The Indy 11 look to stay undefeated at home as they face the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff remain available for as little as $15 at IndyEleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100. The 11 are coming off a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh Wednesday night knocking them out of the US Open Cup.
USA World Cup
So the US Ladies finished 3-0 as they knocked off a game Mexico last Sunday in the final of the World Cup send-off series. Now the #1 ranked team in the world and defending champs will head to France to prepare for the World Cup which kicks off next weekend. Check out the Casual Fans Guide to the Women’s World Cup, the World Cup Power Rankings and follow along on Yahoo Soccer for all the updates. The World Cup from France gets underway June 7 with the US starting June 11. Meet the 23 members of the USWNT 2019 World Cup roster.
- Fri, June 7 3 pm FS1 France vs South Korea
- Tues, June 11: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Thailand,
- Sun, June 16: Noon ET, Fox S. vs. Chile,
- Thurs, June 20: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Sweden
On the men’s side –The USMNT U20’s with coach Tab Ramos at the helm went 2-1 in the group stages – their only loss a heartbreaker to Ukraine when they had NO ONE ON THE BACK POST for the GAME LOSING goal on corner early in the 2nd half. They played well and had more than 60% possession in all 3 games but now must face a very strong French team in the Sweet 16 on Tuesday at 11:30 am on FS2. The full USMNT will face Jamaica Wed June 5th at 7 pm on FS1, followed by another friendly Sun, June 9th at 2 pm on Fox in nearby Cincinnati.
Champions & Europa League
Of course, the All English Finals continue on Sat, June 1 at 3 pm as Liverpool will face Tottenham on TNT for the Champions League final. Huge game Saturday afternoon – as questions abound – will Harry Kane start for the Spurs or come off the bench, will Fermino start up front for Liverpool? Will Alisson not make the huge blunders that cost Liverpool the win last year vs Madrid? Time will tell as the 2 English teams and their fans invade Madrid for the final. I am thinking much like Europa that this one isn’t close that Liverpool will dominate 3-1 or so. But if anyone can pull a rabbit out of a hat – its been the Spurs this season.
So Chelsea obliterated Arsenal in the Europa League Finals 4-1 which mean Arsenal will not play Champions League soccer next fall – instead falling to Europa League in the 5th slot. Despite the trophy and a solid 3rd place finish in the EPL I still suspect Chelsea will be parting ways with manager Sarri this week.
Final Columbus Crew Game this Saturday night at 8 pm on ESPN+ for Goalkeeper Zach Steffen as after the US Gold Cup he will head to Manchester City. Of course, you can Vote now for your 2019 All-Stars as they will face Atletico Madrid. TV Games this week include this huge return to their home stadium for the Portland Timbers as they host league leaders LAFC Sat night at 7:30 pm on ESPN2. Most MLS games are on ESPN+.
Carmel FC Tryouts & Camps are Set
Tryouts for kids from U8 till 18 are right around the corner. Carmel FC is a community based club who has put tons of kids on the local high school teams at Carmel High, Guerin, University and more. Tryouts are June 4th for academy teams U8-U10, and June 10 & 11 for U13 & above. Click here for more info about CFC Tryouts. Also Carmel FC is looking for Coaches for the 2019/20 Season’s please click here if interested.
Indy 11 Soccer Camp – Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Field June 17-20 9-12 noon.ages 6-14 $135
Also Good Luck to all those teams playing in State, President’s and Challenge Cup Finals this weekend at Grand Park – especially our Carmel FC teams – with games on Sat – 05 Boys Gold (State Cup at 2:30 pm Field 13), 05 Girls Gold –President’s Cup at 12 noon Field 3, and the 08 Girls Gold- Challenge Cup 10 am field 4S.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, June 1 Champions League Finals
2:30 pm TNT/FuboTV Liverpool vs Tottenham
8:00 pm ESPN+ Colorado vs Cincy
8:30 pm ESPN+ Dallas (Matt Hedges) vs Seattle
7:30 pm ESPN2 Portland vs LAFC (new stadium opens!)
Sun, June 2
11:30 pm FS2 U20 WC Italy vs Poland
2:30 pm FS2 U20 WC Colombia vs New Zealand
3 pm Watch ESPN France vs Bolivia
Tues, June 4
11:30 am Fox Sport 2 U20 WC USA vs France
2:30 pm FS2 Argentina vs Mali
Wed, June 5
2:45 pm ESPN2 Portugal vs Switzerland Nations League
7 pm Fox Sports 1 USMNT vs Jamaica
7:30 pm ESPN+ Montreal vs Seattle Sounders
8:30 pm beIN sports Brazil vs Qatar
Thurs, June 6
2:45 pm ESPN2 Netherlands vs England -Nations League
Fri, June 7
9:30 am Fox Sport 2 U20 WC USA/France vs ??
12:30 pm FS2 U20 WC QF2
2:45 pm ESPN+/Watch Denmark vs Ireland – Euro Qualifying
7 pm GOL TV Uruguay vs Panama
8 pm beIN Sport Argentina vs Nicaragua
Sat, June 8
9 am Fox Sport 1 Women’s World Cup Germany vs China
11:30 am Fox Sport 2 U20 WC Quarterfinal #3
12 noon Fox WWC Spain vs South Africa
2:30 pm Fox Sport 2 U20 WC Quarterfinal #3
2:45 pm ESPN+/3 Greece vs Italy Euro Qualifying
3 pm Fox WWC Norway vs Nigeria
Sun, June 9
7 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Australia vs Italy
9 am ESPN 2 UEFA Nations League 3rd place
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Brazil vs Jamaica
12 Noon Fox WWC England vs Scotland
2 pm Fox USMNT vs Venezuela in Cincy
2:45 pm ESPN UEFA Nations League Final
USA Women’s World Cup June 7-July 7
- Tues, June 11: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Thailand,
- Sun, June 16: Noon ET, Fox S. vs. Chile,
- Thurs, June 20: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Sweden
- Sun, July 7 3 pm ET, Fox Women’s World Cup Finals from France
Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7
Champions League Sat 3 pm TNT
Women’s World Cup-June 7
UEFA Champions League final ultimate preview: What you need to know before Tottenham vs. Liverpool
6:30 AM ETGabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC
MADRID — The only thing left to settle for the European club season before the summer is the Champions League, and much like the Europa League final, it’s an all-English affair in Madrid as Liverpool take on Tottenham. Who will begin their holidays with a trophy and who will spend the offseason wondering what could have been?Here is what you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. BST) and is set to be played in hot temperatures.
