Saturday our Eleven Return home to face the Bethlehem Steel at Lucas Oil at 8 pm as the Eleven will battle to move into the top 3 overall in the East. Great news if its rainy – its always 75 and comfortable in Lucas Oil. Currently with 4 Wins, 2 losses and 2 Ties the Eleven have 14 total points – just 3 off the lead in the Eastern Conference behind Cincy & Charleston 17 pts, Louisville FC and the team we just tied 0-0 on the road Pittsburgh with16 pts. Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter Indy2018 as the promo code. Saturday night is Student night as students with a Student ID get ½ priced tickets. The 11 lost 0-1 at Mississippi Brilla to end their US Open Cup hopes.
The Europa League Final played out about the way I figured as my glorious Atletico takes home their first major trophy in 4 years. Coach Diego Simeone’s men continued their defensive masterpiece as Diego Godin led a backline along with spectacular goalkeeper Oblak – that once again kept a clean sheet. Honestly Marseille had the early advantage but when their talisman Payet went down – it was the counterattacking of Madrid with Diego Costa and Greizmann that opened the doors for Atleti. Greizmann served the brace with 2 wonderful goals and Godin added the 3rd late for the Spanish squad. Now we wait to see if Barcelona’s money will steal away another star (Griezmann or Oblak) from Atletico Madrid. Funny I started loving this underdog club (3rd usually – 2nd this year in La Liga) during their spectacular runs during Champions League a few years back. This underdog squad with half the spend of Real Madrid and Barcelona has continued to play toe to toe with the bigger clubs in Europe despite the lack of funds to compete at that level. Here’s the thing though – as long as the man in black – Manager Diego Simeone is in charge – Atletico can be a power. Why leave to be a back-up or battle for playing time at Barcelona when they can realistically battle for European Championships at Atletico? They are 3 years removed from barely losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League Finals. I just don’t understand players moving to uncertain situations unless they are 100% guaranteed to start. This story may well play itself out with US youngster Christian Pulisic as well. Why battle for a spot at Liverpool or Man United when you are starting at Borussian Dortmund – a legit contender and Champions League team in its own right – who – by-the-way provided you your big break at the tender age of just 17. Bigger is not always better. Anyway – catch all the stories below – and congrats to my Atletico !! (PS – I went to a game at the Cauldron – Atleti’s home old home stadium – last spring and it was a religious experience – so much more intense than any US Soccer game or our visit to a Real Madrid game.) Atletico is the working man’s team in Madrid – kind of like the NY Yankees vs the NY Mets. Count me as an Atletico man!
With the Europa Final over and the Champions League Final pitting stunning superstar Mo Salah and Liverpool vs 2-time defending Champ Real Madrid and Renaldo set for next weekend (Sat 2:30 pm on Fox 59), we turn our attention to the FA Cup Final this Saturday 12:30 pm on Fox 59. Chelsea is looking to save their season for Antonio Conte’s men while Mourino and Manchester United look to capture some hardware for the 2nd season in a row. (check out the stories below in the Ole Ballcoach) Obviously the FA Cup doesn’t have the romantic feel of yesteryear. But with 2 massive clubs that hate each other in Chelsea and Man U and two managers that don’t like each other – this has a chance to be a really good game.
Finally the season’s wrap up for La Liga (Spain) and Serie A (Italy) this weekend. Legendary Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon will be playing his last game in a Juventus jersey on Sunday at 12:30 pm on beIN Sport as Juve celebrates their championship. Meanwhile Barcelona – having blown their chance at an undefeated La Liga season while losing without Messi last weekend – will look to close out their championship season with a win at home vs Real Sociedad at 2:45 pm on beIN sport. In MLS Atlanta will host the New York Red Bulls Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 7 pm.
Carmel FC Teams Advancing to Challenge Cup Finals June 1-3
2004 Girls Coached by Bill Spencer (far Rt), Rene Moyer (L)
The 04 Girls gave up just 1 goal en route to 2-0 win over Valpo, 5-0 win over Stuttgart, and a 2-1 win over Jr. Irish.
2005 Girls Coached by Bill Neumann, Dustin Palmer
The 05 Girls did not give up a goal after a 6-0 win over Hamilton North, a 1-0 win over Indy Fire white, and a 0-0 tie with Sporting Southern Indiana.
Reminder CARMEL FC Goalkeepers – Coach Jeurgen Sommer will run a special Wed Night 5:30 – 6:30 pm training for the Youth Group U11-U12 at Badger Field. The normal Thurs at Shelbourne with former Indy 11 & MLS GK Kristian Nicht and Jeurgen will be Thurs 5:30-6:30 youth/6:40-7:40 Seniors. Also good luck to those in State Cup and President’s Cup play this weekend!
Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields
June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm
June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)
2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club
Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.
Please click here to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663. Registration is open May 9- June 5 Commissioner: Alex Scott email@example.com
GAMES ON TV
Wed, May 16
2:30 pm FS1 Atletico Madrid vs – Europa League Final – Lyon, France
Sat, May 19
12:30 pm FOX Chelsea vs Man United FA CUP FINAL
2 pm ESPN3? Bayern Munich vs Franksfurt German Cup
2:45 pm beIN Villareal vs Real Madrid
8 pm Myindy23 Indy 11 vs Bethlehem Steel FC (Lucas Oil) (College student tix just $7)
Sun, May 20th
12 noon beIn Sport Juve vs Hellas Verona
1 pm ESPN News U17 European Championship
2:45 pm beIN sport Barcelona vs Real Sociadad
4 pm Univsion Chicago vs Houston
7 pm Fox Sport 1 Atlanta vs NY Red Bulls
Sat, May 26th
2:45 pm FOX 59 Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final
Sun, May 27h
1 pm ESPN+, Youtube NY Red Bulls 2 vs Indy 11
6 pm Fox Sport 1 Sporting KC vs Columbus Crew
Mon, May 28h
1 pm ??? France vs Ireland
6:30 pm fox Sport1 USA Men vs Bolivia
9 pm fox sport 1 Mexico vs Wales
Wed, May 30h
7 pm Myindy23 Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery
June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) – United – AO Hotel – Events
7 pm Myindy23 Indy 11 vs Atlanta United
Thur, June 14 World Cup on Fox
MLS TV Schedule
GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –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 $11 per car for single games! Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.
FA Cup Final – Sat 12:30 pm on FOX
Chelsea vs Man United – FA Cup Offers Chance to End Season on a High Contes Last Stand? – Scott Patterson and Mark Worral ESPNFC
Europa League Final Results
Champions League Final – Sat May 26
2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club
Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.
Please click here to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663. Registration is open May 9- June 5 Commissioner: Alex Scott firstname.lastname@example.org
“Boys in Blue” hosts 2017 playoff side Bethlehem Steel FC
Saturday, May 19, 2018 – 8 P.M. EST // Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
Local/National TV: WNDY – Channel 23 Streaming Video: ESPN+ ($)
ENTERING WEEK 10
Indy Eleven will welcome Bethlehem Steel FC to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time on Saturday, May 19. The “Boys in Blue” aim to snag their third home victory of the season and three points against the Pennsylvania based team, and their second consecutive win at home.“Indiana’s Team” currently sits at fifth place in the Eastern Conference, with a 4W-2D-2L record, after drawing with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, 0-0, last Friday, May 11. Despite having seven attempts at goal, Indy Eleven was unable to unable to break the stalemate. The team’s stout defense on the road continued, as Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams recorded another clean sheet. The Welshman is now tied for the most clean sheets in the USL with 5 in 8 games.Bethlehem Steel FC head to Indianapolis for the first time after winning, 3-0, at home against New York Red Bulls II. The Steel surged into 9th in the Eastern Conference with a 3W-2D-4L record. Bethlehem midfielder Michee Ngalina opened his professional account, scoring the Steel’s first goal of the match in the 37th minute. Midfielder Fabian Herbers doubled Bethlehem’s lead in the 63rd minute with a shot from the top of NYRB II’s box. Bethlehem finished the match in style as midfielder Adam Najem slotted another ball between the posts in the 94th minute of play.Both teams will be coming off mid-week fixtures. Indy Eleven enter Week 10 after bowing out of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against USL PDL’s Mississippi Brilla FC, 1-0, on Wednesday.
INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: GK OWAIN FON WILLIAMS
Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams has been a rock between the posts for the “Boys in Blue” through the first eight games of the season. The Welsh goalkeeper has accumulated five clean sheets, a tally that has him tied for first in both USL conferences. The Wales International sits just under a 75 percent save rate for the season, saving 13 out of18 shots faced.Fon Williams has played a key role for “Indiana’s Team” between the sticks. Fon Williams and the Eleven defense has only conceded five goals this season, averaging one goal allowed for every two games played. With a high volume of games in the month of May and the squad rotating frequently, Fon Williams’ name will be the one to remain a constant on Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie’s team sheet.
BETHLEHEM STEEL FC PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ADAM NAJEM
Bethlehem Steel FC midfielder Adam Najem has been a staple in the team’s midfield. The 23-year old has started 7 out of 9 games for the Steel this season. The midfielder has helped to control the tempo through the middle of the park, averaging just over 80 percent passing accuracy in 2018. His ability to create chances for his teammates makes the midfield maestro dangerous. He’s tallied 12 key passes and created one goal for his teammates at Bethlehem Steel FC.Najem aims to continue his stellar performance after thrashing New York Red Bulls II at home. Last time out, Najem added his name to Steel’s stat sheet for the first time in 2018 and his third overall since joining the Steel last season. Additionally, the Clifton, New Jersey tallied four interceptions and created five chances, making him dangerous on the counter attack. The attack minded midfielder will attempt to deliver key passes between Indy Eleven’s backline to spring forwards into one-on-one scenarios.
