Fresh off their first US Open Cup win in a few years Wednesday night at the Butler Bowl, the Indy 11 are home this Saturday night as it’s back to USL Championship action for Indy Eleven (4W-2L-2D, 14 pts.) when it welcomes the Charleston Battery (4W-1L-4D, 16 pts.) on “Armed Forces Night” at Lucas Oil Stadium. 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. Back-up goalkeeper, and Carmel FC Goalkeeper Coach Jordan Farr came in to save the day Wednesday night after starter Evan Newton was red carded in the 28th minute as he helped a 10 man Indy 11 outlast their League 1 opponents 1-0 with an extra time goal late in the first half- Highlights. The Indy 11 also announced they will host a Coaches Symposium on Tues, May 21st at Grand Park for just $30.
Tiny Watford will look to fulfill their FA Cup Dreams against EPL Champions Manchester City on Sat at 12 noon on ESPN+. Singer Elton John’s boyhood and favorite team will hope for some FA Cup magic as they face one of the top sides in the world in Man City. Not sure why this is on the Plus for ESPN – you would think they could find a spot on ESPN or ESPN2 for this FINAL match after serving all the other games on the Plus. But that appears to be where we stand having to stream our overseas soccer these days. I for 1 will NOT be watching.
USA World Cup
The US ladies won both of their Send-Off Series games this past week with a 3-0 win Sunday on Fox and a solid 5-0 win over New Zealand last night. You can watch the USWNT’s final send-off friendly next Sunday: vs Mexico on May 26 (Noon ET, ESPN). The World Cup from France gets underway June 7 with the US starting June 11. The US 20 World Cup featuring the US team with Tim Weah will kickoff next week with the US playing Friday on Fox Sports 1 vs Ukraine at 2:30 pm. The US U17’s have qualified for next summer’s World Cup behind 7 goals from Reyna – yeah Claudia’s son. They lost a heartbreaker in the CONCACAF Finals vs Mexico 2-1 after dominating possession most of the game.
So the EPL season limped into the final weekend with just title race barely on the line – for about 2 minutes it was a thrill across Anfield as the score showing Man City trailing Brighton 1-0 came across the board. Of course less than 2 minutes later Aguero scored and Man City was on its way to a 4-1 win and a second consecutive EPL title. An amazing 98 points 1 year after having 100 total points and outlasting Liverpool who finished with 97. How about the fact that Liverpool wins the EPL with 97 points any other year in the history of the league but this season and last except for Man City. Amazing – great story here about the millimeters that truly separated Man City and Liverpool this season. Of course with an All-EPL Champions League match-up of Liverpool vs Spurs and Chelsea vs Arsenal in Europa League at the end of the month we’ll have more EPL coming up.
Games to Watch
Great story about American Christian Pulisic as he played his final home game last week for Dortmund scoring his second goal in as many games after a moving pre-game celebration and after game visit to the yellow wall. Dortmund still has a slight chance to win the Bundesliga title as they are 2 points back of Bayern Munich after having the lead for most of the season. Dortmund will be on Saturday at 9:30 am on FS1 vs Borussia Gladbach, Bayern Munich meanwhile hosts Frankfurt (who desperately needs the win to secure Champions League next season) on FS 2 at 9:30 am. Of course, the top 6 teams in the Bundesliga are still mathematically alive for that 4th Champions League spot or certainly a top 7 Europa league position as the race will be to the finish.
In La Liga the 4th and final Champions League spot is between Spanish clubs Valencia and Sevilla FC who play at 10:15 am on beIN Sport. If Valencia win they are 4th if Sevilla win they need tiny Getafe to lose to jump them and Valencia into the 4th position. A day of drama for tiny club Getafe with the miracle chance to make Champions League for the 1st time ever. Go Getafe! Also in Spain – sorry to see my precious Atletico losing Greizmann but life goes on for the 2nd place team in La Liga this season as long as they still have the manager in black – Simeone! Oh and Bruce Arena, former US and the most successful MLS coach ever, is back in the league as GM And Manager of the New England Revolution.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, MAY 18 (American’s in parenthesis)
9:30 am Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 Borussia M’gladbach (Johnson) vs Dortmund (Pulisic)
9:30 am Fox Soccer Schalke (McKinney) vs Stuttgart
10:15 am beIN Sport Real Valladolid vs Valencia
12 noon ESPN+ Manchester City vs Watford – FA Cup Final
2 pm Univision San Jose vs Chicago Fire
7 pm WISHTV Indy 11 vs Charlestown (Lucas Oil)
8 pm ESPN+ Min United vs Columbus Crew
Sun, MAY 19
6 am beIN sport Real Madird vs Real Betis
11:30 am ESPN3 Netherlands U17 vs Italy u17 Eefa Finals
2:30 pm ESPN+ Napoli vs Inter (champ league race)
3 pm ESPN+ Orlando City vs Cincy
5 pm Fox Sport 1 NY Red Bulls vs Atlanta United
Fri, MAY 24
12 noon ESPN2? Copa Del Rey Barcelona vs Valencia
2;30 pm Fox Sport 1 USA U20s vs Ukraine U20 WC
Sat, MAY 25
2 pm ESPNNews German Cup Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
7 pm WISHTV Indy 11 vs Nashville (Lucas Oil)
Sun, MAY 26
9:30 am FS1 Mexico U20 vs Japan U20
12 pm ESPN USA Ladies vs Mexico
6 pm Fox Sport 1 Sporting KC vs Seattle
Mon, MAY 27
