7/26/19  MLS takes Center Stage, ICC Winding Down, Goalkeeping Training Mon/Wed, Indy 11 win

So MLS takes center stage next week as they present the MLS All-Star game live from Orlando Wednesday night on FS1 at 8 pm.  LAFC superstar Carlos Vela has been voted by fans on Twitter as captain of the MLS All-Star team, set to face Atletico Madrid in the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. The Spanish giants will face the best of MLS at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31 (8 pm ET | FS1, UniMás). Vela, who is contributing goals at a historic pace this season, leads the league in goals (21) and is second in assists (12) after just 20 appearances. He is on pace to break the league’s single-season record for goals (31), set by Josef Martinez last year. It’s the second consecutive season that Vela will captain the MLS All-Stars. The other candidates for the armband were Wayne RooneyNani and Chris Wondolowski.  Other huge games this week include Friday night’s showdown between this season’s top team LAFC and last season’s Champ Atlanta United at 10 pm on FS1.  Atlanta seems to have recovered from the slow start under a new coach – and stand in first in the Eastern Conference while Bob Bradley has his LAFC on a record pace in the West with an MLS best  14-4-3 record.  Saturday night at 10:30 pm on ESPN a surging Portland hosts the LA Galaxy fresh off their thrilling 3-2 thrashing of LAFC behind a hat-trick from Zlatan Ibra.  El Traffico was thrilling as always as the Galaxy continued their domination of LA having never lost to LAFC.  We are over the half-way point of the season now as teams begin to jockey for playoff position.  It was disappointing to see the MLS teams lose 3 of 4 versus Mexico this week in the Leagues Cup but this shot of super cat in the RSL vs Tigres game was worth it.

ICC

So interesting watching the International Champions Cup games this season – the crowds have really fallen off in this 4th season of the competition. I think the combination of ridiculously expensive tickets and the realization that these are really just pre-season practice games – often missing the stars (see Liverpool – without Fermino, Saha or the Pharo) has taken away some of the excitement overall.  Still a good competition – but I have to admit – I have only really watched a couple of the games – this summer.  Still more on the docket over the next few weeks including the huge Madrid Derby with Real Madrid playing Atletico Madrid this Friday night in NJ – on ESPN at 8 pm.  Followed by MLS LAFC vs Atlanta United at 10 on ESPN.

Indy 11

The Indy 11 scored 2 goals in the last 10 minutes to secure a 2-0 victory over Loundoun United Saturday night as over 11,000 fans looked on at Lucas Oil.  Tyler Pasher scored his team leading ___ goal to put things away for our Boys in Blue.  The 11 recorded their 10th shutout of the season behind a stellar performance by GK Evan Newton who replaced CFC GK coach Jordan Farr who had stared the past few games including the last 2 shutouts at home.  Newton had 4 strong saves to help the 11 preserve the home shutout.

Indy Eleven will take to the road the next two weeks with the chance to put some distance between its closest foes in the Eastern Conference table, starting with this Saturday’s meeting against Nashville FC at Nissan Stadium (8:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). After traveling to face North Carolina FC on Saturday, August 3 (7:00 p.m., live on WISH-TV & ESPN+), the Boys in Blue will enjoy a bye week before returning home for back-to-back Sunday affairs against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets.

CHS Tryouts

Good luck to those trying out for the CHS girls and boys soccer teams in the next couple of weeks – the ladies have a tourney vs local teams today/Sat at River Road Fields off Hazelldell and tryouts are the first week of Aug.  Both teams tryout Aug 5-7 mornings/6-8 pm at River Road.  Carmel FC coaches/Managers – we are looking for teams to serve as Ballboys/Ballgirls for CHS Girls and CHS Boys Varsity games – please contact the Ole Ballcoach at shanebestsoccer@gmail.com if interested in grabbing a date – they go early so don’t delay.

SPECIAL PRE-SEASON GOALKEEPER TRAINING with Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr – Mon/Wed 7/29 + 7/31

Time to get back in shape whether its for High School Tryouts or getting a jump on the Club Season.  Private GK training with Jordan Farr and his brother who is a College GK Coach in Portland, Oregon Mon after 12:30 or Wed. all day.   If interested please reach out directly to CFC Goalkeeper coach FarrJordn13@gmail.com  or RE: this message.