MATCHUP TO MARK: FW SOONY SAAD VS DF MATT MAHONEY
Indy Eleven’s success in the front third against Bethlehem Steel FC will rely on the creativity of forward Soony Saad. The former University of Michigan forward has created the most chances, 12, out of his teammates in the 2018 campaign. The Lebanese International has also attributed two goals out of Indy’s seven this season. Both goals came from a two goal performance against Nashville SC.Saad’s ability to perform in dead ball situations makes the forward even more dangerous should Bethlehem commit fouls inside their own half. The second goal of Saad’s brace against Nashville was a free kick strike that earned him a spot in the SportsCenter Top Ten and named USL’s Player of the Week in Week 5. He nearly netted another dead ball goal in the fixture against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, but narrowly missed high right.Bethlehem Steel FC defender Matt Mahoney will be one of the men tasked with slowing down Saad. Mahoney has started and played every minute for Steel FC so far in 2018. He boasts a tackle success rate of 85 percent, having only missed three tackles during the eight games he’s started. On top of being a brick wall, the 23-year old’s ability to read the field and shut down passing lanes has led to his 25 interceptions on the season.Mahoney leads Bethlehem in both tackles won and interceptions. He directs a backline that allows just over one goal a game. The Buffalo, New York native will have to keep an eye on the creative Saad, who will attempt to keep Bethlehem from obtaining their first clean sheet of the season in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN ENDS U.S. OPEN CUP STINT TO MISSISSIPPI BRILLA FC, 1-0
By IndyEleven.com, 05/17/18, 12:30AM EDT
The “Boys in Blue” bow out of U.S. Open Cup play in the second round
Indy Eleven’s 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup participation ends as USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC win,1-0, off a late-game set piece.The first half didn’t see much action in terms of goal scoring opportunities with only four shots between the two teams, all of which came from the “Boys in Blue”. Indy had their closest first-half attempt in the 41st minute when Eleven forward Justin Braun was on the receiving end of a cross following a deep run to the right corner. The ball connected with Braun’s head just outside Brilla’s 6-yard box, but couldn’t convert as the ball flew over the crossbar.Despite a scoreless first half, Indy Eleven demonstrated their dominance. Over the first 45 minutes, “Indiana’s Team” retained 59 percent possession of the ball, and conceded one corner, four fouls and were found offsides a single time. Mississippi trailed in possession with 41 percent and conceded five fouls. Like Indy, Brilla was award one corner kick and called offsides one time in the first half.Indy continued to press as the clock ticked into the second half. The “Boys in Blue” made several deep runs into Brilla’s box, but each run was met by a home team defender before taking a shot. Indy’s best attempt at goal came in the 71st minute. A through pass from the center circle by Eleven forward Jack McInerney forced the ball to Braun’s feet, deep in Brilla’s defending half. Fighting to get forward, Braun managed to fire a shot at angle nearly 10 yards out from goal, but Brilla goalkeeper Jordan Bell jumped to tip the ball just wide of the far post. Braun came close again four minutes later with a shot within the 6-yard box that ultimately ended over the crossbar and called offsides.Brilla found their game-winning chance in the 82nd minute after several delayed minutes of play following a hard challenge. Brilla was awarded a free kick 30 yards out from Indy’s goal for the initial offense that saw Eleven midfielder Brad Ring and Mississippi forward Javen Palmer shown yellow cards. Brilla midfielder Oliver Brock stepped up and sent a cross to the far edge of the 6-yard box where defender Koray Easterling tapped the ball into the back of the net before it could touch the ground.Both sides continued to press for the remaining eight minutes, but neither side could find another goal, thus ending Indy’s stint in the U.S. Open Cup. It was a disappointing result for Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie, but a result full of takeaways.“The game can be cruel sometimes,” Rennie said. “It was one of those games we were in control and we couldn’t get a goal. I don’t think we deserved to lose that. Our attacking play has to be better.There’s no point in shying away from that. We need to work on getting our shape right and our quality right.”The focus now shifts to this Saturday, when Indy Eleven return home to take on Bethlehem Steel FC. The “Boys in Blue” currently sit in fifth place on the USL’s Eastern Conference table and just three points off of the top spot.“We’re in a good position in the USL and we need to take advantage of it,” said Rennie.Catch “Indiana’s Team” this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. as they take on Bethlehem Steel FC at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – Round 2 Indy Eleven 0:1 Mississippi Brilla FC
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 Clinton High School – Clinton, Miss.
MIS – Koray Easterling (Oliver Brock) 82′
Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Ayoze, Brad Rusin, Karl Ouimette, Brad Ring (C); Nico Matern (Zach Steinberger 85′), Juan Guerra, Amass Amankona (Soony Saad 71′), Seth Moses (Jack McInerneny 71′); Ben Speas, Justin Braun Indy Eleven bench: Jordan Farr (GK); Kevin Venegas; Zach Steinberger, Nathan Lewis; Jack McInerney, Soony Saad
Chelsea, Manchester United Aim to Close Season on High Note in FA Cup Final
Old rivals Chelsea and Manchester United go to war once again with the FA Cup the spoils for the winner. With both sides falling well behind Manchester City in the league and enduring last-16 exits in the UEFA Champions League, Saturday’s final represents a chance to end the season on a high, in what is likely Antonio Conte’s final game as Blues manager.After finishing fifth and missing out on Champions League qualification, the Italian seems destined to bow out at the end of the season, but first faces a fifth meeting with ex-Blues boss Jose Mourinho, with both managers holding two wins each in the past two seasons. Having lost the FA Cup final to a weak Arsenal side last season, Conte has unfinished business with the competition and will look to win the trophy.Mourinho, however, has not won the FA Cup since leading Chelsea to victory over United in 2007. With four Carabao Cup triumphs, however, the Portuguese has proven cup pedigree and will be a fierce opponent.Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s showpiece:
Chelsea had been the Premier League’s form team until the final week of the season, getting into a position where a once-futile pursuit for the top four seemed increasingly likely to be successful. A 1-1 draw to Huddersfield, however, meant the race was out of their hands going into the final day, and they submitted tamely to Newcastle 3-0 in the last game, fittingly capping off a disappointing defense of the title at Stamford Bridge.Man United have generally ended the season well, with losses to Brighton and West Brom not taking away from their brilliant away win at the Etihad Stadium. It has overall been a disappointing season however, despite Jose Mourinho delivering the highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, with a shock Champions League exit to Sevilla and finishing a distant 19 points behind record-setting Man City.
Ross Barkley returned from injury in Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Newcastle and is available, though is unlikely to start after a poor performance at St. James’ Park. David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu remain out through injury.United welcome back talisman Romelu Lukaku from injury with the Belgian likely to play some part on Saturday, having been on the sidelines since the 2-1 win over Arsenal three weeks ago.
Potential Chelsea Lineup: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian; Hazard, Giroud.
Potential Manchester United Lineup: de Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Sanchez.
With Chelsea still smarting after missing out on Champions League qualification, the final may be United’s to lose, with the Red Devils in better form currently than their opponents.However, with this likely being Antonio Conte’s last match in charge, Chelsea are sure to turn up and fight to try and send him out with silverware, after a torrid season at Stamford Bridge. United possess the firepower to cause any team problems, but if the Blues sit back and hit Mourinho’s men on the counter, they can expose the weaknesses in the United defense and win the match, with Eden Hazard and Willian primed to capitalize on any mistakes.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Man United
FA Cup Final: Manchester United have edge over Chelsea in all but midfield
3:09 AM ETNick MillerESPN FC
The final game of a domestic season that has been rather underwhelming for both teams, the FA Cup offers a last chance at something tangible to show for 2017-18. Chelsea and Manchester United repeat the finals of 1994 and 2007 on Saturday, with the watching world hoping we aren’t in for a repeat of the latter, one of the most mind-numbing showpiece events in living memor
The problem is that this isn’t a final exactly regarded as life and death. The elite have long since relegated the old trophy to third, at best, in their list of priorities, so one would imagine the winners will be happy but the losers won’t cry themselves to sleep. Will this devalue the whole event? Possibly, but it remains a prize worth chasing, and for United a victory would draw them level with Arsenal as the most successful team in the competition’s history.
So who will come out on top?
This is a tricky one to assess, because it depends on which goalkeeper both teams play. Antonio Conte has used back-up stopper Willy Caballero in all of their FA Cup games so far, and Jose Mourinho probably would’ve done too had Sergio Romero not been injured for the semifinal victory over Tottenham. But will they return to Thibaut Courtois and David De Gea for the big occasion?
For now, let’s assume it will be the second stringers, in which case it’s a fairly close call, but Romero shades it. It’s a little odd to think that both men have been named in Argentina’s preliminary World Cup squad, but Romero is the more reliable of the pair, and will probably take the No.1 spot for the national team too.
Jose Mourinho is a kind-hearted soul, isn’t he? How accommodating he was to pick his defenders in the closing weeks of the season on the basis that some would be competing for World Cup places! That was his explanation for Eric Bailly kicking his heels in the closing games, and while Bailly got a start in a shadow team for the final game of the season, one wonders if he will play at Wembley.
That could be the tipping point: Bailly is probably United’s best defender, and with Chelsea’s own backline inconsistent — in both selection and performance — his presence might be the deciding factor. Who knows which back three Conte will choose: only Cesar Azpilicueta is assured of his place, the other spots should go to two of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger.
The key element to this head-to-head might be which Paul Pogba shows up. We all know what the Frenchman is capable of: either brilliance that makes you purr or anonymity that makes you sigh. Mourinho has played him in the three-man midfield that should theoretically get the best from him in the latter part of the season, but still his form has been patchy. He could be a matchwinner, but also could do nothing.
Ideally Conte might want to matchup with a three-man midfield, but does he have the players for it? Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante are a fine midfield pair, but the options to augment them aren’t inspiring, and the performances of Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko against Newcastle last week won’t have done their causes much good. A close one, but Fabregas and Kante are more reliable than United’s midfield.
On the assumption that Romelu Lukaku is fit, having missed nearly a month since getting injured in the semifinal against Tottenham, United’s forward options are more attractive. While Mourinho doesn’t trust Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, he still has Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata to choose from.
Chelsea have the best attacker on either side in Eden Hazard, but the choice of centre-forward is a toss-up between Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata, probably leaning in favour of the Frenchman, while Pedro and Willian have not been consistent this season. The Brazilian has been impressive in the second half of the campaign, but United still have the edge here.
Neither manager has looked particularly happy this season. Antonio Conte in particular had a face like a wet weekend at the best of times, and has frequently looked like he’s actively trying to get sacked. This will surely be his last game as Chelsea manager, so in that respect he might be motivated by wanting to go out with a bang, but equally you do wonder how much he actually cares.Mourinho, on the other hand, can at least view this as another attempt at a trophy as part of a wider plan. This has been a strange season for United, who improved their league position from last term by four places but have frequently looked absolutely terrible. Mourinho is responsible for all of that, and perhaps another trophy will provide some extra tangible evidence of progress.
Will we see any of the personal animosity between the two managers spill over? Insults batted back and forth between Conte and Mourinho, but the United manager told a Portuguese newspaper recently that the two actually buried the hatchet over a drink when the teams met in February. There is still the potential for fireworks: it will only take one incident, and you suspect that if either manager is going to start something like that, it will be Mourinho.Who needs this trophy more? In terms of the managers, it’s Mourinho, but for the fans winning the FA Cup, while not the most important competition they have played in, would provide a lift at the end of a fairly uninspiring season. So, will there thus be more pressure on Chelsea to win?
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea — United will have too much for a Chelsea side who have looked too fragile in the latter months of the season.
Man United, Chelsea are flawed, and second-rate FA Cup won’t cover their failings
May 17, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer
Remember when the FA Cup final was a day of celebration, anticipation and glorious possibilities?It was the one fixture in the calendar, usually bathed in sunshine, which brought hope and excitement in equal measure, with even the unlucky runners-up able to measure their progress by at least making it to Wembley. The FA Cup still matters, and it will certainly matter to the supporters of whichever of Chelsea or Manchester United lifts the cup at Wembley on Saturday, but this final does not set pulses racing like it should.It is two of English football’s biggest clubs — when you add up the trophies won by English teams this century, United and Chelsea are way ahead of the rest — and the game also gives us a classic clash between two managers who have made it clear that they do not like each other.This FA Cup final, therefore, is a collision between two juggernauts, with a genuine rivalry on the touchline too. Could we have asked for more?The big problem about this final, though, is the mood music going into the game. Saturday should be about one club adding yet another trophy to their collection, but whoever ends up victorious, it will feel like a consolation prize.Added to that is the sense that both clubs and managers go into this weekend underneath heavy grey clouds, with neither United and Jose Mourinho or Chelsea and Antonio Conte meeting expectations this season.In the case of United, a win on Saturday would move them level with Arsenal as the competition’s most successful club with 13 FA Cups.
