3/29/18 Indy 11 Discount on Sat 1st Game at the Luke, US Youngsters Impress in Win, Champ League Elite 8 Tues/Wed, Zlatan to Play at LAFC 3 pm Sun on Fox right after Pulisic & Dortmund play Bayern Munich at 12 noon on Fox, Carmel FC GK Training on Weds with Christian Nicht

Our Indy 11 fresh off a 1-0 opening win at Richmond – Return home this Saturday night to host their first ever USL game vs FC Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium – man I wish I wasn’t going to be out of town !! Word is the entire lower bowl will be open with upwards of 15,000 fans on hand.  We are hearing FC Cincy may bring over 2,000 fans – so everyone needs to bring their voices and their fanny’s to the Luke on Saturday night at 7 pm !! Of course if you can’t make it out the game will be on My Indy TV23 at 7 pm.    Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today and join the BYB in the Endzone – it’s a memorable experience! You won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing and screaming and singing with the best supporters section in the US!

Champions League

So after watching the best players in the World play for their countries – and some fantastic play as Brazil edged Germany 1-0, Spain Spanked Argentina 6-1 (without Messi) and Mexico lost to Croatia 0-1 and both France and Brazil spanked Russia (of course) I am thrilled to be getting ready to watch 8 of the top Teams in the world battle to advance to the Semi-Finals of the World’s Top Team Competition Europe’s Champions League!! (see predictions and stories below).  I like Juventus and legendary Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon’s chances of taking revenge on Current Cup Holder’s Real Madrid and Renaldo at home this Tuesday at 2:45 on Fox Sport 1 and I like Liverpool 2-1 at home at Anfield in the 1st leg vs league leader Man City Wednesday on Fox Sport 2.

USA Underwealms in 1-0 Ho Hum Victory over Paraguay

So I am watching the US game Tues night – excited to see the new young players – problem is I didn’t see them.  Seriously you brought in Tim Weah (son of one of the best ever George Weah – now playing at PSG) and Novakovich (scoring goals like a banshee in the Dutch 2nd division), and Roldan– and you didn’t use any of them until the 75th minute – heck 2 subs in the last 8 minutes ?  Did we seriously need to see 75 minutes of Bobby Wood not scoring goals in the field of play he’s done that all season with Hamburg?  85 minutes of Darlington Nagbe winning balls dribbling around and then passing the ball back to the keeper?  Has that guy ever actually passed the ball forward in his life?? He can relieve pressure and get out of trouble – but he never passes the ball forward or tries to actually score?

Now I thought Tyler Adams was ALL OVER the Field – he’s definitely our new #6/#8  Wow he goes forever!! His pairing with Marky Delgado was solid Delgado also played really well in the middle (I assume Weston McKennie was hurt??)  I also thought the backline with the younger Miazga and Carter Vickers in the middle and Yedlin and Villafona on the outside was solid.  Also Will Trap as the Captain was one of the best players on the field tonight.  I thought the young keeper Stefan barely made a misstep.  Overall we were good – and had a decent performance.  I just wish we had a coach who had a clue.  This was a day to show us the excitement of these new young players – too bad we didn’t see them.  Who cares that won the game on a bad penalty call?  The idea was to see the new kids play?  Too bad we didn’t see that tonight?  Complete waste of everyone’s time – continues to show the complete ineptitude of US soccer right now.   Oh and what a loser of a stadium – are we really relegated to playing in high school soccer stadiums for our US National Team now?  What 8K strong?   Seriously my high school football/soccer stadium was bigger and just as nice.  What a joke.  Good to see US Soccer is still being run by idiots.  Oh and the new NON World Cup Jersey’s?  Really?  Someone did tell Nike that due to one of the most colossal embarrassments in US Soccer history that WE AREN’T Going to the World Cup didn’t they.  They should be making Panama Jersey’s instead.  Yes I am Still Bitter – especially since US Soccer voted for more of the same.  Sickens me.  Not sure Soccer will ever be the 3rd major sport it should be in the US – with the US soccer idiots in charge.  Those of us who love the sport will keep trying despite our lack of US soccer leadership.  Remember the US Ladies – you know the World Champion US Ladies – play Mexico next Thurs at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

MUST SEE TV THIS WEEK

Extremely Excited to for this weekend’s TV Action – as Fox (not Fox Sports1) will carry back to back barn burners as Dortmund and US Youngster Christian Pulisic will face German League leaders Bayern Munich at 12 noon Saturday on Fox, followed by the introduction of former World Class Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich (aka IBRA) at the LA Galaxy as they host 2-0 new Team LAFC in a Los Angeles Darby at 1:30 pm also on FOX.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic – of Sweden, Inter, PSG and recently Man United fame is joining MLS and the LA Galaxy this summer.  He announced his move in the LA Times with this ad.   The gregarious, boisterous, yet a times spectacular Zlatan – referred by me and most of the world simply as IBRA – will be fun to watch in MLS.  Does he have any gas left in those 36 Year-old legs –who knows – but I for one will be tuning in to see.  I love me some IBRA – who once said he would stay at PSG if they renamed the Eiffel Tower IBRA and put his face on the top of it.  He’s obnoxious, but man in his prime he was one of the top Forwards in the World !  Sunday gives us 5th place Chelsea vs 4th place Tottenham in a battle for the top 4 in the EPL and that coveted Champions League spot, followed by Atlanta United looking to pack 60K+ in the Mercedez Dome vs DC United at 3 pm on ESPN.  Of course the next 2 weeks -Tues/Wed gives us Champions League Elite 8 action on Fox Sports 1 & 2 and Thurs Europa League action on Fox Sport 1 & 2.

CFC_Christiannicht

Finally we announced that former Indy 11 Goalkeeper Christian Nicht will be coaching the Carmel FC Goalkeepers this season (with the Ole Ballcoach’s help of course).  The Goalie Trainings will be held on Wednesday evenings at Shelbourne Fields starting April 11.  Also Carmel FC will host Carmel Dad’s Club Rec Soccer camps this summer.  Carmel Dad’s Carmel FC Soccer Camp June 4-7 Badger, June 11-14 Shelbourne

 Indy 11

Preview of Indy vs FC Cincy LadyVictoryandherquestforglory.com

Indy 11 Beats Richmond 1-0 Game story – Bloody Shambles

Indy 11 on TV 8 Game update

Gameday Preview BYB

5 Years and Counting Brad Rings Time with Indy 11 –

USL Soccer Update Week 3/24–25

Indy 11 Away Games Streamed Live online on You Tube

Soc Takes – Podcast and Interview with BYB President Josh Mason

Season: IndySoccerTix.com (save on ticket fees!)
Flex Packs: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/store/index.php?s_category_id=34
Single Game: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/mobile/evlistm.php?refresh=1520098544

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

Indy 11_HomeOpener_ISA

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

Champions League Elite 8 is Back

Champions League Quarterfinal Predictions

Why a Juve Win over Real Madrid would NOT be an Upset – SI  Video

Xabi – Liverpool a Tough Matchup for any club this year

Renaldo is an Assassin – Says Buffon

US Soccer

US Not Slowed by Lack of Experience – ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Player Ratings Jason Davis – ESPNFC

Player Ratings US Greg Seltzser MLS.com

Community Player Ratings – Stars and Stripes

US Lacks Playmaking Again under Sarachan – Brian Straus SI

US New Talents ty to Establish own Culture – Brian Straus SI

4 Things we Learned from US vs Paraguay – S & S

Tim Weah Satisfied with Debut – ePSNFC

Will Trapp takes his Chance in New Look US Midfeild – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

WORLD

Tuesday Wrap on World Games – Brazil 1 – Germany 0, Spain 6-1 Argentina, France 3-1 Russian ESPNFC

Mbappe Sensationa for France in 3-1 Slamming of Russia

FIFA to Investigate Russian Racism Claims against France Players

A few positives in 1-1 tie for Italy after tie at England

Germany Stay at Top of FIFA Rankings despite loss to Brazil

EPL

Predicting How Things Are going to Finish in the EPL

MLS

Week 4 Wrap

Why you Must Watch LA Darby

Bob Bradley LAFC Head Coach Talks Soccer with SI Grant Wahl –

LA Galaxy have more to Prove vs LAFC – MLS.com

LA Galaxy open up about Rivalry with LAFC

Most overrated MLS Players

Columbus Doesn’t Deserve to Lose the Crew – SF Gate

Toronto and NY balance the MLS vs CCL Play over the next 2 Weeks

Top Saves in Week 4 MLS

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Mar 31

7 am beIn Sport          Eibar vs Real Madrid

7:30 am NBCSN            Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                    Schalke vs Freiburg

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Swansea

12:30 pm NBC     Everton vs Man City

12:30 pm Fox       Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3 pm Fox               LA Galaxy vs LAFC 

7 pm MyIndyTV   Indy 11 vs FC Cincy (@ Lucas Oil) buy tix as little as $15

Sun, Apr 1                      

8:30 am NBCSN        Arsenal vs Stoke City

10:30 am FS1             Werder Bremen ( ) vs Frankfurt

11 am  NBCSN           Chelsea vs Tottenham 

3 pm ESPN                   Atlanta United vs DC United

Tues, Apr 3 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Juventus vs Real Madrid  

2:45 ESPN Des/FBlive Sevilla vs Bayern Munich (facebook live)

8 pm Univision        Toronto FC  vs America (Concacaf Champ League)

Weds, Apr 4 – Champions League

12:30 pm beIN Sport   Milan vs Inter (Italy Serie A)

2:45 pm FS 1              Barcelona  vs Roma

2:45 pm FS2                Liverpool vs Man City

8 pm Univision        Guadalajara vs NY Redbulls (Concacaf Champ League)

Thurs, Apr 5  – Europa League

3:05 pm FS2                   Atletico Madrid vs Sporting CP

3:05 pm FS1                   Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

3 pm Fox soccer          RB Leipeg vs Marseille

7 pm Fox Sport 1        USA Women vs Mexico

Fri, Apr 6

2:30 pm Fox Sport 2    Hannover vs Werder Bremen (US-Aronsson)

2:45 pm beIN Sport      Saint Etienne vs PSG (US-Tim Weah)

Sat, Apr 7

7:30 am NBCSN   Everton vs Liverpool

10 am NBCSN?              Stoke City (Cameron) vs Tottenham

12:30 pm NBC     Man City vs Man United

12:30 pm Fox               Hamburger (Woods) vs Schalke (Mckinnie)

5 pm ESPN            Atlanta United vs LAFC 

 7 pm Youtube     North Carolina vs Indy 11  (BYB Watch Party @ Union Jack Broad Ripple-924 Broad Ripple Ave)

7 pm Youtube               FC Cincy vs Louisville FC

Sun, Apr 8                      

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Stoke City

10:15 AM beIN Sport                      Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid (Madrid Derby)

10:30 am FS1                 Werder Bremen ( ) vs Frankfurt

11 am  NBCSN      Chelsea vs Tottenham 

12:30 pm Fox       US Ladies vs Mexico

4 pm ESPN                       Orlando City vs Portland Timbers

9 pm FS 1                                                 LA Galaxy vs Sporting KC  

Tues, Apr 10 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS 1                 Roma vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS2                Man City vs Liverpool  

8 pm Univision        America vs Toronto FC  (Concacaf Champ League)

10 pm Univision      NY Redbulls vs Guadalajara (Concacaf Champ League)

Weds, Apr 4 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Real Madrid vs Juventus

2:45 ESPN Des/FBlive               Sevilla vs Bayern Munich (facebook live)

World Cup on Fox

PREVIEW OF INDY 11 VS FC Cincy – LadyvictoryandherquestforGLORY.com

Last week Indy Eleven opened a new chapter in their history as they clinched three points in their first USL game against the Richmond Kickers. Another chapter will unfold this week as the Eleven will face FC Cincinnati in their new home, Lucas Oil Stadium.

KEYS TO THE MATCH:

FC Cincinnati:

Silence the Indy crowd early– Lucas Oil Stadium is expected to be packed on Saturday night. Yes FC Cincinnati is expected to bring a crowd but the majority of the fans will be there to cheer on Indy Eleven. The sooner Cincinnati can flood their attacking half the quicker they take the crowd out of contention.

Richie Ryan– The Indy Eleven Dream Killer is coming back to Indy. He did it with Ottawa, Miami, and now looks to do the same with Cincinnati. If the team from Ohio looks to have any success at Lucas Oil Stadium it will come from the distribution of Richie Ryan. In their first game of the season Ryan was 82% accurate in the opposing half and will look to feed more devastating passes against Indy Eleven.

Indy Eleven:

Law Firm of Saad and Steinberger– When Zach Steinberger and Soony Saad where involved in Indy’s attack the Boys in Blue were threatening with legal proceedings in front of the Kickers goal. Their goal totals and assists may not always reflect it but if these two continue to thread key passes, Indy Eleven will be an attacking force USL teams do not want to face.

Transition to defense– The players in the blue Adidas jerseys understood their responsibility’s when the Eleven had the ball. But as the game went on and the Kickers saw more of the ball, the Eleven struggled with the role of transitioning to defense. FC Cincinnati may dictate possession for long periods of time so it will be crucial for the Eleven to understand when to pressure, where to cover, and where they need to be balanced in transition.

Don’t foul around the eighteen– The few members left over from Indy Eleven’s NASL days know all too well what Lance Laing can do from set plays. But you add Emmanuel Ledesma in the mix and FC Cincinnati can come at you from all different directions and plays. In order to shut down that aspect of Cincinnati’s tactical approach the Eleven cannot afford to give up senseless fouls around the box.

X-FACTOR: Playing surface

The last time soccer was played at Lucas Oil Stadium real grass was installed for the Chelsea-Inter Milan match in 2013. But the Eleven and FC Cincinnati will be playing on artificial turf. It’s a common misconception that all artificial turf is the same but it’s not. It will be interesting to see the speed of play, how the ball rolls, bounces, and skips across the playing surface at Lucas Oil Stadium. This could be a determining factor in the outcome of the match.

Indy Eleven Begins New Journey With Victory – Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven (3/24/2018)

Indy began their league campaign in Richmond and returned home with three points.
By: James Cormack   www.bloodyshambles.com Indy Eleven won their inaugural match in USL thanks to a first-half goal in Richmond by Jack McInerney. In a game that many of us thought was a very good chance for Indy Eleven to win, possibly by several goals, we will gladly accept 1-0 victories every week.Not only does Soony Saad, Jack McInerney, and Owain Fôn Williams make history with Indy Eleven’s first assist, goal, and shutout in USL, but Indy Eleven also recorded their first win in an opening league match in five years.It was never going to be easy taking a guess at a starting lineup with this roster and maybe a few selections were surprising. Martin Rennie has faced off against Leigh Cowlishaw before and it was interesting that the chose the same formation of 4-2-3-1. Was this Rennie’s preferred starting XI? Who knows? My feeling is Rennie doesn’t think in terms of only eleven players and we may see several different lineups during the early months of this season. he starting lineup for Indy was similar to the one that drew 0-0 with Jacksonville Armada but with a couple of changes. Owain Fôn Williams started in goal behind a back four of Pasher, Ferreira, Mitchell, and Ouimette. Matern and Watson made up the two with Nico playing tighter to the back line while Watson covered a larger area of the midfield.

In front of them, Steinberger took the role of central attacking mid and covered an incredible amount of ground for the entirety of the game, alongside him Soony Saad and Eugene Starikov seemed almost interchangeable and often switched sides during the game while Jack McInerney sat just in front of that attacking three.Indy Eleven showed remarkable organization and fluidity for an opening match, they were not organized to the point where they just became rigid in their positions with more than a few stepping well away from what may be considered a comfort zone for their position. The best way I can describe how we played is organized, disciplined and fluid, players were not on a short leash but regained formation well at times when they roamed out of their position, and each was covered well by a teammate when they did.

If you have the time to flick through some of the heatmaps and touch maps provided by USL’s Opta stats for the match, you can clearly see just how well each player worked within this formation, and the 4-2-3-1 is an easily adaptable shape if a change is required later in a game. Things that stood out for me was the work rate and areas covered by Matern, Watson, and Steinberger (shown above) and the ability of Pasher and Ouimette to hug the lines from back to front.The work by this group of players alone when Indy was not in possession allowed our two center backs to solely concentrate on anything that may slip through the middle, they had a bit of work to do but not too much. The same group of players moved the ball through Richmond’s midfield very well when we attacked.
When I think back to the opening game of 2016 against Tampa Bay where we drew 0-0 we didn’t have that same composure and organization as early, we had a solid starting lineup but it still seemed new and unknown to each other. To me, Indy Eleven looked like they were already a few competitive games into their season and that’s a very good sign.
When you can take three outstanding players like Brad Ring, Juan Guerra and Justin Braun off the bench and fit them seamlessly into a setup that is already working it bodes well for the future. Kevin Venegas and Ayoze didn’t even travel with the team and our reserve lineup still looked scary.

The fact we only scored one goal matters not, we’ll find more opportunities as the team settles. I felt my prediction of 2-0 was fair, it was our first competitive match and despite Richmond missing some key personnel they were still coming off the back of a heavy defeat and playing in front of their home fans, they fought well and may feel they deserved a point.

A win is a win however it comes and Indy Eleven got another 90 minutes of field time under their belt and will have learned more about each other as they head into what may arguably be a much tougher game against FC Cincinnati. We will likely be considered underdogs this weekend and that’s fine, we have been in his position before and stepped up.

The Boys in Blue will have enjoyed their first taste of league football this year and will be eager to head straight back into the fight, FC Cincinnati played in the opening round while Indy watched and it was Cincinnati’s turn to sit out this week. It should be a very interesting and challenging game.

Reaction from Caleb Ramp:

Indy Eleven and her fans will experience many “culture shocks” with their 2018 move to USL and Lucas Oil Stadium. While most of these will be in off-field operations and league structure (with the exception of the actual field, I suppose), the potentially large talent disparity in week-over-week opponents is something which may take time to get used to.
In the NASL, there weren’t many free lunches – especially on the road. Perhaps it’s disingenuous to say a road victory in your first match with a new team and a new regime is “expected” – but if we were to categorize the Have Nots of the USL, the Richmond Kickers would certainly qualify.
It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. There were clear synergy issues which come with a late start to the preseason and season. The squad failed on numerous occasions to put Richmond away in a scoreless second half and were lucky not to be punished near the end.

That isn’t to say there weren’t moments of positive play or a showcase of talent to encourage further optimism, however. Watson looks active, everywhere, and worthy of the armband. Steinberger looks every bit of the player who made an otherwise-underwhelming Armada squad relevant in 2017. Pasher and Saad look to be a menacing duo down the left wing. McInerney might even make a play for the 2018 USL Golden Boot.
Our much-touted depth – Venegas and Ayoze didn’t even travel with the team, Speas and Moses sat unused on the bench, and Braun was given only a token stoppage time appearance – also shouldn’t be forgotten.
Ultimately, to compete for a playoff spot we’ll have to perform better — but we certainly have the tools to do so.
In the words of an Indianapolis favorite: We’re on to Cincinnati.——————————————————————————————-

If you still have not got your tickets for Indy Eleven’s home opener against FC Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium check out BYBTIX for the best price ticket and no fees, we need the Brickyard Battalion section sold out! The South end zone section has been sold out but more seats are being opened up, for seats there and other parts of the stadium please visit INDYELEVENTICKETS. DON”T MISS OUT ON THE HOME OPENER!

Brazil get some revenge on Germany; Spain hit Argentina for six

Mar 27, 2018ESPN staff

Brazil managed a 1-0 friendly victory over Germany to earn a measure of closure after their humiliating defeat at the 2014 World Cup.The two world footballing powers were meeting for the first time since Germany embarrassed Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals at home nearly four years ago.But Brazil’s defense was stauncher in Munich on Tuesday and Gabriel Jesus’ lone goal proved to be the difference. Willian sent a curling cross into the Manchester City forward, whose powerful header was straight at Germany goalkeeper Kevin Trapp but looped up and over the line.The defeat ended Germany’s 22-game unbeaten streak, which came one game short from matching their record of 23 from 1978-81. Brazil also halted another Germany 22-game unbeaten run in 1998.

Instead, it was Brazil’s chief rivals Argentina‘s turn to suffer a lopsided defeat, as they matched their worst-ever result with a 6-1 loss to Spain, who got a hat trick from Isco.Diego Costa opened the scoring for the hosts on 12 minutes, pouncing on a Marco Asensio through ball and bundling home from close range past goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was injured and had to leave the game soon after. Spain would be two up 15 minutes later, when Isco calmly slotted home from 12 yards away on a goal also assisted by Asensio. Nicolas Otamendi then halved the deficit before the break, beating David De Gea in the Spain goal with a pinpoint header following a corner kick.But Isco restored Spain’s two-goal advantage soon after the break tucking away past Romero from a Iago Aspas assist following a counter-attack and Thiago would make it 4-1 minutes later, firing in a first-time shot to effectively put the match to bed 10 minutes into the second half.And substitute Aspas would pile on Argentina’s woe, chasing down a De Gea goal kick and slotting home for Spain’s fifth before setting Isco up to complete his hat trick and the rout.

Paul Pogba scored a fine free kick and Kylian Mbappe netted twice as France beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 in a friendly on Tuesday.Pogba has fallen out of favour under Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and has been linked with a move away this summer, but he was in excellent shape for France, scoring once and setting up Les Bleus‘ opener.Mbappe scored the opener in the 40th minute, leaving defender Roman Neustaedter stranded before shooting calmly past Andrei Lunyov in the Russian goal. Pogba curled a free kick over the wall and into the bottom corner for France’s second five minutes after the break.Russia hit back in the 68th minute when Fyodor Smolov tapped home a deep cross from substitute right-back Igor Smolnikov but Mbappe scored again 15 minutes later to illustrate the gulf between the teams.

Italy held England to a 1-1 draw after VAR awarded the visitors a late penalty at Wembley.Jamie Vardy’s 27th-minute strike looked like it would separate the two teams, with England also looking to claim a record-equalling sixth clean sheet in a row.But they were denied four minutes from time when debutant James Tarkowski was adjudged to have fouled Federico Chiesa in the area. Originally the penalty was not given but referee Deniz Aytekin consulted VAR and the spot kick was awarded. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to smash the ball past Jack Butland.

Belgium 4-0 Saudi Arabia: Lukaku ties record

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the first half to match the Belgium all-time goals record in a 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia.Lukaku put Belgium 2-0 up within the opening 39 minutes and then added an assist to let Kevin De Bruyne score the final goal in the 79th minute, one minute after Michy Batshuayi netted the third.Lukaku, who had a hat trick of international goals ruled out early in his career after Belgium made too many substitutes in a game, has now officially matched Bernard Voorhoof and Paul van Himst’s 30 goals for his country.

Six different players found the net as Switzerland demolished fellow World Cup qualifiers Panama 6-0.Blerim Dzemaili opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, Granit Xhaka converted a penalty nine minutes later and Breel Embolo and Steven Zuber also added first-half goals before Josip Drmic and Fabian Frei heaped in more after the break.

Panama’s fellow CONCACAF qualifiers Costa Rica also suffered a defeat, 1-0 to Tunisia thanks to Wahbi Khazri’s 36th-minute strike.

Japan‘s preparations took another knock as they lost to Ukraine 2-1. Japan have won only two of their last seven games and rarely looked capable of beating a Ukrainian team who didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

In a near-empty stadium in Belgium, Yaroslav Rakitskiy put Ukraine ahead in the 21st minute with a powerful shot from outside the area that took a deflection off Japan defender Naomichi Ueda.Japan equalised in the 41st minute when Tomoaki Makino scored with a header from a free kick, but Oleksander Karavaev scored the winner in the 69th with his first international goal.

Egypt 0-1 Greece: Karelis the difference

Nikolaos Karelis’ 29th minute header proved decisive as Greece held off Egypt in an underwhelming affair, in Zurich.

Mohamed Salah remained on the bench as Egypt fell 1-0 to Greece, who got a 29th-minute headed goal from Nikolaos Karelis to earn the victory.Greece nearly had a second goal from an audacious Kostas Stafylidis volley from the side of the 18-yard box, but it was controversially ruled out for offside.

Serbia got the better of Nigeria 2-0 as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice.

Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taromi both scored in the opening 20 minutes as Iran earned a 2-1 win over Algeria, while Ivory Coastheld off Moldova by the same scoreline after first-half goals from Roger Assale and Nicolas Pepe.

Sweden could have used striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they were shut out in a 1-0 defeat to Romania.

Austria eased to a 4-0 win over Luxembourg with goals from Marko Arnautovic, Florian Grillitsch, Michael Gregoritsch and Louis Schaub.

Matthew Phillips scored three minutes after half-time to give Scotland a 1-0 victory over Hungary.

Colombia and Australia played out a goalless draw, as did Denmark and Chile as well as Senegal and Bosnia-Herzegoniva.

Germany stay top of FIFA World Ranking; Italy slump, Tunisia soar

Mar 28, 2018Dale Johnson ESPNFC

Germany will stay top of the new FIFA World Ranking following March’s round of international fixtures, despite losing 1-0 to second-placed Brazil on Tuesday.Gabriel Jesus scored the only goal of the game in Berlin but it won’t be enough for Tite’s side to leapfrog the reigning world champions at the top of the ranking when the next update is published on April 12. Germany have been in the No. 1 position, with Brazil in second, for the past eight months, and before that the two nations had been trading places. It’s now 13 months since any other nation was top, with Argentina being on the summit in March 2017.

Belgium are back on the rise once more, with a 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia moving them up two places into third for the first time since their descent from first position two years ago.

Portugal and Argentina both drop one place, into fourth and fifth respectively. It is the first time Argentina have been outside of the top four since 2014.

Despite beating Argentina 6-1 on Tuesday night, Spain will actually drop one place to eighth, with Poland the big fallers down four places from sixth to 10th. Switzerland (6th) and France (7th) are the beneficiaries and both climb up two places, with Chile up one into ninth.There is no movement into the top 10, with Peru and Denmark keeping hold of 11th and 12th.

England are the biggest climbers within the top 20, moving up three into 13th. But Tunisia, England’s opening opponents at the World Cup finals, have made giant strides to move into it as the top African nation, rising nine places into 14th. It is Tunisia’s best-ever ranking by some way, surpassing their 19th position held in 1998 — when England beat Tunisia 2-0 in the World Cup finals.Colombia (16th) and Croatia (18th) both drop three places, but the biggest fallers within the top 30 nations are Italy, slumping six places into 20th and now behind Netherlands (19th). It is the Azzurri‘s lowest-ever position, having never been below 17th before, and they are likely to drop further after failing to make the World Cup.Iceland (22nd) and Sweden (23rd) are down four and Wales (21st) also lose their place inside the top 20 for the first time since 2016.Mexico (15th) are still the top CONCACAF nation, ahead of United States (24th) and Costa Rica (25th).In Africa, Tunisia are followed by Senegal (28th) and Congo DR (38th).Iran remain top-ranked in Asia, holding 36th spot, with Australia 40th.World Cup hosts Russia will fall to an all-time low of 66th.

New FIFA Ranking top 20

  1. Germany
    2. Brazil
    3. Belgium
    4. Portugal
    5. Argentina
    6. Switzerland
    7. France
    8. Spain
    9. Chile
    10. Poland
    11. Peru
    12. Denmark
    13. England
    14. Tunisia
    15. Mexico
    16. Colombia
    17. Uruguay
    18. Croatia
    19. Netherlands
    20. Italy

USA Lacks Playmaking Element Again Under Sarachan in Edging Paraguay

The USMNT won for the first time since October, but a conservative lineup choice and a lack of used subs–coupled with the reality of a missed World Cup–made for an odd occasion at a quaint North Carolina venue.  By BRIAN STRAUS   March 27, 2018

CARY N.C. — A young U.S. national team, playing in a conservative but sturdy formation that’s becoming familiar under interim coach Dave Sarachan, defeated Paraguay Tuesday night, 1-0, in a friendly between sides that played hard despite their absence from this summer’s World Cup.The USA has scored just two goals under Sarachan, but the second—which came via a Bobby Wood penalty kick toward the end of the first half—was enough to win here at WakeMed Soccer Park.Here are three thoughts on tightly contested, frequently rough-and-tumble game:

A NICE MOMENT IN A TOUGH SEASON

It’s been a brutal year for Wood, who’s scored just twice this season for a last-place Hamburg team that’s likely headed out of the Bundesliga. But he’s hit ruts in his club career before and used success with the USA to haul himself out. And although his performance Tuesday was uneven and the Americans didn’t create much going forward, it was Wood’s 45th-minute penalty kick that lifted the hosts to the win. And a goal is a goal.“Bobby and his club are going through a tough time,” Sarachan said. “[He converted] the penalty and he’s always going to give you the hard work. … I hope he takes this game and goes back to Hamburg with more confidence.”The absence of a playmaker or someone who could consistently connect Wood to the U.S. midfield (more on that below) limited his impact. He looked uncomfortable without regular service or passes played into space, and he misplayed a couple balls early. But he got his opportunity at the close of the first half thanks to midfielder teammates Marky Delgado and Tyler Adams, who linked up in the U.S. half. Adams fed Delgado with a short pass then took off, and the Toronto FC man sent a long ball over the Paraguayan midfield and on to the foot of his streaking teammate. Adams was brought down by Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernández, and Wood rolled in the ensuing penalty.The USA had more time with the ball on the wings, so perhaps a bigger target forward like C.J. Sapong, who started in Sarachan’s first two games in charge, would’ve been more effective. But Wood has been good for the USA in the past and clearly needed the boost Tuesday. Regardless of whether it makes a difference back in Germany, it made the difference in Cary.

SARACHAN: HIDING BUT HIGHLIGHTING U.S. WEAKNESS

For the third straight game, Sarachan deployed the USA in a 4-1-4-1 that helped his side win the midfield but resulted in frustration entering the attacking third. That 4-1-4-1 has comprised different players with different skills. But the common thread across Sarachan’s three games has been the absence of a central attacking presence who can unlock a well-organized defense, either with a killer penetrating pass or a dribble that forces defenders to vacate their preferred positions.A case can be made, of course, that such a player isn’t readily available at this point. Christian Pulisic can play centrally, but he has yet to feature under Sarachan. Others, like Sacha Kljestan, don’t fit in with the current youth movement. The Orlando City playmaker may have helped Tuesday, but at 32, he won’t be considered a long-term solution for a rebuilding program.So the 4-1-4-1 may be Sarachan’s effort to adapt to the absence of a creative connector, but it also highlighted that absence. Wil Trapp is one of MLS’s top holding midfielders, and he played Tuesday behind Adams and Delgado, a USA debutant who’s a skillful shuttler. Collectively, they blunted the Paraguayan counter and Atlanta United star Miguel Almirón, helped the hosts build out of the back and moved the ball with precision to the outside midfielders or the fullbacks.But when Paraguay didn’t press, the USA lacked the quality to break through. The attack was predictable and somewhat conservative, and without a player who could hit a pass that might give Wood a look at goal, or one who could dribble past a Paraguayan defender, the U.S. was static higher up the field. The passes that did some damage were hit between the lines from further back. Trapp and right midfielder Darlington Nagbe each had a couple, and Delgado hit the ball that led to the decisive penalty.Pulisic likely will return to the USA for the upcoming friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France. And considering the strength of the latter two, Sarachan might wind up calling up some older, more experienced players. Perhaps someone who can fit that central, creative role is somewhere in the pool (Kenny Saief, who played on the left Tuesday, also has spent time in the middle). But so far, the manager seems to think the USA needs to learn to play without one.

A SOBERING, SLIGHTLY SURREAL NIGHT

At times, it seemed Tuesday’s the game mattered. Paraguay was physical—and brutal at times—and was committed to the tackle like a team needing three points, not one that’s going to miss the World Cup. The visitors were shown five yellow cards, and at least one—a two-footed, lunging tackle by Rodrigo Rojas—could’ve been red. Sarachan said afterward he was impressed with his young squad’s composure.And Sarachan, who at Monday’s pregame press conference that he wished he could give playing time to his entire team, instead coached most of the match like it was the third game of a group stage. In the 75th minute, he’d used only one substitute of an allotted six. And Paris Saint-Germain’s Tim Weah didn’t make his USA debut until the 86th. Two subs went unused.The sell-out crowd of 9,895 was in good spirits. Anger over the Americans’ failure to qualify may have been mitigated by the interest in seeing some younger talent and the fact that this was the national team’s first appearance in the Triangle in a dozen years. So there was some atmosphere.“We felt it was like a real home game,” Sarachan said.But in the end, the lack of a U.S. breakthrough and the absence of so many familiar faces and names reminded everyone what Tuesday’s game really was—a standalone exhibition without much long-term purpose, and a reminder of the frustrating state of current affairs.Elsewhere in the country Tuesday, Mexico was preparing for the World Cup in a sold-out stadium in Dallas, while Peru and Iceland got ready for long-awaited appearances on the sport’s biggest stage at Red Bull Arena. But the U.S., the site of all those games, isn’t going. Adams, Trapp and Weah, along with goalkeeper Zack Steffen and center backs Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers—who played well and deserve a mention—may be the future. But the present is a team of international newbies playing in a hospitable but small second-division stadium. It was a bit strange, and not where U.S. Soccer expected to be. And there are more of these nights to come.

Wood struggles for sharpness but scores lone goal in U.S. win

The United States men’s national team turned the page on the next generation with a 1-0 friendly win over Paraguay at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina on Tuesday night. A young team put in a strong performance against a physical South American side, with several players making good cases to be central to the future of the program.

Positives

The central midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado and Wil Trapp was excellent. Working well as a unit, the group slowed down Paraguay through the middle of the field. The balance of play tilted in the Americans’ direction through the first hour of the game on the backs of the central midfield work, the press and smart passing.

The center-back pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga was also a bright spot, perhaps giving a glimpse of the future in that area of the field for the United States.

Negatives

Despite the solid work in the middle of the field for the U.S., a lack of creativity was glaringly evident. Without Christian Pulisic in the lineup, the Americans struggled to create clear chances. A reliance on low-efficiency crosses marked most of the night on the attacking end. Full-backs Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin pushed up the field to limited effect and the home side never found the combinations necessary to break down Paraguay’s defense.

Manager rating out of 10

4.5 — A win is a win, especially for a program that needs a boost of confidence, but interim manager Dave Sarachan’s decisions left a lot to be desired. Playing Bobby Wood as a lone striker considering the Hamburg striker’s poor form and flagging confidence was questionable tactically. With a squad full of young players begging for a chance to show what they could do, Sarachan waited until the 67th minute to make his first substitution and only used four of a possible six. Instead of coaching like someone who the freedom to experiment, Sarachan managed like a man who cared more about winning than pushing the new generation forward for the benefit of the program.

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

GK Zack Steffen, 6.5 — Hardly tested thanks to a misfiring Paraguay attack. Commanded his box, did not make any obvious mistakes with distribution.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 5 — Not effective enough going forward, but was fine on the defensive end. Seemed out of sorts getting in the attacking in partnership with Darlington Nagbe.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 7 — Extremely solid night at the back. A late (undeserved) yellow card soured what was nearly a perfect night for the 20-year-old. (OBC – solid pairing in the Back)

DF Matt Miazga, 6.5 — Made a mistake in possession that turned into a Paraguayan chance, but was otherwise competent in partnership with Carter-Vickers. Blocked two shots to help keep the clean sheet.  (OBC – solid pairing in the Back)

DF Jorge Villafana, 6.5 — Active in the first half in concert with Kenny Saief. Hit several mediocre crosses when he did get forward. Defensively sound.

MF Wil Trapp, 8 — Played his position to a tee. Expertly adjusted to Paraguay’s pressure and clogged the middle as the lone defensive shield. Led the team with 10 recoveries. (OBC- Led the team – played very well! )

MF Kenny Saief, 6 — Picked up his play in the second half after a less-than-stellar opening 45 minute. Showed his skill on the ball, but struggled to make his touches count in the attacking third of the field.  (OBC – Was Terrible for 50 minutes – decent for 20 minutes in the 2nd half)

MF Tyler Adams, 8.5 — Set up the lone U.S. goal with an excellent run out of midfield that won a penalty. Played all over the park, connecting passes and breaking up Paraguayan play. (OBC – Played like a god!)

MF Marky Delgado, 7.5 — Played the pass that set up Adams to win a penalty. Struggled to play forward prior to that moment, but was solid on both side of the ball for most of the evening.(OBC – Solid pairing with Adams – played well – covered well and solid passing from the back.)

MF Darlington Nagbe, 6.5 — Dribbled the Americans out of pressure and moved the ball well on the right side of the midfield. Provided one bright attacking moment in the first half, but was otherwise limited in the final third.  (OBC 5 – WHAT he passed the ball back 35 of 37 times he won it?? He had 1 shot on goal))

FW Bobby Wood, 4.5 — Scored the penalty that provided the margin of victory. Lacked a sharp touch and made poor decisions with the ball. Failed to get a shot off during the run of play. (3 OBC- SERIOUSLY HE WAS HORRIBLE – NO WONDER HE’s NOT PLAYING AT RELAGATION THREATENED HAMBURG – HE DID NOTHING IN 75 Minutes?? COMPLETE WASTE OF SPACE UP FRONT))

Substitutes

MF Rubio Rubin, 5.5 — Provided width and energy in about 25 minutes but never connected on a meaningful move.

FW Andrija Novakovich, NR — Had a shot saved on a late one-v-one that would have capped a momentous occasion on his international debut. (TOO BAD HE ONLY HAD 8 Minutes- he did more in that 8 minutes that WOODS did All night?? !!!!)

MF Tim Weah, NR — Looked bright in a few minutes as a late substitute. Had one moment of obvious nerves, but flashed the talent that makes him a potential star of the future. (OBC -What in 3 minutes?? STUPID HORRIBLE COACHING)

MF Cristian Roldan, NR – Came in with 2 minutes in OT?

 USMNT Player Ratings: Tyler Adams, Matt Miazga lead the way for rugged US

March 27, 201811:53PM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

The US national team posted their first “W” of 2018 by controlling play for a solid 1-0 victory over friendly guests Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina on Tuesday night.

The home side gave their opponents precious little room to maneuver through midfield and turned steals into solid team-building exercises all night long. They were unable to pull the right levers in the final third, but made a 45th-minute Bobby Wood penalty-kick strike stand up without too much great fuss.

Zack Steffen (6) — The netminder didn’t have a whole lot to do, and most of his tasks were pretty straightforward. Steffen’s most important action came when he rejected a last-ditch restart shot. Unfortunately, he also endured a nervy distribution moment for the second straight US game.

DeAndre Yedlin (5.5) — It was an oddly quiet night for the Newcastle right back at both ends, especially in the first half. Yedlin was often sloppy with the ball when venturing forward. He did make a helpful nudge-away-from-trouble maneuver during a late set-piece scramble.

Cameron Carter-Vickers (5) — The Ipswich Town loan defender easily had the most uneasy night. A too-gentle back pass caused some early stress, and he’d later lose a battle at the top of the area in a clumsy fashion. For the time being, Carter-Vickers may be best suited at this level as the middle man in a three-man back line.

Matt Miazga (7.5) — On the other hand, the Vitesse marshal was largely as cool as you’d like. Among his 10 total defensive stops in and around the US area, Miazga squelched dribble drives, turned away crosses, stepped into lanes and came up with a couple of important shot blocks. The only real blemish was a poor giveaway, and part of the blame lies with Steffen for putting him in dutch.

Jorge Villafaña (6.5) — Though the left back’s crosses were often imprecise, he was clearly dedicated to getting forward and repeatedly aided possession with shrewd moves. It was a mixed bag defensively for Villafaña. His most notable error involved losing a late back-post mark, but his best work soon followed when he ushered trouble away from the aforementioned restart scramble.

Wil Trapp (7) — While the night’s skipper has certainly passed better across games, he still supplied enough fuel for moves forward. What really made the 4-1-4-1 set hum, though, was Trapp’s wise control of the region between the home area and the midfield stripe. Thirteen of his 17 defensive plays came in this section, and all 12 of his positive passes out of it occurred prior to the US goal.

Darlington Nagbe (7) — The Atlanta United traffic director was moved wide right for this US cap, and he made it work. Nagbe routinely helped the team creep forward, and sprinkled in some key one-man pressure valve moves.

Marky Delgado (7) — The early phase of the game was bumpy for Delgado, who flubbed a couple of important rush passes into the final third. The Toronto FC midfielder soon grew into the game, however, and ended up providing plenty of the measured press-and-link work from his MLS portfolio. His shining moment came on the diabolical through ball that led to the winning spot kick.

Tyler Adams (7.5) — Plain and simple, Adams is a professional nuisance. If he’s not picking a pocket or shutting off an attack avenue, he’s probably exploiting space with a selective surge forward. That’s precisely what happened when he teed up the penalty winner by racing free on Delgado’s needle-threader.

Kenny Saief (7) — It was an excellent outing for the Anderlecht man, who showed an array of build-up skills. Obviously cozy comfy on the ball, Saief was a mighty handful across several attack lanes throughout his 67 minutes. He also surprised by piling up 11 defensive stops, largely from the pressure game. More, please.

Bobby Wood (6.5) — The Hamburg forward was an early spark, but fell quiet as the first half progressed due to some bad hold-up touches and teammates failing to reward a couple of excellent runs behind. Wood coolly buried his spot kick chance ahead of the break, before fading again after intermission.

Coach Dave Sarachan (6.5) — The interim boss’ grade get stretched and pulled in both directions by several factors. It’s easy to question how much can truly be gleaned from a formation likely to be a faint memory by the time the US plays a competitive match, and it was highly annoying to see only two subs get so many as 13 minutes after Sarachan vowed to properly use all six.That said, it was a very well-drilled 4-1-4-1. The Nats effectively bottled up Paraguay’s danger guys, caused threatening turnovers, re-organized into shape calmly and worked the ball to the final third with great ease.

Rubio Rubin (6) — It took a few times on the ball for Rubin to find any space, but he did play one terrific switching ball to help set up a danger free kick.

Andrija Novakavich (6) — The striker had one noteworthy action, as he raced loose late to display his surprising wheels. The Telstar loan ace probably should have given up the fast-break shot, though.

Timothy Weah (6) — Though he only enjoyed a few touches, the PSG youngster quickly showed he was a game debutant.

Christian Roldan (-) — No need to rate the stoppage-time entrant.

 USMNT’s New Talents Establish Own Culture, Tactical Identity as Uncertain Future Looms

  • The USMNT has abruptly become a young side in transition, but the core of rising stars that should lead the program forward is starting to form and lay the foundation to build on for the next World Cup cycle.By BRIAN STRAUS SI  March 28, 2018

CARY, N.C. — It was an occasion worthy of a souvenir, and Marky Delgado had a pretty good one—the traditional signed match ball celebrating a player’s first appearance with the senior U.S. national team.More than five years after making his pro debut with Chivas USA (RIP), Delgado, who’s now an MLS champion with Toronto FC, finally played for his country at the highest level. And the 22-year-old made an impact. Starting alongside a pair of MLS rivals/colleagues, Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls) and Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Delgado helped a young U.S. side dictate the pace for significant stretches of Tuesday’s friendly against Paraguay.The visitors’ primary creator, Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), was stifled. And as halftime approached, Delgado helped set up the game’s only goal. His seeing-eye long ball to Adams led directly to a penalty kick converted by forward Bobby Wood. The ball Delgado carried as he departed WakeMed Soccer Park was the tangible reward. But it didn’t necessarily represent his contribution. He’d have received one if he’d played just a few minutes, or had he been the worst player on the pitch.So for Delgado, the most vital takeaway from the 1-0 win was intangible. After two camps with the USA and 90 productive minutes on Tuesday, he felt a sense of belonging and noticed a nascent tactical identity. Both are important for a young national team in transition.“Everyone here deserves to be here,” he said of a squad that featured eight uncapped players before kickoff (and another four men with just one). “Everyone here is a competitor on and off the field. Just going in every day to training, it’s very competitive. Everyone’s hungry to prove a point and show they deserve to be here. We don’t have many veteran players here, but the level is definitely very high.”The long-term faces of the national team—Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, etc.—have been sidelined as the USA tries to recover from last fall’s World Cup qualifying disaster. Some may return down the road, but coach Dave Sarachan’s focus across his three games in charge has been the introduction of the next generation of American talent. They have room to grow and a couple years to get acclimated. But building a national team happens in fits and starts. Players come together for a few days then scatter, and the combinations and permutations are in constant flux.It’s incumbent on the manager and locker room leadership to establish the tone, set personal and positional expectations and a outline a basic tactical framework. Players arrive and have just a few days to prepare for a game. They can’t afford to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel each time. Predictability, patterns and playing to his team’s strengths didn’t interest Jurgen Klinsmann. Bruce Arena then tried to forge some consistency and coherence, and he did well for a while before inexplicably deviating from what had been working when the stakes were highest. That combination cost the USA a trip to Russia.Sarachan, who’ll be in charge at least through the pre-World Cup friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France, has responded with pragmatism. The soccer hasn’t been sexy (the Americans have scored twice in his three games). He’s sprinkled some experience throughout his lineups, and hasn’t been moved by those interested in seeing more prospects, more substitutions and a more gung-ho approach. Sarachan said Tuesday night that he waited on making changes against Paraguay, and used only four subs instead of six, because most of the men who built the lead deserved to see out the game. National teams are meritocracies and building a winning culture is crucial. At this point, a foundation must be created small piece by small piece.“We had five real hard training sessions,” Sarachan said. “You only have five days in bringing guys together. You try to make as much headway into making the group become cohesive and work together, and some of them have the advantage of having played [for the national team] before. But it’s like a crash course in communicating.”So they found familiarity where they could, and much of that was in the 4-1-4-1 Sarachan has deployed in the past three games. In each case, the USA lacked a playmaker or creator who could reliably connect the lone forward to the midfield, or put an opposing defense in disarray with an incisive pass or dribble. The resulting lack of penetration and chance creation was predictable. But such a player isn’t readily available. Christian Pulisic is the most likely candidate for the role long term, but he hasn’t been called in since Sarachan took over. Others are too old to anchor a rebuild.So the USA has gone without, building what it can in the meantime—establishing roles and responsibilities and playing to the strengths available. Trapp has been very good as a deep-lying shield and distributor. Adams is a star in the making. Darlington Nagbe can shine in the right surroundings, and the likes of Kellyn Acosta (unavailable) and Weston Mckennie (injured) are among the additional assets Sarachan can deploy in midfield.“We have a deep midfield now [and] with the players that we have these past three camps, [the 4-1-4-1] fits the style pretty well,” Adams told SI.comafter Tuesday’s game. “Having one guy that sits and facilitates the play, and then having two 8s who are able to step out and press at the needed times to take the workload off the striker is pretty important. For me, the main attributes of some of the key guys that have been in here—Kenny [Saief] and Darlington this last time, myself, Marky, Wil—we were able to find good combinations and link-up play thru the middle of the field.”he USA didn’t create much centrally or in the channels of the attacking third, and its ability to shuttle the ball to the outside midfielders or overlapping fullbacks (Jorge Villafaña had a very good game on the left) didn’t amount to much, because crosses were so ineffective against an experienced Paraguayan rearguard. But generating chances from open play is the hardest part of the game, and that may come in time, either because the current group continues to gel or via the addition of Pulisic and older attackers who still have fuel in their international tanks.Meanwhile, they’ll make do with what’s taking shape. This is a young, athletic group with confidence and range, and the defensive effort and composure has been good in all three games. Sarachan said the formation is designed to create “movement and interchange” among the midfielders, ensuring space is occupied and that the opponent faces pressure from different points and attacking runs from unpredictable positions. The communication and comfort required to execute that can come only with time.“In camps you play in, you learn guys’ tendencies and you gain chemistry with every player you’re in camp with,” Adams said.“This is the formation that we kind of want to stick to going forward,” Delgado told SI.com. “I feel like we definitely have the players to really fill this formation, and we’ve got a lot of players with a high fitness level. So going up and down the field is no problem. Tyler can go up and down. Wil does an excellent job holding the fort. He’s a great player. And I felt like the chemistry out there was pretty good for the most part.”Then, you add to what’s been built. Whether that’s the likes of Acosta or McKennie, vets like Bradley or Jozy Altidore or, when a central playmaker is desired, Pulisic (who can also play wide).“I don’t think we’re worried about finding a 10 when you have Christian Pulisic, who’s not here,” Adams said. “He’s obviously the future with a lot of other young guys, creative guys, who’ll be in and out of this cycle as well. Once you have someone like that, when he’s going to come back in and slide right in and be the creator, the facilitator, the playmaker of the team—I don’t think we’re too worried about not having a No. 10 in there right now.”dams and Delgado have all of four senior caps between them. But that lower number belies their experience. Both play key roles for clubs that are among MLS’s best. Both are vets of the U.S. youth national teams. And both feel good about what’s been established in the early going under Sarachan. Absent an attacking fulcrum, they found a way to get a result. Absent the program’s long-time leaders, they’re stepping up and establishing their own culture.“Now you have guys like myself, Weston, Christian, who are ready to play big roles,” Adams said. “There are reasons we’re getting minutes at our clubs and we’re able to take the next step to here. You continue to get the experience of these games, you learn each game and you develop your own leadership within the team. You have certain guys who are still leaders and veterans, obviously, but maybe with not as much experience. But we’re able to play a certain role and we’re going to play it to the best of our ability going forward.”The 4-1-4-1 and the culture being forged under Sarachan could all be undone by his successor, of course. U.S. Soccer is currently working to hire a national team GM who’s supposed to have control over coaching appointments. Sarachan has said he wants the manager’s job, but there will be plenty of competition and pressure for a change-of-pace hire following the World Cup. If another coach fills the role, the senior team’s technical and tactical future will be up to him. But that coach will be inheriting several young players who’ve started to establish their own international intangibles. Those were evident as they held on to the lead late and kept their nerve in the face of some hard, rough play and gamesmanship from the Paraguayans. Delgado’s signed ball is just a symbol. And that, at least, is a start.“On the night, each man competed great. There was some good soccer played,” Sarachan said. “I couldn’t be more pleased for the group. This game became a real big-boy game—playing a South American team that has a lot of experience, I thought our guys kept their composure when things started to fly, which was fairly good for a young team. And winning is good. … I think it’s another step forward.”

