Wow what about Croatia. They become the 2ndsmallest country to ever make a World Cup Final – with just 4 million people. (that’s 2.5 million fewer than Indiana). Oh and Croatia has qualified for every World Cup since they became a independent country. This team barely qualified for this World Cup as their new coach Zlatko Dalic who took over with 3 games left in qualifications – steered them from the brink of what the US did (not qualifying) to the Finals of the World Cup. Don’t tell me that coaching doesn’t make a difference! This golden generation for Croatia led by the World’s Best midfielder Luka Modric’ (said Mo-Dridge) of Real Madrid, another fantastic midfielder in Ivan Rakitic and a Juve Forward Mario Mandzukic who found a way to score the final goal in the 115th minute. The fact that they had to go to Extra Time in 3 straight games – winning 2 in PKs and this one in the final 5 minutes is just amazing. Of course France will be favored on Sunday in the Final – but I am not going to pick against this seemingly team of destiny in Croatia – DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? – It might just happen Sunday 11 am on Fox! Saturday we’ll see which team England or Belgium can recover from the disappointment to try to claim 3rd place – at 10 am on Fox. My pick for Golden Ball if France wins is N’Golo Kante – especially if he can shut down Modric. If Croatia wins its got to be Luka Modric of course. Kane will win the Golden Boot unless Mbappe can score 3 goals in the final (even though 3 of Kane’s 6 goals were PKs. Golden Glove this is a 4 maybe 5 horse race in my mind between the winner between England/Belgium (Pickford vs Courtios) or France vs Croatia (Loris vs Subasic). I also thought the Great Wall of Ochoa for Mexico and Denmark’s Schmeichel covered themselves with glory – however I think assuming Belgium win’s the 3rd place game its Courtois’ to lose. Oh and after the World Cup – next week – we’ll review my favorite commercials of this World Cup!
Renaldo to Juventus
So I am not sure how I feel about my favorite Goalkeeper Italy’s Gigi Buffon leaving for PSG right before the Old Lady Juve –sign freaking Renaldo. Are you kidding me – all those years of Juve losing in the finals, the final 4, the final 8 – often to their nemises Real Madrid and now Renaldo flips to Juve (Perhaps putting them over the edge just as GIGI LEAVES?? AARGGG!!! Now I completely understand Renaldo leaving – listen I have been in the Bernabau and seen and heard first hand the “PRECIOUS” Madradistas – In my mind the WORSE FANS in Sports — whistle at Renaldo because he didn’t score in the first half of a game. Let me see – 3 Champ League Titles, 2 LA Ligas, an Absurd 1 goal per game tally in all games played with Madrid and they aren’t happy with arguably the GOAT – Greatest of all time? Now I don’t pretend Renaldo is perfect – but dude I would never boo him at my own stadium. Boo the coach yes – but not Renaldo. Not in Madrid. Now he has the chance to prove he’s better than anyone – if he can help take Juve to the Finals of Champions League and Win – there will be no more Renaldo or Messi question?? It will be Renaldo doing it at 3 different clubs. NEVER BEFORE DONE. We’ll see. Oh and I am sure Madrid will spend a ton of money to bring in someone else but with the mastermind Zidane and Renaldo GONE — they will not repeat. Heard it here first!! The inside story of Ronaldo’s transfer I will say I am sorry to see Conte leaving Chelsea – but honestly it just wasn’t working there despite the title win in the first year. He’ll land somewhere and win wherever he goes.
Indy recovered Sat on a comfortable night at Lucas Oil and came from behind to win 2-1 over Charlotte. Huge late goal by subbing forward Ben Speas. At 8-4-5 and ranked 5th in the East with 28 pts, the Indy 11 will travel to my old neck of the Woods Tampa Bay – or actually beautiful Al Lang Stadium on the Waterfront in St. Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies next Saturday night at 7:30 pm and the game will be on MyIndy TV 23 in 1 of their rare road game coverages and of course on ESPN+. Our Boys in Blue return home Wed Aug 15 and of course discount tickets below $15 are available Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter 2018 INDY as the promo code.
Staying on the Neymar Bashing – how’s this Alphabet of Neymar antics ??
France missed an opportunity to lift a major trophy on home soil when it fell to Portugal in extra time two years ago. Les Bleus haven’t forgotten that feeling.by Brian Straus si
Laurens: France determined to go all the way this time
Project Russia: Which fans are left at the World Cup?
Predictions: Belgium vs. England, France vs. Croatia
Duerden: Dalic’s untraditional path to the World Cup
Vickery: Questions for South American nations
Ogden: Mbappe makes French the firm favourites in World Cup final
FiveThirtyEight: How Croatia and France made it to the final
Marcotti: France aren’t broken, so Deschamps won’t change
Laurens: Pamela Anderson and a water fight – how France celebrated
READ MORE: ‘England still a long-ball team’ Croatia hit out at Three Lions
READ MORE: England player and manager reaction as Three Lions downed in Moscow
READ MORE: It doesn’t matter that football didn’t come home – it was the feeling that it might
Marcotti: Croatia’s unbreakable resolve denies England
ESPN FC TV: How England lost their way vs. Croatia
Project Russia: Three Lions bow out of the World Cup
ESPN FC TV: Do Croatia have enough left to face France?
