1/25/19 US Men Play this Sun 8 pm ESPN2, US Ladies go 1-1, EPL FA Cup Game weekend

So interesting to see the US Ladies lose to France over the weekend – of course we were missing  4 of our best players.  I thought GK Alyssa Naeher honestly kept the US in it – making multiple saves in the 1st half and many in the 2nd as well.  France simply outplayed a shorthanded US team and really exposed the defense (especially on the right side in the 1st half) with their lightening fast counter attack.  Hopefully this will wake up the US who was undefeated in 2018.  Of course with our full roster back (Rapino, Heath, Johnson-Ertz) the US handled Spain at Spain 1-0.  Now we get to see how the US Men look under new US Manager Greg Berhalter.  Of course this is just the MLS version of the US player as this is not an international window so the oversea’s guys (Pulisic, Adams, Yedlin, Brooks, Sargent, etc) won’t be on hand.  Still it will be fun to see how this new look team of MLS’ers plays vs Panama on Sunday evening at 8 pm on ESPN2.  Interesting seeing Tim Howard announced his Go Home Tour as he announced he is retiring at the end of the MLS season.  Howard has certainly been one of the top US keepers with his time at Everton in his prime and 8 full years of starting in US World Cup Games for the most part.  I am sure we’ll have that conversation at some point as to where he stands in the US GK pecking order all time.  In the Top 3 for sure.

Along with the US Men on Sun Eve at 8 pm on ESPN, we also get FA Cup games this weekend mostly on ESPN+ (has anyone bought this yet?) big games include Arsenal hosting a super hot Man United today at 3 pm on ESPN+, and Crystal Palace hosting Tottenham (without Harry Kane) on Sunday at 11 am on ESPN+.

USA

What to Watch for TV for US Players Oversea’s – Stars and Stripes

US What to Watch for This Weekend – Warshaw

Berhalter – Tactics

Tim Howard to Retire at End of 2019 MLS Season

USMNT Camp is Competitive Everywhere – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Josh Wolff Joins US Soccer Staff

US to Play Chile in Houston on March 26

Full Strength US Ladies Beat Spain 1-0

3 Thoughts US shorthanded 3-1 loss at France – Graham Hays ESPNW

US Ladies Lose to France 3-1 AP

US Chelsea Defender Matt Miazga loaned to 2nd tier Reading from Nantes

Tab Ramos at Odds with MLS Teams on U-20 World Cup Roster Release

Landon Donovan to Join Indoor Team

US 18 Year Old Center Back Chris Richards of FC Dallas signs with Bayern Munich

EPL

Will Higuain save Chelsea’s Season and Revive His Career ?   Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

5 Things We Learned in the EPL this weekend

Man United Ready for Top 4 Chase – goal.com

Sarri has Himself to Blame over Chelsea Issues – Marcotti’s Mussings ESPNFC

Liverpool Proves its Worth it to Pay for Top Class Defender these Days –

Mourino shows why he’s out of Touch and Out of a Job at United – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

UEFA Report European Football Profitable but Game Remains between Superclubs and Rest – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

GAMES ON TV

Fri, Jan 25  

2:3o pm FS2                   Hertha vs Schalke (McKinney)

2:55 pm ESPN+             Arsenal vs Man United  – FA CUP

Sat, Jan 26

9:30 am FS1                    Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Borussia Mgladbach (Johnson)  vs Ausburg

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

10 am                                 FA Cup Weekend on ESPN +

Sun, Jan 27

9:30 am FS1                    Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart

10:15 am beIN Sport     Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

11 am ESPN +                Crystal Palace vs Tottenham FA Cup Weekend

8 pm ESPN 2    USA Men vs Panama

Wed, Jan 30 

2;45 pm NBCSN                  Bournmouth vs Chelsea

2:45 pm NBCS Gold           Liverpool vs Leicester City

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Atalanta vs Juventus (Coppa Italia)

3:30 pm beIN sport             Barcelona vs Sevilla (Copa del Rey)

Fri, Feb 1 

2:30 pm Fox Sport2             Hertha vs RB Leipzig (Tyler Adams)

Sat, Feb 2

9:30 am FS1                    Frankfurt (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

12:30 pm FS2?                Schalke (Mckinney) vs Borrusia MGladbach (Johnson)

12:30 beIn Sport             Barcelona vs Valencia

2:30 pm ESPN+                Juventus vs Parma

3:30 pm Fox    USA Men vs Costa Rica

Sun, Feb 3  

9 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man United  

11:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Arsenal  

2 pm ESPN+                 Roma vs Milan

3 pm beIN Sport         Lyonnais vs PSG  

Mon, Feb 4 

3 pm NBCSN                 West Ham vs Liverpool

Sat, Feb 9

10:15 am beIN Sport   Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby) 

USMNT Jan 25-27 viewing guide and open thread

The sneakily important editionBy jcksnftsn  Jan 25, 2019, 10:00am PST

There will be several games this weekend including two potential head-to-head match-ups, with one that could give us some insight to Christian Pulisic’s usage for the rest of the 2018-19 season.

