Barcelona sits top of the table with Inter Milan in 2nd as Barca hosts the 3 pm game Tues at 3 pm on TNT. Of course Dortmund and US youngster Christian Pulisic will be on to the round of 16 if they win as group winners vs Atletico at 3 pm Tues online – while Atletico is thru with a win and Monaco and Brugge tie. Liverpool is thru as the # 1 team with a win as they travel to Crevena on TNT at 1 pm Tues. While the winner of PSG and Napoli will determine who goes thru in Group C at 3 pm Tues on TNT as GK Gigi Buffon returns from his suspension from last season for PSG. Wed Juventus and Renaldo return to Juve for the 3 pm game on TNT – Juve will be thru as the top team with a win. In the other TNT game Wed CSKA Moskva will travel to Roma who stands tied with Real Madrid for top slot. For those who are frustrated like me trying to find your favorite team’s games – try visiting https://www.univision.com/deportes and see if your cable allows you to log in and watch for free – I have been able to watch all the games online along with the TNT games on TV. Yes it stinks –but it has worked for me. Email if you need my login to try to watch! I hate this new set up!
The MLS Playoffs have been great so far as LAFC was surprisingly eliminated early and Columbus has a 1-0 lead on MLS wins leader NY Redbulls after the first leg. Seattle will host Portland down 2-1 in aggregate on Thurs eve at 10:30 pm on FS1. While the 2nd legs of the other 3 semi-finals are all Sunday afternoon starting at 3 pm on ESPN with Columbus @ NY Red Bull & NYCFC @ Atlanta 5 pm on ESPN, and 7:30 pm Salt Lake @ Sporting KC on FS1.
INDY 11 $99 Season Tickets
The USL Final featuring defending Champs Louisville City hosting former Chelsea Star Drogba and Phoenix Rising will take place Thurs night at 8 pm on ESPN2. Ok for folks looking for great Christmas ideas – the Indy 11 have come out with a family Season ticket plan that simply rocks. $99 Season tickets in the South End Zone, or $150 in the BYB. Seriously -these are level 1 seats for the full season for less than 1 Colts or Pacers game. If you put just $50 down on Reserved Seat Tickets that start at just $289 before Nov 26th you get the bonus of Free Parking ($20 per game value). All Season ticket holders get Exclusive Meet the Team Events, More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise. Click here for more info or Call 317-685-1100 for more details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you!
CARMEL FC PLAYERS
We have access to Murray Stadium the next two weeks and we will be offering free outdoor training sessions for Carmel FC travel players and our Select Players.
Here are the dates:
- Monday (11/5), 5:30pm – 9:00pm
- Wednesday (11/7), 5:30pm – 9:00pm
- Thursday (11/8), 5:45pm – 6:45pm *Goal Keeping Training Only
- Monday (11/12), 5:30pm – 9:00pm
- Wednesday (11/14), 5:30pm – 9:00pm
- Thursday (11/15), 5:45pm – 6:45pm *Goal Keeping Training Only
Here is the schedule for the training sessions:
- Academy Sessions (8U-10U boys and girls) – 5:30pm to 6:30pm
- 11U/12U Boys & Girls – 6:40pm to 7:40pm
- 13U/14U/15U Boys & Girls – 7:50pm to 8:50pm
- Goal Keeping training will be on Thursdays only
- 5:45pm – 6:45pm (U11-U15, Boys & Girls only)
Meet the Team Events, Free Parking for the Games ($85 savings), More Games on Saturdays less on Weds, Ticket Exchange Program (mix and match your games if you miss a game get double seats for another game of choice, 20% off team merchandise. Call 317-685-1100for more Details and tell them the Ole Ballcoach Sent you!