Ogden: England must ensure their Russia run leads to more
England Players Take to Twitter
Project Russia: The best on-scene video
Cristiano Ronaldo on the move
Ronaldo to join Juventus: The latest news and reaction
Marcotti: The inside story of Ronaldo’s transfer
ESPN FC TV: Transfer changes European football landscape
ESPN FC TV: Will Ronaldo keep scoring goals in Serie A?
How the social media world reacted
What are the most expensive transfers of all time?
Why the Biggest Countries in the World – Like the US Fail with the World Cup USA Today Martin Rogers
GAMES ON TV This Week
Sat, July 14
10 am Fox England vs Belgium WC 3rd place
7 pm Yes NYCFC vs Columbus Crew
7 pm ESPNNews Utah Royals vs Orlando Pride (NWSL)
8 pm ESPN+ Dallas (Matt Hedges) vs Chicago Fire
Sun, July 15
11 am Fox Croatia vs France – WC Final
2 pm FOX Atlanta vs Seattle
6 pm ESPN LAFC vs Portland
Wed, July 18 – US Open Cup
8:30 pm ??? Chicago Fire vs Louisville City FC
Fri, July 20 ICC – International Champions Cup Starts
9 pm ESPN2 Sevilla vs Benfica
9 pm ESPN2 Man City vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)
Sat, July 21
7:30 pm TV 23/espn+ Charleston vs Indy 11
Sun, July 22 ICC – International Champions Cup
4 pm ESPN Liverpool vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)
Wed, July 25 ICC – International Champions Cup
7 pm ESPNU Juventus vs Bayern Munich
8 pm ESPN+ Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Benfica
8 pm ESPN 2 Man City vs Liverpool
10 pm ESPN 2 Roma vs Tottenham
11 pm ESPN Milan vs Man United
Thur, July 26
8 pm ESPN Orlando City vs NYCFC
10:30 pm ESPN LAFC vs LA Galaxy (we should be at the game !)
Indiana Soccer League Discounted Offer for Chicago Fire Games
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club would like to invite all families and members involved with ISL out for a Chicago Fire MLS match this Summer and Fall.
On-field experiences for children age 5-17 before every match! This offer includes discounted group ticket pricing for anyone interested.
Please email Stew with the Chicago Fire – Sgreen@chicago-fire.com – for more information about on-field experiences for kids for specific game days, or any other questions!
Saturday, July 21st at 6:00pm vs Toronto FC
Sunday, September 16th at 4:00pm vs Orlando City SC
France vs. Croatia: Mbappe makes French the firm favourites in World Cup final
Jul 12, 2018Mark Ogden, Senior Writer ESPN FC
MOSCOW — It is a World Cup final that few would have predicted at the start of Russia 2018, but France will face Croatia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday with the chance to become world champions at stake for both sides.Didier Deschamps, who captained France to World Cup glory in 1998, has seen his all-star team build momentum throughout the tournament, and they go into the final as strong favourites to win.But Croatia have displayed resolve, perseverance and quality to overcome Denmark, Russia and England (all after extra time) to get to their first ever final, and led by Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, they will believe they can take the World Cup back to the Balkans for the first time.So which team has the edge going into Sunday’s final?
World Cup 2018 must-reads
– Make your daily ESPN FC Match Predictor picks!
– World Cup fixtures, results and coverage
– England can’t let this be another false dawn
– Croatia tell themselves to get up yet again
– FC TV: England lost their way vs. Croatia
– France, Deschamps won’t change approach now
– No sleep ’till Moscow: Fan travels through Russia
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has produced a few world-class saves — from Martin Caceres in the quarterfinal vs. Uruguay, and Toby Alderweireld against Belgium — to remind us all of his ability, but the Tottenham No. 1 went into the World Cup on the back of an unconvincing season for club and country.
Lloris can be unsettled when he has the ball at his feet, so Croatia will look to target this weakness and hope that their goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic, can maintain his remarkable form in Russia.
Subasic has been a hero of two penalty shootouts and played in the semifinal win against England despite having injured his hamstring in the quarterfinal against Russia. The Monaco keeper will pose a determined barrier against the French, but Lloris has grown into this tournament, and he is the best keeper in the final.
Between them, France and Croatia have conceded just nine goals so far at this World Cup, and three of those shipped by the French came in the remarkable 4-3 win against Argentina in the round of 16.
Croatia have not kept a clean sheet during the knockout stages and, against England, were troubled by the pace and movement of Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli, with Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida enduring a tough opening hour against Gareth Southgate’s team before nerves set in.
France, with the blistering pace of Kylian Mbappe, will exploit Croatia’s weaknesses at the back and trust their own back line, marshalled by Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane, to win their battles.
Defensively, France have a strong advantage.
Croatia are a match for any team in the world with their midfield triangle of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic, but they are up against a formidable unit in N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi.
This battle could boil down to Croatia’s streetwise experience against the energy, tenacity and power of the French.
Kante has been one of the stars of the tournament, while Pogba has quietly — unusually for him — gone about his business impressively.
Modric and Rakitic are world-class performers for club and country, though, so this will be the key tactical clash of the game.
France are blessed with some of the hottest attacking talent in the world right now and arguably possess the best options of any team in Russia.