Four things we learned from USMNT vs. Paraguay

146By Jared Young  Mar 28, 2018, 7:05am PDT  Stars and Stripes

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In a few short hours last fall the U.S. Men’s National Team went from building to rebuilding, and Tuesday night’s friendly against Paraguay finally felt like a proper kickoff to that process. International talent melded with MLS hopefuls to form something of a realistic team. The players and coaches promised open play and basically delivered on that promise to came away with a solid 1-0 performance.Trying to manufacture learning from this game might cause one to question the value of an education altogether, but there a few things that are worth noting from a friendly that was just one small step on a long road back to respectability.

Dave Sarachan has been very pragmatic as interim head coach

Normally calling a soccer coach “pragmatic” is a subtle critique but in this case it’s a compliment. Sarachan isn’t going to be around long but he’s doing right by the players. He’s letting the players play forward and showcase their skills, and at the same time keeping the team well organized. In his three games the U.S. has given up just one goal despite asking inexperienced players to press. The team pressure has worked even if it hasn’t resulted in easy goals.The game plan has been to press wide and get organized if the opponent is central and reaching the attacking third. Here’s a chart of the U.S. tackle attempts and interceptions. Almost all of the defensive activity is out wide until the final third. The defensive results can’t be argued but offensively the U.S. has looked like the disjointed lot that they are. While some players like Kenny Saief showed they can be dangerous offensively, the team as a whole hasn’t shown any ability to break down international defenses. Still, Sarachan has pushed to open them up and deserves credit for his results.

Tyler Adams is a diverse talent

To be clear, those that watch Tyler Adams regularly did not learn this. But Adams showcased for others that he can play anywhere in the midfield and be dangerous in the attack. His run on the ball from Marky Delgado put the pressure on Paraguayan keeper Gatito Fernandez and forced him into an awkward slide. That run was the difference in the game.Check out the passing chart for Adams. His play was so balanced all over the midfield.

No one locked down a future spot, but no one played themselves out of a spot either

There were plenty of solid performances but no one played a game that was critically bad or good. Part of the issue is that Paraguay played passively and allowed the U.S. to dictate for much of the match. But they also were able to snuff out U.S. attacks as soon as they started to become interesting.Among the better performances beside Adams and Saief were Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, and Jorge Villafana on defense. Villafana was particularly active offensively as well, getting in some solid early crosses. Will Trapp played a tidy game keeping Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron from breaking through in the attacking third. Here’s Almiron’s passing chart. Notice how he was completely shut out from completing dangerous passes near the 18 yard box. Credit to the defensive trio in that area.

It’s a long road back to respectability – patience is a must

For fans who are still healing this game was not much of a salve. The solidity of the play did not hide the lack of quality when compared to the play of teams who are still building toward Russia. There’s no shortage of hope and talent waiting to come together to form a cohesive and dangerous national team, but we will need to endure plenty of these games before that reality begins to take shape.

‘Nervous’ Tim Weah ‘satisfied’ with debut performance for U.S.

Mar 28, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

CARY, N.C. — Tim Weah made his international debut on Tuesday, officially playing the last four minutes of the U.S. national team’s 1-0 victory over Paraguay, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to earn a U.S. cap.The son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah — who now is the president of Liberia — the younger Weah subbed in for Marky Delgado in the 86th minute and with stoppages was granted another three minutes or so of playing time. It was enough time to get rid of some considerable butterflies.”An 18-year-old coming into his first game for his country, I was nervous,” he said. “The first pass was a little off, but I was like, ‘I have to chill out, get comfortable,’ so that’s what I did. I got a few tackles in, I won a few balls, I almost got an assist. I can only ask for so much.”Weah had said coming into the match that he had three goals: make his debut, get a goal and also the win. He had to settle for two out of three. The near-assist proved to be his best play of the night, as he put fellow substitute Andrija Novakovich in on goal, only for Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez to come up with a sharp save.”I’m satisfied,” Weah said. “I played [seven] minutes. You can only do so much. I almost got my assist, but unfortunately Andrija didn’t score. But the main goal was to get the win and play for the team. Coming out here and making my debut in front of such amazing fans was a blessing. I just can’t wait to play more games and get more goals and more assists.”Interim U.S. manager Dave Sarachan pronounced himself pleased with Weah’s contribution, which helped the U.S. win its first game since October.[Weah] was real nervous, he should have been nervous going into his first game against a team that we recognize as a good team,” said Sarachan. “They’ve got to start somewhere, so this was a good debut for him to go in and get his feet wet because this was a big-boy game tonight.”Sarachan added, “Whether it’s your 50th or your first, once you’re in the arena and on the field, no one cares about how many caps you have.”It had already been quite a month for Weah, as he made his first-team debut with club side Paris Saint-Germain on March 3. Now that he’s done the same for the U.S., he’s keen to keep the momentum going.”It’s always going to give you confidence coming out here playing for your country,” said Weah. “Going back [to PSG], I’m going to take what I learned here and just add it to my game so when I go back I’m unstoppable an hopefully get more minutes in Ligue 1 and just continue from there and hopefully get more call-ups.”rief injury-time appearance for the Seattle Sounders man.

Wil Trapp takes his chance in new-look U.S. midfield

Mar 28, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

CARY, N.C. — For Wil Trapp, a spot on the U.S. men’s national team has long seemed just beyond his reach. Central midfield has long been the deepest position in the player pool, making it difficult for the Columbus Crew SC captain to break through.Further, on the rare occasions when he was called in, Trapp seemed an odd fit. Jurgen Klinsmann memorably tried him at outside midfield during one January camp, with subpar results.But over the last three months, Trapp has won the trust of interim coach Dave Sarachan and has seen his stature grow within the national team program. Sure, the roster assembled for Tuesday’s match against Paraguay was far short of the A-team, though given the odd state in which the U.S. team finds itself these days, what constitutes a first-choice lineup is amorphous to say the least.Tuesday’s appearance marked the first time Trapp had played for the U.S. outside of a January camp and he was his usual steady self, initiating the attack and effectively organizing his teammates. He also captained the side for the second game running, which is impressive given that he now has just four caps to his name.”I don’t think you get used to it, man,” said Trapp about wearing the armband. “It’s just one of those things. There’s a huge honor in it and there’s a lot of weight to it, but I just do my best to help my guys win the game.”He did just that by delivering the defensive play of the game, blocking a shot from Miguel Almiron midway through the second half following a turnover in the Americans’ defensive third. It was one of the few times the Atlanta United star shook free all night.When asked if he felt he had taken the next step in his international career, Trapp said, “Sure. Look, it’s always a process and you have to trust it as much as you can and just continue every time you’re in camp to build chemistry and try to perform when you’re on the field.”Trapp was the fulcrum for a stealthy U.S. trio in the center of the park. None of Trapp, Marky Delgado or Tyler Adams is imposing physically — all are slight of build and height-wise are 5-foot-9 or shorter — yet each brings something different to the table.Adams has the big engine to harry opponents and make lung-busting runs from deep in midfield. Delgado is the crafty connector in the middle third, and it was his deadeye pass to Adams that saw the New York Red Bull win the penalty that was converted by Bobby Wood for the game’s only goal. It amounted to a midfield trio whose skill set complemented each other well.”We knew we wanted to come at them and be positive with our mentality and I thought we did that,” said Trapp. “Tyler is going to get after the ball, Marky is smart and good in pockets, and I kind of like to hold a little bit more. I think the compliments were certainly there and they created the goal those two. That was a wonderful thing to see.”Adams seems set to become a mainstay, though his best position is still to be defined. Delgado passed his debut test and, at 22 years of age, has plenty more soccer left in front of him. As for Trapp, Sarachan will only be manager for three more months, at which point he will give way to a more permanent hire.Said manager might decide that his ideal midfield doesn’t have room for a deep-lying distributor. There are also young players with a European pedigree, like Schalke’s Weston McKennie, who could very well push Trapp out.For now, there is no doubting that the Ohio native has done plenty to increase his stock, and he’ll benefit from Sarachan being charge for a little longer. There are three games coming up in the May/June time frame, which leaves more time for Trapp to make an impression and keep his national team goals within reach.

Predictions for Two Mouthwatering, Two Seemingly Straightforward UCL Quarterfinals

By AVI CREDITOR March 16, 2018  SI

 

The Champions League quarterfinal draw could have yielded much more explosive results, but we’re left with the potential for an even more explosive set of semifinals, should the final eight go to form. The possibilities for Friday’s draw included a Clasico, two sets of Pep Guardiola derbies (Barcelona-Man City, Bayern Munich-Man City), a Monchi showdown (Roma’s current sporting director/Sevilla’s former one) and more permutations pitting the world’s elite against one another. And while a pair of mouthwatering matchups await, augmented by another pair of seemingly straightforward ones, it’s clear that the biggest battles are yet to come.

Here are the four that were picked out of the pot by Ukrainian Champions League ambassador Andriy Shevchenko, as the road to the May 26 final in Kiev continues:

BARCELONA vs. ROMA (April 4 at Camp Nou; April 10 at Stadio Olimpico)

There were only two matchups where Barcelona would have been a sure-fire favorite to go through, and this is one of them. All credit to Roma for winning a difficult group and reaching this stage by beating a tricky Shakhtar Donetsk side, but this likely represents a challenge too steep.If there’s a lifeline for Roma, it’s that Barcelona midfield star Sergio Busquets could miss the tie with a broken toe, but Paulinho has been so stout in the center of the park this season, that Barcelona has plenty of cover. Factor in the emergence of Ousmane Dembele as a threat going forward, as evidenced by his showing in the second leg vs. Chelsea, and it’s possible that Barcelona, which remains undefeated in La Liga, is still getting better.

Oh, and then there’s the Lionel Messi factor. Arrivederci, Roma.

Prediction: Barcelona advances on a 6-1 aggregate

SEVILLA vs. BAYERN MUNICH (April 3 at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan; April 11 at Allianz Arena)

Sevilla capitalized on Manchester United’s slack defending and backwards tactics to advance to the final eight, but it should not expect the same from its next opponent. Bayern Munich is firing on all cylinders under Jupp Heynckes and may well have clinched the Bundesliga title by the time this series kicks off. All eggs will be in the Champions League basket at that point, and Heynckes can deploy his side accordingly.

Sevilla, meanwhile, has been putrid in defense in the league and has conceded multiple goals in half of its Champions League contests. Hosting the first leg in a raucous atmosphere could provide the boost needed to compete, but this has wheels-falling-off potential for Vincenzo Montella’s side, which has reached this stage for the first time in 60 years.Prediction: Bayern Munich advances on a 7-2 aggregate

JUVENTUS vs. REAL MADRID (April 3 at Allianz Stadium; April 11 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu)

Juventus’s Champions League road will once again go through a Spanish power. Beaten by Barcelona and Real Madrid in two of the last three finals, the 2017 final rematch vs. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. will present a challenge, while also offering a chance at redemption. This isn’t Juventus’s best team of this golden era, but it’s hitting its stride in both the league and in Europe at the right time, and it’s certainly capable of the quality and defensive discipline necessary to go through.

Real Madrid is a curious case. Amid all of the struggles in La Liga and rumors regarding Zinedine Zidane’s future and Neymar’s potential blockbuster arrival, the club has fared quite well in the Champions League. It didn’t win its group, but then again, it didn’t last season on a romp to a second straight title. Against PSG, Real Madrid was clearly better, taking control of a flawed team of under-pressure superstars and outclassing them over two legs. Juventus is a different beast. It’s a well-drilled side ready for the occasion, though the fact that Tottenham had so much control of their last-16 series and produced so many quality chances should be a cause for concern. Ronaldo’s goal-scoring record in Europe has been sensational, and if the same kind of chances fall his way, Juve could be staring at another Spain-induced exit. This is the toughest of the four matchups to call, and it should play out as close as that. Prediction: Juventus advances on a 3-2 aggregate

LIVERPOOL vs. MANCHESTER CITY (April 4 at Anfield; April 10 at Etihad Stadium)

Liverpool, which fell to City 5-0 in a red-card-altered clash in September, is responsible for Manchester City’s only loss of the Premier League season, impeding the road to Invincible in a 4-3 classic on January 14. There won’t be any fear factor, but the question remains: Can Jurgen Klopp’s style of play hold vs. Man City over the course of 180 more minutes? Liverpool was downright surgical in its pressing of Man City in that meeting and got every step right until Pep’s charges mounted a furious late comeback. Whether that’s sustainable for the duration of a European tie is the key question.Then there’s the schedule congestion part of all of this. In the middle of the six-day turnaround sits a pair of rivalry games in the league. Manchester City plays Manchester United on April 7 (though the title should already be clinched by then), while Liverpool, still fighting for its top-four life, faces Merseyside foe Everton on the same day in a rescheduled bout that was pushed a day earlier. You’d have to give the advantage to City in terms of the ability to rotate the squad.These teams know each other too well and are too potentially explosive for this series not to dazzle, but it’s hard to see Guardiola not adjusting his side to account for January’s events in what should be a high-scoring affair.

Prediction: Manchester City advances on a 6-4 aggregate

FIVE YEARS AND COUNTING – Indy 11 bRAD RING

By Trey Higdon, 03/28/18, 5:15PM EDT  Reflecting on Brad Ring’s time with Indy Eleven

,758 minutes. That’s how many regular season minutes Brad Ring has appeared on the pitch donning Indy Eleven’s crest over his heart. Ring, affectionately nicknamed “Legend” by the Brickyard Battalion (BYB), first joined Indy Eleven’s roster back in January 2014. Although joining Indy Eleven was new territory for him, the move was Ring’s return to the Hoosier state after his successful stint with Indiana University Men’s Soccer team from 2005-2008.Back in 2014, “Indiana’s Team” was still growing—Indy Eleven had officially come into existence a year prior under the moniker “Indy Pro Soccer”; only a handful of players had been signed and most glaringly, the club hadn’t played a game. It was truly a fresh start for Ring, a seasoned veteran who had played for Major League Soccer giants Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes in seasons prior. Some of the more dedicated fans would’ve known the Rockford, Illinois native from his MLS and college career, but for the rest, his name didn’t “ring” a bell.Over the last five seasons, Ring has seen the Circle City club evolve: numerous teammates come and go; three head coaches, two assistant coaches; collecting the club’s first silverware in 2016 and suffering championship-falling heartbreak later that season. Through all the ebbs and flows, Ring remained the one constant. This consistency manifested itself in Ring’s role with the club slowly molding him into the leader that he is today.  “I have been fortunate to have so many amazing teammates over the last 4 years here in Indy,” said Ring. “Although it’s a bit sad that so many guys have gone different directions with their careers, it’s an honor to be the last remaining original member of the 2014 squad. My role has changed each year. Some years I have been more vocal and other years I have lead quietly by example. I have worn the armband a few times which is always an honor so it was special to be named vice captain this year to Matt Watson as team captain.”A “leader” can be defined as “the person who leads or commands a group or organization”. Leadership is synonymous with experience, and experience is something Ring has a wealth of given the amount of times he’s dressed in his club’s colors. After coming on as a substitute in last Saturday’s 1-0 win against the Richmond Kickers, the midfielder inched closer to making his 100th appearance for Indy. Sitting at 95 caps [appearances] for his club, Ring is just games away from becoming the second player to register 100 appearances in Indy Eleven’s history, the first being former teammate and Indy original Don Smart.According to Ring, there isn’t any magic to being selected. However, Ring leads by example by demonstrating proper fitness and personal upkeep to make himself eligible for play time each week.“As you get older all the little things add up,” Ring explained. “I try to take care of my body as best as I can. Eating healthy with the help from King Cal meals, recovering properly, staying hydrated, etc., so that I can train and play to the best of my ability every time I step on the field.” Off the pitch, Ring reprises his leadership role by becoming a role model in his community.  In 2016, he founded “Ring’s Reading Program”, a reading program geared towards helping elementary students improve their literary skills. The program initially debuted in schools within the Carmel, Indiana area, but quickly spread to education systems throughout the city. Inspired by numerous figures in his youth, Ring strives to grow his reading program as a way to give back to the community that has welcomed him with open arms.“I’m very proud to have started ‘Ring’s Reading Program’ aimed at helping elementary school kids improve their reading, nutrition and living an active lifestyle,” Ring stated. “The idea transpired due to my desire to give back to the community. A lot of people inspired me when I was young so I feel the calling to do the same for today’s youth. We have received a lot of positive feedback from schools so the plan is to continue to visit schools to expand the impact of my program.”It’s the ever-growing acts of selflessness in his community and the dedication to his teammates on the pitch that has drawn the eyes of so many supporters. As the saying goes, “Your small support could accomplish a big dream.” In the case for Brad Ring, the support he’s received from the BYB over the years has been anything but small. From 2014 to today, Ring has been a mainstay in both Indy’s lineup and the in the hearts of the club’s fans. Ring has found himself the subject of several fan-favorite moments, from innumerable stellar performances to the famous celebratory “beer chug” after clinching the 2016 Spring North American Soccer League Championship.Indianapolis’ obsession with Ring became apparent earlier this year when the hashtag #BringBradBack made its round on social media just days before the championed midfielder re-signed with Indy Eleven. It’s these moments that have cemented Ring into the fabric of supporter culture, and the focus of their cheers and chants game after game.“I have an enormous amount of respect for our fan base and specifically the BYB,” Ring said. “They welcomed me and my family from day one helping to make Indy feel quickly like home. They give everything they have for 90+ mins always pushing us to fight ‘til the end. I appreciate the love and support they have given me over the years. I hope they know how much it means to me, my family and the entire organization.”hile the club’s fan base has remained a constant, Indy Eleven has seen some wholesales changes in the last four years. It’s not every day a player finds themselves playing for a new head coach in a brand new league, but still playing for the same team they’ve been with for years. However, this is the reality for Ring. Facing a whirlwind of changes in such a small time frame can be daunting, but the ability for players to look past change and unite under a common goal is what makes them all the more admirable.“The coaching staff has really developed a positive and supporting culture in their short time with the club,” Ring said. “I have no personal goals but just to enjoy the season and be the best teammate possible. Every team has a goal to make the playoffs and we are no exception. We have high hopes for the year even greater than that. We know the road won’t be easy but if we work hard and stick together, we have the talent and resources to do big things.” Time wears on. Buildings rise and fall. Players come and go. Eventually, there will be a time in which Ring will say “farewell” to Indy Eleven and his supporters. Long after that times comes, though, fans will still remember his legacy. Until that day comes, Ring is here to stay, and Ring is here to win.

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

 

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

Carmel Dad’s Carmel FC Soccer Camp June 4-7 Badger, June 11-14 Shelbourne

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

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX 

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

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3/27/18 US Men vs Paraguay Tues 8 pm Fox Sport 1, Indy 11 Win 1st – save on Home Opener Sat 7 pm vs Cincy

So in the middle of watching some good world teams in their last warm ups before the World Cup (see TV Schedule Below) – it will be fun to see our kids match-up against Paraguay Tuesday night on Fox Sports 1.  I am excited to see the some of new kids – especially Wing/Forward Tim Weah – now getting some time at PSG in France along with Nocakovitch who’s tearing up the scoring sheet at Telstar.  Interesting to see if McKinnie (Schalke) and Tyler Adams (NY Red Bulls) can continue their tear in the middle (they looked really good last game together) and what will happen in the back with 2 experienced but young outside backs in Villafana on the left and Yedlin on the right along with last games starting pairing of Matt Miazga and Carter-Vickers in the middle in front of Hamid.

Below is the predicted start from Stars & Stripes –

Wood /Nocakovitch

LM Saief  RM Nagbe

DM Mckinnie  DM  Adams

LD  Villafana  CD Miazga  CD  Carter Vickers RB Yedlin

GK Bill Hamid

Just a few days left until the Indy 11 open their 1st USL season home season vs FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, March 31st at 7 pm at their new home – Lucas Oil Stadium and we have a Special Ticket Offer from the 11 as we look to fill the stadium and welcome the over 2000 Cincy fans expected to make the trek.  Of course our Boys in Blue won their first game 1-0 on the road at Richmond last Saturday and stand as just 1 of 6 teams in the USL East that are undefeated!

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today.

US Soccer Bonus

US Preview – MLS.com

Meet the New USMNT Kids  ESPNFC Jason Davis

The Defense Could be the Strongest Part of this Squad – ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

US Fans should temper Expectations – coach Sarachan says – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US What to Watch for – Stars and Stripes –

Erik Palmer Brown Rady to Take Next Step for US Team – MLS.com

US Young Goalkeepers Battle for #1

A closer Look at the New US – “World Cupless” Jersey’s

Looking at the Youngsters – on their 1st caps – American Outlaws

US Questions for this Game – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Names 22 man Youthful squad for Tues Friendly vs Paraguay

US Continues Youth movement in Call-Up MLS.com

Matt Miazga – We are all Ready to Make an Impact for the US – NBC Sports

Tim Weah Earns first Senior Club Callup

Andrija Novokovich Honored with US Callup from Reading

GAMES ON TV 

 

Tues, Mar 27 

12:50 pm ESPN Desp  Russia vs France

3 pm Fox Sports 1      England vs Italy

3:45 pm  ESPN3           Germany vs Brazil

4 pm ESPN Desp          Spain vs Argentina

8 pm Fox Sport 1  USA vs Paraguay

11 pm Fox Sports 1   Mexico vs Croatia

Sat, Mar 31

7 am beIn Sport          Eibar vs Real Madrid

7:30 am NBCSN            Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                    Schalke vs Freiburg

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Swansea

12:30 pm NBCSN        Everton vs Man City

12:30 pm FS1 ?    Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3 pm Fox               LA Galaxy vs LAFC 

7 pm Home              Indy 11 vs FC Cincinatti 

Sun, Apr 1                      

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Stoke City

10:30 am FS1                 Werder Bremen ( ) vs Frankfurt

11 am  NBCSN             Chelsea vs Tottenham 

3 pm ESPN                       Atlanta United vs DC United

World Cup on Fox

United States vs. Paraguay | 2018 International Friendly Match Preview

March 25, 20187:14PM EDTDylan ButlerContributor

United States vs. Paraguay  International Friendly
WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary  Tuesday, March 27 – 7:30 pm ET  WATCH: FS1, UniMas

After a drab goalless draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina in January, the youth movement within the United States national team program continues Tuesday when a 22-man roster with an average age of 23 years old faces Paraguay at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park Tuesday night in an international friendly.Among Dave Sarachan’s roster are 17 players age 24 or under, which means it could be the nucleus — sans Christian Pulisic — that would compete to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.Pulisic was excluded because Borussia Dortmund has a key match coming up with Bayern Munich and the club is trying to secure a spot in the UEFA Champions League.“As much as we wanted him here  I felt it best suits the player to continue in the rhythm and form he’s currently in with his club,” Sarachan said.

United States Outlook

While the roster is young, there are some familiar faces, including former New York Red Bullscentral defender Matt Miazga and Newcastle United fullback DeAndre Yedlin, whose 49 caps are tops on this squad.There are seven MLS players on the squad, including goalkeeper Alex Bono and midfielder Marky Delgado from treble-winning Toronto FC, both of whom are looking to make their U.S. debut.There are are also names some United States fans might be unfamiliar with, like Andrija Novakovich, a forward at SC Telstar in the Netherlands on loan from Reading. He is one of five first-time call-ups who could make their first U.S. national team appearance.“Being 6-4, he’s a different type of forward than some of our other players that we have in this camp and in the program,” Sarachan said. “He’s an intriguing one and obviously he’s young, so for me it’s about getting him in and seeing what he’s like now when he’s put amongst the National Team players in training.”

Paraguay Outlook

Like the United States, Paraguay narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, conceding in the 84th minute to Venezuela on the final day of CONMEBOL qualification. This is their first match since that crushing home defeat which came five days after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Colombia in Barranquilla that kept their World Cup dreams alive.Interim coach Gustavo Morinigo hasn’t gone all youth movement like the United States, with his roster a mix of newcomers and established veterans, like 35-year-old Libertad midfielder Cristian Riveros, who has 100 caps.There are four players seeking their first appearance, including 21-year-old midfielder Richard Sanchez, one of five players from Olimpia in Paraguay’s Primera Division.“We look to the future already, we need to settle quickly, build a good team, a good roster, so that when the [new coach] comes to stay, he knows how to choose these players or that he wants at that moment,” Moringo said. “We think that everyone’s time is good. I hope we can take advantage of it.”

History

The United States is 3-2-2 all-time against Paraguay. The most recent meeting came on June 11, 2016 when Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory in the Copa America Centenario in Philadelphia.

Players to Watch

United States — Tim Weah. The son of the legendary George Weah turned president of Liberia, the 18-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward scored a hat trick for the United States at the U-17 World Cup against Paraguay, the first ever for the U.S. in a World Cup knockout round at any level.“He’s a versatile player that can fit in at a couple different positions, and when you have speed and technical ability combined as a young kid, I think he’s an interesting prospect to offer an opportunity to,” Sarachan said.

Paraguay — Miguel Almiron. The lone MLS player on the La Albirroja roster is the Atlanta United FC standout, who has made 12 appearances with Paraguay since his debut in Sept. 2015. The 24-year-old midfielder, named the MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2017, has one goal and two assists for Atlanta this season.

United States Roster

Pos. Player Club Caps/Goals
GK Alex Bono Toronto FC 0/0
GK Bill Hamid Midtjylland 5/0
GK Zack Steffen Columbus Crew SC 1/0
D Cameron Carter-Vickers Ipswich Town 1/0
D Eric Lichaj Nottingham Forest 14/1
D Matt Miazga Vitesse 4/1
D Shaq Moore Levante 0/0
D Erik Palmer-Brown K.V. Kortrijk 0/0
D Antonne Robinson Bolton Wanderers 0/0
D Jorge Villafana Santos Laguna 15/0
D DeAndre Yedlin Newcastle United 49/0
M Tyler Adams New York Red Bulls 2/0
M Marky Delgado Toronto FC 0/0
M Kekuta Manneh Pachuca 0/0
M Weston McKennie Schalke 0/0
M Darlington Nagbe Atlanta United FC 24/1
M Cristian Roldan Seattle Sounders FC 2/0
M Kenny Saief Anderlecht 1/0
M Wil Trapp Columbus Crew SC 3/0
M Tim Weah Paris Saint-Germain 0/0
F Andrija Novakovich Telstar 0/0
F Rubio Rubin Club Tijuana 4/0
F Bobby Wood Hamburg 36/10

Tim Weah, Marky Delgado and more: meet the new USMNT kids

Mar 24, 2018Jason Davis

The U.S. men’s national team faces Paraguay on Tuesday in Cary, North Carolina, with a clear focus on the future. The group called in by interim head coach Dave Sarachan is young and largely new. The squad has an average age just over 23 and includes 14 players with three or fewer senior caps.Let’s meet the new kids on the block hoping to put the USMNT on track for the World Cup in 2022.

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GK: Alex Bono, Toronto FC

Winning an MLS Cup title as a 23-year-old goalkeeper is bound to get you noticed by the national team. At a point in time when the future of the position is up in the air, Bono has emerged as a legitimate candidate for future No. 1 consideration.”He’s got a ton of growth left. We’re just building the foundation of his career,” TFC goalkeeper coach Jon Conway coach told ESPN FC. “We’ve had some things come together nicely, one being his attitude and improvement and two being the success that the club has had.”Conway also believes in Bono’s ability to win the top spot with the national team. “I don’t see why he can’t be a first-choice international goalkeeper,” he said. “I think at this point, the goalkeepers that we have, between the three we have in, it’s anybody’s position at the moment.”

DF: Shaq Moore, Levante

A 21-year old right-back who took on the challenge of making it in Spain as a teenager, Moore debuted for Levante in November 2017. His combination of speed and technical ability earned him a chance to play in one of the top leagues in the world.”We never had any doubt,” Levante manager Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz told reporters after Moore’s first outing. “He’s a player that we’ve said for a long time is young, he comes from the second team that comes from a lower level, and the level in the first division is high, and he had a rival in front of him of high quality, but we knew he would do well.”He’s a serious kid, disciplined, hard-working, with some important characteristics. Physically, he’s a marvel, fast, he can handle the ball. We didn’t have doubts that he would do badly. He was very calm in that position.”

DF: Erik Palmer-Brown, Kortrijk

Palmer-Brown, 20, is a product of the Sporting Kansas City academy who signed with Manchester City last season and is on loan in Belgium with Kortrijk. Smart, athletic and versatile, the defender moved into the spotlight with excellent performances at last year’s U-20 World Cup.”Erik made big improvements over the last two years, starting with his loan to Porto. This loan helped prepare him as we went into qualifiers for U20 World Cup and had him playing at a high level,” Brian Bliss, Sporting’s director of player Personnel and a U20 national team assistant, told ESPN FC.”He excelled even playing out of position as a midfielder, which helped his development in seeing the game quicker. I’m sure with his passing abilities improving, coupled with his physical qualities, he will be on the right track to helping Kortrijk and Manchester City in the future.”

DF: Antonee Robinson, Bolton Wanderers

An English-born full-back on loan at Bolton from Everton, Robinson is already turning heads at the age of 20. Robinson is a player of real potential at a traditionally weak position for the USMNT.Bolton manager Phil Parkinson highlighted Robinson’s qualities after a strong performance against Sunderland in November. “He was so comfortable physically, and he offers us something extra in the team because he’s so dynamic going forward,” Parkinson said. “The modern-day full-back, like the boys at Fulham last weekend, cover 1,100 meters at high intensity: well we’ve got our own one in Antonee who can cover that kind of distance, no problem.”Robinson’s ability to cover distance and get forward has him second in the Wanderers team in assists, highlighting his potential as an attacking weapon for the United States.

MF: Kekuta Manneh, Pachuca

Originally from The Gambia, Manneh moved to Texas as a teenager to chase a professional soccer dream and famously resided in the U.S. while playing in Vancouver to stay on track for American citizenship.Manneh’s former teammate in Vancouver, defender Pa-Modou Kah, heaped praise on him in 2017 while pointing to issues with consistency. “He’s the kind of player that you pay to come to watch,” Kah told The Canadian Press. “But in football, there’s more to it than just flashy moments. But what he has when he is on the ball, that is God-given talent. That is not something you teach somebody.””There aren’t too many people as quick as him in the league,” said Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter at the time of Manneh’s move from Vancouver in 2017. “One thing I think that gets overlooked is how good of a finisher he is. He’s very good in front of goal.”

MF: Marky Delgado, Toronto FC

A fixture for various U.S. youth national teams, the 22-year-old midfielder came into his own as a member of Toronto FC in 2017. Dan Calichman, a TFC assistant who worked with Delgado at Chivas USA, identified the midfielder’s strengths for ESPN FC. “Marky is a runner. He will break lines, he will look for good spaces. He’s a good one-touch passer. He’s a solid ‘eight’ as a midfielder: he’s a true eight.”Every day he gets to compete against guys that are his equal or better. When you do that, when that’s your environment, you’re going to move up,” he added.As for whether Delgado can help the U.S. get back to the World Cup, Calichman has no doubts. “I would say it’s a no-brainer that Marky can help [the United States] get into that World Cup.”

MF: Tim Weah, Paris Saint-Germain

Living up to his famous name will be difficult, but 18-year old Weah is already making waves at Paris St.-Germain and has an extensive résumé as a U.S. youth international.”At this age, he has a lot of potential,” said U.S. U17 head coach John Hackworth after Weah’s hat trick against Paraguay at the U17 World Cup last year. “He is one of those guys who you can say has a lot of lofty expectations on him because of his name. But he isn’t his dad, he is Tim. He needs to make his own way.””He’s playing for a high-profile club who has seen fit to give him first-team minutes, which is a great sign of his progression,” said U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan in a Q&A for U.S. Soccer on Sunday. “He’s a versatile player that can fit in at a couple different positions, and when you have speed and technical ability combined as a young kid, I think he’s an interesting prospect to offer an opportunity to.”

FW: Andrija Novakovich, Telstar

Novakovich might be one of the more under-the-radar call-ups in a team full of new names with little exposure. The son of Serbian parents who settled in Wisconsin, Novakovich is a big forward who prefers to play with his head towards goal and the ball at his feet.”The forward position is a very important one, and I’ve always felt in general — not just with our national team but in our country as a whole — that you can’t have enough depth there,” Sarachan said of Novakovich.”Being 6-foot-4, he’s a different type of forward than some of our other players that we have in this camp and in the program. He’s an intriguing one, and obviously he’s young, so for me, it’s about getting him in and seeing what he’s like now when he’s put among the national team players in training.”

USA vs. Paraguay, 2018 friendly: What to watch for

Youth will be in abundance in Cary when the Yanks take on La Albirroja.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Mar 26, 2018, 6:00am PDT

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The United States will take the field tomorrow in Cary, North Carolina to take on Paraguay in their only friendly match during the March international window. A young squad has been training under American manager Dave Sarachan for the opportunity to test themselves against a South American nation who didn’t make the World Cup but still has a strong squad. The last time these two teams squared off was in the 2016 Copa America group stage, when a Clint Dempsey goal was the difference in a 1-0 victory for the USMNT that sent them through to the quarterfinals.The mission for this match: evaluate the future talent that could be on the international stage for a long time. The average age for the USMNT roster is under 24, with 8 players not having a single international cap. We will get to see how these players compete against a Paraguayan team that has some youth but also some with experience in big matches.

What to Watch for

Control the midfield. Paraguay’s midfield can get out and run, and it will be important for the USMNT to control possession in the midfield and not get stuck on counter attacks. With the all at our feet, the midfield should spread out and put pressure on their defense with crisp passes and being creative in space.

Bend, don’t break. The American defense is young and very inexperienced, and this will be a major test for them to corral the speed that Paraguay possesses. There are going to be times when La Albirroja gets behind them, but if they can bend but not break, we could catch them with numbers going the other way.

Can the youth make the most of their opportunity? This is a chance for the young guys who have never featured for the United States to show that they have the moxie to make it on this stage. It will be cool to see what players like Timothy Weah, Antonee Robinson, and Andrija Novakovich can do against top level competition. Will they respond? Can they break through and execute? It will be fun to watch these young Americans compete.

 Lineup Prediction

American manager Dave Sarachan has some options for the lineup that walks onto the field tomorrow to start against Paraguay. In the end, I think he combines some of the experienced players with some of the youth:

Wood /Nocakovitch

LM Saief  RM Nagba

DM Mckinnie  DM  Adams

LD  Villafana  CD Miazga  CD  Carter Vickers RB Yedlin

GK Bill Hamid

 

In goal, Bill Hamid seems to have the edge over Zack Steffen and will earn the start, but I won’t be surprised to see Steffen play in the 2nd half. On the back line, I think Jorge Villafaña and DeAndre Yedlin will start at left and right back, respectively. I could see Antonee Robinson in this lineup as well, but I imagine he and Shaq Moore would be one of the first defenders off the bench. In the middle of the defense, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers are the two I expect.The midfield is one where I think the starting options are more stable. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams in the middle, McKennie operating more as a central defensive mid and Adams moving forward at times, should be Sarachan’s preferred option. Darlington Nagbe will try to create havoc on the right wing, and Kenny Saief will get a chance to show he can help out on the left.Up front, I think this is the interestin one. While Timothy Weah is on the roster as a midfielder, I could see him up front later in the match. In the end, I think Sarachan starts with the tall Andrija Novakovich as a second striker to Bobby Wood. Can we use his height on set pieces and corners? Absolutely, and I think Sarachan will think it’s worth a trial.This is an important match for the future of the USMNT. With the several players who have little to no experience on the international stage, the curiosity of what they can do makes this match all the more intriguing. Can the team break through and score their first goal in 2018? Can they hold off La Albirroja’s speed and creativity? It all unfolds tomorrow night in Cary, North Carolina.

 

Miazga, Carter-Vickers, Palmer-Brown forming crucial defensive foundation

12:13 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

CARY, N.C. — Dave Sarachan has seen a few defenders develop during his coaching career. He was witness to Carlos Bocanegra’s final season with the Chicago Fire before the United States stalwart departed for Europe. He also was present for some of Eddie Pope’s best years in a U.S. national team jersey.Now as Sarachan’s time as caretaker for the U.S. enters its final few months, part of his remit is to help move along the international careers of the next generation of center-backs. Ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Paraguay, he’s seeing some intriguing prospects up close in Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Erik Palmer-Brown. All have excelled for the U.S. Under-20 national team in the past, and all are currently on loan to European clubs from Premier League sides.

“I think we have a good generation of center-backs developing,” Sarachan said on Sunday at the team’s hotel.Good thing, because the window of opportunity at the position has been thrown wide open. Most of the defenders used during the failed attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup will be well into their 30s when qualifying for 2022 begins. A notable exception is Wolfsburg’s John Brooks, who is just 25, but he has proven to be injury-prone for much of his career.So with that in mind, Sarachan is keeping an eye — both when he can — on the trio of center-backs in camp. And while playing the ball out of the back is a must for a central defender, Sarachan’s focus is on the defending side of the ball.”It’s defending in all sorts of moments that appear in a game, in transition moments, counters, whether it’s isolated in 1-v-1, keeping-your-feet-moving defending,” he said.”Or if it’s off the ball defending, not being a ball-watcher but understanding that when the ball goes wide, as a center back, you’ve got to take care of a lot of different things — the ball, your opponent, the second runner, your partner.”So it’s multitasking which is the developmental part of experience. It’s not just about one thing, it’s about two or three or four things.”Palmer-Brown, who recently was signed by Manchester City, is currently on loan to Belgian side Kortrijk. Having joined in midseason, he has made just one league appearance, and he admits he’s playing a bit of catch-up with his new club.”I think it’s going good,” the 20-year-old told ESPN FC prior to Sunday’s training session. “The lifestyle, everyone speaks English there, so it’s been an easy transition in that aspect.”But it’s really demanding physically. For like two weeks, I was running after training for an hour. For me, it’s kind of old-fashioned in that sense. That was what was difficult for me.”

That said, Sarachan says he hasn’t detected much rust in Palmer-Brown’s game.”His feet are good, his distribution has been good,” Sarachan said. “The little bit of defending we’ve seen — because we haven’t had that many full scrimmages — seems like he’s comfortable.”Carter-Vickers is undergoing his first full season of first-team action, having made a combined 29 appearances for Ipswich Town and Sheffield United while on loan from Tottenham Hotspur. Carter-Vickers is a defender who seems as wide as he is tall, but also has some skill to go along with his physicality.”This guy is steady, man, steady as a rock,” Sarachan said of Carter-Vickers. “He’s hard, he’s alert, he’s better than you think with the ball.

“He looks like a running back, but as you can imagine, when the moments come that he’s got to get in on a play, or not allow a guy to get behind him, he knows how to use that body. There’s a lot of big guys that don’t, and there’s a lot of little guys that do, but he’s a big guy that knows how to use his body and moves better than you think. He’s just been very consistent all week long.”Of the three, Miazga seems the furthest along, which isn’t a surprise given that at 22, he’s two years older than both Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers. He’s made considerable use of nearly two seasons on loan at Vitesse from Chelsea. Last season he helped lead Vitesse to the KNVB Cup, the first major trophy in the club’s 125-year history.With two months to go in the season, he’s played more than 30 matches, including some in the Europa League, and the challenge of playing twice a week is one he welcomes.”There’s not time for excuses, you’ve got to perform at a high level,” he said. “There’s competition, with grown men trying to take your spot. You’re the same.”Obviously it’s good competition, but that’s just the reality of it. You have to be fully ready, consistently focused on performing at a high level, no slip-ups, and just continue playing, and I’ve been able to do that playing a lot of minutes this year.”The right-footed Miazga has become more versatile by playing nearly two seasons as a left-sided center-back. He’s also taken on more of a leadership role within the team.”I’ve been slowly embracing that [role] and taking that to my game, and I’ve seen it paying dividends a lot in terms of communication, awareness and helping my teammates by organizing,” he said. “I think that’s what I’ve improved the most, my communication, my awareness and my organization.”is progress has been noted by Chelsea, who Miazga says pay him a visit every five to six weeks to gauge his progress, and give him feedback on his performances.”They’re very engaged,” he said.His focus remains on the end of the season with Vitesse, and then he’ll speak to the Chelsea brass about what’s next, though it remains to be seen if manager Antonio Conte will even be in charge after the current campaign.”There’s a lot of what-ifs. That’s how football works,” Miazga said with a shrug and a smile.Sarachan has spent much of the week trying to establish chemistry between players, but Miazga, Carter-Vickers and Palmer-Brown have a built-in advantage. All three played for the U.S. at the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup. Carter-Vickers and Palmer-Brown played in the tournament again two years later.”We’re just pushing ourselves along in this journey,” Miazga said. “We have a good connection. We’ve been playing in these national team programs for a while and hopefully we can continue working hard and establishing ourselves in the senior team.”uesday marks the next step.

U.S. fans should ‘temper’ expectations on young group – Sarachan

4:42 PM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

CARY, N.C. — Interim U.S. men’s national team manager Dave Sarachan said he likes what he’s seen so far from the youthful roster that will face Paraguay on Tuesday, even as he sought to temper expectations about this group of players.Sarachan’s 22-man roster contains five uncapped players, as well as another 10 with five or fewer international appearances. But with this being the third training camp in which he’s been in charge, Sarachan is already noticing some upticks in improvement from some young players that he brought into his first camp last November, including Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, defender Matt Miazga and midfielder Tyler Adams. “It’s not their first time now,” said Sarachan about his young holdovers. “A lot of them played with youth national teams, but with the senior team, now they come in and they have a familiar staff, a familiar system, a familiar way of doing things, and now it’s just another experience they can build upon.”I see a little more of a confidence factor with some of the younger guys, as opposed to the first camp it was just fresh for a lot of guys.”Sarachan cautioned observers to take a go-slow approach in terms of their expectations. That can be difficult given the pedigree of some young players, like McKennie and 17-year-old Tim Weah, who is the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah.”People that have followed this young group, there is this expectation that this is potentially the next generation,” Sarachan told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. “I would say that we should just temper that a little bit because they are young.”Sarachan noted that moves the players are able to pull off in training with their clubs won’t be as easy come Tuesday against a Paraguay side that contains a fair bit of experience.”I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement and that will come hopefully with time,” he said. “I think the baseline has been good. It’s just going to be a little bit hit or miss and a few bumps along the road as they get prepared for this game.”The U.S. roster does have some veteran elements, including defender DeAndre Yedlin, forward Bobby Wood, midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defender Eric Lichaj. Sarachan stated that the quartet is excited to be back in the national team frame, especially now that there is some distance from the World Cup qualifying failure last year.”They’ve almost now have taken it a little bit upon themselves to try to translate some experience to a lot of the younger guys,” he said about the veterans. “But the majority of this group is so young, and with that comes great effort, attitude, initiative, energy and excitement to be here.”

