4/27/18   Indy 11 Discount Tix Wed/Sat, Champs League Semi’s, ICC Tix on Sale, Toronto loses CCL

Wow – I do love Champions League Soccer – our Liverpool and Mo Salah (2 goals/2 assist) were spectacular as they scored 5 goals and were routing Roma as Anfield was rocking – then boom – the last 10 minutes Roma scored 2 goals.  Still a 3 goal lead going  back to Roma – while exactly the same deficit that Roma overcame against Barcelona in the last round – will certainly be a high hill to climb. In the other semi-final between heavyweights’ Bayern Munich and 2 time Defending Champs Real Madrid – it was again Renaldo’s group that came out on top 2-1 despite being outshot almost 2-0 in Germany and ending Renaldo’s record breaking consecutive UCL game scoring streak at 11.  Bayern suffered injuries to Robben and allstar center back Boateng in the process making the return leg to Madrid all that more daunting for the squad that has been knocked out by Real in 3 straight seasons.  See the return leg times for both next week below.  Hugely sad to see fan attack they took place around the Liverpool game on Tuesday – Klopp was beside himself describing his emotions after the big win then finding out about the attack.

Europa League

So I have to admit I found myself rooting for embattled Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger to win his 1st Europa League title despite his European Trophy snide in this his final year with the Gunners.  Was it time for Wenger to step down yes – he should have probably stepped away before last season – but still lets not forget his revolutionized the English game when he arrived 21+ years ago forging the only team to go undefeated in the EPL since the 1850s back in 2004 with the Invicibles. But honestly when the ref sent an Atletico Madrid player off with a 2nd soft yellow in the 10th minute and then kicked out the Man in Black – Athletico manager Diego Simeon in the 20th minute after his team received ball call after bad call.  I admit I flipped jerseys at halftime and though Arsenal pounded top 5 Goalkeeper Jan Oblak who was spectacular – the 1-1 tie was fitting as Antoine Griezmann made the solo run with 10 left to gain the ever important away goal at the Emerates.

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille 

So the International Champions Cup times and locations have been announced as the top European Clubs including Dortmund and US star Christian Pulisic, Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Roma, AC Milan, and more.  I have the special code to get you EARLY ACCESS to order Tickets before they go on sale to the general public on May 1.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

TV Games

Man United will travel to Arsenal on Sunday at 11:30  am on NBCSN and looks to spoil Wenger’s farewell tour.  They follow West Ham vs Man City which kicks off at 7:30 am.  Also Sunday Dortmund and American Christian Pulisic travel to Mainz looking for points as they battle for top 4 (champions League spots). Saturday gives us Liverpool hosting relegation threateed Stoke City and American Geoff Cameron at 7:30 am on NBCSN, followed by Swansea and Chelsea at 12:30 on NBCSN as well.

MLS

MLS Champions Toronto FC – came surging back on the road behind Altidore and Giovinco goals and beat CD Guadalajara 2-1 but it wasn’t enough to win the CONCACAF Champions LeagueTrophy as the Mexican side won the penalty shootout 4-2 to take the Crown. Disappointing for both Toronto and MLS – but some serious guts shown by Toronto as Michael Bradley was forced to play center back do to injuries – of course he missed his penalty kick again – the loss leaves MLS never having won the UCL Title.   Looking ahead to this weekend LAFC opens their spectacular new stadium on Sunday night on Fox Sports 1 at 9 pm after Colorado hosts Orlando City and former Carmel Dad’s Club player Cameron Lindley at 4 pm on ESPN.

As we come to the end of the European season with every major league title winner basically decided except Italy’s Serie A, the eyes go to relegation battles and advancement.  In England Wolverhampton will move up to the EPL next season – battling out for the other 3 spots are one of my favorite teams Fulham (who once had 4 American’s starting about 8 years ago), Cardiff and Aston Villa (former home of US keeper Brad Guzan). Moving down is Sunderland.

Indy 11

The next two weeks will be the most difficult for the “Boys in Blue” thus far this season. Indy Eleven will face Charlotte Independence away from home on April 28. A short week follows as “Indiana’s Team” seeks revenge against rivals FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, May 2, who defeated Indy Eleven 0-1 in Indy’s home opener. Three days later, the “Boys in Blue” face Louisville City FC at home for the first time this season. Special Ticket Prices can be found here – (code indy 2018) or for just $10 per game – you can get tickets to both games.

Carmel FC – Goalkeepers – Remember we are training with former Indy 11 Goalkeeper Kristian Nicht on Thursday night not Wed next week – at Shelbourne same times.  OBC

International Champions Cup

Tix in the US go on sales May 1st to the General Public but I have a special Link to allow you in the PRE-SALE.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

Man City vs Borussia Dortmund – Fri July 20 9 pm Chicago Soldier Field

Man United vs Liverpool  – Sat July 28 5 pm Michigan Stadium (tix on sale now)

ICC Full Schedule

Big ICC Games Coming ESPNFC

Champions League

Liverpool Goal Threat will See Roma Off & can beat Bayern or Madrid Mark Odgen

Liverpool’s Chaotic – Awesome Attack undermined by defensive misshaps – Steven Kelly ESPNFC

Liverpool Dazzles but leaves Roma a chance – eSPNFC Mark Ogden

Player ratings Liverpool – Salah 10/10 ESPNFC

Reckless Roma Makes it Too Easy for Liverpool – Michael Cox ESPNFC

Livepool Routs Roma – Avi Creditor – SI

Salah, Liverpool overwealm Roma, Leave door Open for UCL comeback however – SI Jon Wilson

Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to be out for year

Klopp Can’t Describe in Emotions over Fan Attack in Liverpool

We should Embrace Real Madrids Nonsense Run While it Last – Joey Gunlino FC Yahoo

Real Madrid Put 1 Foot in Final as Bayern Munich rue Missed Chances – Nick Ames ESPNFC

Bayern Have Lost the Winning Edge ESPNFC Nick Ames

Mueller – we didn’t Take our Chances Well –

This the Highest Scoring Champions League Season

 

Mistakes Define Arsenal Again – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Arsenal Squander Chance as 10 Man Atletico make them Pay – Mark Ogden SEPNFC

Indy 11

Charlotte vs Indy 11 Preview – Bloody Shambles – Rebecca Townsend

Indy 11 Bye Week Tidings

Indy 11 Two Pack – $20 for a ticket to 2 games Wed and Sat

Soony Saad puts bow on 11 Victory  – soctakes

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Wed & Next Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

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

Indy 11 Banner

https://www.indyeleven.com/two-pack

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 get the $11 rate its $15 at the game. 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.

GoalKeeping

Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas shows Character in Win over Bayern

Can Regular folks off the Street Score on an MLS Goalkeeper?

Every shot faced by Barcelona Ter Stegan and Roma – Becker in UCL Game  

Navas great saves vs Juve

Top Saves of the week around the World

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

Toronto does Everything Right in CCL Final but Win – Bobby Warsaw MLS.com

3 Thoughts on TFC painfull CCL Final Loss – Matt Doyle – MLS.com

Chivas ensure MLS Wait for 1st CCL Title Continues – Tom Marshall ESPNFC

Gutting Loss for Toronto – SI – Brian Straus

Seattle hoping to Ruin LAFCs First Game at Home

Day in Training with NYCfC

How long with Giovinco be with Toronto NBCSN

Zlatan’s Return Ruled out by Sweden for WC

2018 MLS Ambition Rankings – Which Clubs Raise the Bar the Highest at the League Grows – SI Grant Wahl / Brian Straus

EPL

Arsenal Fans Excited for Times after Arsene Wenger

Why Arsene Really Left – ESPNFC

Man U out ot spoil Arsenal’s Farewell Tour

Wenger greatest Manager to Never Win a European Cup – UK Yahoo Sports

Fulham America – in contention for Promotion to EPL

Relegation Battles all over England

USA

Christian Pulisic to Make USMNT Return in Late May

US Coach Dave Sarachan Unlikely to Bring in Old Guard right now

Morroco World Cup Bid Faces Scrutiny – USA Today

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN              Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

Fri, May 4-

3:05 pm NBCSN  Brighton vs Man United

Sat, May 5

7:30 am NBCSBN         Stoke Citdy (Cameron) vs Crystal Palace (Relegation battle)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Mainz

10 am NBCSN              West Brom vs Totteham

12 noon beIN sport     Milan vs Verona

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN              Everton vs Southampton

2:45 pm BeIN Sport   Juventus vs Bologna

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

8:30 am NBCSN          Man City vs Huddersfield

9:30 am FS1              Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN       Chelsea vs Liverpool

5  pm                                  Orlando vs Real Salt Lake

Wed, May 9

2 pm belin Sport        Barcelona vs Villarreal

2:45 pm NBCSN           Liecester City vs Arsenal

Soaring Like Eagles, Indy Eleven’s Power Animals Emerge – Charlotte Independence V Indy Eleven PREVIEW 4/28/2018

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend) Bloody Shambles Blog

Today’s soccer story is not about individuals. It is about a team. About vision. About internalizing identity. Today’s soccer story is about what Indy is — and what it aspires to be.Thanks to an upbringing among the hippies and woodland folk of Bloomington, Indiana, and the surrounding country, the Pitch Bitch is inclined to look toward her natural environment for signs and signals — for messages.

Today, the message was power — in the form of first an eagle and then three hawks. These magnificent creatures will bookend this soccer story.Driving to Grand Park, looking forward to watching professionals coach and train on a beautiful, sunny spring morning, the feeling of gratitude pervades. Not everyone is so lucky to breathe fresh air and spend quality time immersed in their greatest passion. Let those of us who do, never take that for granted. A quarter mile from the field, an eagle rises above a retention pond, scoping out its breakfast opportunities.It is strong, swerving … observant, deadly.he eagle is a power animal. We can adopt its characteristics. “How high will we soar?” is the question. And after today’s practice, the Pitch Bitch answers, “As high as we keep pushing each other.”The Indy Eleven squad was on the field on time, organized and warming up in a spirit of professionalism. By being on time and ready to go, players are saying they are serious. And when it came time to work, they were working. They were finding the balance between being tough with teammates but not too tough (aka breaking) teammates as they sharpen attacking maneuvers and accelerate defensive response times.We are heading into a massive week — an away game in Charlotte, North Carolina, this Saturday followed by two home games in four days: a grudge match on Wednesday against nasty FC Cincy (which had the audacity to steal from us victory in our first home game) and our first taste of Louisville City FC on Saturday.  Not wanting to be like a dimwitted war correspondent, telescoping the intentions of her troops ahead to enemy spies, the Pitch Bitch will not prognosticate at this point on lineups and formations, but instead on the team’s characteristics as a whole. In this spirit, she approached assistant coach Phillip Dos Santos after practice with this question: “How do you want this team to represent itself against the other teams in the league? How will you set yourselves apart?”He responded, “We want to win. What we’re bringing to practice every day is a competitive environment — that carries through to games. We have a quality roster that allows for us to win every game — at home and away. That’s what championship teams are about. We work for that every day.”

That’s a straightforward answer. It says: We are driven to push harder. We work with the intention of succeeding. If the eagle could speak English, it would say something like that: “I am strong. And I fly quick, decisive patterns to disarm — and then slay — my prey. I don’t work in vain. I don’t starve. I feast!”Our opponents will see quick pressing, sprinting attacks from all angles, commitment to possession. They will see movement off the ball, slicing open their defenses, they will feel our penetration, they will watch with paranoia as our runners slip behind them, they will struggle and (more often than not if all goes according to plan,) fail to keep up with our relentlessness. Confidence is stoked by the words of keeper Owain Fôn Williams spoken with resonant confidence from his line, “Keep working, boys! Keep working!”Returning to the city to find a heavenly perch in the sun overlooking a sea of trees and flowers in glorious expressions of long-overdue spring in Indiana, the Pitch Bitch begins to compose her report and review her photographs of training when her attention is at once stolen by the shriek of a nearby hawk.he looks up to see not one — BUT THREE — hawks flying a circular pattern just 30 feet directly above her head. The message of power is cubed!!! The birds played with their flight patterns like a group of midfielders supporting each other as they work their way up the field, dropping, overlapping, drifting wide, pushing higher, higher, higher …

Indy 11 Banner

https://www.indyeleven.com/two-pack

Liverpool goal threat will see off Roma and can beat Bayern or Madrid

6:25 PM ETMark Ogdenenior Football Writer

LIVERPOOL, England — Nobody knows better than Liverpool that a three-goal lead is not always a guarantee of success in the Champions League.They will never forget the “Miracle of Istanbul” at Anfield — that night in May 2005 when Rafael Benitez’s team overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit against AC Milan to win the club’s fifth European Cup on penalties — but there have been more recent reminders that such an advantage is not enough to be certain at the highest level of European competition.Back in November, Jurgen Klopp’s team surrendered a 3-0 lead against Sevilla in Spain to emerge with a draw in Group E and there was, of course, Roma’s remarkable 3-0 victory against Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this month, which saw the Italians eliminate the Liga leaders, despite suffering a 4-1 first-leg defeat at the Nou Camp.So Klopp’s men will certainly not travel to the Italian capital next week with any thoughts of their job being done as they attempt to defend a 5-2 lead in order to book a place in the Champions League final, on May 26 in Kiev.”There would have been work for us to do when we win 5-0 because Roma would have tried everything to strike back anyway, so that’s not a big difference,” said Klopp. “What I learn tonight is that we can win the second game as well, even when it will be different. Roma needs to score goals against us.”Liverpool have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to a three-goal lead, while Roma will go into pitch next Wednesday believing they can repeat the heroics of their Barca fightback. The Stadio Olimpico will be infused with belief and hope after seeing Lionel Messi and co. dumped out in sensational fashion.But while Liverpool only have themselves to blame for allowing a five-goal lead to be cut to three as a result of Edin Dzeko’s late strike and Diego Perotti’s penalty — Klopp said “the Liverpool way is always a little bit harder” — they can take comfort in the fact that they have more goals in them than any other team in Europe.That firepower should be enough to get them through next week’s test and will also give them confidence that they can defeat either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in Ukraine to take the European Cup to Anfield for a sixth time.Barcelona failed to score in Rome earlier this month and that was their downfall, but Liverpool have 38 goals in this season’s Champions League group stage and knockout rounds — 11 more than second-highest scorers Paris Saint-Germain — and have hit the back of the net in every one of their away games, dating back to an August playoff win at Hoffenheim.KIopp’s men may have faced some of the weaker teams in this season’s Champions League but they hit seven away to Maribor and netted five against Porto in Estadio do Dragao during the Round of 16, not to mention the three they scored in that crazy draw in Seville.Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring even more regularly in this competition than Mo Salah, who managed two against his former club on Tuesday, have only managed 26 goals so far this season, while Bayern, their opponents in the other semifinal have scored 23.Ronaldo, who is the competition’s leading scorer this term with 15, will always pose a unique threat for Real, while Bayern will expect Robert Lewandowski to deliver, despite the fact he has just five European goals in 2017-18.Liverpool have been ruthless and their cutting edge has been sharpened as a result. It is why they travelled to Manchester City earlier this month confident of adding to their 3-0 first-leg victory. They did so, winning 2-1 the Etihad Stadium against the Premier League champions, with goals from Salah and Firmino.Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane have hit 23 goals between them in the Champions League this season and Roma must find a way to stop them adding to their combined total to have any hope of another shock next week. If they do not, the mountain facing Eusebio di Francesco’s players becomes even more imposingAt the other end, Liverpool have conceded nine goals in 11 games, but the £75 million addition of Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the defence has contributed to tightening up at the back, which has seen Liverpool concede just three times in five knockout-round games.Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain’s injury could be serious and will further stretch a squad without Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Joel Matip but, if Liverpool advance to face either Bayern or Real, they will go into the final knowing that they have the forwards and attacking game to win.

Chaotic Liverpool’s awesome attack undermined by more defensive mishaps

:45 AM ETSteven Kelly

Liverpool’s semifinal tie with AS Roma should be over.They can still reach their ninth European Cup final — their third in the Champions League format — and probably will, but instead of absolute certainty there is doubt once again.With any other team capable of such breath-taking attacking football — and there’s just a few in the world, club or international level — it would be over, but this is Liverpool; specifically, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Exhilarating and infuriating.Can you name another team that could score five goals and whose fans then end up whistling furiously for the referee to end the game?Yes, it was only a first leg and everyone knows what Roma are capable of on their own ground, but such was the nervousness triggered by the Reds’ late stumble that it was obvious supporters expected a previously timid Roma to score every time they came forward.It happens too often for comfort. Last season, Bournemouth won a match 4-3 after being 3-1 down with 15 minutes to go. This season Liverpool were three up at Sevilla and ended up drawing the game. There are other examples.Over the next week fans will rev up the confidence and go into the second leg convinced it can be won.It’s all a smokescreen. In the back of everyone’s mind is the knowledge that Liverpool could blow this. As exciting as this team clearly is, they really put their fans through the wringer.The levels in Serie A may not be what they once were but such a hammering rarely happens to an Italian side in Europe. They were taken apart and if Sadio Mane had been on top of his game there might have been a record Champions League score-line.Given this was a semifinal against a team that just knocked out Barcelona, it was an extraordinary performance.People may say Roma also conceded four at the Camp Nou but there were moments of fortune for the Catalonian giants. ESPN’s Gab Marcotti tweeted as much, claiming this was a completely different game although the score was similar.Now, Roma can go through again with another 3-0 win. You can say lightning doesn’t strike twice but this is a chaotic, whirlwind Champions League tournament where anything can happen and already has.Liverpool’s Fab Three forward line scored all the goals again. Together they’ve racked up an incredible 88 in all competitions. Even Paris Saint Germain’s magical trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani cannot match that, despite playing in a weaker league.An individual season like Salah’s happens once in a generation and yet incredibly Liverpool might still not be playing in the Champions League next season. It’s insane, and so exasperating.A lack of defensive solidity is clearly to blame. There were warning signs on Saturday against relegation certainties West Brom and this isn’t the first time Liverpool have come under the cosh late in games.Injuries are tying Klopp’s hands in terms of rotating the squad and an early knock to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on Tuesday did not look good. Using the same players continuously must surely be tiring.Liverpool are still favourites to get a top four place in the Premier League while also reaching the Champions League final.Over confidence in how this team can just get whatever goals they require could be damaging however, as it was during Brendan Rodgers’ title surge in 2014.Few cared if the Reds conceded two, they’d just score three. There were few qualms if they let three in, they could even score six as they once did against Cardiff City.When it mattered most however, costly mistakes took a long-awaited title away from Liverpool.Can Klopp fix these lapses? Does he even want to? The big money defensive signing Virgil van Dijk is already having moments of carelessness so it cannot be blamed on the personnel, although those who do so saw yet another error from Dejan Lovren against Roma as more proof.Some may regard it as the price worth paying for such tremendous excitement at the other end. Others will claim such brilliance simply cannot camouflage the unreliability at the other end forever.All forwards have an off day. Everyone in Liverpool’s forward line had one against Manchester United recently, though some praised Jose Mourinho’s so-called masterplan as the cause.If they were to fire blanks at the Stadio Olimpico in a week’s time it wouldn’t generally matter if your team already leads by three goals.That’s if the rest of the team is fully capable of doing their job. The team that conceded three goals in one half against Sevilla, Arsenal and West Brom in the FA Cup has needed rescuing by its forwards countless times.It would be nice if defence could return the favour in Rome next week but few would bet on it.

Liverpool dazzle but give Roma small chance in CL semifinal second leg

4:50 PM ETark OgdenSenior Football Writer

LIVERPOOL, England — Three thoughts from Anfield as Liverpool raced to a 5-0 lead vs. Roma only to let in two late goals in their Champions League semifinal, first leg.1. Liverpool could face anxious night in Roma after late slump

Liverpool need to avoid a three-goal defeat in Rome next Wednesday to reach the Champions League final, but Jurgen Klopp’s team should have already booked their place in Kiev after building a 5-0 lead before conceding two late goals against Roma.Having scored two late goals through Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti, Roma gave themselves hope of another Champions League miracle, having stunned Barcelona in the quarterfinals. But Liverpool will still travel to the Italian capital as favourites to make it to the final having dominated this tie for over an hour.Two Mohamed Salah goals, another two from Roberto Firmino and one from Sadio Mane gave Liverpool what seemed an unassailable lead. But Dzeko’s late strike and a Perotti penalty left Eusebio Di Francesco’s team needing to win next Wednesday’s return leg 3-0 to make it to the final — the same score that saw the giallorossi eliminate Barcelona in the last eight.Can Roma do it again? Well they will need to perform better than they did at Anfield, when they allowed the Liverpool forwards far too much time and space to run riot.Liverpool were sublime at times, tearing holes into the Roma defence, with Salah in particular giving his former club nightmares. But the defensive frailties that always threaten Liverpool’s progress returned in the final stages and only time will tell how costly the late Roma goals will beKlopp’s team, who lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a first-half knee injury, remain most likely to make it to Kiev for the Champions League final, but they ill travel to Rome knowing that they could be in for a torrid time at the Stadio Olimpico next week.

  1. Salah just goes on and on

When Mo Salah was announced as PFA Player of the Year on Sunday, there were many who believed that Manchester City’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne should have claimed the award. But even the most ardent City fan must now accept that the Liverpool forward has enjoyed such an exceptional season at Anfield that not only was he deserving of that award, he is now a strong candidate for the Ballon d’Or trophy that’s been the property of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the past decade.At some point, their stranglehold on the award will be broken and Salah’s incredible season makes him the most obvious challenger to take it off them.The Egypt international’s double against former club Roma took his tally for the season to 43 goals. He also set up two for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, just to show that he is more than a guy who simply puts the ball into the back of the net.Salah has been in majestic form for months and if he stays fit, Liverpool will have a fantastic chance of winning a sixth European Cup against either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in Kiev next month if they can see the result out next week. His goals are all similar, either a curler into the top corner or a chipped effort over the keeper, but nobody has yet found a way to stop him.Neither Real or Bayern would fancy facing Salah in Kiev, especially with the underrated Firmino and Mane alongside him. And if he can help inspired Liverpool to glory in the Ukraine capital, Salah may just move himself into pole position for the Ballon d’Or.

  1. How did Barcelona lose to Roma?

Roma’s quarterfinal success against Barcelona, when they overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit against La Liga’s leaders, will go down as one of the most memorable fight-backs in Champions League history, but it now looks like a freak result that will haunt Barca.Roma started well enough at Anfield but once 20 minutes had elapsed, they had surrendered the initiative to Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s team set about destroying them with a ruthless display.Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez up front, are arguably even more potent than Liverpool going forward, so their inability to score in Rome is inexplicable judging by the Italian club’s performance at Anfield.Roma were shambolic at times. The hapless Juan Jesus had a night to forget while goalkeeper Alisson did little to justify his reputation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. In midfield, Daniele De Rossi played like an old man while Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan could not get close to the home team in the centre of the pitch. Perhaps Barca’s defeat in Rome was an example of what can happen when teams take their foot off the gas and pay for their complacency.Roma’s two late goals give them hope next week but if they go out, it will be their awful performance for an hour in this game that will cost them.

Roma make it too easy for Liverpool in Champions League with reckless tactics

5:43 AM ETMichael Cox

Come the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Liverpool’s 5-2 victory over Roma on Tuesday will probably be remembered as the greatest night of the club’s campaign — depending, of course, upon whether they go one better and win the final itself.It was almost the archetypal Liverpool victory, one of those famous European nights at Anfield where they blow away the opposition with almost illogical levels of pace and power, nights that would be mythical if they didn’t happen quite so frequently.Yet in terms of performance, it probably won’t even rank in Liverpool’s best five of the campaign. Forget, for now, about the two late Roma goals that cast a peculiar shadow over the overwhelming victory — Liverpool’s performance wasn’t one of their best, simply because it didn’t need to be. It was just so easy for Liverpool to penetrate Roma’s defence repeatedly because of the staggeringly naive tactics used by Giallorossi boss Eusebio Di Francesco.Yet Di Francesco’s approach must be considered in the grand scheme of things, and in relation to Italian football’s position in Europe over recent years. For over 15 years now, Italian football has been mocked for two separate reasons. First, because it’s still seen as slow, defensive and overly tactical. Second, because their clubs have consistently underperformed in European competition.The two are, in a sense, related: football has shifted towards teams being more proactive, attack-minded and possession-based, and Italian sides have largely been left behind.There has, however, been something of a backlash. Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli aren’t simply overwhelmingly popular amongst neutrals because they’re the underdogs, but also because of their style of play. Napoli press well, pass well and, more than anything else, they play at an extremely high tempo.This has been Italian football’s major problem over the last decade in European football — they’re not tactically or technically inferior, but they’re completely unable to cope with the speed of the opposition. Think, for example, about the way Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon ripped apart both Inter and Milan for Tottenham back in 2010-11, or the way Juventus were pressed out of the game by Bayern Munich in 2012-13.Sarri is the leader in something of a revolution, and Di Francesco is on board too. Roma weren’t expected to progress from their Champions League group, up against both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but provided a surprise in terms of both results and tactics.Away at Stamford Bridge, they pressed aggressively and cohesively in a manner barely seen from Italian clubs in recent years. In their famous 3-0 victory over Barcelona they completely outplayed the Catalan side. And suddenly it seemed Italian football had, at last, risen from the ashes. A title fight between Juventus and Napoli, both excellent sides, and a third team into the semifinals of the Champions League; Serie A hadn’t seen anything like it for years.In simple terms, Roma got carried away with their all-out-attack approach, and tried to play against Liverpool the same way they’d played against Barcelona. But the two are entirely different sides. Barcelona are now a structured, narrow and slightly one-paced outfit that can be “got at” through aggressive midfield pressing. Lionel Messi plays just behind Luis Suarez with no threats from the flanks, and therefore a narrow three-man defence made sense.When the teamsheets were revealed at Anfield, Di Francesco was clearly using the same system. But surely it would be interpreted differently against the speed and width of Liverpool’s front three, with Roma effectively using a back five rather than a back three?It seemed that way in the opening stages, but when Roma pushed forward, so did the wing-backs. Not one at a time, as you might have expected — with the opposite wing-back tucking inside into a four-man defence — but both at the same time.Roma briefly caused problems with overloads on the wings, but more than anything they exposed their three-man defence to the speed of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. There are very few defenders in Europe who could have played that way. Kostas Manolas, Juan Jesus and, in particular, Federico Fazio aren’t in that number.Liverpool had space everywhere: space for Firmino to drop into between the lines, space for Mane to speed into in behind, space on the outside for Salah to collect the ball on the flanks, and even space for Salah to cut inside into for his outstanding opening goal.The second was typical of Liverpool’s approach, Firmino dropping into a classic false No. 9 position to poke through for Salah. It’s the Egyptian who gets the Messi comparisons, but Messi’s old false No. 9 role is now being played expertly by Firmino with assists like that.The third was the simplest goal, with Trent Alexander-Arnold tossing the ball into 40 yards of space, Salah sprinting onto it and then ambling almost casually towards goal. Firmino and Mane actually did poorly here, making almost the same run, but Roma’s defence was in such a state that they couldn’t cut out the pass to Mane. The fourth was very similar, Salah in acres of space and Firmino with a tap-in. Then Firmino added the fifth from a set-piece.It was a tactical disaster, and the irony is that Di Francesco has spent much of his period at Roma talking about how 4-3-3 is the “ideal formation.” There would have been no guarantees that Roma would have coped with Salah and Liverpool better in that system, but it wouldn’t have resulted in this complete collapse. Roma essentially played exactly the way Jurgen Klopp would have wanted them to: half-pressing up the pitch.The two late goals, scored by Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti with a lovely penalty, added some respectability to the scoreline. Perhaps, considering the comeback against Barcelona, it means the tie is still on.But in the wider scheme of things, those two goals might have a significant impact upon tactical thinking in Italy, a country which is still largely sceptical of the kind of attacking approach Roma showed at Anfield. A 5-0 thrashing may have dissuaded others from following that template, the performance unintentionally promoting the merits of a deep defensive line and a spare man.Di Francesco got it wrong on Tuesday night, but it’s important to remember that Roma’s performances have largely been excellent this season, and his approach is in keeping with the continent’s more progressive, modern and successful managers. Roma are on the right path; Italian football is too.However, there’s a time and place, and pressing heavily with a high defensive line — leaving three-on-three against Europe’s quickest attacking trio — was a hugely counter-productive approach. For Liverpool, it was almost too easy.

Salah, Liverpool Overwhelm Roma, But Leave Door Open for Another UCL Comeback

By JONATHAN WILSON April 24, 2018

Mohamed Salah struck twice against his former club as Liverpool took a huge step towards the Champions League final with a 5-2 win over Roma in the first leg of the semifinals at Anfield, but the end result was not as one-sided as it should have been.The Egyptian took his tally in all competitions for the season to 43 with two brilliant first-half goals, and then set up goals for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to become the first player to register two goals and two assists in a Champions League semifinal.Firmino headed a fifth from a 69th-minute corner to become the second, but just as the game seemed to be drifting to a conclusion, Edin Dzeko snatched an away goal.A Diego Perotti penalty then gave Roma real hope. Having overturned a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in the last round, a 5-2 deficit means a 3-0 win would be good enough again–and a 4-1 win would do the trick as well, leaving the tie unsettled as it heads to Rome.Here are three thoughts on another high-scoring night at Anfield:

ROMA’S BOLD APPROACH BACKFIRES

Only twice before this season had Eusebio Di Francesco gone for a back three: in the league game away at Lazio and in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Barcelona. His use of it here was something of a surprise when it had seemed a specific tactic to combat Barcelona’s slightly pedestrian 4-4-2. The danger against Liverpool’s 4-3-3 was twofold: that Daniele De Rossi at the back of midfield would be swamped by the Liverpool press, and that the spaces behind the two fullbacks would be a vulnerability ripe for exploitation by the pace of Mane and Salah.As Roma pressed high, an unexpectedly bold and ultimately flawed approach, what transpired was a game of chicken, with Liverpool allowing the Roma wingbacks, Alessandro Florenzi and Aleksandar Kolarov, to push on, gambling on being able to break 3-on-3. But Liverpool seemed unsettled by Roma’s aggression and struggled for rhythm early on, a problem exacerbated when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off early on with a knee injury. As Loris Karius fumbled an Aleksandar Kolarov drive against the bar, it even seemed that Roma might cause an upset. But as the first half wore on, those transitions did begin to develop and Roma disintegrated.

LIVERPOOL SURGES BEHIND SALAH

Liverpool is a side that plays in pulses, suddenly upping the tempo and ripping into opponents. At its peak, there are few sights like it. Perhaps the intention was always to begin slightly cautiously, or perhaps the lack of an early charge was a result of Roma’s press, but once Liverpool got going, Di Francesco’s side had no answer. A game that had seemed tight, that Roma was perhaps even having the better of, suddenly tipped Liverpool’s way.The endless string of chances was faintly ridiculous, and if Mane had shown a little more composure in front if goal, the tie might have been settled by halftime. Then again, were it not for the finishing brilliance of Salah, signed from Roma for $48 million last summer, Liverpool might have ended up without a lead at all.Mane, set clean through, blasted over in the 28th minute and Liverpool had begun its onslaught. Mane then fired a Firmino cross over, and then Alisson was forced into a diving save to deny Salah, followed by Mane having an effort ruled out for offside. Seven minutes after that first Mane chance, Roma, understandably reeling, allowed Salah a couple of yards inside the box, allowing him to cut into his left foot. His finish was deliciously precise, just kissing the bar in its way into the top corner, though he neglected to celebrate the vital goal against his former side.But the surge continued. Dejan Lovren headed against the bar form a corner, Mane failed to control a chance in the box, Georginio Wijnaldum had a shot beaten away by Alisson and Firmino had a shot deflected wide. Then, with Roma clinging on desperately for the halftime break, Salah, again, ran onto a Firmino through ball and gently lifted the ball over Alisson for his second of the night and a backbreaker going into the locker room.

ROMA MANAGES TO HAVE HOPE

The tie should have been over, as Liverpool increased its lead to 5-0, but two soft goals conceded in the final 10 minutes breathed new life into the series.Halftime should have been an opportunity for Roma to regroup, to accept that there is a good reason why Premier League sides do not play with a high line against Liverpool. But the only change Di Francesco made was to bring on Patrick Schick for Cengiz Under and switch from 3-4-2-1 to 3-5-2. That, though, did nothing to solve the basic problem of a back three playing high against a much quicker front three. Poor Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio had nowhere to turn, vulnerable to the simplest ball over the top.Perhaps Salah was offside as he laid in Mane for the third, but then Mane hadn’t looked offside a couple of minutes earlier when he had been called back chasing another through pass. The fourth goal came from the same source–a long ball flicked on with his heel by Trent Alexander-Arnold for Salah, who jinked by Jesus and crossed for Firmino to tap in his 50th Liverpool goal.By then Roma seemed dazed, player after player approaching Di Francesco seeking advice. But the issue by then was psychological as much as tactical, nobody picking up Firmino as he headed in a right-wing corner from James Milner to make it 5-0.That should surely have cemented Liverpool’s place in the final, but Dzeko gave Roma hope, just as he did in the first leg against Barcelona. He fired in after Lovren misjudged the flight of a Radja Nainggolan cross. Liverpool, suddenly, was the team panicking and as the game began to resemble the end of the 4-3 win over Manchester City in the league when Liverpool, having gone 4-1 up, was left to hang on, Perotti made it 5-2 from the spot after Nainggolan’s drive had struck Milner’s arm. Roma is in an unenviable spot, but at least it’s one it has confronted before.

Mohamed Salah a perfect 10, Roberto Firmino 9/10 for rampant Liverpool vs. Roma

6:52 PM ETDavid Usher

Liverpool’s wild ride in this year’s Champions League got a little wilder on an almost surreal night at Anfield. Mohamed Salah tormented his old club with two goals and two assists to put the Reds in dreamland as they raced out to a 5-0 lead. Liverpool ran out of steam late on, though and Roma snatched the faintest of lifelines to just about remain in a tie that should have been well beyond them. There’s never a dull moment watching Liverpool.

Positives

Everyone connected with the Merseyside club would have taken a 5-2 victory prior to the game so that should not be overlooked. This was a Champions League semi-final, usually tense, tight affairs, yet Liverpool completely blew their opponents away with a display of pace, skill and power that few sides on the planet are capable of. The late wobble should not overshadow that fact, as the Reds have put themselves in a great position to reach the final.

Negatives

First and foremost, the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which looks like it could be serious. Beyond that, the worrying drop-off after 80 minutes should be a concern as it is not an isolated incident. Everton, Bournemouth and West Brom have all put Liverpool under pressure in the final 10 minutes of recent games too.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Jurgen Klopp undoubtedly won the tactical battle as the Reds went very direct and blitzed Roma with runners to absolutely shred their high defensive line time and again. Liverpool scored five but it could, probably should, have been double that. The substitution of Salah was a big turning point but Klopp should not be criticised for that as a manager should be able to sub his star man with a 5-0 lead and not have to worry.

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

GK Loris Karius, 5 — Made a complete hash of a first-half shot from Aleksandar Kolarov and was very fortunate to see it come back off the crossbar. Had no chance with either of Roma’s late goals.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8 — Another strong showing from the youngster who did not let an early yellow card impact his play. Defended well and showed glimpses of what he can do going forward, not least with a lovely flick to set Salah away to create Liverpool’s fourth goal.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 8 — Cruised through the game and was rarely stretched as his defensive partner tended to be the one doing battle with the powerful Edin Dzeko. Comfortable in possession and showed a nice range of passing at times.

DF Dejan Lovren, 7 — It was all going so well for the Croatian until he got caught under an exquisite pass from Radja Nainggolan and allowed Dzeko to score. Until that moment he’d been outstanding and his aggression in attacking the ball was a big reason why Liverpool were able to play on the front foot so often.

DF Andrew Robertson, 8 — Typically accomplished and energetic display from the Scot. Delivered one brilliant, late cross that should have been converted by Georginio Wijnaldum and had a shot of his own blocked after a lung-busting run.

MF Jordan Henderson, 9 — Inspirational performance from the captain. Pressed intelligently and relentlessly and stopped potential Roma counterattacks at the source time and again with great strength and determination.

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, NR — Started brightly and had an early shot from distance that he didn’t quite catch as he would have liked, but his evening — and possibly his season — was ended prematurely as he left the field on a stretcher.

MF James Milner, 9 — As he has been all season in Europe, the experienced Milner was top class. His use of the ball was excellent, his work out of possession inspirational. He became the first player in Champions League history to record nine assists in a single campaign but then unluckily conceded a penalty late on when a shot struck him on the arm. How he was expected to get out of the way is a question for the referee to answer.

FW Mohamed Salah, 10 — Wow. Just wow. If anyone was in doubt as to whether his PFA Player of the Season award was deserved, they surely can’t be now. An incredible performance from the Egyptian. Two fantastic goals took his tally to 43 for the season and he then added a couple of assists just for good measure. Seems to reach new levels of excellence each week now.

FW Roberto Firmino, 9 — Outstanding yet again. Led the line masterfully, laying on both goals for Salah in the first half while also scoring two goals himself after the break. That saw him equal Adriano’s record for the fastest player to reach 10 Champions League goals, having done it in just 11 games. A great night’s work for the Brazilian.

FW Sadio Mane, 6 — If the Senegal man had been at his best then this tie would be over already. Whereas Salah and Firmino both brought their “A game”, Mane was wasteful and hesitant. Two terrible misses in the space of a minute seemed to knock his confidence, but he did find the net later when he converted a Salah cross from close range. An off night, but expect him to deliver next week.

Substitutes

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 9 — The Dutchman’s introduction for the unfortunate Oxlade-Chamberlain helped the Reds overcome a wobbly start. He kept the ball well and showed good strength in possession, but it was his surging runs off the ball that repeatedly opened up the Roma defence and created space for his teammates. One of his best performances for the club.

FW Danny Ings, NR — Replaced Salah and the game started to drift as Liverpool’s intensity dropped. Had little chance to attack and spent most of his time tracking back as Roma grabbed a late lifeline and went hunting for more goals.