Friday

Hertha Berlin v Schalke 04 – 2:30p on FS2

The weekend starts off right with some Schalke action Friday afternoon as Weston McKennie and company take the field against Hertha Berlin. McKennie, who has been a regular presence, albeit all over the field, for Schalke this season started, played 90 minutes, and assisted on the game winning goal against Wolfsburg last weekend. The win was Schalke’s second straight and the club now sits in 12th place in the Bundesliga, seven points behind Wolfsburg for 6th place, the final spot in the Bundesliga that would qualify the club for European competition next season. Haji Wright also made an appearance last weekend coming in as a late substitute, unfortunately he missed what should have been an easy opportunity to put the game away, hopefully that won’t have a lingering impact on his mentality moving forward.Hertha Berlin are currently in 7th place in the Bundesliga and are coming off a win over Nurnberg. With the exception of Jonathan Klinsmann who has made the bench just once for Hertha this season, there are no American representatives on this side of the ball.

*** Update: Weston McKennie picked up a yellow card last weekend and is suspended for this afternoon’s game due to yellow card accumulation. Which means the weekend will not be starting off right… or Wright either, since Haji is on the bench…***

Other Notes:

  • Atlas and Lobos BUAP play at 10p on Univision Deportes with Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco likely to represent their clubs.

Saturday

Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 – 9:30a on FS1

Christian Pulisic played roughly 15 minutes last weekend in a substitute appearance for Borussia Dortmund in his first game since finalizing his transfer to Chelsea and immediate loan back to Borussia Dortmund. This Saturday’s game may give us some insight into whether Manager Lucien Favre plans to continue using Pulisic in a rotational role or if he’ll see his playing time reduced over the next several months. For all the hand-wringing about Pulisic’s play time in the Fall he essentially started every other match for the club, with most of those appearances coming in Champions League play. One possibility is that Pulisic will continue in regular rotation, getting the start this week. A second possibility is that Favre will only rotate on weeks where the club is playing more than once a week, such as when the club has Cup or Champions League play. Of course a third distinct possibility, which USMNT fans may not like to hear, is that Pulisic will be reduced to a substitute role for the remainder of the season regardless of injury. This weekend could give us some clues, particularly if Pulisic gets the start, though we may have to wait until next weekend when Dortmund start a stretch of four games in less than two weeks to fully understand what role he might play.

As for the action on the field, last weekend Dortmund defeated RB Leipzig 1-0 to maintain a 6 point lead atop the Bundesliga standings. This weekend they’ll be facing Bobby Wood and 17th place Hannover. Wood has been starting pretty regularly for Hannover though he has failed to produce many results with just 3 goals on the season. He was pulled in the 63rd minute last weekend in a 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen. Hannover have 11 points on the season which pouts them 5 points back of safety.

Werder Bremen v Entracht Frankfurt – 12:30p on FS2

Josh Sargent has appeared as a substitute in four of five games since joining the first team squad and has nearly matched Wood’s goal scoring total already with two goals in just 55 minutes. One would suspect that he will continue to make appearances from the bench on a regular basis with that production until he is able to break into the starting eleven. Werder Bremens win last weekend brings them to 9th place in the Bundesliga, just three points back of Wolfsburg for that 6th position.Timothy Chandler continues in recovery for fifth place Eintracht Frankfurt and will not be available for the club this weekend. Frankfurt are coming off a 3-1 win over Frieburg in their return from the winter break.

Other Notes:

  • Fabian Johnson was left out of the matchday squad for 3rd place Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend. The team plays Augsburg at 9:30a on FS2.
  • Joe Corona has been seeing substitute appearances for Tijuana so far this winter, they face Cruz Azul at 6p on ESPN Deportes.
  • Captain Ventura Alvarado leads Necaxa against Morelia Saturday at 10p on Univision Deportes. Necaxa have won their first two of the Winter season.

Sunday

A second chance for Tyler Adams to take the field in a head to head matchup against a fellow American this weekend as his RB Leipzig team will take on Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf. Last weekend Adams made the matchday squad but failed to see playing time in Leipzig’s loss to Borussia Dortmund, though given how long he’s been with the team it should be no surprise and in fact it should probably be considered an encouraging sign that he was able to make the eighteen so quickly. RB Leipzig are in fourth place in the Bundesliga, just a point ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt for that final Champions League spot.Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf have won four straight league games, though Morales only appeared in the most recent victory. The run has the team in 14th place with 21 points, over half their points coming in that four game stretch. Morales played well last weekend and had a lovely assist that included a nice tackle and a long pas that perfectly hit his man in stride for the game winning goal in the 89th minute.

