4/26/19  Champions League Final 4 Tues/Wed TNT, EPL Race Heats Up Chelsea vs Man U Sun, Carmel FC New Logo, Full TV Game Schedule

With just 3 games now left in the EPL season – the battle for the top between and Liverpool and Man City and the top 4 between Tottenham, Chelsea, Man United, and Arsenal is boiling over.  Man City had no issues at Man United Wed as they took control in the 2nd half for an easy 2-0 win over their rivals and put them back on top over Liverpool by 1 point.  Of course 3 of the Top 6 teams all lost over the weekend leaving the battle for Top 4 and Champions League qualification completely up in the air. This weekend the only top ranked games are Sunday with Arsenal still barely in 4th traveling to Leicester City at 7 am on NBCSN and Manchester United 2 pts back and hosting Chelsea at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  Why this game isn’t on NBC rather than the Saturday New Castle United vs Brighton game at 12:30 pm I have no idea.  And why the EPL doesn’t have more of its top 6 teams playing each other down the stretch is another thing I just don’t understand.  Honestly this is the last weekend featuring a top 6 match-up.  Don’t they understand what a Liverpool vs Man City or Chelsea vs Arsenal playing on the final 2 weekends would provide?  Of course that would be like playoffs which we can’t have in European football unless its Europa or Champions League.  J

World

So Champions League is back Tues/Wed with the Semi’s – underdog Ajax hosting Tottenham on Tuesday 3 pm on TNT and of course the big one – Liverpool traveling to Barcelona on Wednesday 3 pm on TNT.   As Champions League reaches the pinnacle several League Champions have already been determined at Juventus won their 8th straight Italian Championship, and PSG their 6th of the last 7 French League 1 Titles.  Barcelona can wrap up La Liga on Saturday at home at 5:30 pm on beIN Sport if they beat Levante. The top leagues still in play are of course the EPL, the German Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and Dortmund just 1 point apart and the Dutch with Ajax and PSV Eindehoven still tied.  We should get a battle of Americans in the Bundesliga Saturday 9:30 am on Fox Sports 2 as Dortmund and hopeful US sub Pulisic will host USMNT midfielder Weston McKinney and Schalke in a Derby.

US Youngster Pulisic can become the youngest to 50 Wins in the Bundelisga if he features in a win that would keep the title pressure on Bayern Munich.

Indy 11

Fresh off a 3-0 win over Bethlehem, that moved them into the top 3 of USL with a 4-1 mark in the East despite having 2 games in hand, the Indy Eleven wrap up their April away swing in USL play this Sun, April 28. The Boys in Blue travel to the Big Apple to face the NY Red Bulls 2 Sun at 5 pm on ESPN+. The Indy Eleven return to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:00 p.m., followed three days later by another home game on Saturday, May 4, against North Carolina FC at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available for as low as $15 at IndyEleven.com/Tickets.  Also this week the bill allowing the Indy 11 New Stadium and Indy Park passed the senate and the bill is now on the way to the Governor’s Desk.  Great news for the future of professional soccer in Indy!!

MLS

So before I get started on MLS games to watch this week – can someone please tell me why DC United, Seattle, New England and the LA Galaxy wore Man City/NYCFC baby blue jerseys last week? Seriously DC United at home vs NYCFC in NYCFC’s baby blue jersey?  Really?  I was confused the entire game.  And don’t even get me started when my Seattle Sounders don’t wear Green on the road at LAFC? I understand away kits and jersey sales and all — but copying Man City’s baby blues it appears that like half the teams in MLS have one now – crazy?? The East is muddled with DC United, Montreal, Toronto FC, Philly and Columbus on top and last season’s top teams Atlanta United and NY Red Bulls in LAST PLACE- Crazy?  The West is closer to normal as LAFC, LA Galaxy, Seattle and FC Dallas are on top.  Sunday features a replay of the top 2 teams in MLS as LAFC now travel to Seattle at 3:30 pm on ESPN (after pounding them last weekend) right after Minnesota United hosts DC United and Wayne Rooney at 1:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

Goalkeepers

Check out the Saves of the Week over the past few Weeks below and don’t forget to watch Champions League Tues/Wed especially as 3 of the Top Goalkeepers in the World – Barcelona’s Ter Stegen, Liverpool’s Alisson, and Tottenham’s Hugo Loris will battle it out.