CFC_GK_Cash

GAMES ON TV

Fri, July 26

6:30 am ESPN                                        Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid ICC

10 pm ESPN                                            LAFC vs Atlanta United

Sat, July 27

8 pm ESPN+                                            Chicago Fire vs DC United

10 pm ESPNNews                                 Utah Royals vs NC Courage NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN                                     Portland vs LA Galaxy 

Sun, July 28

3 pm ESPN 2                                           Milan vs Benefica ICC

Wed, July 31

8 pm Fox Sport 1                                MLS All-Star Game vs Atletico Madrid 

Sat, Aug 3

11 am ESPN2                                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Borussia M’gladbach (Johnson)

12:30 pm ESPN2                                     ICC – Man United vs Milan

2:30 pm                                                    Dortmund vs Bayern Munich German Super Cup

5 pm ESPN+                                            Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

7 pm ESPN+                                            NC vs Indy 11

10 pm  ESPN2                                       US Ladies vs Ireland

Sun, Aug 4

10 am ESPN+                                          Liverpool vs Man City (FA Community Shield) 

10 am ESPN+                                         Tottenham vs Inter – ICC

4 pm ESPN                                             Minn United vs Portland Timbers

7:30 pm FS1                                           DC United vs Philly

10 pm FS1                                             Seattle Sounders vs Sporting KC

Tues, Aug 6

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Orlando City vs Atlanta United (US Open Cup)

Weds, Aug 7

7:30 pm ESPN+                                    Minn United vs Portland Timbers (US Open Cup)

11 pm ESPN News                              Sacramento vs Las Vegas Lights USL

Fri, Aug 9

3 pm NBCSN                                        Liverpool vs Norwich City EPL Starts

International Champions Cup Schedule July 16-Aug 18

Indy 11 TV Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

NWSL. You can stream every game live on Yahoo Sports.

MLS

Allstar Week Wrap

Captain Carlos: Vela given All-Star armband

ATLUTD gearing up for Vela…and rest of LAFC

Bradley: Josef is the “main challenge” vs. ATL

Week 20 Wrap-up

Dynamo cherishing Beasley like a fine wine

The best storyline in Major League Soccer is…

Dominant LAFC know the going’s about to get tough

Doyle: What we learned from Leagues Cup this week

Former US International Josh Wolff new Austin FC Head Coach

Wiebe: Josh Wolff and Austin FC’s missing piece

MLS Disciplinary: Galaxy-LAFC mass confrontation

Zlatan – I don’t Need to Dream – I am the Dream – ESPNFC 7/18/19

MLS Player Poll

TFC, Impact in 2019 CanChamp semifinals

Doyle: What we learned from Leagues Cup this week

Cat invades RioT, attempts tackle on star player

US Men

Pulisic ‘really happy’ after making Chelsea debut

US to Face Mexico Labor Day Friday on FS1

U.S., Mexico straight to Hex in new CONCACAF format

U.S.’s Johannsson joins Swedish side Hammarby

USMNT way-too-early look at 2022: Pulisic, Adams vital to future, but lack of depth remains a serious issue