2:30 pm FS1 USA U20s vs Nigeria U20 WC
Weds, May 29 Europa League Finals
Thur, MAY 30
2:30 pm FS1 USA U20s vs Qatar U20 WC
Sat, June 1 Champions League Finals
Women’s World Cup June 7-July 7
- Fri, June 7 3 p m 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
- Sun, July 7 3 pm ET, Fox Women’s World Cup Finals from France
Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7
– Man City ratings: Laporte, Gundogan both 8/10 as title clinched
Indy 11 Soccer Camp – Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Field June 17-20 9-12 noon.ages 6-14 $135
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN ADVANCES IN LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP WITH 1-0 WIN OVER LANSING IGNITE FC
By IndyEleven.com, 05/15/19, 10:30PM EDT
Goalkeeper Jordan Farr’s Sudden Professional Debut – and Subsequent Shutout – Help Boys in Blue to Second Round Win
Playing a man down for 70 minutes was not a bridge too “Farr” for Indy Eleven in its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup debut, as goalkeeper Jordan Farr came on in reserve duty to keep a clean sheet and help the Boys in Blue advance past Lansing Ignite FC 1-0 in Second Round action at Butler University’s Sellick Bowl. Forward Thomas Enevoldsen’s 57th minute tally was enough to give Indy Eleven its first USOC win since the 2016 tournament and set up a Third Round match-up at USL Championship cohort Pittsburgh Riverhounds in two weeks’ time. “Obviously, it was a hard game. It was doubly hard when we went down to 10 men. We had to put a lot of effort into it,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “I knew if we could get a goal that we could expect to defend well. It was nice to get the win as well. It was nice to not go to extra time with ten men. I thought we played really well given the situation.” Lansing Ignite almost took advantage of an Eleven defensive miscue within 30 seconds of the opening whistle, but thankfully defender Paddy Barrett saved an initial shot off the goalline, and midfielder Kenney Walker followed suit within the six-yard box on the rebounded effort. A scary moment and quick flash point came in the 16th minute, when Indy Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton collided with Lansing forward Elma N’for as the two raced for a 50-50 ball just outside of Newton’s area. N’for received medical attention on the field for several minutes, and during the delay match referee Adam Behrens rescinded his initial yellow card to Newton and instead issued a straight red for the challenge, putting Indy Eleven down a man five minutes later. After a 12-minute delay, the match would restart with Steve Saint-Duc entering up top for N’for, and Farr going in between the posts in what became an impromptu professional debut. Two minutes later the substitutes would be introduced to each other, Saint-Duc’s scuffed shot from 10 yards forcing Farr to make his first save. Not much came from the next half hour, but waist-deep into 11 minutes of stoppage time Indy Eleven would create danger. Off a designed set piece, Matt Watson got free down the right flank only to see his cross towards the six-yard box driven just over the head of defender Karl Ouimette. A minute later, Lansing’s Rafa Mentzingen found space and tried his luck from 35 yards out, but his pacey shot would sail over the crossbar and mark the final shot of a fairly-even first half. A sluggish second half would spring to life in the 57th minute when header from Thomas “The Engine” Enevoldsen gave Indy the lead. After a cleared Indy corner, midfielder Tyler Gibson sent the ball back into the mixer from the midfield stripe and found defender Paddy Barrett, whose square header was nodded home by Enevoldsen to break the deadlock. Ricky Lopez-Espin had a chance to even things up in the 65th minute, but he couldn’t get enough on his near-angled shot to beat defender Neveal Hackshaw, who tracked behind Farr to cover his near post and clear off the goal line for a corner. Lopez-Espin was free again inside the penalty area five minutes later, this time sending a low shot that Farr pounced on with ease. With 15 minutes left in regulation it was Tumi Moshobane’s first-time laser that forced Farr’s best stop of the evening, the second-year ‘keeper batting the chance away off the tips of his gloves before it could reach his upper 90. The Boys in Blue withstood steady pressure by Ignite FC through the end of regulation and an additional four minutes of stoppage time to survive and advance to the Third Round. Indy Eleven and the Riverhounds are set to meet at Highmark Stadium on the banks of the Monongahela River in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, May 29th, in an USL Championship-Open Cup mashup. There’s no rest for the weary as it’s back to USL Championship action for Indy Eleven (4W-2L-2D, 14 pts.) this Saturday, May 18, when it welcomes the Charleston Battery (4W-1L-4D, 16 pts.) on “Armed Forces Night” at Lucas Oil Stadium. 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.
2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Second Round
Indy Eleven (USL Championship) 1 : 0 Lansing Ignite FC (USL League One)
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Sellick Bowl at Butler University – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 853 Next LHUSOC Game – Third Round
Indy Eleven at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL Championship) Highmark Stadium | Pittsburgh, Penn.
