12/21/18 Carmel FC team headed to Disney Tourney, Man United Fire Mourinho, Champ League Games Sweet 16 Games Set, Happy Holidays TV Game Schedule

As we head into the Holiday Season I want wish each of you a very Happy Holiday and thank you for being part of soccer nation with me.  Its been an interesting year – and circumstances this year have reminded me just how precious life is and how lucky we are to get to coach, and ref  and play and enjoy this beautiful game of soccer.  Click thru to the Ole Ballcoach and read the beautiful story about former US National Team star Claudia Reyna and his family story of life, loss and soccer.  2018 was an interesting year as we had to watch a World Cup without our US men’s team in it for the first time since 1990 (that’s 28 years), we got to see our own Indy 11 move into a new league and into the friendly confines of Lucas Oil, and we got to enjoy a State Championship for the Carmel Girls Soccer team and 8 former Carmel FC players.

CFC05Goldboys

Huge congrats to our Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold Team coached by Doug Latham (right) and Commish Jeremy Slivinski (left).  They went 5-2-1 to claim first in the Premier Division becoming the first ever Carmel FC boys team to do so.  They also were Grand Park Festival Champs this fall and finished 3-0 in the top flight of the Indianapolis College Men’s Showcase in early December.  Up next a move up to the National League (old MRL) in the Spring and a trip to Disney over the holidays for the famous Disney Soccer Showcase arguably one of the best youth soccer tourney’s in the country held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.  (see full story below) Best of luck boys !!

CHSGirls_state_champs2018

What A Season for the Carmel High Girls Soccer Team as they Won their 10th IHSAA State title with legendary Coach Frank Dixon and 8 former Carmel FC players (All-State Keeper Erin Baker, Emma Antoine, Brooke Bailey, Olivia Fray, Carly Jessup, Riley Pennington, Anna Springer, Emily Roper and former Carmel FC Coach coach Carla Baker.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Wow some juicy games in the Sweet 16 as Atletico Madrid will face last season’s semi-finalist Juventus, Tottenham will face Borussia Dortmund and US star Christian Pulisic (assuming he can get that starting spot back-he started and went the full 90 this past weekend), Man United (post Jose) vs PSG, Schalke and US Weston McKinney against Man City, and perhaps the toughest draw defending finalist Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

MLS

I was excited to see MLS is adjusting the Playoff Schedule starting next year – reducing the season length by 3 weeks which will allow the season to end in mid Nov.  Part of the change will include reducing all of the playoff series to 1 game knockout games instead of 2 game Champion League like series.  I love both changes !!

Indy 11

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season as new teams Memphis FC, Birmingham Legion FC, Hartford Athletic and Loundon Uited will join the Easter Conference with the Indy 11 with 18 teams, 36 total across the Eastern and Western Divisions.  The Season will start March 9 with the 11 traveling to St. Louis.  Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Check out the new jersey for the 2019 Season on sale now just in time for the Holidays! I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  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 !  Oh I forgot think your good enough to play for the Eleven? Open Try-outs start Jan 12, 10-2 pm at Grand Park.

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1             FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City 

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

 EPL

Manchester United Runs Out of Reasons to Stay Course With Mourinho– SI Avi Creditor

Sam Borden: Jose Mourinho’s Last Stand

Mourinho’s sacking overdue

Inside Story of how Man United and Mourinho Broke Down

Mourinho finally speaks

Why Man U’s Decision to appoint former player Solskjaer is so Surprising Michael Cox ESPN.com

Top Priorities for New Manager Solskajaer At Man United

Who is this New Manager for Man United – Sam Wallace the Telegraph

Spurs must Show Pochettino what he would miss if he left for United or Real Madrid- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Liverpool’s Lovren says they can match Arsenal’s Invicibles

Liverpool Fans Ridicule Shows how Far Jose Mourino has Fallen- Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Shaqiri, Liverpool Add to Man Uniteds Woe – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Mo Salah goes GQ

 WORLD

What do the  Big Teams Need in the Jan Transfer Window?

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

UCL draw: United face PSG, Liverpool vs. Bayern

Manchester United will face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16, while Liverpool have been drawn against Bayern Munich. ESPN

 Klopp meets the team he turned down

Gab Marcotti digs into each of the round of 16 matchups in the UEFA Champions League as the draw put together some heavyweight teams.

Spurs will face different Dortmund in UCL – Vertonghen

Vertonghen is expecting a tougher test when the north Londoners meet Lucien Favre’s side, who are leading the Bundesliga by nine, in February. Ben Pierce – ESPNFC

Less of the ball is more: Praise for football’s minimalists

While the likes of Pep Guardiola have made control of the ball a central part of how their teams play, two notables are thriving without it.

Man United drew PSG, and social media loved it

“Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani against that Man Utd defence …” pretty much sums up the reaction to the Red Devils drawing PSG in the round of 16. Chris Wright ESPNFC

USA

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018

Zack Steffen talks to ESPN FC about his move to Manchester City, the future of the U.S. national team and ignoring all the haters.  Noah Davis ESPNFC

 The Reynas’ Story of Loss and Legacy

Claudio and Danielle Reyna experienced tragedy upon the death of their son, Jack, but his memory and legacy endure and are carried on in part by another son and U.S. youth national team standout, Giovanni.by Grant Wahl  SI

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

Josh Sargent scored less than two minutes into his Bundesliga debut as Bremen beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-1.

Bill Simmons on US Youth Soccer’s and MLS’s ‘Pro’s and Cons   SI

MLS

MLS shortens playoffs, goes to single elimination

The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams.

Zlatan signs Designated Player deal with Galaxy

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018.

Why are LA Galaxy, MLS’s most decorated club, such a mess?

No one has more MLS Cups than LA Galaxy, but for the second straight year, they’ve missed the playoffs. What’s plaguing MLS’ original glamour club?

Ibrahimovic has unfinished business with Galaxy, MLS

Ibrahimovic scored plenty of goals in 2018 but his club missed the playoffs. He’ll try to put that right next year.

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?

Indy 11 

Conference Alignment Set for 2019 USL Season

Indy 11 Opening Game March 9 @ St. Louis

Indy 11 Roster Starts to Take Shape

New Players added

Open Tryouts Sat Jan 12

Full Update on the Carmel FC 05 Gold Team headed to the Disney Showcase over the Holidays

CFC05Goldboys

The Disney Soccer Showcase is arguably one of the most coveted showcase and tournament opportunities for youth soccer in the country.  Any travel team can apply but the tournament is known for being invitation centered and bringing in the top teams from around the country.  It is held on two sites, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and additional facilities nearby.  The Carmel FC 05 Boys Gold team was the only Indiana boys team accepted in the 14u age division this year.  There are 48 teams in their age group in the tournament out of 100’s that applied.

Families will be heading to Orlando on December 26th.  Games are scheduled for the 27th, 28th and 29th.  The finals are on the 30th.  The competition looks fierce as they will be playing teams from multiple levels of national league.  This will be a good first test for these boys as they are moving to national league for the 2019 spring season.  They are the first boys team from our club to ascend to this level of play.  They did so by winning ISL 1st Division twice and then ISL Premier Division this past fall season.  They were the Grand Park Soccer Festival champions this fall and also finished 3-0 in the top flight at the Indianapolis Men’s College Showcase at the beginning of December.

Our hope is this 05 Boys team is representative of the great things to come for our club.  This team was not recruited/built.  It was developed.  Of the 16 players on the team 14 have spent their entire travel experience with Carmel FC.  Four of these players come from the original 2005 academy group when they were formed at u9 before the US Soccer age mandate change.  Two come from the original 2006 academy group.  The remainder joined the program the following couple of years.

This opportunity demonstrates the reality of player development that sometimes gets missed.  Over half of the 05 Boys team played on our 2nd (Blue) or 3rd (White) teams at some point when they were younger.  Our club’s and this age group’s focus on technical development over wins at a younger age has led to these players graduating to elite level play.  They developed technically on their respective teams over the years and now physically they are catching up.  John Carter, the past Indiana Soccer Director of ODP who passed away this fall used to say, (paraphrasing) “A player’s real ability and potential isn’t truly known until their teenage years.  At younger ages bad technical ability can be hidden by physical play.  Good technical ability may not be realized simply due to slower development of physical ability.  It all evens out when they get to 11v11 and growth spurts slow down.”  Carmel FC and specifically the 05 Boys team has taken those concepts to heart and is now seeing the results of patience.  At the younger ages they focused on every player on every team in their age group.  We think teams following in their footsteps will realize the same success.   Big thanks to Carmel FC General Manager and coach Jeremy Sklivinski for the full rundown and good luck boys!!

Bill Simmons on U.S. Youth Soccer’s Issues and MLS’s Pros and Cons

  • After getting involved heavily on the Southern California youth soccer scene with his daughter and becoming an LAFC season-ticket holder, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons notes the many flaws in the U.S. youth system and has some ideas for MLS.

By GRANT WAHL December 13, 2018

On the latest episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, SI.com interviews HBO’s Bill Simmons, the founder and CEO of The Ringer, about his experience over the last five years getting deep into Southern California youth soccer with his daughter—including being part of starting a new youth club. Simmons shares his thoughts on the youth soccer system in the U.S. and, as an LAFC season-ticket holder, on what MLS is doing and not doing well.You can listen to the full conversation in the podcast console below and subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Recent guests include ESPN’s Katie Nolan, former U.S. women’s national team forward Abby Wambach, former U.S. men’s national team forward Eddie Johnson, broadcasters Bob Ley and Derek Rae and U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Planet Fútbol with Grant Wahl

Bill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US SoccerBill Simmons on California Youth Soccer, MLS and US Soccer

Here some of the highlights of the conversation:

On youth soccer and U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy:

“If you play on a Development Academy team, they say you can’t play for your high school. Right? So now you’re basically turning your kids into professional athletes when they’re 15. There’s no way in hell I wouldn’t want my daughter to play … in high school next year as a ninth-grader. What is better than playing for your high school team? That’s the single most important thing you can do as an athlete until you go to college.”

On what MLS owners need to do:

“It’s crazy to me that rich people just haven’t said, Let’s make the MLS a real thing. Let’s like quintuple the salary cap. Let’s just go for it.”

On being an LAFC season ticket holder:

“They were able to build a tradition in the span of like three weeks. There’s the eagle at the beginning, and they have the whole side behind one of the goals, everyone’s standing and doing chants the whole game and people are holding scarves up. And the logos. It kind of felt like the team had been around for 28 years, and meanwhile they’d been around for, you know, two weeks.”

On the quality of play in MLS:

“Unfortunately, the problem with the MLS is that the soccer is not as good as the experience. I think people love going to soccer games and being fans and emulating what they see in Europe and all these different places, and the soccer just isn’t good enough yet. It’s fine. It’s probably somewhere between double- and triple-A baseball, I would say.

“But the stands are major league. The fans and the experience and the stadiums, and you have all these rich owners now that are frustrated because they can’t get into the NBA or the NFL oh, so this is where they’ve taken their sports ownership juices, basically. But if you actually watch the games? It’s like, I went to this LAFC-New England Revolution game in [September], it was honestly one of the worst sporting events I’ve ever been to. It was so awful. The Revolution had like 20 fouls. They were just being thugs, they just weren’t that talented. And it was just awful. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is not a fun way to spend a Saturday.’ But then you go to other games, and the soccer is close enough that it’s fine. Every team has a couple really good players they can kind of latch onto.”

WAHL: Atlanta Raises the Bar as an MLS Champ–and Soccer City

On why the Krafts are perhaps the best owners in the NFL but maybe the worst in MLS:

“It’s too bad. It’s so easy and simple. They just need to build like a 22,000-seat soccer stadium somewhere in Boston that everyone can get to by an Uber. And put it in Cambridge, put it in the Seaport, wherever the hell you’re going to put it, put it next to Suffolk Downs, whatever. It just needs to be 22,000 people, and they’ll get a lot of college kids. You can’t go to those games in Gillette. It’s the same problem the WNBA has. The WNBA insists on putting their games in these NBA arenas, and then there’s 2,000 people there and it’s the most depressing place in the world. And you look at the Revs, and they’re in the 70,000-seat football stadium, it’s ludicrous. There’s no energy at all. It’s the worst. LAFC is like 28,000. So I would say either sell or try to build that stadium. Honestly, 22,000 is probably not big enough. Maybe 25,000?”

On sexism in youth soccer:

“Everything is geared toward boys’ soccer, especially in Southern California. These big clubs, they just care about the boys teams more. Their boys teams get better practice times, better fields, better everything. Better resources. Better coaching. It’s kind of shocking. I had never considered myself a sports feminist. And it was weird to go through this situation where you’re like, ‘Wow, my daughter is getting the short end of the stick because she’s female.’”

On what U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro should do with the youth soccer system:

“Carlos Cordeiro. Listen, Carlos, if you’re listening, this sucks, what’s going on right now. It’s really bad. We’re in a situation now with this club that we’ve built. We have 130 girls, one-third of them are scholarship. We’re playing the style that everyone wants America to play but we don’t. And we’re on the outside because we’re not one of the Starbucks clubs. I would love to know what the solution is for that. Your system that we’ve created for youth soccer does not allow for outliers.”

On his advice to youth soccer parents:

“To the parents out there, pick a side in the games. Then all get your chairs and stuff, and then you go on that one side. You don’t get to do the things where you’re kind of on both sides, because that’s how fights happen in games. Pick a side.”

THE REYNA’S STORY OF LOSS AND LEGACY

Following the Tragic Loss of their son as they make their way thru life in Soccer

By Grant Wahl  Sports Illustrated  December 12, 2018  

They were American soccer’s royal couple. In the summer of 1994, not long before the U.S. hosted the World Cup, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams were both staying in Laguna Beach, Calif., at the Holiday Inn. Claudio Reyna, a three-time NCAA champion at Virginia, was an emerging star, a gifted playmaker who had just made the first of his four World Cup squads. Danielle Egan, on her way to winning four NCAA titles at North Carolina with players like Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, was a speed demon on the wing who had recently scored her first goal for the world champion U.S. women. Their futures had no ceiling: Reyna and Egan were both 20 years old.Reyna was handsome, with thick, dark hair in a bowl cut, the New Jersey-born son of immigrants from Portugal and Argentina. Egan was gorgeous, a blonde tomboy, the pride of an Irish-American family on Long Island. They met in the hotel lobby. Reyna was speaking to some women’s players. Egan was looking for her roommate. He still remembers his pickup line: “Do you like pizza?” She did. They talked that night. They kept talking all summer. In three years they were married.From 1995 to ’99, a time when European soccer seemed exotic and was almost never broadcast on U.S. television, the Reynas lived their own two-person continental adventure. Claudio played in the German Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen, and then Wolfsburg. Danielle competed for a period in the German women’s third division, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as her Carolina days. Teammates smoked cigarettes and drank beer at halftime, and the eight-hour bus rides to games were brutal. So she stopped, and whenever Claudio had an off day husband and wife would pick a random spot on a paper map and drive there. Amsterdam, Brugge, Rotterdam. “Even little towns,” says Danielle. “We’ve been to more places in Holland than most Dutch people.”So much was happening. They lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment, drove a Volkswagen Beetle and hosted college friends for visits. Claudio’s career was taking off. Life was simple and pure and thrilling.And it got even better when their son Jack was born in April 1999. Claudio had just transferred to Rangers, a storied club in Glasgow, and the couple’s first months in Scotland were marked by a domestic league title and the joy of being around their newborn.“He was the easiest baby, the perfect firstborn child,” says Danielle. “He was like the first baby of everyone, soccer-wise. I’ve been told so many times: ‘The reason we had our baby was because of Jack.’”In the years ahead, whenever Claudio joined up with the national team, Jack was the unofficial team mascot, running up and down the sideline at practice.“I never saw anyone laugh and smile as much as him,” says Claudio. “He was so enthusiastic about everything.”Ultimately, as Claudio moved from Rangers to Sunderland to Manchester City to the New York Red Bulls, the Reynas would have four children in all, each with their own personalities and interests. Jack, who once recited poetry in UK speaking competitions with a full posh British accent, loved geography and architecture, and he fell for soccer by memorizing the names of famous stadiums.Giovanni (aka Gio), born in 2002, had a Manc accent that he lost, just as Jack did with his once they came to live in the States in 2007. Always more quiet than Jack, Gio is now one of the U.S.’s top soccer prospects, a 16-year-old forward who blends Claudio’s soccer IQ and Danielle’s athleticism, has his own Adidas video ad and just moved to Germany, where he’s expected to join Borussia Dortmund soon. (Former NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira has compared Gio to his French World Cup-winning teammate David Trezeguet.)Joah-Mikel, now 11, likes cooking and soccer, especially the tactical side of the game. And Carolina, the Reynas’ daughter, whip-smart at age 9, plays several sports and makes sure Joah doesn’t forget anything on his way to school.After his playing days, Claudio became the youth technical director for U.S. Soccer and then, in 2013, the sporting director at New York City FC. Don’t get him wrong, he was deeply disappointed when his team lost to Atlanta United in the recent MLS playoffs. But the Reynas also have a perspective on what matters in life that they earned in the most excruciating way possible. In May 2010, shortly after Jack’s team won the New York State Cup for his age group, he complained to his parents of a splitting headache.“At first,” says Danielle, doctors “thought maybe it was meningitis or Lyme disease or a sinus infection. But he had no other symptoms. None.”Then a neurologist noticed an issue with Jack’s peripheral vision in his left eye, and a subsequent CAT scan revealed a golf-ball-sized brain tumor. Surgery came next, followed by an agonizing three-week wait for a diagnosis.The result: Jack had stage IV glioblastoma, the kind of tumor John McCain and Ted Kennedy had—an extremely rare and aggressive condition, one that affects mostly men in their 60s and 70s.Jack Reyna was 11.

Jack (lying on his parents’ bed): Mom, am I going to die?

Danielle: Well, we all die. We just don’t know when. We don’t know if we’re going to be young. We don’t know if we’re going to be old. We don’t know if we’ll be hit by a truck, or get cancer. No one knows. It just kind of comes. When God is ready for you, he will come.

Upstairs, in the boys’ bedroom, the Lego structures are still intact. Intricate and towering, with as many as a thousand pieces each, the creations are a window into the mind of the boy who built them. A four-foot-high Eiffel Tower with the French tricolore on top. A block of three-story townhouses on a British streetscape. An elaborate recreation of the Death Star from Star Wars, replete with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and stormtroopers. Whenever Jack was suffering from his chemotherapy—from the nausea and the pain—he would repair to his room and work with the plastic bricks.“This was like his relaxation after chemo,” says Danielle. “He was very proud of this.”Adds Claudio: Each one “took a couple of weeks. He would go in here and sit. It was like his distraction. His therapy.”It’s a cloudy fall morning. The Reynas’ house in Bedford, N.Y., an hour outside Manhattan, is a monument to their children, to sports, to art and to the warmth of a family that welcomes a steady stream of friends and relatives through an open door. A basketball hoop stands sentry out front, and the backyard opens onto a soccer field, the fencing around its goal having been repaired not long ago after years of pounding by the kids.On the boys’ bedroom walls: a Lionel Messi jersey signed by the Argentine national team; an autographed Thierry Henry Barcelona shirt; jerseys dedicated to Jack by the Dutch national team and by Inter Milan legend Javier Zanetti. There’s also a wall-sized mural of a world map, designed for Jack, with the names of all the countries. Down in the living room, Claudio and Danielle sip coffee and share Jack’s story for three hours, their memories punctuated in nearly equal parts by smiles, laughter and tears.Back in their playing days, Claudio and Danielle shared a similar reputation for setting up teammates with perfectly-weighted passes—just the right speed, touch, direction and placement to give the receiver the best possible opportunity to do something positive with the ball. They do the same with each other when describing their firstborn son.

Danielle: “He was really smart. Super into geography—”

Claudio: “—geography, architecture, capitals. The second I got into the car, wherever we drove, he didn’t stop asking me questions. I couldn’t believe how happy he was with everything, including when we took him out to dinner. Do you remember?”