Erik Palmer-Brown ready to take next step with U.S. national team

March 25, 20185:52PM EDTNeil Morris

CARY, N.C. — It was simply a matter of time for Erik Palmer-Brown.Of the five first-time call-ups into the US national team camp currently training in North Carolina, Palmer-Brown seemed the most inevitable. He’s one of only 12 U.S. players ever named to two FIFA U-20 World Cup rosters. Palmer-Brown earned the Golden Ball award as the best player in the 2017 Concacaf U-20 Championship, and he was the team captain of a U.S. U-20 World Cup squad that advanced to the quarterfinals last June.Palmer-Brown could attain another goal Tuesday: earning his first USMNT cap in a friendly against Paraguay at WakeMed Soccer Park (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN). It would be the next step along an accelerating career path for Palmer-Brown, an Ohio native who joined the Sporting Kansas City Academy in June 2009 at age 13. He signed his first professional contract with SKC in 2013 and appeared in 20 regular season MLS games through the end of 2017. He also appeared in a smattering of matches last year for Swope Park Rangers, SKC’s USL affiliate team.Already the subject of intense overseas interest, the 20-year-old Palmer-Brown signed with Manchester City when his MLS contract expired following the 2017 season. He was soon sent on loan to K.V. Kortrijk in the Belgian Pro League in order to eventually meet the criteria for a UK work permit. Palmer-Brown made his debut for Kortrijk earlier this month when he played the full match in a 2-1 loss at Club Brugge.Palmer-Brown, who spent 2016 on loan to FC Porto B, says his full-time move to Europe was always a career aspiration.“It was one of my goals to go overseas,” Palmer-Brown says. “That’s something I wanted to do at a young age, and when I went on loan to Porto I saw how tough it was. It’s a struggle at times, but to grind through those [struggles] you come out a better person and player.”Palmer-Brown says his experience playing in Portugal aided his transition to Belgium.“There’s more English [in Belgium], so it’s been good,” Palmer-Brown says. “I don’t have to adapt — it’s been pretty easy.”Palmer-Brown, more commonly called ‘EPB’ by his club and country teammates, enters a U.S. team not only recovering from its failure to qualify for this year’s FIFA World Cup, but also the unending search for the next great American center back. He believes the stiff competition he faces in Europe will better prepare him to put his stamp on the USMNT.“I’ve been lucky enough to sign with one of the biggest clubs in the world now, and in watching those guys at the club, it’s very demanding,” Palmer-Brown says. “You see the whole field and you have to be able to lead from the back.”In the meantime, Palmer-Brown’s debut U.S. senior team camp carries a distinct youthful air. The average age of the players in the current camp is less than 24. Though it’s his first USMNT call-up, Palmer-Brown’s youth national team accolades and his experience playing with many of his fellow March invitees affords him an unexpected level of comfort and high regard.“EPB has done an unbelievable job so far coming into this camp,” says Tyler Adams, the 19-year-old New York Red Bulls midfielder and Palmer-Brown’s teammate on the 2017 U.S. U-20 World Cup team. “Having him gain minutes now with his Belgium team has been huge in his development. And it shows now with him getting called into [USMNT camp].”“It’s been a good vibe,” Palmer-Brown added. “It’s been easy to mix in because I know a lot of the guys, and I’ve watched the guys I didn’t know coming into the camp. Meeting them has been awesome; they’ve all been very welcoming. For me, it’s been a nice, calm vibe, but also intense training.”a

MLS rivals Alex Bono, Zack Steffen enjoying US national team camp

March 26, 201811:50AM EDTNeil MorrisContributor

CARY, N.C. — Alex Bono and Zack Steffen have faced off six times over the past 12 months as the starting goalkeepers for Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC, respectively. Still, both instantly, and accurately, recall their first competitive match against each other.“One time in college, when Maryland came up to Syracuse,” Bono said.“My freshman year [at Maryland] in 2013, he was at Syracuse and we went up there,” Steffen said. “I think we beat them 1-0.”Amid their current bevy of MLS bouts, Bono and Steffen are again teammates on the US national team, this time for a March training camp in North Carolina that culminates Tuesday with a friendly against Paraguay (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN). It’s the second consecutive USMNT camp for both keepers. In January, Steffen earned his first senior team cap in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bono, whose debut senior team call-up came in January 2015, is still looking for his first USMNT cap.“I’m just keeping my head down and working hard,” Bono said. “If it comes, then it’s a blessing and I’ll be honored. If it doesn’t, I’ll continue to come in and work hard until I get my first one.”US national team interim coach Dave Sarachan called three goalkeepers into the March camp. The most “senior” keeper is 27-year-old Bill Hamid, the former D.C. United minder who has five USMNT caps to his credit. Bono and Steffen return as part of an influx of younger players entering the senior team setup in the wake of the U.S. washing out of FIFA World Cup qualifying last October.This is also the second straight USMNT camp without Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, American goalkeeping figureheads for more than a decade. While Steffen has trained on the national team level with both Howard and Guzan, the 23-year-old Bono never has. Interestingly, Bono sees this innocence of youth as a benefit as the national team embarks on its next phase of development.“The beauty of this camp is nobody really has guys to lean on,” Bono said. “We’re kind of creating our own paths here, and that’s something that’s really unique about bringing in guys who are generally inexperienced at the professional and international levels. Bill [Hamid] would be the most experienced among the goalkeepers, but for us to come in and have to be open and competitive day in and day out … is really exciting.”The 22-year-old Steffen is one of only 12 US players ever named to two FIFA Under-20 World Cuprosters. After beginning his professional career with Bundesliga club Freiburg, Steffen signed with MLS in 2016. He’s appeared in 42 MLS games since becoming Crew SC’s starter last year.“The US coaches are definitely watching our [MLS] games,” Steffen said. “They’re evaluating all the players, and that’s how they get their list to bring in. Then they get to see us up-close when we’re in [national team] camp.”Bono, who began his professional career with Toronto FC in 2015, comes to camp amid a busy time for his club, which return to MLS action this Friday against Real Salt Lake. Toronto FC then plays the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals against Club América next week.“It’s obviously exciting that I get to be here and part of this camp,” Bono said. “But we also have matches coming up in Toronto. It’s about staying fit and sharp, and establishing myself here while realizing that as soon as I get back in Toronto, it’s straight back to business with them.”But first, Bono and Steffen have an international friendly this Tuesday. While Steffen has never played at WakeMed Soccer Park, Bono did once, a loss to Louisville back in the 2014 ACC Men’s Soccer Tournament.“That was my first time here in Cary,” Bono said with a laugh. “I’m hoping my second time will be a little bit more joyful.”

3/23/18  INDY 11 Kicks Off USL Season Sat, Special $15 Tix for Indy Home Opener, Top Teams-Brazil, Spain, Germany, England + More this weekend, USA vs Paraguay Tues 7:30 FS1, Zlatan aka IBRA coming to LA Galaxy

So it’s the final warm-up for World Cup Teams in this last international window before this summer’s World Cup.  Some great games today and over the next 5 days as World Cup favorites Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina and France will all be playing.  Check out this spec goal from who else – Messi in warm-up training before today’s game with Italy on beIN Sport at 3:45 pm.  That will follow Russia hosting Brazil at 12 noon on BeIN Sport.  France hosts Colombia and James at 4 pm on ESPN3 and this evening Mexico hosts Iceland at 10:30 pm on Fox Sport 1.  Monday gives us Russia vs France at 12:50 on ESPN Des/ESPN3, England vs Italy on FS1 at 3 pm, Germany vs Brazil on ESPN3, Spain vs Argentina at 4 pm on ESPN Desp, and Mexico vs Croatia at 11 pm on FS1.  Of course the USA rolls out the youngsters again vs Paraguay at 8 pm on Fox Sport 1 Tuesday.  I am interested to see how the kids play as most of the European Contingent  – (except Pulisic – who continues to battle for a starting spot at Dortmund) will be on hand.

Just a little over 1 more week until the Indy 11 open their 1st USL season home season vs FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, March 31st at 7 pm at their new home – Lucas Oil Stadium and we have a Special Ticket Offer from the 11 as we look to fill the stadium and welcome the over 2000 Cincy fans expected to make the trek.  Of course the USL Regular season starts for the Indy 11 this weekend as our Boys in Blue head to Virginia to take on Richmond.  I do expect returning players Brad Ring and Ben Speas to both start this weekend – other than that honestly I don’t know.  But I have assembled some stories from folks who do and you can find them below.  Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

So huge news in MLS this week – first the All-Star Opponent was named it will be EUFA Champions League 2nd place finishers Italy’s Juventus and and 2nd Zlatan Ibrahimovic – of Sweden and recently Man United fame is joining MLS and the LA Galaxy this summer.  He announced his move in the LA Times with this ad.   The gregarious, boisterous, yet a times spectacular Zlatan – referred by me and most of the world simply as IBRA – will be fun to watch in MLS.  Does he have any gas left in those 36 Year-old legs – read  the stories under MLS below to see – but I for one will be tuning in to see.  I love me some IBRA – who once said he would stay at PSG if they renamed the Eiffel Tower IBRA and put his face on the top of it.  He’s obnoxious, but man in his prime he was one of the top Forwards in the World !

INDY11

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

USL Soccer Update Week 3/24–25

 

Bloody Shambles Predictions  First Game vs Richmond

1st Game Preview – Bloody Shambles

Soc Takes – Podcast and Interview with BYB President Josh Mason

Ladyvictoryandherquestfor glory.com Preview of Richmond

Preview of the USL 2018 Season –Soc Takes.com

Indy 11 Tie Jacksonville 0-0 at home

Indy 11 Beat Chicago Fire 2-0

Indy 11 Away Games Streamed Live online on You Tube

Season: IndySoccerTix.com (save on ticket fees!)
Flex Packs: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/store/index.php?s_category_id=34
Single Game: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/mobile/evlistm.php?refresh=1520098544

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

Soccer vs Baseball in USL Stadiums – Soctakes.com

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

USA

US Questions for this Game – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Names 22 man Youthful squad for Tues Friendly vs Paraguay

US Continues Youth movement in Call-Up MLS.com

Matt Miazga – We are all Ready to Make an Impact for the US – NBC Sports

Tim Weah Earns first Senior Club Callup

Andrija Novokovich Honored with US Callup from Reading

How Again Did The USA Not Qualify for the World Cup?  – HOWLER MAG

The Reason Chicago and Other Cities Refused Bid for 2026 World Cup

Morroco vs North American World Cup Bid notes

Alex Morgan Faces big challenge in Orlando

WORLD GAMES

Pre World Cup Best Play Rankings

Best Games in this Last Pre – World Cup Friendlies

FIFA To Use VAR in World Cup – thank God!

Buffon Says Italy Fans Silly sometimes

Juve Legend Gigi Buffon Sees Return to Italian National Team as Tribute to the recently fallen Davide Astori

France Rides the Youth

Fringe Midfielder’s Have Lots to Prove for Mexico this Week – sI

Messi’s Spectacular Goal in Training

Power Rankings – Barca Back on Top, Madrid and Liverpool Climb

MLS

Ibra Coming to MLS and LA Galaxy

Is Ibra Still Good Enough to Make a Difference in MLS?  – SI – Grant Wahl

Dempsey loses cool Red Card by VAR in 3-0 loss to Dallas

MLS to Play Juventus in MLS All Star Game

EPL

FA Cup Semi’s are Set Man U vs Spurs and Chelsea vs Saints

Salah looking like Suarez in his Reds for Liverpool

Salah on a Tear – has more goals than Messi

World Player Rankings has Liverpool’s Salah on Top

Man U players shocked at Mourino’s treatment of Shaw

GAMES ON TV 

3/23-3/27 International Break

 Fri Mar 23

12 noon BeIN Sport                          Russia vs Brazil

1 pm FS2                           Norway vs Australia

3:45 pm beIN Sport                          Argentina vs Italy

4 pm ESPN3                    France vs Columbia

10:30 pm Fox Sport 1                      Mexico vs Iceland

Sat, Mar 24 

1 pm be IN Sport        Sweden vs Chile

3:30 pm Univision     Dallas vs Portland (MLS)

5 pm Youtube      Indy 11 @ Richmond Kickers  (BYB Watch Party @ Union Jack Broad Ripple-924 Broad Ripple Ave)

7 pm Youtube               Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Bethlehem Steel

Mon, Mar 26

2:30 pm ESPN3            Portugal vs Netherlands

Tues, Mar 27 

12:50 pm ESPN Desp                        Russia vs France

3 pm Fox Sports 1      England vs Italy

3:45 pm  ESPN3           Germany vs Brazil

4 pm ESPN Desp          Spain vs Argentina

8 pm Fox Sport 1  USA vs Paraguay

11 pm Fox Sports 1   Mexico vs Croatia

Sat, Mar 31

7 am beIn Sport          Eibar vs Real Madrid

7:30 am NBCSN            Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                    Schalke vs Freiburg

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Swansea

12:30 pm NBCSN        Everton vs Man City

12:30 pm FS1 ?    Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3 pm Fox               LA Galaxy vs LAFC 

Sun, Apr 1                      

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Stoke City

10:30 am FS1                 Werder Bremen ( ) vs Frankfurt

11 am  NBCSN      Chelsea vs Tottenham 

3 pm ESPN                       Atlanta United vs DC United

World Cup on Fox

EPL 2018 Schedule  

MLS 2018 Schedule

Indy 11 Shedule

USL Games online

MLS TV Games

Read All the stories online – at https://www.theoleballcoach.com  

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

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A Preview of the Season to Come by the BYB

The pre-season games are over. You know what that means, right? It means the post pre-season, aka season, is underway. USL teams played their first games last weekend. But, none of those matches mattered because Indy XI didn’t play. So, let the record show – this upcoming weekend is officially the opening weekend for USL’s 2018 season. We play the Richmond Kickers – a team with a rich history within the rapidly evolving annals of American soccer. But, none of that matters because Indy XI is 110% certain to thrash them 11-0.  Indy XI comes into the game on the back of a strong pre-season. Convincing wins against Notre Dame, Swope Park Rangers and Chicago Fire (no caveats necessary about the strength of their playing XI), were the highlights of a seven-game preseason for your Boys in Blue. Here are some stats because we know you soccer nerds love them:

•    Players who have excelled:  literally every player has been rated 10/10 by trancefurmarkt dot com
•    Players who have struggled:  Alexis Sanchez
•    Living legend:  Brad Ring
•    Hat tricks:  ‘There’s only’ Juan Guerra
•    Haircuts:  Steve Braun
(Based on Guerra hat trick, the predicted score line has been updated to 12-0).

Be sure to visit the BYB website often for updates on the home opener.  And while you’re there, check out our new merchandise. You’re going to look like a Million bucks (or, as we like to call it – half a Joshua Mason), wearing the new swag. #TreatYoself

Bloody Shambles HOT TAKES! – Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven Thoughts And Predictions

The Bloody Shambles team gives their final thoughts going into the first USL Easter Conference match against Richmond Kickers…Brandon Cockrum:

I’m looking forward to seeing the formation and strategy that Coach Rennie uses in a game where the Eleven should feel like strong favorites. Richmond was unimpressive, maybe even the exact opposite of impressive, in their week one match. I’m not too concerned with who starts this match – at this point in the season, the head coach might prefer players that he’s worked with in previous seasons and who best understand how he wants his team to play or maybe those who are most fit – because it is such a long season and the roster is very deep.

I’m more interested to see the strategy that Rennie applies on the road in a match that Indy should take three points from. Does the coach run out the team with an attacking mindset and try to keep Richmond on their heels? Or does Indy take a more conservative approach and sit back, focus on defense first and try to hit Richmond on the counter? The strategy applied here might tell us more about what’s to come this season than the players that hit the pitch.

Player to watch: Nico Matern.Based on preseason performances, Indy Eleven might have found a diamond in the rough in the Indiana Wesleyan product. As we’ve seen in previous seasons, it is extremely difficult for a rookie to make much of an impact in their first season in the second division; however, Matern seems like he might be poised to do it this year.

I know I said I wasn’t looking too deep into the significance of the lineup this weekend but this is the exception. If Matern gets the starting nod he will have proven his worth among some very good central midfielders on the roster and it will show that Rennie believes the newbie has the potential to be an impact player in 2018.

James Cormack:

I have probably been more impressed with the roster building this year than any other. Our 2016 squad was solid with great players for a starting lineup but we did not have the same depth, especially in defense, if one player was injured it was a major problem. We are very deep in defense this year and that is highly important. No matter how many times you try to pick out a starting XI from this roster you look at the players you left out and think “that’s a very good team”.

I watched multiple USL games over the opening weekend and saw several teams including Richmond that looked like they were not of the same standard and experience in terms of this roster. From what I saw of Bethlehem Steel, I think Indy Eleven will be more technical and clinical than they were despite winning that game 4-1. I don’t expect Indy Eleven to lose this game, it’s hard to call a win in an away day opener but if one team will win this game I can’t see it being Richmond especially with two of the back line missing as well.

Player To Watch: Eugene Starikov 

Hard to pick out just one but so far from all I have heard about pre-season he has been a real ball of fire, as has Soony Saad and I am curious to see if both will start together as both have been real trouble for opponents thus far. If Justin Braun is still in recovery mode and doesn’t start the game it’s an ideal situation for someone else to show themselves. With limited playing time last year I think Starikov will be very keen to show why he should be picked every week and will score.

Caleb Ramp:

The last six months had been an era of unprecedented shortage for Indy Eleven and her supporters. The latter parts of the 2017 NASL season saw a shortage of wins. This was soon followed by an offseason short on hope, short on answers, and eventually short on a league to play in, a stadium to play at, and players to play with.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the Eleven find themselves with the biggest surplus in club history. Not a financial surplus, to be sure (sorry, Ersal) — but a surplus of hope. A surplus of anticipation. Excitement. Perhaps most importantly, a surplus of on-field talent.

This leads me to my “player to watch” for the 2018 opener: Martin Rennie.

Cheating a bit? Sure. But I’ll stand by it. The 2018 Indy Eleven roster is — at least on paper — the deepest this city has ever seen. Nearly every player on our 23-man roster can make a case for a spot in the starting eleven. On game days, the Indy bench will be filled with players who have been critical pieces in a playoff or championship-caliber D2 squads in recent history, or have otherwise been spending time with quality D1 clubs.

Rennie will have an incredibly wide range (a surplus, even) of options in available tactics and personnel combinations. His ability to utilize this squad to its fullest potential (while still maintaining a healthy and involved locker room) will go a long way in determining the Eleven’s ultimate success in a very competitive Eastern conference.

Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven Score Predictions

It may seem a little cliche to call wins on the road for your team in their opening match, if we end up with egg on our face so be it, but this is not a case of giddy fanboy reactions. Indy Eleven is stacked with top level experience, let’s see if that proves fruitful over 90 minutes or not.

Brandon Cockrum: 0-4 Indy Eleven
James Cormack: 0-2 Indy Eleven
Caleb Ramp: 0-3 Indy Eleven

Preview: Richmond Kickers V Indy Eleven – Can Indy Start With A Bang? (3/24/2018)y: James Cormack

Forget the unseasonably cold weather, forget the myriad of life-endangering potholes spread across the city like a plague of meteor craters, and forget the uncertainty of whether our team would play this year. Indy Eleven’s season starts this weekend. It’s finally happening and nothing else matters.After an off-season of uncertainty, the Boys in Blue head off to Richmond for their first taste of USL. Other teams including our opponents for this week have already begun their season in round one while Indy took advantage of an extra week of preparation.In the USL Eastern Conference, Richmond Kickers fell 4-1 at Bethlehem Steel in their opening match. Former NASL foes North Carolina and Tampa faced off in a highly entertaining match in Cary where the visiting Rowdies won by three goals to one. Another familiar foe Ottawa Fury suffered a 4-1 thrashing from Charlotte Independence.Last years Champions Louisville secured a 2-0 victory over franchise boys Nashville SC. FC Cincinnati started with a 1-0 away win at Charleston. In the first of six opening games in the Eastern Conference last weekend two MLS reserve sides called II came head to head and one of the II won 2-1.

Are We Ready To Rumble?

Yes, I feel we are. As ready as you can be given the shortness of the pre-season. As mentioned in our earlier preliminary fluff piece, Martin Rennie has gone a long way to counter our lack of prep time by assembling a roster of highly experienced players. This doesn’t mean anything of course unless they can bond quickly (and I think they have), but it does help a lot.
The USL and its schedule are a lot different to what you may have been used to with NASL. There are multiple games at times packed into a short period. Remaining injury free, fit, and having an ability to rotate strong players can give you a good advantage in this league.From the evidence of the games we have played and the roster we have, Rennie has worked himself into a position where he could field two completely different teams in back to back competitive matches and each would be strong and competitive at this level.

Nico Matern the latest roster addition is a good example of our roster depth.

On two occasions this year we have seen Indy Eleven play back to back matches in one day, allowing the coach to field different teams and get all players an adequate amount of playing time. In the final day of pre-season play on Saturday, Indy Eleven played out a 0-0 draw with Jacksonville Armada and a 7-0 win over Indiana Wesleyan with a good mix of what could be considered starting players in each team.In all Indy have played seven pre-season matches against varying levels of opposition and lost only once in the opening match against FC Cincinnati at Grand Park and have conceded only three goals and scored fifteen.Our depth is very good compared to other years, especially in defense where even in 2016 we were lacking adequate cover. This past weekend the Eleven were able to play a back line of Moses, Ferreira, Mitchell, and Ouimette in one match, Venegas, Rusin, Pasher, and Ayoze in another. Neither back line conceded a goal, and each I think could hold their own in a USL league match.The roster currently stands at 23 players and the latest to be added Nico Matern who came from Wesleyan with a German academy background has been turning heads in pre-season and could be one of the shrewdest signings in the league this year. Competition for starting spots is strong, and that is a very good thing.When you can literally split your roster down the middle and field two very strong teams then you are in a good position going into the season.

Is Richmond Ready For Indy Eleven?

It would be wrong of me to make too many assumptions based on Richmond’s 4-1 thrashing at Bethlehem in their opening match, but it was not pretty at all and they could easily have conceded twice that many goals. However, it was the opening match so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe first day jitters? Maybe not?

Richmond had Trevor Spangenberg sitting on the bench and I wondered at times what he was thinking watching that match. He is one of the few players in their squad along with Brian Shriver and Neil Hlavaty that I have experience watching and he must have been peeking through his gloves as the second half wore on. Richmond’s performance was littered with defensive and goalkeeping mistakes from bad timing to bad positioning, poor decision making, and poorly executed passing.If Richmond doesn’t find a way to correct these issues over the coming week Indy Eleven have many experienced players who will pounce on mistakes like these faster than flat screen TV sales on Black Friday. However it’s important not to read too much into these things this early, Indy can suffer first day jitters as well, but hopefully not.

Richmond has played five pre-season matches all against colleges. Three wins, one draw and a loss to William & Mary Tribe Soccer. 2017 was not a great year for Richmond, they finished the year 14th of 15 teams in USL East with the lowest standing of any independent team across both conferences.So on the evidence of the first game perhaps they were underprepared for their league opener, but that doesn’t mean they will be an easy team to beat at home, no team ever is. Nor does it mean they can’t bounce back after suffering a heavy defeat.I am sure the home support will be expecting the players to lift themselves after that and prove they have better to offer. With a few players missing it also gives some an opportunity to stake a claim on a starting spot, an important factor in any game. Expect the unexpected.

Team/Match News.

Richmond Kickers will continue to miss Brazilian forward Luiz Fernando through suspension. Mekeil Williams and Alex Lee who started in the back line against Bethlehem will be missing on international duty for Trinidad and Guam respectively. Bruno Mirando who appeared in the second half for Kickers will also answer the call for the Bolivian National Team.

Update: Jamaican Dane Kelly who did not feature in Kickers opening game is unavailable and on international duty also.
Indy Eleven will miss Nathan Lewis who will join Williams in The Trinidad and Tobago camp for matches against Guadeloupe and Curaçao. Justin Braun is working his way back to full fitness and scored in Indy’s second game on Saturday. The status of Jordan Farr return from injury is unknown (is in full training) and we may see Fon-Williams and Lundegaard as the traveling goalkeepers.In the event of further updates, we will bring those to you as the week progresses.

The City Stadium in Richmond boasts a usually well-tended natural grass surface. The future forecast shows low forties at kick off time with a high chance of rain before kickoff. If you fancy the ten-hour drive you can pick up general admission tickets HERE and meet up with other Indy Eleven fans before kickoff.

Preview of Indy Eleven v. Richmond Kickers with Matt Myers of Rvaisred “All Things Richmond Kickers.”

 Since Indy Eleven is new to the USL what should fans expect being in a new league?

I think Indy fans aren’t going to be in that different a position from a lot of fans that supported teams in USL to be honest.  Obviously it’s a brand new league for you guys by name, but you’re coming with NCFC, and Tampa and Ottawa are already here too, so it’s not like it’s a total fresh start.  As a Richmond fan, I can easily say that the league today is unrecognizable compared to even a few years ago.  In terms of on the field, one of the bigger adjustment points I think a lot of new to USL fans face is the presence of the MLS2 teams.  Personally, they don’t bother me too much because you see some high end talent that just needs some refinement, and they help to fill out the numbers so you aren’t playing the same teams all the time.  A lot of times though they do have different motivations and goals than the independent teams, so I get where some of the consternation comes from.  The other main thing to expect is (probably, I wasn’t catching much NASL by the end) a wider array of style.  You’ll see some teams like NYRB that are very attack heavy and play open, while the Kickers and Pittsburgh will generally play more conservative.  If you’re into some of those tactical battles, there certainly isn’t a shortage in USL.

Also, be prepared to see attendance shoehorned into every league article whenever possible.  You guys will likely be a beneficiary of that focus!

In terms of talent, how does the USL stack up against other leagues?

USL has gotten so much better over the years.  It’s not MLS though, and I strongly reject the idea that some fans put out there that our teams are just as good.  Are there guys in USL that could contribute there? Absolutely.  But the standout guys in this league are likely the role players there, and there certainly isn’t the elite level player here that most MLS teams have 2-3 of.  We can definitely beat them in one offs though, which makes the Open Cup so fun.

What was your reaction when you heard that Indy Eleven was joining the USL?

Honestly, it was “what took you guys so long?” and “Glad you didn’t go down with the crazy train”.  It’s a club with a strong base, and I would have hated to see it fail because of the clown parade running NASL (if you can’t tell I didn’t have much regard for that league, especially after Downs left). Not sure how Lucas Oil will go for you guys, but hope it works well.

Focusing on your team, what is the outlook for the Kickers in 2018?

There’s no other way to put it, last year sucked and sucked hard. We couldn’t score, finished next to last, and got bounced by an amateur team in the Cup.  With how the league has changed, and primarily in terms of the bankrolls that teams have now, I don’t have any false illusions that we’re going to be elite.  A great result this year would be making the playoffs.  I’d be happy with making positive progress, being competitive for a playoff spot until the end of the season, and being more interesting to watch.  We signed a few forwards during the off-season, which should help with the attack, and the defense is almost entirely back, who actually performed at an above league average last year.  You guys will probably recognize names like Brian Shriver, Giuseppe Gentile, Mallan Roberts, and Trevor Spangenberg on the roster from their NASL pasts.  We also got Dane Kelly on loan from DC, who was the USL MVP last season in Reno. He won’t be there this weekend though since he was called to the Jamaican national team.

After a disappointing start to the season against the Bethlehem Steel, how do you see the Kickers bouncing back against Indy Eleven?

This week has to be better, right? Even last year, we were tough at home, so I doubt we’ll get thoroughly dominated again.  I’d bet that there will be a focus on being more aggressive in the midfield and not letting so many simple chances get created.  It might make for a less open game, but with some of your talent and the guys we’ll be missing, it’s probably in our best interest to turn it into a grinder.  I’m going to be optimistic and say we’re looking at a 1-1 draw.

For those Indy Eleven fans traveling to Richmond for the game what kind of atmosphere do Kickers fans bring to City Stadium?

City Stadium has it’s own special kind of charm.  Yes, that’s code for it’s old.  It was built in 1929, so don’t expect glamour.  The sight lines though are great, and the concourse gives you an open view of the game from pretty much anywhere.  Try not to have to use the bathrooms though if you can help it!

In the stands, the Red Army has brought a lot of atmosphere that wasn’t there in the past.  They set up in the corner, which is right on top of the corner flag and where visiting players warm up.  Tailgating is right outside the stadium, and they are always great about welcoming visiting fans. The rest of the stands…pretty standard sit and watch environment. Overall, it’s a good time, but it’s also 20+ years of built up good memories there. 

USL Team Previews by Soc Takes

Indy Eleven – Indianapolis, IN

Welcome to the USL, Indianapolis! I’m so excited that the Eleven joined USL. They’ve been so much fun to watch over the past few years, and I’m eagerly anticipating their first games against Louisville and Cincinnati. They’ve also made some serious changes to go along with their new league, the biggest being a move to Lucas Oil Stadium. While that venue does technically seat 62,421 in the normal configuration, the team website indicates that they’ll be using something closer to around 15,000. Still, though, that’s so much nicer than Carroll Stadium, and might even see them break their season 1 attendance record. I’ve been on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium before, and it’s easily one of my favorite stadiums ever. Another significant change is the hiring of Martin Rennie as head coach. While he’s probably best known for two inconsistent seasons in Vancouver, he once led the Carolina Railhawks during their three most successful seasons from 2009 through 2011, and he recently built a brand new team in Seoul E-Park into a promotion contender in year one. It’s a pretty smart pick, and he’s already brought in some impressive names with NASL and MLS experience. Things are definitely looking up for Indy.

Louisville City FC – Louisville, KY

Last year could not have gone much better for Louisville. They were the undisputed best team in the Eastern Conference, finishing an absurd eight points clear of Charleston, made short work of Bethlehem and Rochester in the playoffs, finally got revenge on the Baby Bulls, and won the championship game in the dying moments. For 2018, the vast majority of the team has returned, including ten of the eleven starters from the championship game. The team also got approval from the Louisville Metro Council for their new 10,000 seat stadium, expandable to 25,000, which is scheduled to open for the 2020 season. There’s not much left to say about this team. If you’re looking for a preseason favorite to win it all, look no further.

FC Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH

  • Founded: 2015
  • First USL Season: 2016
  • Home Stadium: Nippert Stadium
  • Head Coach: Alan Koch
  • 2017 Record: 12-10-10, -2 GD, 46 pts, 6th in East, Lost First Round to Tampa Bay
  • 2017 Attendance: a lot

The online soccer media have discussed the two obvious FC Cincinnati topics to death, so I’m not going to bother with either of them. Instead, I’ll pose the following question: Why can’t Cincinnati beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies or the Charleston Battery? For the life of me, I can’t figure it out. Cincy first played the Rowdies in the 3rd Round of the 2016 Open Cup, and lost 1-0 on the road. In 2017, with the Rowdies joining USL, they were guaranteed at least two more games against them. They drew 1-1 at home and lost 2-0 on the road during the regular season, and then Tampa sent them packing in the first round of the playoffs. As for Charleston, they’re the team that welcomed Cincy to the USL with a road loss back in 2016, drew 1-1 in Cincinnati several months later, and then handed Cincinnati a playoff loss at home in the First Round in 2016. 2017 started in exactly the same fashion, with FC Cincinnati losing on the road in Charleston, and then settling for a draw when the Battery came to Ohio. I did a bit more research, and against every other Eastern Conference team from the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Cincinnati has at least one win. Except for these two. I don’t know what this means, but it’s highly intriguing. And to top it all off, for the third consecutive season, Cincinnati’s first game is on the road in Charleston. If history is any guide, my money’s on the Battery.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN SETTLE FOR DRAW AGAINST JACKSONVILLE ARMADA FC

By IndyEleven.com, 03/18/18, 10:20AM EDT  “Indiana’s Team” finish preseason with the Armada afloat

While several other USL teams opened their 2018 regular season accounts, “Indiana’s Team” finished its final preseason matchups, the first of which ended in a nil-nil draw against NPSL side Jacksonville Armada FC on Saturday.According to Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie, this result was just what the team needed. “It was an excellent game,” Rennie said. “It was exactly what we needed at this stage of the preseason. It was a game where we were playing people for 90 minutes and not making changes or trying to win the game; we’re just making sure everyone is ready for the first [regular season] game.”Indy started the match strong with the help from hard attacking moments by frontmen Soony Saad, Jack McInerney, and midfielder Ben Speas. In the third minute, Saad began his run into the top of Armada’s box, only to be cut short from a striking opportunity when three visiting defenders surrounded the Lebanese forward and removed the ball from his possession. Saad would get his chance again in the sixth minutes after sending a strike along the far edge of Jacksonville’s right goal post, but the ball curved just enough to hit the side netting out of bounds.Jacksonville got their first look at goal in the 15th minute. Armada midfielder J.C. Banks came dashing into Indy defending half, but quickly gained the attention of defenders Karl Ouimette and Reiner Ferreia. Feeling the pressure from the “New in Blue” defenders, Banks laid off a grounded pass forward towards a waiting teammate. Fortunately for Indy, the pass was a touch too hard, sending it pass Banks’ intended target and collected with ease by Eleven goaltender Owain Fôn Williams.It became Indy’s game in terms of possession as the “Boys in Blue” contained the Armada to playing in the midfield for a large portion of the first half. Short passes lead Indy into several, breakaway plays—several of which came close to scoring opportunities. In the 32nd minute, Indy defender Matthew Watson made his way forward through the midfielder after a chain of passing created a gap in Armada’s defensive formation. Jacksonville’s goalkeeper charged off of his line towards Watson to try and end the play, but the Redditch, England native responded with a cheeky chip over the trialing keeper. Sadly, the chipped ball got just far enough out of reach for Watson to attempt a shot and ultimately ended out of play on the right side of the goal.Continuing to ask questions, XI forward McInerney made his run at goal five minutes later. In the 37th minute, McInerney found himself in the center of Armada’s 18-yard box when a crossed ball came falling in his direction. As the ball came down, McInerney worked to deflect it into the net, but his efforts failed to materialize into a lead as the ball ended to the right of the goal once more.Jacksonville would get one more attempt before the end of the half. In the 44th minute, an Armada’s player came rushing in along the side into Indy’s half. Making his way pass Ferreia and midfielder Seth Moses, Jacksonville sent a hard, grounded cross from the center-left of Indy’s 18-yard box toward Indy’s right goal post. It was there another Armada player met the ball and sent a shot towards the net. But, the strike lacked the power to make it beyond Fôn Williams, who calmly collected.The second half started quickly in Jacksonville’s favor. The Armada were awarded a penalty kick in 48th minute after a challenge in the edge of Indy’s box—it was here that Jacksonville’s closest attempt at a goal died and one of the greatest moments for Indy shined. Armada stepped up to the spot and made a go to sink in the goal in the lower right corner, but Fôn Williams made a quick dive to deflect the ball back into play. Armada made two more attempts to score while Fôn Williams was still recovering, but both strikes were forced away by the Welsh international.The match wore on as both sides continued to trade possession and made runs deep into each other’s half, but each side failed to make any substantial chances. The final whistle blew without any serious incidents or errors from either club. Coach Rennie recognized a key lesson to be learned as the “Boys in Blue” prepare to enter the upcoming USL season next weekend. “I thought we played very well, especially in the first half,” said Rennie. “We created some really good chances. The biggest thing I would take away from the game is we need to be more clinical when taking our chances, but that’s part of getting into the rhythm of the season.”Today’s back-to-back matches mark the end of preseason for the “Boys in Blue”. Next Saturday, Indy Eleven will make its USL debut as the squad hits the road to take on USL mainstays Richmond Kickers.

You can see the “Boys in Blue” in-action in person on March 31st. Click here to get your tickets to Indy Eleven’s 2018 Home Opener at Lucas Oil Stadium against regional rivals FC Cincinnati.   

NOTE: Although there was no coverage of Saturday’s second match, Indy Eleven towered over Indiana Wesleyan University in a 7-0 trashing with goals from Brad Ring, Justin Braun, Nathan Lewis, a trialist and a hat trick from Juan Guerra. These updated stats now put Guerra level with Starikov in the leading poll for most preseason goals. The “Boys in Blue” end their preseason with a 4W-2D-1L record, scoring a total of 15 goals and conceding only three.
USL Preseason  Indy Eleven 0:0 Jacksonville Armada FC
Saturday, March 17, 2018   University of Indianapolis—Indianapolis, IN
Disciplinary Report:

JAX – 63’

IND – Watson 67’

JAX – Yuma 71’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-3-3, L–>R):  Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Reiner Ferreira, Matthew Watson, Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette; Seth Moses, Nico Matern, Zach Steinberger, Ben Speas (Trialist 68’); Soony Saad, Jack McInerney

Jacksonville Armada FC lineup (4-5-1, L–>R): Holt (GK); Melvin, McInerney, JEROME, Borrajo; Gebhard, Doyle, Yuma, Silva, Banks; Kilduff

Pre-World Cup Player Power Rankings: Messi vs. Ronaldo: Who’s No. 1?

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Mar 22, 2018ESPN staff  ESPN FC’s global editorial desks nominate their top 10 players who will play at this summer’s World Cup based on their club form.

1. Lionel Messi | Argentina

Why he’s here: Messi has reached the 25-goal mark in La Liga for the ninth straight season, in what is supposedly a down year for the 30-year-old. The Argentina international is on pace for a decidedly average (by his standards) 34 goals in the league but is on track to assist on 16 more — tied for the third-most of his career, behind only the marks he set with Barcelona’s treble-winning team of 2014-15 and Pep Guardiola’s great double winners of 2010-11. Despite his goal-scoring numbers dipping this season, Messi has arguably never been more influential at Barcelona. If he can pull Argentina’s strings in Russia this summer, as he has done for the Blaugrana in 2017-18, he could finally be the player to decide a World Cup.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo | Portugal

Why he’s here: Ronaldo didn’t score his first goal in La Liga until Oct. 14. By the turn of the year, he had only four. Since, he has potted 18 — in just 11 appearances. He got similarly hot last season after Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insisted on regular rest for the 33-year-old, and he led Los Blancos to a second straight Champions League.Of course, Ronaldo’s form wasn’t enough to ensure Portugal a successful Confederations Cup in Russia last summer. He scored two goals and an assist in three matches, but the Euro 2016 champions lost to Chile in the semifinals. Leading an aging Portugal that is light on game-changers, Ronaldo will need to be more of a difference-maker than ever for his country.

3. Neymar | Brazil

Why he’s here: Neymar has been recuperating from a broken foot for nearly a month and might not return to action until Brazil’s training camp begins, but that shouldn’t take away from what the 26-year-old has achieved in his first season at Paris Saint-Germain: 26 goals and 16 assists in 29 appearances across all competitions.With a Brazil team as deep and well-coached as any since their latest World Cup win in 2002, the Selecao might not even need Neymar at his best in Russia. But if the world’s most expensive footballer can put on a show worthy of his €222 million price tag, Brazil might just win their sixth title.

4. Kevin De Bruyne | Belgium

Why he’s here: Pushed into a deeper role in Guardiola’s tactically cutting-edge Manchester City, De Bruyne has become one of the best midfielders in the world. His place in the heart of midfield has necessitated him to add the graft that was missing from his game in the more advanced positions he took under Manuel Pellegrini and at Wolfsburg and Chelsea, but he has still been able to score seven goals and assist on 14 more in 30 Premier League appearances this season.In a Belgium side littered with attacking talent, De Bruyne will be charged with circulating possession and putting the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku in dangerous positions. If he can do that, then Belgium might finally realise their massive potential.

5. Mohamed Salah | Egypt

Why he’s here: Salah might be enjoying the best season of anyone on this list: Since joining Liverpool last summer, the Egypt international has racked up 38 goals and 10 assists in 44 appearances across all competitions. He’s already four goals clear of his nearest challenger (the now-injured Harry Kane) in the Premier League Golden Boot race. Did we mention it’s his first season with the club?Believe it or not, Salah was also the joint-leading goal scorer in African World Cup qualifying. His Egypt were the second country from Africa to qualify for this summer’s tournament, and drawn into a group with hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, the Pharaohs have every chance of reaching the knockout rounds — and doing something special if Salah continues his mind-bending goal-scoring form.

6. Harry Kane | England

Why he’s here: England’s great hope. Kane has 38 goals and four assists in 44 appearances across all competitions for Tottenham this season, leading him to be regularly linked with a world-record transfer to Real Madrid. The 24-year-old suffered an ankle injury on March 11 at Bournemouth, but he could return to action by April 1.If he can regain his fitness ahead of the season’s conclusion, this three-week break could do Kane a world of good in terms of rest prior to the World Cup. The Three Lions will be reliant on the Spurs striker in Russia, and they’ll go as far as he can carry them.

7. Luis Suarez | Uruguay

Why he’s here: Suarez had just five goals across all competitions in the season’s first four months, as a knee injury made it look as though the 31-year-old is entering the backside of his career. He has scored 19 and added nine assists in 23 appearances since, and he trails only teammate Messi by four goals in La Liga’s Pichichi race.Like in Barcelona, Suarez will have help shouldering the goal-scoring load for Uruguay. Edinson Cavani is in peak form for PSG, and the pair will form a strike partnership as potent as any in Russia this summer. Whether they can prop up an aging back line will be the biggest question Uruguay face.

8. Antoine Griezmann | France

Why he’s here: Griezmann was another striker in Spain who got off to a sluggish start, in the wake of ultimately fruitless flirtations with a move to Manchester United over the summer, scoring just eight times across all competitions before the calendar turned to 2018. He has amassed 16 goals and six assists in the 18 appearances he has made since.France will have had two years to get over stumbling at Euro 2016, which they hosted and were favorites for, before they kick a ball at the World Cup. Les Bleus boast a midfield and attackers who can stand up to any in the tournament, both in terms of depth and outright quality, of which the in-his-prime Griezmann is perhaps the crown jewel.

9. Robert Lewandowski | Poland

Why he’s here: Bayern Munich are sitting comfortably atop the Bundesliga, 17 points clear of second-placed Schalke. Lewandowski has played a huge role in their form this term, with the striker tallying 33 goals and three assists in 41 appearances across all competitions.In a group containing Colombia, Japan and Senegal, a Poland at the height of their powers should be aiming to reach the knockout rounds as group winners, but the round of 16 beckons so long as Lewandowski can continue to score at the impressive rate he has with Bayern this season.

10. Willian | Brazil

Why he’s here: Willian’s form in the past month pushes him into the top 10, more so than anyone else on this list. In his past seven appearances, in the midst of slumps from fellow Chelsea attackers Hazard, Pedro and Alvaro Motata, the Brazilian has registered five goals and an assist. Combined with his tireless work rate and defensive nous, Willian is the sort of indispensable wide man Chelsea and Brazil can’t do without.It’s the form and the potential of Willian, as well as Philippe Coutinho, that ease the pressure on Neymar to be Brazil’s saviour. The Selecao have such depth all over the pitch, and especially across the attack, that the PSG superstar could have an average (by his standards) tournament and still make an impact on the World Cup through the contributions of players such as Willian.

Also receiving votes: David De Gea (Spain), Marcelo (Brazil), Eden Hazard (Belgium), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Thomas Muller (Germany), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Manuel Neuer (Germany), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Toni Kroos (Germany).

The Most Intriguing Matches of the March Pre-World Cup FIFA Window

By AVI CREDITOR March 21, 2018

The 2018 World Cup is less tan three months away, and the number of opportunities nations will have to congregate together before the main event in Russia are dwindling. All of that makes what is normally a pretty docile and inconsequential March FIFA international fixture window one of greater importance.The slate of matches on Friday (March 23) and next Tuesday (March 27) offers plenty of entertaining options around the globe, with some sure to be more indicative and useful than others. With nothing to lose and only experience to gain, some nations have gone all-in on their scheduling, lining up the toughest tests possible, while others have scheduled what they believe to be like-for-like tune-ups for the teams they’ll face in group play come June. Here’s the best of the bunch:

GERMANY VS. SPAIN, 3/23 | GERMANY VS. BRAZIL, 3/27

What about the pair of challenges Jogi Low has in store for his side?

Germany’s first match of the window pits the last two World Cup champions against one another. If both win their groups and continue to have success in the knockout stage, they’d meet again in the World Cup semifinals.

Germany and Brazil, the top two teams in the latest FIFA rankings, then meet for the first time since Germany’s famous 7-1 thrashing in the 2014 World Cup semifinals on Brazilian soil. It’s a psychological gamble for Brazil to take on the Germans at this point, though if they’re going to cross paths in Russia, they might as well get the hard part out of the way ahead of time. On the field, Brazil will be missing Neymar, much like it was during the horrifying loss four years ago, but the Seleção are in a much better, more balanced place under Tite than they were that fateful day in Belo Horizonte.

SPAIN VS. ARGENTINA, 3/27

Four days after Argentina faces Italy at the Etihad in Manchester, Lionel Messi’s home country takes on his adopted one in a meeting of World Cup favorites. Messi surely knows the Barcelona- and Real Madrid-heavy opposition, while his opponents have had plenty of experience being both on the same and opposite side of La Pulga in league play. For Argentina, which was wholly unconvincing in World Cup qualifying, there aren’t many more opportunities to prove a point and come together under manager Jorge Sampaoli, so this is one it’ll have to take seriously. If both nations win their respective groups and last-16 games, this will be a quarterfinal matchup in Russia.

PORTUGAL VS. EGYPT, 3/23

Two of the top individual players on the planet go head-to-head when Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo lines up vs. Egypt’s Mohamed Salah. That alone is worth the watch, though both of these sides figure to be wild cards in Russia, too. Portugal is the reigning European champion, though it doesn’t seem like many think Ronaldo & Co. can replicate that feat on the World Cup stage, while Egypt has a manageable group and one of the world’s most in-form talents at the wheel. It should be a fascinating matchup.

FRANCE VS. COLOMBIA, 3/23

There’s arguably no nation in the world that boasts the depth of talent like France, but that hasn’t quite equaled domination under manager Didier Deschamps, who must narrow his bevy of stars into a cohesive group that works well together and avoids the self destruction that has been known to plague France before. A momentum- and confidence-building result against a side of Colombia’s stature could do wonders heading into the final preparations, while anything less could perpetuate concern about Les Bleus and the worry that the whole will be considerably less than the sum of the parts.

RUSSIA VS. BRAZIL, 3/23 | RUSSIA VS. FRANCE, 3/27

Russia will be performing under quite the spotlight this summer, so the World Cup hosts might as well find out where they stand now. Home tests against the two competition favorites could provide a barometer, while Brazil and France each get the benefit of preparing for a match at World Cup venues. It’s a feeling-out win-win across the board.

MEXICO VS. ICELAND, 3/23 | MEXICO VS. CROATIA, 3/27

El Tri takes to U.S. soil to test itself against a pair of Russia-bound, Group D sides. Juan Carlos Osorio won’t have his full complement of players after a few backed out with minor injuries (Jonathan Dos Santos, Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm), but then again, you’d expect him to rotate the squad in these two matches anyway. It’s an opportunity for veterans to reaffirm their places in the starting XI, Hirving Lozano to continue his ascent and California-born midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez to prove he belongs on the plane ride to Russia.

NETHERLANDS VS. ENGLAND, 3/23 | ENGLAND VS. ITALY, 3/27

The Three Lions will take on the Two Disappointments, with the Oranje and Azzurri missing out on the trip to Russia. They’ll still pose stiff challenges for an England team that still has its fair share of doubters–and one that will have to play without the injured Harry Kane. There are roster spots aplenty up for grabs under Gareth Southgate, who has plenty to prove himself.

Gianluigi Buffon calls Italy a ‘funny country’ after national team criticism

6:49 PM ET

MANCHESTER, England — Gianluigi Buffon said Italy was a “funny country” that “enjoy controversy” after criticism of his selection for two friendlies by new national team boss Luigi Di Biagio.The 40-year-old goalkeeper initially announced his retirement following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia this summer.But the Juventus keeper, who has 175 caps, has returned to the squad and is expected to start Friday’s friendly with Argentina at the Etihad Stadium followed by Tuesday’s clash with England.The decision has not been welcomed by everyone with suggestions that he is blocking the path of Milan’s 19-year-old keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, but Buffon said he wants to unite the squad after their disastrous qualifying campaign.”My role in the squad has always been positive and I’ve always brought people together. I’ve always put us before me,” Buffon told a news conference.