But with Manchester City cruising to the Premier League title, amassing an unprecedented 100 points to embellish their success, and Liverpool making it to the Champions League final in Kiev next week, an FA Cup will feel like small fry compared to what their biggest rivals could achieve.City and Liverpool have also played with style and ambition, in contrast to the more cautious, functional approach of Mourinho’s United, so there is no sense of celebration around Old Trafford in the build-up to the cup final.It may smack of arrogance or a misplaced sense of worth, but United are about winning Premier Leagues and European Cups. FA Cups are great, but they simply do not measure up when the bigger prizes are won by others.And as for Chelsea, their campaign has left Conte’s position hanging by a thread. With last season’s champions finishing this season outside the top four, Saturday will almost certainly be Conte’s final game in charge because even a win at Wembley is unlikely to be enough to save him.Next season will be about Thursday nights in the Europa League and attempting to build again under a new manager and winning the FA Cup won’t change that.But there is also an under-riding sense that this cup final is a clash between two teams who have no obvious forward momentum.A cup final can often be the launchpad for something bigger and better, and that would have applied to Tottenham had they made it past United to make it to Wembley this weekend.But both United and Chelsea are flawed right now. Chelsea are looking rudderless under Conte, while United’s team under Mourinho appears no closer to being the finished article, two years after he arrived to build it.United are a team that has beaten all of the top six at least once this season and finished a comfortable second in the Premier League, but they also lost to all three promoted clubs and dropped points against relegated Stoke and West Brom. They remain an enigma.But would winning the FA Cup save United’s or Chelsea’s season? That is often the comfort blanket thrown out for teams that have under-delivered, but it will not cover up the failings of either of them.They both want and expect to be challenging for the biggest prizes and neither has come close to suggesting they are anywhere near ready to win the league or European Cup any time soon.Winning an FA Cup and celebrating it in traditional fashion would ultimately be nothing more than a reminder of their shortcomings in the competitions which, to United and Chelsea at least, are the only ones that really matter.But that is the problem when clubs have gorged on success, as United and Chelsea have. When the big trophies end up somewhere else, games like the FA Cup final do not seem to matter quite so much as they used to.
Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho rivalry: a timeline of hate
3:12 AM ET–Liam TwomeyChelsea Correspondent
Tensions between Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have subsided in recent months, but the enduring contempt between the two men remains a key subplot heading into Saturday’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United.ESPN FC takes a look back at how such antipathy developed between two of English football’s most high-profile coaches.
October 2016 — Mourinho humiliated at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea won 4-0 on Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge return and Conte riled his opposite number by waving his arms to encourage the home fans to raise the volume for their team in the final minutes. Mourinho was reported as telling him in Italian: “You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0. You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”
Speaking to Sky Italia after the match, Conte insisted he had no regrets. “I’ve been a player too and I know how to behave,” he said pointedly.
March 2017 — Mourinho highlights Chelsea’s “privilege”
Ahead of another United visit to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals, Mourinho had a simple explanation for why his former club were 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. “The most difficult thing to have is time to work, and they have time to work,” he said, referring to Chelsea’s lack of Champions League commitments. “They have time so they are in a position of privilege, but I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve credit for it.”Mourinho also offered Conte a back-handed compliment for his team’s style of play. “They defend a lot and well, and they counter-attack and kill opponents on the counter-attack, similar to my Chelsea,” he added.
March 2017 — Conte riled by Hazard treatment
Chelsea beat United again, this time 1-0, in a game marked by heated touchline exchanges between Conte and Mourinho.The Italian was angered by the visitors’ persistent fouling of Eden Hazard that led to the early dismissal of Ander Herrera, interpreting it as a deliberate and cynical strategy. “This tactic, to play by going to kick the opponent, does not exist,” he insisted afterwards. “It’s not football for me.”
April 2017 — Conte belittles United spending
Shortly after a 2-0 defeat to United at Old Trafford cut Chelsea’s lead over Tottenham to four points, Conte pointed out that the failure of both Manchester clubs to compete for the Premier League title proved that spending big in the transfer market is no guarantee of success.”I think this season it’s very important to understand that it’s not always who spends more money who wins,” he said. “Otherwise, in this league, this season the name [at the top] would not be Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool.”
July 2017 — Conte out to avoid “the Mourinho season”
Flushed with Premier League title success, an emboldened Conte revealed he had warned his Chelsea players that he would not tolerate a repeat of the spectacular collapse Mourinho presided over in the 2015-16 season.”Two years ago, the team finished 10th place in the league and we want to avoid this,” he said during the club’s preseason tour of the Far East. “I want to avoid, and the players want to avoid, the last season with Mourinho.”
July 2017 — Mourinho aims hair dig at Conte
Mourinho couldn’t resist responding with athinly-veiled reference to the hair transplant that Conte reportedly underwent before embarking on his coaching career. “I could answer in many different ways but I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte,” he said.
October 2017 – Conte warns Mourinho to stop talking about Chelsea
Mourinho poked at Conte again after United’s Champions League win over Benfica. “Other managers, they cry, they cry, they cry when a player is injured,” he said, referring to the Italian’s frequent mentions of the key absentees that were undermining Chelsea’s season. “If I want to moan and cry like the others, I can cry for the next five minutes. But I don’t.”
“I think he has to think about his team and start looking at himself, not others,” Conte bristled in reply. “I think that a lot of times Mourinho [likes] to see what happens at Chelsea. A lot of times, also last season.”
November 2017 — Mourinho and Conte blank each other
Chelsea beat United 1-0 again at Stamford Bridge, this time in a match that passed largely without incident. The tension between Conte and Mourinho was palpable, however, and the Italian strode on to the pitch at the final whistle without looking to shake his rival’s hand.”You want me to go and chase him into the middle of the pitch?” Mourinho saidwhen asked about it. “I was there. I shook hands with the people who were there. I think one of them was his brother, the assistant, so I feel that, by shaking the hands of his brother and the other assistants, I did my duty.””It’s not important,” Conte insisted to Sky Sports. “It’s important to win the game. You have to have the respect on the pitch, not outside the pitch.”
January 2018 — Mourinho makes “clown on the touchline” jibe
The latest escalation in hostilities was sparked by Mourinho, who insisted he retains his passion for football despite not acting like “a clown on the touchline” — widely interpreted to be a reference to Conte’s demonstrative style.Conte certainly thought so, and when the comment was put to him he suggested Mourinho had a memory problem that had made him forget his own past actions. He used the Italian phrase “demenza senile“, which translates as senile dementia, though Chelsea insisted he meant to say amnesia.
January 2018 — Mourinho brings up Conte’s match-fixing charge
“I don’t need the Chelsea manager to say I made mistakes in the past,” Mourinho responded when asked about Conte’s comments, before adding: “What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing.”Conte was accused of failing to report match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena and banned for four months by the Italian football authorities while coach of Juventus in 2011, though he was cleared of wrongdoing five years later.
January 2018 — Conte calls Mourinho a “little man” and a “fake”
Conte did not react kindly to Mourinho bringing up one of the most traumatic experiences of his career, and renewed his attack after Chelsea’s goalless draw with Norwich City in the FA Cup third round.”In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he is a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future,” Conte said of Mourinho. “You know him very well. The level is very low.”He also accused the Portuguese of insincerity. “When he was in Italy he offended [Claudio] Ranieri for his English,” Conte added. “Then when Ranieri was sacked [by Leicester City] he put on a shirt [with initials on it in support of] Ranieri. This shows you are a fake.”Conte concluded his extraordinary rant with a comment that will ensure huge anticipation ahead of next month’s meeting. “It will be the opportunity [to clarify things] in the game against United when we go to Old Trafford,” he insisted. “Me and him, face to face. I’m ready. I don’t know if he’s ready.”
February 2018 — A surprise truce is called
The hotly-anticipated touchline showdown did not materialise at Old Trafford. Having avoided any further incendiary comments in their prematch news conferences, Mourinho and Conte shook hands and co-existed peacefully as United beat Chelsea 2-1.”The handshake doesn’t need any words,” the United boss said afterwards. “Mourinho and Conte, they are not two ordinary persons in football. We have a history, we have an image and I’m really happy with that.”Conte’s take on the ceasefire was less enthusiastic. “We wanted to shake hands and we did this,” he said simply.
April 2018 — Conte defends Chelsea record
When it was pointed out that Mourinho won 72 of his first 100 matches as Chelsea manager compared to Conte’s 65, the Italian was keen to point out the context of his own achievements.”We are talking about a great manager,” he said of Mourinho. “[But] don’t forget that the first 100 games with Mourinho were many years ago. Now it’s not so simple, I think, to have this type of results in this moment, in this present Chelsea.”
May 2018 — Conte references ‘the Mourinho season’ again
Facing criticism for missing out on the top four and with many predicting his exit, Conte stressed that Chelsea will begin next season in a stronger position than when he arrived in the summer of 2016, only months removed from Mourinho’s disastrous title defence.”Last season, after a 10th place, we won the Premier League,” he said. “It was difficult. We worked very hard, but we won. After a 10th-place finish. Now, probably, you can finish fifth and start with a bit of an advantage compared to when you finish 10th.”
Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid deliver trademark performance to seal Europa League glory
5:12 PM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC
LYON, France — Three thoughts on Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the Europa League final.
- Atletico win first trophy in four years
Antoine Griezmann’s double and captain Gabi’s late goal secured a 3-0 victory for Atletico Madrid over Marseille in Wednesday’s 2018 Europa League final — with Diego Simeone’s side deserved winners both on the night and of the competition.A spirited Marseille team gave it their all, but Atletico were just too streetwise and also just too good. Both of Griezmann’s goals were superbly finished after naive mistakes from the French side, while Gabi’s late clincher came just after substitute Clinton Njie had butchered his side’s last chance to make a game of it.Cheered on by what seemed to be about 80 percent of the 59,000 in the crowd at the Stade de Lyon, Marseille made by far the better start — only for a crucial error on 20 minutes from young midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa to be punished ruthlessly by Atletico’s No. 7.The mood inside the stadium swung completely with the goal, and things fell even further Atletico’s way when Marseille’s best player, Dimitri Payet, was soon forced off injured. Rudi Garcia’s team had two-thirds of the possession in the first 45 minutes, but Atletico scored their only real chance.Simeone’s side scored their first opportunity of the second half, too, as just four minutes in Saul Niguez was quickest to a loose ball near the halfway line, and within seconds Koke released Griezmann to exquisitely lift the ball over Steve Mandanda and into the net. Marseille kept trying, but the breaks kept going Atletico’s way, and substitute Kostas Mitroglou’s deft late header beat Jan Oblak but not the post.Gabi then wrapped up the scoring late on, and celebrated like a man who would prefer to forget he called this competition “s—” when his side dropped into it from the Champions League last December. However, they quickly refocused their campaign around this relatively achievable target. In truth the semi-finals against Arsenal provided a bigger challenge for Simeone’s side, who did not even need to be at their very best here.Winning the Europa League was not how Atletico planned their 2017-18 season to end, but they proved Wednesday night that they were clearly the best team in this season’s competition, and a four-year wait for another major trophy is finally over.
- Griezmann delivers potential parting shot on big stage
If this is to be Griezmann’s final big game for Atletico, then the France international delivered in a huge way — making a case that he could well be the world’s third-best individual player.