Embrace Real Madrid’s glorious Champions League nonsense while it lasts

Joey GulinoFC Yahoo•April 25, 2018

I know, I know. Real Madrid is mega-rich, mega-successful and mega-annoying.But here’s some bad news you almost certainly know already: Unless you root for one of maybe 10 clubs in the world, yours is never winning the Champions League. Soccer is as top-heavy as any sport, so you have to find someone or something to root for at the highest level.You could analyze the tactics and pour over the match film and still come up well short of reasonable answers for why Real Madrid has put together the most unprecedented dominance in the history of club soccer. It doesn’t make sense. So isn’t it sensible to just embrace it?Take Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal leg against Bayern Munich, for example. The Allianz Arena is a cauldron for 99 percent of Europe. Not Real Madrid, which plays with such reckless abandon that it’s now won three straight times at Bayern’s home stadium in the Champions League knockout stages.And perhaps the key is that abandon is completely self-conscious. Real Madrid absolutely knows how good it is, and it absolutely fills the side with confidence every time it takes the pitch.That’s why Marcelo, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez put away Bayern Munich. It wasn’t a multi-goal showcase from all-time great Cristiano Ronaldo. It was supporting players punishing mistakes with ruthless efficiency (and making upfor their own).This team isn’t simply bought and paid for, either. Vazquez is from Real Madrid’s academy. The club identified young stars-in-waiting like Asensio and Isco early in the transfer market, and beat others to their signature. Same with Marcelo. Real Madrid developed all of them into match-winning talents, as it has with others in this current squad.Then there’s Zinedine Zidane, who was a phenomenal player but also a big risk as a manager. That didn’t stop Real Madrid’s brass from hiring him to oversee the club’s B-team without the necessary experience, nor did it stop them from sackingthe vastly more experienced Rafa Benitez after half a season in charge to make way for Zidane.The reward? An incredibly well-tempered leader who’s never for a single moment looked overwhelmed by the toastiest seat in soccer. A man who hasn’t wavered in supporting a volatile defensive spine, nor hesitated to bench established stars. A club legend who fought to get defensive midfielder Casemiro into the Starting XI on a regular basis, a move which paid off tenfold.And boy, does Real Madrid work hard. What they may lack in strategic acuity they make up for in effort, abundance of quality and some decidedly dumb luck. And it won’t last forever. The core players have been around awhile now, so the reality is they’re about to get old or get sold. But three Champions League trophies have rained down thanks to their time together.Remember all the talk being about when Real Madrid would win a 10th European title, aka La Decima? They’re on the verge of La Decimotercero just four years later. They’ve trademarked winning Champions League games they shouldn’t, getting results when it makes zero sense that they would.So no, this last half-decade of Real Madrid isn’t soccer at its purest. It doesn’t need to be. It’s glory, and more endearingly, it’s glorious absurdity.Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

Real Madrid know-how shows Bayern Munich have lost their edge

7:04 PM ETNick AmesESPN FC

MUNICH — In an interview earlier this week, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that he has never brought himself to watch again the 2013 Champions League final. An all-German affair, played before a rapturous Wembley crowd, ended with Arjen Robben’s winner dampening the exuberance of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, who could hardly have done more in attempting to upset the odds.Bayern, though, that distillation of cockiness and knowhow, found a way to win yet again that night and outgoing manager Jupp Heynckes was able to hand the incoming Pep Guardiola a Treble-winning team that sat proudly on top of the world.If that game still makes agonising viewing for Klopp, then perhaps what has gone since is an awkward watch for Bayern. While they remain dominant in the Bundesliga, similar moments in Europe have been elusive in the half-decade since that glory night in London.Whereas Dortmund sparkled but fell short at Wembley, it is now Bayern — still laden with quality — who find the fine margins going against them. Next Tuesday, they will walk out at the Bernabeu in hope rather than expectation and kick off their Champions League semifinal second leg trailing Real Madrid 2-1.But it should never have been that way: Decisive errors at either end of the pitch aside, Bayern were better than Madrid during the tie’s first meeting at the Allianz Arena. The problem, though, is that that is becoming a familiar lament when they reach the competition’s latter stages and, this season at least, it will take something special to break the cycle.”We weren’t clinical enough,” admitted Heynckes, now back in the Bayern dugout, on Tuesday. “I haven’t seen something like that [from us]; it doesn’t happen very often.”But while that may be true domestically, where Bayern rattle out almost three goals a game on average and nobody minds too much when opportunities to add garnish go begging, it is a repeat occurrence in Europe and especially against Real.Bayern should have put the eventual winners to the sword in last season’s quarterfinals but, instead, contrived exactly the inconvenience they face now and lost the first leg at home, 2-1, having opened the scoring. Three years earlier, Madrid overwhelmed Guardiola’s side 5-0 in the semifinals.Only five of the players who were involved in a chastening second leg, which saw Bayern concede four times at home, were in action on Wednesday but it is pertinent to wonder whether something snapped that night in 2014. Bayern are not quite the force of old and there is a sense that past disappointments are weighing them down.It is the opposite for Real Madrid, whose winning instinct is so fine-tuned that they can turn in what was — despite Zinedine Zidane’s post-game insistence that, “overall, we controlled the game very well” – an average performance and still emerge, not only as winners but as resounding tournament favourites. Their sense of certainty was the one with which Bayern walked out at Wembley five years ago.Perhaps Zidane was watching a match in which Robert Lewandowski did not fluff free headers and shoot wide when put through on goal, or one in which Franck Ribery never had the chance to lose his footing with the goal gaping, or one that did not allow Thomas Muller an air shot from a matter of feet away.But maybe that sense of assuredness simply comes from being Real Madrid: There are few modern-day demons to haunt them, no unwanted ghosts to surface during moments of tension and minimal neuroses to tilt the balance. Real play a European tie and Real eventually win; why, in an era of dominance that has seen them win three of the last four European Cups, should it be any other way?”The match showed Real can be harmed in defence and, if you look at their home match against Juventus, it was the same,” Heynckes said. “We can take hope out of it.”It is that speculative word again: “Hope.” They had plenty of it last year when they went 2-1 up in the second leg and forced extra-time, only for Arturo Vidal’s red card to spark a Cristiano Ronaldo-led onslaught by Madrid.Bayern is a club where second-best cuts no ice but has become force of habit; at this rarefied level, they have become a team for whom the hard luck stories can be reeled off. Consider the semifinal against Atletico Madrid two years ago, when Muller’s missed penalty at 1-0 allowed Diego Simeone’s side a way back into the game and, ultimately, to the final.Beyond Heynckes’ laments about his team’s profligacy there was the observation that Bayern created chances “in a very nice way, I have to say.” Nobody would dispute that; Ribery showed throughout that he is no faded force at 35 and Thiago Alcantara was a formidable creative force in the first half after replacing the injured Robben.James Rodriguez, meanwhile, was full of purpose and intent and showed some fine touches. One set up a goal for Joshua Kimmich, who was so effective going forward, though questionable when asked to defend.The German champions were fluid, easy on the eye; Real, by contrast, bordered on the stodgy. But therein lies the catch: Nice teams rarely win Champions Leagues. Perhaps a Bayern group viewing of that magical London afternoon of five years ago might serve to underline the point.

Real Madrid put one foot in Champions League final as Bayern Munich rue missed chances

5:05 PM ETNick AmesESPN FC

UNICH — Three quick thoughts from Real Madrid’s 2-1 win Wednesday over Bayern Munich in their Champions League semifinal first leg at the Allianz Stadium.

  1. Madrid put one foot in Champions League final

Real Madrid have one foot in yet another Champions League final, although they might wonder how. Superb finishes from Marcelo and Marco Asensio overhauled the advantage Joshua Kimmich had given Bayern Munich, who missed a host of chances, and Jupp Heynckes’ side have it all to do if they are to conduct a second-leg turnaround.An attack-minded Bayern side almost broke through within 23 seconds when Robert Lewandowski wriggled free on the left before volleying a cross-shot that was too strong for Thomas Muller to turn home. Toni Kroos centred beyond everybody after finding space behind the defence, and at that stage, an open encounter looked on the cards.It was 20 minutes before either side had another serious sniff at goal, though, with Jerome Boateng intercepting a dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo cross after a clever dummy from Luka Modric had sent him away. Then Dani Carvajal rifled straight at Sven Ulreich after the ball had bounced kindly on the edge of the area.But it was Bayern, whose threat had been present but hardly convincing, who struck first. James Rodriguez’s slide-rule pass sent Kimmich into acres of space down the Bayern right and, with Keylor Navas setting himself for a cross, the right-back fired inside the exposed goalkeeper’s near post.Soon afterward it would have been two if Ribery had not miscontrolled when set up by substitute Thiago Alcantara. Mats Hummels headed over at the far post before half-time and Muller saw a shot deflected over. Real looked grateful for the whistle; then Marcelo, taking aim at the edge of the box, unleashed his bolt from the blue with an equaliser that whistled into Ulreich’s far corner. There was still time for Robert Lewandowski to miss a headed chance at the other end.A cagier start to the second half was blown open when Real completed the turnaround. It was a calamity for Rafinha, who gave the ball away to Lucas Vazquez and set in train a move from which Asensio, who replaced Isco at the break, coolly lifted over Ulreich.Still Bayern made chances: Navas beating away Ribery’s shot and tipping another around the post; while, with 23 minutes to play, Muller somehow failed to make contact from two yards out with the goal gaping.Ulreich saved from Karim Benzema on a rare Real counter, but Bayern’s final chance fell to Lewandowski, who, incredibly for a striker of his ability, slotted wide with only Navas to beat.

  1. Real somehow find a way to win

Somehow this Real Madrid side finds a way when it matters. The three-peat is well and truly on, and while they rode their luck at times here, they will go into Tuesday’s second leg as firm favourites after a display that relied more on know-how than any explosive attacking quality.Zinedine Zidane’s selection was surprisingly conservative, with Benzema remaining on the bench while Vazquez started on the right. There was no place in the starting lineup for Gareth Bale, either, and in the first half, Real struggled to muster any kind of concerted threat. At times, they had to hang on, and they certainly were fortunate when Ribery and Lewandowski spurned chances to double Bayern’s lead.Real clearly have not looked invulnerable this season: their unsatisfactory domestic campaign is testament to that, and their near calamity against Juventus a fortnight ago confirmed the impression. But Marcelo’s raking volley was a reminder that they have cold-blooded winners all over the pitch, and it had the effect of emboldening Zidane, who replaced Isco with the more direct Asensio at the break.He was rewarded with a superb finish by the 22-year-old, who stood up on a night when more-experienced campaigners were quieter. Modric and Kroos never really had control of the midfield, while Ronaldo, scorer of two goals here last year, hardly had a sniff this time — skewing one wild effort out for a throw-in. Their star performer over the 90 minutes was Raphael Varane, who put in an imperious display at the back; it said plenty for the way in which Real had to dig deep, but they will not be too worried about the manner in which such a seismic victory was achieved.

  1. Bayern left to rue profligacy again

How painful this was for Bayern on a night when nobody, on the balance of play and chances, would have begrudged them a first-leg lead. Instead, they need a gargantuan performance at the Bernabeu. And it was impossible, as this match unfolded, to shake off the memory of the last time these sides met at the Allianz Arena.Then, in a quarterfinal first leg just over a year ago, Bayern took the lead and missed a number of chances — including a penalty — and were punished twice, eventually falling short in the second leg despite a spirited comeback. They will need to go one better this time and will wonder how they came away losers here.It was a particularly chastening night for Lewandowski, who missed at least two clear opportunities and might have done little for his prospects of the move to Real that has been mooted in some quarters. Bayern did little wrong for long periods of this match and will also reflect that, had it not been for Rafinha’s error, they might yet have gathered themselves to regain the lead.What a blow it had seemed when Arjen Robben, who surely cannot have many more Champions League ties left in him at 34 and with his contract expiring, departed through injury with just eight minutes on the clock. Bayern had started at a high tempo, clearly looking to involve Robben and Ribery as quickly as possible, and although the Dutchman’s exit appeared to check their stride, they rediscovered that vim after taking the lead.The 15 minutes before Marcelo’s goal were not quite a spell on a par with Liverpool’s whirlwind evisceration of Roma on Tuesday, but Bayern looked convincing: Thiago’s radar was set perfectly; Ribery fizzed with the menace of someone half his age; and with James also on song against his parent club, the chances arrived regularly. They continued to flow even after Real struck against the run of play; this was a good, exciting performance from Bayern, but it might not prove to be enough.

Christian Pulisic to make USMNT return

By Joe Prince-WrightApr25, 2018, 11:16 AM EDT

It was announced on Wednesday that Christian Pulisic will return to the U.S. national team and he is heading home.The Hershey, Pennsylvania native will play for the USMNT on May 28 against Bolivia as the friendly takes place at the Philadelphia Union’s Talen Energy Stadium.Interim USMNT head coach Dave Sarachan revealed in a press conference that Pulisic will be involved against Bolivia after the youngster was left out of the past few U.S. squads to let him rest up after a busy season in the Bundesliga and Europe with Dortmund.Pulisic, 19, hasn’t played for the USMNT since their 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago in October 2017 which sealed their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup this summer.The teenage sensation (who has nine goals in 20 games for the USMNT) has played 39 times in all competitions for German giants Borussia Dortmund this season, scoring five goals. The game against Bolivia will mark two years to the day that he scored his first USMNT goal, also in a friendly against Bolivia.Pulisic said the following about heading home.“I’m really excited to play in Philadelphia,” Pulisic said. “Obviously it’s close to my home and a lot of my family will be there and I’m super excited to put on the U.S. jersey again.”Speaking about Pulisic’s return, Sarachan was delighted to have him back on board and revealed he hasn’t quite made his mind up about the make-up of his squad for the upcoming friendlies.“We are excited to have him back with us,” Sarachan said. “We are still forming what make sense in terms of balance between Major League Soccer players and players from elsewhere.”The USMNT will arrive in Philly on May 20 for a training camp at the University of Pennsylvania before the friendly against Bolivia, while Pulisic is also expected to travel with the team to play in their friendlies at the Republic of Ireland and France in early June.The kid is back.

USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan unlikely to bring in old guard right now

April 25, 20185:13PM EDTDave ZeitlinContributor

HESTER, Pa. — For the past decade, players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradleyand Jozy Altidore have been rocks of the US men’s national team.But after last year’s World Cup qualifying disaster, is it time to move on from the old guard?Speaking with reporters Wednesday at a media roundtable at Talen Energy Stadium ahead of next month’s match vs. Bolivia, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan offered a delicate take on a tricky situation.“It’s a no-brainer at this point to allow these matches to be served by a lot of young guys,” said Sarachan, who will need to pick rosters for the friendly vs. Bolivia in Chester on May 28, followed by European road tilts vs. Ireland on June 2 and France on June 9. “They need these games. Jozy, Michael, Tim, Clint, you can go through a list of veteran guys, I know them well, we know them well, so it’s not like we need to see them moving forward. “The next real competition is down the line. But I do think those guys will factor in, in terms of the [2019] Gold Cup, in terms of the next round of [World Cup] qualifying. At some point, I think it will be important to bring some of those veteran guys back.”Given that the US won’t be able to play in a World Cup for another four years, there are those that might argue to pull the plug entirely on the aging veterans and focus exclusively on developing young talent. But Sarachan said it’s important to have experienced players around the program to help ease the transition as the USMNT attempts to navigate a difficult crossroads.”The national team isn’t just a given or a gift to anybody,” he said. “Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean we just throw you in and play. There’s a process I think that is critical in terms of understanding what it really means to be a part of the national team.”For example, Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, who was busy practicing right next door while Sarachan spoke, is a veteran that the USMNT coach decided to bring along to Portugal last November in the first game after the team’s World Cup flameout in Trinidad and Tobago. The 30-year-old midfielder, Sarachan noted, is a “good leader” and part of a “pool of guys who down the road can still offer something.”And Sarachan has tried to stay in constant touch with the longtime USMNT vets, whether by text, email or in-person talks.“The feedback has been good,” Sarachan said. “They understand. They also have a love of the program and they really want to be a part of things, especially since it didn’t go so well, leaving that taste in their mouth. The general sense I’ve gotten, talking to those guys, is: We trust what you’re doing, we get it, but we really want to be a part of things if the opportunity comes. That’s a good thing.”Sarachan insisted there’s been no discussion as to whether to bring in Dempsey, the 35-year-old Seattle Sounders striker, for an opportunity to break Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT goal-scoring record. They both have scored 57 international goals,“I haven’t even thought about that,” Sarachan admitted. “Honestly, that’s not my job. What I would say is guys like Landon and Clint, the older guys, they’re valuable in the succession of everything — to mentor, to show these young guys what it really takes to be a part of just a national team. That’s just a valuable piece.“But as far as that [record] goes, sometimes a tie is all right, right? Share the spoils?”

Warshaw: Toronto FC did everything in the CCL they needed to, except win it

April 26, 20181:30AM EDTBobby Warshaw

Current LAFC and former USMNT head coach Bob Bradley has a line he uses often these days. It’s one his son, Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley, can be heard invoking, as well:“That’s football.”Toronto went into Wednesday night’s 2018 Concacaf Champions League final Leg 2 needing to win and score two goals to secure at least a shot at penalties.They had to do it in Mexico, where only three MLS teams had ever won before in CCL play.They had to choose a starting XI from a group that was missing five regulars to injury, including four defenders.They were playing a team with an unorthodox style that MLS teams rarely see.Toronto won. Toronto scored two goals.They watched Chivas de Guadalajara hoist the trophy after the game.There lies a space in the world between good and not good enough. It’s possible to do everything right and fail.“That’s football.”Toronto did so much right in Guadalajara. Head coach Greg Vanney produced a creative, intelligent game plan. Michael Bradley stepped in to play an unfamiliar position. Jozy Altidore started Toronto’s rally with a double-meg goal. Sebastian Giovinco scored the type of shot we’ve come to expect from him. Nicolas Hasler dribbled two players to play a pinpoint pass for an assists. Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio combined marathon running with thoughtful positioning. Alex Bono made the big saves when Toronto needed them. You couldn’t point to a Toronto starter that didn’t have a good game.Toronto didn’t choke. They didn’t blow it. They did everything right … or almost everything, at least. They were good. They just weren’t good enough.It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s sad. It’s maddening. Yet I can’t find it in me to be mad at Toronto.Unfortunately, it feels like these moments in American and Canadian soccer have come too often, too recently. But I’ll still come back tomorrow. Toronto will, too.TFC were great tonight. They just happened to not be good enough.That’s football.

Chivas ensure MLS wait for a CONCACAF Champions League title continues

Apr 26, 2018Tom MarshallESPN FC

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Chivas defeated Toronto 4-2 on penalties to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy on Wednesday in Estadio Akron.Toronto won the second leg 2-1, equalling the aggregate score 3-3, to take the game to penalties, with U.S. international Michael Bradley missing the final spot kick to hand Chivas the title.Here are three takes from a tense night in Guadalajara:

  1. Chivas scrape by as the MLS wait goes on

Twelve long years have passed since a non-Mexican team has won the CONCACAF Champions League. None in that time has come closer than Toronto FC, but Chivas were crowned champion for the first time since 1962 and will play at the Club World Cup in December for the first time in the club’s history.It was Bradley sending the final penalty high that probably will make the front pages, but Toronto midfielder Marky Delgado had a golden opportunity to win the game for TFC with the clock almost up. Sebastian Giovinco had twisted and turned down the left and set up Delgado right in front of goal, but he blasted the ball high and wide.It’s easy to reduce games to one moment and it would be unfair to put all the blame on Delgado’s shoulders, but in matchups as tight, tense and epic as the one in Guadalajara on Wednesday evening, it was huge.The wait for MLS teams to win this tournament for the first time since 2000 continues. Greg Vanney’s side produced some historic moments along the way, getting past Tigres and Club America and redefining to a degree the perception of MLS in Mexico.The performance in Estadio Akron was again impressive, getting the victory on the night in another assured display.But credit to Chivas. Coach Matias Almeyda made attacking substitutions in the second half, chased the game and the players took the penalties with authority. He has managed to motivate a team that has been desperately struggling in league play.It’ll be an all-Mexican team at the Club World Cup, while Toronto’s space for the CCL cup in its trophy cabinet will remain empty.

  1. Final lives up to hype

The build-up to the final was marred by tragic events in Toronto and Chivas players protesting the club’s directors over lack of payments. It isn’t supposed to be that way. But the players put the other issues to the back of their mind and put on a classic CCL final.Toronto was missing Chrys Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta and Justin Morrow, and Vanney slotted in central midfielder Michael Bradley alongside full-back Greg Van der Wiel at center-back.Chivas coach Almeyda sprung a surprise in his starting lineup by playing center backs Carlos Salcido, Jair Pereira and Oswaldo Alanis, but veteran Salcido played in central midfield alongside Michael Perez in a structure not too dissimilar to the usual 4-2-3-1.Chivas started the game the better team and Orbelin Pineda finished from Rodolfo Pizarro’s defense-splitting pass to give Chivas the lead in the 19th minute. The mood in Estadio Akron became one of celebration. It was premature.Toronto’s equalizer was a blow for Chivas. You expect that a player like Giovinco will make you pay at some point over the 180 minutes of a two-legged series, but Jozy Altidore’s tap-in in the 25th was shambolic from a defensive point of view and the atmosphere changed.Chivas had only conceded twice all tournament and within a shoddy 20-minute spell at the end of the first half, the Guadalajara side had let all the good work disappear.The second half was tense. Jesus Godinez hit the post for Chivas, while Giovinco went close late on for Toronto and Delgado had his golden chance.In the end, this will go down as one of the best CCL tournaments and finals in recent years. There was so little between the teams. Added to that, the importance clubs handed the competition, the quality on display and — most important — the shock to the Liga MX system of seeing Toronto take Mexican teams to the wire all added to the excitement.Next year’s will take some living up to and the Liga MX vs. MLS rivalry will grow naturally through these types of finals.

  1. Giovinco vs. Perez defines series

Almeyda told a white lie when he stated in the pregame news conference that he wouldn’t be assigning any of his players to man-mark Giovinco. Given the way Perez had limited the Italian by shadowing him in the first leg, why wouldn’t Almeyda try to same tactic?Perez, 25, was again handed the sizable task of dealing with Giovinco. He was the difference-maker in the quarterfinal against Tigres and against Club America in the semi.Perez was supreme for most of Wednesday night. Giovinco struggled to make an impact, with Perez following like a shadow. There were signs of frustration in the 43rd minute when he fouled the Mexican near the center of the pitch. Giovinco was booked for his protests.But the Italy international doesn’t need much time or space to make an impact. And when he received the ball inside the penalty area with Perez unusually not right on his back, it was all Giovinco needed. He took a touch and placed the ball inside Rodolfo Cota’s near post to make it 2-1 — one sniff was all Giovinco needed. Perez was taken off in the 68th minute because of an injury and Pineda took over marking duties.Chivas was pushing for the goal to tie the score, but Giovinco had more left in the tank. He produced some skill down the left with just seconds left to hand Delgado the kind of chance he’ll have nightmares about missing.The battle between the two ended in stalemate and with both deserving of credit.

Armchair Analyst: Three quick thoughts from a painful CCL final

April 26, 201812:37AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

I’m too spent to really think more clearly or eloquently than that. Toronto FC just made an epic Concacaf Champions League run, beating the greatest Liga MX team in history (Club America) and then the best Liga MX team in recent history (Tigres UANL) in succession in the knockout rounds. That’d be the equivalent of offing the Lakers and then the Warriors in back-to-back playoff games.Then they played Chivas – for the sake of this analogy, we’ll call them the Celtics – and became only the fourth MLS team ever to win a game in Mexico. They actually did it! They won the second leg, in Mexico, in the knockout rounds, in the final, getting the result they needed to at least give themselves a coin flip.All of that was… well, it would’ve been a lot to believe just two months ago. But here we are.And what wasn’t hard to believe is how it ended. Chivas lost 2-1 in the game, drew 3-3 on aggregate, and won 4-2 on penalties. TFC’s epic CCL run ended in disappointment.

Here are three quick thoughts:

1. Man-to-Man all over the Pitch

What RBNY coach Jesse Marsch meant two weeks back when he said that Chivas played a unique style, and that said style called for a unique approach that almost obviated formational concerns is that Matias Almeyda has his team play man-marking all over the field. Wherever you go, they stay with you.And so that made playing Michael Bradley at center back an actual advantage for the Reds, as it forced Chivas to come higher up the pitch to get pressure to him. TFC took advantage of that space by using Bradley to hit diagonals, overloading the flanks and then providing room for their midfielders to cut across the middle and create chances.It’s not how they got the first goal (that was off a penalty), and it’s not how they dominated possession (they didn’t, and didn’t really want to). But it’s how they got Sebastian Giovinco’s goal, and how they created multiple chances in the second half.Several of those could’ve – should’ve – been the winner.

2. Having the Ball is Dangerous

Chivas are not a team with any attacking ideas. The two times when they create danger are either off of set pieces, or when they turn you over while you try to play up the middle. That’s how they got the only goal in the series against the Red Bulls, and it’s how they got their only goal tonight:That’s it, man. That’s it.

3. No Shortcuts

One of the things I’ve kept saying on our analysis shows is that there are no shortcuts to the top. You take it one rung at a time, and this spring certainly marked significant upward progress.RBNY became the first team ever to win both legs of a knockout round, pounding Xolos. TFC, as I mentioned at the top, beat America & Tigres. And then they went on the road in the CCL final and got a 90-minute win. Anyone who looks at that and says it’s not progress is lying to you, because reality causes them to question their dogma, and is thus painful to them.But as progress is painful as well. Just as TFC had to lose the 2016 MLS Cup final to become what they wanted to be in 2017, my guess is that they will treat this as another rung on the ladder/evolutionary moment for the franchise. It was both a misstep and a step forward.On a grander scale, TFC (and the Red Bulls) showed what it takes to really compete for this title. You need significant investment in local players, and in your USL team, and in top-end DPs, and in depth everywhere. You also need to have elite, tactically flexible coaches – Greg Vanney deserves some major credit for how his team came out and played, game after game, this spring.Unfortunately, you also need at least a little bit of luck. TFC didn’t have it tonight and Chivas did.The free space is disappointment, until it isn’t.

2018 MLS Ambition Rankings: Which Clubs Raise the Bar Highest as the League Grows?

By GRANT WAHL AND BRIAN STRAUS April 23, 2018

1. ATLANTA UNITED (LAST YEAR: 2)

In 2017, Atlanta ranked second based largely on potential, promise and the hiring of manager Tata Martino. This season, it takes the top spot thanks to near-flawless execution and a clear commitment to pushing the MLS envelope. There doesn’t appear anything owner Arthur Blank won’t do to make his team the league’s standard bearer. Since the release of last year’s ranking, Atlanta set attendance records at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opened a $60 million training facility, launched a USL team, won the U16 Development Academy championship, and signed the aforementioned $15 million man, Ezequiel Barco. Atlanta will host the MLS All-Star game this summer against Juventus and this fall, will be expected to make a run at an MLS Cup title in only its second season.

2. TORONTO FC (LAST YEAR: 1)

TFC didn’t fall as much as Atlanta rose. But there’s little separating the two and in winning the first domestic treble and then ousting Tigres UANL and Club America on its way to the CCL finals, Toronto has demonstrated what’s possible with a commitment to investment and stability at all levels. The emphasis put on the CCL, which included using available TAM funds on the likes of Gregory van der Wiel and Ager Aketxe and spending extra time in Mexico ahead of the quarterfinal and semifinal deciders, will be the MLS model going forward. DP spending is static, but that’s because Toronto chose wisely. TFC is a case study in what’s achievable when ambition marries intelligence. GM Tim Bezbatchenko, coach Greg Vanney and captain Michael Bradley may not possess the glamour of their Atlanta counterparts, but they’ve got the silverware.

3. LOS ANGELES FC (LAST YEAR: N/A)

LAFC’s entry already has been remarkable. Considering the obstacles clubs in other top 10 markets have encountered trying to build new homes, the fact that Banc of California Stadium is set to open this weekend in such an iconic part of Los Angeles is an MLS miracle. The $350 million, privately-funded facility is the crown jewel of a project that already includes a $30 million training facility, the appointment of coach Bob Bradley and the signing of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. Some have wondered whether the five-time champion LA Galaxy would have to fight to stay relevant. That’s a sign of real ambition at LAFC. The only things missing are a track record and trophies (and perhaps some build-out on the USL and academy side), and the only place LAFC appeared to cut corners was the uniform. Everything else stands out.

4. LA GALAXY (LAST YEAR: 4)

About that bit concerning the Galaxy’s fight to stay relevant: A last-place finish will raise those questions. And LA answered a bunch of them with the blockbuster signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He may not be a DP, but ambition isn’t just about the price tag. And it’s the Galaxy, not LAFC, that’s been the talk of the league as a result. Meanwhile, the club’s DP spending rose by more than $5 million over the past year to around $17.3 million. The Galaxy are trying, as evidenced by those singings, as well as by the $4.2 million invested in 2017 in youth development and the $20 million put toward StubHub Center upgrades.

5. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (LAST YEAR: 3)

There haven’t been many significant upgrades over the past 12 months in Seattle. Remaining somewhat static may result in a slight slip in the Ambition Ranking. But the Sounders still do enough to be one of the league’s elite clubs, and they’re a two-time conference champion with six major titles in nine MLS seasons. They set the standard for expansion teams back in 2009, and now must respond to the escalation that’s happened since. To that end, the club said it more than doubled its investment in player development since 2016. It’s exploring an expansion of its Starfire training complex in suburban Tukwila, and has partnered with the Tacoma Rainiers AAA baseball team to build a new facility for its USL side. Offseason reinforcements were modest and injuries, fatigue and poor form doomed the Sounders’ CCL campaign.

6. PORTLAND TIMBERS (LAST YEAR: 5)

The Timbers are a small-market club with a big-market following and mindset, and they continue to impress pound-for-pound. Among DPs earning under $3 million annually, it’s tough to find a better one than reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri, and Portland’s commitment to investing throughout the club is notable—from the $4 million in annual red ink related to its USL and youth development programs to the remarkable success of the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, who win championships and attract record crowds. The club didn’t break the bank to replace departed coach Caleb Porter, but very few didn’t believe Gio Savarese had earned his chance. Instead, the Timbers are spending some $60 million on the expansion of Providence Park, which will include more than 4,000 new seats, and another $5 million on upgrades to its training facility.

7. REAL SALT LAKE (LAST YEAR: 12)

SL takes a big jump in the Ambition Ranking thanks to its massive investment in a $78 million training facility in Herriman, Utah, the club’s outstanding youth development and the launch of a NWSL team, Utah Royals FC. RSL is an example of how ambition can be defined by different organizations in different ways. There may be no big-ticket, big-name stars joining the first team. But top-to-bottom, it’s as complete a club as there is anywhere in the USA or Canada. In addition to the Herriman facility, which includes a residence hall and a high school, RSL plans to open six regional training centers in Utah and Arizona for youth players ages 7-14. The first, a $6 million venture, opened in December in North Logan, Utah.

8. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (LAST YEAR: 6)

Peter Vermes continues to reload. Although SKC missed out on retaining homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who left for Manchester City and a subsequent loan deal with Belgium’s KV Kortrijk, the club says the signings of French midfielder Yohan Croizet and Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez have resulted in a record amount of DP spending. Like Portland, the big upgrade at SKC is about brick and mortar. The new $75 million Pinnacle training center, which also will house U.S. Soccer Federation programs and the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center, opened in February. Sporting values the U.S. Open Cup more than most and won its third title in six years in 2017. It hasn’t solved its late-season swoon issues, however, and has bowed out in the MLS Cup knockout round for four consecutive years.

9. NEW YORK CITY FC (LAST YEAR: 8)

Spending a bit less on DPs has been good policy in the long run, as the club that made a lot of noise with the inaugural-season signings of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard has been much better off with Villa and a team of better, more complementary players behind him. Blind ambition isn’t always the answer. Until NYCFC finds an escape route from Yankee Stadium, however, it’ll always be just behind the ranking’s top-tier clubs. But it’s doing a lot right in the meantime, from the investment in coach Patrick Vieira—who’s the league’s highest paid—to the state-of-the-art Orangeburg, New York, training facility it moved into last month. The Etihad City Football Academy sits on a 17-acre site and includes a 24,000-square-foot building and 1.5 grass fields.

10. ORLANDO CITY (LAST YEAR: 7)

Kaká’s departure altered the face of the franchise and had a significant impact on the salary structure. Orlando’s DPs are now Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan and Josué Colmán, who are decent players but cost a whole lot less. The club said it’s spending around $8.5 million in DP money and TAM this year. That’s far from miserly, but it’s a level down from the league’s top teams and helps lead to a three-spot drop in the Ranking. None of that will matter to City fans, of course, if their club can make the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS in 2015. Orlando City Stadium has been a big success, and although the club shut down its USL outfit this season, it deserves credit for its very good NWSL team, the Orlando Pride, which features Alex Morgan and Marta.

11. D.C. UNITED (LAST YEAR: 18)

The biggest leap in this year’s ranking is made by MLS’s original flagship club, which has languished in recent years while losing loads of money at antiquated RFK Stadium. In July, DCU’s two-decade wait for a home of its own finally ends with the opening of Audi Field, a $400 million project that should transform both the club and the Buzzard Point area of the nation’s capital. United also is working toward establishing a new $50 million training facility and USL team in suburban Loudoun County, Virginia. All of this long-awaited infrastructure reportedly has attracted the interest of potential new owners, whose investment will be necessary to upgrade a squad that finished second-to-last in MLS in 2017. Paul Arriola currently is the team’s only DP, although two more may be on the way this summer. Among the potential targets is Italian striker Mario Balotelli.

12. FC DALLAS (LAST YEAR: 9)

FCD’s youth development and “busca la forma” culture was considered the gold standard for some time. But it may have taken the club as far as it can go in 2016, when the run toward a potential treble was derailed by Mauro Díaz’s Achilles injury. Since then, Dallas has been searching for stability. DP spending is around $3.5 million this year—a little above the club average but still far from the league’s elite. New DP Santiago Mosquera, a Colombian midfielder, hasn’t yet found his MLS footing. Regardless of whether Oscar Pareja’s first team has hit its ceiling, the organization has made headway elsewhere. FCD said it’s spending around $58 million on upgrades to Toyota Stadium and the Toyota Soccer Center that’ll include a new National Soccer Hall of Fame, new locker rooms and more.

13. NEW YORK RED BULLS (LAST YEAR: 10)

Red Bull Arena remains a fantastic place to watch a game, the club’s facilities are first-rate and the talent pipeline, which has produced a USL champion and newly-minted USA midfielder Tyler Adams, is among North America’s best. But it’s also the case that more star players seem to leave than sign, and that NYRB’s annual playoff faceplant is getting old (not that losing to TFC last year was anything to be ashamed of). As the years go by, it feels like the club is less appreciated in New York, and that New York is less appreciated at Red Bull HQ. NYRB rarely seems to be ambitious and competent at the same time. Among the positives are last year’s run to the U.S. Open Cup final and the club-record signing of Argentine midfielder Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, who’s still integrating into coach Jesse Marsch’s side but may yet bring some sizzle back to Harrison.

Is Arsene Wenger the greatest manager never to win in Europe after failing on all three fronts?     Richard JollyYahoo Sport UK26 Apr 2018, 07:36

MoreThe chances are that Jose Mourinho would have a phrase for it. The Manchester United manager stands alone in winning both the Champions League and the Europa League twice. Arsene Wenger, in contrast, has never won a European trophy. And the Portuguese is the man who once branded an old enemy a “specialist in failure”.Another argument is that Wenger may be the greatest manager never to win a European trophy; certainly the greatest club manager of the last six decades who has worked at major European clubs. That could all change: sandwiching perhaps his final clash with Mourinho on Sunday is the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. He could exit Arsenal in both fitting and uncharacteristic fashion, securing silverware on the continent at the last and finding a way of qualifying for the Champions League that, unlike fourth place, actually is a trophy.

READ MORE: Where next for departing Wenger?  READ MORE: Exclusive – Pochettino considers future as Real circle

Or maybe the Frenchman will finish will an exercise in bittersweet Wenger-esque consistency: a 19th consecutive season of playing European football after Christmas without actually claiming the eventual prize. Wenger has been the unrewarded constant, the byword for last-16 departures from the Champions League.All of which feels a little cruel. Wenger has a unique and unwanted distinction, one which, as the Cup Winners’ Cup no longer exists, he will retain. He is the only manager to lose in the finals of all three European competitions.His Monaco were beaten by an arguably less gifted Werder Bremen side in the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup final. His Arsenal were defeated on penalties by 10-man Galatasaray in the 2000 Uefa Cup final. His 10-man Gunners took the lead against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final and were 15 minutes from glory. Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti had other ideas.All of which means Wenger has conquered Europe fewer times than Tony Barton or Roberto Di Matteo. They had one-off triumphs, he a career of seismic significance, but lacking that crowning glory on the continental stage. There are managers who have disappeared into the mists of history who have won European trophies: not Wenger, though, the man with the historic achievement of producing England’s only unbeaten champions since 1889. He has managed 248 games in European competitions, 201 of them in the Champions League, a huge body of work that has produced some memorable victories and generated vast revenues, but not delivered the game’s essential purpose of glory.And it does matter. There is a case for calling Arsenal the biggest club, or the most prominent, or the wealthiest, or the most constant presence among the elite, never to win the Champions League. Wenger has been one of the finest and most influential managers of the last 30 years. He has built some of the most watchable, most accomplished sides. His peers include men such as Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, Marcello Lippi, Louis van Gaal, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Vicente del Bosque, Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes and Rafa Benitez. They are all Champions League-winning managers. He is not.And if it is both simplistic and wrong to define greatness simply because of Champions League wins, it is nonetheless a measure. By many criteria, Wenger is France’s greatest managerial export. Yet the rookie Zinedine Zidane could win his third Champions League in as many seasons in May. Wenger’s achievements lie in other fields.His place in posterity is likeliest to be preserved in France and England. It should be indisputable in his native country and adopted homeland that he is a great; those elsewhere whose are fixated on the Champions League may need more persuasion. But once the animosity of recent years has died down, memories of his 1998, 2002 and 2004 title winners, teams who combined solidity with modernity, pace with power, the physical with the technical, should remain. And yet they may not get sufficient recognition elsewhere, for one fundamental reason: they were not Champions League winners in an era when that became the measure of greatness.Wenger’s first champions were slow to adapt to Europe. In 2003-04, however, they were arguably the continent’s finest side. They were knocked out by Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea. A brash newcomer called Mourinho instead became the Champions League winner that year.Wenger reinvented Arsenal, but was defined by his era, when the elite managers were in the Champions League every year, where one outstanding team – and he kept facing Barcelona or Bayern Munich – could end his chances on annual basis. In that respect, he could be a trailblazer. Some of the finest managers of the younger generation – Jurgen Klopp, Massimiliano Allegri, Antonio Conte – have domestic titles but, like Wenger, no European crown. He had a team that, for over a decade, was one of the 10 best in Europe but, if the law of averages suggested he should have been rewarded with a Champions League win, the laws of knockout football dictated otherwise.Now Wenger may be one aggregate defeat from the end of another European adventure, a three-decade odyssey that has deprived him of silverware. And, perhaps, the status he deserves.

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4/23/18 Champions League Final 4, Europa Semi’s, MLS Toronto trails in CCL Finals

Anyone want to join us at Scotty’s downtown Carmel for the Tues Liverpool game?

Thought I would post another blog for the huge Champions League and Europa League games this week on Tues/Wed & Thurs.  For those who don’t know European League soccer –  Champions League is a competition that matches the 32 top club teams in the European Leagues (England EPL, Spanish La Liga (think Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Mardrid), Germany Bundesliga (think Bayern Munich, Dortmund), Italy Serie A (think Juventus, Roma, Napoli, AC or Inter Milan), France Legue 1 (PSG, Monaco), Portugal (Porto), Russia (Zennit), Holland (Ajax) – you get the picture.  When we say the best players on the best teams in the world – when you get to the Knock-out stages especially the final 16 – this is where the stars play.  Usually these are the teams that spend the most.  There is no salary cap in soccer in most countries.  So the top teams often outspend most of the other teams – its why Real Madrid has Renaldo, Bale, Marcelo, Ramos – how Bayern Munich basically buys the best players from each team in Germany – Robert Lewandowsky, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery,  Gotze.   The teams will play both home and away where the total goals are added up but away goals count more.  So if you can score an away goal – on the road – it means more – this makes teams battle to score the vital away goal and not just pack it and play 11 behind the ball (unless you are Man U’s eclectic Jose Mourinho.

So about the Final 4 – Italy’s Roma shocked the world when they came from behind to knock off favorites Barcelona and one of the world’s best players Messi in the last round.  After losing 3-1 at Barcelona – Roma needed a 3-0 victory at home to crash the Semi-Final party. And crash is they did – as the player who gave up an own goal @ Barca scored the 3rd and final goal in the last 5 minutes to send Roma thru.  Roma will face another surprise team in Liverpool from England.  Liverpool is just 2 years in to new German coach (formerly of Dortmund) Juergan Klopp’s rebuild of the once proud franchise which had fallen on tough times landing out of the top 4 over the few years before his appointment.  Klopp has installed a high pressing attack with England’s Player of the Year and the world’s leading scorer Mohomad Salah, along with Mane and Fermino leading the attack.  This is the Cinderella side of the bracket.