Carmel FC New Logo

On another note Carmel FC has unveiled its new logo for next season – it’s 10 year anniversary as a travel soccer club with over 600 athletes currently playing along with celebrating 60 years of Carmel Dad’s Club.  Read full story in Carmel Current

EPL 

What to Watch For – ESPNFC

EPL Title Race and Champ League Chase Coming to the End – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Man City too Good to let Title Slip thru Grasp at Struggling United – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

How Man City Used EPL Title Race to Overcome UCL Heartbreak – eSPNFC

Same ole Arsenal as Gunners lose on Road again – Nick Aimes ESPNFC

Watford’s Ben Foster Urges Elton John to cancel concert for FA Cup Final vs Man City May 18

WORLD

Power Rankings – Barca, Liverpool, Tottenham on Top ESPNFC

Juventus Wins 8th Straight Serie A (Italy) Title- Ari Creditor SI

PSG Wins 6th League Title in 7 years – Avi Creditor SI

Dortmund and Schalke Derby – as Dortmund battles for top spot, Schalke survival

Tiny La Liga outfit Getafe closing in on Champions League slot

Barcelona set to Win La Liga at home this Weekend

Ajax Champions League Run Exciting – SI Jonathan Wilson

Son proving Spurs are more than Harry Kane’s Team

Indy 11

Indy 11 Park Bill makes it thru the Senate headed to Governors Desk for Signature

Indy 11 Forward Dane Kelly named USL Player of Week 7

3 Things Week 7 for Indy 11

Indy 11 Roll over Bethlehem Steel 3-0 to move into 4th at 4-1 overall

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Season Tickets Just over $100

BYB Away Game Watch Parties Around Town

Sat 8 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

MLS

Battered Sounders seek payback for last week’s defeat to LAFC

Making Sense of the East is Not Easy to Do  – Andrew Wiebe MLS

How USMNT F Kenny Saeif swapped Anderlecht for FC Cincy – MLs.com

 USA

US to Play Jamaica in DC June 5, before Venezuela in Cincy June 9

Players Union opposes US Friendly in Cincy don’t want Grass over Turf

Chelsea – Pulisic key to Bringing more US Fans ESPNFC

US Men’s National Team Stock Watch – Brooks, Pulisic, McKennie Up doug McIntyre yahoo soccer

Catching up with Mark McKensie – future USA U20 star of Philly – ESPNFC

Goalkeepers

Great Story I found on Seattle GK’s Kasey Keller and Marcus Hennemann – both former US Keepers in  England

MLS Save of the Week 8

USL Save of the Week 6

USL Save of the Week 7

Top Saves La Liga Last Week

Save of the Week NWSL week 2

Premier League sprint to the finish: Title race, Champions League chase, relegation battles in focus

5:00 PM ET Dale JohnsonMark Ogden

The Premier League season is set for a frantic conclusion at both ends of the table, with the battles for the title, top four and relegation set to go down to the wire.With permutations updated after each game, we run through what is left to play for and ESPN FC senior writer Mark Ogden offers his thoughts and predictions.

RACE FOR THE TITLE

  1. MAN CITY (89 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Burnley (a), Leicester (h), Brighton (a)

Victory at Manchester United means the way is now clear for City to retain the title. Now they are out of the Champions League, will those free midweeks prove key for their sharpness and results?

Ogden: The long-awaited derby clash at United has been successfully navigated, and that should leave a home run to the title.

  1. LIVERPOOL (88 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Huddersfield (h), Newcastle (a), Wolves (h)

Liverpool have now set a new club record for Premier League points, but they will need a favour from one of the division’s lesser lights if they are to win the title. They also have to navigate a two-legged Champions League semifinal against Barcelona while Man City rest.

Ogden: Jurgen Klopp’s team have done all they can do, but their fate now lies in the hands of others. Even if Liverpool win their final three games, as they probably will, it may not be enough. The time has come for one of City’s remaining opponents to deny them a win and, looking at City’s remaining fixtures, it may be a forlorn hope.

RACE FOR THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The top four in the Champions League will qualify direct to the group stage, with fifth and sixth into the Europa League.

  1. TOTTENHAM (70 points from 35 games)

Still to play: West Ham (h), Bournemouth (a), Everton (h)

The late victory at home to Brighton should almost see Spurs over the line in the race for the top four. Two of their remaining three games are at their brand-new stadium, so Mauricio Pochettino’s men are very much favourites. It would be remarkable if they were to mess it up from here.

Ogden: Back-to-back defeats for Manchester United and Arsenal, and the win at home to Brighton, have kept Spurs in control of their own destiny. They now have daylight to the chasing pack.

  1. CHELSEA (67 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Man United (a), Watford (h), Leicester (a)

Maurizio Sarri’s men looked to be outsiders a few weeks ago, but now have their destiny in their own hands. The major hurdle is Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, and if they come away from Old Trafford with a positive result they will be favourites for the top four. Along with Arsenal, they have the chance to reach the Champions League via winning the Europa League; Chelsea face Eintracht Frankfurt in the semifinals.