Mbappe has already displayed his incredible ability at this World Cup, with Antoine Griezmann also impressing. The power and strength of Olivier Giroud has given France a crucial attacking dimension, while Deschamps can also call on Ousmane Dembele’s youthful talent and speed down the wing.
Croatia are at the other end of the scale, with battle-hardened veteran Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Wingers Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic are dangers — Perisic was outstanding in the semifinal win against England — and they will need to be on top of their game if Croatia are to have any hope.
Deschamps has all the pedigree you could wish for: a World Cup-winning captain in 1998 and a player who also won the Champions League twice, with Marseille and Juventus.On the other side, Zlatko Dalic was a journeyman midfielder who never represented his country and a man who only took charge of Croatia, following spells coaching in Albania, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, last October.Dalic has allowed his Croatia team to play to its strengths, however, and given senior figures such as Modric, Rakitic and Mandzukic a voice on and off the pitch.He has hugely overperformed to get Croatia to the final, so all the pressure on Sunday will be on Deschamps, whose last final saw France lose to Portugal in Paris at Euro 2016.
There are two big question marks hanging over this game: how tired are Croatia and can France hold their nerve to win the World Cup?Croatia have played extra time three times to get to the final, and their senior players looked to be out of steam during the semifinal win against England. Somehow they dredged up incredible reserves of energy to win the game, but how punishing will those extra periods prove?As for France, they should win comfortably due to their extra freshness and depth, but they failed to deliver on home turf in the Euro 2016 final, so will they choke again?
France 3-1 Croatia
N’Golo Kante deserves the Golden Ball
France’s midfielder has been the best player at the tournament, and a big reason they’re going to a World Cup Final.
The best player at the 2018 World Cup has not scored a goal. He does not have an assist. He’s made no saves, had no moments that made SportsCenter’s top 10. He’s picked up one yellow card, but other than that, you won’t find him on the score sheet.His name is N’Golo Kante, he plays for France, and he deserves the Golden Ball.Kante will never win it, unfortunately, unless there’s some wild groundswell in the next half week. Defensive-oriented players don’t really win the Golden Ball, unless it’s Italy in ‘06 and we give it to Fabio Cannavaro because we didn’t know what else to do with that tournament.It will most likely go to Luka Modric, another wonderful player who has been the engine for Croatia en route to a surprise World Cup final appearance. If anyone aside from Kante is going to win it, I’m glad it’s Modric, one of the world’s more under-appreciated and brilliant players over the last decade or so, and playing his best soccer at age 33.But still, in my heart, this award belongs to Kante.Kante seems out of place, doesn’t he, in this France side? There’s the attacking brilliance and youthful flair of Kylian Mbappé, just 19 and ready to take over the world. There’s Paul Pogba, playing next to Kante, he of the perfect hair and long strides and gorgeous passes that only he could make.And then there’s Kante. He stands 5’6. He weighs maybe 150 pounds. If you aren’t looking for him, you might not notice him, and will just hear his name called every once in a while as he intercepts a ball and then passes it along to a teammate.Kante is the type of player one needs time to appreciate. This was true of him professionally — it took time for scouts and the world’s top clubs to realize just what a special player he was. A few years ago, Kante was playing in the French second division for Caen. He got spotted by Leicester City, they plugged him into the midfield, and then they went and pulled off modern soccer’s greatest miracle by winning the Premier League.Chelsea bought Kante, and then he went and became arguably their most important player. At every level he’s only seemed to improve. His vision, his understanding of the game, keeps getting better. He was always brilliant (one of my few prophetic moments in this dumb sport is when I said Kante could play for any team in the world when he was at Leicester, and I got laughed at), but he’s become even more so. And now he’s doing it at the World Cup.His position doesn’t help him get attention. It’s a thankless job, defensive midfielder, and one that fans need to watch for a long time to understand just how much one contributes to a team. It’s a common trope among club team fanbases that, at the end of a long season, they won’t vote the 20-goal scorer as their Fan Player of the Season … but rather give the honor to the defensive center midfielder, tried and true, never doing too much but bailing out their team time and time again.For most soccer players, the defensive center midfielder is usually their favorite teammate, because he allows everyone else to do what they want to do. He’s the garbage man, dealing with the other team’s best player, making the simple passes, letting you go and do all the fun stuff.But Kante goes beyond the standard defensive center midfielder role. He isn’t just tidy with the ball, isn’t just a decent tackler. Well, he is those things, but it takes watching him closely to understand just how much he influences a game.For one, he covers so much ground that other players are given the freedom to do basically whatever they want. One of the favorite games for people who watch Kante play a lot, especially in his time with Leicester City and Chelsea in the Premier League, is to just keep a half-eye on him when watching the action, then crack yourself up when he shows up in the play, completely unexpectedly, often like 70 yards away from where you last saw him.
A typical thing you might see: Watching the ball, watching the ball … Oh look, Kante just showed up on the right edge of the opponent’s box, to collect a rebound and make a smart pass off a cleared corner kick … Watching the ball, watching the ball … Ha! Ha! Hah! WAIT, KANTE IS NOW 85 YARDS AWAY AND JUST SNUFFED OUT A COUNTER ATTACK FOR THE OPPONENT. THAT WAS LIKE SIX SECONDS. HOW DID … IS HE NIGHTCRAWLER? WHAT THE HELL? AHAHA!
