5/30/18  Discount tix for Indy 11 Wed 7 pm game at Lucas Oil, Real Madrid wins 3rd Straight Champions League Title, US Men Win 3-0, Cincy joins MLS, World Cup Starts June 14

Our Indy 11 will host the Charleston Battery on Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium at 7 pm.  Charleston sits in 3rd place overall and will be a tough match-up for the now 9th place Indy 11.  Of course we have discount tickets here — Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.  Also huge congrats to Cincy FC as they will be joining MLS next season.  I will be sad to see us lose a new rivalry in USL – but look forward to making my way for MLS games in Cincy next year.

USA

The US Men got the youth movement started in earnest on Sunday evening as a team with an average age of just over 22 years old lined up against Bolivia.  The 3-0 win matters less than how the youngsters played.  Werder Bremen Forward Josh Sergent, and PSG winger Tim Weah became the 3rd and 4th youngest players ever to score for the full national team after an excellent header goal and stunning defensive play from LAFC 25 year old Walker Zimmerman in the middle. Playing as a #6 defending the back 4 was easy for Schalke starter Weston McKinnie who seriously showed he might just be better than Pulisic as he’ll join him in Champions League competition next season.  Newcomer Bolton’s Antonee Robinson at just 17 may have just claimed the left back spot or at least a go at it after his stalwart performance, while Toronto GK Alex Bono was as cool as the other side of the pillow on his few saves.  What may have stood out most was Christian Pulisic was NOT obviously the best player on the field – as he looked tired after a failed run at the world cup and a long Bundisliga season with Dortmund.  The bottom line is after winning at the U17 and U20 World Cup levels under US Coach Tab Ramos – this version of the US National Team is looking a whole lot better than the lost generation.  It’s been since the Landon Donovan generation that the US has had such success at the U20 levels – and this NEW HOPE Generation of players with 75% of our former US National Team U20’s plying their trade in Europe might just bring with them new success never before seen in the US.  Of course as this US Group of players this time averaging just under 24 years old  heads to Europe this weekend to face Ireland on Sat 3 pm on ESPN2 and France next Friday at 3 pm on Fox Sport 1 we’ll get a chance to see if the youngster’s can stand up against true competition.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wow let me start with congrats to Real Madrid – the Madradista’s become the first team to win 3 Champions League Titles in a row since the mid 1970s and their 4 Championships in 5 years is only matched by the great Real Madrid teams of the early 1950s.  Simply Amazing.  And what about Zidane – somehow he’s still questioned as a manager despite winning 3 straight UCL Finals.  Sure he has won La Liga only 1 ime – and the Spanish Cup just once – but seriously he has captained this squad to the THE BIGGEST TITLE in the World for 3 straight years – he should be able to write his ticket at Real Madrid forever.  Same goes for Renaldo – his 5th title makes him just 1 title short of having the most European Trophies of all time – its why no matter what anyone says – I don’t see Renaldo leaving Real Madrid before he gets that sixth title.  Now I realize Real Madrid has not dominated games and at times (see Juve game or Salah’s injury) they have been fortunate to win – but honestly 3 UCL Titles in a Row is not luck. Its miraculous in this time of World Football – what Zidane has done in keeping the egos in check, lining his team up, keeping them fresh – has been truly magisterial to quote the legendary announcer Rockin Ray Hudson!

Now as for the game with Liverpool – this game was over when Mo Salah went out injured in the 30th minute.  Was it a dirty play – sure Ramos has always been a rough player – but this was not a red card offense – should have been a yellow – but no rougher than the average play in the park on Sunday’s against a good defender.  I certainly feel sorry for Goalkeeper Karius – as a former Goalie – I can’t imagine how bad he feels.  Normally its not the GK’s fault – this time however – the game truly came down to the two “HOWLER’S” by Karius.

WORLD CUP STARTS JUNE 14 

Lots of World Cup warm-up games dotting the TV schedule (below) as teams prepare for the kickoff of the World Cup from Russia on Thursday, June 14th.  All the games will be live (some as early as 6 am) on Fox or Fox Sports 1 – with solid pre/post and late night coverage.  Even be on the look-out for a World Cup Pool from yours truly (next week) along with full out world cup previews.

CUP GAMES THIS WEEKEND 

Certainly want to wish the best of luck to all those teams playing in Cup games this Saturday at Grand Park – especially our 2 Boys and 2 Girls Carmel FC Teams.  Of course Carmel FC’ers our last GK Training of the season will be this Thurs 5:30-7:30 at Shelbourne with coaches Juergen Sumner and former Indy Indy GK Kristian Nicht and Tryouts for Carmel FC start June 5th Academy and June 11&12 U11-U-19.

CARMEL FC Teams in Presidents Cup at Grand Park with a Chance to Advance to Regionals in Cincy with a Win

U13 Gold Boys vs Michiana Echo  Sat 3:45 pm  Field 13

U17 Boys vs Millennium Soccer   Sat 6 pm Field 28

CARMEL FC Teams in Challenge Cup at Grand Park

U13 Blue Girls vs  Center Grove  Sat 3:45 pm Field 12

U14 Gold Girls vs Tigers SC 04G   Sat 2 pm Field 12

Indy 11 May 30th game

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Wed Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

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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)

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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

GAMES ON TV

Wed, May 30h 

2”45 pm ESPN3/Desp Austria vs Russia

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery  

Thur, May 31   

2 pm FS2                           Morocco vs Ukraine

Fri, June 1   

2 pm FS 2                         Tunisia vs Turkey

3 pm ESPN Desp          France vs Italy

Sat, June 2   

2:45 pm EPSN3             Belgium vs Portugal

3 pm ESPN2     Ireland vs USMNT

5 pm ESPN2                    Portland Timbers vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan)

8 pm ESPN+                    Dallas (Hedges) vs LAFC

8 pm Fox Sport1         Mexico vs Scotland

Sun, June 3   

10 am beIN sport        Croatia vs Brazil

3 pm ESPN3/Desp       Spain vs Switzerland

8:30 pm FS1                   Sporting KC vs Min United

Mon, June 4   

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Italy vs Netherlands

4 pm FS2                           Morocco vs Slovakia

Thur, June 7   

3 pm FS1   England vs Costa Rica

3:15 pm beIN Spt       Portugal vs Algeria

9 pm FS1   US Ladies vs China

Fri, June 8   

1:30 pm ESPN3/Des Germany vs Saudi Arabia

2:45 pm beIN Spt       Poland vs Chile

8 pm ESPN+                    Philly vs Toronto FC

Sat, June 9   

2:45 pm ESPN3/Dep Spain vs Tunisia

3 pm ESPN      France vs USA

5 pm ESPN             Columbus Crew vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

Tues, June 12

7 pm ESPN2     USA Women vs China

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

11 am Fox              Russia vs Saudi Arabia

Fri, June 15           World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox Sport1    Egypt (Salah) vs Uruguay

11 am Fox              Morocco vs Iran

1 pm Fox                Portugal (Renaldo) vs Spain

Sat, June 16          World Cup on Fox

6 am FS1                France vs Australia

9 am Fox                Argentina (Messi) vs Iceland

12 noon FS1          Peru vs Denmark

3 pm FS1                Croatia vs Nigeria

7 pm ESPN+    Toronto II vs Indy 11

Sun, June 17         World Cup on Fox

8 am Fox 59          Costa Rica vs Serbia

11 am Fox Sport1 Germany vs Mexico  

2 pm FS1                Brazil vs Switzerland

World Cup on Fox TV Schedule

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 1pm $85

indy11cdccamp

Indy 11 May 30th game

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code

Indy 11

Preview of Charleston Game Wed Night

Indy 11 Falls 4-1 to NY Red Bulls II

Indy 11 Wrecks Hard during 500 – Review of NY Red Bulls Loss – Bloody Shambles Blog – James Cormack

Red Bulls II Hand Eleven First Road Setback – Kevin Johnston Soctakes.com

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code

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

Its Official – Cincy FC Joins MLS in 2019

FC Cincy Joins MLS – ESPNFC

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.

 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINALS

Real Madrid’s Historic Champions League Title obscured by Online Outrage – Graham Hunter ESPNFC –

Real’s UCL Triumph Defined by Bales Heroics and Salah’s Injuy – SI

Zidane Shuts up Critics with 3rd straight Title – SI –

Real Madrid Shows No Signs of Slowing Down in UCL – ESPNFC

Renaldo beats Bale to UCL Goal of the Season – ESPNFC

Only 1 Player in history has more European Cup Titles than Renaldo SI

Liverpool need a dose of pragmatism and a new GK after UCL Woe ESPNFC

Liverpool Showing Progress under Klopp but needs a Trophy to Show It – Mark Odgen – ESPNFC

Liverpool must Learn from Loss – Glenn Price – ESPFNFC

Player Rankings Liverpool = steve Kelly ESPNFC

Liverpools Karius Hard to Console after UCL Final – says Mignolet – Glenn Price ESPNFC

How Liverpool’s Karius Nightmare demonstrates need for Villans and Hero’s in Sports – SI

Final World Power Rankings – EPSNFC

 USA

US Team Going to Europe Announced – US Soccer

US Win over Bolivia Has Caveats but Weah and Sargent Show Potential – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Has Lots of Room for Improvement says Coach – ESPFNC

Hope and Change Generation Inspire – USMNT – Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle MLS.com

Josh Sargent, Tim Weah become 3rd and 4th youngest USMNT Scorers – USA Today

LAFC’s Zimmerman Scores 1st for US

Antonee Robinson Excells in Debut at Left Back for US– Full player Ratings ESPNFC

US Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer MLS.com

HIGHLIGHTS: USMNT vs. Bolivia

• Notes, quotes and takeaways from U.S. 3, Bolivia 0
• Sources: Stewart finalizing deal to become USMNT’s first GM
• Julian Green: Enigma? Or ‘just a normal guy’?
• USMNT’s next generation is sprouting before our eyes

Max and Herc Podcast – Future of US Soccer ESPNFC 1 hr 

 GK –

Best Sames MLS in Week 13

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven vs. Charleston Battery – #INDvCHS  Wednesday 7 pm Lucas Oil Stadium –

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local/National TV: MyINDY-TV23 Streaming Video:  ESPN+ ($)

