8/17/18 Indy 11 win & host home games next 2 Weds, La Liga, Serie A Start, What Leagues are on Which Networks, Full TV Game Schedule

INDY 11

So my buddy Paul and I made it out for the Huge come from behind win for the Indy 11 over North Carolina last night 3-2 with the winner scored in the 90th minute! But there is one thing I don’t understand?  Fans why aren’t you going to Indy 11 games anymore?  Really I want to know – sure it was a solid crowd for a Wed night – but if Cincinnati can put 25K in an outdoor university stadium downtown why can’t we do 10K PLUS in 1 of the nicest NFL stadiums around?  Ticket pricing is reasonable (cheapest seats $15 or cheaper with specials), the stadium is fantastic –with great concessions, easy parking, great bathrooms and what is truly one of the nicest stadiums around.  The BYB supporters section behind the goal provides a solid atmosphere – and the team is in playoff contention and playing pretty good soccer.  So why don’t you go??  I can’t help but think if we don’t start filling at least ¾ of the lower bowl – our Eleven may not play here again – and man this is a big time stadium with great big replay screens, and lots of things to do inside the stadium.  Indy 11 casual fans, rec players, travel players, parents of soccer players – you need to get to a game while we still have a competitive team playing in a fantastic venue – or we might just not have them anymore.

The Eleven are about to embark on a run of 6 games in 21 days that will probably determine if the team makes the playoffs. Two of the games are on Wednesday nights and special pricing is in play to see those games for as low at $10 per ticket.  Our Boys in Blue return home the next 2 Wed Aug 15 + 22 + 29, + Sat Aug 25 + Sept 1 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.  

Sat 8/18  2 pm ESPN+                     Ottawa vs Indy 11 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

Wed 8/22 7 pm MyIndy23         Indy 11 vs Toronto FC II

Sat 8/25 7 pm ESPN+                    Indy 11 @ Atlanta United FC 2 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

Wed 8/29 7 pm myIndy23          Indy 11 vs Pittsburg Riverhounds SC

Sat Sept 1 7 pm  Wish TV 8        Indy 11 vs Richmond Kickers

Wed Sept 5 7 pm Wish TV 8      Indy 11 vs NY Red Bulls II

World Leagues Where Can You Watch Them?

The European Leagues are all starting their seasons either last week, this weekend or next weekend – now the question is where are the games Televised?  Of course American soccer MLS and USL (the league the INDY 11 is in now), and NWSL (women’s league), and of course the US National teams continue to be featured on US TV on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Yes TV and Lifetime (NWSL) along with ESPN and Fox Sports online.  The new ESPN+ carries some MLS and all the USL games including the away Indy 11 games and costs $5 a month for online coverage.  (Yes I broke down and signed up to watch our Indy 11 and some MLS games especially Columbus and Chicago.)

NBCSN and NBC continue to show the English Premier League EPL- with just a few American’s playing with the occasional game on CNBC and MSNBC now and again with games on Sat and Sunday mornings starting as early at 7:30 am and continuing thru the 12:30 kickoff often on NBC. They also often have games on a Monday afternoon (Monday night football) and the occasional Friday afternoon (Friday night football) at 2:45 pm.  NBCSN have good show’s before and after the games along with the Goal Zone which reviews the goals each day.  Now if the game is not being featured on TV you have to order the NBC Gold Package ($50) which does allow you to watch the games not shown along with replays of all the games each club (4 each) will have games on NBC Gold only unfortunately.  Also online is TalkSport – where you can listen to the Radio version of the EPL games as broadcast in England.  (You will often see me on Saturday’s plugged in to my cell listening to a game).  American’ players Deandre Yedlin starts at right back for New Castle United, Danny Williams plays Dmid for Huddersfield (the coach is also a former US National Team player David Wagner), and Fulham has American defender Tim Ream and MF Luca de la Torre.  Sitting the bench are Arsenal’s MF Gideon Zelalem, Cardiff City’s GK Chris Konopka and Man United’s defender Matthew Olosunde.  See full season previews below but I like Man City and Liverpool to battle for the top slot in the EPL while Tottenham and either Man United or Chelsea will finish top 4.  I think Arsenal plays better overall in their first season after Wenger but will be on the outside looking in at the end of the season.

The Bundesliga continues to be on Fox Sports 1 & 2 & Fox Soccer with the most American’s in any league being featured starting next weekend.  The Bundesliga is perhaps the most underrated of Europe’s top three leagues, providing exciting, attacking football, albeit with a predictable champion. Fox doesn’t do a great job with its Bundesliga rights, but it does an adequate job and it actually shows them on TV and gives you the ability to watch online via your cable login.  Fox typically broadcasts Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund matches along with other teams at 9:30 am and 12:30 pm on weekends outside of the 2:45 pm Friday and Monday matches.  Now Fox Sports losing their buts on the World Cup without the US – seems to have resulted in Fox giving up on soccer.  They lose the Champions League, Europa League, and the FA Cup.

Serie A Kicks off Season on ESPN+ this Weekend

The big move of the summer was of course multi-time player of the Year and the leading scorer in Champions League Christiano Renaldo from Real Madrid to the Italian League Serie A’s Juventus.  The move has lead to ESPN signing a contract to show Serie A games on ESPN+ starting with the game on Saturday at noon between Juve and Chevio, Lazio follows at 2:30 pm.  Sunday gives us Torino vs Roma at Noon on ESPN News with all the other games at 2:30 on ESPN+.  I like Juventus of course to win the League with the addition of scoring machine Renaldo-  I look for Napoli to finish 2nd if they can find a good goalkeeper while Roma and Inter Milan will battle for that 3rd Champions League spot.

Spain’s La Liga Kicks off Friday on beIN Sport

beIN Sport continues to carry La Liga Spanish and Ligue 1 French soccer this season (LA LIGA Starts Friday) – they also have one of the best Review shows on TV The Extra at 7 pm and various other times EVERY day. Most Spanish and French games are in the afternoon in the US on Sat and Sundays and some Fridays.  beIN sports has my favorite announcing team in Phil Schoen and Rocky Ray Hudson.  Most of the time, beIN will broadcast the Real Madrid and Barcelona matches each weekend with a smattering of some of the other top few teams like Atlético Madrid, Villarreal and Valencia. LaLiga will continue a schedule that includes a 3 p.m. EST game on Friday, Saturday matches at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., Sunday matches at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and a Monday match at 2:30 p.m., with occasional midweek matches.  I think my Atletico Madrid– will finally break thru and win the Spanish League this season – as the full team returns including French World Cup winner Antoine Greizmann and backstop Oblak, with some added firepower for the Man in Black Diego Simeone –Now is the time for the people’s team to make the breakthrough and unseat the traditional champions with much bigger payrolls – Real Madrid and Barcelona.  Their 4-2 win over Real Madrid in the EUFA Supercup was impressive Wed!

Gol TV carries live Portegues soccer and the occasional German game.  All of the main channels have apps that allow you to watch online – so download those apps today and catch a game on the phone if you like.  (Email me if you want to borrow my login – I have them all).  (see more Season previews below on http://theoleballcoach.com-

EPL Weekend #2

We have some big games in Week 2 of the EPL as teams battling for a top 4 spot – each with new coaches will face off as Chelsea will host Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC, after my ole favorite – FULHAM America – faces Tottenham at Wembley at 10 am on NBCSN.  US defender Tim Ream will have his hands full with Harry Kane and the Spur stars.  Not sure if US defender Deandre Yedlin will be back from his knee knock for New Castle as they travel to Cardiff City at 7:25 again on NBCSN.   ESPN gives us Seattle the hottest team in MLS hosting the LA Galaxy (Zlatan) at 4 pm.   While Sunday we get top ranked East teams Atlanta hosting Columbus on ESPN+ at 4 pm and DC United and Wayne Rooney hosting NE.  Monday Liverpool will feature at 3 pm vs Crystal Palace.  (Bill we watching at pub?)

Carmel FC Goalies don’t forget 2 Goalie trainings this Fall with GK coach Kristian Nicht and Me – the ole ballcoach starts back up – Weds at Shelbourne & Thurs at Badger Field  6-7 pm U11-U12  7 to 8 pm U13 – U19.  Also some teams are still looking for players for the Travel season reach-out to the ole ballcoach if interested.

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

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

Game Day Nutrition for Youth Soccer Players 

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

GAMES ON TV This Week

Fri, Aug 17                 

2:45 pm ESPN3            Schweinfurt vs Schalke (Mckinney)

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Stade Reims vs Olympique Lyonnais (French)

4:15 pm beIN Sport     Real Betis vs Levante (Spain)

7 pm SEC Network     Florida vs Washington

Sat, Aug 18    

7:30 am NBCSN            Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Cardiff

10 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Fulham (Tim Ream)

10:50 am beIN Sport    EA Guingamp vs PSG (Tim Weah)

12 noon ESPN+            Juventus (Renaldo) vs Chievo (La Liga)

12:30 pm NBCSN        Chelsea vs Arsenal 

1:55 pm beIN Sport     Monaco vs Lille (French)

2 pm ESPN+                    Ottawa vs Indy 11 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

2:30 pm ESPN+            Lazio vs Napoli (Serie A)

4 pm ESPN                    Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan)

4:05 pm beIN Sport      Barcelona vs Alaves (SP)

7 pm Yes Network     Philly Union vs NYCFC

10 pm FS2                       Monterey vs Pumas (Mexican)

Sun, Aug 19    

8 am NBCSN                   Man City vs Huddersfield Town (Danny Williams)

11 am NBCSN                Brighton vs Man United

12 noon ESPN News    Torino vs Roma (Serie A)

4 pm beIN Sport          Real Madrid vs Getafe

4 pm ESPN+                    Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew

7:30 pmFS1                    DC United (Rooney) vs New England

7 pm SEC Network+  Florida vs Fla Atlantic

Mon, Aug 20    

10 am FS2                        U20 Womens WC Semi-Final

1:30 pm FS2                   U20 France vs Spain WC Semi-Final

2 pm beIN Sport         Valencia vs Atletico Madrid

3 pm NBCSN                   Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

Wed, Aug 22    

7 pm FS 1                     NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls – NY Darby

7 pm myindytv/espn+ Indy 11 vs Toronto 2

Thurs, Aug 23    

7 pm ESPN+                    Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew

10 pm FS2                       Tijuana vs Santos Laguna (Mex)

Fri, Aug 24                     German Bundesliga Starts

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1      Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim

7 pm ESPN                       Orlando City (Cam Lindley) vs Atlanta United

10:30 pm ESPN              LA Galaxy vs LAFC (El Traffico 3)

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US Players in Europe

These Are the Oversea’s US Players to Watch – Brian Straus SI

Yanks Abroad: Goals around the globe

Tim Weah scores in PSG’s season opener

USA 2-2 tie with Spain not enough to advance out of group at U20 Women’s World Cup

USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Emmanuel Sabbi hot streak continues

Emmanuel Sabbi should be the next young attacker to get a USMNT chance

U.S. Soccer Development Academy Must Expand

EPL

DeAndre Yedlin Knee Injury not Serious – New Castle Confirms – ESPN

5 Things we Learned this Weekend in th EPL – yahoo soccer

Pogba’s Powerplay at United?