BACKSTORY: Liverpool arrive with the greater pedigree. They’ve won the European Cup five times; only Milan and Real Madrid have more. They reached the final only last season, when they were beaten by Real Madrid in Kiev, Ukraine, and they finished this season a single point off the pace in the Premier League behind Manchester City.Contrast this with Tottenham. Only Michel Vorm, their third-choice goalkeeper, was even born the most recent time they were in a European final of any kind: the 1984 UEFA Cup final. That was also the most recent time they went beyond the quarterfinals in Europe. Spurs finished fourth in the Premier League and lost 2-1 both times they faced Liverpool this season, though the second clash, at Anfield, was a particularly tight, hard-fought affair that could have gone either way.
CARDIAC COMEBACKS, LIVERPOOL EDITION: If it wasn’t for a dramatic victory over Napoli in their final group-stage game in December — which saw them advance thanks to a tiebreaker — Liverpool’s Champions League quest would have ended before the knockout rounds. Plus, they pulled off the most dramatic of turnarounds at Anfield in the semifinal against Barcelona, winning 4-0 to wipe out a 3-0 first leg defeat.
CARDIAC COMEBACKS, TOTTENHAM EDITION: Tottenham were also headed out of the competition in December until Lucas Moura‘s goal, with five minutes to go away to Barcelona at the Camp Nou, in the final group game. Even then they only advanced thanks to the tiebreaker as well. Moura, of course, would prove decisive again in the semifinal second-leg comeback against Ajax, notching a hat trick including that buzzer-beater of a winner in injury time. Oh, and in the quarterfinal against heavily favored Manchester City, a dramatic Fernando Llorente deflected goal with minutes to go saw Spurs advance in a seesaw match.
NO SILVERWARE, NO PROBLEM: Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino famously said that trophies “build egos” but league finishes and year-on-year improvement build clubs. While Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp hasn’t quite gone that far, he too is living proof that a manager’s popularity rests on far more than delivering silverware. Both are immensely loved by their fan bases, yet Pochettino has never won a trophy in his managerial career and Klopp’s last major title was in 2012, when he led Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title. His record in finals isn’t great, either, having lost six of seven.Obviously, that will change for one of these two men Saturday …
TACTICAL CONTRAST: Both managers believe in pressing, directness, high lines and speedy forwards, but Pochettino has been, often by necessity, the more pragmatic and shape-shifting of the two. Where Liverpool’s lineup has been relatively settled for much of the season, Tottenham have been hammered by injuries at various stages. As a result, Pochettino has played a variety of lineups and schemes, and going into this game, it’s hard to predict how Tottenham will take the field.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO FOLLOWING A DEFEAT, LIVERPOOL:They will be dealt a crushing psychological blow and folks start to murmur that, for all his touchy-feely, cult-of-personality schtick, maybe Klopp really does have issues in getting a team over the line. To miss out on the Premier League by one point and then to fail in Madrid after losing in last season’s Champions League final, ending another season empty-handed … it’s a grim thought the players and fans will not want to entertain.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO FOLLOWING A DEFEAT, TOTTENHAM:Given Liverpool are huge favorites, a loss for Spurs wouldn’t be a big deal. But there’s intrigue here, too. Pochettino says he’s taken Tottenham as far as he possibly can and demands further investment in the side in the summer. If it doesn’t come — and, in fact, contract malcontents Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld leave — Pochettino resigns, too. Not the best way to end a season filled with so much hope.
CENTER-FORWARD CONUNDRUM, LIVERPOOL: Roberto Firmino is an atypical central striker whose contribution is less about goals and more about his movement, passing and work off the ball. He is invaluable to Liverpool’s system but suffered muscular injuries late in the season. Klopp says he’s fit for the final, but you wonder how a layoff of nearly six weeks since his most recent start is going to affect him.
CENTER-FORWARD CONUNDRUM, TOTTENHAM: Spurs born and bred, Tottenham fans sing that their captain, Harry Kane, is “one of their own.” He undoubtedly is, and what’s more, he’s one of the best center-forwards in the world, having scored 90 goals in the past three years in all competitions. While it appears he’s fit again, his most recent appearance for the club was way back on April 9, so rust is bound to be a factor.
Kane’s return also poses a dilemma for Pochettino: Does he leave out either Son Heung-Min or Moura, who were heroic in getting Spurs this far, or does he try to cram all three into his starting XI? On paper, it’s a risky thing to do … then again, he’s done it five times in the Premier League this season. And each time, Spurs have won.
STAR MAN, LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah took Liverpool by storm last season, when he scored 44 goals after joining from Roma, and many expected him to regress to the mean this season. But while his numbers are down (he has 26 this campaign), he’s still a constant scoring threat.
STAR MAN, TOTTENHAM: Christian Eriksen is the sort of player soccer connoisseurs love. Neither particularly quick nor athletic, he’s hugely clever in finding space and unlocking opposition defenses and is always a threat from long range.
WHERE THE GAME WILL BE WON OR LOST: Both teams love to exploit the flanks, and Liverpool in particular have devastating fullback-winger combinations in Andy Robertson with Sadio Mane on the left and Trent Alexander-Arnold with Salah on the right. How Pochettino defends them will be key since both his full-backs (Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose) are more attack-minded. He might resort to a back three or, more likely, demand more work off the ball from his wide attacking players.
(Side note: Keep your eye on Robertson — arguably the best crosser of the ball, he could place the ball on a dime in the most dangerous of attacking positions.)
