2/23/18 US Ladies Play in Columbus, OH Thurs, Indy 11 lose close one, FA Cup Replays, Champ League Sweet 16, Man U vs Chelsea, Man City vs Arsenal Sun

The Indy 11 got the pre-season off to a good start with a close loss to FC Cincinnati 1-2 Thursday afternoon at Grand Park.  The 11 have added another MLS player Soony Saad on the forward line to join MLS Veteran Jack McInerney.  In fact it was Saad who scored the lone goal Thursday.  Remember to get your tickets now for the home season opener that kicks off Sat. night 7:30 pm March 31st at Lucas Oil.

OK – so I owe Huge apologies to the FA CUP.  Yes I was being high and mighty and lamenting the fact we didn’t have EPL soccer this past weekend while the FA Cup with blowouts galore would be on instead.  Man was I wrong – as Tottenham was tied by lowly Rochdale (League 1 foe 2 divisions below) 2-2 on Sunday, and Championship team Wigan (1 division below) beat mighty Manchester City 1-0 on Monday.  So yes I was wrong I will treat the Magnificent FA Cup with the proper reference it deserves moving forward as they go into the game 2 match-ups 2/27 & 2/28 and the Quarterfinals in March.  Oh and the “4 Cups” BS is done for Man City.  Speaking of Cups the League Cup is this Sunday 11:30 AM ESPN- Man City vs Arsenal at Wembley – first hardware of the season.  Also Sunday Man United hosts Chelsea at 9 am on CNBC or NBCSN and PSG host Marseille at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Monday we get Dortmund and Christian Pulisic, who has the 3rd most minutes played this season vs Ausburg on Fox Sports on Monday at 2:30 pm.  And of course the defending World Champion US Ladies team comes to Columbus, OH to play Germany in the She Believe’s Cup this Thurs, Mar 1 at 7 pm.  Honestly assuming The Columbus Crew are probably moving to Texas next year – this might be your LAST CHANCE to See a US Team play in the GREATEST HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IN US SOCCER HISTORY – in Columbus.  A Thursday night won’t be easy – but it might be worth the drive over.  Tickets are in the $35 to $50 range behind the goals. And you get both games – the England vs France game kicks off at 4 pm and the US Game follows at 7 pm.  Anyone interested in Traveling over – I have a hook up with American Outlaw tickets behind the US Goal.

Champions League Sweet 16 – Knockout Round – gave us another classic as Barcelona had to come from behind to tie Chelsea 1-1 at Stanford Bridge in London.  Chelsea’s Willian twice hit the post before finally sneaking one in during the 2nd half.  Despite dominating time of possession almost 75 to 25 – Barca really only had 2 shots with the Legendary Messi finally scoring his first ever goal against the Blues.  The return leg at Barcelona March 14th with the away goal to Barca’s favor.  Man United bore us to death but don’t lose on the road at Sevilla in 0-0 tie, Bayern slaughters Besiktas 5-0 and Shakhtar shocks Roma at Roma 2-1.  (See stories below) We get a week off before 2 weeks of Game Return Legs Mar 6/7, Mar 13/14.

So MLS is right around the corner – and the biggest change is TAM – or Target Allocation Money – which is honestly allowing teams across the league to bring in mainly Central and South American players in their early 20’s (before they are stars) to help bolster the rosters.  Think Atlanta United.  While this does increase the quality of play in MLS – it also seems to be squeezing out the young American players even more than the past few years.  Honestly other than Dallas FC – can you think of a team that actually plays its own young American homegrown academy players say more than 2 on the field, ah ever?  So while TAM might well be increasing the overall quality of the league – I wonder at what price to the American players trying to make their way thru MLS?  Will be interesting to see how MLS looks this year with the new TAM money and the increase in the overall Salary Cap for each team.  Oh and season kicks off in just 2 weeks with games on March 3rd and 4th.

Jeremy

Finally Congrats to our own GM of Carmel FC Jeremy Slivinski for joining the Indiana Soccer Foundation Board of Directors.  “I believe in the power of soccer playing a positive role in the lives of our youth, and building healthy rivalries within and between communities. As a coach, I get to see each week how I can play a positive role in the lives of my players,” Jeremy said.  “I love the sport of soccer. I realize that, like everything else, access to soccer isn’t available to all. I believe that giving back and providing opportunities for others like I had as a kid and like my children currently have is important.”   Jeremy currently serves at the General Manager for Carmel FC Travel Program as well 05 Boys Team Coach.  His day job is the CEO and Executive Director of Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity in Carmel. He received a BS in Mass Communication – Public relations from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.  Good luck on your extended roll on the Indiana Board my friend – they are getting a good one!

Goalkeeping

Top Saves in the Round of 16 UCL

Look at the Saves By De Gea vs Sevilla in Champions League

Indy 11

Indy 11 poised for strong 2018 – Brian Cook – indianasportscoverage.com

What a Starting 11 Could Look Like – Brian Cook – Indianasportscoverage.com

MLS Forward – Soony Saad signs with Indy 11

Schedule Starts to Come Together

Get Your Tickets now

Flex Pack of 8 games just $111

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Champions League

Day 2 Update – SI – Jon Wilson

Bayern Rotation is Deadline in Rout of Besikas

Neymar needs Maturity to Raise his Game for PSG – Tom Vickery

Mueller is Special in Champions League

Chelsea – Conte – Sacking Talk no Issue

Conte’s Tactics vs Barca Worked

Conte’s Tactical Masterclass vs Barca Worked Almost – NBCSpoorts

3 things we learned Chelsea vs Barca

Vital Error Costs Chelsea a victory over Barca – sI

DeGea’s Saves – Save Man United in 0-0 Draw at Sevilla

Dortmund Thru to Europa Sweet 16

Arsenal loses to Ostersund at home but advances

Europa League Sweet 16 Draw Is Made

 USA

Jurgen Klinsmann was highest paid US Soccer employee in 2017 ESPNFC

Donovan on his Return, US Soccer and More – SI Grant Wahl

Sepp Blatter Backs Morocco World Cup over US in 2026

Another American Headed to Schlake in Germany – Zyen Jones

US Ladies Training in Orlando for She Believe Cup next Thursday

Jill Ellis Blazes Trail for Female Coaches with US Head Job

5 Things to Know about She Believes Cup US Ladies

WORLD

Power Rankings of Top Teams in World – Video

How will Man U and Chelsea Line-up on Sunday

Picks for EPL Games this Weekend

Conte Out by End of Season if Not Sooner at Chelsea to Madrid? – SI – Grant Wahl

MLS – Season Starts March 3

Toronto Wins in CCL

Things to Think About this season – MLs>com

Pitfalls for East Contenders?

Pitfalls for West Contenders?

Future of MLS Stadiums – Modular- midfieldpress.com

 

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

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Feb 24

7:30 am NBCSN            Leicster City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                    Bayern Munich vs Hertha

10 am  CNBC?               Liverpool vs West Ham

10:15 am beIN Sport                        Real Madrid vs Deportivo Alaves

12:30 pm Fox Soccer                       Werder Bremen vs Hamburger (Bobby Woods)

12:30 pm CNBC?         Watford vs Everton

Sun, Feb  25

9 am  CNBC?                  Man United vs Chelsea

9:30 am FS2                   Bayer Leverkusen vs Schalke

11:30 am ESPN             Man City vs Arsenal – LEAGUE CUP 

3 pm beIN Sport         PSG vs Marseille

Mon, Feb 26

2:30 pm FS1                   Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Ausburg

Tues Feb 28 ??

11 am FS1                        Tottenham vs Rochdale  – FA Cup Replay

Thurs, Mar 1

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

Sat, March 3

Sun, March 4                 MLS Starts

8:30 am NBCSN            Brighton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN                Man City vs Chelsea

12 noon ESPN               USA Ladies vs France (She Believes Cup)

10:15 beIN Sports      Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid 

5 pm ESPN                       Seattle Sounders vs LA FC

7:30 pm Fox Sport1  Sporting KC vs NYC FC

10 pm FS1                                                LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1              PSG vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool vs Porto

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                   Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham  vs Juventus

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Man United vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sport2                 Shakhtar  vs Roma

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                 Besiktas  vs  Bayern Munich

2:45 pm FS 2                Barcelona  vs Chelsea

EPL 2018 Schedule  

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

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN FALL IN FIRST PRESEASON MATCH TO FC CINCINNATI 1-2

By IndyEleven.com, 02/22/18, 7:15PM EST

Soony Saad nets first goal of 2018 for “Boys in Blue”

INDIANAPOLIS (February 22, 2018) – Indy Eleven fall short to FC Cincinnati in first preseason match-up by a score of 1-2.

The match started briskly with chances created by both sides during the opening minutes. In the fourth minute, FC Cincinnati fired a shot towards goal, but “New in Blue” goaltender Jordan Farr forced the ball from play with a diving save. Unfortunately, Farr’s save resulted in the young keeper picking up a shoulder injury and ended his match early. Just four minutes later, defender Tyler Pasher broke away up the left side of the pitch and crossed towards the center of Cincinnati’s box. The cross was met by an Indy trialist who nearly put the XI in an early lead, but was deflected by Cincinnati’s keeper.After battling for possession for much of the first period, Indy began to find its legs in its attack. In the 20th minute, Indy Eleven forward Eugene Starikov fought and retained possession as he stormed through the midfield. Once in the box, Starikov attempted to send one to the back of the next, but ultimately ended wide. Shortly after in the 26th minute, Indy Eleven defender Kevin Venegas made an end-to-end break up the right side of the pitch. With a quick through pass, Venegas’ ball found the feet of a trialist who nearly sent the ball to the back of the net once again, but Cincinnati’s keeper was quick to catch the attempt.Both sides continued to fight for possession late into the second period before FC Cincinnati found the first goal of the match. In the 49th minute, Cincinnati was awarded a penalty after an Indy Eleven trialist clipped the heel of FCC’s Forrest Lasso within the home side’s box. FCC newcomer Emmanuel Ledesma slotted the penalty home, giving the visitors the lead.The visitor’s lead was short lived when the “Boys in Blue” earned a penalty of their own in the 64th minute. Former Indy Eleven midfielder and one of FCC’s newest signings Blake Smith brought a player down in their penalty area, leading the match official to point to the spot. Indy Eleven’s newest signing Soony Saad stepped up to answer the call and sent the ball behind FCC’s Spencer Richey to level the score, 1-1.FC Cincinnati found the lead once more moments later. In the 65th minute, FCC’s Daniel Haber headed in the leading goal after meeting a cross from teammate Matthew Bahner.Despite the continued effort to create chances, Indy Eleven ultimately fell short and ended the day with an “L”. Although the home side didn’t come out on top, Indy Eleven head coach Martine Rennie found plenty of positive takeaways. “I think this is a game that everyone can be happy with,” Rennie said. “I was very pleased that we got the fitness and got the work. The players responded well to the messages we’ve been giving them. I’m very happy with the effort and the work we put in.”Indy entered the match just 10 days after they began preseason training. While most might take a loss hard, this was largely a learning opportunity for Coach Rennie and his squad. “I was happy with the chances we created and the saves we made,” Rennie said. “At this point, we’re just getting started.”The “Boys in Blue” will take to the pitch again next Wednesday, February 28th, as they welcome USL side Swope Park Rangers to the next preseason home match.Want to see more of the “Boys in Blue” this season? 2018 Season Ticket packages are available now! Click here for more on how you can save up to 48% this season.

With Jack McInerney signing, Indy Eleven make their intentions known

February 19, 2018  Brian Cook

There are no doubts that 2018 is going to be a difficult year for Indy Eleven. A virtually new team, a new head coach, new tactics, new league and a new stadium to fill. The timeline made shorter by not completely beginning this process until after the year began. Nevertheless, the moves made with players singing and re-signing has made the intentions of Indy Eleven known: They want to win.  Here are five takeaways from the preseason so far:

Brad Ring’s Return is Crucial

Lower division soccer is not new to high roster turnover. Younger players, more skillful options, and most of the time those options come at a cheaper rate. This was clearly a fear of fans with whispers that the league change would cause another visible shift in player salary budget. While the whispers were that, there were shouts about the fans desire to see Brad Ring return to Indy Eleven.Ring returns with a load of experience both with Indy Eleven and in his career in general. He is a leader on and off the field and represented the club with a large amount of poise.  His return gives Indy Eleven fans a familiar face to see but also gives the team a depth in the leadership position.

The Impact of Jack McInerney’s Signing Will be Felt in the Goal Count

One of the more visible things as the announcement of signings kept coming in was the huge question mark at the forward position. With Eamon Zayed gone the anchor for goals scored was left vacant. Justin Braun, who is returning from injury to Indy Eleven in 2018, was a goal scorer but his role was heavy with linking play and feeding the ball.

Enter Jack McInerney 

While statistically, he has fallen short since his 25 goals in 95 appearances with MLS’ Philadelphia Union, McInerney has had an itch. He bounced from the Union, Impact, Columbus Crew, Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy. Now with Indy Eleven he brings a load of power, strength, MLS experience and one of the biggest perks of a guy in his situation

A chip on his shoulder

In certain areas that might hurt you but for McInerney I would imagine his goal is to show everyone that despite his struggles on the field he can still be a strong goal threat and if he starts will be a nice piece to pair with Justin Braun or any other forward.

The Backline may actually be in better shape than before:

In addition to the loss of Eamon Zayed, the loss of Colin Falvey was going to be a visible issue. While the backline for Indy Eleven let more things go past it than a dam in a flood Colin Falvey’s passion and leadership (in addition to Jon Busch) kept that group together and focused. There was a real togetherness of the backline which was something you truly hadn’t seen from Indy Eleven before.With the moves that Martin Rennie and the technical staff has brought in for defenders and the goalkeeper position it can almost be said that the backline has grown with the theory “addition by subtraction.” What I mean by that is while you lost key players you gained stronger, more versatile, and more fluid minded players.One of those key additions is the move to bring Ayoze Garcia Perez (As NASL fans would know him ‘Ayoze). Ayoze arrived after earning over 100 appearances with New York Cosmos. At age 32, he’s inching towards the end of his career but his vision and his skill fill in the hole left by a departing Colin Falvey. With the additions of Bradford Rusin, Reiner Ferreira, Kevin Venegas, Karl Ouimette, Tyler Pasher, as well as a player Rennie is familiar with in Carlye Mitchell the defense for Indy Eleven may arguably be one of their deepest players on the field.

So far so good:

While there hasn’t been a competitive ball kicked for Indy Eleven yet a lot of questions are being answered. The fear was clear that with the late start in roster moves there might be some bargain basement deals and clearly, Indy Eleven wants to make sure they hit their first league game running.Side note: If you aren’t following Martin Rennie on Twitter, DO IT. He is posting video after video of the players Indy Eleven has signed so far:

What a starting eleven for Indy Eleven could look like

February 21, 2018 Brian Cook

Soccer in the United States is sitting in that odd period of time in most sports offseasons. Training camps are beginning, schrimages are being held, players are being signed. Moves are being made and fans are hopeful for their teams chance in the coming season. For Indy Eleven, this is a dramatic change of pace after worrying for months whether they’d have a team to cheer for in 2018 not just a league to watch them in.In the spirit of it being way to early for things to be discussed let’s take a look at what a starting eleven might look like on opening day:

4-3-3

Lineup:

The lineup itself doesn’t fit what has been reported as a traditional favorite of head coach Martin Rennie. According to Soc Takes – Martin Rennie prefers a 4-3-3, which traditionally supports three center forwards, three central midfield, and a players backline. He also has preferences of a 4-4-2 which is heavily common in the American game and a 4-2-3-1 which Tim Hankinson struggled to develop during the 2016 season. What this lineup allows is that 4-3-3 mentality which we will touch on shortly as well as provide the width a traditional 4-3-3 might not.Primarly the lineup proposed depends on the health and fitness of Justin Braun. I truly believe in his ability but a lot of the questions will rest on how quickly he returns to form. That being said, if Braun isn’t starting material the lineup shifts pretty easily and I honestly could see this being more realistic towards what might happen:

With Steinberger in place of Speas and Speas on the left you get virtually the same mindset and skillset you need. Steinberger has that ability to push forward and create plays as well as making himself available for a pass. Guerra and Ring could hold down the midfield. The key would be to maintain the width because the fear would be with a traditional 4-3-3 narrow you run into a lack of width and pressure put on your left and right backs.This can easily change. Players like Nathan Lewis, the trinidad international, has a spot to fight for on the left side of the field. Regardless players like McInerney, Steinberger, Speas, and Ring should comfortably find themselves in the starting lineup unless there are issues regarding fitness.

A need for a natural rightback:

One thing is clear from looking at the roster as it starts now is the need for another right back. Currently, according to a few different sources, it looks like Kevin Venegas is the only natural rightback for Indy Eleven. In 2016 and 2017 this was an issue Indy Eleven faced at leftback by only have Nemanja Vukovic as the natural in that position. Obviously you have players who can play multiple positions but you really don’t need to leave yourself in a position where you are relying on a player who isn’t natural at that position. Even if it’s a young ex college player it would provide you a little piece at mind. It looks like Karl Ouimette, who I see being the starting centerback for Indy Eleven on the first day of the season, is the only one able to slide over to the right.

Lineup with the roles:

So, I’m a nerd. I love the computer game Football Manager. It’s allowed me to understand the game a lot more from a tactically side and comprehend some of the finer details of the game. When I look at the 4-3-3 lineup proposed (which can also really be shown as a 4-1-2-3 formation) I can see a number of things playing out.First of all, in order to give Jack McInterney the support he would need the two winged players would pinch in and attack as inside forwards. This gives Jack the support he needs while minimizing the risk that support gets cut off. In addition to that, with the forwards pinched the fullbacks can overlap and open up space for crosses into the box.According to the same report, Martin Rennie wants possession. He wants to hold onto the ball and play into the strengths of the club and attacking the weaknesses. The 4-1-2-3 proposed seems to best fit what we know he is looking for so far. It will be interesting to see how Indy Eleven does lineup before their first game but regardless the rebuild that the club is going through from the outside seems to, early on, be incredibly successful.

De Gea Briefly Takes Man United Focus From Pogba; Shakhtar Edges Roma in UCL

By JONATHAN WILSON February 21, 2018

Manchester United holds a narrow edge after the first leg of its Champions League last 16 tie after a goalless draw at Sevilla, although it took two stunning reaction saves by David De Gea to keep the score level.The big news before kickoff had been the absence from the starting lineup of Paul Pogba, although he ended up coming on after 17 minutes for Ander Herrera and played out the string, as United defended plenty in Spain, buoyed by its goalkeeper.In Wednesday’s other game, Shakhtar Donetsk came from behind to beat Roma 2-1. Facundo Ferreyra canceled out Cengiz Under’s opener early in the second half, and Fred whipped in a free kick off the underside of the bar with 19 minutes remaining to deliver the go-ahead strike.Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League, which wrapped up the first legs for the round:

DIGGING DEEPER INTO POGBA’S BENCHING

There have been rumors for some time that the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Pogba is not good, but that story took on new legs on Wednesday as the midfielder, signed for a then-record £89.3 million in the summer of 2016, was left out of United’s starting XI in Seville. Pogba had been taken off in United’s recent defeats to both Tottenham and Newcastle.In the former, he had repeatedly engaged in animated conversations with his manager who was seemingly unhappy with how he had played; in the latter, Mourinho made little secret of his disappointment with Pogba. He condemned his lack of a jump when attempting to defend the free kick from which Newcastle scored the game’s only goal and then said he had taken him off because he wanted “a better way to come out in the first phase” with more “simplicity,” the clear implication being that Pogba was over-complicating matters.There were reports then of a dressing-room row as Mourinho criticized Pogba and Phil Jones, and stories subsequently surfaced that Pogba had asked for a change of shape to 4-3-3. That shape came in Seville, but without him (or Jones) being part of it. Pogba missed Saturday’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield through illness and it was hard not to see his relegation to the bench as significant. Mourinho, after all, had described his replacement, Scott McTominay, three days ago as having “a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches…” which is as true about him as it is notably untrue about the man he replaced.But within 16 minutes Pogba was in action as Herrera, who hadn’t played for three weeks and that as a sub, pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. In what is in theory his strongest position, on the left of a midfield three, though, the former Juventus player was barely involved.

STALEMATE IN SPAIN

Sevilla-Man United on the field was stodgy, far more cautious than the majority of the round of 16 ties so far, more like a traditional European first leg. But after 44 minutes in which there had been almost no meaningful goalmouth action, De Gea pulled off two startling reflex saves in the space of a minute, first from a Stephen Nzonzi header and then, even more spectacularly, one from Luis Muriel, who found himself unmarked four yards out. The stats showed that Sevilla created far more chances than United (25 to 6), but there was a lack of urgency to the hosts’ attack, and it was easy to see why they are among the bottom half of scorers in the Spanish top flight.United’s only real chance had come after 25 minutes, as Alexis Sanchez picked out Romelu Lukaku with a clever lofted diagonal pass. It fell on his favored left foot, just inside the box, but such is his lack of confidence these days that the Belgian never looked like scoring. Still, given Mourinho had seemingly set up to close the game down, he was probably happy enough with the outcome leading into a weekend league clash vs. Chelsea.

A TALE OF A NEW PROSPECT AND A FORMER ONE

Cengiz Under has only started nine league games in his Roma career. The Turkish winger is only 20 and he hadn’t scored for Roma until Feb. 4, when he got the opener in a win over Verona. Since then, he hasn’t been able to stop scoring. He got two more against Benevento in Roma’s next game and then the opener in a 2-0 win over Udinese at the weekend. He broke the deadlock Wednesday as well, running onto Edin Dzeko’s neat angled pass and beating Andriy Pyatov with a slightly mishit finish.Facundo Ferreyra, nicknamed “Chucky” after the doll in the Child’s Play films, perhaps knows how he feels as expectation grows. The 26-year-old was once hailed as the future of Argentinian football, but after a proposed move to Europe fell through following Banfield’s relegation in 2012 and he ended up joining Velez Sarsfield, his focus seemed to waver. Ferreyra was criticized as ponderous, his attitude questioned.He did eventually get his move to Europe in 2013, joining Shakhtar after finally hitting form with Velez, but almost immediately he suffered an ankle injury and ended up being loaned to Newcastle, where he didn’t start a game before returning to Ukraine. Finally, in the last couple of season, the goals have begun to flow: 16 in 28 games last season then 20 in 26 this before Wednesday’s match when he found the equalizer with a strong run and neat finish on the counter. A Fred free kick sealed a 2-1 win for the home side, but Ferreyra missed a golden chance to make it 3-1, his close-range shot deflecting over off the outstretched boot of the grounded Bruno Peres.

Conte gets tactics spot on but Messi has last laugh

By Joe Prince-WrightFeb 20, 2018, 5:56 PM EST

LONDON — Before the game Antonio Conte‘s tactics were the talk of the press room at Stamford Bridge, plus pubs and television studios around the world.After the game his decision to play Eden Hazard in a false nine position, flanked by Willianand Pedro, and leave out his two star center forwards, Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, was lauded. This was a reminder of the man who led Chelsea to Premier League glory last season and also a reminder of Chelsea’s successful past against the Catalan giants as they’re now unbeaten in their last eight UCL encounters as the clash of styles continues.[ MORE: 3 things we learned | Recap ] 

Conte is under pressure with just five wins in his last 13 games in all competitions, but this was a tactical masterclass from the Italian coach as his side totally bought into his plan and without a mistake from Andreas Christensen late on, it would have been an archetypal Italian defensive display leading to a 1-0 win to take to the Nou Camp.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Conte believed his players were incredibly unlucky to not win the game as Willian struck the post twice in the first half and they threatened multiple times on the counter.“We were very close to playing the perfect game. One mistake and we know very well when you make a mistake against Barcelona and players like Messi, Suarez and Iniesta you pay. It is a pity because tonight, at the end of the game, we are disappointed for the final result,” Conte said. “We hit the post twice with Willian. There is a bit of disappointment but I think that this game must give us confidence to trust that in the second leg that qualification is open. It won’t be easy. We must be realistic. We are talking about Barcelona. Tonight we showed that if we are ready to work very hard together defensively, but at the same time you continue to have the right feeling when you win the ball to create chances to score, we can try to do something incredible at the Nou Camp.”The one wrench in Conte’s plan was always going to be one incredible player: Lionel Messi.Without a goal in eight games (730 minutes in total) against Chelsea, the five-time World Player of the Year stroked home a killer away goal 15 minutes from time to swing the tie back into Barcelona’s favor after Conte’s masterclass. Messi, 30, once again arrived at the pivotal moment for the La Liga leaders and the Argentine star sprung into life as Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta made the most of Christensen’s mistake.Messi’s presence on the ball sparked nervousness within the Chelsea defense but it looked like he would leave empty hand once again until he was gifted a chance to silence the doubters.Barcelona had 73 percent of possession on Tuesday and attempted 887 passes to Chelsea’s 325. They looked comfortable in a cauldron of noise at Stamford Bridge and even though they were vulnerable on the counter, they never looked too flustered but only had two real chances via Paulinho in the first half and Suarez in the second.Despite following the blueprint to get a result against Barcelona almost to a tee, Cesc Fabregas believes the Blues will have to be more expansive at the Nou Camp in the second leg to get through to the quarterfinals.“We have showed that we can compete and we will need another excellent performance at the Nou Camp to go through,” Fabregas told BT Sport. “You have to have a lot of personality to play against this team who has 70 percent of the ball. We have to go there to attack and score because 90 minutes defending at the Nou Camp is an eternity, it is a suicide mission. We have to play our game.”As for Barcelona’s manager Ernesto Valverde, he admitted that he was a happy man to escape West London with a draw but urged his side to respect Chelsea’s style of play in the second leg.“It has been a clash of styles this game, two different teams,” Ernesto said. “We tried to control the game, had a lot of possession and got close to the area. We were just lacking a little bit of extra quality in the final third. They defended very well. The good thing is we managed to get an error and get a goal out of them. We will go back to the Camp Nou happy.”Conte was happy his players followed his gameplan and believes they must believe they can deliver killers blows on the break in Barcelona in two weeks time with Willian, Pedro and Hazard key to the plan.“I must be pleased because the players did a great effort and they followed the plan we prepared,” Conte said. “In 15 days we must be ready to prepare for another game against Barcelona. We must be prepared to suffer together but in the moment you are suffering, you must know that the moment you are in possession you can create a chance to score.”Chelsea need at least one goal to go through or to take the game to extra time, but given their spirited display at Stamford Bridge there’s renewed hope that Conte can mastermind another defensive masterplan to get them into the last eight for the first time since 2014.

U.S. women’s national team trains in Orlando ahead of SheBelieves Cup

Alex Morgan, also a forward for the Orlando Pride, said the United State’s Women’s National Team said the team is preparing to face some of the top teams in the world in the SheBelieves Cup. Jordan Culver

There wasn’t much chance the U.S. women’s national team would look past the competition during the SheBelieves Cup in March — there’s just too much motivation to perform well in the four-team tournament.The Cup is hosted in the United States and it brings together four of the top six women’s soccer national teams in the world, including the U.S.If those factors weren’t enough, it’s also a World Cup qualifying year.After the U.S. men finished in fifth place in the final round of qualifying, missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the women’s team is eager to secure its spot in next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.It starts with the SheBelieves Cup, which opens March 1 at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The women’s team is training at ChampionsGate in Orlando ahead of the tournament.“Unfortunately, we saw what happened with the men,” said goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who also plays for the Orlando Pride.“We’re not taking this as a joke. We’re not taking it lightly. Every team we face, we have to gain something out of it. These are great games to have against some of the best teams in the world. I think this is going to prepare us for the big picture, and that’s qualification.“We’re not looking past any of that. For us, we have to qualify in order to get there in 2019. That starts here in Orlando. That started Jan. 1 with our training camp in L.A. Right now, we’re just trying to continue to build our bond and be cohesive.”U.S. coach Jill Ellis said “focus” is the word that’s permeating the team as it trains for what promises to be a challenge — even if the tournament will be played at venues in the United States, including Orlando City Stadium on March 7.Forward Mallory Pugh echoed what Harris said. The 19-year-old pro for the Washington Spirit had two unassisted goals in a January friendly against Denmark.“Obviously, what happened with the men is heartbreaking,” she said. “I think that as a women’s national team, we just need to bring it and just make sure we get the job done.”Pride forward Alex Morgan said the team is also motivated by it’s last-place finish in the 2017 SheBelieves Cup.“This tournament’s always a really fun one because it’s super competitive,” she said. “Top teams in the world are competing here and it’s on our home turf. I feel like there’s even more pride for us to want to win these games.”