Sessegnon – Fulham were taught Premier League lesson by Crystal Palace

EPL Season Predictor – 538

EPL Preview – the Ringer Audio

WORLD

Where to Watch the European Games this Season

Where to watch UEFA Champions League and Europa League on US TV and streaming-World Soccer Talk

Turner TV Hi-Jacks Champions League and Europa League Games from Fox

ICC Cup Folks to Partner with La Liga to Bring a Regular Season Game to the US

Costa and Atletico Madrid deliver Statement Win in Supercup over Real Madrid 4-2

LA LIGA PREVIEW – Is It Finally Atletico’s Year to Topple Real Madrid and Barcelona? – ESPNFC Graham Hunter

La Liga Preview SI

Who had Better Signings in La Liga Race?

Coutinho Will Never Replace Iniesta at Barca – and that’s just Fine

Messi Captures Record 33rd Title with Barca in Spanish Supercup win as Captain

Allegri Eyes Champions League as Renaldo Scores in 8 min of first game for Juventus

Renaldo’s Move to Juve could be a Boost to Serie A

Goalies

EPL Saves of the Week 1

Best Saves of the World Cup

Save of the Week – National Womens SL –

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS Save

Golden Glove Winner Courtois Moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid for Family Reasons

Mattia Perin out to Prove Worthy Heir to Gigi Buffon for Juve and Italy

Bilbao GK Kepa Arrizabalaga becomes most Expensive GK with $71 Million Dollar move to Chelsea

Former Roma GK Allisson a Steal for Liverpool at $66 Million

Top Fantasy GK Picks for the EPL

Top Save totals at World Cup by GK

MLS

Jose Altidore draws interest of Serie A and Ligue 1 Teams – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Would you rather have Zlatan or Rooney?

Anthony Precourt Gets 1 Step Closer to Pimping out the Columbus Crew to Austin Tx  dead spin Bill Haisley

Seattle Hosts LA Galaxy and Zlatan Sat Aug 14 4 pm on ESPN riding a Winning Streak

Can Martinez break the MLS scoring record Sunday?

Discuss: Revs or D.C. a more likely playoff team?

Another late run? Seattle swear it’s not by design

2019 CONCACAF Champions League Qualifying Process is Qualified

Power Rankings: NY teams put the heat on ATL

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Indy 11

Dramatic Goal in the 90th Minute Lifts Indy 11 over NC 3-2

Football Lines will be Visible at Games with New Indy Colts Turf Installed

KEYS TO THE MATCH | #LOUVIND

Indy 11 Add New Players from MLS

Indy 11 Sends United Way Donor to MLS All-Star Game

Painting Success On and Off the Field – GK

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

Indy 11 Game Schedule

USL League Standings

Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Parking passes at Gate10  Events is $11 with advance purchase. $15 day of.  Save $$$ by buying early.

INDY 11 GAMES

Sat 8/18  2 pm ESPN+                     Ottawa vs Indy 11 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

Wed 8/22 7 pm MyIndy23         Indy 11 vs Toronto FC II

Sat 8/25 7 pm ESPN+                                               Indy 11 @ Atlanta United FC 2 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

Wed 8/29 7 pm myIndy23          Indy 11 vs Pittsburg Riverhounds SC

Sat Sept 1 7 pm  Wish TV 8        Indy 11 vs Richmond Kickers

Wed Sept 5 7 pm Wish TV 8      Indy 11 vs NY Red Bulls II

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Aug 17                 

2:45 pm ESPN3            Schweinfurt vs Schalke (Mckinney)

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Stade Reims vs Olympique Lyonnais (French)

4:15 pm beIN Sport    Real Betis vs Levante (Spain)

7 pm SEC Network     Florida vs Washington

Sat, Aug 18    

7:30 am NBCSN            Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Cardiff

10 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Fulham (Tim Ream)

10:50 am beIN Sport      EA Guingamp vs PSG (Tim Weah)

12 noon ESPN+            Juventus (Renaldo) vs Chievo (La Liga)

12:30 pm NBCSN        Chelsea vs Arsenal 

1:55 pm beIN Sport     Monaco vs Lille (French)

2 pm ESPN+                    Ottawa vs Indy 11 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

2:30 pm ESPN+            Lazio vs Napoli (Serie A)

4 pm ESPN                       Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy (Zlatan)

4:05 pm beIN Sport        Barcelona vs Alaves (SP)

7 pm Yes Network     Philly Union vs NYCFC

10 pm FS2                       Monterey vs Pumas (Mexican)

Sun, Aug 19    

8 am NBCSN                   Man City vs Huddersfield Town (Danny Williams)

11 am NBCSN                Brighton vs Man United

12 noon ESPN News       Torino vs Roma (Serie A)

2:30 pm FS2                   Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich  Super Cup

4 pm beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Getafe

4 pm ESPN+                    Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew

7:30 pmFS1                    DC United (Rooney) vs New England 

7 pm SEC Network+  Florida vs Fla Atlantic

Mon, Aug 20    

10 am FS2                        U20 Womens WC Semi-Final

1:30 pm FS2                   U20 France vs Spain WC Semi-Final

2 pm beIN Sport         Valencia vs Atletico Madrid

3 pm NBCSN                   Crystal Palace vs Liverpool       

Wed, Aug 22    

7 pm FS 1                      NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls – NY Darby

7 pm myindytv/espn+ Indy 11 vs Toronto 2

Thurs, Aug 23    

7 pm ESPN+                    Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew

10 pm FS2                       Tijuana vs Santos Laguna (Mex)

Fri, Aug 24                     German Bundesliga Starts

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1      Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim

7 pm ESPN                       Orlando City (Cam Lindley) vs Atlanta United

10:30 pm ESPN            LA Galaxy vs LAFC (El Traffico 3)

Sat, Aug 25     

7:30 am NBCSN            Wolverhampton vs Man city 

9:30 am FS 1                  Wolfsburg vs Schalke (McKinney)

10 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs West Ham United

12 noon beIN Sport  Juventus vs Lazio

12:30 pm NBCSN        Liverpool vs Brighton

12:30 pm FS 1              M’Gladbach (Johnson) vs Bayer Leverkusen

7 pm ESPN+                    Atlanta 2 vs Indy 11 (watch w/BYB @ Union Jack)

8 pm ESPN News         Washington Spirit vs Portland Thorns (Ladies) 

Sun, Aug 26    

8 am NBCSN                   Watford vs Crystal Palace 

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs Stuttgart

11 am NBCSN                New Castle United vs Chelsea

12 noon Fox Soccer  Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

2:30 pm FS2                   Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich  Super Cup

4 pm beIN Sport         Girona vs Real Madrid 

7:30 pmFS1                    DC United (Rooney) vs New England 

7 pm Fox Sport1          NY Red Bulls vs DC United (Rooney)

9:30 pm FS1                   Portland vs Seattle Sounders (Cascadia Cup)

Mon, Aug 27    

3 pm NBCSN                   Manchester United vs Tottenham

Fri, Sept 7

7:30 pm FS1                   USA vs Brazil (Metlife)

Tues, Sept 11

8:30 pm ESPN               USA vs Mexico in Nashville (anyone want to go?)

Thurs, Oct 11

7:30 pm FSI                     USA vs Colombia (Tampa)

Thurs, Nov 15

3 pm ESPN2                    England vs USA (Wembley)

Sat, Nov 20

3 pm ESPN2                    Italy vs USMNT

Indy 11 Game Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

EPL Schedule

 RECAP | INDY ELEVEN CLINCH THREE POINTS AGAINST NORTH CAROLINA FC, 3-2

By James Higdon, 08/15/18, 11:45PM EDT

Dramatic ending sees “Indiana’s Team” march away with a homecoming win

Indy Eleven claim three points in a homecoming fixture against North Carolina FC, 3-2. Goals from forwards Eugene Starikov and Ben Speas, and a dramatic late goal from midfielder Juan Guerra, sees the “Boys in Blue” jump to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.“Indiana’s Team” gained the upper hand early in the evening. A well-placed cross from Eleven forward Jack McInerney from the right edge of the pitch found Starikov at the top of Carolina’s six-yard box in the seventh minute. The Ukrainian forward scored his third goal of the season after his sliding shot edged around NCFC defender DJ Taylor. McInerney nearly got the first a minute prior after service from defender Kevin Venegas found him in front of NCFC’s goal, but a misplaced touch sent the attempt just wide of the post.

“He [Starikov] was out for two and a half months. You didn’t get to see him and we didn’t really get to use him.” said Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “Now we’re seeing the benefit of having him on the field and he’s scoring.”After a number of offensive pushes, NCFC came close to leveling the one-goal lead in the 21st minute. NCFC midfielder Kyle Bekker linked up with unmarked midfielder Marcel Kandziora inside Indy’s 18-yard box. Attempting to catch Eleven keeper Owain Fon Williams off his line, Kandziora chipped his shot high towards the net. The Welshman managed to get a touch, but it wasn’t enough to divert the ball from goal. The score looked to be even before a miraculous goal line clearance from Eleven defender Carlyle Mitchell kept the ball from crossing over. Kandziora came knocking again in the 28th minute with a shot 19 yards out, but ended wide of Indy’s frame.Indy responded to NCFC’s onslaught of chances by doubling its lead. In the 31st minute, Venegas bodied the ball away from Kandziora in Carolina’s defensive half. Speas waited nearby to receive the turnover. With three quick touches, Speas registered the match’s second goal, and his third in 2018, from 27 yards out.“It was a spectacular goal and he’s capable of that and we just want to see him on the ball more,” said Rennie. “He defended a lot too.”Refusing to end the first half scoreless, North Carolina narrowed the gap with a stoppage time free kick. The free kick opportunity came after a yellow card offense from Mitchell outside Indy’s 18-yard box. The linesman blew his whistle as defender Aaron Guillen and Bekker stood over the dead ball. Guillen charged past the ball as Bekker curled his shot into the lower left corner of Indy’s net.Both teams found and left chances in front of goal throughout the second half until NCFC hit its equalizer in the 77th minute. Carolina substitute defender Wullito Fernandes’ square pass bounced into Indy’s six-yard box where substitute forward Marios Lomis nodded the ball between the posts.In dramatic fashion, Indy managed to net one final goal, and the winner, in the 90th minute when Juan Guerra made the most of a deflected shot inside NCFC’s 18-yard box. The goal was Guerra’s first since joining the “Boys in Blue” earlier this year.Coach Rennie partially credited the new turf in Lucas Oil Stadium to tonight’s victory.
“It was a much better game tonight and there was much more passing and interchanging,” Rennie said. “The surface does play a lot better so that’s one big plus. The players made the most of it and I thought they did a good job.”Indy hit the road three days from now to take on Ottaway Fury FC for the second time in 2018. Shortly after, the “Boys in Blue” return to home turf once again to face Toronto FC II on Wednesday, August 22, at 7:00 p.m.. Fans can get tickets to the midweek fixture by visiting IndyEleven.com/Tickets or by calling (37)685-1100.