“I’m not here to showcase, to show myself off because I can still be useful. I may be 40, but I’m the goalkeeper of Juventus.”Italy is a funny country where people enjoy controversy. Any controversy on my figure is just sensationalism. I have been playing for Italy since 1993, I have won seven medals. After a while all this controversy will just fall away.”Buffon refused to be drawn on when his career will finally come to an end, but insisted his final match will be a normal encounter.”I don’t know if my last match will be with Juventus or an international but it will be low key and sober, normal,” he added.”I arrived at my first game on a scooter and the only car I have is the one that Juventus make available for me.”But Buffon said he is focused on helping Italy rebuild their confidence after missing out on a World Cup for the first time since 1958.Di Biagio has a difficult first game and the veteran keeper knows all about the quality of Argentina and particular Lionel Messi, who he has faced on many occasions throughout his career.But he believes that Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice against him in last season’s Champions League final, is the more deadly finisher.”It would be naive to [choose between them] given that both of them are excellent,” he said. “Messi is more of an all-rounder. Ronaldo, maybe because of his age, has become more of a specialist. He has become a killer whenever he comes before the goal.”

U.S. questions vs. Paraguay: GK battle, Kenny Saief, chances for youth

11:08 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

Work on a foundation is as critical as it is tedious. There’s little in the way of a visual or emotional payoff, but progress is impossible without it.This is the work that is currently going on with the U.S. men’s national team and it’s as good an explanation as any as to why it needs to play matches ahead of a World Cup in which it won’t feature. Sure, a new manager (and a new GM for that matter) still needs to be hired, but now seems an opportune time for the process to begin for some and continue for others. To that end, it has fallen to Dave Sarachan to do the necessary heavy lifting. He’s called in a new generation of players and will help them take the first steps with the national team program. He almost certainly won’t be around to witness the fruits of his labor but at least the process will be that much further along when a permanent coach is hired.Here’s a look at how things stand with the current squad ahead of next Tuesday’s friendly against Paraguay.

The goalkeeping competition heats up

Columbus Crew SC shot-stopper Zack Steffen seems to have put himself in front, though this is due more in part to others falling back. Ethan Horvath is buried deep on the bench at Club Brugge and wasn’t even called in. Bill Hamid’s situation at Danish side Midtjylland isn’t as dire but he has yet to make a first-team appearance since joining his new club in January. Alex Bono is coming off a treble-winning season with Toronto FC but still has some catching up to do in terms of national team opportunities, as he didn’t get on the field in the January friendly against Bosnia Herzegovina.That leaves Steffen. His performances during last year’s playoffs got him noticed and now Steffen has the chance to further cement his status as the goalkeeper of the future, though Hamid will no doubt do what he can to state his case as well.

Can Adams and McKennie take the next step? Who will join them?

It was back in November that Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie made their respective debuts for the U.S. senior side. Adams got stronger as the game went on, while McKennie marked his first cap with a goal. Given the general feeling that the U.S. midfield needs to be revamped, showing a sign or two of progress will confirm the belief that Tyler and McKennie are the future.On that night, McKennie had an experienced performer in Danny Williams by his side. The options next Tuesday won’t have as many international games under their belt, though Darlington Nagbe does have 24 international appearances. Wil Trapp and Cristian Roldan could state their case, though in very different ways. Trapp is more of the deep-lying playmaker, though Roldan provides more of a box-to-box presence.

It will be up to Sarachan to determine which style will better complement McKennie on Tuesday.

Time for some spine in defense

John Brooks’ continued injury problems have created an opening for a trio of center backs. Matt Miazga, currently on loan at Vitesse, looked sharp in last November’s 1-1 draw against Portugal and any revamped spine of the team looks certain to include him at this stage. Cameron Carter-Vickers showed well alongside Miazga in the same match.The wild card is Erik Palmer-Brown, a mainstay with the U20s — albeit as a central midfielder at the U20 World Cup — who recently got his first minutes on loan at Belgian side KV Kortrijk. Palmer-Brown’s progression at club level will decide his fate but he has a chance to make a good first impression in this camp.

Saief gets his chance

A solitary friendly appearance against Ghana, one that lasted all of 19 minutes, is the sum total of Kenny Saief’s international experience. Hernia surgery and some ensuing complications have prevented any subsequent call-ups until now.In that game against Ghana, Saief looked a crafty operator and he’s got some trickery about him as well. The wide midfield spots have been crying out for a bit more creativity and Saief may just be the man to provide that kind of spark.

How much will youth be served?

Sarachan is on record as saying that the camp is a get-to-know-you exercise for the five uncapped players on the roster. But the opportunity to secure playing time will be there even if it requires climbing over some veterans to do so. Outside-backs Shaq Moore and Antonee Robinson have the toughest task given that the position features some of the more experienced players on the roster like DeAndre Yedlin, Jorge Villafana and Eric Lichaj.Marky Delgado could find the going tough as well though his versatility in midfield helps his cause. Tim Weah, 18, could have the clearest path given his speed and ability to play out wide. Forward Andrija Novakovich, 6-foot-4, has size and skill, too, though he’ll need to supplant at least one of Bobby Wood and Rubio Rubin.

Wood’s return

Speaking of Wood, he returns to the national team fold having scored just two goals at club level all year for Hamburg, with none since the end of last August. As such, HSV is a candidate to be relegated, a seemingly annual occurrence. But Wood has shown a knack for scoring big goals in the past and at age 25, he still has plenty more to give to the U.S. team. He’s also revealed an ability to play as a lone striker and given the apparent glut of central midfield players on this roster, that could be the role he’s given this Tuesday.

U.S. emphasizes youth in naming 22-man squad for Paraguay friendly

Mar 18, 2018eff CarlisleSoccer

The U.S. men’s national team roster that was named Sunday by caretaker manager Dave Sarachan was expected to include a long-term absentee due to injury. Indeed it did, just not the one that was expected.Kenny Saief, who is on loan to Belgian side Anderlecht from fellow Jupiler League club Gent, was named to Sarachan’s 22-man roster. The past nine months have been quite the journey for Saief. He was part of Bruce Arena’s Gold Cup squad last summer, but after one substitute appearance in a friendly against Ghana, he was forced to drop out because of a hernia injury. Surgery followed, but a complication in the form of an infection meant an even lengthier spell on the sidelines.But now Saief is back playing again, having made nine league appearances for Anderlecht and scoring one goal, and he could very well see the field in the March 27 friendly against Paraguay in Cary, North Carolina.”When we had [Saief] last for the Gold Cup, he unfortunately had an injury, and we didn’t really get to know him,” said Sarachan. “He’s been on loan to Anderlecht in Belgium since January, where he is seeing consistent minutes and is an integral part of their first 11. We feel he’s healthy, in good form and has a unique skill set that makes me excited to see him with us again, with the hopes he stays healthy and sees some minutes against Paraguay.”

Alas, a national team return will have to wait for Werder Bremen forward Aron Johannsson. Injuries have plagued Johannsson practically from the moment he signed with Bremen. The worst of these was a hip injury that sidelined him for almost the entirety of the 2016-17 season. He was then so far down the Bremen depth chart that it seemed near impossible for him to crack the starting lineup. But Johannsson fought back and has seen the field on 12 occasions this season, scoring twice.Such performances had Johannsson in line for a recall, but unfortunately, a minor leg injury has prevented him from taking part.That of course leaves an opening for others, in this case Andrija Novakovich, who is on loan to Dutch second-tier side Telstar from English Championship side Reading. Novakovich has scored 18 goals so far this season, good enough for second in the Eerste Divisie.”The forward position is a very important one, and I’ve always felt in general — not just with our national team, but in our country as a whole — that you can’t have enough depth there,” said Sarachan. “You always pay attention to players domestically and overseas who are scoring goals, regardless if it’s in the first or second division. Being 6-foot-4, he’s a different type of forward than some of our other players that we have in this camp and in the program. He’s an intriguing one, and obviously he’s young, so for me it’s about getting him in and seeing what he’s like now when he’s put among the national team players in training.”At age 21, Novakovich is indicative of a youth movement that Sarachan has implemented since taking over on a temporary basis late last year. Given the U.S. team’s absence from the World Cup this summer, it’s the right move, as is the inclusion of some veterans to lend some experience. While Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin and Hamburg’s Bobby Wood will provide a veteran presence, the future of the team looks set to be built around the likes of New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Vitesse’s Matt Miazga.The center of defense figures to be one area of focus for the Paraguay match. In addition to Miazga, Ipswich Town defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (on loan from Tottenham Hotspur) and Kortrijk defender Erik Palmer-Brown (on loan from Manchester City) were also called in.”It’s a huge position up the middle of the field, and watching both Matt and Cameron, each have been logging significant minutes and playing important roles for their clubs,” said Sarachan. “Each made a good impression on me when we had them in our roster against Portugal last November, and I think this is just a continuation of giving these guys more minutes in a game in an important position for us. It’s a great opportunity for them.”In Erik’s case, he’s had less time playing in a new situation playing on loan with Kortrijk in Belgium. He’s a player I don’t know as well, but someone who has a great pedigree, captaining our U-20 national team at the World Cup last summer. I’m looking forward to getting to know him throughout the week as well, knowing that he’s a good young prospect at that position.”Timothy Weah is one of five players getting his first look in a senior national team camp. And given his famous father George Weah — who is not only a former FIFA World Player of the Year, but the president of Liberia as well — he figures to get plenty of attention. But Weah has progressed well with Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarachan is eager to get a glimpse of his talent.”He’s a versatile player than can fit in at a couple different positions, and when you have speed and technical ability combined as a young kid, I think he’s an interesting prospect to offer an opportunity to,” said Sarachan of Weah.It’s worth noting that Sarachan opted to leave Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent with the U-20s. He explained that considering Sargent is not yet playing professional games with the club, he’s taking a slower approach.”He’s still an important player for that age group,” said Sarachan of the decision. “I felt because of the timing it made better sense for him to get full games with the U-20s for this particular friendly date. For our next set of games, the idea then would be that he’d have more of an opportunity to be a part of our senior team.”There will plenty of eyes on the midfield as well to see if Adams and McKennie can build on their respective performances against Portugal last November. The future of the U.S. midfield seems set to include these two, provided they continue to progress.The Paraguay match will provide the next data point.

USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan calls in young roster for March friendly

March 18, 20181:16PM EDTBenjamin BaerNew Media Editor

In the third camp since failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, US national teaminterim coach Dave Sarachan continued a trend by calling in a young roster for a March 27 friendly against Paraguay in Cary, N.C. (7:30 pm ET; FS1, UniMás).The average age of the 22 players called in is just above 23-years-old and five players who ply their trade overseas got their first call-ups to the USMNT. Those include former Sporting Kansas City center back Erik Palmer-Brown and 2017 Under-17 World Cup standout Tim Weah.“This match once again represents an opportunity for some new faces. The roster has an average age under 24, so for the most part this a group of younger players that we feel have a future with the national team along with some familiar names,” Sarachan said in a release. “The timing is right to give these guys international exposure, and they will certainly be tested against a strong and experienced Paraguayan team.”Players from MLS sides that were called up include New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adamsand Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen.One notable absence is Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic. The 19-year-old has not played for the US since October.“I’ve had conversations with the Sporting Director at Dortmund and several with Christian personally about the timing of this friendly and where he is professionally at the moment with his club,” Sarachan said. “He’s now feeling confident in playing an important role for Dortmund at a crucial time in their season where they’re trying to lock in qualification for the Champions League. They also have a huge match against Bayern Munich on the back end of our match against Paraguay, so when I factored all of those things together, as much as we wanted him here I felt it best suits the player to continue in the rhythm and form he’s currently in with his club.”EDIT: Pachuca winger Kekuta Manneh was added to the roster on Monday, March 19.

US Men’s National Team Roster

Pos. Player Club Caps/Goals
GK Alex Bono Toronto FC 0/0
GK Bill Hamid Midtjylland 5/0
GK Zack Steffen Columbus 1/0
D Cameron Carter-Vickers Ipswich Town 1/0
D Eric Lichaj Nottingham Forest 14/1
D Matt Miazga Vitesse 4/1
D Shaq Moore Levante 0/0
D Erik Palmer-Brown Kortrijk 0/0
D Antonee Robinson Bolton 0/0
D Jorge Villafaña Santos Laguna 15/0
D DeAndre Yedlin Newcastle United 49/0
M Tyler Adams NY Red Bulls 2/0
M Marky Delgado Toronto FC 0/0
M Kekuta Manneh Pachuca 0/0
M Weston McKennie Schalke 1/1
M Darlington Nagbe Atlanta United 24/1
M Cristian Roldan Seattle 2/0
M Kenny Saief Anderlecht 1/0
M Wil Trapp Columbus 3/0
M Tim Weah Paris Saint-Germain 0/0
F Andrija Novakovich Telstar 0/0
F Rubio Rubin Club Tijuana 4/0
F Bobby Wood Hamburg 36/10

Timothy Weah earns first senior call-up as U.S. names youthful squad

Mar 18, 2018  Jeff CarlisleSoccer

Paris Saint-Germain’s Timothy Weah has received his first call-up to the United States national team, as caretaker manager Dave Sarachan continues his youth movement by naming a 22-player squad for the March 27 friendly against Paraguay.Weah is the son of one-time World Player of the Year and current president of Liberia George Weah. After scoring a hat trick against Paraguay at the Under-17 World Cup last October, the 18-year-old made two first-team appearances with PSG this month, and Sarachan is keen to get a look up close.”Tim has obviously been very successful with our youth national teams,” Sarachan said. “More recently with PSG, he’s playing for a high-profile club who has seen fit to give him first-team minutes, which is a great sign of his progression.”He’s a versatile player than can fit in at a couple different positions, and when you have speed and technical ability combined as a young kid, I think he’s an interesting prospect to offer an opportunity to.”The emphasis is clearly on youth with an average age of just under 24. The roster includes several players who performed well in the 1-1 draw with Portugal last November, including Vitesse defender Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie.Weah is one of five players to receive their first call-up, along with defenders Shaq Moore of La Liga club Levante, Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk on loan from Manchester City) and Antonee Robinson (Bolton on loan from Everton), as well as forward Andrija Novakovich (Telstar on loan from Reading).”For the most part they’re younger players that we feel have a future with the national team along with some familiar faces who were a part of January camp that we felt did well and wanted to continue looking at those players,” Sarachan said. “We’ve mixed that with a few players who offer some experience from the past relative to being part of the program … These are guys that come in with a voice of experience.”Among the more familiar players included are Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin, the most experienced in the squad with 49 caps. He is joined by Santos Laguna defender Jorge Villafana, Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe and Hamburg forward Bobby Wood.

One name that is conspicuously absent is Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic. Dortmund has a league match against Bayern Munich the following Saturday, and given that with travel Pulisic wouldn’t return until Thursday, the decision was made to leave him off the roster.  “I’ve had conversations with the sporting director at Dortmund and several with Christian personally about the timing of this friendly and where he is professionally at the moment with his club,” Sarachan said. “He’s now feeling confident in playing an important role for Dortmund at a crucial time in their season where they’re trying to lock in qualification for the Champions League.

“They also have a huge match against Bayern Munich on the back end of our match against Paraguay, so when I factored all of those things together, as much as we wanted him here I felt it best suits the player to continue in the rhythm and form he’s currently in with his club.”  Another notable absentee is Werder Bremen forward Aron Johannsson, who recently made a comeback after struggling with injuries and was slated to be on the roster. But Johannsson recently picked up a minor leg injury that rendered him unavailable. Wolfsburg defender John Brooks was also ruled out because of injury.  On the plus side, Anderlecht’s on-loan attacker Kenny Saief is included in the squad. Saief was part of the 2017 Goal Cup squad, but complications from hernia surgery have prevented him from getting a further look. He has made nine appearances with Anderlecht this season, scoring one goal.”In the case of Kenny, when we had him last for the Gold Cup, he unfortunately had an injury and we didn’t really get to know him,” Sarachan said. “He’s been on loan to Anderlecht in Belgium since January where he is seeing consistent minutes and is an integral part of their first 11.”We feel he’s healthy, in good form and has a unique skill set that makes me excited to see him with us again, with the hopes he stays healthy and sees some minutes against Paraguay.”Nagbe could line up against his Atlanta teammate Miguel Almiron, who was named to the Paraguay squad for the game next Tuesday in Cary, North Carolina.

U.S. squad by position (club; caps/goals)

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 1/0)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town; 1/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest; 14/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse; 4/1), Shaq Moore (Levante; 0/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers; 0/0), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna; 15/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle; 49/0)

Midfielders: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke; 1/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United; 24/1), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 2/0), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht; 1/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 3/0), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain; 0/0)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana; 4/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg; 36/10)

What happened? An inquest into America’s most embarrassing flop

Mar 20, 2018  Jeff Rueter & Howler Magazine

This story is from the winter/spring 2018 issue of Howler, a quarterly magazine about soccer. Get 20 percent off a subscription with promo code HOWLER14 at shop.howlermagazine.com.

It was an event so disastrous that Twitter had to double it character limit just to accommodate the calls for everyone at U.S. Soccer to be fired. In the aftermath, we’ve read roughly 5,742 think-pieces, each trying to zero in on the one thing that could have prevented the United States men’s national team from failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.Of course, the reasons behind the failure are complicated and many, so we have unburdened ourselves of word limits and the need to stick to a single train of thought. What follows is an entire mass transit system of what went wrong for the USMNT in 2017.I. Blame it on bad luck…

AWAY FIXTURES ARE ALWAYS DIFFICULT and every team in CONCACAF presents a tough environment. Both of Trinidad Tobago’s goals were massive flukes. Omar Gonzalez couldn’t place a shot like that on his next 99 attempts. Nor could Alvin Jones, who might as well have been standing on a neighboring island when he scored his worldy.That, of course, doesn’t explain the massive bounces of bad luck outside of Couva. Both the Ticos and Mexico had already booked their Aeroflot reservations. And both led their matches at half-time against inferior opponents, results that would have allowed the U.S. to join them in Russia no matter the outcome in Trinidad.There’s been no confirmation that Juan Carlos Osorio and Oscar Ramírez spoke at half-time and agreed to concede twice to knock the U.S. out. However, there’s also been no confirmation that they didn’t. In any case, that is what happened. Panama snuck past the Yanks in part because of a phantom goal that never cleared the line and in part because center-back Roman Torres reinvented himself as a center-forward and applied the People’s Elbow to U.S. qualifying hopes in the 88th minute. And Mexico? Turns out Estadio Azteca is highly selective about when it serves as a fortress and Honduras somehow beat El Tri. An own goal. A Hail Mary goal. A phantom goal.Three results gone the wrong way. That’s called fate. There’s nothing the U.S. could have done.

II. Or Bruce Arena

MAYBE THERE WAS A LOT the U.S. could have done. The previous Thursday, the Nats had beaten the very same Panama side in Orlando to the tune of 4-0. The offense was clicking, Christian Pulisic was doing special things and the back line seemed reinvigorated by the return of Newcastle right-back DeAndre Yedlin. Bruce Arena’s team came into the match obviously well prepared. He was so confident that he told the media he wasn’t even thinking about Trinidad Tobago until after the first game was over.Oops. After just 10 minutes in Couva, with the U.S. team’s rhythm disrupted by only four nights’ rest and a flight to Port of Spain that might as well have been the distance to the earth’s core, it seemed clear that Arena should have swapped out a few starters. The best you can say about the decision to go with the same lineup, coupled with Arena’s comments after the game that “nothing has to change,” is that it reflects a staggering level of arrogance. And to be fair, that Long Island ‘tude is often Arena at his most fetching. But looking back, our players and our tactics were tired and the decision to play Gonzalez over Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron, who didn’t feature in the first match, still doesn’t make sense.Equally puzzling was the benching of Clint Dempsey, who was fresh after seeing the field for only 20 minutes against Panama. Deuce would have been motivated by the fact that a single strike would have given him the all-time U.S. scoring record. Rather than trust him to go 90 minutes, Arena subbed him in at half-time, when the U.S. was already down by two.

III. Then again, Arena was an emergency hire (and that’s a problem)

CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK of a happy place. For many of us, that happy place is actually a happy time, specifically any time before 2016. Prince roamed the earth, and the United States had a perfect record of qualifying for every World Cup since 1990. It was a happy time in which advancing from the “Group of Death” could be viewed, rightly, as a solid achievement. And thank goodness, because regardless of our performance in the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. federation had already retained Jurgen Klinsmann as coach for another four years.You’d have to go back to Steve Sampson and the U.S. team’s last-place finish at the 1998 World Cup to find a manager who was not retained for a second cycle. For some reason, we have normalized a practice that is extremely rare in the rest of the world. Klinsmann’s second cycle perpetuated a program in disharmony. He insisted on deploying players out of position (Michael Bradley as a No. 10, anyone? Alejandro Bedoya as holding midfielder against Brazil? Jermaine Jones at the center of a back three?) and had a habit of shooing them onto the field with little in the way of tactical instruction.The U.S. finished fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup, a spectacular failure. This forced the first-ever CONCACAF playoff, where the U.S. looked over-matched against Mexico and failed to make the Confederations Cup. Ahead of the Hexagonal, the United States made it to the Copa America Centenario semifinal on home soil — another high point — but once there, the team was utterly humiliated by Leo Messi and Argentina.The dysfunction was apparent well before November of 2016, when Klinsmann sent his players out in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation for the first Hexagonal match, against Mexico, at Columbus’s MAPFRE Stadium. Mexico won, dos a uno. Then the team flew down to Costa Rica and received the hammering of its life. In hindsight, just one point from those first two matches would’ve gotten the Americans to Russia.So how did Arena get the job? He was the emergency fix for a crisis we — and by we, I mean the people whose job it is to monitor these things — should have all seen coming. While it’s easy to blame the German for guiding the program into such a shambolic state, Sunil Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation allowed it to happen.

IV. Let’s talk about Major League Soccer

WHAT IF KLINSMANN WAS RIGHT and the return of his most trusted players to Major League Soccer from their European clubs had a tangibly negative effect on his own ability to lead the USA to victory? Let’s investigate.The relationship between MLS and the men’s national team is complicated. Early on, the league fostered the growth of fringe national team players while the very best played in other leagues. Landon Donovan came back after failing to catch on at Bayer Leverkusen and became the gold standard for attackers in MLS. For a while, he seemed like something of a one-off.That all changed in 2013 when Dempsey signed with the Seattle Sounders. Soon, Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Bedoya, Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Paul Arriola would chase their own American dreams back to MLS. Others, such as Jordan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Matt Besler and Gyasi Zardes, did not venture abroad even though that was the usual move for players of their standing within the national team. (Gonzalez was one player who did transfer to a more challenging environment, Liga MX.) And there’s simply no denying that choosing to move back or remain stateside meant these players faced lower-quality opponents than they would have by playing in top foreign leagues.

This is a case where MLS’s business priorities put it at odds with the overall improvement of the national team. Signing established players helps the league market American stars. And because the league owns player contracts and takes more than half the cut from transfer fees, clubs may choose to keep their best players rather than let them go.Among the starters in the loss to Trinidad Tobago, Pulisic, Bobby Wood, Yedlin, Gonzalez and Jorge Villafana played in leagues of higher quality than MLS. Others, such as Cameron and Fabian Johnson, were available but did not play. Who knows what might have happened in the Hex had more of Arena’s preferred starters been battle hardened by playing outside of the United States and Canada?

V. (whispers) What if this group of players just isn’t that good?

YOU BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN. I believe that, for a country of more than 300 million people, it’s kind of pathetic that the United States has but a single player getting minutes in the Champions League group stage. The truth is that Arena (and Klinsmann before him) was forced to make do with only a few international-caliber players in the prime age range of 24 to 27.In October, Brian Sciaretta analyzed three decades of U.S. player development for americansoccernow.com. He found that each birth year produced, on average, two to three solid national team contributors. But he termed the range from 1990 to ’94 “the Lost Generation” because only three players born in those years have emerged as regulars: Wood, Yedlin and Nagbe.

Since the U.S.’s run to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002, the team, along with Mexico, has been the class of CONCACAF. Qualifying was rarely difficult and the team was able to escape all but one group stage from 2002 onward. But comparing the ideal starting XI for the Trinidad game to that 2002 side is
a humbling exercise.Brad Friedel then was better than post-Everton Howard. Tony Sanneh at right-back was a better pure defender than either Yedlin or Graham Zusi. Eddie Pope would be a lock to start in the current squad. Pablo Mastroeni, Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien controlled a far tidier midfield than Bradley plus Jones or Bradley more or less by himself. Neither Altidore nor Wood changes games with the consistency of Brian McBride. There is no winger in the current pool as dangerous or direct as DaMarcus Beasley. It’s an odd coincidence that the player with the most attitude in both squads was a southerner named Clint. And while Dempsey is now considered one of the U.S. team’s all-time greats, I might pick 2002 Clint Mathis over 2017 Clint Dempsey for the rigors of an international tournament.

The one exception is a question of preference between Pulisic and Donovan, who previously filled the role of Germany-based teenage sensation. It’s easy to forget just how spellbinding young Donovan could be but Pulisic’s experience with Borussia Dortmund gives him the edge. (At press time, he ranked third in dribbles among players in Europe behind only Messi and Neymar. Decent.) Regardless, this was far from the most talented team to represent the United States and in most areas of the pitch, it wasn’t even particularly close.

VI. There’s some serious talent on the horizon but we still need to expand the pipeline

SCIARETTA’S PIECE ENDED ON A POSITIVE note: The talent was flowing again by 1997. Weston McKennie, 19, and Jonathan Gonzalez, 18, are starting for Schalke and Monterrey, respectively. Luca de la Torre is on the books at Fulham, Brooks Lennon at Liverpool, Gedion Zelalem at Arsenal, Cameron Carter-Vickers at Spurs and 17-year-old Josh Sargent, who finished second in the charge for the Golden Boot at the U-20 World Cup in June without ever playing in a professional game, will join Werder Bremen in January.

But several structural weaknesses hinder player development. The most glaring is pay to play, the system by which youth clubs cost bazillions of dollars to join. Between coaching fees, travel and equipment, the cost essentially prices the world’s game out of many a family budget. Financial aid programs exist, but just think about that for a minute: we’ve created a system so absurd that simply playing soccer sometimes requires financial aid. If you don’t join a top team, the chances of a scout noticing you diminish. And the system disproportionately overlooks or excludes Latino and African American kids.

Those who can cover the registration fee don’t always find themselves in an optimal environment to improve. The overall level of coaching knowledge is low compared with more established soccer nations, and our sporting culture places too much emphasis on winning over learning at a young age. Until we prize attributes like decision-making and comfort on the ball as much as size and speed, the best teams will keep kicking our ass when it matters.

VII. Okay, Bernie: how do youth clubs make money without charging?

IT’S A COMMON GLOBAL PRACTICE — not to mention mandated by FIFA — to include a solidarity payment clause in the contract when a player’s signed by a professional club from a youth team. This number is minimal, usually around five percent, and is paid out if the former youth product is sold to a second professional club. When the Seattle Sounders youth academy plucked Yedlin from Washington youth program Crossfire Premier and the player turned an eye-opening 2014 World Cup performance into a $3.71 million transfer fee to Tottenham, a five percent take would have netted Crossfire $185,000. But the USSF doesn’t enforce solidarity payments, citing child-labor, nonprofit and antitrust laws. There’s a case
pending in FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber over this very example.

Allowing solidarity payments can help a program like Crossfire in two major ways. First, it shifts the focus ever so slightly from winning youth matches to developing future professionals. Turning out more and better professionals will net more money. Second, those payments can subsidize the costs of training, allowing programs to open their doors to talented underprivileged youth without the need to charge exorbitant fees.

VIII. Even if youth soccer were free for everybody, we would still need more qualified coaches

THE USSF HAS TAKEN STEPS to improve youth coaching. In 2015, it launched the Digital Coaching Center to increase the reach of coaching instruction. This is a positive step that ensures all coaches in an organized youth league will have a standardized approach to managing their players. However, a massive problem still remains, and it’ll sound familiar. The combined cost of the national A and B licenses is a cool $7,000. In Germany, the A license costs $600 while Spain charges $2,800. If it’s tough for some families to justify a high club cost for their kids, it’s even more daunting for an adult to drop several months’ wages to earn a coaching badge.

IX. You might need a diploma to fix American soccer but forget the degree if you want to play

In an exclusive interview with ESPN FC, Julian Green reflects on the highlight of his career and his desire to return to the U.S. national team fold.

ASIDE FROM THE CRIPPLING DEBT, there’s nothing wrong with going to college. But players who split time between the pitch and the lecture hall will generally lag behind their professional peers. As academies grow, the college game will continue to diminish as a source of national team talent but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

The abbreviated NCAA schedule is the biggest hurdle. In 2017, Stanford’s men’s team played an 18-game regular season between Aug. 25 and Nov. 9: an average of two matches per week. Five more wins through Dec. 10 earned them the NCAA championship but then the program went relatively dormant because the NCAA imposes strict limitations on weekly off-season training hours. So for three-and-a-half months, players experience a huge amount of wear and tear on their bodies, and then they go without the kind of training and instruction that is crucial for young players for the rest of the year. Besides, unlike development academies, Division I soccer programs are oriented not to produce future professionals but, again, to win, because that increases donations and helps recruitment.

Perhaps someday, the NCAA will allow teams to play year-round. Or it could simply require schools to offer “Becoming the American Messi” as a major.

X. The pro/relephant in the room

WHETHER THE U.S. EVER ADOPTS a system of promotion and relegation is a complex business and political decision. But the merits of such a system for producing a deeper player pool are quite clear, and we can demonstrate them not by offering hypotheticals about how it would work in the U.S. but by pointing to the tangible ways pro/rel benefits the many other countries in which it is the norm.

These include incentives for small clubs to scout and train local players (especially urgent in regions that remain unserved by MLS clubs), a more fluid market for players and coaches, and the opportunity for players to experience more high-pressure game situations.

XI. Are we basically blaming everybody?

THE FAILURE WAS PERSONAL AND SYSTEMIC. It was a fluke and a long time coming. Improvement will happen little by little and in lots of different places at once with kids spending more time kicking around with their friends, coaches learning to train their players with an eye to making them better rather than winning trophies, and youth systems earning rewards for turning out top talent.

The age of guaranteed World Cup entry is over-at least until FIFA expands the tournament and gives CONCACAF six spots. Other regulars like Italy, the Netherlands, Chile, Ghana, and Cameroon failed to qualify for Russia 2018. It’s a sign that weaker teams are closing the gap. And it means that national programs like ours need to do some serious self-reflection.

This story is from the winter/spring 2018 issue of Howler, a quarterly magazine about soccer. Get 20 percent off a subscription with promo code HOWLER14 at shop.howlermagazine.com.

JEFF RUETER is a writer in Saint Paul who contributes to the Guardian, ESPN FC and U.S. Soccer Players. Twitter: @jeffrueter

Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic Too Old for MLS or Would He Still Be a Worthwhile Investment?

By GRANT WAHL and BRIAN STRAUS January 30, 2018

The rumors and reports have fired up again, and it appears that the LA Galaxy are making yet another push to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Major League Soccer.

Ibrahimovic was potentially going to be bound for Los Angeles over the summer, but a serious knee injury in April prevented that from taking place. Instead, he re-signed with Manchester United and returned to action late last year, but a minor injury setback and strong competition in the United attack have limited his minutes. Jose Mourinho claimed Monday that he wouldn’t stand in the way if Ibra were to want to move to MLS, seemingly clearing the way for the parties to make a deal.

(UPDATE: SI can confirm reports that Ibrahimovic has signed with the LA Galaxy on a two-year deal)

Ibrahimovic has been linked to MLS for years, and two years ago he told SI.com that Thierry Henry advised him that he would need patience when adapting the league, should he arrive. His past relationship with David Beckham has also led to a natural link to his Miami franchise, though by the time that gets off the ground at this point, Zlatan will be 38.

MLS has gotten away from spending big to lure aging stars from Europe and instead focused more on younger, rising talent from South America. But would Ibrahimovic, who is a year removed from a 28-goal season and provides non-stop entertainment value, be the ultimate exception to the rule? We discuss Zlatan’s potential future in America on the latest Planet Fútbol Podcast (beginning at the 9:04 mark), which you can listen to in full below.

To subscribe to the podcast and download past episodes, you can visit our iTunes page. This segment was edited only for clarity and length.

GW: I don’t want to see 30-year-old, pretty much over-the-hill European stars coming to join [David Beckham’s project in] Miami. I don’t want to see that happen very often in MLS, period, and here we are now with reports, first Taylor Twellman had it on Sunday night, that the LA Galaxy is getting close to signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s 36 years old, hasn’t played much this year, coming off a bad, bad knee injury and wouldn’t even be a Designated Player. He would be a TAM (targeted allocation money) signing. Zlatan to L.A., do you like the sound of that, or is it Steven Gerrard Part Two?

BS: Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in the room when [Galaxy president] Chris Klein was trying to explain to Zlatan that TAM actually was bigger than DP? And the linguistic gymnastics required to convince Zlatan that TAM actually was for lions like him?

Look, man, there’s exceptions to every rule right? And guys like Gerrard and Pirlo and some other guys and maybe came in with massive names and massive resumes and didn’t have the impact we hoped, they also weren’t transcendent cultural figures like Zlatan is, so I’m going to make an exception for the guy. I agree with you, I think most people agree that we don’t want to see this league become a beach vacation for aging European stars, but it’s Zlatan, man! Let the guy come over for a season, and if he’s not committed and it doesn’t work out on the field, the Galaxy will find a Band-Aid and figure it out, or they’ll pay a price for it. But he’s fun, he’s talented, he’s transcendent and why not give it a shot, especially when you’ve got a team down the road now (LAFC) that’s making a lot of noise and that’s looking to undo some of the 22 years of traction you’ve laid in that market.

I think it’s great, I’m looking forward to it. The whole point is are you going to watch, are you going to pay attention, are you going to follow it? And if Zlatan’s in the league, you’re going to follow it. You’re going to want to see how he did, you’re going to want to hear what he has to say. The postgame interviews in the locker room are going to be epic. So I’m looking forward to it, and either it works out or it doesn’t, and it’s going to be a story either way.

GW: First off, I love Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a media member, and I can’t wait for him if he does come.

I interviewed him once about his autobiography, which is one of the more entertaining autobiographies ever, he basically goes off on everybody, including Pep Guardiola, plenty of others. … If you open fire on all these people like Pep Guardiola in your book you basically have to answer questions about it when someone interviews you about your book. So I never met Zlatan before, and suddenly I’m asking him these totally charged questions based on the book I had just read. The one downer, it’s a pretty big one, it came out eventually that the author of the book–it was an as-told-to book–totally made stuff that isn’t even true and that Zlatan eventually approved for some reason and then it was presented as factual which is really lame. But, that said. I love Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

I would not like this move at all if it were as a Designated Player, but if it’s TAM, you can kind of roll the dice. If the Galaxy really isn’t spending that much money on it, then why not? It’s pretty low risk for the Galaxy, he’s not taking up a DP slot, and the upside, if he can get it going again–or even get it going to half of what he was before–would be pretty good.

BS: They’ve made some other moves in the midfield and up front. They’ve got Jonathan Dos Santos, they got Ola Kamara from Columbus, Sebastian Lletget will be sort of like an addition because he essentially missed all of last year with an injury, so I think they were on a decent trajectory before this. So if they’re not spending a fortune … it’s not a massive, massive outlay that could sort of cripple the season. I’m all for it. And again, this is very Zlatan. The man has transcended into historical fiction already, and he’s still playing. This is why he has to be here and like I said, whatever happens, whatever circus ensues by him being here will be worth it. And the nice thing is is that the league is at a point where if it’s the wrong move, that’s just going to hurt the Galaxy, it’s not going to hurt the whole league. Other teams aren’t going to suffer, and that’s how it should be. Teams should ante up and benefit if the move is right and pay the price if the move is wrong, and that’s what will happen.

Forget Messi Comparisons: Salah is Evoking Suarez Memories at Liverpool

March 18, 2018

The speed from out wide, the ankle-turning close control, an almost aloofness to their own brilliance, the parallels between Mohamed Salah and Lionel Messi are quite easy to draw aesthetically on some level.With his four-goal haul against Watford, the Kop’s Egyptian king took his tally to 28 in the Premier League, set new records for a Liverpool player in his debut season and staked a hell of a claim to be considered as the player of the year, as we head into awards season.After the game, Jurgen Klopp addressed the Messi comparisons that have taken over social media, diplomatically claiming Salah was ‘on his way’ to greatness, while also attempting to play down the bubbling hype.”I don’t think Mo wants to be compared with Lionel Messi,” Klopp said. “Messi has been doing what he’s been doing for what feels like 20 years or so.”And that’s just it. Messi is such a unique force simply because he’s kept it up for so long. Near-incomparable longevity is the key to Messi’s success.

However, while the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is seemingly off the table of reasonable football debate, when it comes to finding similarities, one man Salah surely did fully emulate on Saturday afternoon in the snow at Anfield was Luis Suarez – the finest Liverpool player of the last five years.Salah is now the first Reds player to hit four in a Premier League match since King Luis tortured Norwich in front of the Kop back in December of 2013.Suarez, prolific against most teams during his spell in England, had such a thing for Norwich – he scored 12 times in five games against the Canaries – that keeper Jon Ruddy joked on Twitter< that he should have received a cut of Barcelona’s £75m transfer fee to Liverpool.The now Barça’s star’s finest performance in a Liverpool shirt was quite possibly his four-goal outing against Norwich that December, with his confidence at a delirious high, all four strikes were works of art.With his all action display Watford that combined the beautiful and the dogged, the brilliant and the belligerent, Salah – who, at his best, does everything but sell match day programs – has now had his ‘Norwich moment’ for Liverpool.Again, there are aesthetic and positional similarities between the two players, particularly the twisting runs that level defenders to the ground like a magic spell. However, more than just movement, skill and goals it is the sheer force of will that links the two players; an unstoppable energy that drives the team, as well as his own performance.Two more goals before the season ends will see Salah become the first Liverpool player since Suarez to score 30 Premier League goals in a single campaign.The most any Liverpool player has ever managed (in all competitions) in a single season is 47 managed back in 1984 by Ian Rush.With seven Premier League fixtures left, plus at least two in the Champions League, if Salah currently on 36 can match or better the record of club’s greatest ever goalscorer, Liverpool fans surely won’t care about the Messi talk.

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3/16/18  Champ League Elite 8 Set, Indy 11 1st Game Ticket Discount, 2 MLS Teams Advance to CCL Semis, Christian Nicht named Carmel FC GK Coach, MLS Free TV Weekend, Indy 11 Free Preseason game vs Jax Sat 11 am @ the Jake

Good Heaven’s watching Barca and Chelsea and Messi scores a wonder goal 2 minutes in – man he is flipping good !!  Wow England started with a record 6 teams in the Eufa Champions League Sweet 16 and now there are at 2 on to the Quarterfinals – Man City and Liverpool.  Anyway the Quarterfinal Draw was made this AM and I have to say I am sad – I  know it’s a random draw but 2 English sides meeting each other in the Elite 8 sucks as Liverpool will match up against Man City.  Also in a Re-match of Last season’s Final – Defending Champs Real Madrid will face my squad Juventus.  Sad to see 2 such powerfull games that honestly could easily Finals taking place in the round of 8.  Other games feature Barcelona vs AS Roma from Italy and Sevilla faces Bayern Munich in the Round that a Spanish team has knocked the German Champions out the last 2 years.  Champions League Games resume Apr 3 & 4  and 10/11.   In Europa League action (think NIT) Arsenal will face CSKA Moscow, Atletico Madrid faces Sporting CP, RB Leipzip faces French Champ Marseille and Lazio faces Red Bull Salzburg on April 5/11.

So Dortmund pulled out the miracle again this past weekend in league play as Batshuayi scored his 2nd in the 93rd minute after blowing a 2-0 lead.  American Christian Pulisic had basically  2 assist as his first cross went off a defender deep for an own goal, then in the 2nd half he pulled a fancy 1 2 with Batshuayi to set up the forward for his first goal. Pulisic basically obliterated fellow American defender Timothy Chandler of Frankfort as he blew by him time and time again to feed dangerous balls in. It was a fantastic start and full game for Pulisic on the day. Sad that Pulisic was sick and missed the Europa League loss to RB Salzburg – sounds like Dortmund could have used his creativity. Hopefully he’s back for the Sun 8 :30 am game vs Hanover on FS2.

Congrats to MLS squads Toronto and NY Red Bulls as they advance to the Semi-finals of Concacaf Champions League on Univision.  Only four teams are left in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League.

Two entrants from MLS, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls, and two Liga MX sides, Club América and Chivas de Guadalajara, are the final four in this edition of the CCL. Toronto FC will face Club America, with the Canadian club hosting the first leg on Tuesday, April 3 at 8 pm ET. Club América will host the second leg one week later, at 10 pm ET on April 10.  Chivas will host the first leg against the Red Bulls on Wednesday, April 4 at 10 pm ET, with Jesse Marsch’s side hosting the return leg April 10 at 8 pm ET.

Its a Free MLS Weekend this weekend so all the games will be FREE if you sign-up on MLSsoccer.com Sat 3 games – NYCFC vs Orlando, Montreal vs Toronto both at 3 pm, and Atlanta United vs Vancouver at 7:30 pm fresh off breaking the record last weekend for the largest ever MLS home crowd.  Then Sunday Carmel’s Matt Hedges and Dallas host Toronto at 5 pm.

Just 2 More Weeks until the Indy 11 open their 1st USL season home season vs FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, March 31st at 7 pm at their new home – Lucas Oil Stadium and we have a Special Ticket Offer from the 11 as we look to fill the stadium and welcome the over 2000 Cincy fans expected to make the trek.  Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

11 am  this Sat 3/17 Indy 11 play Jacksonville Armada in last Preseason Game- FREE Admission @ the Jake

CFC_Christiannicht

Big News for Carmel FC Goalkeepers as former Indy 11 starting Goalkeeper Christian Nicht (AKA – Das Boot) has been announced as the New Goalie Coach.  More Details to come next week as Goalkeeper training will move to Wednesday’s.  The Ole Ballcoach – Shane will still be around to assist of course.

Champions League

Quarter Finals – Are Set

Tues Results Man U lose and Roma Go Thru Jon Wilson SI

Mane Convinced Liverpool Can Win Champions League

Mourino proves he’s out of Touch with home Flameout vs Sevilla

Man Us Lukaku says some United players were hiding in 2-0 loss to Sevilla

Former Players Lash out at Man U’s home exit

Not So Special Anymore OUT –Missery of Modern Mourinho  SI

Dzeko Strikes again as Roma Defeat Shakhtar to Advacne

Bayern Cruise into Quarters over Besiktas

 

Europa League Draw Set

Europa League Winners Arsenal, Athletico, RB Salzburb, Marseille – Dortmund out

Arsenal advance to Last 8 of Europa

Atletico Cruises into Quarters

Dortmund shut down at Salzburg

Goalkeeping

Dope Saves by GK 2017/18

MLS Week 2 Best Saves

Tops Saves of Last Week EPL

USA

How Fox Plans to Cover the World Cup

US List of Cities for WC 2026 Cut to 23 Cities

Who the US Should Call Up for March 27th Friendly vs Paraguay – S&S

US D Mid – Danny Williams – Out for Rest of Season for Huddersfield Town

Yanks Abroad – Green Scores, Pulisic 2 assists

US Falls to 25th In World Rankings

Change in the Gold Cup by Concacaff

US Ladies – SheBelieves Players Stock Up or Down

MLS

FREE MLS Weekend on MLSSoccer.com   Sat games —

3 pm Univision             NYCFC vs Orlando City (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

3 pm MLSsoccer.com MTR vs Tor (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

7:30 pm MLSsoccer.com Atlanta United vs Vancouver (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

MLS teams beat Mexican teams in CCL

Seattle Crashes out of CCL 3-0 loss on road

Red Bulls and Toronto Advance to Semis in CCL

Final 4 are Set in Concacaf Champions League with 2 MLS Teams in

Mexican Champ to Play MLS Champ in Campeones Cup  – in September

Derailing and MLS Season as Seattle and Minn have huge injuries – Jason Davis

Power Rankings MLS

World

Power Rankings Bayern, Barca, Man City Top 3

Harry Kane of the Spurs Set for April Return after Right Ankle Ligament Damage

Around the World in Soccer – Grant Wahl SUI– Christian Press Mess, Conte to PSG?

Klopp Pissed that Mersyside Derby flipped from Sun eve to Sat Noon during Champ League week

INDY 11

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

11 am  this Sat 3/17 Indy 11 play Jacksonville Armada in last Preseason Game- FREE Admission @ the Jake

Indy 11 Beat Chicago Fire 2-0

Season: IndySoccerTix.com (save on ticket fees!)
Flex Packs: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/store/index.php?s_category_id=34
Single Game: htp://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/mobile/evlistm.php?refresh=1520098544t

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

Indy 11_HomeOpener_ISA

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

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, Mar 17 

8:15 am FS1                   Swansea vs Tottenham (FA Cup)

11 am    Indy 11 play Jacksonville Armada in last Preseason Game- FREE Admission @ the Jake

11 am CNBC?                Stoke City (Cameron) vs Everton

11 am NBCSN                Huddersfield Town vs Crystal Palace

12:30 pm Fox soccer                       Wolfsburg vs Schalke

1:30 pm  NBCSN          Liverpool vs Watford

3 pm mlssoccer.com  NYCFC vs Orlando City (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

3 pm MLSsoccer.com MTR vs Tor (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

7:30 pm MLSsoccer.com Atlanta United vs Vancouver (MLS FREE WEEKEND)

3:45 pm FS2?                Man United vs Brighton  FA CUP

Sun, Mar 18

8 am BeIN Sport          Nice vs PSG

8:30 AM Fox sport1 Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hanover

9:30 am FS2                    Wigan vs Southampton (FA Cup)

12:30 pm FS2                Leicester City vs Chelsea (FA Cup)

1 pm Fox soccer          RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich

3/23-3/27 International Break

Fri Mar 23

12 noon BeIN Sport                          Russia vs Brazil

1 pm FS2                           Norway vs Australia

3:45 pm beIN Sport                          Argentina vs Italy

4 pm ESPN3                    France vs Columbia

10:30 pm Fox Sport 1                      Mexico vs Iceland

Sat, Mar 24 

1 pm be IN Sport        Sweden vs Chile

3:30 pm Univision     Dallas vs Portland (MLS)

5 pm Youtube  Indy 11 @ Richmond Kickers  (BYB Watch Party @ Union Jack Broad Ripple)

Tues, Mar 27 

12:50 pm ESPN Desp   Russia vs France

3 pm Fox Sports 1      England vs Italy

3:45 pm  ESPN3           Germany vs Brazil

4 pm ESPN Desp          Spain vs Argentina

8 pm Fox Sport 1      USA vs Paraguay

11 pm Fox Sports 1   Mexico vs Croatia

EPL 2018 Schedule  

MLS 2018 Schedule

Liverpool face Manchester City in UCL quarterfinals, Juventus play Real Madrid

7:14 AM ET  SPN staff

Liverpool face Manchester City in an all-English Champions League quarterfinal after the draw in Switzerland on Friday.Juventus take on defending champions Real Madrid while Barcelona — the first team to emerge from the draw — play Serie A side Roma. Sevilla, who knocked out Manchester United to reach the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time, face Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for a place in the last four.The draw means Liverpool, who eased past Porto to reach this stage of the competition, play a domestic rival for the seventh time in European competition.They were thrashed 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium in September but inflicted City’s only Premier League defeat of the season so far in a 4-3 thriller at Anfield — where City have won just once in their last 30 visits. Juventus have the chance to gain revenge on Real, who beat them 4-1 in last season’s Champions League final in Cardiff.Bayern, meanwhile, have been knocked out of the Champions League by a team from Spain in the last four seasons.The first legs between Sevilla and Barcelona and Juventus and Real Madrid take place on Tuesday April 3, with Barcelona vs. Roma and Liverpool vs. Manchester City the following night.The second legs see Manchester City and Roma play their home games on April 10, with Bayern and Real in action the evening after.The Champions League final takes place in Kiev on May 26.

