5/25/18 Champ League Final Liverpool vs Real Madrid Sat 2:45 pm Fox, USA vs Bolivia Mon 6:30 pm FS1, Indy 11 discount tix for home game Wed 7 pm, CDC College Summer Soccer sign-up, CFC Tryouts & Prez Cup Finalist

So the Champions League final – featuring the EPL’s Liverpool and rising star Mo Salah vs 2 time Defending Champions Real Madrid and Renaldo kicks off on Saturday at 2:30 pm on Fox 59.  For Zidane and Real Madrid – this is a chance to make history and become the first team since the 70s to win 3 Champions League Trophy’s in a Row.  For Liverpool and new manager Juergan Klopp a chance to duplicate the feats of past Liverpool teams and bring home a 4th UCL Trophy but the first since _____  (Read all the stories below on the Oleballcoach)  More people will watch this final across the world between 2 of the top teams in Europe – than the Superbowl, the NBA Finals and the World Series Combined, so enjoy!

The other high stakes game Saturday – The 170 Million Dollar Final – features Fulham (formerly Fulham America) vs Aston Villa in the English Championship.  These 2 teams will battle in Wembley at noon to see which team advances to the English Premier League next season.  (Watch on ESPN+)  Fulham of course used to have the most American’s on their team about 8 to 10 years back – when Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller and my favorite Carlos Bocenegra were battling to keep them in the EPL.  Now its US defender Team Ream – carrying the banner for Fulham and the US as defacto Captain of the squad.  Go Fulham!!

Wow what a youthful group the US National Team is bringing in for Monday’s Memorial Day match in Pittsburgh with Boliva.  Led by US budding star Christian Pulisic – the US has an average age of just 22 years old on this squad.  Should be fun to watch the youngsters play a pretty good Bolivia team Monday evening at 6:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh

Carmel FC Teams Advancing to President’s Cup Finals June 1-3 

 U13 – 2005 Boys Coached by Doug Latham  and Jeremy Slivinski 

cfcu13boys

U17 2001 Boys  Coached by Jennifer Cirrincione

CFCU17B

The 01 Boys defeated Dynamo 3-0, and Ft Wayne United 4-1 to Advance to the Semi-Finals on Sat. where they face Millieum Black 01 for a chance to go to Regionals.

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)

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2018 Alumni/College Age SUMMER 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  scottaf2@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

 

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

Sun, May 27h 

1 pm ESPN+          NY Red Bulls 2 vs Indy 11 

Union Jack PubJoin the BYB for the next watch party at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple for the next away game against the New York Red Bulls II.
Sunday, May 27 for a 1pm kickoff.

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 2, 2018: IF: MNT vs. Ireland (Dublin, Ireland) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 9

IF MNT vs. France (Lyon, France) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

June 12

Women NT vs. China (Cleveland, OH) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

SUMMER CAMPS

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

 US Soccer

US Led 2026 World Cup Big nears Vote vs Morocco that’s Too Close to Call – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Its Not Just Pulisic on this youthful Squad for the US = Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Pulisic leads Young US Squad IS –

US Team led by Pulisic – Announced

Pulisic Becoming Quiet Leader of US Team and Dortmund – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic Master’s the Modern Game – special for SI by Grant Wahl –

US to Play Mexico on 9/11 in Nashville

Earnie Stewart Favorite for USMNT GM Job – MLS.com

Champions League Final – Sat May 26

Liverpool Fast Start – Mardrid Late Pressume – Can Decide the UCL Final – ESPNFC Michael Cox

Zidane isn’t known for Tactics or Style – Just Ability to Win – Sid Lowe ESPNFC

Which Trio of Scorers Will Win – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

Sergio Ramos – Real’s Big Game Player – Graham Hunter ESPNFC

Zidane Coy over Lineup

Lovren – Liverpool so Different from last Real – clash – Glenn  Price ESPNFC

Kroos Facing the Animals of Liverpool will be Tough – ESPNFC

How US Coach Bob Bradley Helped Mohomed Salah on his Accent to Global stardom – MLS.com

 

Marcelo’s 8 year old son completes head ball challenge in Real Locker room

Video How does this Real Madrid Team compare to the Legendary 3 time UCL Winners?

Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Detailed Look at the Matchup-

Champions League Final – too close to call – Dermont Corrigan EPSNFC

Liverpool to Recharge before the Final –says Klopp

WORLD

World Cup Teams Being Announced – Yahoo soccer

No One Was Better than Messi This Year – Power Rankings of Players ESPNFC

18 Things You May have Forgotten this EPL Season – ESPNFC

Stay Messi my Friend – ESPN Mag –

EPL 

Unia Emery Could Turn Things Around Quickly for Arsenal  – ESPNFC

EPL Club By Club Review for 2017 – yahoo

Fulham faces Aston Villa at Wembley to See who Moves up to the EPL

Why US Defender Tim Ream and Fulham might be the Favorite to return to the EPL for the first time in 4 years

Indy 11

A Message from the Coach – Coach Martin Rennie

Preview Indy 11 vs NY Red Bulls Sun 1 pm on ESPN+

Beats and Cleats – The Matt Watson Story – Indy 11

Time to Hit the Reset Button – Review of the Loss to Bethlehem – from Bloodyshambles.com

Keys to the Loss vs Bethlehem Steel

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

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

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

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

MLS

MLS Power Rankings – MLS

MLS Players Who Could Have a Great World Cup

How Bob Bradley helped Mo Salah’s star rise

Pulisic wowed by LAFC’s “unbelievable atmosphere”

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.

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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  scottaf2@gmail.com

A MESSAGE FROM INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH MARTIN RENNIE

By IndyEleven.com, 05/21/18, 3:00PM EDT

A message to the fans from Coach Rennie

Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie addresses the fans following the “Boys in Blue’s” 1-2 loss at home against Bethlehem Steel FC.

“I feel like what I’ve seen since I’ve been here is we’ve got tremendous fans who are backing us so much and I want to thank them for that. “”We’re coming off two disappointing results and they’re still backing us, supporting us, chanting for us, and helping us. That’s inspiring for us to make sure that we get our home form really up and running. “”Clearly, we’ve done well for the most part on the road, but overall we’ve had some good games at home, but too many below the standard we expect, and our fans expect. They can be sure that all of our players and staff will be working to make that better and get on a run where we start winning consistently, and become much more consistent with not only our result, but the process of what we’re doing with the passing, the finishing, the movement and with the defending, which has been quite good so far.”I just want to thank the fans for being so supportive and helping us as we build the team. There’s been a few ups and downs but I’m very confident well be on the right track as we go forward.”“Indiana’s Team” will face New York Red Bulls II on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Days later, Indy Eleven will return home to take on USL mainstays Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. Fans can get their tickets to the home matchup starting at just $15 at IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

PREVIEW | NYVIND

By IndyEleven.com, 05/25/18, 1:00PM EDTShareThe “Boys in Blue” travel to the Big Apple to take on New York Red Bulls II

PREVIEW:

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven @ New York Red Bulls II – #NYvIND
Sunday, May 27, 2018 – 1 P.M. EST   Red Bull Arena – New York City, New York 

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local/National TV: N/A
  • Streaming Video:  ESPN+($)

WEEK 11: TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE BIG APPLE

Indy Eleven aim to snatch three points away from New York Red Bulls II in a Week 11 matchup in Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are in search of a victory after coming off Week 10 defeats to Bethlehem Steel FC.Indy Eleven are currently seventh in Eastern Conference, with a 4W-3L-2D record. In their most recent fixture, the “Boys in Blue” faced Bethlehem Steel FC at home after coming off a mid-week Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss to USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC. Bethlehem Steel left Lucas Oil Stadium with three points after defeating Indy, 1-2, last Saturday Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger tallied his first goal of the season in the 70th minute. The former Butler Bulldog volleyed home forward Soony Saad’s square pas played to the center of the box, leveling the game at one, but the lead would be short-lived. Four minutes later, Bethlehem scored the goal that would secure three points for the visitors.New York Red Bulls II also enters Week 11 after falling to Bethlehem Steel FC, 3-0, in the Steel’s first of two Week 10 fixtures. They sit one spot below Indy Eleven in eighth with a 3W-2L-5D record. The Red Bulls II were shut out for the third time in ten games in 2018. They are currently tied for second in goals scored in the East with 16, but have only scored two goals in the last five games. The New York based team is also second in the USL in attempted shots, with 158, trailing only Western Conference’s Phoenix Rising FC. Red Bulls II are undefeated at home this season with a 3W-0L-1D record in Red Bull Arena.Indy Eleven defense’s, which currently average less than one conceded goal per game, will need to be on their toes against an attack minded Red Bulls II team. Indy Eleven will need Karl Ouimette to continue shutting down opposition forwards and Owain Fon Williams to come up with more big saves.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ZACH STEINBERGER

Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger scored his first goal of the season on Saturday night against Bethlehem Steel FC. Steinberger’s goal came in the 70th minute after Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad squared a pass into the box from teammate Jack McInerney. Saad’s ball found Steinberger in the middle, who struck a shot off the half-volley. A friendly bounce lofted the strike over Bethlehem keeper Jake McGuire and leveled the scores at one.This season marks Steinberger’s second stint with “Indiana’s Team” after spending his first on loan from Houston Dynamo in 2015. During the 2015 season, Steinberger made 12 appearances with the “Boys in Blue” and found the back of the net twice. The attack minded midfielder has nearly equaled his 12 appearances in 2015, having appeared in all nine games of the 2018 season. The Long Beach, California native has averaged an excellent passing rating, completing four-fifths of the passes he’s played, and found the back of the net one time.

NEW YORK RED BULLS II PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ANDREW TINARI

New York Red Bulls II midfielder Andrew Tinari is tied for second most goals on the team (3) heading into Week 11 against Indy Eleven. The American born midfielder has started all but one game for Red Bulls II. NYRB rely heavily on Tinari’s ability to navigate the ball through the midfield, as he’s played the most passes of anyone on the team with 475. Of those passes, he’s completed just over three-quarters.Tinari had a quiet game against Bethlehem Steel FC in their previous fixture, but expect the 22-year old midfielder to be more active in the match against Indy Eleven. The New York native is a threat in the box, where he’s scored his three goals and has also notched one assist in 2018.

MATCHUP TO MARK: FW JACK MCINERNEY VERSUS DF JORDAN SCARLETT

Finding the back of the net has been somewhat of an issue for Indy Eleven in their first campaign in the USL. The “Boys in Blue” have found the back of the net eight times in nine games. Two of those goals have been provided by Indy Eleven forward Jack McInerney.McInerney is currently tied with Indy Eleven outside back Ayoze and forward Soony Saad for oals scored. The former L.A. Galaxy forward has scored both of his goals from inside the box, where he has been most efficient. The target striker aims to find the back of the net againt a Red Bulls II side that has given up five goals in the last five games, three of which came last week against Bethlehem Steel FC.On top of finding the back of the net, McInerney has also been keen on creating chances for his teammates. McInerney has created 12 opportunities on net for his fellow “Boys in Blue”, tallying one assist. Indy Eleven supporters are eager to see the form that led McInerney to second on the list of most goals scored by the age of 23 in MLS, with Indy Eleven.One Red Bull II defender tasked with containing McInerney will be Jordan Scarlett. If one was searching for a complete defender, the 22-year old Jamaican may be as close as they could getScarlett has started eight games for Red Bulls II. He’s performed extremely well defensively, having completed all but two of his tackles in the defensive end. He’s also obliterated opposition passing lanes, while moving the ball extremely well himself. The young defender has completed 80 percent of his just over 300 passes.A spearhead from the back, Scarlett leads the team in every defensive statistic for New York Red Bulls II and is second in completed passes. Scarlett must sturdy up a leaky dam if the New York Red Bulls II intends to stop Jack McInerney and the IndyEleven from exploiting the cracks his team’s defense.All the action takes place on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Fans can watch the match LIVE on ESPN+! New users can sign up for a free 7-day trial at plus.espn.com.