GAMES ON TV
Tues Nov 6 Champs League
1 pm TNT Crevena vs Liverpool
3 pm TNT Inter Milan vs Barcelona
3 pm Uni Desp Atletico Madrid vs Dortmund (Pulisic)
3pm Tottenham vs PSV
3 pm Univision OL Napoli vs PSG
3 pm Schalke vs Galastary
Weds Nov 7 Champs League
1 pm TNT CSKA vs Roma
3 pm TNT Juve vs Manchester United
3pm Man City vs Shaktar
3 pm Viktoria vs Real Madrid
3 pm Bayern vs Athens AEK
3 pm Benefica vs Ajax
Thurs Nov 8 MLS Playoffs
10:30 pm FS1 Seattle Sounders vs Portland (Leg 2)
8 pm ESPN 2 Louisville FC vs Phoenix Rising USL Champ Game
Sat, Nov 10
9:30 am Fox Soccer Werder Bremen (Seargent) vs Mgladbach (Johnson)
12:30 pm NBC Crystal Palace vs Tottehham
12:30 pm FS 2 Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Bayern Munich
12:30 bein Sport Atletico vs Athletic Club
Sun, Nov 11
7:30 am NBCSN Liverpool vs Fulham (Ream)
9;30 am FS1 RB Leipzig vs Bayer Leverkusen
9:15 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Everton
11:30 am NBCSN Man City vs Man United
2:30 pm ESPN+ Milan vs Juventus
3 pm ESPN NY Red Bulls (0) vs Columbus (1) (MLS Playoffs)
5 pm ESPN Atlanta United (1) vs NYCFC (0) (leg 2)
7:30 pm FS1 Sporting KC vs Real Salt Lake (leg 2)
Thur, Nov 15
2 pm FS1 England vs USA Men
Champions League: How teams can qualify for the knockout rounds
Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC
The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.If two teams are level on points, head-to-head record is the first tie-breaker.
Borussia Dortmund are almost home and hosed with a 100 percent record, three points clear of Atletico Madrid. Dortmund’s place in the knockout rounds will be confirmed if they win at Atleti on Tuesday or if Monaco vs. Club Brugge — who both have a slim chance of progressing — is a draw that day. Atleti have a five-point cushion to the group’s bottom two teams, and they can book their place with a home win over Dortmund next time out if Monaco vs. Club Brugge is a draw. The only realistic chance for the bottom two is that Atleti lose to Dortmund.
The group is a carbon copy of Group A. This time, Barcelona have the 100 percent record and will be through if they win away to Inter Milan, who have six points, or Tottenham vs. PSV Eindhoven is a draw. Inter, meanwhile, will be through if they beat Barca and Tottenham vs. PSV Eindhoven, who both have one point, is a draw. Spurs or PSV must win and really need Inter to be beaten at home.
Liverpool, on six points, have the edge, but this group is exceptionally tight, and no team can advance on Matchday 4. It is very evenly poised with Napoli on five points and Paris-Saint Germain on four. With Napoli hosting PSG next time out, Liverpool know they can take a firm grip on the group by winning away to Red Star Belgrade, who have one point, but the Serbian outsiders could give themselves a chance with a shock win against the Reds.
Porto are well placed in the group on seven points and will expect to take a giant leap toward the knockout rounds when they host Lokomotiv Moscow, who have lost all three of their matches, on Tuesday. But they cannot secure qualification until Matchday 5. Schalke, on five points, and Galatasaray, on four points, meet in Germany in two weeks, and the Bundesliga outfit know they will almost be through if they can win that match.
Ajax and Bayern Munich are in control of the group, on seven points with identical records and four points ahead of Benfica. Ajax will book their place in the round of 16 if they can win at Benfica on Wednesday, and that result would also allow Bayern to secure safe passage with a victory at home to rock-bottom AEK Athens. While a draw at home to Ajax would keep Benfica mathematically in the hunt, they need to win that game to bring themselves truly back into contention. AEK will have to win all three of their remaining games to have a chance of going through.