Sevilla Ousts Sloppy, Sluggish Man United; Dzeko Leads Roma Through in UCL Last 16

By JONATHAN WILSON March 13, 2018

Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1 at home to Sevilla after a goalless first leg.Wissam Ben Yedder struck twice in six minutes after coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute to down Jose Mourinho’s side, which had been mystifyingly lackluster throughout the round. For Sevilla, this will be its first Champions League/European Cup quarterfinal in 60 years; Man United, meanwhile, still hasn’t been into the last eight since David Moyes was in charge.In the day’s other last-16 game, Edin Dzeko got the only goal as Roma beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 to go through on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw, sending the Italian side to just its fourth quarterfinal ever.Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:

BEN YEDDER, SEVILLA PUNISH SLOPPY MAN UNITED

Sevilla had never won in England in six previous attempts. It had not been beyond the last 16 of Europe’s top competition in six decades. Manchester United had only lost two of 51 home games under Jose Mourinho–both against Manchester City. Sevilla had conceded 20 times in 11 games under Vincenzo Montella, including letting in five on three occasions. Every statistic said United should win with ease, and perhaps that was part of the problem. United was dreadful; Sevilla was good enough, improving as the game went on as though unable quite to believe its luck.United had been warned, with Eric Bailly making a last-gasp challenge to deny Joaquin Correa in his shooting stride early in the second half, but nothing improved. After the introduction of Ben Yedder came the reckoning. Ever Banega, making the play from deep, had found space all night, and it was his through ball that set the substitute in to put Sevilla ahead with a low shot. That was bad from a defensive point of view, but the second goal four minutes later was even worse, as Correa was left unmarked at the near post to flick on a corner for Ben Yedder to bang in his second. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more than the French forward in the Champions League this season.Only then did United wake up, Romelu Lukaku pulling one back from a corner. By then, though, it was too late. This was dreadful, but there will be questions, too, about why United made itself so vulnerable with such a negative performance in the goalless first leg. United still has the FA Cup to play for, but even if it wins that, this season will go down as an enormous disappointment.

MAN UNITED’S ALEXIS SANCHEZ ISSUE

Alexis Sanchez is becoming a real issue for Mourinho. This was his 10th appearance since his signing from Arsenal in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and he has yet to settle in. It’s by no means the only measure of effectiveness, but it’s telling that his only goal so far was knocking in the rebound after his penalty had been saved in a 2-0 league win over Huddersfield. He didn’t play badly here: there was one superb pass to Marcus Rashford early in the second half, but when Rashford created a chance for him after 57 minutes, he got the ball caught under his feet and prodded it tamely into the body of defender Clement Lenglet.The inclusion of Marouane Fellaini for Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard for Juan Mata were the only changes from Saturday’s victory over Liverpool in terms of personnel, but there was a change of role. On Saturday, Rashford scored twice coming in off the left, with Sanchez used behind Lukaku and Mata on the right. Here, Sanchez was switched to the left, with Rashford moving right and Lingard central. Whether that was solely responsible for a bafflingly lethargic display is impossible to say, but it certainly didn’t help.After the excellent home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, this was a return to the flatness of the game at Crystal Palace when United went 2-0 down before coming back to win 3-2. Mourinho regularly insists that defending well is not a crime, and he is right in that, but this drabness was less the result of a cautious set up than a lack of energy and a sloppiness on the ball.It would be wrong to blame Sanchez for that, but equally it’s fair to ask exactly what he has brought and what he was supposed to bring. That he is a talented forward is not in doubt; how exactly he fits into this oddly shapeless Man United very much is.

SHAKHTAR EXITS WITH PLENTY OF REGRETS 

For Shakhtar this was a Champions League exit replete with regret. What if the competition didn’t burden itself with the absurd away goals rule? What if it had taken a couple more of the many chances it created in the first half? What if it had a better goalkeeper than Andriy Pyatov?The Ukraine goalkeeper has his moments, but he is also prone to a high-profile gaffe. This perhaps wasn’t an overt mistake but equally there a sense he made things easy for Dzeko’s winner. Kevin Strootman’s pass was good, but if Pyatov hadn’t come flying off his line, what would Dzeko have done from the corner of the box? Perhaps he would have applied the perfect touch to set up a shooting chance, but that would have been a much harder skill than simply jabbing the ball past the onrushing keeper. The finish showed great awareness, but Pyatov turned a half-chance into a much more dangerous one, and it’s Shakhtar that is headed out of the competition despite a golden chance to go through.

Arsenal, Atletico Madrid Avoid Each Other in Europa League Quarterfinal Draw

 

By 90MIN March 16, 2018

The eight remaining clubs fighting to win the Europa League and a guaranteed place in next season’s Champions League group stage learned their fate as the draw for the quarterfinals was made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday.Arsenal, who comfortably eliminated AC Milan in the Last 16, really need to go all the way after a poor domestic season and will now face 2005 winners CSKA Moscow for a place in the semis.Only strong teams now remain in this incredibly competitive season of Europa League action, with Atletico Madrid facing Sporting CP and RB Leipzig drawn against Marseille.

2017/18 UEFA Europa League Quarterfinal Draw:

RB Leipzig vs Marseille

Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

Atletico Madrid vs Sporting CP

Lazio vs Red Bull Salzburg

First leg ties will be played on Thursday 5th April, followed by the return legs one week later on Thursday 12th April.

Toronto FC to face Club America, Red Bulls take on Chivas in CCL semifinals

March 15, 20184:03PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Only four teams are left in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League.  Two entrants from MLS, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls, and two Liga MX sides, Club América and Chivas de Guadalajara, are the final four in this edition of the CCL. Toronto FC will face Club America, with the Canadian club hosting the first leg on Tuesday, April 3 at 8 pm ET. Club América will host the second leg one week later, at 10 pm ET on April 10.Chivas will host the first leg against the Red Bulls on Wednesday, April 4 at 10 pm ET, with Jesse Marsch’s side hosting the return leg April 10 at 8 pm ET.Hosting order in both series was determined by accumulation of points through the Round of 16 and quarterfinal rounds, with América and New York picking up more points in their respective series and as a result hosting the second leg.Club América have won the tournament twice in the Champions League era (2015, 2016), while the other three semifinalists are looking for their first CCL title.

MLS Power Rankings: NYCFC remain atop the pack in Week 2

March 13, 201811:46AM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributorOnly MLS league games will be reflected in the rankings. Rankings are voted on by MLSsoccer.com editorial staff; words by Alicia Rodriguez.

BIGGEST MOVERS: LAFC +7; RSL -7

1

LAST WEEK: 1

HIGH: 1 | LOW: 2

NYCFC remain at the head of the pack after starting the season 2-0-0. Their win over the Galaxy on Sunday was rather nervy at the end, but they held on to start the Yankee Stadium slate in a satisfactory way.

Previous: Won 2-1 vs. LA | Next: vs. ORL on 3/17

2

LAST WEEK: 2

HIGH: 1 | LOW: 2

Toronto FC didn’t play in MLS, instead getting the weekend to focus on their Concacaf Champions League series against Tigres UANL. If they advance on Tuesday, they’ll be flying high. If not? TFC may look to take it out on their rivals in Montreal.

Previous: Idle | Next: at MTL on 3/17

3

LAST WEEK: 5

HIGH: 3 | LOW: 7

Cross-country road trips are always difficult, but looking at the lineups on Saturday, it appeared the Timbers would have a big edge on the Red Bulls, who rotated their lineup with CCL considerations in mind. It didn’t matter, as a youth-heavy Red Bulls side crushed Portland and gave a glimpse that the next phase in the project at Red Bull Arena is here.

Previous: Won 4-0 vs. POR | Next: at RSL on 3/17

4

LAST WEEK: 3

HIGH: 3 | LOW: 11

It was a tale of two halves for Crew SC in their win over Montreal, as a sparkling first half gave way to the Impact imposing themselves in the second 45. But the Gyasi Zardes rejuvenation project picked up more momentum with a last-minute PK winner.

Previous: Won 3-2 vs. MTL | Next: vs. PHI on 3/17

5

LAST WEEK: 12

HIGH: 5 | LOW: 17

The expansion side picked up the biggest surprise of the weekend, with a road blowout against an RSL team that had been moderately hyped as contenders. Two games into their history, LAFC do not look like an expansion team.

Previous: Won 5-1 at RSL | Next: at LA on 3/31

6

LAST WEEK: 4

HIGH: 4 | LOW: 6

The Sounders were off this week to concentrate on CCL, but a road game next weekend against an also-idle FC Dallas team could offer a glimpse as to the state of the Sounders in the first month of the season.

Previous: Idle | Next: at DAL on 3/18

7

AST WEEK: 7

HIGH: 3 | LOW: 7

Atlanta finally got the bogeyman off their backs by vanquishing D.C. United for the first time. Tata changed up hist tactics and allowed Jeff Larentowicz to play the position he’s most comfortable in, which could account for the loss of Carlos Carmona.

Previous: Won 3-1 vs. DC | Next: vs. VAN on 3/17

8

AST WEEK: 13

HIGH: 8 | LOW: 14

Kei Kamara is legit: As Matt Doyle noted, the Whitecaps were basically built for him, and a goal (his 100th in MLS) and assist in a smash-and-grab road win over Houston gives Carl Robinson’s side an edge they haven’t had before.

Previous: Won 2-1 at HOU | Next: at ATL on 3/17

9

AST WEEK: 9

HIGH: 9 | LOW: 15

The voting panel kept Houston in the same spot this week, and probably for good reason. They outplayed the Whitecaps in a home loss, but just didn’t get the bounces to go their way for a result. They’ll head out for their first road game of the season next weekend against a D.C. United team that is eager for points. Should be a good test.

Previous: Lost 2-1 vs. VAN | Next: at DC on 3/17

10

LAST WEEK: 8

HIGH: 8 | LOW: 12

Losing Giovani dos Santos and Michael Ciani in the course of their loss at NYCFC appeared to offer some addition by subtraction, as the Galaxy played much better in the final minutes. The concern, of course, is if Gio will ever get to the level that would make him one of the best players in MLS.

Previous: Lost 2-1 at NYC | Next: at VAN on 3/24

FOX Sports to bring MLS experience and global focus to U.S.-less World Cup

March 12, 201812:54PM EDTPhil WestContributor

AUSTIN — Rob Stone is looking forward to this summer’s World Cup with good reason. As FOX Sports’ lead studio host, he’ll have a prominent role in bringing the world’s biggest soccer tournament to American audiences. But the FOX team also can’t help looking back even as they prepare: Namely, to last October, when the United States men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.“It was a gut punch on every level,” said Stone, referring to both the personal as a fan and the professional who wondered how his network’s coverage would be affected by the U.S.’s absence. “To take that element away hurts, and I think it makes it that much more challenging.”But he also notes that FOX Sports — in part thanks to the American soccer audience they’ve cultivated with its MLS coverage — is up to the challenge of engaging both established and new fans with this summer’s tournament.“I’ve mourned, and I’ve moved on, and I’ve accepted what this summer’s going to be and how we’re going to present it,” Stone said, noting that “our country has evolved into a soccer nation.”“There are people out there who have lowered the expectation bar for this summer’s World Cup,” Stone said, pausing before adding, pointedly. “We’re going to crush it.”Stone — along with Stuart Holden, Alexi Lalas and Rachel Bonnetta — were in Austin for SXSW this past weekend to promote FOX Sports’ upcoming World Cup coverage via panels and online broadcasts.Stone contrasts the American soccer audience now with the one for his first broadcast involvement — the 1998 edition in France — in which “there was a great fear among our executives that once the U.S. was out, people were going to turn off the television,” adding, “We are at a point now where that is not the case.”That owes in part to the soccer audience FOX Sports has attracted and cultivated toward its MLS coverage, and the network’s coverage will certainly incorporate the MLS players representing their home countries.“There are going to be a bunch of MLS players over there who will be our focus,” Lalas promises. “Rather than be U.S.-centric, we’ll spread our view around, telling all the different stories.” Lalas also recognizes that some viewers won’t have familiarity with MLS, providing FOX an opportunity to act as ambassadors. “There are people who don’t follow soccer a whole lot coming into the tent here. When you give them that touchstone, that connection that says, ‘This guy plays in your community; you can watch him play every week in Major League Soccer,’ that’s important. We have to make sure we make those connections, and be proud of the fact that MLS is producing players who are playing in the World Cup.”Stone added, “I think [MLS] succeeding helps the national team and helps US soccer as a whole. I want to see those players in MLS do well in the World Cup,” noting that some young international players, who now see MLS as a “bigger stage to play on,” could have performances at this World Cup that will propel them to MLS.Holden — whose panel last Saturday explored the “24/7” coverage propelled in part by what Twitter and YouTube TV had planned—observed that the network’s MLS coverage this year is incorporating World Cup stories in their lead-in to the tournament. “MLS may have their largest-ever representation in a World Cup, which to me is a really great achievement considering there’s no United States, which normally accounts for a lot of the MLS players.”Stone hints that the coverage will have “a slight Olympic feel, in that we’re going to sell the stars,” noting that Argentina, Portugal and Brazil — featuring Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar respectively — have group stage games that don’t overlap. Stone also notes that “Germany is a star,” with Die Mannschaft a favorite to be the first World Cup champions to repeat since Brazil completed the rare feat in 1962. The FOX Sports team expects Germany’s June 17 date with Mexico — another squad the network will give ample attention to — as one of their most-watched group stage matches.While the U.S. won’t physically be at the World Cup, FOX Sports will still include American storylines in their coverage — starting with the FIFA vote the day before the tournament starts which may bring the 2026 edition to North America.“You recognize the biggest party in the world is happening this summer, and we have the responsibility and privilege to televise it,” Lalas said. “And the United States, with its incredible diversity, is maybe better equipped than any other country in the world to deal with a World Cup that doesn’t have the home nation in it.”

United States-led World Cup bid cuts list of potential host cities to 23

3:12 PM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

The United Bid Committee, which is aiming to bring the 2026 World Cup to Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., announced ahead of Friday’s formal bid submission to FIFA that it has reduced the field of potential bid cities to 23 candidates.United Bid executive director John Kristick told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview that the bid would besubmitted at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Friday ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline local timeMorocco is the only other contender. The joint bid will contain both digital and physical elements. The digital submission is comprised of over 500 pages, and including supplemental elements will reach nearly 1,000 pages. Adding the hosting documents on top of that and Kristick says the number of pages climbs into the tens of thousands.”We’re in a great situation,” said Kristick. “It has to be the most comprehensive sports bid ever put forward.”The field of candidate cities was reduced from a list of 32 named last October. The list of U.S. cities includes Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. The list of Canadian cities includes Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton, while Mexico’s candidates are comprised of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.The average capacity of the stadiums that could potentially be used is over 68,000.FIFA president Gianni Infantino outlines the tasks facing newly-elected president of U.S. soccer Carlos Cordeiro.

“We’ve got new cities, we’ve got a combination of cities with brand new facilities and facilities that have been recently upgraded or will be renovated,” he said. “To me, it’s the perfect mix. The fact that we’re going forward with an oversupply [of cities] just shows you he intense interest across the three countries to take part. That’s important to us.”

There are some notable omissions, however. Chicago not only is the home of the U.S. Soccer Federation, but it also hosted the opening game of the 1994 World Cup. Vancouver, which was the site for the 2015 Women’s World Cup final is also absent from the list. The other cities eliminated include Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis (which pulled out citing unacceptable FIFA demands), Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Tampa.

statement from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office given to the Chicago Sun-Times said: “FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk. The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”

Vancouver’s provincial government had similar concerns, according to The Province.Kristick is untroubled by the push-back. A total of 150 training facilities are specified in the bid, along with 72 team base camps. When these factors are included, the number of municipalities reaches 30.”Every city has the same requirements,” he said. “These are competitive bids and that’s just the natural process that you go through. I think every city, including if you speak to talk to Chicago or Vancouver, if they were given more time, they would have told you they absolutely felt they would have gotten things done, but unfortunately we hit certain points where we have to make decisions.”We have an oversupply of great cities, so to me it’s something we expected when we started with the 41 cities. We knew the number was going to come down, but we stand here today knowing that if the number is going to come down to 16, and we’ve got 23, we’re in an exceptional place.”Once the bid is formally submitted, the campaign phase will accelerate.”It’s not a sprint. We have a very, very experienced board with our co-chairs,” said Kristick. “We’re traveling, we will not be taking any votes for granted anywhere. We believe our bid is going to very much stand on its merits, and we’re very confident as we move into the campaign phase that we have a great story to tell and we believe that the members are going to be very discerning.”As they look at the bids on their merit, they’re going to look at the staging requirements for the largest World Cup in history, and the certainty that the United Bid brings — the opportunity that it brings across the commercial revenues that it will generate — and we hope that is the formula that will prove that the United Bid is where the World Cup should be staged in 2026.”FIFA has been accused of applying a double standard to the process in terms of when bid representatives can talk to prospective voters — an approach that appeared to favor the United Bid. It later softened its guidelines to allow voters to endorse one of the bids, provided both bids are given the same opportunities to state their case.”We are very confident with the processes that FIFA put forward,” said Kristick. “With the scrutiny that this bid is under, there is an intense level of compliance, and we are happy to subscribe to that. Whatever FIFA informs us we are able to do is the way we are making the approach. It’s not been a problem for us at all.”Last month, ESPN reported that support for the United States-led bid to host the 2026 event is more divided than most predicted, with some estimates of voting totals having Morocco not just threatening the North American bid but beating it, according to multiple high-ranking football executives within FIFA and the continental confederations.

The 2026 hosts are expected to be announced on June 13.

Canada: Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto

Mexico: Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey

United States: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Washington DC   ( YES NO INDY, NO CHICAGO – Cincy would be great – I can’t believe no Chicago however?? )

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN EXTINGUISH CHICAGO FIRE IN 2-0 WIN

By IndyEleven.com, 03/12/18, 9:00AM EDTGoals from Saad, Starikov see Indy undefeated in last four preseason friendlies

Indy Eleven find winning ways once again in preseason after a 2-0 victory on the road against MLS’ Chicago Fire early Sunday morning. First half goals from “Boys in Blue” forwards Soony Saad and Eugene Starikov, as well as massive saves from goaltenders Owain Fon Williams and an unnamed trialist, ses Indy remain undefeated in the last four preseason friendlies.
While pleased with the result, Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie continues to stress the purpose of today’s match wasn’t necessarily to win, but to build fitness. “It was another good training game for us,” Rennie said. “Most of our players played 90 minutes. I think towards the end of the game, we [the players] were getting a little bit tired. But for most of the game I thought we played really well. We had good possession, scored good goals, created good chances and defended well throughout the game. I’m very pleased with where we’re at in this stage of our preseason.”

The scales tipped in Indy Eleven’s favor early on in the match. Eleven forward Jack McInerney ran in along the top right of the Fire’s 18-yard box. Coming in one-on-one with one of Chicago’s defenders, McInerney pivoted to the left around the Redman to fire off a shot. McInerney’s attempt as deflected by Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland to the left of the goal when “Boys in Blue” striking partner Saad capitalized on the opening, sending the ball into the goal shortly after the clock ticked into the 11th minute.It wasn’t but seven minutes later when McInerney found himself in a similar position. McInerney came running in the top right of Fire’s box once again, but this time he attracted the attention of two Fire defenders instead of the previous one-on-one play. Unable to make the shot as he approached the center of the goal, McInerney sent a short pass to the left where it met the feet of XI forward Starikov. Without hesitation, Starikov hammered his shot out of Cleveland’s reach and into the top right corner of Chicago’s goal posts, widening Indy’s leading gap 2-0 in the 18th minute.
lthough the Fire’s attack pressed hard the entirely of the first half the first major attempt at goal didn’t come until the 44th minute. Chicago sent a lofty cross directly towards the center of Indy’s 6-yard box from the far left corner of the “Boys in Blue’s” half. Another Fire attacked leapt up and met the incoming ball with his forehead square in front of Indy’s goal. As luck would have it, Fon Williams was able to tip the header up over the crossbar and out of play, keeping Indy in a distant lead.
ire entered the second half determined to close the gap Indy created in the first. In the 50th minute, several Fire players crowded Indy’s 18-yard box while fighting for possession. In the middle of the scuffle, Chicago sent a scrambled shot towards the bottom right of Indy’s goal, but Fon Williams was quick on his feet with a diving save to force the ball out of dangerous territory. Fon Williams continued to collect as more attempts came his way for another 26 minutes before being substituted for an unnamed trialist for the remainder of the match.The first test for the trialing goalkeeper and arguably Chicago’s best chance at a goal came just moments after Fon Williams came off. In the 77th minute, Chicago was awarded a free kick at the top-right of Indy’s box, feet away from penalty territory. The Fire sent the free kick up and over the wall of XI players towards the center of the box and landing at the feet of one their teammates. After a quick touch, the home side players launched the ball towards goal, but the ball struck the outstretched arm of Indy’s fresh-legged keeper as he dove to successfully neutralize the attempt in the 78th minute.

The final whistle blew after a short spell of added time with both sides failing to find any goals in the second half. The “Boys in Blue” registered their second clean sheet of the weekend after a 0-0 draw against developmental side Bridges FC the day prior. So far, Indy holds a 3W-2D-1L preseason record, tallying a total of 8 goals over the last 5 matches. Starikov tops the preseason scoring list for the “Boys in Blue” with a total of 3 goal; he netted his first two in a brace against Swope Park Rangers in the second match of the preseason. Saad trails close behind Starikov with two goals under his belt. In third, Jack McInerney and an unnamed trialist are each tied with one goal. The last goal for the Eleven came from an own goal during their clash with Notre Dame last weekend.
Next Saturday, March 17, marks the Opening Weekend for the USL 2018 Season. Although your “Boys in Blue” won’t see any official action until March 24, they will continue their preseason with back-to-back home matches next Saturday against Indiana Wesleyan University and former foes Jacksonville Armada. Details on these matches will come later this week.

Looking for plans on March 31? Look no further. Click here to get your tickets to Indy Eleven’s 2018 Home Opener against regional rivals FC Cincinnati.

USL Preseason   Chicago Fire 0:2 Indy Eleven
Sunday, March 11, 2018    Toyota Park—Bridgeview, IL

Scoring Summary:
IND – Soony Saad 11’
IND – Eugene Starikov (Jack McInerney) 18’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-3-3, L–>R):  Owain Fon Williams (GK) (Trialist 76’); Ayoze (Trialist 45’), Reiner Ferreira, Carlyle Mitchell, Kevin Venegas (Trialist 36’); Watson, Trialist, Steinberger; Starikov, Saad (Trialist 90’+), McInerney
Chicago Fire lineup (L->R): Cleveland (GK) (McLain 45’); Castro, Conner, Ellis; Campos, Adams, Bronico, Johnson; Gordon, Collier, Bakero

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com , Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

March 9 Champions League, Indy 11 Ticket Special, MLS Week 2, US Ladies Win, Liverpool vs Man U Sat 7:30 am,

Oh my heaven I do LOVE European Champions League Football (these are truly the best teams in the world!!)  The Old Lady is not Dead – tied at 2 heading back to Tottenham with everyone saying it was the Spurs and Harry Kane’s time – Juventus (aka the Old Lady) and legendary 40 year-old Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon stood up and stole a 2-1 win at Wembley behind a goal and assist from Higuain and thusly advance to the Quarter Finals along with Liverpool (5-0 Aggregate), Man City (5-2 Aggregate), and Real Madrid (5-2) Aggregate over PSG.   Renaldo and Real Madrid were magifico at Paris as the all-world striker scored for the 9th straight UCL game tying the all-time record in Champions League play.  PSG without Neymar, not only couldn’t make up the 2 goal deficit, but actually loss the home game 2-1 as the reigning European Champions, Real Madrid, move on to the Elite 8.  Champions League Sweet 16 Leg 2’s resume this week with Chelsea traveling to Barcelona down 1-1 on aggregate on Wed on FS1 at 2:45, while Man United will host Sevilla at Old Trafford in a must win on Tuesday at 2:45 pm on FS1.  Roma will travel to Shakhtar down 2-1 on Tuesday on FS2 at 2:45 pm, and Bayern will certainly advance past Besiktas up 5-0 on Wed.

Added Stories for Champions League this Week !! 

Champions League

Willian Represents everything Conte Wants from Chelsea vs Barcelona

Preview Barca vs Chelsea

European Classico Technique vs Power – Barcelona vs Chelsea

Preview Man U vs Sevilla FC

Sevilla Prepared to Suffer at Old Trafford

Europa

Milan Still Have Chance at Arsenal

Reus Stays at Dortmund

 

What 2 Expect – Concacaf 2nd Legs – Liga MX vs MLS

MLS Teams Take Huge Leap –

Tues – CONCACAF 2nd Legs 

8 pm – Univision – NY Red Bulls 2 @ Olimpia 0

11 pm – Univision – Tigres 1 vs Toronto FC  2

Wed CONCACAF 2nd Legs 

11 pm – Univision –  Guadalajara 0 vs Seattle Sounders FC 4

 

So I am watching the young American Christian Pulisic and Dortmund in Europa League play vs Salsburg – and trailing 2-0 at home – Dortmund finally pull Rueus and put in Pulisic in the 60th minute – 2 minutes later Pulisic takes off down the right side, flys by the defender (aka Landon Donovan 10 years ago) and puts the perfect cross in for a goal for the Scheuler.  I know he’s only 19 – but seriously Dortmund are so much more dangerous when little #22 The American – Pulisic is in the game!!  Tough 2-1 loss at home –perhaps start the American next time?  If you want to Win Dortmund?

Tues, Mar 13 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Man United 0 vs Sevilla 0

2:45 pm Fox Sport2 Shakhtar 2 vs Roma 1

Weds, Mar 14 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                 Besiktas 0 vs  Bayern Munich 5

2:45 pm FS 2                Barcelona  vs Chelsea (1-1)

Thurs, Mar 15  – Europa League

12 pm eSPN3                Atletico Madrid vs Moskva

1 pm FS 2                      Milan vs Arsenal

3 pm FS2                          RB Leipeg vs Zenit

2 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

4 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) 1 vs Salburg 2

Champions League

Willian Represents everything Conte Wants from Chelsea vs Barcelona

Preview Barca vs Chelsea

European Classico Technique vs Power – Barcelona vs Chelsea

Preview Man U vs Sevilla FC

Sevilla Prepared to Suffer at Old Trafford

Europa

Milan Still Have Chance at Arsenal

Reus Stays at Dortmund

 

What 2 Expect – Concacaf 2nd Legs – Liga MX vs MLS

 

Got some big league games on TV this weekend as Manchester United hosts Liverpool Sat at 7:30 am on NBCSN in a key battle for top 4 in the EPL, while US defender DeAndre Yedlin and New Castle United host Southampton right after at 10 am.  Sunday we spring forward so Arsenal hosts Watford at 9:30 am on NBCSN, and Dortmund and US youngster Christian Pulisic host Frankfort at 1 pm on Fox Sports 2 right before MLS’ Atlanta United (fresh off a stunning opening weekend 4-0 beatdown at the hands of Houston) will certainly fill Mercedez-Benz Stadium for their home opener vs DC United at 3 pm on ESPN.  In fact a bunch of MLS favorites loss opening weekend including defending Champs Toronto 0-2 to our Columbus Crew, and Seattle 0-1 to Bob Bradley’s expansion LAFC in the Emerald City. Huge congrats to Carmel native, a former Carmel Dad’s club player and UNC star Cam Lindley as he started at d-mid in his first MLS game for Orlando City FC on Saturday in a 1-1 tie vs DC United.   Also great job by Toronto, Seattle and NY Red Bulls for winning their 1st leg Concacaf Champions League games vs Liga MX (Mexican teams) – now move on Elite 8!

Congrats the US Ladies for bringing home the She Believe’s Cup Trophy against the other top teams in the World – England, France and Germany.  The US Ladies slid by England 1-0 on a goal by Megan Rapino and excellent goalkeeping by Alyssa Naeher but honestly I was most moved by the tribute the teams paid to the survivors and friends of 14 YO Alyssa Alhadeff from Parkland High in Orlando.  Sometimes sports can help the healing. (See below for all the game stories)

We are now at less than 100 days from the Kickoff of the World Cup without the US or Italy or the Dutch – ok the next World Cup.  Here’s a cool video of Russian Prez Putin juggling with FIFA Prez Infantino.  Pretty cool.  I do feel sorry for Fox – without the US they will certainly lose their buts financially.  But it sounds like they have great plans to provide solid coverage of the tourney this summer.

Just 3 More Weeks until the Indy 11 open their 1st USL season vs FC Cincinnati on Saturday night, March 31st at 7 pm at their new home – Lucas Oil Stadium and we have a Special Ticket Offer from the 11 as we look to fill the stadium and welcome the over 2000 Cincy fans expected to make the trek.  Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

cfc_Wademccoy

Finally Huge Congratulations to Carmel FC – Indiana Soccer 2018 Manager of the Year – Wade McCoy of the U9 Girls 4 Teams (Gold, Blue, White & Grey) in helping Coach Mark Flanders in /Blue keep things in line.

Goalkeeping

Alyssa Naeher settles in as #1 for US Ladies

MLS Week 1 Best Saves

Tops Saves of Last Week EPL

Man U’s De Gea Fingertip Save

De Gea’s Wonder Save vs Sevilla

US

US World Cup Bid Team drops Gulati

US Striker Aron Johannsson eyes Starting Role for Werder Bremen

Timmy Weah Debuts for PSG – US U18

US Players Overseas  – S&S

Jon Klinsman US U20 GK – Too Much American in him says Hertha Berlin Asst

NY Cosmos Owner Lashes out at US Soccer

How the US Misses Hispanic Players – Stars and Stripes

Champions League

Renaldo Extends UCL Goals run to 9 games Tying Record

Vazquez Embodies hunger Madrid posses and PSG lack

Juve Chiellini says history of Tottenham to blame

Allegri’s Tactics sparks Juve Comback for win of the ages

Spurs must learn from Juve Ruthlessness

Pochettino exit not due to Inexperience

Liverpool Know’s they belong – Klopp

Man City cruise into final despite 2-1 home loss to Basel

Chelea’s Conte must change tactics vs Barca – EPSNFC

World

Key Questions as World Cup is 100 Days Away – ESPNFC  Great Video here –

Putin Juggles with FIFA President at 100 Day WC Kickoff

Brazil Can Survive without Neymar now

What Conte Was Thinking vs Man City + Barca wins, Italy   –Gabi Marcotti

Italy – Cancel;s Games Sunday After Player Dies in sleep Sat

Barca has won La Liga Basically with win over Atleti

Power Rankings Top Players in the World

Alexi Lallas – VAR Is Changing the Game – And that is Good — will be In for the World Cup

MLS

MLS Teams Sweep Liga MX sides in Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal 1st Legs –

Power Rankings UpSide Down

Is LAFC going to Replace the Galaxy?

MLS Favorites All Lose Opening Weekend

Ron Burgandy Does MLS Opener

New Coaches Headline New Season

EPL

23 Goals in 90 seconds

Tops Saves of Last Week EPL

Man U Stunning comeback win

Time for Wenger to Go Has Passed Already

Worse Ever Times for Arsen Wenger

Man U vs Liverpool Preview

Man U need to lay down marker at home vs Liverpool

All Rise for Man United vs Liverpool 7:30 am Sat on NBCSN

INDY 11

Help fill the Luke – Sat, March 31st with discounted tickets to the Opening Game!  {Promo code 2018indy}.

Columbus Crew GK Ben Lundgaard Joins Indy 11 on Loan for 2018

Indy 11 Win 3-1 over Notre Dame

Indy 11 parts Ways with Asst Coach/Scout Trevor James – Nipun Chopra www.Soctakes.com

Season: IndySoccerTix.com (save on ticket fees!)  {Promo code 2018indy}.
Flex Packs: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/store/index.php?s_category_id=34
Single Game: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/mobile/evlistm.php?refresh=1520098544

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

Indy 11_HomeOpener_ISA

Indy 11 Single Game: http://ie6.glitnirticketing.com/ieticket/mobile/evlistm.php?refresh=1520098544

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, Mar 10

7 am beIn Sport          Eibar vs Real Madrid

7:30 am NBCSN   Man United vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Hamburger (Woods)

10 am NBCSN                Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Southampton

12:30 pm NBCSN        Chelsea vs Crystal Palace

12:30 pm FS2                Leverkusen vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

Sun, March 11             

9:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Watford

10:30 am FS1                 Stuttgart vs RB Leipzig

12 noon NBCSN           Bournemouth vs Tottenham

10:15 beIN Sports      Juve vs Udines

1 pm  Fox Sports 2     Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Frankfort

3 pm ESPN                       Atlanta United vs DC United

3:45 pm beIn Sport Inter vs Napoli

5 pm YES Network     NYCFC vs LA Galaxy

Mon, Mar 12

4 pm NBCSN                   Stoke City (Cameron) vs Man City

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

Thurs, Mar 15  – Europa League

12 pm eSPN3                Atletic Madrid vs Moskva

3 pm FS2                          RB Leipeg vs Zenit

2 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

4 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Salburg

1 pm FS 2                                                 Milan vs Arsenal

Fri, Mar 16

4 pm NBCSN                   Tottenham vs New Castle

Sat, Mar 17 

11 am NBcSN                 Stoke City (Cameron) vs Everton

12:30 pm FS2                Wolfsburg vs Schalke

1:30 pm  NBC                Liverpool vs Watford

3:45 pm ???                   Man United vs Brighton  FA CUP

Sun, Mar 18

8:30 AM FS 2                  Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hanover

1 pm FS 2                         RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich

EPL 2018 Schedule  

MLS 2018 Schedule

For grieving family and friends of Alyssa Alhadeff, U.S. women’s soccer provides joyous interlude

By Graham Hays | Mar 8, 2018espnW.comUSWNT defeats England, honors Parkland shooting victims

ORLANDO, Fla. — There was still dirt on the cleats. There hadn’t been time to clean it off that night, the night before Valentine’s Day. The Parkland, Florida, club soccer team that Alyssa Alhadeff played for and captained needed to squeeze in an extra game because of a scheduling logjam, so they played into the darkness of Feb. 13. Alhadeff played well. As well as her mom had ever seen the 14-year-old play.”Literally everything came together for her,” Lori Alhadeff recalled. “She was aggressive — she was even heading balls that she couldn’t even possibly get to that were above her height. She was passing. She played the most amazing game. And when she got into the car, I turned to her and said ‘Alyssa, you know that was the best game of her life?’ ” Lori said her daughter assured her that she knew, as if it was the most obvious statement in the world. It was a teenager’s response, full of confidence. Full of games still to play. Full of life.”That game was the day before Alyssa died,” Lori Alhadeff said.So there was still dirt on the cleats when Lori pulled them from her daughter’s backpack Wednesday. Three weeks beyond the Valentine’s Day that changed everything, she placed the cleats on the carpet next to a larger bag full of pristinely clean cleats in the United States women’s national team locker room in Orlando City Stadium. It was almost three weeks to the hour since Alyssa, a freshman, was shot and killed by a gunman inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, one of 17 murdered that day.The cleats in the bigger bag would soon enough be dirty, too, worn by U.S. players against England in the final game of the SheBelieves Cup. Then someone would clean them, pack them and the most famous team in women’s sports would move on to its next game. The simple black cleats, on the other hand, would go back in the backpack and to Parkland with Lori, the dirt to be its own memorial to a life interrupted.And yet it was important to Lori to see the cleats next to those of Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. Bringing her daughter with her in some way mattered for the same reason it mattered that 53 of Alyssa’s club and high school teammates accompanied the family to tour the locker room Wednesday and meet the U.S. team. For so many of them, the women’s national team represents a dream of what is possible. Of what it means to be strong and bold.Wednesday was a reminder that it’s OK to dream, to laugh, to be giddy around your idols.To act exactly like Alyssa would have acted had she been there.”I would not have missed today for anything,” Lori said. “I’m a soccer mom, but I passionately love soccer with all my heart. It means the world to me to be here, and I know it would have meant the world to Alyssa to be here.”Orlando is a three-hour drive north from Parkland, but Wednesday came about when sisters Jamie and Emily Morris, high school teammates of Alhadeff’s, used social media to reach out to the national team in hopes Alyssa would be honored at the game against England. In addition to the tour of the locker room before the game and an opportunity to meet players afterward, a minute of silence in honor of her and the 16 other victims was observed before the game.Women’s national team equipment manager Ryan Dell added the final touch, suggesting the team present every player and family member with an official jersey that bore the same No. 8 that Alyssa wore and her name across the back. So as the U.S. team wound its way through SheBelieves Cup games in Columbus, Ohio, and Harrison, New Jersey, before Orlando, he and the team’s assistant equipment manager printed more than 50 such jerseys.n the minutes before the first of two groups of players from Parkland arrived, Dell counted and recounted the special jerseys as they hung in lockers next to those the U.S. players would wear later in the night. He worried about which direction they should face. Familiar with being the invisible presence making things run behind the scenes, he thought about what to say to several dozen teenagers who lost a friend and teammate or to a family that lost a daughter and sister.”I think today was special because we had an opportunity to meet with an incredible group of young women and young soccer players,” Dell said later. “And we hope that their experience here helps them to move forward in life and honor Alyssa’s memory.”When he told them that the jerseys were theirs to keep, the Parkland players let out a collective gasp. Then like the Stoneman Douglas players who received the same message a few minutes before them, they set about swapping jerseys to find the right sizes, laughing with excitement. They took selfies in front of Morgan’s locker and posed in front of Lloyd’s. They unfurled a banner with images of Alyssa and took a team photo. It wasn’t somber but joyful.Even if the joy frequently mixed with tears.Fascinated by that giant bag of cleats belonging to the national team, one Stoneman Douglas player asked one of the team’s equipment staff why Tobin Heath’s cleats were there even with the player absent because of injury (a pair is kept for everyone who might at some point be in camp). It was the question of more than a casual fan.”I follow this team with my life,” she explained. “I get so excited when the rosters come out.”Alyssa felt that way about soccer. She was small but had the biggest mouth on the team, her dad said (her mom gently suggested that loudest voice might be a better way to put it). She was the captain of her club team and good enough as a freshman to get a look on varsity at her high school. Her mom was the soccer connection, a former high school player herself.”I tried to give her the advice,” Lori said. “But I wasn’t a helicopter mom. I wanted to also give Alyssa her space and to be able to develop as her own individual player.”There would have been no better place to be Wednesday for a girl like that than this stadium.”Alyssa loved the U.S. Soccer team,” said her dad, Ilan Alhadeff. “When they were on TV, she wanted to watch.”Long after the stage from the trophy presentation had been disassembled and the rest of the stadium had emptied, U.S. players came back out on the field to sign autographs, take pictures and offer all the hugs they could to the group from Parkland. Lori and Ilan were in the middle of the line with their two sons. When Lloyd reached her, Lori admitted that Morgan was Alyssa’s favorite player, the daughter won over by an interaction at a book signing some years earlier. But one Northeast native to another, Lori confided that Lloyd would always be her favorite.She was laughing as she said it. And crying.Wednesday was only an interlude. It didn’t take away any of the loss, only lightened the load for a few hours. There are harder days ahead and more meaningful ones. Lori and Ilan don’t want to be silent or let their daughter’s death fade away without prompting change.”We lost one of the great ones,” Lori said. “However, moving forward, we are going to fight for all of the kids out there. We are going to fight to make our schools safe again.”But for a night it was about soccer again. For the players to be among their idols and for Lori to be among so many girls who can live out the dreams that her daughter can’t. It’s what she told them at the funeral.Be something fabulous, she said then.So they came Wednesday to cry but also to celebrate, as when they gathered in the locker room for a photo.”Wait, I have to wipe my tears,” one player said.So she did. And then she smiled. May it last as long as possible.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

 3 observations: USWNT edges England, escapes with SheBelieves Cup

By Graham Hays | Mar 7, 2018espnW.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — A year after its failure to win either of the showcase tournaments it hosted, the United States has already improved in at least one regard in 2018.With help from a deflection and ensuing confusion in front of goal that produced an own goal by England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley on a Megan Rapinoe cross, the U.S. beat England 1-0 in the final game of the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday. The result clinched the title in the round-robin event that also included France and Germany. England could have clinched with a draw. AThe U.S. finished 2-0-1 this year and is now 6-2-1 in the three-year old event that has featured the same three opponents, Europe’s three highest-ranked teams, each year.More thoughts to come after U.S. coach Jill Ellis and players speak, but here are three observations at the final whistle of the SheBelieves finale in Orlando.

  1. The U.S. played it like a final. Mostly. Ellis said the day before the match that she intended to treat it like a true tournament final. She mostly held to her word. Rather than rotate forwards, she stuck with the preferred line of Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Rapinoe for the third game in a row. Carli Lloyd played 90 minutes. As Ellis stated would be the case before the tournament even began, Alyssa Naeher played every minute in goal. With co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn out, Tierna Davison and Abby Dahlkemper remained the center back pairing for the third game in a row.It wasn’t until late, in need of fresh legs, that the U.S. turned to more inexperienced options.That continuity paid some dividends, or at least appeared to, as the U.S. applied good pressure, built possession and generally kept Naeher comfortable until an England header off the post in the closing minutes and a final push from the visitors. But the U.S. was also a wounded team by the end, forced to play Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett at outside back, both nominally out of their preferred positions. The U.S. also missed Julie Ertz, absent for the second game in a row because of a leg injury, and Samantha Mewis, unavailable all tournament, in the midfield.
  2. It is difficult to believe Mallory Pugh has only nine goals. It’s even more difficult to believe she  has only six goals outside San Diego. Late in the first half, Pugh gathered a ball near the right sideline at least 30 yards from goal, beat England’s Demi Stokes with speed and glided across the top of the 18-yard box without letting anyone slow her progress. She finally let loose a shot near the far side of the box, only for it to glance off the outside of the post. The thing is, Pugh does something like that just about every game. She does something like that just about every half. Indeed, minutes into the second half, she again raced ahead of Stokes, no marginal defender, gathered in a long pass and couldn’t get a shot low and across Bardsley.

It’s still tempting to imagine what it would be like with Pugh in the No. 10 role in the middle of the field, especially watching someone like England’s Fran Kirby use that space to great effect this tournament, but that isn’t going to happen. It feels as if Pugh, who has nine goals in 33 appearances, ought to be well clear of players like Mewis (seven goals in 34 games) or Allie Long (six goals in 34 appearances), even if she’s essentially on the same pace as Rapinoe. She creates chances that others can’t, so it doesn’t make much sense to fault her conversion rate. But if the still-only-a-teenager refines her finishing touch even slightly, goodness, the goals could pile up.

  1. The world is an unsettled place. We’ll stick with the context of women’s soccer. There is an understandable focus in this country on how the U.S. team looks ahead of next year’s World Cup, but that is only part of the equation. In other words, the U.S., qualification willing, only needs to be better than the other teams in France next summer. Coming out of the SheBelieves, and on the heels of an upset-filled Euros in 2017, it’s difficult to say there is any European juggernaut.Its roster less dependent on Lyon and PSG than years past, for better or worse, France looked listless in its opener, drubbed by England, then beat Germany 3-0 on Wednesday. The Germans drew with England in their second game but generated next to nothing offensively the rest of the time on this side of the Atlantic. And while England came close to winning it all and returned the focus to a roster that is among Europe’s most stable at the moment, as opposed to the focus on its new coach Phil Neville, it isn’t well suited to the role of favorite next summer.

The Australians look better than ever. Canada might have one more run with Christine Sinclair and a good core of young talent. The Dutch might be able to build on their European title of a year ago. But mights and maybes are more abundant than answers when it comes to handicapping the field for France next summer.

ALYSSA NAEHER SETTLES IN AS THE NO. 1 for US

WNT Mar 6, 2018

A “creature of habit” is how U.S. WNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is described by Julie Ertz, her teammate for club and country.Naeher has a routine that she sticks to almost every morning while on the road with the U.S. WNT. She gets up early in the morning (almost always earlier than any of her teammates), eats some breakfast, grabs a cup of coffee, goes for a walk and sits down to complete a crossword puzzle. It’s a simple routine, but it fits her personality perfectly. She is quiet and calm, but always confident and in control. Those are qualities that provide a sense of confidence to every player around her, on and off the field.“Who she is off the field, is what you get on the field,” Ertz said. “She has a routine and knows herself really well. She’s so true to herself that she’s so predictable, in like the greatest and most refreshing of ways. You know that she’s going to be doing crossword puzzles, you know she’s going to be at a coffee shop. That’s the real her. She won’t change. She’s also a very loyal friend and that is super comforting to you on the field. I trust her no matter what.”The trust she inspires in her teammates is one of the reasons she is qualified to take on one of the most important roles within the WNT – starting goalkeeper.One of the themes that U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis has been pleased to see running through the team this year is focus. And for a goalkeeper, focus is one of the most crucial aspects of their game.