Liverpool fast start, Madrid late pressure can decide UCL final

4:00 AM ETMichael Cox

Saturday’s Champions League final offers one of the most fascinating tactical clashes in recent memory: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with their astute, intensive, counter-pressing approach, meet the more laissez-faire style of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, who concentrate upon possession play.It has all the makings of a superb match. Here are four key questions waiting to be answered.

  1. What formation will Zidane use?

The most remarkable thing about Real Madrid’s Champions League record under Zidane is the sheer number of matches they have won despite appearing to be outwitted in terms of game plan. Madrid have repeatedly seemed vulnerable in a certain area, yet individual magic in the final third has saved the day.In Kiev, however, they’re up against a side boasting a comparable level of individual brilliance upfront, and therefore, it feels essential that Zidane’s side are not second-best in a tactical sense. Liverpool will use their customary 4-3-3, so how will the European Cup holders respond? There are two obvious options.The first is using the diamond midfield that has generally been Zidane’s preferred system in the Champions League. Theoretically, that would see Madrid enjoy a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch, with Isco coming into the lineup alongside Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. There’s a danger, however, that such a narrow system will make it easier for Liverpool to press and box Madrid into the sides of the pitch when, for example, Real’s full-backs have the ball.Therefore, Zidane could use a 4-3-3 system himself. This would probably feature Karim Benzema upfront, with Cristiano Ronaldo as an inside left and Gareth Bale on the right (though Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez could also feature, while Ronaldo played upfront in this alignment at Bayern Munich in the semifinal). This approach would stretch play and target Liverpool’s full-backs, who have been excellent this season but nevertheless can find themselves isolated.

  1. Can Marcelo cope against Salah?

While capable of being a key player by pushing forward on the overlap to exploit Ronaldo’s habit of narrowing the opposition right-back, sometimes Marcelo’s defensive vulnerability costs his side. He was Brazil’s worst performer in their infamous 7-1 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany in 2014, and statistics suggest that an increasing number of Real concessions come from his flank.Salah’s form this season has been incredible, with the Egyptian forward breaking the Premier League record for goals in a 38-game campaign with 32. But while his strikes have come from a variety of positions, it feels like he’ll spend the majority of this match in a wide-right role — especially when Madrid have possession — waiting to pounce on the counterattack.In Liverpool’s semifinal win vs. Roma, Salah was happy to let the opposition left-back/wing-back Aleksandar Kolarov go free on the overlap, confident that he’d do more damage on the break than his opposite number. But Marcelo is a more dangerous attacking weapon than Kolarov — not just a mere crosser and shooter but a genuine playmaker in his own right.It is likely that Marcelo will need help from Sergio Ramos, Real’s left-sided centre-back. He has a habit of providing crucial moments in big games in the opposition penalty area but is also excellent in terms of doubling up against a wide player, relying on his experience as a former full-back. If Madrid are to stop Salah, it might be about Ramos’ display as much as that of Marcelo.

  1. Will Liverpool score early?

A fundamental part of Klopp’s game plan is for his side to put the opposition under pressure in the early stages. Liverpool effectively won their quarterfinal against Manchester City with three goals in the first 31 minutes, but those early exertions can cost them later in big games: They let Roma back into their semifinal with two concessions in the last 10 minutes of the first leg and twice conceded late in the return game.The 4-3 Premier League win against Manchester City in January was another telling example: Liverpool forced early pressure in both halves and scored in the ninth minute of the first period, then the 14th, 16th and 23rd of the second. City, though, netted five minutes before half-time, then again in minutes 84 and 90. Liverpool’s pressure dominated early, but City’s possession took over by the end.It’s easy to imagine something similar happening vs. Madrid, and it’s worth remembering that Klopp’s previous Champions League final appearance, in 2013, also fits the pattern. His Dortmund side took early control against Bayern Munich — the scoring sequence doesn’t quite tell the story of the game — but faded badly late and lost to a last-gasp Arjen Robben winner.An early goal for Liverpool would compel Real to push forward and leave Liverpool space — Klopp’s side are the best counterattackers in Europe — into which they can break. But if the English side fail to score in their expected period of early dominance and end up chasing the game, it will be extremely difficult in a physical sense to press aggressively later on.

  1. What role do substitutes have to play?

Arguably the greatest contrast between these two sides is the resources available on the respective benches. This factor is another reason that Real are likely to dominate the latter stages, which means Liverpool must strike early.Liverpool have suffered badly from injuries in recent months; Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez are all out, while Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Adam Lallana lack match sharpness after periods on the sideline, and James Milner is a slight doubt.That means Klopp’s replacements will be the aforementioned players who have struggled for game time recently or the likes of Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke and Alberto Moreno, none of whom will strike fear into Madrid.Zidane, by contrast, has no absentees and no suspensions and therefore has options. With Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Ronaldo four surefire starters in midfield and attack, it means only two of Bale, Isco, Benzema, Vazquez and Asensio will start. The other three will be in reserve, alongside the gifted Mateo Kovacic.Real’s substitutes have proven crucial in recent final victories: Marcelo, Isco and Alvaro Morata helped overload Atletico in 2014. Then Morata, Bale and Asensio put the result beyond doubt against Juventus last year.

Real’s Zinedine Zidane isn’t known for tactics or style, just ability to win

1:40 PM ETSid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane smiled that Zinedine Zidane smile, the one that sometimes seems to disarm them all.”I’m not the best coach, and I will always say that,” he said. “I am not the best coach tactically. And, well, I don’t need to say that…” There was a pause, and that was when that smile crept across his face and he added: “… because you lot always say that, anyway.” They laughed, but they knew he was right. Many a true word said in jest and all that but beyond the smile, there was a hint of edge in his words, a point made.It was the Open Media Day at Valdebebas, Real Madrid’s training ground, out near Barajas airport, held because they were preparing for the Champions League final. For Zidane, it was the third time he’s sat there before the world’s media on the eve of the biggest club fixture in the world, the third time he has reached the European Cup final as coach of Real Madrid. And he hasn’t even been there for three full years. He has won a league title as well, plus two European Super Cups, two club World Cups and a Spanish super cup.In his first 18 months in charge of Madrid, Zidane won as many European Cups as Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. He has won two in a row just like Arrigo Sacchi; if Madrid win tomorrow night, he will have won three — as many as any one else, ever. Yet somewhere, somehow, it doesn’t always feel like it: this is as good an era as any in the game since Madrid won the first five, but it doesn’t always feel like an era and it doesn’t always feel like dominance.t is as good a managerial record as anyone anywhere too, but it doesn’t always feel like Zidane is one of them either. Which is odd, only it doesn’t feel that odd. And perhaps it should? At what point does a manager who has won it all get people say “this guy is pretty good?” How many European Cups does it take? Three? Four? Five, maybe? Or maybe never?”I’ve been at Liverpool longer than he has been a coach and he could win the Champions League three times in a row, that’s never happened before so either he’s lucky or he’s brilliant, I prefer to think he’s brilliant, like he was as a player,” said Jurgen Klopp, but another point was raised when discussing his accomplishments in Madrid.”He doesn’t get enough credit,” said Steve McManaman this week. “It’s always the same result: trophy, trophy, trophy. They would be shouting from the rooftops if Pep Guardiola did this.”That may not be entirely fair: Zidane has been credited, and often. He is admired and well-liked. Cases have been made for him, and not by him. “I’m not the best manager in the world,” he said a few months ago, “but nor am I the worst.” Many have dismissed suggestions that he’s not all that and McManaman is certainly not the only one to speak out for him, although he did so with rare knowledge, experience and incision, and there is something in what he says: a portrait of a resistance to recognition that is real. The very fact that those suggestions even exist says something.Zidane paused, flashed that smile again. “What matters is how you feel and I feel satisfie because I give everything. I can’t control what people think. And that doesn’t matter.”Being 17 points behind in the league doesn’t help of course, nor does getting knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes. “That was a failure and it hurt,” Zidane admitted. Nor does having arguably the best collection of players ever assembled: it helps you win, but not be seen as the cause of that win.It doesn’t help that there have been moments of good fortune en route, either. This season, Madrid have had their share of them. This has not been an imperial march to the final; it has, though, been a difficult pathway and they have found a way past Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern. Somehow — goodness knows how, if you prefer — but they have. Zidane has always said that he felt like he had a “lucky star,” especially in this competition. But he would rebel against the suggestion that it was all about fortune, and he would be entitled to.It also doesn’t help that they had won the European Cup two years earlier when, incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, Zidane was assistant coach, as that reinforces the sensation that it didn’t take much and most things were already in place, even if McManaman insisted that Madrid were “dysfunctional” then.Maybe there is something else too, which Zidane was getting at. Something in the construction of Madrid and something in what it is coaches are expected to do. At heart, maybe that question is the key one: what is a coach there for? What does a coach do?”I’m not the best tactically,” said Zidane, “but I have passion and ilusion… and that’s more important.” Ilusion means hope, enthusiasm, the joy with which you work. It is more important, Zidane says, but for some it is not enough.That tactical point is a significant one; there is a sense (and there is something in it) that this Madrid team is not one that has been constructed or has a clear identity. That, to use the Spanish phrase, you can’t see the manager’s hand in the way it plays; there is not a tactical model. Asked for a view of Madrid, Real Betis coach Quique Setien talked of a kind of “anarchy.” It was not a criticism, and he recognised the value of that unpredictability, while there’s a case for valuing a coach’s willingness to embrace that, it was just a tactical analysis. But some will read it as a criticism and some will apply it as one.As Jurgen Klopp joked in his pre-match news conference, “If he’s not a good tactical coach, I’m not a good tactical coach either… and here we are in the final — with no tactics!””Vicente Del Bosque was not a screamer or a super architect with elaborate training sessions, but he kept the egos happy [and] Zizou appears to have the same approach,” said McManaman.That wasn’t meant as a criticism either — quite the opposite — but for some it falls short of what it is they think a coach should do. Even though there have been key tactical interventions too in this year’s Champions League — Marco Asensio and Lucas against PSG, Asensio in Munich, Gareth Bale out, Casemiro out, Karim Benzema out in key moments — it is not always enough. Some feel that to be considered a great coach, he should build something, create something. He should read the game and change the game.”Screamer” was another word McManaman used. It was also striking that the word Zidane used was “passion” — it is not one most would apply to him, although they would apply it differently to him. If there is a characteristic that most would apply to the coach, it is calm. Zidane doesn’t feed pointless controversies, doesn’t contribute to crises — given that he faces the media around 130 times a season, it is astonishing how rarely he puts a foot wrong — and isn’t a dominant figure, there have been no conflicts with his squad. As a player, he was quiet; as a coach he is too.And maybe that too is not what people think a coach is there for: to be talked about, to influence and (and maybe this is the point) to be seen to influence, some need to impose. Zidane doesn’t. He is calm… importantly, he also believes he should be calm. After the Bayern game, he admitted that he was suffering on the sideline but that he hid that from his players; what he transmitted mattered. They looked to him and took their lead from him, which says something in itself.”He is a leader,” said McManaman to El Pais, “but when people talk about leaders, they don’t normally think about that kind of leader. What kind of leader do you want? Do we want a shouter? Do we want an aggressive type? Do we want a communicator? Do we want someone like Del Bosque, who makes sure everyone is happy? There are lots of types of leaders and they can all lead if they have their players’ respect.”Zidane has that; he doesn’t need to invent it. As Sergio Ramos puts it: “Zidane was able to manage a difficult dressing room with sensitivity.”Again, you return to thoughts about perceptions and ideal types. Sensitivity, latitude, freedom: they’re not qualities with which great managers are often credited or associated. Good man-management is regularly presented as a backhanded compliment, offered up in the absence of anything else. But it does matter. And not everyone is able.Del Bosque won two European Cups and the World and European Championships with Spain. There are some parallels with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley too — Paisley especially. Few really talk about Paisley as a manager who marked the game and few include him in those lists of great managers — a personality, a creator, a master tactician — but above all, coaches are there to win and the man who shuffled about in his carpet slippers won. A lot. There is a reason those two examples are significant.Ancelotti and Paisley are the only men ever to have won three European Cups as coach. Tomorrow night, Zidane may have something else in common with them.