Landon Donovan: On His Return With León, U.S. Soccer’s Present and USMNT’s Future

By GRANT WAHL February 22, 2018

On the new Planet Fútbol Podcast, Landon Donovan gave his most detailed interview yet since deciding to come out of retirement and play for Club León in Mexico. His interview touched on a wide range of topics, from what led to his decision to play in Mexico to what he’s capable of in pure soccer terms these days to his reaction to the U.S. Soccer election and who he would like to see as the next U.S. men’s national team coach.Here are some of the standout quotes for Donovan’s long and candid interview, which can be listened to in full in the podcast console below (to subscribe to and download the podcast, you can find us on iTunes here):

On why he wanted to come out of retirement and play for Club León:

“It’s a simple question, not a simple answer. It wasn’t a slam-dunk yes, and it wasn’t a slam-dunk no when it happened. I was home, very happy in retirement with my family in San Diego, enjoying life, doing what I wanted when I wanted more or less. And I got a phone call from my agent, Richard Motzkin, asking if I had any remote interest in playing again. And I said, ‘No thanks. I appreciate it, but no.’ And he said, ‘OK, just so you know, a team in Mexico called and asked if you would have any interest in it.’ Kind of left it at that. So I went to sleep, didn’t think much of it. The next day he called back and said, ‘Listen, they’re really interested in having you come. They’re looking for a player that’s got experience and someone who can help them on the field, help them off the field. They would really like a chance to speak to you.’ And it sort of developed a little bit from there.”“I maybe gave it a 1 percent chance at that point and told them I would keep an open mind about it. And as the day went on, I thought about it. I spoke to my wife quite a bit about it. And they kept calling and reaching out. The owner called and wanted to speak to me. In the end, it kind of goes to the power of going after something you want. And I give them a lot of credit for convincing me and making me feel wanted. I told my agent that I would make a trip down here to watch a cup game they had and kind of get to know the city a little bit and get to know the people involved. And I would come with an open mind. And sure enough, the minute I got here I really fell in love with it and thought it would be a great opportunity for my family, a great life experience and fun to play soccer again with good soccer players.”

On wanting to play the game again when he still has the opportunity in his life:

“It’s interesting. Because when you’re away from it, and you know as we’ve spent time on different road trips doing Fox telecasts, you see the game differently and it’s been enjoyable for me to be up in the booth commentating and watching the game and learning the game from a different perspective. But you also get excited, you know. The gamedays make me excited when we’re there in the MLS playoffs or we’re there at national team games. The gamedays are exciting, and that energy can’t be replaced or manufactured anywhere else in life. And so I have had some time to gather some perspective and realize that I’m 35, I’m going to be 36 soon. Just physically, there’s no way I could do this for many more years. So if it is something that in any way interests me I should think about it seriously. That was sort of the processing that I went through. Now it’s not like I was waking up every day wishing I could go play soccer again. I had played enough and long enough and done enough in my career that I was satisfied. But there is something special about being able to go out on a soccer field every day and run around and kick a ball. And I’ve really enjoyed it in the month that I’ve been here.”

On whether he had ever come close to signing with a Mexican team in the past:

“I had. My second stint that I went to Everton [in 2012], during that time Club América had reached out to my agent and told him that they were very interested in having me come on a short-term loan, like I did with Everton. And in the end I decided I was definitely interested in it. In the end I decided to go to Everton. It was something I knew. I knew the people. It was an enjoyable experience the previous time, so that was the decision. But it was certainly something I considered. For long stretches of my career, although it was very intriguing, candidly I just was concerned from a safety perspective, because I had said and done a lot of stupid things when I was young regarding the Mexican soccer team and the rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico. I just didn’t know how I’d be received. I think as you get older and you have perspective and experience I realized that if not for that rivalry and if not for growing up playing with Mexicans I wouldn’t be the player I was. I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy playing as much in those rivalry games. I wouldn’t have learned to speak Spanish. I mean, there’s so much I can credit to the Mexican culture and society and people. And so when this opportunity came about, that was a big piece of it too.”

On what he wanted to communicate when he joined Club León and said, “I don’t believe in walls”:

“Unfortunately, as you know when you travel a lot, people perceive us as being the same as our politicians and in particular our president, right? So unfortunately everywhere I go these days it’s, ‘You guys are all racist. You all hate Mexicans. You hate Africans. You hate everybody else in the world.’ And everybody assumes we are like our president. And I just wanted to make sure that I was very clear with how I feel. I grew up in Southern California, so I have an affinity for not only Mexicans but all Latin-Americans. And my family is Canadian, and my dad came to America many years ago. So while I can understand some people’s political points of view in not wanting open borders, I’ve benefited greatly from it in many different ways. And I know many, many, many hundreds if not thousands of people who have become Americans or just contribute greatly to the American society. So I wanted the people here to know where I stood on that and make it very clear.”

On what has been the hardest thing to adjust to in pure soccer terms playing again:

“Just the physical piece of it. And it’s not just the running. I could run at home for five weeks, but you’re still not soccer fit. And then at altitude it’s at a whole different level. So the second day I trained, we did some drills where there are two big goals with goalies and you just play 1v1 against the player. And so you try to score and if you don’t score the other guy gets the ball and they try to score against you. And after like seven seconds I was exhausted, just because physically confronting someone like that is so different than even running or training. Then you throw in the altitude, too. So that piece of it—just getting my physical elements back—has been the hardest part, and I think we’re a month in and just now do I feel like I’m physically able to perform at the level that I want to.”

On what’s realistic to expect from what he can do on the field at this stage of his career:

“I look at it maybe differently than other people do. For me, the expectation is winning. And so I’m not worried about if I score, how I play, if I can still run the same way, if I’m getting assists. I want to help win. And I said that to the coach when I spoke to him the first time. I don’t want to come in and be the guy who’s taking someone’s spot or who’s being a distraction for the team. I just want to help. I don’t need accolades. I don’t need those things. I want to lift a trophy and be a part of something like that that’s special. So any way I can do that, I want. Now from the outside, I don’t know what people are expecting or what they think. But my expectation is to help in any way I can, even if it’s at halftime and I’m helping a young player position himself better so in the second half he doesn’t get beat and we don’t get scored on. That’s where my mindset is.”

On whether he can be a 90-minute player now:

“I haven’t thought about it much, but as you ask the question, I can be a 90-minute player, just probably not 35 times a year. So if there are games where that’s what’s asked for, of course I can do it. It’s what I’ve done my whole life. But if you ask me to do it three times in a week that’s probably not with a high quality of play. Again, the objective is to help, and if that means five minutes a game or a half-hour a game or 45 or 60 minutes a game, then that’s how I want to help.”

On how he feels about Carlos Cordeiro winning the U.S. Soccer presidency:

“In the end, there were probably three or four people I personally would have been O.K. with had they become the president, one of whom was Carlos Cordeiro. What I think I was worried about, and I think a lot of people in the soccer world were worried about, was one of the other four people becoming president and what that might have meant for U.S. Soccer. So it’s really easy when you’re sitting at home every day watching TV and sitting on the Internet to pick apart U.S. Soccer, to pick apart what’s good and what’s bad. But the reality is that there’s so much more involved, and 99 percent of the people have no idea what’s involved on a real level. And so I think in the end the right person won.

Carlos is someone I’ve always gotten along well with, someone who despite what fans think is not the establishment, is not the same as Sunil [Gulati] in any way. Carlos was the one person from everything I have heard who would stand up to Sunil in board meetings and stand up for things he believed in, even if they were unpopular. And so he is I think a good choice for the job, and I think he’ll do a very good job. I just think it was probably more than anything time for change. Sunil has done so much for soccer in this country and he has literally dedicated his life to making this thing better. And most people in our soccer world are relatively new fans, and so they don’t understand all that Sunil has done. I certainly do, and he’s going to be a big part of everything we do probably until he decides to not be, and it should be that way. And so he should be respected for that, but I think everyone realized, probably including Sunil as time has gone on, that it was time for change for everybody. And that change can be good if it’s handled in the right way.”

On the four candidates he would have been O.K. with as U.S. Soccer president:

“This is not necessarily an indictment on the four who I would not have been O.K. with. It’s just that I didn’t get to know enough from them. So I never spoke to Mike Winograd. I never spoke to Hope Solo in this circumstance. I briefly communicated with Paul Caligiuri, and I briefly communicated with [Eric] Wynalda. The other four reached out to me consistently and asked questions and kind of pitched their ideas. And I think although [Kyle] Martino wouldn’t have been the perfect choice in a lot of ways because of his lack of experience, I think his heart was in the right place and he would have done a good job. Kathy Carter is someone I’ve respected for a long time and has done a lot for soccer in this country. Obviously had some conflicts of interest that probably are what crippled her in the end. Carlos, I alluded to. And I spoke quite a few times with Steve Gans, who I grew to like and respect quite a bit. And I think his heart was absolutely in the right place. And this was something that he was really passionate about. So those four left a good impression on me.”

On what he thinks is most important that needs to change in U.S. Soccer:

“The part that I personally am most passionate about is youth development. And that goes for boys and girls, men and women. I don’t have the experience on the women’s side, so there would be people much better suited to handling that. But for me, the part that I’m most passionate about and that I think we still have a long way to go with is the youth development part. I just see too many really good players being developed around the world, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why we aren’t doing the same. My goal is I want to win a World Cup. Not me as a player, but as a U.S. Soccer fan I want to win a World Cup. And the way you do that is by developing players that can win a World Cup. And I just don’t think we’ve done a good enough job of it.”

On being tied with Clint Dempsey as the all-time leading goal-scorer for the U.S. men’s national team, and whether Donovan has any interest in playing again for the national team:

“Nobody knows this, but the only reason I decided to play again was to get another goal [laughs]. Of course, I have interest to play for the national team. But what I would say is my interest at this point, considering there’s no meaningful real games on the horizon—meaning qualifying or World Cups—and certainly by that point even if I want to keep playing my body won’t allow me to. What I would be interested in is helping. And if the idea is that for the next couple years there’s going to be a group of young players that are being brought in to get experience and learn, I would love to be there to help them through it. Not even necessarily playing, but just being in camp to help them and use my experience. So if that’s possible—and whoever the coach is is interested in that—I would absolutely love to do that and be a part of that. That would be fulfilling for me.”

On who he would like to see as the next coach of the USMNT:

“Personally, I would like to see an American. I think Americans as a general comment understand the American player better. They understand the league better. They understand the culture better. And it’s better for the development of our coaches in this country to have that experience. So there are a few coaches that I think would fit that bill as Americans … I think Peter Vermes has been excellent in Kansas City. I got to know him a little bit last year. [Gregg] Berhalter I think has done a really good job with very limited resources in comparison to some of the other teams. I think Greg Vanney has been terrific in Toronto. Caleb Porter has done a great job. Times are much different, and now there are a number of good young American coaches who have really done a good job, and they’re more in tune with the modern game and I think would be well-suited to coach the national team.”

Warshaw: What I think, fear and want for MLS in 2018

February 22, 20181:52PM ESTBobby WarshawContributor

MLS is back in two weeks – it’s time to make some predictions. I’m not brave enough to pick standings (Portland fans made sure of that), so let’s try to ID some trends we could see in 2018.Soccer reflects life, and life reflects soccer, so sometimes it’s best to break it down to the most basic human functions:

Thought. Fear. Desire.Here’s what I think will happen this year, what I worry will happen, and what I want to happen.

THINK Games will start to take on unique identities. For most of MLS history, almost any two MLS games looked similar. Both teams entered the game with similar styles and mindsets. They pressed each other in the middle of the field and tried to score in transition. The variance began to appear around 2010 or so, but in 2018, it’ll be next-level.

Two reasons:

First, parity may not be dead, but it’s decreasing. Toronto FCNYCFCAtlanta, as well as possibly PortlandSeattle and the LA Galaxy, could each dominate the ball for larger portions of the game than we’ve seen in previous eras. While the dominant Galaxy or Houston Dynamo teams of yesteryear could outplay their opponents, they rarely teased them around the field.Toronto this year might actually torture opponents at BMO. I don’t see how some teams can go to Toronto, line up in the status quo and get a positive result. We should start to see more teams truly sit deep and wait for a counterattacking opportunity. One game on the weekend might look like an attacking/defending training exercise, while another game might be end-to-end.Second, a few clubs have started to build true identities. Jesse Marsch has his New York Red Bulls playing an energetic, get-to-the-goal-as-quick-as-possible style; Veljko Paunovic has the Chicago Fire assuming a we-dare-you-to-come-and-get-it pose; NYCFC and Columbus are always going to play flowing, interchanging soccer. You might no longer turn on an MLS game simply to watch a “game” – you could be tuning in to watch a certain type of game or style of play.

FEAR We are going to lose a year of development on a few promising young domestic players. Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) has undoubtedly raised the overall quality of the league, but it’s also made it tougher for young players to win minutes. Andrew CarletonChris DurkinAyo Akinola and Paxton Pomykal have each witnessed a new high-caliber international signing join their club at their position.I don’t want to see young players gifted minutes, but I also don’t want to see them get buried behind multiple people. It’s not about handing a younger player anything, but rather having a realistic pathway to ease him to the appropriate level. The farther a young player is down the depth chart, the tougher it is for not only the coach to validate putting him on the field, but also for the player to catch a lucky break.WANT More players to show personality. Players are often tentative about stepping outside of the box, often wondering how they might get perceived, mostly by their coaches and teammates; they don’t want to be considered unfocused, or might worry about how they come across in interviews.  They feel their best course of action is to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. I don’t blame any player for wanting to handle his business on the field first, but I’d certainly like to see guys express themselves more.People don’t just turn on games to watch the sport – they tune in to watch the players. I don’t give a crap about basketball, but I’ll watch LeBron James every time he’s on national TV. LeBron is fun and engaging and feels like a real person. How many players in MLS can we say that about who aren’t in our home market? It’s not just that LeBron is “King James,” it feels like LeBron is more than an athlete robot.In postgame interviews, I hope to see players give answers beyond “We really battled as a group,” or “The ball just didn’t bounce our way.” I want players to give real answers. The more we know about a player and the more we can understand him and relate to him, the more likely we are to talk about him and cheer for him. Get on Twitter and Instagram and be a real person; don’t just pander and put up pictures of the training field and workouts.Erstwhile Sounder Brad Evans gave Seattle fans a glimpse into his life via Instagram and the city fell in love with his dog, only adding to his status as an Emerald City legend. And Ike Opara didn’t have any qualms with voicing his displeasure over being left off last season’s All-Star roster, and it added to his credibility with the “take-no-crap” SKC faithful.MLS needs personalities in the playing ranks. My biggest wish for 2018 is that a few guys step up and give fans a new reason to turn on the TV.

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2/16/18  Champions + Europa League, USMNT Games set, Indy 11 add more players

 Oh my God – I have missed Champions League Soccer – round of 16 – OMG – first the Juventus vs Tottenham game with Juve taking the 2 – 0 lead then Tottenham battling back to tie my team in the 88th minute. I still can’t believe my Juve blew the 2-0 lead – what should have been 4-0??  Then Wed – the CLASSIC – Real Madrid and Renaldo (2 time defending champs – having a terrible club season) hosting PSG in a 3-1 instant classic that had the Beurnabea rocking as loud as I have ever seen it.  Up and down action, controversial no calls on both sides – WOW – the drama was dripping !!  My how the English teams looks good – with both Liverpool and Man City cruising.  How powerful did Liverpool look?!  Can’t wait for Chelsea hosting Barcelona Tues and Man United on the road at Sevilla Wed.

Tues, Feb 20 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

2:45 pm FS 2                  Chelsea vs Barcelona 

Weds, Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Sevilla vs Man United                   

2:45 pm Fox Sport2        Roma vs Shakhtar

And of course Thurs was Europa League since many of my teams are out – Dortmund, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid to name a few.  Great to see US youngster Pulisic starting and providing another assist in Dortmund’s  3-2 win vs  Atalanta.  I’ll be tuning in next week.

Thurs, Feb 22–  Europa League

11 am  FS2                      Loko Moscow 3 vs Nice  2

1 pm Fox Soccer         Atalanta  2 vs Dortmund (Pulisic)  3

1pm FS2                            Atletico Madrid 4 vs  FC Copenhagen 1

3 pm  FS2                         Arsenal 3 vs Ostersunds FK 0

So I am hearing some possible good stuff from the new US President of soccer – talking about reaching out to the masses, hiring a Soccer General Manager for both the men’s and women’s game and all.  I’ll reserve opinions until I see more.  The USMNT has announced some tough European games vs France and Ireland in June after a March 27th home game in Cary, NC. Speaking of US Soccer – the defending World Champion US Ladies team comes to Columbus, OH to play Germany in the She Believe’s Cup on Thurs, Mar 1 at 7 pm.  Honestly assuming The Columbus Crew are probably moving to Texas next year – this might be your LAST CHANCE to See a US Team play in the GREATEST HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IN US SOCCER HISTORY – in Columbus.  Until last year when the men lost to Mexico – The US had never lost in this mecca of US Soccer registering multiple 2-0 wins over Mexico in THE Game of each Men’s Qualifying Cycle.  Anyway a Thursday night won’t be easy – but it might be worth the drive over.  Tickets are in the $35 to $50 range behind the goals.   And you get both games – the England vs France game kicks off at 4 pm and the US Game follows at 7 pm.  Anyone interested in Traveling over – I have a hook up with American Outlaw tickets behind the US Goal.

OK – Pet peeve of mine – Why don’t teams/coaches put players on the post of corner kicks.  Again today 2 goals on corner kicks-  both of them would have been saved with someone / anyone on the post.  The players now not on the post are standing in box  – covering no one – playing center field – what the hell.  Isn’t the concept on corners to not give up a goal.  THEN PUT SOMEONE ON BOTH POSTS YOU IDIOTS!@$%&!   I guess I need some rocket scientist coach to explain to me why having no one on the posts and giving  up goals on corner kicks in less important than having another useless player in the field doing nothing.

Hard to believe the Indy 11 are just over 1 month from the season kickoff and actually have their first scrimmage next Thursday Feb 22 at Grand Park @ 1:30 pm vs FC Cincy.  I am considering going out if the weather is nice (I’ll have to tape Dortmund of course.  Speaking of Dortmund (Christian Pulisic will get a chance to match up against fellow American Fabian Johnson and Borrusian Mochengladback on Sunday at 12 noon of FS2.  Its honestly the only decent game on TV this weekend with FA Cup play on Sat & Sunday in England.  (See full schedule below).

Champions League 

Champions League Wrap-up Tues – SI Jon Wilson

Champions League Early Wrap Up Wed – sI Jon Wilson

Champions League Goals from this Week – All the Goals

Juve used to Adversity

What went wrong for PSG

Will 3-1 Real Madrid Win over PSG turn things around for the Holders

Madrid Comeback built on Character –

Ref Gave Real the Game says PSG Owner

Renaldo’s Determination Delivers the Brace and the Win

Renaldo First to Reach 100 UCL Goals with 1 team

Why PSGs Mbappe is the best U20 player

Klopp says Hat Trick Mane is back for Liverpool

Liverpool Counter-attack built for UCL

Best 5 Teams for Europa League Final SI

Atletico Comes Storming Back to pound Copenhagen

Batshuayi the hero as Dortmund grabs late 3-2 win vs Atalanta

James Thinks Bayern are UCL favorites

 

US Soccer

US announces Home game in NC 3/27, Road Games at Ireland June 2, and France June 9.

New Prez Cordeiro Must be Agent of Change – Jeff Carlisle EPSNFC

Athlete Council supports Cordeiro

How Athlete Council bloc arrived at the vote – Soctakes.com

Julian Green on US Hype and Battling for a spot at Bayern

What US Must Do to Attract to More Latin Players to US Team – Grant Wahl SI –

 

Goalkeeping

PSG GK Alphonse Areola Spectacular Face save on Renaldo in UCL

Best Saves Areola PSG Goalie

Man City Ederson Reinvents Goalkeeping

 

Indy 11

Schedule Starts to Come Together

Get Your Tickets now

Trinidad Pair Signs with 11

Indy 11 sign new Midfielders with USL Experience

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Nashville Fills the House in preseason opener

 

 

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Feb 17 

7:30 am FS1                   Sheffield Wednesday vs Swansea – FA Cup

9:30 am FS2                    Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich

10 am  Fox Soccer     West Brom vs Southhampton – FA Cup

10:15 am beIN Sport                        Eibar vs Barcelona

12:30 pm Fox Soccer                       Schalke vs Hoffenheim

12:30 pm FS2                Huddersfield Town vs Man United

Sun, Feb 18

6:30 am bein Sport   Torino vs Juve (Italy)

7 am Gol TV                    Barcelona vs Athletic Club

7:30 am FS1                   Sheffield Wednesday vs Swansea – FA Cup Weekend

11 am FS1                        Rochdale vs Tottenham – FA Cup Weekend

12 noon FS2                   Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Milan vs Sampdoria

Tues, Feb 20 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

2:45 pm FS 2                Chelsea vs Barcelona 

Weds, Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Sevilla vs Man United                   

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Roma vs Shakhtar

Thurs, Feb 22–  Europa League

11 am  FS2                      Loko Moscow vs Nice

1 pm Fox Soccer         Atalanta vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

1pm FS2                            Atletico Madrid vs  FC Copenhagen

3 pm  FS2                         Arsenal vs Ostersunds FK

Thurs, Mar 1

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

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  PSG vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool vs Porto

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham  vs Juventus

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Man United vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Shakhtar  vs Roma

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Besiktas  vs  Bayern Munich

2:45 pm FS 2                  Barcelona  vs Chelsea

 

EPL 2018 Schedule  

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Imperfect Real Madrid Earns Relief vs. PSG, Liverpool Makes Another EPL Statement in UCL

By JONATHAN WILSON February 14, 2018 SI

The first round in the battle of the superclubs belongs to Real Madrid.Two late goals gave Real Madrid a surprising edge over PSG in the last 16 of the Champions League as the two-time reigning winners persevered to a 3-1 triumph.Adrian Rabiot put PSG ahead, but Cristiano Ronaldo leveled from the penalty spot with his 100th Champions League goal for Real Madrid just before halftime. And then when Marcos Asensio’s 82nd-minute deflected cross was pushed out by Alphonse Areola, the ball hit Ronaldo on the knee and bounced in. Another Asensio cross was slammed in by Marcelo four minutes later to give Real Madrid the final edge.Elsewhere in the competition on Wednesday, Sadio Mane struck for a hat trick, as Liverpool all but confirmed its place in the quarterfinal with a 5-0 win at Porto, with the other goals coming from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.ere are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:

RELIEF FOR REAL MADRID, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN UNANSWERED FOR BOTH SIDES

The names were glamorous, but for all the pre-match claims that this was a match-up that would have graced the final, both sides began with serious doubts about their credentials. Neither really answered them. For all the potential skill on display, this was a weirdly poor game, disjointed, disfigured by dives and cynical fouls, lacking much in the way of control or cohesion.For Real Madrid, the questions are relatively straightforward ones. It is not playing well. It trails Barcelona, the league leader in Spain, by 17 points. Cristiano Ronaldo, although he scored a hat trick against Real Sociedad over the weekend, has looked out of sorts for most of the season and he snatched at two first-half chances before converting a penalty and getting lucky with his second. Karim Benzema’s form has been even worse. Since beginning the season with wins over Manchester United in the European Super Cup and Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, Real has often been sluggish and lacking in inspiration.For PSG, meanwhile, the concern is more existential. Given the way it dominates in France–it is 12 points clear at the top–how can it ever develop the defensive excellence and capacity to battle that would make the side truly competitive in the latter stages of the Champions League?A strangely shambolic game did nothing to answer that worry. Real Madrid was a long way from its best, lacking a spark after an intense early press, and yet PSG’s carelessness still allowed the hosts to create chances. Giovani Lo Celso, never comfortable in a defensive role, needlessly conceded the penalty from which Ronaldo leveled, while PSG never got to grips with Asensio once he entered off the bench. For the second successive season in Spain, PSG lost its shape and its heads in the closing minutes.From an attacking point of view, PSG was more impressive, although without a great amount of fluidity. Neymar, operating almost exclusively on the left, got the better of Nacho, the Madrid right back, and yet still allowed himself to be sufficiently rattled by a couple of cynical fouls, including one when he got himself booked for a petulant hack. He was extremely lucky not to receive a second yellow card for simulation just after the hour mark. Not for the first time, the sense with him is that he tried to do far too much himself.

REAL MADRID STILL SLOPPY IN THE BACK

It’s not just a lack of zip to their passing and a tendency to over-elaborate in attack that should concern Real Madrid. In one sense, Madrid’s poor domestic form shouldn’t impinge on its hopes in Europe. It has won the league 33 times and the European Cup/Champions League 12, yet last season was the first time in 51 years it had won both in the same season. But in another, Madrid sits fourth in La Liga for a very good reason, which is that it simply is not that good.This was the eighth successive game in which Madrid had conceded, and it could have let in far more than the one it did concede. That was an issue at times last season, and the inability to control a game has been a general feature of Zinedine Zidane’s reign as manager. Madrid’s success last season was based on outscoring opponents, and although it eventually managed that again, it is much harder to do when Ronaldo’s flood of goals has slowed to more normal levels.PSG’s opener was a perfect example of Real’s sloppiness. The defending was fine up to the point at which the ball bounced out toward Rabiot. Nobody had picked up the midfielder. Luka Modric made a belated attempt to get back, but Rabiot had time, even on his weaker foot, to line up a finish. And there were other opportunities as well. Real may be feeling confident and relieved, but a two-goal lead heading to Paris is not insurmountable.

LIVERPOOL DELIVERS ANOTHER STRONG PREMIER LEAGUE STATEMENT

It’s too early for English football to make too many assumptions, but after a long spell of underachievement, this is looking increasingly as though it will be the season in which the Premier League will finally make its economic might start to tell. After Manchester City’s demolition of Basel and Tottenham’s comeback to draw against Juventus on Tuesday, Wednesday brought another excellent away result for a Premier League side, with Liverpool’s thrashing of Porto in Portugal. The 12 goals Premier League sides have scored in the Champions League knockout ties this weekequals or surpasses their total in the knockout stage for each of the past three seasons.Perhaps Liverpool got lucky with the opening goal, as Jose Sa let Mane’s shot squirm under his body, but once it had sniffed blood, Jurgen Klopp’s side took full advantage adding a second four minutes later thanks to a remarkable finish from Salah. He seized on a loose ball after James Milner had hit the post, casually lifting the ball over Sa, controlling it on his head and poking the ball into the empty net. Two second-half goals from Mane and another from Firmino meant they matched City’s result the previous night.Two Premier League sides are golden for the quarterfinals, and more could easily follow.

Tottenham Shows Impressive Mettle at Juventus, Man City Coasts Again in UCL

By JONATHAN WILSON February 13, 2018

Tottenham made waves on the opening day of the Champions League knockout stage, coming back from 2-0 down to force a draw in the first leg of its last-16 series vs. Juventus in Turin. Even in a season when it has matured in European competition, this was a remarkable performance–and all the more so given that Spurs had gone 2-0 down within the opening nine minutes.Gonzalo Higuain volleyed Juventus ahead after two minutes and added a second from the penalty spot seven minutes later, but, as Juve sat back, Tottenham recovered its composure and proceeded to dominate the game. Harry Kane pulled one back and then, vitally, Higuain struck the bar with another penalty on the stroke of halftime. Christian Eriksen leveled the score with a low free kick that caught Gianlugi Buffon flat-footed with 19 minutes remaining to force the draw.Manchester City, meanwhile, as good as secured its place in the quarterfinals with a 4-0 victory at FC Basel. Ilkay Gundogan headed in a corner, Bernardo Silva converted Raheem Sterling’s cross and Sergio Aguero fizzed in a low shot–all within the first 23 minutes of the game. Gundogan curled his second of the night after an Aguero run eight minutes after halftime to put the match–and series–to bed early.Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:

TOTTENHAM REBOUNDS TO CONTROL PLAY AT JUVE

For 10 minutes, Spurs were awful. It wasn’t just that the defensive structure fell apart, it was that their nerve seemed to have gone entirely. Simple passes were misplaced, cul-de-sacs were run down regularly. But with Juve sitting surprisingly deep, Tottenham gradually rallied and began to take advantage of the space Juve, with its narrow set up, left on the flanks. Spurs remained open at the back, with Federico Bernadeschi particularly threatening, but Juve wobbled even more alarmingly and Buffon had made two fine saves from Harry Kane before the Spurs striker latched onto Dele Alli’s through ball to pull one back 10 minutes before halftime.Juve was on a run of 10 straight wins, had conceded only one goal in its previous 16 games and had made a habit of beating the big teams in Serie A 1-0, but Tottenham clearly rattled the hosts, the ferocity of its press forcing a series of mistakes. Mousa Dembele, continuing his form off last weekend’s North London Derby, was a colossus in the center. Spurs dominated possession to the tune of 62 percent and caused so many problems that by the time the equalizer arrived through Eriksen’s 71st-minute free kick, it felt almost overdue. Juve surely will not be so ragged at Wembley, but with two away goals the advantage is clearly with Tottenham.

