1/19/18  Indy 11 New Coach, Eric Dick 13th Pick in MLS Draft to KC, US Ladies play Sun – Men next Sun; Man City vs New Castle Sat 12:30 NBC leads TV Game slate

So interesting month for our Indy 11 – as they announce moving to a new league – USL, MOVING to Lucas Oil Stadium,  and hire a New Head Coach for the new season.  Martin Rennie seems like a pretty experienced coach – having coached in every professional level in the US.  The PDL, USL, NASL and MLS.   His time in MLS was with Vancouver Whitecaps from 2011-2013 where he took them to the playoffs, while also winning a Cascadia Cup and reaching 2 Canadian Cup Finals in his 3 years there.  I for one am excited to be in the USL with local matchups against Cincy, Louisville and Nashville now on the docket along with some stalwarts like the Tampa Bay Rowdies and NC.  The first game has been set for Sat, March 31st  vs FC Cincy (spring break for me of course –oh well).  I for one am excited for the move to Lucas Oil.

Huge CONGRATS to former Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel High School star Goalkeeper Eric Dick who was picked 13th in the MLS Superdraft today by Sporting Kansas City.  Dick was the Goalkeeper of Year in the Big East this season at Butler.  I will try to update other IU and local players next week.

Moving overseas it was nice to see Man City finally take a loss in the EPL as Liverpool hung 4 on them and had a 4-1 lead before finally hanging on and winning 4-3 at Anfield last weekend.  Man City is going to win the league but it was nice to see they aren’t invincible.  For Liverpool it keeps them in the top 4 in a very tight race for Champions League spots. Not a ton of marquee games on the docket this weekend.  Man City does host New Castle United and US left back Deandre Yedlin on Saturday at 12:30 pm on NBC, while Brighton host Chelsea at 7:30 am and Man United travel to Burnley at 10 am on NBCSN.  Arsenal host Crystal Palace fresh off their collapse last weekend at 10 am on CNBC.  Perhaps the best game is on Friday as Dortmund travels to Hertha at 2:30 pm on Fox Sport 1 with Christian Pulisic slated to return off injury for Friday’s match.  And of course on Wednesday Arsenal will host Chelsea this time at 3 pm on ESPN2 in League Cup play.  (they played to a 0-0 tie at Chelsea last round- so winner advances).

Excited to see the US Ladies play this Sunday night vs Denmark on ESPN at 7:30 pm – the US team honoring former US Goalkeeper Hope Solo should be interesting.  Despite her battles with US soccer and her coaches and everyone else – there is no denying she was the best female goalkeeper in the world for a long time – maybe ever.  Of course a super young US team will take the field next Sunday night at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1 vs Bosnia & Herzegovina.  Also next week US Soccer will choose a new President – a few stories below on the leaders to win that spot.

Indy 11

Indy 11 Hire former Vancouver Coach Martin Rennie to Lead Jump into USL – Dakota Crawford – Indy Star

Indy 11 Sign New Coach – Martin Rennie –

Opinion – Potential Hang-Ups in Indy 11 Lucas Oil Deal – Kevin Johnston – Soctakes.com

Indy 11 in Eastern Division in USL with Louisville, Cincy, Nashville, Atlanta, TB, and more- soctakes.com

Indy 11 parts ways with Eamon Zayed


Former Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel High School GK Eric Dick is 13th Pick in MLS Draft to Sporting KC

Schweinsteiger Returns to Chicago


USSF Presidential Candidates answer ESPN Questions –

Question and Answer Interviews with all the US Soccer Prez candidates

Pulisic Returns to Game Action on Friday for Dortmund – SI

Landon Donovans Comeback to play for Leon in Liga MX Feels Different – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Leon Coach calls Donovan a Winner

What to Expect of Donovans Return to Action – SI – Grant Wahl

Check out the New Players on the US Men’s Roster for Jan 28th game – US Soccer

See the U20 US Men moving to the Full National Team – us Soccer

5 Things to Know about Denmark playing US Ladies 1/21 7:30 pm ESPN

Jan Camp leading into Sunday Night’s Game – starts big year for US Ladies – US Soccer video

US Ladies to honor Hope Solo at Denmark game Sunday Night on ESPN 9 pm


Power Rankings– Barca back top, PSG up, Man City Falls

Will Renaldo leave Real Madrid?  Dermot Corrigan EPSNFC

Gap  Between Superclubs and Rivals must Be Addressed – Gab Marcotti


Is Pressing the Key to Beating Man City ESPNFC

Tottenham recalls US defender Carter – Vickers

Liverpool needs longturn answer at GK

Top Story Lines – Week 24


Fri, Jan 19

2:30 pm Fox Sports 1                      Herta BSC vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