IND – Thomas Enevoldsen (Paddy Barrett) 57’
IND – Evan Newton (red card) 21’
IND – Thomas Enevoldsen (yellow card) 51’
LAN – Grant Stoneman (yellow card) 62’
IND – Matt Watson (yellow card) 62’
IND – Kenney Walker (yellow card) 88’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-5-2, L–>R): Evan Newton (GK) (red card 21’); Karl Ouimette, Paddy Barrett, Neveal Hackshaw; Tyler Pasher, Kenney Walker, Tyler Gibson, Matt Watson (captain) (Ayoze Garcia 86’), Macauley King; Thomas Enevoldsen (Dane Kelly 74’), Alioune Diakhate (Jordan Farr 28’) IND Substitutes: Mario Perez (GK), Mitch Osmond, Emerson Nieto, Josh Penn
Lansing Ignite FC lineup (3-5-2, L–>R): Kyle Ihn; Grant Stoneman, Brandon Fricke (captain), Kevin Coiffic; Nathan Lewis (Xavier Gomez 69’), Christian Silva, Tumi Moshobane, Marshall Hollingsworth, Rafa Mentzingen (Alex Bruce 69’); Elma Nfor (Steeve Saint-Duc 28’), Ricky Lopez-EspinLAN Substitutes: Mike Kirk (GK), Rhys Williams, Kyle Carr, Nick Moon
Borussia Dortmund’s warm farewell for Christian Pulisic, a player always destined to move somewhere else
May 13, 2019Stephan Uersfeld Germany correspondent
DORTMUND, Germany — As he walked down the tunnel, he was holding back tears. Four minutes before half-time, Christian Pulisic was again holding back his tears; he’d just scored to hand Dortmund the lead. They remain firmly in the title race and “Captain America” had come to the rescue. Just over an hour later, Borussia wrapped up the 3-2 win and Pulisic obliged with the media tour before walking to the locker room. At 6:36 p.m. local time, he left, his family waiting for him near the exit.In the end, Pulisic could not have wished for a better ending to his time at the Westfalenstadion, though there might always be a sense of what could have been. But before he joins his new Chelsea team, there’s still one more match to be played, and in a turbulent season, he could still sign off with a Bundesliga title.”We will never give up,” Pulisic vows.Going into the penultimate day of the season and Christian Pulisic’s home farewell, Bayern held a four-point lead over Dortmund and boasted a vastly superior goal difference. The fans were listless about it all, having seen their team lose control of the title race. This is what the fans discussed over prematch beers and giant plates full of asparagus and meat at Zur Sonne, one of the traditional meeting points for Dortmund fans.They also contemplated why Pulisic might not leave that big a footprint in Borussia’s club history.
“Had he not been an American and had Chelsea not been hit with a transfer ban, Dortmund would have got €5 million for [Pulisic],” said Thomas Reske, a member of Borussia’s Goldener Oktober fan club, jokingly of course. Jens Weber, a lifelong BVB supporter like everyone at the bar, recalled the American’s first steps in the U-17 and U-19.”He’s a Dortmund youth product and he wasn’t even the most talented player of his age group,” Weber said, remembering Felix Passlack, currently on loan with Norwich City. “But he prevailed. And it was nice to see Pulisic work himself up to the first team.”The past 1,495 days have been a wild ride for Pulisic. It began with his unassuming debut for Borussia Dortmund’s U-17, a 4-1 win against Fortuna Dusseldorf’s U-17 in front of just 100 spectators at the Paul-Janes-Stadion in Dusseldorf. On Saturday, he played his penultimate game in a 3-2 win against Dusseldorf’s senior side in front of a capacity crowd of 81,365 at one of the cathedrals of world football. In between, he became the superstar of American soccer and he put his name on the map of European football. He broke records on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, making clear that he is the real deal.The 20-year-old U.S. international first set up a goal back on April 8, 2015, in his debut and scored one on Saturday, too. Overall, his record speaks for itself: he made 151 competitive appearances for Borussia Dortmund, scoring 33 goals and setting up a further 38. The vast majority (126 matches, 19 goals and 25 assists) were for the senior side.Saturday’s goal was notable in that it kept alive Dortmund’s hopes of winning a first Bundesliga title since 2012. When he leaves for Chelsea, which paid €64 million in January for him — the highest-ever fee for an American — he can say he has given his all for BVB until the final minutes. Before that, though, he has one more match to play at Borussia Monchengladbach next Saturday. It could still win him his first Bundesliga title, although his side’s chances remain slim.Of course, nobody was more aware of Saturday’s occasion than Pulisic. It felt like he didn’t even want to leave his home of the past five years; he was the last to leave the locker room down in the catacombs of the Westfalenstadion. His last home match for Borussia Dortmund had ended hours earlier, but he was still there, soaking up every moment. There was time for one final interview with the club TV and one last walk up to the journalists waiting for him.”I still can’t believe it. Everything worked out perfect today. But the most important thing is that we got the win and still have a chance,” he said in English before switching to German. “Most of all, I will miss the fans and the stadium. It was a super goodbye for me and yes, I am thankful for the fans and for Dortmund.”The American’s time at Dortmund was never going to be a lifelong love affair; rather it was laid out as a chapter in Pulisic’s career, an important one for him and one Dortmund knew they could capitalize on in the future. Turning Pulisic into a star would not only boost the club’s profile as one of the go-to places for the best young talents in world football, but it also would one day get the club a good transfer fee.Last season, Borussia and Pulisic endured a difficult campaign. Prior to 2017-18, he’d been a young player at the Westfalenstadion capable of providing that bit of extra magic. While Pulisic already was the star player of American soccer by that point, he could always return to Dortmund, where there was no extra pressure. But this year, the pressure was on him too. There were games in which he was the most experienced player in Dortmund’s attack and it was expected of him to just deliver.Pulisic’s unresolved future and his new role were weight on his shoulders, but once his next move was secured, he vowed in a statement that he’d fight for Borussia until the last matchday. The club told him he must live up to his