Champions League: Salah and Liverpool’s heavy metal football face Madrid’s BBC starring Ronaldo

8:29 AM ET  Gabriele Marcotti

One group has been together five years, largely assembled through world record fees. They live in a perpetual goldfish bowl of endorsements, global tours and branding, much of it dutifully chronicled on social media. They are the established act, the aging rockers on their umpteenth victory tour and no matter if, for this last performance, one or maybe even two of them might make way for a backing artist. They remain the “BBC” — Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo — and they’re the blunt attacking force that could turn Real Madrid into European champions for the fourth time in five years. It’s something nobody has achieved since, well, Madrid themselves more than half a century ago.The other is a rising boy band who few would have even conceived of when the “BBC” super-group was assembled five years ago. Sadio Mane was in Austria and had yet to see a minute of European football. Roberto Firmino was playing in midfield for Hoffenheim. And Mohamed Salah, the last piece of the puzzle, had finished his first season in Europe, at Basel, mostly coming off the bench. There’s no catchy acronym but you’ll find plenty of the “heavy metal football” their coach, Jurgen Klopp, craves.These two attacking forces are set for a showdown in the Champions League final when Real Madrid take on Liverpool, the Establishment vs. the Upstarts.With these men, it’s not just about where they are; it’s about where they come from. Real Madrid’s trio are all blue-bloods who were tipped for greatness before they turned 20. Bale moved to Tottenham Hotspur at 18 for $10 million back when that was still a lot of money. Benzema had been capped by France and was the crown jewel at Olympique Lyonnais. Ronaldo was the apple of Sir Alex Ferguson’s eye in Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams.As for Liverpool’s trio, when they were still teenagers? Mane was at Metz in the French second division, where he scored a single goal in 19 games. Firmino was at Figueirense, helping them earn promotion to the Brazil top flight. Salah? He had made his first appearances for Egypt’s El Mokawloon but hadn’t been playing much at all since the Port Said tragedy in 2012 brought the league to a halt.Yet even pedigree must succumb to the passage of time. In terms of the “BBC,” this has been the toughest season yet. Bale, beset by injuries, missed chunks of the past two seasons and was dropped for the Champions League final last year. Benzema, once considered untouchable as the workhorse who made those around them look good — and sometimes to the chagrin of purists who judged him solely by his goals total — is by no means an automatic choice. He hasn’t played 90 minutes of a Champions League game in more than two seasons.Bale and Benzema’s roles as Ronaldo’s complements have diminished, too, as Ronaldo himself has changed with age. He’s not the fleet-footed wide man he once was, picking up the ball deep and mazily dribbling his way into the heart of the opposition defence. He is, essentially, a centre-forward who gravitates to the left. There is now a minimalist efficiency to his game; no ounce of energy wasted, everything geared towards scoring. This has allowed him to maintain his goal production even into his mid-30s, giving Real Madrid a forward reference point and in that sense, making Benzema somewhat less indispensable.They’ve all had to adapt. Benzema has to adjust his game to the areas Ronaldo now occupies with greater frequency while Bale can’t simply be the right-flank photo-negative yin to Ronaldo’s yang. With Zinedine Zidane having a wealth of forward options beyond the trio, from the playmaking Isco to the explosive Marco Asensio, Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo can no longer be the three divas with a backing orchestra of eight guys. They have to tailor their game to the symphony.Liverpool’s front three are far more choreographed in terms of movement. Salah may have scored the most goals but he is not the main terminus: He’s a cog in a harmonious trio where no part seems to operate independently of the other two. Firmino is the nominal centre-forward whose movements left or right cue Salah and Mane, and vice-versa.These aren’t three individuals, either, as the “BBC” can sometimes appear. This is a collective of three men with slightly different skill sets (albeit with a common theme of flat-out, gut-busting work), whereby Firmino’s altruism and vision, Mane’s quickness and trickery and Salah’s finishing and speed combine for devastating effect.The “BBC” have already made history. Now they hope they can conjure up one last masterclass performance, even though for two of them (Benzema and Bale) it’s not even guaranteed they will be in Zidane’s starting XI on Saturday or beyond this season. The Champions League final will determine whether their chamber music, perhaps with the help of a few stand-ins, can withstand the “heavy metal” of the upstarts in red who play louder and faster than they do.

Zinedine Zidane coy, respectful of Liverpool ahead of Champions League final

4:51 PM ETRobbie Dunne

Toni Kroos used four adjectives to describe Liverpool on Tuesday during Real Madrid’s media day ahead of the Champions League final. “They’re tough, competitive, aggressive and very strong,” he said while also suggesting that Real Madrid have better technique. It might be true regarding the overall quality of both squads, but Zinedine Zidane has to ensure his side don’t go out thinking they are facing a bunch of uncontrolled madmen on Saturday night in Kiev. Los Blancos will need to be hungry, savvy and balanced in their approach if they are to win their third Champions League trophy in a row.

It’s not the job of former managers and players to be diplomatic with their predictions in the days leading up to the final. Vicente del Bosque and Jose Antonio Camacho, who spent time playing and coaching on the sideline at the Santiago Bernabeu, have already had their say and predict easy wins for the Spanish side — both believe Real Madrid will win by three goals, 4-1 and 3-0. Diplomacy is left to managers and players so nothing they say can be used against them in the build-up to the game and so they won’t be ridiculed if they lose afterwards.It is, however, telling of what the general feeling is around the game, and it is obvious that Liverpool are seen as underdogs. Kroos delivered a particularly condescending comment: “It’s a great achievement for Liverpool to reach a Champions League final,” he said during the media day in Madrid as his side prepare to play their fourth UCL final in five years and third in a row. “It’s very difficult to play in one final,” he said. “Two is very hard, and three is just craziness,” he concluded with more than a hint of humblebragging.You can also tell, based on these news conferences, what kind of message the managers are trying to send. And for Zidane, the message is no surprise. He’s giving nothing away and said a couple of times during the question session that he wouldn’t say anything about his lineup for Saturday. He knows that his options and the variety in team selection during the year can give Real Madrid an advantage, and he plans to use it.Isco, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all started against Villarreal in a team that looked conspicuously like a trial run XI sent out for one last dress rehearsal. But during the chat that took place on Tuesday afternoon, Zidane assured everyone that “the BBC are the best as they have shown many times.” Zidane is sending out mixed messages to perfection because a team with Isco in it is an entirely different proposition than one without him.There is a notion that Liverpool are a crazy blend of players running around with no game plan, no tactics and are built entirely on energy. “They will be 11 plugged-in animals,” Kroos said about Klopp’s side. Zidane was keen to labour the point that Liverpool are more than just a team that press their opponents to within an inch of their lives in the hope of getting lucky.”All the talk is about the three up front or that they are weaker at the back. … No, they deserve to be in the final just like us, they are a close group,” Zidane answered when asked what he feared about his opponentThe Real Madrid manager seems to appreciate the task ahead of him. He knows he’s not the best tactician in the world and said as much during the same news conference. But he knows how to meld a dressing room towards a goal. In that way, he is like Klopp, who has often been accused of relying on emotion rather than systematically figuring out the best way to beat an opponent.But this will be a game of chess. Sergio Ramos said a couple of weeks ago that Real Madrid don’t need Marcelo for defending, though his absence in the left full-back position has caused problems before for his side. He’s not going to change now, though, and the Spanish international might be the man tasked with sliding over to stop the runs of Mohamed Salah, the most revered footballer in Europe at present.His absence in the middle might be the key as Casemiro will then have to slot in at the back. With the movement of Roberto Firmino, who much like Karim Benzema is a man who cannot be put into a singular category as a striker, Casemiro providing cover could prove decisive. He moves and drops out to the left, right and centre and causes headaches for opposition. This movement and everything that happens as a result could define what happens during the game.Nobody is more aware of the importance of a striker like this then Zidane, who has constantly played Benzema to baffle opponents. He needs to make sure he has his team ready for the tactical battle in store on Saturday. And he will, just don’t expect him to give too much away regarding preparations beforehand.

Real Madrid facing Liverpool’s ’11 animals’ in Champions League final – Toni Kroos

4:40 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Toni Kroos has said Real Madrid will face “11 animals” in Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool.Kroos said the constant pressing of Jurgen Klopp’s team — something he experienced against Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund during his time at Bayern Munich — would pose big challenges.”It is always tough, always difficult playing against Klopp’s teams,” Kroos said at Madrid’s media open day on Tuesday.”With Bayern Munich we had a lot of problems against Dortmund, always. That is what I expect on Saturday also.”They’ll be 11 animals, all really up for it. We’ll be better on the ball, but they’re going to put us under pressure for 90 minutes and will need to be at 100 percent or even more.”We’re expecting an aggressive Liverpool, who have a really quick forward line, but we can stop them and can win.”Madrid are looking to lift the trophy for a third consecutive year, something no side has been able to do since the Bayern Munich team of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller in the mid-1970s.Kroos, going for the fourth Champions League win of his career, said surpassing the achievement of such giants of the game “would be madness.””That I get the chance to surpass that generation with the match in Kiev sounds a bit scary, I admit,” he said.”Because of my age, I didn’t see that many games of the big players from that era. But the names alone have an unbelievable ring to them. When I pulled level with them last year, I could already hear them. But to better them would be madness.”Madrid also won the Champions League in 2014, the season before Kroos arrived, and winger Gareth Bale is among the players aiming for a fourth triumph in five seasons.”I came here to win the Champions League, play in the finals,” Bale told Real Madrid TV. “Obviously winning three, and having a chance to win a fourth, exceeds expectations.”It’s great to be in this situation, and I’m looking forward to making it four. Winning titles is the reason I came to this club.”Wales international Bale was a peripheral figure in the quarterfinals and semifinals amid speculation he could leave Madrid, but has made his case for a final place by scoring five goals in four La Liga outings.”I feel like I’ve been in good form for a while,” he said. “I’ve scored a few goals, so I’m hitting form at the right time.”