Sat, Jan 20 

7:30 am NBCSN            Brighton vs Chelsea

9:30 am FS 1                  Hoffenhiem vs Bayer Leverkusen

10 am beIN Sport       Real Madrid vs La Coruna

10 am NBCSN                 Arsenal vs Crystal Palace

12:30 pm NBCSN        Man City vs New Castle (Yedlin)

12:30 FS2                                                 RB Leipzig vs Schalke

Sun, Jan 21 

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich vs Werder Bremen

11 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Tottenham

12:30 FS2                                                 schalke vs hannover

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          real Betis vs Barcelona

7:30 pm ESPN      US LADIES vs DENMARK

Mon, Jan 22 

3 pm NBCSN                   Swansea City vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 24

3 pm EsPN2 ?                 Chelsea vs Arsenal League Cup

Sat, Jan 27 

9:30 am FS 1                  Hoffenhiem vs Bayer Munich

9:30 am FS2>                Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Freiburg

10 am beIN Sport       Valencia cs Real Madrid

Sun, Jan 28 

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Leverkusen vs Mainz

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Barcelona vs Deportivo Alaves

9:30 pm FS1         USA Men vs Bosnia & Herzegovina

Tues, Jan 30

2:45 pm NBCSN           Swansea vs Arsenal

3 pm NBCSN??              Huddersfield Town vs Liverpool?

Weds, Jan 31

2:45 pm NBCSN   Tottenham vs Manchester United 

Fri, Feb 1

2:30 pm FS1                   Kiohl vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Sat, Feb 2 

7:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Man City

9:30 am FS 1                  Mainz vs Bayer Munich

10 am NBCSN                 Man United vs Huddersfield (Williams)

12:30 pm NBCSN        Aresnal vs Everton

12:30 FS2                                                 RB Leipzig vs Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Lavente

Sun, Feb 4  

9:15 am NBcSN            Crystal Palace vs New Castle (Yedlin)

9:30 am FS1                   Franfurt vs Augsburg

11 am NBCSN       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Atletico Madrid vs Valencia

Thurs, Mar 1

7 pm  ESPN2         US Ladies vs Germany (She Believes Cup @ MAPFREE Stadium Columbus, OH)

EPL 2018 Schedule  

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

Indy Eleven hires former Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie to lead jump to USL

Dakota Crawford, dakota.crawford@indystar.comPublished 12:42 p.m. ET Jan. 16, 2018

Now firmly planted in the United Soccer League, the Indy Eleven announced the hire of a new head coach Tuesday. Martin Rennie, a Thurso, Scotland native, will take over the Eleven after most recently helping to launch an expansion team in Seoul, South Korea.Before that he had coached in the Premier Development League, USL, North American Soccer League (where the Eleven played last year) and Major League Soccer.“Experienced candidates were a focal point of our search, and few coaches have the domestic and international experience that Martin Rennie does,” Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir said in a release. “On behalf of the Indy Eleven family I want to welcome Martin, his wife Amy and their family, to Indianapolis and look forward to them receiving the support of the most passionate fans in North America.”Rennie coached the PDL’s Cascade Surge starting in 2005. He led that team to a 12-2-2 record while winning the North West Division Title.He then coached the PDL’s Cleveland City Stars for two seasons, winning a USL title along the way.His next stop was with the Carolina RailHawks, who had only made the USL playoffs once prior to his arrival. He quickly turned the team around and jumped up to the MLS after three seasons.The peak of his coaching career was 2011-13, when he coached the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, leading them to the playoffs in his first season. He was fired in 2013 after compiling a 24-25-19 record in league play and a 28-27-22 mark overall, which set him up to take on the opportunity with Seoul E-Land.“It’s an honor to be selected to lead Indy Eleven in their inaugural USL season,” Rennie said in a release. “My coaching experience through the professional ranks here in North America, as well as coaching internationally, has prepared me for this opportunity. I look forward to leading a great team that Indiana fans can be proud of, both on and off the field.”