USL Regular Season -Indy Eleven 3:2 North Carolina FC
Wednesday, August 15, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.  Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Indiana 

Scoring Summary:

IND – Eugene Starikov (Jack McInerney) 7′
IND – Ben Speas (Kevin Venegas) 31′
NC – Kyle Bekker 45+1′
NC – Marios Lomis (Wullito Fernandes) 77′
IND – Juan Guerra 90′

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Reiner Ferreira, Carlyle Mitchell, Ayoze, Kevin Venegas; Nico Matern, Matt Watson (C), Ben Speas (Seth Moses 62′), Juan Guerra; Eugene Starikov (Elliot Collier 84′), Jack McInerney (Soony Saad 74′)  Indy Eleven bench: Ben Lundgaard (GK); Brad Ring, Karl Ouimette, Seth Moses, Zach Steinberger, Soony Saad, Elliot Collier

North Carolina FC lineup (4-5-1, L–>R): Alex Tambakis (GK); DJ Taylor, Tobin Connor, Michael Harrison, Aaron Guillen; Austin da Luz, Kyle Bekker, Steve Miller (Marios Lomis 45′), Marcel Kandziora (Wullito Fernandes 74′), Andre Fortune; Donovan Ewolo (Daniel Rios 87′)

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As the USMNT Turns Toward the Future, These Are the Overseas Players to Watch

By BRIAN STRAUS August 13, 2018

If a new global soccer cycle wasn’t set in motion the moment Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup four weeks ago in Moscow, then it certainly began this weekendThe Premier League, Ligue 1, Eredivisie and Argentine Superliga campaigns kicked off. Germany and Spain staged their super cup games (UEFA’s version is Wednesday). Bayern Munich won by five goals, Cristiano Ronaldo found the net for Juventus (yes, it was an intra-club exhibition, but all of CR7’s bianconeri firsts will be momentous) and Arsenal’s title hopes were dashed. So it’s official. The page has turned and the new quadrennium is upon us.For U.S. national team watchers, that dawn should bring a slight sigh of relief. The pain caused by missing the World Cup was real, but the grinding-your-teeth-as-Panama-plays-Belgium portion is in the past. The World Cup cycle is over for everybody, and all but France—that leaves 210 nations—move forward with questions or concerns. So the USA is no longer an outlier, and it may even have had a slight head start thanks to last fall’s qualifying failure. A bunch of new American internationals made their senior debuts in the ensuing friendlies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Soccer Federation, under a new president, appointed its first national team GM. Earnie Stewart is on the job and has been charged with identifying the next full-time coach.

That search continues as the European and Latin American seasons begin, and the U.S. national team’s impending overhaul—not to mention the increasing spending power of many MLS clubs—ensures they’ll be seasons like no other. The days of following key U.S. veterans in Europe are over. That’s in part because many returned to MLS, and in part because now, there aren’t really that many key U.S. veterans. With a new coach coming, four years to go before the next World Cup and 10 months before the next official competition, there’s not much sense in relying on older players at this point. In fact, you’d probably need only one hand to count the men over 25 who should play a key role over the next 18 months.The U.S. national team is young. So is its foreign contingent. European clubs with the resources to invest in (or gamble on) American talent, not to mention their incentive to develop it and the logistical ease of giving young players a taste of first-team action, have become attractive options—especially as more MLS teams seem to rely on imports. While there’s been a drop in the number of established U.S. players abroad, there are more potential stars overseas than ever. Watching Americans in foreign leagues now is as much about keeping track of the national side’s future as its present.“We all that sense that there’s a small nucleus of veterans, and it’s probably one of the first times in a long time—if not the first time—we’re starting with a bunch of fresh faces,” Schalke 04 midfielder Weston McKennie, 19, told SI.com this spring. “[There are] a bunch of fresh faces at once. It’s kind of like building an actual new foundation of a house that’s been broken down.”McKennie, an FC Dallas product who’s impressed in his four appearances with the senior U.S. side, said there’s no definitive right or wrong when it comes to choosing Europe or MLS at the start of a career. It depends on the player. But he was clear when asked why Germany has been right for him and his good friend and Revierderby rival, Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund.“You see that Dortmund sees a future in the player, sees the development [possibility] and does everything they can to develop that person. If they think he’s ready, they’ll move him up,” McKennie said. “Over here [in the USA], it’s a little bit harder. You have college. You have eligibility rights. That’s one of the differences in Europe. If a player is 15 years old and you have an injured player on the first team in Europe, you can move that 15-year-old onto the roster for that weekend. In America, you can’t do that because he can’t go to college then, and doesn’t want to risk that future at 15.”McKennie and Pulisic are among the more than two dozen U.S.-eligible players now in Germany, where clubs spend more time and money on development than just about anywhere in the world. The pair has compatriots in England, France and several other significant European leagues, and there are a couple up-and-coming players to watch in Mexico as well.As the season begins, here’s a look at the present and future national teamers with big years ahead for foreign clubs.

FRANCE

We’ll start with the country that won the World Cup, and a player with sensational pedigree who’s already starting to make his own name—forward Timothy Weah. The New York City-born son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, 18-year-old Tim plays with enough skill and confidence to stick around at a loaded Paris Saint-Germain side that’s gunning for a Champions League title.  Once the season is in full swing, he’ll likely have to settle for spot duty behind the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani. But Weah has made the most of his opportunities so far, scoring in PSG’s Trophée des Champions defeat of Monaco and then Sunday’s Ligue 1 opener, landing himself a spot on the cover of L’Equipe.

At some point, Weah may go up against U.S. defender Matt Miazga, whose loans away from parent club Chelsea took him to the Netherlands and now to Nantes. The 23-year-old has seven U.S. caps and is one of several center backs 25 or younger competing to anchor the American back four. Miazga won the KNVB Cup with Vitesse Arnhem and even captained the team, but Ligue 1 will represent a step up. Miazga was in the 18 but didn’t play in Saturday’s 3–1 loss to Monaco.

ENGLAND

The number of U.S. players in the Premier League is low, and may drop further temporarily as we wait to hear how much time Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin will miss after suffering a knee injury on Saturday. The right back is 25 but has 52 caps already—experience that would be valuable to an incoming U.S. manager.

Yedlin is the only established EPL American who has an obvious national team future. Fulham’s Tim Ream, 30, and Huddersfield Town’s Danny Williams, 29, may be too old to play a part in the U.S. rebuild. Instead, it’s worth paying attention to how Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, Manchester United defender Matthew Olosunde and Fulham midfielder Luca de la Torre—each is 20 years old—progress with their clubs. Carter-Vickers spent time last season at Sheffield United and Ipswich Town and could be headed back out on loan.

In the lower tiers, Wigan Athletic left back Antonee Robinson, an Everton loanee, and skillful Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch have international potential and will be getting minutes. That’ll keep them on the U.S. radar, and Gooch’s strong start in League One may attract interest from above.

GERMANY

Steady speculation about a Premier League move for Pulisic didn’t pan out, which means the attacker will remain in Dortmund until at least the winter. But the pressure isn’t any lighter at the Westfalenstadion, where BVB has struggled to keep with up Bayern and where Pulisic didn’t make much obvious progress in his second full pro season. That’s not a slight against him. He’ll turn 20 next month. But now entering his third Bundesliga campaign, and with the USA’s future clearly tied to his growth and performance, he’ll have to take another step forward—whether it’s to spark the attack for Dortmund or entice offers from even bigger clubs.

McKennie is a midfield dynamo who scored in a friendly win over Fiorentina this weekend. His development seems inexorable, and he’ll be worth watching as a likely starter during Schalke’s Champions League campaign.

Among younger U.S. vets in Germany, both Wolfsburg defender John Brooks and Hannover 96 forward Bobby Wood, each 25, will be looking to bounce back from difficult 2017–18 seasons. They’ll both almost surely remain part of the national team picture, assuming Brooks’s health and Wood’s production rebound. On the younger side, striker Josh Sargent, 18, already has three U.S. caps and one goal even though he’s yet to make his official debut with Werder Bremen. He’s played and scored for the club’s U-23 side, but it’s unclear how or if he’ll be used when Bundesliga play begins at the end of the month.Nürnberg’s Timothy Tillman, Bayern’s Chris Richards and Schalke’s U.S. pair of Haji Wright and Nick Taitague are among the other new names to file away. In the 2. Bundesliga, Julian Green (Greuther Fürth) and Joe Gyau (MSV Duisburg) remain active.

ELSEWHERE

Right back Shaquell Moore made his senior U.S. debut in June and will spend 2018–19 on loan from Levante to Reus Deportiu in Spain’s Segunda División. Moore’s league season begins Sunday at Las Palmas.

In the Netherlands, center back Erik Palmer-Brown is on loan from Manchester City to NAC Breda. He didn’t play in a 5–0 loss to AZ Alkmaar to open the Eredivisie season, which may be a good thing. Forward Andrija Novakovich, who got his first U.S. minutes in March, tallied an impressive 22 goals last season for Telstar in the Dutch second tier. He’s now moved up a level with newly-promoted Fortuna Sittard, going 90 minutes in their 1–1 draw at Excelsior on Saturday.

In Belgium, winger Kenny Saief, 24, remains an intriguing player who’ll spend his first full season at powerhouse Anderlecht. His introduction to the U.S. setup has been limited by injuries. Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, who has been beaten to the national team No. 1 shirt by the Columbus Crew’s Zack Steffen, remains at Club Brugge.

Where in Europe will you find American players?

The continent has a lot of soccer, and everywhere you turn, there will be an American to watch

By Donald Wine II@blazindw     Aug 10, 2018, 8:00am PDT

The opening of the 2018-2019 European club seasons are starting all across the continent, and several fans in the United States are ready to see more soccer hit their TVs on weekend mornings. Many people have their favorite teams, whether they happen to be in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, or another league in the world. Others are happy playing the role of neutral when watching the major European clubs battle for trophies and international glory.