ENTERING WEEK 12

Indy Eleven seek three points at home against Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. The “Boys in Blue” look to bounce back after suffering their first loss on the road against New York Red Bulls II.“Indiana’s Team” currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 4W-4L-2D record after falling 1-4 against New York Red Bulls II. The loss to Red Bulls II in Week 11 is the first loss on the road for Indy Eleven under first-year head coach Martin Rennie. The “Boys in Blue” controlled much of the first half. The visiting Eleven went into half time with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Soony Saad strike that found the top right corner in the 21st minute. Despite the strong first half, the second half proved to be in favor of Red Bulls II. The New York based team found the back of the net four times as the game finished 1-4.Charleston Battery enter Week 12 placed third in the Eastern Conference with a 5W-2L-4D record after drawing with Nashville SC, 1-1, last Saturday. Charleston forward Ataulla Guerra leveled the game against Nashville in the 50th minute. Battery midfielder Jay Bolt played a square pass into the box that Guerra tucked into the bottom left corner. The Battery have won three and drawn two in their last five matches and conceded only two goals in the span. The South Carolina based team has also scored six times in the last five matches.The “Boys in Blue” look to bounce back after a string of tough outings and a slew of absences that have kept key pieces of Rennie’s squad sidelined. The motto continues to be next man up as “Indiana’s Team” attempts to snag three points against visiting Charleston Battery.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF JUAN GUERRA

Indy Eleven midfielder Juan Guerra continues an already-decorated career in 2018, joining “Indiana’s Team” for its inaugural USL season. Guerra has made five appearances for “Boys in Blue”, one of which came against New York Red Bulls II in Week 11. In his half hour on the pitch, Guerra moved the ball well, completing nearly 90 percent of his passes. With the squad rotating for various reasons, expect the experienced midfielder to continuing getting minutes.Guerra played collegiately for Florida International University and has since gained experience with Venezuelan clubs Monagas SC and Caracas FC, the most successful club in Venezuelan history. The midfielder has four caps with the Venezuelan national team, including two call-ups for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. He was an integral part of the New York Cosmos midfield in 2017, scoring five goals and adding one assist in 27 starts.

CHARLESTON BATTERY PLAYER TO WATCH: MF TAH ANUNGA

Running an effective 3-4-3 usually entails a coach relying on a strong holding midfielder to control the tempo in the middle of the pitch. For Charleston Battery gaffer Mike Anhaeuser, this man is Tah Anunga. The Cameroonian regulates the Battery midfield, disrupting opposition charges and leading counter attacks off turnovers.The 21-year old midfielder showed his defensive prowess against Nashville SC in Week 11. Anunga recorded six tackles and two interceptions bringing his season total to 45 and 22, respectively. The 21-year-old midfielder also moves the ball from the back third, through the middle, and into the front third. Nearly one third of the passes Anunga’s played this season have been in a forward direction.Expect Anunga’s name to appear on the team sheet again against Indy Eleven, as he’s started and played every minute of the Battery’s first 11 games.

MATCHUP TO MARK: GK OWAIN FON WILLIAMS VS. GK JOE KUZMINSKY

Indy Eleven and Charleston Battery both boast stingy defenses. The two teams are tied for second most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference with five. A big reason for their defensive presence has been the men between the posts.Owain Fon Williams has manned the sticks for the “Boys in Blue” this season. The Welshman has conceded 11 goals in 10 games. Of those ten games, Fon Williams has conceded more than one goal only three times. His large frame has led him to 24 saves on the season, six of which came against Red Bulls II last Sunday. His performances have earned him multiple USL Save of the Week nominations, and one Save of the Week award for his victory securing a massive penalty save on the road against North Carolina FC. Look for Fon Williams to continue being big between the sticks on Wednesday.Charleston Battery’s goalkeeper Joe Kuzminsky’s path to the starting goalkeeping position differs some from Fon Williams. Kuzminsky took over the starting role in Week Seven against Atlanta United 2. His first outing showed promise as the 24-year old shut out Atlanta in a 3-0 victory. His three saves in his first appearance this season has now grown to 14 in six appearances since the switch. He’s accounted for four of the five Battery clean sheets and has only conceded two goals. His performances have been even more impressive considering his backline consists of only three defenders.With two impressive goalkeepers manning each team’s 18-yard box, the match-up between Indy Eleven and Charleston Battery may be a low scoring affair. Look for each keeper to come up big and make saves for their sides.You won’t want to miss a second of the action at Lucas Oil Stadium. Fans can still grab tickets to the mid-week fixture, kicking off at 7:00 p.m., starting at just $15 at

Red Bulls II hands Eleven first road setback

May 29, 2018by Kevin Johnston  SocTakes.com

The Indy Eleven had escaped with a result in all four of their road matches entering Sunday afternoon’s duel with New York Red Bulls II in Harrison, N.J. The streak is over.Indy built an early lead, but squandered it in the second half thanks to a furious Red Bulls II rally that started well before a Nico Mattern red card. The end result was a 4-1 drubbing and a crucial three points for NYRB II in the USL Eastern Conference standings.Soony Saad put the visitors up 1-0 in the 21st minute when Nathan Lewis backheeled a long pass out of the air to a streaking Saad, who finished top shelf. NYRB II couldn’t equalize before the break, but showed promise by winning the possession battle and getting off a barrage of shots.The hosts continued applying pressure in the second half and the floodgates soon opened. Forwards Brian White and Carlos Rivas struck within three minutes of one another to quickly give Red Bulls II its first lead of the day at 2-1.A short bit later in the 73rd minute, Matern — already sitting on a yellow — went in late and recklessly to a challenge. After head referee Mark Allatin conferred with his colleagues, Matern was booked for a second time and sent on his way. Things only got uglier from there.

Up a man, NYRB II manager John Wolyniec implored his team to keep attacking rather than sit back and milk the lead. Amando Moreno added a third in the 83rd on a ball from Jared Stroud. And with about a minute left in stoppage time, Cristian Casseres Jr. found Tom Barlow for the fourth and final harpoon.Things began to unravel for the Eleven even before Matern’s red. They generally lacked efficiency in the opponent’s side of the pitch, which has been a reoccurring problem this season, with only a 58 percent pass completion rate on that half. The hosts also got physically mauled more than they’re used to, suffering 19 fouls while only committing eight. Eleven left back Ayoze in particular, standing a lean 5-8, seemed to struggle with the ramped-up physicality of the match.Indy endured 30 shots on the day — 10 on target — while allowing the hosts to string together 527 passes. NYRB simply looked the sharper side, as evidenced by its 81 percent to 70 percent passing accuracy edge.The win propelled Red Bulls II up the table into sixth with 17 points; the Eleven rest in ninth with 14 points. Next up for NYRB II is a Saturday afternoon home match against FC Cincinnati, while Indy will host the Charleston Battery on Wednesday evening.

U.S. win over Bolivia has caveats but Weah, Sargent show their potential

9:48 AM ET  Jeff Carlisle Soccer  ESPNFC 

CHESTER, Pa. — “Potential” may be the dirtiest word in American soccer. When attached to the latest young phenom, it’s a word that tempts, teases and oftentimes disappoints as players fall short of lofty — and in some cases, unattainable — expectations. It can also corrupt when it’s used as a justification for giving players opportunities that haven’t been earned.There was certainly plenty of potential on display in the U.S. national team’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Monday. The three goal scorers (Walker Zimmerman, Josh Sargent, and Tim Weah) all celebrated their first international tallies. Another five players made their U.S. debuts. The Americans dominated proceedings and the result, especially after Zimmerman’s 37th minute opener, was never really in doubt.But there were some reminders during the match that demanded the game be put in in its proper context. Bolivia was playing with an under-strength side due to a conflict with the country’s domestic league. And then there were those moments when some of the more youthful elements of the U.S. side showed their inexperience, whether it was a poor touch, a shanked cross or just nerves.”I thought for good segments of the game, the soccer was pretty good,” said U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan. “I thought in the first half we had a number of opportunities to bury some chances, but we looked young. We looked young in terms of patience and quality, but that’s what these games are all about.”Weah seemed to encapsulate that assessment. He had some passes that didn’t come close to finding their intended targets and then nearly had to leave the game due to a knee injury. But he got back on his feet, combined well with Sargent and in the second half, he scored with an authoritative first-time finish.”[Weah] was all over the shop,” said Sarachan. “He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level, [then] a guy that was looking to come out of a game where he wasn’t even sure if he was hurt, [and later] to flying and beating guys.”Weah, 18, admitted he was nervous, even more so than during his recent start for club side Paris Saint-Germain.”With PSG I had already played two games,” he said. “It was my first start but it was also the end of the season, you’re kind of just relaxing. I wasn’t that nervous. I was nervous on my [U.S.] debut and I was nervous here. Now I got the chance and I’m on the stage to start the game to show the [fans] what I can really do. That was just going through my mind at the moment even though it was just a friendly.”Not only was it Sargent’s first start with the U.S. but it was his first professional match at any level. Yes, he’s signed with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen but his birth year meant he couldn’t play any professional games with the club this season. For that reason, his inclusion in the side has, with some justification, led to questions about how a player with no professional experience is now playing for the national team.Sarachan thought it was worth taking a shot.”We’re very thin at the No. 9 position in American soccer in my opinion,” said Sarachan. “So here’s a kid that has progressed throughout all the age groups and [youth] World Cup settings, and I’m not projecting Josh to be a starter from here on in with the men’s team, but he possesses a certain mentality and frame. And why not look at him at a time when you can? We need goal scorers, we need to give them opportunities, and so for me I didn’t even think twice about it.”I think this was the perfect time to give him a little introduction.”But Sarachan acknowledged that the situation will need to be managed carefully. At some point, Sargent will need to be logging steady minutes with Bremen otherwise the meritocracy that needs to be established within the team goes out the window. And it’s true not just in Sargent’s case, but with all of the young players on the current roster.”I think it’s my responsibility [and that of] our staff and our program to make sure that they understand that there are still steps. If you want to get to “A,” you still start at “D” and “C,” then to “B.” We’re very quick [as a country] to jump them into the “A” category. I think that’s a process that we have to manage with a lot of expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside.”They’re going to feel good about tonight,” he continued. “But when I go through the tape and have meetings with guys, and we talk, there’s a lot of room to get better. So it’s just that constant communication that has to take place so they don’t put themselves ahead of things, but it’s not easy to close out a lot of noise for these young kids, that’s for sure.”The irony, of course, was that the player who had done the most to live up to considerable hype, Pulisic, was noticeably less than his best on the evening even if he did have his moments of danger.”Christian looked like he’s ready to take a break,” noted Sarachan. Yet his teammates were there to pick up the slack, a welcome development given the team’s over-dependency on Pulisic during World Cup qualifying. The first-timers especially could enjoy the cool of the evening.”If I call my mom now, she’s probably going to be screaming,” said Weah.Sargent meanwhile was left to reflect on a whirlwind last season, one that was capped off with Monday’s goal.”I haven’t had a lot of time to just calm down and think about it. It’s a really proud feeling I’d say; going from one level to the next, being able to prove myself, so it’s a really immense feeling of pride.”Up next is a pair of friendlies against Ireland and France. Those matches will certainly pose more difficulties than Monday’s encounter and provide another valuable experience for a young side.”We want to be optimistic, and there is hope, but I think we need to let this play out before we start anointing or saying ‘This next generation…'” said Sarachan. “But each step of the way, all these friendlies like tonight and the past and what we’ve got coming up, we’ll begin to add up where I think you’re going to realize that there’s going to be some good talent coming through.”