words and, bar a few injuries, he did.Over the past couple of months, Borussia squandered a nine-point lead at the top, lost 5-0 at Bayern and, only a fortnight ago, suffered humiliation against Schalke 04 in the Ruhr derby, with their rivals taking all three points back home to Gelsenkirchen. Yet Pulisic remained true to his word: at Bremen the week before, he embarked on an Eden Hazard-like run through the opponent’s defense to hand Dortmund an early lead. He had fought back and become a force for Dortmund again, but in that same game, Borussia blew a 2-0 lead, which opened the door for Bayern to extend their lead to four points ahead of his final home match.As Dortmund’s fighting spirit resulted in a call for perseverance, with the fans stating “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” in a giant banner unfolded on the stands at Bremen, Pulisic prepared for his last match at the Westfalenstadion.He raced out onto the pitch to warm up just over half an hour before kickoff. He kicked his ball toward the Sudtribune and took a long look at the Yellow Wall. He absorbed every moment during his 17-minute warm-up, watching Dortmund’s 1989 cup heroes receive a warm welcome by the fans as they celebrated 30 years of bringing Borussia back on the map of German football.As Dortmund’s veterans left the pitch, Pulisic walked up to stadium announcer Norbert Dickel, one of those 1989 cup heroes. Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke were waiting for him ahead of a small ceremony. He got a bouquet of yellow flowers and a giant portrait thanking him for his service. Pulisic posed for photos and then grabbed the microphone, walking toward the Yellow Wall. He addressed the fans in German: “Dortmund will always feel like home!” The supporters applauded him. “All the best and hopefully see you again one day.”He then returned to the locker room to finish prematch preparations, where former captain Marcel Schmelzer gave a speech. It ain’t over ’til it’s over was the message, but Pulisic was aware that his own journey was nearly complete. “It hit me when I was walking to the locker room. It was really emotional. My last time. It was not easy,” Pulisic later said.”It was very emotional for Christian. He can just be proud how he solved it today. And also how well he handled the overall situation,” BVB squad manager Sebastian Kehl said in the postmatch scrum.While some fans might argue Pulisic will not leave a trace at the club, he earned a lot of respect over the course of five impressive years at Dortmund. Now it’s time to see what he can do in the Premier League.
Dortmund hopes for ‘small miracle’ to take title from Bayern
Associated Press•May 16, 2019BERLIN (AP) — Despite needing a “small miracle” to win the Bundesliga title on the final day of the season, Borussia Dortmund already has its celebration party planned.Bayern Munich, which leads Dortmund by two points and has a huge advantage on goal difference, is favored to win its record-extending seventh straight title on Saturday. But Dortmund hasn’t given up hope.”I have the feeling we’re on the verge of something great,” Dortmund chief executive Hans Joachim Watzke said. “I myself can’t explain it.”Bayern essentially needs only a point at home against Eintracht Frankfurt, which hasn’t beaten the defending champions in 15 league games and has lost on its last nine visits to Munich. Dortmund, meanwhile, faces a tough game at Borussia Mönchengladbach at the same time.”It’s still possible. We want to achieve the small miracle,” said Sebastian Kehl, a former Dortmund midfielder who is now a club official working closely with the players. “If there’s a little wobble from Bayern we want to use it.”Plans for an open-top bus parade through Dortmund’s streets on Sunday were made months in advance, when the team held a nine-point lead over Bayern.”We look at the standings,” said Oliver Nestler, the head of the city’s fire department.But Dortmund squandered its lead in consecutive draws against Frankfurt, Hoffenheim and Nuremberg in February before losing at Augsburg. A 5-0 win for Bayern in Munich underlined the difference between the teams last month, before Dortmund dropped more points at home against Schalke and then at Werder Bremen.Bayern could have won the title last weekend but was held to a goalless draw at Leipzig. However, the team is determined the take the second of what coach Niko Kovac described as “two match balls” against Frankfurt, his former team, and bring what has been a testing season to a successful close.”If we had this situation in winter, that we could seal it with a win at home against Frankfurt, we would have signed for it straight away,” Bayern forward Thomas Müller said.It should be straightforward. Frankfurt claimed the last of its three wins in Munich (from 47 visits) in November 2000. It avoided conceding only twice in those 47 games.Frankfurt has conceded eight goals in its last two league games and is clearly feeling the effect from a long European season. The team pushed Chelsea hard before bowing out in the semifinals of the Europa League.Frankfurt, which was fourth and in the last place for Champions League qualification, is now sixth and in danger of missing out on qualifying even for the Europa League.”We only have ourselves to blame for this situation,” said Frankfurt coach Adi Hütter, who took over from Kovac and was leading Frankfurt to its best ever league campaign. “We still have the chance to re-qualify. We have to take it.”With favors from elsewhere and a win in Munich, Frankfurt could even reclaim fourth and earn its place in Europe’s premier competition for the first time since 1960.One omen gives Frankfurt – and Dortmund – hope: Bayern has never won the title at home since moving into its new stadium in 2005.
Cologne has already earned promotion back to the Bundesliga as second-division champion despite only one win from its last six games. Either Paderborn or Union Berlin will join Cologne in the top division, replacing relegated Hannover and Nuremberg.Paderborn, currently second, leads Union by a point ahead of its visit to Dynamo Dresden on Sunday. Union realistically needs a win at Bochum and a favor from Dresden at the same time to claim the automatic promotion spot.Failing that – and barring an extraordinary 21-goal turnaround from fourth-place Hamburger SV – Union will face Stuttgart in a two-leg playoff to determine which team plays in the Bundesliga next season.
