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 to call Lucas Oil home – Indy Biz Journal
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
■ “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.”
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
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 Trapp, Cristian 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.
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.
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.
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.