Dejan Lovren: Liverpool different in all but name since last Real Madrid clash

6:03 AM ETGlenn PriceLiverpool Correspondent

Dejan Lovren believes Liverpool have come a long way since the last time they faced Real Madrid, insisting “the only thing that is similar to that night is the name.”Lovren was part of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team that were beaten by Real Madrid 3-0 in the group stages of the Champions League back in 2014. However, the centre-back has stressed that Liverpool are now incomparable from that night at Anfield as they prepare to meet the European champions in the Kiev final on Saturday.”The only thing that is similar to that night is the name, Liverpool,” the 28-year-old told reporters. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.”We showed that against Man City. Man City showed all throughout this season that they are one of the best teams in the world but they came up against Liverpool.”I wouldn’t say they play a similar style to Real Madrid but we are a totally different team and nobody played a team like us.”Real Madrid didn’t play against us [in 2014] like we play today. Maybe they are used to this team and they look at images from this game, but we are totally different now.”Lovren says appearing in the Champions League final on Saturday will prove he is on course to achieve his long-held desire to become one of the best defenders in the world.He has played a pivotal role, alongside side Virgil van Dijk in the heart of the defence, in helping Liverpool reach their first European Cup final in 11 years.The Croatia international has recalled writing himself a note at the age of 12 setting out his aims for a career in football.He said: “From day one when I started to play football I wrote it down — at 12 years of age I wrote it down: ‘One day I will be one of the best defenders in the world’.”People were laughing at me but… to reach the final… I think I showed [my quality] many times.”[I wrote it] underneath my table, out of sight, in my apartment back in Croatia where I grew up, the table where I would sit and do my homework.”There are some people still living there and the table was part of the room so I hope it is still there. I need to go and buy the table back!”Lovren has had to battle intense criticism and adversity in his four seasons as a Liverpool player since joining from Southampton for £20 million. But he insists he always shrugs his critics aside and uses them as a source of motivation.”When you say I am not good enough, I will just show you I am good enough, simple as that,” he added.”I struggled a lot in my life from day one, and you know there is belief within me and it will never go from me and it really was always there from when I was young.”I could write you a book. I will write it myself, don’t worry, this thick [placing hands wide apart].”There are many things, I don’t know where to start. People were mocking about me in school, mocking about as a teenager that I could not play like a defender, that I don’t have a left foot, that I am not quick enough.”You know all these small things, they always push me to be better: you say I don’t have a left foot? I will hit it better today with my left than my right.”To be honest, this is me, I always work on these situations. It helps me to be honest. And criticism, even if I don’t like it, I like to hear it — I know what to improve at the end.”Maybe of course you have one or two situations where you don’t play well but I don’t know which defender doesn’t make mistakes, and then maybe sometimes people make it bigger than it is.”When I have the confidence of the manager I don’t need anything more. I know how hard I worked and as a team how hard we worked, to achieve this so [getting to a final] is still an achievement for us, when you look back it is massive.”

How Bob Bradley helped Mohamed Salah on his ascent to global stardom

May 23, 20186:43PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Bob Bradley will be more than an admirer as he watches Egypt play in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next month. After all, the current LAFC head coach led the African country in the last World Cup cycle.Bradley, who talks freely about the crucible his Pharaohs team endured during his stint in charge, from a revolution in the country that overthrew the government to a massacre at a soccer match that shut down club soccer in the nation for nearly a year, did not make the 2014 World Cup with Egypt, as they lost in the final two-game playoff. But his time in charge helped bring through a generation of players who did reach the biggest global soccer tournament, including superstar Mohamed Salah.Salah, who has broken out in a major way this season with Liverpool, leading the English club to the Champions League final and earning the Premier League Golden Boot, made his senior debut for Egypt just prior to Bradley’s appointment in 2011, but the American helped bring the teenager along and get him ready for European soccer.“When the league stopped, we had to start to put together camps and friendly matches because World Cup qualifying was that June,” Bradley told reporters at LAFC training in recent weeks.“We started having opportunities to bring young guys into the camps and immediately you knew that Salah was special.”Salah moved to Swiss club FC Basel in 2012, beginning a swift rise through the ranks of top-level soccer, as he played at Chelsea, Fiorentina, Roma and then Liverpool, becoming more and more dominant at each stop from his forward position.“I was excited that we could help in some way when the moment came for him to go to FC Basel,” Bradley explained. “And then when he did well there, other doors in Europe opened for him.”When asked what he saw in Salah, now mooted to be the player to potentially break up the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly over the annual World Player of the Year award, Bradley said, “He was hungry, smart, he wanted to get better.”And now, Salah will help lead Egypt back out to the soccer world’s biggest stage in Russia. The Pharoahs will play in Group A alongside the tournament hosts, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, their first match coming on June 15.Bradley, who still talks to Salah regularly, is happy to see his one-time player succeed on the biggest stage.“Salah’s a great guy and I’m so happy for him because he was so determined to take his career and move with it,” he said.Futbol MLS’s John Rojas contributed reporting to this article.

 

 

 

U.S.-led 2026 World Cup bid nears vote vs. Morocco that’s too close to call

May 18, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

With the vote to secure the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup taking place on June 13 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow, the United Bid comprised of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. is leaving nothing to chance.The various bid directors and executives have been crisscrossing the globe in the hope of convincing the various member associations that the United Bid is best. For Carlos Cordeiro, the United Bid Committee Board of Directors co-chair, the approach reminds him of his successful run for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation back in February.”You’ve got to be in front of every voter,” he told ESPN FC via telephone. “There’s no substitute for in-person, one-on-one meetings, so that’s the strategy. I believe that will produce the result we’re looking for.”Based on the technical merits, the bid — with its tournament-ready stadiums and projections of $11 billion in profits — would seem to be ahead of Morocco, which will need to invest $16 billion in its infrastructure. But geopolitics have a way of shoehorning their way into a vote such as this one. As a result, the race has become complicated and looks to be too close to call.There is also the possibility that enough countries will abstain from voting to prevent either bid from reaching the 104-vote threshold needed to win the hosting rights. At that point, the whole bidding process would be reopened with none of the countries currently bidding allowed to compete.That hasn’t stopped the United Bid from projecting a confident veneer as the race heads into the final weeks.”We’re confident because we believe in what we’re delivering, and as we travel across the globe, we’re telling our story, which we feel is very compelling for 2026,” United Bid director and Canada Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli said.With Morocco likely to draw heavy support from its home continent of Africa, the United Bid has been focusing its efforts primarily on securing its home base in the Americas, while then attempting to extend its reach to Asia and Europe. Although the 10 CONMEBOL countries, as well as the six eligible voters in Central America, have publicly given their support to the Bid, making sure the Caribbean is secure has been a bigger challenge.The governments of St. Lucia, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda have all declared support for Morocco. The United Bid has been quick to point out that governments aren’t voting — the football associations are. That fact was echoed by Antigua & Barbuda Football Association president Everton Gonsalves.”I know the president of the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association is not beholden by what the government thinks,” Gonsalves said via telephone.When asked if he would vote for the United Bid, Gonsalves stopped short of a formal declaration.”Suffice to say, I’m CONCACAF, so what else can I say?” he said. “I’m part of the confederation of CONCACAF, so you can read into that what you so choose.”The declarations by Caribbean governments should at minimum give the United Bid pause, though they also run the risk of violating FIFA’s provision on governmental interference. But the Bid is focused instead on the recent declarations of support from Jamaica and Grenada. The revenues that the United Bid could potentially generate figure to trickle down to smaller football associations such as those that make up much of CONCACAF, so the job of the United Bid is to convince CONCACAF members that the bid is not only technically superior but also financially in their best interest. Whether that will carry the day over government interests remains to be seen.”I feel very confident that by the end of the day, we will have virtually all of the CONCACAF nations and South America,” Cordeiro said.

Beyond the Americas, Asia is a critical piece if the United Bid is to find a path to victory. To that end, the Bid has been very Asia-centric for the past three months, having met with each of the five subgroups within the Asia Football Confederation. Cordeiro feels that having spent part of his life in Asia — he was born in the Indian city of Bombay, now known as Mumbai — gives him a way of connecting with the AFC’s leaders.The month of May has seen the United Bid’s focus shift to Europe. Bid representatives were in the French city of Lyon earlier this week meeting with European powerbrokers who were already in town for a gathering of the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Committee. Cordeiro and his cohorts soon moved on to Kiev, where the UEFA Executive Committee is meeting ahead of next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final.This is not to say that the United Bid is completely giving up on Africa. The vote among CAF countries during the most recent election for FIFA president was fragmented, and the Bid hopes to exploit similar divisions in this vote.The Donald Trump factor continues to loom large over the vote. The policies of the Trump administration have, at minimum, provided momentum to Morocco’s bidPresident Trump’s vague tweet that suggested retaliation against countries that didn’t back the United Bid verges on the kind of governmental interference that FIFA forbids.That has left the United Bid trying to shift focus to the statements of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as how the three countries are working together. The Bid also pledged to FIFA that it would grant visas to visitors without regard to religion or national origin.”Our governments are working incredibly well together in putting this bid together,” Montopoli said. “We’ve been working with the White House and our federal government to ensure that we have the right guarantees in place.”There has been some talk that FIFA will kick Morocco out of the race on the grounds of failing the technical inspection, but the Bid isn’t counting on that. Nor is it worrying about abstentions potentially dooming both bids.”I think the other confederations accept that this was the turn for either CONCACAF or Africa,” Cordeiro said. “I think we’re all competitors in the most open and fairest sense, and I think it’s only fair that they pick one of us or Morocco.”