Still, when you’re watching these matches, you probably gravitate in some way towards matches that feature an American player, whether it’s a star like Christian Pulisic or a young emerging talent like Timothy Weah. So, while it’s by no means an exhaustive list, consider this your go-to list of American players in leagues all across Europe. Some of these players may feature primarily for their club’s reserve or youth team, but they are all listed under the main club they are currently with or play on loan:

Austria

Rheindorf Altach – F Josh Gatt

Belgium

First Division A

Anderlecht – MF Kenny Saief

Club Brugge – GK Ethan Horvath

Kortrijk – D Brendan Hines-Ike

Lokeren – MF Juan Torres

Gent – MF Ben Lederman

Denmark

Superliga

Nordsjaelland – F Jonathan Amon

Hobro – MF Emmanuel Sabbi

Aalborg – GK Mike Lansing

England

Premier League

Arsenal – MF Gideon Zelalem

Newcastle United – D DeAndre Yedlin

Tottenham Hotspur – D Cameron Carter-Vickers, GK Brandon Austin

Fulham – D Tim Ream, MF Luca de la Torre

Huddersfield Town – MF Danny Williams

Cardiff City – GK Chris Konopka

Manchester United – D/MF Matthew Olosunde

Championship

Stoke City – CB Geoff Cameron

Hull City – D Eric Lichaj

Wigan Athletic – D Antonee Robinson (on loan from Everton)

Nottingham Forest – MF Gboly Ariyibi

Queens Park Rangers – D Giles Phillips

Derby County – MF Duane Holmes

League One

Sunderland – MF Lynden Gooch

Rochdale – GK Brendan Moore

France

Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain – F Tim Weah

Nantes – D Matt Miazga (on loan from Chelsea)

Rennes F Theoson- Jordan Siebatcheu

Ligue 2

Auxerre – GK Quentin Westberg

Germany

Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund – MF Christian Pulisic, MF Junior Flores

Schalke 04 – MF Weston McKennie, F Haji Wright, MF Nick Taitague, MF Zyen Jones

Wolfsburg – D John Brooks

Hannover 96 – F Bobby Wood, D Chris Gloster

Werder Bremen – F Aron Johannsson, F Josh Sargent, F Isaiah Young

Eintracht Frankfurt – D Timmy Chandler

Freiburg – MF Caleb Stanko

Borussia Mönchengladbach – D/MF Fabian Johnson

Fortuna Düsseldorf – MF Alfredo Morales

Hertha Berlin – GK Jonathan Klinsmann

Nurnberg – MF Timothy Tillman

Bayern Munich – D Chris Richards (on loan from FC Dallas)

  1. Bundesliga

Greuther Fuerth – F Julian Green

Sandhausen – MF Andrew Wooten, D Ken Gipson

Duisburg – MF Joe Gyau

Heidenheim – MF Kevin Lankford

Darmstadt – F Terrence Boyd, MF McKinze Gaines

Jahn Regensburg – F Jann-Christopher George

Holstein Kiel – GK Kenneth Kronholm

Union Berlin – D Lennard Maloney

Champions League Coverage Set To Get Screwy The Same Way EPL Coverage Has

Billy Haisley8/17/17 11:31am

In their infinite wisdom, NBC recently saw fit to take a good and beloved Premier League broadcast strategy and make it bad and hated by cleaving its once-unified televised and streaming services into two smaller and less satisfying parts, and charging for each separately. Turner, which recently bought Champions League broadcast rights starting with the 2018-19 season, has a similar money-grubbing plan, which will neuter Champions League coverage in the U.S. even more than NBC’s decision has done to the Premier League.For all the problems with NBC’s new, crippled Premier League coverage, at least their televised product is still more than acceptable. On any given weekend, most of the matches that the majority of EPL fans would be most interested in watching will be found somewhere on TV. Only about one-third of the league season’s matches will be stuck behind the streaming paywall, which means for many cable-subscribing fans of the Prem, the over-the-top streaming service is a luxury rather than a necessity they need to pay for in order to follow the league.This is not the case with Turner’s plans for the Champions League. Here’s some goober at the New York Times explaining Turner’s scheme:

Turner Broadcasting was a surprise winner earlier this year in the bidding for rights to the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s top club soccer competition. But what the company plans do with the rights may be even more surprising: Launch a stand-alone sports streaming service next year that will broadcast the vast majority of the games.  Many of the most important Champions League games, including the semifinals and final, will still be broadcast on cable television. But starting next summer, more than 80 percent of the matches will only be available to fans who pay for the new subscription service — the latest move by a media organization to monetize unused parts of a multimillion-dollar sports rights deal.

That’s right: Fox Sports’ eminently accessible strategy of consistently televising at least two Champions League matches every matchday, and allowing you to stream every other UCL match online just by logging into their website with your cable info if neither of the televised games tickle your fancy, has now been sliced all to hell.

That cable subscribers will only be able to watch 20 percent of the applicable Champions League matches on TV isn’t really the problem, since that was more or less the case with Fox’s coverage, too. The problem is that if you want to watch one of those other games, you’ll now have to pay a fee to stream them when before streaming came free—as it should—with your cable subscription. Not only does this make the cable-only option untenable as a way of following the UCL season, the over-the-top service by itself isn’t a satisfactory substitute, either.Turner, like NBC, will not let its over-the-top subscribers stream the matches they televise. During the group stages and early knockout rounds, then, subscribers will often miss out on the big, juicy matchups Turner deigns to televise unless they subscribe to yet another service like Sling, which will allow them to watch games on Turner TV stations on their desktops at work. Nor will they be able to stream the later rounds of the knockout stages like the semifinals and the final. Thus, the over-the-top service has the appearance of being a good way for cord cutters to get the soccer they crave, but in reality is just another way to charge extra by compelling any serious fan to stump up for multiple services.

The specifics of Turner’s plans are even worse:

Of the 340 annual Champions League and Europa League matches that Turner acquired — games that have become a midweek afternoon staple for American fans — only about 60 will appear on television, mostly on truTV. The semifinals and finals of the Champions League will air on either TNT or TBS, as will the Europa League final.

Through the Champions League group stage in the fall, Turner will televise four matches a week — two each on Tuesday and Wednesday, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern time. Beginning with the knockout stage in February, Turner will televise two matches a week, one each on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Look at this horseshit! Group stage matches and even the semifinals and the final will be shown only on channels like truTV and TNT, which means that those hoping to go the stream-only route won’t be able to catch the biggest games of the season without ponying up twice one way or another. And for the TV-only crowd, Turner’s decision to only show a single game each matchday during the knockout rounds practically guarantees that they will miss out on some critical, competitive Round of 16 and quarterfinals matches and instead will have settle for whatever Turner’s bean-counters think will get the most ratings and thus will decide to televise.

That’s probably the biggest problem here—the matches Turner will and will not choose to air. It’s safe to predict that Turner’s match selection hierarchy will look something like this: 1) show the game that involves an English team; 2) pick the one in which Barcelona or Real Madrid play; 3) choose the one with another big-name club like Juventus or Bayern Munich; and 4) air whichever match looks to be the most competitive on paper. By constraining access to all their matches so stringently, Turner is sure to fail to cater to the desires of a huge number of fans.

If you’re a fan of a team outside England, even if it’s a big club like Bayern, you can be sure you’ll miss out on at least a couple of your squad’s games as Turner favors ones involving big British and Spanish teams. If you root for an even smaller club that nonetheless usually finds its way pretty deep into the competition—Benfica, say—then you might as well start saving up for the streaming service now, because your boys definitely won’t be getting on TV very often. And if you don’t have a particular horse in the race and would prefer to just watch the best match on offer, you’re going to find yourself shaking your head in disgust as some boring Manchester United vs. Ludogorets match bumps the Atlético Madrid vs. Napoli game that will obviously be the better spectacle. Viewer choice is critical in the Champions League, and starting next season Turner will have nearly eliminated it entirely unless you pay their ransom.Just like with NBC’s restrictive EPL coverage, it’s unclear whether Turner is making the right call here even in terms of their own bottom line. It might be economically prudent to squeeze all the juice out of the limited number of soccer super-fans who will have to pay the company twice in order to get all the soccer they want, but maybe it’s smarter to flood the growing market of diehard and casual soccer fans with as much product as possible so as to build a broader consumer base. All we know is that this is definitely a trend, and for fans, it’s a trend that really stinks.

Diego Costa, Atletico Madrid deliver statement of intent in Super Cup vs. Ronaldo-less Real Madrid

Aug 15, 2018Dermot CorriganMadrid correspondent

TALLINN, Estonia — Three thoughts on Europa League winners Atletico Madrid’s 4-2 win over Champions League holders Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

  1. Atletico finally get one over their local rivals

Atletico Madrid finally won a European “derbi,” with extra-time goals from homegrown midfielders Saul Niguez and Koke sealing a 4-2 UEFA Super Cup win over Real Madrid. Wednesday night’s thriller at Tallinn’s A. Le Coq Arena swung back and forth and into extra time, with Diego Costa netting twice for Atletico before Europa League holders Atletico finally got on top of triple-Champions League winners Madrid to take an extra sweet victory given all the history and local rivalry involved.It took just 49 seconds for Costa to rampage his way through the entire Madrid defence and hammer Atletico in front, with the equaliser near the half-hour mark coming when Gareth Bale’s superb curling right-footed cross was deftly headed home by Karim Benzema.The game continued to ebb and flow after the break, with the energy and skill levels surprisingly high given how the World Cup had affected both sides’ preseason preparation. Although Atletico’s new midfielders Rodri and Thomas Lemar were impressing, veteran defender Juanfran’s handball from a corner led to a penalty that Blancos skipper Sergio Ramos coolly converted for 2-1.That should really have been that, especially given Atletico’s history of five losses from five previous competitive European “derbis.” But Simeone’s side continued to battle on. With just over 10 minutes remaining Costa equalised, finishing from close range after excellent work from Juanfran and substitute Angel Correa.Early in extra time, Ramos was at fault as Atletico won the ball at the edge of the Madrid box, and substitute Thomas Partey crossed for Saul to flash home a superb volley. Another replacement, Vitolo, then swept a pass to Koke who arrowed a low shot past Navas for 4-2.In the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals, Atletico came up just short, with Madrid’s greater strength in depth and experience being key. That the last three Rojiblanco goals Wednesday night were all laid on by substitutes was a sign that, even though this was “just” the Super Cup, Diego Simeone’s side can now claim to be top dogs in the Spanish capital.

  1. Bale and Benzema stand up, but need help

Losing the first big game of the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era is a big problem for Madrid’s new coach Julen Lopegetui, even if both Benzema and Bale showed they can deliver more now that they are out of the Portuguese’s shadow.The understanding between the two remaining members of the “BBC” trio was clear for Madrid’s equaliser, with a fully primed Bale sprinting away from Atletico’s World Cup-winning left-back Lucas Hernandez, and Benzema peeling away intelligently from marker Stefan Savic to find the space he needed to nod cleverly home. That was far from the only time the pair combined well.Benzema was also on the scene in forcing Juanfran into the spot kick early in the second period (although skipper Ramos showed he now tops the Bernabeu’s pecking order by grabbing the ball to convert). At 2-1 up, Bale worried Atletico with a driving run past five defenders before his shot was blocked, while in the very last move of normal time the Welshman almost set up a dramatic winner only for Marcelo to miskick his attempted volley.Emerging star Marco Asensio did not do badly in Ronaldo’s spot in attack, but Lopetegui sending on unproven youngster Borja Mayoral in extra time showed that Madrid have not yet fully covered the loss of the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez may still be persuaded to get his chequebook out before La Liga’s transfer window closes on Aug 31.

