team’s 32nd-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and the
43rd overall in the program’s history.

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12/6/18 IU in College Cup Fri 10:30 pm on ESPNU, MLSFinals-Atlanta United hosts Portland Sat 8 pm on FOX, US Names New US Manager, TV Game Schedule

Indiana University is looking for its 9th NCAA Title as they head to their 2nd consecutive College Cup this Friday night at 10:30 pm vs #11 Seed Maryland on ESPNU. The Hoosiers (20-2-1) are ranked #1 in the polls and are the #2 seed coming in. Three of the Final 4 are Big Ten teams as Akron will face Michigan State in the other semi-final on ESPNU. Akron knocked off top seeded Wake Forest and 3 time National Champ Stanford in the Elite 8.  The Title game, which IU reached last season, is set for Sunday at 8 pm in Santa Barbara, CA on ESPNU. You can bet our own Director of Soccer Operations Juergen Sommer, a former National Champion and National Player of the Year at IU, will be watching!  Good luck Hoosiers!   

MLS Championship

So this Saturday night on FOX at 8 pm – Atlanta United will host the 2016 MLS Champions the Portland Timbers.  Again at least on one side the MLS Playoffs were spectacular as visiting Portland Timbers scored 3 goals – 2 in the last 20 minutes to beat Kansas City in front of a standing room only boisterous crowd Sunday evening on Fox Sports in the Western Conference Finals.  I know the rest of the country was watching NFL – but man this game was spectacular as after not scoring a goal in the first round home game – the Portland Timbers reached deep and defeated Sporting KC – with lightening fast counter attacks and 2 goals by their MVP Diego Valeri.  Portland had the 1 goal lead 2-1 as KC threw everything at them in the last 15 minutes and an amazing 15 minutes of extra time looking for the equalizer before Portland scored the 3rd late goal to put it away in the last 2 minutes of overtime.  Of course Atlanta dominated the Support Shield holder NY Red Bulls 3-0 at home as they will host the MLS cup in just their 2nd season in the League.  This is quickest an MLS expansion team has made the finals.  – and you can look for over 75,000 fans to be on hand in Atlanta as United looks to become the quickest expansion team to win an MLS title. 

USA

So the US National Team finally made it official  – what we all knew was coming that Columbus Crew head coach, and former US National team defender Gregg Berhalter has been named our next US Manager.  I have no problem with Berhalter – he becomes the first former National Team player to play in a World Cup to also manage the team so he obviously understands what it means to represent the crest.  He’s a good young but proven coach who has had a good amount of success at the Columbus Crew.  At Columbus he consistently took teams with less money, less talent and honestly a rather apathetic fan base because of ownership issues and he took them deep in the playoffs many of his 5 years there. He took Columbus to the 2015 MLS Final (that I attended) and fell late to Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Now he’s only been an MLS head coach for 5 years – so not the most experienced coach  – but I think his experience as a former US player should help. Remember he was the one who should have scored a goal vs Germany in 2002 when they cheated and German defender Torsten Frings handled the ball on the line – it wasn’t called allowing Germany to beat us 1-0 in the Quarterfinals. He also helped shutout Mexico in that World Cup – 1 of 2 that he played in. 

Listen I don’t think this is a bad hire.  We have a very young team – and this next coach is not about reeling in egos of superstars – we really have NO Superstars on the US team at this point.  No one consistently starring in Europe, no one that would be considered a top level star in the sport.  With this team – we need a builder, a coach who can find the right guys, teach them the way we want to play and build this team from the ground up.  I would say that is exactly what Berhalter has done at Columbus and its hopefully what he will do for the US Men’s National Team. Anyone who has seen the Crew play knows Berhalter plays a possession style of play that is entertaining to watch – and he always gets the most out of his players.  It will certainly be interesting to see how this works out, but despite the delay in hiring a new coach and taking well over a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup to hire a new coach – I am comfortable with Ernie Stewart as GM and Berhalter as our new coach.  2019 should be an interesting year for US soccer – as we look to basically start over in preparation for hosting the World Cup in 2026 and hopefully making the field in 2022. 

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What to Watch 4

On top of the College Cup Friday night at 10:30 pm on ESPNU featuring IU, and MLS Cup on Saturday night 8 pm on Fox – we have some other big games on tap this weekend and week as Champions League returns Tues/Wed of this week and Man City travels to Chelsea on Sat at 12:30 pm on NBC and Leicester City vs Tottenham at 2:45 pm on NBCSN., and American’s McKennie and Pulisic match up as Schalke hosts Dortmund at 9:30 am on FS1 Sat. 

IU

All or Nothing as IU Aims for 9th NCAA Title

IU Edges Notre Dame 1-0 in Elite 8 Thriller – IU Site

IU Wins to go to Record 20th College Cup – Indy Star Kevin Johnston

IU Readies for College Cup in Soccer – Indiana Daily Student

IUs Gutman and GK Muse Named Player of Year Finalist

IU Staff Named Coaching Staff of the Year in Region

Really Cool Video on the History of IU Soccer – the Stars Align

MLS

How Atlanta and Portland Match Up in MLS Cup Sat Night – Warshaw – MLS.com

3 Position Battles That will Decide the Winner in MLS Cup Sat Night

How MLS Foes Match Up – SI – Avi Creditor

Atlanta United in top 15 Attendance in the World !  

MLS Cup 101

Blanco: “We aren’t afraid” of playing in Atlanta

Can Timbers spoil Atlanta’s party at the Benz?

Last two MLS MVPs face off in 2018 MLS Cup

Parkhurst hopes to add ‘MLS Cup champ’ to resume

Timbers well aware of the buzzsaw that awaits them

Scouting the Portland Timbers’ Center Backs for MLS Cup Final

USA

What Does New Manager Bring to the Job for US – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

New US Coach Humbled – Wants to Get to Work – ESPNFC Noah Davis

US Names Gregg Berhalter US Men’s Coach – ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Berhalter Aiming for Distinct Style for US Team – Dylan Butler MLS.com

Video and discussion on Burhalter and Why he’s the Right Guy – MLS.com

Don’t Blame New Coach – blame the Process – Stars & Stripes

Five Things to know About Gregg Berkhalter

Former Teammates Discuss Berhalter – US Soccer

US Announces Jan Panama Friendly 1/27 8 pm as First Game with Berhalter in Charge

Gossip Chelsea Makes Formal Approach for Pulisic

Tyler Adams leaves Red Bulls for RB Leipzip in Germany along with coach Jesse Marsch

US wins 2nd straight Concacaf U-20 Title 2-0 over Mexico under Tab Ramos

Champions League

UCL Tables

VAR to be used in UCL from round of 16 – UEFA

Spurs must stop Messi to beat Barca – Lucas

Poch: Spurs will need to rest players to beat Barca

Missing Ballon d’Or stars: What did Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar do?

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 8  

2:30 pm ESPN2       Juventus vs Inter

8 pm  ESPNU            Mich State vs Akron College Cup

10:30 pm  ESPNU       Indiana U vs Maryland College Cup

Sat, Dec 8  

7:30 am NBCSN     Liverpool vs AFC Bournemouth

9:30  Fox Sp1        Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Schalke (Mkkinney)

10 am NBCSN         Man United vs Fulham (Ream)

10 am CNBC            Arsenal vs Huddersfield  

12:30 pm NBC         Chelsea vs Man City

2:30 bein Sport        Real Madrid vs Valencia

8 pm FOX           MLS CUP Atlanta United vs Portland Timbers

Sun, Dec 9  

7 am NBCSN            Chelsea  vs Fulham (Ream)

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Brussia Mgladbach

9:05 am NBCSN       Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Wolverhampton

Tues  Dec 11   Champs League

1 pm TNT                Schalke (McKinney) vs Locomotiv Moskav

3 pm TNT                Barcelona vs Tottenham

3 pm Uni Desp        Liverpool vs Napoli

3pm   Uni Desp       Monaco vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3pm   Uni Desp       Zvezda vs PSG

Weds  Dec 12  Champs League

1 pm TNT                   Real Madrid vs CSKA Moskva

3pm   TNT                   Valencia vs Man United

3 pm Univision OL    Ajax vs Bayern Munich

3 pm   Uni Desp        Young Boys vs Juventus

 Sat, Dec 15   

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City  vs Everton

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Fulham vs West Ham United

12:30  Fox Sp 2       Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Werder Breman

Sun, Dec 16  

8;30 am NBCSN        Brighton vs Chelsea  

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Mainz

8:30 am CNBC?        Southhampton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Man United

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

All or Nothing as Indiana Men Aim for Ninth NCAA Title

By Pete DiPrimioIUHoosiers.com
 
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Andrew Gutman throws down the verbal gauntlet. Indiana won’t play for second or we-did-our-best perspective.It’s all or nothing. Win a national soccer championship, or live with regret. Nothing else is good enough.
 “We’ve got to win it,” the Hoosiers senior defender said. “This is great, getting to the College Cup, but we haven’t done anything yet. This is our last chance, and we’ve got to win it and make up for last year.”Gutman referred to last season’s national runner-up finish, when the Hoosiers lost to Stanford in overtime in the title game.
 IU (20-2-1) arrives in Santa Barbara, Calif. with a target on their backs. The Hoosiers are ranked No. 1 in the polls, and are the No 2 seed in the tourney. They will face No. 11 seed Maryland (11-6-4) in a Friday semifinal. The start is set for 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
 Akron (14-6-2) will play Michigan State (14-4-4) in the other semifinal. Akron upset top-seed Wake Forest, which beat the Hoosiers in the season opener, in the third round, then followed that by beating three-time national champ Stanford 3-2 in the Elite Eight.The title game is set for Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Indiana and Maryland have played a pair of nail-biters this season, with the Hoosiers getting the best of the Terrapins on both occasions. They won 2-1 in mid-October at Armstrong Stadium, and advanced in a PK shootout in the Big Ten tourney semifinals.”We’re excited for it,” senior midfielder Austin Panchot says. “We’re confident. We know what we’re getting.”Coach Todd Yeagley certainly does. He has led the Hoosiers to two prior College Cups, last season and in 2012, when IU won its eighth and last national championship. Only St. Louis, with 10 national titles, but none since 1973, has won more.
 Yeagley’s father, Jerry, is the winningest college soccer coach in history. That includes 16 College Cups and 12 national title games, with six national championships.Jerry Yeagley remains a fixture at practice and at games, and you’d better believe Todd seeks his input.
 My father has been my mentor. We talk about all things related to life and soccer.
“When we made the first College Cup in 2012, very clearly he said stay on the course. Don’t change what you’re doing. Shorten things.”Those advice moments from someone you have ultimate trust with gave me a lot of confidence to make those decisions and feel good about it. There’s no one who has been to more College Cups than he has. He learned some things from his early days that maybe he would have done differently. That’s valuable. I have the most successful coach at an instant if something should come up. That could help give us an advantage. We’ll certainly use that to our fullest.”The results show it. IU’s 20 victories are its most since winning 21 in 1999, a national title season. The Hoosiers have just five losses in the last three seasons. They have a nation’s best 752 victories since the program became a varsity sport in 1973.College soccer has never seen such sustained excellence over a five-decade span (no other program can match the 20 College Cups), with no end in sight. U recruits to that legacy. “It’s all about pushing it,” Yeagley says. “We ask that when we recruit players. You’re coming here to push an unbelievable program farther. Leave your mark. “This group has done that, and the story isn’t done yet. They’ve taken that challenge and gone with it. It’s a big responsibility. You look at all the success the program has had. It gives you sense a pride. The team feels that.”Win-it-all pressure doesn’t mean the Hoosiers won’t enjoy this experience. Yeagley pushes fun as much as focus. “You look at the success program has had,” he says, “and you see 20 College Cups. For being around this program forever, it means a lot. Each one is so hard to get to. So many things have to go right. We’re happy to experience another game.”IU was severely tested in Friday night’s 1-0 Elite Eight win over No. 7 seeded Notre Dame. That followed three straight dominant performances and could provide the edge needed this weekend. “This team finishes off plays,” Yeagley says. Indiana has by far the most College Cup experience of the remaining teams.Akron won the 2010 national title and was the 2009 national runner-up. It also made the College Cup in 2015 and last season. Maryland has three national runner-up finishes, the last in 2013, and 10 previous College Cup appearances. Michigan State was the national runner up in 1964 and ’65, and reached the College Cup in 1962 and ’66.

Warshaw: How Atlanta and Portland match up for 2018 MLS Cup

December 5, 20182:54PM ESTBobby Warshaw

It’s time to take a look at the 2018 MLS Cup matchup between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers. For this exercise, we are going by pure talent. MLSsoccer.com will have plenty of articles dissecting tactical and stylistic advantages. I want to break it down by individual ability alone. Once we establish who holds the advantage in talent, then we can start to understand where the advantages may lie, and what deficits need to be fixed.Let’s assume the teams field the lineups they’ve used throughout the postseason:

The players in those lineups could be split into defenders, midfielders and attackers in various ways. Diego Valeri, for example, plays as an attacking center mid on offense but generally acts as a second striker on defense. There’s no perfect way to group them, but I’ve divided them into the following groups.

Defenders

Atlanta: Escobar, Larentowicz, Parkhurst, LGP, Garza
Portland: Valentin, Mabiala, Ridgewell, Villafaña

Midfielders

Atlanta: Remedi, Gressel, Nagbe
Portland: Chara, Guzman, Valeri

Attackers

Atlanta: Martinez, Almiron
Portland: Blanco, Polo, Ebobisse

GOALKEEPERS:

Atlanta United

My three criteria for goalkeepers:

  1. Who is more likely to make the saves he’s supposed to make: In this game, it’s Brad Guzan. Guzan hasn’t made many crazy saves this year, but he’s generally made the stops he needs to make.
  2. Who is more likely to make a huge mistake that will cost his team the game?Portland’s Jeff Attinella. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened recently when Attinella dropped a crossto gift Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz a goal, and that memory can plant a dangerous tone of doubt in ‘keepers.
  3. Who is more likely to make the huge saves to win his team again? The Timbers’ No. 1 has had some huge games this year, including the second leg against Sporting Kansas Citylast week. If a team wins this game because a goalkeeper stands on his head, it will be Portland.

There’s more variance in Attinella’s game and he’s more likely to be the star of MLS Cup, but managers prefer predictability from their goalkeepers. If you had to put a name on a team sheet, you’d go with Guzan.

DEFENDERS:

Atlanta United

Michael Parkhurst was a finalist for Defender of the Year, yet Leandro Gonzalez Pirez might be the more talented of the two, and together they formed one of the two best center back pairings in the league. Franco Escobar was the star of the Conference Championship against the Red Bulls, and a fully fit Greg Garza should be considered one of the top five left backs in the league. Jeff Larentowicz might be considered the weak link, but he’s played like an All-Star at times this year.

Portland work well as a group, but I doubt any of them would make it into Atlanta’s starting lineup.

MIDFIELDERS:

Portland Timbers

The answer is almost always Diego Chara and Diego Valeri.

Atlanta’s midfield has become a force in the last few weeks. Eric Remedi brings the bite, Darlington Nagbe offers the guile and Julian Gressel contributes the lungs. They’ve been tough to break down, quick on the break, and calm in possession when the moment has called for it. They dominated NYCFC’s group of high-end talent in the middle in the Conference Semifinals. In the next round, they had no problem with Tyler Adams and Co. But Valeri and Chara are two of the best midfielders of the last decade (plus the third guy, David Guzman, just played in a World Cup).

I’m sure Tata loves his midfield right now, but I’d bet if you gave him some truth serum, he’d slide into Chara and Valeri’s DMs.

ATTACKERS:

Atlanta United

Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron > almost anyone in league history.

If you were to create a list of the top attacking tandems in MLS history, Martinez and Almiron would be somewhere near the top: in the echelon with Marco Etcheverry/Roy Lassiter, Landon Donovan/Robbie Keane and Sebastian Giovinco/Jozy Altidore.

Jeremy Ebobisse has come a long way in 2018 and Sebastian Blanco has been marvelous this season — they certainly provide enough ability to win the game — but you’d pick the combo that could get sold for north of a combined $40 million this offseason.

BENCH:

Atlanta United

Tito Villalba is by far the best sub in the league right now. Imagine dealing with Martinez and Almiron for 60 minutes and then a fresh Villalba comes waltzing on the field.

Also, it would probably be some type of poetic ending for Ezequiel Barco, the most expensive player in MLS history, to come on and provide the winner.

COACH: Even

 There are big personnel and tactical decisions to make heading into the game — there’s logic suggesting both teams should make adjustments — but I don’t think one coach is more equipped than the other.

Tata has more overall managerial experience, but Savarese has won three finals in the last five years. They’ve both made all of the right moves this year, specifically in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Atlanta United ranks among global elite in average match attendance

December 5, 20189:07AM ESTTom BogertContributor

Atlanta United have continued to turn heads with the attendance they draw and electric atmosphere they create at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Five Stripes already own an MLS record for total home attendance: 901,033 fans across 17 games this year. They’ve also got the top seven entries for MLS regular season single-game attendance, as well as own the top three spots for MLS postseason single-game attendance. Their attendance numbers resonate across the Atlantic Ocean, too. Below is where the club ranks in worldwide average attendance: 

Club

Country

Average Attendance

Borussia Dortmund

Germany

80,309

FC Barcelona

Spain

76,021

Bayern Munich

Germany

75,000

Manchester United

England

74,481

Real Madrid

Spain

65,105

Inter Milan

Italy

62,859

FC Schalke 04

Germany

61,794

Arsenal FC

England

59,954

Tottenham Hotspur

England

58,814

Celtic FC

Scotland

58,352

Atletico Madrid

Spain

57,602

West Ham United

England

56,902

VfB Stuttgart

Germany

57,047

Hertha BSC

Germany

54,643

AC Milan

Italy

54,233

Manchester City

England

54,020

SL Benfica

Portugal

53,774

Ajax Amsterdam

Netherlands

53,012

Atlanta United

USA

53,002

Olympique Marseille

France

52,654

Liverpool FC

England

52,553

Newcastle United

England

50,979

Borussia Monchengladbach

Germany

50,522

Hamburger SV

Germany

50,305

Olympique Lyon

France

50,237

Three positional battles that will decide MLS Cup 2018

These three positions will determine who lifts Lord Don’s Cup.

By Rob Usry@RobUsry  Dec 3, 2018, 10:05am EST

When it comes to soccer, the team whose players perform the best on the day usually end up winning. MLS Cup will likely be no different as Atlanta United and Portland Timbers feature talented players all over the field. It’s a good bet that whichever team’s stars show up on the day is the squad that will be standing at the celebration podium after all is said and done.Looking ahead to this big match, we’re highlighting three different positions on the field that will could prove decisive. While these players won’t necessarily be going head-to-head against each other, it’ll be important for them outplay the player in the corresponding position to give their team an edge. Here are three positional battles that will likely decide MLS Cup:

Eric Remedi vs. Diego Chara

In the modern game, defensive midfielder is arguably the most important position on the field. If a team has a bulldog in the midfield of the field who can close down the other team’s best players in the most dangerous parts of the field, they’ll win more often than not.Eric Remedi has been a revelation since his midseason arrival in the ATL. His work often doesn’t show up on the highlight reels like most great defensive midfielders, but he’s always in crucial spots making vital contributions. His ability to close down and stifle Portland’s two attacking stars in Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco will be key. You don’t have to look far to see how important that will be. Blanco’s unbelievable tie-changing goal against Sporting Kansas City was a direct result of midfielders not closing him down. Remedi and to a lesser extent Darlington Nagbe will have their hands full but will need to have great performances if Atlanta United is to win.

Diego Chara has been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS for at least five years now. While he may not get the MLS Best XI recognition he deserves, many experts proclaim him to be the Timbers’ most important player even with the likes of Blanco and Valeri. Much like Remedi, he will be tasked with slowing down Miguel Almiron and even keeping tabs on Josef Martinez when he drops deep.

Both players are uber-aggressive and known to lunge into a tackle with no hesitation. An early yellow card to either could change the look of the whole match. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez vs. Liam Ridgewell

Discipline will be key in this high intensity final. Both teams feature hard-nosed centerbacks who will be looking to set the tone for the match. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is at the top of his game so far in these playoffs. Atlanta will be hoping he has one more superhero-esque effort in him to bring the cup home. How the Argentine deals with the late runs from Blanco and Valeri will be just as important as how he and his partner Michael Parkhurst mark Portland’s striker.

Ridgewell’s 2018 season hasn’t gone very smoothly, with the veteran defender going as far as calling it “one of the worst seasons I’ve had in my playing career.” Despite being at odds with first-year manager Gio Savarese, Ridgewell finds himself back in favor in the crucial matches. Going against the best goal scorer the league has ever seen is the prize he wins for gaining his starting spot back. As with any Atlanta United match, how the opposing team deals with Josef Martinez will go a long way in deciding who wins. If the Venezuelan Viper is clicking on the day, it could be a long one for Ridgewell. But, if the Englishman succeeds in shutting Martinez down, he could turn the momentum in his side’s favor.

Miguel Almiron vs. Diego Valeri

It didn’t take too much imagination to come up with this one. Saying two of the most talent players this league has ever seen will have a huge impact on the result of this final is not a hot take whatsoever.Almiron and Valeri are their team’s most creative players and will be looking to unlock the other team’s shape. They each have their own style with Almiron more frantic and breakneck and Valeri calm and composed. The pace and style of the game could go a long way in determining which superstar has a bigger impact on the game.If Portland decide to sit back and absorb pressure, it may not be the type of game that Almiron can really put his fingerprints on. However, if it’s a more open affair that allows for Miggy to use his pace to create those odd-man counter-attacks by himself, it could play into his favor.The opposite could be said for Valeri who is better in the slower style of game where he has time in the attack to pick out a pass to breakdown the defense or to find space outside the penalty area for a chance at goal. If Portland have a negative mindset and Valeri is forced to run around and close down for the majority, it could frustrate him.These are the three battles we see deciding MLS Cup. Who do you think has the edge in each? Which other pairing did we miss or do you find important? Comment below.

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U.S. confirms Gregg Berhalter as manager after year-long search; what does this mean for the USMNT?

Dec 2, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The search for a new head coach for the U.S. men’s national team has finally reached its conclusion. It took only 13 months from the time that Bruce Arena resigned in the wake of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Given that timeframe, one might have expected GM Earnie Stewart and the rest of the U.S. Soccer Federation hierarchy to make a big splash. Instead, the USSF chose Gregg Berhalter to be the program’s 37th manager.Berhalter was long considered the front-runner, and the rather secretive approach the USSF took to arriving at his appointment has raised eyebrows, but now that he has been chosen, here’s what fans can expect from the former Columbus Crew manager.

After a year-long ‘search,’ is Berhalter the right hire?

In many ways, Berhalter is a safe pick. He comes from the U.S. soccer system and is a known quantity. He is unlikely to try to shake things up within the Fed in the way that Jurgen Klinsmann did. Berhalter’s record with Columbus (67-58-45 over five seasons) isn’t necessarily eye-catching, either. He didn’t win a single trophy while with the Crew, unlike competitors like Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes, RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch (when he was with the New York Red Bulls), former FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja or Toronto FC’s Greg Vanney.But looked at another way, Berhalter squeezed plenty out of a Crew side that had one of the lowest payrolls in MLS, making the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Columbus. His reputation as a teacher with an almost obsessive attention to tactical detail could serve him well given that he’s set to inherit a very young pool of players. There will be peaks and valleys, and it will require plenty of patience to navigate the team through those periods. The fact that he spent the bulk of his playing career overseas should give him a fair amount of street cred, as should his brief stint coaching overseas.When asked whether he thought Berhalter was the right choice, Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst, who spent three seasons in Columbus under Berhalter, said, “I don’t think there’s only one option. I think a few guys could have been great hires. But I think everyone respects Gregg tactically and what he can do on the field with a team and how organized he is. I think that everyone thinks he’s one of the best American coaches, and I agree.”If the plan was to bring in an American, then absolutely, I think he’s the right hire.”In terms of his background, Berhalter had a solid, if unspectacular, career as a player. He spent the bulk of it overseas, with his first professional stint coming in 1994 with Dutch side Zwolle, and later moving on to Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden. Berhalter then spent a solitary season with English side Crystal Palace. His longest spell came with German side Energie Cottbus, where he played for four seasons, helping them win promotion to the Bundesliga. He later moved to 1860 Munich before finishing his career in MLS with the LA Galaxy, winning the 2011 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double in his final season.At the international level, Berhalter made 44 appearances and was part of the U.S. roster at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup.After serving as a player/assistant with the Galaxy under Arena, Berhalter began his managerial career with Swedish side Hammarby prior to the 2012 campaign. He was fired midway through his second season with the club over concerns about the state of the team’s attack. He joined up with Columbus prior to the 2014 campaign.Berhalter’s first task will be overseeing the January camp, with two friendlies slated for late January and early February. At that point, the process of winning over the players will begin. Ultimately his decisions in terms of personnel, tactics and man management will be what carry the day. Suffice it to say, the mountain Berhalter is being asked to scale is plenty steep. He’ll need to bring a young squad together amid the backdrop of a search that is being perceived as less than robust.