But what separates Kante isn’t just his ability to run, though God can he run, but rather his seemingly preternatural understanding of where a soccer ball is going to go. If you watch him play, you can see him reading passes two or three ahead of time, and adjusting his positioning to deal with it.You can see this in the stats. Here, from earlier in the tournament, on teams that had allowed attackers to bypass defenders. Look at France:
Nine. NINE. That’s Kante. Well, it’s Didier Deschamps’ organization, sure, but it’s also Kante. Teams don’t bypass him because they don’t even dare at this oint. He closes everything out. Passing angles disappear. They don’t even think of dribbling at him because that never ends well.
The best thing about Kante isn’t what he makes happen, though, but rather what he doesn’t allow to happen. Yes, he can seemingly see passes before they come and can intercept them. But he also possesses the ability to see entire attacks taking form before they begin, and then snuff them out.
There was one moment in the first half of the semifinal between France and Belgium where I caught myself watching Kante. The ball was with Belgium’s defender Jan Vertonghen on the left side of the field, and Belgium were on a mini break. Vertonghen saw a pass ahead to his center midfielder, Mousa Dembélé. Kante, realizing his responsibility wasn’t Dembélé, started shifting to the opposite side of the field, and he did so before Vertonghen even made the pass. Why? He understood not only that Vertonghen was going to make that pass, but that Dembele would receive the ball, turn, then pass it out to the other side to the waiting Nacer Chadli, who was on the entire other side of the field, with space and time.It happened exactly as Kante saw it. Kante was already on his way to Chadli when the pass came in. Blaise Matuidi, France’s left wing, who moments earlier was a bit stranded, could now step hard on Chadli, because Kante, understanding the way the game is played, had come over to support him. Chadli was put under pressure by Matuidi, saw Kante coming with the double team, so he was forced to turn backwards and cycle the ball back to the defense. The threat was over.It was a nothing moment, one that will never be on a highlight tape. Kante didn’t score a goal. He didn’t even make a tackle. But Kante’s ability to understand what was happening that second early, and to cover that 8-10 yards of space before he needed to, meant that he was there to provide support to his teammate when Chadli received the ball. An imbalanced situation for Belgium suddenly became them passing it backwards, and France was able to get organized defensively.That’s what Kante does, over and over again, throughout the course of a match. He reads and senses. He makes the right decisions over and over again. He allows the other France players to take chances, and make deep runs, and fly into attack when they see fit, because he is soccer’s greatest security blanket.
He’s tidy with the ball, sure. He’s underrated going forward, too. But that’s not what separates him from the rest of the World Cup. His greatness makes France great. He’s the most important player on the World Cup’s best team. For that, he deserves the Golden Ball.
Jordan Pickford wants to start against Belgium and win the golden glove ahead of Thibaut Courtois
- chief football writer2 JULY 2018 • 10:30PM
Jordan Pickford says that he wants to play for England against Belgium in Saturday’s third and fourth-place play-off in St Petersburg and hopes to be selected as the goalkeeper of the tournament.The Everton goalkeeper made a fine save late on from Mario Mandzukic before the Croatia striker eventually scored the winner in extra-time in Thursday’s semi-final but it has been a good tournament for Pickford, now firmly established as the No 1. His ability to play with his feet from the back has seen him promoted ahead of Jack Butland by Gareth Southgate, and his save from Mateus Uribe of Colombia in the second round is arguably the best of the tournament.Pickford said: “Hopefully I will get the nod against Belgium. I’d love to get the goalkeeper of the tournament. But we came to win this tournament. We can’t do that now but we want to finish third. It will be a tough test against Belgium again.
“Of course it will be hard to get ourselves up for it. That’s where character comes in. It’s another chance to show our togetherness. We want to finish a great tournament on a high.We can’t finish the best team in the world but we can still be the third best.”He added: “My overriding thoughts right now is that we did ourselves proud. The country believes in us again. Beforehand, I don’t think they were expecting too much from us. Now they have seen the character there is in this squad. They can see we are capable of progressing.“It was really moving. At 12.45am the fans are still out there chanting. That got to me. It shows how far we’ve come.”The Fifa golden glove award for the tournament’s best goalkeeper is not decided on clean sheets but by the Fifa technical study group. He will be up against Thibaut Courtois who said Pickford should have saved Adnan Januzaj’s group stage winner against England. Pickford said his greatest moment was the save from Carlos Bacca in the shoot-out that set up the victory on Eric Dier’s penalty. “It felt big at the time and it still feels big now. We won a shoot-out. And we won a knockout game.“The other memory is that I know I have played well in the tournament. But above all this World Cup is about a group of lads embracing every moment, enjoying ourselves and doing ourselves justice.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s need for love, respect helped push him to Juventus
Jul 11, 2018Mark Ogden, Senior Writer, ESPN FC
Cristiano Ronaldo loves to be loved. Forget the trophies, the Ballons d’Or and the goals: when you peel back all of the superficial players, he is simply a guy who wants love and respect and, therefore, his move to Juventus ticks those boxes.When Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford in 2013 for the first (and so far only) time to face Manchester United with Real Madrid in the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson instructed the club’s PA announcer to break with tradition and read out the Real team second, with Ronaldo left as the last player to have his name read out. Alan Keegan, United’s PA man, followed Ferguson’s instructions and the reception Ronaldo was granted made hairs stand up on the back of 70,000 necks. Just as Ferguson anticipated, Ronaldo was so taken by the standing ovation that his focus was clearly distracted in the opening stages.Ronaldo is so often projected as the pantomime villain in his battle for supremacy with Lionel Messi that any kind of affection is soaked up, so it is perhaps no surprise that he has traded Real for Juventus having already been given the respect he so craves by the supporters of the Italian giants.Back in April, after Ronaldo’s stunning overhead-kick goal against Juve was greeted with a standing ovation in Turin, nobody could possibly have envisaged the 33-year-old signing for the Old Lady just three months later.