Pulisic leads U.S. but McKennie, Miazga also part of promising core

11:43 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

The future backbone of the U.S. men’s national team is taking shape.U.S. interim manager Dave Sarachan once again named a youthful side ahead of an international friendly, in this case a match against Bolivia on May 28. But one can already detect some common threads in terms of the players getting called in.It’s true that Christian Pulisic is back in the mix for the first time since that brutal night in Trinidad on which the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. But the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was already a mainstay by the time World Cup qualifying ended — perhaps too much of one given how so much of the U.S. attack went through him.Now as the U.S. rebuilds, some consistent names are beginning to emerge. You have the center-back tandem of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers that has been playing together since their time on the U.S. U-20 team. There’s Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie as well as New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, the latter of whom isn’t on the roster for the Bolivia match but is expected to be added for games against Ireland and France.Not only are these players gaining valuable minutes for the national team, but they’re each doing the same at the club level, too. Miazga is coming off his second successful season on loan at Vitesse, one that saw him help the club qualify for the Europa League. Carter-Vickers amassed over 3,000 minutes during loan stints with Sheffield United and Ipswich Town. McKennie made 22 appearances for a Schalke side that will be playing in the Champions League next season. Adams is already a mainstay for the Red Bulls.Establishing a foundation at the club level might sound like an obvious requirement for progression at the international level, but one only has to look at the career trajectory of Julian Green to see that this hasn’t always been the case for U.S. players.It wasn’t until 2017 that Green amassed more league appearances than international matches, which is a bit stunning considering that this is a player who was taken to — and scored at — the 2014 World Cup. But even Green is beginning to accumulate that needed first-team experience. He made 24 appearances for 2. Bundesliga side Greuther Furth this season, and it was his goal on the final match day of the campaign that secured the club’s second-division status for another season. Green’s club future is uncertain, but at least there is a body of work now for teams to evaluate, and his ability to come through in a big moment will get him noticed.That said, Green’s path amounts to a cautionary tale as it relates to the expectations of rising U.S. players, and one that U.S. Soccer ought to heed when it comes to Josh Sargent.The U.S. youth international signed his first professional contract with Werder Bremen back in February. Given the acclimatization that has to take place when moving to another country and adjusting to the demands of the professional game, Bremen has quite rightly limited Sargent to time with its U-19 team. Now Sargent has been called into this camp, and it isn’t his first with the senior team, having also been called in last November for the match against Portugal.”I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” said Sarachan. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level; now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality.”The way [Sargent] stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”There is nothing wrong with bringing Sargent in, of course, or even putting him on the field against Bolivia. The same is true for players like Benfica’s Keaton Parks, Manchester United defender Matt Olosunde and Club Tijuana’s Alejandro Guido, though it seems more likely that the latter trio have been brought in simply to get a taste of how things work with the national team. But one thing holds true: Now is the time to take some risks and get a look at some younger players, even though the club level is where real progress is made. That base needs to be there if these players are to become consistent contributors for the U.S. moving forward.So for all of the excitement surrounding younger players, it is those performers who are excelling for their clubs who represent the future of the U.S. team and offer the biggest current source of hope.

Christian Pulisic headlines young U.S. squad to face Bolivia on May 28

11:10 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

Christian Pulisic’s return to the U.S. men’s national team headlines the 22-man roster named by interim manager Dave Sarachan that will face Bolivia on May 28.The match, to be held at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, is the first of three that the U.S. will play over the next few weeks. The Americans will also face Ireland in Dublin on June 2 followed by the finale against France in Lyon on June 9.As has been his habit during his time in charge, Sarachan has emphasized calling in younger players. The average age is 22 years, 286 days, which is even younger than the group that was called in for a friendly against Paraguay back in March. All told, 15 of the players are under 22, with nine players who are age-eligible for participation in the 2020 Summer Olympics.”As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” said Sarachan. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well.”Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Plenty of attention will be focused on Pulisic, who will likely feature for the U.S. for the first time since its disastrous 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Trinidad and Tobago last October, a result that saw the Americans fail to qualify for the tournament for the first time since the 1986 edition.”It’s no secret that Christian has a very bright future for many years to come with the U.S. men’s national team,” said Sarachan. “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important not just for him personally, but for this group going forward.”It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix. It’s been a number of months and I think when you can add the quality he provides to any team, that’s a big bonus for the program.”Pulisic, who hails from nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania, will be joined by a passel of up-and-coming players who are expected to form the backbone of the squad going forward, including Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie and Chelsea defender Matt Miazga. The group also includes first-time call-ups for Keaton Parks of Benfica, Manchester United defender Matthew Olosunde and Club Tijuana midfielder Alejandro Guido.  The roster isn’t entirely bereft of experienced performers, though. Club America midfielder Joe Corona, Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj and Santos Laguna defender Jorge Villafana were also included. Lichaj and Villafana are the only players on the roster who were born before 1990, while Corona and Pulisic have the most caps on the roster, with 20 each.Julian Green, who will return to Vfb Stuttgart following a season-long loan at Greuther Furth, returns to the U.S. team for the first time since November 2016.Sarachan is also expected to make numerous changes to the roster ahead of the games in Europe. The alterations are expected to include the addition of European-based players as well as several MLS-based players.”When we put our roster together, we also took into account travel considerations for some of our players that have just finished long seasons in Europe,” said Sarachan. “While not everyone in Philadelphia will travel to Ireland and France, the players that are joining us this week are still getting an important opportunity as we move our program forward.”

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Christian Pulisic Returns as USMNT Roster Focuses on Youth for Upcoming Friendlies

By BRIAN STRAUS May 20, 2018  SI

Christian Pulisic returns to the U.S. national team after eight months away, and he’ll be joined by good friend and Revierderby rival Weston McKennie, teenage attackers Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, and long-lost World Cup 2014 veteran Julian Green on a youthful squad that’ll face Bolivia on May 28 outside Philadelphia.That friendly will be the first of three the USA will play before watching the World Cup from the sidelines. Coach Dave Sarachan, who’s now been running the program on an interim basis since the Americans were eliminated last October, said he will make “numerous changes” to his team before heading to Europe for matches against Ireland (June 2) and World Cup-contender France (June 9).None of the friendlies falls during a FIFA international window, so Sarachan’s access to MLS players will be somewhat limited (most European club campaigns have ended, and the Mexican season ends Sunday). There are only two MLS players on the Bolivia roster. Domestic veterans in frame to help the USA in Dublin and Lyon will skip the first portion of camp in order to reduce the number of league games lost. In addition, there may be players in Europe who were spared transatlantic travel immediately following their seasons.Meantime, a very young team will begin training in Philadelphia on Monday and then take the field May 28 at Talen Energy Stadium. The average age of this USA roster is below 23. That’s appropriate considering the importance U.S. Soccer should place on the 2020 Olympics (a U-23 competition), which would provide meaningful tournament experience to the prospects expected to lead a return to the world stage. There are nine Olympic-eligible players on the 22-man team announced Sunday, including Pulisic.“As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” Sarachan said of the roster, which includes seven uncapped players. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November, and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well. Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Regarding Pulisic’s return, Sarachan said, “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important—not just for him personally, but for this group going forward. It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix.”

Here’s a closer look at the new USA roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Hamid has been a regular during Sarachan’s three games in charge, seeing action in two and backing up Zack Steffen against Paraguay in March. Steffen will remain with the Columbus Crew this week, leaving Hamid as the most experienced goalkeeper in camp.Hamid, 27, made only three senior appearances for Midtjylland after joining the club from D.C. United in January. The most recent came April 26 in the Danish Cup semifinal, which Hamid and Midtjylland lost, 3-1, to Brøndby.

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)

Several of these players have just finished up loans and will hope to use their time with the USA as a springboard to minutes with their parent clubs next season. Among them are Carter-Vickers and Miazga, who could comprise a long-term pairing in the American central defense. Carter-Vickers, 20, had a good spring at Ipswich Town and just signed a new contract with Tottenham that’ll tie him to the Premier League club until the summer of 2021. Miazga, 22, was a crucial constant (and even an occasional captain) for a Vitesse Arnhem side that finished sixth in the Netherlands and qualified for the 2018-19 Europa League.Lichaj and Villafaña, who will try to win the Liga MX championship with Santos on Sunday, provide a more experienced presence on the flanks. Olosunde, 20, will make his senior camp debut not far from his hometown. The Trenton, NJ, and New York Red Bulls product spent time with United’s U-23 reserve squad this season.“He’s been on our radar as a young defender for a number of years, and obviously the club also saw something in him,” Sarachan said of Olosunde. “He’s a versatile defender that can play on either side. He possesses good size and strength, and now he’s a guy that has a number of minutes under his belt. He was available to be a part of this camp, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring him in.”

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Julian Green (VfB Stuttgart), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain) 

Sarachan has deployed his team in a 4-1-4-1 in each of his three games in charge, so it’s not surprising to see a midfield-heavy roster unveiled. This is where the depth is, and the primary storyline ahead of the Bolivia game will be whether we see Pulisic and McKennie paired for the first time.McKennie still has played only once for the senior national team, in the November friendly in Portugal. But it was a command performance, and it whet the appetite for a future in which his robust box-to-box presence complements Pulisic’s attacking flair. Corona, who along with Pulisic is the most experienced international in camp (20 caps), would make sense as the third member of a three-man central midfield, bringing a focus on ball movement and tempo.Weah, 18, returns after making his senior USA debut in March. He’ll be hoping to see more than five minutes of action this time as he comes off his first Ligue 1 start for PSG in Saturday’s season-ending draw at Caen. And Green returns to the fold for the first time since November 2016. The surprise World Cup scorer has had an uneven career since netting that goal against Belgium, going on loan from Bayern Munich to Hamburger SV, signing with VfB Stuttgart then going on loan again to Greuther Fürth. He made an impact there, however, starting regularly and scoring three goals—including one in last weekend’s season finale that kept Fürth in the 2. Bundesliga. Green turns 23 next month.

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Reading), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Sarachan has been using just one forward, and if he continues with that tactical trend he’ll have two untested ones to choose from against Bolivia. Novakovich, 21, spent the 2017-18 season on loan with Telstar in the Dutch second tier and scored an impressive 22 goals in 38 appearances. He made his senior U.S. debut with a second-half spell in the win over Paraguay in March.Sargent just turned 18 in February and was ineligible to play for Werder Bremen after signing with the German club (thanks to rules regarding foreign nationals transferring as minors). His potential is clear, however, and in 2017 he became only the second American male to play in U-17 and U-20 World Cups in the same year (he scored in both) and he finished up with an invite to Sarachan’s senior camp in November. “I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” Sarachan said. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level. Now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality. The way he stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”