It is tighter in this group, with Manchester City a point ahead of Lyon and both Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk a further three points back. But City can book their place with a win at home to Shakhtar, should Lyon pick up a victory at home to Hoffenheim. Lyon cannot qualify on Matchday 4, but Hoffenheim would be eliminated if they lose to Lyon and City beat Shakhtar. However, if Hoffenheim or Shakhtar can pick up an away win next time out, it will make the group very interesting.
Real Madrid and Roma are well placed on six points, two better off than CSKA Moscow. No team can qualify on Matchday 4, though bottom club Viktoria Plzen will be eliminated should they lose at home to Madrid and Roma win in Moscow. CSKA probably need to avoid defeat to Roma to stay in with a realistic chance of making it through, while victory would move them into the top two.
Juventus have a 100 percent record and will be through should they win at home to Manchester United on Wednesday. United, meanwhile, have just a two-point cushion over third-placed Valencia and could be overtaken should they lose in Turin. The final-day meeting of Valencia and United on Dec. 12 looks like it will be decisive, but Young Boys will have a say if they pull off a shock in Spain on Matchday 4.
European Super League plans detailed by leaked email sent to Real Madrid – reports
Nov 2, 2018ESPN
A leaked document sent to Real Madrid last month appears to show that plans are still ongoing for a long-speculated European Super League featuring the continent’s top football clubs.An Oct. 22 email to Real Madrid from Madrid-based investment firm Key Capital Partners included a “binding term sheet” of 11 clubs and five “initial guests” to form a breakaway, private league, according to multiple news outlets that received the document among thousands of others from the “Football Leaks” whistleblower platform.Reports of a potential new league for Europe’s top clubs have persisted for years, most notably in 2016 when officials from English clubs met in Londonwith American businessman Charlie Stillitano, the founder of the International Champions Cup summer tournament in the United States.Information regarding that meeting was also included in the “Football Leaks” documents, German magazine Der Spiegel reported. And though nothing ever came of those talks, the email to Real Madrid purports to show that the idea of a Super League is far from dead.
According to Der Spiegel, the term sheet in the email awaited signatures dated November 2018 from 11 “founders” — Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid; England’s Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United; Italy’s Juventus and AC Milan; France’s Paris Saint-Germain; and Germany’s Bayern Munich.Under the plans outlined in the documents, those clubs would register a company to organize the “European Super League,” of which they would be members for 20 years, ineligible for relegation. To begin, the founders then would be joined by five other guest clubs — Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Marseille and Roma.It also mentions a second league of teams that could face those initial guests for a chance of promotion to the Super League.The plan outlined in the documents reportedly makes no mention of UEFA, European football’s governing body, which organises the Champions League. While such a Super League likely would replace the Champions League, it is not known how it would affect clubs’ domestic leagues.Der Spiegel reported that Real Madrid and Key Capital Partners declined to comment. But the magazine also quoted Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke as saying the documents prove it is “clear” that discussions are ongoing.”I also believe that a few of Europe’s large clubs are clearly working on it,” Watzke said, though he noted that the plans are “not very concrete.”Watzke also said Dortmund under no circumstances would leave the German Bundesliga, but beyond that, the club would “keep all its options open.”