Even when the ball is on the opposite end, or when no shots or threats of goals are coming their way, a goalkeeper must continue to stay alert and locked into everything happening on the field. They need to read the game and anticipate what may be coming. It’s a difficult job and the pressure is high, so few are wired to be able to excel in the position at the elite levels. Naeher manages this incredibly well.“The more games she plays and the more experience she gets, she continues to grow in confidence as a goalkeeper,” Ertz said. “She’s very intelligent in the way she approaches the game. From just seeing the ‘keepers in general and how much work they do and how much film they watch and how much attention to detail they have, Alyssa shows up every day and puts in the work.“When you have someone like her behind you, her mentality and presence gives you confidence as a defender. She reacts to situations quickly and fiercely, and comes up huge in big moments.”Several of those moments came on March 4 against France during the WNT’s second game at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. Late in the game and with the scored tied at 1-1, Naeher made a pair of excellent saves from close range to maintain the draw and help the U.S. earn a point, giving the USA a chance to win the tournament in its final match against England.The draw gave the WNT four points at the SheBelieves Cup after two games. The first match was a 1-0 win against Germany on March 1, Naeher’s 13th career shutout. England, which had also won its first game 4-1 against France on Thursday, drew 2-2 with in its second match, thus making the USA vs. England matchup on Wednesday night in Orlando a much-anticipated defacto championship game.“Being in this position, it’s a good experience for all of us,” Naeher said. “It’s got that tournament feel and it’s what we need going forward to see how can we grow in these moments and be prepared for it.”Despite only having 26 caps, Naeher is a veteran in this WNT squad. A 2015 Women’s World Cup champion and a 2016 Olympian, many of the young and newer players on the squad look up to her. She’s clear in her exectations and works hard, two attributes of good leaders.
Casey Short shares a laugh with Naeher after a WNT game“I just started playing with Alyssa a couple years ago but it’s been an honor to play with her for both the Red Stars and the National Team,” U.S. WNT defender Casey Short said. “I knew she was a world class ‘keeper and she’s so good at directing the backline while being extremely reliable. Off the field, she’s humble, very caring and goes above and beyond for everyone around her. It’s been awesome to see her step into the starting role and see how her confidence has grown.”As the U.S. WNT’s first-choice goalkeeper – she’s started 15 of the USA’s last 17 matches over 2017 and 2018 – Naeher’s role on the team has increased but her routine will stay the same.“She isn’t going to talk your ear off,” Ertz said. “She’s going to delegate and tell you exactly what she needs and wants and expects from you. Sometimes that’s all you really need.”

Allegri’s tactical masterstroke sparks Juve comeback in win for the ages

Nick MillerESPN FCcourtesy of a 4-3 aggregate victory.

  1. Juventus win fine tie over Spurs

It presumably won’t be of any consolation to Tottenham that they contributed to one of the finest Champions League ties we’ll see this season. Tell any of them, “Well done, you entertained us,” and you will probably get quite a sharp response.Entertain us they did, but it’s Juventus who will progress. Rapid goals from Gonzalo Higuain and the brilliant Paulo Dybala gave the Italians a 2-1 win on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, after Son Heung-Min put Spurs ahead in the first half.The tension inside Wembley was remarkable from the opening exchanges to the last seconds of added time. At the end, the visitors celebrated as if they had won the trophy — and rightly so.The game started at a fearsome pace. Three penalties could easily have been awarded inside the first 20 minutes: two for Tottenham, which were touch and go (though a handball from Giorgio Chiellini looked reasonably clear), but the Juventus players were incandescent when Jan Vertonghen tripped the lightning-quick Douglas Costa, with good reason. It was extraordinary that the additional official, standing behind the goal line and no more than 10 yards away with nothing in his sightline, didn’t spot the foul.Harry Kane had the best chance of the opening exchanges, flexing Chiellini aside, rounding Gianluigi Buffon but scuppered by the narrow angle. Beyond that, it was a slightly uncoordinated and frantic match, with neither side really exerting much control, which isn’t to say it wasn’t entertaining, for it was the sort of frantic football that is great fun to watch.Spurs took the lead a few minutes before halftime. Son had looked uncertain for most of the game, his touch was dicey, and he had just dragged a shot wide when through on goal. But his off-colour performance actually benefitted him: Dele Alli was tackled when through, Kieran Trippier squared across the 6-yard box, and Son scuffed a finish from right foot and off his left ankle, looping and bobbling into the net.Spurs had the better of the initial stages after the break too, but soon after making two substitutions, Juve equalised with a rare attack midway through the second half. Sami Khedira nodded on a cross from the right, and Higuain, markers nowhere to be seen, expertly hooked it into the corner.Two minutes later they went ahead in the tie. Higuain slipped a neat ball through to Dybala, who was played onside by Ben Davies, and the Argentinian forward emphatically swept home. The Italian corner of Wembley bounced with delight.Tottenham pressed and pressed for an equaliser. Juventus lined at least seven men across the edge of their area at all times. Chiellini and friends defended with frenzied commitment, throwing themselves in front of shots like presidential bodyguards. Kane hit the post with a looping header that inched along the line but failed to cross it, and Juve held on.

  1. Allegri’s tactical shift the difference

Massimiliano Allegri isn’t often discussed among the lofty echelons of Europe’s best coaches, despite his creaking trophy cabinet. His detractors will say that he could hardly fail to win Serie A with this Juventus while pointing to a failure to win the Champions League as evidence that he isn’t all that.Yet it was a tactical switch by him that completely changed the course of the game and ultimately put Juventus through to the quarterfinals.In the first half, Tottenham expertly made this side look older than they are. The defence featuring Andrea Barzagli (36), Medhi Benatia (30) and Chiellini (33) was simply unable to cope with the intensity and movement of Tottenham’s forward line.Two of the three were booked early in the second half, which prompted Allegri into a change. On came Kwadwo Asamoah for Blaise Matuidi, quickly followed by Stephan Lichtsteiner for Benatia. The switch to 4-3-3 meant Barzagli was mercifully removed from the firing line on the right.It worked immediately, with Lichtsteiner providing the cross from which, via Khedira’s flick, Higuain got the first. The system also freed Dybala and Douglas Costa to cause their own brand of havoc around the centre-forward, which the former turned into something tangible with the second.That’s really a neat summary of this Juventus team. This season, they have shown their brilliance in patches, but the fact that they’re one point behind a Napoli team for the ages with a game in hand displays their ruthlessness.

  1. Spurs fail to make their advantage count

For a while, this looked like another step in the development of this Tottenham team, another performance in which they blew away a fine team with their relentless pressing, an intensity that many simply can’t live with.This is what they did in the first half. They made this admittedly aging Juventus team look comfortably past their best, the buzzing runs of Son and Alli, along with the underrated physicality of Kane, frankly bullying a collection of players who for as long as most can remember could not be bullied.They scored one, through Son, but could have got more — should have got more — and it was their failure to press home the advantage that ultimately cost them.Tottenham’s intensity dropped in the second half, not by much, but then again, they were playing Juventus. It doesn’t need to drop by much, and before you know it, joy becomes pain, elation deflation and a lead a deficit.You could say they don’t really deserve to be castigated too much for dropping away against this dynasty of a team, a winning machine that has bulldozed better and more experienced sides than Spurs.But these are the harsh lessons of the Champions League. Sometimes, your luck can change just that quickly.

Time for Antonio Conte to buckle down, Barca down Atletico

10:17 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

There are valid criticisms of Antonio Conte after Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, and there are less valid ones. Let’s start with the latter.Chelsea sat deep for much of the game, letting Manchester City have the ball and prompting some to call it “anti-football.” It certainly was negative, and what made little sense to many is that you would be so passive even at a goal down, as illustrated by this sequence. It certainly wasn’t fun to watch, and it took pragmatism to an extreme. Not playing a center-forward, when Chelsea had two on the bench in Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata, seemed goofy. And the way Chelsea appeared to lack intensity, at times sitting back and allowing City to pass the ball endlessly, seemed illogical.Yet from Conte’s perspective, that was the game plan. And it nearly worked. It was only the second time this season that Manchester City were held to fewer than two goals at home in the Premier League. And it wasn’t down to poor finishing by City, either. If you’re into expected goals, you’ll note that the 0.98 City could muster was the third-lowest they managed in the league over the past 12 months (the two that were lower were both on the road: at Liverpool, when they lost, and against Chelsea in September). And if that Marco Alonso strike (admittedly from distance) had gone in, Conte would have been vindicated.It explains why Conte fired back at the likes of Gary Neville (who said it was “unacceptable by Chelsea … painful to watch”) and Jamie Redknapp (Chelsea’s play was “a crime against football”), saying pundits “shouldn’t speak in a stupid way.”Conte has a point. The game plan was not entirely dissimilar to what Chelsea displayed against Barcelona in the Champions League, when only an individual error cost them the win. They didn’t press high against City, you suspect, because there was no N’Golo Kante to mop things up and because you can’t expect Cesc Fabregas to run himself into the ground in the same way.

In his mind, the players did what he asked and while the outcome wasn’t ideal, Chelsea avoided a hiding like the ones inflicted on Arsenal (or Tottenham) and came close to grabbing a point.

Was it entertaining and progressive? No. But then there is more than one way to play football. And while in this day and age, attacking football tends to yield better results in the long run, defensive football executed well is going to be more effective than open football done badly (as Arsenal showed).

The problem is that Chelsea should not be in this position where they approach a trip to the Etihad with all the confidence of a guy bringing a toothbrush to a knife fight. Yes, Manchester City have better players (and probably a better coach, too), but the cloud of negativity hanging over this campaign is partly down to Conte himself. You can’t continually talk about your club’s lack of ambition and how other teams have better players and expect your guys to not be affected by it. Even on Friday, ahead of the match, Conte talked up the risks of a heavy defeat.Some observers are going so far as to suggest he’s trying to get fired, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. What he’s doing is giving himself an alibi outwardly while inwardly trying to come up with a plan that he thinks can work for this group of players. And because he doesn’t seem to have too much faith in them as an attacking force, at least against big clubs, it necessarily becomes a defensive game plan.

It’s a tricky game to play. Having won titles at Juventus and Chelsea and overachieved with a limited squad as Italy manager, Conte ought to be in a position where his next club is an equally big one. But the combination of negative games like Sunday’s and the public whining over signings (last season was the exception, but he’s behaving this season much like he did in his three years at Juventus) aren’t going to do him any favours in landing the next job.The best thing Conte can do now is stop reminding folks that other clubs have spent more money and simply buckle down and do what he’s good at: maximizing the resources he has rather than complaining about the ones he doesn’t.

A serious misstep by Martin Glenn

Speaking of Pep Guardiola, he’s due to answer a Football Association charge for wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan separatists who are currently in prison or in exile. It’s a gigantic can of worms, and we won’t get into it here, but it’s obviously a sensitive topic that needs to be treated as such. Which is why statements like the one from Martin Glenn, the FA’s chief executive, probably aren’t particularly helpful.

You can understand what he’s trying to say. Less understandable is how a public figure could speak in such an inappropriate way. It’s not surprising that he apologized on Monday.

Time to give Barcelona the league title?

Those hoping for a title race in La Liga were disappointed on Sunday when Barcelona upended Atletico Madrid 1-0. The difference was a Lionel Messi free kick, prompting Diego Simeone to say “When you have the best player in the world, you’re more likely to win. If Messi had played for us, we would have won.”That may be true, just as it’s true that Messi’s performance went beyond the set piece. Forget pacing yourself; he was all over the pitch, not shying away from contact (and, in fact, dishing it out as well, witness his yellow card) and, more generally, popping up all over the place in an effort to break down the opposition. You can debate his best performance of the season; what’s not up for debate is that in Barca’s biggest domestic game since the Clasico, he turned up and dominated, which is what superstars are supposed to do.That said, you can’t help but feel let down by Atletico. Mustering one shot on target in a game you needed to win — and a game where a loss scarcely matters, since fifth place is 16 points away — is not good enough. Nobody expected them to try and outplay Barca, but leaving Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa so isolated that they might as well have been in a different zip code wasn’t a great idea either, particularly with the pair in such fine form. Hindsight is always 20-20, but they appeared far too deferential to a Barca team that, lest we forget, has been mostly humdrum for the past two months. By the time Simeone sent on Angel Correa, it was too late.

Barca’s lead is back up to eight points with 11 games to go, which means Barcelona’s focus can now be entirely on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final. We may even look back on this game as the day Ernesto Valverde won the title.

Dybala magic gives Juve a dramatic win

ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti breaks down Juventus’ win and Napoli’s loss at the weekend and what it means for the Serie A title race.

It felt like one of those James Bond films from when the franchise was at its lowest ebb. One of those where the bad guy has 007 (most likely Roger Moore) trapped and nefariously says, “Goodbye, Mister Bond.” And then, with seconds to spare, he somehow gets away.When Juventus visited third-place Lazio on Saturday, they were four points behind league-leading Napoli. With their rivals playing later that evening at home to Roma, the stakes were clear. Failure to win could leave them six or seven points behind Napoli and while Juventus would still have a game in hand, the psychological blow would be crushing.After 92 physical, ugly and hard-fought minutes, it looked like a nailed-on 0-0 draw. Juve boss Max Allegri had fielded a defensive side partly by necessity (Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Bernardeschi and Jose Cuadrado were all unavailable) and partly by choice (Douglas Costa was on the bench). It appeared as if they were happy to just keep it close and feed off scraps, except none fell to them, and until that point, they had failed to muster a single shot on target.

But then, in half a blink of an eye, they won the game. Miralem Pjanic found Paulo Dybala at the edge of the box with a first-time pass directly from a Lazio clearance. The Argentine forward conjured up a clever turn, bounced off Marco Parolo, fell to the ground and, while seemingly prostate on the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico, somehow swung his leg along the ground with enough power and accuracy that the ball looped over Thomas Strakosha’s 6-foot-3 frame and into the back of the net.

It was the perfect synthesis of tenacity, self-belief and quality when it matters: pretty much the very characteristics that have enabled Juventus to win a record six consecutive Serie A titles while reaching two of the past three Champions League finals.

Arsenal players should learn from Petr Cech

Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Brighton saw them play marginally better in some respects than they did over 180 minutes against Manchester City, but that stands to reason given Brighton are a worse opponent. Arsene Wenger said it was the first time in his life that he lost four consecutive games, and in this case, the performance isn’t much consolation. Calls for his departure are seemingly coming from every quarter, and it most likely makes sense for all concerned if this season is his last.

Yet what stood out was what happened after the match, with Petr Cech effectively taking responsibility for the loss. It’s rare for footballers to own up in public, unprompted. And while Cech had a rough game just as he’s had a rough season, he’s one of many who have consistently underperformed this campaign, and he’s certainly not the worst offender at Arsenal.

His tweet suggests that whatever you think of Wenger, Cech can’t be the only scapegoat. That’s leadership. A number of his teammates could learn a thing or two from him.

Is this how Real will line up at PSG?

Real Madrid recorded their lowest crowd of the season (just over 55,000) suggesting that perhaps the Bernabeu faithful are maybe adopting a wait-and-see attitude: in this case, it likely means “wait and see if we can get past PSG.” Those who didn’t show up missed a 3-1 win over Getafe marked by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 300th (and 301st) Liga goal as well as Zinedine Zidane’s pre-Champions League experiments.We saw Marcos Llorente and Casemiro line up in midfield, with Isco and Gareth Bale supporting Karim Benzema and Ronaldo. It’s not necessarily a long-term solution but if you substitute Mateo Kovacic for Llorente, it’s what we might see at the Parc des Princes if, as appears likely, both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric end up missing out.As for Ronaldo, rumours of his demise were clearly premature. He has 14 goals in his past eight games and 30 in all competitions. And it’s still early March…

Are Bayern creating drama around manager search?

Jupp Heynckes continued his experiments on Sunday, leaving out Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez — James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery, Kingsley Coman and, of course, Manuel Neuer were unavailable too — but it scarcely mattered as Bayern romped to a 4-0 away victory over Freiburg.The subplot came ahead of the game, with reports in Germany linking Freiburg’s manager, Christian Streich, to the Bayern job. All we know about Bayern’s job hunt is that they’d supposedly like to appoint a German boss, which may be why they’ve been linked to everyone from Jurgen Klopp to Thomas Tuchel and from Ralph Hasenhuttl to Julian Nagelsmann.Streich would definitely be an outside-the-box candidate and not just because he apparently rides his bike to home games. He’s a local hero who has spent the past 23 years working at Freiburg in various roles, taking over as manager in 2011. He took the club as high as fifth and seventh in that time, but also suffered relegation. He did all this on a shoestring budget and that’s hugely admirable. But whether those skills, from the 23 years in one place to hugely limited resources to working at a club where he’s some kind of deity, translate to a wholly different gig like Bayern is hugely questionable.

You can’t help but wonder if Bayern already have their man and all this ancillary talk is just smoke and misdirection.

PSG roll over Troyes without “big three”

Neymar apparently woke up from his metatarsal surgery in time to catch Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Troyes, although he might not have recognized them much in the final third. Kylian Mbappe was out, hoping to recover in time for Tuesday’s clash with Real Madrid in the Champions League, while Edinson Cavani was rested. As a result, Julian Draxler played as a kind of virtual center-forward with support from Angel Di Maria and Adrien Rabiot.

Not that it mattered much. Troyes simply aren’t very good, and after hanging in there for the first half, they capitulated to goals from Di Maria and Christopher Nkunku. The one novelty was the debut of Timothy Weah who may have become (records are sparse on this) the first son of a head of state to play top-flight football: his dad is the legendary George, current president of Liberia.

For PSG, the real test will come on Tuesday when Ronaldo and friends roll into town. For Neymar, it’s all about the rehabilitation. Despite the Chicken Little act in some quarters, he should be fine for the World Cup and if things go particularly well, he could even be back for the Champions League final. Provided, of course, PSG are in it.

Son’s importance at Tottenham

Why Tottenham are poised to take down Juventus

The ESPN FC crew explain why they’re picking Tottenham to see off Juventus in the second leg of their Champions League tie.

A scout I know told me years ago that Heung Min-Son was something of a “Korean Thomas Muller.” I never quite saw the parallel until this season, and yes, there are obvious differences. But the way Son fuses athleticism and movement is somewhat reminiscent of the Bayern star.

He showed plenty of it on Saturday during Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield, a game that saw him bag two goals, taking his seasonal total to 14. Son is Tottenham’s top scorer not named Harry Kane, and his performances have allowed Mauricio Pochettino to definitively ditch the three-man midfield. He’s quickly becoming an automatic choice on the flank and a precious supporting act for Kane.

Napoli shouldn’t dwell on Roma defeat

Footballers, on the whole, are superstitious. Naples is generally seen as the most superstitious city in a superstitious country. Napoli sit at the nexus of the two Venn diagrams, and between Dybala’s late, late goal and what transpired in their match against Roma, you’d forgive them for believing they were somehow hexed.

You’ll hear plenty of talk about their mental fragility for scoring first and then going 4-1 down. But equally, they conceded on goal on a wacky deflection and another after a boneheaded, back-heel clearance courtesy of Mario Rui. In between they were beaten by two outstanding individual efforts from Edin Dzeko. Throw in Allisson making a string of superb saves, and this game could easily have taken a different turn. (Oh, and if numbers are your thing, Napoli took 21 shots on goal — 14 of them on target — and won the expected goals count too.)

In other words, there wasn’t much wrong with their performance, and despite things going against them, they battled until the end. Maurizio Sarri doesn’t help matters when says stuff like “Juventus being on another planet” or moaning about the fact that Juventus often play before his team. Otherwise, the risk is that this whole “mental fragility” thing will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dortmund on the up, Leipzig stuck?

When Leipzig hosted Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, you just knew it was going to be a bang-bang, end-to-end game. The 1-1 draw did not disappoint. We saw stretches of the best Leipzig, the kind many admired last season, with the press and lightning-quick north-south movement, as evidenced by Naby Keita’s pickpocketing of Andre Schurrle to set up Jean-Kevin Augustin’s opener. And we witnessed a Dortmund side that still makes mistakes and looks scrappy but at least has some semblance of organization and self-belief, the things they were lacking before Peter Stoger took over.

Both these sides still look light years away from Bayern, particularly when you consider the second half, which was filled with mistakes. Maybe the difference is that while you can see how Dortmund are nowhere near their ceiling and have room for improvement, you wonder just what Leipzig will do for an encore next season, particularly without the Liverpool-bound Keita. To some degree, the Ralph Hasenhuttl/Ralf Rangnick double act might be getting a bit stale.

Rest in peace, Davide Astori

There were no Serie A games on Sunday because of the tragic and sudden death of Fiorentina defender Davide Astori. I shared my thoughts here.

MLS teams sweep Liga MX sides in CCL quarterfinal first legs

March 8, 20181:25AM ESTAlicia RodriguezContributor

It’s only halftime, technically, of the 2018 Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal round, but it was a good week for MLS teams against Liga MX opposition. All three MLS sides in action, all facing Mexican teams, won their leg one matches.The action started on Tuesday, when the New York Red Bulls grabbed a very impressive 2-0 road win over Club Tijuana at the Estadio Caliente in Tijuana.Truth be told, the win came from a combination of good team play, individual performances from Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the soccer gods smiling on them, but as MLSsoccer.com’s Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle explained, the Red Bulls did what they needed to with a lead in order to walk away with an impressive road win.The success continued on Wednesday, as Toronto FC hosted Tigres UANL at BMO Field, and after going down 1-0 in the second half to an Eduardo Vargas goal, came back to post a 2-1 win, with Jonathan Osorio hitting a timely (and audacious) backheel winner just before stoppage time.This game was billed as the “clash of champions” and it did not disappoint. The cold weather in Toronto seemed to dull Tigres’ reactions ever so slightly, but the game was fast-paced and overall it was quality soccer on both sides. And credit to TFC, for not bunkering after going a goal down, instead raising their level and finding a win on the night.Following that, the Seattle Sounders jumped into the fray and made it a clean sweep for MLS this week, defeating Chivas of Guadalajara 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. Clint Dempsey scored the game’s lone goal in the second half, and Stefan Frei had four saves on the night to get a vital clean sheet for the Sounders. The overall quality of play in this game was not quite as good as TFC-Tigres, but that won’t matter much to Seattle as they prepare for the return leg.And that brings all of this back to the rest of the story. This is the best week for MLS teams, collectively, in CCL knockout stage history, besting the quarterfinal leg 1 performances against Liga MX teams in 2013-14 for LA Galaxy (1-0 home win vs. Tijuana), Sporting KC (1-0 home win vs. Cruz Azul) and San Jose Earthquakes (1-1 home draw vs. Toluca). But how many of those teams advanced to the semifinal round? Zero.So it was a good week for MLS teams in the CCL, but nevertheless, it’s only halftime. And if the Red Bulls, TFC and Sounders want to make history, they’ll have to get clinching results in the second legs next week, too.

NYCFC takes over top spot as MLS Power Rankings get major makeover

9:02 AM ETJason Davis

A look at how the teams in Major League Soccer stack up after Week 1 of the season.

  1. NYCFC(+3)
    One of the league’s better road teams in 2017 started off the new season with an impressive win in Kansas City. David Villa wasn’t perfect but his assist for NYCFC’s first goal of the year was an excellent start to his season.

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  1. Columbus Crew(+4)
    Crew SC laid down a clear marker that it can play with the best in the Eastern Conference by taking down Toronto at BMO Field. If the combination of Federico Higuain and Gyasi Zardes play like that all year, Columbus will be a contender.
  2. Houston Dynamo(+6)
    The Dynamo are out to prove last year’s march to the Western Conference final wasn’t a fluke and a 4-0 thrashing of highly regarded Atlanta United is a good first step. The high press and lightning-quick attack are a dangerous combination.
  3. Toronto FC(-3)
    It wasn’t the start the champs wanted to their MLS Cup follow-up campaign, losing to Columbus at home and failing to score in the process. Maybe it was the short offseason or the Champions League but either way, the Reds lost at home — something they did just once last year.
  4. Atlanta United(-3)
    Tata Martino’s alchemy failed in Week 1 in spectacular fashion. It wasn’t just that the Dynamo took down one of the Eastern Conference favorites, it’s that they did it so easily. The Five Stripes have a hole in midfield that needs to be fixed.
  5. Seattle Sounders(-3)
    Seattle’s focus on the Champions League tested the club’s depth early. The result was a disappointing home loss to expansion side LAFC and some headaches over the attacking combinations.
  6. Chicago Fire(-2)

The Fire have to wait until Week 2 to get their season started. Then we’ll see what Bastian Schweinsteiger & Co. are made of.

  1. San Jose Earthquakes(+4)
    The schedule was kind to the Quakes on opening weekend with a home tilt against Minnesota United. New head coach Mikael Stahre notched his first win on the job thanks in part to a pair of goals from Danny Hoesen. No matter the competition, the San Jose attack impressed.
  2. Vancouver Whitecaps(+2)
    Kei Kamara scored on his debut for the Whitecaps, doing what he does best by heading the ball home. Vancouver will need a lot of that this season, in addition to the continued growth of Alphonso Davies, who chipped in with a goal of his own.
  3. New York Red Bulls(-2)
    The Red Bulls sat idle this week with CONCACAF Champions League play impacting the schedule. All eyes will be on their season opener at home to Portland on Saturday.
  4. LA Galaxy(+8)
    There are reasons to be positive about the new-look Galaxy thanks to an opening weekend home win. Ola Kamara showed why LA traded for him and Romain Alessandrini picked up where he left off in 2017. The only problem: Alessandrini came off early with what looks to be a muscle injury.
  5. Philadelphia Union(+5)
    The Union’s biggest offseason acquisition (David Accam) didn’t score, but last year’s top goal scorer (C.J. Sapong) and an 18-year-old local kid (Anthony Fontana) did. The competition will get tougher from here.
  6. Portland Timbers(-6)
    The Timbers showed some fight on the road in Carson but ultimately fell short in a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy. The defense was shaky and there have to be concerns for Giovanni Savarese about simple communication errors at the back.
  7. Sporting Kansas City(-4)
    SKC was a step too slow to keep up with NYCFC in its 2018 home debut. Aside from a late penalty call that referee Mark Geiger reversed using VAR, Sporting’s attack was limited to an abundance of low-percentage crosses.
  8. Real Salt Lake(-2)
    RSL was well on its way to three road points in Frisco when a disastrous moment from Marcelo Silva resulted in an own goal and a disappointing draw. Nick Rimando showed why he remains so important to RSL even at 38 years old.
  9. LAFC(+7)
    Was LAFC good on the road in a 1-0 win over the Sounders or were the Sounders complicit in their mediocrity? It hardly matters for the expansion side, which is already ahead of schedule thanks Diego Rossi’s tally at Century Link Field.
  10. D.C. United(+3)
    Despite being up a man and a goal on the road in Orlando, United left Florida with just a point. That’s a disappointing return for the Black & Red, who will need to take advantage of every opportunity to accrue road points ahead of Audi Field’s opening this summer.
  11. FC Dallas(-4)
    Oscar Pareja’s side came up against a good goalkeeping performance and its own wastefulness in front of goal. The single point isn’t good enough but FC Dallas will count itself lucky that a point was earned at all.

 

Favorites lose, LAFC debuts, and youth was on display in Week 1

1:30 AM ET Jason Davis – ESPNFF

With 10 games in the books and 20 teams showing themselves in league competition for the first time since 2017, the race is on to figure out Major League Soccer in the league’s 23rd season. Despite the early nature of the returns and the limited evidence on hand, there are already themes emerging.

Here are three notable takeaways from the first weekend of the new campaign.

  1. The favorites fall

It took just one round of matches for MLS to reteach a lesson we all somehow forget every offseason: The most predictable thing about the league is just how unpredictable it is.

Three of the presumed favorites to make runs deep into the playoffs fell on the opening weekend, with two of those clubs losing at home. With 33 games left, there’s a better than good chance that Toronto FC, Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders all meet the expectations put on them before the season began, but their losses spotlight the MLS’s special flavor of chaos.

The reasons for the defending conference champions and the second-year darling of the league each losing in Week 1 are unique. Toronto FC played toe-to-toe with Columbus and couldn’t click in front of net. Atlanta shipped four goals in Houston because of simple mistakes at the back and a gaping hole in defensive midfield. The Sounders rested key players ahead of a quarterfinal showdown against Chivas in the Champions League and proved dysfunctional in the attacking end.

Panic is only merited if the problems that revealed themselves in Week 1 can’t be fixed quickly. Toronto figures to hit its stride, perhaps on the other side of the Champions League campaign, provided the roster stays healthy. The Sounders must adjust to life without Jordan Morris, something easier said than done.

Atlanta has the toughest challenge. Whatever plan the club thought would hold to cover for the loss of Carlos Carmona looks questionable.

  1. Playing the kids

Amidst a national conversation over the place of young domestic players in MLS, Week 1 of the season delivered progress on that front.In 2017, only one team, Real Salt Lake, started multiple teenage players in a match. On the opening weekend of 2018, both the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers lined up with more than one player under 20 on the field.For the Union, that decision led to a 2-0 win over the Revolution and a first-ever goal for homegrown-signing Anthony Fontana. The 18-year-old rewarded head coach Jim Curtin’s faith and gave credence to the possibility that young academy products are ready for the responsibility. Curtin also started 19-year-old Austin Trusty at center back in the clean sheet victory.Portland’s lineup with multiple teenagers featured one homegrown player, 19-year-old fullback Marco Farfan.Elsewhere, D.C. United gave a debut to 18-year-old midfielder Chris Durkin, and Vancouver got a goal from their Canadian teenage sensation Alphonso Davies. It’s far from anything we can call a trend, but if there’s a small move toward playing young players made in the United States and Canada, that’s a positive worth highlighting.

  1. Dream debuts

Whether they be for rookies of several varieties, incoming foreign transfers new to the league in 2018, MLS veterans with new teams, or an entire club, debuts dominated the opening day of the season.

LAFC started life as an MLS team with a roster still under construction, but traveled to Seattle and scored a big road win. Nineteen-year-old Uruguayan DP Diego Rossi scored his first goal in MLS and will go into the record books as the club’s first goal-scorer. Winning in one of the league’s toughest environments is an impressive way to arrive on the scene.

The list of debutant goalscorers is long. NYCFC’s South American signing Jesus Medina tallied his team’s second goal in a win on the road in Kansas City. Unheralded offseason addition Stefano Pinho, a player who moved up from NASL, scored an important equalizer for Orlando City. Yamil Asad put his new team, D.C. United, up over Orlando City with his first goal for his new team. Kei Kamara scored on his debut for the Whitecaps, as did Ola Kamara for his first appearance in an LA Galaxy jersey.

The man Kamara replaced in Los Angeles, Gyasi Zardes, fired home an insurance goal in Columbus’s impressive win on the road in Toronto.

Anthony Fontana’s aforementioned goal for the Union in a win over New England makes the list, as does Darwin Ceren’s for the fourth and final goal in Houston’s domination of Atlanta.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool: Will This Premier League Classic Be Another Tepid Tie?

Tom Roddy,Newsweek Mon, Mar 5 4:13 AM EST

Forget about Manchester City for a moment because, although hard to accept, the season has long been over. The only uncertainty that remains about the new Premier League kings is when Pep Guardiola’s men will be crowned. From now until the end of the season we are left with a fight for positions to be the best of the rest, and a decider on that front could take place at Old Trafford on Saturday (March 10).Liverpool travel to Manchester United for the clash of the weekend, with Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham chomping at the heels of both teams while extending the gap to London rivals Chelsea in fifth. Manchester United can overtake Liverpool, currently second, on Monday evening with a win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.But while this will be considered a blockbuster fixture, there will be fears of a repeat of October’s drab goalless draw at Anfield. Manchester United registered just one shot on target that day, with many accusing Jose Mourinho of killing the contest. He, of course, disagreed. “I was waiting for them [Liverpool] to make an offensive change, to try more,” Mourinho said at the time. “But he [Jurgen Klopp] never did it. He was afraid of our counter-attack.”Since Mourinho arrived at Old Trafford as manager, appointed in the summer of 2016 as Louis van Gaal’s successor, a classic titanic tussle against Liverpool has not materialized. Three games finished as three draws, with just two goals in 270 minutes of football and United registering five shots on target in four-and-a-half hours of football.And it is unlikely to change this time round. Assuming United find their way past relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, they will be two points ahead of Liverpool. This is no fluffed up cushion on which to doze, but Mourinho will know his team cannot lose. With a trip to Manchester City still to come and hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford, there are still clear opportunities to drop points.Liverpool’s run-in is far kinder. They face all three teams currently in the relegation zone while the only teams they are due to face in the top half of the table are Watford and Brighton, plus a trip to Stamford Bridge on the penultimate weekend. By then, Chelsea and Antonio Conte could be close behind Arsenal in terms of chaos.Despite what recent history suggests, there will still be hope of a Premier League classic. Both teams have the tools on which to provide that. In Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Liverpool have 35 Premier League goals this season. Over at United, the addition of Alexis Sanchez has suddenly bolstered Mourinho’s attack. The Chilean is part of a formidable frontline alongside Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.Mourinho and Klopp will be unable to forget Manchester City’s dominance but they will know the importance of finishing the season strongly. Having a psychological edge over their rival, finishing as the best of the rest, will offer hope of competing against Pep Guardiola’s team next season. That need may be enough to create a tense but tepid, though. We can only hope now.

Who do Spain leave out? 2002 repeat for Brazil? France formation change?

:06 AM ETESPN staff

With 100 days to go until the World Cup kicks off in Russia, ESPN FC reporters around the world address some of the key storylines ahead of the tournament.

GERMANY: Can they repeat as winners?

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The holders have questions at left-back and wonder if Joachim Low can create the same harmony and togetherness that underpinned their triumph in Brazil, but these are mere details in comparison with the real issue: die Nationalmannschaft are out to win back-to-back World Cups for the first time since football was broadcast in colour.

The odds are good. Low’s squad has depth and variety, most players are at the peak of their powers or have youth on their side and the draw has been kind. So Germany can triumph again; whether they do will come to down to details as well as luck in the knockout stages. But there’s no reason not to believe the old adage: A bad Germany makes it to the final. A good Germany wins it. — Raf Honigstein

SPAIN: Who will be left at home?

This is a recurring dilemma throughout Julen Lopetegui’s squad, but up front is where he is most required to cut the Gordian knot. He will look to David Silva, Isco or Marco Asensio for goals when he chooses to play a strikerless/False No.9 formation and, when the tactical approach calls for a centre-forward, Alvaro Morata’s seven goals during the coach’s two-year unbeaten reign tells you he’s the man.

But given the need to complement Morata with the right scoring options, the form of Iago Aspas, Mariano Diaz, Rodrigo, Lucas Vazquez, Santi Mina, Pedro, Gerard Moreno, Vitolo, Aritz Aduriz, Portu, David Villa and Diego “I’m available again” Costa means tough choices must be made. — Graham Hunter

BRAZIL: 2002 all over again?

A fifth World Cup title looked unlikely in the build up to the tournament. The battle to qualify had gone right to the wire, with three coaches being used, and Inter appeared unable to get centre-forward Ronaldo fit, while Barcelona were adamant that Rivaldo needed an operation and could not play.

Brazil’s excellent culture of sports medicine and physical preparation took over, and both stars flew through the competition, tipping the balance in favour of their team. So can doctors and specialists get Neymar back and flying after his operation, ready to lead an exciting squad to title No.6? — Tim Vickery

ENGLAND: What is Southgate’s biggest challenge?

This is a tough one because several problems are rearing their head at the wrong time. Manager Gareth Southgate does not have a settled first-choice goalkeeper, and he has to decide whether Jack Wilshere’s talent in midfield outweighs concern over his fitness, while Marcus Rashford’s and Adam Lallana’s lack of playing time is a concern.

England have two friendlies later this month, against Netherlands and Italy, plus one more on June 2 versus Nigeria, before Southgate must finalise his 23-man squad. As such, he might have to make big decisions without answers to big questions. — Mark Ogden

FRANCE: Will Deschamps stick to his 4-4-2 formation?

The France head coach doesn’t like changing things that work. So far, his 4-4-2 system, with Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann up front, has done well for him, reaching the Euro 2016 final.

However, Giroud isn’t playing much this season and, with all the wide players available (Thomas Lemar, Kingsley Coman if fit, Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin), it seems that a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation is much more suited to his squad. Will Didier Deschamps change his mind? — Julien Laurens

BELGIUM: Can they beat the best?

This might be the last chance for Belgium’s “golden generation” to prove themselves at a World Cup. They start among the favourites, with the caveat that we have seen this before: Despite showing promise, they fell short in Brazil 2014 and at Euro 2016, and it has become tempting to label them “flat-track bullies,” who flop after sailing through the qualifiers.

But they have arguably the world’s best player this season in Kevin De Bruyne and two forwards — Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens — who are greatly improved. If manager Roberto Martinez can achieve cohesion and underline his own credentials at this level, then this could be their time. — Nick Ames

PORTUGAL: Can Silva help Ronaldo?

Bernardo Silva has finally hit his stride at Manchester City, and that can only be good news for Portugal. A winning goal against Chelsea on Sunday was the latest of several important contributions since Christmas, and his burgeoning confidence suggests he could play the kind of starring role his country needs.

While there will be focus on Cristiano Ronaldo and the fact that, at 33, this is effectively his last shot at winning a World Cup, he will not be able do it on his own, and Silva represents the kind of world-class assistance he has long lacked. — Nick Ames

RUSSIA: Who will play in central defence?

With stalwarts Sergei Ignashevich and Vasily Berezutsky having retired after Euro 2016, coach Stanislav Cherchesov has had to rebuild his backline. He changed his system to three central defenders, using Georgi Dzhikia, Viktor Vasin and Fyodor Kudryashov together at the Confederations Cup. While the results might not have been outstanding, progress was evident.

But Dzhikia and Vasin both injured knee ligaments at the beginning of 2018, ruling them out of the World Cup and leaving Cherchesov in a bind. He might have to ask the 35-year-old Berezutsky twins, Vasily and Alexei, to come back. — Michael Yokhin

ARGENTINA: Can defensive problems be fixed?

With Lionel Messi & Co. up front, Argentina should guarantee moments of attacking brilliance in Russia. But can they defend? Their last match, a 4-2 defeat by Nigeria, highlighted the problems.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli wants his team to squeeze play in the opponents’ half, but his midfield is not pressing with intensity and, lacking pace, his back three drop deep. And without good full- and wing-backs, Argentina’s wingers are expected to run 80 yards and defend. Sampaoli has little time to put things right. — Tim Vickery

MEXICO: Will Europe-based players find minutes (and form)?

The fear in a World Cup year for many managers is that players are jaded at the end of grueling seasons, but with Mexico, Juan Carlos Osorio has the opposite problem. It looks as though several Europe-based players will be fresh, but out of rhythm and match practice.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Diego Reyes, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Salcedo, Marco Fabian and Hector Moreno have found playing time hard to come by of late. Mexico doesn’t have the talent depth of the favourites, and the concern is that players will arrive for pre-tournament friendlies needing minutes to find rhythm and match fitness, rather than using them to refine tactical issues. — Tom Marshall

AUSTRALIA: How will the lineup look under Van Marwijk?

With Bert van Marwijk new to the job, it remains to be seen the approach he will take after having replaced Ange Postecoglou. Van Marwijk has not yet managed in a game scenario, so whether or not he adopts the same 3-2-4-1 formation and cavalier attitude of his predecessor is unknown.

It seems likely, though, that he will look to incorporate some fresh faces — Andrew Nabbout, Dimi Petratos and Aleksandar Susnjar have all been included in Van Marwijk’s preliminary squad to face Norway and Colombia at the end of March. — Rob Brooks

Africa: Might off-field issues affect performance?

There is a feeling that the World Cup is there for the taking. All five African qualifiers have strong squads, and some traditional teams don’t quite carry the same fear factor. What look like difficult draws on paper could — with a bit of luck — prove to be more even.  And don’t expect the headlines from Russia to be about bonus rows this time. Not only has FIFA taken proactive steps to ensure players are paid before the tournament, but Nigeria have led the way by signing agreements with players ahead of schedule. Egypt are in the process of doing the same, and it is excepted that Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia will follow suit. — Colin Udoh

COLUMBUS CREW SC GOALKEEPER BEN LUNDGAARD JOINS INDY ELEVEN ON LOAN FOR THE 2018 SEASON

By IndyEleven.com, 03/07/18, 11:00AM ESTAll-Atlantic Coast Conference, PDL standout joins the “Boys in Blue” lineup

Indy Eleven Professional Soccer acquires goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard on loan from Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew SC for the 2018 season pending league and federation approval.“Ben is one of the most talented young goalkeepers in the country at the moment,” Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie said. “He has a great presence and is a player with very high potential. We look forward to helping him in his development and having him help us achieve our goals this season.”Lundgaard, 22, was selected in the First Round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft with the 21st pick. The goalkeeper played four seasons at Virginia Tech, making 70 appearances (all starts) and registering 23 shutouts. In 2017, Lundgaard was named to the First Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference and to the United Soccer Coaches’ (USC) Third Team All-East Region. The previous year, he was named to Top Drawer Soccer’s Best XI Third Team. Additionally, Lundgaard played for the New York Red Bulls’ Under-23 Premier Development League side in 2017, making 13 appearances and registering 38 saves.

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3/6/18 USA Ladies vs England Wed Night 7 pm ESPN News, Champions League Tues/Wed, Europa Thurs

So A quick update for the Big USA vs England game Wednesday Night at 7 pm on ESPN News for the She Believes Trophy and Champions League & Europa Reminders for Tuesday, Wed, Thursday on Fox Sports.  Will be interesting to see England and new manager Man United great Phil Neville vs the US and Jill Ellis.  Both teams tied their last games – so this game will be a winner take all for the She Believes Cup Trophy!   Champions League has PSG at home without Neymar trying to come from 2 goals down vs the Defending Champs Real Madrid.  Don’t see it happening Real 2-1 today.  In the other big game this week its Tottenham and leading scorer Harry Kane at home up 2-2 on 2nd place finishers from a year ago – Juventus.  Tottenham’s 2 Away goals gives them the edge – as Juve will need 2 away goals to make it close on Wednesday on Fox Sport .  See the full schedule below. And Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com for all the game updates and schedules.

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1              PSG 1 vs Real Madrid 3

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool 5 vs Porto 0

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                   Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham 2e vs Juventus 2

7 pm ESPN News    US Ladies vs England Ladies (She Believes Cup Championship)

Thurs, Mar 8  – Europa League

1 pm FS 2                     Milan vs Arsenal

1 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Salburg

1 pm eSPN3                   Atletic Madrid vs Moskva

3 pm FS2                          RB Leipeg vs Zenit

3 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

USA

Preview USA vs England for She Believes Title stars and stripes

After Setback US trying to Live in the Moment – Graham Hayes eSPNW

3 things we Learned USA vs France 1-1 tie

US Manages a Tie with France 1-1 – S&S

Video Highlights –Included US GK Nueur’s Saves

England Draws Germany sets up Title Game with US

How the US Misses Hispanic Players – Stars and Stripes

 Champions League

PSG sans Neymar sets out to comeback on Real Madrid

PSG 1 vs Real Madrid 3 – Preview

Porto playing for Pride down 5-0 at Liverpool

Reds must Take Prevssure off Salah – James Milner – ESPNF

Juve’s Mandzukic out for Tottenham game

Who should start for Tottenham vs Juve Wed?

Arsenal needs to Recover and use old Blueprint to beat Milan

MLS

Bob Bradley Wishes Swansea Never Offered him the Job

MLS Week 1 Results SI

USA vs England, SheBelieves: preview, Wed 7 pm ESPN News

Wednesday, March 7 – 7 PM ET    Live on ESPNews    Streaming on WatchESPN

It’s winner-take-all in the final match of the tournamentBy Charles Olney@olneyce  Mar 6, 2018, 6:00am PST

The US and England both sit on four points after two games, with England leading thanks to their superior goal difference. That advantage means that the US will need to win if they want to take first place. This is ‘just’ a friendly tournament, and who takes home the title isn’t of world shaking importance. Still, both of these teams will be very motivated. For England, a victory here would go a long way to shoring up doubts after a rocky period that saw conflict in the ranks, the firing of Mark Sampson, and the controversial appointment of Phil Neville. For the US, failure here would mark three consecutive tournaments on home soil that the US failed to win. That wouldn’t be a crisis exactly, but it would be worrisome.

Key battles:

  • The central midfield. The US has persisted with their now-standard 4-3-3, but found very little joy in the middle of the pitch so far in the tournament, getting overwhelmed by superior numbers from the opposition. Will Ellis respond to those difficulties with a formation tweak? Will they adjust by moving more quickly up and down the wings? If England mirrors the US setup, we may be in for a fast and loose game filled with direct balls, crunching challenges, and a lot of running.
  • The American backline. The US has only conceded one goal in two games so far, but has yet to look particularly sharp in the center of defense. Tierna Davidson has been solid, but Abby Dahlkemper has been shaky, and both have had some difficulties choosing when to come out and when to hang back. England has scored six goals in two games, many of them coming on lethal direct play. If the US tries to press high, they could end up very exposed to the likes of Ellen White, Jodie Taylor, and Toni Duggan.
  • The fullbacks. Against Germany, England stayed very compact, conceding the wide spaces and counting on their banks of four to lock down the center of the pitch. That mostly worked, but partly because Germany doesn’t have any great crossers, and also lacks truly lethal fullbacks that could overload the wings and make them pay. If England sets up similarly against the US, expect the US fullbacks to push very high, and look for crosses to rain down from players like Rapinoe and O’Hara. If England instead defends wider, the US will need to adjust and use their fullbacks to drag play wide, creating space for the wide attackers to drift inward into the opened pockets of space.

Lineup questions:

The US made just two changes from the first to second match. Will we see a third run-out of this same basic XI? Or will Ellis bring in some new faces? Either is possible, but continuity is probably the safer bet. It will be interesting to see whether Ellis gives Taylor Smith another chance after bringing her off in an early tactical substitution against France. Will we see a third straight match with Dahlkemper and Davidson together, or will Sonnett get a start? It will also be worth paying attention to the front three. Will players like Christen Press, Lynn Williams, and Crystal Dunn get a look, or is Ellis firmly committed to the trio of Rapinoe, Morgan, and Pugh? In the midfield, options are somewhat limited. Morgan Brian is still in

recovery, and seems likely to return to the bench after a full 90 against France. Is Julie Ertz’s minor injury minor enough to let her return? Will Allie Long get another look?

SheBelieves, USA vs France: three things we learned

he kids are mostly all right but need more experienceBy Stephanie Yang@thrace  Mar 5, 2018, 2:30pm PST

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After France kind of – how do you say – lost terribly to England, USA fans might have thought they’d get their own shot at racking up a demoralizing score against a top-rated WNT. Through a combination of France pulling it together and the United States not really knowing how to do what it wants in midfield, that scoreline never came to pass. Instead the French held stoutly to a 1-1 tie and even started to take it to the US as time ticked down. So how can the USWNT adjust before they face England, who aren’t going to be any easier to deal with than France?

It might be time to give Emily Sonnett a proper run out

In the lead up to SheBelieves, there were a lot of questions about how the back line would function without Becky Sauerbrunn combined with assumptions that it would be Abby Dahlkmeper who would guide that functioning. Dahlkemper held things together against Germany, but then looked unsteady against France. Meanwhile, Emily Sonnett is sitting there completely available as a center back. Tierna Davidson has proven that she is clearly ready to start working her way into regular lineups and it wouldn’t be as big of a risk as you think to pair her off with Sonnett, who has been working her butt off not just for Portland but in Australia as well for Sydney FC. Davidson has made mistakes, but what else do you expect from a 19-year-old who now has a grand total of three caps?

The link between goalkeepr and CB’s needs consistency, that’s true. But it’s important to be able to rotate your center backs too instead of having to rely on one pairing for 90 minutes several games in a row under tournament conditions. And shifting Julie Ertz ack to CB in an emergency does not count as depth anymore, not when she’s proven how much better and more vital she is as a DM.