The other final is the powerhouse – think UNC, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State – this features German powerhouse Bayern Munich vs the 2-time defending Champion Real Madrid (they call them the Holders) with the legendary Cristiano Renaldo – (the man who just broke the record for most consecutive games with a goal in the history of Champions League play).  Do yourself a favor and tape these games Tues/Wed on Fox Sports 1 or better yet take a late lunch and catch them live.  Or at least come home and watch the replays on FS 1 and FS 2.  See the full schedule below.

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Chivas vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

Champions League

Liverpool and Roma’s Boston Connections

Liverpool primes for Tough Test in UCL vs Roma

Why Roma’s Semi with Liverpool has Special Significance

Bayern can Beat Real Madrid this time – Mark Lovell ESPNFC

Who Will Win Champions League now at Final 4 – Mirrror

Who’s gonna Win – Video SI – Real vs Bayern

Strikers might Determine the winner tween Bayern & Real say Alonso

Bayern’s Muller says Real vulnerable

Carvajal of Real eyes 3rd Straight UCL Trophy

Real Madrid at Full Strength for Semi

Liverpool vs Roma gives us Romance – Real vs Bayern is Royalty – Simon Evans – Washington Post

Semi’s Rife with Storylines – SI

Battle of Heavyweights Bayern vs Real

Roma vs Liverpool should have Goals – SI

Toronto Resolute in CCL Final vs Chivas

Toronto FC total Concentration on Chivas in CCL Final

WORLD

Marcotti’s Musings – Napoli stun Juve, Iniesta Inspires Barca, FA Cup – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Top Players in the World this Week

Is this the End of Juve’s Italian Dominance after losing to Napoli 1-0 ESPNFC

EPL

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah Wins EPL Player of the year

Arsenal Free to Dream of Brighter Future Now – Mick Hornby  

Wenger’s Reception at Emirates Shows the Relationship with Fans is Broken

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                 Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Indy 11 Banner

 

Indy 11 vs FC Cincinnati (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Why Roma’s semifinal with Liverpool has special significance

1:22 PM ETTerry Daley

So it’s come to this. An inconsistent, at times frankly dreary season comes to an unexpectedly thrilling climax, a trip to one of the citadels of European football and a chance to avenge perhaps the most painful night in Roma’s history — one that many say contributed to the tragic end of one of the club’s greatest heroes.On May 30, 1994, Agostino Di Bartolomei, not yet 40, was found dead at his home in the southern town of Castellabate in southern Italy, lying in a pool of blood after a gunshot to the heart with his Smith & Wesson that woke his dozing wife, Marisa. It was 10 years to the day that Roma captain Di Bartolomei had taken to the Stadio Olimpico pitch in front of a frenzied crowd of 70,000, a Serie A champion one step away from winning his boyhood side’s first-ever European Cup. Born and raised in the working-class district of Tor Marancia in South Rome, an area that has long stood in the shadow of its more ornate, tourist-friendly neighbour Garbatella, and which had once been the site of a post-war shanty town so dangerous it was called “Shanghai”, Di Bartolomei wasn’t just captain of Roma, he was the fans’ — and in particular the Curva Suds’ — presence on the pitch. Today, the housing estates that dominate his home area are covered in impressive if somewhat bourgeois “street art”, but among them you can still find murals dedicated to the one they called “Ago”.

He, alongside Bruno Conti, Falcao and Roberto Pruzzo, was one of the stars of probably the most loved Roma team, the winners of the 1983 league title and three Coppa Italias. He scored the penalty that saw Roma come back from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the semifinal 3-2 on aggregate, a tie that was subsequently mired in scandal after accusations of second-leg referee Michel Vautrot being bribed £50,000 by Roma, something that then-chairman Dino Viola’s son Riccardo said was true in 2011.Roma lost the final, of course, the capital city of the land of pasta foxed by Bruce Grobbelar’s spaghetti legs and beaten on penalties by Liverpool. That summer, Di Bartolomei left Roma after being ditched by incoming coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and soon after went from hero to villain, celebrating wildly after scoring against his old team for AC Milan.Afterwards, he slipped down the leagues and into obscurity. No one from Roma ever called to offer him a role at the club and after finishing his career he moved south, running a football school that slowly ran out of money until he decided to take his own life. Later, Marisa found a note written by her husband that read: “I feel shut in a hole.”That defeat, and its dark epilogue, adds another layer of significance to this semifinal with Liverpool. Arriving at the 1984 final was the last — the only — time that Roma had ever really made an impact on Europe’s biggest stage, and the thought of drawing the Reds gave fans of a certain vintage flashbacks to that fateful day.One, who now works for the club in a semi-official capacity, had barely digested the incredible victory over Barcelona when this writer suggested Liverpool might be the best draw for the semis.

“Don’t … My heart.”

Roma go into their biggest game in 34 years with a full squad and high spirits, having built on the battering of Barca by maintaining their leading spot in the race for next season’s Champions League. Leading the charge will be Daniele De Rossi, outstanding against the Catalans at the Olimpico alongside Edin Dzeko, who is looking to establish a club record European Cup goals total after equalling the six Pruzzo scored in 1983-84 with his opener a fortnight ago.De Rossi, the latest in a line of captains that goes Di Bartolomei, Conti and Francesco Totti, has always said that his greatest regret would be not to win the league title with Roma. At 34 years old, he’s too young to have seen the ’83 Scudetto and was still a youth team player when Totti fired them to the title in 2001.What if, as his career heads towards what looks like its final year, he was to go one better than the kings of Rome that came before him?

Bayern Munich can beat Real Madrid in Champions League this time: Here’s why

3:38 AM ETMark Lovell

Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal first leg this week, aiming to avenge their painful 6-3 aggregate defeat at last season’s quarterfinal stage.Here are six reasons why the German champions are better placed to reach the final this time around in their quest for a sixth European crown.

Heynckes has united the team

The most obvious change since last time out is the fact Jupp Heynckes has returned to replace Carlo Ancelotti, after the Italian was dismissed the day after Bayern’s 3-0 group stage embarrassment in Paris. For his fourth spell in charge, Heynckes inherited a fractious unit amid high levels of discontent with Ancelotti’s laid-back coaching methods. In 2017 there were cracks and they showed in this season’s campaign as Ancelotti lost the dressing room. But with his supreme man-management skills, Heynckes almost immediately revitalised Sven Ulreich, James Rodriguez, Javi Martinez, Arturo Vidal, David Alaba and the reportedly disgruntled trio of Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng and Muller.Heading into the business end of the season, this is now a united squad focusing on the treble.It is also easy to forget Heynckes knows how to get the job done in Europe’s top club competition. His Bayern side disposed of Real at the semifinal stage on penalties at the Bernabeu in 2012, and in three previous seasons he has reached the final each time: winning in 1998 with Real and leading the Bavarians to the showpiece event in both 2012 and 2013.While the recent 0-0 against Sevilla broke a record run of 12 consecutive Champions League wins for the 72-year-old, almost 20 years on, Heynckes will no doubt still be smarting from being rewarded with the sack eight days after leading Los Blancos to their seventh European Cup.

Robert Lewandowski is fit and raring to go

Bayern’s main goal threat injured his shoulder ahead of last season’s quarterfinal. Without their prolific striker, an out-of-sorts Thomas Muller was handed a more advanced role but Bayern remained toothless up front and slipped to a meek 2-1 defeat — following 16 successive Champions League home wins — in Munich.Inevitably rushed back from injury for the second leg at the Bernabeu, Lewandowski was largely anonymous in the first half, enjoying only 14 touches of the ball — the fewest of anybody on the pitch. He did convert from the spot — his eighth goal in nine Champions League games — to give Bayern a precious advantage on the night but was forced off with just two minutes left after his injury flared up and could only watch on as Real went on to win in extra-time.Lewandowski has been handled carefully by Heynckes since the end of the winter break, after he initially struggled to shake off a knee injury, and hasn’t started an away Bundesliga fixture all year. Now fit, fresh and firing, the Poland star has notched 39 goals in 43 games this season, including a first half double as 18-time winners Bayern reached their 22nd DFB Pokal final with a 6-2 hammering of Leverkusen on Tuesday.Off the pitch, Lewandowski’s recent switch of agent has led to an inevitable surge in transfer speculation, with Real Madrid most heavily linked. That may mean extra motivation for him in this game.

Missing Manuel Neuer is not the calamity it might seem

After breaking his foot in September, Neuer has been out for most of the season and back-up goalkeeper Ulreich endured a horrible series of lapses under Ancelotti. However, Ulreich has undergone a remarkable transformation under Heynckes and has been key to Bayern’s impressive run of form in three competitions.Normally the absence of the world’s best goalkeeper would be a crushing blow for any side’s Champions League chances but Heynckes immediately backed Ulreich as his No. 1 and has been rewarded.The latest in a long line of matchwinning performances came in the cup on Tuesday with Heynckes hailing his back-up keeper as “exceptional” and a “godsend” after pulling off a host of fine saves to keep Bayern’s slender lead intact in Leverkusen.Last season, Neuer almost single-handedly kept 10-man Bayern in the tie with at least 10 top class saves in Munich, excelling in the return too at the Bernabeu before letting in three goals in extra time.A few weeks into his spell as No. 1, Ulreich told ESPN FC “It wasn’t easy to replace Neuer,” but he has grown in confidence and has been one of Bayern’s standout players this season. He can harbour genuine hopes of going to the World Cup as Germany’s third keeper behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the soon-to-be recovered Neuer.

Martinez has impressed as a defensive midfielder

Heynckes’ decision to restore Martinez to defensive midfield has proved another masterstroke.Once Bayern’s record signing at €40 million from Athletic Bilbao in 2012, Martinez had been used predominantly in central defence under predecessors Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola (when fit).He is far from the quickest but his ferocious tackling and ball-winning skills have provided Bayern with great solidity and a robust shield in front of what was a creaking backline. Once again, in similar fashion to the 2013 treble winning season when regularly partnered with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Martinez has become one of the first names on Heynckes’ teamsheet and the unheralded key to their treble hopes.

Boateng and Hummels’ partnership at the back is solid

Last season, Mats Hummels missed the first leg (like Lewandowski) through injury and both of Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning duo were still hampered by injury and far from 100 percent for the return as well. With Martinez suspended, Boateng and Hummels bravely played through the pain barrier as Bayern put up a stirring fight with to take the tie into extra time, but it was not enough.Statistically speaking, if Boateng plays Bayern do not lose. He is the only Bayern regular not to have tasted defeat this season in 29 appearances and did not feature in any of the German champions’ losses to PSG, Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Gladbach.Hummels oozes class and composure alongside the more robust Boateng, while together they represent a reassuring presence at the heart of the Munich backline. Finally fit, Bayern’s rocks at the back have a much better chance of keeping Ronaldo and company quiet this time around.

There should be no red card

One of Heynckes’ biggest coaching beliefs is to do everything in his power not to risk a dismissal in the Champions League. He always, when possible, takes off a player who is walking the red card tightrope and in danger of crossing the line.In last season’s second leg against Real, Vidal went into the referee’s notebook after only five minutes for a clumsy foul on Isco. A red card seemed inevitable the longer the combative Chilean remained on the pitch and he was duly dismissed for a foul on Casemiro in the 84th minute.With Bayern a man down, Cristiano Ronaldo clinically took advantage by adding a couple more goals to seal his hat trick and Ancelotti was heavily criticised postmatch for his blatant oversight on Vidal.Back in October, Heynckes recalled his very first game in charge of the player he calls “my Arturo” at Leverkusen in 2009. “Arturo picked up a yellow card after only two minutes,” Heynckes said. “In the 10th minute, he made another crazy challenge. In the 20th minute, I had to show him the red card myself. I knew from training how impulsive and aggressive he is. You simply must react.”Vidal certainly won’t be getting a red card this time around anyway — he’s been ruled out until the end of the season with a knee injury — but Heynckes will ensure that Bayern aren’t left with a disadvantage again.

 Real Madrid vulnerable ahead of Champions League semifinal – Bayern’s Thomas Muller

8:07 AM ETStephan Uersfeld

Bayern Munich captain Thomas Muller has said Real Madrid “are vulnerable” ahead of the Champions League semifinal first leg between the teams in Germany on Wednesday.Having sealed a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern are eyeing a second Treble and have lost only two of 36 matches since Jupp Heynckes returned as coach in October.And Muller said they were confident that they could deny Real a third consecutive Champions League trophy. “We’re aware of Madrid’s qualities. We must attack them, must score goals and make use of the weaknesses Real have,” he told reporters after Bayern’s win at Hannover on Saturday.”They lost the second leg against Juventus 3-1, and that means that they are also vulnerable. We’ll go into this match with a lot of confidence.”Bayern were knocked out of the Champions League by Real in both 2013-2014 and last season, but Poland striker Robert Lewandowski told kicker they could beat them this year.”It’s a Champions League semifinal. If you play with fear, you stand no chance,” he said.”You must be convinced that you can beat Real, don’t take it too easy but, in a certain way, remain relaxed.”It was just a different situation last year. I wasn’t fully fit, not at 100 percent, and trudged through it. We were unlucky to crash out.”I don’t care who scores the goal. Our priority is to reach the final.”Winger Arjen Robben, who scored the winner in the 2013 Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund, added: “It wasn’t Lewy [struggling with fitness]. We had many problems last year, especially in Madrid.”We played with a team in which three, four players were at 50 percent. We still fought until the last minute. This year, we are all fit.”Bayern will be without Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal and Corentin Tolisso, while left-back David Alaba also faces a race against tim

Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal targeting third straight Champions League trophy

:38 AM ETPA Sport

Dani Carvajal is confident Real Madrid can make history and become the first team to win the Champions League three years in succession.The Spanish giants became the first side to retain the European title in the Champions League era last season and are now aiming to go one better. Zinedine Zidane’s side face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their semifinal at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.”Nothing is impossible, we’re going to fight for it,” Carvajal told the club’s website.”We’re working hard and, if we’ve done it twice, why wouldn’t we go for that third consecutive Champions League?”Since I’ve been here, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to reach the semifinal every year. Every year has something special and this season more so, due the teams we’ve come up against. We’re happy and looking forward to playing the game.”Real Madrid’s record extends to three triumphs in the past four seasons and 12 European titles overall.Last year’s success came after victory over Bayern in the semi-finals.Midfielder Dani Ceballos was not a member of the side then but is hoping history can repeat itself.”This team is used to these matches in the semifinal of the Champions League,” he said.”We’ve also played games against Bayern Munich at this level and we’ve come out on top. We hope that these semifinals are like previous years and we can make it to the final.”

Never-say-die Napoli stun Juve; Iniesta inspires; Mourinho, Conte rewarded

11:04 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

The last title race in a major European league is alive and well and owes a huge debt of gratitude to a 6-foot-5 Franco-Senegalese tower of power (who also has plenty of timing, grit and brains) named Kalidou Koulibaly.On Sunday night, during stoppage time at the end of Juventus vs. Napoli, the center-back rose into the Turin sky to power a header past Gigi Buffon, breaking a scoreless deadlock and giving his team a huge victory that cuts Juventus’ lead at the top of the table to a single point.Napoli had spent much of the previous 89 minutes attacking, as you’d expect from a side for whom a draw was, realistically, no good. Juventus, the Serie A leaders by four points, spent most of the game defending, deep and in numbers. You sensed a familiar verdict, had it not been for that last-ditch goal.The visitors would have been patronized for their willingness to go for it, despite lacking the quality to win away to the six-time defending champions. And the hosts would have been praised for knowing how to win ugly and grind out results. Instead, a single moment changed everything and ought to serve a warning to be less obsessed with results and, instead, pay more attention to what happens on the pitch.Napoli played the way they always do, albeit with less pace of thought and execution and less of a cutting edge in the final third, which may have been down to nerves or to Juve’s deep defending. But Juve, simply put, got too many things wrong and needlessly so. And all the praise they would have received if they had hung on would not have changed that. Max Allegri lost Giorgio Chiellini to injury after 11 minutes and reacted by shifting Benedikt Howedes — making only his third start of the season — into central defence and introducing Stephan Lichtsteiner at right-back.It didn’t help, but it can’t be an alibi for what we saw: a Juve side whose center of gravity was well in their own half. To make matters worse, Paulo Dybala had a horrendous first half, while Douglas Costa’s runs disappeared into blue-shirted cul-de-sacs, meaning Gonzalo Higuain was left alone up front, which goes some way towards explaining why Juve did not manage a single shot on target.This wasn’t a case of organized, counterattacking football. It was poor execution, and it’s tough to believe that this same group beat Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu earlier this month. Whether Allegri set them up to play like this — he said he didn’t — or whether they just found themselves pushed back, it was a hugely disappointing night.Allegri has spent most of the past two years talking about instilling an attacking identity in this team and taking the game to the opposition as the only way of going to the next level. The fact that Juve still cannot do it consistently, even as they could yet win their seventh Serie A title, ought to be a concern.The good news if you’re a Juventus fan is that Allegri excels in calming the ship and managing his personalities. Momentum may have shifted, and they may have the tougher run-in — with trips to Inter and Roma — but they still control their own destiny. If experience and that “winning mentality” matters for anything, now is the time to show it.As for Napoli, the victory and doggedness shown cannot mask the fact that they have lost a step compared to earlier in the season, possibly because of the lack of depth and the minutes played by key men. Maurizio Sarri isn’t going to change his philosophy but you wonder if, perhaps in certain situations, the more direct approach with Arkadiusz Milik — even at the cost of sacrificing one of the front three — might not serve them better.

Nicola Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Napoli’s season must be considered successful

We had a bit of a disagreement — unusual, I know! — on ESPN FC TV last week: I said that whatever happens in the title race, Napoli’s season has been an unqualified success, while the boys in the studio suggested it wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t become champions. I get why folks talk about trophies and silverware, but on three different counts, Napoli have already won, even if they fall short of the scudetto.First, they have played some of the best football in Serie A, if not Europe. Doing that consistently in Italy, while also getting results, is hugely difficult and it’s one of the reasons Serie A has fallen behind other leagues: To be successful on a European level — as Allegri has pointed out — you need to attack and create in the opposition half as a matter of course.Second, Napoli are on pace to finish with more than 90 points which in most years would be more than enough to win the title, and wherever they finish will be one of the highest points totals in history. That shows the style of play wasn’t just entertaining, it works. If Juventus finish with more, well done to them, but it doesn’t change the fact that, statistically, Napoli have delivered one of the most successful seasons ever.Third, the “winning-is-everything” metric might make sense when the playing field is level, but in Serie A, like in most of Europe, it’s not. Napoli have the fifth-highest wage bill, and it is less than half that of Juventus.Finishing second in those circumstances and with one of the five-highest points totals of all time is a success. Period. Don’t be surprised, then, that more than 10,000 Napoli fans showed up at the airport just before 2 a.m. to greet the team charter from Turin. They have plenty to celebrate, even if they do not go on to win the title.

Mourinho, Man United find a way to win

The big guns fired Manchester United into the FA Cup final, with Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba each turning in one of their better performances since coming to Old Trafford. But the second-half display by Jose Mourinho’s men was as much about his foot soldiers, including the center-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, plus Ander Herrera and others.Football folk — and sportsmen in general — often talk about “killer instinct,” “winning mentality” and getting a team “over the line.” It’s not something you can rationalize or define, and the sample size, in any case, is small, so you’re tempted to dismiss it. However, having seen the reaction in this game after a first half that saw them outplayed by Tottenham — and in the recent Manchester derby — you’re tempted to think there’s something in it.

Mourinho has played 14 cup finals and won 12, with his only two defeats coming in extra time. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether that’s down to coincidence, natural variance or something else, but what is evident is that his teams tend to stay in the game. And when you keep it close and have difference makers to step up, sometimes that’s all it takes.

Assessing Pochettino’s post-match comments

When, in the aftermath of Tottenham’s defeat, Mauricio Pochettino spoke of the club in the third person — “they” rather than “we” — and about how the club “need more time with me or with another” manager, what he said was bound to draw scrutiny.

Some saw a coded message to the owners suggesting more investment was needed: After all, the club’s net spend over the past two seasons has been just over £40 million, which is rather paltry if you buy their line about wanting to compete.I honestly don’t know what was behind it, but if that’s what Pochettino wants to get across, there are more effective ways of doing it. I tend to think it was just because of the disappointment at yet another in-game collapse and, perhaps, a shred of self-doubt and second-guessing.

Iniesta rolls back the years

It wasn’t his final game for Barcelona, nor was it his final big game for Barcelona — there’s a Clasico vs. Real Madrid in less than two weeks — and nor was it his last game with silverware at stake — the Liga title isn’t mathematically sewn up — but Saturday’s Copa del Rey final did come amid talk that Andres Iniesta would be moving on.He walked away with a trophy: No. 31 of his Barcelona career, to go with two European Championships and the World Cup he won with Spain. Not only that, Iniesta turned back the clock in the 5-0 pounding of Sevilla, from the goal he scored from an nonexistent angle to the array of touches, intuition and movement he put together.And the fact that it’s all packaged with his trademark melancholy gait and balding-accountant demeanour makes it all the more memorable. Whatever happens in the next few games — don’t rule out one last masterclass — we can always remember Iniesta like this, with all his essential, understated magnificence.As for the match itself, Sevilla got everything wrong early, and Barca punished them. It was 3-0 at half-time and could have been twice that. From Jordi Alba to Luis Suarez to Philippe Coutinho — what a difference an extra playmaker makes against an opposition’s’ press — pretty much the whole Barca side came to play.

Giroud display vindicates Conte

For a long time, Olivier Giroud was probably the most henpecked man at Arsenal not named Arsene Wenger. There’s something about big center-forwards that invites criticism — Romelu Lukaku and Sandro Wagner are others that come to mind — and Giroud is no different.Given that, you’d have to be pretty hardhearted not to feel pleased for the French international, first at being selected ahead of Alvaro Morata and then when he opened the scoring in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup semifinal. Especially given the twinkletoes nature of his goal, something few would have thought Giroud had in his locker.Antonio Conte’s selection decision was vindicated, and if the manager does leave in June, as still appears probable, he’ll do it having won a league title and reached two FA Cup finals in two years. Which is not a bad return, given he inherited a traumatised side that finished 10th the previous season.

Milan’s problems resurface

And suddenly, the bottom has fallen out. Gennaro Gattuso’s remarkable run since taking over as Milan manager has hit a tailspin: They haven’t won in a month and have gone from being five points away from the Champions League places to 13 back after Saturday’s home defeat to Benevento.Given the club’s ownership situation, the imminent threat of financial fair play sanctions and the fact that, in less than six months, a $350 million loan to Elliott Management needs to be repaid or refinanced, they’re not in a good place.That said, there’s no reason to go “Chicken Little” all of a sudden. The truth is that, while the run stoked optimism and showed that there are some very good players at the club, it wasn’t going to move the needle vis-à-vis Milan’s balance sheet. That situation remains critical and won’t change unless owner Li Yonghong suddenly finds the money or they extinguish the Elliott loan with some longer-term financing.

A word on Benevento, too. You struggle to praise a relegated team because you don’t want to sound patronizing, but what they’ve done is remarkable. Having been promoted, they lost their first 14 games before picking up 17 points from their next 20 matches. All the while playing brave, attack-minded football. If you’re going to try and upset the big boys despite scant resources, that’s the way to do it.

Heynckes prioritises Europe …

Bayern Munich warmed up for their Champions League semifinal first leg vs. Real Madrid by beating up Hannover away, 3-0. With the Bundesliga title already in the bag and a place in the German cup final secure, Jupp Heynckes did some tinkering and rotating.

A debut was given to 18-year-old Lars Lukas Mai at center-back, while Niklas Sule pushed further forward. With bigger games ahead, the likes of like Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez, Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller were left out of the starting lineup.

… as does Simeone

Atletico Madrid’s home draw with Betis effectively confirmed what we already know: The title is going to the Camp Nou. What’s interesting is that Diego Simeone didn’t even put up much of a fight, resting the likes of Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann and Koke with an eye towards Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg with Arsenal.  It was the rational decision: Live to fight another day. An Atleti win would still have left Barca nine points clear with a game in hand. Kudos must go to Betis, though, and manager Quique Setien — not so much for Sunday, but for what they’ve done in the second half of the season, in which they have risen 13th to fifth and taken 29 points from 13 games, while playing some of the best attacking football in La Liga.

#BasDostWatch

Bas Dost scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Boavista, which leaves Sporting third in the Portuguese league, three points behind leaders Benfica. Dost has 26 goals in 27 league matches, putting him on pace to score 28 this season. Overall, he has in 32 in 43 games in all competitions.

Toronto FC resolute in CCL focus despite last-place start to MLS campaign

April 23, 201812:21PM EDTJesus Acevedo Jr.Contributor

HOUSTON – With nearly a quarter of the 2018 season in the books, Toronto FC sit alone in last place in both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings with just three points from their first five league games.But the defending MLS Cup champions still aren’t too concerned about that at the moment.What is on the Reds’ minds: The second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final at Estadio Akron on Wednesday, where they’ll try to overturn a 2-1 aggregate deficit against Liga MX side Chivas de Guadalajara (9:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada | UDN, go90.com in US).With that massive game clearly taking precedence, TFC chose to field a reserve-heavy side in MLS play for the second weekend in a row, dressing only 16 players in Saturday’s visit to the Houston Dynamo while the rest of the team prepares in Mexico.The 5-1 rout administered by Houston was the Reds’ fourth league loss of the season; one more and they will match their entire loss total from last season.Does Toronto head coach Greg Vanney think his side can get back to their winning ways once their CCL run is over? Vanney is sure of it, adding that after Wednesday, his side’s attention will be squarely on the MLS regular season.“I think we have a good team. Last year, at the end of six games we had seven points, and won the league by 13 or 14 points, so it’s doable. It’s not something we had planned for, but sometimes when you play games in between CONCACAF finals, you have to do what you have to do,” Vanney said. “We were fortunate enough that the league was able to move some of the earlier games around but somehow not in the stretch here in the final, so we prioritized trying to win the final for the CONCACAF, and it is what it is.”While he didn’t field his usual starting 11, the team that Vanney did put out on the pitch gave him something to consider when the Reds’ attention does shift back to the league.Vanney considered it an opportunity to see players that might not typically get a chance to see the field, adding that he could assess their progress.Did any player impress him?“Liam Fraser continues to show that he understands his role and is competent with the ball, a very good passer, composed, and I think he did a nice job,” Vanney said, while also singling out the play of Jason Hernandez, 17-year-old Julian Dunn-Johnson and Ryan Telfer.As for what he expects for Wednesday’s game against Chivas, Vanney said he’s confident his side can get the result they need to lift the trophy in Guadalajara.“I think we can score goals and we left a lot of opportunities on the table in the last game. We made two or three mistakes in the whole game, and it costs us two goals,” Vanney said. “I’ve watched the game back twice now, and for anyone who doesn’t think we should’ve won that game didn’t watch the same game – and I think I’m pretty critical with our team.”For TFC, it’s all or nothing on Wednesday night, and only after that will their full focus return to the regular season. And that could be bad news for every other MLS team.

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4/19/18 FA Cup Sat/Sun, Champ League Semis’s Tues/Wed, Indy 11 Win at home, Arsenal Coach Wenger steps down

Indy 11

I went to the Indy 11 2-0 win over Nashville on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium and WOW.  What a beautiful setting for futbol – ah Soccer.  I thought the field was fine, the Brick Yard Battalion was loud and proud and the over 10,000 person crowd (while no nearly as large as the first game) – was active and interested. Honestly – the concessions and bathrooms are fantastic and plentiful – the parking was fine, and with the upper level curtained off – If the Indy 11 can do 17-20K for games – it will make it look and feel pretty full  It will be interesting to see what an open roof will be like – as the roof kept the sounds of the BYB in pretty well.  As for the play of the almost completely new team – they were active, they hustled and they basically controlled play in this match-up with potentially one of the better teams in the USL Eastern Division in Nashville.  The 11 got off to a good start with a spectacular long pass from Indy 11 defender Ayorze Garcia to 11 leading scorer Soony Saad. His sprint thru and finish in the 15th minute was clinical. A second goal was actually #5 on ESPN Sportscenter Sat night as Saad took a pass from Jack McInerney off a free kick and sent this Bender from 35+ Yards out on a dime curling past a wrong footed goalkeeper in the 34th minute!  Overall the game day experience is light years ahead of what is was at the Mike. Now we just need to put 17 to 20 thousand in for every game and show we belong in the MLS discussion someday.

Champions League

So I have still not recovered from the worse red card I have ever seen in Pro Soccer – the tossing of my beloved Gigi Buffon of Juventus vs Real Madrid 2 weeks back – but I am ready for some Champions League football next week and the week after.  We are down to the – the top 4.  Bill’s Liverpool will open at home vs surprise semi-finalist Roma (anyone want to join us for the game??) on Tuesday on Fox Sport 1 – should be a hugely entertaining game as both teams can really score!  Followed by Powerhouses Bayern Munich hosting 2 time defending Champs (Holders – they call it in Europe) Renaldo’s Real Madrid on Wednesday on Fox Sports 1.  I will of course be rooting like heck for anyone but Real from this point going forward as I feel they ripped off my Juve (especially with the sending off of Buffon right before he would have saves Renaldo’s PK).  Anyway these are the top 4 teams in Europe folks – at these the Semi-Finalist  – Enjoy – set those DVRs, watch the replays, catch the replay shows – soon it will be over.  Also don’t forget MLS’ top team Toronto FC will be going for broke on the road down 2-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League vs Chivas of Mexico (Liga MX) Wed night at 9:30 pm on Univision. Of course Europa League Final 4 also plays on Thursday Fox Sports 1 & 2 as well known squads Arsenal and Athletico Madrid are still alive and looking for that automatic qualification for Champions League next year.

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Chivas vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

I caught the Dortmund game at Schalke on Sunday as 2 of our top American’s overseas battled.  Christian Pulisic started and was dynamic for Dortmund – crossing many balls and taking guys on and doing his thing.  He helped with the build-up of Dortmund’s goal to take what looked to be the winner.  But Schalke inserted Weston McKinney at D-mid at the 70th minute mark and all he did was deliver his normal energizer bunny pace in the middle but he also drew a PK on a spectacular give and go – a PK that allowed Schalke to take the lead and eventually win the battle of 2nd (Schalke) and 3rd (Dortmund) in the oldest and most intense Derby in the German Bundesliga.  It means Schalke have all but wrapped up a top 4 (Champions League) spot while Dortmund and Pulisic have more to do. You can watch Pulisic and Dortmund Sat at 12:30 vs Leverkusen on Fox Sports 1 and McKinney and Schalke on Sun @ 12 noon on FS1 as well. In Spain it’s the Copa del Rey Final as Barcelona will look to complete the double vs Sevilla on ESPN News at 3:30 on Saturday.

EPL

Late Breaking news today that Arsene Wenger the longtime coach of Arsenal will step-down at the end of the season.  The tributes have begun to pour in on one of the greatest coaches in EPL history.  Unfortunately it was before I was a fan of the EPL and a sort of Arsenal fan. Still his undefeated team of 2004 the Invincibles might well be the greatest team of all time according to many.  It was past time to go – but honored he should be. I would love to see them win the Europa League and send him out with more honor!  (see full coverage below) So Man City wraps up the League title with like 5 weeks left in the season when Man U choked at home last weekend to West Ham. Man U will have a chance to reverse fortunes this weekend in FA Cup Semi-Final action vs Tottenham live on Fox 59 at 12:15 pm, Sunday FA Cup Semi-Final #2 has Chelsea facing Southampton at 10 am all at Wembley of course.

US Soccer

Interesting Story in the Washington Post this week about Mexico (El Tri) being “America’s Team” – especially this World Cup.  The Truth is Mexico plays to much larger crowds in the US than our national team has ever drawn.  Sad – but the truth is when the US plays in Columbus – how many of you actually tried to go to the game on a Tues night at 7 pm?  I did and a few friends – but trust me when I say there are many more Mexican American’s in Indy who would make the drive over than US National Team American’s.  I have always defended the US crowds by saying hey if I lived in France and the US came to play within a 3 hour drive of me I would certainly make the trek to the game – and it’s the same for Mexican-American’s in the US.  But honestly its more than that when Mexico routinely packs our best 80,000 seat stadiums in Dallas and LA and Atlanta and we can’t put 20K in a soccer only stadium for the US games.  Maybe Mexico is “America’s Team.” Funny the battle between Arena and Klinsy about who’s fault it was and how far back the US will be missing this World Cup. (see stories below).  I think we are all devastated and the TV ratings will reflect it this summer for Fox – but both coaches have a lot of blame for the failures.  Klinsy is right –they have to tie or win 1 game – at Trinidad and Tobago.  Our U19 Travel team would give them a game!! There is NEVER and will NEVER be an excuse for the US LOSING that game – for that Bruce Arena and every single player on that team will have answer for the rest of their lives.  I like Bruce – but to say I think he blew it would be an understatement of a lifetime.  Not starting Dempsey and Cameron will go down as one of the most questionable moves in the history of US soccer.

MLS

Stunning result and disappointment for Toronto FC in their 2-1 loss at home to mid-level Mexican league side Guadalajara in the Concacaf Champions League leg 1 final.  They take to the road for leg 2 and must score at least a 2-0 or 3-1 victory or greater to win the Championship.  Zlatan and the LA Galaxy came out on top of the battle of former European Superstars as his goal in the 46th minute of his first start knocked off Bastian Schweinstiger’s Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon in front of a nationwide Fox broadcast. NYCFC used a last minute goal to tie Atlanta 2-2 on the road in a battle of the top 2 teams in the MLS Eastern Division.This weekend MLS gives us two bottom feeders in Min United and Seattle Sun at 4 pm on ESPN, meanwhile the LA Galaxy and Zlatan hosting 2nd ranked Atlanta United is on ESPN+ Sat night at 10:30 pm (good job guys!!)  We do get an improving Portland hosting top ranked NYCFC on Sunday night at 6 pm on Fox Sports 1 – Portland games are ALWAYS worth watching with the cutting of the log, the Gang Green TIFOs, Timber Joey and one of (if not the best) supporter sections in the US – TIMBERS ARMY – do yourself a favor and get there early to catch the National Anthem sung by the ARMY – its bonechilling!

EPL BONUS

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger to Step Down at End of Season – Mattias Karen ESPNFC

Arsene Wenger to Quit Arsenal with Tarnished Legacy by Respect Will Return – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Wenger’s Exit was Overdue but his Tenure Revolutionary – Jonathan Wilson SI

Arsene Wenger’s Best Moments as Manager of Arsenal – Nick Miller ESPNFC

Wenger: “I feel it is the right time”

Sir Alex Fegurson Pays Tribute to the Great Arsene Wenger – SI
Karen: Wenger right to leave Arsenal but fans must show respect

Conte – Wenger’s Longevity won’t be Matched

Mourinho – on Arsene – we Respect Each other – ESPNFC

Social Media Reaction

Social Media Reaction SI
Candidates to replace Wenger at Arsenal

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Apr 21

9:30 am FS2                    Frankfurt vs Hertha

9:30 am FS1                    Hannover vs Bayern Munich

10 am NBCSN                Watford vs Crystal Palace

12:15 pm Fox 59        Man United vs Tottenham (FA Cup Semis)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 1Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Leverkusen

3:30 pm ESPN News Barcelona vs Sevilla (Final Copa del Rey)

7 pm ESPN3+Utube Cincinatti FC vs Pittsburg Riverhounds (USL)

10:30 pm ESPN3?       Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Sun, Apr 22                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs West Ham

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

10 am FS1                    Chelsea vs Southampton (FA Cup Semis)

11:30 am  NBCSN       Man City vs Swansea

12 noon FS1                  koln vs Schalke (McKinney)

4 pm ESPN                    Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota United

6 pm FS 1                      Portland Timbers vs NYCFC  

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm FS1              Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Guadalajara vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                 Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

7 pm Myindy23   Indy 11 vs FC Cincinnati (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille 

Sat, May 5

12 pm MyIndy23   Indy 11 vs Louisville City (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

2 pm ESPN                       NY Red Bull vs NYCFC

 Indy 11

Soony Saad Brace Carries Indy 11 over Nashville at the Luke  – Bloody Shambles

Indy 11 Wins First at Lucas Oil – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Ends Nashvilles Scoreless Streak

3 Keys to the Win over Nashville

Indy 11 Forward Soony Saad is Week 5 Player of Week

USL Power Rankings Has Indy 11 ranked 9th overall

Indy 11 Banner

Indy 11 Discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Champions League

Liverpool vs Roma gives us Romance – Real vs Bayern is Royalty – Simon Evans – Washington Post

Semi’s Rife with Storylines – SI

Battle of Heavyweights Bayern vs Real

Roma vs Liverpool should have Goals – SI

Barcelona’s Double Feels Tarnished after Champ League Failure

Salah’s Goal Voted Goal of the Week

Juve – Gigi and Real must move past Conspiracy Talk – ESPNFC – Marcotti

A Guide to Kyiv 2018 Site of the Finals

GK

Every shot faced by Barcelona Ter Stegan and Roma – Becker in UCL Game

Navas great saves vs Juve

Top Saves of the week around the World

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

What Toronto Must Do in Guadalajara to Comeback –Charles Boehm

What to Expect in CONCACAF Champions League Final Toronto vs Chivas

Toronto Falls on Face at Home In 2 -1 loss to Chivas

NYCFC Salvages Point with late goal at Atlanta  (Video)

Zlatan Scores Winner in 1st Start vs Chicago

Zlatan is on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Zlatan –my chance of WC return Sky High

This is Zlatan’s Galaxy – Get used to it – Washington Post

Power Rankings MLS ESPN

EPL

Tottenham needs FA Cup Win but Mourinho Wants It More for United ESPNFC

Man U has the Talent to Win vs the Spurs

City Celebrates Championship after Man United Flop

Wenger Must Go for Arsenal to Return to Top

Who’s going to Be Relegated

Rating the Best Managers in the EPL – ESPN FC

ICC

International Champions Cup announces Teams and Cities – Chicago & Ann Arbor

Real Madrid, Atletico, Juve, Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City

USA +_ World Cup

Is Mexico Really America’s Team ?  They Draw Better Crowds – Steven Goff  Washington Post

Arena and Klinsmann Disagree on US World Cup miss – ESPNFC

Klinsy – WC Failure Sets US Back Years – ESPNFC

Former NT Player Ernie Stewart & Ali Curtis

US Fans 2nd to Only Russia in WC Tix purchased

Ranking the Top 25 US Players under 25

Osario’s Online Approach to the WC

Dos Santos brothers – Ready for WC !