It’s time to fix the Champions League or start a European mega-league
Oct 2, 2018 Brian Phillips, Special to ESPN FC
There’s a strange kind of conceptual bloat that tends to infect international soccer competitions, which is fascinating because it so often works against the nature of the competitions themselves.You start with a simple idea — say, let’s figure out the best club team in Europe. Only then you try to draw up the tournament, and there’s a lot of arguing; before you know it, you’re trying to remember whether the sixth-rated confederation per UEFA coefficient receives one or two automatic byes to the subgroup qualifying pre-phase, or whether the losing team with the highest goal differential parachutes directly into the Europa League’s third knockout round-robin or has to play Borussia Monchengladbach first and it all seems a little too abstract. And somehow, just while you were trying to Google this, you’ve accidentally watched three Heineken commercials and you wonder whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn off the soccer and do something comparatively easy, like learn advanced number theory.I’m thinking about number theory, and also Heineken, because the Champions League roars expensively back to life this week, with Matchday 2 of the group stage. The Champions League is not, obviously, the worst exemplar of the kind of bloat I’m talking about. Format-wise, it’s positively straightforward compared to the Europa League, a tournament of such ghastly intricacy that future generations will use it to predict the end of the world. (“When Feyenoord enters the sixth house…”)But the Champions League, in its own, peculiarly vexed relationship to the fun it is nominally offering its audience, makes for a revealing case study in the way money, politics and media — and the competing interests surrounding each — can warp the essentials of the modern soccer competition.The form of the tournament itself means we’re forever watching matches whose stakes aren’t as high as they could be. The group stage, as it plods on, guarantees that the smaller clubs get a lot of TV time but the bigger clubs always have the best chance to advance. The two-legged knockout rounds work to preserve stability, and its accompanying ad revenue, over surprise. There’s nothing wrong with this, exactly. But it does sometimes make the Champions League look like a kind of drab hybrid, poised between the true free-for-all of a single-elimination knockout tournament and the shameless maximalism of a corporate super league.Is the Champions League fun? Obviously, in one sense, it must be. It’s the one venue where big European clubs from different countries play one another for stakes anyone cares about, and that inevitably comes with a lot of excitement, a lot of atmospheric drama (something the tournament duly exploits via its faux-operatic anthem, which sounds like a song a feather boa wrote about itself), and a lot of intriguing games.And sometimes these games are amazing. Liverpool vs. PSG, during matchday one, was a happy riot from start to finish, even if it symbolically seemed to pit two of the most corrupting influences in contemporary soccer (“the inertial power of established clubs” on the one hand versus “new money” on the other) against each other. There’s something weird, though, about the way the Champions League seems to regard its own capacity for delightfulness — the way it seems to see fun as a resource to be carefully amortized for the audience over a long period of time, as if it were managing a trust fund for an impetuous teenager. “No, Eric,” the Champions League always seems to be saying, “you can’t have a jet-ski until you get into Dartmouth.” The thrill of Liverpool vs. PSG was always moderated by your awareness of the context of the group stage, where matches are important but not tooimportant, and by your corresponding sense of the long, slow road ahead, where any number of shortcomings and reversals could be met and overcome on the way to the final.Think about this for a second. What’s the most exciting kind of game in sports? A final, right? And after that, a single-elimination knockout match, like the ones in the later rounds of the World Cup. That’s where the stakes are highest: The winner advances, the loser goes home.I don’t know about you, but as a sports fan, I am way more into excitement than patience or careful math. But in the Champions League, as in most big soccer tournaments, the function of the format’s complexities is almost always to diminish, rather than intensify, the tension of the individual match because the format is almost always working to lower the stakes. Instead of being sent home, the loser of a group-stage match is only somewhat disadvantaged in a multiphase round-robin mini-tournament that nearly always includes some relative minnows against whom the big clubs can sort out their problems. And even later, in the knockout rounds, the format gives teams two games rather than one to determine which side advances.If the single-elimination format makes for the most exciting sports tournament, why doesn’t the Champions League simply switch to life-or-death knockout games? That may seem like a naive question, but really, you’d think an athletic competition that needs a hundred sopranos to announce its advent would try to be as thrilling as possible.But here’s where things get interesting, because, of course, the