Cristiano Ronaldo on the move
Ronaldo to join Juventus: The latest news and reaction
Marcotti: The inside story of Ronaldo’s transfer
ESPN FC TV: Transfer changes European football landscape
ESPN FC TV: Will Ronaldo keep scoring goals in Serie A?
How the social media world reacted
What are the most expensive transfers of all time?
Unless he knew differently, Ronaldo himself is unlikely to have had the Italian champions as his first-choice destination should he leave Real, but the gesture from the supporters that night will have left its mark on the Portuguese forward. Juventus showed him respect when he was an opponent; just imagine how much he will be indulged as one of their own.The Ronaldo narrative always suggested that he would only ever leave Real for a return to Man United. After all, his former club made enough attempts to bring him back to Old Trafford, but on one occasion at least, Man United’s interest was used merely to get a better deal from Real. Memories of being used by Ronaldo left scars at Man United — they still tried again once more, without success — but at 33, maybe even the richest club in the world believed that the sums just did not add up to bring him back this time.Paris Saint-Germain have also flirted with Ronaldo, but their lavish investment in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe forced them out of the running. It meant Juventus suddenly presented itself as a much better move than Ronaldo could possibly have expected.The serial Italian champions are a huge club with a global fan base. They may not be Real or Man United, but they are not far behind, and Juve can offer Ronaldo another lorry-load of trophies over the course of his contract. Any move from Real is a step down, but Juventus is one step rather than several.At 33, Ronaldo may have had to consider a move to China or even the MLS if Juventus had not come along. Remaining at Real would have been another option, but it seems that neither Ronaldo nor the Spanish giants were amenable to that.Juventus is a storied club with iconic former players and Ronaldo will relish the opportunity to add his name to their roll of honour. Paolo Rossi, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon all have their images plastered on the walls of Juve’s Allianz Stadium, and you can bet that Ronaldo will do something to earn his place alongside them. He may be 33, but he is still such a consummate, dedicated professional that Juventus can expect plenty of return on their investment.Ronaldo was the Champions League’s top scorer last season and he hit four goals at the World Cup, so he is still a goal scorer to be feared. And with Juventus desperate to win the Champions League after so many years of dominance in Italy, he will be given the stage to help inspire them to their long-awaited third European Cup.Maybe it is all about Ronaldo’s ego and the chance to win more trophies in Serie A, but it is not the one-team league that it has been for most of the seven consecutive seasons Juve have won the title. Napoli are a threat, with Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival as coach this summer highlighting their ambition, while Roma’s run to the Champions League semifinal last season underlined their determination to challenge Juve’s supremacy. Inter Milan are back in the Champions League, and AC Milan, subject to takeover talk, will always expect to be the best in Italy.So, Ronaldo has signed up for a challenge as well as a change of scenery. But he still has it in him to take another league by storm, and that is why Juventus have made such a bold move by signing him.
Why Jorge Sampaoli would be a disaster for the USMNT
Rumors are coming hard and fast, but this one would be trouble.By Donald Wine II@blazindw Jul 8, 2018, 1:06pm PDT
The rumors about who could possibly become the next United States Men’s National Team coach are starting to come in bunches. Today, a report by Mundo Albiceleste, citing a TYC Sportsreport, claims that Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has received offers from U.S. Soccer, Mexico and Costa Rica to take over their head coaching positions.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has reportedly received offers to coach the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica. Now, we can easily dismiss this as a rumor, one that carries no legs for several reasons. Sampaoli is still the Argentina coach and while people expect him and Argentina to part ways, it hasn’t happened yet. Mexico still has their coach as well, with Juan Carlos Osorio also expected to leave but still holds the coaching position. New USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart doesn’t officially assume the role full-time until August 1st, and he is supposed to be responsible for all MNT coaching hires. But really, the main reason we should dismiss this rumor is simple: Jorge Sampaoli would be a disaster for the USMNT.For one, the baggage he carries is immense. Since he won the 2015 Copa America with Chile, he flamed out at Sevilla and took over an Argentine squad that was struggling in World Cupqualifying. While they eventually qualified thanks to some Lionel Messi heroics, they underperformed throughout his tenure. When they arrived at the 2018 World Cup, they did so as heavy favorites despite a pre-World Cup tour that saw them get smoked by Spain and have a friendly against Israel canceled over political protests.Then, there was the actual performance at the World Cup. Their 1-1 draw to Iceland and a 3-0 loss to Croatia in the group stage had his team on the verge of mutiny ahead of its final group stage match against Nigeria. His tactics were erratic, his substitutions were puzzling, and his decision-making was frustrating. Still, they somehow made it out of the group by the skin of their teeth.Argentina eventually met their end in the Round of 16 against France, a 4-3 defeat that was probably more lopsided than the final score. With the exception of just a few minutes of luck and brilliance on the part of the players, Argentina was no match for a French squad that dazzled from start to finish. La Albiceleste were out, a disappointing finish for the team who were the 2014 World Cup runners-up and runners-up in the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario and were expected to at least return to the semifinals in this World Cup.Those don’t fare well for a stint with the USMNT. He’d also have to figure out a way to continue the development of the younger guys in the player pool, something he wasn’t the best at with Argentina. There, he took a golden generation of sorts and rode them until the wheels fell off…and fall off they did. The Argentine federation is in disarray, and many important players are now considering retirement. Sound familiar?When it comes to Jorge Sampaoli, of course he may have a decent resume coaching some big-time South American teams. But, the baggage he carries and his tendencies to have tenures built around turmoil rather than teamwork is something that should not be brought into a situation with the USMNT. There are other qualified candidates out there without the baggage, but as agents try to jockey their clients into prominent positions, know that these rumors will get people talking. But, for the USMNT’s sake, let’s hope Jorge Sampaoli becomes some other team’s problem and Earnie Stewart and U.S. Soccer say to his candidacy: NO WAY!!