  1. Real can’t stop Costa

The game began with a bang with Costa bouncing away from both Ramos and the equally sluggish Raphael Varane before lashing a shot high past Keylor Navas, who had left a glimmer of a gap at his near post. It was the quickest goal ever scored in a UEFA competition final, and set the tone for the night.Costa also soon got involved in a running battle with regular sparring partner Ramos, who with his arm caught his international teammate in the face. Actual strike partner Antoine Griezmann was less influential, and withdrawn early, clearly not match fit after only recently returning from a holiday after winning the World Cup.Atletico continued to press at 2-1 down, and Griezmann’s replacement Correa laid on an equaliser for Costa, who again showed hunger and aggression to be on the spot to fire home. The Brazilian-born forward also won the ball back for Atletico’s clinching fourth goal, in what was a man-of-the-match performance.Last season’s return from Chelsea did not go exactly to plan for Costa, not helped by six months on the sidelines due to Atletico’s FIFA transfer ban. Wednesday night’s display showed he is ready to roar in 2018-19 — and after Atleti’s summer he has plenty of teammates around him to help out too.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival will show the world that Serie A is full of drama

Aug 14, 2018James Horncastle

The impatience for Serie A to start is palpable in Italy. This country has always been football crazy, but the sense of anticipation is heightened this year. For a start, last season felt like the best in a long time.It was the most compelling of Europe’s top five leagues. More or less everybody had something to play for right until the end. The title race was alive going into May, and you didn’t know who had qualified for the Champions League or Europa League, not to mention who had stayed up until the final day. The tifosireturned to Italy’s stadiums in droves, boosting attendance figures and recreating the atmosphere that makes watching football in the bel paese such a special experience.When it was over, withdrawal symptoms immediately kicked in, partly because Italy’s football lovers anticipated that this would be a long summer. Mediaset’s coverage of the World Cup in Russia received higher-than-expected viewing figures, but Italy’s absence from the tournament for the first time in 60 years left fans bereft of a team to be emotionally invested in.The longing for Serie A to return only intensified once Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus. That he chose the Old Lady and Italy was a huge compliment, a gesture that encouraged the optimists to think this is the most significant step yet in restoring Serie A to its former glory. The same could be said for the return of Carlo Ancelotti, who ended his nine-year tour of Europe’s blue-chip clubs and replaced Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.Still, not everyone saw it that way. In fact, some pushed back against the notion that the league — not just Juventus — would benefit as a whole from Ronaldo’s presence. Everyone would have gotten a better deal had the transfer gone through before the domestic TV rights were sorted out. But it wasn’t to be.La Repubblica columnist Angelo Carotenuto compared Juventus’ move for Ronaldo to Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar: the clearest sign yet of the Bianconeri‘s intention to leave the crop plights and dust storms of Serie A behind for a new planet, where one day all of Europe’s elite teams will play in a Super League.Until then, debate is raging in Italy’s piazzas and bars about the treatment Ronaldo will get in Serie A. How many goals will he score in a country in which there is a tradition of world-class defending and shut-down tactics? In Spain they associate the triumvirate of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema with all-star attacking play. In Italy, it’s legion-of-boom style defence featuring Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

While there are grains of truth in stereotypes, they don’t tell the whole story. Serie A has experienced a shift in emphasis in recent seasons. There were 2.68 goals per game in the supposedly faster, looser Premier League last season. It might surprise you to learn that in Serie A the ratio was exactly the same.Graduates of Italy’s Coverciano coaching school aren’t rejecting tradition, but a new generation of managers is taking its cues from the legacy of Arrigo Sacchi and the times in which we live. The world has become smaller, and exposure to other leagues is greater than ever, which has helped turn the tide from the “keep it tight”, counter-attacking methods of yore to prioritising expansive, proactive, attacking football.Antonio Cassano is probably right, rather than just plain provocative, when he says, “Ronaldo will score 40 goals.” But the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Mauro Icardi, Edin Dzeko, Dries Mertens, Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile will have something to say about the bookies making the five-time Ballon d’Or favourite to top the scoring charts. It’s up to them and the teams they spearhead to rise to the challenge.

Of course, seven consecutive Scudetti give the league a one-sided appearance, and it never helps when a season ends as predicted. But the last campionatowas delightfully competitive. After Liverpool, it’s fair to say that the most memorable performances in Europe last season came from Juventus and Roma, who made the Champions League semifinals for the first time in 34 years. Inter and Milan finally look to be in good hands, with wealthy backers delegating key decisions to the right people. The top six all have talented coaches. No one looks out of their depth.

Inter seem to have done the most to close the gap, luring Stefan de Vrij and Radja Nainggolan from the Eternal City, while also beating some of Europe’s biggest clubs to the signing of potential breakout star Lautaro Martinez. A lot is expected of Luciano Spalletti in his second season at San Siro. In Higuain, Milan have finally found an heir worthy of Pippo Inzaghi’s No. 9 shirt. Roma have assembled a team full of potential with a very high upside indeed. As for Napoli, it’s up to Ancelotti to stop a team that was so much greater than the sum of its parts under Sarri from regressing to the mean.The fascination doesn’t end with the upper class. The Inzaghi brothers, Pippo and Simone, will face off against each other in the ultimate sibling rivalry when Bologna play Lazio on Boxing Day. Justin Kluivert joins the father-and-son club of which Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa are already part. Which reminds us: For all the attention garnered by the signing of a 33-year-old, Serie A feels like a young league, and not just because the only foreign manager in the top flight, Udinese boss Julio Velazquez, is only 36. Fiorentina’s team should probably still be in school it’s so fresh-faced.  Encouragingly for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, talent is coming through. The under-19s finished runners-up at the Euros this summer, a year after Italy’s U20s reached the semis of the World Cup. Chiesa, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Nicolo Barella, Moise Kean and Alex Meret are the faces of a promising new generation.Romantics will be thrilled to see Parma back just three years after going bust and having to start over in Serie D. Emanuele Calaio’s WhatsApp messages almost threw their promotion into doubt, a reminder that chaos and controversy are never far away in Serie A and act as major protagonists in the drama it generates. Chievo feared relegation amid the suspicion aroused by the vast amounts of money they have made from trading unknown youth team players in recent years. Milan were thrown out of Europe and reinstated only after the repossession of the club by the Elliott hedge fund. Teams up and down the country, most notably Bari and Vicenza, keep going bust.The spotlight turned on Serie A by Ronaldo will illuminate the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s a weird and wonderful league. Now all that’s left to do is get the season started.

Ronaldo-Less Real Madrid, Atletico Seek to Dethrone Barcelona in La Liga

By LUIS MIGUEL ECHEGARAY August 14, 2018

For a second straight summer, La Liga is dealing with the aftermath of losing one of its most talented and marketable superstars, but its teams aren’t coming close to standing pat.A year after Neymar bolted Barcelona for PSG and weeks after Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Juventus, it’s been a busy offseason for teams in Spain’s top division, with La Liga clubs investing nearly €700 million, including transfer fees and annual contracts, on players. The number will almost certainly rise, given that the transfer window doesn’t close until Aug. 31, and given that Real Madrid has yet to replace the Ronaldo with an attacking superstar.While the usual suspects (Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid) make up for almost half of the league’s spending, having brought in players such as Malcom (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid) and Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and Real Betis look to crash the top-three party with ransfers of their own. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, newly promoted Huesca prepares for its first campaign in La Liga.Here are the major talking points ahead of the 2018-2019 season in Spain’s top flight.

BARCELONA STAYS THE FAVORITE

Despite losing legendary midfielder Andres Iniesta, Ernesto Valverde’s side starts the campaign as favorite to retain the league title. This summer, Barça conducted plenty of business by reconfiguring the squad and trimming its underperformers. Players such as Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Gerard Deulofeu and Aleix Vidal added depth at Camp Nou, but didn’t really give anything extra when needed, especially during busy periods when the club was forced to play in league, cup and UEFA tournaments. It could be argued that Mina, who arrived last summer, wasn’t given the proper time to prove his worth, but he’s already been replaced with the signing of Clement Lenglet from Sevilla. Paulinho, who moved back to China, was a key piece in his one season at Barcelona, but his replacement, Arturo Vidal, is arguably a more complete midfielder. It all depends on the veteran’s fitness, but if he stays healthy, then Vidal should deliver.Elsewhere, Malcom and Rafinha provide more clout in the middle and wide areas, but the biggest talking point is Arthur, the ex-Gremio star who has been given the No. 8 shirt this season–a symbol of confidence from his manager.  There are comparisons being made to Iniesta, as the 21-year-old Brazilian captivated fans this preseason with his vision and ability to move the ball with simplicity. Time will tell if he can make it count in Europe, but as far as Valverde is concerned, Arthur is ready.

As Lionel Messi takes over as club captain, it seems as if the Blaugrana–who nearly went the whole 2017-18 domestic campaign undefeated and already have the Spanish Super Cup in tow–will retain the title, but, just like with Manchester City, the chief goal is to win the Champions League.

THE BATTLE FOR MADRID (AND THE LEAGUE)

Real Madrid begins life in the league without Ronaldo and with a new manager, Julen Lopetegui, hoping to adjust to a new philosophy and not only retain the Champions League title, but also deliver a league trophy for its fans. Despite the change in personnel, however, Lucas Vazquez believes the team’s objectives never change.”I think Real Madrid’s identity stays the same. In the end, our goals are to fight and give it our all,” he told SI.com. “While it’s true some things may change when you have a new manager, we still want to do our best and win as many titles as possible.”The obvious focus is now on Gareth Bale, who has had a tremendous preseason. After his sensational bicycle kick goal in the Champions League final, Bale has the opportunity to command the spotlight left behind by the Juventus-bound Ronaldo.”It’s been very good so far with the new manager,” Bale told SI.com. “Obviously we’ve been working very hard, but training has been very enjoyable and we’ve had some good results. It’s been very good with the new boss. Just anxiously waiting to start the season.”If we can take anything from the summer, we should see Lopetegui starting Bale on the right wing of a three-headed attacking midfield that also includes Marco Asensio and Isco, but with a lot of freedom to run and alter his movement. It will be interesting to see how much 18-year-old Vinicius Junior plays. His talent is undeniable, but the team has to be careful and not overwhelm the attacker with the pressures of playing for Madrid too soon. Though, judging by his summer performance, he seems more than ready.   Courtois’s arrival will take undoubtedly take headlines as well, as Keylor Navas will fight for his place with the Belgian star. Lopetegui faces a dilemma on who to start in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, but more importantly, how will the manager deal with the rotation if Navas stays with Los Blancos?