By IndyEleven.com, 01/16/18, 11:45AM EST

Scottish native draws on success from Major League Soccer (MLS) ranks and international coaching experience

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. (January 16, 2018) – Indy Eleven Professional Soccer has concluded the search for its next head coach by officially welcoming Martin Rennie to the technical staff of “Indiana’s Team.” “Experienced candidates were a focal point of our search, and few coaches have the domestic and international experience that Martin Rennie does,” Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir said. “On behalf of the Indy Eleven family I want to welcome Martin, his wife Amy and their family, to Indianapolis and look forward to them receiving the support of the most passionate fans in North America.”
“It’s an honor to be selected to lead Indy Eleven in their inaugural USL season,” stated Martin Rennie. “I’m grateful to owner Ersal Ozdemir and President Jeff Belskus to have this wonderful opportunity to join Indy Eleven and continue to build on the success of soccer in Indianapolis and throughout the State of Indiana,” said Rennie. “My coaching experience through the professional ranks here in North America, as well as coaching internationally, has prepared me for this opportunity. I look forward to leading a great team that Indiana fans can be proud of, both on and off the field.”
“I’m excited to be adding such a well-qualified candidate that understands what it takes to be a winner,” said Jeff Belskus, President of Indy Eleven. “Martin’s knowledge, leadership, and experience are the qualities needed to help Indy Eleven succeed in our inaugural USL season. We look forward to working with Martin to build a team Indiana soccer fans will be proud to support.”
Rennie was born in Thurso, Scotland and graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1996. Rennie began his soccer-coaching career in 2007. He has spent the last ten years coaching soccer in the US, Canada and Korea. He is the only coach to have worked his way through the North American soccer pyramid having been a Head Coach in the PDL, USL, NASL and MLS, taking only 5 years to transition through the professional ranks. Rennie holds many prestigious coaching qualifications including the UEFA Pro License. The UEFA Pro License is the highest coaching qualification available anywhere in the world and has afforded Rennie the opportunity to learn from some of the most highly decorated coaches and leaders in the world of soccer.Rennie has built a winning team everywhere that he has been. He coached the Cascade Surge to a North West Division Title in 2005, the Cleveland City Stars to a USL Championship and a 2nd placed finish during 2007-2008, and the Carolina RailHawks to two 1st and one 2nd place positions during 2009-2011.  Rennie capped that off his ladder of success while coaching the Vancouver Whitecaps during 2011-2013, when the first Canadian team in MLS history reached the Playoffs while also winning a Cascadia Cup and reaching two Canadian Cup Finals.In 2014, Rennie was given the unique opportunity to build an expansion team in Seoul, South Korea. Seoul E-Land competed in the highly competitive K League where his young team performed beyond all expectations with a 3rd place finish in the first season.

Per club policy, terms of the contract that bring the former North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer veteran coach to the Indy Eleven sideline will not be released.

About Indy Eleven Professional Soccer
Since its launch in 2013, Indy Eleven’s mission – “To win championships with and for the community” – has stayed true to its aim of fielding a team that represents the State of Indiana proudly on and off the field. The 2018 season marks the fifth year of play for Indy Eleven and its first year to compete in the United Soccer League (USL), a professional soccer league based in the United States and Canada. On January 31, 2017, Indy Eleven submitted a bid for an expansion franchise in Major League Soccer (MLS), the First Division of pro soccer in the United States and Canada as recognized by U.S. Soccer.


USL announces 2018 conference alignment

January 12, 2018 – soc Takes


After a few offseason changes to its stable of clubs, the United Soccer League (USL) revealed its conference alignment for 2018 on Friday morning.

With 33 total teams, the league will be divided up into 16 sides in the Eastern Conference and 17 in the Western Conference. The Mississippi River separates the two divisions, with Saint Louis FC becoming the eastern-most team in the Western Conference, and Nashville SC the western-most squad in the Eastern Conference.The Eastern Conference will consist of ATL UTD 2, Bethlehem Steel FC, Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, FC Cincinnati, Indy Eleven, Louisville City FC, Nashville SC, New York Red Bulls II, North Carolina FC, Ottawa Fury FC, Penn FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toronto FC II.The Western Conference will include Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Fresno FC, LA Galaxy II, Las Vegas Lights FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC, Phoenix Rising FC, Portland Timbers 2, Real Monarchs SLC, Reno 1868 FC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Seattle Sounders FC 2, Swope Park Rangers and Tulsa Roughnecks FC.The league also confirmed Friday that Orlando City B will not partake in the 2018 season. The USL schedule is expected to be released in the very near future.