What can we expect from Berhalter’s USMNT?

Berhalter is known as a cerebral, tactically detailed manager who emphasizes possession. His outside backs, at least when he was in Columbus, are known to surge forward in a bid to get service into the box. (Crew SC right back Harrison Afful had six assists this year.)”I think Gregg is one of the best tactical coaches that I’ve played for,” said Parkhurst.”He just knows the game very well, has his team very organized and prepared for each opponent and different tactical ways he wants to approach the game. He’s just very detail oriented in that way, and sets his team up for success. Everyone knows how well Columbus play, and how difficult they are to play against. That’s because of Gregg and [assistant coach Josh Wolff].”The work that we do on the field tactically, the video that we watch … it’s intense, it’s a lot. He works hard, and I think he’s a great hire.”Berhalter is also capable of being flexible. During the 2017 Eastern Conference finals against Toronto FC, Berhalter toggled back and forth between three-man and four-man back lines in a bid to thwart TFC’s high-powered attack. (Toronto ended up winning 1-0 on aggregate.) Parkhurst feels this is an area where Berhalter has grown as he’s gotten more experience.”I think that my first year there, it was one way to play and that was about it,” he said. “My second year when we played the New York Red Bulls in the conference final [in 2015], we basically just kicked long balls up to Kei [Kamara]. That was a big adjustment and now this past year he tinkered with different formations a lot during the year. I think he’s become more flexible with what the game entails, or with his team and the players available. But the overall picture stays the same, and I think that’s a good thing.”Berhalter is also known as a teacher though he tended to rely on veterans in Columbus. Yet one area that will bear watching is in the area of man management and how he’ll connect with the team’s biggest players. Back in 2016, a feud between midfielder Federico Higuain and then-Crew forward Kei Kamara festered to the point that it burst out into the open. Kamara was traded soon thereafter, but there is a sense it could have been handled better. Berhalter has no doubt learned from that experience, and the coming months will reveal just how much.

The extent to which he’ll adopt his preferred style with the U.S. is an open question. While there are outside backs like DeAndre Yedlin, and even Shaq Moore, who seem to fit his desired profile, the left back position has been notoriously difficult to fill. Keeping the ball has also been a weakness for the U.S., especially against high-caliber opponents.Next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup will be his first major test.

How did U.S. Soccer end up picking him over everyone else?

Much of the search for a new U.S. men’s manager has been shrouded in secrecy, with details only coming out in dribs and drabs. This conveyed the impression that Berhalter was the choice from the beginning and that the search was largely for show and not at all thorough. Yet the USSF is denying this assertion.In a statement, USSF indicated that it compiled an initial list of about 33 candidates. These included the usual suspects both foreign and domestic, such as Vermes, Marsch, Atlanta United’s Tata Martino, U.S. U-20 manager Tab Ramos and then-Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio. Of course, this is the bare minimum of what one would expect in the early stages. It doesn’t guarantee a robust search.Upon being hired as USMNT general manager, Stewart developed a profile of his ideal coach. These requirements included fluency in English, experience managing a professional club or senior national team, use of analytics, as well as “added value qualifications” like familiarity with MLS and the U.S. player pool, a willingness to work collaboratively and not focus solely on the national team.”It’s very important to have a coach that can actually implement a playing style that takes into account the players that you have,” said Stewart. “Within that style, it’s trying to find a formation and a way of playing to get results. I was looking for someone that demonstrated a clear ability to implement a style of play where the players knew their roles and it showed in the results his team attained on the field.”Once the profile was applied, the list shrank to 11 candidates, a group that included multiple coaches from abroad. Martino was out because of his lack of proficiency in English. Vermes was eliminated because of his desire to control every aspect of the program down to youth level, much like he does at SKC (which is also similar to how Klinsmann managed the U.S. national team). The fact that Ramos had managed only at youth level, and never a professional or senior national team, proved to be a fatal blow to his candidacy. Why Marsch didn’t get more consideration remains an unknown.One coach who made the cut was Osorio, and a source familiar with the process indicated that Osorio did have informal discussions with Stewart about the job. But his timeline for accepting a new post didn’t align with Stewart’s, and the Colombian opted to move on quickly and sign with Paraguay. (Osorio was asked whether this was true, but in a series of voice mail exchanges with ESPN FC colleague Tom Marshall, he did not address the question.)The list was eventually culled to five candidates, a group that included Pareja, who at the time was managing FC Dallas but has since moved on to Club Tijuana. Two of the candidates dropped out of the running at their own choosing. Pareja and Berhalter were deemed the two finalists.Should it have taken this long? No, although the election of a new USSF president in Carlos Cordeiro and Stewart’s hiring are understandable factors, it shouldn’t have taken another six months after Stewart was named to reach this point. The process has also done little to dispel the notion that the USSF remains insular in its ways given that some obvious candidates such as Vermes and Marsch weren’t spoken to. The three other candidates aside from Pareja and Berhalter remain a mystery. That said, Stewart, who insisted he would take his time in finding the right coach, now has his man, and the U.S. program can at least begin to move forward.”Gregg has the background as a person, successful coach and former player,” Stewart said. “When it comes to the base and added value qualifications, he scored extremely high. His willingness, work ethic and ideas about developing this player pool and influencing these players in and outside of camp and the thought process he has about that — constantly seeking new things — set him apart.”He is a coach that is learning at all times. Every single day he tries to develop himself so he can be a better leader for the team that he has. That is something that really stood out with Gregg and went a long way in the decision to offer him the job.”

The elephant in the room: Berhalter’s brother

The USSF has been at pains to insist that Berhalter’s brother Jay, who serves as the USSF’s chief commercial officer, has played no part in the search for a new manager. But the fact that Jay Berhalter was involved in the hiring of Stewart invites skepticism.Simply put, the USSF executive should have never been involved in any aspect of Stewart’s hiring and didn’t need to be given Stewart’s obvious qualifications. Do I think Stewart rolled over and cruised through the process? No. But the USSF didn’t help itself by allowing Jay to be involved in Stewart’s hiring. It has only served to undermine Gregg Berhalter’s tenure and add considerable pressure before he’s so much as picked up a whistle, even though he is qualified for the job. That is on the USSF, not Berhalter.With Dan Flynn set to retire as the USSF’s secretary general and CEO, Jay Berhalter has been suggested as a candidate to replace him. While the responsibilities of the position are primarily on the business side, the role involves overseeing the day-to-day operations of the entire federation. Stewart’s role as GM sees him report to the secretary general.Given Gregg Berhalter’s hiring, if Jay Berhalter were named to the post, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest would be gargantuan. And if things go sideways with the U.S. men’s national team under Gregg Berhalter’s stewardship, his brother would be far from a disinterested observer.The USSF has stated that unlike under previous president Sunil Gulati, any change in manager would be made at the behest of the board of directors, but the secretary general still wields immense influence within the organization. The USSF should look elsewhere to find Flynn’s successor.

Amid U.S. Soccer’s future focus, Gregg Berhalter just wants to get to work

Dec 4, 2018Noah DavisU.S. soccer writer

NEW YORK — The focus on a Tuesday afternoon at The Glasshouses — which is, according to its website, “a collection of technologically advanced high-rise event spaces” — was the future. The future of the United States men’s national team, to be specific.Gregg Berhalter, whose announcement as the new head coach prompted the occasion, talked about looking ahead. “It’s about moving forward and thinking about where we want to end up in 2022,” he said. “How do we get there? What are the right mix of players?”Carlos Cordeiro, the new-ish United States Soccer Federation president, did too. “This is a great day for U.S. Soccer,” he said. “A great day for the U.S. men’s national team. Indeed, a great day for soccer in America.”Earnie Stewart, the American general manager and person most responsible for Berhalter’s hiring, was also on message. “The style of play was important [in looking for a coach],” he said. “It explains where we are going and what we are trying to do.”

The forward focus continued later in the afternoon. A few hours after the news conference concluded, there was a “The Future is US” fan summit.All anyone wanted to talk about was next year and beyond. Berhalter, with his deep-set blue eyes offset by a blue button-down shirt that he wore without a tie, refused to even address how the U.S. team got to this point.”I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about the failure of the past,” he said. Which makes sense because the recent past has been pretty brutal.The Americans missed the 2018 World Cup. They spent more than 14 months without a head coach, a time in which interim manager Dave Sarachan worked admirably to introduce new players but found himself hamstrung by the lack of full-time tenure and a permanent direction. The results were fine, if not spectacular: wins against Paraguay and Mexico, a draw with France a month before Les Bleus took home the World Cup trophy in Russia, listless and convincing losses to Colombia, England and Italy. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah and a few other young talents emerged as possible solutions going forward.Life and careers continued. The men’s national team stood still.The future couldn’t come quickly enough. You can’t, however, get to the future without dealing with the present, so back to The Glasshouses. The 21st-floor room overlooking the rapidly growing west side of Manhattan, the Hudson River and New Jersey featured U.S. national team branding on the backdrop, the walls and the windows. Even the concrete pillars holding up the roof were draped in red, white and blue banners featuring the slogans “The future is US” and “Somos el futuro.” One image with those words depicted a smiling DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green and Bobby Wood. Are these the players you think of when you think of the future?

Before the proceedings, Cordeiro mingled. It’s a new era, one person observed to him. “Hopefully a good one,” the president responded. Elsewhere, there were assorted flavors of cookies, soda provided by U.S. Soccer sponsor Coca-Cola and various American soccer luminaries including MLS commissioner Don Garber.Following brief opening statements, the quartet seated at the dais — Cordiero, Stewart, Berhalter and USSF CEO Dan Flynn — answered questions for nearly half an hour. Most queries went to the new coach, who said the right things.”We want a team that’s going to compete. We want a team that’s going to be prepared. We want a team that’s going to understand our style of play and execute it,” he said. “The process has to accelerate. When you have quality players, when you have players that have the ability to learn, you can accelerate that process a little bit. Each and every game, you should expect to see development. That’s my job.”Berhalter talked passionately about building a cohesive style — “an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent” — while touting his success at doing so in his last job with the Columbus Crew without coming off as overly impressed with himself. He mentioned sending supplemental materials and possibly webinars to his players when they are with their clubs around the world so they can develop as a group separately.Throughout the event, Berhalter stayed calm and poised, respectful and collected. He presented as a thoughtful manager who understands what he wants from his players and how to empower them to achieve these ends. This should be more than enough.While a news release announcing his appointment was absurdly effusive in its praise of his qualities — “known as a fiercely competitive and intelligent player, a natural leader and a detailed, forward-thinking manager” — the truth is that he’s a fine and appropriate candidate to do the job. After a playing career that spanned three European countries and featured 44 caps with the U.S. national team, he had an up-and-down managerial stint with Sweden’s Hammarby before joining the Crew as head coach and sporting director. It is this experience, which involved holding together a club with an uncertain future, that will help him most in his new job.As American manager, his first task will be re-establishing a culture of accountability and presenting a coherent, sensible plan for the next few years. This is a skill set he possesses.Still, the whole event, frankly, felt at least a tad ridiculous: the hyper-modern event space, the high production value, the flowery rhetoric. The future, man, the future. The U.S. got its guy — though Stewart admitted that one of his three top candidates was no longer available when he wanted to interview him. Berhalter sat, listened, spoke. One suspects what he really wants to be doing is coaching. He’ll get his chance starting soon, and judgment will follow quickly after.But if you’re a U.S. men’s national team fan, it’s easier to feel better about tomorrow today than it was yesterday.

United States manager Gregg Berhalter ‘humbled, honored’ as he takes over national team

Dec 4, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Gregg Berhalter said he is “humbled” and “honored” to be taking over as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, and that he is ready for the challenge of leading the team back to the World Cup.Berhalter was introduced at a press conference in New York City, ending a 13-month period in which Dave Sarachan managed the team on a caretaker basis. Sarachan’s involvement followed the resignation of Bruce Arena after the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.Berhalter, 45, becomes the first U.S. manager in the program’s history to have also played in a World Cup. The former Columbus Crew manager also represented the U.S. at youth level and had an extensive career as player, spending the bulk of his playing days in Europe.”I’m ready for this challenge,” said Berhalter. “The youth national team, the full national team, my experiences as a player and my experiences in the coaching ranks have prepared me for this moment. I’m excited for the opportunity to turn this group of men into a team.”I’ll be focusing on the players and team, how we can compete first and foremost. I’m focused on building a style of play, and I’m focused on team [cohesiveness]. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I know there’s quality in this group, and I know that the closer we can come together, the closer we can come to [reaching] our goals.”U.S. men’s national team general manager Earnie Stewart, as well U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro shed a bit more light on the process that led to Berhalter’s hiring. Cordeiro called it “the most inclusive and comprehensive search in our history.”Stewart confirmed earlier reports that he began with an initial list of 33 candidates, which he reduced to 11 after applying the coaching profile he developed with other USSF staff members. That list was then ultimately reduced to three candidates, one of whom later withdrew his candidacy due to timing issues, leaving Stewart with Berhalter and current Club Tijuana manager Oscar Pareja.

Berhalter was ultimately the choice, and he added he was first contacted in late August. The decision gained unanimous approval of USSF technical development committee last Wednesday, and then the full Board of Directors last weekend.The length of the process has been criticized, but Stewart said he had no regrets on missing out on a potential head coach.”That’s part of life, part of soccer, that’s the way things go,” he said. “I think we went through this in a thorough way.”Cordeiro added, “We have no regrets at all. We got our best guy…we couldn’t have moved any faster.”Berhalter will need to get up to speed quickly in terms of imparting his philosophy to the pool of players. There will be a camp of domestic players that will take place in Chula Vista, California starting on Jan. 7, and will culminate with a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and Costa Rica on Feb. 2.Berhalter added that his first priority is immediately reaching out to players. He’ll be calling a number of domestic-based players, then he’ll head to the MLS Cup final between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers on Dec. 8, and from there he’ll head over to Europe to meet face to face.”What I’m focused on is how can we do more outside of camp,” he said. “What communication can we give to the players that’s going to prepare them for the learning that’s going to take place in camp? And then setting the stage in January, setting the stage for team expectations, team culture and style of play. If we can get a head start by working with this group in an intensive period in January, and then incorporate European-based players into the squad in March.”Berhalter’s reputation is that of an attack-minded manager with a keen eye for tactical detail. While most new managers make that claim upon their introduction, Berhalter insists he’ll stay true to his preferred style, while also being smart in terms of the challenges put in front of him.”The idea is that we are an attacking-based team, that wants to create goalscoring opportunities by disorganizing opponents,” he said. “We’ll do that in a number of ways. Consistently over my time in Columbus, we’ve done it through build up. We start the ball with the goalie in the back, the teams try to press us, and we play through them to try to create goalscoring opportunities.”Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid-block or move into high pressure to force turnovers to win the ball and immediately create goalscoring opportunities. The idea is that it’s a fluid style [where] the players are intent on breaking lines, playing through opponent and creating goalscoring opportunities.”I think at times we can do a better job to change the tempo of the game instead of playing at such a high rhythm all the time. I think mixing that rhythm is going to be very important, especially at international level, especially considering some of the climates you’re playing in. But we want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, and creating goalscoring opportunities. That should be DNA of this team.”

Berhalter aiming for both distinct style, flexibility for US national team

December 5, 20184:19PM ESTDylan ButlerContributor

NEW YORK — Under Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew SC had a clear identity as a possession-based team that played an attacking, attractive brand of soccer. Will the same be true for the US national team now that Berhalter has been named their head coach? In his formal introduction Monday at a press conference in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, Berhalter gave some hints about what he expects from the USMNT tactically under his watch. “The idea is that we’re an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent,” he said. “We’ll do that in a number of different ways.”In five years with Crew SC, Berhalter said, that plan was executed by possessing the ball out of the back and by utilizing high pressure. “We’ve done it through buildup where we start the ball with the goalie in the back and when teams try to press us, we play through them to create goal-scoring opportunities, we’re making the field big,” Berhalter said. “Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid block or move into high pressure to force turnovers, win the ball and immediate create goal-scoring opportunities.”The idea is it’s a fluid style that the players are intent on breaking lines, playing through the opponent and creating goal-scoring opportunities.”When closely watching the young USMNT this year, under interim manager Dave Sarachan, Berhalter said he saw potential, but also a team that “needs development, needs direction.”And it’s a team, he said, that will need some tactical flexibility based on the opponent and game conditions. “At times we can do a better job to chane the tempo of the game instead of playing at such a high rhythm all the time,” Berhaler said. “I think mixing that rhythm is going to be important, especially at the international level, especially considering some of the climates you’re playing in. But we want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, creating goal-scoring opportunities. That should be the DNA of this team.”Berhalter said the distribution of that philosophy begins with initial calls to MLS players before going to MLS Cup and a trip abroad to meet European-based players face-to-face. Then comes the critical January camp. While it was too soon to talk possible invitees, Berhalter said the camp will be his first chance to truly place his stamp on the expectations for the team. “Setting the stage in January, setting the stage for team expectations, team culture and style of play,” he said. “We can get a head start by working with the group in an intensive period in January, and then integrate the European players into the squad in March.”And while Berhalter said there will be take-home work for players in his camp, likely utilizing “supplemental materials” like video libraries and webinars to continue to stress his messaging, the work, and improvement at each camp will be vital. But the principles, he said, will not be hard to comprehend. “My job as a coach, and our job as a staff, is make it as simple as possible,” Berhalter said. “Our game is based on very simple principles, they’re not complicated principles. The training sessions are very straightforward. I think it’s easy for the players to pick up on it. I think to execute it a really high level does take some time, but it’s based on simple principles. I hope the group will be able to appreciate that.”

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT U.S. MNT HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER

BERHALTER IS THE FIRST U.S. WORLD CUP VETERAN TO BECOME HEAD COACH OF THE U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MNT by Jeff Crandall on Dec 2, 2018

With the hiring of former U.S. international defender Gregg Berhalter as head coach, the U.S. Men’s National Team has set a new course as it looks ahead to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, Nations League and qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.Here are five things to know about the new USA boss:

Early Beginnings

Gregg Berhalter was born on Aug. 1, 1973 in Englewood, N.J. and grew up in nearby Tenafly. Notably, he is the godson of former Boston Red Sox player and baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.From an early age, he played at Union County Sport Club and in high school, alongside future MNT teammate and captain Claudio Reyna at New Jersey high school powerhouse St. Benedicts Prep in Newark.A standout in high school, Berhalter went on to play at the University of North Carolina. There he played with more future MNT teammates in Eddie Pope and Kerry Zavagnin, and went on to captain the USA at the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championship in Australia.

Reppin’ the Red, White & Blue

His senior international career began when he came on at halftime of the MNT’s 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Oct. 19, 1994 in Dharan. From there, he served as the youngest member of the U.S. side that finished fourth at the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay. Another injury kept him from making a strong case for himself to go to the 1998 FIFA World Cup, but Berhalter found his place with the MNT the following year, helping the team to a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup and making a steady contribution as the side qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.Having made the final roster for Korea/Japan, Berhalter played in both Knockout Round matches – a 2-0 Round of 16 win against Mexico and 1-0 Quarterfinal defeat to Germany.  The latter match nearly produced the would be pinnacle moment in his career. Berhalter never scored a goal for the MNT, but if a hand or referee angle had been different he would have tallied one of the biggest in team history. In the second half of the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinal against Germany, Berhalter’s volley was handled on the line by German defender Torsten Frings. Controversially, Scottish referee Hugh Dallas waved off calls for a hand ball, allowing Die Mannschaft to edge by with a 1-0 victory.Berhalter would go on to play for the USA at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup and help the MNT qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He made the final 23-man roster and finished his career with 44 international caps. Notably, he becomes the first MNT head coach to have played for the USA at a FIFA World Cup.

Seeking A Professional Challenge

Playing at the University of North Carolina from 1991-94, Berhalter said that college soccer helped him adjust to the physical side of the game, but felt he needed a bigger challenge and elected to leave the Tar Heels after his junior season. With Major League Soccer not set to launch until 1996, he looked abroad for his first professional opportunity and perhaps foreshadowed his move into management.“I knew at the time I wanted soccer to be my life,” he told ussoccer.com in 2002. “Looking back, at the time I did choose a risky path, deciding to leave college early to go to Europe.”Fortunately, he found a good situation with Dutch Eerste Divisie side PEC Zwolle, where he was drafted into the starting XI straight away in 1994. The signing began a six-year sojourn for Berhalter in Holland, spending two years each at Zwolle and Sparta Rotterdam before winning back-to-back Player of the Year honors at SC Cambuur.Beginning to find his way with the U.S. Men’s National Team around that time, Berhalter spent a season with English League Championship side Crystal Palace in 2001. Following two strong performances for the MNT at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he moved back to the continent with German club Energie Cottbus. After helpin Cottbus regain promotion to the Bundesliga, Berhalter moved across Germany where he continued as captain of 1860 Munich for three more seasons. A smart and vocal defender, Berhalter also honed his skills with penalty kicks in Germany, often taking attempts for his clubs.Always holding a desire to play in the USA, Berhalter returned home to end his career with the LA Galaxy in 2009. That year, he helped the club to the 2009 MLS Cup Final. Despite converting his penalty, the Galaxy fell to Real Salt Lake in a shootout. He helped the Galaxy claim the 2010 MLS Supporters Shield, and while serving as a player/assistant coach in 2011 earned that title along with the MLS Cup to end his career.

An Eye Towards the Touchline

An early student of the game, Berhalter has indicated that his time playing in four different countries informed the way he looked at things, with each stop offering a different experience. In Holland, he kept detailed notes on training sessions and ideas about tactics and positional play. Defensive structure was his focus in England, while he took in the transitional and finishing aspects of the game in Germany.He began to put some of that knowledge into practice off the field during the end of his career. While playing for 1860 Munich, Berhalter assisted the technical staff in scouting the team’s upcoming opponents. In his final season, Berhalter began applying his years of study, taking up a dual player/assistant coach role with the LA Galaxy in the club’s MLS Cup and Supporter Shield winning campaign in 2011.

Harkening back to the decision to begin his playing career abroad, he instantly moved into management when he took the reins at Swedish club Hammarby weeks after the Galaxy lifted MLS Cup. There, he managed Hammarby to within one place of the Allsvenskan promotion playoffs in 2012, but returned to the U.S. the following year when he was named Sporting Director and Head Coach of Columbus Crew SC.A believer in analytics, Berhalter took a detail-oriented approach in managing the soccer operations of Crew SC. He led the small-market club to the MLS Cup Playoffs in four of five seasons, working with a salary budget that ranked in the league’s bottom half each year. He took Columbus to the 2015 MLS Cup Final and within a game of a return in 2017 when Crew SC fell to eventual champions Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Final.Along with holding the UEFA “A” Coaching License, Berhalter was also part of the inaugural class to earn U.S. Soccer’s “PRO” Coaching License in 2016.

History of Leadership

Berhalter showed to be a leader early on in his international career, captaining the USA as it advanced to the Knockout Round of the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championships in Australia. He continued wearing the armband with that age group as they formed the U-23 MNT going into the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta but was forced out of the competition with an injury just weeks before the opening ceremony.Most notably, Berhalter is one of the few Americans to serve as captain of two European clubs. The veteran center back wore the armband in the final two seasons of his stay with Energie Cottbus (2004-06), leading the club back to the Bundesliga at the end of his tenure there. He continued as captain when he moved to 1860 Munich, spending three seasons wearing the armband in Bavaria.When he returned stateside with the LA Galaxy, the experienced defender served as a mentor for the Galaxy’s young back line which featured future World Cup player Omar Gonzalez, as well as rising players AJ DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin. The trio of youngsters would serve as stalwart pieces of the club’s successful run from 2009-2014.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: FORMER TEAMMATES DISCUSS GREGG BERHALTER AS U.S. MNT HEAD COACH Dec 3, 2018

Following the announcement of Gregg Berhalter as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, ussoccer.com reached out to a number his former MNT teammates to get their thoughts on his hire.

Claudio Reyna, four-time FIFA World Cup veteran and former MNT captain:

“Gregg is an exciting choice for the National Team job. He is someone who is organized and extremely detailed with his preparation for every training session, camp, and game. I think without a doubt players will respond to him because of the intensity and energy he will bring. Players love the level of information and preparation he provides. No doubt he will give the team the right mentality to get results and play good soccer as the weeks and months progress.”

“As a player, he was a leader on and off the field and brought a high level of professionalism. Even though he didn’t wear the armband, he acted as a captain in terms of how he supported his teammates. He became of voice of sharing ideas and thoughts, and was always someone I spoke to about how we could play better and ways we could exploit our opponents. As a friend, colleague and teammate, it was no surprise that he transitioned into being a good coach.”