Danielle: “Especially in Europe. They didn’t always love when kids came. But we knew we could bring him to any restaurant, no matter how fancy. We would show up with this toddler, and they would gasp and say, ‘He’s so well-behaved!’”Claudio: “He always liked trying new kinds of food. The joy he had for life was just incredible. He would amaze us all the time—”

Danielle: “—and he loved chatting with adults. He was kind of like an old soul, talking about his travels and asking people about where they had been. He was super-inquisitive about other people’s lives.”Claudio: “We didn’t even talk about his dancing.”Danielle: “He loved music.”Claudio: “If music was on, he was dancing. Pop. Hip-hop. Everything.”A long pause. Slow, deep breaths. Tears.

Claudio: “He taught us how to love more, to trust more. You could count on him. You knew the love he had for his family.”Danielle: “And he loved how good Gio was t soccer. He [always] let Gio play with him and his friends. He always included him.”From the start, Gio was a freakish natural athlete, a child who could watch golf on TV for a few minutes and then pick up a club for the first time and hit picture-perfect iron shots in the backyard. He could dunk a basketball in the eighth grade. By the time he was 5, he was dominating Under-9 soccer games in the park. Claudio remembers how parents would give him the wink-wink, nudge-nudge look, assuming he was running Gio through countless hours of soccer drills, Marv Marinovich-style, on their backyard field. “What do you do with him?” they asked.“Nothing,” replied Claudio, who’d once helped coach Jack’s youth team but by now did little more than mess around with his boys in the backyard. They had no idea, Claudio thought to himself. Gio’s “training?” He was just playing with Jack and his older friends.“That’s what carried Gio, what launched him,” says Claudio. “He played with Jack. He fought with him. Jack would go in goal and let him shoot—not always let him win, though, that’s for sure. And Gio fought and fought, and that’s why he played. That’s who he wanted to be. He idolized and worshipped Jack. The one who made him what he is today, his talent, was really Jack.”

Jack is a boy. He has curly dark hair and soft brown eyes.

Jack’s smile is everybody’s favorite.

Jack has lots of favorites.

Jack loves food. He likes strawberries and salad and especially Lela’s Milanese.

But sushi is his favorite. His favorite restaurant is Nobu in New York City. He went there for his 13th birthday.

Jack plays lots of sports. He loves basketball and football, especially the Baltimore Ravens.

But his favorite sport is soccer. His favorite soccer team is Man City.

Jack has played on many soccer teams. His favorite coach is his dad, and his favorite player is his mom.

– From Jack’s Favorites, a children’s book written by Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher at Greenwich Country Day School

Jack fought. Oh, he battled. Chemo started right after the World Cup in 2010: Once every five weeks, for nine months, Jack and his parents would visit New York University’s Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders. It always made Jack sick afterward. So did the radiation treatment he received for another six weeks.“The bravest person I ever met,” says Kristian Shkreli, who played youth soccer with Jack and later with Gio on NYCFC’s U-19 team. “Always, no matter what, he had a smile on his face.”After Jack’s diagnosis, Claudio had taken a leave of absence from his job with U.S. Soccer.“A complete fog,” he says of those days. “I couldn’t even take in information. I would sit with Jack all week. [Danielle and I] would live at the hospital and see the doctors and tag-team sleep.”Then, in April 2011, came what seemed like a reprieve. After nine months of chemo, everyone celebrated Jack’s 12th birthday with fantastic news: His MRIs were clear. No cancer.“The doctors were amazed,” says Danielle. “They said, ‘We’ve never seen a kid bounce back from radiation or chemo like this. He is such a fighter, he is always so positive.’”Tim Gerber, another old friend, remembers meeting Jack for the first time that September, at the start of seventh grade. He heard Jack talking to a teacher about soccer, and he could tell this kid knew his stuff.“I was a big soccer fan, and you don’t find many in our town,” says Gerber. “So I butted into the conversation, and we made a fast connection.” They would spend hours and hours playing FIFA.In December, though, Danielle noticed Jack’s speech was a little off, and so she and Claudio took him back to NYU. The bad news: Doctors said his cancer was back. The worse news: They would treat Jack, but it would only slow down his steady deterioration.“That’s when we knew,” says Claudio. “There was nothing you could do.”Over Jack’s final seven months, whenever he had the energy, he and his family would attack his bucket list. The Reynas traveled to Mexico (where at the hotel swimming pool Gio switched roles, helping Jack when he needed it). They toured the top of the Empire State Building, dined at Nobu, watched the Ravens from field level and met Dirk Nowitzki at a Mavericks-Knicks game. But there were other days when Jack didn’t want to go out at all. Or his parents didn’t.“Days I couldn’t even leave our bed,” says Claudio. “We couldn’t even move. Didn’t want to go anywhere.”For the most part, though, the Reynas kept their front door open, and visitors poured through. Gerber came by on Champions League matchdays or to play FIFA and talk sports and girls.Liz Johnson, Jack’s fifth-grade teacher, always stopped over on Wednesdays to see Jack. When 3-year-old Carolina saw her, she said, “You’re Jack’s favorite teacher!” On her drive home one day, Johnson decided to write a children’s book for Carolina about her brother called Jack’s Favorites. When she read the story to Jack, he flashed one of his brilliant smiles.

Jack likes school and he’s good at it. He solves math problems faster than his friends, and he reads lots of books.

His favorite subject is geography. Jack knows all the countries and all the capitals in the world almost.

One of Jack’s favorite things to do is travel. He likes to fly on airplanes and visit new places. Jack has been to many cities, including Paris, Rome, London, Milan, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, just to name a few.

Jack loves dancing and music too. His favorite concert was Jay-Z in Carnegie Hall in New York City. He went there with his dad in 2012. He even got to go backstage and meet Jay-Z in person.

P.S. Jack has moves.

At home, Jack was put on a morphine drip to ease the pain. But even as he lost his abilities to walk and eventually to speak, the visitors kept coming. Claudio and Danielle still marvel at the 12- and 13-year-old classmates who would sometimes spoon-feed their dying friend.“I don’t know how we did it,” says Claudio, “but despite all the sadness we had this really happy place. People wanted to be here. It was loud, and he loved it. [We] felt it was important for him to see that everyone was still happy.”The Reynas had resolved that they still had to have joy in their family, Danielle explains, but their emotions were complex.“Nobody should have to watch their child, someone they love, die,” she says. “It’s horrible. You could tell he was fighting it. We had him in the house, and there were almost always at least 20 people around, sometimes more. He got good energy from them. People also needed to see him. And from what friends have said, they needed to see us. And they got strength from us. The day he died, we called the hospice near us. We kind of knew it was coming. She came and said it was. And we sent Gio to two of our best friends here. Then Jack passed. You’re so numb at that point. You don’t want him to go, but you don’t want him to be in pain anymore.”

Jack Reyna passed away on July 19, 2012, at the age of 13, surrounded by people who loved him.

One day after Jack’s funeral, Claudio and Danielle were sitting in their backyard with some friends and family. A recent rain had cleared, and everyone gazed up at the sky to witness an upside-down rainbow shaped like a human smile. Jack.“I had never seen one in my life,” says Claudio. “None of us had. It was perfect.”Six years after Jack’s death, his presence remains palpable in so many ways. A half-dozen friends wrote about him in their college application essays. A few years ago, Gerber penned a 25-page diary entry about Jack (“My Hero”) that he plans to give to Claudio and Danielle. Now a sophomore at Dartmouth, Gerber is studying economic development, dreaming of someday working for a nonprofit or starting a social entrepreneurship company.

“A lot of what I think about my future is because of what Jack taught me about the importance of being kind to others and about the privilege that we have,” Gerber says. “Not just getting to go to great schools and have the chance to travel and have different experiences, but also the ability to wake up every morning and see the people you love and be a good brother, a good teammate, a good family member.”  Claudio and Danielle remember seeing a family therapist when Jack was sick, and their counselor was struck by how they managed to still spend time with their other kids, preventing their home from descending into total gloom, maintaining support for one another. They’d heard stories about couples divorcing after losing a child, and they wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to them.Asked if they have any advice for parents in a similar situation, Claudio and Danielle point out that every case is different. But then Danielle says: “Keep laughter in your family. Respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and grieving processes, because we’re all different humans, and you’re not always going to be on the same wavelength or in the same mood. Be as happy as you can with the kids. Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s a cheesy little saying, but it’s really true.”For Claudio, this shared experience brought even more perspective to the idea of what’s important and what isn’t.“You’re living for your children. But this took it to a whole other level,” he says. “You have to be really strong every day, but also understand that I would feel very good one day and she wouldn’t—or vice versa. There are these different waves.”The notion that it gets better with time, though? That’s not true, Claudio says. Every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every birthday without Jack is still painful. Not long ago, when the family was driving through New York City, their car’s GPS system had them pass by the NYU hospital where they’d spent so much time with Jack.“We didn’t even say a word, but I knew Danielle was thinking about it,” Claudio says. “There are constant reminders.”And those reminders lead frequently to hypotheticals. “Where would he be now?” Danielle asks of Jack, who would be 19, a college sophomore. “Would he be playing college soccer? Would he be at UVA? At Carolina? Because to me he was that kind of player. Would he have a girlfriend? What would he be studying?”

One question they feel comfortable answering: What would Jack think about Gio’s emerging soccer stardom?

Claudio tells a story. In Jack’s final months, just before he started using a wheelchair, he went with his dad to see Gio’s tryout for a basketball team. Jack was slurring his words by then, but 30 minutes into the session he turned to Claudio, with his trademark smile, and said, “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.” And he was right.

“He wasn’t jealous about anything,” says Claudio. “He absolutely thought Gio was incredible.”The feeling was mutual. Gio was 9 when Jack passed away. And while Danielle says Gio was mostly quiet about it, she could tell it was extremely difficult for him. The evening after Jack died, she says, her voice breaking, Gio told her: “I’m never going to be a good soccer player now, because my big brother taught me everything.”Years later, Jack’s presence is felt every time the Reynas watch Gio play. His rise to the top of the U.S. soccer prospect pool was swift and at times overwhelming for the family. In April 2017, when Gio was 14, his NYCFC team won the Generation Adidas Cup, a tournament for MLS U-17 teams, and Gio was named the event’s best player.The following month, at the Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy, he had four assists and four goals, including the game-winner in the final against England, as the U.S. U-15 national team won one of the world’s most prestigious youth tournaments.

Europe’s top clubs scouted the event, and afterward Claudio started receiving calls from teams in Germany, the Netherlands, England and Italy.

At 14, Gio hired an agent, and he signed a long-term endorsement deal with Adidas after a bidding war with Nike. He also secured a Portuguese passport (through Claudio’s mother), which allowed him to sign officially with a European club when he recently turned 16—as opposed to having to wait until he turned 18 per FIFA rules if he only had a U.S. passport. In August, Goal.com reported that Gio was set to join the academy of Borussia Dortmund, the club of fellow American Christian Pulisic. (Claudio said he had no comment for now on Gio’s club future.) For the past couple months, Gio has been in Germany acclimatizing to the environment as he waited to turn 16.The decision for Gio to leave for Europe was hardly an easy one. When Pulisic joined Dortmund at 16, he was able to live with his father, Mark, for the first two years. Claudio and Danielle can visit Gio, but they have to stay in the New York area for their two younger kids and for Claudio’s job. Meanwhile, Claudio has received criticism from some quarters of MLS and from NYCFC supporters for not keeping Gio with the team he works for, or even signing him to an MLS pro contract and then selling him for a transfer fee to, say, Dortmund.“I believe 100% in what we’re doing at NYCFC,” says Claudio, “but I have to remove my hat as a sporting director for him. I’m his dad first, second and third, and I’m going to support him” and what Gio decides to do.Danielle, meanwhile, says that, as a mother, part of her desperately wanted Gio to stay at home with NYCFC—at least until he turned 18.“The thought of him leaving at 16 is pretty heart-crushing,” she says. “I’m sure it has something to do with Jack, too, in the sense that I have relied on [Gio] as the big boy. … I cry a little just thinking about it.”

But it’s hard for anyone to argue against the notion that, in soccer terms, Dortmund would be the best possible place for Gio’s career. The club has a proven track record of developing young talent and for giving those players opportunities with the first team, even in Champions League games. And Gio’s potential is tantalizing.“He’s much more of an athlete than I was, much more of a goal scorer,” says Claudio. “He’s very technical and has a good feel for the game. He has a great free kick and can strike a ball well. Danielle was a great runner—and he’s a runner.”It’s no wonder that Gio’s first ad campaign with Adidas focused on creativity, presenting him as part of the solution in reviving U.S. soccer after the World Cup 2018 qualifying failure. And while Gio has his own distinct identity, the influence of Claudio, Danielle and Jack is unmistakable.

Never was that more clear for Claudio and Danielle than on April 8, 2016, one day before Jack would have turned 17. Gio, then 13, was playing against Uruguay in his first international appearance for the U.S. U-15 team. The game was in Rosario, Argentina, the birth country of Claudio’s father, Miguel, who had traveled with his wife, Maria, to watch alongside Claudio and Danielle.Gio was magical that day in a 2-0 U.S. victory, and in the 38th minute he scored a truly remarkable goal. Running at speed onto a pass down the right side, Gio was tripped by a lunging Uruguayan defender and fell to the ground in a somersault, then somehow vaulted back up to his feet without missing a step. The assistant referee raised his flag for a foul, but the referee played the advantage, and Gio beat two more defenders before coolly slotting his shot past the goalkeeper into the net.Claudio can’t tell the story of that day without breaking down in tears.

“It’s hard for us,” he says between sobs. “We do bring up Jack to Gio. We talk about Jack all the time, but we don’t want to push it on him. Sometimes we say, ‘Your brother is with you.’ And that day [in Rosario] there was no doubt. The next day was Jack’s birthday. The whole game Gio was ridiculous. You don’t know how your kid is going to do, and he had such an amazing game.”

That day, the Reynas couldn’t help but imagine Jack turning to Claudio again, flashing his proud smile and saying: “Dad, Gio is the best player here by far.”

Michael Bradley, Zack Steffen included in Gregg Berhalter’s first U.S. squad

erhalter details what he believes the DNA of the U.S. national team should be after being introduced as the team’s next head coach. (1:07)

10:00 AM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The first squad picked by new U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter features a 27-man roster comprised entirely of Major League Soccer players. Among those set to attend the annual January training camp are Michael Bradley, the most-capped player in the squad with 142 international appearances, and U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year Zack Steffen.Also included are MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long, Rookie of the Year Corey Baird and Comeback Player of the Year Gyasi Zardes. One notable omission from the initial list is Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, who underwent ankle surgery in October.The team will meet in Chula Vista, Calif. starting Jan. 6, and the camp will conclude with friendlies against Panama in Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 27 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and against Costa Rica in San Jose, Calif. six days later. A 28th player is expected to be added some time prior to the start of camp.”In putting together this domestic-based roster, we started with a number of players who we think can be a core part of the group moving forward,” Berhalter said. “We then looked at players that excelled this year in Major League Soccer, and finally chose players that can play a specific role in our game model.”We are very excited to start to implement our ideas about the style of play and the culture we want to develop in the national team.”The average age of the team is 24 years, 230 days, with the average number of U.S. appearances standing at 10.The roster also includes 12 uncapped players, seven of whom — Baird, Russell Canouse, Jeremy Ebobisse, Daniel Lovitz, Mark McKenzie, Djordje Mihailovic, Tyler Miller and Auston Trusty — have been invited to a U.S. camp for the first time at senior level.The camp has usually been held at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., but Berhalter opted to hold the gathering at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, formerly the Olympic Training Center.”Being in Chula Vista will help us create a team environment as we start to establish our culture and really be able to work on the details of our style of play,” he said. “The facilities are outstanding and provide everything we need to accomplish our goals both on and off the field. They are accustomed to hosting elite athletes, so we believe this will be a great place for this group to get started.”

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)

DEFENDERS (10): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati; 10/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 6/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)

USMNT player of the year Zack Steffen reflects on superb 2018, is ready for Man City

12:06 PM ETNoah DavisU.S. soccer writer

At the beginning of 2018, Zack Steffen hadn’t played a minute for the United States men’s national team. At the club level, he had been a starter with the Columbus Crew for just a single season, and the team’s future in Ohio was very much in doubt.Twelve months later, the Crew are saved, Steffen is the U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper and he has just completed a multimillion-dollar transfer to Manchester Citythat will see him head back to Europe in July. That’s enough to get a player named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year, which was confirmed for Steffen on Tuesday.On the eve of the announcement, Steffen chatted with ESPN FC about #SaveTheCrew, his former club manager Gregg Berhalter taking over the U.S. job and whether he will ever get between the posts for Manchester City.

ESPN FC: This year was a whirlwind for you. Can you put the experience into words?

Zack Steffen: I think you’ve put it in the best of terms. It’s a testament to hard work, dedication to your craft, being humble and using your support system when you need it to keep going through the ups and downs. You need to persist.

ESPN FC: What’s the best save you made this year?

Steffen: I would have to go with the double save against France in that game in Lyon. That knuckling ball, and then having to go low and get just a touch to keep it out.

ESPN FC: You got your first national team minutes in January against Bosnia and Herzegovina. What do you remember from that match?

Steffen: I remember that I wasn’t nervous. I remember just telling myself to go out and play the game. Have fun. Don’t do anything that I didn’t normally do. Just try to reach back and be calm. That’s exactly what I did.

Zack Steffen was named U.S. Soccer’s Men’s National Team Player of the Year for 2018. USA Today Images

ESPN FC: Do you feel like the U.S. No. 1?

Steffen: I mean, I know all the spots are up for grabs. We have a whole new coach and a whole new staff. It’s going to be a brand-new year. So, I do not. I think that’s the way I’ve been raised, to be humble, stay down in it and always train like it’s your spot to take and your spot to lose. I’m going to go into training with the attitude of building off this year, trying to get better, trying to push my teammates and become a leader.

ESPN FC: Can you take that spot?

Steffen: Yeah. I think it’s anybody’s spot to take. It’s open. Right now, every position is wide open. But I feel confident in what I’ve done. Those games and the camps have given me a good foundation to keep working hard and hopefully do well in the coming games.

ESPN FC: Gregg Berhalter was coach at Columbus and now he’s the U.S. national team coach. How does that change your relationship with him?

Steffen: Gregg’s great. I think it’ll change our relationship a little bit just because I don’t see him every day and joke around with him every day. He’s not out there pushing me every day. But at the same time, it’s going to be great. He has great respect for me and great respect for soccer in this nation. He’s a demanding coach, and I can see him being even more demanding with me than he was with the Crew. I’m ready for it. He’s going to bring in a plan and give us a character as a team and as a nation. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes and what exactly he’s going to be like.

ESPN FC: Have you talked to him about this at all?

Steffen: Nah. We’ve only texted here and there, congratulations for each other and happy holidays.

ESPN FC: How good can this U.S. team be?

Steffen: There’s a lot of young talent. We’re very explosive, quick and powerful. I think we can use that to our advantage. I think Gregg will use that to our advantage. This year, we really needed a plan going into games, a style going into games. Personality. That was obviously tough when we had so many guys debuting for the national team. It’s nice to get this year as a foundation for the youth.

Shaka Hislop explains why Zack Steffen chose Man City

While Shaka Hislop doesn’t see Zack Steffen dislodging Ederson as Manchester City’s No. 1, he still sees benefits from the move for the American.

ESPN FC: Who’s your closest friend on the team?

Steffen: I have a lot of close friends. It helps that Wil [Trapp] and I are on the Crew together. We go to national team games together, and that’s great. Gyasi [Zardes] is a great guy, as well. Then we have Shaq Moore, Tim Weah, Kellyn Acosta. There are a lot. Ethan Horvath and Alex Bono. I could keep going. Tim [Howard]. Tyler [Adams]. That’s the good thing about this group: There aren’t really any big egos. Everybody is coming into work hard, and everybody is coming in to get better.

ESPN FC: A big story off the field was the “Save the Crew” movement. Where were you when you found out that the team was going to stay?