Tim Howard to retire at end of ’19 MLS season

2:02 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Tim Howard has announced that he will retire from professional soccer at the end of the 2019 MLS season.Howard, 39, will go down in U.S. soccer history as one of the country’s all-time greats, a considerable feat given the regularity with which the country has produced top-class goalkeepers.”It’s been one heck of a ride,” Howard told reporters on Tuesday. “This is something that’s been on my radar for a number of years now, probably since I signed with Colorado. I knew that the length of the contract would take me to being 40, and it seemed like the right time. I’ve always had my sights set on this, and there are other things I want to do.”For a lot of those reasons I wanted to make sure that this would be the end. The timing just makes a lot of sense to do it now before the season to get that out of the way so that it’s not a distraction. That’s what’s most important to me. I feel great. It’s not something I thought about last night. It’s a decision I’ve been very comfortable with for quite a long time in my own head and heart. I feel good.”The North Brunswick, New Jersey, native began his professional career in 1997 with the North Jersey Imperials of what is now the United Soccer League. He moved to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS the next year, spending parts of six seasons with the club before securing a transfer to Manchester United in 2003.Howard endured an up-and-down tenure during his three seasons with the Red Devils. He was initially the starter, and was the hero in United’s Charity Shield triumph over Arsenal. But a series of uneven performances, including an error that resulted in United being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League against Porto, saw him lose his starting spot to Roy Carroll. Howard rebounded, and won a winner’s medal later that season in the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall. He was also named in the Professional Footballers’ Association Best XI that year.Howard eventually lost his spot to Carroll and later Edwin van der Sar. As a result, Howard went on loan to Everton for the 2006-07 season, with the loan made permanent in February 2007. He went on to become a mainstay for the Toffees, making more than 400 league and cup appearances over 10 seasons. In 2016, he returned to MLS, where he has spent the past three campaigns with the Rapids, making 57 league and playoff appearances.Howard excelled at the international level as well. He made 121 appearances for the U.S. national team and was part of three World Cup sides. At the 2014 World Cup, Howard delivered a stellar performance in the 2-1 round of 16 defeat to Belgium, making 15 saves. He was also part of two Gold Cup-winning sides in 2007 and 2017. Howard was part of the team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but he remains one of the top players the U.S. has produced.”I think overall, from a football purist standpoint, if you broke that [Belgium] game down, it’s probably the greatest game I’ve played in,” Howard said. “Not only my own performance but Julian Green taking his goal, [Chris Wondolowski] got a great chance at the end. When you talk about the game of all games, it was colossal.”Howard, who has ownership stakes in USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC and English fifth-tier outfit Dagenham & Redbridge, was adament that his post-playing plays will not involve a coaching career.”I can tell you this wholeheartedly. If someone got me to coach a bunch of professional athletes, they’d have to pay me probably more money than is in the U.S. Treasury because it’s not a job that I would enjoy in any way, shape or form,” Howard said. “It’s difficult, it’s time consuming, you get very little of the glory, and all of the pain. It’s not something I even think about. I would never go near coaching.”

Warshaw: Watch the process begin as Berhalter era kicks off for USMNT

January 25, 20193:52PM EST  Bobby Warshaw

A lot happens in a soccer game, but how much of it matters?  Hundreds of actions take place — passes, dribbles, shots, duels, plus every movement that happens off the ball. Some go well, some go poorly. You can’t expect all of it go right. You can’t even really ask for all of it to be right. You have to decide what matters on that day and hone in on it. Picking priorities is even more important in a friendly, and even more paramount for a coach taking over a new team. And it’s the thing I’m most intrigued to see in Gregg Berhalter’s first game in charge of the US men’s national team, on Sunday against Panama (8 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, UDN).Not who starts, or what formation the team plays, or how they play (although I’m also very interested in those). It’s what Berhalter prioritizes.In his first game in charge, he’s setting the building blocks on which everything else will come. He’s putting the most core principles to the front.We know how Berhalter had his Columbus Crew team play — passing from the back, fairly quick to goal in the final third, and a middle block in the defensive phase. But we haven’t gotten decisive answers on how he will have the USMNT play. Do we have the talent to possess as much as he wants? Will he adjust to his most talented players and use a more high pressure style?  What type of team will we have for the next X number of years?We won’t get all of the answers in the two upcoming friendlies, but we should get a clear glimpse. And it won’t be obvious, but there will be moments that will show what Berhalter’s looking for. Namely, when the mistakes happen.In the first step of establishing a style, the ideas matters more than the execution. You want to build the right mental habits and decisions. You’re used to playing the ball in the striker? Let’s get you to play it to the center mid. With that, mistakes happen. In a normal setting, you might expect a player to do something different after a mistake. I suspect in these upcoming games, we will see the same mistakes over and over. And that’s a good thing.  The biggest thing the team needs is an identity. Christian Pulisic has said it, you’ve said it, even your great aunt who only watches soccer once a year has said it. They need a clear philosophy that binds the players together. Identities aren’t fleeting, they are ingrained.  Berhalter demonstrated at Columbus that he knows how to build an identity. It’s piece by piece, one element on top of the next. We get to see the first piece he’s putting down on Sunday. It might not stare us in the face, but it’ll be there … in the repeated errors. In those errors, we should get to see what Berhalter’s cooking for the rest of the cycle.