Christian Pulisic becoming quiet leader for U.S. and Dortmund

May 22, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It didn’t take long for Christian Pulisic to find his feet at both the club and international level. Finding his voice is proving more of a process.There is no doubt that Pulisic is the face of the U.S. men’s national team. By the end of the World Cup qualifying cycle, he was the player around whom the nationsl team’s attack was based. In the nine international matches he played in 2017, Pulisic was either directly or indirectly involved in 13 of 17 goals scored.If that sounds like an immense burden to put on a 19-year-old, well, it is.”It’s a lot sometimes, they like to put this label on you,” Pulisic told ESPN FC on Monday. “I’m just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can for myself and for my teammates, and that’s all I can really focus on.”Once Pulisic completes his club commitments with Borussia Dortmund following Tuesday’s friendly against LAFC, he’ll rejoin the U.S. for next Monday’s match against Bolivia. It will mark his first involvement with the U.S. since the World Cup qualifying debacle concluded last October, and it will be an opportunity for him to grow into more of a leadership role.A big NBA fan, Pulisic said he looks to LeBron James for inspiration.”[James] is just the best, the way he carries himself on and off the court,” Pulisic said during an earlier roundtable with reporters. “What he’s done for so many years, it’s just inspiring, so it’s pretty crazy how he keeps it up all this time.”It’s a role that doesn’t come easily to Pulisic. By his own admission, he’s “not the most outgoing person in the world.” But leaders can emerge in a variety of ways. There are quiet ones as well as more boisterous, vocal types. It is the former category that Pulisic falls into, one who sets an example in training in terms of what needs to be done every day. But one gets the sense that on a U.S. team whose average age is 22, Pulisic is ready to impart some wisdom.”I’m going to be there for all the younger players that are going through similar things as me,” he said during the roundtable. “Of course, I’m young, but I do have a lot of caps. I’m going to try to be there for all the guys and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help. “Just informing them about how CONCACAF can be, about some of the games, about how it’s not just always about who plays the best football, it’s about who wants it the most and just how to fight and do whatever it takes. That’s definitely what I learned in qualifying.” depth of experience is a trait most leaders have, and Pulisic has already accumulated a few professional scars, as well as some notable successes. He became more of a regular presence in the Dortmund lineup this season, amassing more minutes and appearances than when compared to 2016-17. But it was a season with considerable ups and downs, as Dortmund suffered through an inconsistent campaign that saw manager Peter Bosz fired in midseason, though the club ultimately recovered to qualify for a spot in the Champions League. The failure of the U.S. team to reach the World Cup had its effect as well.”Yeah, [Pulisic] was down, really down,” Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin said regarding how World Cup qualifying impacted Pulisic. “He’s more hungry now and I’m sure he will lead the U.S. to many tournaments.”Sahin added that he has been impressed by what he has seen from Pulisic, especially given that this was his first year with the club in which is father, Mark, wasn’t present.”At such a young age to play around 100 games in professional football is not easy. I know this from my time,” Sahin told reporters following a training session at UCLA. “As a human being, it’s his first year in Europe far away from family, but he has adapted very well to the German lifestyle. He’s one of us. It’s good for his development. What I expect is he has a bright future and the U.S. men’s national team can be happy to have a player like that.”Sahin can relate to what Pulisic is going through on other levels as well. The Turkey international came up through Dortmund’s youth system, and won a Bundesliga title under now-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. That got the attention of Real Madrid and Sahin later moved there, though he never settled and had a loan spell with Liverpool before returning to Dortmund.”Every football player has his dreams and one of my dreams was to play for Real Madrid because not many players in the world will wear the shirt,” he said.Pulisic has been the subject of many a transfer rumour but is attempting to keep any speculation at bay.”I’m still just finishing my season strong with Dortmund,” he said. “I’ve been happy here all season. I’m still enjoying the game, which is the most important. I’m just looking forward to having a good break this summer.”Following Dortmund’s friendly against LAFC on Tuesday night, Pulisic will have one more obligation with the U.S. and then it will be time for a rest. But his motivation is constant and the Bolivia match, which takes place Chester, Penn. some 100 miles from his home town of Hershey, will mark a welcome start to a new cycle.”It’s going to hurt for a long time until, pretty much, we qualify for the next World Cup is what I’m thinking. It was tough,” Pulisic said during the roundtable. “It was really tough for me going through that. But everything happens for a reason. I hope we can kind of now regroup and start over with some new guys and see what happens.”Pulisic wants, in his own style, to lead the way.

Masters of Modern Soccer: Christian Pulisic and the Craft of the American Midfielder

By GRANT WAHL May 01, 2018

The 2018 World Cup starts on June 14, and one of the greatest shames of the tournament is that Christian Pulisic will not be competing in Russia. Already the best American men’s player at the age of 19, Pulisic—an attacking midfielder for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund—was the lone bright spot of the U.S.’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, which left the Americans out of the world’s most popular sporting event for the first time since 1986. Pulisic’s talent is incandescent. He can blow by world-class defenders on the dribble unlike any American before him. Had he competed in Russia this summer, Pulisic could have become a mainstream American sports superstar.

Yet the summer of 2018 could still be momentous for Pulisic. Multiple English Premier League teams—led by Liverpool, but also including Manchester United and Arsenal—have shown interest in buying the young American from Dortmund for a transfer fee that could be worth around $80 million to $100 million, shattering the previous record for an American player. Pulisic’s potential is limitless, not just on the field but also off it, where the top clubs in Europe would love to use the preeminent American player to build their brand in the expanding U.S. soccer market.

As SI’s Grant Wahl discovered writing his new book, Masters of Modern Soccer—an analysis of the craft of soccer, position by position, through seven accomplished and insightful figures from the European game—Pulisic is also wise beyond his years about how he views his role on the field. In this excerpt from the book, Pulisic explains in granular detail how he plays his position of attacking midfielder.

The following is excerpted from Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game. Copyright © 2018 by Grant Wahl. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

It’s an undeniable fact: The United States has never produced a global men’s soccer superstar. Have there been solid American players good enough to qualify for seven of the last eight World Cups? Sure. Mainstay goalkeepers who’ve enjoyed long careers in the English Premier League? No doubt. Even a rare top scorer for a midlevel European team? There’s always Clint Dempsey and his 22 goals for Fulham in 2011–12. But for all the growth of soccer in America over the last two decades—in the popularity of the men’s and women’s World Cups, in the rise of domestic leagues, in media coverage of the planet’s most pop­ular sport—we have yet to find a U.S. men’s version of The Cho­sen One. Which is to say, a true superstar, the best player on one of the top 10 clubs in the UEFA Champions League.The reasons for this failure are many, we’re told, and mostly related to culture. The majority of our best athletes go pro in other sports, from American football to basketball to baseball. Our most popular spectator sport, American football, is more about following orders than about the individual creativity we see in the best soccer players. Soccer is a pay-to-play, middle-to upper-middle-class pursuit in the United States, unlike in the rest of the world, where the working classes produce the best players with the drive to rise to the top of a Darwinian global pyramid. What’s more, when it comes to youth soccer develop­ment, most experts will tell you the U.S. doesn’t have nearly enough qualified coaches at the vital early ages—and that the coaches who are in place tend to value strength and athleticism over skills.But there’s another factor, too. The U.S. has produced teenage soccer players with the potential to be world class, but the all too common result has been prospects who thought they had “made it” by simply signing a healthy contract or joining a European club. Coddled by youth coaches and handlers, pumped up by the leagues, and showered with premature accolades by media and sponsors searching for the elusive American Soccer Savior (always that word, savior), these putative Chosen Ones decided they had climbed Mount Everest when all they had done was reach base camp. No example of the phenomenon is more sober­ing than that of Freddy Adu, who joined D.C. United at age 14 as the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer in 2004 and headlined a national television advertising campaign that year with Pelé. Though Adu showed flashes of talent for U.S. youth national teams, he never earned the trust of a coach at club level, where he played for 14 teams in 15 years, and was last seen riding the bench in the U.S. second division, a cautionary tale of blind­ing promise unfulfilled.All of which brings us to a low-slung, redbrick residential building in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Dortmund, a former steel-and-coal city in western Germany’s Ruhr Valley. The two-story structure, fronted by evergreens and a small lawn, is the home of an American teenage soccer star, but it’s conspicu­ous not for what it is, but rather for what it isn’t. The place looks entirely ordinary from the outside. The windows—two rectan­gular slits on each floor—are usually covered by metal shades that give the building the appearance of a military bunker. The dead-end street is, well, pretty dead. There are industrial ware­houses, a modest health club, the administrative office for a gro­cery store. All things considered, the tableau could just as well be a bland suburb of Pittsburgh.And that’s the whole point if you’re Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old Hershey, Pennsylvania, native who has emerged as one of the world’s most promising attacking midfielders for Borussia Dortmund and the best prospect in the history of U.S. men’s soccer. When Pulisic signed a new four-year contract in early 2017 and his father, Mark, moved back to the United States after two years in Germany, Christian could have decided he had arrived and splurged on his first adult apartment in the gor­geous new glass-and-steel buildings on Dortmund’s Lake Phoe­nix, a bustling hub of bars, restaurants and nightlife. Instead, he chose a street with no bars and no restaurants—and, truth be told, barely any neighbors at all—that’s a five-minute drive from Dortmund’s training facility.

MASTERS OF MODERN SOCCER

by Grant Wahl

How do some of the game’s smartest figures master the craft of soccer? By profiling players in every key position and management, Wahl reveals how elite players and coaches strategize on and off the field and execute in high pressure game situations.That’s not to say Pulisic’s apartment is shabby inside. In fact, it’s the dream dorm suite of any college freshman—which is ex­actly what Pulisic would be in the spring of 2018—if that fresh­man had ample amounts of discretionary income and a cleaning lady who came every week.“There’s a lot of space, but nobody had lived in this building for three years,” says Pulisic, welcom­ing me inside and giving me the grand tour two days before a game against Bayern Munich. Pulisic is renting, not buying, but he got permission from the owner to spruce up an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor with colorful tile work on the wall and a poolside hangout area. Upstairs, the main living room has enough space to toss 20-yard passes with an American football and features a pool table, a folded-up ping-pong table, and a big-screen TV for watching soccer, NFL, and NBA games. The walls are filled mostly with blown-up photographs of Dort­mund’s Signal Iduna Park, Germany’s largest stadium, where more than 81,000 adoring fans cheer on their team in a roiling sea of black and yellow. Once again: Think Pittsburgh. “You go out into the city and you just see black and yellow everywhere,” says Pulisic. “They’re wearing jerseys, jackets. I’ve never seen a town that’s so connected and so proud of their team and so passionate about the game. That’s what makes Dortmund stand out so much. The weather isn’t very good, but it’s just a great town to live in. It’s really known for the soccer.”Pulisic has thick eyebrows, a ready smile, and, now that he has graduated from adolescence into adulthood, a chiseled chin and cheekbones; if there’s ever a movie made about his life, he might be played by the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. In Germany, ev­eryone pronounces Pulisic’s last name POOL-uh-sitch, the way it would be in Croatia, the birthplace of his grandfather Mate. That lineage allowed Christian to acquire a Croatian passport and start playing for Dortmund at age 16, earlier than he would have been able to with his U.S. citizenship alone. When he’s in the United States, Pulisic asks people to pronounce his name the Americanized way: puh-LISS-ick.   Pulisic realizes he hasn’t made it to the pinnacle yet just be­cause he got to this point in his career. He has to do more. With the maturity of someone 10 years older, he’s studying the craft of an attacking midfielder. “Now that I’m at a higher level and playing in the Bundesliga, you think of it more as your job,” Pu­lisic says. “How can I become the best? How can I take a certain aspect of the game and improve that to make myself better over­all? Of course, we play because we always love the game. But it’s about figuring out what you need to take that next step. That’s what I think about now.”

In a case of perfect symmetry, Pulisic’s bedrock philosophy—a relentless pursuit of progress—also applies to how he plays his position on the field. Whether he’s starting out wide (as he often does at Dortmund) or centrally (as he does more regularly for the United States), Pulisic has a visceral distaste for touches or passes that go sideways or backward. “My coaches taught me a lot is about taking the first touch positive, and I think that’s what I’ve tried to base my game off of,” he explains. “A big part of it is being aggressive. It’s not just about getting the ball and figuring out every time how you can keep possession, because there are plenty of players who can do that. That’s just not how I view my performances. It’s about: What can I do to change the game and the attacking aspect of the game? That’s how I look at it every time. Every single play is just doing what you can to keep your defender off balance so he has no idea what’s coming next. It’s being positive and going towards the goal because that’s my position. I’m an attacking midfielder.”