Steffen: I was in my hotel room in Tampa Bay when the U.S. was playing Colombia. I think I got a call from somebody or saw a tweet. I started making calls and checking Twitter. It was an awesome day. Before that, there were some times where you were caught thinking about what was going to happen next year. Gregg and the coaching staff did a pretty good job in helping us focus on soccer and the season because they are very detailed. But when that day came and the news broke, it was definitely a feeling of relief and happiness, for ourselves, but also for the fans of Columbus and the community. It was a testament to their dedication to us, the team and the community. They are the ones who did it in the end.

ESPN FC: What most excites you about moving to City?

Steffen: It’s a new opportunity and new challenges. I can look forward to that. Getting back over to Europe and playing at a little bit higher level, then hopefully becoming a leader for the national team.

ESPN FC: When did you first know they were interested in signing you?

Steffen: I knew in mid-August. That’s when it all started. David Rouse, a goalkeeping scout for Manchester City, came over for maybe a week in October. He was an awesome guy. He showed me what kind of club they were like. We talked about Manchester City. He watched me and watched a game.

ESPN FC: What’s that like, knowing that there’s a scout from one of the biggest teams in the world watching you play live? Were you thinking about him in the stands?

Steffen: Yeah, that was in the back of my mind. But at the same time, you just have to go out, play your game and not do anything that you’re not used to or uncomfortable with. They’ve scouted you. They wouldn’t be watching you if they didn’t like you and didn’t trust you. You have to keep playing and not think about it. Think about it afterwards. It worked out.

ESPN FC: You went to Freiburg in 2014. What did you learn about playing in Europe during that stint that will help you at City?

Steffen: When I was over there, I learned a lot about the style of soccer and the lifestyle. Off the field, I learned a lot about myself. I wasn’t ready at that time. I wasn’t happy. Coming back was a smart call. Now, I’m much more mature. I’ve had my stint at Columbus. My family has been right by my side throughout, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I found my happiness. I’m ready to head back over and take on the challenges. I don’t think it’ll be as hectic and hard this time.

ESPN FC: Have you spoken with Pep Guardiola?

Steffen: I have not. When I went over for meetings, I met a bunch of the coaches. I went out to dinner with the goalie coach and some of the other higher-ups. They are all great people, welcoming and caring. It’s great.

ESPN FC: The British press can be brutal. One recent headline was, “Zack Steffen is unlikely to ever play for Man City. So why did he join them?” What’s your reaction to that?

Steffen: Negative press is always going to come out. There are always going to be your supporters, and then there are going to be haters. I kind of laugh at them. I’m confident in my abilities and what I can do if I continue to work hard and focus. I don’t really care what other people think.

ESPN FC: City Football Group has clubs all over the world, and there has been some talk that you’ll get loaned out. Are you going there to play for Man City?

Steffen: Of course. I want to get there as soon as possible and compete. Or whenever that happens, I think I’ll be ready. And they know I’m ready to compete.

ESPN FC: Would you be disappointed if you weren’t on a Premier League roster next August when the season starts?

Steffen: I trust in Man City and what plans they have for me. So no, no, I won’t be.

ESPN FC: Can you be their No. 1?

Steffen: If everything works out and everything falls into place, anything can happen.

ESPN FC: Best-case scenario for you in 2019?

Steffen: I would love to be in Manchester on the roster. We’ll start with that.

Major League Soccer changes playoff format, increases number of teams

Dec 17, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Major League Soccer announced its new playoff structure on Monday, introducing a new single-elimination format to be used in the 2019 season.The format’s implementation will see the number of playoff qualifiers increase from 12 to 14 teams, and will also see the playoffs take place entirely between the October and November FIFA international windows. The playoffs will begin on Oct. 19, while MLS Cup will be held on Nov. 10.The changes address several criticisms of the format that has been used for the last several seasons. The most recent format was comprised of an initial, single-elimination knockout round followed by conference semifinals and finals that were contested over two legs. The MLS Cup final was then held at the home field of whichever team had the better regular season record.But there had been complaints that the format didn’t do enough to reward teams for regular season excellence. In single-elimination games the higher seed advanced 67.3 percent of the time, while in 78 examples of two-game series over the years, the higher seed advanced just 55.1 percent of the time. Now the higher seed will host every match, with the top seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye.The schedule also reduces the impact that the two FIFA windows had on the competition. The November window was especially problematic given that the playoffs essentially went on hiatus for two weeks, disrupting the rhythm of the postseason. Now that break has been eliminated, while the October window can be used by teams as a recovery period ahead of the playoffs.The earlier finish to the season will increase the odds of better weather for the season’s most important games. The calendar will also allow for more compatibility with the 2022 World Cup, which is set to begin on Nov. 21 of that year.The upcoming MLS season begins on March 2 and will consist of 34 matches. The regular season will end on Oct. 6.

Transfer window: Man United, Arsenal, Real Madrid need defenders; Man City, PSG to wait?

3:01 AM ETESPN

The transfer window is nearly upon us, but clubs across Europe are already planning for their January business. Who will come in? Who will depart?ESPN FC’s club correspondents delve into the deals which may be on the cards.

Premier League

MAN CITY: In need of a holding midfielder

TRANSFERS

What does the team need in January?

Manchester City have two quality players for every position, with the exception of defensive midfield and left-back. The holding role in the centre of midfield is a crucial position within Pep Guardiola’s setup — acting as a pivot going forward and crucial defensively — and while Fernandinho plays the role perfectly, at the age of 33 he can’t be overplayed and any injury would be a serious setback.Benjamin Mendy is the only left-back at the club and is ruled out until February, although Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko have done a good job as replacements.

Who are the major targets?

Guardiola has ruled out any major new signings in the January transfer window. The City boss is aware that his squad is short in the centre of midfield and wanted Italy international Jorginho in the summer — before he opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Chelsea. Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong is now a leading target for the position, but with Ajax reaching the Champions League knockout stages and battling PSV for the Eredivisie title, the 21-year-old wants to wait until the summer before considering a move. City are prepared to be patient.

Who will be leaving?

Highly-rated young forward Brahim Diaz has turned down a new contract, and with his deal running out in the summer, he looks set to leave in the January transfer window. Sources have told ESPN that Real Madrid are leading the chase for the Spain under-21 international and are prepared to spend around £10m to show their commitment, rather than waiting until the end of the season and picking him up for free.Centre-back Eliaquim Mangala has not played this season and could leave, while fringe players Philippe Sandler and Yangel Herrera could also go out on loan.

Any new contracts?

City have already been busy tying up some of their most exciting young talent to new deals over the past 12 months. Guardiola has revealed that the club have opened talks with Leroy Sane over an improved contract, although the Germany winger’s current deal doesn’t run out until the summer of 2021. John Stones is also seen as part of the long-term future but is signed up until 2022.City have three players out of contract at the end of the season: Diaz turned down a new offer, and Mangala will be allowed to leave for free, which leaves captain Vincent Kompany. The 32-year-old has had injury problems in recent years, but has played his part this season. After a decade in Manchester, he wants to stay. — Jonathan Smith

LIVERPOOL: Will injuries force them to spend?

What does the team need in January?

Liverpool’s position up until to the past few weeks has been that there would be no January incomings. Injuries, however, may force Klopp, who has been reluctant to make additions midway through a season, to reassess his thinking. Liverpool currently have just two centre-backs fit and available.Will that mean Liverpool make a move for a centre-back next month? It remains unlikely given that Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are expected to return shortly after the New Year, but Liverpool will be open to activity in January.

Who are the major targets?

The links to Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, whom Liverpool have tried to sign in the past, will not go away. Sources have told ESPN FC that the U.S. star is keen on a new opportunity, with his Dortmund contract expiring in 2020 and no sign of a new deal forthcoming. However Dortmund’s stance, both publicly and privately, remains that no “essential” player will be sold in the winter as they sit atop of the Bundesliga.World Cup-winning right-back Benjamin Pavard has been linked with a move recently, although there are suggestions that the €35m release clause in his Stuttgart contract only comes into force in the summer.

Who will be leaving?

There should not be any high-profile departures this January. This time 12 months ago, Philippe Coutinho was gearing up towards his £142m move to Barcelona. But Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have all signed long-term contracts at Anfield in recent months.

An agent for Simon Mignolet told ESPN FC that his client is seeking a move next month but appreciates that it will be difficult for Liverpool to grant that wish. Elsewhere, a number of teams desperate for a striker may take a punt on Divock Origi, and Dominic Solanke could leave on loan, having not made a single appearance this season.

Any new contracts?

Liverpool have been proactive in locking down top players to new contracts, but it’s a different story for Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno. Both of their contracts expire in the summer, and Moreno is expected to leave on a free transfer, with sources telling ESPN FC that his former club Sevilla are monitoring the left-back.Meanwhile, teams will be keeping close tabs on Sturridge’s betting case with the English Football Association. Sturridge has been given until February to respond his charges from the FA of allegedly breaching rules on betting. That could rumble on. — Glenn Price

 

MAN UNITED: Quiet January ahead at Old Trafford?

What does the team need in January?

In terms of personnel, Manchester United need a centre-back and a right winger but more importantly, they need to find some inspiration from a new manager after the sacking of Jose Mourinho. There’s a chance that bolstering the squad may offer some of that, but the problems at Old Trafford extend beyond the players and former manager. A new signing might lift the mood ahead of the second half of the season, but it’s difficult to know what position is most important because United are struggling at both ends of the pitch.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that despite Mourinho’s exit, the club are still happy to spend in January if long-term targets become available. There is, though, an acknowledgement that it is not an easy window in which to do business, and they will not panic-buy just for the sake of it. If defenders like Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar or Nikola Milenkovic were made available for a reasonable price, United would be interested.

Who will be leaving?

There is discontent among the players who are not featuring regularly, although Mourinho went on record to say no one has asked to leave. Andreas Pereira, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian will consider their options if offers are made in January, but the bulk of the squad should stay together unless individuals push to leave.Sources have told ESPN FC that United will reject offers for Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, but they are braced for their resolve to be tested with cut-price offers — particularly from Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Any new contracts?

Sources have told ESPN FC that United are in talks with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Ashley Young, who could all be free agents in the summer. David De Gea and Anthony Martial are also priorities but they have deals until 2020 and United have time on their side. — Rob Dawson

ARSENAL: Defensive help is a priority

What does the team need in January?

A defender, preferably two. A proper winger would be nice as well, but shoring up the injury-ravaged back four must be the priority for Arsenal. They currently only have three fit centre-backs in the squad, with Laurent Koscielny only just coming back from a seven-month layoff, while all four of their full-backs have had injury problems this season.Arsenal’s unbalanced attack also needs a natural wide player, but those are expensive and the club might be reluctant to ruin the prospects of starlet Reiss Nelson when he comes back from his loan at Hoffenheim next season.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN FC that both Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly are on Arsenal’s radar, but that would require either club being willing to sell to a direct rival. Real Valladolid’s Fernando Calero has also been linked and could be a more realistic target. Then there’s always the possibility that recruitment head Sven Mislintat will take everyone by surprise by unearthing some relatively unknown talent. In terms of attackers, Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, Roma’s Cengiz Under and Boca Juniors’ Cristian Pavon have all been frequently linked, but it’s unclear whether Arsenal can afford a deal for them at this point in time.

Who will be leaving?

It’s unlikely we’ll see any major departures unless other clubs come in with good offers for players that are surplus to requirements. Arsenal would probably entertain bids for Mohamed Elneny, for instance, but the Egyptian has shown an unwillingness to move in the past. Aaron Ramsey’s contract is up in 2019, but he is expected to stay in order to collect a major signing bonus when he leaves as a free agent in the summer, although Arsenal would want to cash in on the player while they can.

Any new contracts?

The possibilities of Ramsey’s contract talks being resurrected seem slim to none, while Danny Welbeck isn’t expected to get a new deal either. Goalkeeper Petr Cech’s contract also expires in the summer and Arsenal might consider giving the 36-year-old a one-year extension — if he’s willing to remain a backup to Bernd Leno. A few mistakes have crept into Leno’s game lately, so the club might be wise to keep Cech around a bit longer. — Mattias Karen

CHELSEA: Can they get a top striker?

What does your team need in January?

Chelsea clearly need an elite goal scorer, as Maurizio Sarri’s faith in Alvaro Morata fades with every passing game and Eden Hazard required to be as much of a creator as he is a goal threat. Strikers of such proven calibre are rare, though, and none appear to be available in January.Sarri’s reluctance to look to the transfer market for solutions, coupled with his insistence that his current first-team squad is too big, will likely dull Marina Granovskaia’s sense of urgency. Only the threat of an imminent FIFA transfer ban could significantly alter the landscape.

Who are the major targets?

Borussia Dortmund starlet Pulisic fits the profile of a Chelsea signing perfectly, particularly since both Willian and Pedro Rodriguez are getting older and Hazard could leave next summer. But there is little sense in Granovskaia making a concerted push in January unless FIFA action or the threat of a Premier League rival — Liverpool have also been heavily linked with Pulisic — forces the club to bring forward their plans, particularly since Dortmund sound determined to charge a hefty premium for any midseason squad disruption.

Who will be leaving?

Chelsea will drive Danny Drinkwater to Fulham if Claudio Ranieri decides he wants a Leicester City reunion at Craven Cottage, while Sarri has made it clear that club captain Gary Cahill and Victor Moses are not in his planCesc Fabregas seems to be linked with a move to Serie A in every window these days, but Sarri would require a replacement if the man he regards as his only cover for Jorginho is confirmed as a departure. Denis Suarez, unsettled on the fringes at Barcelona, could be a reasonably priced successor. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen will stay unless they agitate to leave. There could also be loan moves for Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi — the latter only if he signs a new contract first.

Any new contracts?

Hazard remains adamant that he will keep his options open until the summer, but Chelsea have other decisions to make. David Luiz and Fabregas are both set to be free agents next summer, although there is an option to extend Olivier Giroud’s stay by one more year

Hudson-Odoi’s contract situation is also causing some concern at Stamford Bridge — his current deal expires in 2020, the same year as Hazard. Chelsea regard him as one of the brightest talents their academy has produced, and they are well aware that the example of Jason Sancho’s defection from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund is an enticing one for many youngsters. — Liam Twomey

TOTTENHAM: Midfield depth is thin

What does the team need in January?

Spurs need to increase the proportion of homegrown players in their squad, having been forced to leave three out of their Champions League squad because of rules limiting the number of non “locally trained” players. Their inability to sell unwanted foreign players in the summer was just as big a problem as their failure to sign anyone, so there is every chance that Tottenham’s squad will get smaller in January. But the north Londoners could do with a central midfielder as Mousa Dembele seems to be coming to the end of his time with the club, while the injury-plagued Victor Wanyama cannot be relied upon.

Who are the major targets?

Tottenham tried to sign Jack Grealish in the summer, and he would tick a couple of boxes, but the 23-year-old signed a new five-year contract with Aston Villa in September. Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake has also been linked with Spurs amid ongoing uncertainty about Toby Alderweireld’s future.

Who will be leaving?

Striker Vincent Janssen has not made a single appearance this season, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is also wasting time at the club having had only one substitute outing this campaign. Dembele and Fernando Llorente are out of contract in the summer and seem unlikely to sign new ones; if Spurs want to get any money for them, they will need to cash in next month. Michel Vorm will also be a free agent in the summer and having lost the No. 2 goalkeeper spot to Paulo Gazzaniga, he’d be allowed to leave if an offer came in.

Any new contracts?

Jan Vertonghen’s deal expires in the summer, but he has stated he expects Spurs to activate a clause that will extend his stay until 2020. Meanwhile, Alderweireld is out of contract in the summer, and although Tottenham can activate a one-year extension, that would also activate a release clause making the Belgian centre-back available for £25m in the summer. Outside of those two, the priority is to get Christian Eriksen to commit his long-term future to the club as he’s entering the last 18 months of his deal, and his status is a growing concern. — Ben Pearce

Transfer Rater: Zidane to Premier League? Morata to Barca?

ESPN FC’s Ale Moreno breaks down the latest transfers surrounding Zinedine Zidane, Alvaro Morata and many more in Transfer Rater.

Europe

BARCELONA: Will they spend big on a centre-back?

 

What does the team need in January?

Barcelona don’t feel they can improve their starting XI in January but may turn to the transfer market to ensure their relatively thin squad doesn’t become a problem in the latter stages of the Champions League. In that sense, they may move for a centre-back on a short-term deal if Samuel Umtiti’s knee injury doesn’t improve. Other plans, though, such as signing a midfielder and a long-term Luis Suarez replacement, are likely to wait until the summer.

Who are the major targets?

The club have been cagey on defenders they could target if Umtiti is going to be out for a long time. Their options will be limited (Diario Sport say Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen is the preference) given they only want a stop-gap to fill in until the summer, when they will go all out for Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt.Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is also a target for next season, while Adrien Rabiot, who could be available for free in six months, is also on the table.

Who will be leaving?

Barca’s squad size — they have just one senior left-back, for example — means there’s not much room for departures. Midfield is one area where they could potentially subtract, but only if the players themselves are desperate for more minutes elsewhere. Rafinha might have fallen into that category, but an injury has ruled him out until next season. That means Denis Suarez is the only player with an uncertain future next month. There’s plenty of interest from Spain, Italy and England.Another to keep an eye on: B team midfielder and England youth international Marcus McGuane.

Any new contracts?

The Catalan club have the biggest wage bill in the world largely thanks to Lionel Messi’s renewal last year. Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have all been tied to new terms recently, too. The only player, then, waiting on a pay rise is Jordi Alba. His deal is up in 2020, and talks have begun between the club and his agents, although an agreement is not yet close.Munir and Thomas Vermaelen are out of contract in the summer but both, as things stand, look set to leave for free. — Sam Marsden

REAL MADRID: A January “Galactico” is unlikely

What does the team need in January?

The first six months of the season have shown huge issues in a Madrid squad that suddenly appears to have grown old together. They could really do with a new big name attacker to fill some of the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, as goal scoring has been a big problem for both Julen Lopetegui and his replacement Santi Solari. Some experience in defence would also be very welcome: ideally someone who could cover both centre-back and left-back.

Who are the major targets?

The most discussed options in the Madrid media continue to be PSG pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, two long-term targets of club president Florentino Perez. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is also regularly mentioned, although there is a widespread acceptance that a “Galactico” name is unlikely in January. Instead Madrid look set to continue their policy of snapping up the best available young Spanish talent, with sources confirming to ESPN FC that a move for Man City starlet Brahim Diaz is close.

Who will be leaving?

Sources have told ESPN FC that homegrown midfielder Marcos Llorente will push through an exit in January should he lose his place in the XI when Casemiro returns to fitness. Another youngster, Jesus Vallejo, could leave having barely featured this season. Bigger names like Isco and Keylor Navas are unhappy at a lack of playing time under Solari, but have not yet done enough to force the situation far enough for a January exit.Marcelo has been linked with Juventus — by former teammate Ronaldo himself — but the Brazil left-back has denied the possibility of leaving midseason.

Any new contracts?

A policy of keeping all their players tied down to long-term deals means there are no players out of contract next summer. It had been expected that Luka Modric’s stellar year would lead to a pay rise, but there has been no change yet to the deal that is set to end in 2020. The contracts of Navas and club captain Sergio Ramos are also entering their last 18 months, with both those situations more likely to come to the boil after this season ends. — Dermot Corrigan

JUVENTUS: Marcelo would be great if they could get him

What does the team need in January?

Cristiano Ronaldo summed up Juve’s plans this winter by saying they do not need to add anybody to their already competitive squad, although he would welcome former Real Madrid teammate Marcelo. The Bianconeri already have excellent cover in all departments, with the return to fitness of Emre Can ensuring that the midfield also has great depth. Any new arrival could depend on whether any player asks to leave.

Who are the major targets?

The only players Juve would theoretically target would be ones who could improve the current quality of the squad and add depth. Marcelo would certainly fit in that category, giving coach Massimiliano Allegri another option at full-back or wing-back.Otherwise, Paul Pogba continues to be linked with a return, and while Juve already have many options in midfield, they would not turn down a player of his calibre — who already knows the club inside out and would not need time to settle in — if the price and conditions were right.

Who will be leaving?