The Rojiblanco side’s build-up to the game was dominated by talk over Griezmann’s future, with a €100 million summer move to Barcelona reportedly lined up. He was then among the Atletico players who did not seem quite right through the opening stages, as just minutes before the game’s key moment he uncharacteristically lost possession deep in his own half. But when Anguissa’s error was anticipated and pounced upon by Gabi, the locally born, boyhood Lyon fan was super cool as he tricked his France teammate Mandanda and rolled the ball nervelessly into the net.Even with Diego Costa back, Griezmann has clearly been Atletico’s most important player through this season — with his dip in form at the start of the campaign a major reason they ended up in the Europa League in the first place. But he has been excellent through 2018 and decisive in each round of this competition, scoring the key away goal in the semi-final first leg and assisting Costa’s clincher in the return leg against Arsenal.That brings Griezmann to 29 goals and 15 assists for 2017-18, and you can see why even teammate Filipe Luis considers his €100m release clause a steal. Maybe winning a first trophy alongside the teammates with whom he has suffered so much in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals might make him decide to stay. But if he does leave this summer, he will at least go having delivered the team major silverware.
- Pain for Marseille, and potentially for France
Tonight was Marseille’s 19th Europa League fixture this season, and realistically this one was a step too far against an opponent ranked 44 places above them by UEFA at the start of the season.Not that OM did not make a real go of it. Their fans made a real racket inside the stadium pre-game, smuggled-in flares and firecrackers included. The white and light blue majority were bouncing up and down throughout the opening stages, with their team quicker into challenges, and Valere Germain missing a great chance to really shock Atletico after just three minutes.But then reality settled in — with both Mandanda’s pass and Anguissa’s first touch just not of the standard for a major final. Payet soon succumbing to injury was another huge blow, as the France international was his team’s most likely to magic a way through the super-tight Atletico defence. Conceding a second so soon after half-time realistically meant all was over bar the singing, which continued right until the end.Marseille (ranked 46th by UEFA preseason) were aiming to be the first Ligue 1 team to win any European trophy since Paris-Saint Germain won the 1995-96 Cup Winners’ Cup. In the end, they could not quite deliver what would have been a real boost for French football — while Payet’s injury could be a further problem for Les Bleus with the summer’s World Cup now less than a month away.
Atletico Madrid need Antoine Griezmann and Jan Oblak to stay to buck leaving trend
6:02 AM ETLYON, France — Dermot CorriganESPN FC Before the last of the red and white confetti had fallen to the ground after Atletico Madrid’s Europa League winning celebrations on Wednesday evening, the issue of whether the team’s two most important players — Antoine Griezmann and Jan Oblak — would still be at the club next season returned.It has been ever thus at Atletico, where the list of recent past Europa League winners to move on has included David De Gea, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Thibaut Courtois (on loan), the last four all leaving directly after celebrating a trophy. Griezmann, who put in a matchwinning performance with his two goals in a 3-0 win, was clearly delighted to have finally won a major competition at the end of his fourth season as an Atletico player. But the 27-year-old, linked with a €100 million move to Barcelona, was controlled enough to bat away questions at the postmatch news conference about whether he would be the next to be tempted away.”This is not the moment to talk about my future, I must enjoy having won a trophy,” he said. “The truth is this was a dream for me, to win something with Atletico, with [coach Diego Simeone] and my friends and teammates. My relationship with the fans, the people at the club, gets stronger every year, which is why I give everything on the pitch.”Griezmann’s commitment and contribution to Atletico’s victory in the tournament has been clear. After the team dropped down to the competition after failing in the Champions League group stages, he scored in each Europa League round, including the key away goal in the semifinal at Arsenal, and a coolly-taken double which set up a comfortable victory over Marseille in the final.Goalkeeper Oblak has been arguably just as vital — with a string of outstanding saves when the 10 men were defending for their lives at the Emirates, and clean sheets kept in his other five Europa League appearances this season. Unlike Griezmann and other teammates including Koke and Saul Niguez, the Slovenia international has not had a payrise since joining from Benfica in 2014, and clearly feels one is due.
“I’ve a contract here, and I don’t know what will happen in the future,” Oblak said in the Stade de Lyon mixed zone Wednesday night. “It does not depend on me. I’m not thinking about anything else but Sunday, when we need a point to finish second [in La Liga].”The 2017-18 season has been a challenging one for everybody at Atletico. Even before it started the mood was badly affected by Griezmann spending most of last summer flirting with Manchester United. A FIFA transfer ban meant new arrivals Diego Costa and Vitolo could not be used for the first six months. And the move from their much loved Estadio Vicente Calderon home to the shiny but impersonal Wanda Metropolitano took a lot of getting used to.ll of that contributed directly to 2014 and 2016 Champions League finalists exiting the competition by December. And that meant money had to be quickly raised — with five players leaving in January and February. The Europa League was not where Simeone and his team wanted to be, but their achievement in refocusing their objectives was impressive.The hope now among many at the club — verbalised by captain Gabi after the game — is that such tangible reward for their efforts will persuade Griezmann and Oblak to stay one more season at least. The extra prize money and commercial benefits from winning a major European trophy might also help club CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin find a few extra million euros for both too. It would be useful if Atletico do get at least a point at home to Eibar on Saturday evening, to finish ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga for only the second time the last 21 years.Simeone himself regularly maintains that his most important goal is constant incremental year on year improvement. But the Argentine had to accept that having something concrete to celebrate was really important on Wednesday night.”We had to keep going,” Simeone said. “The best way to win is to keep insisting. We had already lost two Champions League finals, one in the last minute, and then penalties. But these kids are the living history of Atletico, they are marvellous. We have won again, which was what we needed.”The much sought after coach has been firm in maintaining that he has no plans to leave Atletico any time soon, and speculation he might be interested in taking over at Chelsea or Arsenal this summer looks wide of the mark. The Champions League remains the Holy Grail for Simeone and this side, and not losing their two best players is vital to their chances of making it back to the 2018-19 final, which just happens to be hosted at their Wanda Metropolitano stadium.Neither Griezmann nor Oblak appeared to be swayed by their feelings however, even amid the emotional party scenes on Wednesday night. Simeone, Gil Marin, Gabi and others were all doing their best to persuade the pair to stay, but the silence over their future plans suggests both are still leaning towards leaving.
Antoine Griezmann scores brace, earns 10/10 in potential Atletico send-off
5:56 PM ETJoseph Walker
Atletico Madrid secured Europa League glory as they swatted aside Marseille 3-0 in Lyon on Wednesday night.Antoine Griezmann hit a classy double while Gabi put the icing on the cake late on, however it was not all plain sailing as the French side put Los Rojiblancosunder pressure from the off.After weathering the storm, Griezmann opened the scoring before adding a second after the break in a stunning individual display. While they may have wanted to win the Champions League, the Europa is not a bad second.
A trophy in the cabinet, a clean sheet and a memorable night for the fans. Plus Fernando Torres has finally won a major trophy with his boyhood club! Hoorah!
How can you pick any holes on such a night?
Manager rating out of 10
8 — The suspended Diego Simeone would have suffered in the stands but he got his team selection spot on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 6 — Could not have dreamed he would have had such an easy night. Will have done well not to catch a cold, mind
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 5 — Struggled. Marseille targeted him and he was booked early on as he struggled against Lucas Ocampos. Hooked at the break.
DF Diego Godin, 8 — The leader at the back. Did everything that was required of him both in the air and on the ground. Went close at the other end, too.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 — See above. Won all his individual battles and helped keep the fluid Marseille attack at bay. A good night at the office.
DF Lucas Hernandez, 7 — Does such a convincing impression of a natural full-back. Atleti mainly attacked down the other flank, meaning he was free to concentrate on his defensive duties.
MF Angel Correa, 6 — Not quite his day going forward but he put in a mammoth shift as he worked tirelessly for the team down the right-hand side defensively. Always offered help to his full-back.
MF Gabi, 8 — Chastised himself for some misplaced balls in the first period, but made no mistake as he fed Griezmann for the opener before smashing in the third to put the cherry on the cake. Captain’s goal
MF Saul Niguez 8 — A tireless performance. He covered every blade of grass and was great in the build-up for second. Looked as if he was about to collapse at the end.
MF Koke, 8 — Another who was a bit off colour in the first 45, but came alive after the break. It was his brilliant pass to play in Griezmann for his second that helped seal glory, while he later teed up Gabi, too.
FW Diego Costa, 7 — Enjoyed a running battle with Adil Rami that he largely came out second best in. Having said that, it was his terrific decoy run that created the space for Griezmann to fire in the second.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 10 — Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Showed brilliant composure for both his goals, sending Steve Mandanda the wrong way for the first before producing a sublime little dink for the second. Best player on the park by a long, long way. If that is his goodbye to the club, then what a way to sign off.
DF Juanfran , 7 — Looked far more solid than the man he replaced Vrsaljko. Gave the side another dimension after the break.
MF Thomas, NR — Replaced the tiring Correa late on to help see out the win.
FW Fernando Torres, NR — Given a run out to the delight of the Atleti faithful. Lifted the trophy alongside Gabi in a classy touch from the skipper.
Real Madrid-Liverpool Champions League final too close to call – Rafa Benitez
4:30 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC
Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez told Marca the Champions League final will pit Real Madrid’s experience against Liverpool’s advantage in intensity.Benitez had a turbulent six months in charge at Madrid during the 2015-16 season, having previously won the Champions League in 2005 while managing at Anfield from 2004 to 2010.He said Madrid had come through awkward moments to get to the final on May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine, while Liverpool’s ability to blitz opponents was shown in their semifinal against Roma.”It will be a very interesting final,” Benitez said. “Watching Madrid against Juventus and Bayern [Munich], you a realise they have experience and quality, know how to manage difficult situations in games. … That is a plus.”Liverpool, by contrast, have a lot of tensity, quality, rhythm. … The rhythm in the Premier League is above other leagues, and you saw that against Roma.”Benitez, then, doesn’t see a clear winner ahead of the game.”Both could win,” he said. “The first goal will determine how the game develops. … I have a lot of respect for both sides. May the best team win.”Benitez was fired by Madrid president Florentino Perez in January 2016 having had a difficult relationship with some players. Zinedine Zidane replaced him and immediately guided the team to the Champions League title, and they then won the Champions League and La Liga double in 2016-17.”In my final stage at Madrid, those who understand and analyse a little what goes on around the club know why what happened happened,” Benitez said. “It was not as bad as people think, as things were done very seriously and professionally. In any case, I have many years of good memories at Madrid.”Meanwhile, Vicente Del Bosque, who won the Champions League at Madrid in 2000 and 2002, told El Pais that the key to the current side’s success is the midfield management of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.”They have two in centre of the field, Kroos and Modric, who are perfect,” Del Bosque said. “They are the ones who hold things together. They have two excellent full-backs. And up front: Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Gareth] Bale, [Karim] Benzema, Lucas [Vazquez], [Marco] Asensio.”