Across town, you’d be wise not to sleep on Atletico Madrid. Once the Antoine Griezmann drama was settled earlier this summer with “La Decisión,” Diego Simeone’s squad went to work in the transfer market. If we were to judge the season on paper alone, it seems as if Atleti could give Barcelona a bigger headache than Real this season.Gelson Martins, who arrived on a free transfer from Sporting in Portugal, is a dangerous winger who in many ways fits Simeone’s counterattacking system. Rodri, Antonio Adán and Nehuen Perez also joined the team, but it’s Thomas Lemar who can really help this season. The 22-year-old French attacking star, who was part of Didier Deschamps’ World Cup-winning squad, joined the Spanish club from Monaco for a reported €60 million and will replace the production of Yannick Carrasco, who alongside Nicolas Gaitan, left the club for China. Lemar is extremely veratile, able to play anywhere across the midfield and will fit nicely inside Simeone’s 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 preferred formations. Nikola Kalinic, the Croatian striker who moved from AC Milan, is also a good addition. The question remains: Can Real or Atleti dethrone Barcelona?

THE PARTY CRASHERS

Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla and Real Betis have aspirations of crashing the elite’s party, and judging by the moves made this summer, it seems as if Marcelino’s Valencia is the likeliest of the bunch to do so. Having finished fourth and only three points behind Real Madrid in 2017-2018, Valencia is poised to make noise. The addition of Michy Batshuayi on loan is an astute one, while the signings of Kevin Gameiro and Russia World Cup hero Denis Cheryshev (who returns on loan after a previous stint with the club) and potential signing of Goncalo Guedes–who starred on loan at Valencia last season–adds even more firepower into the mix.Aside from being part of the greatest unveiling of a player signing ever, it will be interesting to see how Santi Cazorla’s return fits with Villarreal.

Meanwhile, Real Betis, which was one of six teams that defeated Real Madrid last season but conceded the most goals out of any team that wasn’t relegated, used the window to bring in more defensive players such as Portugal midfielder William Carvalho and Sidnei, who moved from Deportivo la Coruña after being relegated. Sevilla suffered similar problems as Betis, conceding too many goals and losing 14 matches last season. This will be an interesting time for the team, as its new manager, Pablo Machín, led Girona to La Liga promotion in 2016-2017 and guided the club to an impressive 10th-place finish last season, the best performance by a promoted club in the last 23 years. Losing midfield stalwart and World Cup winner Steven N’Zonzi to Roma won’t help, though.

VAR

After making its debut during last Sunday’s Supercopa de España between Barcelona and Sevilla in Tangier, La Liga will implement video assistant referees for the first time.According to Spain’s football federation (RFEF), league referees have taken on intense training in order to prepare for VAR, hoping to learn from the failures and successes from this summer’s World Cup in Russia.Some of La Liga’s stars were heavily involved in VAR decisions at the World Cup, and now they’ll compete on a weekly basis with the added technology.

INTRIGUE AT THE BOTTOM

At risk of not falling behind before the season even gets going, the newly promoted teams (Rayo Vallecano, Huesca, Real Valladolid) have been active in the transfer window, mainly taking advantage of loan signings as they get ready for the top flight. Peruvians now have to reasons to love Vallecano. First, the team’s kit is almost identical to that of the national team, and second, Luis Advincula, who had an impressive World Cup with Peru, joins Vallecano on loan from Tigres. Labeled as one of the fastest–if not, the fastest–player in the world, Advincula’s unveiling brought a frenzy of Peruvian players in Madrid.

Who’s The Favorite And Who’s A Sleeper In The English Premier League?

If you’re not rooting for Manchester City, this probably isn’t your year.By Terrence Doyle

 

The Premier League, which kicks off Friday afternoon, is often regarded as the most competitive league in the world, if not the best. In fact, both of those assumptions might be false: While the Premier League boasts four of the top 10 and six of the top 15 teams in the world according to our Soccer Power Index rankings, only one other team cracks the top 50.1

This imbalance shouldn’t come as a shock: Aside from Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95 and Leicester City in 2015-16, only four teams have won the Premier League since its inception in 1992-93. And if you look at the table for every Premier League season — especially for the past decade — the top six spots are more likely than not occupied by some or all of the same six teams currently ranked in the world top 15.

If you’re hoping that the upcoming season will offer some vicissitude at the top of the table, don’t hold your breath: According to our Premier League predictions, Manchester City is a good bet to repeat as champions. And the five spaces below the Citizens will likely be occupied by — you guessed it! — Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. After we ran 20,000 simulated seasons, the closest any team got to the top six was Crystal Palace — still 16 points off the pace.

The top six teams in the Premier League are among the richest sports franchises on earth. All that money means they can afford to pay often ludicrous fees to attract the world’s best players. Money turns into results in major competitions, and results in major competitions turn into more money. And that new money turns into the buying of yet more of the world’s best players, and the top six feedback loop endures. Let’s look at how each of the top six teams — and a few others — spent this summer, and what it means for their chances at winning the Premier League title.

Who got better?

Liverpool paid a then-record fee for 25-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who led the Italian Serie A in save percentage per 90 minutes during his first year as Roma’s No. 1. He wasn’t at his best during the World Cup, but Liverpool is hoping that if given the chance in a big situation, Alisson will perform better than Loris Karius did. Liverpool also added Guinean midfielder Naby Keita, Brazilian midfielder Fabinho and Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri, making its total spend the largest in England. Adding a defensive-minded midfielder like Fabinho and a world-class keeper like Alisson should help bolster a Liverpool defense that, at times, left something to be desired during the 2017-18 campaign — and it should give the Reds a real shot at challenging for the title.

It seems impossible, but defending champion Manchester City also got better, finally landing longtime target Riyad Mahrez. It’s not clear where the former Leicester City maestro will play — Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva did a pretty good job patrolling the wings last season, after all — but it never hurts to have a winger on your squad who’s proven he can score 15 goals and assist on 10 more. Not a bad pickup for a team that broke the all-time Premier League goal record a season ago.

Despite the departure of longterm manager Arsene Wenger, hopes must be high in Highbury: Arsenal found a potential replacement for the aging Petr Cech in German keeper Bernd Leno, and the addition of Uruguayan holding midfielder Lucas Torreira should help shore up its defense, which conceded the most goals of any of the top six squads last season. Fan favorite Jack Wilshere departed for West Ham United, but injury issues have long relegated him to “could have been” status anyway.

Everton hasn’t finished inside the top six since 2013-14, but Toffee fans will be pleased with their team’s transfer window successes. The club paid Watford a lot of money for the swift and tricky Brazilian winger Richarlison,2and also added French wingback Lucas Digne. If Evertonians were displeased with the park-the-bus soccer employed by Big Sam Allardyce, they should be happy that this year’s squad will feature some players who like to go forward. Signing Colombian center back and World Cup standout Yerry Mina means they won’t suffer at the back, either. Everton will probably still finish between seventh and 10th, but it should look better doing so.

 

Who stayed mostly the same?

Manchester United is hoping to unseat rivals Manchester City and win its first title since 2013,3 but it faces one problem: The Red Devils didn’t do much during the transfer window. Portuguese right back Diogo Dalot might be the eventual heir apparent to captain Antonio Valencia, but at the tender age of 19 years old — and with just six first-team starts for Portuguese club Porto — he doesn’t transform United into champions from also-rans. Former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder and Seleção member Fred should help in the center of the pitch — he is equally capable of going forward and dropping back behind his midfield partners to help in defense, and he can play with both feet — but his high price tag carries an intense weight of expectation. Ask Paul Pogba4 how that plays in Manchester.

Who stayed mostly the same but feels worse?

The boys from White Hart Lane spent zero dollars during the transfer window. Tottenham wanted midfielder Jack Grealish but ultimately couldn’t come to terms with Aston Villa. Spurs don’t really need Grealish — they had the second best possession rate per 90 minutes in the middle third in 2017-18 — but their depth may be a problem, particularly at the start of the season.

Meanwhile, Chelsea experienced one of the most tumultuous summers in recent memory — which is saying a lot, given owner Roman Abramovich’s apparent penchant for drama. Manager Antonio Conte got the sack despite delivering a championship in 2016-17, and truant goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois forced a sale to Real Madrid. The Blues better hope that Kepa Arrizabalaga, for whom they paid a now-record fee for a keeper, is ready for the Premier League grind. Otherwise they may be forced to rely on this guy.

Who got significantly worse?

This will be the first season since 2012-135 that Leicester City will be without Mahrez, which means that the Foxes probaby stand little chance to repeat their unlikely 2015-16 run to the Premier League title. While Leicester still has goal poacher Jamie Vardy, it failed to re-sign Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa (who, by the way, had a very good World Cup). James Maddison is a nice signing and should make up for some of the offense lost with Mahrez’s departure, but don’t expect another Cinderella run from the Foxes.

The woes of Newcastle United start and end with its agreement to a permanent deal that sent its best option at forward, Aleksandar Mitrovic, to newly promoted Fulham. The Magpies must be hoping that the strike trio of Matt Ritchie, Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez — who scored 18 goals combined last season — is enough to account for the potential production lost from the young Serbian hitman.

Who could play Cinderella?

Fulham can find the net — it scored 1.57 goals per 90 minutes last season, the second most in the English League Championship, exceeding its expected goals rate of 1.47. Teenage phenom Ryan Sessegnon scored on 37 percent of the shots he took last season and outperformed his expected goals tally by 5.5, while Mitrovic — who impressed at the World Cup — contributed 12 goals of his own. Adding Andre Schurrle on a two-season loan will only increase Fulham’s firepower. The club also went all in on midfielder Jean Michael Seri, a player who has been linked to seemingly every big club in Europe over the past few seasons.

And let’s not forget about Crystal Palace, the world’s 48th best team according to our SPI rankings. The Eagles got off to a historically atrocious start last season before righting the ship and finishing in the middle of the table. Additions Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyaté should help stabilize a midfield that had the eighth worst possession rate per 90 minutes last season, while Manchester United castoff Wilfried Zaha’s return to Selhurst Park continues to bear fruit. Zaha has scored 22 goals from the wing in the past four seasons, and at 25 years old, he is entering the prime of his career. The Eagles will likely go as far as Zaha can take them.