Armchair Analyst: Hope and change generation inspire USMNT win

May 28, 20189:24PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

Here is the immediate context: The US men’s national team will not be going to the World Cup this summer. A series of failures – some stretching back decades, some stretching back seven years, others very immediate and contained – means that there will be no trip to Russia.Here is the longer-term context: The US U-20s, after three straight cycles of pretty abject soccer, made the Youth World Cup quarterfinals in both 2015 and 2017. It is the first time in program history that the US had made the QFs or better of back-to-back Youth World Cups, and the US are one of just two teams to have done so (Portugal are the other) in these last two cycles.

Here is the historical context: Success at the U-20 level almost always begets future success at the full national team level. It’s not a guarantee, of course – there are no guarantees in this game of ours. But if you start cranking out full generations of 18-to-20-year-olds who can ball with and against the best, you’re probably about to have a good decade.  Here is the day’s context: A bunch of US kids beat the hell out of a bad Bolivia team 3-0 in Chester on Monday night. LAFC‘s Walker Zimmerman, a grizzled veteran at age 25, opened the scoring with a towering header off a corner kick in the first half. Then a pair of 18-year-olds, Josh Sargent of Werder Bremen and Tim Weah of PSG, sunk their blades deep.It was fun. It was not just fun, but it was primarily and mostly fun. It felt like a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways, and I’m not the only one who sensed that:

Does a win over Bolivia mean all that much? Not really. What matters is that Sargent goes on and wins a significant role with Werder (I’m hearing good things from people I trust about that), that Weah continues to progress with PSG, that Christian Pulisic gets some rest and that Weston McKennie keeps being Weston McKennie.It’s important that Erik Palmer-Brown finds a place where he plays 90 every week, and that Keaton Parks does the same. It’s important that Antonee Robinson gets a coach who can help him defeat some of his more naive off-the-ball tendencies.  It’s important that we develop two or three more attackers. This coming generation is overflowing with center backs, center mids and even fullback. There are many more questions up front, and while this has been a banner year for young domestic midfielders and defenders in MLS, can you name a winger or forward or playmaker who’s pushing through? Neither can I.  All of that, in the long run, matters infinitely more than a single friendly at this stage in a non-World Cup cycle.But it was nice to have fun watching the US play. It’s been a long time.A few thoughts:

  • Parks is one of the most languid playersI’ve ever seen come out of the US. His ability to receive the ball in traffic and passing vision jump out even when he’s not doing much, and his confidence comes through the screen at you. I worry, however, about his lack of quickness. He was beaten badly a couple of times in close quarters, and that may limit his ceiling.
  • I’m convinced there’s almost no ceilingfor McKennie. He started 25 games at central midfield, center back and defensive midfield for the second-best team in the Bundesliga this year, and he will start more than that next year. I still see him as more of a No. 8than a No. 6, at least at this point, because he’s much more comfortable when he’s working to get around the ball than he is simply protecting the defense and dictating the game as a sort of regista
  • Zimmerman’s distribution impressed me.Bob Bradley’s been asking a lot of him for LAFC and he’s evolved in a short time. This is not a read he makes or a pass he hits last year:
  • Weah is so, so smart off the ball.He’s clever about finding space and understanding where running lanes are before they actually appear, and his movement is mostly unselfish.He did telegraph that shot above, but that’s something he can work on as he gets more reps.What he isn’t is a 1-v-1 wizard, and that’s fine. Being a complementary piece who gets into good spots and capitalizes on the on-the-ball creativity of others is a great way to score a lot of tap-ins.

 

  • Robinson impressed just about everybodywith his athleticism and crossing ability, and fair enough for that. That said, his first two crosses were naive and hopeless in that you shouldn’t cross the ball from the touchline against a packed-in defense. Doing so is a good way to get countered (every time I see a young player hit a cross like that I think to myself “that kid has not been coached”).So what impressed me most was that he learned from his first half, and didn’t settle in the second. When he got on the ball he drove toward the box, put the defense on the back foot, made them scramble toward their own net, and then put it on a tee for Weah.I loved the cross. What I loved more was the “learning and improving during the game” aspect of it. Give me a young player who can think.
  • Pulisic was lousy and deserves a rest.
  • Sargent was great. I didn’t love the factthat he got called up because I don’t like when any player gets called into the full national team before they’ve played a single pro minute. It’s not a big deal, per se – not at all, really – but to me it sends the wrong message. Players can get anointed rather than earning the spot.That said, Sargent made it easy to see why, on some level, he’s indeed been anointed. He’s the best pure forward prospect we’ve had since Jozy Altidore, and unlike Jozy at 18, he’s under no illusions that he should be playing elsewhere (Jozy thought he was a winger). His hold-up play was very good, his runs were smart, and the one great chance he got, he buried:

And really, that’s about it. I’m looking forward to the next two games of this series of friendlies, and then I’m looking forward to a month of watching the World Cup.And I’m also convinced that the next cycle will be much, much better than the last one. A win over Bolivia didn’t do that, but watching this team play with no fear and plenty of swagger sure didn’t hurt.

GOAL: Weah bags his first for USMNT

United States still has ‘a lot of room for improvement’ – Dave Sarachan

12:56 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

CHESTER, Pa. — United States caretaker manager Dave Sarachan pronounced himself pleased at the 3-0 victory over Bolivia that his young squad delivered on Monday, but he also cautioned that there is still room for improvement “for each and every player.”Three different U.S. players scored their first international goals. Walker Zimmerman opened the scoring with a 37th minute header from a corner. Josh Sargent nabbed an opportunistic tally in the 52nd minute, picking up an errant pass from Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe and firing home. Tim Weah closed the scoring seven minutes later with well-taken goal, finishing off Antonee Robinson’s cross with a first-time strike.”I thought for good segments of the game, the soccer was pretty good,” said Sarachan. “I thought in the first half we had a number of opportunities to bury some chances.”But we looked young. We looked young in terms of patience and quality, but that’s what these games are all about.”Sargent (18 years, 102 days) became the second-youngest U.S. player in the modern era to score in his international debut. He sits behind only Juan Agudelo who was 17 years, 359 days when he tallied in the USA’s 1-0 win at South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010. Weah’s 59th minute goal made him the fourth youngest U.S. goal-scorer of all-time. Christian Pulisic (17 years, 253 days; May 28, 2016 vs. Bolivia) remains the U.S. team’s youngest ever scorer.Defensively, the U.S. was rarely troubled on the night, with goalkeeper Alex Bono not required to make a save.”I thought defensively [we were] solid, didn’t get tested a whole lot, but maybe that’s a credit a little bit to the group in terms of stepping up pressure,” said Sarachan.”I thought there weren’t any performances where I come away scratching my head, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, no question about it.”Weah endured some ups and downs on the night. Some good interchanges with Sargent got him in good positions, only for his final pass to go awry. He also had a 10th minute strike well saved by Bolivia starting keeper Guillermo Vizcarra. At one point a knee injury looked set to force Weah out of the match, but he carried on. He was all over the shop,” said Sarachan about Weah. “He looked like a kid who has never played at a higher level to a guy that was looking to come out of a game where he wasn’t even sure if he was hurt, to flying and beating guys. He was the prototypical young, nervous guy.”Everyone assumes because [Weah is] on the books at a place like PSG that he’s going to be at such a certain level. I think he’s going to get there, but he’s not there. So I think what you saw tonight was a nervous kid and yet the goal he scores is a great goal.”He’s going to be a good player, but he’s got some growing to do, some maturing to do, as a player. So what you saw is where he’s at I think.”The match witnessed Pulisic operating a level far from his best, though he did threaten on occasion. It was perhaps expected given the heavy minutes Pulisic has logged this season for club side Borussia Dortmund.”Christian looked like he’s ready to take a break,” said Sarachan.All the more reason for the U.S. manager to be pleased at how the rest of the team picked up the attacking slack.”That’s the whole point of trying to bring some young forwards into the mix because scoring goals is so difficult,” said Sarachan. “Just relying on Christian to be your sole guy, it’s too much for him and it’s not fair. We want to share the wealth and I thought the guys did that tonight.”The challenge now for Sarachan is keeping the heads of his young charges on straight, especially with matches against Ireland and France looming.”I think it’s my responsibility, our staff, and our program to make sure that they understand that there are still steps,” he said. “If you want to get to ‘A’, you still start at ‘D’ and ‘C’ then to ‘B’. [As a country] we’re very quick to jump them into the ‘A’ category.”I think that’s a process that we have to manage with a lot of expectations, with a lot of noise on the outside. They’re going to feel good about tonight.”But when I go through the tape and have meetings with guys, and we talk, there’s a lot of room to get better. So it’s just that constant communication that has to take place so they don’t put themselves ahead of things, but it’s not easy to close out a lot of noise for these young kids that’s for sure.”

Antonee Robinson excels in U.S. debut as Americans breeze past Bolivia

9:44 PM ETJason Davis

A Memorial Day friendly against Bolivia ushered in a new era of the U.S. men’s national team as manager Dave Sarachan rolled out a young side at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. A group of fresh faces dominated the game on the way to a 3-0 victory, all three goal scorers hitting their first tallies for the senior national team.

Positives

Despite the youth of the squad, the Americans rarely looked unsettled across 90 minutes. Partnerships developed across the formation, with teenagers Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Weston McKinnie finding their feet quickly. The defensive performance has to be judged against the Bolivians’ lack of quality, but any clean sheet is worth highlighting. In the second half, the U.S. pressed its advantage and opened up a lead it could protect to the final whistle.

Negatives

There are few negatives worth pointing out. Christian Pulisic wasn’t on his game, but players around him picked up the slack on the attacking end of the field. There was a lack of sharpness at times, but it never caused the American problems.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — No major beefs with Sarachan this time around. The interim U.S. manager took the step to trust the young players in his squad and utilized all six of the available substitutes in a friendly. The result was positive and a number of players got experience. Job done.

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

GK Alex Bono, 7 — Required to do very little over 90 minutes as Bolivia managed zero shots on goal. Largely played long out of the back, with mixed success.