U.S. U-17 men’s national team learns 2019 World Cup group

US, Canada, Mexico U17s learn Draw for late Oct World Cup

US U17s led by Sounders Duo

US Women

Secret Deodorant Offers $23K per player to help Equal Pay for US Ladies Team

USWNT get $529K gift from Secret deodorant

Rapino says Controversy helped secure the Title for US – ESPNW Graham Hays

NWSL Attendance is Up as US Players Return

USWNT players draw sellout NWSL crowd to Chicago Red Stars game

Rose Bowl unveils statue in honor of ’99 USWNT

Rapinoe accepts Congress invite for USWNT

US Ladies to face Ireland Aug 3 at 10 pm on ESPN2

13 Year-Old Girl Turns Pro with Portland Thorns

Indy 11

Indy 11 On Road at Nashville Sat

3 Things Week 20

Indy 11 partners with Learfield IMG College Ticket Solutions

Late Magic Leads to 2-0 Win for Indy 11 at Home over Loudoun United

Flex 8 Pack Ticket is Back

Indy 11 TV Schedule

Full Schedule Released

Sat 9 am Soccer Talk with Greg Rakestraw on 1070 the Fan & 107.5 FM

Goalkeeping

How Liverpool’s Alisson become world’s Best GK and lead Red to CL Glory

Top Saves Africa Cup of Nations

Best Saves from Women’s World Cup

Top 5 Saves World Cup Ladies

Best saves of 2018/19 Europe Season Part 1

WORLD

ICC Attendance Is Way Down Across the US

Africa Cup of Nations Review – Algeria Win

Algeria’s AFCON Title wasn’t pretty but memorable – ESPNFC

Man United – Pogba life and soul of Trip

Juve – Renaldo Still Leader but winning UCL on Sarri

USMNT set to face Mexico in September friendly

Goal.com 1 hour 18 minutes ago

The Americans will get the chance to avenge their Gold Cup defeat when they battle El Tri ahead of Concacaf Nations League play in October.  The United States men’s national team will renew their rivalry with Mexico in a September friendly, U.S. Soccer has announced .The two nations met on July 7 in the Gold Cup final with El Tri emerging triumphant, 1-0, on the strength of a second-half Jonathan Dos Santos goal.Mexico’s victory saw El Tri reclaim the regional crown from the USMNT in the first Gold Cup final between the two nations since 2011.September’s friendly will take place September 6 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where the USMNT last played in 2018 against Brazil in a 2-0 friendly defeat.The match will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and Univision with coverage beginning at 8:30 ET.It is the second announced friendly for El Tri in September, with the Gold Cup winners set to battle Argentina on September 9.The USMNT will be aiming to build off the Gold Cup, where Gregg Berhalter’s first tournament in charge saw them make the final before falling in a close contest with their southern rivals.Mexico, meanwhile, will aim to continue their stellar start under former Argentina and Barcelona head coach Tata Martino, who has won each of his 10 matches since taking the helm of El Tri following winning the MLS Cup with Atlanta United.It will be the 70th meeting between the two nations as the pair gear up for Concacaf Nations League League A play, which the duo will begin in October.The USMNT will compete in Group A against Cuba and Canada, with the Americans opening up October 11 against the Caribbean island and then facing their northern neighbors four days later.Mexico will battle in Group B, opening against Bermuda on October 11 and facing Panama on October 15.Both nations will play return matches against their respective opponents in November to close out the initial round of League A play.The teams will compete for a place in the Nations league semi-finals, given to the respective winners of the four groups, while the bottom team in each group will be relegated.

Rapinoe says controversy helped secure title

11:33 AM ETGraham HaysespnW.com  7/11/`19

Megan Rapinoe said that, far from a distraction to overcome, criticism and controversy during the Women’s World Cup played an important part in propelling the United States to the title.In an interview with ESPN FC, Rapinoe said players rallied together after President Donald Trump tweeted during the tournament that the U.S. captain should win before talking about visiting the White House. Those tweets followed the release of a months-old video in which Rapinoe said she wouldn’t accept an invitation to the White House if the U.S. were to win the World Cup.”If anything, it united everyone around us and united the team around itself,” Rapinoe told ESPN FC. “And it was emboldening in a way.”She added that she didn’t spend much time following the reaction to the controversy in the moment. She also said that the U.S. already possessed ample motivation to win its fourth World Cup title. But coming the same week as a much-anticipated quarterfinal in Paris against host France, a co-favorite among oddsmakers to win the tournament, she contended that the episode brought players together as they began a stretch in which they played three top European opponents in the run-in to lifting the trophy.”It was one of those things that kind of came at this funny moment,” Rapinoe said. “I think it was more of a unifying thing than any sort of distraction.”Teammate Ali Krieger made a public show of support at the time with a tweet criticizing the president, but the game against France on June 28 was the first public appearance for most players since the president’s tweets intensified the controversy two days earlier.Playing a much more defensive style than at any other point in the tournament, the U.S. protected its early lead and withstood a barrage of French attacks in a 2-1 win. Rapinoe suggested it was a collective effort worthy of admiration from even Jose Mourinho — the men’s coach famous for winning major titles with a pragmatic, often defensive approach — who she saw in the stands that day. It was not, in her estimation, the performance of a distracted team”We knew exactly what we wanted to do and what we were going to do to win,” Rapinoe said. “We were sort of all on board in that moment, like, ‘OK, this going to be more of a defensive game. We’re going to counterattack.’ … And if you’re going to beat us, you’re going to have to break down a very organized, committed, disciplined team, which is really hard to do.”