Neymar Recovering Well on Course for WC Return

Belgium and Dortmund forward Batshuayi’s May miss World Cup

Great Day For Indy, Saad Day For Nashville – Indy Eleven V Nashville SC REVIEW (4/14/2018)By: James Cormack  http://bshambles.blogspot.com/

After all the pre-match worries of injuries and selection issues, they became null and void on Saturday as Indy Eleven defeated Nashville SC and claimed their first home win of the 2018 USL season.Carlyle Mitchell returned to the starting lineup alongside Brad Rusin and over the whole Indy’s backline played comfortably and confidently conceding only one goal in the first half. We’ve talked about the strength in depth of our roster many times and Brad Rusin is a great example of that.The result of the game itself was crafted in the first half and credit should be given to the entire team for a second-half defensive performance that kept Nashville from finding a way to a second goal. In the few short weeks of the season, we’ve had many great plays to talk about and there were several in this match including Zach Steinberger’s 89th-minute clearance of a ball that was going to find back of the net.
Indy Eleven may be accustomed now to shuffling their lineup and the first eleven was eagerly anticipated heading into this game. Carlyle Mitchell proved too strong to keep down and we started with three of the back line that began the match against North Carolina, Mitchell, Ring, and Ayoze. Brad Rusin replacing Karl Ouimette this time.Probably the biggest surprise was Matt Watson starting the game on the bench, not a bad trick to be able to bring in a captain late in the game to help clinch the three points. 4-2-3-1 has been the most frequent formation we have seen for Indy thus far, Zach Steinberger started in place of Watson alongside Nico Matern in front of the back line and Soony Saad took the middle of the three between Pasher and Lewis. Jack McInerney returned to the starting XI as the lone striker.onsidering the potential for a makeshift backline I had expected Nashville to come out strong and press for an early goal but it was Indy Eleven who controlled possession in the early stages and throughout most of the first half. Thanks to a pass of un-earthlike quality from Ayoze Garcia deep in his own half to connect with Soony Saad in the 15th minute, Saad found himself one on one with Matt Pickens and buried the ball left past the Nashville keep to open the scoring.Saad wasn’t finished finding the back of the net and some fifteen minutes later scored a second goal that will have every other team in the league playing catchup for the goal of the week. After a foul on Jack McInerney by Liam Doyle 35yrds out from goal, McInerney slid the free kick sideways to Soony Saad who rifled a shot with the outside of his right foot that swerved around the outside of one defender before swinging back to wrong-foot Matt Pickens and put Indy Eleven two goals up.Roberto Carlos would have been proud of that strike!A tough blow for Nashville but to their credit, they picked themselves up and finished the half strongly. Michael Reed came close to pulling one back a few minutes before halftime with a neat turn just inside the 18, his shot had the beating of Owain Fôn Williams but not the crossbar.Nashville was not done yet and right at the end of the regular 45 minutes a lay off pass to Lebo Moloto was taken to the end line and slipped back to find Ropapa Mensah advancing on the edge of the 6 who he poked home a poachers goal past Williams to give the visitors a fighting chance going into the break.That was the scoreline that took the three points for Indy Eleven. The second half was goalless. Nashville stepped up their game and probably took the lion’s share of possession in the second 45 but couldn’t find a way to goal. Alan Winn had a good opportunity in the 63rd minute but was foiled by Fôn Williams. Not to be outdone in the shot-stopping tally Matt Pickens pulled out big saves to deny Tyler Pasher twice.  With the final minutes winding down Nashville almost found the back of the net from a set piece on Indy’s left. The free kick was floated into the back post and found the head of Bradly Bourgeois. From my position behind the goal, this ball was almost certainly going to find its own way in, if not Robin Shroot would have helped it in but Zach Steinberger stepped up with with a huge clearance to prevent Nashville from tying up the game.I mentioned Matt Watson earlier. When your team is trying to nail down the three points and the opposition comes out in the second half determined to turn things around its more than just a luxury to be able to bring in three players with huge experience as we did with Watson, Justin Braun, and Juan Guerra, this is something that could prove critical for Indy Eleven over the course of a full season.
It’s important to stay grounded and not get over excited, but as a supporter, it’s very difficult. I re-watched the entire match again and pretty much everything Greg Rakestraw and Brad Hauter says about this team is on the money. Considering we are at the beginning of a season when you can expect a stuttery start, even with injuries and constant changes this team has never looked to be lacking in confidence on the field or uncomfortable. After the win in North Carolina, this was already our best start to a season in the history of the club.  If I were to criticize the team in any way at all it would be for us to use a little more creativity in set pieces and provide better delivery. This is something that will improve with time but when we get opportunities with free kicks in the width and corners we need to start making those count. We seem to be okay from central positions, Soony’s strike from the free kick pass this weekend and also his direct free kick against Cincinnati show we can take chances from there, but with big players coming up from the back which always risks a counter attack, we need to be more creative and more accurate on our delivery in these situations.That is based on observations from four league games and one preseason match and it is still very early. Maybe I am also being a little selfish but I’d like to see some cheeky plays crafted at the training ground on free kicks from the left and right and from corners. We have a confident and skillful squad of players so why not?
Indy Eleven has a couple of weeks break now, hopefully enough for us to see all of our players recovered and fit for the match against Charlotte Independence, if we can bring a good result from there we can ride confidently on the back of it into two very important back to back home games against FC Cincinnati and Louisville City. The result of those matches could be critical in the long run despite coming early in the season.

Soony Saad carries Indy Eleven to first win at Lucas Oil Stadium

Kevin Johnson, Special to IndyStarPublished 3:34 p.m. ET April 14, 2018 | Updated 3:37 p.m. ET April 14, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — Usual Indy Eleven starting center back Reiner Ferreira was out injured. Another defensive starter, Karl Ouimette, was handed a three-match suspension after getting sent off last weekend at North Carolina FC. Carlyle Mitchell, a regular starter at center back, hobbled off the pitch late in that match.With a patchwork defense that might as well have been held together with a piece of gum, the Indy Eleven downed Nashville SC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon for the club’s first-ever win at Lucas Oil Stadium in front of 10,188 fans. All it took was a cohesive performance from the defense and a masterclass from forward Soony Saad.Saad buried two goals in the first half, the second of which was worthy of Sportscenter Top 10 consideration.”He played extremely well,” said strike partner Jack McInerney of Saad. “Hats off to him. He put in the work and was rewarded with both goals.”The Eleven didn’t twiddle their thumbs waiting around to open the scoring. In the 15th minute, left back Ayoze played a low, dangerous ball into space that was misplayed by an off-balance Nashville defender. It resulted in Saad finding himself alone behind the defense with Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Saad calmly slotted the ball home to put Indy up 1-0.Saad doubled Indy’s lead about 20 minutes later on an absolute screamer from 35 yards out. Fellow striker Jack McInerney tapped the ball to Saad on an indirect free kick, who’s rifled shot dipped and dived like a righty’s two-seam fastball past Pickens.Just before the half in stoppage time, Nashville SC midfielder Lebo Moloto connected with forward Ropapa Mensah to pull one back for the visitors. But the 2-1 scoreline held up after a fairly evenly contested second half.For a ragtag defense featuring converted midfielder Brad Ring at right back and a guy who hadn’t seen the pitch much over the past couple years in starting center back Brad Rusin, holding Nashville to a lone goal felt like an accomplishment. Rennie was impressed with how his back four stepped up.”I thought overall we handled it,” Rennie said. “Obviously, Brad Ring is playing right back. Brad Rusin is coming back. He’s not really played for a while because he was in Miami and they had their team kind of set and he wasn’t in the lineup. But I know how good a player he is, so it was great to see him playing with confidence and really doing a great job back there. And Mitchell has done that I think every game for us. He’s been very, very good.”After laboring off the field last week, Mitchell’s availability in the starting 11 definitely provided Indy a huge boost. Led by their anchor, Mitchell, an in-sync defensive performance combined with Saad’s brilliant finishing ultimately carried the Eleven to victory.Indy will get a week off before hitting the road for an April 28 meeting against the Charlotte Independence.

6 Questions 4 an 11 – from the Brick Yard Battalion
Soony Saad, Forward
Hot off a 2 oal game against Nashville, we speak with Soony Saad to get to know him a bit better.
What was your age and the name of the first team you played on when you first started playing soccer?   I was about 3 maybe when I first started playing. My brother was 1 year ahead of me so I played with his team called the Thunderbirds.

Which player (from any era and any league) would you want the opportunity to face on the pitch?   Zidane. Already played with him actually for an Adidas ESP All Star camp back in 2008.

Do you have a pre-game food or ritual that you indulge in?   I normally make sure to get a good breakfast with fruit, hashbrowns, eggs, possibly smoked salmon and for lunch I just make a standard pasta.

Favorite team?   Liverpool is my first love and Real Madrid because of Zidane.

What’s your go-to phrase for expressing displeasure on the pitch?   Ahhhhh

What is your favorite thing about Indianapolis and Indy XI?   I love the group of guys we have. Not one player is bigger than the team and most importantly we know the importance of keeping a lead. I love the fans and look forward to produce on the pitch and can’t wait to see where soccer in Indianapolis goes. Hopefully MLS one day.

Liverpool vs. Roma gives us romance; Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich is royalty

By Simon Evans April 13

The Champions League semifinal draw on Friday gave us romance on one side and a clash of titans on the other. It’s a mix that injects fresh life into a competition that had been criticized for becoming too predictable while maintaining a marquee matchup.

Few experts expected Liverpool and Roma to be in the last four of this competition but having fought so impressively past Manchester City and Barcelona, respectively, they will meet each other in an encounter that immediately recalls the 1984 European Cup final, which the English team won in a penalty shootout at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.There is an air of nostalgia about the fixtures — the ’80s were a glorious period for both clubs, with Roma winning one of its three Serie A titles in 1983 and reaching its only European Cup final the following season. Liverpool’s triumph in ’84 was its fourth in eight seasons but it had been a decade since the Merseyside club reached this stage of the competition.A further twist is that both clubs are owned by Bostonians: John W. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group is the parent company of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox while Roma’s James Pallotta has also a minority share of the Boston Celtics.On top of that, the tie creates a fascinating reunion, with Liverpool’s Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah, who has scored 39 goals in all competitions this season, up against the club he left for Anfield in the summer.[Champions League draw: Bayern Munich to face Real Madrid, Roma to play Liverpool]And how each team got to this point has energized the competition. Liverpool stunned Premier League leader Manchester City with a 3-0 first-leg victory at Anfield, followed up by an impressive 2-1 win at City’s Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as its manager, Juergen Klopp, again got the better of Pep Guardiola.

Roma’s quarterfinal achievement was even more impressive. After being somewhat unfortunate to be on the receiving end of a 4-1 result in Barcelona, the Italians pulled off one of the biggest surprises the competition has ever seen with a 3-0 win at an ecstatic Olimpico, an outcome that led Pallotta to jump in a fountain at Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, earning himself a fine of 450 euros (about $550).

While Liverpool, with its devastating and speedy attack, will likely start as the favorite, Klopp said Roma’s win over Barca speaks for itself.“If anybody think this is the easiest draw then I cannot help this person; they obviously didn’t see both games against Barcelona,” he said.“The second leg was outstanding, it was outstanding what they did. They should have probably won four- or five-nil. I was really impressed,” he said.It is no surprise for either Bayern and Real to be in the last four — anything less would have been measured a failure for clubs that will meet for 25th and 26th times in Europe, making it the most-played UEFA competition tie.

While Bayern got past Sevilla in their quarterfinal without too much stress, Real was moments away from a shock exit to Juventus. Having won the first leg in Turin 3-0, the Spaniards conceded three goals at home on Wednesday before a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kept their campaign alive.

Real is looking to become the first club to win three straight European Cup titles since Bayern’s hat trick between 1974 and 1976. The pair are level on 11 wins each from their previous encounters, including the Spanish club’s 5-0 aggregate win in the 2014 semifinals. They also met in last season’s quarterfinals, when Real triumphed, 6-3, on aggregate.Real badly needs European success this year to compensate for its disappointing campaign in La Liga, where it sits in fourth place, a full 15 points behind leader and archrival Barcelona.

On the other side, Bayern can focus on its tie without much distraction, having wrapped up its sixth straight Bundesliga title last week. It also has an emotional boost: The German club announced on Friday that former player Croatian Niko Kovac will take over as coach next season from 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes, who is stepping down.It could be an emotional end to the season for Heynckes, who led Real to the 1998 Champions League title but was nonetheless fired at the end of that season, then came back to win the trophy in 2013 with Bayern. With Real looking vulnerable despite Ronaldo’s extraordinary performances, Bayern has a chance to provide their coach with the perfect send-off — and even provide a little bit more romance.

Arsene Wenger to quit Arsenal with tarnished legacy but respect will return

Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer

Arsene Wenger was ahead of his time when he arrived at Arsenal in 1996, but he leaves, almost 22 years later, out of time and out of step with the game he helped to transform during the first half of his reign as manager.So the Frenchman’s announcement of his decision to step down at the end of the season, halfway through the two-year contract he signed last summer, is a bittersweet moment for Wenger and Arsenal.To suggest that now is the right time for change at the Emirates would be to overlook the reality that that time actually came perhaps four or five years ago.It is a harsh assessment of the final years of Wenger’s spell in charge considering he has won three FA Cups in the last four seasons, but the Arsenal that Wenger built into the most formidable team in English football was about more than winning FA Cups.It was a team which ended Manchester United’s lengthy dominance of the domestic game; an outfit which blended flair and steel, determination and the breathtaking brilliance of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.That Arsenal team made waves, but the one Wenger leaves behind has been treading water for too long and change is overdue.Deep down, it is difficult to imagine that Wenger does not know this too.The 68-year-old is one of the most driven men in football, a winner to the core, and he will surely have looked at his current side with dismay when compared to his previous teams.Yes, he was the architect of both good and bad, but the qualities which made the 1998 Double winners and 2004 “Invincibles” stand out from the pack have been absent from his Arsenal squads for the best part of a decade.The financial burden of the move to the Emirates in 2006, combined with the game-changing takeovers at Chelsea and Manchester City, conspired to weaken Arsenal at a time when financial power became the primary ingredient of the best teams.Prior to the arrival on the scene of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, Wenger’s ability to manage, spot talent and build great teams without breaking the bank saw him become the most direct threat to Sir Alex Ferguson’s standing as the greatest manager in the game.Former United chief executive Martin Edwards revealed earlier this year he had identified Wenger, and spoken to him, as the ideal successor to Ferguson when the Scot originally announced his decision to step down in 2002.Wenger rejected United’s advances and stayed at Arsenal to build the Invincibles, but it underlines his early achievements at Arsenal that he was the first choice to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford back then.The rivalry between Wenger and Ferguson in the late-1990s and early-2000s was so hard-fought and acrimonious that it defines the both of them.They built fiercely competitive teams — which remain arguably the best the Premier League has ever produced — but while Ferguson timed his United exit to perfection in 2013 after guiding the club to a 20th league title, Wenger stayed on too long.Ferguson left United wanting more, and the five years since his departure have shown just how much he has been missed, but Wenger will leave with many Arsenal supporters celebrating his decision to step down.In time, the fondness and respect he has earned will return, but as of now, his failure to move with the times and keep Arsenal competitive has tarnished his legacy.nited fans still mourn Ferguson’s departure, but the emotion of the Arsenal supporters is different and that is a great shame for a man who will go down as the club’s greatest manager.His request within his statement, which urges “our fans to stand behind the team and finish on a high,” is a pointer towards the dissatisfaction in the stands at the Emirates.But perhaps by going public now with his decision to leave, Wenger can inspire a successful end to his reign — something befitting a man who has turned Arsenal into one of Europe’s super clubs.They have a tough Europa League semifinal looming against Atletico Madrid, but with the final in Lyon next month, it would be the perfect end for Wenger to lift a major European trophy in France and hand his successor a passport back into the Champions League.If the football gods are smiling on Wenger — and they don’t seem to have been in recent years — they will allow him to leave next month with the Europa League trophy as a leaving present.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal Exit Was Overdue, But His Tenure Was Revolutionary

  • Arsene Wenger is leaving Arsenal after 22 seasons in charge, and while the recent past has clouded his accomplishments, it’s clear that the English game owes a debt of gratitude for his contributions.By JONATHAN WILSONApril 20, 2018

Football had waited a long time for this moment, but when Arsene Wenger’s departure from Arsenal was finally confirmed Friday morning, it still came as a shock. There will be something very strange about turning up at the Emirates next season and seeing somebody else in the dugout. And yet, along with the inevitable sadness and the memories, there is also a sense of relief.The time had come for him to go. In fact, the time probably came a few years ago. The sense of drift at the club was palpable. This season, Arsenal will probably finish sixth, which would be its worst finish under Wenger. It hasn’t picked up so much as a point away from home since the turn of the new year.When Wenger signed a two-year contract last summer, the suspicion always was that the club would look to ease him out this summer–even if there were major doubts as to whether it would actually go through with it. By announcing now, with a month of the season still to go, Arsenal has ensured that the anger and frustration, the apathy even, that has characterized recent home games, will be transformed into nostalgia and support. For what he has done for the club, and indeed English football, Wenger deserves to leave with fans cheering his name rather than to a backdrop of boos and jeers.And there may even be a glorious finale if Wenger can, at last, win a European trophy by seeing off Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals and then winning the final against either Salzburg or Marseille. Football is not prone to dispensing sentimental favors, but there is something appropriate about the fact that the final is being played in his native France.Contrary to popular belief, there never was an “Arsene Who?” headline on the back of the London Evening Standard when Wenger was appointed in 1996, but that was the general attitude. Appointing a manager who had been successful in France and then gone to Japan was an extraordinarily bold move by Arsenal, but its wisdom was instantly apparent.Wenger replaced the booze culture that had dominated the club, promoted what at the time seemed an outrageous diet based around steaming fish, chicken and broccoli, and used his knowledge of the French leagues to strengthen his squad with signings who in retrospect looked like unfathomable bargains: Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry…He won the double in 1998, and for the six years that followed played a full part in an entertainingly acrimonious rivalry with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson. His sides were capable of beautiful, rapid football, but also had a toughness, mental and physical, at their core.

It was only hindsight that would invest it with enormous significance, but the moment when the trajectory took a downward turn came in the Champions League quarterfinal in 2004 when Wayne Bridge scored the winner for Chelsea. Arsenal went on to win the league as the first unbeaten champion since Preston in 1887-88, but the environment had changed.Arsenal had realized that to keep up with United, it needed to increase its revenue, and so had set in motion plans that would result in the club leaving Highbury for the Emirates Stadium in 2006. The problem was that by the time they moved into the larger stadium, Chelsea, funded by the seemingly limitless wealth of Roman Abramovich, had changed the financial rules. Making a profit and generating income suddenly mattered far less than just having a wealthy owner. Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal in the Champions League in 2004 was the moment when it replaced Arsenal as London’s leading team.Arsenal kept battling, of course, and the decline was not precipitous. It won the FA Cup in 2005 and reached the Champions League final in 2006, but the trend was downward. Wenger at times became self-parodic, insisting on packing his teams with diminutive creative players, focusing always on aesthetics and neglecting the muscle that had underlain his best sides.Keeping Arsenal in the top four for as long as he did while keeping the spending under control was an achievement in itself, if not one that ultimately was enough for Arsenal fans. Last season, Arsenal finished fifth, and nothing much has changed. The appointment of a new head of scouting, Sven Mislintat, against Wenger’s wishes, signaled a change of tone. Preparations were being made for his departure. The suggestion is that he was told that if he did not walk he would be pushed.The question remains of what he will do next. He has little or no hinterland. Football is his life. Asked on his 60th birthday what he intended to do to celebrate, he said he would be watching that evening’s mid-table Bundesliga game. Faced with incredulity from the media, he eventually agreed to place a candle on the television to make it feel special. It’s hard to believe that he will not seek another role in the game, and it may be that the France job will become available after the World Cup.There have been FA Cups, a record seven of them in Wenger’s reign, but the last decade has been tinged with disappointment and the last couple of seasons have reeked of stagnation. But Wenger is one of the greats, not just of Arsenal but of the Premier League as a whole. He was the first really successful foreign manager, and he revolutionized thought about nutrition. English football owes him an enormous debt.

Arsene Wenger’s best moments as manager of Arsenal

5:20 AM ETNick MillerESPN FC

Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal at the end of the season, after over 21 years and 10 major trophies. Nick Miller rounds up the manager’s 10 best moments in more than two decades with the club.

This article was first published in September 2016.

10. Henry’s first goal versus Southampton

A single goal in a relatively routine league victory might not seem like a highlight of 20 years at a club, but this one was different. One of the great triumphs of Wenger’s reign was the purchase of Thierry Henry from Juventus in 1999, then his subsequent transformation from a flighty, speedy winger into one of the best strikers in the world. Yet in his early days at Arsenal, Henry looked lost, leading author Nick Hornby to wonder if Arsenal had signed “the French Perry Groves.” But after starting his account against Southampton a few weeks into the season, the floodgates opened, and Wenger’s judgement was proved sound.

9. Always finishing above Tottenham

In tangible terms, constantly finishing above one other Premier League team is nothing particularly special and not something to be especially pleased with. But again, this is different: This is Tottenham. For Wenger’s entire time in London, Arsenal have always finished above their local rivals, leading to mirth aplenty on the red side of town and, of course, the ever-popular chant “It’s happened again.” Indeed, since last topping Arsenal in 1995, at some point or another Spurs have finished above every single other team to compete in the top flight. Perhaps the nadir/peak (delete according to allegiance) came last season, when Tottenham were fighting for the title but then collapsed, and Arsenal pipped them to second on the last day. Or perhaps it was 2006 and “Lasagnegate,” when Spurs looked on to finish in the top four only for their stricken side to be overhauled again. If all else fails, there’s always local pride.

 

8. Thrashing Inter at the San Siro

Arsenal have arguably underperformed in the Champions League under Wenger. Their qualification in so many consecutive years is often held up as a defence of his methods, but one final in 19 attempts isn’t great. Still, they have a few standout, glorious performances under him, perhaps most notably the 1-0 underdog victory over Real Madrid in 2006. But the most devastating of all was the 5-1 hammering of Inter Milan in 2004. Having not won their first three group games (including a 3-0 home loss to Inter), they needed a win in Milan and got one with some gusto. Henry’s opener was cancelled out by Christian Vieri, but a second-half blitz from Edu, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Henry again sealed a remarkable win. Arsenal went through, but the result would cost Inter, who drew their final game and were eliminated.

7. The 2014 FA Cup

There’s a very persuasive argument that suggests Wenger should have probably called it a day at Arsenal after this victory. It would have allowed him to go out on a high, winning their first trophy in almost a decade and wrestling a significant monkey from his back. This was a hugely important and arguably quite sentimental victory for Arsenal. At the start, it looked like it might be another calamity, with Arsenal going 2-0 down to Hull inside eight minutes. But Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny heaved them back into contention, and Aaron Ramsey scored an extra-time winner. It could have been a fitting exit, but Wenger is the most stubborn of men. Realistically, it was never going to be.

6. The move to the Emirates

Highbury, with its marble halls and rich history, was a fine ground, but pretty early on, Wenger recognised that to compete financially with the best in England and Europe, they would need something more modern. The Emirates is very much the house that Arsene built, overseen by him and still one of the slickest and most modern stadiums in the country. Perhaps the atmosphere isn’t what it could be, and you could say that paying for the thing hamstrung Arsenal at the worst possible time, but the Emirates will perhaps be Wenger’s most gleaming, tangible legacy.

5. The 1998 Double

Back in the late 1990s, the Double was very much an achievement talked about in hushed tones. Before Manchester United did it in 1994, only five teams had managed to win the FA Cup and the league title in the same season, so for Wenger to manage it in his first full campaign in England was a hugely notable thing indeed. This was Wenger’s first great team, with Marc Overmars tearing down the left, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira establishing themselves as the most fearsome midfield partnership in the league and the old back four still in place. Manchester United were edged out in the league and Newcastle beaten in the cup final, and Wenger was hailed as a revolutionary. He was.

4. The six FA Cup wins

Only two managers have ever won the FA Cup six times: One is George Ramsey, who won it with Aston Villa between 1887 and 1920, and the other is Wenger. He’s rightly proud of his record in the old competition, one area in which he has outdone his fierce rival Alex Ferguson and, well, virtually everyone else who has ever managed in England. From the first win in 1998 to the most recent in 2015, the FA Cup has been a constant in Wenger’s career, and he would have won the thing one more time were it not for Michael Owen’s late intervention in 2001. You can criticise Wenger for many things, but his record in the FA Cup is not one of them.

3. The 2002 Double

Being the first foreign manager to win the double is impressive, but doing it twice is a marvel. This was arguably Wenger’s best side to watch, with Pires at his peak and Henry close to his. The season started in fine style for Gooners everywhere, as Sol Campbell infuriated Spurs fans by moving across north London on a free, and after a so-so opening (Arsenal only won five of their first 12 games and were fifth at the end of November), they went on an incredible post-December tear. Arsenal didn’t lose any of their last 21 games, dropping just six points in the process, and beat Manchester United to the title. Indeed, they sealed it in the perfect manner: Sylvain Wiltord’s goal at Old Trafford confirming Wenger’s second Premier League title, as Ferguson seethed close by.

2. Arsene who?

The unfamiliar is — or perhaps was — often treated with suspicion in English football. So when a Frenchman not many had heard of arrived from Japan, heads were scratched and scorn was poured. “Arsene who?” ran the headline on the back of London’s Evening Standard, an opinion widely held in the days when information about foreign football (Wenger had of course won the French title with Monaco in 1987-88) was much more limited. Wenger proved wrong those who doubted him because of unfamiliarity, and soon enough, everyone knew exactly who he was.

1. The 2004 Invincibles

You can pick holes in the achievement; you can say that plenty of those games were draws, that other teams achieved greater points totals and aren’t as feted. You can say Manchester United’s treble in 1999 was more impressive. But going a full season, 38 league games home and away, without defeat is a most remarkable thing. It started with a 2-1 win at home to Everton and ended with a 2-1 win at home to Leicester, and between those two there were 24 wins, 12 draws, no defeats and some often-astounding football. Perhaps the team of two years earlier were a more exhilarating watch, but the 2004 side will always go dow

Sir Alex Ferguson Pays Tribute to ‘Great’ Arsene Wenger in Honor of Arsenal Exit

April 20, 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson has paid a glowing tribute to old rival and ‘friend’ Arsene Wenger after the Arsenal boss announced he will leave at the end of the season.Wenger and the legendary Manchester United boss locked horns from 1996 until Ferguson retired from management at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, and were regularly at each other’s throats on the sidelines as they eyed wins for their respective sides.However, underlying their rivalry was a close friendship and the duo got on swimmingly out of the dugout, as Ferguson alluded to in an interview with United’s official site.Indeed, the Scot explained why he had so much respect for the veteran Frenchman and believed that his longevity – Wenger has been at the helm for 22 seasons – was down to his professionalism and hunger to win every game that he could.Ferguson revealed: “I am really happy for Arsene Wenger. I have great respect for him and for the job he has done at Arsenal.”It is great testament to his talent, professionalism and determination that he has been able to dedicate 22 years of his life to a job that he loves. In an era where football managers sometimes only last one or two seasons, it shows what an achievement it is to serve that length of time at a club the size of Arsenal.”I am pleased that he has announced he is leaving at this stage of the season, as he can now have the send-off that he truly deserves. “He is, without doubt, one of the greatest Premier League managers and I am proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man.”Perhaps the greatest contest between the two teams was the 1999 League Cup semifinal showdown, while other notable clashes between United and Arsenal included the infamous ‘Pizzagate’ saga after the October 2004 game and the September 2003 encounter that saw tempers flare after Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s penalty miss.

 

What Toronto FC must do in Guadalajara to mount a CCL final Leg 2 comeback

April 18, 201812:19AM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

Toronto FC suffered a nightmarish start to the Concacaf Champions League final, surrendering a 2nd-minute goal to Chivas Guadalajara and eventually falling 2-1 on their home turf in the first leg.It leaves the Reds with a daunting task in Leg 2 at Chivas’ Estadio Akron home next Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN in Canada, Univision Deportes, go90.com in US). Not only did the Mexican heavyweights bag a road victory, they scored two away goals, raising their odds of victory significantly, with away goals serving as the first tiebreaker should the two-legged series finish tied on aggregate (total) goals. So just what are TFC’s routes to an against-the-odds comeback?First off, and obviously, only a victory will do in Leg 2. The easiest way for Toronto to win the series at this point is a 2-0 win in Guadalajara, which would give them a 3-2 aggregate series win.Should they mirror the Leg 1 result by winning 2-1, the two sides would be level on both aggregate and away goals, meaning that the two sides would go straight to a penalty-kick shootout to decide the next champions of Concacaf. (Yes, that means CCL is not using extra time; a 2-1 TFC win at Estadio Akron would be immediately followed by PKs.)If Chivas score more than once in Leg 2, TFC’s job gets even harder. The Reds would have to either win the second leg by a margin of two goals or more, or win Leg 2 by one goal while scoring more away goals than the two that Chivas bagged in Toronto.TFC are 1-1-1 in CCL away legs during this tournament. They won 2-0 at Colorado in the first leg of their opening round, lost 3-2 at Tigres in the second leg of their quarterfinal series (a series that ended 4-4 on aggregate, with Toronto advancing via the away-goals tiebreaker) and drew 1-1 with Club América in the second leg of their semifinal clash.

Armchair Analyst: Toronto FC fall on their face in first leg vs. Chivas

April 17, 201811:17PM EDTMatthew

DoyleSenior Writer

The obvious comparison that sprang to mind in the immediate aftermath of Toronto FC’s 2-1 home loss to Chivas in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final was the US national team’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago back in October. The gap between the two teams wasn’t that large, of course – the US should beat T&T 29 times out of 30, and TFC should obviously not be favored like that over Guadalajara.But they still should’ve been favored. They were the better team, and they were playing at home. They had the wind at their backs, metaphorically speaking. They shouldn’t have been on the wrong side of the scoreline.And yet, here we are. The free space in CCL Bingo is always disappintment.

Here’s how it unfolded:

Part of the above was because TFC were so flat, they just kept losing 50/50s and failed to track runners and/or simple combination play. Obviously the best (worst?) example of that was on the game’s opening goal, which came inside of two minutes.Chivas accomplished that by sliding their own central midfielders – usually Orbelín Pineda, who was excellent – into the gap wide on their own right (TFC’s left), which always provided them an outlet and meant that Ashtone Morgan was always outnumbered.

It set the tone, and obviously a goal inside of two minutes is a dream start.

The goal came in the 19th minute. Jozy Altidore slipped Marky Delgado through, and Delgado’s low, hard cross to the back post was slid home by Jonathan Osorio. It was nice, and it felt like it worked the Reds up.

The other contributing factor to TFC waking up is their own switch to a diamond-ish 4-4-2 in the immediate aftermath of that equalizing goal. That prevented the type of overloads that had killed them in the game’s first 20 minutes, and while it sacrificed some of the central midfield, they compensated for that by 1) holding possession more out wide, and 2) having Altidore drop back deep while keeping a Chivas defender on his back.It was the right switch from Greg Vanney, and one that should’ve paid off with a goal. It didn’t in part because TFC didn’t execute as well as they should’ve in the final third, and in part because Goats goalkeeper Miguel Jimenez had a blinder of a game.• Alex Bono did not have a blinder of a game

Bono’s been great during this tournament, but that second goal feels like a back-breaker. He’s largely right. At worst, TFC should be going down to Mexico at 1-1.But they’re not. A 2-1 result is not the very end – another way this night was different from that USMNT loss to T&T – but it gets the Reds most of the way there.The free space, year after year, is disappointment.

Portland Timbers make leap, top four remain same in Power Rankings

:27 PM ETArch Bell  The Portland Timbers were the big movers this week, while the top four stay unchanged.

  1. New York City FC (no change)
    NYCFC impressively had Atlanta pinned back at certain stages of Sunday’s 2-2 draw. Patrick Vieira keeps showing his coaching chops each week.
  2. Atlanta United (no change)
    Ezequiel Barco finally made his MLS debut in the 2-2 draw with NYCFC, albeit for just 20 minutes. Buckle up for the Barco-Miguel Almiron-Josef Martinez trio.
  3. New York Red Bulls (no change)
    After Saturday’s 3-1 win over Montreal, coach Jesse Marsch said it’s time to unleash Kaku. Too bad he couldn’t have realized that three days prior.
  4. Sporting Kansas City (no change)
    With Seattle desperately seeking its first point, Sporting KC rallied nicely in the second half to salvage a 2-2 home draw against the Sounders on Sunday.
  5. LAFC (+4)
    After the nightmare of the previous 120 minutes (outscored 9-0), LAFC responded big-time with a 2-0 win in Vancouver thanks to their big stars: Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi.
  6. Columbus Crew SC (-1)
    There was simply no way past former Crew GK Steve Clark in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United. Columbus didn’t help themselves, either, by conceding inside the first minute.
  7. Toronto FC (no change)
    Yes, they lost 2-0 to Colorado, but it was a reserve-heavy side with the CONCACAF Champions League final in mind. TFC has bigger fish to fry right now.
  8. Vancouver Whitecaps (-2)
    A bad display from the ‘Caps in Friday’s 2-0 loss to LAFC. Not enough touches for Alphonso Davies and poor defending on the Diego Rossi goal.
  9. LA Galaxy (+2)
    Must-Swede TV ended with Zlatan’s team winning 1-0 in Chicago on Saturday thanks to Zlatan’s goal. Zlatan’s teammate Jonathan dos Santos was the unsung hero in midfield.
  10. Orlando City (+2)
    Dom Dwyer is en fuegowith four goals in three games after Friday’s 2-0 win in Philly, and it’s no coincidence that Orlando has now won three straight.
  11. New England Revolution (-3)
    New coach Brad Friedel has the Revs playing better this season, but a late defensive lapse proved costly in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to FC Dallas.
  12. Houston Dynamo (-2)
    Wilmer Cabrera’s side just can’t seem to shake the road woes. For the second straight road game, the Dynamo conceded an equalizer in the final 10 minutes in their 2-2 draw in San Jose.
  13. FC Dallas (+2)
    In very quiet fashion FC Dallas are unbeaten through their first five after Saturday’s 1-0 victory in New England. The fewest goals conceded thus far? Believe it.

This World Cup, ‘America’s Team’ is Mexico

By Steven Goff April 16 at 7:00 AM Email the author  Washington Post –

El Tri — as the Mexican squad is known because of the three-colored flag — enjoys a U.S. fan base crossing a continent and unifying generations.(Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

ARLINGTON, Tex. — It’s a Tuesday night in March, 2½ months before the World Cup, and almost 80,000 ticket-buyers are dashing through a day-long thunderstorm to attend an inconsequential soccer match under AT&T Stadium’s closed roof.As part of preparations for this summer’s spectacle in Russia, the Mexican national team has swept into town for a friendly against Croatia. Crowds begin arriving hours before kickoff, jamming Tom Landry Freeway and Cowboys Way.Vendors fly flags, scalpers pitch prime seats.The massive venue is home to “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, but in the original form of football — or, in this case, futbol — Mexico has, in some ways, become America’s team.The U.S. national team picks up millions of casual followers during the World Cup, but among hardcore fans of the sport in an increasingly diversified nation, Mexico turns out bigger crowds at U.S. venues.On this night, while the Mexicans fill an NFL facility, a U.S. team that will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986 continues its reconstruction with a friendly against Paraguay before a sellout crowd of 10,000 in suburban Raleigh, N.C.    El Tri — as the Mexican squad is known because of the three-colored flag — enjoys a U.S. fan base crossing a continent and unifying generations: An estimated 36 million people of Mexican descent live in the United States (11 percent of the population), and many are passionate admirers of the team.“It’s the only national team that can draw 70-75-80,000 people in Mexico but can do it as well in the United States,” Coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “I don’t think that happens to too many national teams.”Nope. Only to Mexico and only in the United States.

‘We’re becoming mainstream’

For 15 years, through a business deal between Mexico’s soccer federation and a marketing company owned by U.S.-based pro league Major League Soccer, El Tri has played between four and seven friendlies annually at U.S. locations.In fact, since 2008, Mexico has played more than four times more friendlies in the United States than at home (61 to 15), an unprecedented arrangement in international soccer. And that total does not include El Tri’s quadrennial appearances here for World Cup qualifiers against the United States and the biennial regional championship, known as the Concacaf Gold Cup.“We’ve been in this market for a long time, and recently we see we’re becoming mainstream,” said Guillermo Cantu, the Mexican federation’s general secretary. “Before, it was a lot of Mexicans working very hard to have the American Dream, Mexican-born. Now, it’s second, third and fourth generation. This is a unifying thing — the Mexican national team.”Annual average attendance the past four years has ranged between 40,000 and 60,000. Last month, in a four-day span, El Tri played friendlies at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and at AT&T Stadium in front of a combined 148,000 fans. Neither game fell on a Saturday or Sunday.On May 28, 20 days before facing defending champion Germany in its World Cup opener in Moscow, Mexico will play a friendly against Wales that is likely to sell out the 90,000-seat Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.On June 2, it will finally play its first game of the year on home soil.To counter the Mexico factor in World Cup qualifiers, the U.S. Soccer Federation scheduled the past five home matches at a 21,000-seat stadium in Columbus, Ohio, where, through advance sales to U.S. fans, it ensured a partisan crowd.El Tri’s popularity is not limited to cities in California and Texas with large Mexican communities. Over the years, the tour has hit Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Orlando, even Nashville.This year’s circuit — which also included San Antonio on Jan. 31 against Bosnia and will make at least one stop this fall at a venue to be determined — coincides with the decline of the U.S. team. After gaining an edge over their bitter rivals in recent years and making the World Cup seven consecutive times, the Americans failed to qualify last fall because they couldn’t manage a draw at last-place Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of the regional race.Mexico is among the countries with strong U.S. ties vying for the support of Americans left without a team to back at the World Cup this summer.“Just follow the guy in green,” Cantu said with a smile. “And you will have fun. You will enjoy having that encounter with people who really care about the game and many other things. You will find very nice people cheering for one common team.”Despite the rivalry, he said he takes no joy from the U.S. failure. After all, four years ago, Mexico failed to earn an automatic berth in the Concacaf region and needed to go through an intercontinental playoff to claim the last ticket to Brazil.“It was a fluke they did not make it,” Cantu said of the U.S. program, a 2002 World Cup quarterfinalist and round-of-16 participant in 2010 and 2014. “It’s not something I wish on anyone. In football, it’s death.”

A ‘massive machine’ of a tour

Fervent U.S. supporters would never root for Mexico, not after the fiery encounters between the teams since the 1990s. But casual fans might swing to Mexico’s side — for a few weeks, anyway.The Mexican federation is making a play to broaden its base, launching English versions of Twitter and Facebook accounts this year.“We are speaking English now — not because of us, but the people following us,” Cantu said.Language often separates generations.“Going to some of these games, the parents are pro-Mexico and wearing the Mexico shirts,” said Alfonso Mondelo, MLS’s director of player programs. “And then the children are wearing the USA shirts. So when the Mexican fans say, ‘Si, se puede’  [‘Yes, we can’], the kids will answer, ‘No se pueda’ [‘No, it can’t’].”Many current Mexican players have forged greater name recognition in the United States than their predecessors because they’ve left the comforts of their domestic league (Liga MX) for clubs in MLS and Europe. Three high-profile figures are employed in MLS: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC) and brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos (Los Angeles Galaxy).Visits to the United States are perfectly comfortable for El Tri’s coach: Osorio is Colombian but played, coached and started his family here.The Mexican tour is “this massive machine,” said Gabe Gabor, a senior international communications consultant for Soccer United Marketing, the MLS entity that owns the rights to Mexican friendlies played in the United States, except those against the U.S. squad.In the early years of the Mexico-SUM deal, fans typically bought tickets at the stadium box office on the day of the match. Now, online pre-sales leave few seats available for last-minute purchase.During the team’s Dallas stop, fans had learned where the delegation was staying and lined the entry to the Westin hotel, two or three thick in some places.Tour sponsors include Delta, Adidas and Coca-Cola. The Mexican team has its own sponsorships, such as Movistar (mobile phones) and Citibanamex (banking).Live TV broadcasts are shot from opposite sides of the field: One displays advertising signboards for Mexican broadcasters, the other for U.S. outlets.The full-time press corps following the team numbers more than 50, and media requests total several hundred in big U.S. markets. The day before the game against Croatia, five Spanish-language TV outlets carried Osorio’s news conference live. More than a dozen other cameras taped his comments.The friendly against Iceland on March 23 in Santa Clara attracted 2.4 million TV viewers in the United States, almost all on Spanish outlets Univision and Univision Deportes (as well as 57,000 on Fox Sports 1).Four days later, 2 million watched Mexico vs. Croatia on UniMas and Univision Deportes, with another 195,000 on FS1. The U.S.-Paraguay match logged 588,000 on UniMas and Univision Deportes, plus 337,000 on FS1 for a total of 925,000.El Tri’s popularity is an extension of Liga MX’s weekly status. TV coverage of league matches on Spanish outlets dominates the list of televised soccer in the United States.On March 10-11, for instance, 1.25 million watched Club America vs. Leon on Univision. Tigres vs. Tijuana on Univision was next at 931,000. The Premier League showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool on NBCSN and Telemundo drew 594,000, while D.C. United at Atlanta on ESPN garnered 576,000.“The old adage at Univision was the five most popular sports for the Hispanic audience are soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer and boxing,” said David Neal, Fox Sports vice president for production, who worked for the Spanish outlet in 2011-12. “It’s a passion. It’s a family tradition.”