THE ALDERWEIRELD ISSUE

Much has been made of how improved Tottenham has been in European competition this season, but in its two wins over Borussia Dortmund and the two games against Real Madrid, from which it took four points, Mauricio Pochettino set up with a back three. Although he stuck with that formation for three games after Toby Alderweireld damaged his hamstring midway through the first half of the 3-1 win over Madrid, he has essentially abandoned the shape since November.Alderweireld returned last week in the FA Cup replay against Newport County but was left out of the win over Arsenal on Saturday, and he didn’t travel to Turin. Pochettino insisted it was because he doesn’t want to rush the Belgian back, but his oddly sharp reaction when asked about his absence on Saturday has prompted suspicions that there is an issue behind the scenes with Alderweireld’s contract.Whether Pochettino would have used a back three had Alderweireld been available is impossible to say, but what was clear was that the two-man central defense was ruthlessly exposed early on. Right from kickoff it was clear there was an issue at the heart of the back line, with space opening up in front of Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen. That was what led to the panicky foul that conceded the second-minute free kick from which Higuain, sneaking away from a dozing defense (and slightly offside), volleyed Juve into the lead.Seven minutes later, a simple move down the left led to Ben Davies being isolated, and he clumsily conceded the penalty from which Higuain added his second. It’s very hard, of course, to be sure, but with a back three, the move may have been stifled earlier by Serge Aurier playing higher up on the right, and the probability is that Higuain, who was fouled, would have been outnumbered by Vertonghen and Davies together.The second penalty, meanwhile, was the result of Sanchez being dragged forward to try to make a challenge he couldn’t win, leading to Aurier’s rash challenge on Douglas Costa. Again that space in the inside-forward channel would probably have been blocked by a third central defender, and again there was a sense that the rearguard could have been better protected by the deep midfield. Then again, with a back three the press may not have been quite so aggressive, and Spurs may not have shaken Juve in quite the same way.

ANOTHER BOX TICKED FOR MAN CITY

Nobody at Manchester City is talking about the quadruple, or at least that’s what their players keep saying. Yet it’s 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League, in the final of the League Cup, in the fifth round of the FA Cup and now, surely, in the quarterfinal of the Champions League. Man City has been too good for everybody in England, and it was little surprise it was too good for Basel, even with David Silva and Leroy Sane restricted to the bench.There was some shakiness at the back, particularly early on, and that could be a concern as the competition goes on, but once City settled into its rhythm it was, as it has been so often this season, unstoppable. The second leg will be a mere formality.

Spurs deserve praise for comeback, but Juve are no strangers to adversity

2:30 PM ETJames Horncastle

Daniele celebrated Juventus’ goals in a bar on Tuesday night. They’re his team after all. But before the game he felt conflicted. “My heart is divided in two,” he told the Corriere Torino. Daniele believes it is “very probable” he is related to Mauricio Pochettino. They share the same surname and on Monday he drove into town to pay the Tottenham manager a visit at Turin’s Golden Palace hotel.The family tree isn’t complete and the paperwork needs verifying. “It’s a long job,” Daniele admitted. But it seems as though Pochettino’s great-great grandfather was from Virle, the village 40 kilometres outside of Turin where Daniele is now deputy mayor. “He was very nice and open about it all,” Daniele said. “[Mauricio] assured us he’ll come and see us sooner or later, it would bring us immense joy.” The hope of an invitation to the second leg at Wembley did not go unexpressed either, and understandably so.For the neutral sitting in front of the TV, Tuesday’s first leg definitely lived up to the hype, and exceeded expectation from a Tottenham perspective. Juventus, on the other hand, traipsed back to the dressing room with the whistles of a demanding and evidently disapproving home crowd ringing in their ears.The commentators on Mediaset described them as unfair and you can see why. Massimiliano Allegri couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Both from the sideline and in his seat during the postmatch news conference. It’s been a long time since he was this angry. Why is everyone so depressed, he wondered. OK, a 2-2 draw leaves Juventus up against it but it is by no means a disastrous result coming as it did against a side that has already defeated Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund this season.”The Champions League is a dream and an objective,” Allegri snapped. “But winning it is not easy. I think some perspective has been lost. Juve play to win but is not the favourite. You can’t get to the final every year. The lads are having a great season. But to go from that to thinking we should be winning the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie 3-0 is a big leap. And it annoys me because it’s as if you have no idea of the dimension of the other teams [at this level] … A 2-2 draw cannot depress the ambiance [around the club]. I will not accept it.”

And if you are one of those depressed by it, Allegri has the following piece of advice for you: go and see a doctor for a dose of realism. Have some respect for Spurs prescribed.The sense of entitlement offends Allegri. As does how Juventus winning the league is taken for granted when they are currently second in the tightest title race in Europe’s top five leagues. Making the extraordinary look ordinary on the domestic front and reaching the Champions League final in two of the past three years despite being the continent’s 10th richest club — Spurs, incidentally, rank 11th — has not helped. It has created the false impression this is normal when it is not.Allegri’s line of argument is shared by Marcello Lippi. “I completely agree with him,” the former Juventus and Italy manager told Tuttosport. “Max is right. And he did well to completely reject all of the negativity coming from the outside. Victory is by no means assured in the Champions League.”Nevertheless the criticism hasn’t stopped. Allegri’s decision to deviate from the system Juventus have found balance in and play 4-2-3-1 backfired. But it’s not hard to understand why he made that choice.Clearly he wasn’t confident in Claudio Marchisio or Rodrigo Bentancur’s ability to do the job the injured Blaise Matuidi does for Juve in a 4-3-3. The starting XI he named looked brave at the time and, while it feels like a long time ago now, we shouldn’t forget that when Juve raced into a 2-0 lead there were some people prematurely declaring it a stroke of genius. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, the selection now looks foolish for its top-heaviness.That said, the actual composition of Allegri’s team is as good a counter-argument as you will find to this idea that Juve chose to sit back and defend their advantage. The team he picked was far too attacking for that.Credit instead should go to Spurs, Allegri insisted, for pushing Juventus back and pinning them there. Not that the papers saw it that way. For La Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus were “too Italian”. While they recognised Spurs’ merits, particularly how they kept playing at 2-2 as if they were still 2-0 down — a lesson Juve could learn — it deeply disappointed the pink to see that “the champions of Italy left a team ranked fifth in England and 20 points off the league leaders 66.6 percent possession [at home].”Juve’s “attitude was” in their opinion “indefensible.” And here’s the thing: the Old Lady still had the chances to score a third; once at 2-0 up and again at 2-1. It was also as quintessentially a Gonzalo Higuain performance as you’re likely to see. While the Argentine managed to score twice, hold the ball up really well and start some very promising counterattacks, his performance will instead be remembered for the two opportunities he missed, one of which came from the spot. If he’d put either of them away, maybe the fight in Spurs would have died.”It’s easy to be critical from the sofa,” Higuain complained.Sure, and mitigating factors are not in short supply for the Old Lady. Matuidi’s absence was a big one. Bigger even in the context of this season than that of Paulo Dybala, the most talented player at the club, whose performance against Barcelona in Turin a year ago elevated him to the status of one of the best players in the world.You then have the injuries to underrated but tactically important pieces like Andrea Barzagli and Juan Cuadrado, who one imagines Allegri would have turned to as he has so often in the past when he needs to see a game out in Europe. The two of them give Allegri the chance to switch in-game to 3-5-2 and lock things down. But Allegri wouldn’t hear it. When Juventus’ lengthy casualty list was put to him as a palliative he said they had “no excuses,” feelings that were echoed by Giorgio Chiellini on the eve of the game. “The strength of this team,” he said, “is coping with absences from [Gianluigi] Buffon and Higuain, to Dybala.”In short, they only had themselves to blame and Spurs should be applauded. It’s a delicate phase of the season. One in which Juventus’ famous resilience finds itself undergoing a stress test. After the grudge match with Fiorentina down by the Arno last Friday, it’s the Derby della Mole this weekend, a fixture that won’t be easy. Torino are unbeaten under Walter Mazzarri and perfect at home. Then come the back-to-back games with Atalanta in league and cup, followed by Lazio and Spurs. A gauntlet that will go a long way to deciding their season.Can they come through it? This team has been there and done it before. It was this time two years ago that they came back from 11 points behind to overtake Napoli. And the 2-2 with Spurs won’t faze them either. Juve have qualified in similar circumstances before. Go back to Dortmund in ’95, Dynamo Kiev in ’98, Barcelona in ’03. Juve almost did it against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich two years ago. Those precedents should serve as a warning to Spurs not to get too confident on the back of their display in Turin. The Old Lady is prone to mood swings but she remains a femme fatale.

Ronaldo’s determination delivers him a brace and Madrid a win vs. PSG

6:44 PM ETRob Train

Real Madrid put a firm foot in the Champions League quarterfinals against one of the pre-tournament favourites with a 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace and Marcelo added the coup de grace five minutes from time as the home side cancelled out Adrien Rabiot’s opener.

Positives

What better day for the Bernabeu to fall in love with their team again? The result means a single away goal will leave PSG requiring four at the Parc des Princes to progress after Madrid produced a performance reminiscent of the best of last season.

Negatives

There is a time and place to put the ball into the stands, and there were several in the second half, when Zinedine Zidane’s side invited unnecessary danger during a 15-minute period of PSG dominion. Real rode their luck occasionally and had the visitors been more effective in front of goal, the result might have been different — a warning for the return leg.

Manager rating out of 10

10 — Zidane needed a result as much as he needed a tactical flourish to silence observers who have accused him of lacking in-game management. He provided a masterclass. When PSG switched to 4-4-2 after the withdrawal of focal point Edinson Cavani, forcing Dani Alves and Yuri Berchiche to push forward, Zidane threw on Gareth Bale to counter Emery’s bet. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez were then added to exploit the spaces offered. The former provoked two goals in the final 10 minutes and the latter muddied Emery’s tactical water further by tracking Neymar’s runs after a lengthy pep talk from his boss. Voila.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Keylor Navas, 8 — His first save on 30 minutes was a regulation job from Neymar. His next two were wonderful stops to deny Kylian Mbappe when it seemed the France international was destined to score.

DF Nacho, 8 — Put down an early marker on Neymar and largely had the better of his duel with PSG’s star man. Unfortunate on the Rabiot goal as he was shadowing the Brazilian without any support. Eventually went in the book for scything Neymar down on the break but performed his task to the letter.

DF Sergio Ramos, 8 — Colossal in the air and put in a vital block in the 54th minute in a true captain’s performance. When Madrid went 1-0 down, Ramos took his team by the scruff of the neck and dragged them through a tricky period of the game.

DF Raphael Varane, 7 — Made an excellent block to deny Cavani in the first half but was often second best against the bustling Uruguayan and failed to track Rabiot’s unmarked appearance in the box when Nacho was covering. Otherwise, stuck in some tackles and got his head to a few crosses.

DF Marcelo, 9 — Jogo bonito, backed up by defensive solidity? It must have been some chat from Zidane. An incredible ball for Ronaldo, a slaloming run through the PSG defence and a ruleta to leave Alves looking the fool capped a wonderful showing. A first-time volley late on handed his side a considerable advantage in Paris.

MF Casemiro, 9 — Wonderful control and poise to escape three PSG players in his own half showed the Brazilian can play a bit, but a providential block on Cavani with his side a goal down is his real purpose. Typically, almost doubled the tackle rate of everyone else on the pitch.

MF Toni Kroos, 7 — Won a vital penalty somewhat dubiously in a performance where he inevitably topped the pass success standings.

MF Luka Modric, 6 — Found himself isolated at times and lost Rabiot for the goal in a game spent dragged out to the right, from where he could offer little on the front foot. Did pull off a chest-shoulder control worthy of Zidane, though.

MF Isco, 7 — A combative performance with a solid shift in defence, Isco lost possession as many times as he recovered it but not many players can wriggle out of the holes the Malagueno can and none can thread such incisive passes. When Real needed a foot on the ball, Isco’s was available.

FW Karim Benzema, 7 — Off to more cheers than jeers and deservedly. A nice backheel to tee up Modric and drawing a sprawling save from Alphonse Areola were the highlights but Benzema’s innate ability to link midfield and attack and provide an extra threat on either flank helped to wear PSG down.

FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 9 — His 100th and 101st Champions League goals for Madrid made it eight consecutive games scoring in Europe. A one-on-one with Areola, which smacked the PSG keeper in the face, might have been better hit low but his determination in the move for 2-1 reignited a lost cause to force the chance and he buried his spot kick expertly under no small amount of pressure.

Substitutes

FW Gareth Bale, 6 — On for Benzema, Bale probably doesn’t fancy the tag of the world’s most expensive impact sub, but did his bit to throw PSG off their stride.

MF Lucas Vazquez, NR — On for Casemiro, filled in for the Brazilian in defensive duties.

MF Marco Asensio, NR — On for Isco, provoked the second goal with a fizzing cross and found Marcelo with a deft delivery to make it 3-1 in a potentially tie-deciding cameo.

Liverpool counter-attack perfectly suited for Champions League football

10:21 AM ETDave Usher

Champions League football clearly agrees with Liverpool.Jurgen Klopp’s side completely dismantled FC Porto on Wednesday night and, although the Reds’ boss is far too professional to declare the tie over, not even the most wildly optimistic Porto fan would give their side any hope of overcoming a 5-0 deficit at Anfield in three weeks’ time.Liverpool are now the top scorers in the competition, having overtaken PSG: in seven games they have plundered 28 goals. They score plenty domestically too, but they’ve gone goal crazy in Europe where the more open nature of the games suits their counter-pressing and counter-attacking style.

Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal colourfully explained recently how his side pulled off a shock victory over the Reds just one week after Klopp’s men had ended Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the season. “If you put a Formula 1 car in London in 4 p.m. traffic, the car will not run very fast,” he said. “And that is exactly what we had to do against Liverpool. Put them to play the way they don’t like.”In football terms that translates to sitting deep in numbers and denying Liverpool’s lightning quick attackers room to run into. It doesn’t always work, but it’s the best chance most sides have of achieving any success against Klopp’s team.Most sides in the bottom half of the table play that way against superior opposition and Liverpool often have great difficulty with it. Europe is different, however, and the Champions League especially so. While many of the teams in the competition are nowhere near the level of Liverpool and the other top English sides, they are the best their own country has to offer and are therefore unused to playing in the defensive manner that works best against the Reds.

Porto are currently the best team in Portugal and they have a rich and proud European pedigree, so there was simply no way they were going to completely abandon how they play and try to copy what Swansea did.Playing that way when you’re bottom of the Premier League is common practice but teams in the Champions League are accustomed to dominating the opposition and therefore tend to play much more on the front foot. Even if they wanted to “park the bus,” Porto probably wouldn’t know how to as it would be completely alien to what they do each week in their own league.It’s the same throughout the Champions League and it plays right into Liverpool’s hands. Group opponents Maribor and Spartak Moscow are successful sides in their own domestic leagues and are used to playing football a certain way. If you play like that against Liverpool though it usually doesn’t end well. Both were hit for seven goals by Klopp’s team.Porto didn’t seem to know whether to stick or twist on Wednesday night. They didn’t press Liverpool but they didn’t sit deep and try to frustrate them either. They were barely able to pose any threat to the Liverpool goal and any time they tried to get numbers forward in attack they were ruthlessly exposed on the break.No surprise there; this is what Klopp’s team do. Porto will have been well aware of that too, but they will also have been hoping to expose Liverpool’s often vulnerable defence. For all their goalscoring exploits, the Reds were held to three draws in the group stages due to defensive lapses.Liverpool’s defending was outstanding against Porto though, and goalkeeper Loris Karius had virtually nothing to do. Virgil van Dijk swaggered his way through the contest, marshalling his backline and spraying the ball about from side to side with the kind accuracy usually associated with midfield playmakers. The rest of the defensive unit all caught the eye too, while the midfield three were excellent both with and without the ball. It was a close-to-perfect all-round team performance but understandably it was the front three who again dominated the headlines afterwards.For once it was not the name of Mohamed Salah on everybody’s lips though. The Egyptian recorded his 30th goal of the season with an impudent finish that (not for the first time this month) drew comparisons with Lionel Messi, but he will no doubt have been delighted to see his good friend Sadio Mane take the spotlight after bagging a much needed hat trick.Salah is on course to possibly have the greatest goalscoring campaign in Liverpool history, while Roberto Firmino is finally earning the recognition and plaudits he deserves. But the only discussion about Mane in recent weeks has centred around his indifferent form. It has been a struggle for him and hopefully this can be a turning point.Some caution is required as spectacular goals against Burnley and Manchester City failed to spark a return to his best form, but it was noticeable after his second goal in Porto that Mane looked much more like his old self. His play in the build up to the fourth goal was exceptional, as was the emphatic finish to complete his hat trick.Klopp declared afterwards that the Senegal winger was now “back.” That remains to be seen, but if he is indeed about to show his best form then you can be sure that Porto will not be the last team to be taken apart by this Liverpool side before this season is out.

U.S. announces friendly vs. Paraguay 3/27 in North Carolina, June Games in Europe

Feb 12, 2018ESPN staff

The United States men’s national team will face Paraguay in a friendly in Cary, North Carolina, on March 27.The game will mark the USMNT’s first game at the WakeMed Soccer Park, the 10,000-capacity home of North Carolina FC, since 2006.The sides have met seven times in the past, with the U.S. winning three while losing two and drawing two. The last meeting came in the 2016 Copa America, when the U.S. won 1-0.The game falls during an official FIFA international break, so clubs will be obligated to release players ahead of the game.The federation also confirmed a pair of June friendlies against Republic of Ireland and France, both of which had previously been announced by their opponents.The U.S. will travel to Dublin to face Ireland on June 2, before a trip to Lyon a week later to face Les Bleus.The confirmation of the June games also means an end to plans for a mooted tournament featuring other countries who failed to qualify for the World Cup.

New USSF president Carlos Cordeiro must bring about positive change

Feb 11, 2018  Jeff CarlisleSoccer

ORLANDO, Fla. — Carlos Cordeiro’s victory in the U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election saw him convince voters he was an agent for change.

Now he has to prove it.It’s the single biggest priority for Cordeiro as he succeeds Sunil Gulati. On Tuesday he will be in New York for a meeting related to the bid to win the co-hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup, a quest that has immense long-term implications for growing the sport in this country. And he also must quickly fill the newly created general manager roles on both the men’s and women’s sides, with the men’s job having a bit more urgency about it, given that there isn’t a full-time manager at the moment.But this is a fractured, toxic soccer community and there seems to be a disconnect between those within the national council who voted and those on the outside clamoring for more change. It’s a community that needs some healing and Cordeiro will need to reach out to those feeling disaffected, even if they’re disinclined to return the favor. Some links might have to be reforged several times.”For those who didn’t vote for me, I’m going to have to work even harder to convince them that I will be a good president,” Cordeiro said.The best way he can do that is by keeping his word. He doesn’t need to complete every last item on his campaign platform all at once, but there needs to be some tangible signs of progress in the coming months.He needs to follow through on his stated aim of creating a technical department to manage on-field matters especially since, by his own admission, he isn’t a soccer expert. He needs to keep his promise that he’ll put more focus on the state associations that keep the game at the youth and adult levels moving and that he’ll make the game more affordable.Most of all, Cordeiro must govern in a style that includes rather than excludes. The sight of him sharing the podium with U.S. Soccer Federation CEO Dan Flynn at a post-election press conference made for good optics. Now, Cordeiro will need to continue that approach with Flynn, the board of directors and the USSF staff.”A lot more can be done, and I think you’ll see over the next couple of years a much more engaged leadership, a board that actually is taking responsibility and is more engaged with Dan and his colleagues in Chicago,” Cordeiro said. “To me, we’re only as strong as the team is. Not that it was lacking, but I think we can do a lot better.”There is understandable cynicism regarding Cordeiro’s reformer credentials. He has been a USSF insider for the better part of a decade, having first been brought in as an independent director in 2007. Eleven years on, he is a fixture within the USSF hierarchy, serving as treasurer and then, two years ago, being elected vice president.During that time, Gulati amassed considerable power within the USSF and didn’t hesitate to wield it; Cordeiro stood by his side throughout. Yet during the election, he wore the seemingly contradictory hats of steady hand and change agent and it catapulted him to the presidency.”I think all the candidates recognized that we needed change,” athlete council member Brian Ching said. “Carlos is very intimate with the organization, and I think he was committed to change. I think that he will be able to bring about that change and inclusion.”There already are initial signs that some ideas are being implemented. The creation of the GM positions counts as at least some first steps toward the USSF evolving, but more is needed. Cordeiro also will need to take on a more public profile, for example.He benefited during the election from the presence of Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter, who seemed to be on the receiving end of an inordinate amount of flak. It allowed Cordeiro to take more of a run silent, run deep approach. There still is plenty he can do in the background, but now he is the face of the federation. He will not only need to sell his ideas to the board, but also to the public.Cordeiro still has some work to do in this area and gave his doubters ammunition on Saturday when he called the 2026 World Cup rights “the most important priority for the federation,” given the money involved.He’s right in many respects but the emphasis on money unsettles those, who have grown tired of being told of the USSF’s great financial position in the wake of a World Cup qualifying failure. At a minimum, the skepticism will keep Cordeiro on his toes as he settles into the job.And if he isn’t the proponent of change he professed to be? The USSF will muddle along, unable to pull out of the muck in which it finds itself.But looked at another way, this is an immense opportunity. The appetite for reform is there and, if he is successful in pushing some through, it can serve as springboard for greater things, as well as a belief that better days are ahead.

Julian Green on U.S. hype, fighting at Bayern, life at Greuther Furth

Feb 12, 2018Stephan Uersfeld

FURTH, Germany — On July 1, 2014, Julian Green had the world at his feet. Coming off the bench for the United States in the World Cup round of 16 against Belgium in extra time, the then-19-year-old scored moments later, cutting in from the left and firing past Thibaut Courtois to cut the deficit to 2-1. However, his goal wasn’t enough to secure progress, and just under four years later, the USMNT are picking up the pieces after missing out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.It hasn’t gone much better for Green: the attacker last featured for his country during the final days of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2016 and has now retreated to Germany’s second division to restart his career.Once heralded as the U.S. national team’s next big thing, Green vanished from the headlines when swapping Bayern Munich for VfB Stuttgart in early 2017, and last summer, he took another step back to join Greuther Furth on loan until the end of the season. Yet for the first time in his career, Green is getting regular playing time in a senior team, and although the club are battling to avoid relegation to the third tier for the first time in more than 20 years, the 22-year-old is pleased with his decision.”I feel good about how things are,” Green told ESPN FC at the Shamrocks’ training ground. “I always want to improve myself and have great goals. It’s not my goal to play in the second division but rather in the first league. That’s what I work towards.”Green has already been in the “first league.” He’s been at Bayern Munich and already been a star. Having made it to the 2014 World Cup without playing a minute of Bundesliga action, even seemingly pushing Landon Donovan out of the door on the way, a lot of pressure suddenly rested on Green’s young shoulders. Expectations were high, and in 2013 Klinsmann said: “We believe we could help him grow into a special player.”In late August 2014, Green left his nest under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich to join Hamburger SV on loan. The idea was to take a step back in a bid to get regular playing time, something that had proved impossible in Bayern’s star-studded squad.”I trained with the best players in the world at Bayern,” Green, who rarely played in Munich aside from a few appearances during a preseason tour of the United States, said. “You could learn from everyone, starting with Philipp Lahm to Arjen Robben. From those players on my position. Robben, Franck Ribery and even Robert Lewandowski. They gave me advice, and to see them in training made me stronger.”But just training wasn’t enough and Green left for Hamburg, a club already descending into chaos at that time. One game into his loan, coach Mirko Slomka, the one who had convinced him to head north, was sacked. Green would go on to make just four more appearances as a substitute, and in the winter, he was sent to the under-23s where he played just once. And that was that.

“I had about four coaches that year. It was an experience, and you’re always smarter in hindsight. But I wouldn’t even say it was bad for me,” Green said of that lost year. “I no longer look back. I talk about things ahead, and no longer about Hamburg.”Returning to Bayern in 2015, Green looked to get a boost in the club’s under-23 and as he returned to form and trained with the first team, he picked up more confidence.”I always had a good relationship with Pep Guardiola. He didn’t say much, but every now and then we talked. I played in one Champions League match [a meaningless game vs. Dinamo Zagreb in December],” Green said. “But I was more focused on the U-23s; I scored 10 goals that season. And when Carlo Ancelotti came [in 2016], I was part of the pro team again.”As he had been in 2014, Green was again given run-outs during Bayern’s U.S. tour and despite scoring a hat trick against Inter, when the 2016-17 season kicked off, he was sat on the bench again. Yet it was enough to win his return to the USMNT and the German-American won his last two caps against Cuba and New Zealand — “I owe a lot to Jurgen Klinsmann. He was a good coach. But he is no longer there” — but under Bruce Arena, Green was cast aside.With the end of his Bayern contract nearing, the winger moved to Stuttgart in January 2017 but after a good start, he lost his place on the team.”We won promotion. It was a good year, but in the summer my chances of getting into the team weren’t that good. And that’s why I joined Furth,” he said.If the United States men’s national team didn’t notice, the U.S. media certainly did with one Deadspin article headline reading: “Former USMNT ‘Savior’ Julian Green Sent Away To A Last-Place Club With No Manager.” It wasn’t the type of headline that Green was used to generating but he understands it’s all part of the sport.”It’s normal, especially in the United States,” said Green. “You get hyped so much and if things don’t go so well, then it’s in the other way. You must handle that if you want to play at a high level.”When Green joined, Furth had no points after four games. They picked up four in the next five games but are now back fighting against relegation.Green’s loan spell at Furth will end this summer — he’s played 13 league games so far, scoring one goal. But most importantly, for the first time in his career, he has become a regular starter. The 22-year-old is not sure what is next for him but he is enjoying his time on the pitch, away from the spotlight.”My plan is to return to Stuttgart in the summer,” Green said. “But you will see. A lot can happen. My focus is on now, and I don’t think about what will be in seven, eight months.”While there is one dream he continues to chase — “I think in the future you will me see gain in the national team” — for now, Green has found some peace. He is ignoring the critics and focusing on the future, while he will always have that one goal from 2014 to look back on.”To score this goal, was a dream come true for me,” he said. “And I am very happy for this time at the World Cup. Now I am looking forward to the rest of my career.”

 

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2/12/18 Champions League Tues/Wed 2:45 pm on FS1 & 2, EPL review, US Soccer Prez

OK real Time Pet peeve of mine – Why don’t teams/coaches put players on the post of corner kicks.  Again today 2 goals on corner kicks-  both of them would have been saved with someone / anyone on the post.  The players now not on the post are standing in box  – covering no one – playing center field – what the hell.  Isn’t the concept on corners to not give up a goal.  THEN PUT SOMEONE ON BOTH POSTS YOU IDIOTS!@$%&!   I guess I need some rocket scientist coach to explain to me why having no one on the posts and giving  up goals on corner kicks in more important than having another useless player in the field doing nothing.

For the first time in Champions League history one country (England) has 5 teams in the final 16.  The EPL teams will be favored in 3 of 5 instances with Man City on a roll, Liverpool facing Porto and Man United favored over Basel.  Chelsea has a tougher go as they host Barcelona next week and Tottenham vs Juventus is a pick-em despite the fact Juve is a 2 time finalist over the past 2 years.