Central defenders Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani have both expressed agitation at their lack of opportunities, and if Juve were to offload any players this winter, one of their back four would be a prime candidate.Left-back Alex Sandro, who has suitors in the Premier League, has also been tipped to move if a significant offer is received even though he recently extended his contract. Young Moise Kean could also be loaned out (as he was a year ago) since his first-team opportunities have been limited so far this season, although Juve are not keen on letting him leave on a permanent deal.

Any new contracts?

Mario Mandzukic is becoming a fan favourite in Turin and Allegri knows he can rely on the Croatian forward, whose contract is up in 2020. An extension is likely to be signed before next summer, with the 32-year-old seemingly keen to dedicate the final years of his career to the club. Central defenders Andrea Barzagli, whose contract expires in the summer, and captain Giorgio Chiellini, could also extend their stays, with both expected to end their careers at Juve. —Ben Gladwellplay

BAYERN MUNICH: Need a statement signing and depth

What does the team need in January?

Nine points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and with a lack of squad depth, Bayern need a statement signing to show they’ve not given up hope of winning a seventh consecutive title. However, lacking full-backs and pace in central defence, they must also add depth if they want a deep run in the Champions League.

Who are the major targets?

Bayern have signed 18-year-old winger Alphonso Davies and have reportedly agreed a summer transfer for France and Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard. Ahead of a summer of upheaval at the Allianz Arena in which the Bundesliga record champions will invest big, Munich are yet undecided whether to spend in the winter.

The club have been linked with Ajax midfielder de Jong, along with a host of other clubs (including Man City), and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, but with Joshua Kimmich getting more playing time in central midfield and right-back Rafinha entering the last six months of his deal, Bayern could look into reinforcing the full-back positions.

Who will be leaving?

James Rodriguez has reportedly contemplated cutting his loan at Bayern from Real Madrid short. But despite the Colombian star’s discontent, the club will not allow him to leave without a suitable backup. Striker Sandro Wagner could depart amid a lack of playing time, yet the 31-year-old remains the sole backup for star attacker Robert Lewandowski. There is also an outside chance that one of Jerome Boateng or Mats Hummels could leave if Bayern bring in Pavard in January.

Any new contracts?

Arjen Robben has already announced he will leave next summer, and 35-year-old Franck Ribery has no future at the club so won’t be offered new terms. Serge Gnabry has been in fine form this season and is set to enter the final 18 months of his contract, so the 23-year-old should land a new deal as Bayern look to the future. — Stefan Uersfeld

DORTMUND: Sales will be the priority in winter window

What does the team need in January?

Borussia Dortmund’s squad depth and the right mix of experience, hunger and youth in all positions make January signings unlikely. The Bundesliga leaders, however, are hoping to offload several players to reduce the size of the squad.

Who are the major targets?

BVB already unveiled Paco Alcacer in November and plan to sign on-loan Real Madrid defender Achraf Hakimi on a permanent basis in the summer; there are no targets for January.

Who will be leaving?

Only a huge bid in the region of €80m could change Dortmund’s mind over a Pulisic transfer amid the club’s first title challenge in seven years. Germany midfielder Julian Weigl, whose stock has dropped under Lucien Favre, might be allowed to leave if the price is right. While the media focus will be on Pulisic, Dortmund will hope to offload several fringe players.Japan international Shinji Kagawa has flirted with La Liga for a while and midfielder Sebastian Rode’s services are also no longer required. Once hailed as the new Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Swedish attacker Alexander Isak, 19, could also leave the Westfalenstadion after two years in which his impact has been limited.

Any new contracts?

Midfielder Mario Gotze and versatile Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro are entering the final 18 months of their deals. Dortmund look in no rush to prolong Gotze’s contract as he’s still finding his feet in his second stint at the club. Although he struggled with injuries last term, Guerreiro has shown his worth with four goals in the Champions League and a return to form in the Bundesliga. — Stefan Uersfeld

PSG: Summer spending is more likely

What does the team need in January?

Thomas Tuchel has been vocal in his desire to have a defensive midfielder added to his ranks by sporting director Antero Henrique. However, financial fair play (FFP) uncertainty could mean that Tuchel has to wait until next summer.

Who are the major targets?

Sources have told ESPN that the club met with the representatives of Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong, although the player himself doesn’t want to leave in January and would cost €75m. Elsewhere, Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz have been mentioned, while Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka and Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl have also been regularly linked since Tuchel arrived.If PSG do move for a player in January, only Lobotka looks reasonably within reach. With Marquinhos growing more and more comfortable in midfield, do not be surprised if PSG opt against winter reinforcements and instead focus on contract renewals with the intention of significant transfer activity next summer.

Who will be leaving?

Henrique is desperately trying to move forgotten man Jese Rodriguez on, so there could be movement there if there is a club willing to take a risk on the Spaniard. Otherwise, Lassana Diarra will be allowed to leave if a suitable offer materialises, and U.S. international Timothy Weah is almost certain to leave on loan until the end of the season.

Any new contracts?

Adrien Rabiot and Alphonse Areola are about to enter the final six months of their contracts, and PSG do not want to let them reach the point where they can start discussions with other clubs. Layvin Kurzawa has also been offered a two-year contract extension, and discussions with Marco Verratti over a new deal have been ongoing, but Rabiot and Areola are the two most pressing issues.– Jonathan Johnson

Top priorities for Solskjaer at Man United

Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports 21 hours ago

What are the five things Solskjaer must do if he is going to be successful at United?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United’s caretaker manager until the end of the season and his remit is clear: restore positivity to the club.

How will the United legend do that?

Below is a look at his top priorities to salvage something from United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season, as the post Jose Mourinho era begins at Cardiff City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Reintegrate Pogba
One of the things which has flown under the radar a little is that Solskjaer managed United’s reserve team which included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard back in the day. At the start of this season Solskjaer told the media he would “build the team around” Pogba, so that is great news for the World Cup winner. Mourinho’s issues with Pogba no doubt played a big factor in the rest of the dressing room turning on the Portuguese coach, but if Solskjaer is respected by the French star then it could well get the best out of him. Whatever you think about some of Pogba’s antics on and off the pitch, there’s no doubting that he is a wonderful midfield player in the right situation. In Mourinho’s last few weeks he spent most of the time on the bench. That will not be the case anymore. Having a coach later in your career who was influential in your formative years often allows a player to feel more comfortable and regain their best form. Maybe hiring Solskjaer was Pogba’s idea…

Forgot defensive solidity
If Jose Mourinho can’t get this team to defend, no coach in the world can. So Solskjaer should forget about it. Seriously. United have already conceded more goals in 17 games this season than they did in the whole of last season. With defensive injuries piling up and the likes of Eric BaillyPhil JonesMarcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof basically told they were not good enough due to Mourinho’s desperation to sign two new center backs in the summer, they all get a fresh start. That could bode well, but Solskjaer needs to focus on scoring goals and getting the best out of United’s strikers.

Get support for Lukaku
Whether it is playing Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial up front alongside him, playing two playmakers underneath him or just chucking more balls into the box from wide areas, whatever it takes you have to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. The lack of support the Belgian forward has had in recent seasons has been shocking at times, and you almost feel sorry for him when United go away to some big clubs and he hardly has a sniff of the ball and has two center backs to hold off before he even gets a chance to get a shot off. Lukaku’s form has been up and down due to a lack of confidence and he has missed some big chances, but some one-on-one training from one of the best finishers in the game (who just so happens to be the new gaffer) should do him the world of good.

Tap into the knowledge around him
Mourinho basically did everything on his own at United, and that was fair enough. He had won enough trophies at big clips to warrant doing things his way. But Solskjaer has the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson to lean on, Mike Phelan who is returning to assist him and several of his former teammates in Gary Neville, Ryan GiggsPaul Scholes and Co. who can lend him a hand and be sounding boards. All of the aforementioned people are United fans and want the club to do well. Solskjaer would be silly to ignore their advice, while of course sticking to his own playing style and philosophies as a coach.

Involve the fans
The majority of United’s fans tried to stick with Mourinho until the very end but he is a tough guy to like at the best of times and it never felt like he bought into the identity of the club. He lived in a hotel for over two-and-a-half years at United and went back home to London whenever he could. Solskjaer is a Man United fan and his goals delivered some of the greatest moments United’s fans have ever witnessed. Getting them on his side should not be difficult, but keeping them on board for the rest of the season will be key if he’s going to be successful. If United claw back the 11-point deficit and finish in the top four, plus make a deep run in the Champions League, who is to say Solskjaer isn’t the man for the job long-term.

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12/14/18 Atlanta United Wins MLS Cup/Record Crowd, Champ League Sweet 16, Indy 11 New Look, Full TV Schedule thru New Year’s

How refreshing to see the MLS Cup Final in Atlanta with almost 80,000 fans on hand – a standing room only wild and crazy 5 stripes crowd on hand.  And they said soccer wouldn’t work in the South eh?  Atlanta United has been a model soccer expansion team and man have they done it both first class and the right way.  It all started with my favorite US National Team defender Carlos Bocenegra being signed as their GM.  What an amazing team and organization he has helped put together.  This season almost winning the Supporter’s Shield (most wins in Regular Season) and now the MLS Cup in just their 2nd season in the league.  Truly amazing – both the team, how they play and of course a soccer crazy Atlanta filling an NFL Stadium each and every week.  The crowd on TV was impressive Saturday night on Fox as was Atlanta United’s play with the MVP Martinez extending his goals scored in 1 season record with an early goal and an assist on track to MVP for the game honors.  He also had the top selling jersey in the US among all sports this past weekend.  (First time a soccer team in the US has ever done that!!) The MLS Cup coverage on FOX had over 2 million tune-in (on US and Spanish TVs) making it the top rated Final since 1997.     MLS is definitely trending up and with the Columbus Crew staying in town – and now Cincinnati FC coming on board next season – fans in Indy will have lots of options to catch an MLS game within an easy drive of town.  (on a non-Indy 11 game-day of course)

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Champions League has finished about like we expected as we head to the road of 16 drawing on Monday.  Liverpool needed a 1-0 win and got that – just barely as new Goalkeeping Signing Brazilian Alisson made a spectacular extra-time point blank save to secure the win and their place in the Sweet 16.  Dortmund won their game 2-0, and Pulisic played the full 90 to secure the top slot over my Atletico Madrid who tied to finish 2nd.   Also advancing to the Sweet 16 is American Weston McKinney with German side Schalke.

Here’s The Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

IU

Congrats to Indiana University men for making their record 20th visit to the College Cup.  They dropped a heartbreaking 2-0 game to eventual National Champs Maryland who defeated Akron for the title 1-0.

WTW4

This weekend on TV Liverpool vs Man United leads the way on Sunday at 11 on NBCSN as the Reds look to hold onto the top slot they took over last weekend when Man City lost.  Man City hosts Everton in another top matchup this on Saturday at 7:30 am on NBCSN.  Sunday gives us Barcelona hosting Villarreal on beIN Sport at 12:30 pm.  This week we get English League Cup play Tues/Wed as Leicester City hosts Man City Tues 45 pm on ESPN+ and Wed Arsenal hosts Tottenham at 2:45 pm.  Also Tues we get the World Club Cup at 11:30 am on FS1.

Indy 11

Our Indy 11 are busy selling the best deal in town with Season Tickets for as low as $99 just in time for Christmas.  Now they have Introduced their new jersey for the 2019 Season and its pretty spiffy. I kind of like the collar look for the first time ever in the club’s history.  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 !

Indy11NewJersey
New Indy 11 Game Jersey for 2019 Season

2019 Carmel FC Winter Players League

Location:  Off the Wall Sports

Address:  1423 Chase Ct., Carmel, IN 46032

Offered to:  Carmel FC Academy Players, Travel Players & Select Players from 8U-14U

Dates:  January 10th – March 15th (2019)

Days:  Thursdays & Fridays

Cost:  $125 per player

Thursday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm-8pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: U8 Coed – U10 Coed.

Friday evenings:  Games will be played from 5pm – 8:45pm.  Games will be 50 minutes in length, Fields 1 & 2 Age group: 11U/ U12 Girls & U11/U12 Boys; U13/U14 Girls & U13/U14 Boys.

Space is limited and spots are filling up so sign up soon.  Payment is confirmation of

registration.Please note that this is an optional activity we are offering our players.  It is not required.To register:http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=39fcc6879909ac1f108c128c49f721d8

If you have any questions please contact Juergen Sommer, Director of Soccer Operations.

Email: jsommer@carmeldadsclub.org

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Dec 15   

7:30 am NBCSN          Man City  vs Everton

10 am NBCSN              Tottenham vs Burnley

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Fulham vs West Ham United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Werder Breman (Stewart)

Sun, Dec 16  

8;30 am NBCSN        Brighton vs Chelsea

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Mainz

8:30 am CNBC?        Southhampton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Man United

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

Tue, Dec 18  

11:30 am FS1           River Plate vs Al Ain  *FIFA Club World Cup: Semi Final 1

2:30 pm FS1          Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Dusseldorf

2:45 pm ESPN+     Leicester City vs Man City – League Cup

Wed, Dec 19  

11:30 am  FS2       Kashima vs Real Madrid – World Club Cup

2:30 pm FS1          Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:45 pm ESPN+     Arsenal vs Tottenham – League Cup

Fri, Dec 21  

2:30 pm FS1          Dormunt (Pulisic) vs M’gladbach (Johnson)

2:45 pm NBCSN    Wolverhampton vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 22   

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs Burnely

9:30 am FS1                RB Leipzig vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am NBCSN             Chelsea vs Leicester City

11:30 am FS1              FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP FINAL Real Madrid? vs ??

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Cardiff vs Man United

12:30  Fox Sp 2           Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

2:30 pm EPSN+           Juventus vs Roma

3 pm beiN sport        PSG vs Nantes

Sun, Dec23  

11 am NBCSN            Everton vs Tottenham

 Wed, Dec 26  -Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN          Fulham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN              Liverpool vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12:15 NBCSN              Brighton vs Arsenal

2:30 pm NBCSN?      Watford vs Chelsea

Sat, Dec 29  

10 am NBCSN             Tottenham vs Wolverhampton

10 am NBCSN             Leicester City vs Man United

12:15 NBCSN              Liverpool vs Arsenal

Sun, Dec 30  

7 am NBCSN             Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9 am NBCSN                Southampton vs Man city

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Bournemouth

Tue, Jan 1  

7 am NBCSN             Everton vs Leiscester City  

10 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Fulham

12:30  NBCSN             Cardiff vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 2  

3pm  NBCSN                New Castle United (Yedlin) vs Man United

Thur, Jan 3  

3 pm  NBCSN              Man City vs Liverpool

WORLD

What to Watch For EPL

Alisson’s Big Save Could Define Liverpools Season

Man United Trail Liverpool in more than just the Table – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

World Power Rankings – ESPNFC

MLS

Crew finalizes record Steffen move to Man City

Atlanta’s MLS Cup hangover just beginning

Right now, Atlanta United is on top of MLS. But with an offseason of change ahead, how will the champions replace their most influential characters?  Jeff Carlisle

Atlanta United finally ends city’s championship nightmare

After two plus decades of coming within touching distance of glory but falling short, Atlanta has a champion again in the form of Atlanta United.

Atlanta ends Portland’s road magic to lift MLS Cup

Portland has been an impressive road team throughout the playoffs, but it was beaten by a decidedly stronger Atlanta United at MLS Cup. Jeff Carlisle

Martinez powers Atlanta United to MLS Cup win

Josef Martinez was instrumental as Atlanta United secured the MLS Cup in just its second season on Saturday, defeating the Portland Timbers 2-0.

Savarese criticizes officiating as Portland falls

After losing 2-0 in MLS Cup, Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese lamented the “foul that wasn’t a foul” that led to Atlanta’s second goal.

Galaxy to re-sign Ibra as DP, hire Porter – sources

The former Sweden international was already under contract for 2019 but had long chafed over a deal that paid him just $1.5 million in 2018. Jeff Carlisle

Garber: ‘No doubt’ MLS can expand beyond 28

MLS commissioner Don Garber used his annual State of the League address to raise the possibility that the league could continue to expand.

Cincinnati picks five in draft; trades for Garza

FC Cincinnati added five players to its roster on Tuesday, with its selections in the 2018 expansion draft, while executing two trades. Jeff Carlisle

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SWEET 16

Full draw:

Schalke vs. Manchester City

Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus

Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Tottenham vs. Borussia Dortmund

Lyon vs. Barcelona

Roma vs. Porto

Ajax vs. Real Madrid

Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich

Don’t call Spurs’ result ‘mission impossible’ – Poch

On Tuesday, an 85th-minute equaliser from Lucas Moura earned a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and a place in the round of 16.

Kane, Eriksen put in 9/10 showing in draw at Barca

Tottenham played admirably at Barcelona, with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen particularly convincing, but they could only manage a late draw.

Cillessen 9/10 as Barca draw vs. Spurs

Jasper Cillessen was absolutely superb between the posts and was unlucky to concede late as a rotated Barca side settled for a 1-1 draw.

Alisson’s big save could define Liverpool’s season

Liverpool needed to beat Napoli to move on in the Champions League, and Alisson’s save ensured they did. Could it prompt a deep European run?

Liverpool’s Alisson a ‘lifesaver’ in goal – Klopp

“The goal Mo scored — what a goal, unbelievable. And the save Ali made — I have no words for that,” Klopp said at his post-match news conference.

Alisson, Salah both earn 8/10s as Liverpool advance

Alisson and Mohamed Salah both turned in inspired performances as Liverpool clung to a 1-0 win over Napoli to move on to the UCL round of 16.

Dortmund take group with win over Monaco

Borussia Dortmund deepened AS Monaco’s misery with a 2-0 win that ensured they finished top of Champions League Group A ahead of Atletico Madrid.

 Atletico draw with Club Brugge to slip behind Dortmund

Atletico Madrid were denied top place in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday after a goalless draw away at Club Brugge in Belgium.

Inter Milan knocked out after home draw vs. PSV

Inter Milan were knocked out of the Champions League after they could manage only a 1-1 draw at home to Group B’s bottom club PSV Eindhoven.

Spalletti carries the can for Inter’s UCL implosion

Tuesday night at the San Siro could serve as a “how-not-to” manual for clubs attempting to seal a place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

Galatasaray to Europa League after loss to Porto

Porto got a 3-2 away victory over Galatasaray in their final Champions League group match on Tuesday but the Turks stayed third in Group D.

TV Ratings Up Big-time for MLS Final

USA

What is USMNT Getting in New Coach ?  SB Nation

Pulisic Where Should he Transfer and When?

Keep Sargent expectations realistic – Bremen boss

IU

IU Soccer National Title Quest Ends with College Cup loss to Maryland 2-0  Barry Punzal Special to Indy Star

IU Falls to #15 Maryland in College Cup Semifinal 2-0

Maryland Wins National Title with 1-0 Win over Akron

Alisson’s stoppage-time save could come to define Liverpool’s season

Dec 11, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

They like a defining moment at Anfield, especially when it comes to the Champions League, and they now have one to cling to all the way to Madrid next June, thanks to Alisson.You get what you pay for, and Alisson — who cost a then-world-record-for-a-goalkeeper £67 million when he arrived from AS Roma during the summer — earned his place in Liverpool folklore with the stoppage-time save from Arkadiusz Milik that proved the difference between success and failure in Group C. Had Milik’s effort ended up in the back of the net, Liverpool would have been facing a Europa League campaign in the second half of the season.But thanks to Alisson getting in the way of the shot — Milik directed his effort too close to the Brazil No. 1, but he still had to be in the right place at the right time — Liverpool can look forward to next Monday’s draw for the Champions League round of 16 with hopes still alive of a place in next June’s final at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.”I have no idea how Alisson made a save like this,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said after the game. “It was amazing.”Champions League glory can often be decided by such fine margins, as Liverpool know better than most.This 1-0 victory over Napoli came 14 years to the day after Steven Gerrard’s late goal against Olympiakos at Anfield confirmed a crucial 3-1 winning margin that took Rafael Benitez’s team into the knockout stages on goal difference ahead of the Greek champions. Six months later, Liverpool were lifting the European Cup for a fifth time in Istanbul after their remarkable fight back against AC Milan, and it could all be traced back to Gerrard’s goal against Olympiakos.Will Alisson’s save prove to be as pivotal as Gerrard’s goal? Time will tell, but there was another pivotal moment in last season’s campaign, and that also involved a goalkeeper. On that occasion, Loris Karius’ failure to hold onto Gareth Bale’s long-range strike in the final against Real Madrid in Kiev put the Spanish team 3-1 ahead and out of reach.Big moments decide big games, and Liverpool discovered in Kiev the cost of not having a world-class goalkeeper.Against Napoli, they enjoyed the flip side. They spent big to get their man in the summer, and he repaid a huge chunk of his fee with the save from Milik that took Liverpool into the business end of the Champions League.Mohamed Salah’s first-half goal had given Liverpool a 1-0 lead that they knew would be enough to secure qualification, and it was a sensational goal by the Egyptian. Salah forced Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly into his one mistake of the night by ghosting past the Senegalese international before beating David Ospina with a low, right-footed strike.On its own, that moment of magic would deserve to claim any headlines, but Alisson’s save was the decisive contribution. Milik was unmarked inside the 6-yard box when he received the ball. He shot goalward, but Alisson spread himself to smother the shot and was able to block it with his outstretched right leg.