Going bilingual for the World Cup

Neal is the executive producer for Fox’s coverage of the World Cup this summer. Without a U.S. team to center on, the network will focus heavier coverage on Mexico, even though Telemundo, which owns U.S. Spanish rights for the tournament and features famed announcer Andres Cantor, is the natural choice for Mexican fans.Fox Sports won’t concede the audience. It will carry Mexico’s matches (in English) with three Latino announcers well-versed in all things El Tri.“What we’ve learned in audience research, an increasing percentage of Hispanic households are language agnostic,” Neal said. “They’ll go where they are getting the most information, the most enjoyment. For us, it comes down to delivering the best news and information about El Tri.”To MLS — which has 23 teams in 21 U.S. and Canadian markets and has struggled to gain ground on Liga MX in quality and popularity — the public’s admiration for El Tri has helped grow the sport here.“We are at a point where anything that is good for soccer in this country is good for MLS,” said Mondelo, the MLS official. “There is a huge base of Mexican fans here, and hopefully that will translate to some of them following MLS as well.”For the Mexican soccer federation, the fan base here has provided a second home for the national team.“Wherever we go,” Cantu said, “they will follow.”

Bruce Arena disagrees with Jurgen Klinsmann over U.S. World Cup miss

6:10 PM ETAssociated Press

Bruce Arena called the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup a “wake-up call,” but didn’t go as far as his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann did about the ramifications of the Americans’ failure to reach the tournament in Russia.On Wednesday, Arena, who presided over the catastrophic end of the U.S. bid to qualify for an eighth-consecutive World Cup, said in a lengthy interview that missing out on soccer’s greatest competition was a disappointment but not a tragedy.”We are not the first country not to qualify for a World Cup,” Arena said. “There’s going to be days when England doesn’t qualify, as Italy didn’t this time around, or Chile or Holland.”Those are countries well ahead of us. That’s all a part of it. And it allows you to reflect a little bit. You re-examine what you’re doing and you try to make things better. So it’s not a crisis, but it’s a wake-up call.”It is no coincidence that Arena’s remarks came just days after Klinsmann, in an interview with German soccer publication kicker, gave a far gloomier prognosis.”It’s been set back by several years,” Klinsmann said, when asked about the state of soccer in the country. “That was a huge disappointment. The qualification really was never in doubt, but then the lads had a blackout versus Trinidad and Tobago.”They only needed a point, were too sure of that and underestimated that final match.”There are differing opinions on who should shoulder most of the blame for the qualifying debacle. Klinsmann was fired after appearing to have lost the trust of the players and suffering a home defeat to Mexico and a 4-0 drubbing in Costa Rica to begin the final phase of the CONCACAF regional qualification process.Arena took over and sparked an initial revival, before four points from the final four games — capped off by a shocking defeat in Trinidad — ended the team’s hopes of going to Russia this summer.”When I took over the program, we weren’t fooled by the fact it was going to be a long road,” Arena added. “We really knew it was going to come down to the last game. On another day, perhaps we win [against T+T] but we didn’t.”Would we do many things a whole lot differently? No, in all honesty. We got ourselves back into the thick of things and had everything in our hands on the last day, and we fell short.”As we look around, we have no one to blame but ourselves. On the day nothing went right, and we fell short. We had the control of things. If we got a result, we would not have to depend on anything else.”Overall coaching standards, from grassroots to elite level, are often blamed for the U.S.’s inability to become a major world power in soccer. Arena has a different take.”Our system needs to get better,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be changed radically. Typically, people look at [soccer in America] as lacking in coaching, lacking in player development. I disagree with that. I think the administration and management of the sport has to improve greatly.”

Juventus, Gigi Buffon and Real Madrid must close officiating can of worms

11:29 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

How about we all take a step back and keep the hell away from that Pandora’s Box?That means you, Marca, who saw fit to devote Tuesday’s front page to the following concept: the accusations of pro-Real Madrid refereeing bias might hurt Zinedine Zidane’s team against Bayern Munich.And you, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, who accused UEFA head of refereeing Pierluigi Collina (who happens to be Italian) of being so obsessed with appearing transparent and unbiased that he ends up penalizing Serie A clubs. You too, Medhi Benatia, who compared events at the Bernabeu last week to a “rape” and, when an Italian comedian called him out on it, replied “if you’d like to try it out, I’m at the [training ground] every day… you can put it wherever you like.”And, as much as it pains everyone who has admired your career, you too, Gigi Buffon, who — while saying on Sunday that the way you expressed yourself was over the top — stood by your basic concept: that calling a match-deciding penalty when the game is about to go to extra time is wrong because you should “let the pitch do the talking.”As for the pond scum who littered social media as well as the offline world with threats and abuse toward referee Michael Oliver and his wife, Lucy, they don’t need to take a step back. Instead, they need to be identified, exposed, named and shamed to their wives, children and employers as well as face criminal charges where applicable.But back to the folks who really should know better. Amid the chaos, Max Allegri said it best on Tuesday.”Let’s not waste energy on this stuff,” said the Juvents manager. “This is life, we’re part of the show. It’s over. I don’t want to hear one more of my players go back to this. It’s been a week. We’re done.”He’s right. Not just because lost amid the chaos of the penalty and the red card was one basic fact: Juventus had roundly defeated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, putting three goals past them. That matched Madrid’s heaviest home defeat in a European knockout tie. (Spartak Moscow beat them 3-1 in the 1990-91 European Cup quarterfinal, except unlike Juve, they weren’t 3-0 down on aggregate when the match kicked off.)That’s what we should talk about, not vast conspiracies. I say this as someone who, more than most, isn’t averse to discussing conspiracies if (key point, here) there is logic behind them to make them plausible.So let’s do some deconstructing, shall we?Yes, referees have been accused of favouring Real Madrid in the past. Just last season, they got some huge calls in the return leg against Bayern. But guess what? It happens to most big clubs who do well in Europe. Or have we forgotten those hilarious “UEFAlona” jibes already?Simply put: If favouritism exists, it’s not clear why it should suddenly end. If there is no favouritism — and you’d tend to believe that if there was a big pro-Madrid plot, they wouldn’t leave it until six seconds from the final whistle to spring into action against Juventus — then you wonder why they would suddenly overcompensate. Or, indeed, how it would benefit Juventus given that they’re out of the competition.Agnelli’s logic is equally twisted. He accuses Collina of not wanting VAR in the Champions League, which is a bit odd since he’s pushed VAR in his other role as head of FIFA’s Referees Committee. It’s also bizarre because under the current VAR protocol, Oliver would not have overruled himself.The other part of the argument is that in his desire to appear impartial, Collina sends weaker and less experienced referees to officiate the Italian sides. Now, it’s true that Oliver, age 33, isn’t particularly seasoned compared with some UEFA officials. But with Mark Clattenburg (who would have gone to the World Cup) decamping to Saudi Arabia, Oliver is probably the top Premier League referee. The way to get experience is to actually officiate Champions League knockout rounds. Had the first leg been closer, you’d imagine that somebody else might have received the call, but with Real Madrid coming off a 3-0 away win, the appointment made sense.What about the theory that Collina penalises Italian clubs? When he took over at UEFA, Serie A was fourth in the country coefficient rankings. Now it’s third and Juventus have reached two of the past three Champions League finals, which suggests that if Collina is leading a big anti-Italian plot, he’s not doing a very good job.Agnelli, rather ominously, spoke about replacing Collina. If he were just a club president you could understand it. But he’s also the chairman of the European Clubs Association and a member of UEFA’s Executive Board, which makes the statement rather ominous and ill-advised.Benatia needs some counselling if he thinks comparing Oliver’s penalty to rape is appropriate.Buffon’s situation is complicated by all the extraneous smoke and mirrors around it. He says he’s being honest about how he feels, how moments like that make him feel alive, how he’s not going to hide behind conformist niceties. Great. But strip it all away and what is his basic point? That a big game should not be decided by a contentious penalty in injury time.It’s true that most neutrals and all Juve fans would have enjoyed extra-time. Let them settle it on the pitch, sure, but a referee has to call what he sees. Buffon should know that, because the shoe has been on the other foot in the past.Remember this? When Lucas Neill brought down Fabio Grosso deep in injury-time in the Round of 16 game between Italy and Australia at the 2006 World Cup, nobody remembers Buffon running after the referee saying you couldn’t possibly award a penalty in those circumstances. If Buffon had been in goal for Australia, maybe he would have reacted exactly the same way. But it still would not have been right.Complicating everything are the folks (usually neutrals) for whom the referee is always right, regardless. They’re also the ones who tend to view referees like some sort of collective entity, a bit like the Borg from Star Trek: they are to be respected and never questioned… at least unless their team is playing.It doesn’t work that way in real life. If you talk to most high-level referees, they’ll tell you it shouldn’t. They are individuals, they are uber-competitive, they take pride in their work, they are self-critical (away from the cameras) and they don’t hesitate to critique the work of their colleagues.We witnessed a thrilling Champions League quarterfinal and an outstanding performance from a Juventus side devoid of (arguably) their best player, Paulo Dybala. Now take Allegri’s advice and move on.

CONCACAF Champions League final: Do Toronto or Chivas have the edge?

Apr 12, 2018Jeff CarlisleTom Marshall

The CONCACAF Champions League final will be a battle of Major League Soccer vs. Liga MX, as Toronto FC and Chivas will do battle over two legs, with the first game on Tuesday at BMO Field. How did these two teams get here, and what are their chances of going on to win it all? ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Marshall take a first look ahead of the final.

1. How did each team reach the final?

Jeff Carlisle: After disposing of the Colorado Rapids in the round of 16, Toronto has taken out two Liga MX heavyweights in Tigres and Club America. The team did so by staying true to its style of keeping the ball on the ground and rarely bunkering in. TFC manager Greg Vanney has been tactically flexible, using both four-man and three-man backlines, depending what the situation called for.Of course it helps to have players such as Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore delivering the goals at critical moments, but this has been a true team effort. Supporting players such as Jonathan Osorio have popped up for vital tallies, while Marky Delgado has provided a steady two-way presence. The defense led by Drew Moor has done its part as well, and Alex Bono has delivered some superb saves when called upon, in particular during the second leg of the semifinal series against America.Michael Bradley continues to be the hub around much of what TFC does. He’s the player to initiate the attack, and he provides some overall steady defense so long as he has help nearby. This is a Toronto team that is deep in all positions and is already being hailed as the best team in MLS history. A victory in the final against Chivas will put that claim beyond any doubts that might still linger.

Tom Marshall: Chivas reached the final thanks to their solid defense, grit and determination. It hasn’t been at all pretty, and at times the team has looked like a shadow of the one that swept to the Liga MX 2017 Clausura title, memorably overcoming Tigres in the final.Chivas’ approach has been more cautious than is usually associated with coach Matias Almeyda, which has been a surprise. There was a distinctly pragmatic feel to the team in the semifinal second leg against New York Red Bulls, as players wasted time early on. Almeyda’s pregame comments about wanting to play with three center-backs and on the counter — before he learned of Jair Pereira’s suspension — said a lot about how the Guadalajara manager is thinking.But putting the aesthetics to one side, Chivas haven’t conceded in 282 minutes during the competition and deserve praise for finding a way past two tricky opponents in the Seattle Sounders and the Red Bulls. It has been a case of getting the job done for Chivas and against the odds, given that the team has been poor in league play this year.

2. How can they plot their way to victory in the final?

JC: More than anything, TFC needs to regain a bit of health. Toronto’s aforementioned depth is a key reason that it has progressed this far. At one stage against Club America, TFC was down five starters, with Chris Mavinga, Victor Vasquez, Ager Aketxe, Gregory van der Wiel and Altidore all sidelined. TFC hasn’t missed a beat, as the likes of Ashtone Morgan, Nico Hasler, Tosaint Ricketts and Osorio have filled in capably and at times spectacularly.But one wonders if the possible loss of Altidore for the first leg might be a case of Toronto sustaining one injury too many. It’s one thing to rely on Ricketts with a multi-goal lead in the second leg and quite another to be depending on him for goals heading into the series. The backline needs to heal as well, as Bradley was forced to drop into defense during the second leg against Club America when van der Wiel was sidelined.Otherwise, TFC just needs to play its game. Chivas isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, and the Reds have shown they can get goals against Liga MX’s best teams. But Chivas have proven themselves a defensive force, so falling behind isn’t an option for Toronto.

TM: You could argue that Chivas have the ability to make Toronto’s task even more difficult than Tigres and Club America, at least given what we saw from the Guadalajara team against the Sounders and Red Bulls. In the second leg of both the quarters and the semis, the Mexican sides were chasing the series and leaving space between the lines for TFC to exploit. A player such as Giovinco needs no invitation when space is on offer.The losses of suspended center-back Pereira and goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota for the first leg in Toronto represent a big blow for Chivas. It’ll likely be a game not too dissimilar to the one Chivas just played against the Red Bulls: respect Toronto’s attack a little more than Tigres and America did, sit back, let the MLS champion come at you and restrict the space that Giovinco and Osorio try to burst around the box.

3. How much would victory mean to each team?

JC: History beckons for Toronto. While MLS teams have twice claimed a continental title, both wins came back in the days when the tournament was held in a single, U.S.-based venue. Performing in front of hostile crowds at altitude wasn’t required. In fact, both D.C. United (1998) and the LA Galaxy (2000) were able to stay close to home in claiming the title, then known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup.Since then, MLS teams have failed to make much headway in the competition, with only Real Salt Lake (2011) and the Montreal Impact (2015) reaching the final. There have been some blowouts against Liga MX sides along the way, and with MLS aiming to increase its international profile, having one of its teams claim the CCL would be a tangible sign of the progress it is making.

A Toronto victory would also raise the bar for the rest of the league as well. Sure, some teams such as the New York Red Bulls have found success focusing on the academy and USL pipelines, but if the rest of MLS wants to compete at Toronto’s level, it needs to devote considerable financial resources both on and off the field and maximize the various player acquisition mechanisms.

TM: Chivas haven’t won a CONCACAF trophy since 1962, and for an institution that considers itself the biggest and greatest in Mexico, that fact isn’t very glorious.

A lot of the talk about Chivas in the CCL has surrounded the club’s poor form this Clausura and the 2017 Apertura. While obviously true, that narrative has negated their pedigree and ability to reach finals since Almeyda took over in September 2015. This is Chivas’ seventh final in that time, making it (aside from the campeonisimo team of the 1950s and 60s) one of the most successful periods ever for Chivas.Problems inside the club have also seemed to create a divide between the players and coaching staff on one side and certain directors on the other. The positive is that the friction seems to have brought unity and even more incentive for the players to win the title in spite of the alleged lack of bonus payments and subpar traveling conditions of late.Let’s not forget the nationalistic sentiment here. Chivas point out at every opportunity that only Mexicans can play for the club. Winning the regional tournament would be a source of a lot of pride for fans.

4. Early prediction for the final

JC: For the first time since the round of 16, Toronto enters the series as the favorite. If the Reds can get some of their injured players back, that sentiment only increases. But Chivas have proven to be a tough team to break down, conceding just a solitary goal in six CCL matches. Much will depend on Altidore’s availability. If he can go, look for TFC to prevail with a home win and a draw on the road. Otherwise, the margins will shrink, with penalties deciding the outcome. Even then, I like Toronto to come out on top.

TM: Usually the question of which team is “favorite” for a game or series is pretty boring, but in this case, the opposite is true. Do you go with Toronto, which has already gotten past two Liga MX sides better than Chivas on paper? Or do you go with the team representing a nation that has won the past 12 editions of this tournament and closes out the series at home?Given the resilience and focus it has shown so far, I’d have to go with Toronto, but it’s likely to be tight.

 

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Indy 11 Discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

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4/13/18 Indy 11 Discount Tix for Nashville Game Sat 12 noon, Champs + Europa Final 4 Set, Toronto Advances to CCL Finals, Huge TV Games

So the last 2 days of Champions League is why I absolutely love this sport !  First the unbelievable comeback by Roma at home as they overcame the 3-1 deficit to be beat mighty Barcelona 3-0 and advance on away goals to the Final 4.  Then on Wed  – what would have been the greatest comeback in history as Juventus – my precious Juventus almost pulled the feat down 3-0 after a home loss – scoring 3 at Real Madrid to almost take it to overtime.  Then I have witnessed one of the worse crimes I have ever seen in soccer – as Gigi Buffon – legendary goalkeeper for Juve was sent to the stands after a very questionable call by a subpar referee in a game the Juve should have won.  Now the call – I think was not a penalty in the 93rd minute of a game of this magnitude.  But you can definitely argue it was.  But to kick out Buffon, seriously Buffon one of the greatest goalkeepers of this generation before the penalty kick of the last Champions League game of his life? I don’t care what Gigi said to him?  Nothing he could have done short of choking this horrible ref should have been a sending off.  Not in a game of this magnitude in this situation at that moment.  NOTHING Gigi said was worth a sending off – I don’t care what he said in the heat of the battle.  Give him a yellow then if he doesn’t shut up red him.  But straight red to Gigi, who always wears his emotions on his sleeve at that point ?  I question the sanctity of Champions League, the ref, heck the entire sport of soccer at this point !! Tragedy.  An absolute travesty!!   Of course now on to the Final 4 – the Semi-Finals as Liverpool get Roma and Real Madrid get Bayern Munich.  (More on that next Week)

Our Indy 11 return home for a 12 noon kickoff this Saturday live from Lucas Oil stadium vs Nashville. (Check out the Preview from Blood Shambles)   Get your discount Tickets here (code -2018indy) and be sure to park in the BYB Parking lot 10 – (see below).

MLS

So MLS was this close to making history as Toronto advanced to the Finals of CONCACAF Champions League by beating Chivas and the New York Redbulls needed just 1 goal at home to it off in a game they dominated Chivas with 20 shots on goal – but couldn’t find the back of the net and fell short allowing the Mexican side to advance.  Toronto however held serve at Azteca and defeated top Mexican side Club America 4-1 on Aggregate.  Huge games this weekend on Saturday as Chicago and Bastian Swenstiger host LA Galaxy and IBRA on Fox 59 at 3 pm. Sunday the top 2 teams in the Eastern Conference face off at 6 pm on Fox Sport 1 Atlanta United hosting NYCFC.

BIG GAMES ON TV

A handful of big games on TV this weekend as the EPL features Man City vs Tottenham on Sat at 2:45 pm on NBCSN, right after Liverpool host Bournemouth at 12:30 on NBC and Bayern Munich hosts Borrussia M’gladbach also at 12:30 on FS2. Sunday features Newcastle United and US defender Deandre Yedlin host Arsenal on NBCSN at 8:30 am, followed by the All American fare in Germany as the #2 and #3 ranked teams Schalke with US mid McKinney and Dortmund with US Superstar Christian Pulisic battle for 2nd in the Bundesliga at 9:30 am on Fox Sports 1.   German cup and Spanish Cup games continue Tues and Wed on ESPN3 and beIN Sport at 2:45. (see full schedule at https://www.theoleballcoach.com.

Good luck to those teams playing in the Indy Burn Cup and Traveling around this weekend as well as the host of league games and Rec soccer getting underway – assuming we don’t get rained out.

CFC_Christiannicht

Carmel FC Goalies don’t forget Wednesday night – goalie training at Shelbourne with new GK coach Kristian Nicht!  5:30 to 6:30 U11-U12 6:40 to 7:40 U13 – U19 

Finally as both Recreation and Travel Soccer Games are starting in full scale this weekend – I thought it good timing to include some links reminding us all as coaches, parents, and players what really matters in sports.

Great Link for Parents about Coaches and Refs – Frank Martin USC Basketball Coach

Game Day Nutrition for Youth Soccer Players 

6 Simple Values Learned Thru Playing Sports – from Indiana Soccer Director of Education – Steve Franklin

Six Simple Values Learned through Playing Sports
by Steve Franklin, Indiana Soccer Director of Education

Youth soccer players often start playing sports because their parents have an interest in it. They may see their mother or father watching a game on television and become inspired, or their mother or father may decide that they will benefit from this type of activity. If the youngster has fun while playing, it can lead to a lifetime of enjoying athletics. Regardless of the starting point, there are many values that can be learned by participating in sports.

Food For Thought: Effort and Attitude
Players often worry about the things they cannot control: the referee, the opponents, playing time, starting lineup, or the weather – all things they have exactly zero control over. Two things they have total control over are the effort they give and the attitude they bring to training or the match.Every coach loves the players who give an honest effort in everything they do – be it on the field, in the classroom, or maybe even in the chores around the house. Coaches also appreciate the players with a great attitude. They are fun to coach and develop. Teammates enjoy playing with them. Referees respect them.  Think about that the next time your touch is off or you are not selected for the starting lineup.

Work Ethic
First time youth soccer players, just like those who have been involved in the game for years, can learn the value of work ethic by playing sports. It’s not just getting out on the field and playing the game. You have to go to practice several times per week to learn the skills needed to play the game well. Those players who work hard get better at their technique and skills, and the results show as a season progresses. For example, a youth player who takes the opportunity to train on their foot skills on their own in the yard will often see improved skills and confidence in the second half of the season than he or she did early in the year. A player who does not work as hard may not see the same kind of progress.

Teamwork
You also have to learn to work and play with others to get the most out of the experience, even if you are not always given credit on paper. The player who passes the ball to a teammate who scores gets an assist on the play. However, another teammate who works hard defensively in order to win possession of the ball back won’t get any statistical recognition. The teammate who scored the goal or was able to beat a defender off the dribble in order to serve the ball in to the goal scorer knows why she was able to create such a chance. The coach also appreciates the player who did the hard work in transition to win the ball in order for the attack to go forward.

Respect
At a certain point in the season, players likely see their team progressing and also see improvement in their own play. They realize the progress is the result of hard work. Players have every reason to take pride in their achievements and feel some self-respect for the way they have improved. They also realize that the team on the opposite side of the field is practicing and playing just as hard and deserving respect, as well. Showing respect for your opponent leads to displays of sportsmanship. That’s a sign of maturity and development.

It should be noted that supporters in youth soccer should also show that same respect, giving applause or cheers for players on either side when warranted.

Overcoming Adversity
When a player continuously gets stopped when attempting a skill move while dribbling to beat a defender in a game, it can often be easy for that player to feel sorry for himself and want to quit. However, in competitive sports, nearly all players have negative outcomes from time to time. The growth comes from the player who has the bad day, accepts it, and keeps playing and attempting to get better. When you overcome adversity, you learn that life isn’t always easy and it’s best to stay with difficult tasks and conquer them rather than take the easy way out.  While soccer is meant to be a fun experience for all involved (and it usually is!) the real power of the game is in the values learned while participating.

MLS

MLS gets 1 Team thru to CCL Finals Matt Doyle –MLS.com

Toronto Advances to CCL Final vs Chivas

Toronto puts on clinic @ Club America in Azteca

Toronto FC Not Done Says Coach Vanney – We want the Title

Red Bulls Were better team in CCL lose to Chivas – Kristian Dyer – Mls.com

Zlatan Ibra

Zlatan Renaldo’s Goal was better than mine

Chicago vs LA Galaxy Preview

Chicago Fire vs LA Galaxy –clash of Titans

Power Rankings NYCFC, Atlanta United

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Final 4 is Set – who is Favored Now – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Gigi – Refs should not Destroy Dreams with such horrible Decisions

Renaldo’s Joy – Buffons Woes – defines Wild night in Madrid – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Buffon Deserved Better than this Ridiculous Sending off – yahoo.com

Allegri Defends Buffon

Buffon’s Legacy not Tarnished by Meltdown at Madrid – ESPNFC Hames Horncastle

Pirlo – Buffon Right to Lose Control vs Real Madrid

Wildest Ending in Champions League History – USA today

Lose Sure – but not like this – Says Italian Newspapers

You have to Hear this Call of Roma beating Barcelona from Roma Radio guy

Roma rewarded for dreaming big as Di Francesco masterminds Barca downfall- Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Barcas Players and Coach have no Answers for Collapse – Graham Hunter ESPNFC

American Owner James Pallotta of Roma gets Fined for jumping in Rome  Fountain

The Best Ever Comebacks in Leg 2 in Champ League History – I think Roma over Barca takes # 1 now ESPNFC

Klopp says we/Liverpool can’t compare to Barca, Real or Bayern

Liverpool Exceeds Expectations – ESPNFc Steven Kelly

Salah and Firmino make Liverpool History at Man City

Pep’s Champion League Woes

Why did Man City Season Evaporate – ESPNFC Simon Curtis

Bayern Win Ugly over Sevilla –ESPNFC

Indy 11

Indy11PREVIEW_INDvNSH_large

Discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Indy 11 Preview vs Nashville

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for This Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Indy 11 Preview – Bloody Shambles – James  Cormack

3 Take Aways from the Win vs NC

Indy’s Pasher is in USL 11 Player of the Week

Justin Braun and Brad Rusin share Recovery Stories

2 Indy 11 games to Air on ESPN News are part of USL ESPN Game of the Week

June 26 – Nashville SC vs. Indy Eleven (ESPNews)
July 4 – Indy Eleven vs. Ottawa Fury FC (ESPNews)

Indy 11 US Open Cup Dates Announced

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 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.

EPL

David De Gea show why Man United can’t let him go to Real Madrid – ESPNFC

What to Watch 4 – Man City vs Tottenham and more in EPL

EPL Predictions

USA

Pulisic Goal a Stunner vs Stuggart

CONMEBOL endorses North American Bid for WC

GOALKEEPING

KC GK Tim Melia is Week 6 Winner and MLS Player of the Week

 

GAMES ON TV 

Fri, Apr 13 

8 pm ESPN                       Philly Union vs Orlando City

Sat, Apr 14

7:30 am NBCSN            Southampton vs Chelsea

9:30 am FS2                    Leverkusen vvs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN?              Burnley vs Leicester City

10:15 am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Valencia

12 noon                 Indy 11 vs Nashville SC (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

12:30 pm NBCSN      Liverpool vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm FS2                Bayern Munich vs Borussia M’Gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN   Tottenham vs Manchester City

3 pm Fox 59          Chicago Fire vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan in Chicago)

3 pm ESPN3                    Colorado Rapids vs Toronto FC

3:30 pm Lifetime       Utah Royals vs Chicago Red Stars (Women’s NWSL)

7:30 ESPN3+youtube Louisville City vs Richmond Kickers (USL)

Sun, Apr 15                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Newcastle (Yedlin) vs Arsenal

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

9:30 am FS1                    Schalke (McKinney) vs Dortmund (Pulisic) battle for 2nd   

11 am  NBCSN               Man United vs West Brom

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Malaga vs Real Madrid

4 pm ESPN                       Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders

6 pm FS 1                         Atlanta United vs NYCFC  

Tues, Apr 17 –

2:45 pm NBCSN           Brighton vs Tottenham

2:45 pm ESPN3+DespLeverkusen vs Bayern Munich – (German Cup)

Weds, Apr 18

2:45 pm NBCSN           Bournemouth vs Manchester United

2:45 pm ESPN3+DespSchalke (Mkkensie) vs Frankfurt  (German Cup)

3:30 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Athletic Club

Sat, Apr 21

9:30 am FS2                    Frankfurt vs Hertha

9:30 am FS1                    Hannover vs Bayern Munich

10 am NBCSN                Watford vs Crystal Palace

12:15 pm Fox 59        Man United vs Tottenham (FA Cup Semis)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 1Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Leverkusen

3:30 pm ESPN News Barcelona vs Sevilla (Final Copa del Rey)

7 pm ESPN3+Utube Cincinatti FC vs Pittsburg Riverhounds (USL)

10:30 pm ESPN3?       Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Sun, Apr 22                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs West Ham

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

11:30 am  NBCSN       Man City vs Swansea

12 noon FS1                   koln vs Schalke (McKinney)

4 pm ESPN                    Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota United

6 pm FS 1                      Portland Timbers vs NYCFC  

Real Madrid, Liverpool backed for Champions League final, Arsenal to lose to Atletico

7:39 AM ETMark OgdenSenior Football Writer  Champions League

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

This is a true heavyweight clash, with Bayern and Real having previously met 24 times in this competition and both boasting 11 victories against each other. This will be their seventh meeting in the semifinals alone.Real claimed a controversial quarterfinal victory over Bayern last season when Arturo Vidal was sent off for the Germans in a game that saw two of Cristiano Ronaldo’s three goals allowed to stand despite being offside.Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, sacked by Real after guiding them to the 1998 Champions League title, goes into this game with the German club announcing that Eintracht Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac will replace him when he retires for a second time at the end of this season.While Bayern have clinched yet another Bundesliga title this term, the club have not enjoyed a campaign without turbulence, with coach Carlo Ancelotti sacked midseason and replaced by Heynckes.Real, meanwhile, sit fourth in La Liga, 15 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona, with their ongoing progression in the Champions League crucial in keeping coach Zinedine Zidane in a job.Wednesday’s 3-1 quarterfinal second-leg defeat at home to Juventus exposed the frailties in Real’s team and their over-reliance on Ronaldo and centre-half Sergio Ramos, whose absence through suspension against Juve left Real hugely vulnerable at the back.This is a tie between two giants, but both teams are arguably on the wane after long periods of success.Who has the edge? With the second leg at the Bernabeu, and with Ronaldo in their side, Real are the slight favourites as they bid to win the Champions League for the third year in a row.

Winners: Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Roma

This is a repeat of the 1984 European Cup final, when Liverpool defeated Roma on penalties in a game played at the Stadio Olimpico.Roma’s remarkable comeback against Barcelona, when Eusebio di Francesco’s team overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit to win 3-0 in the Italian capital, ensures they will go into this semifinal as a feared opponent for five-time European champions Liverpool.But despite Roma’s triumph over Barca, and Liverpool’s emphatic 5-1 aggregate quarterfinal win against Manchester City, this is the tie that both clubs would have wanted.Liverpool’s firepower, led by former Roma forward Mohamed Salah, proved too destructive for City, but Roma also have their attacking qualities, with Edin Dzeko a key figure in their win against Barcelona.It promises to be a finely balanced tie, with Roma’s midfield of Kevin Strootman, Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan the equal of Liverpool’s engine room.And in goal, Roma’s Brazil No.1 Alisson — a keeper being pursued by Liverpool and Real Madrid — gives the Giallorossi the edge over the Premier League outfit.Liverpool have fond memories of Rome, having won two of their five European Cups at the Stadio Olimpico, and they will expect to overcome the Italians to make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.Jurgen Klopp’s team are the favourites, but it will be much closer than many expect, and this tie could go all the way to penalties.Winners: Liverpool

Europa League

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid were the team that each of the other semifinalists were desperate to avoid, but Arsenal, having had the misfortune of being paired with Diego Simeone’s men, are perhaps the only surviving club capable of beating the Spanish outfit.Atletico, beaten finalists in the Champions League in 2014 and 2016, will still be strong favourites to win this semifinal, however.Arsene Wenger’s team will have to nullify the threat of Diego Costa, who scored three goals in six games against the Gunners during his time at Chelsea, and also find a way to keep Antoine Griezmann, Atleti’s 25-goal top scorer, quiet.

And even if Arsenal manage that, they then have to get past goalkeeper Jan Oblak, one of the world’s best, to score the goals to take them into the final.But the biggest challenge likely to face Arsenal is being able to match the work rate and tenacity of Atletico’s high-pressing game.Wenger must devise a plan to ensure his attacking players, such as Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, offer as much threat for Arsenal as Costa and Griezmann will provide for Atletico.Whether Arsenal can keep it tight enough at the back is another matter, with the 2-2 quarterfinal second-leg draw against CSKA Moscow once again exposing their defensive frailties.But this competition arguably means more to Arsenal than Atletico because it offers a route back into the Champions League. And winning it may also be the only way to save Wenger’s job.Despite all of that, Arsenal face a mountain to climb if they are to make it to the final.Winners: Atletico Madrid

Marseille vs. Salzburg

French giants Marseille go into this tie with the edge in terms of European pedigree, having reached two Champions League finals and two UEFA Cup/Europa League Finals, since the start of the 1990s.And with Lyon set to stage this season’s Europa League final, there will be an added incentive for Rudi Garcia’s team to overcome the Austrian Bundesliga leaders.But Red Bull-owned Salzburg — known as FC Salzburg in UEFA competition due to sponsorship regulations — proved their quality with a stunning 4-1 quarterfinal second-leg win at home to Lazio, which secured a 6-5 aggregate victory.Marco Rose’s team sit eight points clear of Sturm Graz in their domestic league and are on course for a fifth successive title, while Marseille are locked in a battle with Lyon for the third and final Champions League qualification berth in Ligue 1.Marseille have never lost at home to an Austrian club, winning one and drawing two of their three encounters with Austrian opposition at Stade Velodrome, but Salzburg are unbeaten in their last three games against French opposition.Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha are the Salzburg danger men, with both scoring five goals so far during their run to the semifinals.But former West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet is the man most likely to make a difference for Marseille, with the France international scoring three and creating four goals for Garcia’s team in the Europa League.The winners of this tie are likely to go into the final as underdogs against Arsenal or Atletico, but Marseille can use the raucous atmosphere at home in the first leg to build a platform to take them to Lyon.Winners: Marseille

Andrea Pirlo: Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon right to ‘lose control’ vs. Real Madrid

4:10 AM ETBen Gladwell

Andrea Pirlo has defended Gianluigi Buffon for losing his temper after a penalty was awarded in the final seconds of Juventus’ Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Real Madrid on Wednesday, telling La Gazzetta dello Sport he would have reacted in the same way.Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot with seconds left of a game Juve were leading 3-0 — a result that would have cancelled out the same outcome in the first leg and taken the game to extra time — after judging that Medhi Benatia had fouled Lucas Vazquez inside the penalty area.An animated Buffon led Juve’s protests, and he was consequently shown a red card by Oliver in what could prove to be the 40-year-old’s final appearance in the competition. Pirlo the former AC Milan and Juventus midfielder, said that Buffon’s behaviour cannot be condoned, but at the same time, he feels he would have reacted in the very same way.”He was angry and at a time like that, anything can come out of your mouth,” Pirlo said. “He would have thought that it was his last chance to win the Champions League. If, out of nowhere, they give a penalty against you, you lose control.”He may have gone too far, but you’ve got to understand him. It happens that you react like that when you are robbed in such a way. Of course [I would have done the same]. Something like that makes you go out of your mind. Winning is too nice that when you get deprived of it in such a way.”Pirlo believes Oliver ultimately made the wrong decision, although he admitted it was a call that could have gone either way.

“It’s a classic case of interpretation — you can give it, or you can wave play on,” Pirlo said. “With just 10 seconds left on the clock, if you are wise, you don’t give it and you let the two teams battle it out for victory in extra time.”I’m very sorry for Gigi and for the lads. For that to happen 10 seconds from the end of such a beautiful game is incredibleNevertheless, Pirlo said Juve really only have themselves to blame for throwing away the first leg, but that the tie also showed that Italian clubs should shed their fear of Spanish opponents.”We’re very good at making others out to be much better than what they are,” Pirlo said. “But Juve and Roma have shown that they can be tactically superior to Real [Madrid] and Barcelona. They both deserve huge applause, and now Roma must believe that they can go on and win it.”I was at the Olimpico on Tuesday and I got emotional. I felt like a Giallorossifan. Italian football mustnow lift itself up and build a great future. Bit by bit, a great job can be done.”Oliver Kahn, meanwhile, told Bild that Buffon has already missed the ideal time to retire.”It’s a fundamental question whether you find the best time to retire from football,” the former Germany keeper said.”He could have spared himself a lot: The missed World Cup qualification with Italy or the events in Madrid, for instance. But he’s driven by setting new records and the dream of winning Champions League.”Kahn retired from football in 2008, shortly before turning 39. Two years before, he ended his international career after losing his place in Germany’s goal to Jens Lehmann ahead of the World Cup.”If you don’t find the right point to leave the game, it can hurt massively,” Kahn said. “Philipp Lahm, for instance, found the ideal time, and I realised after the 2006 World Cup that this was it. And I could have played two, three more years at club level in 2008, but why?”Regardless, Kahn believes that the sending off at the Bernabeu will not tarnish Buffon’s career.”His career will not be measured by this red card or that he never won Champions League,” Kahn said. “He won the World Cup, was named best keeper in the world. Those things matter.”ESPN FC’s Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld contributed to this report.

Armchair Analyst: Toronto FC go through while RBNY stumble in CCL semis

April 11, 201812:40AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

It is probably in keeping with the stop-start nature of progress as a whole, as well as the stop-start nature of progress for this league of ours, that a Tuesday night capable of producing such fun and fruition could, at the same time, create so much frustration.Toronto FC went through to the Concacaf Champions League final, dispatching Club América by 4-2 (drawing 1-1 at the Azteca on the night), while the New York Red Bulls went home and stayed there, dominating Chivas Guadalajara but failing to score and thus losing 1-0 on aggregate.MLS is a league capable of producing weird results, but this is true: TFC are the best team in MLS history, and so it’s appropriate that they’ve dispatched the best team in recent Liga MX history (Tigres) and the best team in all of Liga MX history (Las Aguilas) on their way to what appears to be a date with destiny.But as weird as MLS is, the CCL is weirder, because here’s a fact: Chivas are pretty obviously the worst Liga MX team we’ve ever seen in the knockout round of this tournament. And somehow they’ve rope-a-doped their way all the way to the final.On the night in Harrison Chivas were outshot 20-1 by an RBNY team as relentless as they were profligate. One shot is a record low for any team in CCL history – the previous record was three, held by seven different teams, most of them semi-pro. Nobody’s parked the bus as thoroughly as the Goats.Chivas cleared the ball 52 teams. Just hopeless, helpless, aimless clearances. That’s the second-most in CCL history, behind only minnows Police United of Belize against Pachuca a few years back, and it speaks to how pinned into their own area they were. New York utterly, completely dominated:The fact that they didn’t advance… it’s cruel, but that’s the game. And the truth is that 1) RBNY have only themselves to blame, and 2) I’m sure they know it.Obviously the question is “why and how does this keep happening to RBNY in the biggest moments?” I thought in this one it was a case of Jesse Marsch getting his personnel wrong. To me he overthought things, as his postgame presser kind of highlighted.”Yeah, I feel like the way that we started the game was really good, and the tactics and to rotate [Bradley Wright-Phillips] underneath so that he wasn’t just being marked by a center back but could find more space, and to have the guys in front of them to really be aggressive to be on the run and play behind and put them on their heels,” is how Marsch explained his decision to go with what looked like a 5-2-3 but with Wright-Phillips as a sort of hybrid playmaker/striker.There’s obviously logic there, but also a flaw: Going with that formation and that personnel left Kaku Gamarra on the bench. And while Kaku hasn’t been a wizard since his arrival, he’s nonetheless been pretty good and has a dose of final third creativity that RBNY clearly missed over the past 180 minutes.The other flaw is that… well, I don’t mind BWP being marked by center backs! He’s scored 100 goals for the Red Bulls while being marked by center backs, and clearly knows how to shake them in the box if the build-up play around him is right (which, for most of the year until this series, it had been). Get him in the box and let them try to mark him, and if he fails, so be it. Ride your best horse.That was the strategy of Toronto, who took their shot in Leg 1’s stunning 3-1 win over América at BMO Field, then came out with the exact same XI a week later at the Azteca. Their gameplan was mostly the same: They sat in what I wouldn’t quite call a low block, attacked mostly with just three, and were patient about picking their chances to go forward.