Tues, Feb 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                                     Basel vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Sport1                         Juventus vs Tottenham 

Weds, Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1               Real Madrid vs PSG  

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Porto vs Liverpool 

So folks have asked me why I didn’t give my opinion on the US Soccer election prior to Saturday.  You want to know why?  What happened?  Carlos Cordeiro – Sunil’s #2 guy –a guy who has been involved with soccer for 11 years – won the election.  Are you friggin kidding me?  So what did we vote for – MORE OF THE SAME OLE SHIT.   Way too expensive National Team games (over $100 per ticket for mens NON qualifying games) in the wrong cities in the wrong stadiums.  Build US support – no – play games in 20K stadiums at $150 per ticket so only the rich or stupid (me) can afford to support our country and our team.  MOTSOS – The US Ladies continuing to get screwed – with regards to pay and benefits, not getting the proper recognition as the top team in the world – oh and now the elimination of the ENCL which allowed the best players to play high school in the fall and Super Competitive Travel soccer in the Spring.  Oh that system has helped the US win the World Cup twice!!!  Replacing it with full time Academy.   It worked so well for the US Men !!!   Now high school soccer is removed from the equation nationwide as players are forced to choose playing Academy ball or High School.   The whole thing just MAKES ME SICK !  So that’s why I had no opinion of the US Election – because I HAVE VERY LITTLE FAITH IN US SOCCER or its Leadership, and its ability to change with the times.  Does it mean I won’t support our teams – won’t follow each US player as they play their club ball – of course not.  But it just proves that change in US Soccer is a lost cause.  Hopefully we’ll continue to get there despite the incredible continued ineptitude at the very top of US Soccer.

Speaking of US Soccer – the defending World Champion US Ladies team comes to Columbus, OH to play Germany in the She Believe’s Cup on Thurs, Mar 1 at 7 pm.  Honestly assuming The Columbus Crew are probably moving to Texas next year – this might be your LAST CHANCE to See a US Team play in the GREATEST HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IN US SOCCER HISTORY – in Columbus.  Until last year when the men lost to Mexico – The US had never lost in this mecca of US Soccer registering multiple 2-0 wins over Mexico in THE Game of each Men’s Qualifying Cycle.  Anyway a Thursday night won’t be easy – but it might be worth the drive over.  Tickets are in the $35 to $50 range behind the goals.   And you get both games – the England vs France game kicks off at 4 pm and the US Game follows at 7 pm.  Anyone interested in Traveling over – I have a hook up with American Outlaw tickets behind the US Goal.

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US Soccer

US Soccer elects Carlos Cordiero – Sunil’s #2 man

How Cordiero won the US Soccer Prez – SI

Hope Solo Rips Into Carlos and Kathy Carter for the Election

Cordiero is Different than Gulati – SI – Brian Straus

Champions League 

What to Watch For – UCL Sweet 16 SI

Time for Neymar to Prove his Worth  ESPNFC

Spurs Can’t be Wasteful vs Juve

Tottenham won’t Change Approach vs Juve

Porto & Liverpool not built on UCL Glory

Klopps Rotation Deliemma

PSG Readier for Real Madrid now than they were for Barca last time

Bayern hungry for UCL Win

Barcas Pique Should be Ready for Chelsea Match

Proper Way to Say Players Names for Each of the 16 Teams in the UCL

EPL

Liverpool on the Charge, Man U Stumbles

I can’t get Clubs to buy who I want – Conte

Arsenal Seems to Have Gotten Transfers Right this Time

Chicharito Surges for West Ham

4 Trophies for Man City this year?

New Castle Hoodoo haunts Mourinho and Man United

GAMES ON TV 

Mon, Feb 12

3 pm NBCSN                   Chelsea vs West Brom

Tues, Feb 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Basel vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Juventus vs Tottenham 

Weds, Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Real Madrid vs PSG  

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Porto vs Liverpool 

Sat, Feb 17

FA Cup Weekend

Tues, Feb 20 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

2:45 pm FS 2                  Chelsea vs Barcelona 

Weds, Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Sevilla vs Man United                   

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Roma vs Shakhtar

Thurs, Mar 1

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

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  PSG vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool vs Porto

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham  vs Juventus

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Man United vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Shakhtar  vs Roma

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Besiktas  vs  Bayern Munich

2:45 pm FS 2                  Barcelona  vs Chelsea

EPL 2018 Schedule

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

What to Watch For as Champions League Round of 16 Gets Underway

February 12, 2018

The UEFA Champions League is finally back after a two-month break and you can bet football fans around the world are already preparing for the upcoming game nights with their friends. The group stage came to a close in December and now it’s time for the real action as the Last 16 begins.There are four matches set to take place this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with giants like Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid squaring off against each other, fans better be prepared for any twist or turn the match week might have in store.

JUVENTUS VS. TOTTENHAM

Another Titan for Spurs to Topple?

Tottenham enjoyed a memorable group campaign after taking four points off back-to-back reigning holders Real Madrid, which included a stunning 3-1 win over Los Blancos at Wembley.Juventus, who were beaten to the top spot in their group by Barcelona, are a historic giant cut from the same cloth as Real and would be another huge scalp for the Premier League side, who are definitely still ‘small fish’ in this ‘big fish’ pond.It’s not exactly David vs Goliath, but it’s not a level playing field either.

Choker vs Choker?

While a dominant force in Italy throughout their history – 33 Serie A titles can definitely attest to that – Juventus are the ultimate chokers when it comes to the Champions League.Including the days of the original European Cup, Juve have played in nine finals over the years and managed to lose seven of them. The most recent was, of course, last season against Real Madrid, while they were also played off the pitch by Barcelona in 2015.’Spursy’ Spurs have long held a reputation as being England’s chokers of choice, although it is a label they have started to shed under Mauricio Pochettino.

A Story of Two Number 10s

The hopes for both teams will ultimately rest on their respective No. 10s, Paulo Dybala for Juve and Harry Kane for Spurs.Each man is currently 24 years of age and both are expected to kick on and establish themselves as the best in the world in the seasons to come – these are two players who could genuinely win the Ballon d’Or when the Ronaldo/Messi duopoly is finally over.What’s more, each is having a ‘career’ season in 2017/18. The typically deeper Dybala is fast closing in on 20 goals so far, while Kane has astonishingly found the net over 30 times already.

Potential Twist: Fernando Llorente spent two seasons at Juve between 2013 and 2015, scoring 27 times for the Bianconeri. He has been a bit-part player at Spurs since joining from Swansea, but it would certainly be a story if he could make an impact against his former club.

BASEL VS. MANCHESTER CITY

Beyond the Last 16

National champions on 12 occasions this century, Basel have been Switzerland’s regular representative in the Champions League. But the club has never gone beyond the Last 16.Manchester City were eliminated at the same stage last season, falling to Monaco, and have only been further on one previous occasion, despite six attempts in total – that was when Manuel Pellegrini led a team to semi-finals in 2015/16.This time, one of the two sides has to go beyond the Last 16.

Does a ‘Quadruple’ Beckon?

With the Premier League all but sewn up and a place in the Carabao Cup final booked for the end of the month, City are looking at the next small step in completing a never-before-seen ‘quadruple’ by getting off to a good start against Basel.No English team has ever won four major trophies in the same season to complete what has always been seen as the impossible dream.A ‘quadruple’ would be a massive step because City have only ever done a ‘double’ once before, combining the 2013/14 Premier League and League Cup – and that’s not even the real ‘double’. Ironically, Basel are actually well accustomed to ‘doubles’ in Switzerland.

You Look Familiar

The only scary thing for City fans about Basel striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel is getting hopelessly tongue-tied trying to utter the Dutchman’s name. That is because he was worse than awful during a single season at Norwich back in 2013/14.The thing is, he could actually come back and bite City, though. Van Wolfswinkel scored 23 goals in the Netherlands for Vitesse Arnhem last season and had netted eight in 14 for Basel this season before suffering a fractured foot in September.He’s fit again now and should be getting back to his former sharpness for City’s visit.

Potential Twist: City are such massive favorites to win the tie that there’s a risk they are just too complacent, giving Basel the inch they need to cause an upset. Either that or the Swiss side’s red and blue shirts will kid City into thinking they are facing Barcelona…

PORTO VS. LIVERPOOL

Flaky Reds

Liverpool finished top of their group, but it certainly seemed like there were times when they didn’t want to after twice throwing away leads in games home and away against Sevilla.Jurgen Klopp’s team just couldn’t see games out against the Spaniards, giving up a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes to go at Anfield and then a 3-0 half-time lead in the reverse fixture in Andalucia.When aggregate scores are at stake, Liverpool cannot afford to do the same against Porto. If they manage to open up a cushion, they absolutely have to hold onto it.

Transfer Links

Liverpool are linked with players all across Europe and the wider world on a near daily basis and there are a handful of individuals in the Porto ranks that have been rumored Anfield targets.Any substance in such speculation has been tellingly lacking, but if nothing else this Last 16 tie will give fans a good opportunity to have a look for themselves and make their own mind up.Legendary ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is one, tricky Algerian winger Yacine Brahimi is another popular source of gossip. There are also midfield pair Hector Herrera and Danilo Pereira, although the latter faces a serious battle to be fit for the first leg.

Virgil Steps In

Philippe Coutinho may be gone – he won’t play for Barcelona in the Champions League until next season – but Virgil van Dijk will make his Champions League debut for Liverpool following his record £75m move from Southampton last month.The Dutch center back was bought to address Liverpool’s defensive weakness, although it must be said that the Reds have only managed to keep one clean sheet when he’s played.Van Dijk isn’t new to the Champions League. In a total baptism of fire, he was part of a Celtic team that was thrown into a group of death with Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax in 2013/14.

Potential Twist: Porto have been in this position before, underdogs at this stage of the Champions League against English opposition. On that occasion it was 2004 against Manchester United, with Jose Mourinho making a name for himself on Old Trafford’s touchline.

REAL MADRID VS. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

The Ultimate Old vs New

Real Madrid are reigning back-to-back European champions, the most iconic club in the history of the entire history of the European Cup/Champions League. PSG are upstarts formed in 1970 and are only enjoying their current success because of a wealthy owner.But the two are equals on the pitch now and there is plenty for Real to be scared of in the French club’s ranks, especially after they set a new goals record in the group stage.If PSG win, it could well be the catalyst for more to come in Paris. On the other hand, they have choked so many times in previous seasons, people are still not ready to take them seriously.

The Neymar Factor

PSG bought Neymar for a world record €222m in the summer, forcibly ripping him away from a Barcelona that were so desperate not to sell they are even suing the player for €75m in earnings he was paid from his new contract last season, plus damages.Neymar has a point to prove every time he steps out onto the pitch, to show people that he joined PSG to further his football ambition and not simply for the monster payday. Going head-to-head with Real is the perfect chance to do that.The other side of this is that Real are rumored to be very keen on signing the Brazilian. This could be an opportunity to establish contact without raising too much suspicion.

Has Ronaldo Still Got It?

With a 26-year-old Neymar on one side hoping to drive PSG to victory, there is a 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo on the other hoping to prove he can still perform on the very biggest stages.Ronaldo is the Champions League’s top scorer after the group stage with nine goals from six games so far. Four of those came against minnows APOEL, though, and the Portuguese icon has scored way less than normal in La Liga this season.His own personal ambition to be the best has always been all the motivation he’ ever needed, but if Ronaldo wants any more for this game there’s plenty of it.

Potential Twist: With all the focus on Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani, what if all that incredible attacking prowess on both sides simply cancels out and it is actually the defenders who steal the show. We all know that Sergio Ramos likes to be the center of attention.

Tottenham can’t be wasteful against Juventus as UCL clash looms

8:42 AM ETJohn Crace

Almost seven years ago to the day, Tottenham travelled to Italy for the first leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie against AC Milan in the San Siro.Spurs were given little chance. The team were dogged by injuries, were without their talisman Gareth Bale and AC Milan were the form team in Serie A.Tottenham sneaked a 1-0 win courtesy of Peter Crouch partly because many of the players lifted their game, but mainly because Milan severely underestimated their opposition. The Italians started as if they believed they only had to turn up to win and by the time they realised they were involved in a tough battle, it was too late.There will be no chance of Juventus taking Spurs for granted in Tuesday’s Champions League tie. Where the 2011 Spurs team was built around a few stars — Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric — the current team has world class players in almost every position.They are a side that has the understanding and trust in one another that comes having played together for nearly three years and they are hitting their best form at the right time of the season. To take seven points out of a possible nine in matches against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal is a sign of just how well they are playing.If Mauricio Pochettino can have any gripes with his team, it is that they sometimes lack a killer instinct. They fail to put away sides that are there for the taking and make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. Against Manchester United, Spurs had several chances to increase their first-half lead that they failed to convert. Against Liverpool, they started slowly and gave away an early goal to a silly error. But in the second half, they bossed the game. And though ultimately they will have been pleased to grab a point with a last minute Harry Kane penalty, there was a lingering feeling they missed a golden opportunity to take all three.It was a similar story in the North London derby. After a cagey first-half, Spurs were utterly dominant in the second 45 minutes after taking the lead when Kane headed home. Tottenham had several golden chances to increase the lead and should have been out of sight at 3-0 up with 10 minutes to play. Predictably the game drew to a nervy conclusion with only the poor finishing from Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette denying the visitors a draw their performance had not deserved.Tottenham can’t afford to be that wasteful against Juventus. The Italian side are not only the dominant force in Serie A, they have also not conceded a goal in 15 games. But Spurs will get their chances and they must take them. Serie A is not nearly as strong as the Premier League and the Juventus defence does not often get tested. They aren’t used to be competing against players with the attacking flair of Kane, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli. Spurs must take advantage of what may be a slight rustiness in the Juve defence.Which isn’t to say Pochettino’s men should be reckless. Make no mistake, a draw would be a decent result away to one of the best sides in Europe. But neither should Spurs be too cautious and respectful. They have already brushed aside two fancied teams in Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stages and Pochettino has shown he has learned from his bruising first outing in the Champions League last season. Now is the time for Spurs to lay down a marker.Pochettino has made most of the right calls so far this season. His one weakness has been a slowness to react when his game plan is not working. Against Juventus he must be prepared to be flexible and make the necessary changes before it is too late. The Italians are too good a team not to punish any sign of weakness.Spurs need to stay strong and believe in themselves. If they remember the club motto, “To Dare is To Do,” then anything is possible.

Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham won’t change approach vs. Juventus

5:30 PM ETDan KilpatricTottenham Correspondent

LONDON — Mauricio Pochettino has said Tottenham Hotspur will not change their approach for Tuesday’s Champions League game at Juventus.Spurs have taken seven points from league games against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, and Pochettino said that had given them the confidence to win the round-of-16 first leg in Turin without sacrificing style or adventure.The Londoners controlled possession in home wins over United and Arsenal and a 2-2 draw at Anfield, but their best results in the Champions League came with a more counter-attacking style.They had around 35 percent possession in home wins over Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid and a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu — suggesting a blueprint for how to beat Juve.And Pochettino said: “My idea is to keep playing the same way, to try and be a little bit braver if we can, while being clever because their level is one of the best in Europe.”Watching the last few games, we are comfortable in the way we are playing and the shape we use [4-2-3-1]. I think the players know we don’t have to change too much and in the last three Premier League games they have started to feel good.”It is important sometimes not to change too much, unless you want to rotate to provide more freshness to win.”When you beat Arsenal and United, it means you have the quality to beat big teams in Europe too. Of course, Juventus is a great team, one of the best in Europe and they have a lot of experienced players who know what it is to compete in the Champions League — in three seasons they have played two finals.”For us, we don’t have that. But our belief, our confidence, our form are good, and we will be ready to very competitive.”Pochettino said Spurs would face a challenge “to beat a great team like Juventus, to score against a team that has conceded one goal in 16 games.”He added: “But if we could win the first leg it would be fantastic.”It was a very tough period, all big teams, so I think we showed great maturity, great character and the performance was so good. For me, it has been one of the best periods since I’ve been at Tottenham.”Spurs’ 1-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday moved them back into the top four, and a step closer to both playing in next season’s Champions League and a second consecutive finish above their north London rivals.Pochettino, though, said he does not care about the Gunners and his focus was on continuing Spurs’ quest for a maiden Premier League title.”Arsenal is our sworn enemy and I know what it means, the derby, but we don’t care if Arsenal are behind us, or where they are. It is more important to build something special at the club with these players.”I know it is different to when we play other big rivals but our motivation is always the same: to win. But we are winning because we are building something special in the Premier League, here in England.”We are close but not so close to win the title — but getting closer. We must win all the games, and Manchester City fail every game.”In football, things can happen. But it would be very difficult for this to happen.”

PSG more ready for Real Madrid now than for Barca last year – Unai Emery

Feb 9, 2018Jonathan JohnsonESPN

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has said that his club are more ready for their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Real Madrid next week than they were for Barcelona at the same point last campaign.Speaking at a prematch news conference ahead of PSG’s Ligue 1 trip to Toulouse on Saturday, Emery feels that his players are ready for the challenge that awaits them at Santiago Bernabeu and more so than they were for their ill-fated outing at Camp Nou a year ago.”The team is better prepared this season than last,” Emery said at a snowy Camp des Loges. “The team has grown the same way that the club has grown.”We need to continue this way. We all want to demonstrate this [in Madrid].”Emery also said that Brazilian superstar Neymar is ready after being rested for the 4-1 Coupe de France round-of-16 win away at Ligue 2 side Sochaux on Tuesday.”Neymar has been training well,” Emery said. “I think that he really wants to play in Toulouse. Everything is fine, normal — we have managed his playing time carefullyEmery also praised Angel Di Maria, who scored three of PSG’s four goals in midweek amid speculation that he could start away at former club Real Madrid next week.”Angel is doing well right now,” Emery said. “He has been a breath of fresh air [since the start of 2018].”He decided to stay when he had the chance to leave and go elsewhere to play. Angel is an important player for us.”Emery also confessed that although he is not 100 percent sure of his starting XI at the Bernabeu, he has an idea of how he will line his PSG side up.”There is a match on Saturday and we still have a few training sessions,” Emery said. “Today, I cannot say what the starting XI will be in Madrid.”I have an idea, of course, as we have worked the whole season to reach a moment like this one and we have analysed all of the possible information to make the best decisions.”

Jupp Heynckes says Bayern are hungry for a Champions League win

Feb 9, 2018Mark Lovell

MUNICH — Jupp Heynckes has said Bayern Munich are “hungry and highly motivated” for Champions League success this season.Seeking a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern have moved 18 points clear at the top and reached the DFB Pokal semifinals with a 6-0 win over third division Paderborn on Tuesday.ayern face Besiktas in the Champions League round of 16 later this month, aiming to repeat their 2012-13 win under the veteran coach.”When I arrived at the club in October we were five points behind Borussia Dortmund. We definitely want to be successful in the Bundesliga and the German Cup,” Heynckes said at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s Bundesliga game against Schalke.”Winning the Champions League is a massive challenge for every team. The team is hungry and highly motivated — many of our players have not yet won the Champions League.”However, success in the Champions League often depends on the draw and form on the night, but Bayern has many hugely experienced players and vast experience in the competition.”We have developed and made great strides in many aspects since the winter training camp in Qatar. We have perfected our play — you just don’t turn up and play like we did in Paderborn on Tuesday. We have worked hard for that success.”Top scorer Robert Lewandowski is aiming to find the net for the 11th consecutive Bundesliga home game and surpass Jupp Heynckes’ own record for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1970s.”We have joked with each other about this,” Heynckes said.”Today’s generation of players knows everything about how us old sweats played the game. A journalist is creative and has to check what he writes but I didn’t actually know about this record. But I can appease you — Robert will start the game and won’t be subbed unless he is playing badly.”Heynckes confirmed that Thiago Alcantara has recovered from a thigh injury which has sidelined him since November.”It’s looking good at the moment –everyone is fit apart from Manuel Neuer,” he said, before adding: “I will not risk anything with Thiago and he doesn’t make the squad.”I will be careful with Thiago and hand him his comeback in Wolfsburg next week. It’s pleasing to have another top player back. Javi Martinez will also return and it’s vitally important in the coming months to have all players fit and available.”Peter Hermann [Heynckes’ assistant] told me today that the 18th player in our squad could play in our best starting XI. There’s very little difference in quality in our squad.”Schalke midfielder Leon Goretzka will move to Bayern on a free transfer this summer and the Germany international has been criticised for agreeing the transfer to the Bundesliga champions.Asked about the transfer and the possibility of Goretzka potentially facing his future employer at the weekend: “I think he’s handling the criticism very well. But it hasn’t been easy for him as he was carrying an injury until Wednesday and wasn’t able to deliver top performances.”He is very mature for his age and understands the fans reaction as well, “he said.But this type of move has always happened in the Bundesliga, it used to be between Bayern and Monchengladbach and we also experienced this situation with Neuer. I think he is quite relaxed about it and handling it very well.”

Klopp’s rotation dilemma at Liverpool as Karius shows promise in goal

Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah’s roles in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory at Southampton were celebrated, although such performances become less surprising by the week. Both are having outstanding seasons.Although they could hardly claim to be under siege it was Liverpool’s defence that was scrutinised more. Hardly a surprise, since it is largely considered to be the team’s weakness.Loris Karius did well in goal. Liverpool have been shipping goals lately, with every opposition strike on target seemingly going in.Southampton’s threat fizzled out after Salah made it 2-0 just before the break. In such games it’s difficult to gauge if this was a direct consequence of Liverpool’s efficiency or not.Jurgen Klopp won’t care. In fact he’ll note for the third game running his goalkeeper made an important save to either keep his team in the lead or, as against Huddersfield and Tottenham, on equal terms.Nothing that could be described as world class or miraculous, but given how things usually go for Liverpool there was enough to justify Klopp’s public pronouncement of Karius as his No.1.With the Champions League returning this week, Klopp can’t return to alternating keepers. Even if his countryman were to make a bad error in Porto on Wednesday, he must persist with him.In December 2016, Karius made errors in a few games — enough for Klopp to bring back Simon Mignolet. With hindsight, that doesn’t appear to have been very patient.Having promoted Karius again, Klopp tried to do right by the Belgian by giving him a place in the FA Cup team. There were times in that 3-2 defeat at Anfield against West Brom that Mignolet let himself down badly, and any concession to him for what remains of Liverpool’s season would be a mistake.Herein lies the problem with squad rotation. It isn’t just about maintaining fitness, it’s also about keeping squad players sharp and hungry. You can’t just stick to the same XI, as once somebody regards himself as surplus to requirements they’ll down tools and be on to their agent looking for a club that does want to use them.Twice on Sunday, Karius made saves that spared the blushes of his left-back Andrew Robertson, who’d been caught out by long crosses over his head.

Those aside, the Scot is another example of a player who perhaps shouldn’t be rotated any longer. Fans feel he’s done more than enough to keep his place, and that players like Mignolet and Alberto Moreno have had plenty of chances to stake claims for regular selection.That may also apply to Dejan Lovren, as patience has worn thin with the Croatian too . Klopp’s argument there is that nobody has really stood out in the fight to partner Virgil van Dijk.The Dutchman himself has only just earned his first Liverpool clean sheet, seeming almost to glide through the Southampton game and smirking whenever the home fans tried to unsettle him.His £75 million fee guarantees he’ll take one of the central defence places on a regular basis, but nobody has stood out yet to be his long-term partner.As with the goalkeeper, Klopp needs to see out the season with what he currently has at his disposal and gauge if more transfer investment is needed in any position.At right-back, Klopp has also rotated more than usual, dealing as he is with two young albeit talented players in Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.Both have done well when selected but also have a propensity for lowered concentration levels — vital in a defender, but rare in younger players.Gomez has the edge defensively while Alexander-Arnold is better going forward. In this instance rotation can actually benefit Liverpool as both players are given match experience to suit different opponents. It’s just difficult for their colleagues at the back to acclimatise to a different individual on the flank every week.Liverpool’s last two wins have been comfortable, both away against relegation-threatened opposition. That doesn’t mean fans didn’t appreciate them, given that the previous two defeats were also against sides in the lower depths of the Premier League.With the season starting to heat up, Klopp may tinker less with his side. It may also mean some players are gradually impressing upon the manager that they shouldn’t ever be dropped.The conundrum now is whether change is necessary to rest tiring players. Porto is a huge game on Wednesday, but there are 10 free days after that because of FA Cup elimination. There’ll be plenty of time for rest then.Liverpool’s only chance of a trophy, unlikely as it may already seem, depends upon Klopp making the right choices this week. He’s not got a lot wrong so far this season.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde: Gerard Pique should be fit for Chelsea

Feb 10, 2018Sam Marsden

BARCELONA — Gerard Pique missed training on Saturday but has been included in the Barcelona squad for Sunday’s league game against Getafe and should be fit to face Chelsea in the Champions League.Pique played over 80 minutes in Thursday’s win against Copa del Rey semifinal win against Valencia despite picking up a knee injury at Espanyol last weekend.The defender was clearly in pain by the time he was taken off, with TV images showing him holding his knee on the bench, and has not been able to train since then.But with Samuel Umtiti suspended and Thomas Vermaelen sidelined with a hamstring injury, Ernesto Valverde has included him for the visit of Getafe.However, the Barcelona coach told a news conference: “We will have to see if Pique is able to start the game or not.”I would like all my players to be able to train the day before a game, so if he hasn’t trained then there’s obviously a reason for that.”It’s true that he still has a problem. The other day we decided to risk him [against Valencia] because it was a decisive game. We will see if he plays, but it’s another important game.”With Barca’s trip to Stamford Bridge just 10 days away, Valverde added: “We hope he’s fine for Chelsea and, touch wood, he doesn’t have any setbacks.”Yerry Mina, who came off the bench against Valencia, is in line to make his full debut against Getafe regardless of Pique’s fitness, with Valverde saying the Colombia international would be ready if called upon.If Pique is left on the bench, Valverde suggested he was considering playing left-back Lucas Digne or midfielder Sergio Busquets alongside Mina.Further forward, Ousmane Dembele returns as Barca include both their record signings — Dembele and Philippe Coutinho — for the first time.Dembele has been out for nearly a month with a hamstring injury after missing four months with a ruptured tendon earlier in the season.Valverde said: “Dembele’s a player that we have high hopes for, as I have said many times since we signed him.”We will be careful bringing him back into the team, but he’s going to add things to our game.”With the quality he has, he can help us. He has qualities which are different to the rest [of the squad]. There have been moments when we could have done with him. We hope that now he’s back again we can begin to see those qualities.”Coutinho, meanwhile, scored his first goal for Barca against Valencia on Thursday, but Valverde said the best was yet to come.”I think Coutinho’s looking good,” he said. “The goals help, they give you confidence.”He is a player that is good individually and also as part of the team, in one-on-one situations, linking play … we think he’s looking good but the best is still to come.”

How to pronounce the players’ names correctly

Monday 12 February 2018

English speakers tend to mangle foreign names; UEFA.com cracks more rocks of ignorance and makes the toughest round of 16 players’ names seem simple.

UEFA.com’s ongoing mission to ensure that the world’s football fans get the players’ names right continues as the round of 16 commences; take a deep breath and try these.

BARCELONA
Barcelona’s universal popularity has ironed out most pronunciation errors, but Lucas Digne is a tricky one and don’t forget that Ivan Rakitić’s ‘ć’ is a ‘ch’ for English speakers. Also worth mentioning that ‘Lionel’ is not pronounced the same in Spanish as in English.

Paco Alcácer – Alka-sare
José Arnaiz – Are-nice
Lucas Digne – Loo-cah Dee-nyuh
Lionel Messi – Lee-oh-nell
Ivan Rakitić – Ra-key-titch
Thomas Vermaelen – Ver-mah-len

BASEL
Albanian names can cause some problems; it’s also worth remembering for Basel’s goalkeeper that a Czech ‘c’ without an accent is more like a ‘ts’.

Albian Ajeti – A-yeti
Léo Lacroix – Lack-wah
Dimitri Oberlin – Oh-bear-lan
Geoffroy Serey Dié – Serray Dee-ay
Marek Suchý – Sook-hee
Tomáš Vaclík – Tom-arsh Vats-leak
Taulant Xhaka  – Tow (to rhyme with cow)-lant Jacka

BAYERN MÜNCHEN
Manuel Neuer’s surname can be a problem for English-speakers, who tend to panic when they see more than two vowels in a row. For Robert Lewandowski, note that the Polish ‘w’ is more like an English ‘v’. Up-and-coming forward Kwasi Okyere Wriedt is better known by the first name ‘Otschi’ (phonetically: Ot-she).