The last four years of Pulisic’s life are a study in constant transformation. He moved first from his home in Pennsylvania to the U.S. Under-17 national team residency program in Bra­denton, Florida; then to Dortmund to live with his father; and then into his own adult apartment. He graduated from Dort­mund’s Under-17 team to its Under-19 team to its first team. He grew, physically and emotionally, from a child to a man. If you Google “2013 Nike Friendlies” and watch the highlights of Pulisic’s U.S. Under-17 team beating Brazil 4–1—the day he real­ized he could compete against anyone in the world—you’ll see a talented but still callow 15-year-old boy.Of all the things that have changed for Pulisic, however, at least one surprising aspect has not. “The funny thing is I’ve worn the same cleat size for the last, like, four years,” he says. “I feel like my foot has definitely grown, but I haven’t done anything about it.” Pulisic wears size 8.5 soccer cleats—the Nike Mercurial Vapor, his standbys since 2011—that are a full size smaller than his running shoes (size 9.5). Yet his cleats aren’t painful to wear, he says. He wants them that way. “You just feel like your foot is closer to the ball, like you have more control over it,” Pulisic explains. “If you have a big gap between your toe and the edge of your shoe, I feel like it’s not nearly as comfortable when you’re touching the ball.”The first touch is the foundation of an attacking midfielder’s relationship with the ball. You have to learn how to control the ball with your feet, as if they were hands, supple and cushioning, welcoming passes of varying weights without a second thought and setting up your next action. The task of a first touch be­comes harder when you’re under the pressure of an advancing defender. One easy way to tell the difference in the levels of pro­fessional players—and teams and leagues, for that matter—is in the quality of their first touches. If the ball clangs off players’ feet and legs with any regularity, you’re probably not watching a Champions League knockout game.The knock on American players is that their first touch isn’t, shall we say, cultured. During the 2016 Copa América Centena­rio, one snarky fan went so far as to post a YouTube compila­tion video—set to European trance music, like so many soccer highlight videos—of the U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes butchering first touches and losing possession of the ball. To his credit, Zardes has enough speed, determination, and finishing ability to at least partially make up for his control flaws, especially as an MLS player, but, at his age (26) as a professional, it’s impos­sible to perfect a first touch. Like so many other technical skills, it is best learned between the ages of 3 and 9, not 10 or 20 years later.Pulisic, for his part, began working on his first touch at an early age with his father, Mark, who was a professional soccer player and is now a coach. It starts when I’m 5 years old,” Christian says, “and my dad’s punting the ball in the air and I’m just bringing it down and working on my first touch with both feet.” Mark emphasizes that he wanted sports—including sports other than soccer—to be fun for Christian at that age, but that didn’t prevent the youngster from learning the fundamentals.First-touch work continues for Borussia Dortmund’s youth and senior teams in regular practice sessions and on the Foot­bonaut, a $3.5 million machine pioneered by the club that has its own building at the team’s training ground. (Mark Pulisic oversaw the Footbonaut during his two years as a Dortmund youth team coach.) The Footbonaut takes Teutonic efficiency to its fußball extremes. Built as an apartment-sized, cube-shaped cage, the machine fires balls from a range of 360 degrees at dif­ferent speeds and trajectories toward the player, who then has to control the ball with his first touch, raise his head to spot the destination (an electronically lit-up square on the perimeter), and pass the ball into the target. Coaches dial up the speed and reps and keep score of the participants’ success rate. Sometimes they add a defender to mark the player in the center circle.In a game situation, the first touch is never an end in itself. “As you get older, it’s about the movements,” Pulisic says. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it. A lot of times it’s not about stopping the ball under your foot and not having any options after that. It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.” Pulisic, in particular, has a talent for using his first touch as an attacking weapon to slice through defenses. As his teammate Nuri Sahin says, “He’s fearless. He has so much speed, but what I like the most is his first touch. When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”So much of modern soccer is about utilizing space and pres­sure. Pulisic has learned that he can’t take an attacking first touch all the time. If he’s in a central position deeper on the field, he says, he’ll sometimes be more conservative and hold the ball, not least because losing it in your own end can quickly lead to a goal by the other team. But if he’s higher up the field, his attack-first mentality is fully engaged, whether Dortmund has advanced the ball from its own half or has won the ball in the opposing end using its notorious defensive pressure. Dort­mund’s pressing requires every player, including forwards and attacking midfielders like Pulisic, to work together in unison. If one player slacks off, the pressure fizzles. The commitment is exhausting and requires peak fitness and concentration, but the rewards can be enormous.In transitions, the team that has just lost the ball is often unbalanced and exposed. It’s up to Pulisic and his teammates to take advantage of the opening as soon as possible. “When my team wins the ball or when I win the ball, your first look always goes forward,” Pulisic says. “That’s something our coach here in Dortmund [Thomas Tuchel at the time] stresses a lot. You don’t know: Someone could be peeling off and making a run forward, and you can slip a ball in. Anytime you can get to the goal as quick as you can, it catches the other team off guard, especially when they’ve just lost the ball.” On the other hand, when Dort­mund loses the ball, Pulisic has to make a decision in defen­sive transition. If he’s close to the ball, he says, he’ll put pressure on the ball carrier. If he’s farther away, he’ll retreat to defend a space. That’s modern soccer: Even as an attacking midfielder, Pulisic will always have defensive responsibilities. His attention to defense has helped earn him minutes on the field.

If you listen to Pulisic describe what he’s thinking about dur­ing a game as he plays the position of attacking midfielder, the word he uses most often is next. When Pulisic wants to pass the ball to a teammate, he takes into account several factors, chief among them what the player will do upon receiving the ball. “A lot of things go into it,” Pulisic says. “It’s the weight of the pass. It’s which foot you’re passing it to and which side of his body so that he can take it into a positive area. So it’s a lot of thinking about what he has to do with the ball next. And then it’s all about the direction and speed of the pass. There are so many types of passes that are about weight, and that’s what some of the best No. 6s [deep-lying midfield­ers] in the world are great at: They can just ping [the ball] across the field and hit it on a dime on the guy’s left foot. That’s a skill I’m definitely trying to develop, but I’m not there yet.”One aspect of Pulisic’s game in which he has nearly reached full maturity is beating defenders one-on-one with the ball. Wit­nessing him perform the soccer equivalent of “breaking ankles” on a basketball court and whoosh past seasoned European pros with a combination of speed, guile, and raw explosive power is a rush of pure adrenaline for anyone who’s watching in the sta­dium or on TV. You’re left with a slack-jawed sense of wonder: Did an American teenager just do that? In Pulisic’s confidence on the field and even in his appearance—maybe it’s that high-and-tight haircut—he’s a postmillennial version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick taking out the MiGs in Top Gun. You half-expect Pulisic to wear a bomber jacket, drive a motorcycle, and play beach volleyball bare-chested in jeans in his spare time.When Pulisic has the ball and advances on a defender from a wide position, his head is up and he’s observing his foe, process­ing what he sees millisecond by millisecond. “A lot of times you see which way he’s forcing you and which way his body’s turned,” Pulisic says. “If you can get him to swivel his hips and wrong-foot him, that’s the first step in taking someone on. You want to move the ball side to side and see what he’s going to do with it. Once he starts moving and switching sides, that’s when you have him. Use your pace and change direction and go.” Should Pu­lisic stay out wide or cut inside? Sometimes he knows what he’ll do from the moment he receives the ball. On other occasions, his decision depends on the defender. “If he’s giving you enough space to the inside and he’s cutting off that endline because he doesn’t want you to play a ball in, then you take it inside and explode by him,” Pulisic explains. “When I’m playing, I’m not even really thinking about it. It kind of feels natural when you start going at him. It almost seems like he’s telling you to go one way.”Yet Pulisic doesn’t want to be too predictable in one-on-one situations. Like a baseball pitcher, he’ll keep a defender guess­ing by mixing up his speeds. First, Pulisic might cut inside and turn on the jets. But when his opponent tries to catch up, Pulisic will stop in his tracks as his hapless foil overpursues and Pulisic moves in a different direction, the bamboozle complete. Unlike a baseball pitcher, Pulisic can also disguise his intent by being dangerous using both feet. He’s naturally right-footed, and he says he would shoot a free kick or a penalty with his right foot. If he has a lot of space and a simple shot that he needs to hit with power, he’ll probably go with his right peg. But he won’t change the direction of his movement to favor his right foot, he says. That’s why he has spent so much time improving his left foot since he started working on it with his father as a five-year-old. “Every day in training, even if it’s just a simple passing drill, I try to do as many with my left as I do with my right,” Pulisic says. If you ask Pulisic which skills he had before he went to Dortmund at age 15 and which ones he has done more to acquire since joining the club, he pauses to flash back in time in his head for a moment. “I think I had a good dribbling ability al­ways, starting even with youth national teams,” he says. “In tight spaces, I could kind of maneuver my way out of them and drib­ble, and I was always creative. A big part of my game this season has been trying to become more clinical—in front of goal, crossing, passing. I know I still have a lot of work to do, and that’s what people criticize the most. But one of the toughest parts of soccer is bringing a play to the end and finding the right pass, taking the right shot, or whatever it is.”We hear the word clinical so often in soccer discussions that it has become something of a cliché. But for Pulisic the term comes down to efficiency in the most important part of the field, the op­posing penalty box. The hardest thing to do in soccer is to score a goal, to have the judgment to know what to do in the box to produce results as consistently as possible. What’s the point of beating a defender one-on-one to burst into the box if you make the wrong decisions on passing or shooting once you get there?Learning to be clinical, Pulisic says, “is so many different things. It just comes down to your focus in the end, and how per­fect you want to make that pass or shot and just make it easier on your teammates and for yourself when you have to finish in the right times.” In his first full season in the Bundesliga, Pu­lisic studied the task of crossing the ball in the same way a high school senior (which is what he would have been in the United States at the time) might study calculus. Some of it was fairly basic: Once you beat a player, pull your head up to scan the land­scape for crossing targets.

But there’s a more advanced level to crossing, too, he says. “Something I’m learning now,” Pulisic explains, “is when you look up and you don’t have a lot of options there. You can whip in a ball at the proper speed, whether it’s a chipped ball to the back post or it’s just a driven one across the goal, right in front of the goalkeeper. Those are just very tough to defend. You figure out whether you want it on the ground or if you want it a little higher. If it’s higher, like waist-height, it’s much harder to defend.”

To explain, Pulisic breaks down a play from a Champions League game against Legia Warsaw. Racing down the left side on a five-on-four break, Pulisic receives a pass in the box from Emre Mor. His head up, Pulisic knows he’s going to hit a first-time cross with his left foot—this is no occasion for futzing around with multiple touches and losing the advantage—but he doesn’t see an obvious target. Three Dortmund teammates are in the box. He could dink a short cut-back pass to Raphaël Guerreiro. Or he could send a cross into the prime space between the goal­keeper and Aubameyang (in the middle) or Gonzalo Castro (rac­ing in from the right). Ultimately, Pulisic decides to aim for the space and not a particular player. His cross shadows the line of the six-yard box waist-high. Aubameyang is defended well and can’t reach the ball, but Castro beats his man to the cross for an easy finish. “This is all about just putting it in front of the goalie in a dangerous area,” Pulisic says. “I didn’t specifically see Castro on this play. But you know you’ve got runners in the box.”When it comes to clinical shooting, Pulisic explains, one of the best tips he ever received is something simple: Put the ball on target. If your shot has no chance to go in the goal, you can’t score. That said, you also have to be precise in your accuracy as a shooter, in much the same way that a baseball pitcher has to paint the corners of home plate for most of his strikes. The size of the goal—eight feet high by eight yards wide—has been the same since it was codified by the English Football Association in 1882. How much taller are goalkeepers today than they were in the 19th century? Well, one recent study revealed the average height of male army conscripts in the Netherlands—the home of 6-foot-5 goalkeeping great Edwin van der Sar—had grown by 8.3 inches from 1858 to 1997. The height increase of human beings over the last century was what led Major League Soccer to have serious talks about making the goals larger before the league started in 1996.