Manchester City vs. Watford: FA Cup final predictions and key battles
4:34 AM ETThe 138th final of the FA Cup, the world’s oldest club competition, pits all-star Premier League champions Manchester City against able underdogs Watford.The odds may be heavily stacked in favour of Pep Guardiola’s team, but there is enough cause to believe that Javi Gracia can mastermind a memorable upset that would be a fitting conclusion to what has been a thrilling tournament this season. Here’s everything you need to know.
WHERE: Wembley Stadium, London (capacity 90,000)
WHEN: Saturday; noon ET, 5 p.m. UK (live on ESPN+)
BACKSTORY: This is Watford’s second FA Cup final (35 years ago, they lost 2-0 to Everton) and for most of their history they’ve been a second-tier club, though since their most recent promotion to the Premier League in 2015 they’ve generally been solidly mid-table, finishing 11th this season.
Manchester City are arguably the best team in the world right now and, in English terms, have completed the most dominant two seasons ever, having gained 198 of a possible 228 in winning back-to-back titles. They retained the Carabao Cup this year and would complete an unprecedented domestic treble if they win this too.
MUSICAL ICON: Oasis’ Noel Gallagher is a fixture at City games, and he led the title celebrations in the dressing room at Brighton. But Elton John has him trumped, despite having to miss the match to perform a concert in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was actually chairman of Watford on two occasions for a total of 16 years. Plus, his middle name is Hercules, whereas Gallagher’s is a more mundane Thomas.
ROAD TO WEMBLEY: The FA Cup is a straight knockout competition, so luck and happenstance play a key role, especially since the rounds are one-legged: you only play the return leg if it’s a draw through to the fourth round. City won all five of their games on the way to the final, but faced just two Premier League clubs (Burnley and Brighton) en route. Watford faced three top-flight clubs on the way (Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers) and only played at home once.
KEY COMEBACKS ON THE WAY: Watford had to come from two goals down in the semifinal to overcome Wolves 3-2 in extra time. Manchester City found themselves 2-0 down with 21 minutes to go away to second-tier Swansea in what would have been one of the shocks of the season. But they stormed back and grabbed a winner with two minutes to go, sealing a 3-2 victory.
OK, the latter aren’t actually brothers, they just have a chemistry and understanding that suggests either blood relations or extra-sensory perception. If City, as expected, have the bulk of possession and Watford raise the barricades, it will be up to Bernardo Silva and David Silva (or possibly Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne or Phil Foden — yes, City have that many weapons) to break them down. Capoue and Doucoure form one of the best midfield duos in the Premier League, offering physicality, workrate and tactical nous. If City can’t get through them, they’ll need to figure out a way around them.
– Ogden: Deeney’s journey from prison to FA Cup final
– United need City to win FA Cup to avoid fixture chaos
– Who qualifies for Europe from the Premier League?
– ESPN+: Man City and Watford’s road to Wembley
X FACTOR, WATFORD: Gerard Deulofeu
He doesn’t always start, but he has the unpredictability and one-on-one ability to create something out of nothing and, of course, his heroics in this very stadium in the semifinal are what got Watford here.
X FACTOR, MANCHESTER CITY: Leroy Sane
The fact that you can chuck the German roadrunner on the pitch late in games, against tired, glassy-eyed opponents is a huge boost. He gets in the box with the ball with an ease rarely seen at this level.
HEART AND SOUL, WATFORD: Troy Deeney
It’s the ninth season at the club for this battering ram of a striker who leaves nothing on the pitch and has worked under 11 different managers. Not always the prettiest to watch, but his effort and underdog redemption story — he spent time in prison for his involvement in a brawl when he was 22 and later passed the equivalent of a GED (General Educational Development) exam — make him appealing to neutrals.
HEART AND SOUL, CITY: Raheem Sterling
His is also a redemption tale, though more a factor of how he was perceived rather than anything he did. Cruelly and unfairly lampooned as greedy and bling-obsessed when he moved from Liverpool to Manchester City, he is now adored in England and has established himself as a thoughtful commentator on social issues as well. At 24, his star is still rising …
OLD TIMER, WATFORD: Heurelho Gomes
He’s 38, he’s no longer a regular, and he’s meant to be leaving at the end of the season, even though Watford have asked him to stay another year. But he’s immensely popular at the club and the chief cheerleader, whether he starts or not. Definitely one of the good guys.
OLD TIMER, MANCHESTER CITY: Vincent Kompany
He’s been here for 11 years, pre-dating the Emirati owners and the transformation of Manchester City into a super-club. Once one of the best defenders in the world, he was slowed by injuries the past three years only to come roaring back this season with some vintage performances (and an improbable key goal against Leicester City) down the stretch. Articulate, bright and a natural leader, when (if?) he leaves then he can pretty much write his own ticket whatever he chooses to do.
WHAT WATFORD HAVE TO DO TO WIN IT: Impose themselves physically in midfield with the Doucoure-Capoue partnership. If, as expected, Gracia opts for two strikers, ensure that they pin back City’s full-backs when not in possession and disrupt the build-up as much as possible. Exploit the size advantage on set pieces.
WHAT CITY HAVE TO DO TO WIN IT: Let their superior talent and know-how shine and carry them to victory. Do not get frustrated if the goals take time to come. Drop Sterling into central positions to wreak havoc if Watford pack the penalty box. Dominate the wide areas to stretch the opposition and create gaps for the midfield to exploit.