DF Eric Lichaj, 7 — Calm, composed and untroubled most of the night. Made smart decisions on the defensive end. Had a limited impact on the attacking end of the field, playing behind Weah for most of the night.

DF Walker Zimmerman, 7 — Opened the American scoring with a rising header from a set piece and backed it up with a solid defensive performance. Made several important interventions and read the game well.

DF Erik Palmer-Brown, 7 — Quiet evening at the back for the Manchester City player. Passed well but was rarely required to do much on the defensive end of the field.

DF Antonee Robinson, 8 — Played an excellent match minus a few questionable decisions that required difficult recovery runs. Contributed to the attack and hit the cross that led to the third goal.

MF Weston McKinnie, 8 — A menace all over the field for the Americans in the defensive midfield. Broke up Bolivian play with tackles and interceptions across the match.

MF Timothy Weah, 8 — Scored a goal in his first-ever start for the U.S., a reward for a strong night of work on the wing. Overcame a first-half injury scare and one-v-one miss. Combined well with Sargent.

MF Joe Corona, 6 — Provided the assist to Zimmerman to open up the scoring for the U.S. Put in a decent shift in midfield playing between the lines. Lacked a strong connection to midfield partners.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Played well below his usual standard and looked lethargic at times. Lacked sharpness in the attacking third. Took a ball to the face to end his night.

MF Rubio Rubin, 7 — Active up and down the wing all night. Found space wide and posed regular danger in the attacking end. Not sharp, but good enough to do the job.

FW Josh Sargent, 7 — Created the second U.S. goal by harrying Bolivia’s back line. Played strong as a target forward, dragging defenders out and holding the ball up for teammates.

Substitutes

MF Julian Green, 7 — Energetic and influential in his half-hour playing mostly in the center of the attacking group. Picked a few poor decisions to kill moves, but connected well with teammates on the whole.

MF Keaton Parks, 8 — Looked the part in the center of the field in relief of Corona. Showed the promised passing touch and made smart choices with the ball.

FW Andrija Novakovich, 6 — Made an impression in a limited appearance. Hit a couple of good passes and should have had a chance on goal if not for a missed offside call.

MF Lynden Gooch, NR — One dribble, a few defensive interventions and a missed chance late in the game for the Sunderland man.

MF Matthew Olosunde, NR — Put in the necessary effort to hold down the flank late in the game. Unable to impact the match up the field.

DF Jorge Villafana, NR — Made a cameo with the game decided.

USMNT Player Ratings: Zimmerman, Sargent, Weah stand out in Bolivia win

May 28, 201810:52PM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

A very young US national team enjoyed a 3-0 friendly cruise over an equally green Bolivia side on Memorial Day, with the margin of victory well-earned by a performance filled with promise.The home side patiently went about the business of running at the visitors’ left, right and center until Walker Zimmerman started the party with a restart header. They never looked back from there, with Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah punctuating strong first senior-side starts with goals of their own in the second half.

Alex Bono (6) – You may as well given the Toronto FC netminder a chilled fork and a tall glass of milk, because his debut shutout went easy as pie.

Eric Lichaj (6) – The first-time captain wasn’t greatly tested at right back, and wasn’t always clean with the ball. Lichaj did have some nice first-half touches to link rushes down his flank.

Walker Zimmerman (7.5) – The LAFC defender took full advantage of scandalous marking to power home a corner-kick header for the opener. At the back, Zimmerman stepped into passing lanes when needed and moved the ball along safely.

Erik Palmer-Brown (6.5) – Though far less busy than his partner, Palmer-Brown had his moments. The former Sporting KC Homegrown calmly ushered away a couple of counter crosses and managed a handful of positive passes out of the back.

Antonee Robinson (7.5) – Though he certainly could use polish, the left back put in a impressive debut shift. With his quick feet and strong one-v-one body positioning, Robinson made light work of swipes down in his corner on the way to 22 total defensive stops. At Bolivia’s door, the youngster knocked and knocked with crosses until he coolly picked out Weah for the capper.

Weston McKennie (7) – Though his passing was occasionally loose, McKennie helped the US control the game by constantly breaking up plays in the center of the park. His 21 total defensive stops resulted in numerous sudden counterattacks for the US.

Timothy Weah (7.5) – The Paris Saint-Germain talent started the game well, and kept hitting the gas until he bagged his first USMNT goal by knifing through defenders in the box for a gimme. Yeah, Weah could have provided a little more end product, but his ability to get loose down the line is exciting.

Christian Pulisic (5.5) – The Borussia Dortmund playmaker drove some moves, but he is clearly exhausted after a long club season. Pulisic’s touches and passes were often just a shade off, but it’s nothing that resting those heavy legs won’t cure.

Joe Corona (6.5) – It was a decent outing for Corona, who played like a veteran among the kids. He supported final-third possession well and offered some tempting restart serves, one of which was buried by Zimmerman. The yellow-card infraction was actually worth the price to halt a breakout, but we’ll still dock him for the play because he was covering his own mistake.

Rubio Rubin (7) – Playing on his off wing, Rubin kept his motor revving in the right direction for 73 minutes. His work around the area ran hot-and-cold, but the Tijuana man certainly had his mind set on pushing play forward.

Josh Sargent (7.5) – In the first half, the kid displayed the same exact all-around final third savvy that we’ve seen at youth World Cups. Then, shortly after the break, Sargent put the cherry on top of a yummy first cap with a big play. Not many strikers of any age can perform the thieving overhead touch that set up his goal, and the finish was no-nonsense. Fun days are ahead with this one aboard.

Coach Dave Sarachan (7.5) – This time, the interim boss got out of his own way to make the most of a friendly. The lineup put everyone in positions to succeed and every sub was used. More of this, please.

Subs:
Julian Green (6.5) – We’ve seen Green before as a winger, but this time he took the No. 10 role. He found good spots to receive the ball and often moved play in the right direction once he got it.

Keaton Parks (6) – Three words effectively summarize his half-hour debut: eager, but imprecise. Parks definitely showed he has the physical tools to do well at this level.

Andrija Novakovich (6) – The strike sub contributed a couple of good link touches, but wasn’t quite able to find the space he wanted to operate around the box.

Lynden Gooch (6) – The Sunderland attacker didn’t lose a ball in his 17 minutes and all five of his passes were positive. However, Gooch took too long to fire when presented with a late 10-yard chance and had his shot blocked away.

Matthew Olosunde (6) – We didn’t get to see the debutant right back put in any tense situations over his 16 minutes, but the youngster carried himself in a capable manner out there.

Jorge Villafaña (6.5) – Though he has the shortest shift of the night, Villafaña managed to squeeze two pressure turnovers and two key passes into a stoppage-time cameo.

How Dave Sarachan, amid paradoxical uncertainty, kick-started the USMNT’s rebuild

 Henry Bushnell,FC Yahoo 4 hours ago 

PHILADELPHIA — Dave Sarachan likes to call them dominoes. And no, he isn’t talking about those dotted rectangular blocks. He’s talking about decisions. About a rebuilding process. About the steps U.S. Soccer must take to move forward, away from its most traumatic night.And more than seven months on from that night – more than six months after the 63-year-old Sarachan took charge of his first U.S. national team game – an unsettling amount of those dominoes remain upright. U.S. Soccer’s members elected Carlos Cordeiro as their new president in February, but Cordeiro has been jetting around Europe and Asia on the 2026 World Cup bid campaign trail. A general manager role has been created, but remains unfilled. A technical director role is non-existent.“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Sarachan admitted during a sit-down interview with Yahoo Sports last week. “There’s a lot of … chaos isn’t the right word, but trying to find their way. There’s a lot of moving parts.”And so Sarachan, who has spent 22 of his 38 coaching years as an assistant, has effectively been on his own.“I haven’t had anybody from up above talking to me about my job,” he says of his time as interim boss. Tactical and personnel decisions are exclusively his. He has spoken with U-20 coach Tab Ramos when youth and senior national team camps have overlapped. “But in terms of having a sounding board, or anything with U.S. Soccer,” he says, “I’ve sort of been left to do what I feel is best.”And he’s been left in a strange position. He’s been left with the keys to a program that needs to move forward; but with a contract, twice extended by a few months, that expires at the end of June.When it does, he wants to stay on with the federation in some capacity. But he’s been given no assurances. Meanwhile, he’s been tasked with assembling the building blocks for a future he might not be a part of.And yet despite the paradoxical nature of what he calls a “difficult situation,” Sarachan, at the very least, has ensured that the past seven months, while perhaps directionless, haven’t been worthless.“I don’t dwell on the fact that after June 30, I may not be in this position,” Sarachan says. “I’m not naïve. I understand there’s a good chance that will happen. But my style and philosophy of coaching … that will never change. I don’t compromise that. Because I’m not looking long term, I’m looking at bringing a group together.”By all accounts, he’s done that. A 3-0 victory over Bolivia on Monday night may be the best evidence yet. By all accounts, he’s given the U.S. men’s national team exactly what it needed, exactly when it needed it most.

* * * * *

With the late-morning Philadelphia sun beaming and a ball zipping around a field in front of him, Sarachan is in his element. He barks out the occasional instruction, urging players to up the tempo of a possession drill. Once or twice, he calls the group together to demonstrate a technique. Sarachan, first and foremost, is a teacher. With a roster of kids, 15 of them 23 years old or younger, he’s comfortable. He’s in charge.  So hours later, sitting across from him in a quiet corner of a downtown Philadelphia hotel lobby, I can’t help but ask: Does Sarachan, given his precarious job status, feel like anything less than a full national team manager?“It’s a fair question,” he begins. “But the answer is no.”And his job title concurs. Back on Oct. 24, U.S. Soccer announced that “assistant coach Dave Sarachan” would “guide” the team in its first friendly post-Trinidad. When that friendly, against Portugal, rolled around, he had become “caretaker” or “acting head coach.” Now there are no modifiers. No “acting” or “caretaker” or “interim.”“Right now, I am the senior men’s national team coach,” Sarachan says. “It’s an important position, regardless of whether you’re permanent or semi-permanent. In this business of coaching, you’re never permanent. Everybody is an interim coach. So I don’t look at it like that at all. If I did, I think that would diminish my professional responsibility.”It is natural to wonder whether Sarachan’s cloudy future, coupled with his desire to remain with a U.S. national team, has compromised his ability to kick-start the rebuild. And many have wondered. In March, many questioned his motives. They posited that Sarachan’s desire to prove himself worthy of a more permanent job morphed into a desire to win, which overrode the long-term interests of the program.Sarachan, however, when presented with the criticism that he has not granted enough opportunities to young players, finds it absurd.“It’s laughable to think that way,” he says. “There’s so many people out there that are misinformed, and that just don’t know what goes into the job I have, and building a team.“National team call-ups and playing time is not just handed out. It’s not just given to guys because they’re young. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. It’s gotta be earned. These aren’t just token things because a guy plays for a big club in Europe, but he hasn’t really played, but he’s got a potential future. The idea of just giving guys minutes is just insane. And it’s not anything I would ever entertain.”If Sarachan were approaching friendlies with the sole purpose of winning, after all, Christian Pulisic would have been in Portugal and North Carolina. Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley would have been there as well. Sarachan mentions several times that those two are still very much in the national team picture.“Guys like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and I could name a few others, will absolutely still be in the mix,” he says. “They’ve been unfairly criticized. Leaving them out for these games is not a reflection of [whether] I feel they’re going to be a part of the next cycle.”Rather, it’s a reflection of his familiarity with them, and unfamiliarity with other players whom he has given opportunity. He’s doled out 21 first call-ups and 15 debuts. He’s enabled four first national team goals. His starting lineup Monday night, with an average of 22 years and 160 days, is believed to be the youngest in modern USMNT history.These camps, he says, have been about “indoctrinating younger players,” and building relationships – even if the ones between coach and players might not last beyond June.