Georginio Wijnaldum speaks exclusively to ESPN FC about the differences he foresees between the 2018 and 2019 Champions League finals.
X FACTOR, LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s style means that Virgil Van Dijk is often asked to do a lot of open-field defending. He’s one of the best center-backs in the world, and how well he marshals the back four will have a huge impact; so too will the threat he poses at the other end on set pieces.
X FACTOR, TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Son has scored more key goals than you can shake a stick at this season, and his combination of strength, tactical nous and energy makes him both a nuisance (for opponents when in possession) and a threat to run behind (when opponents lose possession).
LIVERPOOL WILL WIN BECAUSE … They simply have more top-to-bottom quality in the lineup, and two key Spurs players are returning from injury (not just Kane but Harry Winks, too). Many of the matchups favor them in different areas of the pitch, particularly out wide. What’s more, they have a distinct edge in dead-ball situations — their goal difference in the Premier League in this department was plus-15, to Spurs’ plus-5 — and that can be decisive in a one-off match.
TOTTENHAM WILL WIN BECAUSE … Pochettino knows how to be pragmatic, and in a final, the old standby of soaking up pressure and hitting on the counter works well. There’s also more pressure on the opposition, and Pochettino is a master at spinning the underdog tale to motivate his players.
PREDICTION: Liverpool 3-1 Tottenham
There’s a reason why these two clubs were separated by 26 points in the Premier League this season. Liverpool have more of an edge to them this season — witness Robertson tackling Lionel Messi at Anfield — and Klopp has more tactical Plan B options, like Xherdan Shaqiri off the bench or Gini Wijnaldum ghosting into the front three, than he did last season.
Liverpool, Tottenham’s secret to Champions League success? Systems over stars
3:13 PMMusa OkwongaESPN.com writer
It is difficult enough to face Barcelona and Manchester City in the late stages of the UEFA Champions League, with both sides desperate for success in a tournament in which victory would define them for an era. To not only face them while missing your talismanic forwards, as Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur did, but to overcome them, is therefore a feat for the ages. When Spurs beat City without the aid of Harry Kane, and Liverpool came back at Anfield even though Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were not in the lineup, they taught us something important about these teams: that the philosophy guiding them is more important than any individual player.This seems like a straightforward-enough point, but until recently we have not been living in straightforward times. We are slowly emerging from a decade dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, individuals around whom entire teams have been built; a period we could almost call The Age of No Plan B, where the Plan A of using Ronaldo or Messi to best effect was so successful that no alternative was needed.The arrival of Spurs and Liverpool, whose coaches both had to make sharp tactical adjustments, in the Champions League final thus feels strongly symbolic. At one point, it seemed that Messi and Ronaldo would bring Barcelona and Juventus to the final by sheer force of will, only to be undone by some of the most thrilling attacking football that Europe has seen in a generation.The key to the versatility of most modern sides, and their ability to win games even when their best options may not be available, is of course fluidity; of using systems where players can perform multiple roles if needed. The most extreme example of this is Georginio Wijnaldum, a sort of footballing Swiss Army knife who was deployed by Jurgen Klopp against Barcelona as a centre-forward, despite being mostly known as a midfielder.Wijnaldum responded with a performance for the ages, scoring twice in three second-half minutes, and essentially doing the job of a world-class target man. It was a deserved and overdue place in the spotlight for Wijnaldum, who has spent mch of the past year quietly restoring the fortunes of his club and country to supreme shape.That is the compelling thing about this year’s Champions League finalists: the spotlight so often alternates, so many players have come forward to play starring roles. Son Heung-Min has been magnificent, taking up Kane’s goal-scoring mantle with aplomb, but Moussa Sissoko has arguably been even more effective this season, taking on responsibilities far beyond those once expected of him.That these players have felt empowered to do so is great credit to both Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino. It also suggests that while we may be leaving the era of the superstar player, we may be returning to the era of the superstar coach, when tactical innovation rather than individual brilliance is decisive at the highest level.The superstar coach is by definition rare, and is someone who can take good or very good players to extraordinary levels. What is remarkable about Klopp and Pochettino is that several of the footballers they have elevated to prominence — and, in one or two cases, greatness — probably could not have imagined such a grand fate under most other managers.Virgil van Dijk was undoubtedly a very fine player at Celtic and Southampton, but few could have predicted the speed or height of his rise even two seasons ago. Even in a time of exorbitant transfer fees, his price tag attracted much scorn, but there is little laughter when it is mentioned now. As promising of a youth prospect as he was, few could have expected that Dele Alli would blossom to such effect, but under Pochettino he has become elite.
It is this quality — this ability to bring barely imaginable brilliance from everyone in their squad — that enables Liverpool, and to a lesser extent Spurs, to adjust so well when their leading players are missing through injury. That is why, when Messi arrived at Anfield for that second leg and people were asking who would stop him, Klopp could have answered, without the merest hint of irony: “Divock Origi.” That is why, when three goals down to Ajax in the second half of a Champions League semifinal, Pochettino could look at Fernando Llorente on the bench — a 34-year-old forward who had barely found form since his arrival at Spurs nearly two years ago — and say, in the style of U.S. senator Elizabeth Warren, “I have a plan for that.”The rest, of course, is glorious history. Origi scored twice, at either end of the match, while Llorente gave one of the most disruptive centre-forward displays in recent memory, winning almost every aerial duel in sight against Ajax’s defenders and providing Lucas Moura with the room to score a second-half hat trick. And in the near future, we can celebrate whoever wins in the final — despite the resources at the disposal of both teams — as a triumph for tactical mastery.