PREDICTION: Manchester City to win 3-1
It’s a combination of nous and firepower. Watford can be very awkward to play against, so if things don’t pan out early for City boss Guardiola he may need to find other solutions. Luckily for him, he has a whole array of options to call upon, either from the bench or simply by switching players around.
How the USWNT’s biggest loss in recent memory exposed an issue it still hasn’t solved
Yahoo Sports•May 15, 2019
The U.S. women’s national team has been unpredictable over the past three years. From game to game, or even within the same game, there’s consistently been a surprise from coach Jill Ellis designed to add more firepower in the attack.There were the times Ellis had the team play with just three defenders to add an extra number going forward. There were asks for offensive players to fill defensive positions so they could attack, even from the back line. And there have been the late game substitutions where balance goes out the window – just get every attacker possible on the field, even if players are in unusual positions.Many of these experiments haven’t gone particularly well, but Ellis has persisted because the USWNT suffered a trauma in 2016 that she hasn’t quite gotten over: losing to Sweden in the Olympics.At the Rio Games, the USWNT lost to bunkering Sweden team and got knocked out in the quarterfinal round, the USA’s earliest exit ever. Up until then, the USWNT had never failed to finish third in a World Cup or an Olympics, and Ellis’s mission since then has been to ensure such a disaster never happens again.But that’s been easier said than done, as failed experiments over the past three years have proven, and it’s unclear the USWNT has found its answer.After all, a far inferior South African team bunkered with two blocks of four on Sunday, and the USWNT looked stymied for long stretches. It was a friendly, and the USWNT did eventually win 3-0, but there were many moments where the Americans did not look up to the task of unlocking South Africa’s defense.A better bunkering team could surely still succeed like Sweden did. And given how that loss to Sweden has guided the USWNT’s tactics over the past three years – not to mention the fact the two countries will face each other in the final group game at this summer’s World Cup – it’s worth revisiting that match.The first thing to understand about what happened in 2016 is that Sweden’s game plan was not a surprise to Ellis or her team.”They will park the bus,” Ellis said the day before the game. “They will sit as low as they possibly can and then look to transition, and they’re going to try to kill the game off that way and not give up space. I imagine they’ll play a 4-5-1 and be very compact.”That’s exactly what Sweden did, and yet the USWNT still couldn’t take a lead at any point. The score ended in a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes, and the U.S. lost in penalty kicks.But the Americans’ performance in Brasília has been colored – tainted, even – by the fact that they ultimately lost. In truth, they found plenty of chances and were simply unlucky to not put more of them away. If the U.S. had won the penalty kick shootout, the Sweden match would’ve been a forgettable affair.
Here is each team’s shooting map from the game:
The USWNT took 26 shots and only got five of them on target – a problem of execution rather than opportunity. Of those 26 shots, 16 were taken inside the penalty box.The Americans also dominated the game in other ways. They held onto 64 percent of the possession and controlled the rhythm of the game. They won 65 duels to Sweden’s 38, and won 17 tackles to Sweden nine.Carli Lloyd even scored what should’ve been the game-winner in the 115th minute of extra time, but she was incorrectly called offside.In other words, the USWNT’s attack wasn’t the biggest problem on that day. Sweden did successfully cram the penalty box, and it made it harder for the U.S. to get the shots they wanted. The U.S. also did play a bit too directly and focused on crossing the ball more than working it into dangerous areas with combination play, which led to some low-quality chances. But there were good chances, too.The reason Sweden won in 2016 was partly because of the USWNT’s attacking-first approach. The defenders were flung so far forward in an effort to overload the midfield that it took Sweden two quick passes to bypass the entire defense. It was a textbook absorb-and-counter play, and the USWNT left itself vulnerable because it was so focused on barraging Sweden.Ellis’s takeaway, however, has been the opposite – she apparently decided the USWNT attack didn’t do enough against Sweden and more firepower is needed to break a bunker.In the book, “The National Team: The Inside Story Of The Women Who Changed Soccer,” Hope Solo recounts how the day after the loss to Sweden, Ellis spoke with her about the U.S. needing to learn to get past bunkering teams. Solo was later kicked off the team for calling Sweden “a bunch of cowards” for their ultra-defensive strategy, but up until Solo’s punishment overshadowed the loss, the talking point from the game was how Sweden successfully bunkered past the No. 1-ranked team in the world.That’s why after the Olympics in late 2016, Ellis concocted a three-back system that would remove one defender and replace her with an attacker.The experiment was a disaster. The way the USWNT got beat on the counterattack by Sweden became even easier. Romania, a team that has never even qualified for a World Cup, scored a goal that looked beat-for-beat similar to Sweden’s goal in the Olympics.Ellis abandoned the three-back but has been tinkering with other ways to give the USWNT more numbers in the final third.That’s why she has tested out some ultra-attacking rotations, such as putting Tobin Heath, one of the best wingers in the world, is in the central midfield. Mallory Pugh, another winger, started some games in the central midfield during the SheBelieves Cup. Pugh brought almost no defensive presence, but Ellis said she wanted Pugh there to race behind back lines.The USWNT is as aggressive as it’s ever been, and it’s because of how Ellis has responded to that loss at the Rio Games three years ago. The team’s fullbacks are converted forwards who bomb up the field. The center of the pitch doesn’t have a stay-at-home holding midfielder as Julie Ertz is encouraged to fly forward and join the attack.The Americans undoubtedly are going to score goals in France – that’s what they’re built for. The question is how much they will concede in the process.After all, despite everything that Ellis has tried, one simple soccer truth remains: bunkering often works. That’s especially true when the defending team can be quick on the counterattack.Ellis has to hope that teams in France don’t use the Americans’ attacking style against them. That’s what Sweden did, and becoming an even more attacking U.S. side hasn’t solved it.Caitlin Murray is a contributor to Yahoo Sports and her book about the U.S. women’s national team, The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer, is out now. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinmurr.