U.S. Soccer doesn’t need to hire a USMNT U-23 coach

The best candidate is already employed.By Rob Usry@RobUsry  Aug 10, 2018, 7:00am PDT

The U.S. Soccer men’s coaching landscape is a total mess right now. While the senior team has an interim manager and a search for a permanent name is nderway, thanks to a recently revealed hiring freeze, several youth teams are without leaders as well. The U-23 team will soon need someone to begin reparations for Olympic qualifying and the federation may not have to look very far for the best candidate for the job.Qualifying for the Olympic games has been a well-documented nightmare for the U.S. men’s program, having failed to do so in the last two times of trying. If for nothing more than pride, you can bet that a lot of attention and resources will be spent on making sure it doesn’t happen for a third straight tournament.Current USMNT interim manager Dave Sarachan took over the position from Bruce Arena with very little fanfare and plenty of cynicism. However, the veteran of American soccer has quietly done a very good job transitioning the U.S. player pool from repetitive and tired veterans to new and exciting young prospects.Tim Weah, one of those new up-and-coming talents, went on record this summer in praise of Sarachan. The PSG forward even went as far as saying that the interim tag should be lifted from his coach’s title.While it’s highly doubtful that the USSF would ever make the 64-year-old the permanent senior team manager, strictly based on public perception after a bitterly disappointing World Cupqualifying failure, it makes perfect sense to reward him for his good work in the last year.The hiring freeze has hurt any chance of the U-23 crop getting together early and getting familiar with each other. But what if you didn’t have to hire anyone at all? Sarachan is the best and most logical candidate for the job. And it just so happens that most of the players he’s incorporated to the senior team are eligible for the U-23 team as well, thus solving the issue of familiarity.Sarachan’s time as interim USMNT manager have brought encouraging results, both on the scoreboard and in figurative terms. A young and hungry crop of prospects are fighting to prove themselves every time they are called upon. In his six friendlies in charge, the inexperienced sides he’s thrown out there have all looked organized and competitive. They’ve only lost once in those matches and even managed a draw against the World Cup champions. Of course it’s irresponsible to put too much credence into friendly results, but that’s all we have to go on at this point. Beyond the scorelines, each team Sarachan has assembled appeared to have a good understanding of tactics and responsibilities.When peering out into the coaching landscape, there are no obvious candidates to take on this important job. Tab Ramos himself has plenty of Youth National Team coaching experience (with mixed results) but it seems he has plenty on his plate already, including coaching the U-20 team. Georgetown’s Brian Wiese is a logical option if you want to go the college route, although that didn’t go too swimmingly the last time with Caleb Porter. Someone like John Wolyniec of New York Red Bulls II has a reputation for developing young players, but has little experience coaching at this type of level.Sarachan has a desire to stay on as USMNT manager, but realistically he has slim to no chance of that happening. He’s also shown a willingness to work with young players. This proposition seems like the best compromise for all involved. The players get a coach who they’ll accept as a leader won’t need to adapt quickly to. Sarachan gets a reward for his good work in a difficult time. And U.S. Soccer gets a coach who gives the program a realistic chance of qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years.

Five things we learned in the Premier League

AFPAug 12, 2018, 1:42 PM

London (AFP) – The Premier League is back, with the opening weekend producing impressive displays from title contenders Liverpool and champions Manchester City, while Manchester United and Chelsea also made winning starts.Here are five things we learned from the first weekend of the new top-flight campaign:

Silva service lifts City

“Right now, it’s Bernardo and 10 others,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said when asked about Bernardo Silva’s sublime display in the champions’ Community Shield win over Chelsea last weekend. Portugal midfielder Silva didn’t always start last term but he was a blur of energy and efficient passing in City’s engine room against Chelsea and Guardiola rewarded him with a place in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in their Premier League opener at Arsenal. Guardiola’s faith wasn’t misplaced as the 23-year-old once again produced a tireless performance and rarely misplaced a pass. The influential effort was capped in the 64th minute when Silva cleverly peeled away from his Arsenal marker to meet Benjamin Mendy’s cross with a fine finish that flashed past Gunners goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Still not so United

Despite getting off to a winning start against Leicester on Friday, all is still not well at Manchester United between star midfielder Paul Pogba, manager Jose Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Mourinho named Pogba captain and hailed a “monster” performance after he took responsibility to open the scoring from the penalty spot. French World Cup winner Pogba, though, wasn’t so effusive in his praise for his boss, claiming “if you’re not happy, you cannot give your best” and that if he voiced his true feelings he would be fined. Meanwhile, Mourinho again let his frustration at not being backed by Woodward in the transfer market be known. Woodward is adamant Pogba is not for sale despite rumoured interest from Barcelona. But at the moment all three seem locked in an unhappy marriage ahead of a season that Mourinho himself has predicted will be a “difficult” one.

Keita’s new kingdom

Liverpool have had to wait a year to get Naby Keita after sealing the deal to bring him from RB Leipzig 12 months ago, but on the evidence of a storming display from the Guinean in Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham it’ll be worth the wait. Keita started the move for Liverpool’s opener and possessed the pace and skill to consistently drove through the heart of West Ham’s pedestrian midfield. Jurgen Klopp now has new found wealth of midfield options with Fabinho also joining from Monaco, Adam Lallana returning from injury and captain Jordan Henderson getting back to fitness after his exertions at the World Cup with England. Keita, though, could be the real difference maker in turning a 25-point deficit to champions Manchester City last season into a title challenge.

Sarri’s Hazard warning

Maurizio Sarri admits Eden Hazard needs more time to get back to his very best despite an impressive 15-minute cameo as a substitute in Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield. Hazard has been linked with a move to Real Madrid and only returned to training with Chelsea a week ago after helping Belgium finish third at the World Cup. The midfielder’s future may not be sorted out until August 31, when the transfer window closes in Spain. But his quality was there for all to see during his brief appearance on Saturday, with a fine run from midfield taking out several Huddersfield players before he slotted in Pedro to score Chelsea’s third goal. “I think that Eden in this moment cannot play for 90 minutes. He has to improve, to have training,” Sarri said. “I think the best thing is for him to play 15-20 minutes when the opponents probably are tired.”

Spurs show steel

Tottenham may not have spent anything in the transfer market and had to play several of their stars who have just returned from well-earned breaks post the World Cup. But they coped easily enough with Newcastle in their 2-1 win at St James’ Park. Spurs are the only top tier team not to have made a signing since the end of last season and manager Mauricio Pochettino will need a tougher test than this to assess whether fatigue will be a telling factor for his squad this term.

World Cup ref chief Pierluigi Collina dishes on VAR impact at Russia 2018

2:00 AM ETGabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FCEmail

A month has passed since the end of the World Cup in Russia, hailed by many as one of the best ever. Gab Marcotti caught up with Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA’s referees committee and the man in the middle for the 2002 final between Brazil and Germany, to talk about officiating, video assistant referees (VAR) and the future.

When you look back at 2018 and the fact that relative to previous World Cups, it had perhaps the least amount of refereeing controversy, to what do you attribute it? Could it be chance? Was it VAR?

First off, I can’t believe it’s already over. But no, I think 64 games is a good sample size. And I’m delighted that the good feedback we received came from those who follow the game professionally. I’ll get to VAR, but there are a number of things we did which, I think, helped us tremendously.

For a start, referees are athletes, just like footballers. So we had a dedicated medical staff and physiotherapists supporting them throughout the tournament, particularly in recovering quickly from minor injuries.

In the same way that too much time off can make a player rusty in terms of match rhythm, we had a problem since there was a five-week gap between the end of the club season and Russia 2018 during which referees couldn’t officiate, since a World Cup referee can’t take charge of a friendly involving a World Cup-bound team.

So we organized a tournament at Lokomotiv’s ground in Moscow involving local teams, just so the referees could work and stay sharp. This was key too.

We also studied the teams differently. We brought a couple of licensed coaches into our staff and some professional match analysts. Their job was to scout the teams ahead of time.

How did that help you?

The idea was to give our guys a chance to understand how a game was likely to be played tactically and, therefore, how play was likely to unfold. That’s a big advantage for a referee, because it means he can anticipate situations.

It’s especially true on set pieces. The match analysts studied them and prepared reports for referees, so that they had a better sense of how corners and free kicks were likely to be approached. They knew what to focus on, what was most likely, what certain teams and players’ tendencies were going to be. This was an important change.

Remember, at a World Cup you have referees from six different continents, all with different experiences and backgrounds who work with different styles of football. It’s important to give them all the support they need.

Let’s get to VAR. I get the impression that old-school referees, like the Collina of 20 years ago, might not have been in favor.

After a VAR referral, Nestor Pitana awarded France a penalty in the World Cup final that Antoine Griezmann converted. David Ramos/FIFA via Getty Images

I want to be honest here: When you have a background like mine, as a referee who came of age in a certain period and enjoyed making decisions on the pitch on his own, [VAR] might not be easy to accept.

But, equally, if the ability of a referee to officiate a game is going to be judged after the fact based on video replays from multiple angles, then referees should have those replays from multiple angles too. … I said that a long time ago, and I still believe it.

I know some people are philosophically opposed to VAR because they don’t think technology has a place in football. I can respect that. But we must be open-minded and ready to implement what can be really useful and helpful.

Before VAR, you were involved in another key officiating change, that of additional assistant referees (AARs) at UEFA.

As I said before, because of my own background as a referee, I liked making decisions on my own. But then [UEFA president Michel] Platini asked me to help shape the change. A bit like VAR, it was an answer to a need: To reduce mistakes on the pitch.

And the idea was that with two extra officials who watched the game from a different angle we could reduce — not eliminate, but reduce — mistakes on the pitch. It’s still in use in UEFA competitions.

Yet in many ways, it has been supplanted by VAR.

Obviously, over the years things change. AARs improved things, but clearly it’s not comparable to what VAR can offer today. Two extra sets of eyes can’t match dozens of cameras with the possibility of freeze-framing, watching over again … there’s a substantial difference. Believe me, VAR is like a parachute, and it’s better to have it when [you] need it.

For the past 18 months, you were doing double-duty: You were at FIFA and, at the same time, you were, until last month, UEFA’s chief refereeing officer. It seemed weird to some that, while FIFA was pushing VAR, UEFA was opposed.

Some said I was schizophrenic for that very reason … the reality is that they were two different contexts. Introducing VAR across UEFA competitions presents a different set of challenges compared to a World Cup.

My successor at UEFA is Roberto Rosetti, who I brought in to drive the VAR implementation at the World Cup, and I think we’re getting to the stage where the conditions are right for VAR in the Champions League and Europa League, too. … Obviously, the decision will be made by UEFA, but if they choose to do it, they’ll be ready.

You were on the International Football Association Board (IFAB) committee that helped lay down the VAR protocol. What were the early discussions like?

I remember at the very first meeting, I emphasized that the final say for any subjective decision that required interpretation had to be down to the referee on the pitch and not the VAR. I felt strongly about this, given my background. I didn’t want the referee to be a mere executor, controlled by a joystick by someone outside the field of play.