Ogden: A big week for Chelsea began with a disappointing home draw against Burnley. Much now rests on their visit to Manchester United on Sunday; a win at Old Trafford would go a long way to sealing a top-four finish.

  1. ARSENAL (66 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Leicester (a), Brighton (h), Burnley (a)

Back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Wolves have left their top-four hopes hanging in the balance. Two of their remaining three fixtures are away and they have only two wins on the road in five months, going back to Nov. 25. It’s likely they will have to win all three games to finish in the top four. They also have a tough Europa League semifinal — the competition winners earn a UCL place — against Valencia to navigate.

Ogden: Losing at home to Palace and at Wolves has put Arsenal’s top-four chances in real jeopardy. They still have to go to Leicester, who are chasing seventh spot and potential Europa League qualification. Sunday’s Manchester United vs. Chelsea clash will see at least one rival drop points, but Arsenal may regret a horrible week at a crucial point of the season.

  1. MAN UNITED (64 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Chelsea (h), Huddersfield (a), Cardiff (h)

United have suffered a dramatic collapse in form just at the wrong time, but their rivals haven’t fared much better. They still know that victory at home to Chelsea on Sunday will put them level with their visitors, and with already-relegated Huddersfield and struggling Cardiff left to play they could remarkably still qualify for the Champions League.

Ogden: A disastrous run of results has seen United slip down to sixth place and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are now needing others to drop points if they are to sneak a top-four finish. Nothing less than seven points from their final three games will be enough, but United may have to win all three.

RELEGATION BATTLE

The bottom three teams will be relegated, and it looks as though one of these sides will join the already-relegated Fulham and Huddersfield in the Championship.

  1. SOUTHAMPTON (37 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Bournemouth (h), West Ham (a), Huddersfield (h)

The draw at Watford has all but seen Saints over the line. They have a favourable final three matches compared to Brighton and Cardiff. A recent run of three wins in four games looks to have provided the breathing space they need.

Ogden: If Southampton beat Bournemouth at St Mary’s in the South Coast derby on Saturday, the Saints can celebrate survival for another year, but Ralph Hassenhuttl’s team may already have enough in the bag, barring late surges by Brighton and Cardiff.

  1. BRIGHTON (34 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Newcastle (h), Arsenal (a), Man City (h)

Brighton almost claimed a vital point at Spurs, but where undone by a late goal which keeps Cardiff within striking distance. That lost extra point could yet prove to be huge with three games left to play.

Ogden: Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Wolves ended Brighton’s four-game losing streak in the league, which included a potentially crucial defeat at home to Cardiff. With Arsenal and Manchester City still to play, the Seagulls will need something from next Saturday’s home game against Newcastle to keep Cardiff at bay.

  1. CARDIFF (31 points from 35 games)

Still to play: Fulham (a), Crystal Palace (h), Man United (a)

Victory at Fulham at the end of the month looks an absolute must to even be in contention to stay up. And Cardiff still have Man United to play at Old Trafford, on the final day no less.

Ogden: A spirited home defeat against Liverpool saw Cardiff emerge with nothing, but next Saturday’s trip to Fulham and the home game against Crystal Palace give Neil Warnock’s team hope of taking the survival battle to Old Trafford.

RELEGATED

  1. FULHAM (23 points from 35 games)

Fulham were relegated April 2. Makes me so sad—I truly thought Fulham would be a lower mid-table team this year.  One of the few American’s starting in the EPL – Tim Ream resides here.  So sad L

  1. HUDDERSFIELD (14 points from 35 games)

Huddersfield were relegated March 30.

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs fighting for two spots in mad dash for top four

8:19 AM ETMark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

With three rounds of matches to go in the Premier League season, the race to qualify for the Champions League has become a battle between four clubs seemingly unable to grasp the opportunity.Third-placed Tottenham, sitting on 70 points, took a huge leap towards confirming a top-four spot with a late home win against Brighton on Tuesday, but Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, separated by just three points from fourth to sixth, continue to drop points.United host Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday in a game that is now crucial for both clubs’ aspirations, but with time running out to make the top four, who needs the Champions League most, which clubs are best-equipped to cope with a year in the Europa League and who is facing a nightmare scenario by failing to qualify?

3rd place: Tottenham, 70 points

Remaining Fixtures: West Ham (H), Bournemouth (A), Everton (H)

Why they need a top-four finish

Tottenham have finally moved into their spectacular new stadium, but they now have to pay for it and the money that comes from being in the Champions League is crucial in ensuring that the finances remain healthy enough for the club to avoid having to sell their best players.As this season’s run to the semifinals, and potentially beyond, has shown, Spurs are an emerging force under coach Mauricio Pochettino and are a team capable of winning the Champions League.But missing out on qualification and ending up in the Europa League would leave Spurs vulnerable to losing their top stars, and Pochettino, to clubs who can offer Champions League football.If Spurs finish in the top four, their business model and football development will only become stronger.