A 10 letter word to describe the competitive spirit of the USMNT camp? Crosswords

5:20 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — For his first camp as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, Gregg Berhalter instituted a rule: no cell phones in the dining area. The idea was he wanted the 28 players in attendance to talk with one another and bond over meals rather than have their heads buried in their phones. Little did Berhalter know that the players would find a low-tech way to put their own twist on meal time: crossword puzzles.”They’ve kind of blown up over the past two weeks here,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “But we’re all competitors, right? It’s something where you wouldn’t think that crossword puzzles would get a bunch of professional athletes jazzed up. We’re sitting, we’re talking and now it’s something where it’s a little bit of competition and fun tension you have at the meals. And the guys enjoy the fact that at first, it’s a daunting task. It’s easy to give up on it.It’s enough to leave Berhalter to joke, “we banned phones from the meal room, but now everyone is doing crossword puzzles, so now we might have to ban crossword puzzles to get guys talking to each other again.”Team administrator Jon Fleishman will provide the USA Today crossword at lunchtime, and then another one at dinner. Some players work in pairs. For others, it’s a solo endeavor. And while Trapp is widely viewed as the top dog when it comes to both speed and precision, the likes of Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long are putting up a fight.”I’ve picked up more crosswords here than I have in my entire life,” said defender, and first-time U.S. call-up, Mark McKenzie. “It helps us, especially off the field, getting to know the guys, getting to know each other with some banter in between as well as working together.”McKenzie says he’s made progress over the last two weeks, gradually filling up more of the page and picking up some tricks along the way.”Crosswords will make you feel smart sometimes but a lot of times, you’ll try to go with the complex answer, and it will just be the simple words that work,” he said.This echoes the approach the U.S. is taking on the field at camp. The January camp remains a rarity in international soccer. Because of the vagaries of the calendar at both international and club level, there just aren’t many opportunities for national teams to get together, uninterrupted, for four weeks.Looking back over the history of the January camp, the stakes are much the same as they’ve always been: it’s an opportunity for players to get noticed. Coaches get to accumulate an immense amount of data. How does a player train? How does he take care of himself? How does he bounce back after a bad day?While it’s easy to dismiss the camp given that many of the players will never be national team mainstays, it seems that every year, a player or two breaks through to become a more consistent contributor, whether it was Pablo Mastroeni back in the day, or in more recent times a Geoff Cameron or a Graham Zusi. Last year it was Trapp who emerged to take on a bigger role, though the circumstances this time around are a bit unique compared to the camps in the last few years.Two years ago, it was about getting ready for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March. Last year it was about moving on, in any way possible from the World Cup qualifying failure. Now it’s about Berhalter and the new staff representing a fresh beginning both on and off the field. Games over the next two weekends aganst Panama and Costa Rica will comprise the initial tests. Everyone in camp, from coaches to players, stress the games will not be perfect. Progress will have to suffice.”We’re finally building something,” said Trapp. “The new staff is here, the new model is being implemented. For all of us, it’s adapting to that and then seeing how we shake out when the games come around.”

A new year, a new manager, a new USMNT base

It started with Berhalter’s choice of location. The Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center is a facility that Berhalter was familiar with as a player. And while it’s not quite boot camp, it’s not the posh digs that have characterized previous camps either. Four players are placed in each suite, which is comprised of two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room. The facility has the advantage of having everything on site from the fields to the dining area, the apartments and a gymnasium.”You think about the number of Olympic athletes that have trained here,” said Berhalter. “The Paralympic teams are here training… it’s inspiration all around.”Berhalter used the word “isolated” to describe the set-up; the facility is about a 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego.”It’s great because you don’t have to drive to training. You just walk to where you have to go,” said forward Gyasi Zardes. “Simplifying things for the players really allowed them to focus more on their sport.”For the U.S. men’s national team, that focus starts at around 7:30 a.m. every day with breakfast, followed by a weigh-in and a questionnaire detailing how the players are feeling after the previous day’s workout. There is a practice session at 10:30, followed by lunch. A break in the early afternoon precedes an afternoon practice or gym session, though there is the occasional afternoon off. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and the rest of the evening is left to the players, though the focus is on gearing up for the next day. Many players use the opportunity to review film from the day’s practices on their iPad or laptop. It gives them a better feel for what was done well or what can be improved.”I’m a visual learner, so when you see it and get a different angle from a drone, or you see what specific areas are being worked on, it’s a huge plus,” said forward Christian Ramirez.More than anything, Berhalter and his staff are attempting to get to know the players, and vice versa. He is also trying to lay the foundation for what he expects will be an identifiable system of play. That is a tricky task, especially down the road when the camps will be shorter in duration and the European-based players have to be incorporated.The idea is to eventually get everyone on the same page,” said Berhalter. “But you have to start somewhere and for us, what we’ve noticed as a coaching staff, we’re fine-tuning the exercises, the instruction, the content, the programming… we’re fine-tuning all of that in terms of how we can we most effectively teach in a short amount of time.”The competitive aspect extends to a system whereby points are awarded for “mini-games” during practice. It helps keep the players sharp for the duration of the session.”It’s a mini-competition within the team and more than not, you’ll see one guy winning for the day and you’ll see him climbing up the leaderboard. It makes other guys think ‘Man I’ve got to catch up,'” said midfielder Cristian Roldan.”Just like this crossword puzzle, in practice it’s the same thing. We’re trying to compete against each other and beat each other.”