Back to the World Cup. One of the frustrations with VAR is that sometimes it is not clear why it intervenes or does not intervene and, when it does, what is actually going on.

First of all, I want to emphasize that VAR is always watching. You only need to look at the number of “silent checks” [when VAR evaluates an incident and does not deem it worthy of an on-field review].

Beyond that, communication is important, and I think we took an important step in Russia with on-screen announcements, both in the stadium and for [TV] viewers. It’s only right that people understand what is going on.

Often, however, they don’t. I think back to the World Cup final and the penalty that was awarded to France after Ivan Perisic handled the ball. The penalty was awarded by the referee, Nestor Pitana, only after VAR called for an on-field review. I understand that it’s down to interpretation, but it certainly did not look like a clear error.

I think those who watched it closely knew the referee could not have seen it since there were bodies in the way. And because he did not see it, VAR gave him the opportunity to review it. Then his interpretation was to give a penalty.

What other benefits do you think VAR brought at the World Cup? We saw fewer protests from players.

That’s one, and I think it offsets those who say reviews delay the game. Players have been very accepting of VAR. But one other important aspect is deterrence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had more set piece goals and fewer off-the-ball incidents. Knowing you are watched at all times means your attitude is going to be different.

When you were still an official, FIFA’s referee committee was made up mostly by football administrators and there were only a few former referees involved. Now you’re virtually all ex-referees.

That was one of things I asked when I took the FIFA job. The referees’ committee should be made up only of specialists; it’s a technical role that shouldn’t belong to those in the politics of football. Today the head of referees from each confederation sits on the committee and that’s a big step forward.

You talk about the importance of quality; if quality is most important, will we ever see, say, a Spanish referee taking charge of Spain vs. Germany? Or will we always be fixated on nationality and neutrality?

I think that’s a utopia. No matter how professional or talented a referee is, he’d have difficulty. Imagine an official making a mistake that hurts his own country.

But we’re already taking steps forward. I’ll give you an example. Japan qualified ahead of Senegal for the knockout phase and it was very close. For Japan’s next match, against Belgium, we appointed a Senegalese referee, Malang Diedhiou, because we thought he was best for the job.

In the past, that might not have happened, people might have talked about him feeling pressure to avenge his country. Which, of course, when you think about it, is absurd.

Similarly, as far as “confederation neutrality” is concerned, we had South American referees appointed to officiate South American teams [against teams from other confederations, which previously had only been the case with European referees].

Players make mistakes and referees make mistakes. But I guess there are some big differences. One is that people don’t pay to watch referees, they pay to watch players. The other is that it’s easier for a player to redeem himself for a mistake.

Well, some of us watch referees more than players, but, yes, it’s a key difference. A player can miss a sitter and then score a hat trick. A referee who incorrectly awards a penalty and then is flawless the rest of the game will still be remembered and criticized for the mistake … That’s why we’re trying, every which way, to help limit errors.

MLS Power Rankings: New York teams challenge Atlanta United’s dominance

August 14, 20189:45AM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributorOnly MLS league games will be reflected in the rankings. Rankings are voted on by MLSsoccer.com editorial staff; words by Alicia Rodriguez.

BIGGEST MOVERS: PHI +3; HOU, NE -3

1ATL

LAST WEEK: 1  HIGH: 1 | LOW: 7

10 more games…can Atlanta United maintain their lead on top and clinch the Supporters’ Shield? They’re technically behind the Red Bulls in points per game, so it probably won’t be easy, but the Five Stripes need at least one trophy to really commemorate this initial spell for the club.

Previous: Idle | Next: vs. CLB on 8/19

2 NY Red Bulls

LAST WEEK: 3

HIGH: 1 | LOW: 7

But the Red Bulls don’t look like they’ll be going quietly in order to pave the way for Atlanta. They’re 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, so if they keep up that stellar pace they could be lifting their third Shield in late October. A grueling road game in Vancouver will be a good test this week.

Previous: Won 1-0 at CHI | Next: at VAN on 8/18

3 NYCFC

LAST WEEK: 4

HIGH: 1 | LOW: 6

 

NYCFC post a good win in Toronto, which, yes, did include a very early red card to Jozy Altidore. But credit to the front office for picking up the likes of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi – he may not have the name recognition of previous signings, but he’s on a scoring pace of a tick under a goal every other game.

Previous: Won 3-2 at TOR | Next: at PHI on 8/18

4 Portland

LAST WEEK: 2

HIGH: 2 | LOW: 18

The streak had to end at some point, and Vancouver’s battling performance (and a wayward penalty by the usually reliable Diego Valeri) snapped Portland’s unbeaten run at 15. With a big two-game week here, it could be a pivotal juncture in the Timbers’ campaign.

Previous: Lost 2-1 vs. VAN | Next: at DC on 8/15; vs. SKC on 8/18

5 KC

LAST WEEK: 7

HIGH: 1 | LOW: 15

If at first you don’t succeed, go back on the road? Sporting have won their last two away from home, on conference opponents, and an efficient victory against a rotated LAFC lineup shows Peter Vermes’ group may be out of their summer slump for good.

Previous: Won 2-0 at LAFC | Next: at POR on 8/18

6 FC Dallas (Matt Hedges)

LAST WEEK: 5

HIGH: 4 | LOW: 18

Two losses in a row, although the latest, on the road against a surging Sounders team, isn’t a huge upset. But Dallas’ cushion at the top of the Western Conference is down to three points, so they can’t afford to keep dropping points.

Previous: Lost 2-1 at SEA  | Next: vs. MIN on 8/18

7 Columbus Crew

LAST WEEK: 9

HIGH: 2 | LOW: 12

The week off seemed to do Columbus good, as they returned to action and defeated the Dynamo, albeit by the skin of their teeth. Questions persist about whether this team is truly a contender, but might their game in Atlanta at the weekend be a preview for another playoff clash between the teams?

Previous: Won 1-0 vs. HOU | Next: at ATL on 8/19

8 LAFC

LAST WEEK: 6

HIGH: 3 | LOW: 17

LAFC are only three points out of second place in their conference, but five games winless in league play leaves them drifting just above the playoff line. Once thought to be a sure thing for the playoffs in their first year, if they stumble in a double-game week, that certainty may vanish.

Previous: Lost 2-0 vs. SKC | Next: vs. RSL on 8/15; vs. COL on 8/19

9 Seattle Sounders

LAST WEEK: 10

HIGH: 4 | LOW: 21

The Sounders’ rally isn’t quite done, but unbeaten in eight, with five wins in a row, they’re just three points out of the playoff spots now. A home game against the Galaxy remains a marquee match-up, and a win there could move them above the playoff line.

Previous: Won 2-1 vs. DAL | Next: vs. LA on 8/18

10 LA Galaxy

LAST WEEK: 8

HIGH: 6 | LOW: 14

The Galaxy posted a home draw against Minnesota that feels like a loss, and yet more injury concerns for key players could set them back again. The voters still believe LA are a top 10 team, but they may not find a way to climb much higher as their inconsistency continues.

Previous: Drew 2-2 vs. MIN | Next: vs. COL on 8/14; at SEA on 8/18

Football lines will be visible on turf in Lucas Oil Stadium for next seven matches

For the rest of 2018, National Football League lines and configuration will be visible on-field during Indy Eleven home matches. The change comes after new turf was installed in Lucas Oil Stadium last month. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to play our home games on the new turf,” said Indy Eleven president Jeff Belskus. “Unfortunately, painting over the football lines was not acceptable for all parties. As a result, we’ll be playing with football lines visible for the rest of the year.”
This is the first year Indy Eleven has played in Lucas Oil Stadium after moving to the United Soccer League in January of this year. “Indiana’s Team” agreement is with the Capital Improvement Board to play in the 70,000 seat stadium. The CIB was formed in 1965 by the Indiana General Assembly and empowered to finance and manage capital improvements throughout the city of Indianapolis. Indy Eleven have seven more home matches in 2018; August 15 against North Carolina FC, August 22 against Toronto FC II, August 29 against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, September 1 against Richmond Kickers, September 5 against New York Red Bulls II, September 26 against Tampa Bay Rowdies and October 6 against Bethlehem Steel FC

INDY 11 — Four matches in the next eighteen days!

Our Indy Eleven currently occupy the 8th and final playoff spot, however, have many games in hand on the teams ahead of us in the standings currently. These home games could ultimately decide our playoff fate over the coming weeks.Get your BYBTIX for the next four home games HERE! Don’t forget that you save $8 per ticket off the online and box office price by buying from us!

Wed, August 22   7PM kick off     v. Toronto FC II

Wed, August 15   7PM kick off     v. Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Wed, Sept 1         7PM kick off     v. Richmond Kickers

Parking passes at Gate10Events is $11 with advance purchase. $15 day of.  Save $$$ by buying early.

A letter to our former President and the all of the BYB  Joshmason

I’ve put this off for far too long at this point, but I wanted to publicly thank Josh Mason for all of the work he has done for the Brickyard Battalion over the past seven-odd years. As we recently have celebrated our seventh year in existence on August 3rd, one does not have the time to list all of the wonderful things Josh had championed for the BYB during his tenure as a board member. He leaves a legacy that includes two Brickyard Battalion-inspired beers, Full 90 by Flat 12 and our current partnership with People’s Brewing with our Battalion Ale. As you can imagine, getting a brewing company to brew a beer specifically for a lower division soccer supporters group and team is few and far between. The connections Josh has made over the years, both professionally and personally, led to the success of this venture. This only touches the surface of many of the projects owned and countless hours Josh has spent to enable our ability to support our club. His professionalism will be something that will be difficult to emulate.Thankfully, he made the career choice to move to the front office of our Indy Eleven. We know the energy and passion he has for our club will lead to many great things off the pitch and certainly his dedication will contribute to results on the pitch as well. I do, however, feel sorry for him as now he gets to feel the wrath of our own Peter Evans who pulls no punches when it comes to ensuring our support culture is treated like a top priority for the team, off the pitch. Just ask Tom Dunmore or Andy Piggush, those calls and texts will come at any hour of the day or night. Good luck! All jokes aside, we couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with between the BYB and front office, and we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the front office going forward.We will have a few board seats open in the coming months, including Josh’s vacancy. Please be on the lookout for future BYB meetings that will include an invite to any and all Indy Eleven supporters. We will need your help! If you’ve ever wanted to become more active in our supporters group and help us provide the best atmosphere for our club to thrive, keep an eye out on future emails/social media posts with more details to come.Until then, the best thing you can do is continue to buy tickets through our BYBTix initiative. Interest has waned slowly since our incredible success with our first home match against Cincinnati. We have 39 tickets to sell per match to break even and with the majority of our remaining home games on Wednesdays, it’s a tough sell. Please pass along the link to co-workers, friends and family.

All the best,
Andrew Retz
New President, Brickyard Battalion

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

 Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

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