Barca’s PR mess after defeat, praise for Allegri as Juve win Serie A
10:18 AM ETGabriele Marcotti
How about that for a boomerang? In the binary world of Spanish football, this was the sort of gaffe that does double damage. Right now, Barcelona should be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of a Double-winning campaign that saw them go undefeated in La Liga. Maybe send their old rival from the Bernabeu a few postcards ahead of Kiev, too, just to ratchet up the pressure.Instead, they’re dealing with a PR disaster after the dramatic 5-4 defeat away to Levante (a team with nothing to play for) and, above all, the decision to “rest” Lionel Messi ahead of a friendly match in South Africa on Wednesday.This is a situation where optics matter and from Barca’s perspective, they are frankly atrocious. To the world, it looks as if they threw away the chance to make history by agreeing to play a friendly match before the end of the season so that they could rake in some extra millions. But because it’s halfway around the globe, they rested a bunch of players to do it, including their star asset. And they paid a heavy price for their money-grubbing greed. We may never know who exactly decided what and when, so let’s stick to what we do know. Messi was rested and Gerard Pique left on the bench (although he came on after half an hour). Those two factors signal the reality that Ernesto Valverde thought this game, or at least the draw, was going to be close to a gimme. As for the greed argument, it’s not as if Jose Maria Bartomeu is going to pocket whatever appearance fee (which, by the way, probably isn’t going to be enormous like a trip to the Gulf) Barca earns.Friendlies like this one often do have stipulations about who makes the trip and who plays and, for the biggest stars, how many minutes they are on the pitch. So it’s entirely possible that this is what happened with Messi. On the other hand, Barca have one game left, at home to Real Sociedad. If he was rested, it’s rather hard to believe that it was Valverde’s idea — not unless he’s suddenly become Jorge Sampaoli’s assistant with Argentina and is looking ahead to the World Cup.A more plausible explanation — and this is purely speculation — is that Messi asked to miss the trip and when Barca found that contractually it would not be possible, he was given Sunday off instead. Either way, it’s not a good look.All that said, it doesn’t change the fact, as Valverde pointed out after the match, that Barcelona contrived to give up five goals. Or that they’ve kept one clean sheet in the past two months, giving up an average of nearly two goals a game after having, for much of the season, the best defence in La Liga.
Give Allegri serious credit for Juve’s latest title
Juventus’ 0-0 draw away to Roma means they’ve sealed their seventh consecutive Serie A title. Chief executive Beppe Marotta said it was the toughest of the streak, and he’s right. Napoli pushed them hard for much of the campaign, as evidenced by the fact that they too may yet break the 90-point barrier.Staying hungry and motivated for so long is no minor feat either. As Rocky Balboa likes to say, “time is undefeated” and there were moments when it looked as if this old prizefighter was going to wobble and collapse.We sometimes overstate the importance of managers, but in this case, a whole load of credit has to go to Max Allegri. He didn’t just win his fourth straight Serie A crown with Juve; he also won his fourth straight Coppa Italia, making it four Doubles in four years. And while it’s true that Serie A isn’t as deep and competitive as it was once upon a time — and the continued underperformance of the Milan clubs, who have the financial clout to challenge Juve, favours them — it’s equally true that his European performances speak for themselves. In four years, he reached two Champions League finals, and on another two occasions, he was twice knocked out with virtually the last kick of the game (against Bayern and Real Madrid). That makes it pretty clear that he and his team belong at the top table.
Juventus have the most resources in Serie A and the best squad, but it still takes a certain character to keep everything together. Allegri navigated the acrimonious loss of Leo Bonucci in the summer (again, now it doesn’t seem so important, although at the time everyone was going all Chicken Little), he had the courage to bench Paulo Dybala (who nevertheless scored 26 goals) when he deemed it necessary, he found the right balance in midfield, he coaxed performances from the old legs of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic and Gigi Buffon.Cheering against Juventus is a national sport in Italy — it happens when you’re dominant, just ask Bayern or, back in the day, Manchester United — but this season he also had to contend with a Napoli side that were a genuine feel-good story, as well as some of his best performers from past years taking it down a notch or two (Stephan Lichtsteiner and Alex Sandro are exhibits A and B). And he did all this while being linked, again, with a move away from the club.This being Italy, we’ll always wondered what would have happened if Miralem Pjanic had received that second yellow against Inter, and it’s fair to do that. But equally, take nothing away from what Juventus achieved this season.
Man City’s remarkable 100-point mark
Gabriel Jesus’ late, late goal at Southampton meant Manchester City became the first team to reach the 100-point mark in Premier League history. How rare is it for a team to reach triple figures in a 38-game season in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues?Exceedingly so. If you account for the fact that the Bundesliga plays a 34-match campaign and include Bayern in 2012-13 (they had 91 in 34, which projects past 101), then it has only happened three times: Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona (2012-13), Antonio Conte’s last Juventus side (2013-14) and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid (2011-12). But then you realize that all of this took place since 2011 and that the Ligue 1 record (96 points for Paris Saint-Germain in 2015-16) also happened in that time frame and you wonder what the proper context for it is.This is by far the most polarized period in the history of the game, where the gap between the haves and have-nots is as great as it has ever been. It doesn’t diminish any of these achievements, but it’s simply a matter of fact and it doesn’t looks as if it’s going to change any time soon.
What does Mourinho, Faria split mean?
The thing about assistant coaches is that from the outside, it’s really tough to judge what they contribute or even how they contribute. If they’re attached to successful coaches, you assume they’re an important part of their success, especially if they’ve been around a long time. But equally, it’s very tough to draw conclusions about how they might handle a job on their own or how much of an impact their departure would have. (Sir Alex Ferguson famously cycled through assistants every few years and scarcely missed a beat.)The fact that Rui Faria and Jose Mourinho are splitting up after 17 years together — and amicably, by all accounts — is tough to read and any predictions will, invariably, be guesses. What you can say quite confidently, having spoken to players and coaches who have worked with both of them, is that Faria was a key component of the “Mourinho package” and that his knowledge and understanding of the game, while not always completely aligned with his boss, runs deep.
Real’s big win creates Bale dilemma for Zidane
It was classic “end-of-season, school’s out” stuff when Real Madrid hosted Celta Vigo on Saturday, and the 6-0 home win was perhaps more about avoiding injury and helping Zinedine Zidane figure out how his pieces might fit together in Kiev.Achraf Hakimi turned a fine performance at right-back and is a fair alternative to jack-of-all-trades Nacho should Dani Carvajal not recover. But it was Gareth Bale, who notched two goals and offered another reminder (after his strike in the Clasico) that he too can take it to another level. You wonder whether Zidane might not be tempted to ride form, and nostalgia, and go back to the “BBC” against Liverpool.You wonder too how his future will pan out. Last season Bale missed half the campaign and Real Madrid were often better without him. This year he’s up to 18 goals in 37 appearances, which is a tidy total given who he plays with and that he rarely lasts 90 minutes. Conventional wisdom has it that, at 28 years old, and with Marco Asensio and Isco on board plus possibly another attacking superstar on his way in, the club should cash in on him.On the flip side, he earns north of $17 million a season, is on the hook until 2022, and because of his style of play, any club he joins will likely have to adjust to him, more than the other way around.
Salah sets a Premier League record
Following his record-breaking season, the FC crew debate whether Mohamed Salah has surpassed Neymar as the best player after Messi and Ronaldo.
Mohamed Salah scored the opening goal for Liverpool against Brighton thereby breaking the Premier League era record for most top-flight goals in a 38-game season, previously held jointly by Luis Suarez, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo. (The overall Premier League record is 34, held by Shearer and Andy Cole, and that was in a 42-game season.)Regular readers will know that I don’t like the concept of Premier League records since football didn’t begin in 1992, so let’s get this out of the way: Dixie Dean scored sixty (yes, sixty) in 42 games in 1927-28. But in the past 50 years, only four men have scored more than Salah in a single English top-flight season, whether it be 42 or 38 games: Francis Lee, Clive Allen, Shearer and Cole. And that on its own is remarkable before you even get to the fact that Salah is not a traditional center-forward.
Hamburg finally suffer relegation
You draw more than 50,000 fans a game. You’re from the second biggest city in Europe’s biggest economy. No German club (other than Bayern Munich) have been in more finals than you have. You’re one of only three Bundesliga clubs to have been European champion. In terms of revenue (despite not benefitting from European football, because you haven’t had that in ages) you’re in the top half of the table. And you’re middle of the pack in wages.ou really should not be getting relegated. Instead Hamburg, who went down on Saturday, have found themselves in relegation dogfights almost every season of late. This is more than mere underachievement; this is failure on a grand scale. And it’s likely systemic because they’ve had 13 different managers (excluding caretakers and counting Bruno Labbadia’s two stints separately) since February 2007.The club’s hyper-democratic statutes probably don’t help — nobody is allowed to own as much as a quarter of the club — but the issues go well beyond that. If you make foolish choices time after time eventually you get punished.
Time for Balotelli to get Italy recall?
Mario Balotelli continues to divide opinion. The pro-Mario faction in Italy suggest that it’s time for the Azzurri to welcome him back into the fold (he hasn’t played since that defeat against Uruguay in 2014) and they cite his 18 Ligue 1 goals this season and how it’s “just one less than Neymar”.Well, yes. But if you take penalties out of it, it’s actually three less than Neymar. And Neymar appeared in seven fewer Ligue 1 games. So maybe let’s leave the Brazilian out of this, shall we?A more compelling argument is that Balotelli’s behaviour has been far more consistent, both on the pitch and off it. He has 26 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions, which is a pretty good total and the highest of his career by some distance. Throw in the fact that the likely new Italy boss, Roberto Mancini, knows him very well and that the Azzurri front line isn’t exactly packed with talent, and yes, at the very least it’s worth giving him a shot.After all, Italy don’t have much else going on this summer.
Neymar exit saga begins early at PSG
Neymar won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award in the week that PSG stumbled to a 2-0 home defeat to Rennes in one of those classic end-of-season games in which the team that needs the points gets the points. You can scoff at the French league all you like, but when you’re third in goals and top in assists and have only played 20 league matches — well, that tells its own story.PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi says that the Brazil star will “2,000 percent” be with PSG next season, and Neymar himself, although stopping short of committing, said the transfer speculation is annoying. That may be the case, but there are plenty of elephants in the room, and that’s why he continues to be linked in the media with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United. Not to mention the fact that everybody remembers that this time last year he would have called speculation about a move away from Barca “annoying” as well.The other sticking point is financial fair play. In the next few weeks, PSG will find out if they’ve breached FFP requirements in signing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and whether they’ll be sanctioned for it. The range of punishments goes right up to exclusion from the Champions League, fines, squad restrictions and a freeze on transfers. It’s unlikely they’ll be kicked out — although if guilty, they would be two-time offenders — but the fact remains that until that is sorted, nobody can definitively say what will happen.This might explain why Neymar simply calls the speculation “annoying” rather than joining his boss in throwing out mathematical impossibilities.
Conflict of interest for De Vrij?
By all indications, Lazio’s Dutch center-back Stefan de Vrij, whose contract is running down, has signed to play for Inter next season. It puts him in a rather curious position since Lazio and Inter are competing for Serie A’s final Champions League spot and face each other next weekend: Inter need to win to qualify.Talk about conflict of interest. Take all ethical considerations out of it and look at it purely from a rational Ayn Randian perspective and de Vrij should intentionally underperform against his new club. Doing otherwise might cost him a chance to play Champions League football (and with it, money and glory) while also costing Inter tens of millions of dollars.Of course, thankfully, we live in a world of principle as well. De Vrij showed what he’s made of Saturday by turning in a monster performance for Lazio against Crotone, including a goal-line save. It will be curious to see whether Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi (there have been conflicting reports) trusts him against Inter next week.Either way, the obvious conclusion is that no player should even find himself in this position, and yet it happens time and again, particularly in Germany and Italy.