Josh Wolff among U.S. Soccer key appointments to Gregg Berhalter’s set-up

Jan 16, 2019ESPN

U.S. Soccer announced key appointments to the national team on Wednesday, with former U.S. international Josh Wolff among those joining Gregg Berhalter’s set-up.Wolff has been appointed an assistant coach, B.J. Callaghan as strategy analyst and assistant coach, Steve Tashjian as head performance expert and Darcy Norman as movement and conditioning coach.”In putting together the staff, we looked for coaches with considerable backgrounds in four different areas: World Cups, CONCACAF, MLS and Europe,” Berhalter said.”This group checks those boxes, and we are confident their wealth of experiences will be beneficial to the players and for the development of our program.”Wolff and Tashjian previously worked under Berhalter in the same roles with Columbus Crew SC. Norman, meanwhile, joins after working as performance data analyst and fitness coach with Germany.”From the outset, we searched for coaches that have complimentary skillsets and varied career paths,” USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart said.”Starting with Gregg and with these additions to the staff, we have assembled a strong group that can now begin to implement the culture, style of play and identity we envision for the national team moving forward.”Wolff returns to the U.S. national team having worked for the past five years under Berhalter at Columbus Crew SC. He helped the club to the 2015 MLS Cup Final and playoff berths in four out of five seasons.Norman brings a wealth of experience to Berhalter’s team. He worked for the Germany national team between 2012-18, and was part of the victorious World Cup 2014 winning side, as well as a third-place finish at Euro 2016. He also worked as director of performance at Serie A side Roma, helping them to the Champions League semifinals last season.Berhalter was named USMNT coach in December last year

, ending a search for a permanent coach that started in October 2017.His first matches in charge will be a pair of friendlies against Panama on Jan. 27 and a Feb. 2 match against CONCACAF rival Costa Rica.Nico Estevez, who worked closely with Berhalter at Columbus will join the USMNT staff as an assistant coach, pending approval of his U.S. work permit.

Hays: 3 observations after USWNT’s loss to France

By Graham Hays | Jan 19, 2019

The U.S. has never gone undefeated in a World Cup year. That streak, at least, continues.Opening its 2019 schedule in Le Havre, where it will also play a World Cup group game against Sweden in June, the U.S. lost 3-1 against host France on Saturday.Settling into her role as a running mate for superstar Eugenie Le Sommer, 23-year-old Kadidiatou Diani scored the first two goals for France, and substitute Marie-Antoinette Katoto had a third. Mallory Pugh scored the only U.S. goal with the game already settled.The result in Le Havre ended a 28-game unbeaten streak for the U.S., dating to a 2017 loss against Australia in Seattle. It also marked the second win in the past three meetings in the series for France, which begins its most important year ranked third in the world.The French have outscored the U.S. 7-2 in three meetings in the past three years. The minus-five goal differential for the U.S. matches the same differential in a three-game stretch against Norway in the early 1990s as the worst ever against any European rival.As rare as losses have been for the U.S. of late, the result continued a streak of nearly two decades that has seen the U.S. start slowly. The loss was the third in a row in the opening game of a World Cup year. The U.S. hasn’t won its calendar opener in a World Cup year since 1999.The French looked like a team that successfully navigated a transfer of generations and is fully capable of winning its first major title. The U.S. looked like a team just out of preseason.Here are three observations from the game.

The U.S. was far from full strength

The U.S. looked like half a team. Without likely World Cup starters Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe because of what were described as injuries and illnesses (only Lavelle was among the available substitutes on the bench), it kind of was.

Saturday’s game was never going to look like a CONCACAF qualifier, with the U.S. running rampant in possession against overmatched opponents. That was part of the reason for going on the road to play one of the best teams in the world in front of a full stadium of its fans. But after looking so good in high-profile games against Australia, Brazil and Japan last summer in the Tournament of Nations, the short-handed U.S. looked distinctly second best Saturday.That underscored how much those missing players fuel the aggressive style the U.S. wants to play (and after watching Alex Morgan look too isolated Saturday, how much of a role they play in what happens with possession). It also isn’t a surprise. It shouldn’t be cause for panic.Not only were U.S. players coming off their offseason, compared to French players in the middle of club seasons, but the Americans didn’t tailor their preseason to the first two games. Instead of tapering activity to be freshest for France, they pushed through the duration of the preseason camp in Portugal — coach Jill Ellis even used the phrase “boot camp” to describe the mentality. It isn’t a surprise that some veterans would feel the effects to the extent that it made sense to rest them in a friendly on a cold night in France.Injuries are cause for concern this year — it isn’t a bold prediction to say the U.S. won’t win the World Cup without half it starting lineup. That part of Saturday does have long-term significance. The result? That will have much less significance moving forward.