Joshua Kimmich – Kim-ikh
Robert Lewandowski – Le-van-dov-ski
Kwasi Okyere Wriedt – V-reet
James Rodríguez – Ha-mess Rod-ree-gess
Manuel Neuer – Man-well Noy-er
Sven Ulreich – Ool-rike

BEŞIKTAŞ
The accents on Turkish player names can be daunting, but pronunciation is not impossible. Fans and commentators in Turkey generally use players’ first names rather than second, which can make things easier. The Turkish ‘c’ sounds more like an English ‘j’, and as for the club’s name, it is Besh-eek-tash.

Caner Erkin – Janner
Gökhan Gönül – Gern-ool
Cyle Larin – Kile La-rin
Oğuzhan Özyakup – Oh-zyan Erz-ya-koop
Duško Tošić – Doosh-ko Tosh-itch
Necip Uysal – Neh-jip Oo-sal
Domagoj Vida – Dom-a-goy Vee-dah

CHELSEA
Most fans in the UK have these correct, but it is worth considering that, for French speakers, N’Golo Kanté’s surname sounds the same as Antonio Conte’s does to English ears.

César Azpilicueta – Ath-pili-coo-et-ah
Gary Cahill – Kay-hill
Thibaut Courtois – Tib-oh Cort-wah
Olivier Giroud – Jee-roo
Eden Hazard – Ay-den
N’Golo Kanté – Con-tay

JUVENTUS
The Italian ‘ch’ is more like a ‘k’ for English speakers, whereas the Croatian ‘ć’ is an English ‘ch’. Gonzalo Higuaín’s name has three vowels in a row – a red light for English speakers – but can be anglicised elegantly enough.

Federico Bernardeschi – Bernard-ess-kee
Gianluigi Buffon – Boo-fon
Giorgio Chiellini – Kee-ell-ee-nee
Paulo Dybala – Dee-bar-lah
Gonzalo Higuaín – Ee-gway-een
Mario Mandžukić – Man-joo-kitch
Claudio Marchisio – Mar-kee-sio
Miralem Pjanić – Pee-ah-nitch
Wojciech Szczęsny – Voy-check Schen-snee

LIVERPOOL
Emre Can – Jan
Simon Mignolet – See-mon Min-yo-lay
Georginio Wijnaldum – Why-nal-dum

MANCHESTER CITY
İlkay Gündoğan’s many accents can alarm, yet it is easier than it looks; Kevin De Bruyne’s name is still routinely mispronounced to rhyme with the English word ‘coin’. For extra pronunciation kudos, try saying Sergio Agüero’s name as if the ‘g’s were ‘k’s.

Kevin De Bruyne – De Bruh-nah
İlkay Gündoğan – Ilk-eye Gun-doe-wan
Gabriel Jesús – Jay-zooss
Aymeric Laporte – Em-rick

MANCHESTER UNITED
Davide De Gea – De Hayer
Victor Lindelöf – Linda-love
Anthony Martial – Mar-see-al

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
The French language’s many vowels continue to confound English speakers. Take heart: it is simpler than it looks. Yuri Berchiche is from the Basque Country, meaning a very different pronunciation from what French speakers might expect.

Yuri Berchiche – Bare-chee-chay
Layvin Kurzawa – Kur-zha-va
Giovani Lo Celso – Gee-oh-var-ni Low Sell-so
Marquinhos – Mar-keen-yoss
Thomas Meunier – Mur-nee-ay
Adrien Rabiot – Ad-ree-an Rab-yo

PORTO
Years of effort have almost eradicated the English tendency to pronounce Iker Casillas’s first name as if he worked as an optician (eye care).

Iker Casillas – Ee-care Ca-see-yass
Gonçalo Paciência – Gon-sah-lo Passy-en-sia
Jorge Teixeira – Tay-shay-ra

REAL MADRID
The ‘oo’ in Toni Kroos’s surname does not sound like English speakers would like it to.

Dani Carvajal – Car-va-hal
Dani Ceballos – Seb-eye-oss
Mateo Kovačić – Ko-va-chitch
Toni Kroos – Crows
Luka Modrić – Mod-rich

ROMA
Andrea Ciofi – Choffee
Edin Džeko – Jecko
Radja Nainggolan – Nine-go-lon
Cengiz Ünder – Jen-giss on-dah

SEVILLA 
Daniel Carriço’s name sounds a good deal softer in his native Portuguese than you might anticipate.

Daniel Carriço – Car-hiss-oh
Simon Kjær – Care
Clément Lenglet – Clay-mon Long-lay
Nicolás Pareja – Pa-ray-ha

SHAKHTAR
Ukrainian names are transcribed from Cyrillic into the Latin alphabet phonetically, so names sound pretty much as they look – though bear in mind that the Ukrainian ‘h’ (as in Bohdan, Serhiy, Oleh) is more like a ‘kh’ for English speakers. Shakhtar’s new Brazilian right-back is a ‘dudu’ and not a ‘dodo’.

Dodô – Du-du
Yaroslav Rakitskiy – Rack-its-key

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
The spelling is not the usual one in English, but ‘Dier’ is pronounced the same as the more common ‘Dyer’ – and not ‘dee-ay’ as some may be tempted to try.

Toby Alderweireld – Al-der-vay-reld
Serge Aurier – Or-ee-ay
Eric Dier – Die-er

How Carlos Cordeiro Wound Up Winning U.S. Soccer’s Presidential Election

By GRANT WAHL February 10, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. — It was a small sign, perhaps, but it may have been indicative of what’s to come from Carlos Cordeiro, who was elected as the new president of U.S. Soccer here on Saturday after three rounds of voting and a historic and contentious eight-candidate campaign.Not long before he was scheduled to take the podium by himself for his first press conference as president, Cordeiro asked U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn to come to the stage with him and take questions side by side. Many inside U.S. Soccer think Flynn has been the federation’s most important figure for years, the guy who runs the day-to-day business and has built a $150 million surplus, but Flynn has always kept a low public profile during the 12 years Sunil Gulati was president. They almost never did side-by-side press conferences. Cordeiro is different. “My campaign was all about being more collaborative, inclusive, working on teams,” Cordeiro said of the style he will use as federation president, the chair of the board of directors. “You will see a very different leadership [from Gulati’s] going forward.” And so Flynn was on the podium with him.Cordeiro freely admits he is not a soccer expert and will soon be part of a collaborative process to hire two U.S. Soccer general managers—positions newly approved by the board, one for the men’s side and one for the women’s—who will oversee technical decisions and report to the CEO. Those decisions include the hiring of coaches; the U.S. men’s job needs to be filled, though that may wait until after this summer’s World Cup. Under Cordeiro, who has served as the federation’s vice president for the last two years and as an independent board member for nine years before that, the federation president will have less power than Gulati did. Not only will the new general managers oversee technical matters on the soccer side, but the board itself and members of the Athletes Council, among other entities, are set to be more engaged in decision-making.One of Cordeiro’s biggest challenges will be to convince those inside and outside the federation—including fans—that even though he was seen as Gulati’s right-hand man for a decade, he will bring about real change now that he is president in a way that Cordeiro did not fully push for (publicly, at least) as vice president. And even though Cordeiro split from an angered Gulati by announcing his candidacy before Gulati had exited the race, that process of convincing everyone will take time for Cordeiro.Yet Cordeiro won on Saturday—defeating the slight favorite, Kathy Carter—by convincing enough voting blocs that his promises of reform were real. Cordeiro was the only one of the eight candidates who had been through the federation election process before, having won a contested vice-presidential election two years ago. That required him to build relationships with the voters, which include youth and adult state associations around the country.While other candidates were spending more time speaking to the media, Cordeiro kept a lower media profile and focused more on traveling to spend time with the voters. In some weeks he visited as many as 10 different states.“I’ve been back and forth across the country for the last three months on a weekly basis,” Cordeiro said on Saturday. “I’ve been to places and states and cities I’ve never visited before.”While Cordeiro was viewed as one of two “establishment” candidates, it’s also worth noting that Cordeiro defeated the preferred candidate (Carter) of MLS owners and the two most powerful figures in U.S. Soccer (Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber). This election was swung, in the end, by the 20-member Athletes Council, which is required by U.S. law to have 20 percent of the overall vote.Everyone knew coming into Saturday that the Professional Council, which includes MLS, the NWSL, USL and NASL, was almost unanimously in support of Carter, giving her 24.1 percent of the overall vote. But the Athletes Council was undecided, and its typical desire to vote as a unified bloc meant it could play the kingmaker as long as the athletes involved reached a consensus on a candidate.That consensus took time. It reminded more than a few participants of serving on jury duty. A three-and-a-half hour closed-door meeting on Friday afternoon by the Athletes Council didn’t achieve consensus, and the group returned for another session late Friday night after dinner. The council was considering three candidates: Carter, Cordeiro and Kyle Martino.“It’s not easy when people feel passionately about certain candidates to build that consensus,” said Athletes Council member Stuart Holden afterward. “It took a number of hours.”Finally, not long before midnight, the Athletes Council decided to throw its entire support behind Cordeiro. Had it chosen to do so with Carter instead, Carter would have won the election in the first round with 54.6 percent of the vote. Instead, Cordeiro had 36.3 percent in the first round with Carter at 34.6 percent, sending the election into Round Two with no candidate having a majority. (Cordeiro himself didn’t know he had the bloc support of the Athletes Council until Saturday morning.)Why did the athletes go with Cordeiro and not, say, a former athlete? Holden said: “Getting behind Carlos Cordeiro as a candidate, we felt [better] with his skill set to be able to change some of the governance, to be transparent, to be open to working with different groups and still have international relations and the business side.” Holden added that he felt Cordeiro’s inclusiveness—that term again—would be “empowering” to the athletes.“I was just impressed by Carlos’s ideas,” Holden continued. “And I loved that he was vulnerable in saying that he’s not the smartest soccer guy in the room and he wants to find the smartest soccer guys. To me that resonated strongly.”

SOCCER

Despite Ties to Gulati, Cordeiro’s U.S. Soccer Platform Differs From Outgoing President

Round Two didn’t create a majority winner either, but Cordeiro’s support went up 5.3 percent (to 41.8 percent) and Carter’s support went down 1.3 percent (to 33.3 percent). The writing was on the wall for Carter. In Round Three, MLS and the Pro Council switched from Carter to Cordeiro, giving him 68.6 percent and the victory.Of course, it remains to be seen whether Cordeiro can win over the public. In my Twitter poll conducted in late December that had more than 12,000 votes, Cordeiro got just 4 percent of the vote when users were asked to choose among him, Martino (44 percent), Eric Wynalda (41 percent) and Carter (11 percent). In a vote among the American Outlaws supporters group last week, Cordeiro finished dead last among the eight candidates, receiving just 1.3 percent of 904 votes.What the public thinks doesn’t matter in the election, however, and when the time came on Saturday for the voters to decide, Cordeiro convinced enough of them that he was the candidate who would be best for the federation. Now he’ll have four years to convince the public that he’s the right person for the job.

Despite Ties to Gulati, Cordeiro’s U.S. Soccer Platform Differs From Outgoing President

By BRIAN STRAUS December 20, 2017

Among the eight presidential candidates certified Wednesday by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Carlos Cordeiro is the only one who currently sits on a board that’s served for the past dozen years under the leadership of the incumbent Sunil Gulati. Cordeiro joined the USSF as an independent director in 2007 and has been its treasurer and executive vice president, among other things. And for a long time, his proximity to Gulati appeared to represent Cordeiro’s short, easy runway to succession.As Cordeiro unveiled his campaign platform, however, he tried to make the case that his time at U.S. Soccer has informed his candidacy and leadership style in ways the public might not expect. Rather than seek to emulate a president who could’ve been a model or mentor, Cordeiro told SI.com he’s following an alternative path.“We can’t have more of the same. I think when we talk about change, ultimately, we need to ensure that we have very open, inclusive, transparent leadership if we are to achieve the growth we want,” Cordeiro claimed. “It can’t be about one person making every single decision. It can’t be an organization that focuses on only some members … I’ve worked very hard to get the board more engaged, and not just have it there as a rubber stamp—that may be too strong a word—but just to ratify things. We need a board who are engaged. That means they’re deeply involved in strategy, making critical decisions about expenditures. Those boards are, by and large, the best boards to have.”Cordeiro, a long-time Goldman Sachs executive, publicly broke with Gulati six weeks ago, announcing his run for U.S. Soccer’s presidency before Gulati decided whether he’d seek a fourth term. Multiple sources indicated that Gulati wasn’t happy with Cordeiro’s decision, the timing of which now seems shrewd. With the beleaguered Gulati opting to stand down and the election two months away, Cordeiro is in position to proclaim himself a candidate of change with significant, hands-on federation experience and established connections abroad (he sits on the CONCACAF Council for example).Whether or not that’s attractive to federation members, it’s a unique calling card among the candidates.

Cordeiro has witnessed U.S. Soccer’s growth and then what he believes is a “plateau.” He argued that the presidency as currently constituted has limited the influence and impact of the board and certain federation constituents, and that increased inclusion will drive improvement on the field and on the bottom line. One begets the other.“If we want to grow multiples from where we’re at, we have to get our governance right,” Cordeiro said. “We’re already too big now for one person to be doing more and more of the same.”The USSF is a complex organization responsible for everything from the high-profile senior national teams to coaching education and referee administration. During his tenure as executive VP, Cordeiro said he’s helped create four board-level committees designed to generate additional oversight (three are released to USSF finances and the fourth handles governance and nominations). If elected, he aims to form two more that may be of more interest to the American soccer public—a technical committee and a commercial committee. The former will be chaired by a former athlete and the latter by an independent director, Cordeiro said. And they’ll interact and advise U.S. Soccer’s paid, full-time CEO as much or more than the president.

Even as Gulati exits, the process of recruiting and hiring national team coaches has become a source of contention (it was discussed at the Dec. 10 board meeting in Toronto). The pursuit, appointment, retention and cost of Jurgen Klinsmann, who finally was fired 13 months ago, is regarded by critics as an example of the excessive power Gulati wielded as president. Cordeiro believes it was too much for one person.Cordeiro’s platform calls for the new technical committee to advise the CEO on the hiring of two “general managers” (for lack of an official title). They’ll be the highest soccer officers at the USSF and there’s no current analogous position, although it’s somewhat common abroad. One GM will direct men’s soccer and the other will be in charge of the women’s game, and Cordeiro said, “I would think so, yes, it should be a woman,” when speaking of the latter.The GMs will report to the CEO, not the president, and ideally they’ll be long-term appointments charged with shaping the direction of the country’s junior and senior national teams and player development initiatives. And that includes hiring and firing coaches.“Responsibility has to be vested in people who have the expertise,” Cordeiro said. “The GM won’t work in isolation. He or she will have a team of people. Ultimately, it’s the GM—reporting to the CEO—who would be making the [national team coach] recommendation. When you’re talking about the senior coaching position, they come back to the board for approval either because of their contracts, the visibility, the importance and so on. It’s collective, collaborative management. But holding the people accountable who are responsible. And I don’t think that responsibility should be that of any one board member, including the president.”Cordeiro continued, “By and large, the more sophisticated federations—the large ones we look to as competitors—they all absolutely formalize these sorts of decisions with people who are housed more on the technical side, not the political side … You’ll find that whether they call them technical directors, general manager for soccer operations—people have different names—these are highly experienced people who are full-time executives of the federations they work for.”The second new committee, the commercial committee, would oversee the USSF’s marketing, sponsorships and TV deals.“We don’t have that,” Cordeiro said. “In an organization this size, given all the potential conflicts of interest that you’re familiar with, we need some board oversight. It can’t be one or two people making deals.”Much of the aforementioned federation business currently is conducted through Soccer United Marketing, the MLS investor-owned company whose contract with the USSF expires in 2022. The bodies’ relationship has been the source of some controversy, especially as the North American Soccer League points to SUM as evidence of the alleged collusion between MLS and the USSF that’s driving the second-tier league’s antitrust lawsuit.That ongoing litigation (the U.S. Court of Appeals just conducted a hearing last Friday), along with a promotion-and-relegation complaint filed by the NASL’s Miami FC and NPSL’s Kingston Stockade to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, puts Cordeiro in a tough spot. Because he’s a board member with the defendant in both cases, he said he’s unable to discuss issues like pro league structure, sanctioning and support. They’re important, but off the table for the time being. The USSF election is in February. Meanwhile, Cordeiro’s platform calls for, “increase[d] support for professional leagues,” and it says he’ll be “working with all professional leagues, including the [NWSL] to help develop even stronger players, coaches and referees.”On a broader level, however, Cordeiro maintains that clarity and oversight are part of better governance. His platform promises “open, inclusive and transparent leadership.” And better governance is the key component of a “virtuous circle” that will help U.S. Soccer catch up with its peers, he said. It doesn’t just trail on the field. Fiscal year expenses of around $110 million are “probably five times where it was maybe a dozen years ago,” Cordeiro claimed, but still way behind the game’s global powers.“We need substantially more resources,” he said. “Germany or England—they’re over $500 million in annual expenditures. Even Spain, Italy and France are double or more where we’re at. They’re smaller economies, smaller populations, but it gives you a sense of the scope of those federations.

“By growing the [USSF’s] financial resources, you’re able to invest more in the federation’s activities, including all your members,” he continued. “That’s my fundamental point. To get to that next level, we’re going to have to transform this organization beyond where it’s at.”Hosting the 2026 World Cup (along with Mexico and Canada) and then the 2027 Women’s World Cup is part of Cordeiro’s plan. Strengthening U.S. Soccer’s relationships with members and potential members is another. He said that while there are around 3.5 million affiliated youth players, there are “three to four times that many outside [the USSF] umbrella.” Connecting with unaffiliated or under-financed youth and amateur organization will increase membership and interest. And that, along with favorable demographic trends, will help the federation lift the value of its properties and sponsorships, Cordeiro argued.“We’re the only sport that can transform itself in the next 10-20 years,” he said. “We need to change and we need to change right now, because I think we’re going through a period of history that will be unprecedented in favor of soccer. If you look at young people, the growth of the immigrant populations in this country—just the Hispanics alone, to name one large community—we haven’t been able to tap into those communities fully. To make soccer preeminent, one of the top one or two sports—not the top five—if we’re going to make the transformational job, we have the opportunity to do that in the next generation.”He calls his plan Mission 26/27, targeting the two World Cups the USA should host and the approximate time he thinks it’ll take to grow U.S. Soccer to a $500 million organization. Then, he reasons, the federation’s potential is about more than the much discussed $100 million-plus surplus. According to Cordeiro’s platform, it’s about full-time federation employees dedicated to serving youth and amateur members. It’s about “scholarships and grants” for youth players, subsidizing coaches and licensing programs, investing in existing amateur tournaments, and “working toward equal pay” for the U.S. women.“Women deserve to be treated equally and investing in our women’s teams is one of the best ways to grow the sport,” Cordeiro’s platform states.Then, he says, it’s about making way.“What I’m trying to do is put some structure into a large organization,” he said. “We—the board, the president—have a responsibility to make sure we have the right chief executive in that seat. Beneath the chief executive, there are director-level people [like the GMs]—experts in what they do—who should be an appointment, a hiring, by the CEO. The board needs to be involved, and maybe they board should have an opinion. That’s where the committees come in.“If you have the right governing structures in place that are institutionalized and where the board members are meaningfully involved, you’re getting all the benefit of their advice,” Cordeiro added. “I don’t look at [president] as a job for life. It’s a huge job. Very challenging, even as a part-time person. Making these governance changes permanent is not something you do overnight. From there, I think the changes will flow.”

Hope Solo Rips Into Carlos Cordeiro, Kathy Carter at U.S. Soccer Presidential Election

 

By AVI CREDITOR February 10, 2018

Hope Solo has never been one to mince words, and she used her platform during the U.S. Soccer election to air some grievances prior to the presidential vote to replace the outgoing Sunil Gulati.Each of the eight candidates was given five minutes to address the National Council at the Annual General Meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, and Solo’s was presented more as an explosive indictment on the establishment–embodied in her eyes by U.S. Soccer president-elect Carlos Cordeiro and Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter–as she implored voters to consider a significant change.

Solo took aim at both in an impassioned speech, which was in line with her platform during her campaign:

“For those of you who think the state of soccer today is good enough, then you should vote for more of the same,” Solo said. “The establishment is backing two candidates who represent continuity, who represent not change and who will deliver more of the same. Failure on the pitch, conflict and chaos off of it and not the progress that we need.”The two establishment candidates, Kathy Carter and Carlos Cordeiro, haven’t just been part of the system, they have created and shaped U.S. Soccer into what it is today. A vote for either one of them is a vote for the status quo: disunity, discord and more failure.”I was a player for 20 years, and I saw first-hand what Carlos Cordeiro’s idea of change is. You cannot, as a vice president, claim you are the lone voice for change while all of this happened under your watch. And you as delegates cannot buy that. He was part of a federation that generated millions of dollars off the backs of its players, and much of it off the back of its women’s players, who have been the economic engine of this federation for years, yet treated like second-class citizens.Solo then detailed a direct discrepancy in payment that she received for one year vs. that of U.S. men’s goalkeeper Tim Howard before continuing. “[Cordeiro] was part of a federation that could have been the first to pay its women equally,” Solo said. “Instead, that honor goes to Norway. While the U.S. women, the most successful team ever, has to force it through the court system. He was part of the same federation that time and time again approved unsafe playing conditions for the women and who still play on turf, while the men play on grass. He was part of a federation that thinks it’s acceptable for a player in the NWSL to make less than $10,000 a year and have to take a second or third job just to fulfill her dream of being a professional athlete. He was part of the same federation that leaves me with no health insurance, no retirement of any kind, after serving my country as the best in the world for 20 years. For 10 years, Carlos Cordeiro was in a position to create change, and he did nothing. He failed me, he failed my teammates and he failed the women of the NWSL.”Solo lambasted the federation for allowing the NWSL’s Boston Breakers to fold and said that growing the women’s game is “good business” before turning her attention and ire to Carter.”Yes I am passionate about equality … Yet the business women among the candidates, Kathy Carter, who proclaims that she is ‘all in’ on the women’s game, never once showed any kind of support for us during our fight for equal pay. As the highest ranking female soccer executive in America, whose voice could have meant something, Kathy Carter’s voice was silent. She calls for equal pay and transparency, yet when the two United States senators asked Soccer United Marketing under Kathy Carter for a breakdown of revenue for the men’s and women’s national teams, she refused. We are better than this.” The speech evidently didn’t resonate among the voting electorate. The two candidates combined to receive almost three quarters of the vote on the first ballot and were the runaway leaders during the election process.

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2/9/18  Indy 11 Adds Returning Players, Indy MLS Draftees, Champions League Returns Tues/Wed, 

Our Indy 11 have added some well known and loved players in the last few days as the roster begins to take shape with just 6 weeks until the new USL season kicks off.  Brad Ring and Ben Speas are back on the roster along with a bunch of new guys.  The Schedule is still coming along – interesting to see some 12 noon Saturday games sliding in.  Not sure that is going to fill the new setting at the Luke.  I am excited for the Wed night, May 2 7 pm match-up with FC Cincy – though I am not sure why they aren’t playing that game on a weekend when folks can travel and they could possibly filled the house? Not sure I am getting this so far – we’ll see.

Indiana well-represented at 2018 MLS SuperDraft

Given that Indiana, Butler and Notre Dame all played in the NCAA Men’s Soccer tourney with IU losing 1-0 in extra time to Stanford, it comes as no surprise that the three schools were well-represented during the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft last weekend in Philadelphia. Indiana forward Mason Toye was selected 7th overall by Minnesota United FC. Toye was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2017 after scoring 10 goals in 25 games to lead the Hoosiers. Notre Dame Men’s Soccer forward Jon Gallagher was selected 14th overall by Atlanta United FC. Gallagher led the Irish with 13 goals in 20 appearances in 2017.  Of course former Carmel Dad’s and Carmel High Goalkeeper – Butler  goalkeeper Eric Dick was selected 13th overall by Sporting Kansas City. With his selection, Dick became the highest-drafted Butler player in program history. He was named the 2017 Big East Goalkeeper of the Year while also earning All-Big-East first team honors.  Also locally – former Carmel Dad’s Club player and Guerin Basketball star Cam Lindley was traded and signed by the Fire to Orlando City.  Lindley was ACC Midfielder of the Year •  First Team All-ACC •  MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist and he Led the team in total points with 27 and while scoring seven goals and 13 assists in his sophomore season at North Carolina.

Looking at the games this weekend and next week we start with Champions League Sweet 16 returning Tues/Wed on Fox Sports 1 & 2.  Back to back finalist Juventus and legendary goalkeeper Buffon host EPL squad Tottenham on Tuesday 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1, while Man City travels to Basel same time on FS2.  Wednesday is the SHOWDOWN as PSG and Neymar along with former Real midfielder Angel Di Maria travel to a struggling Real Madrid at 2:45 on FS1.  Portugal champ Porto hosts Liverpool in the other game on FS2 same time.  (Anyone up for gathering to watch??)  I like Juve, Man City, Liverpool and I think PSG to Advance.  (I WILL UPDATE WITH FULL PREVIEWS BY MONDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE THE GAMES START ONLINE) 

Saturday brings us the North London Darby – with Tottenham hosting the revamped Arsenal at 7:30 am on CNBC.  Later US defender Geoff Cameron and Stoke City host Brighton at 10 am on CNBC, while US Star Pulisic and German 2nd place team Dortmund host Bobby Wood and Hamburger at 9:30 am on FS2.   Man City and Leicester City wind up the day Sat with a 12:30 match on NBC.   Sunday we get New Castle and US Deandre Yedlin at 9;15 am on NBCSN, while Barca travels to Getafe at 10:15 am on beIN Sport and Southhampton hosts Liverpool at 11:30 am on NBCSN.

Of course the vote for a new US soccer president comes this weekend – at the national coaches convention – I have really tried to stay clear of this – I am not sure who I like.  (see stories below)  But whoever wins has a lot of work in front of them – as things in US soccer are a bit disjointed to say the least right now. Carmel FC – folks – the CFC Spirit Items and Uniforms for Spring Players order link is open NOW!

Indy 11

Schedule Starts to Come Together

Get Your Tickets now

Indy 11 Re-signs Brad Ring and Ben Speas to Roster

Indy 11 Roster Taking Shape

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Goalkeeping

Insane Save by Jasper Cillessen Backup GK for Barcelona vs Valencia Thurs

Top Saves of the week – EPL Week 23

Tim Howard on 6 Attributes of a Great Keeper

USA

US Soccer Election – No Certainty – SI – Grant Wahl

Guide to Who Will Win the US Soccer Election – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Behind the Scenes at US Soccer Election- ESPN the Mag – Bruce Schoenfield

US Soccer Prez Candidates – Q & A – ESPNFC

Pulisic Says Not Looking to Move Anytime Soon

Man United & Liverpool Race to Sign US Pulisic this summer 

Report – Bayern eyes Pulisic as replacement for Robben and Ribery SI

US Goal to Win the World Cup – Yedlin

US Johannson scores again for Werder Bremen

WORLD

Transfers who won and who lost by league? – ESPNFC

What’s Wrong with Chelsea? Pro Soccer Talk – Joe Prince Wright

Analyzing the Top 4 and who they still have to play in the EPL

Salah Stunning for Liverpool

Karius – tries to lock down the Reds GK spot

UCL

Sanchez, Giroud, Van Dijk all make EPL UCL Rosters

PSG Silva rather Face Real than Barca next

Hummels says Bayern Can’t win UCL

Neymar Took a Chance Moving to PSG

Spurs vs Juve preview

Players Who Have Played Most Games without UCL Championship?

MLS

Miami and Beckham gets Expansion team

Orlando City rips Troublemaker Larin for Besiktas exit

MLS trades and Transfers

GAMES ON TV 

Fri, Feb 9

2:30 pm be IN sport Fiorentina vs Juventus 

Sat, Feb 10 

7:30 am CNBC               Tottenham vs Arsenal

9:30 am FS 2                  Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hamburger 

10 am CNBC                    Stoke City (Cameron) vs Brighton 

11 am beIN Sport       Toulous vs PSG

12:30 pm NBC               Man City vs Leicester City 

12:30 FS2                                                 Bayern Munich vs Schalke 

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Real Sociadad

Sun, Feb 11 

9:15 am NBcSN            Man United vs New Castle (Yedlin)

9:3 am FS1                      Stuggart vs Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson) 

10:15 am bEIN Sport                        Barcelona vs Getafe

11:30 am NBCSN         Southhampton vs Liverpool

Sun, Feb 12

3 pm NBCSN                   Chelsea vs West Brom

Tues, Feb 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Basel vs Man City 

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Juventus vs Tottenham 

Weds, Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Real Madrid vs PSG  

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Porto vs Liverpool 

Sat, Feb 17

FA Cup Weekend

Tues, Feb 20 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Bayern Munich vs Besiktas  

2:45 pm FS 2                  Chelsea vs Barcelona 

Weds, Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Sevilla vs Man United                   

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Roma vs Shakhtar 

Thurs, Mar 1

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

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  PSG vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool vs Porto

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham  vs Juventus

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Man United vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Shakhtar  vs Roma

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Besiktas  vs  Bayern Munich

2:45 pm FS 2                  Barcelona  vs Chelsea

EPL 2018 Schedule  

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

Butler & Former Carmel High goalie Eric Dick selected in MLS Draft

January 23, 2018

Eric Dick protects the net for the Bulldogs last season. Dick was the 13th overall pick of the MLS draft on Jan. 19. Collegian file photo.