Oh, and they got a monumental performance from Alex Bono:

Bono was there eight times to bail the Reds out once Club América had pushed them deep into their own 18 to defend – which they often did. Sometimes a hot goalkeeper is all the difference in the world, and sometimes when you’re missing four starters (Jozy Altidore limped off injured after six minutes, joining Victor VazquezJustin Morrow and Chris Mavinga) you’re going to have to lean on that guy.And so they did, and so it worked, and so I’ll say it again: TFC are the best team in MLS history. In my eyes, and in the eyes of most long-time observers of the league, they’ve already cemented themselves as such.Now all they have to do is prove it one last time.A few notes:

  • As per Paul Carr, TFC are the first MLS team to eliminate two separate Liga MX teams in a single CCL
  • MLS teams are 5-3-2, +3 GD (14 goals scored and 11 conceded) against Liga MX teams this spring
  • The Red Bulls, in six CCL games, conceded only three goals

Toronto FC put on clinic vs. America to advance to Champions League final

1:24 AM ETTom MarshallESPN FC

MEXICO CITY — Three takes as Toronto FC and Club America drew 1-1 in Estadio Azteca to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final 4-2 on aggregate.

  1. Toronto deserves the final

Whatever happens in the CONCACAF Champions League final between Toronto FC and Chivas, nobody will be able to look back and say that the Canadian champions didn’t deserve to make it this far. This has been an authoritative advertisement for both Toronto and Major League Soccer.After slaying reigning Liga MX champion Tigres in the quarterfinal, Toronto got past Club America with relative ease over the 180 minutes, deservedly winning the first leg 3-1 at BMO Field and then drawing the second.If there is one defining feature from the Toronto side during its CCL run, it is the way the team refuses to be rattled. There is a calm authority and steel about it — not much seems to bother Greg Vanney’s squad.The acid test of that theory came in the Estadio Azteca on Tuesday. With rain pelting down, fans backing America and Miguel Herrera’s side attacking from the start, this was Toronto’s biggest challenge in this season’s CCL.When key striker Jozy Altidore was taken off in the seventh minute, perhaps other teams would start to wilt, perhaps doubts would creep in.

But Toronto scored five minutes later. Sebastian Giovinco flicked the ball through to Altidore’s replacement, Tosaint Ricketts, who steered it to Jonathan Osorio — who is gaining quite the reputation this tournament — for a tap-in.The early Club America storm had been weathered and Toronto had struck. Clinical.Las Aguilas pushed but lacked a conductor for its orchestra, a player to speed up and slow down play when required. Playing two strikers like Oribe Peralta and Henry Martin made it easier for Toronto’s back three. Club America lacked a player who could move between the lines to unsettle Toronto.In essence, America lacked a Giovinco, although Coach Herrera can’t be blamed for injuries to his two most creative players, Cecilio Dominguez and Jeremy Menez.America’s attacking was haphazard and sporadic, but Paul Aguilar forced a fine save from Alex Bono on a diving header in the 28th minute. Peralta went close one minute later and after the break piled on the pressure.Las Aguilas should’ve had a penalty early in the second half, but there was never a sense that the game was theirs for the taking — and it didn’t have to do with extreme luck or an amazing performance from the goalkeeper. Club America’s late penalty goal through Mateus Uribe turned out to be a mere consolation.

Make no mistake about it, this Toronto side showed Liga MX’s best that it is the real deal.

  1. Vanney outshines Herrera

The Toronto FC coach is inevitably in the conversation for the U.S. men’s national team job and this performance in the Estadio Azteca — the spiritual home of Mexican football and El Tri — won’t do any harm at all.Nor will the fact that passage to the final came at the expense of two former Mexico managers — Ricardo Ferretti and Herrera — who are considered among the best in Liga MX.Herrera’s outbursts after the first leg in Toronto and in the days leading up to game painted him in a bad light. His chances of returning to the Mexico national job any time soon couldn’t have been helped.Vanney had the aces up his sleeve on the field, as well. Granted, having a player like Giovinco makes planning easier, but Toronto withstood America’s first line in the press and picked holes in midfield and up front. At least, that’s what happened in first leg and in the early stages in the Azteca. The second half Tuesday was more a case of holding on.The preparation of Toronto FC also turned heads, with the squad arriving in Mexico five days ahead of the game to acclimate to the altitude. They even took some time in the preseason to play in Mexico, though it wasn’t much of a factor, as Toronto was 4-1 up on aggregate for most of the second leg.Herrera’s performance and behavior shouldn’t be surprising. He has done it before and he’ll do it again. But it was jarring in comparison to Vanney, who looked very competent at this level in a difficult atmosphere.

  1. Toronto can’t take Chivas for granted

When the quarterfinals were set, Chivas were the least likely Mexican team to make the final and Toronto faced the daunting task of getting past both Tigres and America. Now they’ll face off in the final.Chivas might have struggled to get over the line against New York Red Bulls, but wen the Guadalajara team and its fans smell a trophy, the momentum and support rapidly crescendos. And the fact Chivas haven’t won a CONCACAF trophy since 1962 increases the importance.On the other side, Toronto famously has space in its trophy cabinet ready for when the club lifts the CCL title.The Vanney against Matias Almeyda clash on the bench promises to be fascinating, and a Liga MX vs. MLS final is exactly what this tournament needed.

Atlanta United keeps the heat on NYCFC in Power Rankings

Apr 9, 2018Jason Davis    A look at how the teams in Major League Soccer stack up after Week 6 of the season:

  1. New York City FC (no change)
    Patrick Vieira’s side sat idle on the weekend ahead of a midweek match against Real Salt Lake.
  2. Atlanta United (no change)
    Saved by VAR in the early going from playing down a man, United turned on the firepower and laid waste to LAFC in a 5-0 romp. Three of the goals came in the final 10 minutes of the match, but it was nonetheless an impressive performance from Atlanta.
  3. New York Red Bulls (+2)
    The Red Bulls didn’t play ahead of their Champions League semifinal showdown with Chivas Guadalajara this week.
  4. Sporting Kansas City (+4)
    A move up for Kansas City, which handled the Galaxy on the road in Carson. After a brief chaotic period when Zlatan Ibrahimovic entered the game, SKC regained control of the game and bagged three important road points in the Western Conference. Yohan Croizet has been underwhelming as a DP, but Johnny Russell looks like a real player.
  5. Columbus Crew SC (-2)
    After starting strong, the Crew are now in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The performance on the road in Chicago was marked mostly by missed chances and simple mistakes — odd failures for a Gregg Berhalter-led team. Zack Steffen’s terrible giveaway showed the young keeper is still maturing.
  6. Vancouver Whitecaps (no change)
    After last week’s big road win in Columbus, the Whitecaps fell to Real Salt Lake in Utah. Defensive lapses proved to be the difference for the visitors, who were the better team overall. Brek Shea’s third goal of the season puts him just one shy of his total for 2017.
  7. Toronto FC (no change)
    It’s all about the Champions League prep for TFC, with no league match this weekend.
  8. New England Revolution (+3)
    The Revs rolled the momentum from last week’s win in Houston into a home romp over the Impact on Friday night. Aided by a red card to Saphir Taider, New England got goals from unlikely sources like defender Andrew Farrell, who scored for the first time in his MLS career, to continue its unbeaten run.
  9. LAFC (-5)
    Bob Bradley’s team went from looking extremely well-prepared and well above traditional expansion level to conceding five straight goals without an answer over the past 135 minutes. Saturday’s showing in Atlanta lacked any sort of attacking punch, a troubling sign.
  10. Houston Dynamo (-1)
    No game for the Dynamo this week, but the Revolution’s jump up the standings pushes Wilmer Cabrera’s side down.
  11. LA Galaxy (-1)
    No magic from Ibrahimovic this time around, as the Galaxy crashed back to earth in a 2-0 loss to Kansas City at home. Whatever the Swede’s impact, LA is still a team that lacks a cohesive structure that might give it a chance in games when there are no 40-yard volleys to be had.
  12. Orlando City (+7)
    The Lions scored a second consecutive victory in a wild 3-2 comeback against Portland on Sunday. Orlando got the benefit of a questionable penalty and the vagaries of VAR, with a penalty review going against them and another penalty call not getting a review despite some doubt about the call.

Sports

Italian legend Buffon deserved a better Champions League ending than this

Joey Gulino,FC Yahoo 18 hours ago

Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for protesting a controversial penalty call late in Juventus’ loss to Real Madrid. (Getty)

So this is it? This is how Gianluigi Buffon’s Champions League career ends? This is how one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, if not the greatest, says goodbye to Europe?With a red card following two eminently questionable transgressions? One of his own making and one beyond it?To start, Buffon didn’t even commit the penalty (term used loosely) that led to Real Madrid’s last-gasp 4-3 aggregate escape from Juventus on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. That was Medhi Benatia, and his contact with Real Madrid’s Lucas Vázquez was so minimal a fly would hardly feel it.

Yes, Benatia extended his arms and put them on Vázquez’s back. (Frankly, that’s the most generous reading of the situation.) He also wrapped his left leg around Vázquez, but he barely impeded the attacker while making a clear attempt to play the ball.In any case, the referee blew his whistle in one of the biggest possible spots and signaled a penalty, which sent Buffon into infuriated remonstrating. After the referee produced the red card, it sent Buffon into more. In general, that’s not OK; soccer has long struggled with players swarming referees and crossing the line when it comes to complaining about calls.

Still, barring physical contact, it’s tolerated. And not just in the Champions League, but also in the Premier League, where the referee in question, Michael Oliver, not only plies his trade but is regarded a top-of-the-line official.You be the judge. Of all of it:So it begs the question: Why was Oliver so quick to show red to Buffon on Wednesday? Could it have been something Buffon said? That’s a nebulous area where the referee typically deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Yet it still seems odd that he barreled past all the caution signposts and pulled a straight red of his pocket. Certainly he’s heard worse language in the Premier League? And regardless of how one feels about the protestations, Oliver’s decision brought a screeching halt to what had been an inspiring performance on the day by Juventus.

It’s not that the Italian giants had outclassed Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on balance, it’s that they had given the kind of spirited, aggressive performance that usually yields positive results and, at the very least, a couple breaks. Mario Mandzukic’s first-half double and Blaise Matuidi’s 60th-minute goal looked to have Juve on the way to extra time, and who knows what happens from there?

Juventus manager Max Allegri consoles Gianluigi Buffon after his sending off. (Getty)

Well, we know what happened now. Cristiano Ronaldo slammed home the penalty kick to push two-time defending champion Real Madrid into the Champions League semifinals, and sent Juventus back to Turin wondering how it all unspooled so quickly.

It also sent Buffon into more post-match tirades. “A human being cannot destroy dreams like that,” he said according to one reporter. “You do not really know s—,” he saidaccording to another.

In all likelihood, this means Buffon will retire without a Champions League title. It’s the one glaring hole in his all-time great resume. Buffon has won the World Cup, Serie A, the Coppa Italia and so many individual awards he’d need a mansion’s worth of trophy cases just to house them.

But he’s 40 years old and has considered retirement in recent years, not to mention he’s already hung up his international boots and has a keeper-in-waiting at Juve in Wojciech Szczesny.

It just goes to show, winning the Champions League is usually as much about fortune as it is form, at least when it comes to the very best clubs in the world. Juventus has been one of those for a long time.

Fortune wasn’t on the Old Lady’s side on Wednesday. It wasn’t on the old man’s, either.

Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

Allegri defends Buffon’s ‘human reaction’ to Champions League heartbreak

Goal.com 11 hours ago "That was a human reaction and I think he should have been understood." Massimiliano Allegri responded to Gianluigi Buffon's red card.

Massimiliano Allegri defended Gianluigi Buffon’s reaction after the Juventus captain and goalkeeper was sent off for protesting Real Madrid’s stoppage-time penalty in the Champions League.Juventus were eliminated 4-3 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, despite Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Madrid, who benefited from a dramatic last-gasp penalty at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Buffon and Juve were poised to force extra time after remarkably erasing Madrid’s 3-0 first-leg lead, until Cristiano Ronaldo broke their hearts with a spot-kick at the death.

Two-time reigning champions Madrid were awarded a penalty after Lucas Vazquez was fouled by defender Medhi Benatia, sparking a furious protest from Buffon, who was shown a red card having confronted referee Michael Oliver.

“There was too much confusion, and this is what happened,” Allegri said. “Gigi had that reaction but it’s understandable.

“I don’t know if this will be Gigi’s last Champions League game but there were three seconds left and we were close to a historical result, something he saw slip from his fingers.

“That was a human reaction and I think he should have been understood. In that moment there was a lot of confusion and the referee took out the red card. I never talk about single episodes.

“The penalty… the referee saw that and gave the penalty. There’s nothing left to say. There’s a lot of regret on our part, the team played very well tonight and in Turin for 60 minutes they also played well.

“The result condemned the performance of the team but that’s not what it was. That’s why I was very confident on tonight’s performance.”

“There’s no VAR so we lost,” Allegri added. “There’s not much to say. This is UEFA’s problem. I always said that VAR is a very important tool on objective and important decisions. But there’s no VAR and we have to deal with that.”

Allegri was seen in conversation with Sergio Ramos, having walked over to Madrid’s bench to speak to the suspended captain following the awarding of the penalty.

“Ramos said the penalty was ‘claro’ [clear] and I told him: ‘Not so ‘claro’, let’s say grey’. I also told him that in the first leg at minutes 92 there was a penalty on [Juan] Cuadrado,” Allegri said.

“I only told him that. But it’s normal, there has to be some anger and regret because at that point Buffon was also sent off. Also, Benatia should have been sent off because he already had one yellow card. So let’s just say there was general confusion overall.”

Gianluigi Buffon’s legacy not tarnished by Madrid meltdown, his response was understandable

9:14 AM ET

Gianluigi Buffon anticipated it might be like this. Musing about the end of his career while on international duty last March, he smiled and said: “Maybe I’ll go out like [Zinedine] Zidane, giving someone a headbutt.”Zizou’s presence on the sidelines at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night rendered those words strangely prescient. What a curious twist of fate. Buffon witnessed Zidane plant his head into Marco Materazzi’s chest from Italy’s goal in the 2006 World Cup final. Flash forward 12 ars and the roles have been reversed. Buffon’s moment of madness came in what was billed as his last appearance on the Champions League stage.ADVERTISEMENTBuffon likes to say you need sana follia (craziness of the good, healthy kind) in order to achieve great things. To some though, his push on referee Michael Oliver and the extraordinary comments that followed were just crazy. It brought back memories of Buffon’s youth when he had a reputation as an Ultra in gloves and didn’t always count to 10 before saying or doing something.Those days seemed behind him. Over the years, the Juventus and Italy captain has become statesmanlike. He almost always finds the right words and has an acute sense of responsibility; he doesn’t go looking for scapegoats. Buffon invariably looks at himself or his team first. Within that context Wednesday’s comments seemed out of character.

Alessandro Del Piero, Buffon’s predecessor as Juventus captain, said: “When Gigi spoke about the referee… honestlyI found it hard to understand.” And he went on to express the opinion that his former teammate would think differently about his comments in the cold light of the coming days.Regardless of what you make of the controversy, Buffon’s emotional response was understandable.There were two stages of incredulity. The first was that Juventus found themselves on the brink of one of the greatest comebacks ever in this competition — tied at 3-3 after losing the first leg 3-0. The second is that 10 seconds from extra-time it should all go up in smoke. Buffon’s career in the Champions League looked dead a week ago; then it came back to life. It might have extended to another two or three games had Juve progressed after extra-time and with both Spanish sides out — Juventus’ nemeses in 2015 and 2017 — they maybe would have ended their (and Buffon’s) long wait for this trophy.How well they played against Madrid, the fact it came in their tormentors’ own backyard left them with the conviction that this team isn’t finished. Giorgio Chiellini seems more persuaded than ever that Juventus’ time will come. Which is why it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Buffon were to come back next year.Backup goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has said he wouldn’t have a problem with it and you can imagine the same debate vis-a-vis Buffon and his international retirement re-emerging in relation to his club career over the next six weeks: the sense he deserves better than to go out like that.It sounds indulgent, but it’s not. One of the remarkable things about his re-call for the last round of international friendlies was that Buffon, at 40, was still Italy’s best player in their defeat to Argentina. He had a good game in Madrid too.Chiellini thought he was in such a state of grace that had Oliver decided not to send him off, he would probably have saved Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty. Up until that point it had been the perfect night. A flawless performance.The noise Buffon’s comments have made have, in some respects, allowed the focus to shift away from that display. While everyone at Juventus was singing from the same hymn sheet — just in more diplomatic terms — you suspect that’s the thing he’ll probably be most disappointed about after his opinion of Oliver’s refereeing.Juventus’ president Andrea Agnelli had already done a very good job in defending not just his club but also Serie A’s other representatives in Europe, raising his concern that UEFA’s referee designator Pierluigi Collina is purposely assigning the least experienced referees to games involving Italian teams so as to maintain the appearance of impartiality.Agnelli pointed to the penalties Roma didn’t get at Camp Nou, Danny Welbeck’s dive against Milan in the Europa League, and the fact Juan Cuadrado wasn’t awarded a spot kick in the first leg for an almost identical foul to the one Lucas Vazquez suffered. His status as head of the European Club Association (ECA) means he is in a better position to influence matters than Buffon.Not that Buffon should have kept his counsel. Too often we criticise players for not speaking their minds. It would be hypocritical to have a go at Buffon for doing just that even if he could and should have been more measured.What happened at the Bernabeu does not tarnish his legacy. For all the comparisons with Zidane it was a push, not a headbutt, a Champions League quarterfinal, not a World Cup final and far from his last big game.Juventus have a top of the table clash with Napoli to come, the Derby d’Italia, a Coppa Italia final against Milan and a trip to the capital to face Roma in the next six weeks. What anger he still feels needs to be channelled into doing the Double and edging Napoli in the only real title race in Europe’s top five leagues.

Roma rewarded for dreaming big as Di Francesco masterminds Barca downfall

3:50 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

And to think that some Roma fans wanted them to tank…On Monday, the talk in some quarters — particularly among the local radio stations that provide the soundtrack to any taxi ride in the Eternal City — was that Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco should play the long game.The club were obviously not going to come back from a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in their Champions League second leg, so why not conserve their energy for Sunday’s Serie A derby against Lazio?It made sense, didn’t it? Beating Lazio — tied for third with Roma and one point ahead of Inter — would mean taking a big step towards a top four finish. And that, in turn, would secure another year in the Champions League, which means a minimum of $60 million in the coffers (and maybe much more.) Surely, for a club still under Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions, this made more sense than chasing some kind of “Field of Dreams,” three goals in the hole?In a very rational universe that argument makes sense. The combination of Europa League football and FFP restrictions would likely mean another summer of asset-flogging to make ends meet. And Roma fans would have to say farewell to a Radja Nainggolan or an Allisson, just as they bade adieu to Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Miralem Pjanic the past two summers.Thankfully, Di Francesco doesn’t live in this “very rational” universe. He inhabits one where hope springs eternal, where you can dream big, where you owe it to the fans to fight until the very end. A universe where you stop and ask yourself: “What is the point, other than cash, of qualifying for the Champions League if we’re not going to have a go when we’re there?”Not that he didn’t agonise over the right approach against Barcelona. The decision to ditch his preferred 4-3-3 with the wingers wide for a near unprecedented back three with the lanky Patrik Schick playing off the Colossus (AKA Edin Dzeko) came to him at 5 O’clock in the morning on Sunday, the day after Roma’s home defeat to Fiorentina.”I couldn’t sleep, plus I’m a bit insane, so I got out of bed and drew up possible schemes for the Barcelona game, different looks that would put them under pressure in different ways,” he said. “And this came to me. Had it not worked, you would have killed me.”It didn’t just work, it road-graded: apart from an early Sergi Roberto chance, all Barca could muster were a couple Lionel Messi free kicks and Ousmane Dembele’s mad lob at the end. Make no mistake about it, this was a gamble in all respects — beginning with the decision to press high to disrupt Barcelona’s build-up. It’s not something that, on paper, Roma ought to be good at. Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov are both 32, while Daniele De Rossi is 34. None of the three are what you’d call dynamic at this stage of their career. Nainggolan is a livelier of course, but he was coming off an injury.Keeping a high line against Barca meant pitting the back three against Messi and Luis Suarez. And, bear in mind, the back three included Federico Fazio, who at 6-foot-5 isn’t who you want in the open field against Messi (or, really, anyone) and Juan Jesus, the Stadio Olimpico’s favourite whipping boy for the past two seasons.The margin for error was wafer-thin, but Roma had the concentration and the nous to stay within it. As Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde pointed out, his side were rattled and forced into hitting longer passes. But when you do that, you need to win the second balls. And Barca scarcely had a sniff of those all night.Valverde said after the game that he was to blame as he was responsible for the personnel and the formation. And truth be told, insisting on the same formation as the first leg (whose 4-1 scoreline was largely due to individual blunders, own goals and penalties not given) seemed foolish. Shoe-horning Nelson Semedo into the lineup by moving Sergi Roberto to the wing backfired badly; so too did leaving out Dembele, the only Barcelona attacker with a bit of pace.The fact that Valverde waited until the 75th minute, when Roma were 2-0 up, to make a change (other than shifting Andres Iniesta centrally) suggests that he either didn’t realise his team were producing close to nothing or that he simply froze, like a deer in the headlights of Mac Truck.But there’s enough blame to go around here, starting with the front two. Suarez’s most impactful contribution may well have been the two minutes of time he ate up feigning injury after Juan Jesus’ hand grazed his face. And after setting up the Sergi Roberto chance early, Messi faded into oblivion.And that’s not good news for a team that is as Messi-dependent in the final third as Barcelona have been in many years. Again, the warning signs were there. They were humdrum against Roma at Camp Nou and, but for Messi’s heroics and some craven individual mistakes, might have gone out against Chelsea in the previousround as well.Some of us even pointed it out at the time: Valverde needs to find a way of scoring that is not Messi-related.It wasn’t hard to predict Roma getting something out of this game. After all, they had yet to concede a single Champions League goal at home and they bested the likes of Atletico Madrid, Shaktar Donetsk and Chelsea to get here.But to become only the third team in the Champions League era to overturn a three-goal first-leg deficit is something few could have imagined.Luckily for Roma one of those few was an insomniac Di Francesco, pulling an all-nighter of crazed alchemy to concoct a formula that would make history in the Eternal City. And luckily — not just for Roma fans but for any neutral who enjoys an underdog comeback — he didn’t listen to those who urged him to be sensible, rational and patient in just trying to live to fight another day.This was a night for daring. Daring to do and daring to dream. And he did.

Liverpool have exceeded expectations, carrying England banner in Europe

7:59 AM ETSteven Kelly

Liverpool go marching on in Europe after a determined, fully deserved 5-1 aggregate win over Manchester City.With a 3-0 lead the tie was won at Anfield, really, and despite a very tense first half at the Etihad — where City demonstrated why they are running away with the Premier League — the first-leg victory proved too big to overcome.Many mocked the idea of a passionate Anfield having any sway over the result, but it has happened so often over the years that it seemed churlish to pretend it does not play a part.Pep Guardiola remembered his manners to congratulate Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, but not before listing several decisions that did not go his team’s way, implying that the best team didn’t go through.That’s a game that anybody can play. Going over each and every incident after the fact with a fine-toothed comb is very easy. City’s deadly start to the second leg was assisted by a clear push on Virgil van Dijk by Raheem Sterling, a player who’d petulantly kicked out at Jordan Henderson at Anfield and received no punishment for it.If the eventual aggregate had been marginal, City could have good cause for grievance. But since it wasn’t, there can be little doubt which team eventually deserved to go through.Before the season began, Liverpool supporters argued about what they could expect from their team.Once Manchester City began to race into an unassailable lead in the Premier League, all thought of being title-winners — if there actually were any fans who believed in that — would have been adjusted.A top-four spot and a reasonable Champions League campaign were therefore the renewed ambitions and Klopp has almost certainly achieved both, the upcoming semifinal a delightful bonus.That he has managed to do all this with a negative net spend in the transfer market simply defies belief.Some supporters make too much of the current financial imbalance between Liverpool and a few of the teams they’re trying to catch, but a swift comparison between the substitute benches at the Etihad were a reminder of what Klopp is up against.He can be proud of the fact that the big-money players he was allowed to buy have worked out well; none more so than Mohamed Salah, who might have sealed all the various Footballer of the Year awards after his two vital goals in the European tie.What happens this summer will define where Liverpool go next. It’s a long shot, but they may even be European champions by then, with the extra allure that can bring for outstanding footballers looking to make the next step up.As good as City have been, this is a Liverpool team that’s beaten them three times and clearly has laid the foundations to make the final move toward greatness.Of course, there are flaws. Dejan Lovren was excellent against City in both games but has never shown the true consistency that someone like van Dijk has displayed in just a few months at the club.Central midfield will be augmented by Leipzig’s Naby Keita soon enough, but perhaps even more is needed.Liverpool’s front three have been amazing, but if one should miss out, there’s a big drop in quality. That won’t be so easy to resolve, since truly gifted players might be fearful of long spells as a substitute.There can be too much attention paid to what isn’t there and not enough to what Klopp has achieved. His teams have averaged two goals a game since he arrived and this Champions League campaign alone has garnered 39 of them.Somebody like Salah was expected to be a decent addition but exceeded everyone’s wildest dreams, while Roberto Firmino has been transformed into one of the game’s most influential strikers.Klopp himself has always been casually dismissive of the transfer window’s importance, but there’s little doubt that Liverpool stand on the edge of something big and he needs to be backed completely this summer, whatever the cost.There will be stumbles along the way and most will be mindful that the last two Liverpool managers who built great teams — Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers — were unceremoniously dumped within a year, when all that promise quickly evaporated.Klopp may well have to deal eventually with the cruel vagaries of modern football management, but many will hope there will be a degree of patience shown to the affable German in the future.He has restored Liverpool’s reputation in Europe with one final and perhaps even two. Once the club lost its domestic superiority, their role as England’s most successful representatives abroad has been clung to like a life raft.In the afterglow of great celebrations following a tremendous win, it’s vital to keep looking to the future and not to allow yet another good team to break up and wither away without reinforcements.

Indy11PREVIEW_INDvNSH_large

When The Going Gets Tough – Indy Eleven V Nashville SC PREVIEW (4/14/2018)By: James Cormack  Bloody Shambles 

Indy Eleven will take to the field at noon on Saturday for their second home game of the season. With two wins on the road and a defeat in their home opener to FC Cincinnati, Indy will be looking to give the home support something to celebrate in Lucas Oil Stadium when the final whistle comes around.
There a lot of big question marks surrounding the availability of players for Indy’s back line, and I am sure while Nashville and former Atlanta Silverbacks coach Gary Smith won’t be taking anything for granted, the Nashville supporters may feel this is a good opportunity to take three points on their first visit to Indianapolis.The one thing we know for certain is that Karl Ouimette will not play, after a red card last week in North Carolina, Karl was served with a three-match suspension which was subsequently reduced to one match. This adds to Martin Rennie’s already depleted crop of defenders. Reiner Ferreira was injured in the match against FC Cincinnati and Carlyle Mitchell was removed from play late in the match against North Carolina FC.If none of these center backs are available that leaves Indy Eleven with only one available, Brad Rusin. As a result of the Ferreira injury, Brad Ring has been filling in at right back so that Karl Ouimette could slide in to partner Mitchell. The question now is what options can Rennie look at to provide a starting four (or three) at the back that can be comfortable together and will we need to form up in such a way to limit the chances of the opposition running at our defense?

All pure speculation and at the end of the day, I don’t think any of these scenarios are going to happen. I am also not the coach so don’t listen to me anyway.
Having watched the previous game against North Carolina twice now I have a feeling that Carlyle Mitchell will line up in the back alongside Brad Rusin. Mitchell did take a reasonably severe knock to his knee in the first half last week, but he’s a big lad. Considering the weather was deteriorating and the temperature dropping during the game it is highly possible he developed cramp while slightly favoring one leg for about fifty minutes.Carlyle is in training and I think come kick-off time we will see him in the starting lineup. Even if I am wrong, and Martin Rennie has to come up with a completely new back line, I don’t think any perceived weaknesses our defensive injuries or suspension may cause will be a major factor in the game.Besides that, Nashville still has to get past Owain Fôn Williams. So there.

Where is Kevin Venegas…
A quality player we still have not seen yet, he appears to be in full training and as we saw last week with Ayoze coming straight into a starting lineup, we may also see Venegas for the first time this weekend. Considering that Ouimette is out and Ferreira is not ready to return we need defenders on the bench. The former Loon may even start and displace Brad Ring, but he at least should make the game roster.
A starting back four of Venegas, Rusin, Mitchell, and Ayoze is pretty formidable for any team, and if Ring continues at right back there’ll be no complaints from me.

The Form…

Nashville is a new team to everyone and the USL is a new league for us, very difficult to try and formulate an opinion of the outcome of this game with very little knowledge of the opposition or previous matches.
Nashville has played four games this year so far. They began their season away to Louisville and lost 2-0 before drawing 0-0 in their home opener against Pittsburgh. They come into the game against Indy on the back of two wins against Bethlehem Steel (1-0 A) and Charlotte Independence (2-0 H).

Louisville is a tough place to start but Indy Eleven is probably going to be Nashville’s toughest opponent since that game. With no disrespect to Charlotte, they got off to a bright start against lesser opposition and I would not be expecting them to set the league on fire this year.Likewise Indy have lost their only game against what could be considered a playoff contender, FC Cincinnati. Away wins at Richmond and last week against North Carolina who are now 0-3 in games gives very little indication of how Indy will fare against those teams expected to be in the postseason.Indy Eleven has been as I expected, very difficult to play against and are conceding few goals. Two clean sheets in three games and only one goal conceded in their single defeat. FC Cincinnati was a real test for Indy and they were unlucky not to leave the field with a point. Indy does not have a scoring issue, we are only three games in and we have any number of players in our bag of tricks that can and will find the back of the net.It’s probably best described as a finely balanced matchup that is hard to predict. I don’t see Indy Eleven’s selection worries as being a major factor in this game, I have previewed matches in the past where our opposition has been in a similar predicament or worse and we’ve failed to win those games.Prediction – Probably not a good idea for me to jinx things but I actually think Indy Eleven can win at home for the first time this year, but not by any great margin, 1-0 or 2-1.

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BOUNCING BACK

By Trey Higdon, 04/11/18, 3:00PM EDTShare

“Boys in Blue” Justin Braun and Brad Rusin share their recovery stories from season ending injuries

It took a big toll on me mentally,” said Indy Eleven forward Justin Braun. “I spent a lot of hours doing therapy making sure I’d come back as strong as possible. I didn’t want this injury to end my career.”

Injuries are an inconvenience. Being bound to a bed or a wheelchair, or having to hobble around in a boot or crutches can often make the simplest task a taxing affair. But for professional athletes, such as Braun or “New in Blue” Brad Rusin, injuries of this magnitude can be far more than inconvenient – they can be career ending. And for both Braun and Rusin, this was almost a reality.On August 26, 2017, Braun came on as a substitute in the 58th minute during Indy’s2-3 defeat to former NASL rivals Jacksonville Armada. Though his interjection into the match showed an immediate impact assisting with Indy’s opening goal, the forward was playing on borrowed time from an existing ankle injury.In the 75th minute, Braun’s time ran out.While rounding a sharp turn around an Armada player, Braun distinctly remembers a popping and grinding sensation in his ankle before collapsing in sheer agony. This was the sound of his Deltoid ligaments tearing in his left ankle.“As soon as the injury occurred I knew it was bad,” Braun recalls. “I heard a popping and cracking sound and assumed it was ligaments tearing and my ankle breaking. I didn’t want to look down at my ankle because I figured it wasn’t going to be a good sight. I figured my season was over and that’s why I was so emotional when it occurred.”

It wasn’t a pretty sight. Fans looked on for several minutes before the then-leading goal scorer was inevitably stretched off the field and rushed to the hospital with an air cast cradling his leg. It was there that medical staff narrowed treatment down to a single option: surgery. The severity of the injury left Braun’s ankle with no structural support on the medial (inside) side and cartilage so badly damaged that it wouldn’t heal on its own without micro-fracture surgery. Surgery was the only option, however, it wasn’t a guaranteed fix. Braun didn’t hesitate and opted to go under the knife.Some injuries don’t happen immediately, but can develop overtime if pre-existing symptoms are aggravated; such was the case for Brad Rusin. The Crown Point, Indiana native joined former NASL 2017 Spring and Fall Season Champions Miami FC early on in 2016. Rusin was looking to expand his NASL career having spent short spells with Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL at the time) and now-dissolved San Antonio Scorpions in the previous season. Unfortunately, injury woes struck before he could start for his new club.During the 2016 preseason Rusin tore his medial and lateral meniscus, suffered multiple floating bone fragments and chondromalacia (inflammation of cartilage) underneath one of his kneecaps. Pain didn’t seem to be an issue for the experienced defender, but the constant swelling quickly became an issue. Underneath the skin, a combination of bone and cartilage grinding, as well as fluid buildup, left Rusin’s knee nearly immobile as training sessions and games came and went. The former Orlando City SC defender did whatever he could to avoid the impossible task of surgery; repeated drainage, shutting himself in to focus on stretching, icing, compression, massage, and more. Despite exhaustive efforts, surgery to tend to his damaged knee became Rusin’s sole option after making just seven regular season appearances.Surgery is just one half of the battle. Though both players were on the mend after their procedures, the rigorous rehabilitation, along with the physical and mental challenges associated with the long process, awaited them.While some players traveled around and explored new avenues in their offseason, Braun continued to put months of work into his recovery. Days spent stretching, running, lifting light weights, balancing, and more occupied the Salt Lake City native’s offseason schedule. But with the NASL and Indy Eleven’s future unclear after the 2017 season closed, the mental and emotional taxation began to take its toll.“This was definitely the longest and hardest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been playing,” Braun claimed. “I spent a lot of hours doing therapy, making sure I would come back as strong as possible. I tried my best not to think about the uncertainty of the league and my team. My main focus was getting back to full strength so I would be ready for preseason.”Rusin’s physical experience didn’t differ much during his time in Miami. Countless hours were spent working on mobility with weights, swimming, running, and several of the same treatments Braun endured. Trainers gleamed an optimistic light early on with claims that Rusin could possibly see playing time before the end of the 2016 season. That excitement faded as Rusin continued to experience pain while performing day-to-day tasks. But Rusin didn’t waver.“Mentally, the hardest part was being in the present and accomplishing the tasks at hand,” Rusin said. “Taking small steps every day and knowing that these steps will get me to where I needed to be. For me, the most important aspect of returning from an injury is keeping a positive attitude. Again, enjoying the process.”Fast forward to today. After not hours or days, but months of persistence and a positive attitude, Braun returned to playing the “Beautiful Game”. On April 7, 2018, Braun made his first appearance in Indy’s starting XI against North Carolina FC, where he collected his first assist during his 65 minutes on the pitch. It’s a good sign, but Braun is still taking his recovery day by day.“Getting my first start last week was a big accomplishment for me,” Braun said. “I worked really hard to get back to the point where I’m capable of starting a game. I can’t say exactly when I’ll feel like I’m back 100 percent, but I’m doing everything I can each week to get there as fast as possible.”Though his moment was short lived, Rusin also made his come back to the game in his first Indy Eleven appearance as an 89th minute substitute in the same North Carolina FC match. A huge milestone by all definitions of the word after having not seen any regular season play in over a year. An emotional, but exciting return to the sport Rusin has played since his youth.“There were ups and downs, but I never quit. I had the right people around me to push me and motivate me when I needed it most. I couldn’t have done it without those closest to me and those who put in their own time to make sure I was back.”  Both of these players could’ve thrown in the towel and walked away from their careers during this process. The fact that they didn’t is a testament to the commitment that both Braun and Rusin have to their club and the sport they’ve devoted their lives to. Dedication, that is sure to be demonstrated as each player begins applying their continued hard work during their minutes on the pitch this season.“I’ve always believed in hard work,” said Rusin. “I’ve always believed in myself. Those two together create opportunities. It’s not by luck. 2018 is a new year and I’m ready.”

Rivalries, Newcomers Highlight the 2018 ESPN Game of the Week Schedule

By USLSoccer.com Staff, 04/10/18, 4:29PM EDTShare

HEATED RIVALRIES, NEW AND OLD, WILL DELIVER THRILLING USL ACTION ON NATIONAL TELEVISION IN 2018

TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League (USL) and ESPN announced today the full schedule for the USL Game of the Week. Six games will air on national television during the summer, with an additional 14 games to stream digitally on ESPN3. The announcement follows the groundbreaking partnership between the two organizations that brings the thrill and excitement of the USL to the innovative ESPN+ platform alongside other major soccer properties like the UEFA Nations League, the English Football League and Major League Soccer.Nineteen teams from across the league will feature on national broadcasts, including two former league champions, 10 2017 USL Cup Playoff teams, and four of the league’s newest arrivals for the 2018 season.“The excitement of our league is built around heated regional rivalries fueled by the sport’s most passionate fans. We are thrilled to bring that excitement to the national spotlight this season, including some great primetime matchups that offer a glimpse at potential USL Cup Playoffs matchups later this season,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The increase in USL matches available to a national audience this year is part of our partnership with ESPN, which includes launching our new home on the innovative ESPN+ platform, a move that will raise the prominence of the USL and its clubs to a higher level alongside great domestic and international competitions. This expanded partnership is a testament to the significant investments into the sport by the league and its clubs, and our collective commitment to delivering the best experience to our fans either at the stadium or at home.”

READ MORE: USL, ESPN EXPAND BROADCAST AGREEMENT THROUGH 2019

ESPNews will serve as the home for five of the USL’s six linear broadcasts in 2018, with a clash between newcomers Nashville SC and Indy Eleven at First Tennessee Park on Tuesday, June 26 set to lead off the run of six consecutive games broadcast over the air during the summer months. Other games to feature in that span include a visit to Nippert Stadium when FC Cincinnati hosts the Charlotte Independence on Wednesday, July 18, and a meeting between San Antonio FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Toyota Field on Wednesday, July 25.Indy Eleven will also feature on the Fourth of July as it plays host to Ottawa Fury FC at Lucas Oil Stadium, while the run of six games will conclude with a trip to Al Lang Stadium as the Tampa Bay Rowdies play host to the Charleston Battery on Wednesday, August 8.The USL Game of the Week package will kick off on ESPN3 later this month as Sacramento Republic FC welcomes Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC to Papa Murphy’s Park on Wednesday, April 18. Three weeks later fans will head slightly south to see newcomer Fresno FC as it takes on Rio Grande Valley FC at Chukchansi Park on Wednesday, May 9, while later in the season we’ll pay a first visit to Real Monarchs SLC’s new home at Zions Bank Stadium when the defending USL Regular Season champions host Saint Louis FC. The season wraps up on Wednesday, October 10 when Las Vegas Lights FC plays host to Phoenix Rising FC in the final week of the 2018 regular season.

FAQS: USL ON ESPN+

In addition to the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3, ESPNews and ESPNU, the league’s regular-season contests will be available in the United States through ESPN+ after its launch on April 12, where the league will reside alongside Major League Soccer, the English Football League and UEFA Nations League on the new direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company Direct-to-Consumer and International group in partnership with ESPN.Games will be produced by USL Productions, the league’s state-of-the-art broadcast production, broadcast and distribution facilities with VISTA Worldlink in south Florida. Now in its second season, USL Productions produces and distributes more than 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners and local affiliates. The USL Match Center will also up-to-the-minute match statistics provided by industry leader Opta.

2018 USL GAME OF THE WEEK ON ESPN SCHEDULE

June 26 – Nashville SC vs. Indy Eleven, ESPNews

2018 USL Games on National Television

Six games this summer are slated for ESPNews and ESPNU, with some of the league’s top players and clubs set to square off as the race for the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs heats up.