Outside back remains a problem

The U.S. has unknowns all over the field. That isn’t an indictment most of the time. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is an unknown as a starter in a major tournament. But she earned the role over the past two years — and played like it Saturday. The durability of Heath and Rapinoe on the experienced side of 30 is an unknown. But while the front line struggled without them against the French, Pugh would start for almost any other team in the world, and Christen Press has a better résumé than most any other insurance plan.The same is true in the midfield, even if Sam Mewis didn’t get much time off the bench to show it Saturday. It’s true at center back with the return of Tierna Davidson alongside Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn.There are quality alternatives if one or two (not five) injuries demand them.Outside back, on the other hand, remains an unknown that should terrify the U.S. And Saturday exposed a lack of depth behind expected World Cup starters O’Hara and Crystal Dunn.None of that is Emily Fox’s fault, though she obviously suffered through a difficult first half against France’s Delphine Cascarino, including the sequence that led to the first goal. Still just halfway through her college career at North Carolina, Fox is a promising name for the future. She is also the latest in a long line of experiments that don’t appear to have uncovered a viable option for competing against the likes of Cascarino and France in the present.

The trip isn’t over

It doesn’t get much easier for the U.S. when it travels to play Spain in Alicante on Tuesday.The France game was always the centerpiece of the trip, the reason to start the year abroad. But the second game is far more than an afterthought. It’s the first meeting between the two teams, and it comes with Spain making a rapid ascent in the women’s game. Dominant at the youth level, winning last year’s U-17 World Cup and finishing second in the U-20 World Cup, the senior team breezed through World Cup qualifying without a blemish.Bouncing back from Saturday with a blowout against a nobody wouldn’t show much. How the U.S. responds against a team looking to prove itself a World Cup contender will be telling.Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

Press goal leads USA to 1-0 win over Spain

In a clash of styles, the US managed to edge Spain through an imPressive effort on the ball.

By Stephanie Y@thrace  Jan 22, 2019, 2:04pm PST

tarting XI: Naeher, Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, Sonnett, Horan, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe, Morgan, Heath

The struggle continued for the United States women’s national team as they played their second away friendly following January camp, this time against Spain. The previous game against Francewas marked by a sense of playing catch-up, and much of that was in effect here once again on a chilly night in Alicante.Spain swept out of the gate looking comfortable on the ball, playing a smooth possession game that nevertheless fizzled around the 18-yard box. The US dropped, absorbed, although perhaps for too long without any critical pressure, and then looked to break out quickly. They created some chances on the run, Crystal Dunn pushing up along the left flank and overlapping Megan Rapinoe to make for a far more active and effective wide space than against France, but several balls targeting Alex Morgan or a drifting-central Rose Lavelle went begging.The US began building again about halfway through the first half, mostly looking to catch Morgan in front of goal, but with some spirited attempts at range as well. Still, Spain surged once again, compacting the US back into defensive shape, limiting Heath’s ability to get forward on the right as she dropped to help cut off that pocket in front of Emily Sonnett.The half was an interesting but frustrating back-and-forth no matter which side you were rooting for, as Spain would frequently end 15-pass chains with no attempt at goal and the US took too long to close down Spain’s possession and move the danger down the field.Jill Ellis made three changes to start the second half, bringing on Tierna Davidson, Mal Pugh, and Christen Press for Sonnett, Horan, and Rapinoe. Davidson went to left back and the ever-versatile Dunn shifted to the right.Press was an immediate spark of energy. The US weren’t exactly playing lackadaisical until then, but neither were they going at full speed, which is understandable given where they are in terms of their preparations for the World Cup. Press went at the ball like it was a much more high-stakes game, and given her recent on- and off-the bench playing time, she may be doing her best to remind Ellis why she should be a first choice pick.Press made a quick impression with her intensity of play, galloping into the box off a ball from Lavelle out of the midfield and scoring to make it 1-0 in the 54’. The US as a whole turned up the intensity, taking advantage of mostly-fresh legs. Jess McDonald subbed on in the 60’ for Tobin Heath, adding another option to get behind and maybe open up a space for Morgan.Spain had their moments though, finally trying to put the ball on frame. Alyssa Naeher had to make a direct stop in the 63’ as a through ball split Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, who honestly looked a little bit caught off guard in the moment.But Press took it back to Spain’s net again, owning the ball and not getting shut down by three surrounding players, which allowed her to pick out a gap for Morgan. Morgan’s shot ended up getting saved, but the US kept surging. Julie Ertz made some drives through the center, although this forced Lavelle to drop each time. Ertz ended up getting subbed in the 69’ for McCall Zerboni and Lavelle went off in the 76’ for Sam Mewis; that Zerboni-Mewis combo turned up the physicality a little in the center, although there were certainly scraps between Horan, Ertz, and Lavelle and the Spanish midfield as well. Zerboni also kept looking to put the forwards into space with forward ball movement, but the runs weren’t as frequent as they might have been earlier in the match.Spain’s pace dropped off through the last 10 minutes of the game, although they forced a big midair grab out of Naeher in a corner in the 85’. The US still drove directly at goal to the last whistle, with Mewis curving a ball directly into McDonald’s path in the 88’. With a couple more yards of space McDonald might have snapped a shot off, but Spain’s goalkeeper Paños came out to collect.The game ended at 1-0 with Press’ goal the difference maker. It was a slightly better game than the one against France; Rapinoe and Dunn showed some early verve prying open opportunities from the left side and Press was clearly not messing around. But it was also a subdued game in some ways from the USWNT, giving Spain a little too much space to possess, not always getting as numbers-up in the final third as they could have. Perhaps the time to really start worrying is during SheBelieves; if the team still looks like they’re at 75% in March, then we can give in to our sports anxieties. For now, toes have been dipped back into match fit waters after the last long rest these players were likely to get before the World Cup whirlwind takes them. As long as no one got injured (crossing fingers for Zerboni, who took a hard hit and looked to be clutching her shoulder near the end of the game), this was not the worst possible outcome for January.