A year ago, Liverpool were preparing to sell their best player by sanctioning Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million transfer to Barcelona. At the time, it looked as though Liverpool were selling the family silver and surrendering once again when a giant club came along to take their top talent, with Coutinho following the likes of Michael Owen, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling out of the door at Anfield.But instead, Klopp was allowed to reinvest the Coutinho money by signing Virgil van Dijk for £75 million in January and Alisson in the summer. With the money they banked from Coutinho’s sale, Liverpool recruited Van Dijk and Alisson, and they have become a stronger team as a consequence. The two players have given Liverpool a solidity at the back that is borne out by the fact that this 1-0 win was their 15th clean sheet in their past 19 home games.

Van Dijk, who was fortunate to escape a 13th-minute red card for a bad tackle on Dries Mertens, is a totemic figure who has organised the once-leaky back four. The yellow card he received for the Mertens foul will see him suspended for the first leg of the round of 16, and Liverpool will miss him.

With Alisson behind the back four, Liverpool have a last line of defence up there with the best in the world. His save from Milik evoked memories of Peter Schmeichel at his best at Manchester United or Gianluigi Buffon in his pomp for Juventus. It was that good and that important.

Was it a defining moment? It could well be. With Alisson in goal, Liverpool know they can beat anybody.

Can Liverpool complete power shift over Man United? Will strain show for Spurs?

5:37 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer

W2W4 previews the week’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines

Can Liverpool complete the power shift over Manchester United?

This season has been defined by moments of progression for Liverpool. Every time they keep a clean sheet, every time they close out a game in a calm and mature fashion without conceding two late goals, every time they keep pace with and now overhaul Manchester City, it represents another step forward from the thrilling but flawed team of last season.However, one of the things remaining on their checklist is beating Manchester United, something they haven’t done in the league since a few weeks before David Moyes was sacked in 2014. Liverpool are, this season, an objectively better team than United: they have a a manager still at something like his peak versus one who looks like he should find a job he enjoys more. A team maturing versus one which seemingly refuses to learn. One at the top of the league versus one already 16 points back in sixth.The point of a rivalry as big as Liverpool and Manchester United is not just to be better than the other lot, it’s to let them know you’re better with such emphasis that they can’t forget it. League positions are not immediately, viscerally obvious: a fan of the inferior team can come up with a million ways to write that off, or ignore it, but beating them in a derby, and beating them emphatically, it’s not as easy to forget that.Even if Liverpool lose on Sunday, they will still be the superior team. But if Jurgen Klopp’s side do win, it not only represents another way in which they are streaking ahead, but shouts it in the face of their rivals.

Will any Arsenal defenders make themselves known?

Theoretically, a trip to Southampton shouldn’t be that tricky for Arsenal. This is, after all, a side who haven’t won a league game since September hosting one who haven’t lost one of any kind since August. But Unai Emery will travel to the south coast a little light on defenders. Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, Rob Holding is out for the season, Nacho Monreal has only played 42 minutes since the start of October, Konstantinos Mavropanos was last seen being sent off in May, and Laurent Koscielny only returned on Thursday in the Europa League, after seven months out.So Emery will have to gamble significantly on half-fit (at best) players, mix and match with someone like full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner in the middle or a combination of both. Again, theoretically, Southampton are not the most fearsome opponents, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has now had a little time to work with his troops, and they already looked refreshed in defeat to Cardiff last weekend. It could be a trickier afternoon for Arsenal than you might think.

Will Spurs start feeling the strain?

It’s around this point of the season when the thinness of Tottenham’s squad might start to look most apparent. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in the middle of a run that sees them play 12 games in 38 days, the sort of run that will test any squad to cracking point. Pochettino indicated that this run might be a problem by resting Harry Kane for their last league game against Leicester, and Tuesday’s intense encounter with Barcelona will have taken plenty out of his players.aturday’s contest against Burnley is another fixture in which Pochettino might be tempted to rotate, but the trouble is Spurs don’t really have the players, other than maybe in the attacking trio behind Kane, to chop and change too much. Sean Dyche’s side have shown signs of life recently, the win over Brighton last time out finally rewarding them, so this will be a tricky affair for this weary Spurs.

Palace have to deal without Zaha … again

Roy Hodgson tends to smile thinly and look as if he’d rather be anywhere else when he’s asked about Crystal Palace’s reliance on Wilfried Zaha. Perhaps it’s because he knows very well how serious the problem is, but this week it might have been because the problem presents itself once more: Zaha is suspended for their game against Leicester, meaning they have to try to win without him, something they haven’t managed in the league since September 2016.In fairness, Palace haven’t been winning much with their talisman in the team of late, so perhaps being without him won’t make much difference. But should they lose to the Foxes, they will have collected just five points from 11 games, the sort of record that gets trigger fingers twitchy in boardrooms. Palace need to learn how to win without Zaha, and it needs to be now.

Cardiff need to improve their away record

Things have started to look up in the past few weeks for Cardiff. The team widely tipped to plummet straight back from whence they came by, well, pretty much everybody, have won three of their past five and are inching up the table. One point that should be made, though: they have won all of those three at home, whereas they have only collected a single point on their travels. A rampant away record isn’t necessarily required for survival (Brighton were the worst team on the road last season and survived handily), but it certainly helps, and it also takes some pressure off those home games.They might have a chance this weekend. Watford have been vulnerable lately, only collecting two points from their past six games — the brilliance of their early season form merely a memory. A win for Neil Warnock’s side would really start convincing people they could stay up.

Man United’s lack of team spirit, Mourinho’s negativity explains wide gap to rivals Liverpool

Dec 13, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

The last time Manchester United went into a league game against Liverpool with a bigger deficit than the 16-point gap between the two clubs, the men from Anfield were just weeks away from clinching their 18th — and last — English league championship.Back in March 1990, when Alex Ferguson’s relegation-threatened team were languishing in 16th position of the old First Division, two points above third-bottom Manchester City, United faced Liverpool at Old Trafford no fewer than 21 points behind their century-old rivals.Liverpool would win that game 2-1 and leave United in even deeper trouble at the foot of the table, so while the picture looks bleak right now under Jose Mourinho, it has been much worse at Old Trafford in living memory. But everything United do or achieve is measured against Liverpool, both in the present and in the past.United have won 20 titles to Liverpool’s 18, while Liverpool have five Europeans Cups compared to the three won by United and both sets of supporters proudly boast about those respective tallies.Right now, though, United are on the downside of the comparison with Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s team going into this weekend’s clash at Anfield as the unbeaten Premier League leaders.Liverpool look to be the real deal, with optimism high on Merseyside of a first title since 1990, but United are a club and a team that appears to be drifting dangerously off course under Mourinho.Things were bad for United under David Moyes in 2013-14, but back then, they only trailed Liverpool by 11 points when they met during the closing weeks of the season, so Mourinho’s team are plumbing new depths in the Premier League era.But how has it come to this? Only last season, United finished in second place in the Premier League, six points clear of fourth-placed Liverpool, so the points swing since May has been dramatic and, from a United perspective at least, alarming.The difference, from a football standpoint, is that one team — Liverpool — has become a formidable unit thanks to its sense of the collective under Klopp, whereas United are now limping along with an expensively-assembled squad of individuals that Mourinho has been unable to mould into a cohesive unit.Liverpool’s famed front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have, in the opinion of many observers, so far failed to replicate their goalscoring heroics of last season, yet they go into the United game having scored 20 league goals between them, despite not hitting their best form.United’s front four of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have scored 17 combined Premier League goals in comparison, but it is further back that United really fall short in relation to Liverpool.The tight defensive unit marshalled by Virgil van Dijk has conceded just six goals in the league so far, with only one of those coming at Anfield. United, meanwhile, have no Van Dijk-like figure to knit it all together at the back, which is why they have shipped a remarkable 26 goals in just 16 league games so far.But United’s defenders, who have been publicly dismissed as not being good enough by Mourinho this season, are only part of the problem. In front of them, they are protected — or not, as would seem to the case — by a dysfunctional midfield inhabited by players who are either not good enough or not trusted by Mourinho to do what he asks of them.If the midfield is a team’s engine, United’s would be that of an unreliable old family car with too many miles on the odometer, with Liverpool instead being blessed by a powerful, energetic, if slightly functional, motor driven by the ultra-reliable Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum. Reliability and energy are two crucial qualities that United do not possess in midfield.Paul Pogba, if he plays on Sunday, would be able to stake a claim to being the most talented midfielder on the pitch this weekend, but Mourinho simply cannot get the best out of him. Pogba is careless in possession, he slows the team down and, while he is capable of moments of brilliance, he has become a player this United team cannot accommodate successfully.Nemanja Matic is proving too slow and immobile to make a positive impact, while Ander Herrera is not good enough to affect a game against a top quality opponent like Liverpool. Fred, the £53 million summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk has become Old Trafford’s “Invisible Man”, and Marouane Fellaini is too often used as a desperate Plan B in the closing stages, when every other avenue has proven to be a dead end.Klopp has been able to build a team at Liverpool that works as a collective unit, with overlapping full-backs complementing the forwards when attacking and midfielders prepared to work at both ends of the pitch. As a team, Liverpool have become greater than the sum of their parts, but United are now a group of underperforming individuals who appear to have forgotten the old maxim that there is no “I” in team.But it all comes back to the men in charge of the team and tactics.Klopp exudes passion and belief in his players and they share a bond with the ex-Borussia Dortmund coach, perhaps best exemplified by his on-pitch celebration with goalkeeper Alisson following the stoppage-time victory against Everton earlier this month.Liverpool’s players want to play for Klopp and are motivated to do so, but that cannot be said for United under Mourinho. Where Klopp is positive and upbeat, Mourinho is critical and dour and there is no warmth shown towards the Portuguese from his players. Liverpool have found themselves with the perfect blend under Klopp, while it is all going sour under Mourinho at United.Back in 1990, there was light at the end of tunnel under Ferguson. At present, Mourinho is taking United deeper into the gloom with his team and the mood around it becoming the direct opposite of Klopp’s at Anfield.That is why United are now so far behind their old rivals.

Man United supporters frustrated at present but can look to past for Anfield inspiration

Andy MittenManchester United writer

Three long-standing Manchester United fans just made the train out of Valencia on Thursday morning, having gone first to the wrong train station. Dave, Graham and Eddie from Knutsford, 20 miles south of Manchester, have been watching United away in Europe for decades. Eddie’s first European away game was at Ajax in 1976, a £19 return coach trip from Manchester to Holland. Graham’s was a preseason trip to Nuremberg in 1980.”We hitched it from Knutsford Services on the M6; it took us a couple of days to get to Germany and few more to get back.”Dave’s debut was a journey to Eindhoven in 1984 on an Interrail ticket which was shared among friends.The trio drove to Budapest in 1993 in a Bedford van. One had access to red diesel and put several five-gallon drums in the back, ensuring they got to Hungary and back for free. They parked the van outside the United team hotel and followed the team bus under police escort to the stadium, where, despite having no tickets, they were escorted to the main stand to sit with the players who weren’t playing.They’ve broken down on Paris’ ring road, seen two Champions League wins and the Cup Winners’ Cup lifted. Between them, they’ve attended over 400 European away games with Manchester United.They still love the buzz, visiting beautiful cities like Valencia where Wednesday saw bright sunshine and temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius — a fine summer day in Manchester. They meet up with friends they’ve known all their lives, but as a flag that is seen at United games states: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

It’s United being poor on the pitch which is sorely vexing United fans. The 2,000 Red Devils fans in Valencia didn’t walk around with their heads down. They had a great time, they know they’re fortunate to attend such matches and despite all the club’s problems, their team are still playing top level European games in magnificent cities and stadiums like Mestalla. These fans wouldn’t have such privileges if they supported the vast majority of English football clubs. But they also know that they’re following a team in flux.”My loyalty is to the club, to my mates, to our community,” declares Eddie, whose first season ticket in the Stretford End cost £6 in 1976. “I don’t care that much about the players — we don’t get near them these days. They’re in a bubble.” The actual games can be the low point of European trips — as Wednesday night in Valencia was.”Another [Jose] Mourinho performance,” is Graham’s verdict.”We missed a chance to win the group,” adds Eddie. “I can’t see where this team is going.””The football is dire,” agrees Dave. “I was encouraged when we won two trophies in Mourinho’s first season, that hadn’t been done before by a new United manager and it was a decent achievement, but we haven’t kicked on. We have a minus goal difference. We’ve bought poorly, especially compared to City who buy well. I’m not convinced at all. “”I’ll still stick up for Jose,” Eddie cuts in. “I think he might turn it around, but he’s made some bad buys. What was the logic in signing Fred?”Liverpool await next. The trio have been going to Anfield with United since the 1970s. “Trips there were lively then,” recalls Graham. “We’d get the service train to Lime Street. There would be 400 United on the train and we’d be met by loads of police when we arrived. They were needed because Liverpool were always waiting for us.””I’ve been on the Kop watching Manchester United,” Eddie tells me. “I stood near the bottom and we didn’t last long. The Scousers soon realised who we were. Liverpool were the best team in Europe for much of the 70s and 80s, but United had a real good record there. We’d beat Liverpool but then lose to Middlesbrough. That’s why they won league titles and we went 26 years without winning the league.”With their side clear underdogs for Sunday’s game, they’re hoping for some of that 80s spirit. Liverpool have gone 28 years since being the champions of England, surpassing even United’s title drought.Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have sailed past Liverpool’s once seemingly insurmountable haul of 18 league titles to 20, an incredible haul. Ferguson knocked the Liver bird so firmly off its perch that it has been struggling to fly back up since, but it’ll soon be six years since United’s last title. Sixteen points behind the Scousers after only 16 games, United have little chance this year. Liverpool, the club’s greatest historical rivals, in contrast, are second favourites. Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded only six goals, Mourinho’s 26.Dave points out why. “They play with pace, a high tempo — they’re good to watch. They have a buzz at Anfield that we don’t have at the moment. Liverpool are most similar to United in terms of success, history and fan base. Scousers and Mancs are pretty similar — I work with a lot of Scousers and they love their football like we do. But while Klopp has improved them a lot, they still haven’t won a trophy.”

Eddie dares to voice the unthinkable. “It would be a nightmare if Liverpool won the league.” Given a choice between Liverpool and City winning, I’d go for City. Liverpool are United’s greatest rivals. Liverpool have done well to keep their fan base for so long.”|Graham doesn’t feel able to answer the question. “Choosing between whether I’d like City or Liverpool to win the league is like choosing what I want to die of,” he concludes, shaking his head as the train nears Barcelona ahead of a flight back to Manchester. All agree that United need to come out fighting.

Where could Pulisic land in January: Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United or Bayern?

e Christian Pulisic is most likely to go should he leave Borussia Dortmund this campaign. (2:55)

1:56 PM ETRaphael HonigsteinGermany writer

“We will not sell a player in winter who’s essential to us achieving our sporting aims, of course,” Borussia Dortmund’s Michael Zorc told Sport-Bild in relation to Christian Pulisic this week. “I strongly expect Christian to be wearing the BVB shirt in February,” the sporting director added.The league leaders’ overriding concern is to ensure that the squad stays strong and deep for the second half of a campaign that promises to deliver silverware for the first time since 2012. At the same time, the wording of Zorc’s statement reveals an amount of flexibility on two fronts.In purely financial terms, a significant offer for a player unwilling to extend his contract beyond 2020 will be hard to turn down. Secondly, it’s debatable just how “essential” the 20-year-old is actually still regarded by his coach Lucien Favre. Pulisic has played regularly, chipping in with decent numbers (three goals and four assists in 16 games), but he’s neither an automatic starter nor among the club’s most prolific forwards. For the right price, Dortmund could well be tempted to let him leave six months early.But given the choice, where should he go? Here’s a look at the four likeliest contenders for the 20-year-old’s signature.

Chelsea

Why it could work: Maurizio Sarri’s possession football, once fully formed, will provide an ideal environment for Pulisic’s qualities. As an attacking midfielder who’s neither a true No. 10 nor an orthodox winger, he’s arguably best suited to a slightly slower build-up game, where his ability to take up intelligent positions between the lines will come to the fore. Manchester City aside, Chelsea play the most cultured game in the Premier League, and there’s likely to be a real need for his type of services in the wake of Eden Hazard’s expected departure. Transitioning from Favre’s Dortmund, a team employing similar patterns of play in possession, would be pretty a frictionless affair. The pull of London, too, will prove huge.

Why it wouldn’t work: Sarri has been too busy re-imagining the Blues’ approach post-Antonio Conte to spend any significant time honing younger players. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have only featured marginally, and the pressure to compete in the most competitive league as far as Champions League places are concerned will ensure that patience will remain in short supply. A high transfer fee will mitigate these disadvantages — Sarri would be more or less forced to play him — but Pulisic’s development might be smoother in a team that doesn’t expect goals and assists in every single game. He’s still growing and inconsistent. As Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah can attest, Chelsea haven’t always done well when it comes to giving highly talented younger players enough time to hone their skills.

Liverpool

Why it could work: The success of Xherdan Shaqiri has proven that Jurgen Klopp’s high-octane game can benefit from the addition of a different type of forward. What Pulisic lacks in directness, he makes up for in short diagonal movement and passing. Liverpool are easily the most accomplished Premier League side among the contenders for his signature, and there’s a strong chance that the combination of a functioning team and excellent man-manager will see him vastly improved in a short space of time. The Reds’ U.S. owners will furthermore help him utilise his huge marketing potential.

Why it wouldn’t work: The competition for starting places he has encountered at Signal Iduna Park this season will be just as tough at Anfield, if not tougher. There’s no natural position in Liverpool’s default 4-3-3 formation for him; he will have to rely on Klopp’s nascent transformation into a 4-2-3-1 team in order to become a mainstay. In addition, the strength of his supposed friendship with Klopp has been overstated. Their relationship is good but won’t afford him any special dispensation in a squad bursting with more-incisive and prolific attackers.

Manchester United

Why it could work: American-owned United, like Liverpool, naturally covet Pulisic as one of the emerging superstar brands in the U.S. On the pitch, however, they need him even more than their Merseyside rivals. Jose Mourinho’s team are in desperate need of a player who’s both quick and able to bring coherence to their rather random attacking game. Neither Alexis Sanchez nor his predecessor Henrik Mkhitaryan have been able to find the kind of solutions needed against defensive opposition; Pulisic’s intricacy would make a tremendous contribution and could soon prove invaluable. Continued doubt about Paul Pogba’s future at Old Trafford would strengthen his hand, too.

Why it wouldn’t work: Man United are unlikely to make it into the Champions League next season and don’t look as if they’ll be able to get any closer to City and Liverpool any time soon. Their game plan lacks clarity; attacking midfielders, in particular, routinely find themselves isolated and chasing second balls from deep starting positions. There’s also strong suspicion that Mourinho prefers warriors to artists. Young, technical players don’t necessarily thrive in the Portuguese manager’s dressing room, and few have become significantly better duding his spell at Old Trafford.