Ellis may need to stop relying on her fullbacks so much

It was somewhat apparent against Germany and very much apparent against France that Ellis is still, in some fashion, using a three-back formation to try and keep numbers in the midfield. Against France in particular she dropped Andi Sullivan between her CB’s and asked Kelley O’Hara and Taylor Smith to push up so the team could attack in a 3-4-3, using Sullivan to set up play out of the back. But O’Hara eventually got gassed (and seemed to still be carrying a bit of whatever had her signal to be subbed off against Germany) and Smith just wasn’t able to handle Le Sommer, which pretty much canceled out Ellis’ plans to use her fullbacks to supplement midfield width for the high press.Ellis also admitted at the press conference after the game that she left Smith in too long, which is why she made that strange 43’ sub for Smith with Casey Short. But Short also had to sub out after she landed badly on her ankle, which has moved Sofia Huerta up as next in line on the depth chart on this roster if O’Hara is going to get any rest at all. (Or, well, there’s also Crystal Dunn, who got slotted in at left back in an emergency, but can we please not be relying on that as any kind of long-term strategy?)Huerta does need more time in her new position – how can Ellis really convert her to a FB if she never gets to play there? – but even completely fresh off the bench, a Huerta who’s still learning the ropes won’t be the single key to unlocking England. That brings us to the midfield.

The midfield needs to wake up

Defensively, Morgan Brian and Andi Sullivan were okay, although it was clear this team was missing Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis. Brian and Sullivan certainly worked hard, although they didn’t always work smart. The same goes for Lindsey Horan and Savannah McCaskill. But no one was really able to break out of the midfield; it was all kind of a same-y mash of attempts at possession that ran into dead ends. (Get well soon, Rose Lavelle, this midfield needs you.) McCaskill at least was kind of interesting in some of her attempts to break that French back line and it’s clear that Ellis wants to find a position for her on this team, although at the post-game conference she said that McCaskill got shifted into midfield because there’s currently a lot of competition for that nine spot.If McCaskill can make the adjustment into a fast-paced attacking mid who shuttles the ball forward well, that might be the kind of flavor that helps open up space for Alex Morgan and Mal Pugh. It’s kind of an exciting time for the midfield, with Brian healthy again and Ertz back in her most natural position, plus Tobin Heath waiting in the wings while she rehabs and kids like Sullivan and McCaskill trying to figure out their places. And if USSF can not mess up Rose Lavelle’s recovery this time – well! Watch out world.In the meantime, let’s hope that Ellis figures out some kind of rotation to keep her players rested and healthy through the end of SheBelieves. Winning a friendly tournament is nice; not being out for most of your club season because of an exhaustion-related injury is even better.

After setback in draw with France, USWNT trying to live for the moment

By Graham Hays | Mar 4, 20180Mallory Pugh puts the United States ahead in its second SheBelieves Cup match, but Eugenie Le Sommer assures France earns a share of the points at Red Bull Arena.NEXT VIDEO

HARRISON, N.J. — It was easy enough to see and hear how disappointed the United States was with a 1-1 draw against France on Sunday afternoon. The language, be it of the body or spoken variety, offered no search for silver linings in a game that began under a bright blue sky.The disappointment wasn’t because the Americans weren’t good enough to beat France, listless in a comprehensive defeat against England three days earlier. It wasn’t that entirely, at least. There was the competitor’s desire to win any game, of course, especially one against a team with similar aspirations of global soccer supremacy. But beating France on a chilly afternoon in the SheBelieves Cup in March isn’t the main motivation that drives this team any more than it was the main motivation for more than 25,000 fans to bundle up and make their way to Red Bull Arena.What the team wants, and what stokes its substantial following, was on display at halftime. That was when the U.S. women’s hockey team took the field, gold medals around each player’s neck after success in the Winter Olympics. What matters is that one moment, be it Olympics or World Cup, when the whole world pays attention.The soccer team didn’t look ready for that moment.”Just pretty bad all around,” Megan Rapinoe said. “For where we are, and where we want to be going and really the progression we should be making, it was not good enough. It was bad.”Still to learn is if Sunday was the price to pay to be ready for that moment in 2019.For the first time in nearly a year, Morgan Brian started for the U.S. and played 90 minutes. And for only the seventh time, rarely before against a team of France’s caliber, Andi Sullivan started.Two of the most technically adept midfielders available to U.S. coach Jill Ellis, two celebrated NCAA stars whose rise to the national team bordered on meteoric, they were two-thirds of a midfield that struggled Sunday to connect the lines and generate much energy or attack.To be sure, the midfield was far from Sunday’s only culprit. But it earned its share of culpability.”Overall it was too many turnovers at times,” Ellis said. “I think when we got into good positions, we were able to play through them. And then at times the decision-making and the touch was sometimes off. They’re players with good brains, both of them, and we look to get better.”That the women’s national team had its moment in the 2015 World Cup had more than a little to do with Brian. Barely out of college, she stepped into a starting role midway through that event and ably filled a role that helped free Carli Lloyd to move forward and pile up the goals that the U.S. needed to get through the knockout round and win its first title since 1999.If there was a sure thing at the time, it was Brian’s place in the national team’s starting lineup for the next decade. Instead, injuries slowed her in the months since, never catastrophic but the kind of accumulating misery — hamstrings and groins — that can wear away even a world-class athlete’s confidence. While French giant Lyon made clear what it thought of her when it signed her to a multiyear contract this winter, it was a frustrating year for her that ended Sunday.But that year in purgatory did end. That alone made Sunday worthwhile.”It was a 1-1 tie, so I think at the end of the day it was a frustrating performance for us,” Brian said. “But obviously personally, I’m really happy to play 90 minutes. It’s been a really long last year for me, so I’m glad I could help the team that way. I think it’s just about progressing from here.”

There were moments when it looked right Sunday. Mallory Pugh put the U.S. ahead 1-0 in the 35th minute when she kept her balance and composure on a goalmouth scramble that followed a Rapinoe free kick, but the sequence that led to the free kick began with Brian pinging a pass across the field to Kelley O’Hara on the left flank. But other times, too often, both Brian and Sullivan labored on the ball or appeared indecisive in building the attack.Brian looked rusty, Sullivan looked young. Perhaps that should have been expected.”It’s been a long time for me since I played an international game 90 minutes,” Brian said. “It’s just going to be about getting back into things. Physically, I think I’m getting better. It’s about getting game minutes and that experience back. And I think it will come quick, it’s just once you come back from something it’s about getting that 90 minutes under your belt.”France’s Eugenie Le Sommer leveled the score just three minutes after Pugh’s goal. As U.S. players made their way back to midfield for the restart, Alex Morgan could be seen trying to communicate something to both Brian and Sullivan. She wasn’t the only one. The front line, particularly Morgan and Rapinoe, were starved for touches much of the game.

“It just needs to be a little bit crisper in terms of getting themselves open and kind of that push and pull,” Rapinoe said. “Speed through the midfield — not necessarily that we have to play 100 miles an hour, but you’ve got to think pretty quickly. And making sure that we’re doing things to set up other things. Obviously, if we’re going up one side, we’re not really trying to go up that side — we’re trying to get out to the other side and break pressure.”I think, for me, it’s probably more of the intellectual part of the game, thinking quickly in the tactical thinking part of the game. When you don’t think quickly, when you leave yourself having to make decisions under pressure, your technical mistakes are going to increase.”It isn’t difficult to work out a depth chart on the other U.S. lines. There is ample depth at forward, but some combination of Tobin Heath, Morgan, Pugh and Rapinoe are who Ellis would surely like to occupy the three starting spots in a big game. Likewise, while Tierna Davidson continues making her case for minutes somewhere on the back line, it appears in stable shape with Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn, when the co-captain is healthy, in the middle with O’Hara and one of Casey Short, Taylor Smith or perhaps even Davidson on the outside.Alyssa Naeher, who made two crucial saves to preserve the draw, is the No. 1 goalkeeper.

The midfield is the question mark, not because of a lack of options but because the depth chart is so difficult to read and the variations so distinctly different. Sullivan offers a completely different style in the No. 6 role than Julie Ertz, who sat out Sunday with what was described as essentially physical wear and tear. Brian is a different player in the No. 8 role than Samantha Mewis, who emerged as a mainstay in Brian’s absence last year but is out of this tournament because of an injury. And each offers something different alongside Lloyd, the other midfield puzzle piece.

“Today there were spurts where it was some really good play through our midfield, and then at times it sputtered,” Ellis said. “It was decisions and reactions and how we open up the spaces. I think Andi showed, at times, a young player and then an older player, in terms of some of the things she did. At this point in a player’s career … these are the type of game she needs in terms of playing against these big teams.”

So, too, Brian, no matter her World Cup experience. She did not attend the team’s extended January training camp in California, Ellis agreeing it was best for her to remain with Lyon, which she had just joined, and work her way back into playing form in France. Perhaps the most talent-rich club in women’s soccer, it was the best place for her to be in order for her and the U.S. to have the best chance of being in Lyon next summer for the World Cup final.”I think she’s going to, not just get back to where she was, but hopefully beyond that with her growth,” Ellis said at the time. “I’m very optimistic for her.”Optimism in any form was in short supply Sunday as the U.S. prepared to leave for Orlando, Florida, and its final game in the tournament against England. But this wasn’t the moment that matters. To get those, you sometimes suffer these.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

SheBelieves: USA just about manages 1-1 tie with France

Underwhelming player performances and tired legs.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Mar 4, 2018, 12:11pm PST

Starting XI: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith, 17-Tierna Davidson, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 3-Andi Sullivan, 6-Morgan Brian, 9-Lindsey Horan, 11-Mallory Pugh, 13-Alex Morgan (capt.), 15-Megan Rapinoe

The two big questions leading into this game were: 1) would Jill Ellis rotate her roster after a game in the most exhausting conditions possible against Germany and 2) would France pull it together after a disastrous outing against England.

The answer to #1 came quickly enough as Ellis only changed up two players from that slog against Germany, starting Andi Sullivan and Morgan Brian in the midfield over Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd. For the rest, they had to make do with two days’ rest, although surely more of them could have sat based on a scouting report of France’s last game. Which is not necessarily a slam on France – it’s clear they’re trying to update their squad, and there’s something to be said for throwing a half-vet/half-inexperienced squad into a tournament against England, the United States, and Germany. And to answer #2, France came out of the gate with a noticeably stiffer spine than against England, staying fairly disciplined under pressure from the United States.The WNT started the first half offering okay pressure in the midfield, Sullivan and Brian particularly doing their best to cancel out Amandine Henry and Gaetane Thiney. But curiously enough the US did not look to space as much as they should have; despite great early switches to Mal Pugh, she then often lingered by her lonesome in pockets of space as the US recycled methodically out of the back through Andi Sullivan, who dropped between CB’s. In fact one of the best early opportunities came in the 7’ when Pugh got a nice ball, cut inside to leave space for an overlapping Taylor Smith, and Smith put in a centering ball for Alex Morgan that was not far off from becoming an assist. But Brian’s midfield pressure gradually dropped over the course of the half, fading out and becoming a liability later on in the game.Sullivan eventually began stepping up more, teaming up with Brian and Horan to offer more midfield pressure. But it was a free kick that ultimately broke the deadlock as Kelley O’Hara was fouled just outside the 18-yard box, setting up Megan Rapinoe to put in a deceptively simple ball right in front of goal. The ball pinged around and came out to Pugh, who was able to finish her rebound and make it 1-0 in the 35’.But France quickly erased the lead as they were given too much time in midfield to set up and put the ball in for Eugenie Le Sommer, who beat Dahlkemper, then Naeher as she came off her line. Le Sommer sliced the ball into the side netting at an angle to make it 1-1 in the 39’.Ellis made a slightly odd sub in the 43’ as Casey Short came in for Taylor Smith. With only minutes left, it could be that Smith signaled to the bench she needed to come out; O’Hara switched over to the right and Short went in left. The teams finished the half at 1-1.There were two subs to start the second half, Savannah McCaskill in for Horan and Lynn Williams in for Rapinoe. Pugh switched to the left of the front line and McCaskill took up more of a central playmaker position, drifting inside to try to help break the French back line. She brought a bit of tough liveliness to the midfield, but not in a consistently effective way, and it was interesting that Ellis continues to try McCaskill at midfield when she’s spent her career until now as a forward.

The United States continued to search for ways to break into the French defensive third as the half went on but there wasn’t enough pressure and organization from midfield and the few searching balls into space just weren’t hitting their targets. Alex Morgan put in a lot of effort trying to contain play in her area and set up her fellow forwards, but she could only do so much before she was swarmed by French defenders.Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd came on for Mal Pugh and Andi Sullivan in the 73’, but almost immediately the team was forced to adapt on the fly as Casey Short landed badly on her ankle from a header challenge and had to be stretchered off. Dunn shifted to left back and Christen Press came on for Short to complete the front line with Morgan and Williams.

The last 15 minutes of the game were a bit of a mess. Alyssa Naeher brought two giant point-blank saves in the 82’ and 83’ to keep it level as France clearly scented blood in the water and searched for a game winner.Meanwhile, the US midfield, now with Brian dropped in front of the defense and McCaskill and Lloyd drifting under the forwards, were unable to help break down France’s defense. It didn’t help that Kelley O’Hara looked exhausted well before final whistle, which put a damper on their original plan of width through engaging the fullbacks. But that was also a problem for a lot of the game, and Horan and Brian also slacked off in midfield.In the end, the whistle blew for full time with the teams tied at 1-1, the United States weathering a last couple of punches from France to finish things out.“At some point we ran out of legs,” said head coach Jill Ellis in a press conference after the game. On her thinking in keeping most of the same starting XI after only two days’ rest after playing Germany in grueling conditions, she said, “The reality is I think I’m trying to build some continuity. I knew [Julie Ertz] wasn’t going to be available for us, so having to look at someone else in the six, and just see how those groups work and those subgroups work. I think for sure we got leggy and that’s why we end up using all six subs. We want to be a pressing team. I thought today, yeah, I don’t think we generated,especially that first period, how we wanted to, but good experience for me too. Obviously you have more days in between when you go to World Cup and you’re in qualifying, but to manage traveling and two days in bewteen and playing again, those are good experiences to learn from.”

With the US now headed to Orlando to play their third and final game of the tournament on another two days’ rest, we’ll see what lessons Ellis has drawn from this experience with France.

Yanks Abroad: Johannsson scores, Saief assists

It was a week of highs and lows for the Americans playing abroadBy Cody Bradley@ThatCodyTho  Mar 6, 2018, 7:00am PSTSHARE

While we have plenty of highlights from goals and assists around the world, there were some very forgettable performances and Bobby Wood couldn’t even get on the roster in Germany.Let’s get to the highs & lows from the past week.

Aron Johannsson
A-Jo is on fire right now. He’s come off the bench the last two matches for Werder Bremen and given them life. He was robbed of credit last week for a match winner at the death, but on

Kenny Saief
The Anderlecht man is playing very well at the moment and recorded another assist over the weekend in a 3-2 win over Zulte-Waregem. He’s got three assists & a goal in eight starts over 11 appearances this season.

Tim Ream
Fulham have not lost in nine straight matches and picked up another HUGE win over Derby County to leapfrog them and move into 4th place. Ream has been the anchor of the backline and continuesto turn in solid numbers. He completed 37/39 passes, didn’t lose a single duel or aerial, and had nine clearances.

Joe Gyau
The 25 year old scored Sonnenhof’s loan goal in a 2-1 loss to Unterhaching down in the 3 Liga in Germany.

DeAndre Yedlin
Yedlin and Newcastle were the unfortunate victims of 2nd place Liverpool over the weekend. He went all 90 minutes of the 2-0 loss and the Magpies are in 16th place, just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Weston McKennie
The 20 year old made his first appearance since January 21st on Saturday as he came on for the final 10 mintues of a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin.

Danny Williams
Williams was on the field for all 90 minutes as Huddersfield Town were defeated by a final of 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspur.

Jorge Villafaña
The left-back went 90 minutes as Santos defeated Necaxa 2-1.

Antonee Robinson
He went all 90 minutes at left-back for Bolton but it was a night to forget for the 20 year old Everton loanee. He completed just 42% of his passes and was lost possession a couple times.

Timmy Chandler
Chandler and his Eintracht Frankfurt side picked up three points in a 1-0 win over Hannoverand have gone level with BvB at 42 points. Timmy didn’t have the best day as he completed only 48% of his passes, but he did contribute to the shutout.

Geoff Cameron
He picked up a yellow card for Stoke in a 0-0 draw at Southampton on Saturday. He went all 90 minutes in a defensive midfield role.

Julian Green
Green has been stringing together decent performances for Gruether Fürth in the 2nd division in Germany. He’s finally become a regular starter and went 85 minutes in a 2-0 win over Nürnberg. Big win for his side as they beat the 2nd place team to stay out of the relegation zone.

Matt Miazga
Over in the Dutch league Miazga went 90 for Vitesse in a 3-2 win over 2nd place Ajax. Vitesse are in 6th place in the Eredivisie.

Christian Pulisic
Pulisic was on the bench for most of Dortmund’s 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig. He came on for the last two minutes of regulation and only got 3 touches on the ball.

Andrija Novakovich
The 21 year old scored in the 2nd division in the Netherlands over the weekend. His 15 goals are good for 3rd in the league.

Timothy Weah
The youngster made his debut for PSG. Check out the Youth Update for more on him.

William Yarbrough
He got himself a shutout between the sticks for Leon in a 3-0 win over Pumas.

Bobby Wood
He had been relegated to a substitute fighting for garbage minutes, but failed to even be named to the roster for Hamburger SV’s 0-0 draw with Mainz 05.

Landon Donovan
The 36 year old made a 6 minute appearance for Leon. He now totals 22 minutes in 3 appearances since debuting for the Liga MX side a month ago.

Neymar-Less PSG Sets Out to Complete Champions League Comeback vs. Real Madrid

By 90MIN March 05, 2018

Real Madrid head to the Parc des Princes for their Champions League last-16 showdown with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday evening, knowing anything better or equal to a one-goal defeat will see them through to the quarter-final stages of the competition for the eighth consecutive season.A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late volleyed effort via defender Marcelo canceled out Adrien Rabiot’s tidy opener, and placed Los Blancos one step closer to becoming the first side to defend the Champions League crown for three years running. Since their Santiago Bernabeu Stadium victory over PSG in mid-February, Zinedine Zidane’s men have tasted defeat just once – going down 1-0 to Espanyol just under a week ago – with maximum points claimed from Real Betis, Leganes, Alaves and Getafe all building confidence in their run up the European bout. Paris have also claimed four wins since that night in the Spanish capital; conceding just two goals in the process. However, they have lost vital frontman Neymar to long-term injury and are on the verge, once again, of underperforming on the grandest stage. So, ahead of the mouthwatering second leg, let’s take a look at all you need to know…

Classic Encounter

Real Madrid 3-1 Paris Saint-Germain (February 2018)

Although it was only three weeks ago, Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over PSG inside the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is one of distinct note – partly because the two sides had only met each other twice previously in competitive matches, with both underwhelming.

Rabiot was able to latch onto Kylian Mbappe’s cute cross into the area after the young French striker broke down the right wing to slide his effort past Keylor Navas and secure the visitors a much-needed away goal. The 22-year-old’s first-half strike could have been much more influential, however, had it not been for Giovani Lo Celso hauling down Toni Kroos in the area on the stroke of half-time and offering Ronaldo the chance to square things up going into the break. Despite looking comfortable on the ball, Unai Emery’s XI continued to struggle to create any clear-cut opportunities; with a dangerous cross into the area which just evaded Neymar’s outstretched leg the only sighting of note. And the French outfit’s lackluster attacking potency afforded the hosts to strike twice in quick secession following the introduction of Marco Asensio, with the young Spaniard drilling a cross into the area which was eventually turned home by Ronaldo, and also providing Marcelo the opportunity to lash home a late volley to give Zidane’s side a two-goal buffer heading into the return leg.

Key Battle

Mateo Kovacic vs Adrien Rabiot

Despite both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric returning to training in Madrid on Sunday, and the pairing part of the traveling contingent to Paris, Zidane may well think that fielding both could be too risky in such a high profile setting so quickly after returning. If so, the Frenchman may well opt for Asensio and Isco alongside Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic as a midfield four, meaning it will be the latter pairing’s job to keep their PSG counterparts quiet as they hunt for a way back into the contest. Kovacic has not played a great deal of football so far this term – completing 90 minutes on just four occasions – although his showings of late have been a significant improvement compared to those towards the back end of 2017. The Austrian-born Croatia international will, however, have his hands full when coming up against a nothing-to-lose Paris side. Modric’s lack of concentration for a split second in the first-leg evidence of how crucial his role could be on Tuesday evening, with Rabiot losing the ex-Tottenham Hotspur ace only momentarily before slotting home.

When coming up against strong opposition in the past, the midfielder has been on occasion left wanting; with his questionable display in Barcelona’s 3-0 win at the Bernabeu earlier in the season telling. But should Zidane be reliant on Kovacic on Tuesday evening, a contest in which Los Blancos’ season rests upon, the former Inter Milan man must be at the top of his game throughout.

Team News

Following the return to training of both Kroos and Modric – although the duo remain doubtful for Tuesday’s contest – defender Jesus Vallejo is the only unavailability within Zidane’s squad, with the 21-year-old still sidelined through injury. Dani Carvajal will get his first crack at PSG this year, after missing the first-leg through suspension.For the hosts, Neymar is the most significant exclusion after it was announced he would face surgery and a three-month wait to return, with it likely Angel Di Maria will take his place. Javier Pastore, meanwhile, is the only other player doubtful within Emery’s ranks, meaning Mbappe is set to start after missing his side’s 2-0 win over Troyes at the weekend. Both experienced midfielders Lassana Diarra and Thiago Motta are available after missing the opening tie through injury.

Prediction

PSG saw much of the ball in Spain three weeks ago, and it would be expected for the same theme to occur again. Real Madrid prefer playing a more counter-attacking style of play, and with Les Parisiens the only one of the two with a need to score. It would not be a surprise to see the visitors create the odd chance here and there on the break, especially if they still hold an advantage in the latter stages. An early goal for either side completely changes the complexion of the contest, but Los Blancos’ experience in these types of situations, alongside the hosts’ lack of, should undoubtedly shine through.

Score Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain 0-2 Real Madrid

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3/2/18 MLS Kicks off, US Ladies Win, Champ League Return Legs next week, Neymar out 3 months

OMG – I am so glad no one tried to talk me into going to Columbus for the US Ladies vs Germany 1st game in the She Believes Cup on Thurs night.  It looked mighty, mighty cold and wet (snowing/sleeting) at Mapfree Stadium as the US Ladies beat Germany 1-0 behind a goal by Megan Repone.  It looks like this could come down to the US and England with newly appointed manager Phil Neville of Man United playing fame for the Cup title.  The US Ladies play France on Sunday at 12 noon on ESPN2, and Wed vs England at 7 pm on ESPNNews.

It seems like just a few weeks ago that the MLS Season was wrapping up with that classic Toronto home win over Seattle to take home their first ever MLS Cup.  Now 3 months later we kick off a new season with a new expansion team in LA – LAFC, more money being spent by each team, and tons of cities vying to join the league via expansion.  Below find the Previews for the Western and Eastern Conference teams.  I think Toronto has held their roster pretty steady and should of course be favorites in the East and overall.  Atlanta United, NYCFC and our own local teams Chicago Fire and Columbus should all be battling Toronto for supremacy in the East and overall as the East is definitely stronger than the West coming into the season.  My Seattle Sounders losing winger/forward Jordan Morris has to hurt, does Clint have enough left in his tank to give us another great season?  Portland, Houston, KC and perhaps Dallas are the biggest contenders in the West.  I am not sure about Portland with all the turnover, I am thinking Dallas and former Carmel High School Defender Matt Hedges might be a surprise team and give Seattle a run at the top of a weakened Western Division.  The season gets underway Saturday with national broadcast games live on Sunday on ESPN and Fox Sports 1.

Sun, Mar 4

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

Champions League Sweet 16 Leg 2’s resume this week and next with PSG without the injured Neymar traveling to defending champs Real Madrid on Tues on FS1 at 2:45 down 1-3, while Tottenham and Harry Kane will host Juve at Webley with the agregate lead 2-2 on Wed at 2:45 pm on FS1.  Europa League’s Round of 16 gets underway Thurs with American Christian Pulisic featuring for Dortmund vs Salsburg, and Milan vs Arsenal probably providing the most competitive match-up.

Tues, Mar 6 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1              PSG 1 vs Real Madrid 3

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool 5 vs Porto 0

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                  Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham 2 vs Juventus 2

Thurs, Mar 8  – Europa League

1 pm FS 2                      Milan vs Arsenal

1 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Salburg

1 pm eSPN3                   Atletic Madrid vs Moskva

3 pm FS2                       RB Leipeg vs Zenit

3 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

Got some huge league games on TV this weekend as Manchester City hosts Chelsea Sun at 11 am on NBCSN in a key battle for top 4 in the EPL, while Barcelona hosts Athletic Madrid on beIN Sport at 10:15 pm.

Indy 11

 Indy 11 Beat Swope Park Rangers 2-0

Indy 11 Roster Barely Recognizable – Indy Star

Talking Points from 2-1 loss to Cincy – soctakes.com

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

Corban’s Jordan Farr GK signs with Indy 11 – Indy Star

Get Your Tickets now

Flex Pack of 8 games just $96 

NASL Cancels Season after Court Ruling

NASL Cancels Season – Now What – soctakes.com

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

MLS

Toronto FC, Atlanta United – Top MLS Power Rankings for Start of 2018 Season ESPNFC Jason Davis

MLS Season Preview – MLS.om

Who’s Gonna Win MLS video

MLS Western confernecne Preview

Eastern Conference ahead of the new campaign.

Toronto MLS Best CCL Hope for Years will face Tigres

Atlanta United hopes Continued Success in Sesaon 2

LAFC Sells out 17,500 Stadium for 1st season

Biggest Questions Facign Each MLS Clu entering 2018 Season = ESPNFC Arch Bell

Jordan Morris Lost for Season for Seattle

Marsch Urges Fellow MLS Coaches to Play young US Players

Beckham’s MLS Stadium hits snag in Miami

Extra time Radio –Preseason MLS Predictions

Goalkeeping

Goalie Pauses for In Game Water Break and Gives up Goal

USL Top Saves in 2017

Playing Goalkeeper – The Loneliest Job in Football Documentary  Video

USA

USWNT to Hold Moment of Silence March 7 for Stoneman Douglass Soccer Player Alyssa Alhadeff

Is Jill Ellis in Danger as US Coach is She Doesn’t Win She Believes Cup?  SI – Grant Wahl

Ellis Surprised with Phil Nevill’s being named England Women’s coach

US In Trouble of Losing Support for World Cup because of Trump – ESPNFC

Morocco Moving Ahead of US joint Bid for 2026 World Cup

US Falling behind Morocco for 2026 World Cup Bid – Rob Goldberg Bleacher Report

US Soccer CEO Dan Flynn Defines New General Manager Roles to Hire and Fire US Coaches – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Landon Donovan wants US Coach to be American

Dave Sarachan Wants Full Time US Job MLScom

EPL 

EPL Roundup

5 Things We learned this weekend in the EPL

The Scramble for 2nd place in the EPL

Pep hails Man City as trophy haul begins

3 Things We Learned with Man City’s Rout in the League Cup

Mourino of Man U praises Chelsea and his Defense in Win over the Blues

3 Things We Learned Man U 2-1 over Chelsea

Klopp Warns Liverpool players against overconfidence

EPL Relegation 10 Games to Save the season ESPNFC

Arsenal vs Man City – Preview

EPL Plans for Winter Break – Taking Shape – Joe Prince Wright – NbCsports

WORLD

PSG Coach hopes Neymar back in 3 months?

Golden Era of La Liga Strikers – ESPNFC

GAMES ON TV 

 

Sat, Mar 3

7:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Everton

9:30 am FS1                    Shalke vs Hertha

10 am CNBC                   Southampton vvs Stoke City (Cameron)

10 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Huddersfield

12 noon beIN Sport  Lazio vs Juventus

12:30 pm NBCSN         Liverpool vs New Castle (Yedlin)

12:30 pm FS2       Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

Sun, March 4                 MLS Starts

8:30 am NBCSN            Brighton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN                Man City vs Chelsea

12 noon ESPN2    USA Ladies vs France (She Believes Cup)

10:15 beIN Sport 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 1 vs Real Madrid 3

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Liverpool 5 vs Porto 0

Weds, Mar 7  – Champions League

2:45 pm FS2                   Man City vs Basel

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Tottenham 2 vs Juventus 2

7 pm ESPN News US Ladies vs England (She Believes Cup)

Thurs, Mar 8  – Europa League

1 pm FS 2                                                 Milan vs Arsenal

1 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Salburg

1 pm eSPN3                   Atletic Madrid vs Moskva

3 pm FS2                          RB Leipeg vs Zenit

3 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

Sat, Mar 10

7 am beIn Sport          Eibar vs Real Madrid

7:30 am NBCSN   Man United vs Liverpool

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Hamburger (Woods)

10 am NBCSN                Everton vs Brighton

12:30 pm NBC?            Chelsea vs Crystal Palace

12:30 pm FS2                Leverkusen vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

Sun, March 11             

9:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Watford

10:30 am FS1                 Stuttgart vs RB Leipzig

12 noon NBCSN           Bournemouth vs Tottenham

10:15 beIN Sports      Juve vs Udines

1 pm  Fox Sports 2     Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Frankfort

3 pm ESPN                       Atlanta United vs DC United

3:45 pm beIn Sport Inter vs Napoli

5 pm YES Network     NYCFC vs LA Galaxy

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

Thurs, Mar 15  – Europa League

12 pm eSPN3                Atletic Madrid vs Moskva

3 pm FS2                       RB Leipeg vs Zenit

2 pm Fox Soccer         Marseille vs Athletic Club

4 pm Fox Soccer         Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Salburg

1 pm FS 2                      Milan vs Arsenal

Fri, Mar 16

4 pm NBCSN                   Tottenham vs New Castle

Sat, Mar 17 

11 am NBcSN                 Stoke City (Cameron) vs Everton

12:30 pm FS2                Wolfsburg vs Schalke

1:30 pm  NBC                Liverpool vs Watford

3:45 pm ???                   Man United vs Brighton  FA CUP

Sun, Mar 18

8:30 AM FS 2                  Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hanover

1 pm FS 2                         RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich

EPL 2018 Schedule  

MLS 2018 Schedule

Read All the stories online – at https://www.theoleballcoach.com  

United States-led 2026 World Cup bid in jeopardy to Morocco’s – sources

Feb 27, 2018am BordenESPN Senior Writer

Support for the United States-led bid to host the 2026 World Cup is more divided than most predicted, with some estimates of voting totals having Morocco not just threatening the North American bid but actually beating it, multiple high-ranking football executives within FIFA and the continental confederations told ESPN this week.The United States won’t be playing in the World Cup in Russia this summer, but bringing the 2026 tournament to North America had always been seen as significant solace. Yet now, with just over three months until the pre-tournament FIFA Congress — at which the body’s 211 member nations will vote on those hosting rights — even that consolation prize for American soccer fans might be in doubt.Losing out would be hard to stomach for the North American contingent. After all, public perception among many in the soccer world has long been that the joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico would fairly easily beat the one from Morocco — a North African country with a population of about 33 million — to host. But according to multiple sources, a confluence of events and circumstances in recent months — some related to football and others having little to do with it — have left the outcome of that vote far murkier.One official who is in regular contact with all of the continental confederations estimated that Morocco has the support of much of Asia and South America, as well as its home continent of Africa, which would put it over the 104 votes needed. All four bid nations cannot vote while the Guatemalan federation is currently suspended.Other officials questioned the breakdown showing Morocco in a position of strength, saying that while the North American bid’s winning margin might be tighter than expected, it would still emerge cleanly on top with the Americas, Oceania, most of Europe and part of Asia backing it.The ballots will be cast just days before the opening match of the 2018 World Cup between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow — with the 2026 hosts expected to be announced on June 13.

Any late bids are due in by a deadline of March 16.Regardless — and despite the seeming disparity between the two bids in terms of resources and infrastructure — there also is no denying that the race is far from a foregone conclusion.Sunil Gulati, the former president of U.S. Soccer who is heading the North American bid, declined to discuss specifics regarding support, but he said in an interview that it would be foolish for anyone to assume anything about the outcome.”We’ve never taken anything for granted in this process,” Gulati said. “We understand that in a competitive election — and that’s what this is — a lot of different things go into a decision.”In this case, those different things run the gamut. There is a technical component — the 2026 event will be the first with an expanded 48-team field, putting an even greater importance on a country’s stadiums and venue-city setup — but the United States’ superiority in that area is unquestioned.The trickier question for the North American bid is actually something remarkably basic: At this particular moment in time, does the world want to give something nice to the United States?There already was a leeriness toward the United States in corners of the football world, particularly in South America, as some national federations remain upset over how an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice exposed widespread corruption among their executives.More recently, however, the North American bid has had to counter an anti-American sentiment that stems largely from actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration, multiple sources said. Those actions include a travel ban affecting mostly Arab countries, public comments that perpetuate stereotypes and the reported use of profanity in describing poorer countries.When North American bid officials visit with federation officials in a foreign country, they rarely get questions about stadiums or hotels, according to sources; rather, they have been quizzed about whether the United States can be considered a friendly place for foreigners.That is why the North American bid — which Gulati’s successor Carlos Cordeiro has made a top priority after being elected the new USSF president — is trying as much as possible to stress the Canadian and Mexican involvement. The United States will host the vast majority of the games if the bid wins, but organizers are pushing the notion that their bid is about unity — a concept they believe is critical in the current global environment.Asked about how the Trump administration has affected the canvassing for votes, Gulati would not address any individual circumstance but said, “All three countries’ governments, at the highest level, have been very supportive of the joint bid and the desire to bring the World Cup to North America.””The partnership between the three countries is an extremely important part of our story,” he added, “especially given what is going on in many parts of the world.”The setup of the balloting also presents a situation in which non-football influences could be considerable. Previously, hosting bids were awarded by FIFA’s executive committee, a process that was beset by corruption and led to the tainted 2010 vote, in which Qatar beat the United States for the right to host the World Cup in 2022.Now, each federation will vote and will have its vote made public, a situation that is better for transparency. That reality will make bloc votes — all of Africa voting for Morocco, for example — more likely, since any potential outlier won’t have the coverage of a hidden ballot. Every vote will have to be defended going forward, both to a country’s continental confederation members as well as to other officials within that nation’s leadership.Sources said they expect the race to come down to the final days. Morocco, whose bid was recently endorsed by disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter, has lost on four previous attempts to win World Cup hosting rights, but this attempt is not a token operation. Morocco had 11 representatives at the recent UEFA Congress in Bratislava, Slovakia, and, as one official quipped, “They weren’t there for the weather.”Representatives from the North American bid also were in attendance at the UEFA gathering, and officials will make similar appearances at an Asian Confederation gathering this spring before focusing in on specific countries for targeted visits closer to the vote.

United States Reportedly in Danger of Losing 2026 World Cup Bid to Morocco

ROB GOLDBERGFEBRUARY 27, 2018IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU/Getty Images

The United States is making a bid for the 2026 World Cup as part of a North America contingent, but Morocco is reportedly winning the race to host the international event, according to Sam Borden of ESPN.FIFA is expected to announce the host for the 2026 games on June 13.The United States, Mexico and Canada announced a joint bid last April to host the World Cup, with 60 of the 80 games set to take place in the U.S., including the finals, semifinals and quarterfinals. The other two countries would feature 10 matches apiece.According to ESPN, hosting this event could bring $5 billion in economic activity to the three countries.”Our assessment found that if the United Bid Committee is successful in its bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, it could generate significant short-term economic activity and numerous other benefits across Canada, Mexico and the United States,” Cliff Grevler of the Boston Consulting Group said.However, the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea was the only time multiple countries co-hosted the event.Former President Sepp Blatter described the situation, also throwing his support behind Morocco:

Tariq Panja of the New York Times noted a lack of details from the African country’s bid, but it’s apparently done enough to get the members of FIFA interested.The 211 member nations will vote on the new loation at the FIFA Congress prior to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn further defines new general manager roles

3:33 PM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

The U.S. Soccer Federation provided more detail on the requirements for the newly created GM positions for both the men’s and women’s senior national teams.USSF CEO Dan Flynn stated on a conference call with reporters that the two positions would “vary a bit to some degree,” but that the GM’s duties would include the hiring and firing of the senior national team head coaches, overall responsibility for the technical side of the senior team, build a strong, integrated national team staff, management of the day-to-day environment, and monitor the player pool and integration of new players.ADVERTISEMENTThe GM will also need to work alongside the manager once that person is hired and will report directly to Flynn.”The overall pool in terms of the environment, the travel, the scouting, the high performance, the nutrition, all of that needs to be managed in the process, so the GM will have other duties if you will,” said Flynn. “But he’ll have direct communication with the coach. I think the player pool is more GM than coach, and who actually plays is more coach than GM.”Flynn added that a committee comprised of USSF Board members Carlos Bocanegra and Angela Hucles, as well as several USSF staff members, including Flynn, COO Jay Berhalter, director of sporting development Ryan Mooney, and port development program director Nico Romeijn.”That committee will work the process and make a recommendation to the Board of Directors,” said Flynn.

In a departure from the tenure of Jurgen Klinsmann, who was given broad authority on matters that went beyond the senior team, Flynn indicated that the primary area of responsibility for the GMs will be their respective national teams.”The GM is responsible for the senior team and senior team environment in a direct way. In an indirect way, those GMs will have input as to what we’re doing on the player development side. But they have a primary [responsibility], and their key focus is managing the environment for the technical area for the men’s senior and women’s senior national team.”Mooney added, “Having integration and alignment will be critical. Obviously, there will be different demands at the level with the senior team, but having both those GMs be part of our internal think tank on the technical side with [Romeijn] is certainly what we are envisioning at this moment. There will certainly be an influence, but less so on the day-to-day.”When asked if the GM position would be like the role that Oliver Bierhoff plays with Germany’s national team, Mooney said there would be some differences.”These roles are not like for like with what it is that Oliver does with the senior team or what he does on the DFB academy side,” he said. “There are certainly aspects of it that would be applicable to the GM role as we’ve defined them.”In terms of where the USSF will look to fill the positions, Flynn said that on the men’s side the committee will look at the respective leagues on the men’s and women’s side. Seattle Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey has already been linked with the post.”We think that there is fertile territory in MLS,” said Flynn about the men’s GM position. “We’re looking beyond that level as well, in other parts of the world … I think internally we think it’s pretty darn important that our GM’s understand our leagues — plural — in our country and how they operate, how they work, what the player development model is on the domestic side.”Flynn stated that the decision to create the two positions had been contemplated for a while, and wasn’t in direct response to the failure of the U.S. men to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. He also said there was no specific timetable for when the positions might be filled, but “we are actively involved in the process right now.”

Toronto FC, Atlanta United start new season atop MLS Power Rankings

eb 25, 2018ason Daviscomment

A look at how the teams in Major League Soccer stack up ahead of the new season.

  1. Toronto FC
    When you’re the champs, you start the season at No. 1. While the Reds didn’t make any splashy moves during the offseason, they did manage to add a couple of new signings that have the potential to make them even better than they were in 2017.
  2. Atlanta United
    Atlanta measured up to outsize expectations with a playoff berth in their inaugural season. The bar doesn’t lower in year two as the league’s new high-profile side dropped a league-record transfer fee to sign 18-year old Ezequiel Barco out of Argentina.
  3. Seattle Sounders
    The back-to-back Western Conference champions get the benefit of the doubt coming into the new year, but there is reason to worry about the Sounders’ ability to stay on top. Key pieces of the lineup are a year older, and striker Jordan Morris will be out of commission for most of the season after tearing his ACL.
  4. NYCFC
    City’s 2017 season ended in disappointment, the result of a bad away leg in the conference semifinals. The club has the tools to make it back to the postseason, but until proven otherwise, there will be doubts about Patrick Vieira’s ability to navigate the tournament.
  5. Chicago Fire
    The Fire made a drastic improvement over 2016 thanks to a number of high-profile additions. Now counted among the best in the league, the Fire come into the new year with expectations. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s ability to contribute all season bears watching, as does the problem of replacing David Accam.
  6. Columbus Crew
    Gregg Berhalter must overcome the loss of Justin Meram and Ola Kamara, who were shipped out via trade. Gyasi Zardes has shown extremely well in the preseason and will need to carry that form in the regular season if the Crew are going to maintain their place among the East’s playoff teams.
  7. Portland Timbers
    It’s a new era in Portland after a tumultuous postseason. The first-place finisher in the West gets some benefit of the doubt, but there are questions surrounding the Timbers’ ability to replace Darlington Nagbe’s midfield work and how well new coach Giovanni Savarese adapts to the league.
  8. New York Red Bulls
    Sacha Kljestan is gone, but New York fought through the drama and landed Alejandro Romero Gamarra, aka Kaku. The Argentine will play under an intense spotlight as the Red Bulls execute yet another transition in the midfield. Looming: Will Tyler Adams be in New York after the summer?
  9. Houston Dynamo
    Wilmer Cabrera’s first season in the Bayou City delivered a Dynamo playoff appearance for the first time since 2013. In order to hold to a spot among the postseason finishers, Cabrera will have to improve on last year’s foundation with Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas playing big roles.
  10. Sporting Kansas City
    Sporting Kansas City is remarkably consistent, and the club again looks like a playoff team on paper. Defender of the Year Ike Opara returns, and defense is rarely a problem for Sporting. So if the goals come, the club could challenge for a first-round bye come playoff time.
  11. Vancouver Whitecaps
    The Caps enter 2018 as something of an unknown quantity. Several major figures, the incoming group of players and chemistry all could be factors in their success or failure. Vancouver might also be on the verge of breaking up one of the league’s top center back tandems, with reports swirling that an unhappy Tim Parker wants out of British Columbia.
  12. San Jose Earthquakes
    The Quakes are one of five teams with a new coach. The smart money is on San Jose looking much different under Mikael Stahre than they did under Dom Kinnear and Chris Leitch last year, though just how different is unclear.
  13. Real Salt Lake
    Mike Petke enters his first full year as RSL’s coach, looking to build on last year’s strong finish. The Utah team is chock full of young talent, balanced against a few long-serving veterans. There’s a lot of promise for a team in the wide-open Western Conference.
  14. FC Dallas
    Oscar Pareja’s team took a massive step backward in 2017. Still focusing on young players, the club signed players from Bulgaria, Colombia and elsewhere in a bid to get better. With locker room drama settled, is FC Dallas primed for a return to the playoffs?
  15. New England Revolution
    Brad Friedel is still dealing with a tug-of-war with Lee Nguyen over the midfielder’s demand for a trade, casting something of a pall of the start of his tenure as coach of the Revs. With Nguyen’s status in limbo, the attacking burden may fall to Kelyn Rowe — a player who spent time at left back last year.
  16. Orlando City
    No returning team did more business during the offseason than the Lions. There’s a feeling of “postseason or bust,” with so much money committed to a group of incoming players that includes Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram. On paper, Orlando looks like a contender for a playoff spot in the East.
  17. Philadelphia Union
    The offseason was a slow burn for a club that finished well off the pace in the East. The one big, early acquisition was winger David Accam, who moves over from Chicago. The Ghana international will be expected to be the catalyst for the Union attack, scoring goals and setting up lead striker CJ Sapong.
  18. Montreal Impact
    An aging roster fell flat in 2017, despite high expectations off the back of a conference final appearance the year before. Some of that age is gone, replaced by several names with unclear ceilings. New coach Remi Garde will have to learn the league quickly for the Impact to succeed.
  19. LA Galaxy
    The post-Arena tradition year was a disaster for the Galaxy, resulting in the firing of Curt Onalfo and a last-place finish. The club has overhauled the roster and made several smart trades, giving the impression that while LA probably isn’t a title contender, they’ll at least be competitive.
  20. D.C. United
    Whatever financial help moving into Audi Field will give United has yet to hit the roster in a big way. Ben Olsen’s team looks improved from 2017, but there are concerns about the striker corps and a difficult early-season schedule that could derail the team no matter the improvement.
  21. Minnesota United
    Minnesota natives are restless over the Loons’ seeming lack of ambition, with offseason signings not measuring up to rising league standards. If the “soft launch” mentality holds, it’s difficult to see Adrian Heath taking MNUFC to the playoffs in year two.
  22. Colorado Rapids
    Colorado’s new coach seems well-equipped to deal with the club’s meager spending thanks to his experience with the New Zealand national team. The Rapids talk about playing more entertaining soccer but don’t appear to have the horses to do it.
  23. LAFC
    As the lone expansion club for 2018, LAFC gets the ignominious spot at the bottom of the rankings. There’s talent on the roster for the Black & Gold, and Bob Bradley certainly knows the league: will that be enough to help them avoid the usual struggles for expansion sides?

2018 MLS Western Conference preview

By Matt ReedFeb 28, 2018, 3:02 PM EST

The countdown is at three days until the MLS season returns.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Yesterday, we took a look at the Eastern Conference ahead of the new campaign.

Now, Pro Soccer Talk shifts its focus to the West, where a new club will be introduced into the 23-team MLS fold this season.

 

Colorado Rapids

Record in 2017: 9-19-6 — 10th in Western Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: This club has bulked up defensively, adding onto what was already a pretty strong backline, with players like Edgar Castillo, Tommy Smith and Danny Wilson entering the fold. Meanwhile, Wolves forward Joe Mason was brought in to provide assistance up front, although the Englishman has struggled to find consistency throughout his career.
Key player: Niki Jackson — A SuperDraft selection from this January, Jackson will probably have a lot asked of him during his rookie campaign given Colorado’s lack of attacking options. He notched 16 goals last year at Grand Canyon University, so the Rapids will be hoping that translates to MLS.
Coach: Anthony Hudson — The first-year MLS manager has his work cut out for him, but in a short time with the Rapids it looks like his formula will mimic what Pablo Mastroeni used to when he was in charge. A heavy emphasis on defense.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Rapids will likely have a hard time scoring goals, yet again, but opponents won’t just waltz in and beat up on the Colorado club.

FC Dallas

Record in 2017: 11-10-13 — Seventh in Western Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The departure of Walker Zimmermann was a big blow to the team’s back line, but Dallas has stocked up defensively with a number of Homegrown talents and CSKA Sofia’s Anton Nedyalkov this offseason. Dallas also made the most of its early SuperDraft selections, nabbing midfielder Ema Twumasi and forward Francis Atuahene in the first round to bolster a strong attack.
Key player: Cristian Colman — The Paraguayan was brought in last season to help the FC Dallas attack reach another level, with just two goals in 26 appearances Colman was far below the mark that many expected. He’ll need to improve drastically in 2018, especially with rookie Atuahene waiting to get on the field.
Coach: Oscar Pareja — With a rejuvenated roster, Pareja’s first priority should be getting back into the postseason. His side is simply too good to not be in the playoffs.
Vague 2018 prediction: It’s difficult to imagine this club not making the playoffs given the talent throughout the roster, but then again, last season proved to many that this Dallas side can be exploited.