What happens if they miss out?

Christian Eriksen is stalling on a new contract, while Toby Alderweireld can leave for £25 million this summer, so Spurs would find it difficult to keep those two key players if they can only offer Europa League football.And for a club that has not added to their squad since January 2018, recruitment plans would be hit badly if Champions League football is not booked.Of all the clubs chasing a top-four finish, Spurs are arguably most at risk of the ramifications of missing out because of the delicate balancing act of keeping the team together and paying for the stadium, so Champions League qualification is absolutely vital.

Prediction: The win against Brighton has put Spurs in pole position and, with two home games to come, they will secure qualification by finishing third.

4th Place: Chelsea, 67 points

Remaining Fixtures: Man Utd (A), Watford (H), Leicester (A)

Why they need a top-four finish

With Eden Hazard increasingly likely to leave Stamford Bridge this summer, Chelsea need to be able to offer Champions League football in order to attract a top quality replacement.There is also the question mark over the future of coach Maurizio Sarri, who might just cling onto his job if he can guide the club back into the Champions League.Chelsea are in the midst of a transitional period and their rebuilding plans would be accelerated by a return to the tournament, both in terms of finance and the ability to attract better players.But, of course, they still have the problem of a two-window transfer ban imposed by FIFA. They do still hope to get the ban paused, or overturned, to be able to deal this summer.

The funding of owner Roman Abramovich will always insulate Chelsea from the financial hit of not being in the Champions League, but as the only London club ever to win the competition, there is a determination at Stamford Bridge to regain the prestige of being back among the elite.

What happens if they miss out?

Any slim prospect of keeping Hazard would evaporate if Chelsea face another year in the Europa League and Sarri might follow the Belgian out of the door.But there could be a positive element of missing out on the Champions League for Chelsea in the shape of their emerging youngsters.Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been given first-team chances this season and, if Chelsea are unable to offer Champions League football to prospective signings, the club’s hugely successful youth policy could finally bear fruit with more senior graduates. Financially, Chelsea are in a stronger position than Spurs to ride out another year in the Europa League, but if a new coach comes in and turns to the youngsters, the transition may take even longer.

Prediction: Everything hinges on Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford, and Arsenal can take advantage and leave Chelsea finishing in fifth.

5th Place: Arsenal, 66 points

Remaining Fixtures: Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A)

Why they need a top-four finish

Arsenal’s business model has always been heavily reliant on the money earned from playing in the Champions League and two seasons in the Europa League has hit them hard.Coach Unai Emery has been restricted in the transfer market and Arsenal simply cannot compete financially with their top-six rivals as long as they sit outside the Champions League. Traditionally London’s biggest club, Arsenal as a Champions League team are an attractive proposition to potential signings, but they are forced to shop in the second tier as a Europa League outfit. So Arsenal need to be back among the big boys for reasons of finance and prestige. Another year out will see them drop even further behind.

What happens if they miss out?

Emery’s transfer budget is already restricted and he will be forced to find a replacement for Aaron Ramsey, leaving on a free transfer to Juventus, as well as bolstering every other department of his squad this summer, namely the defence.The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain coach has worked wonders simply to make Arsenal competitive for the top four this season, but his task will only become harder if they miss out on the Champions League for 2019-20.Petr Cech has announced his retirement, so a back-up keeper will be needed, and Danny Welbeck is out of contract, so perhaps more than any club, Arsenal need the Champions League riches to keep the wheels turning.

Prediction: If Arsenal can win one of their two remaining away games, they should end the season in fourth position.

6th Place: Manchester United, 64 points

Remaining Fixtures: Chelsea (H), Huddersfield (A), Cardiff (H)

Why they need a top-four finish?

Financially, United can withstand missing out on the Champions League for one, maybe even two seasons, and there is even a school of thought that such a failure would actually trigger the reality check required to make the club focus properly on the challenge of returning to the top of the game.But even United feel the pain of not playing in the Champions League, especially when their biggest rivals — Liverpool and Manchester City — are becoming potential European champions.Champions League football would enable Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rip up his squad and attract top quality players to Old Trafford. A year in the Europa League would force United to pay bigger fees and higher wages to get their main targets and, after upsetting the pay structure to sign £400,000-a-week Alexis Sanchez last season, that is the last thing the club wants to expose itself to.

What happens if they miss out?

The biggest pain felt by United would be to their pride, as the self-styled “biggest club in the world” missing out on the Champions League for the third time in six seasons would be a real humbling proposition.Solskjaer would be under no financial pressure to sell any of his players and United would continue to generate millions off the pitch, but they would be a less attractive proposition on it to stars whose sole focus is playing in the Champions League. No team has won the Premier League after starting the season in the Europa League, so United would already be on the back foot domestically and, with Solskjaer under pressure to oversee a “cultural reset” at Old Trafford, being out of the Champions League would only make life more difficult.