Opinion: Potential hang-ups in Indy Eleven’s Lucas Oil Stadium deal

January 16, 2018by Kevin Johnston – SocTakes


INDIANAPOLIS — The antiquated confines of IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium have served as the home of the Indy Eleven since their inaugural 2014 campaign. For all the charm “The Mike” possesses, the beyond-dated venue has some significant drawbacks.A lack of proper locker room facilities and sufficient plumbing negatively affect both the players and fans. The nearest showers are across the street at the Indiana University Natatorium, while standing “water” is too often a staple of the built-in restrooms fans use behind the grandstand. Using on-site portable toilets is the other option. No brick-and-mortar concessions nor kitchens exist on the premises. There’s also no true concourse for fans to seek shelter during foul weather.Alas, the USL-bound Indy Eleven are now in talks to call Lucas Oil Stadium their home pitch. And oddly enough, the pitch itself might be one of the hang-ups currently stalling an agreement between the two parties. The club’s former public relations and communications director John Koluder recalled a FIFA compliance issue with the stadium’s turf, which was designed specifically for American football.In 2013, Chelsea bested Inter Milan 2-0 at the $720 million mega-stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, that comfortably seats over 62,000 with the potential to hold up to 70,000 for some events. The match, part of the International Champions Cup, drew nearly 42,000 supporters. The caveat? Natural grass was brought in for the match, a move that’s likely too expensive to even be in play for the Eleven. An artificial surface is the only practical option.

The city’s Capital Improvement Board (CIB), which operates Lucas Oil Stadium, might be unwilling to pay for an expensive, entirely-new surface that satisfies FIFA regulations, leaving the Eleven in a pricey quandary. In addition to purchasing the new turf, there are likely substantial labor costs associated with installing and uninstalling the surface to alternate from football to fútbol.

FIFA bylaws state that an artificial playing surface “must meet the requirements of the FIFA Quality Concept for Football Turf or the International Artificial Turf Standard, unless special dispensation is given by FIFA.” The criteria outlined in the FIFA Quality Concept for Football Turf is quite complex, and it’s unclear which specific categories the current Lucas Oil Stadium turf isn’t up to par in.

Moreover, potential NFL scheduling conflicts will need to be manuevered around. The NFL won’t release its 2018 schedule until April, which further complicates matters.

Standard overhead costs — what some might think present the most sizable obstacle in the deal — may actually be reasonable given the two parties were unlikely to sit at the negotiating table in the first place were they not.While a move to Lucas Oil Stadium would be a massive upgrade for the club, a couple hurdles still need to be leaped for that to happen. But it’s entirely possible if a few kinks are worked out.The Indy Eleven will make their USL debut March 24 on the road against the Richmond Kickers before hosting FC Cincinnati in their March 31 home opener — in whichever stadium the financial and political winds take them.Soc Takes staff writer Aaron Gunyon contributed to this story.Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KJboxing.

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Landon Donovan’s latest comeback, in Liga MX, feels different to past returns

Jan 13, 2018

Jeff CarlisleSoccer

The first time Landon Donovan came out of retirement, the response was, “What took you so long?” Now that Donovan is doing it again, the question is just, “Why?”Donovan announced late Friday night that he would be signing for Liga MX side Leon at the not-so-tender age of 35. On one level the reason is obvious: For just about every soccer player who ever laced up boots, the itch to get on the field and compete never goes away. The legs and the lungs may not comply, but that competitive instinct rarely abates, even for a player such as Donovan who has nothing left to prove. Of course, looking at the entirety of Donovan’s career, that itch to play professional soccer has sometimes seemed more like a rash — or even worse, something uncomfortable that he would just as soon not put up with. Mentally, he was done when he retired for the first time following the 2014 season, burned out on a game that had ceased giving him enjoyment. Later, he candidly and bravely admitted to suffering from depression. The overriding sentiment was that, being just 32 at the time, he still had plenty to give; so when he came back, it wasn’t a surprise.When he retired for the second time, following his comeback in 2016, it was more about his body not being able to put up with the rigors of professional soccer. One of Donovan’s more underrated strengths throughout his career has been his durability, but a hamstring injury forced him out of the Galaxy’s final playoff game that season. He also looked like a player who had accumulated a fair bit of rust during his nearly two-year retirement.Circumstances with the Galaxy also played a factor in his second retirement. When manager Bruce Arena — the “Donovan Whisperer” if there ever was one — left the Galaxy for the U.S. men’s national team, it would have meant playing under a new manager on a team headed in a decidedly different direction. There were rumblings last season that Donovan might end up with Real Salt Lake — and RSL certainly wanted him, but he ended up saying no thanks.And that seemed like the end. Much like he did following his first foray into retirement, Donovan then settled into a life of family and broadcasting work, as well as working on San Diego’s MLS expansion. He seemed content.Now Donovan has come back again, and this time, it feels different. It also seems to carry with it a lot more downside risk. Granted, it’s not only a new team, but also a new league, one that he nearly jumped to back in 2009 when Club America made a strong bid to bring him to Mexico. That can be invigorating, of course: it’s a new kind of adventure for a player who, while reviled south of the border for the way he tormented Mexico’s national team, commanded immense respect. It also seems likely that Donovan won’t be counted on to be the kind of difference-maker he was earlier in his career.That said, this is still Landon Donovan we’re talking about. Expectations have followed him around from the moment he burst on the U.S. soccer scene as a teenager with the U.S. under-17 national team. At times, they’ve been suffocating. They may not weigh as heavy with Leon, but they will be there. Given the intense rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico, it seems as though opponents will like nothing better than to get a piece of Donovan.Yet none of that is stopping Donovan, who clearly hasn’t gotten his desire to play out of his system. He likely never will, either.