Bayern Munich

Why it could work: The impending departure of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery creates an opening for creative players of Pulisic’s ilk. He could also leverage Bayern’s longstanding interest in signing a prominent American player that could further their growth prospects in the U.S.: the rebuilding process at Sabener Strasse affords a real opportunity to become one of the faces of one of Europe’s most successful sides, with all the financial and sporting opportunities that would entail. Bayern’s more measured attacking game provides a very good fit as well.

Why it wouldn’t work: There’s no guarantee that the aforementioned changes at Bayern won’t extend to the coaching staff by the time Pulisic would swap yellow for red, which makes it difficult for any player to properly evaluate their opportunity for personal development in the near future. In either case, the Bavarians face an uphill battle to remain competitive in Europe as the ancient regime of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness looks for successors while the Premier League’s firepower becomes more pronounced. What’s more, a move to England will probably sit better with Pulisic’s personal sponsors.

Verdict

Chelsea look the best fit as things stand, slightly ahead of Liverpool. It’s just as well, too, considering the Blues are considered in pole position, having pushed hardest to secure an agreement with Dortmund.

No. 1 Hoosiers Fall to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in College Cup Semifinal

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A historic season for the No. 1-ranked Indiana Hoosiers came to a close on Friday night in Santa Barbara, Calif., as the Hoosiers fell to No. 15 Maryland, 2-0, in the College Cup semifinals.

KEY MOMENTS
• In the 37th minute, the Terrapins (12-6-4) scored off a corner kick, as Matt Di Rosa’s shot took a deflection and found the back of the net.
• Indiana (20-3-1) pressed forward offensively in the second half, out-shooting Maryland, 11-4, in the frame. For the match, IU out-shot UM, 15-10.
• Four players had two shots for the Hoosiers in the match, with both Justin Rennicks and Griffin Dorsey each getting a shot on-goal. Andrew Gutmanalso had a shot on-goal for the Hoosiers.
• Maryland added an insurance goal off a free kick in the 79th minute as Donovan Pines toe-poked it across the line.

NOTABLES
• Indiana finishes the season with an overall record of 20-3-1. IU’s 20 victories on the season were the most for the program since going 21-3 in 1999.
• The Hoosiers won both the Big Ten regular season championship (15th time) and Big Ten Tournament championship (13th time) in the same season for the first time since 2006.
• Indiana advanced to the NCAA Tournament College Cup for the second-straight season and for a NCAA-record 20th time in program history.
• The back-to-back College Cup appearances for IU was the first since 2003-04.
• Indiana was seeded No. 2 overall for the 2018 NCAA Tournament, marking the 14th time in the last 16 years since the current seeding format began in 2003 that IU has earned a top-16 seed.
• The berth for the Hoosiers was the team’s 32nd-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and the
43rd overall in the program’s history.

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12/6/18 IU in College Cup Fri 10:30 pm on ESPNU, MLSFinals-Atlanta United hosts Portland Sat 8 pm on FOX, US Names New US Manager, TV Game Schedule

Indiana University is looking for its 9th NCAA Title as they head to their 2nd consecutive College Cup this Friday night at 10:30 pm vs #11 Seed Maryland on ESPNU. The Hoosiers (20-2-1) are ranked #1 in the polls and are the #2 seed coming in. Three of the Final 4 are Big Ten teams as Akron will face Michigan State in the other semi-final on ESPNU. Akron knocked off top seeded Wake Forest and 3 time National Champ Stanford in the Elite 8.  The Title game, which IU reached last season, is set for Sunday at 8 pm in Santa Barbara, CA on ESPNU. You can bet our own Director of Soccer Operations Juergen Sommer, a former National Champion and National Player of the Year at IU, will be watching!  Good luck Hoosiers!   

MLS Championship

So this Saturday night on FOX at 8 pm – Atlanta United will host the 2016 MLS Champions the Portland Timbers.  Again at least on one side the MLS Playoffs were spectacular as visiting Portland Timbers scored 3 goals – 2 in the last 20 minutes to beat Kansas City in front of a standing room only boisterous crowd Sunday evening on Fox Sports in the Western Conference Finals.  I know the rest of the country was watching NFL – but man this game was spectacular as after not scoring a goal in the first round home game – the Portland Timbers reached deep and defeated Sporting KC – with lightening fast counter attacks and 2 goals by their MVP Diego Valeri.  Portland had the 1 goal lead 2-1 as KC threw everything at them in the last 15 minutes and an amazing 15 minutes of extra time looking for the equalizer before Portland scored the 3rd late goal to put it away in the last 2 minutes of overtime.  Of course Atlanta dominated the Support Shield holder NY Red Bulls 3-0 at home as they will host the MLS cup in just their 2nd season in the League.  This is quickest an MLS expansion team has made the finals.  – and you can look for over 75,000 fans to be on hand in Atlanta as United looks to become the quickest expansion team to win an MLS title. 

USA

So the US National Team finally made it official  – what we all knew was coming that Columbus Crew head coach, and former US National team defender Gregg Berhalter has been named our next US Manager.  I have no problem with Berhalter – he becomes the first former National Team player to play in a World Cup to also manage the team so he obviously understands what it means to represent the crest.  He’s a good young but proven coach who has had a good amount of success at the Columbus Crew.  At Columbus he consistently took teams with less money, less talent and honestly a rather apathetic fan base because of ownership issues and he took them deep in the playoffs many of his 5 years there. He took Columbus to the 2015 MLS Final (that I attended) and fell late to Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Now he’s only been an MLS head coach for 5 years – so not the most experienced coach  – but I think his experience as a former US player should help. Remember he was the one who should have scored a goal vs Germany in 2002 when they cheated and German defender Torsten Frings handled the ball on the line – it wasn’t called allowing Germany to beat us 1-0 in the Quarterfinals. He also helped shutout Mexico in that World Cup – 1 of 2 that he played in. 

Listen I don’t think this is a bad hire.  We have a very young team – and this next coach is not about reeling in egos of superstars – we really have NO Superstars on the US team at this point.  No one consistently starring in Europe, no one that would be considered a top level star in the sport.  With this team – we need a builder, a coach who can find the right guys, teach them the way we want to play and build this team from the ground up.  I would say that is exactly what Berhalter has done at Columbus and its hopefully what he will do for the US Men’s National Team. Anyone who has seen the Crew play knows Berhalter plays a possession style of play that is entertaining to watch – and he always gets the most out of his players.  It will certainly be interesting to see how this works out, but despite the delay in hiring a new coach and taking well over a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup to hire a new coach – I am comfortable with Ernie Stewart as GM and Berhalter as our new coach.  2019 should be an interesting year for US soccer – as we look to basically start over in preparation for hosting the World Cup in 2026 and hopefully making the field in 2022. 

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What to Watch 4

On top of the College Cup Friday night at 10:30 pm on ESPNU featuring IU, and MLS Cup on Saturday night 8 pm on Fox – we have some other big games on tap this weekend and week as Champions League returns Tues/Wed of this week and Man City travels to Chelsea on Sat at 12:30 pm on NBC and Leicester City vs Tottenham at 2:45 pm on NBCSN., and American’s McKennie and Pulisic match up as Schalke hosts Dortmund at 9:30 am on FS1 Sat. 

IU

All or Nothing as IU Aims for 9th NCAA Title

IU Edges Notre Dame 1-0 in Elite 8 Thriller – IU Site

IU Wins to go to Record 20th College Cup – Indy Star Kevin Johnston

IU Readies for College Cup in Soccer – Indiana Daily Student

IUs Gutman and GK Muse Named Player of Year Finalist

IU Staff Named Coaching Staff of the Year in Region

Really Cool Video on the History of IU Soccer – the Stars Align

MLS

How Atlanta and Portland Match Up in MLS Cup Sat Night – Warshaw – MLS.com

3 Position Battles That will Decide the Winner in MLS Cup Sat Night

How MLS Foes Match Up – SI – Avi Creditor

Atlanta United in top 15 Attendance in the World !  

MLS Cup 101

Blanco: “We aren’t afraid” of playing in Atlanta

Can Timbers spoil Atlanta’s party at the Benz?

Last two MLS MVPs face off in 2018 MLS Cup

Parkhurst hopes to add ‘MLS Cup champ’ to resume

Timbers well aware of the buzzsaw that awaits them

Scouting the Portland Timbers’ Center Backs for MLS Cup Final

USA

What Does New Manager Bring to the Job for US – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

New US Coach Humbled – Wants to Get to Work – ESPNFC Noah Davis

US Names Gregg Berhalter US Men’s Coach – ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Berhalter Aiming for Distinct Style for US Team – Dylan Butler MLS.com

Video and discussion on Burhalter and Why he’s the Right Guy – MLS.com

Don’t Blame New Coach – blame the Process – Stars & Stripes

Five Things to know About Gregg Berkhalter

Former Teammates Discuss Berhalter – US Soccer

US Announces Jan Panama Friendly 1/27 8 pm as First Game with Berhalter in Charge

Gossip Chelsea Makes Formal Approach for Pulisic

Tyler Adams leaves Red Bulls for RB Leipzip in Germany along with coach Jesse Marsch

US wins 2nd straight Concacaf U-20 Title 2-0 over Mexico under Tab Ramos

Champions League

UCL Tables

VAR to be used in UCL from round of 16 – UEFA

Spurs must stop Messi to beat Barca – Lucas

Poch: Spurs will need to rest players to beat Barca

Missing Ballon d’Or stars: What did Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar do?

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Dec 8  

2:30 pm ESPN2       Juventus vs Inter

8 pm  ESPNU            Mich State vs Akron College Cup

10:30 pm  ESPNU       Indiana U vs Maryland College Cup

Sat, Dec 8  

7:30 am NBCSN     Liverpool vs AFC Bournemouth

9:30  Fox Sp1        Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Schalke (Mkkinney)

10 am NBCSN         Man United vs Fulham (Ream)

10 am CNBC            Arsenal vs Huddersfield  

12:30 pm NBC         Chelsea vs Man City

2:30 bein Sport        Real Madrid vs Valencia

8 pm FOX           MLS CUP Atlanta United vs Portland Timbers

Sun, Dec 9  

7 am NBCSN            Chelsea  vs Fulham (Ream)

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Brussia Mgladbach

9:05 am NBCSN       Newcastle United (Yedlin) vs Wolverhampton

Tues  Dec 11   Champs League

1 pm TNT                Schalke (McKinney) vs Locomotiv Moskav

3 pm TNT                Barcelona vs Tottenham

3 pm Uni Desp        Liverpool vs Napoli

3pm   Uni Desp       Monaco vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3pm   Uni Desp       Zvezda vs PSG

Weds  Dec 12  Champs League

1 pm TNT                   Real Madrid vs CSKA Moskva

3pm   TNT                   Valencia vs Man United

3 pm Univision OL    Ajax vs Bayern Munich

3 pm   Uni Desp        Young Boys vs Juventus

 Sat, Dec 15   

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City  vs Everton

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Fulham vs West Ham United

12:30  Fox Sp 2       Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Werder Breman

Sun, Dec 16  

8;30 am NBCSN        Brighton vs Chelsea  

9 am FS1                  RB Leipzig vs Mainz

8:30 am CNBC?        Southhampton vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN      Liverpool vs Man United

12:30 pm beIN Sport Barcelona vs Villarreal

All or Nothing as Indiana Men Aim for Ninth NCAA Title

By Pete DiPrimioIUHoosiers.com
 
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Andrew Gutman throws down the verbal gauntlet. Indiana won’t play for second or we-did-our-best perspective.It’s all or nothing. Win a national soccer championship, or live with regret. Nothing else is good enough.
 “We’ve got to win it,” the Hoosiers senior defender said. “This is great, getting to the College Cup, but we haven’t done anything yet. This is our last chance, and we’ve got to win it and make up for last year.”Gutman referred to last season’s national runner-up finish, when the Hoosiers lost to Stanford in overtime in the title game.
 IU (20-2-1) arrives in Santa Barbara, Calif. with a target on their backs. The Hoosiers are ranked No. 1 in the polls, and are the No 2 seed in the tourney. They will face No. 11 seed Maryland (11-6-4) in a Friday semifinal. The start is set for 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
 Akron (14-6-2) will play Michigan State (14-4-4) in the other semifinal. Akron upset top-seed Wake Forest, which beat the Hoosiers in the season opener, in the third round, then followed that by beating three-time national champ Stanford 3-2 in the Elite Eight.The title game is set for Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Indiana and Maryland have played a pair of nail-biters this season, with the Hoosiers getting the best of the Terrapins on both occasions. They won 2-1 in mid-October at Armstrong Stadium, and advanced in a PK shootout in the Big Ten tourney semifinals.”We’re excited for it,” senior midfielder Austin Panchot says. “We’re confident. We know what we’re getting.”Coach Todd Yeagley certainly does. He has led the Hoosiers to two prior College Cups, last season and in 2012, when IU won its eighth and last national championship. Only St. Louis, with 10 national titles, but none since 1973, has won more.
 Yeagley’s father, Jerry, is the winningest college soccer coach in history. That includes 16 College Cups and 12 national title games, with six national championships.Jerry Yeagley remains a fixture at practice and at games, and you’d better believe Todd seeks his input.
 My father has been my mentor. We talk about all things related to life and soccer.
“When we made the first College Cup in 2012, very clearly he said stay on the course. Don’t change what you’re doing. Shorten things.”Those advice moments from someone you have ultimate trust with gave me a lot of confidence to make those decisions and feel good about it. There’s no one who has been to more College Cups than he has. He learned some things from his early days that maybe he would have done differently. That’s valuable. I have the most successful coach at an instant if something should come up. That could help give us an advantage. We’ll certainly use that to our fullest.”The results show it. IU’s 20 victories are its most since winning 21 in 1999, a national title season. The Hoosiers have just five losses in the last three seasons. They have a nation’s best 752 victories since the program became a varsity sport in 1973.College soccer has never seen such sustained excellence over a five-decade span (no other program can match the 20 College Cups), with no end in sight. U recruits to that legacy. “It’s all about pushing it,” Yeagley says. “We ask that when we recruit players. You’re coming here to push an unbelievable program farther. Leave your mark. “This group has done that, and the story isn’t done yet. They’ve taken that challenge and gone with it. It’s a big responsibility. You look at all the success the program has had. It gives you sense a pride. The team feels that.”Win-it-all pressure doesn’t mean the Hoosiers won’t enjoy this experience. Yeagley pushes fun as much as focus. “You look at the success program has had,” he says, “and you see 20 College Cups. For being around this program forever, it means a lot. Each one is so hard to get to. So many things have to go right. We’re happy to experience another game.”IU was severely tested in Friday night’s 1-0 Elite Eight win over No. 7 seeded Notre Dame. That followed three straight dominant performances and could provide the edge needed this weekend. “This team finishes off plays,” Yeagley says. Indiana has by far the most College Cup experience of the remaining teams.Akron won the 2010 national title and was the 2009 national runner-up. It also made the College Cup in 2015 and last season. Maryland has three national runner-up finishes, the last in 2013, and 10 previous College Cup appearances. Michigan State was the national runner up in 1964 and ’65, and reached the College Cup in 1962 and ’66.

Warshaw: How Atlanta and Portland match up for 2018 MLS Cup

December 5, 20182:54PM ESTBobby Warshaw

It’s time to take a look at the 2018 MLS Cup matchup between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers. For this exercise, we are going by pure talent. MLSsoccer.com will have plenty of articles dissecting tactical and stylistic advantages. I want to break it down by individual ability alone. Once we establish who holds the advantage in talent, then we can start to understand where the advantages may lie, and what deficits need to be fixed.Let’s assume the teams field the lineups they’ve used throughout the postseason:

The players in those lineups could be split into defenders, midfielders and attackers in various ways. Diego Valeri, for example, plays as an attacking center mid on offense but generally acts as a second striker on defense. There’s no perfect way to group them, but I’ve divided them into the following groups.

Defenders

Atlanta: Escobar, Larentowicz, Parkhurst, LGP, Garza
Portland: Valentin, Mabiala, Ridgewell, Villafaña

Midfielders

Atlanta: Remedi, Gressel, Nagbe
Portland: Chara, Guzman, Valeri

Attackers

Atlanta: Martinez, Almiron
Portland: Blanco, Polo, Ebobisse

GOALKEEPERS:

Atlanta United

My three criteria for goalkeepers:

  1. Who is more likely to make the saves he’s supposed to make: In this game, it’s Brad Guzan. Guzan hasn’t made many crazy saves this year, but he’s generally made the stops he needs to make.
  2. Who is more likely to make a huge mistake that will cost his team the game?Portland’s Jeff Attinella. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened recently when Attinella dropped a crossto gift Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz a goal, and that memory can plant a dangerous tone of doubt in ‘keepers.
  3. Who is more likely to make the huge saves to win his team again? The Timbers’ No. 1 has had some huge games this year, including the second leg against Sporting Kansas Citylast week. If a team wins this game because a goalkeeper stands on his head, it will be Portland.

There’s more variance in Attinella’s game and he’s more likely to be the star of MLS Cup, but managers prefer predictability from their goalkeepers. If you had to put a name on a team sheet, you’d go with Guzan.

DEFENDERS:

Atlanta United

Michael Parkhurst was a finalist for Defender of the Year, yet Leandro Gonzalez Pirez might be the more talented of the two, and together they formed one of the two best center back pairings in the league. Franco Escobar was the star of the Conference Championship against the Red Bulls, and a fully fit Greg Garza should be considered one of the top five left backs in the league. Jeff Larentowicz might be considered the weak link, but he’s played like an All-Star at times this year.

Portland work well as a group, but I doubt any of them would make it into Atlanta’s starting lineup.

MIDFIELDERS:

Portland Timbers

The answer is almost always Diego Chara and Diego Valeri.

Atlanta’s midfield has become a force in the last few weeks. Eric Remedi brings the bite, Darlington Nagbe offers the guile and Julian Gressel contributes the lungs. They’ve been tough to break down, quick on the break, and calm in possession when the moment has called for it. They dominated NYCFC’s group of high-end talent in the middle in the Conference Semifinals. In the next round, they had no problem with Tyler Adams and Co. But Valeri and Chara are two of the best midfielders of the last decade (plus the third guy, David Guzman, just played in a World Cup).

I’m sure Tata loves his midfield right now, but I’d bet if you gave him some truth serum, he’d slide into Chara and Valeri’s DMs.

ATTACKERS:

Atlanta United

Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron > almost anyone in league history.

If you were to create a list of the top attacking tandems in MLS history, Martinez and Almiron would be somewhere near the top: in the echelon with Marco Etcheverry/Roy Lassiter, Landon Donovan/Robbie Keane and Sebastian Giovinco/Jozy Altidore.

Jeremy Ebobisse has come a long way in 2018 and Sebastian Blanco has been marvelous this season — they certainly provide enough ability to win the game — but you’d pick the combo that could get sold for north of a combined $40 million this offseason.

BENCH:

Atlanta United

Tito Villalba is by far the best sub in the league right now. Imagine dealing with Martinez and Almiron for 60 minutes and then a fresh Villalba comes waltzing on the field.

Also, it would probably be some type of poetic ending for Ezequiel Barco, the most expensive player in MLS history, to come on and provide the winner.

COACH: Even

 There are big personnel and tactical decisions to make heading into the game — there’s logic suggesting both teams should make adjustments — but I don’t think one coach is more equipped than the other.

