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


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


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}.


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.


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 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


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 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


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


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

Season: (save on ticket fees!)  {Promo code 2018indy}.
Flex Packs:
Single Game:

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

Indy 11_HomeOpener_ISA

Indy 11 Single Game:

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:


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,

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.


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’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.


  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?


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


By, 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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