Houston Dynamo

Record in 2017: 13-10-11 — Fourth in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Losing Erick “Cubo” Torres certainly wasn’t a shock given his up-and-down tenure in MLS, however, he was a key piece in the Dynamo attack last season, and his goal production will be missed. The club failed to go out and seek refuge with replacements in the attack, so it will be intriguing to see how Houston responds.
Key player: Tomas Martinez — The Young DP signed midway through 2017, and had some difficulty getting acclimated to his new side. The former Braga man will key for the buildup play in the Dynamo attack this season, if the team is to find success.
Coach: Wilmer Cabrera — Cabrera did a fantastic job in 2017 getting the most out of his roster, and he’ll need to do an equally as good job this year if the Dynamo are to get back into the playoffs.
Vague 2018 prediction: It’s very easy to see this team taking a step back, especially with other clubs in the West improving this offseason.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Record in 2017: 8-18-8 — Last in Western Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Ola Kamara, Chris Pontius and David Bingham were three additions for the Galaxy that automatically upgraded three positions this offseason. Call it a success. Not to mention nabbing Perry Kitchen, who will be out to prove himself in his return to MLS> Meanwhile, the Galaxy selected one of the best defensive players in the SuperDraft with Stanford product Tomas Hilliard-Arce.
Key player: Ola Kamara — The former Crew forward could very well be the best offseason transaction from any club. He’s in the prime of his career and surrounded by talented attackers like Giovani dos Santos. Kamara will thrive in LA.
Coach: Sigi Schmid — This man has found success everywhere he has gone, and with the offseason that the Galaxy have had, it’s difficult seeing this club miss out on the postseason.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Galaxy are used to having success in MLS, and they’ll almost certainly be back in the playoffs in 2018.

Los Angeles FC

Record in 2017: N/A
Offseason evaluation: Atlanta set the bar in their 2017 debut season, and now LAFC is looking to equal, or potentilly top, anything that the Eastern Conference side did. Carlos Vela, Benny Feilhaber, Latif Blessing and Diego Rossi are just a few of the names that LA can feature up front. Then, the club’s ability to go out and sign arguably the best defender in MLS with Laurent Ciman’s introduction added another dimension to the team. He’ll partner with another promising talent in Walker Zimmerman from Dallas.
Key player: Carlos Vela — His form in La Liga was sporadic at times, but when Vela is at his best he’s a scary threat for any opposition. The El Tri forward has the weapons around him to thrive in his first MLS campaign.
Coach: Bob Bradley — The former USMNT coach is in a great spot with current roster, and it doesn’t look like the expansion side is done in the transfer market.
Vague 2018 prediction: It takes a lot to get integrated as a new club, but this team has the makings of one that will make a run in the West. The perfect combination of MLS experience and foreign talent.

 

 

Minnesota United

Record in 2017: 10-18-6 — Ninth in Western Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The addition of Tyrone Mears defensively will provide some stability, but Minnesota still looks to be inept at the back. The good news for this club is that they remain an attacking threat, and have added Wisconsin forward Mason Toye in the draft.
Key player: Abu Danladi — After a tremendous rookie campaign, the Loons will be looking for the former UCLA striker to pick up where he left off in 2017. Minnesota undoubtedly boasts a strong attack, it’s definitely more about the defense that is worrisome.
Coach: Adrian Heath — We saw a number of coaches fired in 2017, and if things don’t go the right way early for Minnesota it’s very likely that Heath is sacrificed at the second-year MLS side.
Vague 2018 prediction: This team will be fun to watch at times in the attack, but after conceding 70 goals a season ago and showing little sign of defensive improvement, the Loons will probably be on the outside looking in once again in the playoff picture.

 

Portland Timbers

Record in 2017: 15-11-8 — First in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: This is a club that still boasts the reigning league MVP with Diego Valeri, however, losing Darlington Nagbe this offseason cannot be overstated. The Timbers did well to bring in Benevento forward Samuel Armenteros, Cristhian Paredes and Andy Polo, though, so they’ll still be a strong side in 2018.
Key player: Andy Polo — The Peru international has big expectations resting on his shoulders after joining MLS from Mexican side Morelia on loan. With the ability to play up front and on the ing, the 23-year-old gives new manager Gio Savarese flexibility as to where he plays the dynamic player.
Coach: Giovanni Savarese — It was only a matter of time until the ex-Cosmos manager ended up in MLS, and the situation that Savarese has been granted is almost as perfect as it could be for a first-time MLS boss.
Vague 2018 prediction: Definitely envision this club at the top of the West once again, and should be in the thick of things when it comes closer to MLS Cup.

 

Real Salt Lake 

Record in 2017: 13-15-6 — Eighth in Western Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: This club continues to get younger and younger, and while the biggest concern will be where the goals come from, RSL is building towards a bright future. The club secured the rights to Brooks Lennon this offseason, while San Luis midfielder Pablo Ruiz also entered the fold for the Claret and Cobalt. Re-signing Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando added the veteran presence that has sustained the club for years.
Key player: Jefferson Savarino — The Venezuelan notched six goals in his first season with the Western Conference side, and he’ll be expected to build off of that as he’s with RSL for his first full campaign.
Coach: Mike Petke — The former Red Bulls coach has done everything right since taking over RSL. He’s utilizing one of the top academies in MLS, while bringing in the proper pieces to supplement the squad.
Vague 2018 prediction: RSL might still be a year away from really challenging in the West, but don’t be surprised if they make the leap into the playoffs. After all, they finished just a point outside of the postseason in 2017.

San Jose Eathquakes

Record in 2017: 13-14-7 — Sixth in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Yeferson Quintana and Joel Qwiberg were brought in to help improve the back line this season, while Eric Calvillo and Magnus Eriksson can help improve an attack that features one of the greatest goalscorers to ever play in MLS, Chris Wondolowski.
Key player: Magnus Eriksson — The 27-year-old has scored double-digit goals five times in his career, and the Quakes will be banking on their new DP to come in and help take some of the pressure off of Wondolowski, and perhaps become the heir apparent.
Coach: Mikael Stahre — The first-year MLS manager has already put his stamp on the Quakes with several Swedish signings, and his club looks improved from a season ago.
Vague 2018 prediction: After getting thrashed in the first round of the playoffs last season, this team will be out to prove that they can take another step forward.

 

 

Seattle Sounders

Record in 2017: 14-9-11 — Second in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs, Reached MLS Cup final)
Offseason evaluation: The news couldn’t have been worse for the Sounders when word came down that Jordan Morris will miss the entire season with an ACL tear. The Sounders didn’t add any more depth up top, or at least not yet, so while the club is still wildly talented, they will likely be without one of their top finishers for all of 2018.
Key player: Will Bruin — The veteran MLSer knows what he needs to do now that Morris has gone down with an injury. His 11 goals in 2017 was one short of a career-high, so the West winners will want him to recreate that brilliance.
Coach: Brian Schmetzer — Two straight MLS Cup appearances, and a title in one of those seasons, isn’t too shabby from the long-time Sounders employee. He’s already one of the best managers in the league.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Morris injury is massive, but considering the Sounders played great without him for much of last season, the loss isn’t a deal breaker. They’re still very much a title contender.

Sporting Kansas City

Record in 2017: 12-9-13 — Fifth in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: This squad lost a number of big names this offseason, highlighted by Benny Feilhaber, Latif Blessing and Erik Palmer-Brown. Not to mention having lost Dom Dwyer to Orlando City during the middle of last season. Now, SKC will be relying on a bunch of new faces, including Frenchman Yohan Croizet and Derby County midfielder Johnny Russell.
Key player: Yohan Croizet — The DP midfielder enters the fold for Sporting KC as he looks to fill the void left by the departed Benny Feilhaber. Croizet will have to replace one of the top playmakers in the league, which isn’t a small task.
Coach: Peter Vermes — The long-time manager has struggled to find success in the postseason over the last several years, and with a host of new additions this season, the former MLS Cup champions could be on track to rebuild.
Vague 2018 prediction: This is a club searching for its identity. They’ll always be well-coached and a tough out, but the playoffs aren’t a guarantee in 2018.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps

Record in 2017: 15-12-7 — Third in Western Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Kei Kamara, Brian Rowe and Anthony Blondell from Monagas are just a few of the big-time names that the Whitecaps have added this offseason, despite losing Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero. Additionally, the Whitecaps have lost Tony Tchani in a trade to the Chicago Fire, which creates a void in front of the back line.
Key player: Kei Kamara — The veteran has been a streaky scorer throughout his career, but he’ll be the main option up top for the Whitecaps in 2018, and he should be good for at least 10 goals.
Coach: Carl Robinson — The manager will have to deal with a host of departures this offseason, but he’s proven to be one of the better coaches in MLS when dealing with change.
Vague 2018 prediction: They’ll be in contention in the West once again, especially after nabbing one of the better strikers in MLS.

2018 MLS Eastern Conference preview

By Matt ReedFeb 27, 2018, 3:00 PM EST

Ah, the return of Major League Soccer.It feels like forever ago that Toronto FC captured its first MLS Cup title in franchise history, although it was only a mere two-plus months ago.[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]In that time, though, a lot has changed, including the preparation for yet another expansion side entering into the league and several MAJOR transfer moves that have sent reverberations throughout MLS.Wel get to Los Angeles FC and the rest of the Western Conference on Wednesday, but for now, here is everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference heading into the 2018 season.

Atlanta United

Record in 2017: 15-9-10 — Fourth in the Eastern Conference (qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The loss of Yamil Asad was certainly a big one, but when you can replace a player like him with Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and a plethora of young talent waiting in line it’s safe to say you’re in a good position. Defensively, one of the best back lines in MLS arguably got better with Franco Escobar’s arrival and depth provided by veteran Sal Zizzo.
Key player: Miguel Almiron — He was my Player to Watch heading into 2017, and it’s safe to say the Paraguayan lived up to the billing… and then some for Atlanta. His brilliance goes beyond just scoring goals, and his vision is almost unmatched on an MLS scale. It’s quite likely that 2018 will be Almiron’s last season in the United States, so take in his excellence while he’s still in our presence.
Coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino – The former Barcelona manager did just about everything right in Year 1, but it’s time for this Atlanta club to take the next step in its progression. Martino has succeeded on the highest of levels, and it’s hard to believe that track record won’t translate to an MLS crown at some point in the near future.
Vague 2018 prediction: If watching Atlanta was fun in 2017, then this season is going to be a treat for those attending matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s MLS Cup or bust for this talented group.

Chicago Fire

Record in 2017: 16-11-7 — Third in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: When David Accam was traded to the Philadelphia Union this offseason it raised some questions about the Fire’s intentions for the 2018 campaign. Losing the veteran attacker was certainly a damaging blow, however, the club did well to equip itself rookie talents Jon Bakero and Mo Adams — both selected in the first round. Meanwhile, a loan move for Alaves midfielder Aleksandar Katai went as an underrated move for the team.
Key player: Jon Bakero — The rookie midfielder may have been the best player in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and the Fire are expected good things from the young player from the beginning.
Coach: Veljko Paunovic — The Serbian has done a fantastic job integrating youth with a veteran core in his short time with the Fire, and he and his staff appeared to have one of the the
Vague 2018 prediction: The Fire lost a fair deal of players this offseason, including Accam, so they’ll be banking on a younger group in 2018.

Columbus Crew

Record in 2017: 16-12-6 — Fifth in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: With Ola Kamara and Justin Meram no longer in the fold, the Crew attack is going to look drastically different this season. Veteran presences like Gyasi Zardes and Mike Grella will step in to try to fill the void, but the expectations for the Crew have surely changed.
Key player: Gyasi Zardes — The ex-Galaxy attacker is going to play a big role up front for this team, and with Ola Kamara gone, Zardes will have to pick up the slack in the goalscoring department.
Coach: Greg Berhalter — The former MLS player has been one of the best coaches in the league since taking over, and he’ll need to do a special job this season if the Crew are to contend.
Vague 2018 prediction: This club was very close to reaching MLS Cup in 2017, but a plethora of exits this offseason have the Crew looking up at the major contenders in the East.

 

 

D.C. United

Record in 2017: 9-20-5 — Last in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The addition of Yamil Asad was the biggest add in terms of name recognition, but D.C. managed to get a very good goalkeeper in David Ousted as well, after losing Bill Hamid last year when he left for Europe. Throw in veteran MLS players like Darren Mattocks and Frederic Brillant, and D.C. has some good guys to build around.
Key player: Yamil Asad — Atlanta’s loss will surely be D.C.’s gain this season. Asad was brilliant in 2017 playing with Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez and Atlanta’s dynamic attack, so we’ll see how the Argentine transitions into his new club.
Coach: Ben Olsen — On paper, Olsen has a really strong group of talent. It’s up to the former USMNT player to get his side back into the playoffs.
Vague 2018 prediction: Olsen and Co. had a sneaky good offseason, and they could very well be in the playoff mix this season.

Montreal Impact

Record in 2017: 11-17-6 — Ninth in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The shocking move to send Laurent Ciman to LAFC was not on anybody’s radar in Canada, but it caused a big shakeup within the Impact defense. While losing the center back was massive, it was coupled by seeing Blerim Dzemaili also leave when his loan deal expired. The Impact managed to acquire a few foreign players to try and make up for losses, with Bologna’s Saphir Taider and Canadian defender Michael Petrasso entering the picture.
Key player: Raheem Edwards — The versatile wing player was acquired through a trade with LAFC, and he’s shown that he can be one of the most promising young players in MLS. With the ability to play wing back and in the midfield, expect Edwards to garner some serious minutes with his new club.
Coach: Remi Garde — The former Lyon defender has joined a squad in transition mode, so his first season at the helm will likely involve seeing what he has for future campaigns.
Vague 2018 prediction: A new manager in place and a drastically different roster will likely see 2018 serve as a transition period for the Canadian side.

New England Revolution

Record in 2017: 13-15-6 — Seventh in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The Lee Nguyen saga dominated the headlines throughout the layoff from action, but with the USMNT midfielder still in New England, the Revs can regain their focus. Kei Kamara‘s departure this offseason could create a bigger role for Kristian Nemeth in 2018, while the back line will rely on several new faces from the SuperDraft, including Brandon Bye and Nicolas Samayoa.
Key player: Krisztian Nemeth — The ex-Sporting KC man will be counted on a lot in 2018 with Kamara no longer at Gillette Stadium. With a solid group of attacking options around him, including Nguyen and Diego Fagundez, Nemeth will have to find his form after netting just one goal in six appearances last year.
Coach: Brad Friedel — The first-year manager has already had a lot to deal with during the Nguyen saga, but his on-field job will be just as difficult after losing several key players this offseason.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Revs appear to be in a similar position to 2017. There’s enough talent to make the playoffs, but it’s probably not expected.

w York City FC

Record in 2017: 16-9-9 — Second in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The loss of Jack Harrison dominated the offseason news for NYCFC, and now the Bronx side will be looking at a host of new faces to help revamp the attack. Young DP Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri, Ebenezer Ofori and Jo Inge Berget have all joined the pack for Patrick Vieira’s squad, and are expected to fill Harrison’s shoes and help aid top goalscorer David Villa.
Key player: Jesus Medina — The young South American player has been brought in to replace Jack Harrison on the wing, and the 20-year-old will be on a short leash given the number of players NYCFC has brought in to compete in the attack.
Coach: Patrick Vieira — The third-year coach has had the chance to put his stamp on this NYCFC roster, and he’ll be expected to take the next step in 2018 with a group that features many talented names.
Vague 2018 prediction: NYCFC supporters will be hoping that preseason isn’t any indication of how the club looks in the regular season. A number of attacking signings should keep this team near the top of the East, though.

 

 

New York Red Bulls

Record in 2017: 14-12-8 — Sixth in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: It was an offseason of turnover for the Red Bulls, and one where notable players Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella, Gonzalo Veron and more were sent packing. With that said, the club has brought in young reinforcements with big promise, including Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra, Cristian Casseres Jr. and Amando Moreno (who previously played for the club).
Key player: Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra — With Kljestan gone, Gamarra has great expectations bestowed upon his shoulders this season. The Red Bulls waited awhile to secure the former Huracan midfielder, but he should pay dividends with his pace and vision in the attacking third.
Coach: Jesse Marsch — Make no mistake about it. Marsch and his staff have a plan, and they’re sticking to it. A younger roster is exactly what they’ve been trying to establish, and now it’s time to see what kind of steps they can take.
Vague 2018 prediction: A young, feisty roster is what Marsch has on his hands. Could easily see Red Bulls contending for an East crown or falling short of the playoffs due to lack of defensive depth. Hit or miss.

Orlando City SC

ecord in 2017: 10-15-9 — 10th in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Cyle Larin’s departure wasn’t a surprise, although the way that it went down was anything but amicable. With the Canadian gone, Orlando now has to find a new way to bag goals in the attack. After missing out on the playoffs in each of their first three seasons, the Lions have done big things this winter by acquiring Justin Meram and Sacha Kljestan. The club also brought in solid veterans like RJ Allen and Stefano Pinho, as well as Jose Villareal from the Galaxy.
Key player: Sacha Kljestan — The creative attacker was brought in to do what he’s done for the Red Bulls in the past, which is create. Everywhere he’s gone, Kljestan has managed to influence the attack in a positive manner, and with Kaka’s departure, the American has a big role.
Coach:  Jason Kreis — The former NYCFC manager certainly wasn’t shy this offseason with his roster moves, but now it’s time for Orlando to step up and make use of its newfound talent.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Lions have gone all in, and the roster is shaping up to at the very least be a playoff squad.

Philadelphia Union

Record in 2017: 11-14-9 — Eighth in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Outside of acquiring David Accam from the Fire, it was a quiet offseason in Chester. The attack should be able to latch onto another gear with the Ghanian present in the lineup, but several key losses, including Charlie Davies, Chris Pontius and Roland Alberg, could hurt the team’s short-term plans.
Key player: David Accam
Coach: Jim Curtin — The 38-year-old has had his share of ups and downs with the Union, and with a predominantly young roster in 2018, he’s going to need his players to play hard on a weekly basis if Curtin is to last.
Vague 2018 prediction: There aren’t many positive expectations for the Union, nor should there be. Hard to see this club making the playoffs.

Toronto FC

Record in 2017: 20-5-9 — First in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs, Won MLS Cup)
Offseason evaluation: The defending champions somehow found a way to make their roster better, and did so without spending a ton of money. Bringing in midfielder Axel Aketxe from Spain and Holland defender Gregory van der Wiel has added another dimension to TFC’s deep roster, despite losing Raheem Edwards, Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou this offseason.
Key player: Gregory van der Wiel — The club’s attack is certainly the least of Toronto’s concerns, so that turns the attention to the back line. Van der Wiel was brought in to fill the spot left by Beitashour, and the veteran Dutchman should be a strong fit for the club.
Coach: Greg Vanney — It’s amazing to see what the club has transformed into over the last several years, and Vanney has played a big part in how TFC has become an elite MLS side.
Vague 2018 prediction: Last year, PST said 2017 could be the first of many MLS titlesfor this club. Toronto is the favorite once more.

MLSisBack! Here’s your complete 2018 season preview

February 26, 201812:00PM ESTBenjamin BaerNew Media Editor#MLSisBack and the 2018 season will kickoff on Saturday in Toronto. Given that, we asked our experts for their quick takes on each of the 23 teams heading into the season. You can also find a link to your team’s unofficial depth chart based on our own evaluations and preseason matches. In addition, there’s my prediction for where every team will finish in their conference.

Atlanta United

The Five Stripes are everyone’s hot pick to take a big step forward in 2018, and that’s understandable. They spent big to bring in 18-year-old Argentinean DP Ezequiel Barco, and splashed out TAM + GAM to pry Darlington Nagbe from the Timbers. That’s a lot of flair and off-the-dribble skill. The problem might be that they’re unbalanced now, as linchpin midfielder Carlos Carmona headed back to Chile and, as yet, there’s no replacement for his midfield steel. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Ezequiel Barco

KEY LOSS: Carlos Carmona

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 3rd in East

Chicago Fire

Chicago brought back their biggest star this winter in Bastian Schweinsteiger but lost one of their most productive players when they traded winger David Accam to Philadelphia on draft day. The Fire signed a promising Accam replacement in Serbian attacker Aleksandar Katai, but still need some help in a few spots – center back and No. 10 being two – if they want to build on last year’s third-place Supporters’ Shield finish. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Aleksandar Katai

KEY LOSS: David Accam

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 7th in East

Colorado Rapids

It’s a new era in Colorado, with new head coach Anthony Hudson and the front office overhauling the Rapids roster hoping to wash away 2017. The additions are plentiful, with many coming from England and New Zealand, and Hudson will be hoping his 3-5-2 can provide enough in the attack for a team that has struggled to score goals. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Jack Price

KEY LOSS: Mohammed Saeid

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 11th in West

Columbus Crew SC

Crew SC almost upset the best team in MLS history in the Eastern Conference Championship, but getting to that point again will be a tall task for Gregg Berhalter’s team. Star attackers Justin Meram and Ola Kamara were traded away in the offseason, with only maligned striker Gyasi Zardes brought in to replace their star production (so far). Columbus will likely be relying on an intact defense and a rising star in between the pipes to get them back to the playoffs. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Milton Valenzuela

KEY LOSS: Ola Kamara

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 6th in East

D.C. United

The level of optimism around D.C. depends on how you see the half-filled glass. On the positive side, D.C. upgraded in multiple positions, including the acquisitions of Ulises Segura, Junior Moreno, Frederic Brillant and Yamil Asad. The lineup could be both sturdy and electric, all to go with a brand new stadium. On the downside, they have a crazy schedule, front-loaded with road games and then extra congested on the back end. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Yamil Asad

KEY LOSS: Bill Hamid

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 9th in East

FC Dallas

Last year we were talking about Dallas pushing for MLS Cup. Then they had one of the worst collapses in MLS history. Now we are wondering if they are even a playoff team. From Point A to Point B, they have almost exactly the same team. They struggled to replace Fabian Castillo in 2017, but this winter they got Colombian attacker Santiago Mosquera. If they can sort through their late-2017 issues, Dallas should be pushing for trophies again. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Santiago Mosquera

KEY LOSS: Walker Zimmerman

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 4th in West

Houston Dynamo

Was 2017 a playoff mirage or did the Dynamo re-establish themselves among MLS’s upper echelon? We’re about to find out. Houston sold their leading scorer (Erick “Cubo’” Torres) in the offseason, and that might be a good thing since it opens a spot for Mauro Manotas, one of four young attackers Wilmer Cabrera will set free on the counter. Speed kills, but the rest of the league knows what’s coming. Can the Dynamo find another gear? Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Alejandro Fuenmayor

KEY LOSS: Erick Torres

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 10th in West

LAFC

They say one should temper expectations with expansion teams – even Atlanta in 2017 finished 4th in the East – but that’s not the mentality manager Bob Bradley is taking into the season. He’s gone to the world market for top-end talent in Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi and blended it with proven MLS contributors like Benny Feilhaber, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman and Steven Beitashour. The first 13 on the roster looks like it could compete with anyone. Like most expansion clubs who need to build from scratch, if Bradley needs to dig deeper, he could be in trouble. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: N/A

KEY LOSS: N/A

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 9th in West

LA Galaxy

They were the worst team in the league last year, so by definition nobody had more work to do. And so work they did, pulling in international defenders, a fringe USMNT defensive midfielder and goalkeeper, and one of MLS’s most consistent goalscorers. There’s a lot to like about this group, but there’s no guarantee all of the above will be enough if Gio and Jona dos Santos don’t start playing like the stars they’re supposed to be. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Ola Kamara

KEY LOSS: Gyasi Zardes

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 5th in West

Minnesota United FC

This really is gonna be a slow build, eh? While most of the rest of the league was pulling in TAM or DP-caliber players from overseas, the Loons pretty much stood pat (except for adding three more wingers, because of course they did). The prize signing of their offseason at this point looks to be 35-year-old journeyman right back Tyrone Mears, and it remains unclear who’s going to be the playmaker. It looks like they’ll need serious improvement from within. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Tyrone Mears

KEY LOSS: Johan Venegas

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 12th in West

Montreal Impact

The Impact have yo-yoed in and out of the playoffs during their six seasons in MLS. In former Lyon boss Remi Garde, Montreal hope they’ve found a head coach who can foster more consistency and tap into the talent coming through the academy. Garde wasted no time turning over the roster and getting younger. Losing Blerim Dzemaili hurt, but Saphir Taider arrived in return. If all else fails, just give the ball to Ignacio Piatti. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Saphir Taider

KEY LOSS: Blerim Dzemaili

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 8th in East

New England Revolution

With a new coach comes, presumably, a new philosophy. We haven’t yet seen how that’ll work for real, but so far it seems to be geared toward finding new positions for a bunch of mainstays. Diego Fagundez has been used as a playmaker, and Kelyn Rowe as a box-to-box No. 8. Meanwhile it’s unclear where Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen – who held out for a month before reporting – fit in. And the defense is, as always, an open question. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Cristian Penilla

KEY LOSS: Kei Kamara

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 10th in East

New York City FC

NYCFC are clearly one of the top contenders for MLS Cup entering the season, even after selling Jack Harrison to Manchester City. David Villa will be hunting for a trophy in what could be his last season in the Big Apple and reinforcements have been added all across the field. The midfield trio should be one of the best in the league, with young star Yangel Herrera likely getting more playing time after a breakout year. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Jesus Medina

KEY LOSS: Jack Harrison

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 1st in East

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls traded their captain (again), but did so with a purpose. The red side of New York is going all-in on the press, and that requires young legs, which arrived via DP Kaku, the Kljestan trade and a cadre of Homegrown and Red Bulls II graduates. Tyler Adamsshould take another big step, this time in central midfield, but the old heads will still be expected to lead the charge. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Alejandro Romero Gamarra

KEY LOSS: Sacha Kljestan

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 5th in East

Orlando City SC

Has anyone in MLS history had as active (and, frankly, impressive) an offseason as the Lions? They added the two-time reigning assist king, a Best XI-caliber winger, a high-priced young DP playmaker, an in-his-prime MLS Cup champion d-mid, a Bundesliga starter at CB, the best college midfielder, the college assist king, and the NASL MVP/Golden Boot winner. This team is deep and LOADED, and now Jason Kreis has to make the pieces fit. No excuses in 2018. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Josue Colman

KEY LOSS: Cyle Larin

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 4th in East

Philadelphia Union

Union fans seemed ready to riot in December, then the club spent big to acquire David Accam. Accam has the ability to turn any game and immediately lifts any team to the next level. Is it a playoff level? It could come down to how well their No. 10s perform in creating goals and if any of the young center backs on the team — Jack Elliott, Josh Yaro, Auston Trusty or Richie Marquez — can become consistent performers. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: David Accam

KEY LOSS: Chris Pontius

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 11th in East

Portland Timbers

New manager Gio Savarese inherits a group that finished the 2017 regular season top of the West, plus they added winger Andy Polo, defender Julio Cascante and striker Samuel Armenteros. The problem could be that his three key players — 2017 MVP Diego Valeri, linchpin Diego Chara and captain Liam Ridgewell — are all a couple years past 30. If everything clicks, Portland could cruise. If Chara and Ridgewell — or, god forbid, Valeri — break down, though, Savarese could be reeling. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Andy Polo

KEY LOSS: Darlington Nagbe

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 6th in West

Real Salt Lake

They couldn’t quite overcome a slow start to sneak into the playoffs, but RSL closed 2017 as one of the hottest teams in all of MLS. Their young core of Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino and Homegrown Players Justen Glad, Danny Acosta and Brooks Lennon is as exciting as they come and has plenty of folks tabbing RSL as a trendy pick to contend in the West. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Damir Kreilach

KEY LOSS: Chris Wingert

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 1st in West

San Jose Earthquakes

A new year, a new era in San Jose. The Quakes took a European turn this winter, with Swiss GM Jesse Fioranelli hiring Swede Mikael Stahre as the club’s new head coach and signing Swedish striker Magnus Eriksson to a Designated Player deal. How the two Swedes adapt to MLS will do a lot to determine if San Jose can improve on a 2017 in which they made the playoffs but had a negative-21 goal differential. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Magnus Eriksson

KEY LOSS: Victor Bernardez

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 7th in West

Seattle Sounders

Continuity is the buzzword on the Puget Sound heading into the season. Seattle, who had significant turnover after winning MLS Cup 2016, are bringing back almost everyone from the team that fell short in the final in Toronto in December. Will that core be enough after an offseason that saw most of the other Cup contenders make big moves? The Sounders are betting on it. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Magnus Wolff Eikrem

KEY LOSS: Joevin Jones

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 2nd in West

Sporting KC

If defense wins championships, how come Sporting KC can’t seem to get past the Knockout Round? Another year of playoff disappointment prompted Peter Vermes to break out the TAM and DP slots to replace the traded Benny Feilhaber, augment the league’s best backline and keep pace with the rest of the league. What Vermes hasn’t done (yet) is land the forward #SKCnation yearns for. Are Khiry Shelton and Diego Rubio enough to make KC a top contender? Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Felipe Gutierrez

KEY LOSS: Benny Feilhaber

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 3rd in West

Toronto FC

Could Toronto do the quadruple? It’s certainly possible after the best team in MLS history had few changes over the short offseason. Already off to a good start in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Reds could make a run in the continental tourney before setting their sights on retaining their three other trophies. Keep an eye on Greg Vanney’s lineups though, as he will not want to wear out his team before the stretch run. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Gregory van der Wiel

KEY LOSS: Steven Beitashour

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 2nd in East

Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps favorite ride is the Forward Carousel, and Kei Kamara is the latest to climb aboard. With Kamara and Kendall Waston attacking dead balls, Vancouver ought to dominate on set pieces … but can they step out of their direct shell and go toe-to-toe with the league’s best? The answer in the playoffs was a resounding no, and the likes of Yordy Reyna, Efrain Juarez and Alphonso Davies will have to prove this version of the ‘Caps is different. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Efrain Juarez

KEY LOSS: Fredy Montero

BEN BAER’S 2018 PREDICTION: 8th in West

Five things learned from the Premier League weekend

Richard Jolly,Yahoo Sport UK 20 hours ago 

Romelu Lukaku scored his first Manchester United goal against England’s top six in the 2-1 win over Chelsea.

  1. Lukaku ends his top-six drought to sink Chelsea.

Under other circumstances, Romelu Lukaku’s role in setting up Jesse Lingard’s winner against Chelsea would have counted for more than this equaliser. A fine cross highlighted the improvement in his game outside the penalty box. But he had waited 938 minutes. Or more than six months since his debut.However it is measured, it is safe to say the costliest striker in Manchester United’s history was expected to find the net against any of England’s top six rather sooner into his Old Trafford career. The overall statistics are still unflattering – one goal from his opening 18 shots against the English elite for United, five in his last 42 games, incorporating his time at Everton – but at least it was a start when, for the first time, he struck against Chelsea.

READ MORE: Lukaku and Lingard complete Old Trafford comeback

READ MORE: Criticism never affected me, insists Lukaku

READ MORE: Mourinho hails Lukaku display against old club Chelsea

Lukaku’s potency against relegation-threatened teams is not in doubt. It is one of the reasons United signed him. To be a genuine success at Old Trafford, however, he has to score defining goals on such stages. A composed finish offered more encouragement after some unconvincing efforts in previous summit clashes. So did his role in the goal.Lukaku’s work-rate has been questioned in such games. The sense is that he is showing more industry for United. It was significant that the Belgian battled to win the ball back before Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial set him up. He almost added another with a spectacular volley. The next, and bigger, test is to do it more often when United could have 11 more matches this season against either England’s top six or leading European sides.Willian became a rare player to score against Barcelona and Manchester United in the same week.

  1. Willian makes it harder for Conte to bench him again.

Antonio Conte spent some of Friday defending his past decisions to bench Willian for much of his time in charge of Chelsea, either because he preferred Pedro or, in playing 3-5-2, he omitted both. It will be harder to omit the Brazilian for the remaining few months. Willian has supplanted Eden Hazard as the Blues’ form player. He has also reduced the reliance on the Belgian. His opener at Old Trafford was his fifth goal in six starts. More pertinently, it was a second in two against elite opponents: first Barcelona and then United.

AS IT HAPPENED: Manchester United vs Chelsea, Premier League

READ MORE: Mourinho shakes Conte with mind games

READ MORE: Conte demands VAR after Morata sees Old Trafford equaliser ruled out

It showed many of the attributes that Jose Mourinho admires in the man he took to Stamford Bridge: the defensive diligence to track back and win a header in his own box; the speed and directness to break quickly and the power to get into the United penalty box; the finishing prowess to take his chance. It should not be forgotten that Willian was Chelsea’s outstanding player in their bleak final few months under Mourinho, the one whose form improved as everyone else’s collapsed.He has showed his character before. This was evidence of his ability. And with a tiring Hazard being removed in defeat at Old Trafford, it illustrated the importance of another relieving the Belgian of his burden if Chelsea are to reclaim a top-four spot.

West Ham and Pablo Zabaleta struggled to stop Andrew Robertson as he set up a goal in Liverpool’s 4-1 win.

  1. Robertson solves Liverpool’s left-back problem.

A left-footer who Liverpool signed in the summer excelled on Saturday. Mohamed Salah got his regulation goal, added an assist and helped Jurgen Klopp’s team pass 100 goals for the season as they beat West Ham 4-1. But another was almost as impressive. It was Andrew Robertson’s cross that brought Sadio Mane’s goal, just as it was the Scot who centred when Salah spurned a golden chance. Nor was it a one-off display. He has been consistently excellent in a time when he has started 14 of Liverpool’s last 15 league games, relentless going forward and solid on his defensive duties.

READ MORE: Salah nets again as Reds climb to second

READ MORE: Liverpool win had everything – Klopp enthuses over West Ham’s Anfield rout

READ MORE: Liverpool Fan View – Four talking points from the 4-1 win over West Ham

Rewind a few months and Alberto Moreno was the regular in the side and being described as the answer to Liverpool’s perennial left-back problems. The Spaniard, despite some encouraging displays, is not: he remains too erratic and too defensively suspect.But Robertson should be: just as Virgil van Dijk’s arrival means they no longer need to sign a centre-back in the summer, he should end their pursuit of a left-back. It has been a position where Liverpool have long lacked a top-class performer – John Arne Riise is probably their best in the Premier League era, though right-backs Rob Jones and Alvaro Arbeloa did well at times on the opposite flank and midfielder James Milner began well last season – but now, finally, they appear to have the solution.Alan Pardew’s West Bromwich Albion lost 2-1 to Huddersfield to leave them six points behind 19th-place Stoke.

  1. Beaten Baggies look doomed.

It is one of the closest relegation battles in years. With one exception, anyway. While only eight points separate ninth from 19th, West Bromwich Albion are six points adrift at the foot of the table. Saturday’s defeat to Huddersfield left them staring the Championship firmly in the face. In theory, the fixture list until the middle of April is friendly; in reality, they have won one league game since August so it scarcely seems to matter who they face.

AS IT HAPPENED: West Brom v Huddersfield

READ MORE: Mounie puts West Brom in real trouble

READ MORE: Pardew says he still has tricks in his repertoire to keep West Brom up

The increasingly beleaguered manager Alan Pardew raised the question of Leicester last week; not the Foxes’ title-winning exploits, but their great escape the previous season, when Nigel Pearson’s side won seven of their last nine league games. Albion may only require six victories, or five plus a sprinkling of draws, but, as Pardew pointed out, they have won three of their last 37 league games. Whether or not he is fired, they seem to be going down without a whimper whereas their conquerors, Huddersfield, are straining every sinew to stay up.Glenn Murray scored twice in Brighton’s 4-1 win over Swansea to reach 10 Premier League goals for the season.

  1. Prolific Murray overshadows Brighton’s record buy.

When Brighton spent a club record £14 million on Jurgen Locadia, it seemed a public admission that Chris Hughton lacked a goalscorer. It looked the beginning of the end for Glenn Murray, the valiant veteran who helped them get promotion. It appeared hard to argue with that: there was a time in November and December when Brighton only scored one goal in nine league games.

AS IT HAPPENED: Brighton v Swansea

READ MORE: Two-goal Murray helps end Swans’ unbeaten run

READ MORE: Dunk equals record for own goals in a single Premier League season

And, indeed, Locadia can claim he has made a difference. The former PSV Eindhoven forward has struck in both appearances for his new club. But he completed the scoring against Swansea and while that made it the first time since 1981 that Brighton had mustered four goals in a top-flight game, Murray got the vital first two goals. He has five in as many games in all competitions, 10 in the Premier League this season. Only more celebrated and, in most cases, expensive attackers have more. The Championship stalwart is averaging a goal every 156 minutes in the Premier League this season. Brighton look likely to stay up. If they do, it will owe much to the underrated Murray.

 

Indy 1 – 2 FC Cincy: talking points

February 23, 2018by Nipun Chopra  Soctakes.com  

Indy XI hosted early Eastern conference title contenders, FC Cincinnati at Grand Park yesterday. It was Indy’s first pre-season game of the season and the two teams played out 3×30 minute periods. While FC Cincy was largely at full-strength, Indy XI was missing a number of players who had not arrived to training yet.

Takeaways:

  1. Indy XI played a flat 4-4-2for most of the game. The team started with Juan Guerra and Brad Ring as CMs, and Zach Steinberger and Ben Speas on the wing. Ex-NY Cosmos striker Eugene Starikov had a strong game as the main striker up top, while “trialist” David Goldsmith played as support striker. The fact that Goldsmith – who showed determination and moments of individual skill – has not been offered a contract is one of the many puzzling decisions made by the new coaching staff. Goldsmith* had the best opportunity of the first period, when his header resulted in a good save by the FCC keeper.

Starikov and Guerra were the pick of the players in yesterday’s scrimmage. Guerra’s distribution was excellent, and with Brad Ring as a ball-winning midfielder beside him, together they produced turnovers and counterattacking opportunities in midfield for Indy XI. Guerra also managed to go an entire 45’ without diving once. So, that’s progress.

  1. We played on the counter. It’s really hard to extrapolate from a single preseason game. Additionally, FC Cincinnati are a strong team designed to retain possession (as a sidenote: This is a complete 180 degree tactical turn from Koch’s team last year). And therefore, playing on the counter, may yet have been a natural consequence of superior opposition combined with lack of match fitness.

However, it is important to note, that for the first 45’, Indy created excellent chances on the counter. In particular, Steinberger’s movement created space and opportunities for others. The Butler University graduate excelled in the support striker role during the early stages of the 2017 NASL season for Jacksonville Armada. His late runs into the box often go unmarked and that is a tactical asset Rennie will undoubtedly look to unleash. Whether Steinberger is consistently able to do that in a winger role is unclear. Both Speas and Steinberger had their best moments when drifting centrally – and that is a positional issue Rennie will have to work out. It may yet necessitate a switch back to Hankinson’s infamous 4-4-2 diamond.

  1. 3. Indy played a low-bloc defensive line. Yet again, this could be a consequence of superior opposition, but Indy’s defensive line played very deep for most of the game. When the line did push up, it was via slow, ponderous passing between the centerbacks – lead by the towering Brad Rusin – and the two DMs.

The fullbacks helped retain a pretty well-organized defensive shape. Tyler Pasher had a good outing at Left back. All the scouts and coaches I’ve spoken to (who know Pasher) rate the young Canadian winger/full back very highly. They unanimously call him one of the quicker players they’ve seen, while a few highlight his crossing ability. From what I saw of him yesterday, I was pleased by his defensive positioning.

  1. There were a number of trialists. Particularly in the final period, there were a number of players who aren’t currently on Indy XI’s roster. A pre-season game like this allows Rennie to see if certain players are capable of achieving the high standards Rennie demands. One trialist who stood out for this author was a floppy-maned central midfielder (for now, let’s call him Shaggy). Shagster looked like the part during his cameo. While young players can often chase shadows in games like this, Shaggalicious’ distribution, short-passing and reading of the game were strong. He kept things fairly simple – except for one long range pass for Amankona down the right wing. Shaggababy may yet end up on a roster, based on his performance. Would provide some much-needed squad depth at the CM position.

Soc Takes reached out to Indy XI to ascertain the name of current trialists. That request was declined.

  1. Soony Saadup. Saad won and converted Indy XI’s penalty (Click the link below to download and view a video of the penalty) and was the standout player for Indy during a difficult final 30’ when FC Cincinnati really took control of the game. Saad’s best moments came with the ball in front of him, rather than when he had to play with his back to goal. The 25-year old Lebanon international possesses an acceleration and a powerful shot that will trouble opposition defenders. Whether Rennie deploys him as a winger or a forward will likely define Saad’s season.. Follow Nipun on Twitter: @NipunChopra7.

Indy Eleven’s first USL roster is barely recognizable

Kevin Johnston, Special to IndyStarPublished 12:12 p.m. ET Feb. 19, 2018 | Updated 4:49 p.m. ET Feb. 20, 2018

Team has just three holdovers, but added notable firepower Monday with acquisition of Jack McInerney.

There are typically two methods for roster reclamation projects: keep a core group together and tinker, or practically blow the whole thing up and start from scratch.Evidently, new Indy Eleven manager Martin Rennie is a fan of the latter approach. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A year after reaching the 2016 North American Soccer League’s final, the Eleven backslid last season. They won just seven of 32 games played and parted ways with coach Tim Hankinson and a host of familiar faces. The only returnees from Indy’s 2017 side are Ben Speas, Justin Braun and original member Brad Ring — just three total holdovers as the franchise transitions from the NASL to the United Soccer League this spring.Former Butler midfielder Zach Steinberger also returns to the team after playing for the Eleven on loan from Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo in 2015.Beyond those familiar faces, Rennie has assembled a few NASL standouts whom fans might recognize from Indy’s previous rivals, particularly the San Francisco Deltas and New York Cosmos. The club signed midfielder Juan Guerra, defender Ayoze Garcia Perez and forward Eugene Starikov from the 2016 champion Cosmos, and added defenders Reiner Ferreira and Karl Ouimette from the 2017 champion Deltas.Steinberger (Jacksonville Armada FC), defender Brad Rusin (Miami FC) and midfielder Seth Moses (Puerto Rico FC) are also from Indy’s old NASL stomping grounds. Several of the ex-NASL guys are likely to contribute immediately.Monday, the Eleven added potentially its most recognizable name to soccer fans with the acquisition of 25-year-old forward Jack McInerney from the L.A. Galaxy. Since 2010, McInerney has scored 43 goals in 175 MLS appearances and he has been called up to the U.S. Men’s National Team’s U-17, U-20, U-23 and Senior squads.“He’s very hungry to keep scoring and we’re very lucky to have him join our team,” Rennie said in a news release. The club has also made good use of its international roster spots. Rennie, who hails from Scotland, hasn’t been bashful about importing foreign talent.On Wednesday, Indy signed two Trinidadian players in defender Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal FC) and forward Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh). The club also recently added a host of other internationals: Ghanaian midfielder Amass Amankona (Dayton Dutch Lions), Canadian wingback Tyler Pasher (Swope Park Rangers), Welsh goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams (Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC) and English midfielder Matt Watson (Phoenix Rising). Indy also brought in right back Kevin Venegas (Minnesota United FC) and backup goalkeeper Jordan Farr (Timbers III U23).How will the Indy Eleven line up for the season opener? Rennie hinted to IndyStar shortly after taking the job that a 4-3-3 (four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers) is his oft-used formation, but that’ll obviously depend on his final personnel.”I’m open-minded on that part,” Rennie said. “A lot of games that I have coached I’d say have kind of been a 4-3-3 formation.”

If it is in fact a 4-3-3, which is generally a more offensive setup, it likely won’t be a traditional one given Rennie’s knack for staying organized defensively. It could involve starting two central defensive midfielders — perhaps Ring and Guerra — sitting behind a more attack-minded midfielder like Steinberger or Speas. Such a formation would play more like a 4-2-3-1 regardless of how it looks on paper, and would require a little more two-way play from the wing forwards.WRALSportsFan.com’s Neil Morris, who covered Rennie for two-plus years during the Scot’s Carolina RailHawks coaching stint, recently dissected Rennie’s style”Your team is going to get better immediately,” Morris said. “That has been the hallmark of his every stop along his coaching way.”How that translates to years two, three and beyond is always the big question mark when it comes to Martin. But you’re going to have a guy who has a keen, keen, keen eye for talent.”Win or lose, Rennie has molded the 2018 Eleven roster on his own terms. He cares less about club nostalgia and more about finding guys that fit his system. In a USL Eastern Conference that has only improved this offseason, time will soon reveal if Rennie’s troops are up to the task.The Eleven will open their 2018 USL campaign on the road March 24 at the Richmond Kickers. The following weekend, their debut at Lucas Oil Stadium is set for March 31 at 7 p.m. against FC Cincinnati.

Corban’s Jordan Farr signs professional soccer contract with Indy 11

Gary Horowitz and Luis Ramirez, Statesman JournalPublished 7:15 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018 | Updated 6:22 p.m. ET Feb. 4, 2018

The Corban goalkeeper is nearing the NAIA record for shutouts. Molly J. Smith / Statesman Journal

Corban University goalkeeper Jordan Farr has signed a professional soccer contract with Indy Eleven of the United Soccer League, the franchise announced Friday.Farr, a Cascade High School graduate, is the fourth Corban player to sign a professional contract, joining current Corban men’s soccer coach Aaron Lewis (1999, Dallas Burn), Taurai Daka (2004, Charlotte Eagles) and Steve Reese (FCM Bacau/PortlandTimbers 2000/2007-08).Farr, an NAIA All-American at Corban, set a school record with 44 career shutouts, which ranks second in NAIA history.”Being a professional soccer player has been my dream since I could walk,” Farr said in a statement. “I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love at a very high level.”More: Corban goalkeeper Jordan Farr a defensive gem in the net

In addition to his success at Corban, Farr collected 2017 PDL All-Western Conference team honors last summer playing with the Portland Timbers U23s. He was the only NAIA goalkeeper to be named to the PDL’s College “Watch List.”Farr is scheduled to be in Indiana next week as the team begins its preseason training camp. Indy Eleven, based in Indianapolis, hopes to join the MLS in 2020.The USL (United Soccer League) is sanctioned as a Division II professional league placing it just below the MLS (Division I) in the United States professional soccer hierarchy. Former Cascade Surge and Vancouver Whitecaps Manager, Martin Rennie was recently named the new head coach at Indy Eleven.“He went to Houston to work out with the Dynamo and I know Sporting Kansas City had interest in him,” Lewis said. “Timbers 2 invited him into training camp, but when Mark Rennie accepted the job at Indy Eleven, we had a relationship with him and he had a lot of interest in Jordan.”Indy Eleven currently has one other goalkeeper on the roster, giving Farr an opportunity to fight for playing time. “I’m really confident in Jordan and I think he’ll really compete for the number one job,” Lewis said. “This is probably the biggest thing that we’ve done outside of our team accomplishments.”Farr will report to training camp next week and will have their first preseason match against FC Cincinnati on February 22. Indy Eleven’s first regular season game will be on March 24 against the Richmond Kickers. “To have a player come from local roots, and develop through Salem and Corban University, is inspiring to many,” Lewis said. “Jordan is well equipped to make the jump to the professional level, and I am confident he has what it takes to have a long professional career.”ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com or Twitter.com/@GHorowitz

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