April 18 – Sacramento Republic FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (ESPN3)
April 27 – Las Vegas Lights FC vs. San Antonio FC (ESPN3)
May 2 – Indy Eleven vs. FC Cincinnati (ESPN3)
May 9 – Fresno FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (ESPN3)
May 30 – Saint Louis FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC (ESPN3)
June 13 – FC Cincinnati vs. Bethlehem Steel FC (ESPN3)
June 26 – Nashville SC vs. Indy Eleven (ESPNews)
July 4 – Indy Eleven vs. Ottawa Fury FC (ESPNews)
July 11 – OKC Energy FC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC (ESPNews)
July 18 – FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte Independence (ESPNews)
July 25 – San Antonio FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (ESPNU)
August 8 – Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Charleston Battery (ESPNews)
August 15 – Saint Louis FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC (ESPN3)
August 22 – Phoenix Rising FC vs. San Antonio FC (ESPN3)
August 29 – Rio Grande Valley FC vs. San Antonio FC (ESPN3)
September 5 – Phoenix Rising FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (ESPN3)
September 12 – Real Monarchs SLC vs. Saint Louis FC (ESPN3)
September 18 – Nashville SC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies (ESPN3)
September 26 – Richmond Kickers vs. FC Cincinnati (ESPN3)
October 10 – Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Phoenix Rising FC (ESPN3)

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 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 $15 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!

 

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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

4/9/18 Champs League Tues/Wed 2:45 on FS1-, Liverpool-Man City Tues, Juve-Real Wed, Indy 11 win host Nashville Sat 12 noon,

My U16 Boys – practice tonight is pushed back to 8:15 till 9:30 tonight Murray Field !! 

CFC GoalKeepers –  U13-U18 Wed Night moved to 8:20 till 9:30 pm at Murray !! 

Anyone want to gather to Watch Champions League this Week?  Tues or Wed 2:45 pm? I am thinking of heading over to Brockway Pub across from Meyer’s Today for Liverpool vs Man City.

Holy crap – I just watched in disbelief as Roma scored 3 goals at home to Barcelona’s ZERO as the Italians pulled the biggest upset in Champions League history.  Down 4-1 on aggregate Roma needed a 3-0 win at home to advance to the Final 4 of Champions League against a Barca team that had only lost 1 time in the last 38 games – a Barca team with Messi, with Ter Stegan playing like a god between the pipes – still Roma found a way.  They were even in possession against a team that never loses the time of possession game – they outshot, and outworked Barca, 6 corners on the night.  Honestly they dominated and deserved the win vs Barca.  It kind of makes our Liverpool 2-1 win over Man City look pedestrian. I will admit the ref missed a PK call in the 1st half without doubt.  But still for Liverpool to score 2 and only give up 1 at Man City – wow.  So 2 teams thru Liverpool and Roma – who would have thought that ??? Oh and both Liverpool and Roma are owned by American companies.  Hum.   I love Champions League Futbol!

Champions League Elite 8 – Tues/Wed

So let me start with I love Champions League soccer – the best players in the world playing for the best teams in the world.  So on one side we get the goal of the Year as Renaldo hit this bicyle wonder goal vs my Juve.  So good that ever the Juve fans gave him a standing ovation as legendary goalie Gigi Buffon admitted it was one of the best goals he had ever seen.  All Renaldo did was score 2 goals including the wonder goal – breaking the record of scoring in 10 straight Champions league games along with lots of other records.  Still the Defending Champs – beating my Juve 3-0 at Turin – takes a little off the return leg this Wednesday at 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Now Liverpool winning 3-0 at Anfield with Klopp’s high press attack and the Egyptian god Mo Salah scoring again while the Anfield throng was at a fever pitch – was exciting.  It sets up a huge game at Man City on Tues 2:45 pm Fox Sport 1 as Pep tries to figure out how to score 4 while not giving up any goals at home.  I will be nervously watching wearing my red!  Barca slammed Roma 4-1 at home so the return trip to Rome should be no issue for Barca Tues at 2:45 on FS2 and Bayern should squeeze past Sevilla on the road leading 2-1.   If you have have Univision it should be fun to watch the MLS teams as they battle the Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champ League games Tues night at 8 pm and 10 pm and of course Europa League featuring my Atletico Madrid at 3 pm Thurs on FS2, and Arsenal vs Moscow at the same time on FS1.

Tues, Apr 10 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS 2/FBlive     Roma  vs Barcelona  (4-4)  Roma Advance (facebook live – https://www.facebook.com/FOXSportsChampionsLeague/videos/1809865909051593)

2:45 pm FS 1                 Man City  vs Liverpool  (1-5)   Liverpool Advance

10 pm Univision      America vs Toronto FC  (Concacaf Champ League) (1-3) (watch live)

8 pm Univision        NY Redbulls vs Guadalajara (Concacaf Champ League) (NY loses 0-1)

Weds, Apr 11 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Real Madrid  vs Juventus  (3-0)

2:45 pm FS 2            Sevilla vs  Bayern Munich (1-2)

Thurs, Apr 12  – Europa League

3:05 pm FS1                   CSKA Moscow vs Arsenal (1-4)

3:05 pm FS 2                  Sporting CP vs Atletico Madrid (0-2)

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Marseille vs RB Leipezig (0-1)

MLS

So MLS has a chance for the Best Week in MLS History this week – as they look to get 1 and maybe even 2 teams into the CONCACAF Champions League finals on Tuesday Night.  Toronto takes a 3-1 lead into Azteca vs Club America @ 10 pm  while the NY Red Bulls host Guadalajara trailing just 1-0 at 8 pm both games on Univision.  Man getting 2 teams in would really, really speak to MLS quality jumping up big time!  So I watched the LA Galaxy vs SKC game Sunday night –yes to see IBRA – he came on down 2-0 again in the 60th minute – and immediately had a blazer of a shot.  Later in stoppage time he had a breakaway and was pushed down in the box –horrible no call !! Amazing to me that MLS does not protect its stars – horrible no call (despite what the idiots on TV said).  Anyway a huge win for Sporting KC, he saves by their keeper who had 10 plus saves in the 2nd half along  – and disappointment for the LA Galaxy who fall to 1-3 overall.

EPL

The Manchester Derby lived up to expectations on a day that Man City could celebrate winning the League at home but Man United somehow, someway found a way to win a game that City just dominated early on 3-2.  Now the refs missed a lot of calls – certainly 2 PKs should have been given to City and man De Gea was spectacular in Goal as Pogba scores 2 and Man U capitalizes 3 times on 5 shots in the 2nd half and Man City scores just 2 on 20 shots.  City will have to wait 1 more week before they get to celebrate winning the English Premier League.

World

So I watched some soccer on Sunday – man the Madrid Derby Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid rarely disappoints – it was a battle of great goalkeepers as Real’s Costa Rican GK Neylar Navas outdid Atleti’s Jan Oblak in the end in the 1-1 tie.  It was disappointing to see Renaldo come off in the 60th minute or so after scoring the first goal for Real – as Atleti came battling back at the home of Real to tie and almost win it.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Salah Might play vs Man City

Preview Man City vs Liverpool ESPNFC

Can Klopp Contain Man City on the Road to Advance Steve Kelly ESPNFC

Liverpool pressing game will be key vs Man City

Man City can get past Liverpool video

What Records does Renaldo Hold Now – 10 in a Row

Renaldo on THE GOAL

Renaldo passes Van Nisterlrooy

MLS

Best Week in MLS History?

Toronto Travels to Azteca with 3-1 lead

NY Red Bulls Preview vs Guadalajara down 1-0

Goalkeeping

Sporting KC GK Tim Melia is MLS Player of Week for win vs LA Galaxy

Atletico Madrid Jan Oblak Spectacular Saves vs Real Madrid in Derby

Real GK Keylar Navas saves vs Real in Derby

De Gea Saves Man United vs City

Here’s the Full Highlights – with De Gea’s Saves included

De Geas Spectacular Tip over

EPL

Man City of the Best EPL Teams Ever? – No Way – ESPNFC

Pogba Disapointed despite victory over Man City

Indy 11

Indy 11 Hi-Lites of 1-0 win over NC  

Indy 11 Take 3 Pts and lose 3 players at NC FC – Bloody Shambles James Cormack

Recap Indy 11 beat NC 1-0 on Road –Indy 11

Season: IndySoccerTix.com (save on ticket fees!)
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Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

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

 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 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 $15 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!

GAMES ON TV 

Tues, Apr 10 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS 2/FBlive                        Roma  vs Barcelona  (1-4) (facebook live)

2:45 pm FS 1                 Man City  vs Liverpool  (0-3)

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

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

Weds, Apr 11 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS1           Real Madrid  vs Juventus  (3-0)

2:45 pm FS 2            Sevilla vs  Bayern Munich (1-2)

Thurs, Apr 12  – Europa League

3:05 pm FS1                   CSKA Moscow vs Arsenal (1-4)

3:05 pm FS 2                  Sporting CP vs Atletico Madrid (0-2)

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Marseille vs RB Leipezig (0-1)

Fri, Apr 13 

8 pm ESPN                Philly Union vs Orlando City

Sat, Apr 14

7:30 am NBCSN            Southampton vs Chelsea

9:30 am FS2                    Leverkusen vvs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN?              Burnley vs Leicester City

10:15 am beIN Sport                        Barcelona vs Valencia

12 noon                 Indy 11 vs Nashville SC (@ the Luke)

12:30 pm NBCSN      Liverpool vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm Fox Sport2                       Bayern Munich vs Borussia M’Gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Tottenham vs Manchester City

3 pm Fox 59          Chicago Fire vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan in Chicago)

3 pm ESPN3                    Colorado Rapids vs Toronto FC

3:30 pm Lifetime       Utah Royals vs Chicago Red Stars (Women’s NWSL)

7:30 ESPN3+youtube                       Louisville City vs Richmond Kickers (USL)

Sun, Apr 15                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Newcastle (Yedlin) vs Arsenal

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

9:30 am FS1                    Schalke (McKinney) vs Dortmund (Pulisic) battle for 2nd   

11 am  NBCSN               Man United vs West Brom

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Malaga vs Real Madrid

4 pm ESPN                       Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders

6 pm FS 1                                                 Atlanta United vs NYCFC  

Tues, Apr 17 –

2:45 pm NBCSN           Brighton vs Tottenham

2:45 pm ESPN3+Desp                      Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich – (German Cup)

Weds, Apr 18

2:45 pm NBCSN           Bournemouth vs Manchester United

2:45 pm ESPN3+Desp                      Schalke (Mkkensie) vs Frankfurt  (German Cup)

3:30 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Athletic Club

Sat, Apr 21

9:30 am FS2                    Frankfurt vs Hertha

9:30 am FS1                    Hannover vs Bayern Munich

10 am NBCSN                Watford vs Crystal Palace

12:15 pm Fox 59        Man United vs Tottenham (FA Cup Semis)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 1                      Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Leverkusen

3:30 pm ESPN News                         Barcelona vs Sevilla (Final Copa del Rey)

7 pm ESPN3+Youtube                      Cincinatti FC vs Pittsburg Riverhounds (USL)

10:30 pm ESPN3?       Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Sun, Apr 22                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs West Ham

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

11:30 am  NBCSN       Man City vs Swansea

12 noon FS1                   koln vs Schalke (McKinney)

4 pm ESPN                       Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota United

6 pm FS 1                                                 Portland Timbers vs NYCFC  

Liverpool collapse would be worst ever but Jurgen Klopp can contain Man City

6:50 AM ETSteven Kelly

Liverpool couldn’t have done much more against Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. Three goals and an equally-important clean sheet have given them a good chance of progression on Tuesday.Will it be enough, though? There may still be people surprised the question is being asked but this isn’t the disciplined, methodical Liverpool of old or even the smooth machine of the Rafa Benitez era.Where Europe is concerned it is rare for any discussion of Liverpool to avoid mentioning history. At least that is on their side: they’ve never lost a tie when three goals in front from the first leg.That’s where Manchester City come in. Domestically at least they’re a team with record-breaking on their minds. Scoring goals has come so easy for them that having to get another three won’t faze them in the slightest. However, they do have problems at the back — as further demonstrated by their amazing collapse against Manchester United on Saturday.Really, both City and Liverpool should come with a cast-iron guarantee: expect the unexpected.Liverpool’s own game this weekend could not have been planned better, with some players rested and the usual fiery tackling of a Merseyside derby notable by its absence during a drab goalless draw which contained not a single yellow card for either team.Fingers will be crossed for the swift recovery of Mohamed Salah, because Jurgen Klopp’s striking options when the Egyptian goes missing are disconcerting to put it mildly.It’s also naive to suggest Liverpool only need their defensive players to be on top form this Tuesday for all to go smoothly. This has been a nerve-wracking season for supporters, who love the attacking football Klopp has provided, but remain mistrustful of his game management.In the second half of the first leg there was, in fairness, a disciplined response to City’s determination to get an away goal but it could hardly be claimed the opposition played to their full potential.Most fans believe that Liverpool still need an away goal, the earlier the better, as they are facing opponents fully capable of wiping out that deficit.The Reds have already had several collapses this season. Their 5-0 hammering at the Etihad in the league encounter is often dismissed as a direct consequence of Sadio Mane’s red card but there have been other calamitous moments even with 11 players on the pitch.Thumped by Tottenham at Wembley, conceding three goals in five minutes at Arsenal and even letting West Brom score three in one half at Anfield in the FA Cup. Manchester United should really have been three up at half-time in the recent league match at Old Trafford too.The counter to those examples, bar City away, is that the final results would still see Liverpool emerge victorious if repeated in this one.Despite their two recent collapses, City are the best side in the country and containing them is Klopp’s biggest challenge so far. Some will claim United’s weekend comeback exposed City’s weakness yet the two situations are not similar at all. City clearly felt 2-0 was enough on Saturday and that United didn’t possess the firepower to hurt them, while they will not think any of that if given a similar start against Liverpool.On the whole Virgil van Dijk has helped the Reds look a little more secure at the back but he and his teammates will be stepping into a whole new situation now.Forget all those tired jokes about the “Emptihad,” Anfield’s atmosphere last week has thrown down a gauntlet to City supporters tired of having their own loyalty and fanaticism casually dismissed.The huge cash injection that helped City get where they are is too often used as a way to dismiss all they’ve ever stood for as a passionate, important football club. Their fans’ chants at Anfield certainly didn’t help, of course. “Just like United, you live in the past” helped goad Liverpool into a frenetic response.Now the boot is on the other foot, with City’s pride dented not just in one game but two. An already talented team has the impetus it may have always needed to go through; being written off and discounted before a ball is kicked. Underdogs, as bizarre as that may seem.Klopp won’t be one of those doubters, obviously, but nor is it his way to instigate a shutdown of any football match. It hasn’t been up to now, anyway.Some fans have continuously complained about the lack of efficient game management whenever Liverpool are in front against quality opposition. Sevilla, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and even City to an extent have all made comebacks against them this season. To lose this tie from such an advantageous performance wouldn’t just be the worst collapse of the season, it would be Liverpool’s worst ever.If Liverpool can perform as well as they did in the first leg though, they will go through whatever City do.

Liverpool pressing game will be key at Manchester City – James Milner

Apr 8, 2018PA Sport

Liverpool’s coordinated approach and pressing game will be vital to to keeping Manchester City at bay in the Champions League, James Milner has said.Jurgen Klopp’s side take a 3-0 lead to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday for the second leg of their quarterfinal, on the verge of a place in the last four for the first time since 2007.Klopp’s side have registered back-to-back clean sheets, following up their European win with a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby at Everton on Saturday.Milner has been a key player in both games, but the 32-year-old stressed that he was just a cog in the whole machine.”My running numbers are pretty consistent throughout the year, we get them regularly but I think it was slightly higher the other night [against City],” he said.”That is part of the midfield job and it’s been part of my game being able to cover ground, and it is something that’s needed in this team.”We are always pressing and you can’t leave your mate to press on his own, you have to press in numbers and if one person doesn’t do their job or get on the front foot and cover the ground and close the gap then the team gets out and you are under pressure.”Everyone puts a shift in and it’s very easy to see when someone isn’t doing it — and it doesn’t happen very often.”City’s dramatic defeat in the Manchester derby on Saturday made it the first time a Pep Guardiola side had conceded three goals in successive games in his 514-match managerial career.Liverpool know an away goal would leave City needing to score five on Tuesday, but Milner said the first priority was to keep their opponents at bay for as long as possible.”They are a top team, we know that. There are a lot of things which could affect it but we are in a good position,” he said.”But we know it is not over yet as they are a special team and good going forward, and we have to be ready to defend well and hopefully get a goal.”We’ve got a 3-0 advantage at half-time so it’s down to us not to sit back and to be on the front foot.”

Pep Guardiola calls for ‘perfect’ Manchester City performance

10:55 AM ET

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has told his players they will have to produce “the perfect game” if they are to reel in Liverpool and reach the Champions League semi-finals.
City will run out at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening trailing 3-0 from the first leg and knowing their European dream will be over for another season if they cannot engineer a remarkable turnaround.
Guardiola said: “Of course to go through, you have to make the perfect game, create chances, be clinical, concede few chances – all the conditions have to be perfect.
“The result is tough, but we have 90 minutes and in football, everything can happen. What we are going to do is try.”We don’t need to talk about motivation. The way they play in every game shows what they want to do. My team is extraordinary, not comparable to many others.”Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists City remain as dangerous as ever despite the worst week in Guardiola’s 18 months at the club.City’s first-leg defeat was followed by a 3-2 loss in the Manchester derby as United came back from 2-0 down at half-time.However, despite Liverpool being favourites to progress, Klopp has not seen much to change his opinion of how good a team City are.Asked if he thought City were more vulnerable, he said: “No, I didn’t think anything like that.”They had a fantastic season but they are human beings, thank God. They had two results which maybe no-one really expected.”When we lost here 5-0 at the beginning of the season, everybody saw the quality of City even when we were one man down, the preparation for the season, signings, the best coach in the world.”It is clear they would be outstanding but there is no perfect football team in the world.”Most of the people think Liverpool will go through but will lose the game. We have the chance to win.”Liverpool’s chances of doing that will be enhanced if 38-goal forward Mohamed Salah (groin) is fit.Klopp added: “We train at Melwood at 5pm (Monday) and then we have to wait for the reaction tomorrow and we will make a decision.”Reds captain Jordan Henderson is suspended, while Klopp is still awaiting updates on left-backs Andrew Robertson and Alberto Moreno.Sergio Aguero could make his first start for more than a month for City, for who left-back Benjamin Mendy (knee) is the only definite absentee.

Forget the narratives, Toronto FC only focused on getting to CCL final

April 9, 20185:28PM EDTJames GrossiContributor

On the eve of potentially the biggest match in club history, Toronto FC know that talent alone will not suffice.Having taken a 3-1 advantage from the home leg, TFC head into Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night for the decisive match in the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League against Club América (10 pm ET | UDN, go90.com in US; TSN1/4 in Canada).“You can’t win the games as we have over the last two years just on talent,” said Greg Vanney following the first leg. “You have to have a great mentality, be organized, have a plan both defensively and offensively; have a group that buys into it, works for each other.”“For sure you have to have talent, guys who make plays in big moments, but I don’t know any league anywhere where a team wins consistently just on talent,” continued Vanney. “You’ve got to have a lot of other aspects.” Over those two years, whether it be in the regular season, MLS Cup Playoffs, the Canadian Championship, or the MLS Cup final itself, Toronto have risen to the occasion more often than not. They will need to do so once more come Tuesday.“Our group is motivated more by big moments than the average game, so you see our guys step up,” said Vanney. “When the occasion gets big, they become bigger. That’s been great for our group.”For Michael Bradley, that is born of “the understanding that on nights like this not every play is perfect.” “You have to have a group that is committed to staying after it, playing, reacting, and moving together, trusting in how you play; knowing that if you can do that over the course of 90 minutes you give yourself a real chance,” he said.That this night comes against an historic Mexican opponent only adds to the occasion.“We’re all very proud of what is going on in MLS,” said Bradley on Saturday. “It’s clear for everybody to see that there continues to be big improvement.”But Bradley and his side refuse to see the match as a referendum on MLS-Liga MX supremacy.“That’s something that is probably more interesting for the media and people on the outside,” said Bradley. “Our mentality is we’re representing ourselves, [our] club and [the city of] Toronto. MLS and US and Canada, as well, but when we step on the field, the goal is to lift this trophy, not to prove that MLS is better than Liga MX.”That said, Bradley did admit, “The rivalry is real.” “For a large part of the last 10 years, teams from MLS have had a difficult time in this competition; Mexican teams have had a lot of success,” continued Bradley. “For us, this has been a big goal, to first qualify and then make sure we gave ourselves a chance to play until the end. We’ve done a good job so far. We understand nothing is finished yet, there is still a long way to go. We’re excited by that.” “As competitors, there is nothing better,” said Bradley. “These are the types of games you want to play: second leg of a Champions League semifinal in Azteca, against a very good team… it’s something we’re all very excited for.”That Toronto’s scheduled league match against D.C. United this past weekend was moved is evidence of the place this competition holds in the imagination of MLS. Conversely, Club América played, drawing 1-1 away to Necaxa on Saturday.“Around the world, different leagues find ways to help their teams. It’s up to each federation to decide how much they want to do,” noted Bradley. “On one hand, it’s an advantage for us to be here, start to prepare for the game and not play this weekend. On the other, the calendar of Champions League still heavily favors Mexican teams. They are [several] weeks farther into their season than we are.”“When you step on the field, these are all excuses,” added Bradley. “These things mean nothing. When the whistle blows, you have two good teams on the field, who are going to give everything to win.”Should Toronto get past Club América, and the New York Red Bulls overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their series against Chivas, an all-MLS Champions League final would loom.While Vanney was adamant he hasn’t looked that far into the future, he did admit: “From an MLS perspective it would probably be happy.”“To have two teams in semifinals and have some good results along the way shows that MLS is making progress,” explained Vanney. “The league is still very young. The measure in the Concacaf region is against Mexican opponents. To show that we’re making some progress is positive for the league.”“From a personal perspective the only job to get ourselves to the final,” added Vanney. “New York can take care of themselves and we’ll see what happens. Our emphasis is on ourselves, trying to get past Club América.”

 

New York Red Bulls vs. Chivas de Guadalajara
2018 Concacaf Champions League — Semifinals, Leg 2  Red Bull Arena — Harrison
8 pm ET — April 10, 2018  WATCH: UDN, univisiondeportes.com, go90.com

The difference in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals was razor-thin, with Chivas de Guadalajara capitalizing on a midfield miscue by Tyler Adams to put away one of their few clear chances, while Bradley Wright-Phillips was unable to finish his late in the second half as Chivas emerged with a 1-0 victory at Estadio Akron.

The scene shifts to Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls are comfortable and have outscored opponents, 12-1, in four overall 2018 matches. However, there is expected to be a sizable Chivas contingent in the stands Tuesday night, possibly giving it a less-than-ideal feel for the home side.

New York Red Bulls

In the first leg, Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch altered his starting XI, going with three central defenders as he did to see out the quarterfinals against Club Tijuana in a 3-1 second leg win at Red Bull Arena. New York attacked more directly to take advantage of its size advantage and neutralize the hosts’ strength of one-v-one defending in the midfield.

After failing to secure an away goal for the first time in the competition, the Red Bulls feel confident in their ability to score in Harrison, where they are 5-0-2 all-time in CCL play.

“With the 1-0 deficit, we should feel strongly that coming back to Red Bull Arena we’re going to be aggressive, we’re going to find our chances and we’re going to find a way to take care of this series,” Marsch said following training Saturday.

The Red Bulls will be without Aurelien Collin and Alex Muyl, who are serving a one-game suspension due to yellow-card accumulation, but central defender Fidel Escobar is back training fully following a hamstring injury suffered with Panama during the international break last month.

  • Suspended: Aurelien Collin, Alex Muyl
  • Suspended after next caution: Tyler Adams, Danny Royer, Luis Robles, Derrick Etienne, Michael Murillo, Kemar Lawrence
  • Injury Report: None

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Luis Robles — Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Michael Murillo — Tyler Adams, Marc Rzatkowski — Danny Royer, Sean Davis, Florian Valot — Bradley Wright-Phillips

CD Guadalajara

Rodolfo Pizarro helped provide the seminal moment of the first leg when he intercepted an errant Adams pass and ran at the young American midfielder, twisting him before slipping a pass to Isaac Brizuela, who fired past an onrushing Luis Robles in the 26th minute. Rodolfo Cota’s lone save was a huge one, when he raced off his line to deny Wright-Phillips of a late equalizer.

Chivas, though, suffered a blow Friday when central defender Jair Pereira was banned two gamesby Concacaf for putting his hand around Sean Davis’ throat in a late scrum. Carlos Salcido will likely slot in as his replacement.

While the Red Bulls had their match against the Houston Dynamo moved from Saturday to better prepare for the second leg, Chivas weren’t as fortunate, playing Veracruz in the 14th round of the Liga MX Clausura Saturday night. Matias Almeyda made eight changes and utilized a mostly reserve lineup in a 1-0 loss that essentially crushes Chivas’ fleeting playoff hopes.

  • Suspended: Jair Pereira
  • Suspended after next caution: Jesus Godinez, Rodolfo Cota, Carlos Cisneros, Orbelin Pineda, Edwin Hernandez, Rodolfo Pizarro
  • Injury Report:OUT: D – Jesus Sanchez (right knee); M – Alan Cervantes (left knee), D – Hedgardo Marin (right thigh)

Projected Starting XI
(4-4-1-1, right to left)
GK: Rodolfo Cota — Carlos Cisneros, Carlos Salcido, Oswaldo Alanis, Edwin Hernandez — Eduardo Lopez, Michael Perez, Orbelin Pineda, Rodolfo Pizarro — Alan Pulido — Jose de Jesus Godinez

All-Time Series

  • Chivas defeated the Red Bulls, 1-0, in the opening leg April 4 at Estadio Akron. The teams previously met in a preseason friendly on Feb. 15, 2011, with Chivas claiming a 3-2 home victory.
  • CONCACAF Champions League history: Guadalajara – 1 appearance (2012/13) 6 wins, 2 losses, 1 ties (18 goals) … New York Red Bulls – 3 appearances (2008/09, 2014/15, 2016/17) 6 wins, 4 losses, 7 ties (20 goals)

Indy Takes Three Points And Lose Three Players – North Carolina FC V Indy Eleven REVIEW (4/7/2018)

Several changes and starts for Ayoze, Lewis, Ring, and Justin Braun.
Prior to the match, Martin Rennie had called for his team to create more goalscoring chances and in the early stages, they did not disappoint. Considering the changes made Indy Eleven settled into a comfortable rhythm quite early. On the evidence of the short period of time we had to see Nathan Lewis play, he played two great through passes to Justin Braun, the first in the third minute Braun was unable to convert.
For the first fifteen minutes of the game, the broadcast commentators spoke mostly about Tyler Pasher, and for very good reason. Pasher was finding huge amount of space on the left in Carolina’s final third. A giveaway ball by Futty Danso was pounced upon by Justin Braun who laid off the perfect pass to find Pasher advancing on the box, he struck a sweet left low past Tabakis to put Indy Eleven in the lead early.
Unintentional contact to the head of Nathan Lewis in the 20th minute saw an early exit for the Trinidad international, most unfortunate to see him leave the field so early but a concussion is not something to take chances with. Zach Steinberger entered the game and Rennie had to reshuffle the pack. Soony Saad moved to the right wing and the Eleven shifted to a 4-5-1 with Braun the lone forward.
The dynamic of the game changed for Indy and the injury caused six minutes to be added to the first half. This wasn’t the last knock we would see in the game, poor weather can bring a lot of problems including skiddy balls, mistimed tackles, and injuries. In the 34th minute of the game Marcel Kandziora followed through hard on Carlyle Mitchell’s knee which I think he felt for the rest of his time on the field

By: James Cormack – Bloody Shambles

A lot to unpack from a game marred by adverse weather conditions and a few unnecessary flashpoints. In a match where we knew Indy Eleven would have to call on their roster depth, there were a lot of positives to come out of the game, but the overall play was dictated at times by things out of our control.Rennie put forward a different formation and numerous lineup changes forced by injury and suspension. Ayoze Garcia made his first competitive appearance for Indy at left back allowing Tyler Pasher to advance to midfield. Nathan Lewis also made his first start on the right of midfield and Justin Braun started in a front two pairing with Soony Saad. Brad ring continued where he left off last week in what is now known as the Ring Back position.As we know Lundgaard and McInerney were not available. Venegas, Starikov, and Ferreira did not travel. On the bench for the Eleven were Farr, Rusin, Moses, Steinberger, Speas, Guerra, and Amankona.

North Carolina had chances to level the game during the first half, most notably from Daniel Rios who had the beating of Fôn Williams in the 29th minute from the edge of the 18 after a spin but only found the crossbar and again found the woodwork before the end of the half.
The second half was not much to write home about, Indy Eleven played a little more conservatively and North Carolina began to apply pressure throughout but could not find the elusive goal despite bringing on more attacking players and switching firstly to a 4-4-2 from their initial 4-1-4-1 and eventually to a 3-5-2 packing the midfield and getting more bodies in front of goal. All came to nothing.

After a crunching tackle on Steinberger in the 75th minute followed shortly by a card for Bekker who booted a ball at Saad while he was on the ground waiting for treatment, things just got chippier from then on in. This came to a rather bizarre boiling point in the final minute of the game.

A few minutes after Carlyle Mitchell sadly had to leave the field clutching the back of his leg, NCFC were awarded a penalty after Karl Ouimette clipped the side of Rios’s leg, it was a very light call but not one I would argue, it could have been given or not given, it was not an incorrect decision.
If Tyler Pasher scored a game-winning goal then Owain Fôn Williams can certainly be credited with a match-winning save. Owain chose correctly and went right to tip Kyle Bekker’s shot off the upright and out for a corner. Carolina took the corner quickly but could not find a goal. After the dust had settled North Carolina defender Aaron Guillen was found on top of Karl Ouimette, the two players locked together in a wrestling match. Both were red carded by the referee. I’ll talk more about this shortly.

The whistle was blown, Indy Eleven had won their second consecutive road match giving them six points from three games. The entire team and subs rushed to congratulate Fôn Williams on his penalty-saving heroics.

What we learned from this game…

Despite numerous changes to the starting lineup and a change of formation, Indy Eleven adapted quickly and continued to play good technical football. Rennie is not afraid to tinker and has confidence in his roster. The players have stepped up and produced no matter what changes have made and shown great unity and determination and confidence in each other.
Indy Eleven had to adjust throughout the game and the question is what could have been. Had Nathan Lewis not left the field forcing a pack shuffle I had the feeling Indy would score again quite soon and possibly score more before the end of the first half and buried this game. It’s encouraging and hopefully, Lewis is fine and we see more of him very soon.
Weather conditions continued to deteriorate in the second half and given our forced changes I think the team, on the whole, played very well, we may have become more conservative in the second half, but we never once panicked, made very few mistakes and tried whenever possible to always keep the ball on the ground.Ayoze is not Pasher and Pasher is not Ayoze. Having seen Pasher’s performance in the first couple of games I suspected it would be very difficult to displace him from the team. Having Ayoze and Pasher on the field is a whole new trick from the bag and it’s good to see that we can do that. Ayoze was solid, composed and creative but he did not need to venture very far forward, and neither did Ring. We probably will witness many more good combinations of players in the coming games, considering we have not seen Venegas at all and not much of Guerra.Justin Braun looks to be getting back to his old self, he is a danger on his own but also a danger with his creation, with continued time on the field, and I am sure he would have liked more yesterday, we will see more goals and assists and we need those.

The negatives, the complaints, flashpoints, and the aftermath…

Over the full ninety minutes, I would say the officiating was passable, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that maybe the horrible weather wasn’t only affecting the players. However, there were two or three really horrible decisions during this game.

I am not a big fan of complaining about refereeing, well not most of the time anyway, but if USL seems to like handing out retroactive decisions then I think Indy Eleven if they have the ability should contest both Carlyle Mitchell’s yellow card in the first half and Karl Ouimette’s red card in the second.

Carlyle Mitchell had his knee as good as wrecked in the 35th minute of the game and had to leave the field. No sooner had he re-entered the match he made a tackle on Daniel Rios and won the ball cleanly. Even the match commentator said it was a GREAT tackle. It should not even have been called as a foul but to add insult to injury (see what I did there) the referee gave him a yellow card. Very poor.

Having had time to re-watch the game again in its entirety I scrutinized the situation that led to Karl Ouimette’s sending off. Karl should never have been given a red card and considering we may only have one center back left for next week this suspension should be appealed.

At the point of Bekker’s penalty kick, Guillen takes up a position on the edge of the area beside Ouimette. As the ball is kicked Ouimette extends his arm to block the defender from moving past him, Guillen pulled his arm and tried to force Karl down and around to the ground.

After the quick corner is taken Guillen later finds himself in the box trying to gather the ball with Ouimette behind him, Karl is holding his arm but not pulling him, both fall over. Aaron Guillen immediately turns over and pins Ouimette to the ground and the two lock together. Ouimette is shown red for violent misconduct.

I am sorry officials but if you have not seen or called anything up to this point and you don’t know how the situation has started and one player has another pinned to the ground, how can you give the player who was pinned to the ground a red card for violent misconduct. Was Karl completely innocent? No, not entirely, but he did nothing to even warrant a yellow card. Ridiculous.

The aftermath for Indy Eleven is now heading into their second home game against Nashville with the possibility of three center backs missing. Ferreira already did not travel because of injury, Mitchell had to limp off with a few minutes to go and Karl Ouimette is now suspended leaving us with only Brad Rusin remaining. This is a tight spot.

Hopefully Mitchell’s injury is not too serious, he did take a knock to the knee earlier but in the end, it looked like he was clutching the back of his lower thigh, possibly hamstring but maybe just cramp, it’s difficult to tell. It will be interesting to see the starting lineup this Saturday and how we adapt to this. We really could do without a mounting injury list this early in the season, if we thought our depth would be tested this week, it certainly will be in the next game.

But anyway, not much to be negative about, we won, we have six points and two wins from three matches and for now we are in a good place!

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.

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

4/2/18 Champs League Tues/Wed 2:45 on FS1- Juve-Real Tues, Liverpool-Man City Wed, Zlatan a God in LA – scores Winner in debut

 

MLS WELCOME TO ZLATAN IBRAAAA

Ok Zlatan – IBRAAAAAAAH – If you have been under a rock this weekend – perhaps you missed Zlatan’s debut at LA Galaxy as they played the first ever El Traffico against new in town rival and undefeated LAFC.  LAFC under the tutelage of Bob Bradley (the best US Coach ever I think) – got off to a 3-0 lead shocking the Galaxy faithful.  But then the Galaxy stole one back early in the 2nd half – then in the 70th minute on came Zlatan – 3 minutes on and LA scores a header  – then 7 minutes in and IBRA scores the tying goal with a 40 yard wonder strike off the volley.  Then the unthinkable the winning goal in the 90th minute –. a pinpoint header between 3 defenders and the oncoming goalie. (you must watch this).  I was driving and listening on the radio – and I almost drove off the road when Zlatan scored the winner.  Unbelievable!   I can’t wait to see this live – when I go to the next El Traffico in late July while in LA!!) IBRAAAAH !!  After the game – Ibra says simply – the Fans Wanted Zlatan – I give them Zlatan -Your Welcome LA !!    Must See Soccer!

Champions League Elite 8 – Tues/Wed

So we get to the meat of the schedule with Champions League Elite 8 play on Tues/Wed at 2:45 pm the next 2 Weeks.  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.  The other 2 games should be walks in the park for Bayern and Barca.   If you have have Univision it should be fun to watch the MLS teams as they battle the Mexican teams in the CONCACAF Champ League games Tues/Wed night at 8pm and of course Europa League featuring my Atletico Madrid at 3 pm Thurs on FS2, and Arsenal vs Moscow at the same time on FS1.  Oh and the US ladies face Mexico at 7 pm on Thurs eve on FS1.

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

INDY 11 Debut Solid New Stadium with Record Crowd over 17K

And finally our Indy 11 made their home USL debut in a hard fought 1-0 loss at home to FC Cincy on Sat.  Sounds like a great crowd was on hand and the Indy 11 were a bit unlucky not to at least get the draw.  (see all the stories below and online at https://www.theoleballcoach.com.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Who Will Advance to Semi-Finals?  SI  VIDEO with Grant Wahl

Real Faces Defensive issues vs Juve

Juve – Buffon on Real – No Team is Invincible

Real’s Dominance Deserves Respect

Real Fans weary of Juve

Man City must prioritize win over Liverpool vs Sat game with Man U

Salah, Fermino, Man almost unstoppable says Pep

Barcelona’s Busquets fit for UCL game with Roma

Liverpool will win Trophies with Klopp

Champions League Quiz – how much do you know ?

MLS

Was LA – LAFC the Best MLS Game Ever?

Greatest MLS Debut Ever? Zlatan?  – Grant Wahl SI

Zlatan Exceeds Any Expectations – I Gave them ZLATAN – SI Brian Straus

Zlataaaaaan + other Moments from MLS weekend Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle –

The Magic of Zlatan – Bobby Warsaw

Week 5 Wrap Up MLS  

Indy 11

Indy 11 new Home Not Perfect for Soccer but a Huge Upgrade for the 11 – Indy Star Kevin Johnston,

Indy 11 puts up Huge – MLS Type Attendance Records – Indy Star

Indy’s Home Opener a Huge Success without any points – James Cormack – Bloody Shambles

FC Cincy Tops Indy 1-0 in Lucas Oil USL Debut – Robbie Mehling  – Photos Soctakes.com

Stranger Things Millie Brown – loves the TIFO by BYB – Indy Star Dakota Crawford

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

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

EPL

Why Tottenham win at Chelsea was more than Average Derby Win

GAMES ON TV 

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)

Lucas Oil Stadium not perfect home for Indy Eleven, but a big upgrade

Kevin Johnston, Special to IndyStarPublished 3:12 p.m. ET March 30, 2018

There’s a certain three-word alliteration that evokes a strong response in the soccer community: soccer-specific stadium. Purists love natural-grass stadiums designed especially for soccer. Artificial playing surfaces aren’t just frowned upon at the highest levels, they’re avoided like the bubonic plague — more on that later.For this reason, Lucas Oil Stadium isn’t the perfect home for the Indy Eleven. But it’s a darn good one.“The amenities at Lucas Oil Stadium are fabulous,” Eleven president Jeff Belskus said. “It’s a big upgrade from where we’ve been at Carroll Stadium.”The Eleven (1-0) will play its home opener 7 p.m. Saturday against FC Cincinnati (1-0).

More: Indy Eleven 3.0? Call it whatever you want — this team is intriguing

hile Lucas Oil Stadium won’t satisfy every caveat on a soccer fan’s checklist, the move to what’s now the grandest home in all lower-division soccer represents an upgrade beyond measure. It’s also a trial run to show Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber what first-division soccer might look like in Indianapolis.“We are viewing this as a big positive in our push to bring MLS to Indianapolis,” Belskus said. “It’s going to show MLS what great support we have here. “The strength of the market is important to MLS, and we’re going to demonstrate just how strong this market is. Our previous high watermark for attendance was 11,048 set in 2014. We’re going to beat that by — I expect — 30 or 40 percent this Saturday.”Indy originally planned to close off the lower-bowl seating on the west side of the stadium, but increased demand for the home opener led the club to announce earlier this week that the entire lower bowl will be available.The gameday experience will drastically improve at the Eleven’s new home. Gone are the days of using portable toilets and having no answer for poor weather. IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium doesn’t have suitable built-in restroom facilities for several thousand people, nor a concourse. It also requires makeshift vending setups due to a lack of permanent concessions. The nearest showers and modern locker rooms are across the street at the Indiana University Natatorium.As for the artificial playing surface, it remains a point of contention in the soccer community.For the Eleven, it’s nothing new. Carroll Stadium featured turf. But it is a legitimate reason why Lucas Oil Stadium isn’t the perfect venue for soccer — the same reason natural grass was brought into the stadium for a 2013 exhibition match between European giants Chelsea and Inter Milan. More than 41,000 fans showed up for the match. Without importing real grass, Indianapolis wouldn’t have landed a game of that magnitude.When decorated striker Didier Drogba joined MLS’ Montreal Impact in 2016, he refused to play in the first several matches scheduled for turf, claiming the surface was painful on his then-balky knee. The U.S. women’s national team has also found itself at the forefront of the turf debate in recent years. The team is forced to play on turf quite often, something its male counterparts rarely have to deal with.For all turf’s drawbacks, Lucas Oil Stadium is a gorgeous, taxpayer-funded stadium being under-utilized in the heart of Downtown Indy, and the Capital Improvement Board and Indy Eleven collaborated to make better use of it.While world-class players — both men and women — roll their eyes at artificial surfaces, second-division United Soccer League sides shouldn’t be held to world-class standards. The pros of the Eleven’s stadium switch far outweigh the cons.