Tata has more overall managerial experience, but Savarese has won three finals in the last five years. They’ve both made all of the right moves this year, specifically in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Atlanta United ranks among global elite in average match attendance

December 5, 20189:07AM ESTTom BogertContributor

Atlanta United have continued to turn heads with the attendance they draw and electric atmosphere they create at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Five Stripes already own an MLS record for total home attendance: 901,033 fans across 17 games this year. They’ve also got the top seven entries for MLS regular season single-game attendance, as well as own the top three spots for MLS postseason single-game attendance. Their attendance numbers resonate across the Atlantic Ocean, too. Below is where the club ranks in worldwide average attendance: 

Club

Country

Average Attendance

Borussia Dortmund

Germany

80,309

FC Barcelona

Spain

76,021

Bayern Munich

Germany

75,000

Manchester United

England

74,481

Real Madrid

Spain

65,105

Inter Milan

Italy

62,859

FC Schalke 04

Germany

61,794

Arsenal FC

England

59,954

Tottenham Hotspur

England

58,814

Celtic FC

Scotland

58,352

Atletico Madrid

Spain

57,602

West Ham United

England

56,902

VfB Stuttgart

Germany

57,047

Hertha BSC

Germany

54,643

AC Milan

Italy

54,233

Manchester City

England

54,020

SL Benfica

Portugal

53,774

Ajax Amsterdam

Netherlands

53,012

Atlanta United

USA

53,002

Olympique Marseille

France

52,654

Liverpool FC

England

52,553

Newcastle United

England

50,979

Borussia Monchengladbach

Germany

50,522

Hamburger SV

Germany

50,305

Olympique Lyon

France

50,237

Three positional battles that will decide MLS Cup 2018

These three positions will determine who lifts Lord Don’s Cup.

By Rob Usry@RobUsry  Dec 3, 2018, 10:05am EST

When it comes to soccer, the team whose players perform the best on the day usually end up winning. MLS Cup will likely be no different as Atlanta United and Portland Timbers feature talented players all over the field. It’s a good bet that whichever team’s stars show up on the day is the squad that will be standing at the celebration podium after all is said and done.Looking ahead to this big match, we’re highlighting three different positions on the field that will could prove decisive. While these players won’t necessarily be going head-to-head against each other, it’ll be important for them outplay the player in the corresponding position to give their team an edge. Here are three positional battles that will likely decide MLS Cup:

Eric Remedi vs. Diego Chara

In the modern game, defensive midfielder is arguably the most important position on the field. If a team has a bulldog in the midfield of the field who can close down the other team’s best players in the most dangerous parts of the field, they’ll win more often than not.Eric Remedi has been a revelation since his midseason arrival in the ATL. His work often doesn’t show up on the highlight reels like most great defensive midfielders, but he’s always in crucial spots making vital contributions. His ability to close down and stifle Portland’s two attacking stars in Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco will be key. You don’t have to look far to see how important that will be. Blanco’s unbelievable tie-changing goal against Sporting Kansas City was a direct result of midfielders not closing him down. Remedi and to a lesser extent Darlington Nagbe will have their hands full but will need to have great performances if Atlanta United is to win.

Diego Chara has been one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS for at least five years now. While he may not get the MLS Best XI recognition he deserves, many experts proclaim him to be the Timbers’ most important player even with the likes of Blanco and Valeri. Much like Remedi, he will be tasked with slowing down Miguel Almiron and even keeping tabs on Josef Martinez when he drops deep.

Both players are uber-aggressive and known to lunge into a tackle with no hesitation. An early yellow card to either could change the look of the whole match. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez vs. Liam Ridgewell

Discipline will be key in this high intensity final. Both teams feature hard-nosed centerbacks who will be looking to set the tone for the match. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is at the top of his game so far in these playoffs. Atlanta will be hoping he has one more superhero-esque effort in him to bring the cup home. How the Argentine deals with the late runs from Blanco and Valeri will be just as important as how he and his partner Michael Parkhurst mark Portland’s striker.

Ridgewell’s 2018 season hasn’t gone very smoothly, with the veteran defender going as far as calling it “one of the worst seasons I’ve had in my playing career.” Despite being at odds with first-year manager Gio Savarese, Ridgewell finds himself back in favor in the crucial matches. Going against the best goal scorer the league has ever seen is the prize he wins for gaining his starting spot back. As with any Atlanta United match, how the opposing team deals with Josef Martinez will go a long way in deciding who wins. If the Venezuelan Viper is clicking on the day, it could be a long one for Ridgewell. But, if the Englishman succeeds in shutting Martinez down, he could turn the momentum in his side’s favor.

Miguel Almiron vs. Diego Valeri

It didn’t take too much imagination to come up with this one. Saying two of the most talent players this league has ever seen will have a huge impact on the result of this final is not a hot take whatsoever.Almiron and Valeri are their team’s most creative players and will be looking to unlock the other team’s shape. They each have their own style with Almiron more frantic and breakneck and Valeri calm and composed. The pace and style of the game could go a long way in determining which superstar has a bigger impact on the game.If Portland decide to sit back and absorb pressure, it may not be the type of game that Almiron can really put his fingerprints on. However, if it’s a more open affair that allows for Miggy to use his pace to create those odd-man counter-attacks by himself, it could play into his favor.The opposite could be said for Valeri who is better in the slower style of game where he has time in the attack to pick out a pass to breakdown the defense or to find space outside the penalty area for a chance at goal. If Portland have a negative mindset and Valeri is forced to run around and close down for the majority, it could frustrate him.These are the three battles we see deciding MLS Cup. Who do you think has the edge in each? Which other pairing did we miss or do you find important? Comment below.

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U.S. confirms Gregg Berhalter as manager after year-long search; what does this mean for the USMNT?

Dec 2, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The search for a new head coach for the U.S. men’s national team has finally reached its conclusion. It took only 13 months from the time that Bruce Arena resigned in the wake of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Given that timeframe, one might have expected GM Earnie Stewart and the rest of the U.S. Soccer Federation hierarchy to make a big splash. Instead, the USSF chose Gregg Berhalter to be the program’s 37th manager.Berhalter was long considered the front-runner, and the rather secretive approach the USSF took to arriving at his appointment has raised eyebrows, but now that he has been chosen, here’s what fans can expect from the former Columbus Crew manager.

After a year-long ‘search,’ is Berhalter the right hire?

In many ways, Berhalter is a safe pick. He comes from the U.S. soccer system and is a known quantity. He is unlikely to try to shake things up within the Fed in the way that Jurgen Klinsmann did. Berhalter’s record with Columbus (67-58-45 over five seasons) isn’t necessarily eye-catching, either. He didn’t win a single trophy while with the Crew, unlike competitors like Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes, RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch (when he was with the New York Red Bulls), former FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja or Toronto FC’s Greg Vanney.But looked at another way, Berhalter squeezed plenty out of a Crew side that had one of the lowest payrolls in MLS, making the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Columbus. His reputation as a teacher with an almost obsessive attention to tactical detail could serve him well given that he’s set to inherit a very young pool of players. There will be peaks and valleys, and it will require plenty of patience to navigate the team through those periods. The fact that he spent the bulk of his playing career overseas should give him a fair amount of street cred, as should his brief stint coaching overseas.When asked whether he thought Berhalter was the right choice, Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst, who spent three seasons in Columbus under Berhalter, said, “I don’t think there’s only one option. I think a few guys could have been great hires. But I think everyone respects Gregg tactically and what he can do on the field with a team and how organized he is. I think that everyone thinks he’s one of the best American coaches, and I agree.”If the plan was to bring in an American, then absolutely, I think he’s the right hire.”In terms of his background, Berhalter had a solid, if unspectacular, career as a player. He spent the bulk of it overseas, with his first professional stint coming in 1994 with Dutch side Zwolle, and later moving on to Sparta Rotterdam and Cambuur Leeuwarden. Berhalter then spent a solitary season with English side Crystal Palace. His longest spell came with German side Energie Cottbus, where he played for four seasons, helping them win promotion to the Bundesliga. He later moved to 1860 Munich before finishing his career in MLS with the LA Galaxy, winning the 2011 Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double in his final season.At the international level, Berhalter made 44 appearances and was part of the U.S. roster at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup.After serving as a player/assistant with the Galaxy under Arena, Berhalter began his managerial career with Swedish side Hammarby prior to the 2012 campaign. He was fired midway through his second season with the club over concerns about the state of the team’s attack. He joined up with Columbus prior to the 2014 campaign.Berhalter’s first task will be overseeing the January camp, with two friendlies slated for late January and early February. At that point, the process of winning over the players will begin. Ultimately his decisions in terms of personnel, tactics and man management will be what carry the day. Suffice it to say, the mountain Berhalter is being asked to scale is plenty steep. He’ll need to bring a young squad together amid the backdrop of a search that is being perceived as less than robust.

What can we expect from Berhalter’s USMNT?

Berhalter is known as a cerebral, tactically detailed manager who emphasizes possession. His outside backs, at least when he was in Columbus, are known to surge forward in a bid to get service into the box. (Crew SC right back Harrison Afful had six assists this year.)”I think Gregg is one of the best tactical coaches that I’ve played for,” said Parkhurst.”He just knows the game very well, has his team very organized and prepared for each opponent and different tactical ways he wants to approach the game. He’s just very detail oriented in that way, and sets his team up for success. Everyone knows how well Columbus play, and how difficult they are to play against. That’s because of Gregg and [assistant coach Josh Wolff].”The work that we do on the field tactically, the video that we watch … it’s intense, it’s a lot. He works hard, and I think he’s a great hire.”Berhalter is also capable of being flexible. During the 2017 Eastern Conference finals against Toronto FC, Berhalter toggled back and forth between three-man and four-man back lines in a bid to thwart TFC’s high-powered attack. (Toronto ended up winning 1-0 on aggregate.) Parkhurst feels this is an area where Berhalter has grown as he’s gotten more experience.”I think that my first year there, it was one way to play and that was about it,” he said. “My second year when we played the New York Red Bulls in the conference final [in 2015], we basically just kicked long balls up to Kei [Kamara]. That was a big adjustment and now this past year he tinkered with different formations a lot during the year. I think he’s become more flexible with what the game entails, or with his team and the players available. But the overall picture stays the same, and I think that’s a good thing.”Berhalter is also known as a teacher though he tended to rely on veterans in Columbus. Yet one area that will bear watching is in the area of man management and how he’ll connect with the team’s biggest players. Back in 2016, a feud between midfielder Federico Higuain and then-Crew forward Kei Kamara festered to the point that it burst out into the open. Kamara was traded soon thereafter, but there is a sense it could have been handled better. Berhalter has no doubt learned from that experience, and the coming months will reveal just how much.

The extent to which he’ll adopt his preferred style with the U.S. is an open question. While there are outside backs like DeAndre Yedlin, and even Shaq Moore, who seem to fit his desired profile, the left back position has been notoriously difficult to fill. Keeping the ball has also been a weakness for the U.S., especially against high-caliber opponents.Next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup will be his first major test.

How did U.S. Soccer end up picking him over everyone else?

Much of the search for a new U.S. men’s manager has been shrouded in secrecy, with details only coming out in dribs and drabs. This conveyed the impression that Berhalter was the choice from the beginning and that the search was largely for show and not at all thorough. Yet the USSF is denying this assertion.In a statement, USSF indicated that it compiled an initial list of about 33 candidates. These included the usual suspects both foreign and domestic, such as Vermes, Marsch, Atlanta United’s Tata Martino, U.S. U-20 manager Tab Ramos and then-Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio. Of course, this is the bare minimum of what one would expect in the early stages. It doesn’t guarantee a robust search.Upon being hired as USMNT general manager, Stewart developed a profile of his ideal coach. These requirements included fluency in English, experience managing a professional club or senior national team, use of analytics, as well as “added value qualifications” like familiarity with MLS and the U.S. player pool, a willingness to work collaboratively and not focus solely on the national team.”It’s very important to have a coach that can actually implement a playing style that takes into account the players that you have,” said Stewart. “Within that style, it’s trying to find a formation and a way of playing to get results. I was looking for someone that demonstrated a clear ability to implement a style of play where the players knew their roles and it showed in the results his team attained on the field.”Once the profile was applied, the list shrank to 11 candidates, a group that included multiple coaches from abroad. Martino was out because of his lack of proficiency in English. Vermes was eliminated because of his desire to control every aspect of the program down to youth level, much like he does at SKC (which is also similar to how Klinsmann managed the U.S. national team). The fact that Ramos had managed only at youth level, and never a professional or senior national team, proved to be a fatal blow to his candidacy. Why Marsch didn’t get more consideration remains an unknown.One coach who made the cut was Osorio, and a source familiar with the process indicated that Osorio did have informal discussions with Stewart about the job. But his timeline for accepting a new post didn’t align with Stewart’s, and the Colombian opted to move on quickly and sign with Paraguay. (Osorio was asked whether this was true, but in a series of voice mail exchanges with ESPN FC colleague Tom Marshall, he did not address the question.)The list was eventually culled to five candidates, a group that included Pareja, who at the time was managing FC Dallas but has since moved on to Club Tijuana. Two of the candidates dropped out of the running at their own choosing. Pareja and Berhalter were deemed the two finalists.Should it have taken this long? No, although the election of a new USSF president in Carlos Cordeiro and Stewart’s hiring are understandable factors, it shouldn’t have taken another six months after Stewart was named to reach this point. The process has also done little to dispel the notion that the USSF remains insular in its ways given that some obvious candidates such as Vermes and Marsch weren’t spoken to. The three other candidates aside from Pareja and Berhalter remain a mystery. That said, Stewart, who insisted he would take his time in finding the right coach, now has his man, and the U.S. program can at least begin to move forward.”Gregg has the background as a person, successful coach and former player,” Stewart said. “When it comes to the base and added value qualifications, he scored extremely high. His willingness, work ethic and ideas about developing this player pool and influencing these players in and outside of camp and the thought process he has about that — constantly seeking new things — set him apart.”He is a coach that is learning at all times. Every single day he tries to develop himself so he can be a better leader for the team that he has. That is something that really stood out with Gregg and went a long way in the decision to offer him the job.”

The elephant in the room: Berhalter’s brother

The USSF has been at pains to insist that Berhalter’s brother Jay, who serves as the USSF’s chief commercial officer, has played no part in the search for a new manager. But the fact that Jay Berhalter was involved in the hiring of Stewart invites skepticism.Simply put, the USSF executive should have never been involved in any aspect of Stewart’s hiring and didn’t need to be given Stewart’s obvious qualifications. Do I think Stewart rolled over and cruised through the process? No. But the USSF didn’t help itself by allowing Jay to be involved in Stewart’s hiring. It has only served to undermine Gregg Berhalter’s tenure and add considerable pressure before he’s so much as picked up a whistle, even though he is qualified for the job. That is on the USSF, not Berhalter.With Dan Flynn set to retire as the USSF’s secretary general and CEO, Jay Berhalter has been suggested as a candidate to replace him. While the responsibilities of the position are primarily on the business side, the role involves overseeing the day-to-day operations of the entire federation. Stewart’s role as GM sees him report to the secretary general.Given Gregg Berhalter’s hiring, if Jay Berhalter were named to the post, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest would be gargantuan. And if things go sideways with the U.S. men’s national team under Gregg Berhalter’s stewardship, his brother would be far from a disinterested observer.The USSF has stated that unlike under previous president Sunil Gulati, any change in manager would be made at the behest of the board of directors, but the secretary general still wields immense influence within the organization. The USSF should look elsewhere to find Flynn’s successor.

Amid U.S. Soccer’s future focus, Gregg Berhalter just wants to get to work

Dec 4, 2018Noah DavisU.S. soccer writer

NEW YORK — The focus on a Tuesday afternoon at The Glasshouses — which is, according to its website, “a collection of technologically advanced high-rise event spaces” — was the future. The future of the United States men’s national team, to be specific.Gregg Berhalter, whose announcement as the new head coach prompted the occasion, talked about looking ahead. “It’s about moving forward and thinking about where we want to end up in 2022,” he said. “How do we get there? What are the right mix of players?”Carlos Cordeiro, the new-ish United States Soccer Federation president, did too. “This is a great day for U.S. Soccer,” he said. “A great day for the U.S. men’s national team. Indeed, a great day for soccer in America.”Earnie Stewart, the American general manager and person most responsible for Berhalter’s hiring, was also on message. “The style of play was important [in looking for a coach],” he said. “It explains where we are going and what we are trying to do.”

The forward focus continued later in the afternoon. A few hours after the news conference concluded, there was a “The Future is US” fan summit.All anyone wanted to talk about was next year and beyond. Berhalter, with his deep-set blue eyes offset by a blue button-down shirt that he wore without a tie, refused to even address how the U.S. team got to this point.”I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about the failure of the past,” he said. Which makes sense because the recent past has been pretty brutal.The Americans missed the 2018 World Cup. They spent more than 14 months without a head coach, a time in which interim manager Dave Sarachan worked admirably to introduce new players but found himself hamstrung by the lack of full-time tenure and a permanent direction. The results were fine, if not spectacular: wins against Paraguay and Mexico, a draw with France a month before Les Bleus took home the World Cup trophy in Russia, listless and convincing losses to Colombia, England and Italy. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah and a few other young talents emerged as possible solutions going forward.Life and careers continued. The men’s national team stood still.The future couldn’t come quickly enough. You can’t, however, get to the future without dealing with the present, so back to The Glasshouses. The 21st-floor room overlooking the rapidly growing west side of Manhattan, the Hudson River and New Jersey featured U.S. national team branding on the backdrop, the walls and the windows. Even the concrete pillars holding up the roof were draped in red, white and blue banners featuring the slogans “The future is US” and “Somos el futuro.” One image with those words depicted a smiling DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green and Bobby Wood. Are these the players you think of when you think of the future?

Before the proceedings, Cordeiro mingled. It’s a new era, one person observed to him. “Hopefully a good one,” the president responded. Elsewhere, there were assorted flavors of cookies, soda provided by U.S. Soccer sponsor Coca-Cola and various American soccer luminaries including MLS commissioner Don Garber.Following brief opening statements, the quartet seated at the dais — Cordiero, Stewart, Berhalter and USSF CEO Dan Flynn — answered questions for nearly half an hour. Most queries went to the new coach, who said the right things.”We want a team that’s going to compete. We want a team that’s going to be prepared. We want a team that’s going to understand our style of play and execute it,” he said. “The process has to accelerate. When you have quality players, when you have players that have the ability to learn, you can accelerate that process a little bit. Each and every game, you should expect to see development. That’s my job.”Berhalter talked passionately about building a cohesive style — “an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent” — while touting his success at doing so in his last job with the Columbus Crew without coming off as overly impressed with himself. He mentioned sending supplemental materials and possibly webinars to his players when they are with their clubs around the world so they can develop as a group separately.Throughout the event, Berhalter stayed calm and poised, respectful and collected. He presented as a thoughtful manager who understands what he wants from his players and how to empower them to achieve these ends. This should be more than enough.While a news release announcing his appointment was absurdly effusive in its praise of his qualities — “known as a fiercely competitive and intelligent player, a natural leader and a detailed, forward-thinking manager” — the truth is that he’s a fine and appropriate candidate to do the job. After a playing career that spanned three European countries and featured 44 caps with the U.S. national team, he had an up-and-down managerial stint with Sweden’s Hammarby before joining the Crew as head coach and sporting director. It is this experience, which involved holding together a club with an uncertain future, that will help him most in his new job.As American manager, his first task will be re-establishing a culture of accountability and presenting a coherent, sensible plan for the next few years. This is a skill set he possesses.Still, the whole event, frankly, felt at least a tad ridiculous: the hyper-modern event space, the high production value, the flowery rhetoric. The future, man, the future. The U.S. got its guy — though Stewart admitted that one of his three top candidates was no longer available when he wanted to interview him. Berhalter sat, listened, spoke. One suspects what he really wants to be doing is coaching. He’ll get his chance starting soon, and judgment will follow quickly after.But if you’re a U.S. men’s national team fan, it’s easier to feel better about tomorrow today than it was yesterday.

United States manager Gregg Berhalter ‘humbled, honored’ as he takes over national team

Dec 4, 2018Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Gregg Berhalter said he is “humbled” and “honored” to be taking over as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, and that he is ready for the challenge of leading the team back to the World Cup.Berhalter was introduced at a press conference in New York City, ending a 13-month period in which Dave Sarachan managed the team on a caretaker basis. Sarachan’s involvement followed the resignation of Bruce Arena after the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.Berhalter, 45, becomes the first U.S. manager in the program’s history to have also played in a World Cup. The former Columbus Crew manager also represented the U.S. at youth level and had an extensive career as player, spending the bulk of his playing days in Europe.”I’m ready for this challenge,” said Berhalter. “The youth national team, the full national team, my experiences as a player and my experiences in the coaching ranks have prepared me for this moment. I’m excited for the opportunity to turn this group of men into a team.”I’ll be focusing on the players and team, how we can compete first and foremost. I’m focused on building a style of play, and I’m focused on team [cohesiveness]. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I know there’s quality in this group, and I know that the closer we can come together, the closer we can come to [reaching] our goals.”U.S. men’s national team general manager Earnie Stewart, as well U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro shed a bit more light on the process that led to Berhalter’s hiring. Cordeiro called it “the most inclusive and comprehensive search in our history.”Stewart confirmed earlier reports that he began with an initial list of 33 candidates, which he reduced to 11 after applying the coaching profile he developed with other USSF staff members. That list was then ultimately reduced to three candidates, one of whom later withdrew his candidacy due to timing issues, leaving Stewart with Berhalter and current Club Tijuana manager Oscar Pareja.