Alisson is the real reason Liverpool are in the Champions League final
7:55 PM ETRyan O’Hanlon, Special to ESPN.com
Fair warning: Depending on your personal affinities, the following exercise may be either painful, hilarious or offensive. OK, now let’s quickly go through all of the once-in-a-lifetime incidents that happened in last year’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.First, Mohamed Salah, he of the 44 goals and 16 assists in his debut season with Liverpool, badly injured his shoulder after a (pick your adjective of choice) collision with Sergio Ramos. He was subbed off in tears after just 30 minutes. In the first half-hour, Liverpool outshot Madrid 9-2; after Salah left, the balance shifted to 12-4 in Madrid’s favor over the final hour.Then, in the 51st minute, Liverpool keeper Loris Karius collected an over-hit through ball and proceeded to throw the ball directly into Karim Benzema‘s foot, seeing it deflect in to make it 1-0. After Sadio Mane evened the score in the 55th minute, Gareth Bale was subbed on with half-an-hour to go. Three minutes later, he scored on a contorted bicycle kick from the top of the penalty area. Bale scored again in the 83rd minute with a harmless-looking shot from 35 yards out hit right at the chest of Karius, who proceeded to aimlessly push the ball into his own net. From Liverpool’s point of view, there’s not much to be done about a game like that; it’s a matter of volatility. You can’t budget against your best player getting injured in the most important game of the season, and Real Madrid are Real Madrid because they have a player like Gareth Bale, who has decided multiple cup finals all by himself, sitting on the bench. Shake your fists at the soccer gods and then move on. Oh, and get yourself a new goalkeeper.A year after the debacle in Kiev, Liverpool are back in the Champions League final. This time, they’re favorites and this time, it’s not despite the guy in goal. No, they’re here because of him.
Last summer, Liverpool shattered the transfer fee for a goalkeeper when they brought in Alisson from Roma for £56.25 million. (It was then broken weeks later when Chelsea bought Kepa from Athletic Bilbao for £72m.) For a squad that had been mostly built on undervalued players, this seemed to mark a change in the way Liverpool did things… or, perhaps it wasn’t.”He maybe added one-third of the points that Liverpool gained this season,” said Paul Power, an analyst with the data company STATS. “You know, it’s chicken feed, basically, what they paid for him.”Goalkeepers have long been a frustrating puzzle for decision-makers, coaches and talent evaluators alike. As Statsbomb’s Derrick Yam wrote in a paper for this year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: “A goalkeeper in the England Premier League faces only 12 shots a game, 80 percent of which miss the goal frame completely or were blocked before they reach the goalkeeper. It’s not uncommon for a goalkeeper to go an entire game without making one save.”On top of the scarcity of events, there’s an issue of context. The style of defense a team plays will affect the type and total of shots they allow. Stopping shots for Burnley — a side that concedes a ton of chances but tries to keep as many men behind the ball as possible — is a vastly different exercise than stopping shots for Liverpool, a team that doesn’t allow many shots but has fewer bodies back in defense whenever they do. Traditional numbers like “clean sheets” or “save percentage” don’t account for these effects, and they also don’t account for the quality of the finish.All of these moving parts seem to show up in just how little clubs seem to value the players they put in goal. Before Liverpool’s deal for Alisson, the world-record fee for a keeper was Juventus’s £47.6m transfer for Parma’s Gianluigi Buffon… in 2001. Among the 50 most expensive transfers ever, just three are keepers. Ederson, the fourth-most expensive shot-stopper, cost less than “punchline players” like Paulinho, Andy Carroll and Shkodran Mustafi, whose high fees have paid more for comedy than competence.Power, however, is working to change how keepers are assessed and, in turn, how they’re valued. At STATS, he helped create a model that uses artificial intelligence to determine what each keeper’s specific skills actually are. As he put it: “What’s his ability to come off his line? What’s his ability to make his body big? Is he better at shots to his feet or hands, or both?
With that information, they’re able to determine how likely a specific keeper is to save a specific shot. The model can then simulate how each keeper in the Premier League would have fared against every single shot taken across the competition that season: a useful way to compare the performance of players up and down the table. It can also help give a sense of how a keeper’s performance would translate across the unique shot profiles that each team concedes.According to the model, Alisson was the best keeper in England this year, and he was the ideal fit for Liverpool’s defense. The 26-year-old Brazilian saved 0.31 goals per game more than the average keeper would have. Despite a late-season swoon, Manchester United’s David De Gea was second at 0.27.”In the 2017-18 season, when Liverpool conceded shots, the shots were very dangerous,” said Power. “So Liverpool needed a goalkeeper who was able to cope in one-on-one situations where the defense just completely collapsed and the keeper had to do something amazing. Alisson’s true strengths were that he was able to make these kind of superhuman saves. He would have saved at least seven goals that [Simon] Mignolet or Karius would have conceded.”A goal is worth around one point and Liverpool improved by 22 points from last year to this year, but Alisson’s impact wasn’t just limited to domestic play. In the final Champions League group stage game against Napoli, with Liverpool up 1-0 in a game they had to win in order to qualify for the knockout round, he made a point-blank save to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the 89th minute. “There aren’t many keepers who could have done that,” said Power. “There are maybe seven or eight in the world.”After the four-goal Champions League semifinal comeback against Barcelona at Anfield, much of the focus was on the fact that unheralded squad players Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum each scored twice, or that Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s quick corner won the game, or that Barcelona collapsed, dramatically, for the second time in as many years. But none of that matters if Alisson doesn’t pitch a shutout and Barcelona get an away goal. He made five saves, including two on “big chances,” which the data company Opta defines as a “situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score.”Alisson’s counterpart on Saturday in Madrid will be Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, who also rates highly in the STATS system. He saved the fourth-most goals above average (0.21 per game) in the Premier League this season.”In terms of actually picking out shots into the corners, Lloris is exceptional,” Power said. “Where he sometimes gets caught are shots that are actually straight at him. He compensates for shots that go through him by being able to reach these really high-probability shots that should be goals.”Of course, an inability to save shots directly at a keeper was partially responsible for Liverpool’s demise against Madrid last season. The acquisition of Alisson solved that problem, and then some.If there’s another bicycle kick into the top corner, Alisson is at least more likely to tip it wide than either of his predecessors. And if there’s another early injury to a key player — well, could he nurse his teammate back to health? We can’t say for sure; the model doesn’t account for that yet.