JOSHUA DOERING | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR Butler Collegian  | jdoering@butler.edu

It was supposed to be a day Eric Dick would remember for the rest of his life. On Jan. 19, the former Butler goalie was selected as the 13th pick in the 2018 Major League Soccer Superdraft by Sporting Kansas City.He almost missed the whole thing. His flight to Baltimore was delayed. It took almost another two hours to drive to Philadelphia, where the draft took place.By the time he finally got there, the draft was in progress and the room was full. Dick had to explain who he was to even get in.Less than half an hour later, he walked across the stage and shook MLS commissioner Don Garber’s hand.“Quite honestly, I blacked out a little bit, just in shock,” Dick, who was born near Kansas City, said. “I walked up there, I was all smiles, obviously. This is a dream come true and honestly unexpected. Very, very unexpected.”Coming into the draft, Dick said he had no idea Sporting Kansas City was interested. They watched him play with Butler, as well as with the Oklahoma City Energy U-23 team in the Premier Development League over the summer.“They do their research, I guess,” Dick said. “I think that’s why they really played it close to their chest and really didn’t interview me because I guess they saw enough through that.”After redshirting the 2013 season, he played in 71 of a possible 77 games for the Bulldogs, conceding only 68 goals. The Bulldogs made NCAA tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017 with Dick in net.   In his final season at Butler, Dick was named a team captain, and helped lead the Bulldogs to their first Big East regular season championship and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. He was named a United Soccer Coaches first team All-American and Big East Goalkeeper of the Year.“I haven’t met a better shot stopper, better leader, better man who has been so passionate about the game of soccer,” Eric Leonard, who played all four seasons at Butler with Dick, said.Prior to the draft, Dick participated in the MLS combine from Jan. 11 through Jan. 17. The combine consists of interviews, physical testing and full-field scrimmages so MLS teams can better evaluate players.He is the first Bulldog picked in the opening round of the MLS draft since Zach Steinberger in 2015, who currently plays for Jacksonville Armada of the North American Soccer League.Since entering the MLS in 1996, the Kansas City franchise has won two MLS Cups and four U.S. Open Cups.Of those six championships, four came under current head coach Peter Vermes, who took over the team in 2009. Sporting Kansas City has qualified for the MLS playoffs seven consecutive seasons.Dick said he will probably spend the 2018 season training with Sporting Kansas City and also play with their reserve team, Swope Park Rangers. Swope Park Rangers play in the United Soccer League, the second tier of American soccer.“It was a relief,” he said. “You know, it was all emotions. All good, but all emotions.”Dick and the rest of Sporting Kansas City start their 2018 campaign at home against New York City Football Club on March 4.“They are getting one of the most unique personalities I’ve ever met and just a freak of a goalie,” Jared Timmer, Dick’s teammate at Butler, said. “That’s what Sporting Kansas City is getting.”

Who will win the USSF presidential election on Feb. 10? (updated)

4:27 PM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

  • The most contentious U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election in recent memory has reached the homestretch. This Saturday, the USSF’s National Council will gather in Orlando and vote who will lead the organization for the next four years. The only certainty is that it won’t be current president Sunil Gulati, who declined to run for re-election.

Hoping to succeed him are eight candidates: Half are former professional players, while the backgrounds of the other four lean more toward the business side. There are establishment candidate and rank outsiders, which makes for a fragmented and fluid vote that seems destined to go to multiple ballots.

We reviewed their progress back in December but, with under a week to go, here’s a look at the candidates and their respective chances of victory. (And if you want to know exactly how the election works, click here.)

Kathy Carter

Chances of winning: 25 percent (up from 23) | Q&A

Carter is among those who view the position of president as less of an executive position and more of a chairperson of the board, and she wants to open up the bid process for marketing partners. She wants to bring more diversity to executive-level positions within the USSF and create a technical department to manage on-field aspects, including the hiring of coaches. She wants to go “all-in” on the women’s game and stabilize the NWSL. Perhaps most controversially, Carter wants to form an independent commission, headed by sports executive Casey Wasserman, to examine every aspect of player development.

Carter enters the final days of the race with a built-in base of support from MLS, whose delegates comprise 14.5 percent of the vote. Her challenge remains convincing voters outside of that core support that she is the best candidate to lead the USSF forward. Carter has managed to pick off a few state associations, but the athletes council, which traditionally votes as a bloc and accounts for 20 percent of the vote, will have a huge say as to her chances of success.

Update: It appears that Carter is gaining a bit of separation. ESPN FC can confirm an SI.com report that the three votes from the NWSL (4.6 percent of the total weighted vote) will go for Carter. There are still questions as to whether the bloc-vote strategy of the Athletes Council will actually be adopted but if that approach is taken, a single ballot election — once thought to be highly unlikely — could occur with Carter the beneficiary. If not, that means multiple ballots and more uncertainty given the number of moving parts.

Carlos Cordeiro

Chances of winning: 23 percent | Q&A

Cordeiro wants to engage in a considerable restructuring of the USSF, which starts with making the office of president more a chairperson of the board role, with the incumbent working more collaboratively with the board of directors. Cordeiro wants to create a new technical department to oversee all on-field aspects, including the hiring of coaches. He wants to appoint an independent USSF board member to oversee the awarding of future commercial rights contracts. And Cordeiro seeks to make the game more affordable for players and coaches by increasing scholarships and grants.

In terms of his chances, Cordeiro is considered to be among the favorites. As a sitting USSF vice president, he is more of an establishment candidate but carries less baggage than Carter and will provide a level of comfort to those leaning toward a more business-oriented candidate.

Kyle Martino

Chances of winning: 19 percent (up from 17) | Q&A

Martino’s platform consists of three planks. The first involves making the USSF more transparent, while making the presidency a paid position. He is also emphasizing equality, which includes making the game more accessible for kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as better treatment of the women’s national team. The third is titled “Progress” and includes clarifying the youth player path, creating an environment for more collaboration among the various youth soccer stakeholders, as well as a gradual path towards implementing a system of promotion/relegation at the pro level.

Martino has made some headway in the last month and his tactic of taking on establishment candidates has broadened his appeal to a degree. The sense among delegates that ESPN FC has spoken to is that he has moved into the top tier of candidates.

Update: Martino’s momentum is continuing but he absolutely must secure the votes on the Athletes Council to have any shot of winning. He may also be viewed as a compromise candidate for those disinclined to vote for Carter or Cordeiro.

Eric Wynalda

Chances of winning: 18 percent | Q&A

Wynalda is the champion of the anti-establishment wing, advocating for — among other things — a path to promotion and relegation, moving MLS to a winter calendar, renegotiating the CBA for the U.S. women’s national team, and securing a media rights deal similar to that proposed by MP & Silva back in September. He wants to use an endowment fund to make the game more affordable for coaches and players, as well as educate parents new to the game. And Wynalda wants the relationship with SUM to be “thoroughly vetted and reviewed” to make sure that the USSF is maximizing its take from commercial rights deals.

Wynalda’s campaign had been gaining some momentum among voters on the adult and youth councils, but that seems to have stalled in recent weeks. That said, in a crowded field with a fragmented electorate, he remains a force in the race.

Update: Now hearing that Wynalda’s slide has abated. Whether that’s wishful thinking or a last spasm of support is still difficult to tell.

Steve Gans

Chances of winning: 11 percent (down from 15) | Q&A

While Gans is among the proponents for improved corporate governance, a separate search committee for the next men’s national team coach, and equality and greater support for the women’s game, much of his platform’s focus is on revamping the youth system. He is proposing that the development academy be re-evaluated and wants to use part of U.S. Soccer’s $130 million surplus to make the game more affordable. He wants to solve what he calls “the counterproductive competition” among various youth sanctioning bodies. Gans is also keen to give the state associations at both the youth and adult levels more say in how they are run.

Gans’ advantage heading into the final week is that he has few negatives (if any) and could emerge as a compromise candidate if the election goes to multiple ballots, which seems likely. However, it still looks like he has some ground to make up.

Update: As the race coalesces around Carter and Cordeiro, and perhaps even Martino, it’s becoming more difficult for Gans to make any headway.

Mike Winograd

Chances of winning: 3 percent | Q&A

Winograd is not of the belief that everything in the system needs to be ripped up. His platform contains three major planks: transparency by which critical decisions are made, addressing the inequities that the women’s national team faces, and tackling the costs affecting coaching education and youth soccer. He also want to take a “fresh look” at youth soccer’s organizational structure on a state-by-state basis. Where Winograd sets himself apart is a novel, non-binary way of implementing promotion/relegation via “guest spots” and guaranteed positions for MLS teams. At the very least, it shows some out-of-the-box thinking.

Despite limited resources, Winograd has been effective in raising his profile and communicating his ideas effectively over the past month. Will he win this election? No, but he just may set the stage for greater involvement in the USSF down the road.

Hope Solo

Chances of winning: < 1 percent | Link to Q&A

The planks of Solo’s platform consist of creating a winning soccer culture, pushing for equal pay for the women’s national team and all women in the USSF workplace, addressing the pay-to-play issue in youth soccer and making the game accessible to all. She is pushing for organizational, operational and financial governance transparency. Along the way, Solo has been highly critical of what she described as the USSF’s approach of valuing profits above all else.

Solo has done her best to be a disruptive force in the election. Solo has also been blunt in her belief that the USSF is failing in its mission, going so far as to file a complaint with the U.S. Olympic Committee. That said, she stands next to no chance of winning.

Paul Caligiuri

Chances of winning: < 1 percent | Link to Q&A

Caligiuri’s ideas for revamping youth development include creating a performance development task force in every state, as well as youth development training centers at the state and national level. He is also advocating that there be more diversity in the USSF’s ranks, as well as re-establishing links with the amateur game at the adult level. Caligiuri also wants to improve player identification by making more use of the Olympic Development Program and U.S. Club Soccer’s id2 program.

Caligiuri retains considerable name recognition from his time as a player and he does have some intriguing ideas, but, in a crowded field, his candidacy has been unable to get much traction.

Behind the scenes of the U.S. Soccer election7:00 AM ETBruce Schoenfeld, ESPN the Magazine

  • hen Sunil Gulati steps to a podium in a Toronto hotel one December morning, Kyle Martino can’t hide his smirk. Nobody knows this man,Martino thinks. Nobody in America has ever seen him on television. Nobody would recognize him if they did. And isn’t that exactly the problem with soccer in this country?

Gulati is the president of the United States Soccer Federation, an elected but unpaid position that he has occupied since 2006. To Martino, a former MLS player who works as a studio analyst on NBC’s English Premier League telecasts, the leader of his sport should be as prominent as the commissioner of the NBA or the NFL. “You know who Roger Goodell is,” he’d insisted earlier that morning. “You know who Adam Silver is. I know who those guys are and I don’t even watch their sports.Standing in the back of the ballroom, on the second floor of the Westin Harbour Castle, his white dress shirt carefully untucked, Martino yearns to be the face of American soccer, albeit an unshaven one. With that in mind, he has taken a leave from his job and sold his stake in a Spanish team to run for USSF president.In front of him, sitting demurely in one of the metal folding chairs facing the podium, another aspiring USSF chief executive stares at Gulati with rapt attention. Kathy Carter, 48, runs Soccer United Marketing, which generates millions of dollars annually for MLS. Considered the establishment’s preferred candidate, she entered the room moments before alongside Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber. The rumor circulating the ballroom is that she even flew to Toronto on Garber’s plane, though that turns out to be untrue. It isn’t lost on Martino that he is standing at the back of the room and Carter is sitting at the front of it. “Nobody,” he whispers as the news conference begins, “even told me that this was happening.”Gulati is there to report on the 2026 World Cup bid the United States is mounting in conjunction with Canada and Mexico. He explains that Televisa network, which owns Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, demanded that its country stage the tournament’s opening game, second in prominence only to the final. Gulati refused to commit, he says. Rather, he threatened to withdraw from the bid and leave Mexico and Canada on their own.This, it turns out, is supposed to be a joke. But as if that doesn’t make him seem like enough of a caricature of the entitled American, he adds a punch line that sums up everything that his critics can’t abide about him, despite the sizable advances in many areas that U.S. soccer has made during his USSF tenure. “I told them,” he says, “‘You can’t fly through U.S. airspace.'”veryone in the room is silent.

The USSF hasn’t held a contested election since 1999, but this one is making up for lost time. Besides Martino and Carter, six other aspiring presidents — three former U.S. World Cup players, two lawyers, and the sitting USSF VP — have been trolling constituent groups around the country for votes, which will be tallied at the organization’s convention in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday.This wouldn’t be happening, it is safe to say, if not for perhaps the worst loss in American sports history. Last October, the U.S. men’s national team traveled to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, known best for steel drums and the world’s hottest peppers. To secure a place in this summer’s World Cup, the U.S. needed only a draw against players who compete in lower-level American leagues, or for Trinidadian teams with names (W Connection, Club Sando) that sound like somewhere you’d go looking for a hookup on a Friday night.

Forget beating Brazil or Germany this summer in Russia; the U.S. couldn’t get out of CONCACAF, which consists of the nations between Canada and Panama and countries in the Caribbean. Instead, the Americans delighted dragon-slayers everywhere by losing to a country with roughly 1/320th of its population and 1/900th of its GDP. As a result, the U.S. will miss the tournament this summer for the first time since 1986, when the country didn’t even have a league. The estimated financial cost of that failure is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The cost in interest to the sport in America is incalculable.Way back in April, when the most meaningful event in its athletic history was still a twinkle in Trinidad’s eye, a Boston attorney named Steve Gans — who played soccer in college and has helped coach and run youth teams — declared his intention to run against Gulati for the presidency. Back then, the notion of unseating a three-term incumbent seemed fanciful. But the Trinidad loss changed everything. “If we had qualified for the World Cup, do you think any impetus for change would have existed?” Martino says now. “I can tell you that if we had qualified, Sunil would be the president for the next four years. And we would have lost an opportunity to finally elect someone who has a soccer vision.”

But who? In the weeks after the failure to qualify, it became clear that heads would need to roll, and that one of them would be Gulati’s. The Monday before he left for Toronto, Gulati acknowledged that reality with a prepared statement that he would not be a candidate for what would have been his fourth term.And that’s when the free-for-all began.

Given the uncertain state of American soccer, it seems appropriate that the team with home-field advantage in the title game of our national league is Canadian. On this MLS Cup morning, the relationship that each of the major candidates has with the existing power structure can be inferred by his or her physical distance from Gulati, who will finish the World Cup news conference in a few minutes by telling a circle of reporters that most of the candidates running to replace him aren’t up to the job.

As Carter nods and Martino looks pained, Carlos Cordeiro is holding an earnest — if not exactly necessary — conversation in the lobby. Cordeiro is vice chairman of the 2026 bid. He has spent hours helping finalize the details of the complicated, three-nation plan. But he has also acted as Gulati’s right-hand man for the past two years. Desperate to avoid questions about why he declared his candidacy while Gulati was still evaluating his own, uneasy about a public viewing of the complicated state of his friendship with the discredited president, he has created a reason to stay downstairs. He never appears at the news conference.

Now 61, Cordeiro joined the USSF as an independent director in 2007. A former Goldman Sachs executive with a Harvard pedigree, he’s almost never seen without a business suit. His challenge is to distance himself from Gulati while simultaneously defending his role in Gulati’s administration, which is pretty much his only tangible qualification for the position. As someone who hasn’t played in a competitive match or coached a team at any level, he has to fend off accusations from the other candidates that he knows nothing about the sport.

The most vociferous of those candidates is Eric Wynalda, the three-time World Cup participant and former broadcaster. Of all the campaigns, his has been the most visible and voluble, at least to fans who use Twitter or listen to podcasts or walk through airports. A proponent of promotion and relegation, shelving the playoffs, and playing games in domes during the winter, Wynalda is this election’s version of a populist. He’d rather have an intense conversation with someone who disagrees with him, even if that person happens to be a cab driver, than attend an official event. He was conspicuous at the hotel all morning, but now nobody knows where he has gone.

There are three longshot candidates: former standout players Hope Solo and Paul Caligiuri, and the New York lawyer Michael Winograd. They’re so far removed from the center of power that they’re off the radar. And Gans? He’s tending to business back in Boston, monitoring the proceedings in Toronto through texts. If Gulati is the USSF equivalent of Lyndon Johnson, the incumbent who decides under pressure not to run again, Gans is this election’s Eugene McCarthy. He challenged the sitting president when it wasn’t politically expedient, then lost the spotlight to the big names who jumped in as soon as it was. (In this analogy, Martino — handsome, young, articulate, opportunistic — represents Bobby Kennedy. And Cordeiro, the sitting VP, is a spot-on Hubert Humphrey.)

After the news conference, the candidates converge on the lobby, detailing their visions of the soccer universe to anyone who will listen. “It’s arrogant to say that we just had a business guy in there who made a lot of mistakes, so we’re going to put another business guy in there,” says Martino, who is the son-in-law of the actor and progressive political activist Susan Sarandon. He’s talking about Cordeiro, about Carter, maybe about Gans. “Simply by osmosis, businessmen in other countries are soccer guys,” he adds. “That’s not true here.”

Martino pitches his notion of a USSF president who gets paid, as Goodell and Silver do. That will elicit an eye roll from Cordeiro, who points out that the USSF charter gives its president the role of board chairman, not chief executive. Martino, he says, is campaigning for a job that doesn’t exist.Carter’s role as a crucial revenue-producer for MLS would seem to be an impediment to simultaneously running the organization that oversees the league. Martino made that point in a news release when Carter announced her candidacy, which happened the day after Gulati dropped out: timing that seemed suspiciously choreographed. “Except that I do represent change,” she protests now. “I haven’t actually worked inside the federation. I’ve worked on behalf of the federation, but not inside it. I haven’t been in the youth soccer space for 25 years.” She shrugs off the perception that she is Gulati’s anointed successor as misinformation being spread by desperate rivals. “People can take all the shots they want,” she says. “I’m going to stay above it. I appreciate everybody’s passion. Twenty years ago, this all would have been met with indifference.”In a far corner of the lobby in Toronto, where Wynalda and Martino have converged in a conversation with a former Fox executive, such passion has spilled over into unpleasantness. Earlier, Martino confided that Wynalda has been showing disdain for him in interviews, mocking the level of soccer that he managed to achieve during his playing career. That has left Martino in no mood for cordial discussion. When Wynalda admits that he won’t be attending the game that afternoon, in part because he disapproves of the whole concept of a championship game deciding the winner of a domestic league, Martino can’t hide a sneer.”We’ll miss you,” he says.”No, you won’t,” Wynalda replies, smiling.Martino doesn’t smile. “We both know that I won’t,” he says.

You don’t need to own an original Giorgio Chinaglia bobblehead to realize that soccer has evolved differently in the U.S. than everywhere else. By the time that youth soccer started booming in America in the late 1960s, baseball, football, basketball and hockey were established. Their overlapping schedules blanketed the calendar year. Soccer had to wedge itself in, one more passenger pushing into a car that already felt crowded.

So a summer season was adopted to avoid the Super Bowl. Playoffs were created to make fans feel comfortable with the sport. The possibility of relegation or promotion, which motivates ambitious small clubs around the world, was deemed too risky to attract the wealthy investors that a U.S. league required. Expansion franchises were created, then awarded nicknames tested by focus groups. Resources were pooled, profits shared.

All those accommodations, Wynalda believes, has left us with soccer that only vaguely resembles what the world plays. “Being Americans, we felt that we could have a different schedule than the rest of the world, we could have a different plan, and it would magically happen,” he says. “But we’ve never done soccer right in this country.” Wynalda argues that we still haven’t taken the steps to foment a genuine American soccer culture. “If you go to a party, and you walk through the front door, and you walk around the perimeter of the room and you never have a drink and you never talk to anybody, did you really go to the party?” he asks. “We think we’ve been to the party. We haven’t been to the party.”

It isn’t lost on Wynalda that soccer is more popular in the United States now than ever before, by an order of magnitude. Games from half a dozen European leagues fill weekend mornings. MLS is thriving, with expansion hopefuls offering, according to one league owner, “not just $100 million dollars for a team, but hundreds of millions.” The world’s most important clubs, engaged in a pitched battle over the U.S. market, have invested in offices and academies and even shares of franchises. In America, now, soccer matters.

And in soccer, America matters. But walk into an elementary school nearly anywhere in the country and you’ll see far more Manchester United and Barcelona shirts than those of any MLS franchise, or even every MLS franchise put together. Most American fans enjoy the sport by tuning into foreign clubs, maybe shouting out the chants and the songs, then sitting down to two hours of televised entertainment. That makes sense because it’s also the way most Americans access the NFL and NBA; it doesn’t matter, it turns out, if your favorite team is halfway across the state, they country or the world. “I think we’re on the cusp, but we’re still below most other countries,” Cordeiro acknowledges. “But remember, our league is only 20 years old.”

The USSF, on the other hand, has been around since 1913. Until only a few years ago, it was led by well-meaning dilettantes. “When I started,” says Bob Contiguglia, the Denver physician who served as president from 1998 to 2006, “the referee program was run from a shoebox in someone’s basement. We had to borrow money to send the women to the World Cup.” The $12 million budget Contiguglia inherited grew to $52 million by the time he left. Now it’s nudging $150 million. That’s still less than half that of the major European nations, though, and one-third of Germany’s or England’s.

A paid CEO runs U.S. Soccer’s business affairs, but leadership comes from the president. Gulati, a lecturer on economics at Columbia, has guided the organization through its greatest period of growth and advancement: selling out stadiums, pleasing sponsors, making money. Even his strongest critics acknowledge that he deserves much of the credit for the sport’s success over the past decade, including a women’s national team that still ranks as the world’s best, a compelling World Cup bid that seems likely to bring much of the 2026 event to American soil and a development system that is turning out better players at the top of the pyramid than ever before.But that has come, critics say, at the expense of the sport itself. “We are creating technically sound players who have no joy,” Gans says. To him, the USSF-sanctioned academy system, meant to identify and support elite players, is doing more harm than good. “People sitting in some boardroom say, ‘This will make a kid more professional,’ ” he says. “They send down an edict from 30,000 feet. And they couldn’t be more wrong in most of their decisions.”Recently, several of those decisions combined to alienate one of America’s most promising prospects. Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Gonzalez is a California-born midfielder with Mexican parents who plays for a club team in Monterrey. When he was left off the U.S. roster for a recent friendly against Portugal, nobody bothered to give him an explanation. In part because of that, Gonzalez has decided that, for the rest of his international career, he will compete for Mexico. “He obviously didn’t feel enough love from the USSF,” says Gans, who sees it as emblematic of the organization’s emotional disconnect with young players in general and young Hispanic players in particular. “How is it that we lost a kid like that? How could we let that happen?”Growing up in Massachusetts, Gans played until he couldn’t play anymore, getting as far as a trial with the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Baltimore Blast. Then he turned his attention to his sons, one of whom now stars at Brandeis. “You nurture your kids, and they play and play, and you see the joy being taken out of it,” he says recently while watching a match from a bar in Boston, his voice husky with emotion. “And one day, you look up and it’s gone. This passion that my father passed down to me and I passed down to my boys? It’s gone.”Gans snaps back into campaign mode. “There has to be a better way,” he says.

At their home stadium that Saturday evening in December, Toronto FC wins its first MLS title. The game is compelling, as emotional in its way as a top European league’s cup final. There isn’t nearly as much history involved, of course, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the fans shouting in the misty darkness.Afterward, there’s a crush in the hospitality tent, and a long wait for the buses that are shuttling VIPs back to the hotel. Cordeiro arrives with executives from Canadian and Mexican soccer and they prepare to be there awhile. But moments later, Gulati strides in and announces that he has a car. The other two men, who have been working with Gulati for years, stand up to leave. Cordeiro lingers, unsure if the offer applies to him. As he departs, Gulati waves an arm in Cordeiro’s direction, as if to say that even if Cordeiro did declare himself a candidate while Gulati was still considering his own options, he still won’t abandon his former acolyte to trays of half-eaten canapes and grindingly loud music. “Come on,” he says.That night, Cordeiro again holds court in the hotel lobby. Indian-born, like Gulati, but of Portuguese and Colombian descent, he and his three siblings were raised by their mother in Miami after their father died in a car accident. Following business school, he embarked on a career in banking and venture capital, having learned long before to take nothing for granted. A lifelong bachelor, he poured his passion into business. In 2007, he turned to soccer. Before becoming vice president, he was USSF treasurer and chaired its budget committee. He’s also a powerful voice in CONCACAF and FIFA. It’s true that he hasn’t ever worn cleats in a game that matters. But his knowledge of the inner workings of international football is second only to Gulati’s.For two hours, he sips cabernet and connects with USSF delegates who wander past. He’s enough of an insider to know many of them, enough of an innate politician to strike the right notes with each. “There are different presidents for different times,” he says at one point. “Sunil’s emphasis was with the elites. With the exception of this year, that wasn’t bad. And I’m part of that, and I’m proud of it. But when I talk to the grassroots, I can tell you that they feel left behind.”

“We can fix it,” he says. “But it takes leadership. And if we fix our youth, we may well end up with — surprise, surprise — better national teams. That’s how it works.” The relief around the table is almost palpable. For the first time, it seems, someone is giving them a reasonable way out of this mess, a vision familiar enough to feel comfortable, but pointed toward 2026 and beyond.Later, Contiguglia joins the table. Then John Collins, the only board member who doesn’t represent a specific USSF constituency, pulls up a chair. The mood is jovial, less like a sports event than a bunch of business colleagues unwinding after doing a deal. Cordeiro sits at the end of the table, mostly letting others do the talking, looking utterly at ease. It’s getting late, and there’s a USSF committee meeting to attend the next morning.But for now, he flags down the server. There’s still time for one more round.

Christian Pulisic not looking to move to ‘unbelievable’ Premier League

SPN staff

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic has told ESPN FC that he has remained in contact with former teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and that he’s flattered to hear talk of a potential move to the Premier League.The United States international, speaking in London at Nike’s 20th anniversary celebration of the Mercurial boot, has been linked to both Liverpool and Manchester United — his favourite club as a child. And while Pulisic acknowledged that Aubameyang’s decision to leave for Arsenal on transfer deadline day on Jan. 31 was partly fuelled by a desire to reunite with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he is not mmediately looking to move to England.”Of course, the Premier League is an unbelievable league,” Pulisic said. “You never know in football what can happen, so right now, I’m focused with Dortmund, and yeah, that’s that.”Dortmund are fourth in the Bundesliga and among several clubs chasing the three remaining Champions League spots, with Bayern Munich already 18 points clear of second-place Bayer Leverkusen and Dortmund one point behind them.The 19-year-old said with the transfer window now closed, it will be up to the players to focus on a strong run-in so they can secure qualification for the Champions League.”[The transfer window] was definitely kind of a whirlwind,” Pulisic said. “Every day, you hear something different in the media or whatever, something like that, but now that it’s over, our team has been having kind of a rough go of things lately. So many different coaches in the last few months, but yeah, right now, we’ve just got to turn that around and focus on ourselves.”That will have to be done without Aubameyang, who had frequently been the subject of transfer rumours until Arsenal set a club record with a £56 million move for the Gabon international.