U.S. women’s national team solves South Africa in Women’s World Cup tuneup
11:40 PM ET Graham Hayse EspnW.com
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The United States played its first game Sunday since announcing the roster of 23 players that it hopes will produce the latest in a series of unforgettable summers. And then promptly ran into the sort of forgettable game that is almost always a part of those stories.To get through seven games in the World Cup, there will be 90 minutes like this.So although a 3-0 win against South Africa was an exercise in problem solving more than riveting entertainment for the largest crowd to see the national team play this year, 22,788 inside Levi’s Stadium, there was at least a solution that sent everyone home satisfied. It isn’t inconsequential that it started with Sam Mewis, someone yet to play her first minutes in a major tournament.Mewis scored the first two goals for the U.S., the second time in the midfielder’s 48 games with the national team that she scored multiple goals. Carli Lloyd provided the final goal, the 108th in an international career that began when Mewis was in middle school.But for much of the afternoon, Mewis’ first-half goal looked like it might be all the Americans managed against an opponent that showed increasingly little interest in possession, let alone possession with intent to score. Missing three of its best players because of their professional commitments abroad, South Africa set out to defend en masse behind the ball.”That’s a challenging thing, I don’t care what level you are,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “That’s challenging to break down teams that are organized and get low and get a lot of numbers in the box.”For a team that itself shares a World Cup group with the likes of Germany and Spain, that plan might have been South Africa’s own sort of practice for what’s ahead. Defense first may also be what the U.S. sees from Chile and Thailand in its own group in France next month.It may even be what the U.S. sees from the other team in its group, a Swedish team ranked among the best in the world. Because more to the point, Sunday was not altogether unlike the game that eliminated the U.S. from the most recent Olympics before the medal round. Albeit that defensive strategy was employed by a more talented Swedish team with far more counterattacking intent than Sunday’s opponent.”The things that teams throw at you know now, the things that you have to adapt to, the things that you see — I would hazard to say a lot of that wasn’t there five years ago,” Ellis said. “When Sweden did it to us in the Olympics, it left a mark on me, in terms of we’ve got to make sure we have players that can break teams down. Because when there’s no space in behind, you have to problem solve in a different way.”The first half, and to some degree the first 60 minutes, was not a master class in how to do that problem solving. Ellis said the team looked “sloppy.” Veteran defender Kelley O’Hara noted that they struggled to get people into the box. No one tried to pretend it was perfect. Against an opponent that was committed but hardly impenetrable, touches were off, crosses too heavy or too light, and rhythm missing.Yet the U.S. still went into halftime with a lead, if not a fully satisfying one, because of what two World Cup rookies, Mewis and Rose Lavelle, produced in the 37th minute.obin Heath found Lavelle with a pass in a pocket of space in the center channel and between South African lines. Lavelle dribbled past one defender, then drew two more players toward her as she continued forward. That movement, in turn, left Mewis in space with only one defender to worry about at the top of the box. A quick feint to the left forced the defender to overcommit, and Mewis shot the other direction, finding the corner of the net.Amidst an otherwise messy half, two World Cup rookies broke out of the bunker.”Something we were talking about was just more central runs and more penetrating runs,” Mewis said. “So I think Rose found me kind of making a penetrating run and I just tried to find an angle. I think that we’ll grow from that and just keep trying to create chances. I think this team usually creates a ton of chances, so it was actually a really important challenge for us to face something like that.”Mewis played more minutes than any outfield player save Becky Sauerbrunn in 2017, as the national team began to retool in search of those things Ellis felt were missing against Sweden in the Olympics. But injuries slowed her progress in 2018, when she made just two starts for the U.S. and played fewer than 300 minutes. Sunday’s performance was the continuation of a strong start to 2019 for a 26-year-old who is already among the best players in the NWSL and indispensable in league champion North Carolina’s success.”Sammy’s confidence just grows and grows and grows with match play and experience she gets out there,” Ellis said. “She’s a dynamic player that can impact a game. When you go to a World Cup, your midfield — you need to have players that can score goals from distance, that can get in the box that can, obviously, play-make. I think there is versatility in Sam.”Mewis may not be among the starters when the U.S. gets to France, her place in the three-player line dependent on the health of Lindsey Horan, who was in uniform Sunday but didn’t play as a precautionary measure because of injury. Or Mewis may start in some games but not others. What matters is that the U.S. would be comfortable with her in the starting lineup, just as it would be comfortable with Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Lavelle, Mallory Pugh and others preparing for their first World Cup.After three years of auditioning, those players now know there is faith in them.