Prediction: United need to win all three remaining games to have any hope, but their recent form suggests they will fall short and finish sixth.

W2W4: Man United can still salvage season vs. Chelsea; title race isn’t over yet

4:00 AM ETNick MillerESPN.com writer

It’s been a miserable campaign for Manchester United, but despite all their suffering, they could still qualify for next season’s Champions League. Nick Miller previews the weekend’s Premier League action by highlighting its most compelling storylines …

Manchester United can salvage their season

Roy Keane’s assertion that this current crop of Manchester United players are “bluffers” is a subjective call you can agree with or not, but there’s one problem that you can’t get around: United haven’t scored a goal from open play in 527 minutes of football, and not one of any description in 280.They’ve lost seven of their past nine games — most recently in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at home to Manchester City — and the last time they had a comparable run was at the end of the 2000-01 season, when they lost six of their last 10. The difference there was they had wrapped up the title by the middle of April and, to say the least, were winding down; in one game they fielded a midfield of Ronnie Wallwork, Michael Stewart, Luke Chadwick and Quinton Fortune. The cruel might say any of those four would stroll into the United team today.When a team goes into what amounts to an existential crisis like this, the understandable temptation is to immediately look for the wider view, to pull back and consider the fundamental, long-term problems that need fixing. But there’s the short term to think about too: even after this calamitous run, they are still only three points behind Chelsea in fourth, and if they can conjure a goal or two to beat them on Sunday, they could still stumble into the Champions League and salvage something from this season.

Should Klopp use his squad?

Jurgen Klopp suggested this week that because of the way Liverpool’s remaining games are spaced out, he won’t necessarily have to rotate his players for the purpose of keeping them as well-rested as possible. He could, in theory, put out his best XI in every one, but might it be sensible to rotate a little in Friday’s game against Huddersfield for the sake of his second string, rather than the first?Huddersfield have lost 20 of their past 22 games, and at the moment they carry a sort of haunted air, a dead look in their eyes that says they just want this season to be over. In theory, Klopp could play the collection of teenagers that won the FA Youth Cup on Thursday night and still beat them.But rather than doing that, might it be worth giving some fringe men a run-out against Huddersfield so they retain some sharpness should they be needed in a more meaningful situation in the next few weeks? Xherdan Shaqiri is the most obvious candidate, a man who could be valuable but has only played 19 minutes since the start of February, but there’s also Adam LallanaDivock OrigiDaniel Sturridge, even Alberto Moreno, who might get a game if only because Andrew Robertson is one booking away from a suspension.

The title race is not over yet …

“Is Burnley a place I would love to have on the schedule for us now? No, honestly not. It is not a place where you think: ‘Oh nice, we are going to Burnley. Easy points.'”Klopp wasn’t just playing mind games when he suggested that Manchester City would not be able to just stroll up to Turf Moor on Sunday and make off with a victory on their relentless charge to the title. In some ways, City are more likely to drop points there than they ever were against Manchester United on Wednesday.Burnley’s point at Stamford Bridge on Monday was their 28th since the turn of the year, and only four teams are above them in a table of only the second half of the Premier League season. Sean Dyche’s side have found their form, and they could still provide an upset and keep Liverpool in this title race.

Spurs just have to survive West Ham clash

With three games remaining and a top-four spot not safe by any means, it is in theory hugely irresponsible to suggest that Tottenham should take it easy against West Ham on Saturday. But if you could ever forgive a team for punting a game, it’s this one: with their Champions League semifinal against Ajax a few days later, there’s only one priority for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.Really, Pochettino should rest as many players as he dares against West Ham, not least the likes of Christian EriksenDele AlliJan Vertonghen and Toby AlderweireldSon Heung-Min is suspended for the Ajax game, so he should start, but the rest of them must be protected: Tottenham’s task this weekend is to emerge intact for their big night on Tuesday.

U.S. star Pulisic on brink of being youngest to 50 Bundesliga wins

3:36 PM ETStephan UersfeldGermany correspondent

United States star Christian Pulisic is on the brink of another Bundesliga record when Borussia Dortmund host FC Schalke 04 at the weekend.