Landon Donovan, three-time FIFA World Cup veteran and joint MNT all-time leading scorer:

“What I remember about playing with Gregg is that he was always there to win and there to compete every day. That’s who Gregg is, and that’s why he’s been so successful as a coach. As I got to know him through the National Team and the Galaxy, you could tell quickly that he was someone who was going to be a very good coach. He understood the game, he studied the game, he talked about the game and he wanted to learn about the game. He’s as bright as they come in U.S. Soccer circles. I’m very happy for Gregg and excited for our National Team program. I think he’s a great hire and I think he’s the right person to be moving this team forward.” 

Kasey Keller, four-time FIFA World Cup veteran and ESPN analyst:

“If you look at the American candidates, Gregg ticks all the boxes. He has playing experience in Europe and MLS. He has coaching experience in Europe and MLS, and licenses from both. As a manager, he brings a great level of organization and professionalism, which he demonstrated in Columbus.  Working for an organization that didn’t have the most resources, he maximized their potential and really developed a high level of communication with his players. Those types of skills are big for a National Team manager. “During his playing career both at clubs and for the National Team, he worked with so many different coaches from which he can draw little ideas. He knows what it’s like being a European-based player on the National Team and what challenges that brings, and he knows what it’s like for MLS guys. He also knows what it means to represent the United States, and he demonstrated that every time he came into the National Team.“With that whole package, the choice of Gregg makes total sense.”

Eddie Lewis, two-time FIFA World Cup veteran and former teammate of Gregg Berhalter:

“Gregg‘s intensity, tactical knowledge, and professionalism as a player have already translated into success as a manager. While it comes as no surprise, it’s certainly something he has worked hard for and earned. In addition to bringing those skills to the National Team, I’m confident in this new role that he will make sure all the players understand the honor of representing our country and the responsibility of the wearing the U.S. jersey.”  

Brad Friedel, two-time FIFA World Cup veteran and head coach of the New England Revolution:

“For the last five years in Columbus, Gregg has demonstrated his ability to implement a style of play. With all progress of soccer in the United States and the increased maturity and sophistication of the players and the leagues, I think it’s important to have a coach who knows the American player and the American system. Gregg has certainly demonstrated that. In New England he will have an ally, and we’ll help in any way we can.”

USA WINS SECOND STRAIGHT CONCACAF U-20 TITLE WITH 2-0 VICTORY VS. MEXICO

ALEX MENDEZ SCORES BOTH GOALS, TIES U.S. RECORD FOR MOST GOALS IN A U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT; MENDEZ WINS TOURNAMENT’S GOLDEN BALL, BRADY SCOTT AWARDED GOLDEN GLOVE; 2019 FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP DRAW SET FOR FEB. 24 IN GYDNIA, POLAND  U-20 MNT Nov 21, 2018

BRADENTON, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2018) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team turned in a sterling effort in a 2-0 win against Mexico to capture a second consecutive Concacaf U-20 Championship title. Alex Mendez scored both goals to guide the U.S. to victory and cap off a Golden Ball-winning performance at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, while goalkeeper Brady Scott was recognized with the tournament Golden Glove Award. Additionally, Scott, defenders Sergino Dest, Chris Gloster and Mark McKenzie, midfielders Brandon Servania, Mendez, Ayo Akinola, and Ulysses Llanez were all named to the tournament Best XI team by the competition’s Technical Study Committee. The game began with the U.S. well in control with the wealth of possession and offensive forays. After the 15-minute mark, Mexico began to push forward with more confidence and players, having played on the counter in the early going. With increased space to operate its offense, the U.S. struck the opening blow via a nice attack down the left sideline that culminated in Paxton Pomykal cutting infield and picking out Alex Mendez at the top of the area for a one-time shot through traffic that nestled in the lower right corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage.Continuing its run of commanding play, the U.S. nearly doubled its lead in the 26th minute again through Pomykal, but the ball refused to go in, hitting a defender then the Mexico goalkeeper and bounced toward the open net before being cleared off the line.

Things began to get chippy after that as tackles from both teams came in hard and confrontations between players became more common. The disrupted nature of the game suited Mexico just fine as it won a number of free kicks in dangerous areas around the USA’s final third, one of which resulted in the best chance of the half for El Tri.With half time closing in, a set piece was lofted into the USA’s six-yard box and required U.S. goalkeeper Brady Scott to make an imperative kick save to deny a headed attempt in the 41st minute to preserve his side’s 1-0 lead.In the second half, the U.S. used the lead well, picking its spots to go forward and striking pay dirt just six minutes in. It was Pomykal again who played the catalyst, winning the ball in midfield and streaking down the left side, then cutting through the box past multiple defenders before picking out the late run of Mendez. The skillful midfielder rounded a defender and played a wall pass with Pomykal that put him in a goal and Mendez tucked his shot between the legs of the on-rushing goalkeeper to double the U.S. lead.From there, the game began to stretch, and the spotlight shined brightest on the goalkeepers who were both superb, making numerous saves to keep the match tilted on a knife edge. Mexico nearly broke through in the 62nd minute, but Brandon Saravina was on hand to clear the ball of the line for the U.S.Passions continued to flare as they had in the first half, but neither team was able to exceed the intensity of the other and U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made the right subs to keep the U.S. in the driver’s seat and across the finish line for a second straight U-20 championship.

Goal Scoring Rundown: 
USA – Alex Mendez (Paxton Pomykal), 17th minute:
 The U.S. worked the ball down the left touchline to Paxton Pomykal who cut inside past a Mexico defender before spotting Mendez waiting unmarked at the top of the box. Pomykal laid off a perfectly weighted pass that Mendez hit first time with his left foot, sending a low drive through traffic into the bottom right corner of the net. USA 1, MEX 0 [WATCH]

USA – Alex Mendez (Paxton Pomykal), 51st minute: The U.S. struck on a lightening quick counter attack early in the second half as Pomykal stripped the ball from the opposition and raced down the left sideline before cutting across the top of the Mexico box past a number of defenders. He picked out the late arrival of Mendez who played the ball right back to Pomykal at the top of the box and he returned it into Mendez’s path. As Mexico ‘keeper Carlos Higuera came out to close down the angle, Mendez slipped the ball between his legs and into the vacated net, tying the all-time U.S. record for goals scored by a single player at the Concacaf U-20 Championship. USA 2, MEX 0 [WATCH] FINAL

Social: Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt@ussoccer_esp); FacebookInstagram

NOTES:

  • With the result, U.S. head coach Tab Ramos moves to 20-3-2 all-time in Concacaf U-20 Championship play and has led the team to four straight World Cups.
  • The USA is unbeaten in its last 13 Concacaf U-20 Championship matches dating back to the opener of 2017, establishing a new team record for longest stretch without a loss in this tournament. Previously, the USA went unbeaten in 10 games from the opener of 2005 (5-0-1), 2007 (2-0-1), before falling to Costa Rica in the 2009 final after going 2-0-2.
  • The USA now has a 3-8-0 all-time record versus Mexico in this competition.
  • U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made three changes from the team that started versus Honduras: Brady Scott returned to goal, Matt Real, who wore the captain’s armband, replaced Chris Gloster at left back, and Justin Rennicks replaced Sebastian Soto at forward. 
  • Paxton Pomykal and Rennicks have appeared in all eight matches.
  • Tournament Golden Ball winner, Alex Mendez led the U.S. with eight goals, which ties the USA’s tournament record set by Ricky Davis who scored eight in 1976. 
  • The teams both played in their third final over the last four tournaments. They met in 2013, with Mexico winning 3-1 in overtime. Mexico also won the 2015 Championship, while the USA captured its first ever CU20 title in 2017.
  •  

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11/26/18 MLS Conference Finals Leg 2 Thurs, US Men Lose 2 Games in Europe, Champions League Returns Tues/Wed

 Well we still have great goalkeepers.  That’s about all I can say after watching a youthful Italian side absolutely obliterate our US National team in time of possession and shots as they finally conceded a goal in the 94th minute.  Ethan Horvath playing his first game for the Red, White and Blue in over a year – was godlike between the pipes as he saved no fewer than 9 shots – 5 point blank spectacular saves.  Yes this was a young squad and yes we wereplaying a different type of line-up – employing what looked like a never before practiced 3-5-2 alignment.  It was painful to watch folks as our manager elected to change out 9 of 11 starters from the England debacle.  I honestly don’t know if there is anything positive to say about US soccer right now.  This was Italy’s youngsters vs our youngsters and well if 75% possession and 12-3 shots on goal says anything  – Italy’s group was a little stronger.  Of course our goalkeeper – Ethan Horvath –who by all accounts has fallen behind Columbus keeper Zach Steffen – played well enough to perhaps think he might should be second on our new list of Goalies(in front of Brad Guzan).  That’s about all I got out of the 2 games.  The 4 man back line looked horrible vs England and the brand new 3 man back line vs Italyfared no better in my mind.   Pulisic hadhis moments, but didn’t have much help and honestly was just a little about average at best – even though he was the best player for the US again (besides the keeper).  Not sure I have ever felt less excitement about our US Soccer team or US Soccer program.  With no manager over a full year after being eliminated from last summer’s World Cup, despite the youth – US soccer on the men’s side is at a standstill.  Now about the guy who should have put himself on the radar to being the US Starting Goalkeeper moving forward, EthanHorvath is from Highlands Ranch, Colorado – the 23 year old recently became just the 2nd US goalie ever to play in the Champions League (Tim Howard the other) when he was in the net for a Club Brugge tie with Monaco afew weeks back.  The future in goal looks good for the US with 2 really strong young under 24 year old Goalkeepers battling for the top spot.  As for the rest of the US team and men’s program – 1 big huge UNKNOWN at this point –thanks to US Soccer.   Thank Goodness – the USLadies soccer team looks like the team to beat in this summer’s 2019 Women’sWorld Cup in France. 

Champions League

Big games this week as PSG must win at home vs Liverpool on Wednesday at 3 pm or at least draw and have Red Star lose at Napoli.  This group is really wide open still.  In Group G – Real Madrid is thru with a win at Roma or a draw and some help. Roma: Only need a point from their remaining two matches (home to Real Madrid, away to Plzen) to secure qualification. Group H has Man U thru with a home win vs Young Boys and Juventus advances with a win or draw at home vs Valencia.  Dortmund and maybe US youngster Pulisic are thru with a win or tie at home vs Club Brugge Wed at 3 pm online and Atletico Madrid will be thru with a home win vs Monaco also at 3 pm also online only.  Tottenham must win at home vs Inter on Wed on TNT at 3 pm and must still take a point at Barcelona – who will win the group B with a win at PSV Wed online.  Man City needs just a tie vs Lyon to win group F on Tuesday afternoon 3 pm online, while US midfielder McKinney and Schalke advance in this next to the last game of Group D play with a win at Porto.

MLS

The MLS Playoffs has reached the Conference Finals– 2nd legs starting with the top 2 teams in MLS – NY Red Bulls hosting Atlanta down 3-0, Then Sporting KC will host Portland Thurs eve 9:30 on Fox Sports 1. The Finals are Sat Dec 8 on ESPN. 

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 GAMES ON TV

Tues  Nov 27   Champs League

1 pm TNT                   Athens vs Ajax

3 pm TNT                ASRoma vs Real Madrid

3 pm Uni Desp        Juventus vs Valencia

3pm   Uni Desp       Bayern Munich vs Benefica

Weds  Nov 28   Champs League

1 pm TNT                   AtleticoMadrid vs Monaco

3pm   TNT                   Tottenhamvs Inter Milan

3 pm Univision OL    PSG vs Liverpool

3 pm   Uni Desp        Schalke vs Porto

Thurs  Nov 29   MLS Playoffs

7 pm FS1                 NY Red Bulls vs Atlanta United vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2

9:30 pm ESPN       Sporting KC vs Portland Timbers vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2

 Sat, Dec 1   

9:30 am Fox Sp 2       Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Freiburg

10 am NBCSN                 Man City  vs Bournmouth

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Southampton vs Man United

12 pm EPSN+                Fiorentina vs Juventus

2:30 bein Sport        Real Madrid vs Valencia

Sun, Dec 2  

7 am NBCSN            Chelsea  vs Fulham (Ream)

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Brussia Mgladbach

9:05 am NBCSN       Arsenal vs Tottenham

11:15 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Everton

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

2:30 pm ESPN+    Roma vs Inter

Saturday, Dec. 8 (8 p.m.): (FOX, UniMas)

UD= Univision Desportes 

Champions League

How Teams Can Advance to Knockout Rounds – eSPNFC

PSG Need to Learn from Liverpools Collective Spirit

Arturo Vidal’s Son becomes Social Media Star with help from Messi

MLS

Timbers, Sporting KC draw first-leg blank

Sporting Kansas City and the host Portland Timbers played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Western Conference final on Sunday.

Echoes of 2013 as SKC hold out against Portland

There was something eerily familiar about Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday night.

Atlanta pounces on Red Bulls abandoning the press

The New York Red Bulls pressed their way to MLS’ summit, but they were a different team in the East finals. So was Atlanta, who was prepared to win.

Sources: U.S. keeper Steffen in talks with City

Multiple sources have confirmed that the fee expected for the Crew goalkeeper’s transfer to the Etihad could be between $7 million to $10 million.

 USA 

US ends 2018 and Sarachan Era with Predictable Defeat to Italy – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Gomez – the US at the Lowest Point Ever – Video –  

Italy beats US Men, GK Horvath at the End 1-0 – SI Avi Creditor

Player Ratings – US team look timid in year end defeat to Italy – Greg Seltzer MLS

US Youth Given Reality Check by England Player Ratings  Jason Davis ESPN F

US Learns in Loss to England

Stats behind the US Loss

US Rising Stars

Cherundolo Happy to Help US after Losing Coaching Job

 US Men to Play Costa Rica Feb 2

US U20s to face Mexico in Concacaf Champ – Wed night at 7 pm on Univision Desportes

US LADIES Finish Year Unbeaten

What’s Next for the US Ladies

 

Champions League: How teams can qualify for the knockout rounds

Nov 22, 2018Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.If two teams are level on points, head-to-head record is the first tie-breaker.

Qualified for round of 16: Barcelona
Eliminated: AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, Monaco, PSV Eindhoven, Viktoria Plzen, Young Boys

GROUP A

Borussia Dortmund: Need a point at home to Club Brugge to qualify and will top the group with a win if Atletico lose to Monaco.

Atletico Madrid: Will be through if they secure victory at home to Monaco, or if Brugge do not win at Dortmund.

Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games, away to BVB and home to Atleti, to even have a chance.

Monaco: Have been eliminated and must get at least four points from their remaining two games to make the Europa League.

GROUP B

Barcelona: Have qualified as only one of Spurs and Inter Milan are able to overtake them. Will secure top spot with a win away to PSV on Matchday 5, or a draw if Inter fail to beat Spurs.

Inter Milan: Need a point away to Spurs on Nov. 28 to secure their place.

Tottenham: Must win at home to Inter to remain in contention, and will then likely need at least a point away to Barcelona.

PSV Eindhoven: Have been eliminated and need a minimum of four points to make the Europa League.

GROUP C

Liverpool: Will book their place with a win at PSG on Nov. 28 if Red Star fail to win at Napoli. Would also be guaranteed to go through regardless should they win at home to Napoli on Matchday 6 by at least two goals.

Napoli: A victory over Red Star would see them through if PSG do not beat Liverpool.

Paris Saint-Germain: Will be eliminated if they lose at home to Liverpool and Napoli beat Red Star, but a draw or win very much keeps PSG in the hunt with Liverpool to play Napoli on Matchday 6.

Red Star Belgrade: A draw away to Napoli would keep them in contention, and they could then hope a home win over PSG might send them through at the Italian club’s expense. Eliminated if they lose to Napoli.

GROUP D

Porto: Will be through with a draw at home to Schalke, or if Galatasaray do not to win at Lokomotiv Moscow. A Porto victory would secure top spot.

Schalke: Through with a victory away at Porto, or if Galatasaray fail to win at Lokomotiv.

Galatasaray: Have to win at Lokomotiv and realistically hope Porto beat Schalke to stay in contention.

Lokomotiv Moscow: Have been eliminated but could still earn a place in the Europa League, though they would need to win at home to Gala first.

GROUP E

Bayern Munich: Will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Benfica on Nov. 27.

Ajax: Will definitely be through if they win at AEK Athens on Matchday 5, or if Benfica fail to win at Bayern Munich.

Benfica: Must win both their remaining games and hope Ajax pick up no more than one point.

AEK Athens: Have been eliminated and must pick up at least four points, including a win away to Benfica, to be in with a chance of the Europa League.

GROUP F

Manchester City: Need a point against Lyon on Matchday 5 to secure qualification and will top the group with a win.

Lyon: Will be through if they win at home to Manchester City on Nov. 27, or if both group games are draws that night.

Hoffenheim: Not guaranteed to qualify even if they win both of their remaining games. They lose the head to head with Lyon on away goals so must pick up four more points than the Ligue 1 team in the remaining two games to qualify ahead of them. Could still finish ahead of Man City for second if they win both games and City lose in Lyon.

If the top three all finish on nine points, Lyon would win the group with Hoffenheim second and Man City eliminated on the three-team head-to-head mini-league

Shakhtar Donetsk: If Lyon pick up no more than a point at home to Man City, Shakhtar will be through with two wins. Shakhtar host Lyon on Matchday 6.

GROUP G

Real Madrid: Will qualify, and secure top spot, if they win at Roma on Nov. 27. Would also be sure of going through with a draw/defeat if CSKA fail to beat Viktoria Plzen.

Roma: Only need a point from their remaining two matches (home to Real Madrid, away to Plzen) to secure qualification. Also through if CKSA do not beat Plzen. Roma would need to beat Real Madrid by four goals to secure top spot on Matchday 5.

CSKA Moscow: Must win both their remaining matches and hope either Roma lose both games or Real Madrid pick up no more than a point at Roma.

Viktoria Plzen: Are out of the Champions League but would be in pole position for a Europa League spot by winning at CSKA next time out.

GROUP H

Juventus: Will be through if they avoid defeat to Valencia on Matchday 6. Top spot in the group will be secured if they win and Man United do not beat Young Boys.

Manchester United: Qualification will be sealed if they win at home to Young Boys on Nov. 27 and Valencia do not beat Juve.

Valencia: Must hope they stay within three points of Manchester United going into Matchday 6, when they are at home to the Premier League team.

Young Boys: Have been eliminated and would need to win both remaining games to even have a chance of the Europa League.

 

 

 

U.S. ends 2018 and Dave Sarachan era with predictable defeat to Italy

5:09 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

GENK, Belgium — The U.S. men’s national team finished off 2018 with a 1-0 defeat against four-time World Cup champion Italy. In a match that Italy dominated from start to finish, U.S. goalkeeper Ethan Horvath stood tall, but Matteo Politano’s goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time proved to be the difference.Here are three thoughts from the match.

1. Sarachan era ends with a disheartening, predictable defeat

Tuesday’s match was almost certainly going to be the last in charge for caretaker manager Dave Sarachan. And as has been his habit, he fielded a youthful starting XI — the youngest, in fact, in the modern era — with an average age of 22 years, 71 days. All told, he made 10 changes from the team that fell 3-0 to England on Thursday. Christian Pulisic was the only holdover, and at 20 years, 63 days, also became the youngest U.S. captain in that timeframe, besting Landon Donovan’s mark of 22 years, 220 days back in 2004.Italy manager Roberto Mancini also fielded an experimental lineup, with six players having fewer than five caps, including Stefano Sensi, who was making his international debut.Mindful of the timid defending against England, Sarachan set the U.S. out in a 5-3-2, with Pulisic partnered up top with Josh Sargent. What unfolded was a match that was in many ways similar to last June’s 1-1 draw with France, which just so happened to be another time the U.S. employed this formation. The U.S. was content to defend deep and rely on stout defending and some sharp goalkeeping — in this case, from Horvath — to keep them in it.The lack of familiarity with the formation was evident just three minutes in, when a simple long ball to Federico Chiesa gave him a clear look at goal, only for Horvath to save from close range.The U.S. rarely kept the ball long enough to build any kind of sustained attack. Tyler Adams would occasionally break pressure by either dribbling or passing his way out of trouble, but the Americans’ first-half pass-completion percentage of 66.7 largely told the tale. And on the rare occasions when Pulisic got into the open field, Italy was more then willing to engage in some tactical fouling to stifle any budding counter-attacks.The only bit missing was a goal, and while the U.S. central defending trio of Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman and Cameron Carter-Vickers had some vital interventions, it was the play of Horvath who kept the U.S. in the match, coming up with several sharp saves in the first half.The second half started out with more of the same, as Horvath saved brilliantly with his left foot to deny Kevin Lasagna’s breakaway attempt. The match then began to get more end-to-end, although Italy always looked more likely to score.That said, the U.S. conjured up its best chance of the night in the 64th minute, when Salvatore Sirigu did well to deny Zimmerman’s header.The match soon returned to the Horvath show as he dove to his right to deny substitute Vincenzo Grifo’s curling shot. But ultimately his efforts weren’t enough. Some sharp passing through the U.S. defense put Politano in on goal, and he fired past Horvath with about a minute remaining.Certainly, the U.S. worked hard on the night, but the result was totally deserved for Italy. The defeat marks a disappointing end to 2018 for the Americans, and there remains a ton of work to do for 2019.

2. Horvath an example for teammates to follow

Any young player wanting to get some insight into the ups and downs of playing in Europe could do worse than consult with Horvath. The Club Brugge keeper not only has had spells in and out of the lineup, but there have been moments where he was buried so deep on the Brugge bench, that observers were left to wonder if he had any kind of future in Europe.But to Horvath’s credit he’s stuck it out, and he’s been rewarded of late with some impressive performances, including in the UEFA Champions League. That sharpness carried over into this match. In addition to his aforementioned close-range saves, he did well to tip over a Domenico Berardi shot in the 39th minute, as well as parry away a seeing-eye free kick that oftentimes can sneak in. Horvath then delivered his best save of the night on Lasagna’s attempt in the 59th minute, holding his ground well to save with his left foot.About the only downside to Horvath’s performance is that it occurred in a position of relative strength for the U.S., as Zack Steffen and Brad Guzan are plenty capable in their own right.

3. Where does the U.S go from here?

The Sarachan era now ends with a record of 3-5-4, and in the process, he fulfilled the task handed to him by relying heavily on young players in a bid to kick-start the next cycle.Yet there are still plenty of questions as the team heads into 2019, beyond the naming of the next manager. The biggest one of the lot is just who beyond Pulisic is going to step up and help lead this attack. Granted, the U.S. has been forced to plow through a withering lineup of opponents. It will not be going up against the likes of England and Brazil when the Gold Cup commences next summer — and it will feature an older, more veteran lineup.But the reality is that there isn’t much in the way of refined talent in the U.S. squad at the moment. Beyond Pulisic, Adams and perhaps John Brooks, there are plenty of positions where the competition is wide open.With the World Cup cycle beginning for real in January, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. But the U.S. pool isn’t rife with players where you’re saying, “There are a lot of guys who should be on the field.” Instead there are a lot what-ifs, and that progress will largely take place at club level, where plenty of Americans currently find themselves struggling for playing time.The immense task of solving that puzzle will now be the responsibility of the next manager.