Zlatan has something to tell you: ‘I don’t need to dream. I am the dream.’

Jul 17, 2019   Andrew Corsello, special to ESPN

LOS ANGELES — Early June, morning. Zlatan has just finished wind-sprinting, vomiting and showering (in that order). The hurling — it’s standard. “I need to suffer today,” he tells the LA Galaxy’s physical trainer upon arriving at the team’s facility. Which the trainer took to mean: again.”I need to work,” Zlatan explains. “When I suffer, I feel good.” It’s a theatrical and self-regarding thing to say. He clearly knows it, and knows that I know it, too. Which is why, being Zlatan, he then issues a pirate’s grin and doubles down. “You just missed it! Five minutes ago, I could not breathe, I was throwing up so hard. You see? This is the way I work: very hard. I always say, ‘Let’s drag out the maximum from my body.'”It’s working — and how. Thirty-seven years old, this guy! To behold Zlatan is to pose a series of rhetorical questions. Do you know how old that is for a professional athlete of any stripe? But especially for a soccer player and for a center forward at that? By all rights, Zlatan ought to be a past-tense figure by now, remembered for being the John McEnroe of soccer: touched, insolent, dazzling, infuriating, balletic, mouthy, inventive, clownish, immortal. He blew out his right knee playing for Manchester United in the spring of 2017, for crying out loud. Should have been game over, right?But you know Zlatan. And you know what came next. If you don’t on either count, first: You’ve been off planet. Second: The surname is Ibrahimovic; he’s known in the soccer world as “Ibra” or, simply, Zlatan.

Also, a reminder: On March 29, 2018, Zlatan and his English bulldog flew from his home country of Sweden to California. On the 30th, after being introduced to his new LA Galaxy coaches and teammates and practicing for 20 minutes, he submitted to an examination by a team doctor, who strapped him to a machine, scanned the readout and told him what he already knew. “You’re very tired. You shouldn’t play tomorrow.” On the 31st, in the first-ever El Trafico game against LAFC, Ibra sat on the bench while the home crowd chanted his name. Thunderously. Ceaselessly. Until coach Sigi Schmid couldn’t take it anymore and, 26 minutes into the second half, sent his new No. 9 onto the pitch. Six minutes later, LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller cleared the ball about 70 meters, from the right side of his box. A Galaxy defender headed the ball back over the center circle in a slow, bloopy arc. It took one high bounce, then anoth… no, actually, it didn’t.