The future Chelsea midfielder can become the youngest player ever to win 50 Bundesliga games if he features in a Dortmund victory over Schalke in the Revierderby on Saturday.Pulisic, who would be 20 years and 221 days old at the time of kick-off, would assume the record from Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Julian Draxler, who was 11 days older when he accomplished the feat with Schalke in May 2014.Plagued by injuries, Pulisic has made only 16 Bundesliga appearances in the 2018-19 season. However, 12 of those 16 matches were victories.Second-placed Dortmund won the reverse fixture at Schalke, 2-1, on December 8.Pulisic, who debuted for Dortmund as a 17-year-old in January 2016, became the youngest non-German to score in Germany’s top flight and then the youngest ever to score two goals in April of that year.This January, he joined Chelsea for €64 million, which is a record transfer fee for a U.S. soccer player. He was then loaned back to Dortmund where he will finish out the season.

Learning languages, talking race and soccer: U.S. U20 captain Mark McKenzie opens up over dinner

Apr 19, 2019Arch Bell

BEAR, Del. — It has been a busy day in the McKenzie household; that’s only natural when there are inhabitants ages 20 and younger. One of them, Mark, just so happens to be a second-year center-back with the Philadelphia Union and one of the rising stars within U.S. Soccer. But it’s another McKenzie who has the more pressing matter. Younger sister Madison has prom coming up and a decision needs to be made.”Sorry I’m late,” says Mark, who slides into a booth at a Buffalo Wild Wings, just miles away from the McKenzie home. “I had to help my sister pick out her prom dress. It’s a big deal, you know?”The same could be said for Madison’s big brother. In the past 12 months, the 20-year-old made his MLS debut, started 18 matches, captained the United States Under-20 team to a first-place finish at the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and then earned his first U.S. senior national team call-up. Not exactly normal stuff for someone who still can’t order a beer with dinner.He’s yet to play for the Union in 2019, but McKenzie is expected to start against Montreal on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN+). It will be the latest step forward as he prepares for this summer’s Under-20 World Cup.”The last year has been great. There were a lot of ups and downs but it’s been a learning experience,” McKenzie says. “I just wanted to put my head down and do my work, and ultimately, I feel like my play would do the talking and it did. It’s been a whirlwind to keep it all together, but I’m extremely humbled and thankful for what happened last year.”On this night, however, McKenzie is like any U.S. fan experiencing the emotions that comes with watching the national team, this one a late March friendly against Chile. There is praise for Michael Bradley (“Dude, I picked his brain so much during camp”) and Gyasi Zardes (“That first touch bro, how ’bout that?“). But there is also angst when Chile equalizes. (“Argh! Can’t let that happen.”)

One of the biggest takeaway from watching the Chile game with this budding U.S. star is that McKenzie is a true student and lover of the game. He’ll sit there and patiently wait for your reasons as to why Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo while munching on his sandwich, and then counter it with his own in support of the Portuguese superstar.