Pulisic said Aubameyang’s presence around the club will be missed — and that the forward was personally responsible for helping Pulisic adjust to life in the Bundesliga.”I think you guys know what type of guy he is,” Pulisic said. “He shows that. But, what I think you guys really don’t know is just how nice of a character he is and how much he cares and how hard he works. I mean, he brought me along so much as a player and helped me and guided me, and he’s been such a great guy. Obviously, we’re sad to lose him, but I’m excited to see what he does.”As someone who has worn Nike’s Mercurial boot his “whole career,” Pulisic was excited to be invited by the company to partake in the anniversary celebration in southeast London.Also among those in attendance was Neymar, who, despite his accolades in recent years, had not achieved the international success that Pulisic has before turning 20.Pulisic said that the comparisons with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo make him feel “like the luckiest kid in the world,” but that he has been able to put his accomplishments in perspective because of his family and friends.”My family, and just the people around me in my life — you know, my friends, they take care of me, and whenever I’m too high, they bring me right down and when I’m too low, they pick me up,” Pulisic said. “I’ve kind of had a perfect balance of that and I’ve just been able to go through it all with the people I love.”And although missing out on participating in the World Cup this summer with the United States has been difficult, Pulisic said that failure has spurred his motivation to continue to play well going forward.”I’m trying to have a great season — not only for myself, but hopefully, as a team, we can come together and fight for a Champions League spot,” he added. “Of course, [it’s been] disappointing with the national team, but basically, I just kind of want to be a leader for that team and help them grow. Hopefully, we can come a long way and be ready for the next World Cup.”

Report: Bayern Munich Eyes Pulisic, Bailey as Robben, Ribery Replacements

 

February 08, 2018

undesliga champions Bayern Munich are said to be plotting a shrewd succession plan as they prepare for life without star wide men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.The pair can still compete at a high level, yet Robben is already 34, while Ribery will be turning 35 in April.According to German source Kicker, the Allianz Arena side have eyed Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic and Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey as potential replacements.Pulisic, who has been one of the most impressive youngsters in Europe over the past year-and-a-half or so, is one of Dortmund’s most prized possessions. The 19-year-old American attacker has been at Signal Iduna Park since 2015 and signed a new contract last January, which Dortmund are hoping will keep him in their grasp at least 2021.He was a target for Liverpool last summer, with Jurgen Klopp a huge admirer of his talent, but the German side have been able to hold on to him up until this point.Bailey, meanwhile, joined Leverkusen last year after spending two years in Belgium with Genk. The Jamaican ace is on fire in the Bundesliga this season, having scored eight goals and assisted five in just 14 starts for his club.He is also one of the most sought-out players on the continent and is already valued at £100m, a sum Bayern would certainly frown at.Alternatively, though, the Bavarian giants could continue to groom Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry for the roles. The due have already shown that they have what it takes to shine on the big stage and would save the club a fair amount of cash.

Report: Liverpool Favored Over Man United to Sign Christian Pulisic

By 90MIN February 06, 2018

Mancheter United and Liverpool are set to battle for the signature of in-demand Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, the Sun have reported.The 19-year-old has also been linked with a move to Bayern Munich, who are likely to compete with the two Premier League clubs in any future transfer dealings.The Sun, however, claim that Liverpool “have been heavily linked with him and remain favorites to make a move”.The Reds still have significant funds remaining from the club record sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona last monthThey have identified Pulisic as an ideal replacement for the Brazilian, although United and Bayern could still thwart their attempts to sign the youngster.The USA international has made 17 starts in the Bundesliga so far this season, scoring three goals and providing two assists.He is under contract with Dortmund until 2020, but interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs could see him face an imminent exit.Pulisic, who has already earned 20 caps for his national team before the age of 20, revealed last month that he was content with life at Dortmund.”I’ve come into a bigger role with the national team in the U.S., but I think the environment I’m in here definitely helps,” he told ESPN. “Just being a good team player with this team, just being a piece of a puzzle is really important for me. I think that has allowed me to have some success with the national team individually. But yeah: I’m still trying to figure it all out.”

Man Utd fan Pulisic refuses to rule out Premier League move

Chris Burton-goal.com

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The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has sparked talk of interest from Old Trafford and admits he could one day join Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in England.Christian Pulisic has admitted to being a Manchester United fan and refused to rule out a move from Borussia Dortmund to the Premier League.The 19-year-old midfielder has emerged as one of the top young talents in world football, with admiring glances being shot in his direction from across Europe.

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are among those said to be monitoring his development, while United and Liverpool have been mentioned as possible landing spots in England.

A move to Old Trafford could certainly appeal to the U.S. international, with Pulisic welcoming talk of interest from the Red Devils.Quizzed by ESPN on whether he was a United supporter growing up, the talented teenager said: “Yeah, I was. I was definitely a big fan.“Of course, right now I am under contract with Dortmund and I’m not looking around or doing anything like that so I’m very focused there.“But, yeah, it’s cool to hear all this stuff!”

Pressed further on whether the opportunity to test himself in the Premier League is a challenge he would like to take on at some stage, Pulisic added: “Of course, the Premier League is an unbelievable league.

“You never know in football what can happen, so right now, I’m focused with Dortmund, and yeah, that’s that.”

Pulisic saw former team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang depart Dortmund for England during the recent winter transfer window, with the Gabonese striker joining Arsenal for £55m.

He added on that deal: “He brought me along so much as a player and helped me and guided me, and he’s been such a great guy.“Obviously, we’re sad to lose him, but I’m excited to see what he does.”

Pulisic generated plenty of speculation himself before the January deadline passed, with being the centre of attention a new experience for the youngster.”Every day, you hear something different in the media or whatever, something like that, but now that it’s over, our team has been having kind of a rough go of things lately. So many different coaches in the last few months, but yeah, right now, we’ve just got to turn that around and focus on ourselves.”

With the window closed, Pulisic can focus solely on matters at Dortmund for now, but interest in his services can expect to be rekindled as the summer draws ever closer.

Yedlin: USA’s goal must be to win the World Cup

By Joe Prince-WrightFeb 7, 2018, 10:27 AM EST

NEWCASTLE — Wearing a lively floral tracksuit in the height of winter in England’s chilly North East, DeAndre Yedlin is obviously a man who expresses himself freely.Yedlin, 24, had already laughed off banter from his teammates about his Dolce & Gabbana gear from Milan as he sat down to talk exclusively with Pro Soccer Talk at Newcastle United’s snowy training ground ahead of their clash with Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 9:15 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) at St James’ Park.Thousands of miles away from his hometown of Seattle and the United States of America, the U.S. national team right back admitted he is still smarting from their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.That said, when asked what the USMNT’s aim should be in the next decade, a period where he is expected to be a leader on the pitch with 49 caps already to his name, Yedlin was bullish about how the U.S. can bounce back from the biggest disappointment of all.“For me, I want to win the World Cup. If that’s not the goal then I don’t think you should be playing,” Yedlin said. “A lot of people will say that isn’t realistic but for me, I will say ‘why?’ Why isn’t that realistic? Leicester City won the Premier League and nobody thought that could happen but it did. If that’s [winning the World Cup] not the ultimate goal then I think we should reevaluate things.”Wow. Yedlin believes it when he says that the U.S. should be challenging for glory in Qatar in 2022 and potentially on home soil in 2026.For a player who in the space of four years has risen from the Seattle Sounders academy to an MLS star (via two years at the University of Akron) and then on to Tottenham Hotspur before a loan spell at Sunderland in the Premier League and eventually spending the last 18 months at Newcastle, he is in a hurry to get the USMNT back on track.Talking about the pain of the defeat at Trinidad & Tobago back in October 2017 which led to the U.S. failing to make the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Yedlin believes good can come from this and a talented young group can turn it into a positive as they focus on the 2022 World Cup.“100 percent. I wouldn’t call it a blessing in disguise but I think now, especially the guys that have come through it, now we feel what disappointment is like, not making the World Cup,” Yedlin explained. “Now there is going to be an extra gear that is hit to make sure we make the next one but not only make it but do well in it. Nobody wants to feel this way again. It gives us extra motivation but it shouldn’t come to the point where you need to feel that. But that’s what it is and hopefully it helps us.”

With question marks about the experienced USMNT core of Tim HowardClint Dempseyand others carrying on for the next four-year World Cup cycle, Yedlin feels like now is a good natural time for the promising young talents of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams et al. to be given their chance to shine for the Stars and Stripes.“I think so and I think those guys realize it as well,” Yedlin admitted. “Every international career is going to come to an end you’re going to pass it down to the younger generation. Every career comes to that point. I think they are happy with doing that and they know we have some talented players coming in.”Given the debates around the current U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election and plenty of questions asked about how U.S. Soccer not only develops, but finds the next crop of talented players in the future, does Yedlin, a player who came through both the MLS academy and college systems, believe there is a problem with talent identification?“I do think players are slipping through the net,” Yedlin said. “It is a situation where we do need to reach out to some of the communities that maybe historically haven’t been as interested in soccer or some of the poorer communities because I think there are kids slipping though the net. Just like there will be in any sport or in any country. I realize it is hard because the USA is such a big country. In that same sense there are that many more kids who could be the next ones who help us reach a World Cup final. You know? I think as big as a country America is, we should start trying to become a powerhouse in this sport.”

What about his own career as he helps Newcastle battle relegation from the Premier League with 12 games to go, aided by their incredible support?Under Rafael Benitez he’s flourished as a title winner in England’s second-tier last season and a regular in the Premier League for the Magpies this season, and he believes playing for a coach lauded for his defensive techniques has helped his game massively.“It is based on what the coach likes and prefers but I think defensively I’ve just gotten a better understanding of when to go, when to stay, how aggressive to be and realizing what is around me,” Yedlin said after he had talked Pro Soccer Talk through, on a tactics board, when to step to engage a winger and when to drop and hold your defensive shape. “It’s the whole understanding of the game which has become better and that comes with maturity and experience.”Jurgen Klinsmann was the man who gave Yedlin his chance with the USMNT and brought him to the 2014 World Cup amid much fanfare and then helped push him to Europe afterwards. Yedlin praised Klinsmann for “getting him to where he is today” but understood why he was fired after the poor set of results at the start of 2018 World Cup qualifying which weren’t all his fault because “the name of the game” is the coach getting fired even though he “can’t press a button and make all the players play well during a game.”Yedlin revealed he hasn’t thought too much about who the next permanent USMNT coach would be, and when asked if Caleb Porter, his former coach at Akron, would be a good fit, he was positive about such an appointment.“It’s not something I’ve thought a lot about but I’ve had Caleb [as a coach] before and I’d definitely be happy with that, but whoever it is I am sure will be a good fit,” Yedlin added.One of just three Americans playing regularly in the Premier League (Danny Williams of Huddersfield and Geoff Cameron of Stoke City being the others) Yedlin isn’t looking too far ahead and revealed he is a serial short term goal-setter.“I have to make a list of a bunch of different things. There is not one thing. I make a lot of lists,” Yedlin smiled. “Every three months I reevaluate my goals and see how I did. They are short term targets and build season to season.”His ultimate goal to win the World Cup during his time with the USA is a lofty one, and at least four years off, but Yedlin, like his tracksuit, is bold and aims to be a leading light in the USMNT’s shot at redemption.

U.S. Soccer’s Election Process Has Featured Everything–Except Any Certainty

GRANT WAHL February 08, 2018ORLANDO, Fla. — The historic campaign for U.S. Soccer president, which will end here with Saturday’s election, has had a bit of everything.It has had the longtime president, Sunil Gulati, decide not to run in the wake of the U.S.’s stunning failure to qualify for the men’s World Cup. It has had eight candidates (eight!) vying to replace him. It has had Gulati’s former right-hand man, USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro, announce his candidacy before Gulati had exited, a move Gulati viewed as a betrayal.It has had a leading candidate, Kathy Carter, who could become the first woman to serve as U.S. Soccer president (and just the fifth female national soccer federation president ever globally)—but who has faced skepticism about her commitment to women’s soccer from players on the U.S. women’s national team.It has had two lawsuits filed against U.S. Soccer by the lower-division NASL, which may end up folding but still has a vote in the election and is supporting candidate Eric Wynalda—whose campaign has been partially funded by NASL club Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva, who has brought a different case against U.S. Soccer before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.It has had another candidate—Hope Solo, perhaps the greatest U.S. goalkeeper of all time—bring a formal complaint to the U.S. Olympic Committee over what she calls U.S. Soccer’s illegally favorable treatment of MLS at the expense of women’s soccer. It has had the two most powerful figures in U.S. Soccer (Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber) say they were not lobbying for a candidate, only to have one influential voter say he thought Gulati and Garber were lobbying him behind the scenes for Carter.It has had plenty of controversy around Soccer United Marketing, a for-profit company owned by MLS owners, which has made millions for and off U.S. Soccer (a non-profit) on a contract that didn’t involve competing bids—raising questions over conflicts of interest from several candidates and answers from Carter that SUM has been a financial boon for American soccer, a win-win.It has had two charismatic TV analyst former players, Kyle Martino and Wynalda, make explosive allegations against the current federation leadership, not all of them based on evidence. It has had another candidate, the lawyer Steve Gans, make a formal complaint that U.S. Soccer couldn’t be trusted to oversee a fair election process.And it has had far too many Twitter conspiracy theories and mud-slinging allegations, both public and private, with Gulati delivering an acid response—caught on video at a youth soccer dinner, of all places.Yes, there have actually been some productive proposals and discussions, too, which is a good thing for an American soccer culture that needs them. But whoever wins on Saturday will have to mend a fractured soccer landscape. Presumably that will include uniting behind the North American bid to host World Cup 2026, which will almost certainly be decided on June 13 in Moscow. But there’s a lot more to the path forward than hosting a World Cup.

As for Election Weekend, you’ve likely got questions, and we’ve got some (but not all) of the answers. Let’s dive in:

WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES?

Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordeiro, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd and Eric Wynalda.

All of them, except Solo (who was invited), appeared on the Planet Fútbol Podcast to discuss their platforms and campaigns.

HOW DO YOU WIN?

By getting a majority of the overall weighted vote. The election, which will be live-streamed on U.S. Soccer’s website, is set to start at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday. If no candidate gets a majority of the votes in the first round, a 10-minute break will take place before another round of voting.

WHO VOTES?

The Athlete Council, made up of 20 current and former national team players, has 20 percent of the overall vote. The Professional Council (25.8 percent) and the state associations that make up the Adult Council (25.8 percent) and the Youth Council (25.8 percent) also have a big influence. The remaining votes—around 2.6 percent—will be taken by national associations and affiliates, federation board members, life members (up to 12 votes) and two fan representatives.

WHO IS GOING TO WIN?

Nobody who has followed this campaign closely knows, nor do I. It’s that close. In recent days, it appears the top three candidates are Carter, Cordeiro and Martino. Carter has the advantage of coming into Saturday’s election with the support of nearly the entire Professional Council.

Cordeiro, the only candidate who has been through a federation election before (for vice president two years ago), has the contacts from that process and has been gaining support among the state youth associations. Meanwhile, Martino may have a path to victory through being seen as a compromise change candidate who isn’t as extreme as Wynalda.Wynalda has drawn support from several state associations, especially on the Adult Council, but he has little support on the Athlete Council (and significantly less than the other three candidates). It’s hard to imagine Wynalda having a path to victory that doesn’t include significant numbers of Athlete Council votes.

WHICH VOTERS WILL LIKELY SWING THE ELECTION?

The Athlete Council. If the AC decides to follow what it has often done in the past and vote as a bloc, delivering 20 percent of the overall vote to one candidate, it will likely decide the outcome. But there’s plenty of division within the group heading into its key meeting on Friday afternoon in Orlando, so voting as a bloc is by no means guaranteed. Carter and Cordeiro appear to be the leading preferences of AC members heading into that meeting, with Martino not far behind and Wynalda having small but vocal support. Winograd is seen by some parts of the AC as impressive but not in a position to win the election.

The members of the Athlete Council are: Chris Ahrens (chair); Angela Hucles (vice-chair); Carlos Bocanegra (vice-chair); Shannon Boxx, Brian Ching, Cindy Parlow Cone (advisor); Brad Guzan, Stuart Holden, Lauren Holiday, Lori Lindsey, Will John, Kate Markgraf, John O’Brien, Heather O’Reilly, Leslie Osborne, Nick Perera, Christie Rampone, Gavin Sibayan, Lindsay Tarpley and Aly Wagner.

One intriguing possibility: If the Athlete Council were to agree to vote as a bloc, it could announce its candidate choice publicly on Friday night. Doing so might serve to 1) place some internal accountability on AC members to do what they say they’ll do and vote for the group’s choice when they have the secret-ballot clickers in their hands on Saturday, and 2) Influence other voters in the election to go with the choice of the Athlete Council on Saturday, knowing that voters tend to want to go with a candidate who’s likely to win. this point, though, nothing is certain, and you can expect plenty of news ahead of Saturday’s vote.

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2/2/18 Indy 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium – Schedule updates, Full TV Schedule, US results

Update on Indy 11 – So its official – the Indy 11 will play at least some home games if not most of them at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2018.   How very exciting!  I for one will look to at least renew my Flex Pack 8 tickets from 2 years ago for the BYB.  The layout looks like they will close off 1 side and use the other side plus both end zones with the BYB in one end zone.  From what I see – the pricing looks similar to before.  VERY EXCITING MOVE FOR OUR INDY 11.  The 11 have made some roster changes – sad to see GK Jon Busch go, it will be interesting to see who among the former players returns.  We’ll see how it all comes together.

Indy 11 announce Lucas Oil as New home stadium for 2018

Schedule Starts to Come Together

https://www.xiforever.com

Indy 11 to call Lucas Oil home – Indy Biz Journal

Indy 11 at the Luke – Nuevo

Roster Coming together

The US Men – or boys as it would be  – looked ok on Sun evening vs Bosnia – while everyone else watched the Grammy’s.  Not sure why they didn’t schedule the game for 4 or 5 pm instead of 9:30 pm (good ole US Soccer – CLUELESS!!!)  Anyway – the 50% Bosnian crowd made it loud for the zero to zero tie.  Overall both teams had some decent shots – but overall I thought the US played a little better than Bosnia.  Morris looked good up front – had a chance on 1 and should have had an assist on another.  Same ole US can’t finish issue in front of goal.  US GK faced a PK on a horrible call and it hit post.  Overall not very eventful.  But they held their own against a team that lost to Mexico just 1-0 later in the week. Interesting comments from Geoff Cameron stating Bruce Arena cost the US the World Cup and Arena’s response see more below.

Big weekend of games overseas this weekend as Arsenal host Everton Sat on NBCSN at 12:30, just after US coach and midfielder Danny Williams and Huddersfield face Man United at 10 am on NBCSN.  Sunday New Castle United and US defender Yedlin – hopefully playing – will travel to Crystal Palace needed a W at 9:15 am on NBCSN, followed by Liverpool hosting Tottenham in a huge battle of top 5 teams.  Dortmund and US star  Christian Pulisic play today at Kohl on FS1 at 2:30.  In fact I am watching the game- wow what a crowd Koln has at the game.  Stunning – I need to get to Germany for a Dortmund game before Pulisic moves on.  Of course Champions League returns next Tues/Wed Feb 13&14 we’ll have more on that next week. Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

GAMES ON TV 

Fri, Feb 2

2:30 pm FS1                   Kiohl vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Sat, Feb 3 

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 NBC               Arsenal 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

Mon, Feb 5

3 pm NBCSN                   Watford vs Chelsea

Wed, Feb 7

2:45 pm FS1                   Tottenham vs Newport County- FA Cup

2:45 pm ESPN3             Schalke vs Wolfsburg – German Cup

3:30 pm beIN Sport     Sevilla vs Leganes

Thur, Feb 8

3:30 pm be IN sport Valencia vs Barcelona

Fri, Feb 9

2:30 pm be IN sport Fiorentina vs Juventus  

Sat, Feb 10 

7:30 am NBCSN            Tottenham vs Arsenal

9:30 am FS 2                  Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hamburger

10 am NBCSN                 Stoke City (Cameron) vs Brighton

11 am beIN Sport       Toulous vs PSG

12:30 pm NBCSN        Man City vs Leicester City  

12:30 FS2                      Bayern Munich vs Schalke

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Real Sociadad

Sun, Feb 11 

9:15 am NBcSN            Man United vs New Castle (Yedlin)

9:3 am FS1                      Stuggart vs Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)

10:15 am bEIN Sport   Barcelona vs Getafe

11:30 am NBCSN         Southhampton vs Liverpool

Sun, Feb 12

3 pm NBCSN                   Chelsea vs West Brom

Tues, Feb 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Basel vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Juventus vs Tottenham 

Weds, Feb 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Real Madrid vs PSG  

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Porto vs Liverpool 

Sat, Feb 17

FA Cup Weekend

Tues, Feb 20 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Bayern Munich vs Besiktas

2:45 pm FS 2                  Chelsea vs Barcelona 

Weds, Feb 21 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Sevilla vs Man United                   

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Roma vs Shakhtar

Thurs, Mar 1

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

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  PSG vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool vs Porto

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham  vs Juventus

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Man United vs Sevilla

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Shakhtar  vs Roma

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                  Besiktas  vs  Bayern Munich

2:45 pm FS 2                  Barcelona  vs Chelsea

EPL 2018 Schedule  

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

USA

Jurgen Would Have Taken Us to the World Cup says Cameron NY Times

Hamid, Sappong Best of a Poor Group for US – Jason Davis ESPNFC

US Blows a Chance to Impress – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Plays It Safe vs Bosnia – SI

What 5 MLS’ers should take from the US National Team Experience – Bobby Warsaw MLS.com

Who Has the Leg Up in the US Goalie Race –

Canadian Women’s Coach Switches to the Canadian Men

Mexico Beats Bosnia

WORLD

Who Wins and Loses in the Transfer Window

The Transfers

Arsenal Signs the Future – Jon Wilson SI

https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/12/11/champions-league-real-madrid-psg-chelsea-barcelona-rivalry-tactics-draw

CAMERON – Bruce Cost Us the World Cup

STOKE-ON-TRENT, England — Rain predictably pelted the windshield on the nearly 40-mile journey down the dark motorway back to his home on the outskirts of Manchester, but Geoff Cameron wasn’t about to let a soaking interrupt him. Not after all these years here.Even after playing a full 90 minutes for the second time in three days, and even after the most damaging league defeat in his six seasons as a Stoke City player, Cameron had plenty to say.Over the course of the next hour, after some expletive-laden venting in the wake of a costly 1-0 home loss to Newcastle United, he invited questions on a number of subjects: Stoke’s increasingly dire predicament in the Premier League, his brush with political controversy last year and the challenges of life as an American abroad. Cameron also naturally ruminated on the United States’ ill-fated World Cup qualifying campaign, heading into a summer of unforeseen spectating.

A sample:

■ “There’s no doubt in my mind that if Jurgen Klinsmann was still our head coach, we would have qualified for the World Cup.”

■ “People can have their opinions and say I’m a bad player and this and that. Well, I’ve been over here for this long for a reason. So I think I have to be doing something right.”

■ “My goal is to play this game until I’m 40.”

■ “Bruce Arena made decisions that cost us going to the World Cup. And I don’t have a problem saying it, because we had the right group of guys.”

■ “I don’t think Bruce likes my bluntness.”

Cameron, 32, knows he has to move on, especially with Stoke firmly plunged into a relegation battle that cost Mark Hughes his job as manager a week into January. But I asked him to spend a little more of the ride discussing the United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, which Cameron admitted had left “such a bad taste in my mouth.“Our names will go down as the team that didn’t qualify,” Cameron said. “It’s on us as players, but at the end of the day, I’m convinced if they would have kept Jurgen and not done such a drastic change, I think we would have qualified. I know we would have qualified. Instead we’ve gone backward.”Cameron remains aggrieved that despite his lengthy run in perhaps the world’s best league and a reputation at his club that prompted a BBC Radio Stoke commentator to call him “our Mr. Dependable,” Arena, the United States manager at the time, kept him on the bench for the final two World Cup qualifiers.Cameron, who lives alone in a five-bedroom house, walks his dogs, Duke and Mya, each morning.Cameron was told by Arena, even before the national team convened in October for the two games, that he would not be starting against Panama or Trinidad and Tobago because of concerns about his fitness. But Cameron said he couldn’t understand that reasoning, especially after he logged a full 90 minutes in Stoke’s victory over Southampton on Sept. 30 before reporting to the United States camp.Needing only a draw in Trinidad to secure a spot in Russia, Arena opted for the same attack-heavy formation that had delivered a 4-0 home win over Panama days earlier and kept Cameron, his most experienced and athletic central defender, on the bench against the speedy hosts.As every American fan knows now, those tactics backfired. A rough night for Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in central defense and an eventual 2-1 defeat, combined with unexpected victories for Panama and Honduras, consigned the Americans to an embarrassing fifth-place finish out of six teams in the region — leaving Arena with just three wins in eight qualifiers after having replaced Klinsmann in November 2016.“Listen: I hold my hand up — I didn’t play well against Costa Rica,” Cameron said of a 2-0 loss in a qualifier on Sept. 1, in which his poor performance alongside Tim Ream dropped both out of favor for the October games. “I made a mistake; their second goal was my fault. But it was the 88th minute and we were down, 1-nil. I tried to do something to help the team and I got caught out.“But I would have more respect for a coach to say: ‘You know what, Geoff? I don’t fancy you today. I think this is a better lineup.’ I’d say: ‘O.K., no problem, you told me the truth.’ But if you tell me I’m not fit enough, that’s like an insult to me as a professional.”In response, Arena said in a telephone interview: “Could Geoff have been in the starting lineup that day? Yes. But the problem with Geoff throughout 2017, at club and national team level, was inconsistency and some injuries.“Geoff started five games starting in November 2016 through October 2017. Our record was 1-3-1 — that plays a role. I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player. When the stars and the moon and the sun are aligned properly, Geoff is a very good player. They don’t all align properly all the time.”

(Cameron did start five games for Arena in that window — four qualifiers and a friendly — but the Americans’ record was 2-1-2 in those games.)

In a subsequent appearance two weeks ago at a coaches convention in Philadelphia, Arena asserted that “the chemistry of the group wasn’t right” and mentioned “a couple of bad eggs.” He expressed disappointment that there had been a few players on the national team “that we could never get to.”“You’ll read about one of them in the next day or two in The New York Times,” he told the gathered coaches, implying — without speaking Cameron’s name — that he had been referring to him.Cameron, right, fell out of favor with the national team coach after a 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying.

No One’s Favorite, but Appreciated

In the aftermath of the World Cup qualifying debacle, Arena stepped down, Sunil Gulati announced he would not seek re-election after three terms as the president of U.S. Soccer and Cameron was left to wonder if he would ever play for his country again.But he cannot afford to dwell on any of that now, because Cameron’s club is in peril. There is a new manager to win over — Paul Lambert has replaced Hughes — and Cameron concedes that, to establish himself, “it’s almost like you’re starting from square one again.”The difference between his club and national team status is that Cameron, since his arrival at Stoke in the summer of 2012, has been a near-automatic choice to start when healthy under his two previous managers: Hughes and Tony Pulis. Four days after watching the Trinidad loss from the bench, and after flying more than 8,000 miles back and forth, Cameron was back in Stoke’s starting lineup on Oct. 14 against league-leading Manchester City.

Then, after recovering from a late-October concussion that sidelined him for six weeks, Cameron started five games in a span of 15 days, including Hughes’s final three games in charge — at three different positions.“It often upsets Geoff that he gets moved around,” Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland said. “But the problem is he’s so versatile.”

Martin Smith, the editor of a longtime Stoke City fanzine called The Oatcake who also contributes to coverage of the club in The Stoke Sentinelnewspaper, said: “I wouldn’t say he’s anybody’s favorite player, because favorite players are usually the ones who score the goals and things like that. But I genuinely think he’s an appreciated player. You really see the value in Geoff when he isn’t available. When he’s not there, we really notice it.”Stoke conceded a league-worst 50 goals in its first 23 matches to fall to 18th place and is subjected to frequent reminders that in the Premier League’s first 25 seasons, the team with the leakiest defense has been relegated 24 times. But Smith argues that the various injury absences of Cameron (who has missed nine league games) and the club captain Ryan Shawcross (eight) largely account for Stoke’s woes at the back.Stoke surrendered only 23 of those 50 goals with Cameron on the field — 12 of them in two routs against the perennial powerhouses Manchester City and Chelsea.The BBC Radio Stoke broadcaster, Matt Sandoz, who commentates on Stoke’s matches and hosts a radio call-in show after matches called “Praise & Grumble,” said it’s “very rare we get a grumble about Geoff.”“I couldn’t recall the last time,” Sandoz said. “Obviously he’s got his flaws, like any player, but because he’s been so consistent and so reliable, Stoke fans would never flinch to see his name on the team sheet.”“I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player,” Bruce Arena said about Cameron.

Few Americans Remaining

he bond between club and player is such that, according to Sandoz, “it would be really strange to see Geoff Cameron playing his football elsewhere.”