Champions League has many reasons not to want to be thrilling, and nearly all them speak to the importance to the tournament of considerations other than fun. Week to week, in other words, the Champions League has strong incentives not to care very much whether you enjoy it.The first of those incentives is also the most defensible: fairness. Actually, maybe a better word would be “accuracy.” One of the reasons a single-elimination tournament is so deliriously entertaining is that it maximizes the chances for upsets — think of the early rounds of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.Generally speaking, the longer two teams spend playing each other and the more times they play, the greater the odds that the more skilled team will win. Upsets are fun for fans, but if you’re constructing a tournament with the goal of actually identifying the best team, they’re a design flaw. Let the teams play more games, and even if each game feels less urgent, as it inevitably will, you will increase the chances that Real Madrid end up as champions a hundred consecutive times and drive everyone crazy — and that you will therefore, somehow, because the world is mysterious, have achieved the scientifically correct result.Of course, there are other reasons why the Champions League might want to minimize the possibility of upsets. Keeping the fan bases of big clubs interested for as long as possible doesn’t hurt TV ratings. High TV ratings don’t hurt MasterCard commercials.Perhaps most significantly, the Champions League is a desperate ongoing compromise between the most popular and powerful European associations (your Spains and Englands) and the smaller ones. The biggest clubs are forever threatening to trigger UEFA’s doomsday scenario by forming a breakaway European Super League, a threat that helped trigger the most recent round of format changes. Beginning this year, all four of the top clubs from all four of the top associations have guaranteed spots in the group stage, whereas previously, only some of them had guaranteed spots, and the others had to qualify via a system of what I visualize as scholastic debates in Latin.The smaller clubs are forever threatening UEFA, too — I don’t know to do what, exactly, but they complain a lot in the press.This four-dimensional diplomatic compromise that UEFA has cobbled together to keep all of its constituencies happy has meant tilting the competition massively in favor of the clubs that already have the most advantages while still giving the smaller clubs lots of games to play. Everybody gets something. The corporate behemoths get to take turns lifting the trophy, while the also-rans get to lose extensively, and profitably, on TV.There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this arrangement; it’s hard to see how else you could satisfy all the clubs once you accept that satisfying all the clubs is something you need to do. But it does sit a little oddly under the glossy skin of epic warfare that has been the Champions League’s brand. UEFA is deploying a lot of trumpets for what’s essentially a gradualist exercise in predictability and continuity. The opening credits may be lasers and glitzy chaos, but the tournament itself values stability over everything else; it turns even most of its legitimately thrilling matches into cautious data points. It’s a gladiatorial contest devised by an accounting consultancy.I sometimes think the problem with 21st-century soccer isn’t that money has transformed everything but that money has transformed things only halfway. You could say, I guess, that there are two kinds of fun in soccer. There’s the old kind, where the game is rooted in the community, the clubs are authentic expressions of supporter culture and something is meant to be at stake other than advertising revenue, and then there’s the new kind, where everything is mediated and packaged for TV and what’s enjoyable is the shiny commercial spectacle.he Champions League wants to be both things at once, which is why it pretends to care about small clubs while ultimately catering exclusively to rich ones. But the result is that little shiver of alienation you feel during the group stage, when you know you’re being asked to invest your feelings in something that’s been very exactly calibrated to be slightly less than honest. If I ran soccer, the European club championship would be open to a thousand teams every year. Each round would be a one-game knockout, and every so often we would get to watch the beautiful and hilarious spectacle of a Belgian Third Division B team knocking off Manchester United, though admittedly it’s no longer clear that this would qualify as an upset.Short of that, though? I think the Champions League might be more fun if it more flly embraced its evil nature. We’re here to buy shirts, watch Playstation commercials and see Chelsea play Juventus — and unless you happen to be a Club Brugge fan, it’s not clear where or how Club Brugge factors into any of those priorities.For that matter, why not have a breakaway European Super League? Everyone would be furious about it, and then it would be spectacularly popular. Could we devise a whole season in which Manchester City only played Barcelona? Can you fit a trumpet inside another trumpet? Could Manchester City somehow play itself?Tournament designers have to balance a lot of factors. But human nature is the loudest soprano of all.