Bas Dost scored for Sporting in their 2-1 defeat away to Maritimo. The loss means they finish the season in third place, 10 points behind the champions, Porto. He finishes the league season with 27 goals in 30 league matches. Overall, he has in 33 in 46 games in all competitions.This concludes this instalment of #BasDostWatch.
Tim Ream and Fulham one step from promotion to Premier League
While we await more news about D.C. United and Wayne Rooney, you should know that …
>> U.S. defender Tim Ream and Fulham are one step from promotion to the Premier League after defeating Derby County, 2-0, at Craven Cottage to advance to the Championship’s playoff final on 2-1 aggregate. Fulham will face Middlesbrough or Aston Villa on May 26 at Wembley, the Cottagers’ first visit to the iconic stadium since the 1975 FA Cup final. They are seeking to return to the top flight for the first time since 2013-14.
>> Another American defender, Matt Miazga, is involved in a playoff as Vitesse faces Utrecht over two legs for a Europa League berth from the Dutch Eredivisie. The first match is today at Vitesse.
>> In Israel, American forward Aaron Schoenfeld and Maccabi Tel Aviv are home against Beitar “Trump” Jerusalem.
>> The U.S. national team isn’t going to the World Cup, but several MLS players are headed to Russia. Federations submitted their provisional lists Monday and have until June 4 to finalize their 23-man squads. In a bit of a surprise, D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura was not chosen by Costa Rica.
>> U.S. interim boss Dave Sarachan on Sunday will name his squad for the May 28 friendly against Bolivia in Chester, Pa. Following that match, he will announce about 10 roster changes ahead of tests against Ireland on June 2 in Dublin and France on June 9 in Lyon. U.S. camp will open Monday at the University of Pennsylvania.
>> Concacaf this week is rolling out the identities of the U.S. venues for the 2019 Gold Cup. On Monday, LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium and the University of Phoenix Stadium were introduced. The expanded tournament — 16 teams instead of 12 — will also include venues in Central America and the Caribbean. Organizers will unveil those locations at later dates.
MLS Power Rankings: Toronto tumbles seven spots, Atlanta leads unchanged top four
12:47 AM ETJason Davis
- Atlanta United (no change)
Wednesday’s loss to SKC came down to a combination of factors, including a bit of bad luck, but it showed that United is vulnerable. The win against Orlando set the ship right and keeps Atlanta on top of the overall standings.
- New York Red Bulls (no change)
The finest of margins helped the Red Bulls grab three points on the road in Colorado when Derrick Etienne’s goal was ruled onside thanks to VAR. Close decision or not, New York deserved the win and looks like a contender in the East.ADVERTISEMENT
- Sporting Kansas City (no change)
Sporting earned a lot of admirers with a 2-0 win in Atlanta on Wednesday night. Tim Melia’s work in goal and a red card to Brad Guzan were major factors in a win that puts SKC squarely among the league’s elite.
- New York City FC (no change)
In a wild, back-and forth affair against the new team in Los Angeles, NYCFC escaped with a well-earned draw. The draw on the other side of the country helps salve some of the wounds from last week’s 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls.
- Columbus Crew SC (+3)
Circumstances matter when it comes to a talented player’s production. Just ask Gyasi Zardes, whose switch to Columbus has him leading the league in goals through 11 weeks with eight — including three in two games this week.
- LAFC (+1)
Two home games during the week delivered LAFC four points and kept the unbeaten run going. It wasn’t all that Bob Bradley wanted, but as the club adjusts to life without Marco Urena, it wasn’t a bad pair of results.
- Portland Timbers (+2)
On the occasion of the 100th edition (through various leagues) of the Cascadia Derby, the Timbers managed to find a late winner on a brilliant finish from Sebastian Blanco. Maybe better was the ball from Samuel Armenteros that set up Blanco for the goal.
- Orlando City (-2)
The Lions’ six-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday, a disappointing result for a team clamoring for respect. Losing to Atlanta doesn’t mean Orlando isn’t good, but neither can Orlando claim to be among the league’s best clubs.
- FC Dallas (+3)
Two weeks and four points from matches against the Los Angeles sides means FC Dallas now has an unbeaten run. Mauro Diaz proved his worth with a pair of assists on his return from a short injury layoff.
- New England Revolution (+3)
Two goals in the first half gave the Revs the edge they needed to hold off the defending champs at Gillette Stadium. The win was another example of New England’s pressing game working to perfection and creating scoring chances.
- Houston Dynamo (-1)
Houston was thisclose to exiting Vancouver with a crucial three points in the battle for a Western Conference playoff spot when Kendall Waston struck for late equalizer. It will feel like two points dropped rather than one point earned.
- Toronto FC (-7)
The idea was that TFC would get back its swagger fairly quickly following the disappointment of the Champions League. Two losses in four days spells trouble, with the Red still languishing in 10th place in the East.
Indy Survive Battle Of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Riverhounds V Indy Eleven REVIEW
By: James Cormack Bloody Shambles
Indy Eleven hit the road for a Friday night match this week against the only remaining undefeated team in USL, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The Boys in Blue entered the game undefeated away from home. At the end of the night, the song remains the same, Pittsburgh is still the only undefeated team in the USL and Indy have still not been beaten on the road nor have they conceded a goal.Indy Eleven notched their fifth clean sheet of 2018 and picked up one point in a very hard fought 0-0 draw at Highmark Stadium. All respect should be given to the home team for making this match a very difficult one for Indy Eleven, they will be sore for not finding the net after their efforts. They attacked well and defended even better but also failed in scoring.The first 20-25 minutes of the first half was somewhat cagey, both sides probing but not able to find a way to unlock their opposition, there were purple patches and scary moments for either side. From about halfway through the first half the tempo picked up and it did not cease for the entirety of the game.Pittsburgh pressed Indy Eleven very well and as the second half wore on Indy found it harder and harder to settle into any kind of rhythm, Riverhounds controlled the pace of the game and they made it very hard work. It was an incredible feat of survival really for Indy’s normally calm and collected defense, at times they looked shell-shocked and confused but still managed to hold down the clean sheet.
Martin Rennie again made slight changes to the starting lineup going with what looked like a 4-1-4-1 with Matern holding down the defensive midfield and Jack McInerney the lone striker. Kevin Venegas, who left the Louisville game late through injury was rested and Brad Ring again stepped in at right back. Justin Braun started to give us another attacking option and Watson was again rested.
Starting Lineup: Fôn Williams, Ring, Mitchell, Ouimette, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Braun, Steinberger, Saad, and McInerney. Subs: Farr, Rusin, Watson, Amankona, Speas, Guerra and Moses.It was enough of a shuffle to expect Indy to require a little time in this game to find themselves in a new formation. At a point in the game where Indy looked like they were settling, they were dealt a hammer blow when Carlyle Mitchell had to leave the field in the 35th minute. The pack was shuffled again and Brad Rusin stepped in alongside Ouimette.
As we know Indy has that luxury of roster depth and Rusin is a more than capable replacement and played a large part in Indy not conceding a goal. Indy was dealt another injury blow in the 62nd minute when Nico Matern also had to leave, replaced by Juan Guerra. Mitchell and Matern are a critical part of Indy’s defensive steel, credit to our team for still keeping the Riverhounds shut out for the remainder of the match.For the second consecutive away game, Martin Rennie chose not to use all three subs, the same happened in Charlotte, I am sure there is a good reason but I am not sure what it is. In both matches, Indy has a following Wednesday game.
I guess one could be forgiven for expecting a 0-0 draw, as mentioned Indy has not given up a goal on the road this year and Pittsburgh arguably have the best defense in the league having only conceded 3 goals in 8 matches. Neither side can be described as prolific in front of goal, although the Riverhounds have notched up 10 goals compared to Indy’s 7 for the season so far. goalless draw it was though, not much in the way of highlights but over the course of 99 or so minutes, Pittsburgh definitely looked like the team most likely to break the deadlock. Most of Indy’s attacks were opportunistic at best in the times between having to defend against a determined Pittsburgh attack. The Riverhounds back line has been touted as the best in the league, and on the evidence of this game, you can see why.
Positives: Indy again showed they are a difficult team to break down, they came under intense periods of pressure in this game and still did not concede a goal. We know we are defensively strong and in this game probably more than most they really had to endure and after losing two critical players who make up that defensive mettle Carlyle Mitchell and Nico Matern. Indy was pressed very hard and had to think on the fly, at times it was not pretty but they survived and denied Pittsburgh a win.Jack McInerney can probably be given the man of the match award, despite Indy being determined to throw 50/50 balls up front, McInerney despite not being the tallest player on the field won a lot of them and also created great scoring opportunities with clever distribution for Braun and Saad among others but they couldn’t be finished. He was trying to make things happen.
Negatives: Unfortunately for Indy again, thinking on the fly was not a strong point in their attack building, they can be forgiven for losing the ball or being thwarted when Pittsburgh put them under pressure, but there were plenty of moments with space and time in the game where the Eleven wasted it. Indy has more than enough ability to play a great passing game, but again poor decision making in possession stopped them from creating enough clear-cut scoring opportunities.
Examples of this, in the second half Brad Ring playing out of a tight spot and passes up the line to Lewis who back heels to set himself up but spins and loses the ball, rather than try a fancy trick control the ball, pass back and move, maintain possession. Soony Saad hammering a ball goalward from distance when he had space and time and players in front of him. Many moments in this game we took the hardest road or the least sensible decision to try and force a scoring opportunity instead of using the easiest pass. Decision making, thinking on your feet.The guys on the left and right width in our attack need to produce more and we still are failing many times and we won’t improve as an attack until we get this figured out.It’s okay to go back in order to go forwards but it seemed the intensive pace of the game set by Pittsburgh caused Indy to feel they had to do the same thing and too much of our play was rushed instead of trying to shift the tempo, slow it down and create good chances. Trying to quick counter an extremely solid defensive team at home with long balls did not work.