Before we go any further, you need to know that what happened next was, is, uniquely Zlatan. Now, in statistical and analytical terms, he’s probably the third-greatest player of this era after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. All three are not only great finishers but great creators who elevate the play of their teammates. Messi’s genius is low to the ground, squirrelly, a quick accretion of darts and scurries dictated by his bat-gene echolocation. Ronaldo’s genius is all about aerial beauty — that perfectly balanced matador’s chassis of his — and his dribbling and, once upon a time, blinding pace. Zlatan’s is a pirate’s genius, full of drunken daring and sword-through-the-Gordian-knot solutions. He possesses an inventiveness, a gleeful and childlike (haters would say childish) willingness to envision superheroic possibilities for himself that is unique in this era, and maybe in the history of the game. Goals that can be described as artful and transcendent, yes, but also as silly, preposterous, wacky, arrogant, jejune and just straight-up stupid.Know this, then, about that El Trafico ball that didn’t take a second bounce because it can be said of countless goals Zlatan has scored since his professional debut with Malmo in 1999: Ninety-nine out of 100 wouldn’t have dared it. Wouldn’t even have thought it. They’d have let that ball settle, controlled it and looked for options. But Ibra took the ball at chest level and volleyed a 41-freaking-meter line drive over Miller’s head and into the back of the net. Six minutes in. Virtually his first touch as a Major League Soccer player after being sidelined for nearly a year.With that one touch, along with a stoppage-time header that helped the Galaxy overcome a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3, Ibra instantly became what he remains today, on the eve of another El Trafico: one of the greatest players in MLS history. And to be clear, we’re not talking “greatest” in the Pele-NASL sense — as in a football deity who was great a long, long time ago on a pitch far, far away in Europe or South America, then came to America to capitalize on his name recognition. Zlatan’s is a present-tense “greatest.””From the moment he arrived, his goal ratio has been ridiculous, nearly one-a-game. And these volleys and bicycles where this 6-foot-5 giant is flipping himself all over the place with the power and control of a 5-foot-5 gymnast? At the age of 37!” says the Galaxy’s technical director, Jovan Kirovski, who played professionally in Europe for more than a decade. “It’s getting to a place where I’m saying, and I know the coaches are saying, ‘Stay high and score goals — don’t worry about chasing!’ But he keeps delivering.””I don’t come here because of what I did before,” Zlatan says. “I come here to demonstrate who I am. I come here to provide.”Provide? An interesting word choice. Not wrong, but not exactly right, either. The first time he uses it, I chalk up its use to the fact that Zlatan’s English is very good but not great — not yet attuned to idiom. But as he continues, not only to use it but to stress it, it becomes clear that he’s fully aware of all the extra-soccer connotations the word carries. In fact, that’s his point: He wants you to know that he’s come to Los Angeles not to score goals, but to give and provide them.”I believe I see things before it happens,” he says.”There are many things about you that don’t make sense,” I reply, nonresponsively, thinking of how odd it is for a muscle-bound guy to have some of the finest needle-threading foot skills the world has seen.”Like the goal against England,” he continues.”I was going to ask you about that next!””You see? I know the future. Now tell me: How many would do that?” He answers before I can: “Only a crazy man!”People will forever argue about which goal is the greatest ever scored. But the greatest volley goal — this is it, right?November of 2012, playing for the Swedish national squad in a friendly against England, Ibra departed this Earth, scoring one goal, then a second, then a third. And then there was the fourth. England goalkeeper Joe Hart ventured outside his box to clear a long ball with his head. Before he could, though, Ibra, who was chasing, did something spooky. He … stopped. Because like all transcendent athletes, he’d seen several seconds into the future. His third eye had solved the chaos math in real time. He knew, not only that Hart would head the ball but precisely where. Which is how Zlatan wound up leaping into the air and bicycling a shot without ever eyeing the goal; without letting the ball bounce; and with his back parallel to and at least 4 feet off the ground — into the goal from 35 meters out. It cleared the crossbar by 1 foot, about two-tenths of a second before a sliding defender could block it.Perhaps the daftest thing about this goal was that it was not a reflex. Ibra had a lot of time — full seconds! — to think it over. The moment is now 7 years old, but Zlatan recalls it in the present tense: “I know he will head the ball. That’s the only chance he has. If he lets the ball go down, I will steal it from him. I have two opportunities. Either I go against him and take away, or I wait for where the ball comes. So when he jumps up, I back off. I know where he will try to put it is behind me … “To think: Yes, this is in my arsenal, fire away. … The delusion, the punk-ass hubris of that! This goal, which even England’s captain, Steven Gerrard, called “the best I’ve ever seen,” remains the ultimate example of Zlatan’s not playing by the rules. Not in the sense that he’s cheating or playing dirty, but that he’s defying the rules of physics, geometry, human physiology, common sense and good taste — and constantly getting away with it.Even so, when Ibra talks of providing, he’s talking about something larger and less manifest than “mere” goals.”[I] Don’t come to MLS because I am ‘Ibrahimovic,'” Ibrahimovic says. “I come because I want to show you what football is. I come because I want to show U.S. what my game is about.”Grandiose? Given! But Zlatan put his money where his mouth is. “I said to Galaxy, we sign this deal now. If you not happy in one month, we can cancel, and I go.” This would seem tall if there weren’t a precedent. When he was no longer able to provide after blowing out his knee, Ibrahimovic offered to reimburse Manchester United for the games he missed.Eventually, it dawns on me that what Zlatan wishes to provide is nothing less than “Zlatan” — in quotes, fully meta — and everything that entails. Not just his beautiful game but also his unbeautiful game: his long history of cards and bans for unleashing his ire, fists and feet on opponents and teammates. Only when fans see the whole Zlatan package, the lovely and the ugly, can they comprehend the passion and anger he feels for the game.