But Cameron has no desire to relocate before the eventual return he is planning to Major League Soccer, despite news media rumors on the eve of Wednesday’s transfer deadline that multiple Premier League teams had targeted him. He takes pride in his long association with the club and regards the drawn-out transfer saga that landed him there nearly six years ago as destiny.On that drive home from the Newcastle defeat, Cameron revealed that he had agreed to contract terms with Everton before joining Stoke and was poised to team up with his fellow American Tim Howard, only to have M.L.S. block the deal because it wanted more money from Everton than the reported $3 million Stoke had offered to sign Cameron away from the Houston Dynamo.

“Timmy called me and said, ‘Don’t sign for Stoke, Everton wants you,’ ” Cameron said. “But I’m happy the way it worked out, because I’ve created my own path. It’s cool I’ve been able to make my own name for myself at my own club.”Like many Stoke players, Cameron is willing to endure the near-hourlong commute each way to live in one of the more fashionable sections of the Manchester area. He rents a modern, five-bedroom house; walks his dogs, Duke and Mya, in a nearby field before driving to training every morning; and, as he has gotten older, happily calls himself a homebody who prefers to cook his own meals and spend time with the dogs.He maintains steady contact with friends and family back in the United States but rebuffed questions about his relationship status, saying it was the one topic he prefers to keep private.“When you have time to shut your body down in this game, you have to shut your body down,” Cameron said. “So I’m very regimented in my life.“But I have my dogs, so I don’t really get lonely.”A decade ago, during the 2007-8 season, 12 Americans played at least one game in the Premier League. This season, only four Americans are on league rosters and just three have made it onto the field: Cameron; Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin; and Huddersfield’s Danny Williams.When Cameron first arrived in England, several of his countrymen lived within driving distance. Howard was at Everton. Stuart Holden, who had played with Cameron in Houston, was at Bolton. Maurice Edu and Brek Shea soon followed Cameron to Stoke.

“On Sundays we would grill out, American-style, and watch NFL Red Zone together,” Holden said.But that support system has frittered away. Howard, Edu and Shea are back in Major League Soccer. Holden is a commentator for Fox Sports. And Cameron has had to learn to look after himself.Cameron has played in more than 160 Premier League matches for Stoke. Cooking has become his “No. 1 hobby,” with pasta Bolognese and chicken in a balsamic reduction ranking as his go-to dishes. On the rare occasion he allows himself a night out, Cameron likes to drop in on Matt & Phred’s jazz club in Manchester’s Northern Quarter once or twice a month. But his free time more typically features a trip to the Altrincham Market food hall — or to a local chiropractor for extra maintenance.Having crossed the five-year threshold in terms of British residency, Cameron also has begun studying for the exams required to secure a British passport. The British mentality, meanwhile, gets more ingrained with each passing season; Cameron, for example, now refuses to wear a long-sleeved jersey or gloves in Stoke’s matches, no matter how grim the weather gets.

“I just feel like it’s wrong now,” Cameron said of his on-field fashion choices. “But it’s funny. If I say I miss the sunshine, all the boys will say: ‘Shut up. You’re a Brit now. You love this weather.’ So I’m a Brit when it suits them and I’m a Yank when it doesn’t. I’m in a lose-lose situation all the time.”Butland, who is widely regarded as Stoke’s best player and who is soon headed to the World Cup with England, admitted he and his teammates “like to wind Geoff up.”One subject, though, is off limits. Butland has resisted the urge to needle Cameron about the United States’ qualifying failure.“I didn’t give him stick about the World Cup because I know how disappointed he was,” Butland said. “Maybe in time, but it’s still a touchy subject. He’s made it quite clear how much he’s enjoyed playing for his country and how much America means to him.”

The Reputation

After a recent run of nine defeats in 12 league games, Cameron and his Stoke teammates are in the midst of a sudden and steep fall following three ninth-place finishes in Hughes’s first three seasons. Yet for Cameron, it’s merely the latest in a series of challenges.He had to overcome a knee injury as well as his concussion in 2017, with the World Cup elimination and his first dose of unflattering headlines off the fieldmixed in.Early last year, while still recovering from knee ligament damage, Cameron told Sports Illustrated that unlike several of his national team colleagues, he would support “a temporary pause on immigration for the purpose of evaluating and improving vetting procedures” in response to a travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations enacted by President Trump.Ever since those comments, and a tweet during the presidential election in which he called Hillary Clinton a “crook,” Cameron is known to a segment of the American soccer public as the player who makes politically charged statements. His February immigration comments drew a backlash, which Cameron said included death threats via social media, that has gradually curbed his long-held willingness to discuss politics publicl

 

“My goal is to play this game until I’m 40,” Cameron said. He is 32. “Now I just kind of leave it alone,” Cameron said.

Pressed about how he feels about the travel ban nearly a year later, Cameron insisted: “I never said I supported a Muslim ban. I said I support a better vetting procedure. And I still do.”As for being branded a Trump supporter, Cameron said: “I’m not like a hard-core Republican. I wasn’t walking around wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats. I just couldn’t vote for Hillary — I just didn’t like Hillary as a person or a politician. I tend to side with more Republican or conservative views, but if there was someone that I thought was a better candidate than Trump or Hillary, I would have voted for them hands down.“I still get tweets that say, ‘Geoff’s a good footballer but I hate his politics.’ It hurt me at the beginning, because I was like, ‘This is what people think of me?’ But then I got to the point where I was like: ‘You know what? Screw it.’ These people don’t really know me.”It is an example of the defiance he has tried to adopt from his combative national team teammate Clint Dempsey. Before returning to M.L.S. in August 2013, Dempsey made 218 Premier League appearances, establishing a record for American outfield players that Cameron is now chasing.“You had Timmy, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan — Americans have been known over here for the quality of our keepers,” said Cameron, who has made more than 160 Premier League appearances for Stoke. “But no one really respected us as players.“Clint came over here and changed the game for us. He did it with a chip on his shoulder and he’s given me the encouragement to say, ‘I’m American, so what?’“You have ups and downs in your career, but you can’t let that define you as a player. I’m not going to let missing the World Cup define me. Obviously it’s a massive disappointment that we didn’t make it, but neither did Wales — and they have a lot of good players.”There is more defiance in Cameron’s voice when he talks about Stoke’s relegation scrap. He has two more seasons left on his contract, and he is determined to spend them at the highest level.“I’m not ready to leave this rain,” Cameron said. “I’m here 10 months out of the year. This is home for me.“I’m comfortable driving on the other side of the road.”

U.S. draw feels like a missed chance for raw squad to get fans excited

Jan 29, 2018

Jeff CarlisleSoccer

CARSON, Calif. — Balance is a major consideration whenever a manager puts together a roster or a starting XI. The coach has to weigh attack vs. defense, youth vs. experience and so on.The stakes involved also play a part. The calculus is different for a friendly than, say, a World Cup qualifier, which brings us to Sunday’s friendly against Bosnia & Herzegoina, one that ended in a 0-0 tie. Interim manager Dave Sarachan had spent the previous 18 days putting 29 players, most of them light on experience, through their paces. And while those chosen for Sunday’s match were eager to impress, there was little on the line in terms of the result. Against a Bosnia side that was even less experienced than its American counterpart, it practically begged for some risk-taking.What was offered up instead, at least to start the match, was a fit of conservatism from Sarachan. The construction of his midfield in particular was perplexing in that it lacked creativity. The central trio was comprised of two-way players Tyler Adams, Wil Trapp and Cristian Roldan, with Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris stationed out wide.”I think in terms of the defensive structure of the group, it was solid,” Sarachan said afterward. “I think [Roldan, Trapp, and Adams] had the freedom to release and join in with C.J [Sapong] early, whether it was Cristian or Tyler. I don’t consider them pure passing No. 10s but at the same time, with their runs out of midfield, I thought we were dangerous actually.”It wasn’t so much the creative passing that we expected but it was the dangerous ‘third man running’ that guys like Tyler [Adams] can make out of the midfield. I thought he did a good job of that, and I thought there were moments where if we had picked him out a little bit earlier we could have been even more dangerous. I still think they created some chances.”Sarachan adopted the same strategy in the 1-1 draw with Portugal last November, but that match, just a month after the failure to qualify for the World Cup and on the road against a European power, had a “don’t get your butt kicked” vibe about it. Job done there. This match was at home, against a decidedly under-strength side, yet Sarachan opted to take the same approach in the first 45 minutes.The chances in the second half were of higher quality, however, and it’s not a surprise that those came after the introduction of Kelyn Rowe and Paul Arriola with Morris moving up top in place of Sapong. Rowe helped create a pair of clear chances and nearly latched on to a Morris cross. The Seattle Sounder got into good spots more than once only for his finishing to let him down.

But the conservative bent in the opening 45 minutes is why this match felt like a bit of a missed opportunity.Granted, the act of doling out playing time has to be a meritocracy, especially after an 18-day camp. And it wasn’t as if Sarachan started a bunch of 30-somethings, though Justin Morrow (30) and Sapong (29) did get extensive playing time. A player for the future like Adams got more minutes and experience at international level, as did the likes of Walker Zimmerman and Matt Polster, despite their ups and downs.Trapp was sharp in 90 minutes of work, yet the U.S. side remains at a deficit in terms of creativity. If the friendlies in the first half of 2018 are about looking to the future, a player like Rowe should be on the field from the beginning.Will Rowe be a fixture on the road to 2022? Who knows, but the focus ought to be about maximizing opportunities for the chance-creators in the group.To be clear, Sarachan has done some good things during his time in charge. (He told ESPN FC over the weekend that it’s his expectation he’ll run the show during the international window in March.) The interim tag can be difficult to navigate, and the day-to-day work he’s done has brought some stability to the program amid chaos. But a bit more derring-do will help accelerate a process whereby fans can get excited about their team again.

Good spells mix with bad in tepid U.S. draw with Bosnia & Herzegovina

Jan 29, 2018

Jeff CarlisleSoccer

CARSON, Calif. — The U.S. men’s national team started 2018 with a tepid 0-0 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bill Hamid and Zack Steffen combined for a shutout, though it took Haris Medunjanin missing a second-half penalty to keep the visitors scoreless.Here are three thoughts from a typically ragged January encounter.

  1. It’s that time of year

The circumstances surrounding this January camp were unique, to say the least. While it has historically been comprised almost entirely of MLS players, a few national team regulars could always be counted on to augment the list of up-and-comers.That wasn’t the case year. With the World Cup qualifying failure still occupying the collective transom of the men’s program, the U.S. squad was constructed with an eye toward the future and had little in the way of experience. There was no room for the likes of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore. That left the U.S. even more susceptible to the preseason-like nature that the camp takes on.

Anyone looking for scintillating attack play — at least in the first half — would have done well to avert their eyes. Nearly every promising moment was undone by a questionable decision or lack of accuracy. Case in point came in the 23rd minute, when Jordan Morris did well to free himself, but his cross was well within catching range of Bosnian keeper Ibrahim SehicThat said, the U.S. cause wasn’t helped by a starting lineup that was long on graft but short on creativity. There was no room initially for a Kelyn Rowe or a Juan Agudelo. Instead, interim manager Dave Sarachan opted for a central trio of Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan and Tyler Adams. That meant plenty of hustle but little in the way of cohesive attacking play.Although the U.S. had some territorial advantages in the first half, it was Bosnia that created the better chances in the opening 45 minutes. A quickly taken free kick put Goran Zakaric free down the right side of the box, only for his attempted delivery to sail high. Two minutes later, it was Bill Hamid to the rescue, as he stoned Luka Menalo on a close-range attempt.The match picked up in the second half, with Morris moving up top in place of Sapong while Rowe and Paul Arriola came into the match. But the U.S. dodged a bullet in the 53rd minute when Menalo won a penalty after being fouled by Walker Zimmerman, though it looked like Trapp was fouled in the run-up. Haris Mendunjanin sent substitute keeper Zack Steffen the wrong way but hit the penalty off the post, and the score remained level.The U.S. huffed and puffed — with Morris and Roldan each missing good chances — but ultimately, the game finished scoreless.

  1. Rowe, Arriola give U.S. offensive spark

Sarachan must have noted the lack of attacking thrust at halftime. Out came the disappointing Gyasi Zardes as well as C.J. Sapong, and in came Rowe and Paul Arriola. The two provided improved wide play, though in different ways. Arriola brought a more aggressive mindset to one flank, while Rowe tucked in to more central positions at times and brought some badly needed passing accuracy.Rowe started one sequence with a deadeye pass to Matt Polster, whose cross found Cristian Roldan in the box, but a heavy touch forced him to rush his attempt, and he shot wide of the target.Rowe then set the table for Morris in the 80th minute, but a wayward touch allowed Bosnia’s defense to recover. Rowe has shown flashes in previous appearances with the U.S., and this was another instance of him showing the kind of creativity that the American side could use more of.As for the defense, the central tandem of Zimmerman and Ike Opara mixed good moments with bad. Both were guilty of mistakes — Zimmerman’s conceded penalty the most egregious — but they were also adept at covering for each other, and each came up with interventions at critical moments to prevent shots at the U.S. goal.

  1. Has Trapp’s time come?

There was a time when Trapp was viewed as a player on the rise, especially after drawing praise from none other than Thierry Henry. Yet chances to make his mark at international level have been limited. Sunday’s match was just his third national team appearance and his first start.But based on this appearance, Trapp helped his cause, as he was one of the more consistent U.S. players on the night. While he was deployed just in the front of the back line, he managed to find his moments to contribute to the attack. His gorgeous, lofted ball found Morris in stride in the 51st minute, and while the Sounders forward did the hard work of rounding the keeper, he couldn’t manage to get his shot on target.That didn’t diminish Trapp’s effectiveness on the night, and when the U.S. reconvenes in March, he should get another chance to further state his case.

Sarachan Opts to Play it Safe in USA’s Unremarkable Draw vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

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  • Instead of throwing caution to the wind and experimenting with the U.S. men’s national team’s array of uncapped young talent and players with playmaking skills, interim manager Dave Sarachan took a pragmatic approach to an awkward friendly between two nations that will be watching the World Cup from afar.

By BRIAN STRAUS January 29, 2018 SI

Two countries that will miss this summer’s World Cup kicked off an anti-climactic 2018 with a Sunday friendly that featured a host of uncapped players, an interim coach going up against a debutant, a half-empty stadium and, naturally, no goals.Both the USA and visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina had their chances. But rust, youth, and one spectacular save from goalkeeper Bill Hamid conspired to ensure the game ended in a 0-0 deadlock.Bosnia will move on to face Mexico, which is preparing for a World Cup, on Wednesday in San Antonio. The U.S. players, meanwhile, will return to their MLS clubs (except for Hamid, who’s heading to Denmark’s Midtjylland) for phase two of their preseasons. Whatever they got out of their three weeks in a U.S. kit may reveal itself down the road, but it didn’t make a dent on the StubHub Center scoreboard.Here are three thoughts from relatively uneventful game in Carson, California:

SARACHAN PROCEEDS WITH CAUTION

Interim USA coach Dave Sarachan sent the message this month that the national team should always play to win, and he also sounded like a man who wants to be considered for the position permanently. Understanding those perspectives makes Sunday’s lineup choice a bit more understandable, even if it frustrated some.

Why not play all the kids and throw caution to the wind? Maybe because a more thoughtful, pragmatic approach—and perhaps a victory—might send some worthwhile signals. Sarachan said he wanted to use this camp to “introduce these players to what it’s like to be part of the national team.” That means meritocracy, and it means preparing a squad to achieve a result on game day. As much as the low stakes Sunday left many wanting to see a more attacking approach or a turn in the spotlight for some of Sarachan’s younger, uncapped players, the manager obviously decided to play it safer.The 4-1-4-1, which was similar to the set-up the USA used in November’s 1-1 draw in Portugal, featured just two senior newcomers (defenders Matt Polster and Ike Opara, who’s 28) and a midfield absent a creative spark. The central core of Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan and Tyler Adams worked hard, created turnovers and moved the ball effectively in deeper spots but lacked a connection to forward C.J. Sapong. There’s no playmaker in that group. And wingers Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris aren’t really wingers.The USA’s attack depended mostly on slipping or lofting longer balls into the channels, and hoping Sapong or one of the outside midfielders would be able to meet it and create a chance. Sharpness and quality in the offensive third was lacking, however, and it wasn’t until Sarachan loosened the reins that the hosts got more promising looks at goal.Sarachan clearly was willing to take a few more risks in the second half, which is often looser in friendlies featuring six potential substitutions. Kelyn Rowe and Paul Arriola came on after the intermission for Zardes and Sapong (which pushed Morris to his natural position up front), and Juan Agudelo entered for Roldan with about 20 minutes remaining. The USA had its best chances of the game during the second stanza, but couldn’t convert. It’s easy to wonder what might’ve been if Sarachan had been bolder at kickoff.

THE AMERICANS WERE LET OFF THE HOOK

Bosnia was the more dangerous side Sunday night, but a team under new coach Robert Prosinečki that included only six capped players also struggled in front of goal. The darting and daring runs of midfielder Luka Menalo were the highlight. The 21-year-old plays for Bosnia club Široki Brijeg, and he signaled he’d be a danger after beating Polster and Zardes in the 29th minute (Opara took care of the low, dangerous cross).Menalo should’ve put Bosnia up in the 43rd. Hamid’s wayward attempt to build out of the back was intercepted by the visitors’ Tomislav Tomić, whose cross bounced off U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman. Menalo was there, but Hamid reacted quickly, made himself enormous and got a leg to the Bosnian’s shot. It was the sort of save Hamid made routinely at D.C. United and which he hopes will earn him minutes at Denmark’s first-place club.Menalo tried to make up for the miss in the 52nd, when he was fouled by Zimmerman in the penalty area. The U.S. had a grievance, since Menalo pushed Trapp moments before Zimmerman interfered. But the first foul went uncalled, and the Philadelphia Union’s Haris Medunjanin, by far Bosnia’s most experienced player, stopped up to take the spot kick. Perhaps that was a mistake, since he likely was the only one on the roster familiar with the 12-yard heroics of Hamid’s halftime replacement, Columbus Crew playoff hero Zack Steffen.Medunjanin tried to hit the inside left netting—a spot Steffen wouldn’t reach. He hit the post instead.The Bosnians managed 12 shots, but put only two on target. They’ll want a few of those chances back.

FEW OBVIOUS STATEMENTS MADE BEFORE MARCH

Sarachan is expected to lead the USA into the March FIFA window, when the national team likely will play two friendlies in Europe. It’ll be the first time since taking over for Bruce Arena that Sarachan truly has the entire player pool at his disposal. Based on Sunday’s performance, there weren’t many from this group of January campers, which didn’t include U.S. veterans or players based in Europe, who improved their stock significantly.Hamid and Steffen already are in the picture considering the state of flux among the program’s goalkeepers. Opara was by far the strongest defender Sunday night, but his age makes him unlikely to be a factor deep into the next cycle.Trapp plays a position in which the national team has depth, but he arguably was the USA’s best player Sunday. He’s got obvious soccer smarts, is a good passer and at 25, should be entering his prime. He should remain on Sarachan’s radar. Adams, 18, certainly will as well, but it didn’t appear he was set up to succeed against Bosnia.Morris’s speed and ability to find threatening pockets behind a back four or between the center and outside backs remain an asset. His touch let him down a couple times Sunday, but some of that can be written off as the result of preseason. He’ll remain a U.S. staple.Sapong’s effort is immense and he did well trying to find ways to create some havoc without much support—as he did against Portugal—but like Opara, his age (29), could be a factor. Arriola and Rowe also injected a bit of welcome creativity once they entered. Both have qualities that should be nurtured by Sarachan, or whomever eventually replaces him.

 

Warshaw: What five MLSers should take from US national team experience

January 29, 201812:46PM ESTBobby WarshawContributor

It’s easy to dismiss Sunday night’s 0-0 draw between the US national team and Bosnia and Herzegovina.It clearly did not mean much, for all the obvious reasons. I will not try to sell you a bag of bad potatoes. But the experience also should not go forgotten. Let’s forget about anything from the team perspective and only focus on the players. The game meant a ton to the individual players and offered a huge opportunity to learn and improve.It was a different experience in a new setting with unique demands. The players will hold onto those feelings and memories for a long time. Consequently, it was a chance to feel and learn something new and there were definitely lessons to be learned for individual players. It’s when our players utilize these key moments to grow that we will get progress.Here are five players who can take a clear learning opportunity from the game, and have something to work on with their clubs.

Jordan Morris: Movement off the ball

Jordan Morris is a player with clear strengths and weaknesses. He has two lethal attributes: He’s incredibly fast, in both acceleration and top-end speed, and he has good instincts around goal. The second one means he has a decent sense of where the openings are or will be and how to exploit them.Conversely, though, he is not good at receiving passes in difficult situations. When he tucks inside from the wing and receives a ball ripped from the center mids to break the lines, he doesn’t control it close enough or maneuver it away from trouble. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad player — it’s one of the toughest skills in soccer — but it’s something he should avoid doing. He needs to learn to use his movement in reference to his strengths and weakness. He has to figure out ways to make sure most of his actions involve his pace toward goal, rather than getting the ball with players arriving from his backside. Specifically, I’d love to see Morris master the run in behind central defenses from a wide area that hides in the defenders’ blind spots.

Tyler Adams: Finding spaces to receive a pass a few actions down the chain

I really liked the idea of the midfield three of Wil TrappCristian Roldan and Tyler Adams. It might not have been the perfect option to win the single game, but it put Roldan and Adams in new situations and forced them to solve tough problems. Bosnia sat deep and kept tight, disciplined lines, restricting the space and lanes in the middle of the field.Trapp had a relatively easy job of moving to the side of the lone Bosnian striker to get the ball, a defensive midfielder’s dream afternoon, but Adams had a much more complicated task. He had less room to maneuver. It’s always entertaining to watch Adams fly around the field, but Sunday night’s match demanded a little more mental trickery.For example, when the right back has the ball, it’s tempting to try to find an option for the right back to get the ball to you. But obviously the defense knows that and blocks off the lanes for the right back to pass through. So instead of trying to get the ball from the right back, you need to skip that play altogether. Instead of watching the right back, look at the other two center mids. If Trapp can get the ball from the right back, and he has Roldan open to his left, Adams should be shifting to the spot where he can get the ball from Roldan. If everyone executes quickly enough, Adams will have the zone to himself.One of the hardest things in soccer is maintaining the mental discipline not to try to solve the immediate problem, but to think about the decision a few seconds away. Adams has most of the physical attributes, so now he has to tune his mental planning.

Walker Zimmerman: Keep the ball moving

Walker Zimmerman has all the attributes you want from a center back: He understands the need to think through a game, he’s athletic, he communicates, he can play both medium and long-range passes, he’s likable and earns the trust of his teammates. Perhaps more than anything, he’s brave and wants to take responsibility. Too often, though, he takes it too far. He tries to make passes that mess with the rhythm of his team.Against Bosnia, he would receive a pass from center back partner Ike Opara or Trapp and pick up his head to pass forward. It’s a good first step, but then he would keep on looking. Then he would step on the ball and look again. Eventually he would clip a ball to the channel or try to slide a pass through the lanes. He felt uncomfortable just passing the ball back to Trapp or Opara. You could almost see his brain telling him, “don’t take the easy way out, you can make this work.”For his former high-energy FC Dallas team, it often worked fine, too. But at the international level, every turnover has a higher cost. He can’t afford the same turnovers in World Cup qualifying as he can on a regular Saturday in Montreal. He needs to get more comfortable making the simple passes back and forth to nowhere until a lane opens for a pass forward.

Wil Trapp: Closing off the press

Wil Trapp received a lot of praise for his performance, and rightfully so. He should feel good about his night. But there’s also one piece he can improve. He arrived late too often to finish off his team’s press in the opponent’s half of the field.The first player would step to the ball, then the second player would step to the next man, and ultimately Trapp would arrive late to the third or fourth player and Bosnia would pass out. It’s such a difficult task to ask a No. 6 to both protect the space in front of the back four and also cap off a press — I certainly don’t want to act like it’s an easy fix — but it’s something the very best holding midfielders can do.They time their arrival perfectly to win the ball or, worst-case scenario, foul the opponent so they can’t advance. Not many teams in MS try to play out from the back with the confidence or composure that Bosnia brought, so it was a good opportunity to shed light on Trapp’s game. He’s not an athletic defensive mid, so his timing and confidence needs to be nearly perfect when closing pressing pockets.

Matt Polster: 1v1 defending

Matt Polster is an exciting right back prospect. Polster started his MLS career as a center midfielder; he brings options to the position that not many others can. At the same time, he still needs to lock down the important aspects of wide defending, namely 1v1 play.He plays tall — notice the bend in his knees when he does soccer actions — limiting his center of gravity and ability to cut and turn quickly. It creates a natural disadvantage against quick wingers. He can’t change his athletic approach at this point, so he will need to find other tricks, such as learning how to force an attacker in a predictable direction and using his body when the attacker makes the move, or throwing in a jab step to mess with the attacker’s timing.If Polster can improve his 1v1 defending and gain a manager’s trust against skillful teams, he will be better able to highlight his other qualities.

 

Bill Hamid, CJ Sapong make their case for more chances at international level

Jan 29, 2018

  • Jason Davis

USMNT, ending a nearly month-long camp without a goal and without a win will chafe, despite the uncertainty around the program.

Positives

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Several young players got their first taste of international soccer in a period when integrating a new generation of talent is the program’s main focus. Both goalkeepers acquitted themselves well in a half each, giving some hope that the U.S. will be able to bridge the gap at that position.

Negatives

The attack lacked variation and creativity, especially before Kelyn Rowe’s introduction in the second half. Muddled tactics and a personnel group that seemed to lack any cohesiveness delivered a turgid performance in the opponent’s half. Several players seemed to struggle with pace or pressure of the international game. Simple mistakes happened too often, and the game lacked crispness from a team that trained together for three weeks ahead of the match.

Manager rating out of 10

4 — Dave Sarachan was admittedly in a difficult spot with his lineup choices but instead of erring on the side of youth, the interim head coach chose to play several players who won’t be part of the push for 2022. Whatever the tactical plan for the Americans, it did not look clear what the side was trying to accomplish on the attacking side. The U.S. lacked ideas and identity and failed to create any meaningful chances. A haphazard press did more harm than good over 90 minutes.

Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Bill Hamid, 7 — Only called into action once but stepped up in the moment to keep the game at zero when a missed clearance led to a Bosnia & Herzegovina chance.

DF Matt Polster, 5 — Mixed bag in a 90-minute shift. Pushed up into the attack to good effect in the second half. Poor in several one-on-one defending situations.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 4.5 — Aggressive, perhaps overly so, especially in the first half. Conceded a penalty and whiffed on a clearance that demanded a good save from Hamid.

DF Ike Opara, 6 — Solid, if not spectacular. Good in the air and made more than one late intervention to prevent a Bosnia & Herzegovina goal.

DF Justin Morrow, 5.5 — Picked up a yellow toward the end of first half and otherwise failed to stand out. Defensively sound. Made little of a few forays forward.

MF Tyler Adams, 6 — Started brightly, covering ground and involving himself in several attacking moves in the first half. Slowed in the second half.

MF Wil Trapp, 6.5 — Set good rhythm from deep-lying position. Passed well in the central third, but was less effectively with balls at Bosnian end. Settled into game.

MF Cristian Roldan, 6 — Did well to help fill gaps and break up play on the defensive side of the ball. Passed accurately, but lacked a cutting edge going forward.

MF Gyasi Zardes, 4 — Mostly invisible. Only managed a handful of touches and never made an impression on the game in a half of action.

FW Jordan Morris, 4.5 — Opened up space with smart runs, but wasted several good passes with poor touches. Needs to match industry with technical improvements.

FW CJ Sapong, 6.5 — The best of the American contingent in the first half with energy and aggressiveness. Indecisive in one moment that could have led to a U.S. chance.

Substitutes

GK Zack Steffen, 6 — Earned his first cap and made one save in a half of play.

MF Paul Arriola, 6 — Added a spark on the right side after coming on for Zardes. Created better dynamic with Polster behind him.

MF Kelyn Rowe, 6.5 — Provided a much-needed bit of creativity off the bench. Found teammates in good positions only to see chances wasted.

FW Juan Agudelo, NR — Provided a few bright moments in less than half an hour. Showed penchant for clever play followed by simple mistake.

MF Rubio Rubin, NR — Touched the ball just twice as a second-half substitute.

 

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

 

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