“People don’t really seem to understand our environment — we’re basically in tryout mode every year, every camp I would say, until a major roster needs to be named,” Dunn said this week. “This is that time that it’s no longer tryout mode but more so this is our team. This is our 23 that is going to the World Cup and hopefully hoist that trophy up at the end. So I think there is that shift of, OK, you can breathe a little bit. Not get complacent, but at the same time, feel like I’ve accomplished something and I should feel really happy where I am.”It’s worth noting that an afternoon that finished so well for Mewis began with a misstep. She let an opportunity slip away in the opening minute, unable to make good contact on a ball that Heath sent across the box and that could easily have found its way into the back of the net. Mewis misplayed her share of moments in that sloppy first half. But when Lavelle split the defense and gave her teammate an opportunity, Mewis calmly gave the U.S. the lead.”When she’s comfortable,” Ellis said, “that’s when you get the best out of her.”Less than a month away from the opening game in France, Mewis looked comfortable. So although Sunday was a largely forgettable affair for fans, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t useful.”I think everyone on this team has been through adversity,” Mewis said. “All of our journeys have been amazing in the fact that they’ve led us here.”
Top Ten moments of the Premier League season
Nicholas Mendola NBC Sports•May 15, 2019
- Neil Warnockstands defiantly at midfield, stares at referees
Cardiff City didn’t do enough to stay up, but it got a lot of help from officials in its fall into the Championship.
Fortunately for us, manager Neil Warnock did not lay off of the officials who made or reversed calls he perceived as major slights to his Bluebirds.
Perhaps his best tune would be best accompanied by a version of The Robot dance.
“I always thought Mike Riley was a manufactured referee from day one,” Warnock said after a loss to Chelsea. “I don’t think he’s changed since then. He’s been coached, manufactured, almost like a robot. He knows everything about the rules, but I feel these people struggle to understand the game and the human element. A lot of referees are like Mike Riley and that’s why I think we have gone backwards. Common sense is not allowed nowadays, but the best refs still use it.”
That loss ended with Warnock standing at midfield, staring at the referee crew before stating that the Premier League is “the best league in the world with the worst officials.”
- De Gea stuns Spurs to take Ole mania up a notch
Manchester United’s star goalkeeper was not up to his standards this season, but his performance against Tottenham Hotspur early in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaerera was impeccable.
Spurs dominated the Red Devils, but De Gea made 11 saves at Wembley to give OGS his first win over a top side.
- Arsenal wins thrilling North London Derby
Arsenal finished below Tottenham Hotspur on the table, but the Gunners sent a message that they were up for the fight with a thrilling 4-2 win over Spurs on Dec. 1.
It had everything, including Mike Dean calling penalties for both sides. Arsenal outshot Spurs 22-11, and the teams combined for 13 shots on target. And the Gunners trailed 2-1 at the break!
Most importantly for the Gunners, it was a victory over their hated rivals which ran their unbeaten mark to 19 matches.
- Wolves howl into contention with first upset
Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolverhampton Wanderers became giant killers for the first time when they ended a six-match dry spell by using a second-half burst to beat Chelsea 2-1.
The win was typical of Wolves’ best days, as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota were the goal scorers. On the season, the newly-promoted Wolves beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and Manchester United, drawing the Blues, Gunners, and Red Devils as well en route to a possible Europa League berth.
- Mourinho’s “respect” rant
Manchester United had just lost 3-0 to Spurs at Old Trafford, but that’s not the three Jose Mourinho wanted to discuss in his post-match media briefing.
“Three-nil. Do you know what that also means? Three Premiership titles, and I also won more titles than the other 19 managers combined.”
- Emiliano Sala‘s plane disappears
Cardiff City’s joy at the record purchase of Nantes striker Emiliano Sala soon turned to sickening grief when the Argentine’s plane was lost at sea. His body was recovered from the wreckage a few days later.
- Pickford error gives Origi, Liverpool the derby
Everton supporters don’t need to be reminded that Liverpool had two moments of good fortune for every bit of bad luck in a run to second on the Premier League table. Jordan Pickford lost track of the ball in stoppage time to deny the Toffees a memorable point against their despised cross-town Reds.
- Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha mourned
Leicester City lost its owner in November when his helicopter crashed after leaving King Power Stadium, and the world soon learned just how deeply Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was loved by the Foxes’ faithful. The scenes at the next home game were poignant and unforgettable.
- Kompany’s thunderbolt
- Eleven millimeters
Let’s set the scene: Unbeaten Liverpool has a chance to put Man City in its rear view mirror at the Etihad Stadium when Sadio Mane beats the keeper and hits the post. City center back John Stones‘ effort to clear the ball hits his keeper Ederson, and the Englishman does this en route to City’s 2-1 defeat of the Reds.
GK Gigi Buffon offered contract extension by PSG
Omnisport•May 16, 2019
Gianluigi Buffon confirmed Paris Saint-Germain have offered him a contract extension.Buffon, 41, was expected to retire at the end of the 2017-18 campaign with Juventus before PSG persuaded him to move to France, and now he is considering a further extension to his career.The Italian has featured 24 times across all competitions for the Ligue 1 champions this season, sharing first-choice responsibilities with Alphonse Areola.He only signed a one-year deal with PSG, but has shown himself to still be capable of performing at the highest level despite his age.And PSG seem intent on keeping him around until he is 42.Speaking to Sky Uno, Buffon said: “The club has offered me an extension, which makes me really happy.”We will look in a few days to examine this project and see if we both believe that it is good to continue together.”It’s going well in Paris. I live an exceptional life experience at 41 years old. I arrived convinced that I would be involved as a player and as a person, and I found what I came for.”Should Buffon stay at PSG for another year, he will enter his 25th season as a professional.
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