He’ll also wade into waters that divide much of American soccer. Promotion and relegation? “We need it. We need that incentive so we don’t get complacent.” That night in Trinidad in October 2017? “It was a sad night. So much buildup for a big game and to see it crumble hurt me personally, because I’m part of it in a way.”McKenzie has a passion for other sports, too. His occasional glances at the other televisions in the restaurant reveal as much. The NBA is a favorite, and while he enjoys watching the games, it’s the off-court stuff that really gets McKenzie’s attention. “NBA Twitter, man. It’s so petty! I love it,” he says with a laugh.McKenzie is also a big follower of the NFL. MLS locker rooms boast players from around the world, which means players from overseas make for prime targets when it is fantasy football time. Pity the new foreign arrival who decides to join the Union’s league. “I’ll say, ‘Yeah bro, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a solid choice,'” McKenzie says, drawing laughs from the two Union staffers across the table.Just as easily as McKenzie jokes around, he is sincere on other topics. One such discussion in which he finds himself in the middle is whether he’ll be in Poland this summer with the U.S. at the U20 World Cup. It all depends on the Union releasing him for the tournament, and of course getting selected by head coach Tab Ramos. The look in his eyes shows clearly that McKenzie adores his time with the U20s, fondly recalling the 2-0 win against Mexico in the 2018 CONCACAF Under-20 final.”That game was so much fun, I just kind of sat back and watched Paxton [Pomykal] and Alex [Mendez] run the show,” McKenzie said. “You know, you spend the whole month together, and when you spend that much time together, a bond grows. I talk to a lot of them sometimes on a daily basis. We’ll get on Snapchat and comment on each other’s tweets or Instagram pics. I’m really tight with those guys.”It’s also a situation that has the potential to serve as a headache for Union boss Jim Curtin if McKenzie is not released for the tournament. The last thing anyone wants is for a bridge to burn between player and team.”It has to be what’s best for the Philadelphia Union, what’s best for the national team and most importantly what’s best for Mark at this stage of his development,” Curtin told ESPN FC. “He’s a big part of what the U20s have accomplished, he’s worn the captain’s armband because of his leadership. We need to recognize that it means a lot to him. We’ll see where we’re at as a team health-wise, fitness-wise and where Mark is in the group.”While not making the trip to Poland would be disappointing, McKenzie gives off an air that bigger things are headed his way. Driving that is his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. As the U.S.-Chile match drifts into the second half and the food has been cleared away, the conversation turns to his life away from the field and non-sporting interests.The void of not being in college like many 20-year-olds is being filled by teaching himself French and German. There is also a casual mention that he is learning to play guitar and piano. It’s all very impressive and it doesn’t come off as boastful. If anything, it is spoken with a confidence that reinforces his desire to feed his brain, something that teammates notice daily.”After training he’ll come back and he’ll be like, ‘Remember that situation, you want me to shift over a little bit, you want me to step?’ And we’ll talk through it,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya told ESPN FC. “He’s always learning and that’s what you want out of a young guy, always asking questions.”At the dinner table, the conversation is briefly interrupted by sister Madison, who just happened to swing by to say a quick hello. The dress Mark saw is a finalist for selection, and Madison’s date has apparently been properly vetted by big brother — he is a defender, of course.Madison’s cameo is a reminder of the strong bond that exists within the McKenzie family and has emboldened Mark to wield his influence as an emerging African American player in MLS, serving as an ambassador for Future Soccer Stars, a local nonprofit that brings soccer to inner-city kids. When McKenzie is with the kids, he is present in every way: spending time with them, talking or playing soccer.This commitment to community is nothing new, though. If anyone watched McKenzie take part in MLS’ Black History Month roundtable, they found someone who has long thought about what it means to be an African American in this sport.”I’m proud to be black,” McKenzie said. “I think you see so much negativity, so much racism popping up here and there in this game, so if I can stand up and speak for a broader audience, and be a face for those who may not want to or have the courage to speak up, I want to inspire them to raise their voice.”I don’t want it to just be a conversation, I want there to be action. I want to see others involved in stuff like this. Off the field I feel like this is something that we need to be proactive about and that will grow on the field.”As with any international friendly, the number of second-half substitutions has disrupted the flow of the game, and now less attention is being paid to the USA’s fate. Free to head back home to rest up ahead of another day of training, McKenzie instead waits around to make sure that this author and first-time visitor to Delaware isn’t standing by himself while waiting for his ride. It’s a small but thoughtful gesture that encapsulates the positive vibe that McKenzie emits both as a player and a person. The next morning at Union training, Curtin smiles when the previous evening’s activities are retold.”That’s down to how good of a person he is and how good his parents are,” Curtin said. “With Mark, the sky’s the limit. I’m really proud of his accomplishments on and off the field. It’s been fun to watch.”Make no mistake, big things are headed McKenzie’s way for club and country, and even bigger things in life.

 

INDY ELEVEN FORWARD DANE KELLY NAMED USL CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYER OF THE WEEK FOR WEEK 7

By IndyEleven.com, 04/23/19, 2:00PM EDT

Jamaican striker tops league’s Best XI after notching three goals, one assist across two wins

Indy Eleven forward Dane Kelly has been voted the USL Championship Player of the Week for Week 7 of the 2019 season. Kelly opened his account for the Boys in Blue in grand fashion with three goals and one assist across a pair of road victories against Swope Park Rangers (3-1) and Bethlehem Steel FC (3-0) to help Indy push its winning streak to four games, the best start to a season the Eleven has seen in its six-season history. The 28-year-old continues to lead the Championship all-time scoring charts with 70 career goals to his name.Eleven midfielder Tyler Pasher also earned a nod on the Team of the Week list alongside Kelly, earning an honorable mention tab on the Week 7 chart’s seven-man bench.Kelly snapped a frustrating start to his season – included four hit posts in his first three games – last Monday by factoring into all three goals against Swope Park, notching an assist on Thomas Enevoldsen’s 6th minute goal in between scoring the fastest goal in Indy Eleven history (67 seconds) and a 56th minute insurance tally. Kelly would pass Enevoldsen for the team’s scoring lead on Saturday at Bethlehem Steel FC, scoring his third of the season in the 28th minute to put the Boys in Blue up two early in the eventual 3-0 victory.Kelly received 56 percent of the poll conducted by a national panel of independent media representing every USL Championship market. Austin Bold FC’s Diego Restrepo finished second with 22 percent after recording seven saves over back-to-back shutouts in Bold FC’s victory against Phoenix Rising FC and draw against El Paso Locomotive FC.Kelly earned a slew of accolades at the conclusion of the 2017 season, including being named USL Championship’s Most Valuable Player and was named to the All-League First Team. Additionally, Kelly claimed the 2017 USL Championship Golden Boot after recording 18 regular season goals. The Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica native made his MLS debut for DC United in early 2018. Outside of regular season action, Kelly started at home in United’s fourth round US Open Cup 1-1 draw (4-3 on penalty kicks) against USL Championship’s North Carolina FC.Indy Eleven’s April on the road comes to an end next Sunday, April 28, when the Boys in Blue travel to the shadows of the Big Apple to take on New York Red Bulls II. Indy Eleven’s visit to MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, N.J., is set for a 5:00 p.m. ET kickoff for a match can be seen exclusively via streaming video on ESPN+ (sign-up for a free 7-day trial here).Indy Eleven returns to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on Tampa Bay Rowdies on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:00 p.m., followed by a second home match three days later against North Carolina FC at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available for as low as $15 at IndyEleven.com/Tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