* * * * *

The cloud hanging over everything Sarachan has done over the past half-year is that when 20-some players arrive in New Jersey three months from now, they will, in all likelihood, report to a new manager. And that new manager could change everything – formation, style, training methods, off-field customs … everything.So what, if anything, has Sarachan built that’s sustainable? How do we know the past seven months haven’t gone to waste?

Those are the million-dollar questions.Tim Weah and Josh Sargent both scored in Monday’s friendly against Bolivia, and both received their first USMNT caps under Dave Sarachan. (Getty)

They’re also a reason Sarachan gathers the team almost every day after their post-training meal for a meeting. The topics vary. The overarching goal, though, is consistent.From November to January to March to May, Sarachan says, “I’ve successively tried to build relationships, formulate ideas, so that each time the starting point is a little higher than just starting over. I’ve tried to establish, at each stop since Trinidad, what it really means to be part of the national team.“If you have that baseline, and define the roles and responsibilities, and what it means, regardless of whether I’m coaching in July or a new guy comes in, I’d like to believe that will be [the players’] philosophy.”Off the field, many budding relationships have flourished irrespective of coaching. Friendships initially formed on youth national teams have blossomed. Camaraderie is pulsating throughout the younger generation.On the field, though, that generation needed guidance. Sarachan has provided it.“He kind of has the father feel, the grandfather feel,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid says. “These guys are taking [his coaching] on board. They’re listening a lot to his information.”The thought that this could be their last camp with Sarachan hasn’t crossed many players’ minds. Sarachan, when asked if he’s had conversations with U.S. Soccer about staying on, said, “I’ve tried. It’s hard. I’ve had a few, but there’s a lot on their plate with the GM hire and the bid. All they’ve told me is, ‘We respect you, Dave, we like what you’re doing. Let’s let this process play out.’”A few hours later, he’s back down in the hotel lobby, just minutes after Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre reported that U.S. Soccer planned to hire Earnie Stewart as that GM. I mention the news to Sarachan. As he walks away, he says with a half-smile: “Dominoes are falling.”He does not know what the future holds. But the past seven months, he says, have been “refreshing.” They’ve been “an honor.” He’s even “enjoyed it.”And he’s proud. “I feel good that we’ve tried to turn the page and move forward,” he says. “I feel I was the right person at the right time, with the calmness and the experience” required to steady the program during one of the most turbulent times in its history. Monday’s performance would suggest he’s done just that.“Dave and his staff have started something special,” Hamid says, the prospect of a new manager replacing Sarachan now brought to his attention. “Breaking it would … it would almost suck a little bit.”

Someday I’ll tell my kids about this moment, says Zimmerman of USMNT goal

May 28, 201811:21PM EDTDave ZeitlinContributor

CHESTER, Pa. — On Monday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the US national team showcased a promising crop of very young European-based attackers.And yet, the first goal in the United States’ 3-0 rout of Bolivia came off the head of an older (at least by comparison) defender who was one of only two MLS players called into camp.What did it mean for LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman to score his first international goal and get the Yanks on the board with a powerful 37th-minute header off a Joe Corona corner kick?“It was incredible,” Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget, and something I’m going to look forward to talking about with my kids someday.”Alex Bono, the only other MLS player called in by Dave Sarachan, was one of six players to earn his first national-team cap and he responded with a shutout. The Toronto FC goalkeeper, though, didn’t even need to make a save, thanks in large part to the play of center backs Zimmerman and former Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who also made his first USMNT appearance.Zimmerman — who, at 25, was one of the older players in camp this week — said he gave Palmer-Brown a pep talk about trying to stay confident before the game.“I remember my first cap was not too long ago,” the LAFC center back said. “Really the ultimate takeaway I had is just to trust in your abilities and what got you to this point and don’t try to do anything out of your comfort zone. I thought he had a great game. I thought we worked well together. We were very composed. “I know they didn’t create too many chances, but I think that’s also a testament to our partnership and the whole backline keeping organized. I’m really proud of him and happy he got his first cap.”There’s a good chance Bono and Zimmerman will return to their MLS clubs when the US departs for their next two friendlies in Ireland and France, as Sarachan said he’s planning to make some roster changes.But the US interim head coach was pleased with how fullbacks Eric Lichaj and Antonee Robinson meshed with the two center backs on a backline that he noted didn’t have many vocal guys, save for Zimmerman.“I thought their organization was good,” Sarachan said. “I thought their movement was relatively good. I thought in the second half there were a few moments they got a little sloppy, but we made so many changes that didn’t help. But generally speaking, I thought our backline did a good job and I liked Antonee’s moments of getting forward as well.”Zimmerman, of course, knows the other young center backs coming through the system — including Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers, the only two players on Monday’s gameday roster who didn’t get into the game — have plenty of potential, too.But he also knows that scoring a goal, showing off his set piece skills (which he called one of his biggest strengths) and earning player of the game honors vs. Bolivia will certainly keep him right in the mix as the USMNT’s backline of the future comes into sharper focus.“We definitely have a lot of good younger guys who are up and coming, and I think there’s going to be a lot of competition at this position moving forward,” Zimmerman said. “We’re all excited for it. I think we’re ready for that challenge and I think we’re ready to be consistent international players.”

 Real Madrid’s historic Champions League title obscured by online outrage

May 27, 2018Graham HunterESPN.com freelance columnist

There has been so much heated nonsense spoken and written about Real Madrid’s 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool in Kiev that there are some missed or ignored items that must be focused on. And they will be here.Let’s begin with the opening goal.I’m not contesting that it makes Karim Benzema a footballing genius to have scored it, but the fact that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius made such an atrocious series of judgmental errors in gifting the holders the lead has obscured credit that needs to flow to the much-maligned striker.Given how the modern game is officiated, Benzema should have been in a no-win situation. Karius should have known this.The Frenchman was isolated on the edge of Liverpool’s box. Karius had plenty of options about how to deal with what faced him. Yes, he had every right to try to move the ball sharply to reduce Madrid to nine outfield players by bypassing Benzema. But Karius had a choice of three red shirts, options via which he could have cut his opponent out of the game with just a scintilla more effort and concentration.With reference to keeper protection in the modern game, had Karius shaped to kick long or tempted Benzema to take another couple of paces towards him, the referee would almost inevitably have called a foul. Keepers get protected in football more than facts and truth do.Where the credit comes is that once Liverpool’s maladroit goalie makes a bad choice, Benzema reads it.Benzema is still a regulation distance away from Karius. The odds are vastly against him, but he not only gambles correctly, he reacts with tremendous agility and speed, but then also gets his leg into a position where he can be strong enough for the rebound to take the ball not only towards the goal but in.What’s more, to block a keeper throwing out to his right, the obvious foot for the striker to use is his left. But that would have cost Benzema a split-second more to effect. He instinctively raises what has been his planted, standing-weight foot and lunges.As I say, it’s not an act of genius, but it’s what every single coach, amateur or pro, wishes he could teach his footballers: Stay sharp, think, react quicker than the other guy. Or, as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley used to teach those Liverpool players who dominated England and Europe: “Find the dope”.They taught that, especially when the ball goes dead, lesser players breathe out, they relax, they drop their concentration just a millimetre. Shankly and Paisley urged their players to always be waiting for just such an infinitesimal relaxation, and to pounce. It’s what Benzema did, and both of those Liverpool greats would have recognised it.Karius had the ball in his hands, so he relaxed. He thought that there was no danger. He lost focus by a scintilla. It was enough.I understand the mawkish horrors of watching someone fail catastrophically on the biggest sporting stage. There will have been huge tracts of the worldwide audience both thrilled with schadenfreude at watching an error of such gigantic proportions, and then instantly contrite with the guilt of having felt the dark emotion of enjoying someone else’s hardship.One of the most common nightmares is having turned up at a vital exam without studying for it. Another is waking up sweating having dreamt that suddenly you’re naked in public, don’t understand why, and everyone is watching. That’s what Karius actually lived through, in effect.But there’s no way, in my humble view, that sympathy for or outrage about the “dope” (depending on whether you’re an angry Liverpool fan or not) can detract from appreciations of Benzema’s cat-like agility and anticipation.y the way, it was his 56th Champions League goal in 87 competition starts. Only three players — Raul, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — have outscored him in this elite tournament. This from a man Sir Alex Ferguson said was “too expensive” when he joined Madrid in 2009 for €30 million, and Gary Lineker recently reckoned was overrated.Moving on.There has been some truly ridiculous stuff written about Sergio Ramos in the aftermath of yet another rule-stretching, all-in performance from the Madrid captain.For example, thanks to one German TV station highlighting it, there has been quite the furore on social media about Ramos clipping Karius a couple of minutes before the opening goal. Some have tried to suggest that A) it was a deliberate action by Ramos, and B) that there was some correlation between that and Liverpool’s keeper making his awful blunder.What I find stunning is that no one whom I’ve seen catcalling Ramos over that incident has seen fit to note that as the Spaniard runs in towards goal in order to try to connect with a Benzema cut-back, it’s Virgil Van Dijk who shoves Ramos, which results in Madrid’s captain surging towards the ground.Firstly, does Ramos then knowingly try to “leave one” on Karius once he’s been shoved? You may have a case. But is his proximity to the keeper solely thanks to Van Dijk? Definitely. Had the referee seen Van Dijk’s shove, might it have been a penalty to Madrid? Yes. Finally, does Ramos make enough contact with Karius to have caused the German, who’s up and about pretty instantly, any significant impairment? Do me a favour: Grow up.Even if, hypothetically, that were the case, then the fault would lie with Van Dijk choosing, illogically, to shove Ramos when Benzema’s cut-back was about to be effectively blocked. So that moment was an instance when a player chooses an action outside the rules, without really having any cognisance of what the ultimate consequence might be.Which, yes, you’ve guessed it, takes us to the moment when Mohamed Salah’s shoulder is injured thanks to Ramos tugging him to the ground awkwardly.On the idea that Ramos was deliberately trying to injure him, I’m not going to waste much time. Ramos breaks the rules. Ramos is ultra-streetwise. This column is not a defence of the Real Madrid captain; it’s an attempt to bring some football realism into the debate.