Tottenham Signs USA’s Cameron Carter-Vickers thru 2021
By 90MIN May 17, 2018
Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers has signed a new contract with the Premier League side, extending his current deal by one year to 2021.Taking to their official Twitter account, the north London club proudly announced the United States international’s new deal, confirming that he will remain with the club for at least the next three seasons. However, it is unclear whether the 20-year-old will go out on loan again next season, or will have his chance to fight for a first-team spot under Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.The powerhouse defender impressed during loan spells in the Championship last season – representing both Sheffield United and Ipswich Town, as both teams went on to produce solid mid-table finishes. Carter-Vickers is believed to be prepared to return to the Tractor Boys next season, but could find himself providing cover for the Spurs first-team, if they part ways with Toby Alderweireld.The Belgian international’s contract standoff has left his future in the open, and Spurs may well need Carter-Vickers to forgo regular first team football next season and become a squad rotation option. Given Pochettino’s reputation for developing young players, the starlet could well be given the opportunity to earn his place at the club during their preseason campaign.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN COLLECTS POINT AGAINST PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS, 0-0
By IndyEleven.com, 05/11/18, 11:00PM EDT
The “Boys in Blue” remain undefeated on the road following scoreless bout
Indy Eleven share points in a 0-0 draw on the road against the undefeated Eastern Conference side Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The “Boys in Blue” remain undefeated on the road in 2018 with an overall 4W-2L-2D record.The two teams ran back and forth in the midfield for much of the first half as they searched for goal scoring chances. Both sides found their first looks at goals minutes apart just before the half-hour mark. The Riverhounds saw their first opportunity in the 23rd minute as defender Jordan Dover crossed inside the box to forward Neco Brett, but the attempt was forced out by Indy’s backline. The Hounds returned two minutes later with a shot from Dover inside “Indiana’s Team’s” 18-yard box that was blocked by Eleven defender Ayoze, which resulted in a corner kick for the home side. After another 60 seconds, Brett returned for Pittsburgh’s third attempt from distance that ended with the ball several feet wide of Indy’s post for a goal kick.Indy was quick to answer. In the 29th minute, Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad tallied his first attempt after he received a long pass from midfielder Nathan Lewis near the top of Pittsburgh’s box. Saad slammed the ball towards goal, but the hit sent the ball just over the crossbar. A minute later, Saad got his second shot off at the top of the box that slid a tad to the left of the post and out of play. Indy’s third chance came in the 32nd minute when forward Jack McInerney nearly tapped the ball in from close range from a corner kick by Saad. Much like Saad’s previous attempt, McInerney’s hit also landed just to the left of goal off his ankle.The Riverhounds would make a final run at goal in the last minute of the first half. Pittsburgh midfielder Christiano Francois shot the ball inches outside the 6-yard box near the edge of the field when Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams registered a quick block to hit the ball from play.The first half came and went as both sides remained level heading into the second half. The remainder of the match mirrored the first half with each side only finding one near attempt at goal.In the 59th minute, Francois came close again for Pittsburgh, this time directly in front of goal. PGH midfielder Kenardo Forbes lobbed a low cross from the right edge of the field to the center of 6-yard box, where Francois had ran in. Right before the Haitian could hammer the ball in, a diving clearance from Indy’s first-half substitute defender Brad Rusin slammed the ball over the crossbar. aad came close to netting for his side seven minutes later after winning a free kick nearly 40 yards out from goal. Similar to free kicks the forward has hit as distance in previous matches, Saad’s ball went curling towards goal. Unfortunately, the attempt barely over the frame. Both sides carried on with the match, but neither team could find the winning goal.Indy Eleven take to the road once more next Wednesday, May 16, to face off against USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Then, “Indiana’s Team: will return home to Lucas Oil Stadium next Saturday, May 19, at 8:00 p.m. to take on Bethlehem Steel FC. Fans can get tickets for as low at $15 at www.IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.
Atletico Madrid’s good and bad experience will help in Europa League final – Simeone
May 9, 2018Dermot CorriganESPN FC
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says his team’s good and bad experience in recent finals should be a big positive ahead of next Wednesday’s Europa League decider against Marseille.Simeone has now guided Atletico to four major finals [not including Supercups] during his six-plus years in charge — with his team having won the 2012 Europa League against Athletic Bilbao and 2013 Copa del Rey against neighbours Real Madrid, but losing to their neighbours Real in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals.The Argentine coach told reporters at the official media day ahead of next week’s final that all of these had been learning experiences, and his team now knew the difference between being on the winning or losing side on the final whistle.”I always say that having the opportunity to play in finals give you the experience of things you have lived through,” Simeone said. “You take positives and negatives away, but the important thing is you were there. You know what it is like when you win, when you lose…”Finishing what had been such a challenging season with a trophy would be extra special, the former rojiblanco player suggested.”Not being able to sign anyone at the start of the season, then two arriving and five leaving [in the winter window], exiting the Champions League, now we are in the Europa League final, second in la Liga,” Simeone said. “It is a good season in terms of work, and winning a trophy would bring us to a higher place.”But then you look at the day-to-day work, and youngsters who have made a step up — Thomas [Partey], Lucas [Hernandez] and [Angel] Correa. The consistency of Koke, Saul’s improvement, another year for Gabi, [Antoine] Griezmann, [Diego] Godin, [Jan] Oblak.”We know we have done things that were not the best, but always looking for the best for the club. Six years ago I said I wanted a team that annoyed people, and I still want to be even more annoying….”Another big challenge this season has been dealing with constant speculation over Griezmann’s future, with the “open day” being dominated by this week’s developments in his potential €100 million summer move to Barcelona.
Simeone declined to comment directly on the Camp Nou outfit’s public courting of his player, but suggested he was not impressed by the behaviour of blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu in admitting this week to having met the France international’s agent last October.”I was taught that you should choose to behave in one way, and everyone else would choose their own,” he said. “Each person behaves as they believe is best. We just think about ourselves, trying to always manage ourselves in the same way.”All the talk about Griezmann’s future would not divert the team from its objectives over the final two weeks of the season, Simeone maintained.”I am like a racehorse looking straight ahead at Getafe [on Saturday in La Liga] and the final,” he said. “I don’t listen to anything, am only concerned with the games and the team. Griezmann seems fine to me, training as always.”
Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann can prove his status by delivering Europa League
3:47 AM ETGraham HunterESPN.com freelance columnist
On the wall of Antoine Griezmann’s beautiful villa in the exclusive Madrid suburb of La Finca, there are two David Beckham shirts: one bearing the crest of Paris Saint-Germain and the other in the colours of LA Galaxy.The London-born midfielder who became a legend for Manchester United — leaving home young, coping with the fight that a southerner had to show to be accepted in the gritty north, letting his talent speak more loudly than his words — was, and remains, Griezmann’s primary hero.The Lyon-born striker who had to shuck off homesickness after moving south, move to a new country, learn a new language and fight off the stigma of an ill-advised choice of when and when not to fiesta in Paris discos if you are on international duty could have chosen much worse than the former England captain in his search for inspiration. It’s also true that Griezmann’s passion for the NBA is as fundamental, as much of an obsession, as Gareth Bale’s for golf or Gerard Pique’s for tennis. If the Frenchman had been born taller, then who knows, basketball’s gain could easily have been football’s loss.He’s such a fan that he has regularly travelled to the United States to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, but his team is the Chicago Bulls — always has been, always will be, good times and bad.On Wednesday, Griezmann returns home. Lyon, the club where he was told he was too small, that they had no faith he’d even make it as a professional footballer, never mind into their youth academy, which was about 40 minutes’ drive from his front door.You know, already, that this is feasibly the Frenchman’s last important game for Atletico Madrid, the club where he has been taken from raw, untamed talent and turned into one of Europe’s superstar strikers.
Exceptional at what he does, still burning with the passionate need to win more trophies and earn more recognition and of an age that the queue for his services is understandably huge. Barcelona have made no secret of their willingness to pay, at least, €100 million — possibly as much as €115 million — for his talents.Atleti have made no secret of their fury that this subject has become so noisily public in advance of their Europa League final against Marseille.Leaving aside the narrative about whether Atletico are about to add to their rich vein of strikers who in recent years soared and then flew away (Diego Forlan, Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa), Wednesday isn’t simply a trophy opportunity for Griezmann. It’s a chance for him to settle his Rojiblanco account properly, leave evidence as to whether he’s good or great and mimic his two great inspirations: Beckham and Michael Jordan.Griezmann at Atleti has been a success, no question.The club has benefitted in points, in reputation and financially, in terms of Champions League revenue (one final, one semifinal, one quarterfinal since he joined), and the 27-year-old heeded Diego Simeone’s plea to stay and help fill the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium last summer instead of, as planned, joining Manchester United. If he’s sold for his buyout clause (which drops to €100 million on July 1) then Atleti will profit by €70 million.But there are provisos. In each of his seasons in the Spanish capital, there have been gaps to show that he isn’t yet the finished article: scoring droughts, dips in intensity, occasional clips round the ear from Simeone and one penalty in particular.Two years ago in Milan, the Champions League final was a Madrid derbi for the second time in three years. Madrid, winners the last time, led again. Then, a penalty for Atleti. Griezmann stepped up to take it and sent Keylor Navas the wrong way, but his overly powerful shot cannoned back off the bar and away to safety.Fate dictates that had that gone in then, all other things being equal, Yannick Carrasco’s subsequent goal for Atletico would have made them European champions for the first time. Fate also dictates that Griezmann, for whatever reason, had absolutely no problem in subsequently burying his penalty in the spot-kick shootout that his team lost, thanks to Juanfran’s heartbreaking miss.From that painful night in Milan, until he faces Marseille at Stade Lyon this week, two years have passed in which Griezmann helped steer France to the final of Euro 2016 with seven goals, including two beauties against Germany to eliminate the world champions in the semifinal. But the final, again, wasn’t his moment.A clear-headed chance, set up by Kingsley Coman, fluffed. Another bouncing off the post from Andre-Pierre Gignac’s shot but slithering away from Griezmann because, well, sometimes that’s just what fate has in store for you.He looks youthful, boyish in countenance and slender rather than all muscle and power. He acts youthfully too; funny in person, full of boyish and witty enthusiasm when he scores and celebrates with a dance, a stance or even, back at Real Sociedad, by occupying a car parked just behind the goal and encouraging his teammates to come and join him for a drive.But he’s not a kid. Twenty-seven already and without a major senior trophy to his name. Time is ticking.Wednesday beckons. In theory, Atleti have the advantage over Marseille — in fact, almost all of the advantages. They have a better squad, more quality man for man, far more experience in big finals — and in winning them — and against French opponents who are likely to lose at least one of their stars to injury.The fact remains, however, that this is time for Griezmann to dig deep within the well of his own ability, his own determination to win big. If, and even if he’s not fully decided it’s clearly at the forefront of his mind, this feels to him like the moment to leave Atletico Madrid and to line up with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and his countryman Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona next season, then he needs to sign off like his heroes did.Take Beckham, for example.Having fallen foul of Sir Alex Ferguson (they made up in due course), Beckham’s last Champions League game for Manchester United was a two-goal performance in a 4-3 win over Real Madrid at Old Trafford. That same season, Beckham scored in his final home game in a victory that would clinch the Premier League title for the wearer of that famous United No. 7 shirt.But, his being Beckham, there was more.At Madrid, again, his relationship with his manager fractured because he admitted that he was going to head to Major League Soccer and to Los Angeles that summer. Fabio Capello stopped using him and told him that he wouldn’t play again.Departures, as Griezmann needs to realise, are not often harmonious. But Beckham produced “the right stuff.” He trained harder, began to be trusted and picked, and helped inspire Real Madrid to one of only four Liga titles in the past 15 years.His last game for Los Blancos? A title decider won 3-1 at the Bernabeu.For the Galaxy, he played his last match in an MLS Cup final against the Houston Dynamo in December 2012, and lo and behold, the right stuff surfaced again, and so did the winning score line: 3-1, glory and goodnight.Jordan, too, didn’t merely have apparently perpetual greatness during his trophy-littered career; he knew what the all-time golden goodbye should look and feel like.Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals — you remember, right? Five-point-two seconds left, Bulls losing, Jordan from 20 feet for the winning points in his last competitive action for the team Griezmann adores.Two things we can say about Griezmann: He’s special, and we don’t yet fully know whether he’s great.Whether he opts to stay and take on the challenge of taking Atletico to the Champions League final in their own stadium in June 2019 or jumps ship to try to help Messi & Co. get there is completely up to him.Either way, now, against Marseille on a night when some of the ghosts of Milan 2016 can be laid to rest, is the time for him to show how much in common with Jordan and Beckham he possesses.