Tottenham’s season is like House of Cards – Mauricio Pochettino
9:39 AM ETBen PearceTottenham correspondentEmail
Tottenham Mauricio Pochettino has said football is becoming as political as a series of House of Cards.Pochettino is having to cope with a lengthy injury list, a lack of summer signings and delays to the club’s stadium construction project.”It’s a weird season but I look so happy now because the new season of House of Cards has started,” Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with PSV Eindhoven. “Yesterday I watched three episodes. “I learn a lot from this series. I recommend it. I think it represents very well sometimes how we are. Sometimes football is so political, and it’s going in this direction.”Which character am I? I don’t know, it’s difficult to say. It’s dangerous to say this or this one. It’s fiction but it can translate to many businesses.”Pochettino is missing eight players against PSV, with Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama all injured, while Hugo Lloris is suspended and Juan Foyth and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou are both ineligible in the Champions League.Dembele limped off with an ankle problem in the opening minutes of Saturday’s 3-2 victory at Wolves, but Pochettino played down the injury.”The most important thing is he didn’t suffer an injury to his bone, and that is good,” Pochettino said. “Maybe his ligament is damaged but after the scan today we will know better.”Dembele has become the third central midfielder to suffer an injury in the last week, leaving Pochettino short of options at a busy time, but Dele Alli is available after being rested against Wolves and Victor Wanyama’s knee injury is not serious.”He [Wanyama] got a knock against West Ham,” Pochettino said. “Today he was training and close to being available. Maybe for Saturday he will be available [against Crystal Palace].”Could Dele play 90 minutes? It’s possible. He needs to work a lot to get in his best condition to build his fitness. We’re helping him.”Tottenham face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, having only picked up one point from their opening three Group B fixtures. But Pochettino says Spurs’ situation will have little effect on his team selection.”I don’t have too many players to select or not select!” he said. “Now we’re only 18 or 19. There’s a small chance to go to the next stage — that’s the reality. We know very well we need to win tomorrow.”With Lloris suspended, Pochettino added: “There are three different options — Michel Vorm, Paulo Gazzaniga and Alfie Whiteman. I still haven’t decided who is going to play. But sure it will be one of the three names. Each has a 33 percent possibility.”For me it’s not that they own the No. 1, the No. 2, the No. 3 [shirts]. Football is dynamic and we change a lot the things. Our decision is always to be fair for everyone.”The Wembley pitch was in a poor condition when Spurs hosted Manchester City last Monday, following three successive weekends of NFL action.A UEFA pitch inspection is likely to take place on Monday afternoon, but Pochettino said: “I think it’ll improve a little bit — they’re working so hard to improve it.”I saw pictures; I think it’s better. The condition will be the same for both sides. There’s nothing to complain about.”
Barcelona are Champions League favourites but Juventus can win it – Allegri
Nov 2, 2018Ben GladwellItaly correspondent
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has said Barcelona, not his team, are favourites to win the Champions League.The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and three successive victories in the tournament this season have seen Juve tipped as winners after two final defeats in the last four years.The first came against Barcelona in Berlin in 2015, and Allegri believes the La Liga champions will again be the team to beat.”Barcelona are No. 1 candidates — just look at the way they play,” he told a news conference on Friday.I feel I am coach of a side who can win it, but you can’t take it for granted that we will. We are among the top four candidates, but we need to keep calm.”Earlier this week, Allegri said winning the Champions League was his priority and “the only thing that can improve us” after seven straight Serie A titles.”In March a different Champions League starts, and that is when you need a bit of luck because the Champions League is a competition that gets decided by minor incidents,” he said.’m sure we’ll see Barca going all the way to the end.”Juve host Manchester United on Wednesday, when a win would book their place in the round of 16 with two games to spare.However, Allegri said he was more concerned about their forthcoming league game against Cagliari on Saturday.”All I am asking my team is to win it,” he said. “We saw against Empoli that no game is easy, while for everybody who faces us, the Juve game is always a big one.”We need to win and not drop any points because Napoli and Inter are there. Cagliari are tough opponents and we need to win it and prepare well for Wednesday.”Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi are out of Saturday’s Allianz Stadium clash, but Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic are both in the squad.