If you like this Champions League final, you’d better hope these proposed changes don’t happen
Everything that made the Champions League great this season is under threat.The final hasn’t yet been played, and a proposal put forth by the richest and most powerful clubs already imperils the future possibility of the very Cinderella runs and collapses by the favorites that made this such a captivating edition of the continental club championship.If adopted, could Ajax have found the formula to returning to European prominence and coming within seconds of reaching the final, as it did this season?No chance.Could Tottenham Hotspur have overcome years, even decades, of late-season collapses to survive heart-stopping thrillers with Manchester City and Ajax to make their first-ever title game?Possibly not.Even a legacy club like Liverpool’s second straight final, courtesy of a stunning comeback against FC Barcelona, would have been less likely.The European Club Association – a sort of trade group of 200 clubs controlled largely by the biggest teams – has convinced UEFA, the regional governing body, to consider its idea of reserving places in the Champions League for the 24 biggest clubs in Europe. The other eight spots would be split between qualifiers from outside the major leagues and the semifinalists from the prior season’s second-tier Europa League in a kind of promotion-relegation scheme that would trickle down into the third-tier tournament envisioned by UEFA.The plan was first reported by the New York Times but has since been acknowledged as a possibility by UEFA, although it claims it’s very much in the concept stage. The thing is, Europe’s biggest clubs hold enormous leverage over their governing body, aware as they are that they generate the bulk of the $2.3 billion in prize money UEFA redistributes. They want a bigger piece of it, while UEFA is trying to avoid a would-be departure of its rebellious cash cows.Such a scheme would ossify the current hierarchy in the sport and create a kind of über-class of clubs that already enjoy enormous economic advantages at the top of the food chain. And it would leave an incredibly narrow path for new teams to join that upper crust.Ajax, having mostly spent two decades in the wilderness after its last spell of European competitiveness, likely wouldn’t have made it. It wasn’t supposed to be able to get this far, outspent in multiples by its adversaries. And if this new arrangement had been suggested just a few years ago, Spurs surely would have missed out too. After all, it didn’t qualify for the elite European tournament from 2011-12 through 2015-16. Or indeed from 1962 through 2010. In fact, if the timing had been less fortunate, Liverpool would also be on the outside looking in, as the Reds qualified for the Champions League just once in seven seasons before these back-to-back runs to the final.And that’s just it. Fortunes rise and fall, but the ECA’s plan would effectively prevent that from happening in continental competition. It would make it harder for small teams to do well, since the proposal includes a group stage that would last 14 games per team, rather than six, making the chances of surprise eliminations smaller.What’s more, a slate of guaranteed Champions League entrants would make the domestic leagues largely unimportant. In the Premier League, for instance, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal wouldn’t have had anything to play for, other than marginal bumps in prize money, once they were out of title contention. Fewer game would matter.Much of the drama this season in the Spanish and Italian leagues came not from Barcelona and Juventus winning yet more domestic titles – Barca’s fourth in five seasons and Juve’s eighth in a row – but from little Atalanta and puny Getafe chasing Champions League berths. They would be a pair of major upsets and generational achievements for each club, but if they weren’t even playing for a place among Europe’s elite, nobody would have cared about their final standing.The domestic leagues have understandably pushed back against this plan – La Liga president Javier Tebas has called it “catastrophic” – which would not go into effect until 2024. Because there is even talk of the expanded schedule of Champions League games partly taking place on weekends, rather than being confined to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as they are now. This, too, would undermine domestic soccer, no matter how beloved the league.In some ways, this sort of proposal was inevitable. The megaclub-controlled ECA has agitated for a breakaway league for years, figuring it would stand to make more money and suffer less risk by simply shutting out the smaller clubs. This is a more palatable version of the once-mooted Super League. And from a fan’s perspective, there is an argument to be made for the biggest clubs playing the biggest games on the biggest stage more of the time.But then the biggest clubs don’t always stay the biggest. Some decline. Others emerge. That’s the beauty of sport. The beauty of soccer, above all. Nothing is ordained – Ajax almost made the final. The games still have to be played. And sometimes the smaller team wins.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.
Warshaw: Lessons learned and questions to answer for US at U-20 World Cup
May 31, 201911:33AM EDTBobby Warshaw
Game 1, a 2-1 loss to Ukraine: “Meh. Not great, not bad – certainly some things to build on.”
Game 2, a 2-0 win over Nigeria: “This is everything I’ve ever wanted from an American men’s soccer team.”
Game 3, a 1-0 win over Qatar: “They won? I threw the remote through the TV at about the 40 minute mark.”
From mediocre to very good to very bad, the United States did enough in the group stage to secure second place in Group D and qualify into the Second Round the Under-20 World Cup. The US will likely take on tournament favorite France on Tuesday.
Things we learned about the US from the group stage:
- When everything/everyone clicks, the team can play gorgeous soccer. Everyone is comfortable on the ball, and everyone can attack from multiple angles. The wingers can tuck central or stay wide; the outside backs can overlap or underlap; and all three center midfielders can drop deep or drive forward. The game against Nigeria was one of the most exhilarating attacking performances that a US men’s national team at any level has ever played.
- With that said … holy crap, does the team need Paxton Pomykalat center midfield. It was not random that the team’s best performance came when Pomykal – who played on the wing in the first game and got rested in the third game – played in the middle against Nigeria. His instinct on where to move and what to do with the ball sets the pace for the group. And when that pace isn’t right … it gets precarious quickly. If the team takes punches, they struggle to stay standing. Every soccer game has momentum swings, and every team needs to know how to manage those swings. Instead of controlling the ball for a little, you focus on controlling the space. When the US lost control of the ball, though, they also allowed opposing players to get in dangerous gaps. They are a team who clearly has inserted the idea of “playing on the front foot” into their minds, but they also need to get more comfortable when they are pushed back.Hopefully Thursday’s win over Qatar will help with that … as they learned that they can win despite being second-best. That statement isn’t an attempt to put makeup on a pig. The win over Qatar was more “lucky” than “gritty.” That distinction won’t matter to the players, though. The idea of “We can win when we are getting outplayed” has now been inserted into their brains; it can function as a rallying cry when the game isn’t going as planned. Stay calm, stay in it – we can find a way. It’s likely that France will control the game on Tuesday, so this little nugget could be important.