The weeks preceding our early June interview had been pure Zlatan. In May, the ugly: He served a two-game suspension for grabbing NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson by the neck. (“Ah! That clown fall down fainting and almost died, and I said, ‘Let’s call the ambulance because you are dying!’ Then he send a picture to MLS showing a scratch on his neck! Listen, I’ve played 800 games. I’ve played against animals that almost broke my legs. But what happens in the game stays in the game. In Europe, if he send a picture of a scratch on his neck? They eat him alive.”)And then, on June 2, the beautiful: In a 2-1 upset loss to the New England Revolution, Ibra provided one of the most crazy-stupid-brilliant goals of his career. Late in the game, with his back to the goal, he settled a cross on his chest, flicked it up just so and bicycled the rock — hard, a missile — home.He dissects each of these moments with the same evangelical zeal.”I gave you the last goal, yes?” he says.Me? You gave it to me? I think, then remember this is the guy who, upon signing with the Galaxy, took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times that read “Dear Los Angeles, You’re Welcome” with a hand-signed “Zlatan” at the bottom.”Yes,” Zlatan says, answering his own question. “That was good.”Zlatan will be the first to tell you that Zlatan has never fit in. That the essence of Zlatan is outsiderness and, with it, a ceaseless and nourishing anger. The son of émigrés, a Bosnian caretaker (dad) and Croatian cleaner (mom), Ibrahimovic was born and raised in Sweden. He was, by his own admission, a gangly, dark-eyed, raven-haired, big-nosed, lisping punk. He fought, he stole (candy, bikes, cars, whatever), he footballed, he didn’t get along.”I’ve been at this school 33 years,” his former headmistress told BBC Sport in 2013, “and Zlatan is easily in the top five of the most unruly pupils we have ever had. He was the No. 1 bad boy, a one-man show, a prototype of the kind of child that ends up in serious trouble.””School was OK,” Zlatan says. “I got free food.””They made me feel different,” he continues. “Soccer in Sweden was only Swedish players with Swedish background. And then I come — big. Not just big nose, dark hair, brown eyes. But I was playing big style, not typical Swedish.””What was your playing style, and what was ‘wrong’ with it?” I ask.”Swedish way was ‘Work hard for each other.’ Where I came from, we were all challenging each other, trying to become individual type of player. Who was the best to dribble? Who was the best to shoot? Who was the best to put it on the crossbar? Who was best to put between the legs? Who was strongest? I learn to resolve my own things: Give me the ball, and I will take care of it. I will score the goal. I will make one against one. I will dribble him. I will put between his leg. I will make this crazy goal.”In other words, a purely Darwinian, me-against-the-world ethos.”We did not think ’11 against 11.’ It was not that kind of game,” he says. “It was more individual competition. Like I show I’m the best. I will make a fool of you now. Pop! Pop! I will dribble you, put it between your legs, then make fun of you. That is what we stood for. It was more physical, and it was technical football. But it was not the Swedish game.”Such a great malapropism there, the notion that little Zlatan would not only dribble between your legs but dribble you, kicking you in whichever direction he pleased.”It was not ‘I run here for you and you pass,'” he says. “No. It was ‘I will run where the ball goes because I want the ball.’ So they were on me all the time: ‘You are a spoiled player. You are a diva. You cannot play like that.'”Indeed, even after Ibra joined his hometown’s professional club at 17, the parents of one of his teammates petitioned to have him booted from the league. “This was the moment I said to myself, ‘Now I will destroy everyone. I will not have respect for nobody.'””I was not even a talent in their eyes, just a little s— from Rosengard,” he adds.A question presents itself: Was football fun for the young Zlatan?”It was competition, always,” Zlatan says. “You were No. 1, or you were nobody.”Is it fun now?”I look at him and ask myself that question all the time,” Kirovski says. “Me, I still love it. I play all the time. I’m competitive, I want to win, too. But when I look at this guy, the intensity of his training, of his mindset, I wonder if he’s ever having fun out there. And I think that if he doesn’t score and win, it’s not fun for him.”If you’ve followed Ibra’s long and glorious career, his triumphant march from Malmo to Ajax to Juventus to Inter Milan to Barcelona (the only place things didn’t work out, thanks to seismic clashes with manager Pep Guardiola) to