USMNT July 13-15 viewing guide and open thread
One last chance for a World Cup bump
By jcksnftsn Jul 13, 2018, 9:00am PDT
MLS and their television partners will try one last time this weekend to carry over audience from the World Cup into MLS action with two games on Sunday, the first starting on Fox immediately following their World Cup coverage. There are no Friday or Saturday network games this weekend so we’ll jump right into Sunday.
Atlanta United v Seattle Sounders – 2:00p on Fox
Immediately following the conclusion of the World Cup coverage on Sunday Fox will roll into coverage of the MLS with a game featuring the Supporters Shield leaders, Atlanta United facing off against a disappointing Seattle Sounders side.Atlanta are 12-4-4 with identical home and road splits of 6-2-2 and coming off a road win against the Philadelphia Union with Josef Martinez scoring his league leading 18th goal 7 more than a trio tied for second place including American hero Gyasi Zardes! With Andrew Carleton remaining glued to the bench and Greg Garza and Darlington Nagbe both out with long term injuries the USMNT presence on this side of the ball is limited to Brad Guzan.Seattle’s season has been a disappointing one, having picked up only 16 points half way through their schedule after finishing last year with 53 points. Their results this season have them in 10th place in the Western Conference, 10 points back of the final playoff spot. At 35 Clint Dempseylooks to be regressing to a substitute role and has managed just one goal this season. Cristian Roldan has been a consistent presence in the lineup for the Sounders while younger brother Alex has appeared in 13 games including 7 starts.
Los Angeles Football Club v Portland Timbers – 5:00p on ESPN
Following the Atlanta v Seattle match you can flip over to ESPN to catch some West Coast action as this years “how can expansion teams be so good so fast when DC United is… that” team, LAFC, takes on the Portland Timbers.LAFC are coming off a 4-1 shellacking of Orlando City and sit in second place in the Western Conference just one point behind FC Dallas. Walker Zimmerman is the youngest of the LAFC Americans and most likely to be involved moving forward though the center back may not be more than an off-cycle / Gold Cup option if the young center backs playing abroad (Brooks, Miazga, EPB, etc.) continue to progress and be available as expected.
The Portland Timbers are also coming in off a win, over hapless San Jose, and are undefeated in their last 11 games. Unfortunately, their success cannot be attributed to any American development as the young Americans, Eryk Williamson and Marco Farfan, have failed to make an impact. Former U-20 member Zarek Valentin has started 15 games this season but at 26 years of age seems unlikely to break into the Senior team at this point.