U.S. Soccer to honor Hope Solo for 200th cap in match vs. Denmark in San Diego

The controversial keeper’s contributions to U.S. Soccer are beyond question

Hope Solo has been through a lot of off-field controversy during her tenure as the goalkeeper for U.S. Women’s National Team, but her legacy on the pitch is one of the best in the world. On Jan. 21, in a match against Denmark in San Diego, U.S. soccer will honor Solo for her 200th cap with the team. Solo, widely regarded as the best keeper in women’s soccer history, has a record of 153-11-27 between the posts.She has earned 202 caps to this point in her career and has started 195 matches. She has played in three World Cups for the USWNT, in addition to three Olympic appearances. In that span, the USWNT won the 2015 World Cup and claimed gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.Solo is one of just 11 USA players to reach 200 caps, and 10th all-time. No. 200 came on Aug. 6, 2016, at the 2016 Olympics against France. The match was a shutout for Solo, as the United States won 1-0. Solo has pitched 102 shutouts in goal for the United States, easily the most all-time.

All things told, Solo has averaged 0.54 goals against per match in her 202 matches. The match against Denmark at San Diego Country Credit Union Stadium will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.


Jan 18, 2018

For the U.S. Men’s National Team right now, it’s all about the future. There’s no better punctuation of that theme than the composition of the current January Camp roster.Upon the opening of camp last week, 21 of the 29 invitees were aged 24 and under. Fifteen of are uncapped and 10 have joined the MNT for the first time.Clearly youth is the movement for the senior side, and the promise in the Youth National Team program is also showing through in this camp as 12 players on the roster have represented the U.S. at a Youth World Cup. Two more players – Russell Canouse and Kelyn Rowe — were part of qualifying rosters during their respective youth team cycles.Perhaps most instructive is the fact that four players from the USA roster at 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup are present in Carson, Calif.: Danny Acosta, Tyler Adams, Justen Glad and Brooks Lennon.
Part of the first U.S. team to win the CONCACAF Championship at the U-20 level, they’re the initial crop from a group which ran to the quarterfinals in Korea Republic last summer to cycle into the senior team. Most certainly, they will not be the last. “From the beginning, we knew we had a talented group,” Acosta, a dual national with the U.S. and Honduras, told ussoccer.com “We had a team that worked hard for each other, represented our country well and showed that the future is bright for our national team program.”At age 18, Adams is the youngest of the rising U-20 quartet, but has some seniority in that he already earned his senior team debut in the MNT’s 1-1 draw with Portugal last November. Long involved in the Youth National Team program, the New York Red Bulls utility man recalled an instance during his time with the U-17 MNT in agreeing with Acosta’s assessment.“When I was in residency, I remember our U-17s scrimmaging the U-20 MNT,” Adams said. “At the time, the U-20 team had Rubio Rubin, Russell Canouse, Marky Delgado, Matt Miazga, Kellyn Acosta. Our U-17 team had myself, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. It’s nice to see we were all on the field at the same time and respectively everyone’s doing a good job at their club. Now were coming together making a rise with the National Team. That’s pretty cool as well.”One of the underlying themes for the youthful MNT players in this camp and moving forward is taking the first steps in getting the senior team back on track towards Qatar in 2022.“Every time you wear the crest, it’s a responsibility,” Acosta said. “We didn’t make the World Cup. We’re sad about that, we’re disappointed, but it’s a new start for everyone. I feel a responsibility now to help push things forward, and I would say the 28 other guys in this camp feel the same way.”