U.S. defender Matt Miazga recalled from Nantes, loaned to second-tier Reading

10:55 AM ETAssociated Press

United States defender Matt Miazga has been recalled by Chelsea from his unsuccessful loan spell at French club Nantes and loaned to relegation-threatened English Championship side Reading for the rest of the season.Chelsea acquired Miazga from Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bullsin January 2016, but he made just two appearances during the remainder of that season and was loaned to Vitesse in the Netherlandsfor the remainder of 2016-17 and last season.Miazga was sent to Nantes in the summer for what had been intended to be a season-long loan.The 23-year-old started six Ligue 1 matches under coach Miguel Cordoso, but played only one more match after Cordoso was replaced by Vahid Halilhodic. He has made 11 international appearances.Reading are 22nd of 24 teams in the Championship, three points from safety.

Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend

Kieran CANNINGAFPJan 20, 2019, 7:55 PM

London (AFP) – Liverpool are one step closer to a long-awaited Premier League title, but only just after a seven-goal thriller against Crystal Palace at Anfield, while Chelsea imploded in losing 2-0 at Arsenal.Manchester United and Tottenham were also victorious as the race for a top-four finish tightened and Manchester Citywere routine 3-0 winners at Huddersfield to remain just four points adrift of Liverpool.Here, AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Premier League weekend:

Liverpool get luck champions need

For the second consecutive week Liverpool got the job done by a solitary goal, but in stark contrast to a dogged 1-0 victory at Brighton last weekend, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed their forwards to come to the party and a touch of fortune to see off Crystal Palace 4-3.

Trailing 1-0 at half-time, the Reds turned the game around in the space of eight minutes at the start of the second period thanks to deflections that favoured Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.Palace hit back to level again at 2-2, but the leaders biggest break came when 39-year-old goalkeeper Julian Speroni, playing for the first time in 13 months due to injuries to Wayne Hennessey and Vicente Guaita, fumbled a simple James Milner cross towards his own goal and Salah slammed into an empty net.Another hurdle cleared, Liverpool are now 15 games from a first title in 29 years.

Will Sarri be short-lived?

With a post-match thrashing of his players a former Chelsea manager in Jose Mourinho would have been proud of, Maurizio Sarri left no one in any doubt where he placed the blame for an insipid performance at the Emirates.The Italian lambasted his players’ desire and commitment, labelling them “difficult to motivate”.Sarri must also, though, accept his measure of responsibility with Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante again struggling in unfamiliar positions.Not many Chelsea managers have taken on the dressing room and succeeded in Roman Abramovich’s reign.Sarri is just six months into a three-year contract, but they have tended to matter for little under Abramovich and he may be the latest in a string of illustrious coaches that does not last long at Stamford Bridge.

Solskjaer reaps Rashford reward

Arsenal’s victory closed the Gunners to within three points of Chelsea in the fight for a top-four finish, but it is a rejuvenated United who look even more likely to beat Sarri’s men to Champions League qualification.Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now masterminded a magnificent seven straight wins since taking charge as caretaker boss.An 11-point gap to the top four when Mourinho was sacked little over a month ago is down to three and United will have the chance to erase it when Chelsea visit Old Trafford towards the end of the season.A 2-1 win over Brighton was not the Red Devils’ best display under the Norwegian, but his influence was still decisive as Marcus Rashford’s stunning solo goal proved the difference between the sides.Finally afforded a run of games in a central role up front, Rashford has now scored in four straight Premier League games for the first time in his career.

Winks rallies Spurs’ walking wounded

Shorn of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, Spurs needed Harry Winks’ first goal since 2016 to see off struggling Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage.Winks’ header with virtually the last action of 93 pulsating minutes ensures Spurs maintain a seven-point cushion over Arsenal and United.

And they might need it as Alli joined a worrying list of injury casualties.

The England international had scored Tottenham’s equaliser before pulling up with a hamstring injury.With Kane out until March with ankle ligament damage and Son on duty for South Korea at the Asian Cup for the rest of the month, Spurs are desperately short of firepower as they try to maintain a challenge in four competitions.

Little Silva lining for Everton

Unlike Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs who didn’t spend a penny on transfers in the summer, Marco Silva was handed £90 million worth of new arrivals to begin the challenge of taking on the top six at Everton.  Instead, the Toffees are just three points better off and two places lower in the table than they were at this stage last season under Sam Allardyce.Of Everton’s big summer signings, Colombia’s World Cup hero Yerry Mina was left on the bench, while Andre Gomes, Richarlison and Bernard were all substituted by Silva in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Southampton.At the very least, Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri would expect to be the best of the rest in seventh come the end of the season.But a run of just two wins in 10 league games since November leaves Everton trailing Watford, Wolves, Leicester and West Ham down in 11th.