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba excited by Juventus return: ‘Turin is my home’
Nov 1, 2018ESPN
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has told RMC he regards Turin as “home” as he prepares to return to Juventus in the Champions League next week.Pogba, who rejoined United from Juve in what was then a world record deal, played for the Serie A club between 2012 and 2016, winning four Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias.The France international said he had predicted that United would be drawn in the same Champions League group as Juve, who beat them 1-0 at Old Traffordlast month. “I expected it, it was mad,” he said. “I’d spoken about it with my brother last summer. I said to him: ‘Imagine we’re in the same group as Juve.'”For me, it’s a pleasure. Turin is my home — that’s where I scored my first professional goal.”Pogba said he remained in touch with some of his former Juventus teammates and had learned from legendary players including Andrea Pirlo.”[Juan] Cuadrado, [Paolo] Dybala, [Leonardo] Bonucci … I hear from them, we speak from time to time. We were a family, so of course we stay in contact,” he said.”When you’re alongside players like Pirlo, Gigi [Buffon] or [Giorgio] Chiellini, you can only learn.”Every day, in training, you try to observe them. Even as an established player, you can always learn from those sorts of men.”Pogba said he was targeting victory in the Champions League, calling it “a trophy I think about, I always have it in mind.”
Biggest Takeaways From the MLS Conference Semifinal First Legs
- Columbus continued neutralizing its chief threats, Portland came back on an injury-riddled Seattle, Atlanta received contributions from an unlikely scorer and Sporting KC received an instant impact from an opportunistic substitute to open the MLS conference semifinals.
By AVI CREDITOR November 04, 2018
MLS’s hectic midweek knockout drama gave way to more measured and tempered first legs of the conference semifinals on Sunday, when all eight teams remaining were in action, looking to take steps forward on the road to MLS Cup. The drop in gripping action is normal when shifting from single-elimination knockout matches to two-legged series, with the combination of tired legs (from the teams not fortunate to have first-round byes) and the teams’ lack of willingness to gamble and leave themselves susceptible to series-killing mistakes typically resulting in lower scoring, more cagey theater in playoff series openers.Half of the midweek winners capitalized on their recent momentum in hosting those opening legs, with the Columbus Crew toppling the Supporters’ Shield-holding New York Red Bulls, 1-0, and the Portland Timbers coming from behind to beat the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. Both the Red Bulls and Sounders entered the postseason on five-match winning streaks, while the Red Bulls had lost twice since July 14 and the Sounders had lost twice since July 4. So needless to say, these were not the results the higher seeds desired or expected.
On the flip side, Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City handled business on the road and will go home for the second legs with the odds in their favor, with the former conquering NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, 1-0, and the latter drawing Real Salt Lake 1-1, taking the away-goal edge into its home game.Here are the major takeaways from the opening legs to the four series:
IDEAL RESULT FOR BERHALTER’S CREW
If Gregg Berhalter is indeed going to be the next U.S. men’s national team manager, as has been speculated by plenty for some time, he’s doing a nice job going in with a head of steam. After devising a tactical game plan to largely remove D.C. United’s star tandem Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta in the knockout round, Berhalter pushed the right buttons again on Sunday.
He took the calculated risk of keeping 34-year-old Federico Higuain on the bench to start the match, which came three days after a grueling 120 minutes in the nation’s capital. After his side saw out a scoreless first half, he turned to his veteran playmaker to make a difference. That he did, turning a slick back-heel pass into Gyasi Zardes’s path inside the Red Bulls box. Zardes scored, and that was that.he match–not to mention the series–was nearly changed on a pair of late saves. Losing 1-0 on the road isn’t the end of the world for the Red Bulls, but it was very nearly 2-0, when Pedro Santos found space to rip from the edge of the box, forcing Luis Robles into a diving save that preserved the scoreline.