Firstly, this was the kind of challenge you see regularly across the European game and that, frankly, wouldn’t usually have serious consequences for either player. This one did, no question, and I fervently wish that Salah had completed 90 vibrant minutes and, for all I care about the matter, scored a hat trick.Secondly, if you take a snapshot of the instant when the foul is made (with referee Milorad Mazic positioned for a perfect view but not the least bit interested in a booking), then you’ll see a commanding piece of information about why Ramos wouldn’t let go.He wouldn’t risk the idea of Salah twisting free, or getting up swiftly and taking the ball away from the moment of contact. Salah has made an inside run across the pitch from the right. Ramos has gone with him, but the Egyptian, if he controls and twists with the ball, will have exposed his marker and gained perhaps two yards. Two crucial yards.If Salah turns with the ball, or gets up quicker than Ramos because the attempted foul fails, then Liverpool are four vs. two. Just think about that: Scoreless against a team that has scary firepower, that has dominated the first 20 or so minutes, and it’s about to be four vs. two.Roberto Firmino has drifted off Luka Modric and Casemiro, James Milner is wide right unmarked (surprise, surprise) by Marcelo, and Sadio Mane is being watched by Dani Carvajal, who is accompanied only by Raphael Varane. Is a definite goal on the cards given the distance involved? No, that’s a little too strong. But is it the kind of situation against which Madrid will have coached, video-analysed and, frankly, prayed to avoid? Yes.So Ramos commits a foul, no question. And he won’t let Salah go, no question. But the aim is to prevent a disastrous situation, not to injure.

Do guys like Ramos accept one less dangerous opponent on the pitch as a bonus for foul play? Yes. Was his action one any hard-nosed, serial winner would have taken? Yes.If you say no, then you’re either partial or dreadfully lacking information. I’ve been watching them do it all my life, and some of them — just for information — played for Liverpool.But there was much more either missed, obscured or ignored by the contentious nature of what happened and by the shimmering beauty of Gareth Bale’s first goal.In comparison to Karius, Keylor Navas’ two terrific opening-minutes saves from Trent Alexander-Arnold? The first brave and athletic, the second so superb through a cluster of legs and bodies.Left-back Marcelo yet again changing a big Champions League match, this time with a right-footed cross. There are still so many players earning vast sums, particularly in the UK, despite having one good foot and are like flamingos with the other — good for standing. Marcelo is routinely roasted by the under-informed in the UK media, continuously pointed out as only a liability because his defensive GPS long ago broke down. Yet his right-footed cross that Bale described as “at a perfect height” was the penultimate moment in a 20-pass move back and forward across the pitch for Madrid’s all-time great goal.Twenty passes. Please, let that not be obscured.Andy Robertson’s outrageous penalty-box block to prevent Ronaldo scoring? It was a tackle for the ages. Athletically constructed, clinically executed and, temporarily, it kept Liverpool with just a glimmer of opportunity. Why has it not been the subject of adoration from everyone who witnessed the game, professionally or as fans?Because we live in an age where outrage, complaint, vilification and raw emotion too often govern over honest, sang-froid, clinical analysis.

Real Madrid’s Champions League Triumph Defined By Bale’s Heroics, Salah’s Injury

  • The debate will go on regarding this Real Madrid side’s all-time greatness, but an injury to Liverpool’s centerpiece and a moment of sheer genius from Gareth Bale tilted the scales in a memorable Champions League final.

By JONATHAN WILSON May 26, 2018KIEV, Ukraine – The decisive goal, scored with a Gareth Bale overhead kick moments after he had come off the bench, was brilliant, and the two Loris Karius mistakes that gifted Madrid goals either side of that were ghastly. But there was no doubting what had been the decisive moment as Real Madrid won its third European title in a row and its fourth in five years with a 3-1 triumph over Liverpool.As Keylor Navas went to take a goal kick, Mohamed Salah slowly subsided, sinking with a desperate sadness to the ground. It looked bad, and confirmation soon followed from Liverpool’s medical staff. He had not recovered from an injury suffered a couple of minutes earlier and his final was over after just half an hour. As Salah walked off, his face crumpled in tears, his right arm hanging awkwardly limp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos both consoled him, but the truth is his departure had been Ramos’s fault.The center back may not have intended to injure him, but he was guilty of a clumsy–and strangely unpunished–foul, hauling Salah down, landing on his extended arm as the two players fell together and making no attempt to loosen his hold as the two went to ground. It was, at least, highly dangerous. With Salah’s departure, so the tenor of the game was transformed. It’s in that detail that the doubts about this Madrid, the sense that despite its record it is not a truly great side, lie. Again and again, for all its individual brilliance, it has been rather fortunate over the years: with the draw, with the bounce of the ball, with refereeing decisions and with its capacity to induce mistakes from opponents.Liverpool had begun well. It had pressed hard and unsettled a Madrid side that seemed to struggle to get going. Again and again it got the ball in dangerous areas, although only once did one of the many loose balls in the Madrid box fall to a Liverpool player: Roberto Firmino’s effort was blocked, and Navas then made a fine save to keep out Trent Alexander-Arnold’s follow-up chance. Liverpool wasn’t laying siege to Madrid’s goal exactly, but it was making life difficult for the champion.In that first 30 minutes, Liverpool had nine shots; in the rest of the half, it had none. In that first half hour Liverpool had 111 touches in the Madrid half; after that seven. Madrid, so sloppy early on, found a sharpness. The game shifted to the Liverpool half, and Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out after Ronaldo, whose header was well-saved by Karius, had drifted offside in the build-up.Madrid also lost a player to injury in the first half, Dani Carvajal, who had been out for a month before coming back in the final league game of the season against Villarreal, going off five minutes after Salah. But sad as that was for him, he, clearly, is of less significance to Madrid than Salah is to Liverpool, both in terms of ability and belief.The individual quality of Madrid is not in doubt, but it’s also been true that over this recent run of success it has benefited from the strange habit of opponents of making extraordinary mistakes. Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich gifted Benzema a goal in the semifinal, collapsing as though mesmerized by a back pass, and Karius’s error was no better. Looking to roll the ball out, he somehow threw it into the dangled foot of Benzema with sufficient force that the ball rebounded and rolled, painfully slowly, into the net.Isco had just hit the bar prior to the goal, and at that point Liverpool looked demoralized. It is hugely to its credit that it didn’t disintegrate, but struck back four minutes later with Mane, who had an excellent night, extending his leg to touch in after a header from a corner kick played the ball forward. But just as Liverpool began to believe, there came a moment of the sort of absurd individual quality of which Madrid is capable, and which it has a remarkable capacity of producing just when required.Marcelo crossed, Bale went airborne, and, with only marginally less grace than Ronaldo showed against Juventus, hooked a shot over his shoulder and into the top corner, one of the greatest goals ever scored in a European final.He added another 19 minutes later, a long-range shot of no great venom, slithering through Karius’s grasp to give Madrid a cushion.Two dire mistakes, an injury to a key opponent and a goal of absolute genius. This is what Madrid is. It does not stand for any great philosophy beyond that of being rich enough to buy great players and the ability of those individuals, added to a (very) fair wind, has been enough to have it touching levels of domination in European competition not seen since the late 1950s. Perhaps that is enough for greatness, and so, too, is a title run that included triumphs over PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool. But the very highest level of the pantheon probably demands a little more.

Zinedine Zidane Provides Yet Another UCL Title to Answer His Harshest Critics

 

By 90MIN May 27, 2018

Zinedine Yazid Zidane is one of the greatest players ever to have ever kicked a football, and following his third straight triumph in the Champions League on Saturday – perhaps rather annoyingly – he’s now going the right way about becoming one of the best to instruct others at how to kick a ball as well.In all seriousness, that’s doing the Frenchman a disservice. The fact of the matter is, the former midfielder is fast developing into an elite manager at arguably the biggest club in the world, when most predicted the chop for a him after a couple of seasons at the most.Almost laughably, Zidane has now won nine major trophies since taking the reins at the Bernabeu in 2016 out of a possible 13, which is a monumental middle finger to all those that slated his appointment, claiming him unfit to lead a team of egotistical superstars. That’s nine trophies. In just 28 months.With Saturday’s victory, he has now become the first manager to ever win three consecutive titles, and he is already level with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley as the tactician with the most European crowns. He has more than Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Zidane has been in the managerial game for all of five minutes.His abilities as a manager can no longer be questioned, what we actually should be talking about is where he places among the best coaches to grace the game. Yes, on paper Real Madrid have had a team of top-class players for the past few years, but that’s only half the story.What’s most obvious with Zidane at Madrid is that the winning mentality that allowed him to reach such dizzy heights as a player has followed him into management, and his players are contently feeding off of that like a siesta-loving man supping an ice cold San Miguel on the beach.There is a respect there between players and manager now. A trust in an intelligent man that clearly knows what he’s doing. That trust and respect might not have been as strong had someone else got the gig.Not only has he showcased his winning mentality, but his ever improving tactical nous and game management is there for all to see. Against Liverpool, he trusted Karim Benzema to perform and he absolutely did. In the second half, he recognised the need to withdraw Isco and replace him with Gareth Bale to tip the balance. And boy did the Welshman do that in some style.Perhaps Zidane got slightly ‘lucky’ in his first season coming in as someone with next to no experience but still guidied his team to success, but that is where that particular argument stops.Zidane now boasts wins over Mourinho in the Super Cup final and Diego Simeone, Max Allegri and Jurgen Klopp in Champions League finals, as well as one domestic league title. Are people honestly still thinking that with such results, this man is ‘lucky’? These guys are the game’s elite coaches, and Zidane has masterminded victories over all of them.The consistency is quite remarkable. In his 28 months, he has lost just 16 games. Currently he has a win ratio of 70%.Even in the face of potential adversity this season, Zidane and his players have something major to show for their efforts – another coveted Champions League after navigating their way past the champions of France, Germany and Italy.There could be even more silverware on the horizon – Madrid are now headed for a showdown with rivals Atletico Madrid in the 2018 Super Cup, and will also have the chance to win the Club World Cup again. Should he triumph – and you simply can’t bet against him now – it’ll mean no manager has delivered more in so little time.It’s time for the cynics to eat their words – Zidane’s unprecedented achievements since hanging up his boots are the most exotic fruits of his punishing labor. Make no bones about it, he is on his way to managerial greatness–if not already there.