Questions that need to get answered before the next game:
- Can Tab Ramos find the right starting XI? The team had a pretty clear framework through the qualifying games last November, then in the first game of the World Cup, Ramos experimented; he opted to play without a true center striker. In the third group game, too, Ramos experimented; he put Mark McKenzie, usually a center back, at right back. I didn’t mind the logic behind either decision. It has to be said, though, that they both turned out to be the wrong decisions that almost cost his team the tournament. His next lineup decisions will garner plenty of eyes, both for their impact on a huge knockout game and what they could mean for a potential move to the professional ranks after the World Cup.And the first selection conversation among the coaching staff should be: Who plays center midfield? Chris Durkinand Alex Mendez, who both started all three group games, are suspended for the next match due to yellow card accumulation. Brandon Servania, who started the first and third games, hasn’t looked as sharp as he did in the Concacaf Championship. Pomykal figures to play one of the midfield roles. I’d guess Richie Ledezma gets a start, too, after he looked good in his cameo against Qatar. The last and deepest midfield spot? Does Ramos give FC Dallas’ Edwin Cerillo his first international game? Similarly … Who plays right back? Sergino Dest, who plays for Ajax’s reserve team, has been breathtaking in attack. He’s consistently dangerous when he flies down the right. But he has struggled defensively in both of his starts, to the point that he could be a liability against France. It’d be a shame to lose his attacking ability from the starting lineup, but McKenzie or Julian Araujo could be the more reliable options at right back.
Predicting the USMNT Gold Cup roster
Which 23 players do we think get the call from Berhalter?
The CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off on June 15th, and United States Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter will soon have to name the 23 players that will make up his roster. The USMNT will seek to defend its title from 2017, but will do it with a squad that would be considered almost full strength, save a few injuries.From Berhalter’s 40-man provisional roster will come the 23-man roster, and that roster will be firm thanks to new CONCACAF rules that will be implemented at this tournament. Because of this, the task of trimming 17 players to form the final roster is a difficult one. Berhalter is having a joint camp with the U-23s this week in Annapolis, Maryland before calling in a full USMNT senior roster to compete in the first Gold Cup warm up friendly against Jamaica on June 5th in Washington, DC. On June 6th, Berhalter will announce that final squad, who will head onto Cincinnati to face Venezuela on June 9th before competing in the Gold Cup.So, who do we think Gregg Berhalter will select to form the final Gold Cup roster? We predict, by position, who we think he eventually selects:
Zack Steffen is Berhalter’s number one goalkeeper, and he gets the first call amongst the shot stoppers. It will be a decent competition for the other two spots, but in the end they go to Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson. They appear to be the two that Berhalter feels most comfortable with in terms of distribution out of the back. If Berhalter thinks he needs some more experience between the posts, he could opt to bring Brad Guzan instead of Johnson. In the end, it’s likely Johnson that gets that 3rd goalkeeper spot.
DEFENDERS (8): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream(Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club)
There are several players that hope to play themselves into the mix for the 23-man roster, but there are a few that are solidly in Berhalter’s plans. Tyler Adams will be the starting right back in the hybrid formation that Berhalter employs. Nick Lima will also be brought on to back up Adams in that position. Whoever mans that right back position will be called on to also shift at times into the center defensive midfield position as well.On the left side, Daniel Lovitz, Tim Ream, and Antonee Robinson will be named to the team to hold things down. Greg Garza’s injury puts Berhalter in a tough spot, as he probably makes the team ahead of Robinson if he’s 100%. For centerbacks, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and even Tim Ream will battle for the starting spots. They all will be expected to be ready to play as the squad rotates throughout the group stage.
MIDFIELDERS (6): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
The main midfielders of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie are going to be the go-to players each match. Michael Bradley and Wil Trapp will be called upon to serve in the center defense midfield area, while Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan will provide cover off the bench. Still, it will be about where they play Pulisic. Will he be on the right, as he was for most of the year with Borussia Dortmund, will he play on the left, or will Berhalter place him in the center?
Jozy Altidore is back, he’s currently healthy, and is scoring or assisting (or both) in each match he plays in. If he can maintain his health, he’s Berhalter’s first name for forwards. Tyler Boyd’s ability to work the left side will mean he makes the roster along with Paul Arriola, whose work rate will get him in the starting lineup either at left attack wing or right attack wing. Jonathan Lewis will also be able to play either wing, though he appears to be most comfortable on the left. Josh Sargent and Gyasi Zardes could be options at center forward or withdrawn behind Jozy Altidore on either side. Gregg Berhalter will likely bring in players who can play multiple positions while letting them know exactly what their role will be for the Gold Cup. His meticulous approach to establishing and executing a game plan will mean that while the versatility of this predicted roster will be utilized at times throughout the tournament, it will be done in a controlled way that maintains the structure of Berhalter’s desired hybrid 4-3-3 formation.
To recap, here’s who Gregg Berhalter will likely name to his final Gold Cup roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath, Sean Johnson, Zack Steffen
DEFENDERS (8): Tyler Adams, Nick Lima, Aaron Long, Daniel Lovitz, Matt Miazga, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Walker Zimmerman
MIDFIELDERS (6): Michael Bradley, Sebastian Lletget, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Cristian Roldan, Wil Trapp
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, Jonathan Lewis, Josh Sargent, Gyasi Zardes
We will find out who is actually selected on June 6th. For now, hit the comments and let us know who you think Gregg Berhalter names to the final Gold Cup roster. Most importantly…do you think this roster will be enough to win America its 7th Gold Cup?