U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 4/0), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 3/0), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; 0/0), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 15/2), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Ian Harkes (D.C. United; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 1/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 37/6)

FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 27/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 24/5), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; 4/0), CJ Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 3/0)

Read all the Stories on The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com


Gap between superclubs like Man United, Real Madrid and rivals must be addressed

2:25 PM ETGabriele Marcotti

UEFA’s Annual Benchmarking Report, released Tuesday, confirmed what many suspected: the rich are getting richer and leaving the merely well-off far behind. This is perhaps the most stark observation from the hefty study — it runs to 126 pages — of top-flight club football in every league across the continent. If you’re even a little bit wonk-ish, the Benchmarking Report, which is compiled from licensing, transfer and financial data, some of it accessible only to UEFA), makes a fascinating read, filled with all sorts of interesting nuggets.

For example, the median commission paid to agents in the 2000-odd transfers analysed by UEFA stands at around 13 percent. Sometimes it’s lower and sometimes it’s much higher: in fact, there were 28 deals where the transfer fee was more than €10 million ($12.2 million) and the commission was more than 50 percent. Nice work if you can get it.Then there’s the fact that overall, the game is in pretty decent health. In 2011, European clubs recorded operating losses of €382 million while the most recent data available shows operating profits of €832 million.Look at bottom-line losses, which include a host of other elements like transfer income/costs and taxes, and they’ve gone from €1,670 million to €269 million in just six years. Indeed, 70 percent of top-flight clubs from Europe’s big five leagues reported bottom-line profits. Financial Fair Play regulations (first introduced, not a coincidence, in 2011) may have their flaws, but there’s little argument that they’ve contributed to keeping costs down and turning European football into an industry capable of growing at a 10 percent clip annually.

But the single biggest takeaway is confirmation of what we’ve known for a long time. The game is fractured and polarized between the super-rich and everybody else. Most are better off, but the 1 percenters are a lot better off.This is happening both on a macro level across Europe and in individual leagues. Take wages, which correlate to success on the pitch as you’d expect. There are 10 clubs with wage bills of €221 million ($270 million) or above. Then there’s a €60 million ($73.3 million) gap with the club in 11th place (AC Milan, as it happens).Could €60 million in salaries per season buy you a decent amount of manpower? Say a Cristiano Ronaldo plus an Alexis Sanchez? Probably. But the massive disparity exists within individual leagues as well. The top four in England have an average wage bill that is almost twice as high as the next four. In Italy and Germany, it’s more than twice as high; in Spain a whopping three-and-a-half times as high.Go further down the food chain and the picture gets worse. In Portugal, the top three spend (on average) seven times as much on wages as those ranked fourth to sixth. In Scotland, the top two (Celtic and Rangers) pay their guys nearly five times as much as the next two.The reason this disparity exists isn’t rocket science. It’s down to revenue, mostly commercial revenue. Nine clubs earn at least €25 million ($30.5 million) from shirt sponsorship. Another 20 are between €3 million ($3.6 million) and €25 m million ($30.5 million). Everybody else earns less than €3 million, often much less.Or take kit deals: Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid all earn more than €75 million ($91.5 million), which in some cases is 100 times more than some of their rivals in their very same leagues. The top 12 clubs by commercial income (which includes sponsorship) saw their revenues double in the past six years. The other 88 clubs in the top 100 saw far more modest increases, on average less than 25 percent.And this gap is getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