But what about the tailgate?

The benefits of the team’s move to Lucas Oil Stadium extend to the pregame festivities as well.”We now have a tailgate partner, (Gate Ten Events),” said Josh Mason, president of the Eleven’s supporters group Brickyard Battalion. “Now we have an indoor-outdoor space. Where our indoor space when we tailgated at (Carroll Stadium) was the parking garage if it rained, now we have an indoor facility where everybody can actually come into and still continue to tailgate.”The other nice thing about this, too, is that we have the ability to march to the stadium as a group. So, we’ll be able to close the tailgate and do a direct march into the stadium. A lot of supporters’ groups do it. This will be our first opportunity to give this a shot and see how it works for Indianapolis.”The Brickyard Battalion tailgate is located on the south side of McCarthy Street between Missouri Street and Meikel Street. It’s open to everyone and parking is fittingly $11.

Indy’s Home Opener A Great Success But Without Points – Indy Eleven V FC Cincinnati REVIEW (3/31/2018)
New stadium, new players, new league. Tifo game on point!

By: James Cormack – Bloody Shambles –

Indy Eleven kicked off their first home game of the 2018 USL season against FC Cincinnati at their new home Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It was a new beginning for everyone, from tailgating to the final whistle. Despite the scoreline, everything was a huge success for the team, the supporters, and the city.s we mentioned in the run-up to this game it was always going to be a difficult game to call, I felt that Indy Eleven could have and probably should have come out of this game without losing, a draw would have been a fair result, we had our chances but didn’t take them. FC Cincinnati did and finished the match with a 1-0 victory over the Eleven.
Indy had opportunities to be first on the board early in the game, with some silky skills from Tyler Pasher on the left Indy’s number three made a great solo run all the way to the goal line and looped a cross beyond the goal and found Jack McInerney at the back post whose header came off the upright. A couple inches to the left and there was no saving that one.
Cincinnati scored the goal that would win the match in the 26th minute. A crossfield pass from left to right found Emmanuel Ledesma with time to control before sending in a cross towards the penalty spot that probably could not have been any more perfect and found Emery Welshman between Ferreira and Mitchell who nodded the ball past Fôn Williams to open the scoring. As the wonderful Greg Rakestraw was pointing out Fôn Williams to be the first Welshman to play for Indy Eleven, Emery became the first Welshman to score against us. (ah ha)

Tyler Pasher had another outstanding 90 minutes for Indy Eleven
People love to argue penalties and pour over replays, I didn’t need to, the replay on the big screen once was enough for me and I have watched it again since it was a clear penalty. With the ball already out of his reach, Newton brought both hands to McInerney’s feet and brought him down. Last man tackle, could have been a red card on any other day but referee Badawi decided it didn’t even warrant a yellow. Fair enough?With around five minutes to go before the half Indy had a great opportunity to tie the game up. Jack McInerney went for placement rather than power to the right side of goal but Newton guessed right and pulled off a fine save followed by a second block on a Speas shot to deny Indy an equalizer.During the full ninety minutes, Indy Eleven had plenty of opportunities to find the net which is encouraging, but it was not going to be our day. Shots from McInerney, Watson, Starikov, Saad, and Speas were all kept out. It’s early, it’s our second game of the season against one of the championship favorites, if we keep creating those chances we will score them and nothing about this game really indicated that Indy Eleven was in any way the weaker of the two sides.
Not even the BYB could get that ball into the net, McInerney denied by Newton.

One concern is that Indy appears to be having injury issues early in the season. Saad was unavailable to start because of a knock, Ayoze and Kevin Venegas have still not made a bench in the first two games meaning we are thin on left and right back cover. An unfortunate ankle injury for Reiner Ferreira saw him leave the field in the first half with Brad Ring coming in to cover at right back and Ouimette moving into center.It’s not a huge concern at this moment and luckily it’s coming at the beginning of the season. Defensive depth is critical to any team so hopefully, we don’t have any more early casualties and Ferreira’s injury is not too serious.
It does no harm to take a beating early and move on, Rennie and the coaching staff have plenty to look at and a week to repair and prepare before heading to North Carolina FC to renew a rivalry started in the NASL. Richmond Kickers who fell to Indy in our opening game achieved their first win this weekend defeating NCFC 2-1. North Carolina will be looking for their first win, maybe Indy Eleven can find their second as Rennie returns to face one of his former clubs.

So what about that game day experience?

Considering the short space of time the club and the supporters have had to prepare for a new league in a new stadium I am pretty sure I was not the only person walking away from the match suitably impressed.
The Brickyard Battalion, Slaughterhouse 19 and all supporter groups deserve a round of applause for the gameday setup. The choice of Gate Ten facilities and parking for tailgate setup was top notch with outdoor and indoor space available. The main parking was also easily accessible and myself like others got in before the allotted opening time and there was no real difficulty in leaving the stadium, nothing more than you would expect from a large event. The supporter display of tifo was incredible, the best we have seen and the Brickyard Battalion were as loud and as passionate as ever AND considerably bigger.
The front office staff must be worn out, I hope they were treated to several adult beverages after the match because they thoroughly deserve it, there were a lot of unknowns and all you can do is the best you can and see how it goes. From what I saw they exceeded all expectations not only on game day but in the weeks leading up to the game. I cannot imagine how much hair was lost and how many fingernails were bitten off. Everyone did an outstanding job. Everything gets easier from here. Take a bow Indy Eleven Staff.

The attendance is very encouraging, I had thought if we made 16,000 and filled the original advertised space it would have been amazing, to exceed our previous largest attendance by 6000 was incredible. This bodes well for the team and puts weight behind the need for a soccer-specific stadium in the city. I think this support will continue to grow as the team itself evolves more on the field more people will come to games. The officially announced attendance was 17,535.  Kudos and respect to the traveling Cincinnati fans who brought around 1500 supporters to the game and put in a solid ninety minutes of support for their team who rewarded them with three points. Hopefully, we can bring the same to Cinci and take those three points back.

Thoughts from Brandon Cockrum

Indy Eleven were unfortunate to come away without a point from Saturday evening’s electric match against FC Cincinnati. Indy was superior in most statistical categories, except for the one that matters most – the final score. Martin Rennie’s squad clearly needs some more matches to become a truly cohesive unit and it is fun to watch the team’s style of play and connections between players develop.
On Saturday the team played very compactly at times, probably by design to take command of the midfield. However, there was time and space available for players on the wings and Tyler Pasher was the only Eleven player that took advantage of it. After getting the ball taken off his foot trying to dribble out of the 18 and a wayward cross in the match’s early minutes, Pasher put in a man of the match performance for Indy with numerous attacks up the left side and dangerous balls served into the box. In the first half, Jack McInerney nearly finished one of those crosses but was denied by the frame and others narrowly missed the heads of attacking teammates.

It’s interesting that after two matches fullbacks Ayoze or Kevin Venegas haven’t been on a match day roster and we’ve had only a 20-minute runout from Juan Guerra in the first match. All three players were among the best at their positions while in the NASL. Coach Rennie appears to be favoring a defense-first approach, which makes sense early in the season as the team learns to play together and against a tough Cincinnati side.
It’s not that the players in front of them have played poorly, however, I have to wonder if Venegas would have been able to get forward, like Pasher, and cause more problems for Cincy than Karl Ouimette or Brad Ring did. Guerra has proven that he can unlock defenses at this level; might he have delivered a moment of creative inspiration that Nico Matern was unable to provide? Coach Rennie has a lot of capable tools on his belt this season and I suspect he will soon start trying more of them out.

Attention, MLS: Indy Eleven already putting up huge attendance numbers

Dakota Crawford, dakota.crawford@indystar.comPublished 9:36 a.m. ET April 2, 2018 | Updated 11:01 a.m. ET April 2, 2018

The Indy Eleven kicked off a new era in the United Soccer League this weekend, and they’re already flying high.Eleven fans captured the attention of “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown. The Eleven drew an announced club record 17,535 fans to Lucas Oil Stadium — beating out four other Major League Soccer teams. Eleven coach Martin Rennie said the whole experience was “top class.”

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Big league, big cost: Indy Eleven’s MLS bid won’t come easily — or cheaply

The attendance is especially notable because the Eleven have pushed hard to join the MLS as an expansion club. Without real plans for a new stadium in Indianapolis, they’ve so far been unsuccessful. Expansions have been granted in recent years to Atlanta, Minnesota, Los Angeles and, most recently, Nashville.This kind of fan support could be a key leveraging piece for the Eleven in the future. One match in, and they topped MLS crowds over the weekend from Houston (17,156 tickets sold), Chicago (13,678), Colorado (10,790) and Columbus (8,992).They’re still well below some of the top-tier draws such as Seattle (39,469), Toronto (28,006) and L.A. (27,068).

MLS announced attendance:

Seattle 39,469
Toronto 28,006
LA Galaxy 27,068
Orlando 23,257
KC 18,624
Minnesota 18,057
San Jose 18,000
Houston 17,156
Chicago 13,678 (doubleheader with NWSL game)
Colorado 10,790
Columbus 8,992

NWSL
Washington 4,989
N Carolina 4,078
Houston 3,433

These numbers are quite strong by the USL’s standards, too. The league’s highest average attendance in 2017 was touted by FC Cincinnati (21,199) — that club certainly helped boost the Eleven’s numbers this weekend, since fans only had a two-hour drive to watch the I-74 rivalry match. After FC Cincinnati, no USL club averaged more than 12,000. The 30-team league’s average was 4,301.Indy-based author John Green was quick to offer his support in helping the Eleven make (another) pitch to the MLS after seeing the fan support (and that “Stranger Things” Eleven banner).”Who do I have to pay to get Indy 11 into MLS?” Green tweeted. “17,000 fans at the home opener, and a tifo for the ages…View image on Twitter

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Before the opener, Eleven president Jeff Belskus told IndyStar the move to Lucas Oil would be important to the club’s future.We are viewing this as a big positive in our push to bring MLS to Indianapolis,” he said. “It’s going to show MLS what great support we have here.“The strength of the market is important to MLS, and we’re going to demonstrate just how strong this market is. Our previous high watermark for attendance was 11,048 set in 2014.”IndyStar reporter Justin Mack breaks down the announcement that Indy Eleven will play its 2018 schedule at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Mykal McEldowney/IndyStarIndeed, they blew that record out of the water in their first match. Obstacles remain, of course, in bringing the MLS to Indianapolis.A proposed $82 million stadium deal passed the Indiana House but not the Senate in 2015. As with other stadiums in town, the Eleven sought assistance from the city’s Capital Improvement Board, but had no luck, as chronicled in a 2017 IndyStar article:

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!

Real Madrid facing defensive issues ahead of Champions League quarterfinal vs. Juventus

Dermot CorriganESPN FC

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has big issues in defence for Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Juventus, with Gareth Bale unlikely to make the starting XI despite his excellent recent goalscoring form in La Liga.Bale was named man of the match at the Estadio Gran Canaria on Saturday against Las Palmas after scoring a brace. The Wales international has now scored 11 goals in 15 La Liga games this season — nine of them since the turn of the calendar year. However, Zidane was cautious in his praise and suggested his thinking had not changed since Bale was left on the bench for both the recent Champions League round-of-16 legs against Paris Saint-Germain.fter the game against Las Palmas on Saturday, defender Jesus Vallejo told reporters that he and his teammates were ready for a tough test against Juve.Scoring three and keeping a clean sheet is no mean feat here, so we’re heading back to Madrid very happy,” Vallejo said. “I’m very pleased to get another game under my belt and to be feeling better after the injury. I’ve come back [from hamstring injury] feeling great. The whole team is absolutely raring to go for Turin, we’re a solid group. It’s a crucial game and we’re well prepared.”Defender Nacho Fernandez picked up a thigh muscle injury in the win over Las Palmas, and although the 28-year-old, who has never missed a game through injury in his senior career, was named in the travelling squad on Monday morning, the club announced his recovery “will continue to be assessed.”Club captain Sergio Ramos sat out Saturday’s game due to a niggle picked up on international duty with Spain last week. Vallejo is the only other senior centre-half in Zidane’s squad, which also has very unproven cover in both full-back positions in Achraf Hakimi and Theo Hernandez.

Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon on Real Madrid: ‘No team is invincible’

3:36 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon says that “no team is invincible” but reigning European champions Real Madrid go into their Champions League quarterfinal as favourites.Madrid have won three of the last four Champions League trophies, including last season, when they easily beat Juventus 4-1 in the final to become the first team to retain the trophy in the modern era. However, Juve have historically the better record against Madrid in knockout ties, having won all four of the most recent two-legged meetings between the clubs — most recently 3-2 on aggregate in the 2014-15 Champions League semifinals.The veteran goalkeeper told Marca ahead of Tuesday’s first leg in Turin that while Madrid were favourites, his side were also a “great team” and had just as good a chance to progress to the semis.”No team is invincible,” Buffon said. “They are a very difficult side to beat. Real Madrid might be favourites, but the tie is at 50-50. We also have to be ambitious. There is history and there is the present, but Juve are also a great team who know how to win trophies.”Cristiano Ronaldo’s double in last year’s final means he has seven goals in five games for Madrid against Juventus — and Buffon said he admires how Ronaldo had honed his game in recent years to become a “true assassin” in front of goal.”I have unlimited admiration for Ronaldo, with time he has been able to improve,” Buffon said. “I admire him as he is someone who knows what he is doing and is pragmatic. In these last years he has shown his intelligence. He changed his position, uses less energy than before but is really lethal. In front of goal he is a true assassin. The only other forward with this clarity when finishing was [ex-France and Juve striker David] Trezeguet.”Buffon also spoke to AS and said the aim was to stay in the tie until the end of the second leg at the Bernabeu on April 11.”I think of many challenges, many games, some of which have gone well for us despite not being favourites,” he said. “Obviously, some have gone against us, like the final in Cardiff. We know that Madrid are the best team in the world, winning the Champions League the last two years, which nobody had done. Our hope is to still be alive until the last minute of the second leg.”After getting to half-time at 1-1 in last year’s final, Juve were steamrolled in the second half, and Buffon suggested that overconfidence ahead of the game had hurt them.”Three hundred days ago I was 39, and now I am 40, so psychologically it’s a big change,” he said. “We went to Cardiff very confident, maybe too confident, and that could be the first and most serious mistake we made in that final.”But I do not reproach myself. The stronger team on the pitch deservedly won the game. I hope Juventus find more weapons to balance the meeting more this time.”

Man City must prioritise Liverpool over Man United in Guardiola’s crucial spell

5:10 AM ETDavid Mooney

Ask any Manchester City fan whether they were optimistic heading to Goodison Park on Saturday evening and there would probably have been a degree of trepidation. The team very rarely win there, no matter how good they are or how poorly Everton have played.The evidence of the season so far, though, is that whatever challenge Pep Guardiola’s side face they tend to come through with flying colours. Even so, that wouldn’t have changed the minds of supporters who have been browbeaten by years of struggles on Merseyside.

The 3-1 win for the visitors put them within touching distance of their third Premier League title in seven years, setting up the mouth-watering prospect of sealing the championship with a victory in the Manchester derby. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for supporters, who grew up watching Sir Alex Ferguson’s team dominate while they followed a team on a tour of the Football League.For supporters, this chance is something they never thought they’d have. The idea that they could watch their side playing some of the best football the English league has ever seen, alongside breaking record after record, and then, on top of that, they could see them take the title against their nearest rivals is just too perfect. Having suffered at United’s hands for decades, the fans couldn’t think of anything sweeter than what Guardiola is offering this campaign.On the other side of the fence, Jose Mourinho will spend the 90 minutes at the Etihad on Saturday evening doing everything within his power to stop the embarrassment of losing the game and the title in one go. Expect a parked bus in the visiting penalty area and perhaps a few hefty challenges, too.However, Guardiola faces a dilemma. The City fans would love nothing more than rubbing their rivals’ noses in it, but the Champions League tie with Liverpool that sits either side of the Manchester derby is a more important fixture. The emotional choice would be to go all-out for the victory against United; the more rational choice is to make sure they progress past Liverpool into the semifinals.The Premier League title is going to the Etihad come what may, such is the distance between City and the chasing pack. That’s why the two-legged tie with Liverpool must be priority.Of course, this may all be immaterial. Should the unlikely happen and Guardiola returns from Anfield on Tuesday with a good lead, the manager could go all in for the derby. It would go against the historical norm, since City have won once at Liverpool since 1981 and that was an isolated victory for Kevin Keegan’s team in 2003.More likely, though, is that Guardiola is going to have work to do in the second leg and that means some of the key players should be rested against United.In the grand scheme of things, Guardiola will actually be kicking himself that his side went out of the FA Cup to third tier Wigan, following that 1-0 loss at the DW Stadium in February. The way the season has gone, with the Premier League as good as sewn up for so long, the manager could have prioritised the cup competitions to create a truly unforgettable campaign. That was an opportunity passed up — and that’s a lesson to carry over into the Champions League.The style in which City are going to win the title is up there with, if not better than, the best of what’s gone before. With the League Cup also already won, it means the focus has to be on Europe — a competition that City have never really made great waves in, despite being the most regular qualifiers from England in recent years.The tie with Liverpool is keeping fans on edge. No matter how well City have done since Sheikh Mansour’s investment in 2008, they’ve never really come close to taking a victory away from Anfield. Drawing the only other English team left in the competition was quite low down on their preferred options, behind even some of the European elite.If City can progress past Jurgen Klopp’s outfit, they’ll have put themselves in a really strong position to make this their most successful season in their history. That means, as much as the heart says a title-winning performance against Manchester United would be the icing on the cake, the head says that prioritising the two legs with Liverpool is the more important.Of course, City fans can’t lose even if United do win the derby. While the home support would rather be able to gloat right there and there, there’s even something satisfying about watching the rival supporters celebrate delaying the inevitable for another week or two.The Premier League is won whatever happens on Saturday. The Champions League is where Guardiola’s focus should be.

Liverpool trio of Salah, Firmino, Mane ‘almost unstoppable’ – Guardiola

5:30 PM ETJonathan SmithMan City Correspondent

LIVERPOOL, England — Pep Guardiola has described Liverpool’s attacking front-three as “almost unstoppable” ahead of their Champions League showdown.Manchester City face a quarterfinal first leg at Anfield on Wednesday — the only stadium in which they have lost in the Premier League this season. Liverpool forwards Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Premier League leading scorer Mohamed Salah all netted in the 4-3 victory in January and Guardiola says his side will have to be at their absolute best to stop them.”Not just [Salah], Mane and Firmino, all three, they are almost unstoppable. They are fantastic, fantastic players,” Guardiola told a news conference after City’s 3-1 victory over Everton on Saturday.”The way Liverpool plays is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good and it is tough, but it is [the] quarterfinal of Champions League so we cannot expect, in that level, something is going to be easy.”We play against ourselves and say ‘that is the target, we have to overcome.’ We will be able or not able to overcome that. If we are able, okay, semifinals. If we are not able, congratulations Liverpool and next season we will be back stronger but we are going to try.”City at least have the advantage of playing the second leg at the Etihad Stadium where they thrashed Liverpool 5-0 in September.But Guardiola refused to be drawn in on what he considered to be a good result to take into the rematch six days later.He joked: “6-0 will be good. Normally that is [not] going to happen. I never like a manager [to] think ‘what is a bad result?’ I focus on the performance, on what we have to do. Always the result is the consequence. Most of the times it is a consequence of what you have done. So I don’t think a draw is a good result or a victory.”Scoring goals away is so important and we are going to try to score goals but we cannot deny three people running up front plus [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle plus set-pieces with [Virgil] Van Dijk — they are an extraordinary team.”But that is what happens in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. If you are playing against Barcelona or Madrid or against Bayern Munich or Juventus or Roma or Sevilla, in that level you stop.”Sergio Aguero missed the win over Everton as he recovers from a knee injury and Guardiola says it’s too early to say whether he will be fit enough to face Liverpool.”We will see,” he said. “Still he didn’t train — one training session. Hopefully, he is much, much better. We will see. In these situations it is day-by-day.”Hopefully he can help us. Maybe not in the beginning, maybe from the bench. Or because after that we have United and after that, you have Liverpool in the second leg and maybe you have to change the system and have six strikers to win that game and we need Aguero and Gabriel [Jesus] and Lukas Nmecha and [Raheem] Sterling and everybody.”So this is not one game, Liverpool. It is 180 minutes. You have to try and make a good performance there for the second leg.”

Zlatan More Than Lived Up to the Hype in One of the Most Iconic Moments in MLS History

By GRANT WAHL March 31, 2018

Recency bias is a real thing. Too often in sports, we want to call someone or something in the news the greatest ever, and 99.9999% of the time we’re wrong.But then there is that 0.0001% of the time when the amazing thing you just saw really is the greatest ever.So I’ll come right out and say it: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut Saturday for the L.A. Galaxy—in which he came on in the 71st minute, scored once from 40 yards and once again in stoppage time, helping the Galaxy overcome a 3-0 second-half deficit to win 4-3 in its first-ever game against crosstown rival LAFC—is the most indelible moment in MLS history.There have been more significant great games in the annals of MLS, of course, none more so than San Jose’s 2003 playoff comeback from a four-goal second-leg deficit against the Galaxy. And there have been huge-buzz-that-delivered games, too, led by the New York Red Bulls’ 5-4 win against L.A. in David Beckham’s first MLS start in 2007.But for pure tell-your-grandkids-I-was-there drama, the kind of unforgettable moment that instantly goes into the lore of a league, MLS has nothing to beat what Ibrahimovic did on Saturday.Think about it. First, the stakes. It was the first game for Los Angeles bragging rights between the Galaxy, the most successful team in MLS history (which has struggled the last couple years) and an expansion LAFC team that burst out of the gates with two away wins in its first two games.LAFC built a 3-0 lead on national TV in the Galaxy’s house, a sold-out StubHub Center. By the 60th minute, LAFC had kept that three-goal advantage and was toying with its foe so much that the Galaxy were getting “Oléd” by the opposing fans in its own stadium.Then Sebastian Lletget pulled one back for L.A. in the 61st minute, setting the stage for Ibra to come on 10 minutes later. Remember: Ibrahimovic just landed in Southern California two nights ago. There were big questions about the effects of a significant knee injury that had kept him from playing for much of the past year with Manchester United.What happened then is the stuff of legend.Chris Pontius scored for L.A. in the 73rd for 3-2. And four minutes later, Ibrahimovic beat LAFC keeper Tyler Miller from wayyyyy out with a sidewinder swipe of his right leg, the kind of shot that few players in this world would even have the audacity to take, much less finish.3-3.If Ibrahimovic had done nothing more the rest of the game and it had finished 3-3, it would have been one of the great moments in league history.But there was more to come.In the 91st minute, not long after LAFC’s Marco Ureña had hit the post in a late effort to steal a win, the Galaxy’s Ashley Cole sent a cross from the left side into the box. Ibrahimovic beat Miller to the ball and headed it across the goal and in.Twitter Ads info and privacy4-3 Galaxy. Game over.Replays raised questions over whether Ibra may have been slightly offside, but Ibrahimovic was behind the ball and thus onside. In any case, those who are larger than life are never offside.About the only thing missing was a second yellow card for a second removal of Ibra’s jersey. That would have been epic.And so we are left with a player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times last week to announce his arrival that simply said, “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome.” Somehow, despite it all, he undersold it. Most indelible moment in MLS history.

‘I Gave Them Zlatan:’ Ibrahimovic Lives Up to Larger-Than-Life Reputation in Irrepressible Debut

By BRIAN STRAUS March 31, 2018

The full-page ad in Friday’s Los Angeles Times said simply, “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome.”In retrospect, it seems modest.Zlatan Ibrahimovic refers to himself as a lion, has his own line of signature underwear and last week, he tweeted a picture of himself dressed in a white robe and arm wrestling the devil. He’s confident, to say the least. And despite his age (36) and a serious knee injury suffered in April, Ibrahimovic was certain good things were in store when he signed with the LA Galaxy last week. He’d won titles and beguiled both fans and opponents with spectacular goals at every stop in an iconic career. Soon, L.A. would be showing its gratitude.“I know what I am able to do, and I know what I will do. I come here to win. I feel excited. The lion is hungry,” the Swede said. “I’m not arrogant. I’m confident. The people who don’t understand say I’m arrogant.”
No spotlight is too bright. No occasion is too grand. No layoff is too long, and no deficit is too large for Ibrahimovic. He’s made a habit of scoring in his first game with a new club, and he enjoyed the sort of debut Saturday with the Galaxy that would be almost impossible to script for anyone but the larger-than-life striker.The timing was perfect. Coming off the worst season in club history, the five-time champion Galaxy now had a genuine, threatening local rival to deal with—a well-financed, well-marketed and well-coached team in Los Angeles FC that started its expansion season 2-0-0. Saturday was the first MLS meeting between the new rivals, and the Galaxy needed to make a statement at StubHub Center. Instead, the hosts face-planted out of the gate. LAFC’s Carlos Vela and Marco Ureña were unstoppable, and the upstarts were ahead, 3-0, at half.The Galaxy pulled one back through Sebastian Lletget—who also knows something about returning from injury—and then the chants from the sellout crowd grew louder.“I think I heard, ‘We want Zlatan! We want Zlatan!’ And I gave them Zlatan,” Ibrahimovic told Fox following the game.He replaced Lletget in the 71st minute and saw teammate Chris Pontius bring the Galaxy to within one two minutes later. Then, the player who’s made a habit of scoring jaw-dropping goals—who has the confidence (or arrogance) to try anything—tied the game with a strike that’ll go down in MLS history.It didn’t win a title. Eddie Pope’s golden goal, which decided the inaugural MLS Cup final in a 1996 New England nor’easter, will live for as long as the league does. Dwayne de Rosario, Robbie Keane and Jozy Altidore also tallied late, championship-winning goals that are the stuff of MLS Cup legend. And there have been a handful of goals sprinkled throughout the league’s 22 seasons that were slightly more audacious, from Clint Mathis’s Maradona-esque run through the Dallas defense in 2001 to Eric Hassli’s two-touch volley against Seattle a decade later.But this one was different—because it was LA-LAFC, because it was a late equalizer, because it was a long-range stunner and because it was vintage, as-promised Zlatan. One touch in the 77th, from some 45 yards away, was all it took.“[Ola] Kamara jumped in the duel. I go behind as a striker, and I saw the goalkeeper went out and yeah, just put it over him,” Ibrahimovic told Fox. “I was thinking to save strength because I don’t know how much I would make it, so let’s shoot in one [touch], I said. And it went in.”At that moment, he added, the knee was “Ok. I was not worried. … It’s difficult to describe the feeling after you score a goal like that.” While everyone was trying to process what they’d just seen, Ibrahimovic already was plotting the sequel. The momentum was firmly with the Galaxy, and LAFC was trying to hold on. It was a lot to manage for a visiting team playing just its third game together. Add the aura of Zlatan, and it’s almost unfair. In the 91st minute, Galaxy captain Ashley Cole hit a cross from the left and the 6-foot-5 Ibrahimovic jumped, beat LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller to the the winner. Ibrahimovic may have been offside—all it takes is a toe or fingertip beyond the ball when Cole hits the cross. But if custom, convention and the laws of physics don’t apply to Zlatan, then on this day, the laws of the game wouldn’t either.“My history when I come to a new team, I score always in the first game,” he said, referencing his debuts with Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United. “So, I wouldn’t let it down this time. I had to score.”His commitment to walk the walk, like just about everything else about him, is outsized. The Galaxy won the first game of the LA-LAFC rivalry, 4-3. But Zlatan surely would tell you that all of Los Angeles won as well, not to mention MLS, American soccer and anyone around the world who happens upon the last 15 minutes of Saturday’s game online.“I choose LA Galaxy because I wanted it. I know what I can bring it and I will bring it,” he said at his introductory press conference. “This thing was supposed to happen a couple of years before but it didn’t. I am here now. The destiny was that it was supposed to happen, the question was only when.”t all happened Saturday. You’re welcome.

Armchair Analyst: Zlatan, Zlatan, Zlatan Zlatan & more from Week Zlatan

April 1, 20183:23PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

So this is the start of the Major League Zlatan era. I have to say that my expectations were lower than they should’ve been, given that he is, indeed, Zlatan.36? Coming off of devastating knee injuries? Not even close to fully fit?It took him fewer than five minutes to create what will probably be the most-viewed highlight in MLS history (at least until Cristiano scores a banger for Miami in three years). The Galaxy became the second team in MLS history – over 5100 games – to overcome a 3-0 deficit, winning 4-3. The man has a sense of the moment.And the first El Tráfico quite obviously dwarfed the rest of the league’s storylines this past weekend. Charlie Davies, who joined us for Matchday Central and knows a thing or two about big games, called it the greatest game in MLS history. I think it doesn’t quite measure up to the second leg of the Toronto FC/Montreal playoff series in 2016, but in terms of regular-season outings… yeah, I think I’m with Charlie. It was almost too much spectacle to analyze.

That said, let’s give it a quick run-through:

  • LAFCdominated the first hour with what’s become their defining feature — the ability win moments of transition by playing quick, short passes until Carlos Vela gets on the ball in a pocket of space. That space is created in large part by the tireless and intelligent running of Marco Ureña, who drags opposing backlines all over the field and puts constant pressure on teams with his movement.The overall effect is to force the opposition into reactive defense. The Sophie’s Choice coaches have to make is “do we step up and be more proactive about shutting service down in the first place, and risk them running in behind?”• Sigi Schmid chose wisely. Zlatan’s the headline, which is right and just. But Schmid’s decision to push central midfielder Servando Carrasco higher early in the second half was the tactical change that got the ball rolling downhill for the Galaxy. It paid in a very obvious way, as Carrasco forced the turnover that led to LA’s first goal (which came just as LAFC fans were attempting to “Olé!” the Galaxy in their own stadium – in retrospect a bad idea that the soccer gods viewed with disfavor).It also paid in a less obvious way, as the pressing of Carrasco and Sebastian Lletget stopped the flow of service to Vela. Once that faucet was shut off, the hosts grabbed ahold of the game.• Both Carrasco and Lletget were subbed off by Schmid in favor of a 4-4-2 for the final 20 minutes, which also turned out to be a smart choice. Usually teams in a 4-4-2 struggle in possession against anybody playing a 4-2-3-1 (as LAFC were), but by that point the Galaxy had so thoroughly wrested control of the game away from LAFC that momentum mattered more than numbers.Plus, quite simply, there’s the Zlatan effect. Defenders are hyper-aware of him, which bends the entire game toward him and opens up space for his teammates. Watch Ema Boateng waltz through the LAFC backline here on the second Galaxy goal:That doesn’t happen if it’s Ariel Lassiter drifting off the ball. It happens because it’s Zlatan.And so there we have it, the recipe for an instant classic that we will indeed be talking about a decade hence and probably longer. Or, from a different perspective: just another day in the life of Zlatan.

A Change is Gonna Come

The day’s other 4-3 game was a giant sigh of relief for Orlando City, who finally got off the schneid in 2018 with the win over the visiting Red Bulls. How much you want to take from it depends upon how much stock you put in the fact that New York – who are justifiably more focused upon their Concacaf Champions League semifinal in Guadalajara on Wednesday night (10 pm ET; UDN, go90.com) — put out a B or even a C team with just a smattering of starters.I’m not here to rain on the Purple Lions’ parade, though. A win is a win, and for large parts they looked very good doing so in attack (defense remains a real and potentially fatal issue). The big catalyst was a halftime switch to the 4-2-3-1, which spread the game out and made it tougher for RBNY to get pressure to the ball in midfield:

“It is absolutely our ideal scenario to be able to play in different shapes,” is how Jason Kreis put it after the game, embracing flexibility but with a notable air of defiance. “We’ve been working through that since preseason. And so yes, I do think that you will see variations in how we approach matches, no doubt. Both within matches and from match to match.”There had been calls — loud and prolonged — from the fanbase for a move away from the 4-4-2 diamond and into the 4-2-3-1. Kreis had resisted them for a number of reasons, one of which, he hinted, was the prolonged absence of Dom Dwyer and subsequent injury to his backup, Stefano Pinho. Without those two guys there was no true target forward on the team, and without a true target forward you can’t really play a 4-2-3-1 unless you possess through the middle like Barcelona.Orlando City have not possessed through the middle like Barcelona this year. And so the attempt was to compensate by playing two drifting forwards in the 4-4-2, an approach that worked better on paper than on grass. So it goes.Switching to the 4-2-3-1 puts Dwyer, Justin Meram and Sacha Kljestan in their best positions, and early returns suggest the same will be true for Josue Colman, who looks comfortable at right wing.Those four should be potent enough to create without all that much help from the six other players in purple, and that’s probably a good thing because they still are quite a mess. Mohamed El-Munircompletely lost track of Florian Valot on the first RBNY goal. A turnover and quick counter up the gut ripped the defensive midfield and central defense apart on the second RBNY goal. Lamine Sane was overpowered on the third.These can all be chalked up, at least in part, to individual errors. But when these types of individual errors happen game after game (and they have), you have to start wondering how much of it is simply baked into either the system or the personnel on hand.If that’s the case then all of Orlando City’s problems won’t be solved with a simple formational switch, but maybe they can be mitigated. Perhaps the fullbacks won’t be so vulnerable if they don’t have to push as high to support the attack, and perhaps central midfield will be more solid if they go to the dual pivot of the 4-2-3-1 in place of the single d-mid of the 4-4-2 diamond. Maybe the knock-on effect of that is more protection for a central defense clearly in need of it no matter who’s been out there this year.That’s a lot of ifs, maybes and contingencies considering we’re just one month into an eight-month season, but points won (or lost) now count just as much as those won in September and October. What it looks like now is that the Purple Lions dug themselves a hole over the first four weeks of the season and, on Saturday, discovered a tool that might be useful – essential even – in climbing out of it.

A few more things to ponder…

  1. I wrote about Toronto FC’s cruise-control winover visiting RSLon Friday night. The Reds, like RBNY, were more focused on CCL play (they host Club America on Tuesday) than the regular-season.RSL, meanwhile, appear to have major problems. Mike Petke says he’s going to fix it.
  2. What’d the five fingers say to the hand?

That, from Daniel Lovitz, is our Face of the Week, from Montreal’s 1-0 win at Seattle. The Sounders are 0-3-0 with no goals scored and five conceded, as well as three red cards in those three games. Brian Schmetzer was steamed.”Very disappointed, very disappointed,” Schmetzer said afterward. “[Kelvin Leerdam] understands what he did. He apologized. But again, it comes down to me because I have to make sure I tell them exactly what the expectations are of this club. We don’t need to do those things. Because it’s not the way we want to do things. … And that sort of stuff is going to stop. It’s going to stop.”The Impact have been feisty all year. They didn’t dominate this one even when up a man, but the one time they had a chance to make a decisive play, they got the ball onto Ignacio Piatti’s foot and, yes folks, he made that play.This Montreal team isn’t complete, but I think they’re going to be much better than most (including me) suspected in 2018.

  1. Atlanta Unitedspent about an hour down a man and with Michael Parkhurst as the only real defender on the field. They held Minnesota United to just two shots on goal in that time while seeing out a battling-and-ugly 1-0 road win.The Five Stripes haven’t had to win many like that in their brief MLS existence, and it speaks well of them that they were able to kill off a game like that. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle LAFC’s attack next week without Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (red card) and Jeff Larentowicz (ankle injury), though.
  2. The Revs Dynamo’d the Dynamo,going into Houstonand countering their way to a 2-0 winNew England do not care about possession; they care about drawing you upfield, and then killing you in space, and so far they look pretty good at it.That was Houston’s primary – maybe only – plan last year. This year they’ve been a little more committed to trying to use the ball through midfield, and while it’s produced some pretty moments, it’s also left them vulnerable against teams like the Revs and Whitecaps who sit and clog and run, and Houston have now dropped two of their first three at home after losing just once at BBVA all last season.Should Wilmer Cabrera revert? In the short term, maybe a little bit. In the long term… no. Houston have to get more comfortable using the ball if they want to compete for MLS Cup because the truth is only one pure counterattacking team to won that particular trophy in the past 15 years (2010 Colorado).So the short-term pain should be worth the long-term gain. It would help, though, if Alberth Elisstopped wasting chances.
  3. Speaking of countering teams to death,the ‘Caps went out and did it again, winning 2-1 at Crew SC. I’m giving this cross from Felipeour Pass of the Week because it’s the perfect illustration of how a dominant aerial presence can make a low-probability strategy into a high-probability strategy:I bet that felt good for Kei Kamara in his return to Columbus.Wil Trapp can not let himself get posted up like that, by the way. He struggled mightily in this one just days after a sterling display for the USMNT in the 1-0 win over Paraguay.
  4. Dominique Badjigrabbed the first Rapids’ hat-trick in seven years as Colorado won 3-0 against visiting Philadelphia. This game was tight and choppy until the first goal, but once Badji caught Jack Elliott napping on the back post, the floodgates opened.Should it be that surprising? Philly’s backline was the youngest in MLS history, so the learning curve was steep and the on-field knowhow minimal.Still, it had to be disappointing for Jim Curtin & Co. Also disappointing so far has been the play of new DP No. 10 Borek Dockal, who has done a whole lot of nothing in his first 160 MLS minutes.
  5. Sporting KCand D.C. United were tied for worst defense in the league with nine goals conceded heading into Saturday night’s contest, so naturally they produced a tight, scrappy 1-0 SKC win on an own goal.And more to the point, after a miserable 280 minutes to start the season the SKC defense has locked in for the last 170, allowing just three shots on target in that time. I’m not sure if that means everything that had been ailing them earlier has been fixed, but at the very least it’s promising.
  6. San Jose have a problem:The gap between the central defense and central midfield keeps getting filled by guys in the wrong colors. In Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to visiting NYCFCit was Maxi Morales drifting into that spot — nobody picked him up — and getting the game-winner. Against SKC it was Graham Zusi, and against Minnesota United it was Kevin Molino.This is a not uncommon flaw in a 4-4-2 with a double pivot. If the central midfielders aren’t in sync it causes the very problem (time and space in front of the central defense) it’s supposed to prevent. And no, Anibal Godoy and Florian Jungwirth have not been in sync. Both have struggled through the season’s first month.
  7. Other than Seattle, nobody’s struggledmore than Chicago, who once again came away with a disappointing result — this time a 2-2 home draw against the similarly scuffling Timbers. But at least Veljko Paunovic, by deploying Bastian Schweinsteigeras a sweeper for about the final hour, did something interesting in trying to fix a bad situation:It really is a sword that cuts both ways. Chicago will get more of the ball with Schweinsteiger as a sweeper, and do more with it because when sweepers step into midfield they automatically create a numbers-up situation. That’s the whole point of playing with a sweeper.But they will get battered in the air if they leave him there against smart teams. I think the solution right now for the Fire is A) hope Grant Lillard gets healthy, and B) hope he’s really good. Otherwise they’ll be playing a lot of 2-2 and 3-2 games, and I don’t have much confidence they’ll be on the right side of most of those.

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