AC Milan to Paris St-Germain to Manchester United, it’s hard not to suspect that, as flamboyant and funny as he is off the field, he doesn’t experience fun on the field. When he scores one of his crazy goals, there is joy, yes, but it’s a joy born of grim, gladiatorial satisfaction. There. I’ve showed you. Now do you believe?You can see this. Watch any of Zlatan’s-greatest-goals compilations fans have put on the internet. Compare them to those of his generational peers like Messi, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The others inevitably seem as amazed by what they’ve just done as their fans. They’re stricken, their joy unabashed and beyond their control; they’re like birthday boys caught in the deluge of candy under a shattered piñata. Ibra, he’s different. Childlike glee, though present, is secondary. It’s interesting that his list of transcendent athletes — that is, athletes who in his view don’t just play their sport but embody it — includes Mike Tyson. Because the look on Ibra’s face after many of his craziest goals uncannily resembles the mask of joyless vindication Tyson used to don after flattening yet another patsy.It’s the darnedest thing because, off the field, Ibra is nothing but playful. At one point, as we’re talking about his daily routine, I ask if he dreams about soccer.”Dream? No, I don’t need to dream. When I was young, I was dreaming. Now I’m in the dream. Now I am the dream.”I laugh and nod in a game “Of course you are, Zlatan” way, and he issues a grin, conceding that he has slipped seamlessly from being Zlatan into performing “Zlatan.”Interestingly, these moments where Ibra slips, perhaps unconsciously, between answering my questions in earnest and playing (toying?) with me, are never off-putting. Others around him feel this way, too. “He’s always coming out and saying these … things,” says one Galaxy executive. “If these things came out of anybody else’s mouth, you’d think ‘What a jerk.’ But when Ibra says them, it’s always charming.”I’ve interviewed highly intelligent athletes who, like Ibra, have a meta understanding of themselves and use the interview process to test and mock the interviewer. But when Ibra plays with an interviewer, there’s a startling absence of malice; there’s no sulk in his toying, no insinuation that he’s trying to alleviate boredom. To him, the role of “Ibra” is just good, clean fun. I can’t help but wonder if he seeks out and capitalizes on this fun because fun is not part of the equation when he’s on the field. There, it’s all about the anger and vindication. (For opponents, refs and even teammates, yes, but mainly for himself.)”Do you play well when you’re angry?” I ask him.”YESSSSsssss!” Ibra says, slowly, with more than a few extra S’s thrown in to make the sentiment imprint. “That is when I get the best out of myself. That’s the way I feel my life.””Some athletes are eaten alive by anger.””Not Zlatan,” says Zlatan. “I need to be angry because I need to feel alive. When I relax, when I play without anger? It becomes sloppy, and it might appear I get violent.” A startling possibility there — that without anger and the focus it gives him, Zlatan succumbs to petulance and pettiness, which in turn leads to sloppy, violent play and red cards. “When I’m angry, then I’m on my toes.””Anger creates energy?””Yesssss. I see the whole environment when I’m angry. Now, anger to hurt somebody? Never. That’s not part of my DNA.” (Nedum Onuoha of Real Salt Lake would beg to differ. After Zlatan threw him to the ground during a 2-1 Galaxy victory this spring, Onuoha dubbed him a “complete thug” and then predicted that “it will get spun into a story about how he’s really competitive and this is what gets him going, this is why he’s one of the best of all time. That’s just the way that it works. I’m not the type of person to say that the better MLS players get preferential treatment, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a lot easier to be Zlatan than it is to be the striker for Real Salt Lake.”)To Zlatan, 50% of soccer is mental. Mental toughness, that is. Which is something he thinks American soccer players lack. This lack, he believes, is institutional and largely explains why MLS has always stood in the shadow of the international game. Kirovski agrees. “In Europe, if you don’t pass me the ball, I can really have a go at you and yell at you, and it’s no big deal. Here that kind of thing is taken personally. Our youth players are getting better at handling pressure, but there’s still a way to go.”When I asked Zlatan what it will take for MLS to achieve parity with Europe and South America, he responds with a question.”Do they want to make it?””Who is ‘they’?””They that control it. The owners. Do they want it to be big?”