Dimitri Payet: Marseille’s man of the moment
Sunday 13 May 2018
A genius when the mood takes him, Dimitri Payet may be hitting his pinnacle with Marseille.
“I had to come back here, maybe because I’m crazy too, but I like places that are a bit wild.” So says Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet, flourishing since his return to the club from West Ham last year and now preparing for Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League final. UEFA.com looks over the 31-year-old’s eventful career.
Rudi Garcia, Marseille coach, on Payet
“I know him well, as I signed him at Lille [in 2011]. That’s why I knew he had to come back to Marseille. He loves Marseille and he loves Marseille’s fans. True, he was doing great things in England at the time, but Marseille needed him and I knew what he could bring us.”
“He’s been at peak physical strength since January 2018, so he’s been able to offer the full extent of his talents. He’s been a role model as captain. He’s often managed to raise the overall level of the team in the Europa League and that has enabled us to reach the final.”
International: 37 appearances, 8 goals
UEFA club competition: 41 appearances, 6 goals
European domestic competition: 452 appearances, 91 goals
- Born in Reunion – a French island in the Indian Ocean – Payet followed in the footsteps of Florent Sinama Pongolle and Guillaume Hoarau in 1999 by being sent to Le Havre, aged 12, to join the Normandy club’s youth department. But he returned to Reunion in 2003 amid claims he had a difficult character.
- Having sparkled in local football for AS Excelsior, Payet was brought back to mainland France by Nantes in 2005. The club found him hard to handle yet could not doubt his quality. “Dimitri was a player with indisputable talent despite his natural nonchalance,” said youth boss Stéphane Moreau. “He could make team-mates play and destroy opponents.”
- Transferred to St-Étienne in 2007 following Nantes’ relegation, again he sparkled and aggravated in equal measure. Payet had an on-field altercation with skipper Blaise Matuidi on 8 May 2010, during a loss to Toulouse. He was substituted and sanctioned by the club.
- He first linked up with Rudi Garcia at LOSC, who signed him in 2011. Initially, Payet shadowed Eden Hazard, before taking the playmaking mantle in his second term after the Belgian’s 2012 departure. “He scored 12 goals and made 12 assists that season – a ‘Double 12’!” Garcia recalled.
- Payet struck twice inside 15 minutes of his Marseille debut after joining in 2013 – in a 3-1 win at Guingamp. He blossomed under Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinian coach’s assistant Jan Van Winckel saying: “Bielsa was the first to recognise that Dimitri is a playmaker, not a winger. Dimitri is probably the best player in the world, together with Andrés Iniesta, with his back to goal.”
- He made a high-profile move to West Ham in 2015 and registered some stunning goals for the Londoners, but rejoined Marseille in acrimonious circumstances in January 2017. Yet Payet said West Ham’s defensive tactics left him “bored”, adding: “The most important thing is that I am where I wanted to be. The best is yet to come.”
- He starred for France at UEFA EURO 2016, although the hosts’ final defeat by Portugal left its mark on the Payet household. Payet admitted his children “love Ronaldo and Messi” but said that since Les Bleus lost the decider “they have no right to pronounce the name of Ronaldo!”.
“You play football to be involved in these big games. It’s not a normal match; it’s a final, so you have to try to play like you usually do while also giving a bit extra because we’ll be up against a great side that has been put together to try to win the Champions League. They’re in the Europa League now and they’re the favourites. We’re the underdogs but we’ll give it everything.It’s similar to EURO 2016 when we were at home. We can feel that passion from the French people. That’s how it is. I think it’s for the best and it can really benefit us.”
How brilliant is Atlético’s Antoine Griezmann?
Saturday 12 May 2018
“Antoine is one of the best players in the world,” says Marseille’s Adil Rami; UEFA.com gives Atlético’s star forward his due.
What they say
“Antoine has improved in every area – fitness, tactical awareness, personality, aggression, intensity, ball recovery, attacking threat – and it’s all his own doing.”
Diego Simeone, Atlético coach
“Antoine is one of the best players in the world. He’s an intelligent, cunning and very talented footballer. He’s also really good in the air. You have to keep a close eye on him because he has the ability to lose you at any moment. We have to keep track of his movement if we want to win.”
Adil Rami, Marseille defender
“‘Grizou’ will obviously be danger number one for us, and their main offensive weapon.”
Dimitri Payet, Marseille playmaker
“He’s always happy, he’s a delight to have as a player. Despite the pressure on him, he’s always smiling, looking to have fun, and it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Philippe Montanier, former Real Sociedad coach
“He’s very ambitious, and if you have talent and ambition, and everything goes your way and you have a bit of luck, you can go as far as you want.”
Emilio Nsue, former Real Sociedad team-mate
International: 51 appearances, 19 goals
UEFA club competition: 55 appearances, 22 goals
Domestic competition: 353 appearances, 140 goals
Claims to fame
• Griezmann had already been turned down by several French clubs when Frenchman Éric Olhats, a Real Sociedad scout, spotted the 13-year-old at a tournament near Paris. “I saw him control and pass the ball – it looked so easy. So I asked myself: ‘How good could he be once his body develops?'” Olhats duly took him to San Sebastian.
- He received an interesting Zinédine Zidane souvenir after a Real Sociedad v Real Madrid game when he was a ball boy. “I asked for his shirt but he had already swapped with an opponent,” Griezmann wrote in his 2017 autobiography. “Seeing my disappointment, he said: ‘Follow me.’ I walked with him into the belly of the stadium. I thought he would give me a photo or autograph, something like that. But no – Zidane handed me the shorts in which he had played. I couldn’t believe it!”
- He celebrated his first Liga goal – a spring-heeled header against Deportivo on 25 October 2010 – by dashing into a car located pitchside and pretending to drive it away.
- By featuring in a 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano on 14 April 2013, he became the fifth youngest player to make 100 professional appearances in Spain’s top flight – aged just 22 years and 24 days.
- Match winner in the 1-0 success at Deportivo on 1 June 2013 which earned La Real’s UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, Griezmann promptly sealed their return to the group stage – for the first time since 2003/04 – with an overhead kick against Lyon (whom he had supported as a boy). His first club goal in his home country. • Atlético triggered Griezmann’s €30m buy-out clause to entice him from San Sebastian in summer 2014, coach Simeone saying: “Antoine is a brilliant player. He’s really quick and he’ll give us lots of options in attack.”
- Griezmann never scored a UEFA Champions League group stage goal for La Real but did so at the first attempt for Atleti, in a 3-2 defeat at Olympiacos on 16 September 2014, 30 minutes after emerging as a substitute.
- His 22 Liga goals in his first Atlético campaign was a record for a French player in Spain; he matched it in 2015/16, but Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema took his record with 24 goals. Simeone was not concerned, saying of ‘Grizi’: “For me, he was the best player in Europe this season.”
- He caught Luis Aragonés as the Rojiblancos’ top marksman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup when netting his 12th Atlético goal in the competition in a 2-0 scalp of PSV on 23 November 2016.
- The forward eclipsed Sergio Agüero as Atleti’s leading scorer in all UEFA competitions by notching his 21st continental goal in Atlético colours against Arsenal in the recent UEFA Europa League semi-final.
• Griezmann claimed his first international honour when France triumphed as hosts in the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, though he came off injured at half-time in the 2-1 final win against Spain. “That was a big moment for me,” he recalled. “But I said to myself, ‘OK, you’re in the U19s now but you need to push on to the national team, keep working hard and keep believing in the big dream.'”
- He was suspended from all France squads from November 2012–December 2013 after joining four other players – Yann M’Vila, Chris Mavinga, Wissam Ben Yedder and M’Baye Niang – on an unauthorised trip from the team hotel in Normandy to a Paris nightclub three days before a U21 play-off against Norway. “My father reminded me that a footballer’s image is very important and I mustn’t damage the family name,” he said later. “I’m lucky my parents raised me well.”
- He picked up his first Les Bleus cap in the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on February 2014, his first national service after the ban was lifted.
- His six goals secured the golden shoe at UEFA EURO 2016, though it was a bittersweet experience as hosts France lost the final 1-0 to Portugal. “Maybe later I can feel proud,” he said.
- Griezmann was the first player to lose a EURO final and a UEFA Champions League decider in the same summer, the Portugal defeat following Atlético’s shoot-out reverse to Real Madrid (in which Griezmann converted from the spot). Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo were on the winning side in both games.*
What you might not know
- Football is in his blood. His maternal grandfather Amaro Lopes played for local team Paços de Ferreira in his native Portugal before moving to France for work. His mother, Isabelle, was born in France but the link to Portugal remained, Griezmann spending summer holidays back in his grandfather’s home town.
- His big sister Maud was the young Antoine’s goalkeeper whenever he practised shooting as a child. She remembers her brother repeatedly battering a ball against the garage door of the family home to perfect his touch, noting: “My parents did not always like this.”
- Having been in Spain since he was 13, Griezmann says he has taken on certain Spanish traits, explaining: “I think in French but get angry in Spanish.”
- While he loves football and frequently comments on social media about matches he is watching, soccer is not the only sport Griezmann is crazy about. Despite his relatively modest height, he is a huge basketball fan and often plays in his spare time.
- Griezmann’s tattoos include an Arabic translation of a line from Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (“make your life a dream, and make your dream a reality”), images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, his parents’ initals and ‘FAME’, the title of a Chris Brown album – the initials stand for Forgiving All My Enemies and Fans Are My Everything.
- Rapper Drake inspired a Griezmann goal celebration: the ‘two mobile phone’ move derives from the Hotline Bling video, though Griezmann did not use it consistently at UEFA EURO 2016. “I forgot to do it after my goal against Albania because I was too emotional.”
- He has had a special affinity with his South American club-mates, notably sipping a cup of regional hot drink ‘mate’ wherever he goes. “It’s like tea or coffee,” he said. “I drink it all the time before training. It wakes me up.”
What he says
“I try to be a complete player – in attack and defence – and to improve every year. I’ve already got more assists this year and that’s the most important thing.””When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself and try to give my all. My team-mates, the boss and the fans want more from me and I’m pleased about that. It’s like when you played on the street with your friends. Now every time I score, I turn into a little boy again. It’s impossible to explain how happy scoring makes you.” “If I want to be the next Falcao or the next Agüero at Atlético, I know I’ve still got a lot to do. But the coach gives me a lot of confidence and tells me I’m an important player. He also says I have to do better than I’ve ever done before!”
What he might achieve yet
- Break the 22-goal barrier: he had his best domestic campaigns with 22 goals in 2014/15 and 2015/16 but has been unable to hurdle the 20 barrier since. Griezmann has netted 19 so far this season, with one more Liga fixture (v Eibar) to follow the UEFA Europa League final.• Win a major trophy with Atlético: to date, his biggest achievement is lifting the 2014 Spanish Super Cup.
- Make up for the disappointment of UEFA EURO 2016by winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France.
- Become France’s all-time leading scorer: he is joint-15th in the rankings with 19 goals. Thierry Henry’s record of 51 seems a long way off but Griezmann is a player who likes a challenge.
- Henry’s other French goalscoring records are not beyond the realms of possibility. The ex-Arsenal ace is the top-scoring Frenchman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup (51) and all UEFA club competitions (59); Griezmann has hit 18 in the fo
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