By: James Cormack – Bloody Shambles Soccer
Indy headed southeast to Charleston to play their 5th match in 16 days with a chance of moving up another spot in the USL East standings if they could clinch a road win in South Carolina. The two teams locked horns in Indy’s last home match of May in a thrilling 3-3 tieAs expected with such a hectic period in the 2018 schedule we again saw some rotation to the starting lineup and as we saw against Charlotte it was backed up by a very strong bench. Even with injuries and knocks recently Martin Rennie has called on his depth to step up.Indy Eleven’s weekend game against Charlotte saw early departures for Justin Braun and Kevin Venegas and their replacements Ben Speas and Eugene Starikov started against Charlotte. Brad Ring who left the last game late with calf cramp took the bench.Seth Moses continued where he left off on Saturday at right back alongside Ouimette, Mitchell, and Ayoze. Pasher, Guerra, Matern, Watson and Starikov covered the midfield with Ben Speas playing forward and as usual Owain Fôn Williams in goal. I am not sure why and maybe I am mad, but the team and USL always display us as a 4-4-2 when we clearly are not. Is the starting lineup just based on D’s, M’s and F’s? No idea.As in the previous match the players starting are good enough to bring about a result, a mixture or starters, and some fresh leg rotation. With multiple games in a short period of time, it’s a sensible tactic to begin with when you have a bench stacked with outfield talent like Soony Saad, Jack McInerney, Zach Steinberger, Brad Rusin, Nathan Lewis, and Brad Ring. Again it was a hot one around 90 degrees, and the first half saw both teams probing and feeling each other out patiently. There was no urgent attempt by either side to hit hard and early. Indy played and looked comfortable for most of the first half, perhaps becoming flat and static in the last ten minutes or so.After 22 minutes of give and take it was Charleston who found the first opening through Gordon Wild. Working inside Charleston’s right and untracked he received a pass from the wing, turned inside and struck a clean left footed shot into the far left corner of Indy’s net from about 24 yards out. Not much you can do about the clinical finish but the time and space he found deep in Indy’s half could have been limited and pressed by our midfield.Indy had a great chance to equalize with 30 minutes gone when Carlyle Mitchell connected with a corner delivered by Ayoze. His bullet header from a few yards out was denied by a great reaction save from Cuban stopper Odisnel Cooper.fter falling behind Indy Eleven continued a methodical and patient approach to the game but with around 10 minutes to go before the half the pass and move changed to a little pass and stand still, the team seemed tired and weary and waiting for the whistle.Whatever Martin Rennie had to say to galvanize his team at halftime worked as Indy Eleven started the second half with more urgency and aggression. Five minutes in Seth Moses made a drive into the left side of Charleston’s box and chipped a cross to the back post for Speas but Ben couldn’t get his bicycle high enough of the ground and his attempted shot found the topside of the net. Within ten minutes Indy Eleven did put the score level. From a central position ben Speas put a short pass through to split the Charleston defense, Eugene Starikov beat the offside trap and went one on one with Cooper. The keeper spread himself at Starikov’s feet but Indy’s number 9 calmly dinked a chip shot up and over to tie the game up. Starikov’s first competitive goal makes him the 12th Indy player to score in 2018.Indy continued to press and within moments could have taken the lead through substitute Soony Saad. A Carlyle Mitchell pass that went almost from the edge of one 18 yard box to the other was controlled by Saad and he pushed towards the Charleston goal. His first shot was saved by the sprawling Cooper which returned to his feet and his second attempt was cleared off the line by Taylor Mueller.It was by far a better half for Indy Eleven, but one man made the evening and the points his own. Gordon Wild again punished Indy, with a goal in each half he made the difference. His second perhaps not as spectacular as his first but it ended any hopes of Indy returning home with a point.ild was again in good space on Indy’s right this time, untracked and unmarked he received a pass from the middle of the field and managed to put a low shot with the left foot on the outside of Seth Moses and past Owain Fôn Williams into the far bottom corner of the net. 2-1 was enough to keep the three points in Charleston. Indy rallied in the second 45 and almost grabbed a point but again I feel a little bit of midfield being unable to regain their shape and press attackers allowed for a second individual goal in open play from Charleston’s number 15.Its been a difficult spell for Indy with an intensive June and July schedule, Charleston is a difficult side, so it is hard to criticize the result too much, they deserved it, we made mistakes. We drew 3-3 with them at a time where we knew we needed to change our effort to change our results and they were in second place. The win for the home side lifts them above Indy into fourth, the Eleven hold fifth place after Nashville fell 1-0 to Charlotte yesterday eveningThe game marked the first match past the halfway point for Indy, and the report card for the midpoint is most certainly not terrible. After 17 matches of the season we sat in the top half of the playoff positions, there have been some disappointing results against poor teams and great results against difficult teams such as Louisville and Nashville. As captain Watson has said previously you have to make those points yourself and make them as soon as you can and not rely on the results of others. We started the second half of the season with an away defeat against a difficult side, I am still confident enough in this squad to pick up the results they need going forward, and we can win away from home.Indy Eleven can take relief in having 10 days of much-needed rest before their next game, the first matchup of the season with old rivals Tampa Bay Rowdies in St.Petersburg. That match will be the first in a series of three away games before our Boys In Blue return to Lucas Oil Stadium on August 15th. After the Rowdies, Indy will play return matches against Bethlehem Steel and Louisville City FC.
|Current USL Eastern Conference Standings as of July 12th, 2018 (uslsoccer.com)|
If you are planning to attend the August 5th Match in Louisville keep your eyes out for travel and ticket information from the Brickyard Battalion and don’t forget to pick up tickets for Indy Eleven’s next home match against North Carolina FC at BYBTix.com. And don’t forget to check out the World Cup FInal Watch Party with the BYB, SH19 and Indy Eleven at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple on July 15th.