WATCH: Italy Beats USMNT, Horvath at the Death on Politano’s Winner

By AVI CREDITOR November 20, 2018 The U.S. men’s national team closed its 2018 slate in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Italy 1-0 on Matteo Politano’s 94th-minute goal in a friendly played at a neutral site in Genk, Belgium.The two 2018 World Cup spectators brought rather young and inexperienced squads to the match, with both turning the pages at their own paces after a massive qualifying failure, but it was Italy that dominated the run of play, maintaining 73.5% of the possession and outshooting the U.S. 17-3. If not for Ethan Horvath’s saves in goal, the result would have been considerably more lopsided.Horvath was one of 10 changes to the U.S. lineup after last Thursday’s loss to England. Christian Pulisic, who donned the captain’s armband for the first time and became the youngest captain in modern U.S. Soccer history, was the lone holdover to start in Dave Sarachan’s experimental 3-5-2 formation.Horvath, who plays his club soccer a couple hours away in Bruges, was called into action early when Federico Chiesa was played in behind left wingback Shaq Moore. Horvath came up with the save in the third minute, denying Fiorentina’s rising star.Italy continued to command possession, and Chiesa threatened again a few minutes later, pulling a shot by the far post.Domenico Berardi came close to scoring next, snapping a header from the center off a box after a Chiesa cross wide of the right post.The USA’s first moment of danger didn’t come until the 15th minute, when Pulisic got in behind racing down the left-hand side and fired in a cross aimed for Josh Sargent, only to have it cleared to safety.Italy retook control after that and nearly scored in the 18th minute off a set piece. Stefano Sensi, making his Azzurri debut, served in a great ball for veteran Leonardo Bonucci, who had beaten Walker Zimmerman to the spot. Horvath made the point-blank save off the flying kick, though, keeping the game scoreless.It was then Chiesa’s turn once again to cause some trouble, sending in another teasing ball from the right side that Emerson Palmieri headed well over the bar in the 22nd minute.Some 16 minutes later, Berardi forced Horvath into his third save of the night off a curving, dipping blast from long range, which the goalkeeper managed to get a fingertip on to make sure it sailed over the bar. Horvath was at it again in the 44th minute, managing to parry away a dangerous free kick from the left by Marco Verratti, one that whizzed through the area and bounced toward the goal mouth before Horvath was able to react quickly and make the diving save.More of the same continued in the second half, and Italy nearly capitalized on a U.S. defensive mistake in the 52nd minute. Aaron Long and Moore both presumed a wayward ball was going out of play, but it stayed in, and halftime substitute Vincenzo Grifo raced to claim it before sending in a dangerous cross. Verratti flashed through the box for a leaping header, but he put the chance over the bar.Horvath made his fifth save of the night in the 59th minute, denying Kevin Lasagna on the doorstep after the forward had been played in behind by Bonucci. On the other end, the U.S. finally tested goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu for the first time in the 63rd minute. It came off a set piece, with Kellyn Acosta’s teasing ball bouncing through the area to the far post. Zimmerman put his header from a tight angle on target, but Sirigu made an impressive, one-handed reaction save to swat it out for a corner.Horvath then made another highlight-reel save in the 69th minute, with Grifo having the time and space to try and curl one in from the edge of the area only for Horvath to make a diving stop to his left. Moments later, Lasagna was played in behind, and while eventually being flagged for offside, it came after Horvath raced off his line to deny the forward on the 1-v-1 opportunity.Italy wasted a golden chance in the 85th minute when Lasagna had a loose ball fall to him 12 yards from goal, but he overcooked his left-footed chance, firing well over the bar and failing to test Horvath.The U.S. tried to sneak a winner in the 90th minute through substitute Romain Gall, who came on in the 83rd minute to make his U.S. debut. His speculative blast from 25 yards forced Sirigu into a diving save, though nothing came from the ensuing corner kick.Italy got its winner at the death, with Politano getting on the end of a fantastic combination to finish from the center of the box, beating a helpless Horvath in the 94th minute and giving the Azzurri a deserved victory. Player Ratings: US national team look timid in year-ending defeat to Italy November 20, 20187:05PM ESTGreg SeltzerContributor Thanks to a monster effort from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, a timid US men’s national team kept friendly foe Italy off the scoreboard until the final minute of stoppage time before succumbing, 1-0, in Genk, Belgium on Tuesday night. For decent stretches, the young USMNT looked more organized than in last week’s loss to England, but the sheer volume of defending they had to do caught up to them in the end. With the team unable to keep the ball for any appreciable amount of time, Dave Sarachan’s caretaker era ended in disappointment. Ethan Horvath (9.5) — The Club Brugge ‘keeper officially announced his candidacy for the USMNT’s No. 1 job moving forward with a sterling display. What kind of stop would you like to see? Smothering rush off the line? Kick save? Fingertip push over the bar? Diving denial of a curler? Horvath offered them all on this night. Were it not for some shabby distribution, he’d have garnered a perfect mark. Reggie Cannon (3.5) — The FC Dallas right back is still trying to get up to speed at this level, both on the ball and defending it. Cannon rarely even attempted to push up his flank, which contributed to the visitor’s inability to possess. Cameron Carter-Vickers (3) — The young defender made a couple of nice early interventions, but his night was largely characterized by nervy play. Carter-Vickers was especially shaky with the ball, causing stress for the US in a few notable incidents. To top of a subpar night, he neglected to squeeze the space in front of goal on Italy’s last-gasp winner. Walker Zimmerman (3.5) — While he piled up a decent number of helpful clearances, the LAFCcenter back struggled mightily with the Azzurri’s movement. He was beaten on the ground, over the top and even lost a restart mark. Zimmerman did sneak onto a great chance to open the scoring just past the hour, only to be robbed. Aaron Long (6.5) — For the second game in a row, Long was the coolest cucumber on the US backline. The Red Bulls center back made some difficult defensive stops look easy, chalking up a dozen in total. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but he continues to show promise at this level. Shaq Moore (5) — A natural right back, Moore was handed a tough Italy assignment on his off wing. He was taken to school a few times, but passed his tests more often than not. He also was the only US wingback to creep forward consistently (most of their possession sequences included his help), and served a dangerous cross after being shifted to his preferred flank. Tyler Adams (6.5) — The Red Bulls youngster was easily the most successful USMNT pressure valve in the game, and was arguably the team’s bright spot in the first half. However, the bad giveaways did start piling up as the game wore on. Kellyn Acosta (3) — Simply put, the team needs more from him. Aside from the highly troublesome restart service that set up Zimmerman’s attempt on goal, Acosta was extremely disappointing with the ball at his feet and you could count his successful run of play touches in the attacking half on one hand. Marky Delgado (4) — The Toronto FC midfielder shipped a couple of positive passes, made a couple of decent defensive stops and won a couple of final-third free kicks, but he still needs more seasoning at the international level. Christian Pulisic (5.5) — It’s certainly not all his fault, but the young US captain was unable to conjure any magic on this night. Yes, Pulisic fed on scraps, but he failed to complete a single positive pass in, or into, the final third. Only his pressure-breaking bursts pulled this mark up near average. Josh Sargent (5) — Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s hard to blame the striker for not contributing when he is only sparingly utilized. Sargent battled when he could, and pitched in with a couple of set piece clearances, but most of his service was either speculative or received with a defender already in his shirt. Coach Dave Sarachan (2) — If the interim boss wanted to go out with a bang, as he claimed, it would have been best to field a starting unit with more than two lonely attackers. Sarachan always seemed to offer a poor lineup choice or two, and this contest was no exception. While the high press had its moments, there weren’t enough of them when the team registers 26 percent possession and doesn’t even attempt a shot during the run of play until the waning moments. If not for Horvath’s huge effort, this could have easily gone down as a four or five-goal humbling. SubsWil Trapp (7) — This was the strongest half hour of face-up defensive play the Columbus Crew SCcaptain has offered in a US shirt to date. Bobby Wood (4.5) — In his 30 minutes of work, Wood got his wheels turning a couple times, but never linked up well with teammates. He also pulled his lone half-chance wide. Jorge Villafaña (7) — The Portland left back added some real defensive bite for the final quarter hour, including a terrific doorstep block. Sebastian Lletget (2.5) — The late sub did very well to break free with a loose ball in the final third, but the LA Galaxy midfielder hesitated away his window to create a chance from it. More disappointingly, Lletget gave up following the mark that broke into the US box to score the winner. That shouldn’t happen with a player that’s been on the field for 10 minutes Romain Gall (-) — It was just a cameo, but the debutant did manage to show he was unafraid with the ball at his feet.       ENGLAND 3-0 USMNT 0: YOUNG SIDE LEARN TOUGH LESSONS IN ROONEY FAREWELL By James Nalton, Football Whispers\ A young United States Men’s National Team suffered a 3-0 defeat against England at Wembley.A quick brace, with Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold getting on the scoresheet, gave the hosts the lead they deserved in the first half, and a late strike from Callum Wilson was a reward for the Englishman’s impressive debut.The average age of the USMNT side was 24, but the opposition also fielded a young team as both looked to the future.The game was centred around DC United’s Wayne Rooney, who was getting a ceremonial send-off for England. The Three Lions all-time top scorer replaced Lingard in the second half, taking the captain’s armband, and showed he still has what it takes to play at this level.For the USMNT it was another steep learning curve, and though there were some encouraging signs, they lacked cohesion and good decision making.Weston McKennie confirmed that he should be a key part of the side going forward, Christian Pulisic showed signs that he is on a par with some of the best at this level, and Tyler Adams had some bright moments after being introduced in the second half.However, they struggled to finish off their own moves and also to cope with many of England’s, even though some good pressure on Wilson prevented him scoring more on the night.It was Pulisic who had the first big chance of the game, taking McKennie’s pass and knocking it behind the England defence himself. Having latched on to his own through ball he faced Jordan Pickford in the England goal, but was thwarted by the England netminder.Lingard opened the scoring with an excellent finish over Brad Guzan after an England break down the left. The lead was doubled almost immediately when Pulisic’s clubmate Jadon Sancho fed the attacking full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right wing.Julian Green tested Pickford from distance, Pulisic remained bright in attack, and Bobby Wood had a couple of opportunities which he couldn’t take, but England had the final say when Wilson turned in Fabian Delph’s cross.“It’s tough. Dave [Sarachan]’s doing what he can,” said Pulisic.“He wants to win these games just like we do. It’s going to help a lot when we get a permanent head coach moving forward, a guy who has a real plan and a style of how we want to play.”The USMNT now head to Belgium where they will face Italy, in what could be Sarachan’s last game as coach.     USMNT: THE STATS BEHIND USA’S DEFEAT IN ENGLAND By James Nalton, Football Whispers The match at Wembley between England and the United States Men’s National team produced an interesting list of numbers and statistics, but was dominated by the all-time records of an England great currently plying his trade stateside in Major League Soccer.Wayne Rooney was handed one last appearance in an England shirt, and, as his performances in DC United have also shown, he still has what it takes to play at this level.The 33-year-old moved onto 120 caps for England following this farewell game which saw his side defeat the United States Men’s National Team 3-0.The forward is England’s all-time top scorer, but he was unable to improve on his England goal tally of 53 thanks to a couple of routine stops from USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Stats From The Game England outshot the US but they weren’t as far ahead as you might expect in this area, with the total shot count being 15-10.However, seven of England’s shots were on target, while the US only managed to test the opposition goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, twice. Half of the USMNT’s shots were also from outside the box, meaning they were generally less threatening than the 12 shots England had from inside the box. This was in part due to poor decision making in the final third, as it was often the case that the player releasing the shot still had other options ahead of him but chose not to pass.England dominated the game in terms of keeping the ball, enjoying 61 percent of the possession, completing 692 passes to the USA’s 448.Overall pass completion was fairly even at 88 percent to 85 percent in favour of the home side. USMNT Stats This was a young USMNT team, and their starting XI average age was 24 years, 278 days.It was the first time the back four of DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, John Brooks and Jorge Villafaña had played together, which was reflected in their performance. Brooks led his team for interceptions in this game with five, while he was also the team’s most accurate passer, completing 95.1 percent of his passes.The side attempted 14 crosses, with only two finding their target, a stat which highlights their wastefulness and lack of composure in attacking areas.Will Trapp, Timothy Weah, and Bobby Wood have made the most appearances for the USMNT in 2018, with eight apiece.The USMNT’s all-time record against England now reads two wins, eight losses, and one draw, but they have lost all three games played in England. Pulisic Stats Christian Pulisic was the best player on the park for the US, even though he also struggled to finish moves off in the final third.The match was just his second appearance in a USMNT jersey this season and his first against European opposition, with his other start coming against Bolivia back in May.The Borussia Dortmund man was up against his Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho for the first time at international level.Pulisic managed four of his side’s ten shots, and only he and Julian Green managed a shot on target. His was the best chance, coming in the first half when he put himself through on goal but saw his shot saved by Jordan Pickford.He was involved in 69 actions during the game — the most of any USMNT player bar the two centre backs Matt Miazga and John Brooks, who had 75 and 82 actions respectively by the end of the game.Pulisic completed more succesful dribbles than any other player on the pitch, with seven, four more than the next best player in this regard — England’s Ben Chilwell.He was the most fouled player, level with England’s Dele Alli having been pulled up unfairly by the opposition on three occasions.Perhaps more surprisingly, but maybe not for those who’ve watched him at Dortmund, he made more tackles than anyone else in USA colours with four.In order to change the stat which matters — the scoreline — the USMNT need to become less reliant on Pulisic, and look to work as a team unit. There were occasional encouraging signs here, but there is still plenty of work to do. Christian Pulisic returns, Bobby Wood struggles as U.S. beaten handily by England Nov 15, 2018Jason DavisU.S. soccer writer In the penultimate game of 2018 — and the penultimate game for interim head coach Dave Sarachan — the United States fell to England 3-0 at Wembley Stadium in London. The game was marked by a decided gap in quality between the two teams and another disjointed performance by a USMNT still in the middle of a transition. Positives Beyond the simple fact that the United States were able to get a significant number of their young players on the field against England, a second-half improvement in a comprehensive defeat stands out as the biggest positive for the Americans. Among the individual performances, few performances can be called encouraging. Negatives For all the improvement in the second stanza, the Americans were flatly abysmal in the first 45 minutes. England exploited large gaps between the American lines and rarely looked pressured when on the ball. When the U.S. were able to grab a bit of possession in the second half, the final pass was lacking or crosses missed their mark. Manager rating out of 10 4 — Sarachan decided against starting Tyler Adams because of the young midfielder’s recent workload, alleviating the blame he should get for that choice. But the American approach in the first half, sitting deep and inviting pressure from England’s speedy attack, put the US down two goals before half-time and ensured there would be no way back for his team. Pushing Weston McKennie higher up the field and allowing the Americans to apply more pressure on the ball helped in the second half, though some of that was down to England pulling back with a two-goal lead. Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating) GK Brad Guzan, 4 — Hung out to dry on all three of England’s goals. Struggled with distribution, giving away one pass that ended up as a chance in the first half. DF Jorge Villafana, 3 — Pinned back for most of the day, but still struggled to keep up with England runners in the space behind him. Made little mark on the attacking end of the field. DF John Brooks, 4 — Part of a central defense that lost track of England runners throughout the match. Passed competently when on the ball. The better of the two center-backs. DF Matt Miazga, 3 — Guilty of several poor turnovers that led to England attacks. Suckered into playing several poor passes from the back that gifted England possession. A step slow for most of the evening. DF DeAndre Yedlin, 4 — Exploited space in behind England’s defense in the second half to good effect. Unable to find his teammates with crosses, missing on all three attempts. MF Wil Trapp, 3 — Unable to slow down England’s passing in the midfield. He managed a smaller number of passes than needed from a player in his position. Showed good bite with a tackle that led to a U.S. attack. MF Weston McKennie, 6 — Left in England’s dust as the home side played easily through the midfield, especially in the first half. Improved in the second half as the Americans pressed higher up the field. MF Tim Weah, 4 — Isolated, especially in the first half. Caught in possession on the touchline more than once and failed to arrive in attacking areas at the right times to aid in forays forward. MF Julian Green, 4 — Provided the best of the American attackers in the poor first half. Limited in ability to influence the game with the U.S. on the back foot for most of his time on the field. MF Christian Pulisic, 5 — His game brightened in the second half with the Americans pushing higher. Lacked a final touch and failed to find teammates making runs into the box. Struggled defending. FW Bobby Wood, 3 — Duffed the few opportunities to shoot that he had in a game in which those opportunities were extremely limited. Slow with his decision-making when trying to bring teammates into the play. Substitutes: MF Tyler Adams, N/R — Added legs and life to the midfield in just less than half an hour. MF Kellyn Acosta, N/R — Didn’t miss a pass during a run out that coincided with England scoring a third goal. MF Kenny Saief, N/R — Had a handful of touches in 15 minutes or so, connected one key pass during his appearance. MF Sebastian Lletget, N/R — Popped up in the box with an opportunity to create a chance for the U.S. that ultimately went wanting. DF Shaquell Moore, N/R — Made a single defensive intervention during a short substitute appearance. After a difficult year, young USMNT goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is ready for his next chance Doug McIntyreYahoo SportsNov 14, 2018, 6:33 PM LONDON — In some ways, Ethan Horvath is still crazy young for a goalkeeper. At a position where it’s not uncommon to be serviceable north of 40 years old, the Colorado native, 23, remains a long way from reaching his prime.By other measures, Horvath can no longer be considered a prospect. He’s already a good bit older than U.S. teammates Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, who at 20 are automatic starters on the rebuilding American squad that will face England in Thursday’s high-profile friendly at Wembley Stadium. Horvath is among just seven players on the current USMNT roster who was also on the squad that finished fourth at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. And he’s desperate to take on a bigger role for a national team lacking an undisputed No. 1 at what historically has been its strongest spot.“In the beginning it was just about getting to know the group, the system,” Horvath told Yahoo Sports in an interview here this week. “Now I have a ton of experience: Europa League, Champions League, being called in to the national team consistently. If I play on Thursday, I will be ready.”Ah yes, games. For all of Horvath’s obvious potential — last week, his six saves helped Club Brugge post a clean sheet at Monaco in the UEFA Champions League group stage — consistent playing time has been elusive the last couple of years. The most recent of his two career caps came exactly 12 months ago. And he’s reclaimed his starting job with Brugge in recent weeks after sitting out 13 of 14 games before that and also losing his place for a six-month stretch last season, although he did return to the lineup in time to help Brugge win the league title.“I thought it was a bit unfair how everything unfolded,” said Horvath, who sought advice from friends, family and former coaches, including ex-USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann, during his time on the sidelines. “You just have to take it. There wasn’t much explaining to me at all, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was probably the longest six to eight months of my career.”t didn’t help matters that in last November’s 1-1 tie with Portugal, which marked the Americans’ first game since their epic failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, Horvath made an error that resulted in a goal.“It happens, but of course in the next days I thought about it,” said Horvath, who received a pep talk from Pulisic, his close friend and roommate with the U.S., after the match. “I think if you look at that game overall, I can be happy with how I performed.”Still, it has been fellow 23-year-old Zack Steffen, not Horvath, who has emerged as the next great U.S. goalkeeping hope, following the likes of World Cup standouts Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Tony Meola. Then Steffen withdrew from this roster because of a hamstring injury. That cracked the door open for Horvath, who will likely split the final two U.S. games of the year with veteran Brad Guzan. The Americans meet Italy in Belgium next week.“The margins between Brad and Zack and a few others are fairly thin,” interim coach Dave Sarachan said Wednesday. “Ethan’s been playing quite well for Club Brugge … it’s good to have some good competition there.”Like Horvath, Guzan wants to play. The 34-year-old served as Howard’s understudy at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and he’s not going to go quietly, not with the chance to lead the U.S. to Qatar 2022 very much up for grabs.“You’re there to do a job and compete at the highest level,” said Guzan, who spent a decade in the Premier League before joining Atlanta United last year. “Every day you have to bring it. That’s what it’s about. You try and help guys where you can. You’re there if they want to talk, but at the same time I’m not here to babysit them being the senior guy. It’s about pushing guys in the right way.”Still, Guzan has been impressed by Horvath’s resilience. “It’s good to see him continuing to grow because when you’re in Europe, it’s sink or swim,” he said. For Horvath, who moved to Belgium after a successful four years with Norway’s Molde, the secret to navigating that cutthroat world has been a newfound ability to let go.  “In those difficult periods, I learned that you have to take a step back and breathe,” he said. “You can’t look too far in the future, even a couple of days. You have to go back to basics.“These last two weeks, I told myself that I don’t have to do anything spectacular, I don’t need to be Superman,” he added. “I’ve learned to be patient and be ready, because you never know when your next chance is going to come.”Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.     ‘Lucky for you I just got fired’: Steve Cherundolo talks coaching, U.S. player pool and more 1:04 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent Steve Cherundolo’s stint as a guest assistant with the U.S. men’s national team was a case of near-perfect timing.On Oct. 9, Cherundolo received an email from U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan asking him to help out with the U.S. during the November international window. Little did Sarachan know that two days earlier, VfB Stuttgart manager Tayfun Korkut was axed and Cherundolo was cut loose, as well. “I guess you guys didn’t do a good job of reporting that,” Cherundolo joked during a roundtable with reporters the day before the Americans’ 3-0 loss to England. “Thank you, it’s a good thing [Sarachan] wasn’t aware of that. I said, ‘Lucky for you I just got fired, so I have plenty of time.'”As for what went down in Stuttgart, Cherundolo said, “I can tell you that there were more problems than just results. On the inside, there were issues with the GM and the coaching staff, and that plays a role, as well. At the end of the day, you’re all professionals and you try to get the job done, but everything feeds off of each other, and eventually there has to be a decision made. Unfortunately for coaches, you’re always the weaker link.”Cherundolo is perhaps the most underrated player in U.S. history. He made 87 appearances with the U.S. and was named to three World Cup rosters. So of course he jumped at the chance to not only help out Sarachan, but also get an up-close look at the next generation of American players.”It’s like coming home,” he said. “You’re just seeing new faces in your living room now. Not all, some familiar… but it’s always an easy entry into a group, and with the U.S. national team it’s always a pleasure. It would be very difficult for me to say no to the U.S national team because some of my favorite memories of my career as a player have been with this team.”Cherundolo’s playing career with the U.S coincided with a period of tremendous growth for the sport and an increase in respect for the U.S. program. That ascent has leveled off.”I think the U.S. national team has taken a hit as far as respect level goes because of failing to qualify for the World Cup,” he said. “This kind of break in passing of the torch, there’s been a big generation gap and now we’re trying to rebuild the pool, which is the right step. But it’s a process.”Cherundolo’s perspective is always worth listening to, given his playing and coaching experience. Not only did he spend the entirety of his professional career with German side Hannover (setting a team record for Bundesliga appearances), but he has worked as a youth coach and assistant coach, as well. His job prior to the Stuttgart gig was managing Hannover’s under-19 team. So what’s his main takeaway regarding the current U.S. team? “I would say the amount of young quality players that we have,” he said. “I think a lot of players aren’t finished yet, of course. But how can they be? And they’re still getting used to this level of play and to each other.”Over the past year, the current coaching staff has done a good job of introducing a lot of new players to the program and really teeing this up for the next cycle. That’s work that in my eyes needs to be complimented. It’s hard work. But I think you have this large pool of young guys, it’s trying to figure out who works the best together and who can further U.S. Soccer the best among the new players. It’s always a mix between the veterans and young guys and stuff.”One player who oozes talent is U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic, although Cherundolo eschews use of the word “talent” in favor of “perspective” because he has seen too many players rely on raw ability and not put in the work. He lauded Pulisic for his work ethic, as well as his ability, and is among those expecting big things — although he notes there are no absolutes.”Right now, [Pulisic] is in a club where they play a style of soccer that suits him, and he’s done really well at Dortmund,” Cherundolo said. “Now, for him, it’s just a matter of keep growing, staying hungry and taking on more of a leadership role with this team. And it doesn’t have to be a leadership role by opening your mouth in the locker room, the meal rooms and all that, but on the field with performances and bringing what he can bring to the game, his one-v-one, setting up goals, scoring goals, being dangerous, a go-to guy on the offensive end for U.S. Soccer. For him, now it’s just plugging away, working, playing, getting better and not being complacent.”Pulisic is by no means the only American playing in the Bundesliga. Weston McKennie is at Schalke, and Tyler Adams is widely reported to be heading to RB Leipzig. As for why American players are being recruited by German clubs, Cherundolo said Americans are noted for having a good mentality, a good attitude, being intelligent and adaptable.”Obviously, there is the language barrier, but it’s not a barrier at all because everyone speaks English there, and if you want to, you can learn German, which is not that difficult,” he said. “The biggest difference you see [in American players] is on the tactical side of the game. How they respond to certain changes that happen during the game; formations, plays, how they react to that.”What I feel is that within Germany, players from ages 16 to 18 have week in and week out, top-quality games that they’re playing, these junior Bundesliga matches, where kids are playing against other kids the same age, maybe a year older, but also the same level or maybe better. It’s a matter of getting at that age, from 16 to 18, more top-quality games where I’m pushed to my level, where I have to learn or I’m going to fall off. I feel like the U.S. players don’t get enough of those games at that age.”Cherundolo added that the cutthroat nature of the game in Europe is also something that many American players don’t anticipate when they head over.”[My youth coaches] told me, ‘You’re going to get six games to get the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t perform in those six games, then you’re out.’ That stuck with me,” he said. “And I always approached the game that way, and I still do as a coach. Unfortunately, I don’t see enough of that in young players. Part of it is a lot of the money they [make]. You’re protected by your contracts, and they are larger.”Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter is widely viewed as the front-runner for the vacant U.S. managerial post. Cherundolo was an international teammate of Berhalter’s and also shared ideas with him when the two moved into the coaching ranks. He indicated he hasn’t yet spoken to another old international teammate, current U.S. men’s national team GM Earnie Stewart about the program, but “that time will come.” As for Berhalter, Cherundolo has been impressed by what he has seen.”I think Gregg knows what he wants,” he said. “You can see that from the teams he coaches. He gets that out of his players, and that’s a good sign for a coach. But is that the right fit for him and U.S. Soccer? Time will tell.”As for what is next for Cherundolo, he noted that he’s “open to everything. My phone is on.” He said he had no regrets for taking the Stuttgart assistant coach position after spending almost 20 years with Hannover. He has in fact been speaking to both clubs about a new role — he is after all still getting paid by Die Roten — and he wouldn’t rule out someday returning to the U.S. to share what he has learned. Last year, former international teammate and current Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra sent some of the club’s youth coaches to Stuttgart to pick Cherundolo’s brain, so there is some recognition of his work.But Cherundolo said his next order of business will be to obtain his UEFA Pro coaching license, a 10-month task that will start in the first quarter of next year. After that, his options should be wide open.His immediate priority is to impart some wisdom to the current U.S. team, which showed its inexperience in losing to England. Cherundolo insists such games can still have value, especially in terms of getting used to the higher speed of the international game.”[It’s] not just on the physical side of things but on the soccer side of things,” he said about the speed of play. “Make decisions quickly, thinking quickly, closing down spaces, making those decisions. When do I go? When do I stay? All that happens faster. The other component, as well, at international level is mistakes are punished quicker. I think those are lessons that younger players who haven’t been at this level playing will learn. And I hope that’s what they take from these next two games, because that is the most important thing.” With World Cup berth in hand, what’s next for U.S. women? y Graham Hays | Oct 22, 2018