The story behind how Kenny Saief swapped Anderlecht for FC Cincinnati

April 25, 20199:29AM EDTTom BogertContributor

 

A few months ago, Kenny Saief wasn’t aware city called Cincinnati existed, much less could he spin a globe and point it out. The creative attacker was still on the books for Belgian giants Anderlecht, his fifth season in the country and second at the club. But things weren’t going as well as they had the four seasons prior. He got hurt, there was an unfavorable coaching change and Saief found himself on the bench all too often.Things are much better in the Queen City.“I didn’t even know there was a Cincinnati to be honest!” Saief told MLSsoccer.com last week with a self-deprecating laugh. “It’s a very nice city, the people here are very friendly. It feels good to be in the city.”Still, FC Cincinnati weren’t Saief’s only option. There was work to be done to ensure that the US international would soon be one of FC Cincy’s most important players. Fans can thank technical director Luke Sassano for getting the deal over the line.“The guy who convinced me was Luke,” Saief said. “I knew there was interest from multiple teams in MLS, but at that point I was focused on staying at Anderlecht. At one point, Luke took a flight over, we had a chat and he convinced me this is the right place. Something inside of me said this is the right choice to take right now.”Saief was born in Miami but spent only the first three years of his life in the country before his parents moved their family to Israel, where he would spend his youth. Saief then joined Gent in 2014 and enjoyed three strong seasons with the Belgian side, earning him a move to the storied club RSC Anderlecht, who have far and away won Belgium’s most league titles. “At the beginning at Anderlecht, it was all good until I got injured,” Saief said. “Things changed with the new coach. I wanted to play, that’s what I like to do, to play soccer. That’s the most important thing, to get my minutes. Once I saw it was difficult, I had a chat with the coach. He didn’t want to let me go but I tried to convince everybody I want to play. They promised me in the future I’d get a chance but I didn’t want to wait anymore.”With Saief ready for a change of scenery, clubs came calling, including more than one from MLS. He had a decision to make.“You can talk to many people, but when you don’t feel this is the right thing between you and yourself, it’s something you won’t do, you know what I mean?” Saief explained. “Something inside me felt good with this move. People tried to talk to me, but when Luke talked to me I felt good. I trusted him. I’m very happy with this choice, hopefully it will keep getting better and better.” In Cincinnati, just as he longed for, Saief hasn’t struggled to get his minutes. Even as the 25-year-old asserts he is still regaining his form and fitness, he has impressed with a goal and two assists across six appearances (four starts). “There’s a lot still to improve,” Saief said. “My level is higher than what I’m showing right now. I believe I can do much more to help the team get more points. It’s the beginning, to get used to the league and the players I’m with, it takes time.” If he is able to continue to raise his level to where he believes he’s capable, a return to the US national team may be on the horizon. In 2017, Saief was selected to Bruce Arena’s provisional Gold Cup roster seemingly out of nowhere. He was not on the radar for casual USMNT fans, having represented the Israeli youth national team at various stops and even earned a pair of friendly appearances with their senior national team.But when America called, Saief had no hesitation about filing for a one-time nationality switch.“At one point I got a call from Bruce Arena, they asked if I was interested to switch,” Saief said. “I said yes, it’s been my dream through my youth to represent the country I was born. Israel also has a big part in my heart, but I wanted to represent the country I was born in. I didn’t doubt this decision.”Could a run of form spark a return to the US national team?“I hope so,” Saief admitted. He added that he hasn’t spoke with USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter yet. “Now, I’m focused on getting my level back step-by-step. It’s an honor to represent your country, I hope I can show the coach that I deserve to be there. I’ll do my best for my team. It’s an honor for every American to represent their country, this is a dream of every kid.”For now, all he can do is focus on himself, his new team and new city. “It’s really nice, it’s a great group and I’m enjoying my time here,” Saief said. “On and off the field, I’m having a great time right now.”

Indy 11 Soccer Camp – Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Field June 17-20 9-12 noon.ages 6-14 $135

CHS Boys Soccer Skills Camp – Murray Stadium July 15-18 8:30-10:30 am ages 8-14 $85

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

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