Chelsea Clouded With Uncertainty, but Christian Pulisic’s Path There Clears Up
By AVI CREDITOR May 22, 2019 SI
Chelsea is facing plenty of uncertainty in the coming weeks. There’s the future of Eden Hazard, who is thought to be headed to Real Madrid after a year of public flirtation with the Spanish power. There’s the future of Maurizio Sarri, the manager whose hot seat has constantly changed temperatures, despite guiding the club to a Champions League place and the Europa League final. Then there’s the looming specter of a transfer ban, which would prohibit the club from signing players this summer and next winter, pending an appeal.Amid all of this has come the arrival of Christian Pulisic, the 20-year-old American phenom who joined the Blues in a $73 million transfer in Januarybefore being loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season. At the time of the transfer, the move was met with some skepticism as it related to the player’s chances for individual success. Chelsea was far from a shoo-in for a Champions League berth at that stage in the season, and its squad was flush with able-bodied players at his position.Fast forward nearly five months, and even with all of the uncertainty clouding his new club, Pulisic’s outlook is actually quite clear.Achilles injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have, by unfortunate circumstance, removed two chief competitors for playing time. Hazard’s departure is fully expected to take place after the Europa League final vs. Arsenal, which would open yet another chunk of minutes. The club has an army of players out on loan, but that figures to be its only source of player addition this summer. With Pedro and Willian both on the wrong side of 30, the runway is clear for takeoff.It all adds up to Pulisic, with the expectations of the pricetag bestowed upon him, getting the opportunity to meet them. That isn’t to say that it will be spoonfed, though. Pulisic’s last season at Dortmund was uneven at best, with the player fighting recurrent muscle injuries and the ascent of Jadon Sancho to the tune of only making nine Bundesliga starts in his 20 appearances. At Chelsea, he’ll have to win the favor of his new manager, whether it’s Sarri or someone else. But that was always going to be the case, and some of the obstacles for doing so have now been removed.”He is a world-class talent,” U.S. and now-Chelsea teammate Matt Miazga said in March. “You saw at a young age what he can do in the Bundesliga. This season he has been injured a lot, so it has been difficult for him to kick on, but everyone knows the talent he possesses, he is a great player. He is very comfortable on the ball in tight space. You don’t see that too often from American players, to have that level of technical ability and savviness in tight spaces to get in and out and create goalscoring opportunities.”You can see from his play that he can create those goalscoring opportunities, and be a nuisance for a defender on the wing. He can isolate a defender and beat him one-on-one with speed and technique. Chelsea have added a great player, and I think he will add a lot, particularly beating players one-versus-one.”Pulisic wasted little time in playing down the inevitable and immediate comparisons that will be made between him and Hazard while setting the goal of one-day reaching the Belgian’s heights.”Eden is a fantastic player, we all know that, and if I can get anywhere close to that I will be happy,” Pulisic told the club’s official site upon his introduction at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. “He is a great player. I want to come in, be my own player, and do the best that I can do.”I want to use my skills, my pace, my quickness and creativity to help, especially on the attacking end of things. Scoring goals and providing assists, that is what I am here to do. I want to make an impact and be a team guy who is going to give it everything.”Nothing is set in stone. The last two years were supposed to be breakout statistical years for Pulisic, and they didn’t quite pan out that way. Such is the nature of being a young player at one of the world’s best teams. But with a fresh start amid some helpful circumstances, his Premier League breakout could happen sooner rather than later. “I was 15 when I moved to Dortmund,” Pulisic said. “It was something I always wanted and it was just a matter of finding the right time. Now I just felt that it was the right step [to join Chelsea]. It was a great time in Dortmund but it was a feeling and I still have that. This is the biggest stage, it is incredible to come in and be in England and part of this league. If you want to prove yourself it is the greatest stage to be on.”
As USWNT Heads to Women’s World Cup, Uncertainty Surrounds the Champs
By GRANT WAHL May 26, 2019 SI
HARRISON, N.J. — In its last game before the World Cup starts on June 7, the U.S. women’s national team beat Mexico 3-0 on Sunday at Red Bull Arena with goals by Tobin Heath, Mallory Pugh and Christen Press. But in the bigger picture, the most important things were that the U.S. suffered no injuries and felt like it was departing for the World Cup on a higher note than on each of the previous final “send-off” games that took place in the same stadium in 2011 and ’15.
Compared to the 2011 game, the attendance Sunday (26,332) was almost five times the size of the 5,852 that came eight years ago, reflecting the sea change in popularity that the defending World Cup champions are enjoying these days. And while Sunday’s win against Mexico could have been significantly bigger, given the amount of chances the U.S. created, there were more positive moments than in the 0-0 send-off game against South Korea here in 2015. “I thought back to our performance here that we had in 2015, which was actually a really poor performance on our part, and we had a bad feeling to go to that World Cup with that as our last game,” said Press, who had a tremendously composed 88th-minute finish to score the final U.S. goal on Sunday. “We can absolutely play better than we did today, 100%, but it’s a far better place than we were four years ago. And four years ago, we won [that World Cup].” Press is a prime example of just how scary the U.S.’s attacking depth is in 2019. The American front three in the first half was Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Heath. They were replaced after halftime by Press, Carli Lloyd and Pugh, who would start on basically any other national team in the world.When Press is at her best, she does things that few other American players can do. Witness the goal she scored against Spain earlier this year after running half the length of the field with the ball, or the patience she had in the box on her goal Sunday. “Phenomenal,” said Rapinoe afterward. “She’s such a good finisher, super-composed around the box. Her little fake to set herself up on the left was just beautiful.”Press’s ceiling is enormous; she’s capable of being the U.S.’s breakout star of the World Cup. But she’s also capable of not creating much of an impact, which makes her one of the USWNT’s most intriguing players.If Rapinoe did have one concern about the U.S. attack, it was over the hesitation to take a pause in certain moments like Press did in the 88th. “The key is understanding of the game and dominating games with our tactics and being able to control games that way,” Rapinoe said. “I still think we’re way too impatient, and I think we get caught in this transition-style game where we just go-go-go-go-go. We need to go when we get the best chance, not just when we get a chance. I think throughout the World Cup, especially in a seven-game tournament over a short period of time, we can play that game for maybe one or two or three games in a row, but physically we make ourselves do a lot of work doing that.“So we’ll need to be able to play a different style and control the game in a different way, and I think as well teams will probably sit in on us a little more, so we won’t be able to just go every time. We’ll need to be able to break down that low block.”The inability to do that against Sweden sent the U.S. out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals. But this U.S. team has more players who can break you down one-on-one and create space on the ball on their own. That was personified in the first half on Sunday by Rose Lavelle, who befuddled the Mexicans on the dribble and even brought down an errant pass with an outrageous scorpion kick touch before passing to Heath (who missed her chance on goal).The U.S. will be the favorite to win in France, largely due to having the most firepower we’ve ever seen in the history of the program. But the Americans are also less of a favorite than they were six months ago, not least because their defense has struggled at times against top competition, whether it was in the 3-1 friendly loss at France in January or in the SheBelieves Cup this year, which was won by England.