FRISCO, Texas — The U.S. women’s national team looked comfortable playing with the lead in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. And they had plenty of practice not letting it go to their heads. Megan Rapinoe scored inside of three minutes in the opening game against Mexico. Rose Lavelle scored two minutes into the final against Canada. Indeed, in a tournament that encompassed 450 minutes, the Americans led for 435 of them.Now they have to hold the lead against the rest of the world for about eight more months.The U.S. women need not shy away from their place as the World Cup favorite. Some of that status comes from the state of the world around them. Germany, champion twice this century, righted a shaky qualifying effort but is in flux because it will soon take on a new coach. Japan, the champion in 2011 and finalist four years ago, has five losses by a combined 16-5 margin this year as it transitions to a new era. Australia, Canada, England and host France are close — all but Canada has beaten the United States on its own turf within the past two years — but have yet to win a major title.The U.S. success in qualifying came against overmatched opposition, at least up until the final. But a 26-0 margin of victory in five games merely tells a slightly embellished version of the same story the Americans wrote throughout 2018. Generally good enough against the likes of England, France and Germany early in the year, they grew into rampaging excellence against Australia, Brazil and Japan during the summer and CONCACAF more recently.But we’re still a long way from the World Cup title game July 7 in Lyon, France. The U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2015 arguably didn’t hit its stride until the quarterfinals of that event. Much as U.S. coach Jill Ellis said she used halftime of this past week’s game against Canada to stress staying on the attack, rather than protecting the lead the team held at the time, the U.S. women will try to avoid protecting the pole position they hold.”The beauty when you work with elite people or athletes is they’re always looking for what’s next and they’re always pushing the envelope,” Ellis said last week. “I think as coaches, that’s the environment we want to create. I do believe we can get better in what we do in every facet of our game. …”To get this done next summer, we certainly have to continue make strides. It’s not going to be a smooth journey; it never is.”So while recent days answered the question of qualification, questions remain for next summer. How set is the midfield? The United States used the same starting lineup in four of five games in the CONCACAF event. It didn’t repeat a lineup four times in either the 2016 Olympics or Olympic qualifying. Nor did it repeat a lineup four times in either the 2015 World Cup or qualifying for that event. The depth chart is clear.That’s most striking in the midfield, where none of Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan or Rose Lavelle were starters in their current roles as recently as last summer.”They’re just a good blend of midfielders,” Ellis said. “I don’t think you can have the same profile in every position in the midfield. So they’re a little bit diverse in that way.”And much as Ertz used 2017 to cement her place as the defensive midfielder, no one has used 2018 to greater effect than Horan, MVP in the NWSL and indispensable to the national team as a box-to-box presence.”I think she’s taken another step in terms of her influence to our team and her importance to our team,” Ellis said. “She can get us out of tight spots, she can play-make, she can finish. She’s just multi-dimensional in that regard. And I think the confidence is there. … When you’re dealing with a younger player, that’s a big part of it. You can tell she feels valued and she’s valuable.”But if that’s true for one young player, it begs the same question in reverse for Sam Mewis. A workhorse for the United States in 2017, Mewis came back from offseason surgery and finished the NWSL season playing like a familiarly formidable, confident presence for the record-setting North Carolina Courage. Yet with just 274 minutes on the field for the U.S. team this year, is she a starter without a home on the field at the moment or is she penciled in as insurance?When healthy, McCall Zerboni seems a likely fit for a 23-player World Cup roster because she would fill a specific role and need as a defensive presence capable of closing out leads or even doubling up with Ertz against particularly problematic opposing attacks. For Mewis and Morgan Brian, the question is whether they still have cards to play in a game in which the stakes are World Cup minutes. Where does Mallory Pugh fit? The long-awaited opportunity to see what the U.S. forward line would look like with Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Rapinoe all finally available at the same time didn’t produce much drama.The veterans started all but one game and poured in goals. Pugh came off the bench three times and started with the second line against Panama.In a conversation during group play of the CONCACAF tournament, North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance singled out Pugh as the embodiment of the attacking, pressing style the United States is playing under Ellis. Yet after a series of injuries the past two years, most recently the knee injury that kept her out much of the summer, the player who still wouldn’t even be a senior in college can’t seem to catch a break in realizing that potential.One of the most important X factors for the U.S. women between now and next summer will be how much more development Pugh can squeeze in and how her body responds. It’s still not out of the question that Pugh could have the same effect next summer that another young star, France’s Kylian Mbappe, had on the 2018 World Cup.”My expectation is she’s already showed us glimpses of a high level,” Ellis said. “Now as a player it’s getting back into driving to that point. What is she capable of? I think what she’s prepared to put in is part of it. But she’s a very dynamic player that can change a game. I think she’s proven herself as both a goal scorer and a facilitator. Our hope, and I certainly know that Mal’s hope, is, again, push her and see what her full potential is.” What should the schedule look like? The United States will find out its World Cup group on Dec. 8, but it still has the better part of seven months to control its own planning. That time won’t be wasted.Once the 2018 schedule wraps up next month, strength and conditioning coach Dawn Scott will be asked to make good on Ellis’ desire for this to be not just the fittest team in the world — which it might already be — but the fittest possible version of itself. That must be done without exerting too great a toll on a roster that is neither particularly young nor injury-free over the past 18 months. More from espnW.com U.S. women withstand Canada’s challenge to win CONCACAF crown With no shortage of goals, U.S. women qualify for World Cup Rapinoe: FIFA doesn’t ‘truly care’ about women From boos to captain’s armband, Rapinoe is better than ever Horan is the answer the U.S. women need in the midfield We won’t see the national team in December, but combine the draw with the offseason work, and that month will have a great deal to do with success next summer. After playing all but three games on home soil since the Olympics, expect the U.S. women to pile up some international miles before the World Cup — as they did under Ellis in 2015 with games in England and France in addition to the Algarve Cup in Portugal (although the United States will again host the SheBelieves Cup early next year, an event which didn’t exist in 2015).Games in the spring will be designed as nothing more than tuneups that excite the fan base, and perhaps mimic group opponents to whatever degree possible, but too much of that on the schedule and the U.S. women would incur risks equivalent to the rest of us eating junk food.”The routs are feel-good games, I guess; everyone feels good about themselves,” Rapinoe said last week. “But I don’t think it really does much to prepare you for [a game like the 2015 World Cup semifinal against Germany in front of more than 50,000 people], when you really have to be locked on, you have to take the two chances that come and you have to be at your very best.”The more we can play these teams, see these players, see how they like to play and kind of figure them out — obviously that gives them a chance to figure us out, as well, but I think that competition sharpens your edge as much as possible.”Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

11/14/18 US Men plays England in Rooney Finale Thur 2:45 ESPN2, IU Wins Big 10 Tourney, Carmel FC Night at Panera Fri 11/16

US Men Play England and Italy this Week

The US men – still with no word on who the head coach will be (Its Greg Burhalter from Columbus by the way) now that Columbus has lost in the MLS Playoffs I look for the announcement to come as early as this weekend.  England will play tribute to Wayne Rooney at Wembley when they face the US men on ESPN 2 Thursday at 2 pm (anyone want to catch lunch to watch Thursday?).  The US then will face Italy on Tuesday at 2:45 pm.  Of course Nations League soccer continues Thur thru next Tuesday with some huge games on ESPN+, along with some good friendlies on beIN sport including Mexico vs Argentina on Fri 7 pm.  (see full TV Schedule below) 

Champions League

Some unbelievable results in Champions League last week right after the leak that certain huge clubs in Europe might be planning a Super League to replace Champions League (read stories below).  First Liverpool lays an egg at Red Star 2-0 meaning qualification may well come down to the final round as they have 2 difficult games left.  Then Juventus loses to Man United in the last second 2-1 showing just how much they miss Buffon between the pipes. 

The Indiana U Men – won their 2nd Straight Big 10 Tourney – as our own Director of Coaching Juergen Sommer was on hand for the finals Sunday a 3-0 win over Mich.  Of course Juergen won a National Championship and was player of the Year during his years at IU before going on to success in the EPL.  IU hosts a first round NCAA Tourney game Sun in Bloomington! 

IU Wins the Big 10 Tourney with win over Mich at Grand Park –Kevin  Johnston special to Indy Star

Hoosiers Complete Goal 2 of 3 in Big Ten Tourney – Michael Ramirez – The Hoosier Network

4 Teams make NCAA Men’s Soccer Tourney

Carmel FC Night is this Friday night 11/16 4-8 pm at Panera Bread in Greyhound Pass –

20% of proceeds will go to the club – so make plans to drop by and grab dinner at Panera and help the club at the same time – be sure to mention Carmel FC when ordering !  

CARMEL FC PLAYERS Training at Murray 

Our Nov outdoor training sessions for Carmel FC travel players and our Select Players wraps up this week.  

Here are the dates:

  • Thursday (11/15),  5:45pm – 6:45pm  *Goal Keeping Training Only

USA

The Future of US Soccer Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie

Greg Berhalter Silent on Future amid links with US National Team – ESPNFC

US In need of Pulisic’s Creativity

Rooney to return for England farewell vs US at Wembley

Optimistic View of our New US Manager – Greg Berhalter  Stars and Stripes

Pulisic Wants Revenge for US World Cup Failure

Atlanta United’s Martino Never Contacted about US Job before Taking Mexico’s

USA Complete squad:for England and Italy Games Next Week

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 59/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0), Klinnsman

 Defenders (10): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 35/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; 6/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Matt Miazga (Nantes/FRA; 10/1), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu/ESP; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers; 19/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 56/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 3/1)

 Midfielders (13): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 21/2), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 7/1), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 1/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 5/0), Romain Gall (Malmö/SWE; 0/0), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth/GER; 14/4), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 3/1), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 6/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 25/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 21/9), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 3/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 7/1)

 Forwards (2): Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 5/2), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96/GER; 43/13) 

Champions League

Red Star’s Upset of Liverpool a reminder of What a Superleague Would Lose

Man U Stuns @ Juve

Atletico Gets Revenge on Dortmund in 2-0 win at home

– Latest Champions League tables

European Super League Details Leaked? ESPN

European Super League a serious problem for European Leagues ESPNFC    

UEFA President to fight European Super League FC

It’s time to fix — and save — the Champions League  ESPNFC

GAMES ON TV

Thur, Nov 15  

12 noon ESPN+     Poland vs Czech Republic (Nations League)

3 pm ESPN2           England vs USA Men  (Rooney last match)

Fri, Nov 16  

2:45 pm UD/ESPN3 Netherlands vs France  (Nations League)

2:45 pm ESPN3     Wales vs Denmark (Nations League)

3 pm beIN Sport   Brazil vs Uruguay

7 pm Univ Desp   Argentina vs Mexico

7:15 pm beIn Sport Chile vs Costa Rica

Sat, Nov 17 

12 noon FS2          USA U17 vs Korea U17 WWC

12 noon ESPN3     Turkey vs Sweden (Nations League)

2:45 pm UD/ESPN3 Italy vs Portugal (Nations League)

3 pm FS2                Germany U17 vs Cameroon U17 WWC

Sun, Nov 18

9 am ESPN3           England vs Croatia (Nations League)

2:45pm UD/ESPN+Switzerland vs Belgium (Nations League)

Mon, Nov 19

12noon ESPN3      Czech rep vs Slovakia  (Nations League)

2:45 pm Uni Des Germany vs Netherlands (Nations League)

Tues, Nov 20  

2:30 pm beIN Sport Brazil vs Cameroon

2:45 pm FS1           Italy vs USA Men

2:45 pm ESPN+     Portugal vs Poland

2:45 pm ESPN3     Sweden vs Russia

7:30 pm beIN Sport Peru vs Costa Rica

Wed, Nov 21

12 noon FS2          Spain U17 vs Canada U17 WWC

3 pm FS2                Germany u17 vs USA U17 WWC

Saturday, Nov. 24

11 am beIN Sport PSG vs Toulouse

12:30 pm NBCSN Tottenham vs Cheslea

2:45pm beIN Sport Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona

Sunday, Nov. 25

5 pm ESPN           Atlanta United vs NY Red Bulls MLS Con Champ Leg 1

7:30 pm FS1         Portland Timbers vs Sporting KC MLS Con Champ Leg 1

Tues, Nov. 27                Champions League

Weds, Nov. 28              Champions League

Thursday, Nov. 29

7 pm FS1                 NY Red Bulls vs Atlanta United vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2

9:30 pm ESPN       Sporting KC vs Portland Timbers vs MLS Con Champ Leg 2

Saturday, Dec. 8 (8 p.m.): (FOX, UniMas)

UD= Univision Desportes 

IU men’s soccer wins Big Ten tourney title, still has unfinished business at College Cup

Kevin Johnston, Special for IndyStar  Published 4:05 p.m. ET Nov. 11, 2018

WESTFIELD – Following the Indiana men’s soccer team’s victory Friday in the Big Ten conference tournament semifinals, left back Andrew Gutman explained that the second-ranked Hoosiers have three concrete goals this season: hoist the Big Ten regular-season title, win the Big Ten tournament and capture the College Cup.Gutman and his teammates can now cross item No. 2 off the list.ndiana routed Michigan 3-0 to win the Big Ten tournament at Grand Park on Sunday afternoon behind a complete team performance. The Hoosiers jumped out to an early lead before tacking on two more second-half tallies to seal it.

More: IU men’s soccer sinks Maryland in PKs, advances to Big Ten tournament final

Hoosiers striker Griffin Dorsey returned from his under-20 U.S. men’s national team call up and immediately stepped into head coach Todd Yeagley’s starting 11. It didn’t take long at all for him to make his presence felt.Trevor Swartz ripped a shot on target that forced Michigan goalkeeper Henry Mashburn into a difficult diving save, which left the Wolverines net wide open. Dorsey fired again on the rebound and the ball ended up right at the feet of Cory Thomas with no one around. Thomas, whose penalty conversion sent Indiana past Maryland in a shootout in Friday’s semifinal, calmly slotted it home to give the top-seeded Hoosiers an early 1-0 lead.Dorsey also assisted on Indiana’s second goal. His quality service to the head of teammate Jeremiah Gutjahr put the Hoosiers comfortably ahead 2-0 about midway through the second half. Minutes later, Indiana added a third when Austin Panchot connected with Spencer Glass for an easy tap in. “We found out yesterday,” Thomas said of learning about Dorsey’s availability. “Kind of kept it on the low. You don’t want to get the (scouting report) out there too early.”Michigan’s best chance of the match came late in the first half on a dangerous ball whipped in by Jack Hallahan. All alone at the edge six-yard box, Wolverines striker Zakyi Mohammed’s header trickled wide as he failed to make clean contact.Gutman, who was awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year via a unanimous vote, was held relatively in check. He got forward on a few occasions, but Michigan mostly contained him by keeping an attacker pressed high on the right side and sending extra defensive help when he ventured upfield.“Hallahan is an absolute handful going forward,” Yeagley said. “We knew that if Andrew left spaces a little earlier, that transition potentially could be dangerous for us. Andrew, you know he loves to get forward, but he loves winning games more than getting forward. So, he knew that Hallahan was a handful and I thought he picked and chose his moments really well today.”But the Hoosiers still have some unfinished business to tend to regarding their third and final goal of the season after falling to Stanford in the 2017 national championship match.“Yeah, I think we know the goals,” Gutjahr said. “And I think we’re excited for the selection show tomorrow to see what our path is to get back there and make it happen.”“Honestly, we see it as a failure if we don’t win the next one,” Thomas added.The College Cup, NCAA soccer’s version of the Final Four, will be held Dec. 7-9 in Santa Barbara, Calif.

‘Let’s enjoy this one:’ Indiana soccer completes goal two of three in Big Ten Tournament

MICHAEL RAMIREZ

WESTFIELD, Ind. — Senior midfielder Frankie Moore held the Big Ten Championship trophy high and proud while his teammates rejoiced.The No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers had just completed the second of their three goals they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season. The Hoosiers defeated Michigan 3-0 to win the Big Ten Tournament — the 13thin program history.Sunday’s result embodied Indiana’s 2018 season — a 3-0 win behind team play and a clean sheet. Sophomore attacker Griffin Dorsey and senior midfielder Cory Thomas were a headache down the sidelines for the Michigan Wolverines, and IU’s midfield controlled possession for most of the 90 minutes. Sophomore goalkeeper Trey Muse earned his 12th clean sheet of the season in a game where the Hoosier back line didn’t give up many chances.

IU’s three goals came from different goal-scorers each time, too. The elflessness displayed throughout the season was once again put on display Sunday afternoon.Thomas opened up the game in the seventh minute after senior midfielder Trevor Swartz fired a shot from the top of the box. The shot was blocked, then rebounded by Dorsey and fired at Michigan goalkeeper Henry Mashburn again. Mashburn was able to deflect Dorsey’s shot, but the ball then fell to Thomas, who tapped the ball into the back of the net.Not even 10 minutes into the Big Ten Championship, and Indiana was already ahead of Michigan. The Hoosiers kept that lead going into the halftime break, and they extended it in the 73rd and 75th minutes courtesy of senior and sophomore midfielders Jeremiah Gutjahr and Spencer Glass.When the final whistle blew, the Hoosiers were crowned Big Ten Champions — something they couldn’t claim at all last season.All of 2018, Indiana had three goals to accomplish throughout the season. The Hoosiers wanted to win both Big Ten titles and the national championship. Now with two under their belt, only the last goal remains left to be completed. “To make this run, and to win today against a good Michigan team, was fantastic,” IU Head Coach Todd Yeagley said. “I’m really proud of the two-for-two, but they know how hard it is to get back to that championship game. This is a confident group that’s really driven.”Thomas was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Tournament and senior Andrew Gutman was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Tournament. Yet, neither seemed too interested in the awards they won. The only thing they wanted to win was the trophy they could hold with the rest of the team.Thomas said winning titles as a team has been the best part of his season.“It’s got to be the titles,” Thomas said. “We’ve got two and, honestly, we see it as a failure if we don’t win the next one.”All year, the Hoosiers haven’t been content with anything they have accomplished thus far. After clinching the Big Ten regular season title, multiple players weren’t satisfied with it. Yeagley said the team has kept its sights on all three goals throughout the year, and they haven’t gotten sidetracked no matter the result of any match.But now, the Hoosiers can enjoy what they have done so far. Yeagley had one message to the huddle of players surrounding the Big ten trophy after the match.“Let’s enjoy this one,” Yeagley said.

The future of U.S. soccer? You’re looking at it right here: Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie

Back in August, Tyler Adams wanted to give a special shoutout to U.S. international teammate Weston McKennie for his birthday. He happened across a photo of the two of them when they were both in Bradenton, Florida, training with the U.S. under-17 national team.   “That photo came up and I just lost it,” said Adams via telephone. “I thought it would be hilarious to post.”

And with good reason. At the time, Adams was a good inch or two taller than McKennie, so he placed it side-by-side with a more recent shot, one in which the tables height-wise had definitely been turned.Wes hadn’t hit his growth spurt yet, not even close to it,” Adams said about the older photo. “Now he’s six feet tall.”When Adams posted the photos to Twitter, they had their intended effect.”It was definitely a shock because it was such a long time ago and you can see how far we’ve come,” McKennie said.It’s an understatement: the two boys have become grown men, and the growth hasn’t been just physical. When the first photo was taken, Adams and McKennie were just a pair of young players whose potential was only outdone by their dreams. Now the two midfielders are on the cusp of becoming mainstays with the U.S. national team, part of a generation aiming to blunt the stigma from the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.There is a hope wrapped up in those photos that McKennie and Adams — and the rest of their teammates as well — can grow further and lead the U.S. to greater things.The two are making considerable headway at club level. McKennie has been getting steady minutes with German club Schalke, both in the Champions League and the Bundesliga, while Adams is the heartbeat of a New York Red Bulls side pushing towards a Supporters Shield and MLS Cup double. On top of that, Adams is widely reported to be heading to RB Leipzig this winter. Along the way, McKennie and Adams have forged a friendship that carries onto the field, a bond that began with the U-17s.

The U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla. is now one that has now been consigned to history. Starting in 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation would gather roughly 30 of the top youth players in the country with an eye towards forming the backbone of the U17 national team. But with the advent of MLS academies, as well as the USSF Development Academy, the residency program outlived its usefulness and the program ended in 2017.

Regardless, it’s where the likes of Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Christian Pulisic spent some of their formative years; it gave up-and-coming players a taste of international soccer, as well as a glimpse of what life as a professional might look like, all while taking care of their schooling. It also included a competitive environment in which some players were away from home for the first time. That intensity can put a strain on relationships, but also form strong bonds.”Residency isn’t the easiest, because you’re at a time period in your social life where you’re missing out on high school and being back home, but you sacrifice that for being able to play soccer every day,” Adams said.”In my position, and for Weston as well, it was a big sacrifice. It’s so enjoyable because you’re around people that you like and who share the same passion as you. It was good to create such good friends because I feel like a lot of the kids that I went to residency with are still friends to this day. You form these good relationships.”Yet in the case of Adams and McKennie, it was one that took a while to germinate. Both players recalled the physical demands often didn’t lend itself to much hangout time. Initially, Adams wasn’t even a full-time participant in residency, jetting in for a week or two at a time before heading back to his home outside of New York City.”We were more mutual friends but we were always cheering for each other,” McKennie said. “Tyler was the more the chill, laid-back kid. We definitely had our fun times, our fun memories.”That is the way of friendships, be it over the course of a life or even a few years. They ebb and flow; some even vanish. As one’s job or city of residence changes, new relationships are formed and different roots are laid down. Interests can diverge and sever bonds thought to be unbreakable. Yet this was one connection that endured, even as Adams and McKennie took different paths towards becoming professionals.When Adams’ time with the U17s was up, he went back to the New York Red Bulls and began getting professional minutes with their reserve team. McKennie went back and played for FC Dallas’ academy before signing with Schalke. Nick Taitague, McKennie’s teammate at Schalke, proved to be the hub that kept the bond intact. fuel last year when the pair was among those called in for the friendly against Portugal. The match proved to be the international debut for both players, with McKennie scoring the lone U.S. goal in a 1-1 draw. The fact that McKennie wasn’t included in the U17 and U20 World Cup teams, of which Adams was a part, made their initial minutes at the senior level that much sweeter.

“It was just really cool, because we just had the same joy for each other,” Adams said. “You’ve reached another milestone, and to see each other and how we’ve grown is definitely very special.”

Their chemistry that was limited to time off the field now had more of an on-field component. Of the two, McKennie is the player with more of an attacking edge, though Adams has shown in recent months — last Sunday’s postseason triumph against the Columbus Crew in particular — that he’s making some headway in this regard.There is a stylistic synergy as well.”I think we’re both eager to press,” McKennie said. “We both like pressing and we both have a good set of lungs — we can definitely run for a while. I think that’s one of the things we talk about when we do talk about going into games and game plans. We know we like to press, we know what kind of style we like to play. We’re normally good together on the field. Whenever one guy goes up, the other has the other guy’s back. I think we definitely compliment each other.”Adams added, “I feel like we’re two very dynamic players and I think that’s something that maybe the U.S. hasn’t had in a long time. I think that having two midfielders like ourselves who can play and pivot off of each other is something that would definitely be unique going forward.”The upcoming friendlies against England (Thursday, ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET) and Italy will provide a measure of their progress, though the presence of Pulisic for just the second time this year will no doubt aid their respective causes.But there is also optimism, and Adams’ proposed move to Germany will offer the chance for a deeper connection, something beyond the group video chats now being held by not only McKennie and Adams, but also the likes of Taitague and Pulisic. Then there is the fact that after playing on the same team intermittently over the years, Adams and McKennie will find themselves being combatants instead of teammates.”We’re definitely tight now,” said McKennie of Adams. “He’s one of the few guys on the team that I’ve known since we were 14 years old — Timothy Weah, too, and Pulisic. And with Tyler possibly making a move here, we’ll probably have even more to talk about.”There will be more room for both players to grow as well.

 

LONDON — As Matt Miazga strolls through the U.S. men’s national team hotel near Heathrow Airport outside London, there are no outward signs that he’s going through one of the more difficult spells of his professional career. The American defender has always carried himself with a high level of confidence, and this day is no different. The tone in Miazga’s voice is one of optimism, with one phrase continually coming up in conversation.