In the end, MLS kept its goals the same size, due to entreaties from FIFA, but the fact remains that 21st-century goalkeepers make it extremely hard to find open space in the goal for shoot­ers. “It’s just finding the corners and sides of the goal, taking what the goalie’s giving you,” says Pulisic, noting that placement is often more important than power on a shot. “Honestly, I don’t even remember a goal of mine yet in professional soccer where it’s just been a rip, a power shot, which is kind of interesting to think about. But you look at Messi’s two goals yesterday, and I don’t know how his little body gets so much power on his shots. It’s pretty incredible.”On the previous day, Lionel Messi was at his imperious best in Barcelona’s 3–2 win at Real Madrid, dominating the world’s biggest rivalry game and scoring two goals, his second one com­ing as the match-winner in the 92nd minute to silence the Esta­dio Bernabéu. Pulisic watched every second. He has had a special connection to the city of Barcelona ever since his first trip there at age 7 with his family and three separate training stints at FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, starting at the age of 10. While watching El Clásico—or any other game, for that matter—Pulisic doesn’t digest the scene the same way most viewers might.“You kind of put yourself in their shoes and you think, like, OK, if I’m in that situation, what could I do? You see what he does and then you’re thinking like, Was it a good play? What could I have done to really open that play up more or have done a little better? It’s just watching them and learning. Learning from some of the greats. Messi showed his magic yesterday, and he’s at another level than any player in the world. But I love watching a lot of the Barça players—actually that entire midfield, including Iniesta and Busquets—and what they do and how simple they play. And I love watching some of the other players around Europe, like [Paris Saint-Germain’s] Neymar and [Chelsea’s Eden] Hazard, because I do want to kind of model myself after their games.”It’s all coming so fast these days. When a gifted teenager makes The Leap, rising from complementary player to star, im­provement can happen in a matter of weeks and months, not years. When Christian Pulisic played in the Copa América Cen­tenario in June 2016, he didn’t start any of the U.S.’s six games. By the time he joined the U.S. camp five months later in Co­lumbus, he was the best player on the team. Getting better feeds on itself. If you realize hard work can take you to a new level, chances are you’ll keep the habit and not feel satisfied until you reach that level.Pulisic’s production in the Bundesliga has already been re­markable. Yet if you ask Pulisic to be honest about the aspects of his game that need work, you had better be prepared to listen for a while.“My crossing and finishing ability,” he says. “Being con­sistent and clinical in those situations, and specifically where to put the ball on passes and shots, and how hard to hit it, and the right direction. Growing as a player, becoming stronger, working on my dribbling and decision making in the right times. When to go by a player, or to make a simple pass, or to just pick your head up and find a ball in behind, like I did for Clint and I do for Aubameyang all the time.”Pulisic has the chance to make it (eventually) because he knows he hasn’t made it yet.

MLS Power Rankings: New York Red Bulls replace Atlanta United in top spot

May 21, 2018Jason Davis

  1. New York Red Bulls (+1)
    The Red Bulls caught a break or two, but they more than earned a win on the road in front of Atlanta’s big crowd. Bradley Wright-Phillips again lived up to the moment. A scary injury to Kemar Lawrencetook some of the fun out of the win.
  2. Atlanta United (-1)
    Atlanta has now lost two consecutive games at home by multiple goals. That seemed unthinkable before the season started. United won’t see the likes of the Red Bull press much this season, but that won’t stop other teams from trying to copy New York’s plan.

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  1. New York City FC (+1)
    City’s quality shined through against an overmatched Rapids side. The side’s focus was encouraging given Patrick Vieira’s future being a point of speculation.
  2. Sporting Kansas City (-1) 
    Sporting was certainly targeting a win in Minnesota, but a point away from home will do. Getting Khiry Shelton on the score sheet for the first time is a good tradeoff for a team in need of goal scorers.
  3. Columbus Crew SC (no change)
    Zack Steffen’s league-leading sixth shoutout helped Columbus to a narrow 1-0 win over New England on the road. The Crew has that trait successful teams need: capable of winning shootouts and low-scoring games.play
  4. Portland Timbers (+1)
    Samuel Armenteros’ first goal was worth the wait and the Timbers’ slow start is now a distant memory. Up to third in the West for Giovanni Savarese & Co., with all the respect that comes with it.
  5. LAFC (-1)
    Bob Bradley’s team acquitted itself well in Portland but fell victim to a rebound and a blast. Carlos Vela remains one of the league’s brightest stars thanks to another wonder goal.
  6. Orlando City (-2)
    The Lions were certainly missing Dom Dwyer in Toronto against the defending champions. With the striker, perhaps they might have taken advantage of TFC’s defensive frailty. Without him, the margin was too small to overcome.
  7. Toronto FC (+3)
    The Reds rode the efforts of local products to get a much-needed win in the absence of both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. It’s a start, but Toronto will need much more where that came from.
  8. FC Dallas (-1)
    Up two goals in the final 10 minutes against Vancouver, FCD dropped two points with a clunk in a 2-2 draw. Reggie Cannon continued his rise with his first MLS goal.

Time To Hit The Reset Button – Indy Eleven V Bethlehem Steel FC REVIEW

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend) A disappointing week – with an early exit from the U.S. Open Cup, the only open, true test of soccer champions offered in this country – morphed into a disappointing weekend for Indy Eleven with a 1-2 home loss on Saturday to Bethlehem Steel. In post-game comments, Indy head coach Martin Rennie was ready to push the reset button. His tired team was ready for a refreshment of minds, bodies, and spirits. He was the first to admit that the squad’s teamwork, passing and movement were off, that too many opportunities were given away because of rushed play. And, he said, he offered no excuses for himself or his team regardless of their recent grind of several games on the road with several talented players benched to injury. “The players are all here to play – to perform,” Rennie said, noting the hard truth that virtually every soccer player on the planet has faced before – that the evening’s match was not on. With three Steel players collapsed on the field in the 9th minute and one Indy player down, the theme of the night did appear to be ‘collapse’. The Pitch Bitch noted several plays where Indy men were in the right places, attempting the right things and the hand of fate just would not allow them the sweet sound of ball caressing net. Nathan Lewis worked his butt off attempting crosses and shots from the flank … and though his shots weren’t on, he earned a free kick and corners, which could have been better utilized.
Kevin Venegas dished a gorgeous free kick for Justin Braun. The subsequent header just wasn’t on, it was inches off, into the post. A deadly goal of such caliber would have given the game an entirely different flavor. Instead, it was missed by an inch. Soccer is a cruel mistress. Total bummer. But champions don’t cry. They move on and keep salivating for deadly strikes, they keep working, keep hunting. “Goal scoring has so much to do with confidence,” Rennie said. “If you hammer the players, you’re not really building the confidence, which they need to have.” The game plan moving forward, the coach said, is to have the players clear their heads, recharge their bodies and get back to work. Because, after all, with one fewer game played than arch rivals and current USL table leader F.C. Cincinnati, Indy sits just six points behind. Good leaders keep perspective on such matters. Parting shots from the Pitch Bitch game notes (please beware these will include a sexual reference.): Rushed play. What can we do about it? Look for time, space and your people. Think not just about speed, but change of pace. Remember, good soccer is like good sex: Sometimes we need to do it quick and dirty, capturing great effect in minimal time. This would be akin to a goal scored on a counter attack with minimal passing. But so often, we need to enjoy the anticipation, we need more foreplay, we need to enjoy the movement, the control we achieve when we’re working together and running our opponents around the field in patterns predestined to expose their vulnerable underbellies. After watching one too many squandered passes, the actual bitch notes say, “Don’t force it. Find some rhythm. Settle into it like a good, long fuck.” The game notes end on a sour note of two Bethlehem shots forcing Fôn Williams into action. But just prior, in what for Pitch Bitch on-the-spot, short-hand game notes is trés élégant cursive longhand, “even when all else is shit, Brad’s ninja stuff is fun.”

So, here’s to you Brad Ring and your more than 100 games you’ve played for Indy Eleven – and all your games as an Indiana Hoosier! – plus your MLS years and every other game that made you the man you are today! Keep up the good, solid, tough, dependable play. It’s a treat to watch you work! Thank you for your service, sir!
Thoughts by James Cormack…

My disappointment in our performance on Saturday is not easy to put into words. We had a short time to prepare coming off a Wednesday game but so did our opponents. As the game wore on our visitors could see we were lacking and they took advantage of it, they grabbed the game by the throat.e have players missing and that does not help, but the problems we can see in the way the team plays did not just develop on Saturday night. Our lack of bite in the final third has been the cause of repeating discourse for many weeks now and not wholly down to a lack of confidence in players. The issues are all over the park and it comes down to lack of quality delivery, creation, and poor decision making. All the stats in the world do not point to an improvement if those shots taken or attempted are pitiful or a result of ill decision.Last Wednesday against Mississippi Brilla we played route one football. Jack McInerney spent a lot of the game having to wrestle for 50/50 balls in the air. On Saturday it was the same again but this time Justin Braun was the wrestler and again we played way too much long ball. When we did get the ball down and play it into the width the ball disappeared into a vacuum most of the time and never came back.Lewis did not have a good game, we saw the same at Pittsburgh. There was just no end product, whether he was playing on the right as in the first half or for a spell on the left in the second when he received the ball in the corners or took it there himself it either was poorly delivered in and lost or was sent skywards with woeful attempts at shooting. If we want to have someone on the field just to look fast and dangerous we could sign Tony Kanaan, he’s in town. I am sure Nathan can do much better, but a player has to be given the incentive to improve, I really hope he does. Be more dangerous.
We rarely used the middle of the park behind the forward line to create opportunities, most times when we did it was long balls or short balls popped in the air for 50/50 challenges, I took over 1400 photos at the game and probably about 20% or more of them are Justin Braun having to wrestle in the air or on the ground for a ball. In contrast, if you look at Bethlehem and the way they played, Santiago Moar totally bossed the middle of the field in front of our back line, he was serviced well and he serviced his team around him well, he tore us apart. We need that in our play, we need a Santi Moar.The boys do need some rest, but all other teams are playing pretty much the same amount of games. The style of football we are playing, and I use the word style loosely is not good and its getting worse. In matches where we have had a healthy roster to choose from you can see the same things. Our strong defensive play has been remarked upon but even on Saturday against Bethlehem, we looked shaky. Will a couple of days rest change the way we are set up and the way we play football? Time to reset everything and look to see how we can approach matches differently in order to win regularly in this league. The problem isn’t really the strikers in my opinion.If this is the way we want to set up and play for the season, we may make the playoffs, but we probably will get found out quickly in the first postseason match. I am still optimistic, we have quality in our roster from top to bottom, it needs to shine.

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