PAINTING SUCCESS ON AND OFF THE FIELD
By Drew Kamaski, 07/11/18, 12:00PM EDT “Boys in Blue” Owain Fon Williams isn’t just a skilled goalkeeper, but a talented painter, too
Owain Fon Williams grasped his palette in one hand. In the other hand, he gripped his paint brush as he stroked the canvas gently. As the assortment of colors blended together, grey mountains covered in white moonlight filled the frame. In the middle stood a quarryman, modeled after his grandfather, who inspired a series of Fon Williams’ paintings.Fon Williams has painted as long as he can remember. He began painting as a child in the town of Penygroes, Wales, a small Welsh village with a total population of 1,793 people.“My mom and dad would just give me paper and some paint and I used to paint away,” said the Welsh keeper. “I’ve done it since I was a kid.”Fon Williams didn’t play FIFA and Fortnite during his adolescent years, instead he painted the majestic landscapes that surrounded his home in the Gwynned region of Wales.“Growing up I didn’t have console games,” the Indy Eleven starting goalkeeper said. “I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a loely area with mountains and seascapes. Whether I painted whatever I was into or just goalkeeper gloves, I always wanted to paint something.”As he grew older, Fon Williams became more involved with the pitch, and less involved with the canvas. Now, 12 years into an illustrious football career, Fon Williams finds himself stateside with Indy Eleven. Despite the rigorous life that comes with being a professional footballer, he never forgot his love for painting.His first serious painting was of a Highland bull. He took the painting to a local framing shop in Nantlle Valley, Wales. There he discovered the focus of the first half of his next collection of paintings – quarrymen.“My grand-dad was one many years ago,” said Fon Williams. “The industry has died now but if anyone was to go to Wales, especially North Wales, you wouldn’t be able to walk two steps without seeing the blue slate and the work these men did many years ago.”The other half of his works depict the goalkeeper’s time with the Wales National Team in one of Europe’s most renowned contests, the UEFA European Championship.Wales made its first ever appearance in the tournament in 2016. The Dragons pushed on to the semi-finals of the 2016 Euros, defeating the tournament favorite, Belgium, in the quarterfinal.“It was like a dream, to be honest,” the understudy to Wales International goalkeeper Wayne Hennesey said. “To beat Belgium in the quarter finals 3-1 showed the character and spirit we had in the team to fight back from down 0-1.”Fon Williams’ and Wales’ Euro 2016 run came to end in the semi-finals. A strong Portuguese side ended the Cinderella run for Wales. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, who Fon Williams labled“The Master”, and Nani defeated the small country from Southwest Great Britain.If not for injuries to Welsh teammates Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davis, Fon Williams believes the outcome would’ve been different.Despite the loss, Fon Williams focuses on the positive experiences of the Euros. He stays in touch with teammates from Wales’ 2016 Euros squad through WhatsApp.“I’ve grown up with Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Gareth Bale,” Fon Williams said. “We still keep in touch. That’s down to the bond we had with that kind of brotherhood. That gang-like mentality was kind of bred into us and made it so special.”Fon Williams discovered more than a bond with his teammates at the Euros; he discovered a wealth of knowledge.Wales head coach Chris Coleman nagged the team about little details according to Fon Williams.Coleman emphasized little goals that were set in place to help the team succeed. The Wales gaffer challenged the team to concede less free kicks, corner kicks, and crosses into the box if they were to advance.Now on loan from Scottish Championship club Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the Welsh goalkeeper is bringing those little goals and that bond to Indy Eleven.“When I joined here at Indy Eleven, we had a team gathering and the coaches spoke of the little goals Indy Eleven has,” Fon Williams said. “I know how something works with the little goals. Hopefully we can reach some of those goals.”Completing game-to-game goals is a short term task for Indy Eleven, a team comprised of mostly new faces. What will take time for Fon Williams and the “Boys in Blue” is developing the chemistry the Wales National Team possessed in France.“It’s not something you can buy that will happen overnight,” Fon Williams said. “We’re a new team. We’ve only been together a month or two. Some of us have never met each other let alone played with each other.”Fon Williams believes responsibility and accountability on the pitch will help the team develop a strong core as Indy Eleven seek in their first ever USL campaign.“That’s how that bond, that unity kind of starts,” Fon Williams said.Five games into the season, the bond has grown stronger after every game as the new squad adjusts to life in Indianapolis.For some players, coming to the Circle City was the benefactor of needing a place to play. For Fon Williams, a long-term stay in the States was a part of the plan for quite some time.“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said the Welsh International. “I’ve been coming here on holiday for about 10 years or more because I love the states, I love the people.”Fon Williams attributes his move to the generous hospitality he’s experienced and the growth of the game. He planned to surround himself with good people and feels he has done that here in Indianapolis with Indy Eleven.“The hardest part of the transition from life in Great Britain to life stateside has been the time difference,” Fon Williams said.A change in his biological clock isn’t going to keep Fon Williams from taking Indy Eleven as far as he can.“It’s a phenomenal team on the up that’s actually going to go somewhere,” Indy Eleven’s man between the sticks said. “I want to be as successful as I possibly can and I feel that Indy Eleven, as a team, have that fight in their belly.”Fon Williams has performed well with “Boys in Blue” in five games. He’s kept a clean sheet in three of the five matches while only conceding two goals on the season.After the final whistle blows and Fon Williams takes off his gloves, he goes back to the canvas. ne of his goals as an Indy Eleven player is to paint a mosaic of Indy Eleven’s crest.“If the supporters can fancy doing something with me, I’d like to do a mosaic of our crest, the Indy Eleven crest.”It is a massive undertaking that will require extreme amounts of supplies, time, and effort, but a goal Fon Williams is determined to achieve.“With something like art you can bring a lot of people together. If I can bring those people in and get them on board then happy day,” Fon Williams said.The professional goalkeeper finds solace in painting. Rest and relaxation is the most important part of his recovery.For Fon Williams, this is located in front of a canvas with a palette and brush in hand.“I find it very therapeutic for me,” said Fon Williams. “Even if it’s only an hour or two that I can pick up my brushes, knives, or whatever and start painting, I can switch off and I’m fresh back into my work.”