“You’ve got to keep pushing,” he told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview.The 23-year-old’s mood is at odds with his current predicament at club level, though in one sense, he has little choice. The native of Clifton, New Jersey, is currently on loan with Ligue 1 side Nantes from Chelsea, but so far, it hasn’t gone as he hoped.Initially, Miazga was a consistent presence in Nantes’ defense, but some poor results saw manager Miguel Cardoso fired just eight games into the season. Miazga then made a poor first impression with new manager Vahid Halilhodzic in a 3-0 loss to Bordeaux, delivering a subpar performance and receiving a yellow card that saw him suspended for the club’s next match.Nantes’ form has improved since, with the club claiming 10 points from its past four league matches, but in the meantime, Miazga’s situation has deteriorated further. He hasn’t been in the matchday squad since the Bordeaux defeat, banished to the reserves instead. There have even been reports that his loan will be cut short in January amid questions about his attitude.But Miazga isn’t thinking about any of those things, and he isn’t about to give up, either.”You’ve got to learn, you’ve got to adapt,” he said. “Obviously you always want to be playing, you always want to be a part of it. I kind of got stuck in a bad-timing situation with the club, getting suspended and with a new coach [coming in]. Right now I’m not playing, so I have to continue to stay fit, control what I can control and be ready for when my chance comes again.”As for the rumors that the loan will be terminated early, Miazga responds with a laugh and a shake of the head.”I don’t know where those rumors came from but they’re obviously not true,” he said. “People saw that I was playing every game and then all of a sudden not playing, so people are going to make assumptions, make up rumors and random things up in their head and I guess publish it.”The reality is that’s not true: I’m on loan with Nantes until the end of the season. I lost my starting spot and I’ve got to earn it back. It’s as simple as that.”Such a comment might come off as spin, but there is some substance behind the statements due to the fact Miazga has been in this position before. Back in 2014 with the New York Red Bulls, he started six times in an eight-game midseason stretch before some costly mistakes saw him benched for the rest of the season. The following year, he rebounded and was an ever-present force in the Red Bulls’ Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign. The next season, his first on loan with Dutch side Vitesse after signing with Chelsea, Miazga also found himself out of the lineup early on only to come back and help the club win its first top-flight trophy in its 125-year history.

Miazga said that his benching in New York left a deep impression, and he watched how veterans like Kosuke Kimura conducted themselves when they were out of the lineup. It’s why he’s confident he’ll be able to work his way back this time as well.”Kimura was very helpful in terms of always working extra, always pushing yourself to your limits,” Miazga said. “Work hard and be ready for your chance. Every time [I’ve been benched] I’ve gotten out of the situation, so I’ve got to keep pushing. It’s as simple as that.”I’ve seen [bad attitudes] before in the past. You see different scenarios, different sports as well — a guy with a bad attitude can be a cancer to the team or can be a distraction to the team. You don’t want to be that. You want to continue to be positive, help the team any way you can, and continue to train hard and be ready for your chance. I made sure I stayed fit for an opportunity like this, to get called up again.”Without question, Ligue 1 is a considerable step up in quality from the Eredivisie, and even before France’s World Cup triumph last summer, Ligue 1 clubs have been lauded for the way they develop players. But there is more to a move than just dealing with matters on the field. There is a new culture to adapt to and, most crucially of all, a new language to pick up. The coaching change, one in which Cardoso’s staff spoke English but Halilhodzic’s is more limited, drove home that necessity, though it’s one that Miazga is well aware of.”I feel like when you’re in a different country, you have to really strive to learn their language and show your intent to immerse yourself,” he said. “They’re not coming to America to speak English, you’re going to France to play football in France. You should learn their language to be able to speak with people, your teammates, the physios.”Miazga said that he’s eschewing social media and texting in favor of more time practicing his French. He hopes to get his French to the level where he can “hold a decent conversation” by the end of the season, but in the meantime, he’s enjoying what his new surroundings have to offer.”Every day, you’re so excited to see something new, you’re always doing something new, meeting new people, seeing new things, new places, ideas,” he said. “Constantly in my head I’m always learning, just processing everything I see.”Miazga’s immediate focus is Thursday’s friendly against England, and it’s unlikely the defender will be overawed by the occasion. After all, he was on the field when the U.S. tied France 1-1 just before the World Cup. But given the immense talent at England manager Gareth Southgate’s disposal, the test should be immense even amid the hubbub caused by Wayne Rooney’s inclusion.”England has obviously evolved as a nation, making the semifinal of the World Cup this past [summer], and obviously they have world-class players playing at big, big clubs,” Miazga said. “It’s going to be a good challenge for us, and something that we’re all looking forward to, to be able to showcase ourselves in a top international game like this.”A good performance from Miazga might also serve another purpose: reminding his club coach of his potential. If that’s the case, then it gives Miazga another reason to keep pushing.

Columbus Crew’s Gregg Berhalter silent on future amid links to USMNT job

Nov 11, 2018ESPN

Columbus Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter declined to speak about his future or the United States national team’s coaching vacancy after his team was eliminated from the MLS playoffs on Sunday night.Berhalter, who for months has been widely considered the favorite to become the next U.S. coach, watched Columbus let a slim first-leg lead slip away in a 3-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But asked after the game if he wanted to comment on his future plans, Berhalter said simply, “No.”However, Berhalter later wiped his eyes when asked how he would want his tenure as Crew SC coach to be remembered if Sunday did his mark his final game in charge after five years.”I don’t think we need to talk about that right now,” he said after a beat. “What’s in Columbus is identity, the way they’re playing. We’ve given the players belief and made them better, and that’s what we’ve done for a long time.”The job of permanent U.S. coach has been vacant since October 2017, when Bruce Arena resigned following the team’s World Cup qualifying failure. Since then, Dave Sarachan has managed the team on a caretaker basis.U.S. general manger Earnie Stewart said in September that he hoped to fill the position by the end of the year, and the end of Columbus’ season could lead to some movement.Stewart has said he a specific profile in mind for the next manager.”It’s somebody that has to have a ‘We’ mentality, who wants to work together,” Stewart said in September. “That’s important. In this day and age I don’t think one person can do the whole job, especially a country as big as this.”Stewart and Berhalter played on the U.S. team together, though Stewart has cautioned that their relationship is more professional than overly friendly.

Christian Pulisic returns to U.S. squad for England, Italy friendlies

Nov 6, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Christian Pulisic headlines the 28-man squad named by United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan for upcoming friendlies against England and Italy.The U.S. will take on England at the famed Wembley on Nov. 15, and will then play Italy in Genk, Belgium five days later.”These last two matches provide a fantastic set of challenges and experiences, so we’re excited to bring in this group of players for another huge opportunity,” said Sarachan. “We continue to build with a core group that has developed throughout the last year, while including some players who we haven’t seen in some time.”Injuries and club commitments have limited Pulisic to just one U.S. appearance this calendar year, a May 28 match against Bolivia. But now the Borussia Dortmund midfielder appears to be healthy enough to take part in the last two U.S. matches of 2018. The squad is weighted slightly in favor of foreign-based players, with 16 of the 28 invitees playing abroad. Of the 12 MLS-based players, seven belong to teams still competing in the MLS Cup playoffs. This could explain the reason for the slightly greater squad numbers compared to previous camps, as those seven will arrive at camp later than others given that the second leg of the conference finals will take place this weekend.”These are important matches and we only have so many opportunities every year to bring our players together,” said Sarachan, speaking about the decision to include players involved in the MLS playoffs. “This is a FIFA window and we are one of many countries playing matches during this time, so you want to include players that you feel are vital to your program. There are other leagues around the world that have games right before and after these windows, but I feel when the national team calls, there is still an importance to bringing players that we feel will be significant to the team now and in the future.”Sarachan will also use the expanded squad to take a look at more Europe-based players. There are no specific plans to release players in between games, though circumstances could dictate otherwise.One notable absence is Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley. Two reasons were given by Sarachan for his exclusion: that the younger midfielders on the squad are in greater need of minutes at international level, and that Bradley hasn’t had much rest in two years due to his involvement in MLS Cups and the CONCACAF Champions League.”At this stage, it made sense to give [Bradley] some extra time off and also allow these games to be a platform for players that lack that kind of experience,” he said.Otherwise, Sarachan has continued to call in the core group of young players he’s developed over the past year. This includes Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Nantes defender Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, and Paris Saint-Germain forward Tim Weah.All told, 17 of those named in the squad took part in the previous national team camp back in October. The average age of the squad is 23 years, 241 days, with the average number of caps 13.Four players on the squad play in the U.K. They are Wigan Athletic defender Antonee Robinson, Swansea defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, Fulham midfielder Luca De La Torre, and Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin.Midfielder Romain Gall is the lone first-time call-up on the squad. Gall, 23, has recorded 15 goals in 27 league and cup matches for Swedish sides Sundsvall and Malmo in 2018.

Complete squad:

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 59/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew; 6/0)

Defenders (10): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 35/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; 6/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Matt Miazga (Nantes/FRA; 10/1), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu/ESP; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers; 19/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 56/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 3/1)

Midfielders (13): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 21/2), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 7/1), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 1/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 5/0), Romain Gall (Malmö/SWE; 0/0), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth/GER; 14/4), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 3/1), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 6/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 25/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 21/9), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 3/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 7/1)

Forwards (2): Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 5/2), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96/GER; 43/13)

Christian Pulisic’s return is sorely needed for U.S. side lacking creativity

Nov 6, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The year of discontent for the U.S. men’s national team is almost over.Caretaker manager Dave Sarachan named his 28-player roster for friendlies against England on Nov. 15 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and against Italy five days later. It figures to be the last time Sarachan engages in this exercise for the U.S.To be fair, Sarachan was handed a thankless job last year, and he’s conducted himself with aplomb. His decisions to go with mostly young players have induced a collective nodding of heads. A total of 50 players have been used during Sarachan’s tenure, with 19 making their international debuts. The team has gotten some decent results along the way, although it’s clear that there is a long way to go for many of these players. For these two games, it will help to have Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams all back in the fold. The trio, which figures to form the core of the U.S. midfield for the next cycle, missed the last round of games in October due to injury. That they will (hopefully) be back ought to give U.S. fans a glimpse of what is to come.Pulisic’s return is undoubtedly the most welcome, although McKennie and Adams will be critical as well. The U.S. has shown a distinct lack of creativity for much of this calendar year, and with Pulisic limited to just one U.S. appearance in 2018, that burden has been left to others with predictable results. With the Borussia Dortmund attacker back, it will be interesting to see what the knock-on effect will be on the offensive contributions of McKennie and Adams, who have both shown an ability to score from late runs into the box.There are other attack-minded players who will be worth a look. It seems like every month there’s a new player brought into the fold with an eye-catching skill set. Last month it was Jonathan Amon. This time around it’s Malmo’s Romain Gall, whose numbers — 14 goals in 30 matches across two teams in 2018 — have piqued some interest. Gall’s career had seemed to stall during a two-season stint with the Columbus Crew, but his game has been reborn in Sweden, and his ability to run at defenses and strike at goal makes him intriguing.Sebastian Lletget, a player whose slick passing has always made him an interesting option, is back in the frame as well. The tendency has always been to look at him as a purely attacking option, but the last few months of the MLS season with the LA Galaxy saw him perform well in a deeper role beside Jonathan dos Santos, giving the U.S. added versatility.

Darlington Nagbe is another player returning to the fold, but he remains something of an enigma, a player who everyone wants to be a No. 10 but is more of a linker instead.Then there’s Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent and Paris Saint-Germain’s Tim Weah. Sargent has been getting steady playing time with the team’s reserves, although his promotion to Bremen’s first team has been teased for some time now. Of late, Weah hasn’t been even getting time with PSG’s reserve team, but both players figure to get extended minutes for the U.S.One player who won’t be joining up with the U.S. is Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley. The reasons given for his exclusion centered around giving minutes to younger players and allowing Bradley to take some time off. The second of those explanations is the one more grounded in logic. If playing time for younger players was a concern, why call him back in during the October window? But it’s clear that after playing virtually nonstop for the past two years, Bradley could use a rest.The concerns for Sarachan — and whoever succeeds him — are a bit different on the defensive side of the ball. Matt Miazga has been a mainstay for Sarachan ever since he took over, but poor form and change of coach at Nantes have consigned the center-back to the team’s reserves, leading to speculation that his loan from Chelsea might be terminated early. A couple of respectable performances for the U.S. might catch the eye of another team if his way at Nantes remains blocked. At minimum, he should get the chance to get some more reps with Wolfsburg center-back John Brooks.

Wayne Rooney to return for England farewell vs. U.S. at Wembley

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Wayne Rooney will win his 120th England cap later this month after Gareth Southgate sanctioned a farewell appearance for the DC United forward against the United States at Wembley on Nov. 15, the English Football Association (FA) has announced.The former Manchester United and Everton captain — England’s all-time leading scorer with 53 goals — has not represented his country since lining up against Scotland at Wembley in November 2016.

– Rooney’s record-breaking England career in numbers

Rooney, 33, who had by that stage lost his regular starting spot at United under Jose Mourinho, was then omitted from a series of squads by manager Southgate before announcing his international retirement in August 2017, having initially targeted this year’s World Cup in Russia as his swansong.But with Rooney ending his England career having made more appearances than any other outfield player, as well as eclipsing Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of England goals, Southgate and the FA have agreed to give Rooney the honour of a farewell appearance, at the same time as handing supporters the opportunity to show their appreciation of the former England captain.The game against the U.S. — three days before the decisive Nations League clash with Croatia at Wembley — has been designated as a charity fundraiser by the FA. Some of the monies raised will go towards the Wayne Rooney Foundation.

Despite Rooney’s impressive form in the MLS since moving to DC United in July, where he helped the team into the playoffs after scoring 12 goals in 21 games, his return to the England set-up is purely on a one-off basis, sources have told ESPN FC.Rooney will be presented with an award in recognition of his contribution before the game, but sources have told ESPN FC that he will not play the full 90 minutes and that he will not be considered for the game against Croatia.Rooney’s MLS season is now over after the team’s defeat in the knockout round against Columbus Crew last week, but he told ESPN last month that he will not seek a loan move back to Europe during the closed season, opting instead to focus on the start of the 2019 MLS season next March.

 

Indiana University 2018 Big 10 Champions 

11/8/18 MLS Playoffs tonite/Sun, Big 10 Men’s Tourney Fri/Sun at Grand Park, US plays next week, Champs League Results, Carmel FC Trainings next week

MLS

Ok so I know a lot of you do not watch MLS soccer – its not as good, the players are no where as good as Europe – etc etc etc.  Well i am hear to tell you – if you haven’t watched MLS PLAYOFF SOCCER – You are Really missing out.   Last night’s battle between the oldest Rivals in US Soccer – Seattle hosting Portland winner advances to the conference finals – WAS SPECTACULAR.  Seattle scored in the 2nd half to tie it up on aggregate 2-2 – then Portland scored the go ahead goal with just 5 minutes to play plus 6 minutes of injury time.   That 11 minutes of soccer was the most exciting soccer I have witnessed this year – Seattle attacking, Portland countering, finally the home squad hitting a stinger when Riu Diaz scored his 2nd of the night on a screaming shot from the top of the box. Then 2 more minutes of up and down play – 40,000 plus fans of both teams jumping and screaming, rooting their teams on.  It ends in a 2-2 tie on to Extra time.  In Extra time Portland again takes the lead just 2 minutes in – then a hand ball in the box by Portland (the 3rd on the night finally this time given a penalty) allowed Lidero to tie it up once again for the Sounders from the penalty spot.  Finally Portland won it in PKs at 1:40 am!  Love MLS playoff soccer!

The 2nd legs of the other 3 semi-finals are all Sunday afternoon starting at 3 pm on ESPN with Salt Lake @ Sporting KC  & NYCFC @ Atlanta down 0-1 at 5 pm on ESPN, and Columbus up 1-0 @ NY Red Bulls at 7:30 pm  on FS1.

US Men Play England and Italy next Week

The US men – still with no word on who the head coach will be (Its going to be Gregg Berhalter from Columbus by the way) just waiting for Columbus to lose in the MLS Playoffs first.  England will play tribute to Wayne Rooney at Wembley when they face the US men on ESPN 2 Thursday at 2 pm (anyone want to catch lunch to watch ??).  The US has a young crew with many oversea’s US players being called up.

Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tourney at Westfield’s Grand Park Fri/Sun  

Quarterfinals: Two Big Ten Men’s Soccer Tournament quarterfinal games needed extra time to determine a winner, No. 1 Indiana versus No. 8 Northwestern and No. 4 Michigan State against No.  5 Maryland. Indiana advanced with a 2-1 victory and Maryland won 1-0.  No. 2 Wisconsin went down 2-0 against No. 7 Rutgers in the first 14 minutes, but rebounded to move on to the semifinals with a 6-3 win. No. 3 Michigan advanced with its 3-1 victory against No. 6 Penn State.  Carmel FC Director of Soccer Operations Juergen Sommer (a former National Champion Goalkeeper at IU) will be on hand for the coin toss of the Championship Game on Sunday afternoon!  Tickets are available at the gate  on-site, for $12 for adults, $7 for youth, high school and college students with school ID and $1 for veterans and active military.

Fri 1 pm on BTN  #1 Indiana U vs 5 Seed Maryland/ 3:30 pm BTN #2 Mich vs #2 Wisc

Sun 12 noon BTN Championship Game

Champions League

Some unbelievable results in Champions League this week right after the leak that certain huge clubs in Europe might be planning a Super League to replace Champions League (read stories below).  First Liverpool lays an egg at Red Star 2-0 meaning qualification may well come down to the final round as they have 2 difficult games left.  Then Juventus loses to Man United in the last second 2-1 showing just how much they miss Buffon between the pipes.

 INDY 11 $99 Season Tickets

Ok for folks looking for great Christmas ideas – the Indy 11 have come out with a family Season ticket plan that simply rocks.  $99 Season tickets in the South End Zone, or $150 in the BYB.  Seriously -these are level 1 seats for the full season for less than 1 Colts or Pacers game.  If you put just $50 down on Reserved Seat Tickets that start at just $289 before Nov 26th you get the bonus of Free Parking ($15 per game value).  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you !

 CARMEL FC PLAYERS

We have access to Murray Stadium the next two weeks and we will be offering free outdoor training sessions for Carmel FC travel players and our Select Players.

Here are the dates:

  • Monday (11/12),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Wednesday (11/14),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Thursday (11/15),  5:45pm – 6:45pm  *Goal Keeping Training Only

Here is the schedule for the training sessions:

  • Academy Sessions (8U-10U boys and girls) – 5:30pm to 6:30pm
  • 11U/12U Boys & Girls – 6:40pm to 7:40pm
  • 13U/14U/15U Boys & Girls – 7:50pm to 8:50pm
  • Goal Keeping training will be on Thursdays only
  • 5:45pm – 6:45pm (U11-U15, Boys & Girls only)

USA

US In need of Pulisic’s Creativity

Rooney to return for England farewell vs US at Wembley

Optimistic View of our New US Manager – Greg Berhalter  Stars and Stripes

Pulisic Wants Revenge for US World Cup Failure

Atlanta United’s Martino Never Contacted about US Job before Taking Mexico’s

US Women play in Europe this Week

USA Complete squad:for England and Italy Games Next Week

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 59/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew; 6/0)

 Defenders (10): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 35/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; 6/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Matt Miazga (Nantes/FRA; 10/1), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu/ESP; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers; 19/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 56/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 3/1)

 Midfielders (13): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 21/2), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 7/1), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 1/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 5/0), Romain Gall (Malmö/SWE; 0/0), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth/GER; 14/4), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 3/1), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 6/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 25/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 21/9), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 3/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 7/1)

 Forwards (2): Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 5/2), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96/GER; 43/13)

 Champions League

Red Star’s Upset of Liverpool a reminder of What a Superleague Would Lose

Man U Stuns @ Juve

Atletico Gets Revenge on Dortmund in 2-0 win at home

– Latest Champions League tables

European Super League Details Leaked? ESPN

European Super League a serious problem for European Leagues ESPNFC   

UEFA President to fight European Super League FC

It’s time to fix — and save — the Champions League  ESPNFC

MLS

Biggest Take-Aways for the MLS Semi-Final First Legs – SI

Real Salt Lake Boots LAFC from Playoffs in Thrilling Knockout Match

Berhalters Gamble Works out for Crew SC in 1 leg of East Conf Semis – Kevin Johnson Soc Sakes

538: Who is likeliest to make Conf Championship?

Injury letoff, response boost Sounders for Leg 2

How each Leg 1 turned on a key coaching call

Wiebe: Who’ll win MLS Cup? The haters will say…

Power Rankings – Greg Doyle MLS.com

EPL

Ibra – EPL Overrated

EPL Big 6 demoralizing for small Clubs and Fans

Man U Paul Pogba and Mourino Relationship 1 of Happiness

Indy 11

Indy 11 Season tickets for just $99 if U order by 11/26

Meet the Team Events, Free Parking for the Games ($85 savings), More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise. Call 317-685-1100for more Details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you!

11 Reasons to Get Your Indy 11 Season Tickets today with Mike Henn

USL Championship Features Louisville vs Phoenix Rising & Drogba Thurs Eve 8 pm on ESPN2

 GAMES ON TV

Thurs  Nov 8   MLS Playoffs

10:30 pm FSI                Seattle Sounders vs Portland (Leg 2)

8 pm ESPN 2                Louisville FC vs Phoenix Rising USL Champ Game

 Sat, Nov 10   

9:30 am Fox Soccer      Werder Bremen (Seargent) vs Mgladbach (Johnson)

12:30 pm NBC            Crystal Palace vs Tottehham

12:30 pm FS 2              Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Bayern Munich  

12:30 bein Sport        Atletico vs Athletic Club

Sun, Nov 11  

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Fulham (Ream)

9;30 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Bayer Leverkusen

9:15 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Everton  

11:30 am NBCSN         Man City vs Man United

2:30 pm ESPN+            Milan vs Juventus

3:30 pm ESPN             NY Red Bulls vs Columbus   (MLS Playoffs)

3:30 pm FS1                 Atlanta United vs NYCFC (leg 2)  

5:30 pm FS1?           Sporting KC vs Real Salt Lake(leg 2)

Thur, Nov 15  

2 pm ESPN2           England vs USA Men  (Rooney last match)

Tues, Nov 20  

2:45 pm FS1           Italy vs USA Men

Sunday, Nov. 25

Conference championship first legs

Thursday, Nov. 29

Conference championship second legs

Saturday, Dec. 8 (8 p.m.): (FOX, UniMas)

MLS Cup final

Christian Pulisic returns to U.S. squad for England, Italy friendlies

Nov 6, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Christian Pulisic headlines the 28-man squad named by United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan for upcoming friendlies against England and Italy.The U.S. will take on England at the famed Wembley on Nov. 15, and will then play Italy in Genk, Belgium five days later.”These last two matches provide a fantastic set of challenges and experiences, so we’re excited to bring in this group of players for another huge opportunity,” said Sarachan. “We continue to build with a core group that has developed throughout the last year, while including some players who we haven’t seen in some time.”Injuries and club commitments have limited Pulisic to just one U.S. appearance this calendar year, a May 28 match against Bolivia. But now the Borussia Dortmund midfielder appears to be healthy enough to take part in the last two U.S. matches of 2018. The squad is weighted slightly in favor of foreign-based players, with 16 of the 28 invitees playing abroad. Of the 12 MLS-based players, seven belong to teams still competing in the MLS Cup playoffs. This could explain the reason for the slightly greater squad numbers compared to previous camps, as those seven will arrive at camp later than others given that the second leg of the conference finals will take place this weekend.”These are important matches and we only have so many opportunities every year to bring our players together,” said Sarachan, speaking about the decision to include players involved in the MLS playoffs. “This is a FIFA window and we are one of many countries playing matches during this time, so you want to include players that you feel are vital to your program. There are other leagues around the world that have games right before and after these windows, but I feel when the national team calls, there is still an importance to bringing players that we feel will be significant to the team now and in the future.”Sarachan will also use the expanded squad to take a look at more Europe-based players. There are no specific plans to release players in between games, though circumstances could dictate otherwise.One notable absence is Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley. Two reasons were given by Sarachan for his exclusion: that the younger midfielders on the squad are in greater need of minutes at international level, and that Bradley hasn’t had much rest in two years due to his involvement in MLS Cups and the CONCACAF Champions League.”At this stage, it made sense to give [Bradley] some extra time off and also allow these games to be a platform for players that lack that kind of experience,” he said.Otherwise, Sarachan has continued to call in the core group of young players he’s developed over the past year. This includes Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Nantes defender Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, and Paris Saint-Germain forward Tim Weah.All told, 17 of those named in the squad took part in the previous national team camp back in October. The average age of the squad is 23 years, 241 days, with the average number of caps 13.Four players on the squad play in the U.K. They are Wigan Athletic defender Antonee Robinson, Swansea defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, Fulham midfielder Luca De La Torre, and Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin.Midfielder Romain Gall is the lone first-time call-up on the squad. Gall, 23, has recorded 15 goals in 27 league and cup matches for Swedish sides Sundsvall and Malmo in 2018.