Cristiano Ronaldo beats Gareth Bale to Champions League goal of the season

3:58 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Cristiano Ronaldo’s overhead kick against Juventus in this season’s Champions League quarterfinals was better than Gareth Bale’s against Liverpool in the final, according to UEFA’s Technical Observers.Ronaldo’s spectacular effort in Real Madrid’s 3-0 first leg victory in Turin in early April was immediately hailed as one of the greatest goals of all time, only for Bale to score an almost exactly similar goal on an even bigger stage in Saturday’s 3-1 victory in Kiev.The task of deciding which of the two strikes was better went to UEFA’s team of Technical Observers who compiled their best 10 goals of the 2017-18 Champions League season. And they chose Ronaldo’s effort as No. 1, saying it was “an extraordinary display of technique and athleticism.”

Bale’s strike came second on the list drawn up by the experts, who described it as “the crucial goal to make it 2-1 in the final, another brilliant acrobatic finish.”The UEFA committee is made up of former West Ham, Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes, ex-Roma and Inter Milan defender Cristian Chivu, current Latvia national team coach Mixu Paatelainen, former Werder Bremen player and coach Thomas Schaaf, ex-Poland national manager Jerzy Engel and Dane Peter Rudbæk. The same group chose Bale as man of the match in Saturday’s game due to his decisive impact off the bench.Both Ronaldo and Bale have a second goal on the list, with Bale’s side-footed volley in September’s group stage win at Borussia Dortmund rated No. 6, and Ronaldo’s long-ranger in December’s return meeting with Dortmund in at No. 10.Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain’s clever strike in the round of 16 second leg against Tottenham was rated the third best goal of the season in the competition, while another bicycle kick from Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann against Roma in the group stages was chosen as No. 4.Also on the list were Roma’s Edin Dzeko’s volley against Chelsea [No. 5], Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred’s free kick against Roma [No. 7], Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne’s belter versus Shakhtar [No. 8] and Lorenzo Insigne’s long-ranger also against Shakhtar [No. 9].

Cristiano Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid return at Champions League victory parade

May 27, 2018ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo suggested he was planning on returning to Real Madrid next season, one day after he spoke of a possible exit, as Real Madrid celebrated a European title with their fans for a third straight year.After winning their 13th European title with a 3-1 win over Liverpool in Kiev on Saturday, Madrid brought the Champions League trophy home on Sunday and paraded it through the streets of the Spanish capital as thousands of fans saluted the newly crowned champions.Ronaldo avoided making any specific comments about his future as he addressed the fans at the Plaza de Cibeles, but left by saying: “Thanks, guys, until next year.”The Portuguese star — who after Saturday’s victory said “It has been very nice being at Real Madrid” and would make a decision on his future in the coming days — was animated throughout the parade and led multiple chants of “Campeones, campeones.”The celebrations ended at a packed Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where Ronaldo took the microphone again to say: “I’m proud to play in the greatest club in the world.”That sparked the fans to shout for Ronaldo to stay — “Cristiano quédate” — with his teammates also joining in.”Thank you, this [support] is very important for me,” Ronaldo added. “I am very pleased by the passion that you have always shown me. At the matches, on the streets. Thank you to all the players who accompany me. I am doing very well. Winning is what I like to do the most and with this team it is impossible to not win the Champions League.”The festivities began with players and team members participating in a ceremony at a local cathedral. Then they met with the city mayor and community president before addressing fans from a terrace at the Puerta del Sol square, one of Madrid’s main locations.”It has become a routine to be here,” captain Sergio Ramos said. “Hopefully it will continue for many years.”The team then got on an open bus and paraded with the trophy until reaching the club’s traditional celebration spot, the Plaza de Cibeles, where fans had been waiting for the champions for hours.Ramos and left-back Marcelo carried the trophy across the walkway set up over the plaza’s fountain and draped the statue of the goddess Cibele with a Spain flag that carried Madrid’s name on it. Ramos also put a team scarf around the goddess’ head to huge cheers from the crowd as the song “We Are The Champions” was played.The final stop was at the Bernabeu, where nearly 80,000 fans attended a ceremony honoring the European champions. Players and coaches were introduced one by one amid a lights show, then lifted the trophy on a midfield stage as confetti and fireworks blasted in the background.The stadium had already been packed on Saturday with fans watching the final on eight big screens set up on the field.Thousands had already made it to the Plaza de Cibeles right after the game in celebrations that lasted into the early hours of Sunday.Madrid havewon the Champions League in four of the last five years. They had beaten Juventus last season, and city rivals Atletico Madrid in finals in 2014 and 2016.Members of Real Madrid’s basketball team, which won the European title this year, were also honoured in the ceremony at the Bernabeu.Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. 

Only One Player in History Now Has More European Cup Titles Than Cristiano Ronaldo

By 90MIN May 28, 2018

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the fifth Champions League title of his career at the weekend following a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kyiv.The fifth title of his career moves the Portuguese living legend one ahead of great rival Lionel Messi in the continental stakes and puts him into a very select group of players to have won at least five European Cup/Champions League titles in the competition’s 62-year history.Ronaldo is the 11th member of that illustrious, with just a single player winning more.That player, with six titles, is Real icon Paco Gento. Surely, after backtracking on his vague threat of quitting the club, Ronaldo already has that record equalling sixth title in his sights.Gento was part of the Real side that originally dominated the European Cup in its infancy, winning five trophies on the spin from 1956 to 1960. The winger, who also won a Spanish record of 12 La Liga titles during his career, was then part of Los Blancos’ 1966 winning team as well.He was the only player present for all of the club’s first six European Cup triumphs.

Ronaldo’s fifth European title ties him with nine others. As many as seven of those are also from Real, again from that early team that won an historic five in a row.

Bernabeu legend Alfredo Di Stefano, who scored in each of those finals as Real beat Reims (1956, 1959), Fiorentina (1957), AC Milan (1958) and Eintrach Frankfurt (1960), is among them.

As are, Marquitos, Juan Alonso, Jose Maria Zarraga, Rafael Lesmes, Juan Santisteban and Hector Rial. Just Gento survived to 1966 when Real beat Partizan Belgrade in Brussels.

From AC Milan, both Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta also have five European Cup/Champions League wins each. The pair of Italian defenders both enjoyed incredible longevity in their careers, with 18 years separating their first and last titles in 1989 and 2007.

Until Real retained the Champions League last season, Maldini and Costacurta were part of the last team to successfully defend a European title, having won it back-to-back in 1989 and 1990. Milan also won in 1994, when Costacurta was suspended for the final, and in 2003.

Aged 41 by 2007 in his final season as a professional, Costacurta was left out of that final against Liverpool, although he had played a handful of games in earlier rounds. Maldini, on the other hand, started all five of his victorious finals.Having also lost finals in 1993, 1995 and 2005, Maldini and Costacurta could have had more titles. Equally, Real lost finals in 1962 and 1964 that would have inflated Gento’s tally of wins. So far, Ronaldo has lost only one final, when Manchester United were beaten by Barcelona in 2009.

Player Club(s) European Titles
Paco Gento Real Madrid 6 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966)
Cristiano Ronaldo Man Utd, Real Madrid 5 (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)
Paolo Maldini AC Milan 5 (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
Alessandro Costacurta AC Milan 5 (1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)
Juan Alonso Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Alfredo Di Stefano Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Rafael Lesmes Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Marquitos Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Hector Rial Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Juan Santisteban Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Jose Maria Zarraga Real Madrid 5 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)

Liverpool need a dose of Houllier pragmatism and a Karius replacement after UCL woe

May 28, 2018Steven Kelly

Liverpool’s hugely disappointing 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final shouldn’t affect the long-term view of the team’s progress under Jurgen Klopp.It’s the nature of all sport for competitors to keep improving, however, to test their limits and see how far they can go. That will apply to the Reds next season too.There would be a lot of fans who’d look upon fourth in the Premier League, 135 goals scored and reaching a cup final as a perfectly good return for Liverpool next time out.The final was a bleak way of ending the season, not for the defeat so much as the manner of it. Losing Mohamed Salah so early was a massive blow and the errors of Loris Karius combined with an awe-inspiring strike from Gareth Bale meant they were doomed to fail on a night they needed most things to go their way.They did benefit from a curious, toothless performance from Cristiano Ronaldo, but that was about the only break Liverpool caught all game.The search for solutions to yet another cup setback began almost before the final whistle. A new goalkeeper was high on everybody’s wish list. While there was sympathy for Karius’ obvious distress, it didn’t stop fans from urging Klopp to make this his main priority in the summer.Finding an improvement shouldn’t be tricky, but what will stay the same is an all-round urge to get forward even when a little pragmatism is called for. A keeper told to release the ball quickly at every opportunity was bound to come unstuck. It happened in the quarterfinal second leg at Manchester City too, in the opening minute no less.Karius put Virgil van Dijk under enormous pressure and an early goal resulted, when any sane team with a 3-0 first-leg lead would be moving at a snail’s pace and trying to silence the home crowd.That’s the problem, though. This isn’t a sane team and has suffered various stumbles as a consequence. Liverpool conceded two goals or more in 17 of their matches, almost a third of them. They conceded three goals in one half seven times. That’s not acceptable, but their high-octane approach to football also resulted in Liverpool’s second-greatest season for scoring goals. Tampering with the formula may lead to a serious malfunction.There’s a marked contrast to almost everything this team does with the one that began the century with three cups in one year under Gerard Houllier. They could often be boring but still managed 127 goals themselves, albeit in a lot more games played. There’s no question about which of the sides fans would prefer to watch, but winning trophies is what ultimately matters.Most probably wouldn’t want a return to the days of the French pragmatist in every single aspect, but this team and manager could learn from them.For one thing, the goalkeeper and defence were protected far more. Nobody would call Sander Westerveld one of the club’s best keepers, but he didn’t need to be.Competition for places and squad depth was also better. In an era defined by ludicrous transfer fees it would be a harder task for Klopp to match that depth, but something like it will have to be assembled if the Reds are to progress further. Houllier’s team did understandably fade slightly during the season’s concluding weeks but there was organisation and character, something lacking in their 2018 counterparts.Club co-owner Tom Werner is already talking about buying new players, but that has been heard before and Klopp still hasn’t been given the concerted spend any major club needs just to maintain a challenge.Two top-four finishes and three finals on what he has been given so far — taking into account where Liverpool were when he took over — has been a colossal achievement for the German even if there has been no silverware.Bale turned Saturday’s match in Real’s favour while Adam Lallana couldn’t begin to replace the player of the year. That Liverpool still fought and made it a contest is to their credit, but they didn’t have the firepower to win once Salah went off.The team is close to greatness but it’s a squad game now and that must be addressed. It can only hinder general fitness if the same 11 players are called upon nearly all of the time.Seeing out winning situations can also be helped by fresh impetus from the bench, something Liverpool haven’t had for almost the entire season.All of which is nitpicking about a team that has been hugely entertaining and gone well beyond expectations.It may seem harsh and cruel, but even the best teams cannot rest on their laurels. Liverpool are not the best — yet — and to make them so will take time, work and probably quite a lot of money too.