Berhalter was ultimately the choice, and he added he was first contacted in late August. The decision gained unanimous approval of USSF technical development committee last Wednesday, and then the full Board of Directors last weekend.The length of the process has been criticized, but Stewart said he had no regrets on missing out on a potential head coach.”That’s part of life, part of soccer, that’s the way things go,” he said. “I think we went through this in a thorough way.”Cordeiro added, “We have no regrets at all. We got our best guy…we couldn’t have moved any faster.”Berhalter will need to get up to speed quickly in terms of imparting his philosophy to the pool of players. There will be a camp of domestic players that will take place in Chula Vista, California starting on Jan. 7, and will culminate with a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and Costa Rica on Feb. 2.Berhalter added that his first priority is immediately reaching out to players. He’ll be calling a number of domestic-based players, then he’ll head to the MLS Cup final between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers on Dec. 8, and from there he’ll head over to Europe to meet face to face.”What I’m focused on is how can we do more outside of camp,” he said. “What communication can we give to the players that’s going to prepare them for the learning that’s going to take place in camp? And then setting the stage in January, setting the stage for team expectations, team culture and style of play. If we can get a head start by working with this group in an intensive period in January, and then incorporate European-based players into the squad in March.”Berhalter’s reputation is that of an attack-minded manager with a keen eye for tactical detail. While most new managers make that claim upon their introduction, Berhalter insists he’ll stay true to his preferred style, while also being smart in terms of the challenges put in front of him.”The idea is that we are an attacking-based team, that wants to create goalscoring opportunities by disorganizing opponents,” he said. “We’ll do that in a number of ways. Consistently over my time in Columbus, we’ve done it through build up. We start the ball with the goalie in the back, the teams try to press us, and we play through them to try to create goalscoring opportunities.”Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid-block or move into high pressure to force turnovers to win the ball and immediately create goalscoring opportunities. The idea is that it’s a fluid style [where] the players are intent on breaking lines, playing through opponent and creating goalscoring opportunities.”I think at times we can do a better job to change the tempo of the game instead of playing at such a high rhythm all the time. I think mixing that rhythm is going to be very important, especially at international level, especially considering some of the climates you’re playing in. But we want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, and creating goalscoring opportunities. That should be DNA of this team.”

Berhalter aiming for both distinct style, flexibility for US national team

December 5, 20184:19PM ESTDylan ButlerContributor

NEW YORK — Under Gregg Berhalter, Columbus Crew SC had a clear identity as a possession-based team that played an attacking, attractive brand of soccer. Will the same be true for the US national team now that Berhalter has been named their head coach? In his formal introduction Monday at a press conference in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, Berhalter gave some hints about what he expects from the USMNT tactically under his watch. “The idea is that we’re an attacking-based team that wants to create goal-scoring opportunities by disorganizing the opponent,” he said. “We’ll do that in a number of different ways.”In five years with Crew SC, Berhalter said, that plan was executed by possessing the ball out of the back and by utilizing high pressure. “We’ve done it through buildup where we start the ball with the goalie in the back and when teams try to press us, we play through them to create goal-scoring opportunities, we’re making the field big,” Berhalter said. “Another way to do that is to use pressure, whether we start in a mid block or move into high pressure to force turnovers, win the ball and immediate create goal-scoring opportunities.”The idea is it’s a fluid style that the players are intent on breaking lines, playing through the opponent and creating goal-scoring opportunities.”When closely watching the young USMNT this year, under interim manager Dave Sarachan, Berhalter said he saw potential, but also a team that “needs development, needs direction.”And it’s a team, he said, that will need some tactical flexibility based on the opponent and game conditions. “At times we can do a better job to chane the tempo of the game instead of playing at such a high rhythm all the time,” Berhaler said. “I think mixing that rhythm is going to be important, especially at the international level, especially considering some of the climates you’re playing in. But we want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, creating goal-scoring opportunities. That should be the DNA of this team.”Berhalter said the distribution of that philosophy begins with initial calls to MLS players before going to MLS Cup and a trip abroad to meet European-based players face-to-face. Then comes the critical January camp. While it was too soon to talk possible invitees, Berhalter said the camp will be his first chance to truly place his stamp on the expectations for the team. “Setting the stage in January, setting the stage for team expectations, team culture and style of play,” he said. “We can get a head start by working with the group in an intensive period in January, and then integrate the European players into the squad in March.”And while Berhalter said there will be take-home work for players in his camp, likely utilizing “supplemental materials” like video libraries and webinars to continue to stress his messaging, the work, and improvement at each camp will be vital. But the principles, he said, will not be hard to comprehend. “My job as a coach, and our job as a staff, is make it as simple as possible,” Berhalter said. “Our game is based on very simple principles, they’re not complicated principles. The training sessions are very straightforward. I think it’s easy for the players to pick up on it. I think to execute it a really high level does take some time, but it’s based on simple principles. I hope the group will be able to appreciate that.”

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT U.S. MNT HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER

BERHALTER IS THE FIRST U.S. WORLD CUP VETERAN TO BECOME HEAD COACH OF THE U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM MNT by Jeff Crandall on Dec 2, 2018

With the hiring of former U.S. international defender Gregg Berhalter as head coach, the U.S. Men’s National Team has set a new course as it looks ahead to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, Nations League and qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.Here are five things to know about the new USA boss:

Early Beginnings

Gregg Berhalter was born on Aug. 1, 1973 in Englewood, N.J. and grew up in nearby Tenafly. Notably, he is the godson of former Boston Red Sox player and baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.From an early age, he played at Union County Sport Club and in high school, alongside future MNT teammate and captain Claudio Reyna at New Jersey high school powerhouse St. Benedicts Prep in Newark.A standout in high school, Berhalter went on to play at the University of North Carolina. There he played with more future MNT teammates in Eddie Pope and Kerry Zavagnin, and went on to captain the USA at the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championship in Australia.

Reppin’ the Red, White & Blue

His senior international career began when he came on at halftime of the MNT’s 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Oct. 19, 1994 in Dharan. From there, he served as the youngest member of the U.S. side that finished fourth at the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay. Another injury kept him from making a strong case for himself to go to the 1998 FIFA World Cup, but Berhalter found his place with the MNT the following year, helping the team to a third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup and making a steady contribution as the side qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.Having made the final roster for Korea/Japan, Berhalter played in both Knockout Round matches – a 2-0 Round of 16 win against Mexico and 1-0 Quarterfinal defeat to Germany.  The latter match nearly produced the would be pinnacle moment in his career. Berhalter never scored a goal for the MNT, but if a hand or referee angle had been different he would have tallied one of the biggest in team history. In the second half of the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinal against Germany, Berhalter’s volley was handled on the line by German defender Torsten Frings. Controversially, Scottish referee Hugh Dallas waved off calls for a hand ball, allowing Die Mannschaft to edge by with a 1-0 victory.Berhalter would go on to play for the USA at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup and help the MNT qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He made the final 23-man roster and finished his career with 44 international caps. Notably, he becomes the first MNT head coach to have played for the USA at a FIFA World Cup.

Seeking A Professional Challenge

Playing at the University of North Carolina from 1991-94, Berhalter said that college soccer helped him adjust to the physical side of the game, but felt he needed a bigger challenge and elected to leave the Tar Heels after his junior season. With Major League Soccer not set to launch until 1996, he looked abroad for his first professional opportunity and perhaps foreshadowed his move into management.“I knew at the time I wanted soccer to be my life,” he told ussoccer.com in 2002. “Looking back, at the time I did choose a risky path, deciding to leave college early to go to Europe.”Fortunately, he found a good situation with Dutch Eerste Divisie side PEC Zwolle, where he was drafted into the starting XI straight away in 1994. The signing began a six-year sojourn for Berhalter in Holland, spending two years each at Zwolle and Sparta Rotterdam before winning back-to-back Player of the Year honors at SC Cambuur.Beginning to find his way with the U.S. Men’s National Team around that time, Berhalter spent a season with English League Championship side Crystal Palace in 2001. Following two strong performances for the MNT at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he moved back to the continent with German club Energie Cottbus. After helpin Cottbus regain promotion to the Bundesliga, Berhalter moved across Germany where he continued as captain of 1860 Munich for three more seasons. A smart and vocal defender, Berhalter also honed his skills with penalty kicks in Germany, often taking attempts for his clubs.Always holding a desire to play in the USA, Berhalter returned home to end his career with the LA Galaxy in 2009. That year, he helped the club to the 2009 MLS Cup Final. Despite converting his penalty, the Galaxy fell to Real Salt Lake in a shootout. He helped the Galaxy claim the 2010 MLS Supporters Shield, and while serving as a player/assistant coach in 2011 earned that title along with the MLS Cup to end his career.

An Eye Towards the Touchline

An early student of the game, Berhalter has indicated that his time playing in four different countries informed the way he looked at things, with each stop offering a different experience. In Holland, he kept detailed notes on training sessions and ideas about tactics and positional play. Defensive structure was his focus in England, while he took in the transitional and finishing aspects of the game in Germany.He began to put some of that knowledge into practice off the field during the end of his career. While playing for 1860 Munich, Berhalter assisted the technical staff in scouting the team’s upcoming opponents. In his final season, Berhalter began applying his years of study, taking up a dual player/assistant coach role with the LA Galaxy in the club’s MLS Cup and Supporter Shield winning campaign in 2011.

Harkening back to the decision to begin his playing career abroad, he instantly moved into management when he took the reins at Swedish club Hammarby weeks after the Galaxy lifted MLS Cup. There, he managed Hammarby to within one place of the Allsvenskan promotion playoffs in 2012, but returned to the U.S. the following year when he was named Sporting Director and Head Coach of Columbus Crew SC.A believer in analytics, Berhalter took a detail-oriented approach in managing the soccer operations of Crew SC. He led the small-market club to the MLS Cup Playoffs in four of five seasons, working with a salary budget that ranked in the league’s bottom half each year. He took Columbus to the 2015 MLS Cup Final and within a game of a return in 2017 when Crew SC fell to eventual champions Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Final.Along with holding the UEFA “A” Coaching License, Berhalter was also part of the inaugural class to earn U.S. Soccer’s “PRO” Coaching License in 2016.

History of Leadership

Berhalter showed to be a leader early on in his international career, captaining the USA as it advanced to the Knockout Round of the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championships in Australia. He continued wearing the armband with that age group as they formed the U-23 MNT going into the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta but was forced out of the competition with an injury just weeks before the opening ceremony.Most notably, Berhalter is one of the few Americans to serve as captain of two European clubs. The veteran center back wore the armband in the final two seasons of his stay with Energie Cottbus (2004-06), leading the club back to the Bundesliga at the end of his tenure there. He continued as captain when he moved to 1860 Munich, spending three seasons wearing the armband in Bavaria.When he returned stateside with the LA Galaxy, the experienced defender served as a mentor for the Galaxy’s young back line which featured future World Cup player Omar Gonzalez, as well as rising players AJ DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin. The trio of youngsters would serve as stalwart pieces of the club’s successful run from 2009-2014.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: FORMER TEAMMATES DISCUSS GREGG BERHALTER AS U.S. MNT HEAD COACH Dec 3, 2018

Following the announcement of Gregg Berhalter as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, ussoccer.com reached out to a number his former MNT teammates to get their thoughts on his hire.

Claudio Reyna, four-time FIFA World Cup veteran and former MNT captain:

“Gregg is an exciting choice for the National Team job. He is someone who is organized and extremely detailed with his preparation for every training session, camp, and game. I think without a doubt players will respond to him because of the intensity and energy he will bring. Players love the level of information and preparation he provides. No doubt he will give the team the right mentality to get results and play good soccer as the weeks and months progress.”

“As a player, he was a leader on and off the field and brought a high level of professionalism. Even though he didn’t wear the armband, he acted as a captain in terms of how he supported his teammates. He became of voice of sharing ideas and thoughts, and was always someone I spoke to about how we could play better and ways we could exploit our opponents. As a friend, colleague and teammate, it was no surprise that he transitioned into being a good coach.”

Landon Donovan, three-time FIFA World Cup veteran and joint MNT all-time leading scorer:

“What I remember about playing with Gregg is that he was always there to win and there to compete every day. That’s who Gregg is, and that’s why he’s been so successful as a coach. As I got to know him through the National Team and the Galaxy, you could tell quickly that he was someone who was going to be a very good coach. He understood the game, he studied the game, he talked about the game and he wanted to learn about the game. He’s as bright as they come in U.S. Soccer circles. I’m very happy for Gregg and excited for our National Team program. I think he’s a great hire and I think he’s the right person to be moving this team forward.” 

Kasey Keller, four-time FIFA World Cup veteran and ESPN analyst:

“If you look at the American candidates, Gregg ticks all the boxes. He has playing experience in Europe and MLS. He has coaching experience in Europe and MLS, and licenses from both. As a manager, he brings a great level of organization and professionalism, which he demonstrated in Columbus.  Working for an organization that didn’t have the most resources, he maximized their potential and really developed a high level of communication with his players. Those types of skills are big for a National Team manager. “During his playing career both at clubs and for the National Team, he worked with so many different coaches from which he can draw little ideas. He knows what it’s like being a European-based player on the National Team and what challenges that brings, and he knows what it’s like for MLS guys. He also knows what it means to represent the United States, and he demonstrated that every time he came into the National Team.“With that whole package, the choice of Gregg makes total sense.”

Eddie Lewis, two-time FIFA World Cup veteran and former teammate of Gregg Berhalter:

“Gregg‘s intensity, tactical knowledge, and professionalism as a player have already translated into success as a manager. While it comes as no surprise, it’s certainly something he has worked hard for and earned. In addition to bringing those skills to the National Team, I’m confident in this new role that he will make sure all the players understand the honor of representing our country and the responsibility of the wearing the U.S. jersey.”  

Brad Friedel, two-time FIFA World Cup veteran and head coach of the New England Revolution:

“For the last five years in Columbus, Gregg has demonstrated his ability to implement a style of play. With all progress of soccer in the United States and the increased maturity and sophistication of the players and the leagues, I think it’s important to have a coach who knows the American player and the American system. Gregg has certainly demonstrated that. In New England he will have an ally, and we’ll help in any way we can.”

USA WINS SECOND STRAIGHT CONCACAF U-20 TITLE WITH 2-0 VICTORY VS. MEXICO

ALEX MENDEZ SCORES BOTH GOALS, TIES U.S. RECORD FOR MOST GOALS IN A U-20 CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT; MENDEZ WINS TOURNAMENT’S GOLDEN BALL, BRADY SCOTT AWARDED GOLDEN GLOVE; 2019 FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP DRAW SET FOR FEB. 24 IN GYDNIA, POLAND  U-20 MNT Nov 21, 2018

BRADENTON, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2018) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team turned in a sterling effort in a 2-0 win against Mexico to capture a second consecutive Concacaf U-20 Championship title. Alex Mendez scored both goals to guide the U.S. to victory and cap off a Golden Ball-winning performance at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, while goalkeeper Brady Scott was recognized with the tournament Golden Glove Award. Additionally, Scott, defenders Sergino Dest, Chris Gloster and Mark McKenzie, midfielders Brandon Servania, Mendez, Ayo Akinola, and Ulysses Llanez were all named to the tournament Best XI team by the competition’s Technical Study Committee. The game began with the U.S. well in control with the wealth of possession and offensive forays. After the 15-minute mark, Mexico began to push forward with more confidence and players, having played on the counter in the early going. With increased space to operate its offense, the U.S. struck the opening blow via a nice attack down the left sideline that culminated in Paxton Pomykal cutting infield and picking out Alex Mendez at the top of the area for a one-time shot through traffic that nestled in the lower right corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage.Continuing its run of commanding play, the U.S. nearly doubled its lead in the 26th minute again through Pomykal, but the ball refused to go in, hitting a defender then the Mexico goalkeeper and bounced toward the open net before being cleared off the line.

Things began to get chippy after that as tackles from both teams came in hard and confrontations between players became more common. The disrupted nature of the game suited Mexico just fine as it won a number of free kicks in dangerous areas around the USA’s final third, one of which resulted in the best chance of the half for El Tri.With half time closing in, a set piece was lofted into the USA’s six-yard box and required U.S. goalkeeper Brady Scott to make an imperative kick save to deny a headed attempt in the 41st minute to preserve his side’s 1-0 lead.In the second half, the U.S. used the lead well, picking its spots to go forward and striking pay dirt just six minutes in. It was Pomykal again who played the catalyst, winning the ball in midfield and streaking down the left side, then cutting through the box past multiple defenders before picking out the late run of Mendez. The skillful midfielder rounded a defender and played a wall pass with Pomykal that put him in a goal and Mendez tucked his shot between the legs of the on-rushing goalkeeper to double the U.S. lead.From there, the game began to stretch, and the spotlight shined brightest on the goalkeepers who were both superb, making numerous saves to keep the match tilted on a knife edge. Mexico nearly broke through in the 62nd minute, but Brandon Saravina was on hand to clear the ball of the line for the U.S.Passions continued to flare as they had in the first half, but neither team was able to exceed the intensity of the other and U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made the right subs to keep the U.S. in the driver’s seat and across the finish line for a second straight U-20 championship.

Goal Scoring Rundown: 
USA – Alex Mendez (Paxton Pomykal), 17th minute:
 The U.S. worked the ball down the left touchline to Paxton Pomykal who cut inside past a Mexico defender before spotting Mendez waiting unmarked at the top of the box. Pomykal laid off a perfectly weighted pass that Mendez hit first time with his left foot, sending a low drive through traffic into the bottom right corner of the net. USA 1, MEX 0 [WATCH]

USA – Alex Mendez (Paxton Pomykal), 51st minute: The U.S. struck on a lightening quick counter attack early in the second half as Pomykal stripped the ball from the opposition and raced down the left sideline before cutting across the top of the Mexico box past a number of defenders. He picked out the late arrival of Mendez who played the ball right back to Pomykal at the top of the box and he returned it into Mendez’s path. As Mexico ‘keeper Carlos Higuera came out to close down the angle, Mendez slipped the ball between his legs and into the vacated net, tying the all-time U.S. record for goals scored by a single player at the Concacaf U-20 Championship. USA 2, MEX 0 [WATCH] FINAL

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NOTES:

  • With the result, U.S. head coach Tab Ramos moves to 20-3-2 all-time in Concacaf U-20 Championship play and has led the team to four straight World Cups.
  • The USA is unbeaten in its last 13 Concacaf U-20 Championship matches dating back to the opener of 2017, establishing a new team record for longest stretch without a loss in this tournament. Previously, the USA went unbeaten in 10 games from the opener of 2005 (5-0-1), 2007 (2-0-1), before falling to Costa Rica in the 2009 final after going 2-0-2.
  • The USA now has a 3-8-0 all-time record versus Mexico in this competition.
  • U.S. head coach Tab Ramos made three changes from the team that started versus Honduras: Brady Scott returned to goal, Matt Real, who wore the captain’s armband, replaced Chris Gloster at left back, and Justin Rennicks replaced Sebastian Soto at forward. 
  • Paxton Pomykal and Rennicks have appeared in all eight matches.
  • Tournament Golden Ball winner, Alex Mendez led the U.S. with eight goals, which ties the USA’s tournament record set by Ricky Davis who scored eight in 1976. 
  • The teams both played in their third final over the last four tournaments. They met in 2013, with Mexico winning 3-1 in overtime. Mexico also won the 2015 Championship, while the USA captured its first ever CU20 title in 2017.
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