Complete squad:

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 59/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 2/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew; 6/0)

Defenders (10): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 35/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City/WAL; 6/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Matt Miazga (Nantes/FRA; 10/1), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu/ESP; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafaña (Portland Timbers; 19/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 56/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 3/1)

Midfielders (13): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 21/2), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 7/1), Luca de la Torre (Fulham/ENG; 1/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 5/0), Romain Gall (Malmö/SWE; 0/0), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth/GER; 14/4), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 3/1), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 6/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United FC; 25/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 21/9), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 3/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 9/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 7/1)

Forwards (2): Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 5/2), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96/GER; 43/13)

Christian Pulisic’s return is sorely needed for U.S. side lacking creativity

Nov 6, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The year of discontent for the U.S. men’s national team is almost over.Caretaker manager Dave Sarachan named his 28-player roster for friendlies against England on Nov. 15 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and against Italy five days later. It figures to be the last time Sarachan engages in this exercise for the U.S.To be fair, Sarachan was handed a thankless job last year, and he’s conducted himself with aplomb. His decisions to go with mostly young players have induced a collective nodding of heads. A total of 50 players have been used during Sarachan’s tenure, with 19 making their international debuts. The team has gotten some decent results along the way, although it’s clear that there is a long way to go for many of these players. For these two games, it will help to have Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams all back in the fold. The trio, which figures to form the core of the U.S. midfield for the next cycle, missed the last round of games in October due to injury. That they will (hopefully) be back ought to give U.S. fans a glimpse of what is to come.Pulisic’s return is undoubtedly the most welcome, although McKennie and Adams will be critical as well. The U.S. has shown a distinct lack of creativity for much of this calendar year, and with Pulisic limited to just one U.S. appearance in 2018, that burden has been left to others with predictable results. With the Borussia Dortmund attacker back, it will be interesting to see what the knock-on effect will be on the offensive contributions of McKennie and Adams, who have both shown an ability to score from late runs into the box.There are other attack-minded players who will be worth a look. It seems like every month there’s a new player brought into the fold with an eye-catching skill set. Last month it was Jonathan Amon. This time around it’s Malmo’s Romain Gall, whose numbers — 14 goals in 30 matches across two teams in 2018 — have piqued some interest. Gall’s career had seemed to stall during a two-season stint with the Columbus Crew, but his game has been reborn in Sweden, and his ability to run at defenses and strike at goal makes him intriguing.Sebastian Lletget, a player whose slick passing has always made him an interesting option, is back in the frame as well. The tendency has always been to look at him as a purely attacking option, but the last few months of the MLS season with the LA Galaxy saw him perform well in a deeper role beside Jonathan dos Santos, giving the U.S. added versatility.

Darlington Nagbe is another player returning to the fold, but he remains something of an enigma, a player who everyone wants to be a No. 10 but is more of a linker instead.Then there’s Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent and Paris Saint-Germain’s Tim Weah. Sargent has been getting steady playing time with the team’s reserves, although his promotion to Bremen’s first team has been teased for some time now. Of late, Weah hasn’t been even getting time with PSG’s reserve team, but both players figure to get extended minutes for the U.S.One player who won’t be joining up with the U.S. is Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley. The reasons given for his exclusion centered around giving minutes to younger players and allowing Bradley to take some time off. The second of those explanations is the one more grounded in logic. If playing time for younger players was a concern, why call him back in during the October window? But it’s clear that after playing virtually nonstop for the past two years, Bradley could use a rest.The concerns for Sarachan — and whoever succeeds him — are a bit different on the defensive side of the ball. Matt Miazga has been a mainstay for Sarachan ever since he took over, but poor form and change of coach at Nantes have consigned the center-back to the team’s reserves, leading to speculation that his loan from Chelsea might be terminated early. A couple of respectable performances for the U.S. might catch the eye of another team if his way at Nantes remains blocked. At minimum, he should get the chance to get some more reps with Wolfsburg center-back John Brooks.

Wayne Rooney to return for England farewell vs. U.S. at Wembley

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Wayne Rooney will win his 120th England cap later this month after Gareth Southgate sanctioned a farewell appearance for the DC United forward against the United States at Wembley on Nov. 15, the English Football Association (FA) has announced.The former Manchester United and Everton captain — England’s all-time leading scorer with 53 goals — has not represented his country since lining up against Scotland at Wembley in November 2016.

– Rooney’s record-breaking England career in numbers

Rooney, 33, who had by that stage lost his regular starting spot at United under Jose Mourinho, was then omitted from a series of squads by manager Southgate before announcing his international retirement in August 2017, having initially targeted this year’s World Cup in Russia as his swansong.But with Rooney ending his England career having made more appearances than any other outfield player, as well as eclipsing Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of England goals, Southgate and the FA have agreed to give Rooney the honour of a farewell appearance, at the same time as handing supporters the opportunity to show their appreciation of the former England captain.The game against the U.S. — three days before the decisive Nations League clash with Croatia at Wembley — has been designated as a charity fundraiser by the FA. Some of the monies raised will go towards the Wayne Rooney Foundation.

Despite Rooney’s impressive form in the MLS since moving to DC United in July, where he helped the team into the playoffs after scoring 12 goals in 21 games, his return to the England set-up is purely on a one-off basis, sources have told ESPN FC.Rooney will be presented with an award in recognition of his contribution before the game, but sources have told ESPN FC that he will not play the full 90 minutes and that he will not be considered for the game against Croatia.Rooney’s MLS season is now over after the team’s defeat in the knockout round against Columbus Crew last week, but he told ESPN last month that he will not seek a loan move back to Europe during the closed season, opting instead to focus on the start of the 2019 MLS season next March.

Red Star’s upset of Liverpool a reminder of what football stands to lose with a super league

Nov 6, 2018Nick AmesESPN.com writer

BELGRADE, Serbia — What would football be without nights like this?

Red Star Belgrade had not enjoyed a victory of this significance since their European Cup win in 1991, and the timing could hardly have been better. On a week when details of the big guns’ apparent plans for a continental super leaguehave dominated the news agenda, the Serbian champions served up a vibrant, wild demonstration of everything the sport cannot afford to lose.

Perhaps the executives and money men who would like to create a closed shop among the elite should be made to watch Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over a rattled Liverpool side on a loop, and at full volume. It hammered home a vital, increasingly urgent fact: that the soul of football is worth fighting for.Before kickoff, Red Star’s supporters cheered members of the team that, 35 years ago to the day, won 2-1 at Anfield. In those days they would go toe to toe with the best every season. Those players’ names were read out one by one on the public-address system; at full-time it was Vladan Milojevic’s class of 2018, rank outsiders in a fiendish Group C, who were being hailed in sequence over the loudspeaker.”This generation will become equal to others in the club’s history,” Milojevic said afterward. They are in this famous old institution’s pantheon now and, at least until their visit to Napoli in three weeks, can keep dreaming of a previously unthinkable place in the knockout stage.That kind of dream would be dead if clubs from England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France cleaved off to play among themselves. One version of the proposed new setup would, it appears, include guaranteed immunity from relegation for 20 years.

On Tuesday’s lacklustre showing, it was possible to see how this might appeal to Liverpool, who are among those believed to want a slice of the cake. Although they missed the game’s first big chance through the recalled Daniel Sturridge, they did not really get going in the opening period and paid a heavy price — beaten to every ball by 10 whirling dervishes in red and white stripes, finding themselves picked apart far too easily and failing completely to deal with the towering target man Milan Pavkov, whose two emphatic finishes settled the issue.”The second goal was out of the blue,” Jurgen Klopp said of the 25-yard piledriver that turned the Marakana into a cauldron of bedlam. “That’s not cool in a game like this, an atmosphere like this, a situation like this.”The noise was deafening, as it had been from the moment the teams emerged to a silver-and-red tifo display that covered the entire stadium. Red Star warm up for big games on their practice pitch, adjacent to the ground, only taking the long walk through one of football’s most hair-raising tunnels when it is time for kickoff. It creates a delicious extra frisson of suspense among the Delije, the ultras who stand behind the north goal, and the fans to either side; it also ensures the team are roared out when they finally emerge and that a raucous, intimidating tone is set from the start.Klopp stressed his team had not been fazed by the atmosphere, which had been heavily discussed in the buildup and never let up. “It was a good football atmosphere, noisewise and singingwise, not a problem,” he said, noting how the temperature rose as Red Star scented blood. That eliminates one potential excuse for a performance that clearly troubled him.

·        

“We made life a bit too easy tonight,” he continued. “They were not as lucky as they should be if they win against us.”That was right and, despite dominating the second half, Liverpool posed a consistent threat only in the final 10 minutes. On the back of this and a similarly pallid display in another football hotbed, Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo, it suggests an issue that needs correcting when they face the might of Paris Saint-Germain later this month. If Liverpool are not to fall well short of last season’s Champions League heroics, they need to rediscover a semblance of their swashbuckling, fearless best form.Here it was Red Star who had the swagger, the strut and the hard work to go with it. In the latter stages, each bulldozing challenge, each successful clearance was greeted by mini-celebrations from those who had prevented Liverpool from breaking through yet again. “I think even bigger victories will come, I’m not just satisfied with this one,” Milojevic said. Red Star’s return to the top has left romantics misty-eyed, and much bigger battles are to come if it is to be sustained.But more raw, visceral, old-fashioned football nights of this measure would help underline the point that they must simply not be lost to corporate greed.At Milojevic’s prematch news conference Monday, Red Star’s press officer had blocked questions (on UEFA’s request, he claimed) about any potential super league. The thought occurred at the time that it was a short-sighted move: Surely the clubs who would be cast into the ether by such a breakaway need to be allowed a voice at this point more than ever. What nobody knew then was that they would state their own case — and that of football’s supposed also-rans — in such overwhelming fashion the following day.

Paul Pogba underwhelms but Man United grab lucky late win at Juventus

5:10 PM ETMark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

TURIN, Italy — Three thoughts from the J Stadium as two late goals gave Man United a 2-1 win Wednesday at Juventus.

  1. Heroic United stun Juve with late fightback

Manchester United turned the clock back to 1999 by turning defeat into victory against Juventus with a dramatic late victory in Turin.Juan Mata’s 86th-minute free kick and an Alex Sandro own goal in the final minute gave Jose Mourinho’s team a crucial win against the Italian champions, which could see United qualify for the Champions League knockout stages with a home victory against Young Boys later this month.

Nineteen years after Sir Alex Ferguson’s Treble winners overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in Turin, Mourinho’s men showed similar fighting spirit to win this game. It had appeared to be lost after Cristiano Ronaldo, kept quiet by United for the majority of the game, made his one decisive contribution when, in the 65th minute, he volleyed Leonardo Bonucci’s long pass beyond goalkeeper David de Gea to register his first Champions League goal of the season.The goal looked to be enough to win the game and secure top spot and qualification for the knockout stages with two games to spare for Massimiliano Allegri’s team. But Mata hauled United level with his free kick before Sandro bundled in Ashley Young’s late, in-swinging set-piece.United had been unfortunate to fall behind to Ronaldo’s goal, and a draw would have been a fairer result on the night. Yet with Juve hosting Valencia later this month, a win for the Italians combined with a United victory against Young Boys at Old Trafford will ensure both clubs make it into the round of 16.

  1. Sanchez states his case to play through the middle

Alexis Sanchez has been a major disappointment in a Manchester United shirt since arriving from Arsenal in January, with not even his staunchest supporter able to suggest any different. But one argument in the Chile international’s defence is that he’s not been handed the chance to play on his best position by Mourinho.Mourinho has consistently stuck with Romelu Lukaku as his centre-forward, choosing instead to use Sanchez out wide, but with Lukaku injured, Sanchez was given his chance through the middle against Juventus and he impressed. It was clear at times that his confidence is still low: after all, he entered Wednesday’s game having scored just four times in 27 appearances, and his appearances this season have been sporadic at best.But Sanchez offers totally different qualities to Lukaku, and they were on show in Turin. Lukaku is one-dimensional, a classic striker in the sense that his first thought is always to head for goal. Sanchez, meanwhile, is more prepared to assess his options, hold up the ball and bring teammates into play. There was more of a thread between United’s attacking players against Juve than there is when Lukaku plays.Lukaku’s injury means he is a doubt for Sunday’s trip to Manchester City, so Sanchez might get another outing at the Etihad. He still needs to sharpen his fitness and intensity, but if he gets the game time, Sanchez can still be the big-game player Mourinho expected him to be when he signed him.

  1. Pogba goes missing back “home”

Paul Pogba really wanted to own the stage back on his old turf with United against Juventus, but he went missing again Wednesday night.Having spoken bullishly in the prematch news conference about his form, happiness and United’s prospects of winning a major trophy, Pogba was applauded back to Turin by the Juventus fans before the game. But two years after leaving in an £89 million move to United, Pogba did little justify his fee or make the Juve fans yearn for his return.This was Pogba on one of his bad days. He failed to track Juventus runners and he was poor in possession. He really should have approached the game determined to show his old fans what they were missing, but he was simply swallowed up Juve’s midfield of Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Rodrigo Bentancur.Pogba has talent, that is without question. He has won big honours for club and country and can be a game-changer, but fails to deliver too often. His late involvement in Sandro’s own-goal winner for United wasn’t enough to make Pogba stand out.It is on nights like these that Pogba should demand to be centre of attention, but he was a bit-part player again.

European Super League a ‘serious’ problem for professional football – leagues group

Nov 6, 2018Reuters

A breakaway European Super League would have “serious and lasting implications” for professional football across the continent, the European Leagues group (EL), which represents domestic leagues, said on Tuesday.German magazine Der Spiegel and European Investigative Collaborations, a network of international media, reported on Friday that plans for a Super League involving clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United were back on the table.Citing leaked documents, Der Spiegel said a fresh plan had recently been drafted for Real Madrid by Spanish company Key Capital Partners. The plan foresees 11 top European clubs creating a Super League in 2021.Key Capital Partners and Madrid have not commented on the report, while the European Club Association, which represents more than 200 European clubs, said it was not aware of discussions by clubs to develop a breakaway league.The EL, which represents 25 domestic leagues including England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga, voiced its “strong opposition” to any such plan on Tuesday.”The European Leagues note the ongoing rumours and speculations around the possible creation of a European Super League by the big European professional clubs,” it said.”[EL] has consistently voiced its strong opposition to the creation of any ‘closed and franchised style’ Super League.”The Leagues supports the European sports model based on a pyramid structure where the mechanisms of promotion and relegation and the sporting merits of clubs are at the core of any competition.”The statement said domestic football was at “the heart of the game throughout Europe” for players, clubs and fans.”Proposals for a closed Super League will have serious and lasting implications for the long term sustainability of professional football in Europe,” it said.It said it “fully supported” European football’s governing body UEFA in the organisation of the Champions League and Europa League and “shares with UEFA the common principle of protecting and enhancing competitive balance in European football.”The EL recently presented its own suggestions for the format of European club competitions in the next three-year cycle, starting in 2021, which it said would ensure a more equal distribution of revenue.According to Der Spiegel, the 16-team Super League would replace the Champions League from 2021 and include 11 “founders” who could not be relegated for the firt 20 years.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin to ‘fight’ European Super League

Nov 5, 2018Stephan UersfeldGermany correspondent

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said he will “fight against” the idea of a European Super League as long as he is at the top of European football’s governing body.

The latest batch of Football Leaks stories released by German magazine Der Spiegel claimed on Friday that plans for a European Super League with 11 founding members: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich remain intact.The report added that, from as early as November 2018, the 11 teams could sign a “binding team sheet” and commit to the new European Super League from 2021.”It would damage football worldwide,” Ceferin told kicker. “It would be boring.”To see Juve vs. Bayern every week would be more boring than let’s say Juve vs. Torino. It’s no question for me that I will fight and do all I can against such a league for as long as I am here.”If we are talking about a closed system, we can forget about solidarity and the development of football. In the long run, the clubs would be the losers.”Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, meanwhile, rejected reports of the club’s push for such a league.”I am not aware of any Super League news,” he was quoted as saying by kicker. “We neither have any knowledge about this nor have we participated in any talks. That’s out of the question for us.”

Ex-Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic calls Premier League ‘overrated’

 Nov 5, 2018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said the quality of the Premier League is “overrated” but that very few can handle the pace required to succeed in English football’s top flight.Now at LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic spent 19 months at Manchester United between 2016 and 2018 — scoring 29 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions with much of his time blighted by a serious knee injury. Previous to that, he had played in his native Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.Ibrahimovic, 37, said a lot of people tried to persuade him not to join United as he could produce a low mark in a career which had seem him win 13 league titles up to that point; but he was determined to prove them wrong.”I’d had a long career before I came — different kinds of countries, different kinds of clubs,” he told FourFourTwo. “People said: ‘You don’t need to go to ngland, because if you fail in England, people will always say you weren’t good enough.'”Everybody was against it. And guess what? That made me motivated. That gave me adrenaline. I liked the Premier League. I found it very motivating and very exciting.”It gets a lot of attention, although I feel the quality is a little bit overrated — the individual quality, the technical part. But the rhythm is high. Even if you are the best, if you can’t handle the rhythm, the pace, then you will not succeed, because the pace is very high.”Ibrahimovic’s first season ended prematurely with his knee injury after he had scored 17 league goals and helped United win the League Cup and Europa League, and he struggled to recapture his best form when he came back.He made just seven more appearances before joining LA Galaxy in March 2018 — and said his Premier League rivals were fortunate not to have faced him when he was 10 years younger.”I’m super proud and super happy that I went to United — it was the right club,” he added. “We won, and I did what I did before I got injured.”I had an excellent time — great memories. I’m attached to United forever. The supporters are amazing: wherever I went, I saw red shirts, which was fantastic. It’s a very important moment in my career.”As I said when I was in England, you’re lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago, because if I did what I did at 35 years old, imagine it if I was 25. Then it would have been a different story.”I came there and they said I came in a wheelchair. All the people that talked, in the whole Premier League, I put them in a wheelchair. That’s what I did.”

11/6/18 Champions League Tues/Wed, MLS Playoff Spectaculars, Indy 11 $99 Season Tix Specials in Nov, Carmel FC Training

Champions League

Barcelona sits top of the table with Inter Milan in 2nd as Barca hosts the 3 pm game Tues at 3 pm on TNT.  Of course Dortmund and US youngster Christian Pulisic will be on to the round of 16 if they win as group winners vs Atletico at 3 pm Tues online – while Atletico is thru with a win and Monaco and Brugge tie.  Liverpool is thru as the # 1 team with a win as they travel to Crevena on TNT at 1 pm Tues.  While the winner of PSG and Napoli will determine who goes thru in Group C at 3 pm Tues on TNT as GK Gigi Buffon returns from his suspension from last season for PSG.  Wed Juventus and Renaldo return to Juve for the 3 pm game on TNT – Juve will be thru as the top team with a win.  In the other TNT game Wed CSKA Moskva will travel to Roma who stands tied with Real Madrid for top slot.   For those who are frustrated like me trying to find your favorite team’s games – try visiting https://www.univision.com/deportes and see if your cable allows you to log in and watch for free – I have been able to watch all the games online along with the TNT games on TV.  Yes it stinks –but it has worked for me.  Email if you need my login to try to watch!  I hate this new set up!

MLS

The MLS Playoffs have been great so far as LAFC was surprisingly eliminated early and Columbus has a 1-0 lead on MLS wins leader NY Redbulls after the first leg.  Seattle will host Portland down 2-1 in aggregate on Thurs eve at 10:30 pm on FS1.  While the 2nd legs of the other 3 semi-finals are all Sunday afternoon starting at 3 pm on ESPN with Columbus @ NY Red Bull & NYCFC @ Atlanta 5 pm on ESPN, and 7:30 pm Salt Lake @ Sporting KC on FS1.

 INDY 11 $99 Season Tickets

The USL Final featuring defending Champs Louisville City hosting former Chelsea Star Drogba and Phoenix Rising will take place Thurs night at 8 pm on ESPN2.  Ok for folks looking for great Christmas ideas – the Indy 11 have come out with a family Season ticket plan that simply rocks.  $99 Season tickets in the South End Zone, or $150 in the BYB.  Seriously -these are level 1 seats for the full season for less than 1 Colts or Pacers game.  If you put just $50 down on Reserved Seat Tickets that start at just $289 before Nov 26th you get the bonus of Free Parking ($20 per game value).  All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise.  Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you!

Indy11_Seasontix

 CARMEL FC PLAYERS

We have access to Murray Stadium the next two weeks and we will be offering free outdoor training sessions for Carmel FC travel players and our Select Players.

Here are the dates:

  • Monday (11/5),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Wednesday (11/7),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Thursday (11/8),  5:45pm – 6:45pm  *Goal Keeping Training Only
  • Monday (11/12),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Wednesday (11/14),  5:30pm – 9:00pm
  • Thursday (11/15),  5:45pm – 6:45pm  *Goal Keeping Training Only

Here is the schedule for the training sessions:

  • Academy Sessions (8U-10U boys and girls) – 5:30pm to 6:30pm
  • 11U/12U Boys & Girls – 6:40pm to 7:40pm
  • 13U/14U/15U Boys & Girls – 7:50pm to 8:50pm
  • Goal Keeping training will be on Thursdays only
  • 5:45pm – 6:45pm (U11-U15, Boys & Girls only)

 Champions League

How teams can Qualify for the Knockout Rounds this Week ESPNFC

European Super League Details Leaked? ESPN

It’s time to fix — and save — the Champions League  ESPNFC

Man United in awe of Juve but can win in Turin Smalling Says

Liverpool Omits Shaquiri for Red Star Belgrade Trip

Spurs Season like a House of Cards – Pochettino Says ESPNFC

Barca Are UCL Favorites but Look out for Juve – Allegri Says

– Latest Champions League tables

– Upcoming group fixtures

– Champions League statistics

MLS

Biggest Take-Aways for the MLS Semi-Final First Legs – SI

Real Salt Lake Boots LAFC from Playoffs in Thrilling Knockout Match

Berhalters Gamble Works out for Crew SC in 1 leg of East Conf Semis – Kevin Johnson Soc Sakes

538: Who is likeliest to make Conf Championship?

Injury letoff, response boost Sounders for Leg 2

How each Leg 1 turned on a key coaching call

Wiebe: Who’ll win MLS Cup? The haters will say…

Power Rankings – Greg Doyle MLS.com

Indy 11

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11 Reasons to Get Your Indy 11 Season Tickets today with Mike Henn

USL Championship Features Louisville vs Phoenix Rising & Drogba Thurs Eve 8 pm on ESPN2

Defending Champion Louisville City FC to Host Drogba, Phoenix Rising FC for 2018 USL Cup

Sights & Sounds – Louisville City FC Claims the Eastern Conference

 GAMES ON TV

Tues  Nov 6   Champs League

1 pm TNT                   Crevena vs Liverpool

3 pm TNT                                                  Inter Milan vs Barcelona

3 pm Uni Desp        Atletico Madrid vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3pm                             Tottenham vs PSV

3 pm Univision OL Napoli vs PSG

3 pm                            Schalke vs Galastary

Weds  Nov 7   Champs League

1 pm TNT                     CSKA vs Roma

3 pm TNT                    Juve vs Manchester United  

3pm                               Man City vs Shaktar  

3 pm                             Viktoria vs Real Madrid

3 pm                             Bayern vs Athens AEK  

3 pm                             Benefica vs Ajax  

Thurs  Nov 8   MLS Playoffs

10:30 pm FS1                    Seattle Sounders vs Portland (Leg 2)

8 pm ESPN 2                Louisville FC vs Phoenix Rising USL Champ Game

 Sat, Nov 10   

9:30 am Fox Soccer      Werder Bremen (Seargent) vs Mgladbach (Johnson)

12:30 pm NBC            Crystal Palace vs Tottehham

12:30 pm FS 2              Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Bayern Munich  

12:30 bein Sport        Atletico vs Athletic Club

Sun, Nov 11  

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Fulham (Ream)

9;30 am FS1                       RB Leipzig vs Bayer Leverkusen

9:15 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Everton  

11:30 am NBCSN         Man City vs Man United

2:30 pm ESPN+            Milan vs Juventus

3 pm ESPN             NY Red Bulls  (0) vs Columbus (1)  (MLS Playoffs)

pm ESPN               Atlanta United (1) vs NYCFC (0)  (leg 2)  

7:30 pm FS1           Sporting KC vs Real Salt Lake (leg 2)

Thur, Nov 15  

2 pm FS1                  England vs USA Men

Champions League: How teams can qualify for the knockout rounds

Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.If two teams are level on points, head-to-head record is the first tie-breaker.