It used to be that broadcast revenue was the big discriminant, the real difference maker between the haves and have-nots. That’s still true on a league-by-league basis: the average Premier league club receives more than twice what the average Italian club gets (Serie A has the second biggest contract) and 28 times as much as the average Dutch side (the Eredivisie ranks eighth, for reference).But within the leagues, thanks to centralized collective deals, the earnings gap has in part been eroded. The top earning club in England gets roughly 1.3 times as much as the median club while in Spain, the multiple is 4.1. That’s highest among major leagues but a lot lower and more equitable than it once was: indeed, it’s interesting to note that if La Liga’s method for awarding TV money were used in the Premier League, a method skewed more towards rewarding historical results and the size of a club’s fanbase, Manchester United’s broadcast revenues would shoot up from €146 million ($178.7 million) to a whopping €362 million ($443.2 million).The real secret to the club’s dominance is that they are massive universal brands that have learned to monetize their fan base at a time when the game is as globalised as it ever was and as new money is flowing into it. In many ways, that gives the big clubs a perpetual advantage because while some fans are fickle, most aren’t going to withdraw their support.Consider Manchester United. They haven’t won the Champions League since 2007-08 or Premier League since 2012-13; they’ve generally been underwhelming since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Yet guess what? They have the highest revenues in football and the second-highest wage bill. They built up a heck of a lot of credit with their success in the previous 25 years and those fans aren’t going away any time soon.Being a universal brand generates a virtuous cycle of success: because you’re rich, famous and successful, folks will flock to you. Sponsors and money soon follow. And, unless you’re a fool who squanders it (and there have been cases…) that will only increase your wealth, fame and success.It’s probably not a coincidence that what the UEFA Benchmarking Report calls “non-wage operating costs” shot up 10 percent last year. Some of that is down to exceptional items and impairments but a lot of it is clubs investing even more in commercial and sponsorship activities. Everybody wants their slice of the pie but the chosen few are already at the table, gorging themselves.Football has always had its rich and poor, its Manchester Uniteds and Huddersfield Towns. But the reality is that more than ever, there’s a glass ceiling and the folks looking down on the plebs are flying around with Iron Man’s jet pack while the plebs below press their noses longingly upwards.People have talked about luxury taxes, salary caps, centralized marketing and even redistributing commercial income along the lines of TV income (like the NFL does). UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin raised the issue last August and mentioned it again in his foreword to the report. It’s basically market engineering along the lines employed to introduce Financial Fair Play.The problem with FFP was that while it achieved one of its goals — namely, turning club ownership from a perpetually loss-making vanity project into a viable, and often profitable, business — it hasn’t done much for making the playing field equitable. But there are tweaks that are worth considering and this report provides plenty of evidence of why we might want to do that. Oh, and provided, of course, that there are enough folks out there who care to make it happen.Frankly, the impression is that between those who are happy to watch their superclub squash the rest of the league, those who support mid-sized teams and make do with the scraps that fall to them (the odd cup run or home draw with a one-percenter) and those who came to the game in the past decade, think this is normal and can’t imagine any other way, it may well be a losing battle.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 24

By Nicholas MendolaJan 18, 2018, 3:35 PM EST

It’s the first week of the Premier League season which follows a Manchester City league loss, so you know our top storyline of the week is going to begin with Pep Guardiola‘s men.

Just how big of a bounce back will there be for Man City?
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC 

The manager, who turned 47 on Thursday, saw Liverpool use a frantic second half spell to boost a 4-3 win and end hopes of an unbeaten PL season.And while Jurgen Klopp‘s high press kept them off-kilter for most of the first half and had them rattled early in the second, City still came within a late free kick to finding a point.Enter Newcastle, a club that flustered them at St. James’ Park last month and came within a Dwight Gayle-turned header of finding a point for Christmas.So how angry is City after its first loss of the season? Maybe a better word is motivated, and we expect that City will hang a big number on Rafa Benitez‘s men considering the Spaniard isn’t likely to try to repeat what worked for Klopp.

Wobbly Burnley plays host to sound Manchester United
Burnley vs. Manchester United — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN 

Jose Mourinho’s men head to Turf Moor with Alexis Sanchez expected to join their side any day and both Liverpool and Chelsea three points behind the Red Devils.Believe it or not, though, the match is more pivotal for the hosts, who are in danger of slipping deep into the back of chasers after their stingy and resolute start to the season had the Clarets aiming for a Top Seven place.Now Leicester is within three of the 7th place Clarets, and Everton is seven back with two big additions in place of need. If Burnley wants to stay in the race for seventh, it needs to get its first win in seven tries. Seven’s the number, you see?

United hasn’t allowed a goal in four matches, dating back to a 2-2 draw on Dec. 26… against Burnley.

Will the Gunners show signs of life after tumultuous week(s)?
Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC 

Arsenal’s first loss in a month turned “unbeaten in seven” to “one win in five,” and Arsene Wenger‘s men look set to lose Alexis Sanchez and have already watched last season’s second-leading scorer, Theo Walcott, skip town for Everton.eanwhile, Palace played the Gunners tight in a 3-2 loss on Dec. 28, and that was the Eagles’ only Premier League loss since a 1-0 defeat at Spurs on Nov. 5.