UEFA report: European football profitable but gap between super-clubs and rest remains

18 Jan, 2019Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Each year, for the past decade, UEFA have released their “Benchmarking Report,” a sort of “State of the Game” across the top flights of every European league. As ever, it’s filled with interesting nuggets and takes time to sift through.Here’s a Q&A to help make sense of it.

Q: So what’s the top-line, major takeaway?

A: Well, for the first time in the report’s history — and probably the first time ever — European top-flight clubs were profitable last year, to the tune of some $700 million. When you consider that last year they had a loss of $400m, it’s quite a turnaround. And if you go a little further back? Well, in 2011 it was a whopping $1.9 billion.What’s more, it’s not as if it’s just the very richest clubs in the richest leagues who are profitable (although they obviously make the most). Of the 98 clubs in Europe’s Big Five leagues, 77 turned a profit. As a whole, midtier leagues like Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Austria were also profitable.

Q: That’s good, right?

A: Sure. The old maxim whereby owning a club was like owning a racehorse — a vanity pursuit where you had to bankroll losses every year — is out the window. Of course, that part was also something of a myth: it’s not that owners of yesteryear were all altruistic or romantic uber-fans. Plenty made money out of football in other ways, whether it was free advertising for themselves or their other businesses, gaining local political clout and standing or funnelling money out of the club to themselves.But now the game has become a real business, where you can get real returns and where real investors can put their money. Because, with some exceptions, to lose money at a top-flight club, you have to be either incompetent, extremely unlucky or hugely irresponsible.

Q: What caused this turnaround then?

A: UEFA would say it’s financial fair play, and no doubt that has been a big contributor in keeping costs down. Those $1.9bn in losses? They occurred in the final year before FFP was introduced. Limiting spending obviously drives down costs, and by making owners cover losses by putting in equity, it staves off the sort of “chain reaction” losses we used to see in the past.But that’s only part of the story. Revenue from media rights has skyrocketed too; so too has commercial income, driven in part by globalization. That has nothing to do with FFP but simply due to more media companies and sponsors willing to pay more money in more parts of the world.It’s not surprising, then, that virtually every club out there is a big fan of FFP. That said, it has also had negative side effects. It unquestionably contributed to the polarization in the game, which is also chronicled in the report. Manchester United, for example, make more than Zenit, Atletico Madrid and Schalke combined. Real Madrid’s wage bill ($462m) was almost as high as that of Tottenham Hotspur, Roma and AC Milan combined.  That’s why Aleksander Ceferin, the UEFA President, has vowed to address this. He hasn’t ruled out luxury caps and limits on squad sizes, as well as relaxing financial fair play rules. Previously, it would have been difficult. But now that football has become a profitable business, there’s scope to go further and allow more in the way of losses to help build a team.

Q: So things are going great, and it’s a golden age of football, right?

A: Yes and no. For a start, the broadcast rights income won’t keep growing forever. The other aspect is that those bottom-line profit numbers are boosted by player trading like never before. In fact, the value of transfer activities has doubled in the past three years, which is helping to boost bottom-line profits at many clubs.

Q: How does that work? One club sells, the other club buys — shouldn’t things net out?

A: Nope, and that has to do with accounting practices.

When you buy a player, you spread out the fee over the length of the contract, but when you sell, you book the entire fee immediately. So if you buy a player for £10m, give him a five-year deal and sell him after two years for £10m, you’ve actually made an accounting profit of £4m (£10m, minus the £6m residual value on your books). Alhough in cash terms, you simply got your money back. It can catch up to you eventually, but as long as transfer spending continues to increase, you’re fine. But some clubs are increasingly relying on this to show a profit, and that has to be a concern in the long term.

Q: So overall, are we doing OK?

A: More than OK, I’d say. Attendance is as high as it’s been in the past 10 years, and while as a proportion of revenue, gate receipts make up an increasingly small percentage, that’s mostly because other revenue streams have grown faster. Across Europe, the highest yield per match attendee (a very rough way of saying average ticket price) was just under $30. The highest was Paris Saint-Germain ($99), followed closely by Chelsea ($98) and Arsenal ($97). But the average of the Big Five leagues was $39: not cheap, but judging by attendances, it’s in line with what folks are willing to pay.As I mentioned, football is now a real, investible business that ought to bring more stability, which is ultimately what most fans care about: that they continue to have a club to support. And it might also mean that FFP is loosened — we’ve already seen the first steps with the introduction of “voluntary agreements,” whereby clubs can get permission to exceed FFP requirements if they present a credible business plan and comply down the line — since there are plenty of wealthy investors queuing up to put in money.That could help broaden the base of “super-clubs,” but further down the food chain, polarization continues to be an issue. And, of course, the vast sums circulating will also attract speculators and, well, crooks. That’s why transparency and oversight not just from UEFA and other regulators, but supporters’ groups too, has to be part of the plan going forward.

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