GROUP A

Borussia Dortmund are almost home and hosed with a 100 percent record, three points clear of Atletico Madrid. Dortmund’s place in the knockout rounds will be confirmed if they win at Atleti on Tuesday or if Monaco vs. Club Brugge — who both have a slim chance of progressing — is a draw that day. Atleti have a five-point cushion to the group’s bottom two teams, and they can book their place with a home win over Dortmund next time out if Monaco vs. Club Brugge is a draw. The only realistic chance for the bottom two is that Atleti lose to Dortmund.

GROUP B

The group is a carbon copy of Group A. This time, Barcelona have the 100 percent record and will be through if they win away to Inter Milan, who have six points, or Tottenham vs. PSV Eindhoven is a draw. Inter, meanwhile, will be through if they beat Barca and Tottenham vs. PSV Eindhoven, who both have one point, is a draw. Spurs or PSV must win and really need Inter to be beaten at home.

GROUP C

Liverpool, on six points, have the edge, but this group is exceptionally tight, and no team can advance on Matchday 4. It is very evenly poised with Napoli on five points and Paris-Saint Germain on four. With Napoli hosting PSG next time out, Liverpool know they can take a firm grip on the group by winning away to Red Star Belgrade, who have one point, but the Serbian outsiders could give themselves a chance with a shock win against the Reds.

GROUP D

Porto are well placed in the group on seven points and will expect to take a giant leap toward the knockout rounds when they host Lokomotiv Moscow, who have lost all three of their matches, on Tuesday. But they cannot secure qualification until Matchday 5. Schalke, on five points, and Galatasaray, on four points, meet in Germany in two weeks, and the Bundesliga outfit know they will almost be through if they can win that match.

GROUP E

Ajax and Bayern Munich are in control of the group, on seven points with identical records and four points ahead of Benfica. Ajax will book their place in the round of 16 if they can win at Benfica on Wednesday, and that result would also allow Bayern to secure safe passage with a victory at home to rock-bottom AEK Athens. While a draw at home to Ajax would keep Benfica mathematically in the hunt, they need to win that game to bring themselves truly back into contention. AEK will have to win all three of their remaining games to have a chance of going through.

GROUP F

It is tighter in this group, with Manchester City a point ahead of Lyon and both Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk a further three points back. But City can book their place with a win at home to Shakhtar, should Lyon pick up a victory at home to Hoffenheim. Lyon cannot qualify on Matchday 4, but Hoffenheim would be eliminated if they lose to Lyon and City beat Shakhtar. However, if Hoffenheim or Shakhtar can pick up an away win next time out, it will make the group very interesting.

GROUP G

Real Madrid and Roma are well placed on six points, two better off than CSKA Moscow. No team can qualify on Matchday 4, though bottom club Viktoria Plzen will be eliminated should they lose at home to Madrid and Roma win in Moscow. CSKA probably need to avoid defeat to Roma to stay in with a realistic chance of making it through, while victory would move them into the top two.

GROUP H

Juventus have a 100 percent record and will be through should they win at home to Manchester United on Wednesday. United, meanwhile, have just a two-point cushion over third-placed Valencia and could be overtaken should they lose in Turin. The final-day meeting of Valencia and United on Dec. 12 looks like it will be decisive, but Young Boys will have a say if they pull off a shock in Spain on Matchday 4.

European Super League plans detailed by leaked email sent to Real Madrid – reports

Nov 2, 2018ESPN

A leaked document sent to Real Madrid last month appears to show that plans are still ongoing for a long-speculated European Super League featuring the continent’s top football clubs.An Oct. 22 email to Real Madrid from Madrid-based investment firm Key Capital Partners included a “binding term sheet” of 11 clubs and five “initial guests” to form a breakaway, private league, according to multiple news outlets that received the document among thousands of others from the “Football Leaks” whistleblower platform.Reports of a potential new league for Europe’s top clubs have persisted for years, most notably in 2016 when officials from English clubs met in Londonwith American businessman Charlie Stillitano, the founder of the International Champions Cup summer tournament in the United States.Information regarding that meeting was also included in the “Football Leaks” documents, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. And though nothing ever came of those talks, the email to Real Madrid purports to show that the idea of a Super League is far from dead.

According to Der Spiegel, the term sheet in the email awaited signatures dated November 2018 from 11 “founders” — Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid; England’s Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United; Italy’s Juventus and AC Milan; France’s Paris Saint-Germain; and Germany’s Bayern Munich.Under the plans outlined in the documents, those clubs would register a company to organize the “European Super League,” of which they would be members for 20 years, ineligible for relegation. To begin, the founders then would be joined by five other guest clubs — Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Marseille and Roma.It also mentions a second league of teams that could face those initial guests for a chance of promotion to the Super League.The plan outlined in the documents reportedly makes no mention of UEFA, European football’s governing body, which organises the Champions League. While such a Super League likely would replace the Champions League, it is not known how it would affect clubs’ domestic leagues.Der Spiegel reported that Real Madrid and Key Capital Partners declined to comment. But the magazine also quoted Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke as saying the documents prove it is “clear” that discussions are ongoing.”I also believe that a few of Europe’s large clubs are clearly working on it,” Watzke said, though he noted that the plans are “not very concrete.”Watzke also said Dortmund under no circumstances would leave the German Bundesliga, but beyond that, the club would “keep all its options open.”

 

It’s time to fix the Champions League or start a European mega-league

Oct 2, 2018  Brian Phillips, Special to ESPN FC

There’s a strange kind of conceptual bloat that tends to infect international soccer competitions, which is fascinating because it so often works against the nature of the competitions themselves.You start with a simple idea — say, let’s figure out the best club team in Europe. Only then you try to draw up the tournament, and there’s a lot of arguing; before you know it, you’re trying to remember whether the sixth-rated confederation per UEFA coefficient receives one or two automatic byes to the subgroup qualifying pre-phase, or whether the losing team with the highest goal differential parachutes directly into the Europa League’s third knockout round-robin or has to play Borussia Monchengladbach first and it all seems a little too abstract. And somehow, just while you were trying to Google this, you’ve accidentally watched three Heineken commercials and you wonder whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn off the soccer and do something comparatively easy, like learn advanced number theory.I’m thinking about number theory, and also Heineken, because the Champions League roars expensively back to life this week, with Matchday 2 of the group stage. The Champions League is not, obviously, the worst exemplar of the kind of bloat I’m talking about. Format-wise, it’s positively straightforward compared to the Europa League, a tournament of such ghastly intricacy that future generations will use it to predict the end of the world. (“When Feyenoord enters the sixth house…”)But the Champions League, in its own, peculiarly vexed relationship to the fun it is nominally offering its audience, makes for a revealing case study in the way money, politics and media — and the competing interests surrounding each — can warp the essentials of the modern soccer competition.The form of the tournament itself means we’re forever watching matches whose stakes aren’t as high as they could be. The group stage, as it plods on, guarantees that the smaller clubs get a lot of TV time but the bigger clubs always have the best chance to advance. The two-legged knockout rounds work to preserve stability, and its accompanying ad revenue, over surprise. There’s nothing wrong with this, exactly. But it does sometimes make the Champions League look like a kind of drab hybrid, poised between the true free-for-all of a single-elimination knockout tournament and the shameless maximalism of a corporate super league.Is the Champions League fun? Obviously, in one sense, it must be. It’s the one venue where big European clubs from different countries play one another for stakes anyone cares about, and that inevitably comes with a lot of excitement, a lot of atmospheric drama (something the tournament duly exploits via its faux-operatic anthem, which sounds like a song a feather boa wrote about itself), and a lot of intriguing games.And sometimes these games are amazing. Liverpool vs. PSG, during matchday one, was a happy riot from start to finish, even if it symbolically seemed to pit two of the most corrupting influences in contemporary soccer (“the inertial power of established clubs” on the one hand versus “new money” on the other) against each other. There’s something weird, though, about the way the Champions League seems to regard its own capacity for delightfulness — the way it seems to see fun as a resource to be carefully amortized for the audience over a long period of time, as if it were managing a trust fund for an impetuous teenager. “No, Eric,” the Champions League always seems to be saying, “you can’t have a jet-ski until you get into Dartmouth.” The thrill of Liverpool vs. PSG was always moderated by your awareness of the context of the group stage, where matches are important but not tooimportant, and by your corresponding sense of the long, slow road ahead, where any number of shortcomings and reversals could be met and overcome on the way to the final.Think about this for a second. What’s the most exciting kind of game in sports? A final, right? And after that, a single-elimination knockout match, like the ones in the later rounds of the World Cup. That’s where the stakes are highest: The winner advances, the loser goes home.I don’t know about you, but as a sports fan, I am way more into excitement than patience or careful math. But in the Champions League, as in most big soccer tournaments, the function of the format’s complexities is almost always to diminish, rather than intensify, the tension of the individual match because the format is almost always working to lower the stakes. Instead of being sent home, the loser of a group-stage match is only somewhat disadvantaged in a multiphase round-robin mini-tournament that nearly always includes some relative minnows against whom the big clubs can sort out their problems. And even later, in the knockout rounds, the format gives teams two games rather than one to determine which side advances.If the single-elimination format makes for the most exciting sports tournament, why doesn’t the Champions League simply switch to life-or-death knockout games? That may seem like a naive question, but really, you’d think an athletic competition that needs a hundred sopranos to announce its advent would try to be as thrilling as possible.But here’s where things get interesting, because, of course, the Champions League has many reasons not to want to be thrilling, and nearly all them speak to the importance to the tournament of considerations other than fun. Week to week, in other words, the Champions League has strong incentives not to care very much whether you enjoy it.The first of those incentives is also the most defensible: fairness. Actually, maybe a better word would be “accuracy.” One of the reasons a single-elimination tournament is so deliriously entertaining is that it maximizes the chances for upsets — think of the early rounds of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.Generally speaking, the longer two teams spend playing each other and the more times they play, the greater the odds that the more skilled team will win. Upsets are fun for fans, but if you’re constructing a tournament with the goal of actually identifying the best team, they’re a design flaw. Let the teams play more games, and even if each game feels less urgent, as it inevitably will, you will increase the chances that Real Madrid end up as champions a hundred consecutive times and drive everyone crazy — and that you will therefore, somehow, because the world is mysterious, have achieved the scientifically correct result.Of course, there are other reasons why the Champions League might want to minimize the possibility of upsets. Keeping the fan bases of big clubs interested for as long as possible doesn’t hurt TV ratings. High TV ratings don’t hurt MasterCard commercials.Perhaps most significantly, the Champions League is a desperate ongoing compromise between the most popular and powerful European associations (your Spains and Englands) and the smaller ones. The biggest clubs are forever threatening to trigger UEFA’s doomsday scenario by forming a breakaway European Super League, a threat that helped trigger the most recent round of format changes. Beginning this year, all four of the top clubs from all four of the top associations have guaranteed spots in the group stage, whereas previously, only some of them had guaranteed spots, and the others had to qualify via a system of what I visualize as scholastic debates in Latin.The smaller clubs are forever threatening UEFA, too — I don’t know to do what, exactly, but they complain a lot in the press.This four-dimensional diplomatic compromise that UEFA has cobbled together to keep all of its constituencies happy has meant tilting the competition massively in favor of the clubs that already have the most advantages while still giving the smaller clubs lots of games to play. Everybody gets something. The corporate behemoths get to take turns lifting the trophy, while the also-rans get to lose extensively, and profitably, on TV.There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this arrangement; it’s hard to see how else you could satisfy all the clubs once you accept that satisfying all the clubs is something you need to do. But it does sit a little oddly under the glossy skin of epic warfare that has been the Champions League’s brand. UEFA is deploying a lot of trumpets for what’s essentially a gradualist exercise in predictability and continuity. The opening credits may be lasers and glitzy chaos, but the tournament itself values stability over everything else; it turns even most of its legitimately thrilling matches into cautious data points. It’s a gladiatorial contest devised by an accounting consultancy.I sometimes think the problem with 21st-century soccer isn’t that money has transformed everything but that money has transformed things only halfway. You could say, I guess, that there are two kinds of fun in soccer. There’s the old kind, where the game is rooted in the community, the clubs are authentic expressions of supporter culture and something is meant to be at stake other than advertising revenue, and then there’s the new kind, where everything is mediated and packaged for TV and what’s enjoyable is the shiny commercial spectacle.he Champions League wants to be both things at once, which is why it pretends to care about small clubs while ultimately catering exclusively to rich ones. But the result is that little shiver of alienation you feel during the group stage, when you know you’re being asked to invest your feelings in something that’s been very exactly calibrated to be slightly less than honest. If I ran soccer, the European club championship would be open to a thousand teams every year. Each round would be a one-game knockout, and every so often we would get to watch the beautiful and hilarious spectacle of a Belgian Third Division B team knocking off Manchester United, though admittedly it’s no longer clear that this would qualify as an upset.Short of that, though? I think the Champions League might be more fun if it more flly embraced its evil nature. We’re here to buy shirts, watch Playstation commercials and see Chelsea play Juventus — and unless you happen to be a Club Brugge fan, it’s not clear where or how Club Brugge factors into any of those priorities.For that matter, why not have a breakaway European Super League? Everyone would be furious about it, and then it would be spectacularly popular. Could we devise a whole season in which Manchester City only played Barcelona? Can you fit a trumpet inside another trumpet? Could Manchester City somehow play itself?Tournament designers have to balance a lot of factors. But human nature is the loudest soprano of all.

Tottenham’s season is like House of Cards – Mauricio Pochettino

9:39 AM ETBen PearceTottenham correspondentEmail

Tottenham Mauricio Pochettino has said football is becoming as political as a series of House of Cards.Pochettino is having to cope with a lengthy injury list, a lack of summer signings and delays to the club’s stadium construction project.”It’s a weird season but I look so happy now because the new season of House of Cards has started,” Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with PSV Eindhoven. “Yesterday I watched three episodes. “I learn a lot from this series. I recommend it. I think it represents very well sometimes how we are. Sometimes football is so political, and it’s going in this direction.”Which character am I? I don’t know, it’s difficult to say. It’s dangerous to say this or this one. It’s fiction but it can translate to many businesses.”Pochettino is missing eight players against PSV, with Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama all injured, while Hugo Lloris is suspended and Juan Foyth and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou are both ineligible in the Champions League.Dembele limped off with an ankle problem in the opening minutes of Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Wolves, but Pochettino played down the injury.”The most important thing is he didn’t suffer an injury to his bone, and that is good,” Pochettino said. “Maybe his ligament is damaged but after the scan today we will know better.”Dembele has become the third central midfielder to suffer an injury in the last week, leaving Pochettino short of options at a busy time, but Dele Alli is available after being rested against Wolves and Victor Wanyama’s knee injury is not serious.”He [Wanyama] got a knock against West Ham,” Pochettino said. “Today he was training and close to being available. Maybe for Saturday he will be available [against Crystal Palace].”Could Dele play 90 minutes? It’s possible. He needs to work a lot to get in his best condition to build his fitness. We’re helping him.”Tottenham face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, having only picked up one point from their opening three Group B fixtures. But Pochettino says Spurs’ situation will have little effect on his team selection.”I don’t have too many players to select or not select!” he said. “Now we’re only 18 or 19. There’s a small chance to go to the next stage — that’s the reality. We know very well we need to win tomorrow.”With Lloris suspended, Pochettino added: “There are three different options — Michel Vorm, Paulo Gazzaniga and Alfie Whiteman. I still haven’t decided who is going to play. But sure it will be one of the three names. Each has a 33 percent possibility.”For me it’s not that they own the No. 1, the No. 2, the No. 3 [shirts]. Football is dynamic and we change a lot the things. Our decision is always to be fair for everyone.”The Wembley pitch was in a poor condition when Spurs hosted Manchester City last Monday, following three successive weekends of NFL action.A UEFA pitch inspection is likely to take place on Monday afternoon, but Pochettino said: “I think it’ll improve a little bit — they’re working so hard to improve it.”I saw pictures; I think it’s better. The condition will be the same for both sides. There’s nothing to complain about.”

Barcelona are Champions League favourites but Juventus can win it – Allegri

Nov 2, 2018Ben GladwellItaly correspondent

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has said Barcelona, not his team, are favourites to win the Champions League.The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and three successive victories in the tournament this season have seen Juve tipped as winners after two final defeats in the last four years.The first came against Barcelona in Berlin in 2015, and Allegri believes the La Liga champions will again be the team to beat.”Barcelona are No. 1 candidates — just look at the way they play,” he told a news conference on Friday.I feel I am coach of a side who can win it, but you can’t take it for granted that we will. We are among the top four candidates, but we need to keep calm.”Earlier this week, Allegri said winning the Champions League was his priority and “the only thing that can improve us” after seven straight Serie A titles.”In March a different Champions League starts, and that is when you need a bit of luck because the Champions League is a competition that gets decided by minor incidents,” he said.’m sure we’ll see Barca going all the way to the end.”Juve host Manchester United on Wednesday, when a win would book their place in the round of 16 with two games to spare.However, Allegri said he was more concerned about their forthcoming league game against Cagliari on Saturday.”All I am asking my team is to win it,” he said. “We saw against Empoli that no game is easy, while for everybody who faces us, the Juve game is always a big one.”We need to win and not drop any points because Napoli and Inter are there. Cagliari are tough opponents and we need to win it and prepare well for Wednesday.”Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi are out of Saturday’s Allianz Stadium clash, but Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic are both in the squad.

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba excited by Juventus return: ‘Turin is my home’

Nov 1, 2018ESPN

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has told RMC he regards Turin as “home” as he prepares to return to Juventus in the Champions League next week.Pogba, who rejoined United from Juve in what was then a world record deal, played for the Serie A club between 2012 and 2016, winning four Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias.The France international said he had predicted that United would be drawn in the same Champions League group as Juve, who beat them 1-0 at Old Traffordlast month. “I expected it, it was mad,” he said. “I’d spoken about it with my brother last summer. I said to him: ‘Imagine we’re in the same group as Juve.'”For me, it’s a pleasure. Turin is my home — that’s where I scored my first professional goal.”Pogba said he remained in touch with some of his former Juventus teammates and had learned from legendary players including Andrea Pirlo.”[Juan] Cuadrado, [Paolo] Dybala, [Leonardo] Bonucci … I hear from them, we speak from time to time. We were a family, so of course we stay in contact,” he said.”When you’re alongside players like Pirlo, Gigi [Buffon] or [Giorgio] Chiellini, you can only learn.”Every day, in training, you try to observe them. Even as an established player, you can always learn from those sorts of men.”Pogba said he was targeting victory in the Champions League, calling it “a trophy I think about, I always have it in mind.”

Biggest Takeaways From the MLS Conference Semifinal First Legs

  • Columbus continued neutralizing its chief threats, Portland came back on an injury-riddled Seattle, Atlanta received contributions from an unlikely scorer and Sporting KC received an instant impact from an opportunistic substitute to open the MLS conference semifinals.

By AVI CREDITOR November 04, 2018

MLS’s hectic midweek knockout drama gave way to more measured and tempered first legs of the conference semifinals on Sunday, when all eight teams remaining were in action, looking to take steps forward on the road to MLS Cup. The drop in gripping action is normal when shifting from single-elimination knockout matches to two-legged series, with the combination of tired legs (from the teams not fortunate to have first-round byes) and the teams’ lack of willingness to gamble and leave themselves susceptible to series-killing mistakes typically resulting in lower scoring, more cagey theater in playoff series openers.Half of the midweek winners capitalized on their recent momentum in hosting those opening legs, with the Columbus Crew toppling the Supporters’ Shield-holding New York Red Bulls, 1-0, and the Portland Timbers coming from behind to beat the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. Both the Red Bulls and Sounders entered the postseason on five-match winning streaks, while the Red Bulls had lost twice since July 14 and the Sounders had lost twice since July 4. So needless to say, these were not the results the higher seeds desired or expected.

On the flip side, Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City handled business on the road and will go home for the second legs with the odds in their favor, with the former conquering NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, 1-0, and the latter drawing Real Salt Lake 1-1, taking the away-goal edge into its home game.Here are the major takeaways from the opening legs to the four series:

IDEAL RESULT FOR BERHALTER’S CREW

If Gregg Berhalter is indeed going to be the next U.S. men’s national team manager, as has been speculated by plenty for some time, he’s doing a nice job going in with a head of steam. After devising a tactical game plan to largely remove D.C. United’s star tandem Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta in the knockout round, Berhalter pushed the right buttons again on Sunday.

He took the calculated risk of keeping 34-year-old Federico Higuain on the bench to start the match, which came three days after a grueling 120 minutes in the nation’s capital. After his side saw out a scoreless first half, he turned to his veteran playmaker to make a difference. That he did, turning a slick back-heel pass into Gyasi Zardes’s path inside the Red Bulls box. Zardes scored, and that was that.he match–not to mention the series–was nearly changed on a pair of late saves. Losing 1-0 on the road isn’t the end of the world for the Red Bulls, but it was very nearly 2-0, when Pedro Santos found space to rip from the edge of the box, forcing Luis Robles into a diving save that preserved the scoreline.

On the other end, the one time Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips were able to link up in a dangerous area resulted in a glanced header by the latter, who looked likely to even the score at the death. That is, until goalkeeping hero Zack Steffen made an instinctive, diving save to his left, pawing the ball to safety.To concede an away goal and settle for a draw at that juncture could have been a dagger for the Crew. To keep the Red Bulls scoreless and turn up the pressure on the MLS Cup-hungry side heading into the second leg, on the other hand, is the ideal outcome for Berhalter’s well-drilled side.

SEATTLE’S DREAM START TURNS INTO AN INJURY-LADEN NIGHTMARE

After 10 minutes in Portland, Raul Ruidiaz had scored, and the Sounders were enjoying a perfect start: the lead plus an away goal and carrying full momentum on a team that just endured through a hard-fought win in Dallas a few days prior. But then Cristian Roldan, the influential midfielder, went out with a groin injury. And with about 10 minutes to go in the first half, center back rock Chad Marshall, the heartbeat of MLS’s second-best defensive unit, injured his right knee making a seemingly innocuous pass out of the back. Factor in that Portland scored twice directly off giveaways, through Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco, all while this was happening, and Seattle’s brilliant start turned south real quickly.To Seattle’s credit, it weathered the storm. The 2-1 loss, given everything that transpired after the opener, was not a worst-case scenario, and Portland will surely rue not going for the jugular against an opponent that was ripe for the picking. The problem for the Sounders, though, is that unlike the three other conference semifinal series, there’s less rest in this one. Seattle will host the second leg Thursday night, not next Sunday, and if Roldan and Marshall can’t go, it’ll require a major turnaround against a team–and more specifically a dominant midfield–that holds the early advantage.

ATLANTA’S NEUTRALIZER FOR NYCFC’S SMALL FIELD: SET PIECES

Atlanta United is a team that thrives off space and dynamic combinations, and with that not entirely feasible during a physical and choppy match on NYCFC’s narrow, slippery set-up in the Yankee Stadium outfield, Tata Martino’s side needed a Plan B. That turned out to be excelling on set pieces.

Atlanta had one apparent goal off a set piece taken off the board via VAR and another would-be goal off a set play shanked by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez before finally breaking through off another corner. Josef Martinez’s initial volley off the corner was saved, but the rebound fell nicely on the doorstep for Eric Remedi, who touched home the first goal of his professional career for the opener and crucial away strike. If NYCFC wanted to win this series, it really needed to hold serve at home and use its confines to its advantage. The task will be immense to top Atlanta at what will surely be a rocking Mercedes Benz Stadium next Sunday.

INSTANT IMPACT CHANGES SKC’S OUTLOOK

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes was hoping for an impact out of second-half substitute Diego Rubio, but he couldn’t have possibly anticipated it coming so soon.Less than a minute after the Chilean stepped onto the field, with his side trailing 1-0 at No. 6 Real Salt Lake, he was on the scoresheet, pouncing on a blocked Nick Rimando clearance and firing home with his first touch of the game. While he’ll garner all the praise for the crucial away goal, which totally changes Sporting KC’s series outlook, it’s his countryman, Felipe Gutierrez, who deserves ample credit as well. It was his hustle and block that altered Rimando’s clearance, and his sly seal off of Kyle Beckerman that created Rubio’s unimpeded shooting lane. The draw gives SKC the slight edge going home, thanks to the away goal, and it’ll have the benefit of knowing one of RSL’s chief attacking threats won’t be available to play in the return leg. Albert Rusnak was one of five RSL players carrying yellow cards into the conference semifinals, after Thursday’s action-packed win over LAFC. So his needless tackle on Graham Zusi less than half an hour into Sunday’s bout ruled him out for the second leg, due to card accumulation. One look at what he was able to do in opening the scoring in the first leg, and you can see what RSL will be missing.The draw is clearly not the worst-case circumstance for RSL, but knowing that Rusnak won’t be playing in the second leg all while conceding the road goal on an entirely unnecessary sequence has it feeling like more of a loss than a tie for the lowest seed remaining in either conference.

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