And while the USWNT did compete against world-class competition earlier in the year, its last four games before the World Cup were against less competitive teams in Belgium (6-0), South Africa (3-0), New Zealand (5-0) and Mexico (3-0). With two expected blowouts to open the World Cup against Thailand and Chile, the competition will take a swift spike upward in the third game against Sweden and in the knockout rounds thereafter.I asked U.S. coach Jill Ellis if she would have preferred to have more difficult opposition in the most recent four games.“When you do scheduling, you do it a year out,” she said. “No [World Cup-contending] teams are going to travel to us. We have to have three send-off games [in the U.S.], so teams aren’t going to travel from Europe at this point to come play us. So it’s really getting teams that are en route to the host country, so it’s part of that in terms of logistics. … Historically, it’s challenging. Unless we’re willing to travel early, it’s tough to get those top teams to come at this late a date. Actually, most of them are together already in Europe.”The U.S. will now head to Europe as well. For the next week, the team will be training in London at the grounds of Tottenham Hotspur before heading to France around June 7. (The U.S. and Thailand will be the last teams to play their first World Cup game, which happens on the evening of June 11 in Reims.)After a stay this week in New York that was dominated by media promotion, the U.S. players said they were ready for a quiet stretch of training and focusing inward on themselves and the team.“We have been talking about how excited we are to get out of here,” said Morgan on Sunday. “No offense to anyone, but we are ready to kind of have that tight-knit community within our team and just continue to build that chemistry and to do team-bonding activities. And also, no offense, to just get away from the media for a little bit. Just everyone kind of disconnects with everything and connects more with the team. So we’re looking forward to that piece of it and just enjoying everyone’s company before the roller-coaster gets real.”
USWNT Stock Watch: Who’s heading to the World Cup on a high note?
There are no more friendlies or send-off games. All that’s left is for the U.S. women’s national team to begin their Women’s World Cup campaign in France in two weeks.With that, here is our final stock watch before the tournament begins, where we look at who has proven their value and who is falling behind.
▲ Rose Lavelle, midfielder
With a talent pool as deep as the one in the central midfield, Lavelle has had to fend off the challenges of other players vying for her spot. But she reminded everyone again Sunday of why head coach Jill Ellis wants to find a starting spot for her so badly.When Lavelle wasn’t creating pockets of space with her smart through-balls, she was dribbling through the defense and setting up her teammates with crafty touches. Amazingly, Lavelle told reporters afterward she only just now is starting to feel the way she did before a rash of injuries. That means she can get even better.No one on the USWNT roster can provide the same sort of central playmaking that Lavelle can, and she figures to play a big role in France.
▲ Crystal Dunn, defender
Ellis said that the decision to sub Dunn out at halftime wasn’t planned — Dunn had been dealing with some ankle stiffness, and as a precaution, she took Dunn out. In Dunn’s place was Tobin Heath, a surprising option for left back. Later, when Emily Sonnett came in at right back, Kelley O’Hara took over at left back.On one hand, this substitution pattern shows that Ellis is relying on depth within her core group of starters. But on the other hand, it highlights how there isn’t an ideal off-the-bench substitute option for Dunn. No one can replace her, and the team is expecting a lot out of Dunn in France.If you think of our stock watch as measuring a player’s value to the USWNT, Dunn’s stock is off the charts.
▲ Christen Press, forward
The starting core is set: It’ll be Alex Morgan up top, Megan Rapinoe on left and Tobin Heath on the right. That means players like Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh and Press are vying to be the first option off the bench. Press proved she may be that option on Sunday, with a well-taken goal that was quintessential Press — she cut around a defender and calmly struck.
▼ Jessica McDonald, forward
This isn’t McDonald’s first time on the stock down list, but it’ll be the last before the World Cup begins. She’s one of the only players to have not played a minute in the final three friendlies, and it’s hard to imagine a role for her in rance.Asked about McDonald’s lack of playing time, Ellis said she was cognizant of McDonald as an option.“Jess, she’s a weapon and we’re going to make sure we know how to use her,” Ellis said.
▼ Morgan Brian, midfielder
If there’s a player that shocked followers of the USWNT by making the 23-woman World Cup, it was Brian. She has struggled due to injury, form and playing time, but Ellis said she had seen Brian in the “pressure cooker” of a World Cup and trusted her.Still, it looks like that will only get Brian so far. She hasn’t featured for the USWNT in these send-off games and it remains to be seen if she can make any sort of impact in France. Ellis, however, was optimistic.”We brought Moe in and Moe’s been building and doing very well,” Ellis said.
▼ Adrianna Franch / Ashlyn Harris, goalkeepers
Alyssa Naeher is the starting goalkeeper, and will play every minute in France, barring injury or suspension. Any chances that Franch or Harris had to change things are long gone.
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