Is Liverpool going to stay motivated?
Swansea City vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET Monday 

On the surface this is silly, especially with Virgil Van Dijk happy to return to the fold. Yet Liverpool has a knack of playing down to its opponents. The Reds are coming off a major win over Manchester City and have the knowledge of a recent battering of cellar-dwelling Swans in their back pocket. Will they rise up on Monday? The national focus could help.

Liverpool’s future at goalkeeper may not currently be on their books

11:16 AM ETDavid Usher

There’s a saying in the NFL that if you have two quarterbacks then you have none. The same applies to goalkeepers. There are exceptions of course, but most successful teams have a top goalkeeper who is a clear and undisputed No. 1.Liverpool are edging closer to becoming a successful team again and solving the uncertainty that surrounds their goalkeeping position could be the biggest remaining hurdle to overcome. They have a top quality attack led by centre-forward Roberto Firmino, they’ve just added a quality central defender in Virgil van Dijk and this summer the centre of their midfield will be strengthened with the arrival of the all-action Naby Keita.A world-class spine is taking shape but the goalkeeper they need to complete it is almost certainly not currently on their books.Simon Mignolet spoke earlier this week about the “not healthy” situation he finds himself in after Jurgen Klopp benched him in favour of Loris Karius for the 4-3 win over Manchester City. Klopp has been rotating his keepers for much of the season but revealed before the City game that, form permitting, Karius would now get a run of games to establish himself as Liverpool’s No. 1.How long that run lasts is anybody’s guess, because Karius has yet to show anything to suggest he can be the long-term solution. Klopp wants to take an extended look at his young compatriot but that will only be possible if his performances justify his selection.Mignolet has been dropped before but he has always regained his place quickly. Brendan Rogers once benched him for Brad Jones but had to do an immediate about-face when the Australian meekly shipped three goals in a loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford in December 2014.History repeated itself a year later when Klopp replaced Mignolet with Adam Bogdan. That short-lived experiment ended when Bogdan dropped the ball at the feet of Nathan Ake just three minutes into what would eventually result in a humbling 3-0 defeat for the Reds at Watford in December 2015.The Belgian responded well to those setbacks but neither Jones nor Bogdan posed a serious threat to his place. With Karius, it’s different. Unlike Jones and Bogdan, Karius was not signed to serve as a backup. Klopp clearly wanted him to be his No. 1 but a preseason injury put that on hold initially.Once Karius regained fitness, he was given the opportunity to make the position his own. It didn’t go well. He looked overawed and after a particularly poor performance at Bournemouth (in December 2016), when the Reds blew a 3-1 lead and lost 4-3, Klopp turned once more to Mignolet.He played well in the second half of last season and helped Liverpool secure a top-four finish. He deservedly began this season as first choice but his grip on the position always felt somewhat tenuous, with Karius being given the nod for Champions League fixtures as well as starting the occasional Premier League game, tooThe sense was that Klopp wanted Karius to be his first choice but in the interest of fairness and consistency he needed Mignolet to “play his way out of the team.” A costly error in a 3-3 draw at Arsenal in — you’ve guessed it — December, seems to have been the watershed moment for the Belgian. Klopp did not drop him immediately as that’s not his style, but that mistake probably made Klopp’s mind up once and for all.Mignolet has hinted that he may need to move on because he cannot be sitting on the bench at this stage of his career, especially with a World Cup place at stake. If it were just a case of seeing off the challenge of Karius, things might be different as that’s a battle he probably feels he can win. Mignolet’s problem is not Karius — it’s the likelihood that Klopp will go out this summer and spend big on a top goalkeeper.Roma’s Alisson Becker and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak are rumoured to be potential summer targets. If either of those were to come in, Mignolet could not compete and at this point in his career probably would not want to.If a club he fancied came in for him this month, it would make sense for Mignolet to leave. It would probably suit Liverpool too, but only if the offer was too good to turn down. Moving Mignolet on in this transfer window might also benefit Karius, who — like Mignolet — has been playing this season with the fear that any mistake could cost him his spot.The risk in selling Mignolet is that Karius might not be up to the job. In that scenario, Klopp would be forced to turn to Danny Ward. In the eyes of many supporters that would be no bad thing, but it would undoubtedly be a gamble due to the Welshman’s lack of top-level experience.If nothing happens and Mignolet is still at Anfield when this transfer window closes, don’t bet against him regaining his place before the end of the season. Beyond that though, his future almost certainly lies elsewhere as Liverpool are ready to compete at a level where good is no longer enough. They need great.

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