Liverpool making progress under Jurgen Klopp but need a trophy to show it

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Check out some of the sights and sounds from Kiev, Liverpool and Madrid as Gareth Bale scored twice to clinch the Champions League title for Real Madrid. (4:29)

May 28, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer

KIEV, Ukraine — The street cleaners were out in force at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning in Kiev, attempting to wash away the detritus following the Champions League final at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium which had seen Real Madrid triumph once again, thanks in no small part to the calamitous mistakes of Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius.There will be many Liverpool supporters who would wish to see the German goalkeeper swept up and dumped with the empty bottles and cans which littered the streets of the Ukrainian capital in the aftermath of the match, following the two errors which led directly to goals for Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale in Real’s 3-1 win.It was certainly a night that will quickly be consigned to the trash can of history for those wearing red in Kiev and only time will tell whether Karius, the 24-year-old former Mainz keeper, will be allowed to rehabilitate himself and rebuild his career at Anfield.But how Liverpool react as a team and as a club is just as important as what happens next for Karius.Perspective is required on both counts. Karius has not become a bad keeper in the space of 90 minutes — just as he wasn’t a great one before it — but Liverpool must also locate the right place to stick the pin on their map of progression.Had they beaten Real to win the European Cup for a sixth time, Jurgen Klopp’s team would not have been the best team in Europe, they would simply have been Champions League winners. There is a distinct difference.But in defeat, they are also not a team of chokers or a collection of players, and a coach, who are unable to take the crucial final step from nearly men to winners.The problem with finals of this magnitude is that winning and losing leads to an exaggeration of the ramifications of the result, whichever side you end up on. And there is a danger that Liverpool will now be over-scrutinised and dismissed as a team with too many flaws to win the big trophies.But Klopp and his players have arguably over-achieved this season by making it all the wait to Kiev.Considering that Liverpool did not even compete in Europe last season, reaching a Champions League final this campaign was a remarkable feat, especially so when the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have each spent in the region of £1 billion in recent years without reaching a final.Liverpool have played some breathtaking football, scored goals by the bucketload and beaten City three times in the space of four months, but they have still ended the season with nothing to show for it.And in the cold light of day, the second-most successful club in English football history has won just one major trophy — the 2012 League Cup — in 12 years.They have finished as runners-up in every other competition in that time — twice in the Champions League — so they are knocking on the door, but it is all about winning and Liverpool have won as many trophies as Swansea City and Leicester during the past decade.playSo how do they achieve tangible reward for their progress?Klopp will be allowed to strengthen his squad this summer, with midfielder Naby Keita already secured form RB Leipzig and efforts ongoing to sign Nabil Fekir from Lyon.A new goalkeeper is a must, as was the case before Kiev, but Klopp has so far stubbornly refused to accept the need for a new No. 1. Though Karius’ efforts may now have changed his mind.But this season has shown that Liverpool can compete with, and beat, the best in England and that is the platform on which they must build.

Champions League success will always be the ultimate goal for a club of Liverpool’s pedigree, but they have gone too long without silverware and giving greater importance to the domestic cups is perhaps a route they must now take. They simply have to stop the cycle of being second-best and get back to winning major trophies.Manchester United have endured a difficult five years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but nonetheless, they have won three major trophies during a time of transition, so have managed to keep on winning despite the fact other teams are stronger than them.Liverpool need to rediscover the ability to do that because it is too much of a gamble to target only the Champions League and Premier League, especially with the likes of Real around in Europe and City only getting stronger in England.But if they strip away all of the emotion of Kiev and dampen down the pain of defeat, Liverpool and Klopp will see that they are making progress and building a team to be feared at Anfield.Trophies are the key, though, and next season needs to deliver at least one, regardless of which competition it comes in.

Liverpool’s Loris Karius difficult to console after Champions League final – Simon Mignolet

May 27, 2018Glenn PriceLiverpool Correspondent

KIEV, Ukraine — Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren both leapt to the defence of Loris Karius after the goalkeeper’s mistakes in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.Karius, 24-year-old was in tears at the final whistle after his attempted roll-out in the 51st minute struck Karim Benzema and ended up in the back of the net before he failed to deal with Gareth Bale’s long-range shot seven minutes from time.

Mignolet lost his place as Liverpool’s No. 1 to Karius at the turn of the year, but stood by his teammate and offered his support.”Every goalkeeper can relate to him,” he told reporters. “I’ve been in this situation before and every keeper has been.”It’s very difficult to say something to someone after the game. The only thing I told him is that there is a reason we got to this final, and why we played this final so I said think about that.”But of course it is very difficult to say anything to him and to let him grasp it. I know how it is. You need a bit of time. The good thing about this final is that he will have the summer to take it and go forward. If he wants to talk then of course I will be there.”I’ve been in this situation before myself and those kind of things you deal with yourself. I’m always there to help every squad member. “We have a dressing room is that very much together and that’s the reason why we got here. Together with the fans, together with the rest of the club.”I think we play, not as individuals, but as a team, we play as 11 together. We play as a whole squad. Everyone was behind the team from the very first moment we stepped into the Champions League and I think that will be the same going forward.”Liverpool stands for unity, Liverpool stands for all together. I think that will not only be the right ideal for Liverpool, it has always been their history and will always be their future.”Lovren, meanwhile, did not blame Karius for the defeat and he is confident the German has the mental resilience to bounce back from this devastating blow, having already overcome hurdles in his two seasons at Liverpool.”When we win, we win together. When we lose, we lose together,” he told reporters. “So don’t blame him. It’s easy to blame someone, but we are in the same ship together and everyone gave him the best words that they could.”He will come back strong. You cannot find the words. He had a difficult start last season, so I believe in him. Don’t make massive stories about that. Of course it’s big because it’s a final, but everyone makes mistakes.”

How Karius’ Kiev Nightmare Perfectly Demonstrates the Need for Villains Along With Heroes in Sport

 

By 90MIN May 29, 2018

There were a huge amount of talking points to reflect on as the final whistle sounded on an eventful night of Champions League final football in Kiev. Gareth Bale had scored arguably the greatest goal in European final history, two players had left the pitch in tears following cruel injuries and Madrid had become the first team to win three European Cup finals in a row since Bayern Munich from 1974-1976. But all the attention, all the post-match pub talk, all the morning papers would focus cruelly and unkindly on one man in particular: The isolated young German who was sitting alone in his own penalty area, Loris Karius.

Just put yourself in his position for one moment. Karius presumably always had a talent for goalkeeping, and started his youth career at the little-known German side FV Biberach. He gradually rose up through the ranks, eventually signing for Stuttgart, and played for the Germany Under-16s.

His rise continued when he moved to Manchester City, and after a loan spell at Mainz he eventually impressed enough for Liverpool to sign him for £4.7m in 2016. After a year of rotation and injuries under Jurgen Klopp, Karius seemed to have finally won his battle with Simon Mignolet to become Liverpool number one during the 2017/18 campaign, and all his effort and patience was now appearing to be rewarded through an appearance in a Champions League final.

All the hard work, all the long training sessions and tiring drills had led to this, and one can imagine the kind of dreams he may have had the night before the big match; making a crucial save in the last minute, perhaps, or palming away the decisive penalty to win his team the competition against the odds like Jerzy Dudek in 2005. Fast forward 24 hours and rather than being lifted high in celebration he was left alone on the turf, a broken man, his dreams crumbling around him and turning into a nightmare.

Only sport can do this. In which other job can a moment’s indecision, a split-second of hesitation, cause such pain? 99% of the time in the first incident Karius would have seen Benzema lurking and chosen another option. It was almost like a FIFA glitch, an incident that couldn’t possibly happen in a Champions League final, and the two players involved looked as stunned as anyone else when the ball ended up in the back of the net.Of course, the nature of being a goalkeeper means that their mistakes are generally highlighted a lot more than any other position on the field. A midfielder can lose possession to concede a goal and it will often be brushed over in analysis. Likewise, a central defender getting caught out of position doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as a goalkeeping blunder. It speaks volumes that despite Bale’s wondergoal, the most jaw-dropping, ‘Oh my god did you see that?’ moments of the night came not through quality, but rather from a complete lack of it.But then, it was ever thus in sport. The 1994 World Cup final is not remembered for Brazil winning, but rather for Italian legend Roberto Baggio ballooning his penalty over the bar. Baseball player Bill Buckner enjoyed a highly successful career, yet what sticks most in people’s minds will always be his through-the-legs error which led to the Mets beating the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series.

The quality of sport is now so high, so quick, at times almost robotic, that the slip ups are talked about and analysed just as much as the moments of genius. Sports players aren’t seen as real humans, with feelings, emotions, good days and bad days, and so when they screw up and collapse it is undeniably exciting and enthralling for the audience.In cricket an easy dropped catch is talked about just as much as the six which is smashed out of the ground. In tennis a double fault on set point means more than a glorious backhand stroke down the line. Just like any good novel or film, sport needs its flawed characters, for mistakes to be made, for imperfections.Where poor Karius goes from here is unclear, but there is no doubt that he has joined the legion of players who, no matter what they go on to achieve, will always be remembered for the wrong reasons. He could have taken some solace from looking across at the touchline in Kiev at Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman’s extraordinary moment of weakness in the 2006 World Cup final when he headbutted Marco Materazzi could easily have ended his career in football altogether, yet since then he has established himself as one of the finest managers in the world, and winning three Champions League titles in a row is an astonishing feat.And yet in years to come, when Zidane retires from football for good and people look back over his playing and managing career, what will inevitably still be the moment that first springs to mind? The headbutt. Mistakes, mess ups and villains are just as necessary as the golden moments in sport, and always will be. For that reason, no matter where he ends up and what he achieves from now in his career, Karius’ blunders in Ukraine will never be forgotten.

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