On the other end, the one time Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips were able to link up in a dangerous area resulted in a glanced header by the latter, who looked likely to even the score at the death. That is, until goalkeeping hero Zack Steffen made an instinctive, diving save to his left, pawing the ball to safety.To concede an away goal and settle for a draw at that juncture could have been a dagger for the Crew. To keep the Red Bulls scoreless and turn up the pressure on the MLS Cup-hungry side heading into the second leg, on the other hand, is the ideal outcome for Berhalter’s well-drilled side.
SEATTLE’S DREAM START TURNS INTO AN INJURY-LADEN NIGHTMARE
After 10 minutes in Portland, Raul Ruidiaz had scored, and the Sounders were enjoying a perfect start: the lead plus an away goal and carrying full momentum on a team that just endured through a hard-fought win in Dallas a few days prior. But then Cristian Roldan, the influential midfielder, went out with a groin injury. And with about 10 minutes to go in the first half, center back rock Chad Marshall, the heartbeat of MLS’s second-best defensive unit, injured his right knee making a seemingly innocuous pass out of the back. Factor in that Portland scored twice directly off giveaways, through Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastian Blanco, all while this was happening, and Seattle’s brilliant start turned south real quickly.To Seattle’s credit, it weathered the storm. The 2-1 loss, given everything that transpired after the opener, was not a worst-case scenario, and Portland will surely rue not going for the jugular against an opponent that was ripe for the picking. The problem for the Sounders, though, is that unlike the three other conference semifinal series, there’s less rest in this one. Seattle will host the second leg Thursday night, not next Sunday, and if Roldan and Marshall can’t go, it’ll require a major turnaround against a team–and more specifically a dominant midfield–that holds the early advantage.
ATLANTA’S NEUTRALIZER FOR NYCFC’S SMALL FIELD: SET PIECES
Atlanta United is a team that thrives off space and dynamic combinations, and with that not entirely feasible during a physical and choppy match on NYCFC’s narrow, slippery set-up in the Yankee Stadium outfield, Tata Martino’s side needed a Plan B. That turned out to be excelling on set pieces.
Atlanta had one apparent goal off a set piece taken off the board via VAR and another would-be goal off a set play shanked by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez before finally breaking through off another corner. Josef Martinez’s initial volley off the corner was saved, but the rebound fell nicely on the doorstep for Eric Remedi, who touched home the first goal of his professional career for the opener and crucial away strike. If NYCFC wanted to win this series, it really needed to hold serve at home and use its confines to its advantage. The task will be immense to top Atlanta at what will surely be a rocking Mercedes Benz Stadium next Sunday.
INSTANT IMPACT CHANGES SKC’S OUTLOOK
Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes was hoping for an impact out of second-half substitute Diego Rubio, but he couldn’t have possibly anticipated it coming so soon.Less than a minute after the Chilean stepped onto the field, with his side trailing 1-0 at No. 6 Real Salt Lake, he was on the scoresheet, pouncing on a blocked Nick Rimando clearance and firing home with his first touch of the game. While he’ll garner all the praise for the crucial away goal, which totally changes Sporting KC’s series outlook, it’s his countryman, Felipe Gutierrez, who deserves ample credit as well. It was his hustle and block that altered Rimando’s clearance, and his sly seal off of Kyle Beckerman that created Rubio’s unimpeded shooting lane. The draw gives SKC the slight edge going home, thanks to the away goal, and it’ll have the benefit of knowing one of RSL’s chief attacking threats won’t be available to play in the return leg. Albert Rusnak was one of five RSL players carrying yellow cards into the conference semifinals, after Thursday’s action-packed win over LAFC. So his needless tackle on Graham Zusi less than half an hour into Sunday’s bout ruled him out for the second leg, due to card accumulation. One look at what he was able to do in opening the scoring in the first leg, and you can see what RSL will be missing.The draw is clearly not the worst-case circumstance for RSL, but knowing that Rusnak won’t be playing in the second leg all while conceding the road goal on an entirely unnecessary sequence has it feeling like more of a loss than a tie for the lowest seed remaining in either conference.