“Yeah. Of course.””You think?””You don’t?””I don’t.””Why?””Because you don’t make money in soccer,” he tells me. “In Europe, I can pick two clubs that make money. The rest don’t; they do it out of passion. Here, with the sports, you make money. That’s it. And I think with all the rules you have here, you are not boosting up the soccer.”What rules?”The budget things. The salary cap. You cannot bring in players you want. They have more rules here than I have in my home.”He paused for a moment, measuring the thought that came to him, then let it go.”I will tell you that of all the places I’ve been in my life as a professional, this is the most difficult.”Zlatan says the American game needs to continue to evolve.”MLS is not the level of Europe, to be honest. Before, I played with players either on my level or close to it. Which makes the game connect easier. … Here, I am like a Ferrari among Fiats. And it can happen that the Ferrari can become the Fiat, or the Fiat can become the Ferrari. I had the same issue with the national [Swedish] team, though not as much. I said, ‘I don’t accept it. I don’t accept when the ball doesn’t arrive, or arrives too late. I want them to come up to my level.’ All of this makes me slow down a bit. The game here [in America] could be so much faster, so much more tactical, so much more rhythmic.”Then there are the regrets. It is striking that, having won everywhere he has gone, and despite his ongoing ability to score, Zlatan was unable to get the Galaxy into the playoffs last year (and that his team is not even the best in its own city). The issue rankles Ibra, not just the failure to get in but also the “playoff mentality” itself.”Here, you can lose five games and it’s still, ‘Don’t worry, we are in the playoffs.’ So why even play first eight months of season? No, I don’t accept. To be best, you have to be best every day. You know, in Euro, if you come in last, you go down to Division 2. That is pressure. … So last year, we fight for six position to go to playoff, but came in seven. If we had made sixth position, people would have said we had a ‘good season.’ I say, ‘Fighting for the sixth position? That means we had s— season!” We need to fight for No. 1, not 6.”When, inevitably, we talk about his injury, Zlatan was at his sincerest and most unperformative. “It was not easy,” he said in a whisper, as if speaking the sentiment aloud might make real the prospect of not being able to play. What would, what will, it do to a man like him, once his anger can no longer find purchase on the pitch?”It was not easy,” he says again.After a beat, he mentioned that the night before, he’d been watching the NBA Finals. “When Kevin Durant got injured? I turned off the TV. Because for me he is the best. He is the game. Once he was hurt, there was nothing to see.”Or, perhaps, he couldn’t bear to see an all-time great, past the 50% point of his career, felled and with a long and painful recovery ahead of him. “I feel my body has always followed what I want. I feel it’s answering to me now. When it’s starting to not answer, then I will know: It’s time.”The passion is what makes him so good at the age of 37, but it will also make the game all but impossible for him to let go of.”I think it will be very difficult to stop. When I got injured, I went away from my family to do my rehab. I did not want them to see me in a bed paralyzed, not moving. I am so emotional with my game. But emotional with control. You’re not gonna see me jump in front of a car because I cannot play football anymore, OK?”I sit for a moment, thinking about Zlatan and his anger and where in his life he finds fun. Then I remember a story Brendan Hannan, the Galaxy’s vice president of marketing, communications and digital, told me. He was talking about how incredibly accessible Ibra has made himself in LA, both to fans who show up at training sessions looking for autographs and pictures and to those employed by the Galaxy in promotions. Shortly after he arrived at the club, Ibra agreed to film a promotion with Mickey Mouse.”Ibra had just gotten here,” Hannan recalls. “He hadn’t played in months, and nobody really knew what kind of condition his knee was in. Some people doubted he’d score more than 10 goals” — so far he has notched 35 goals in 43 appearances — “and some even doubted if he’d even play.”Which was why the whole Galaxy staff froze when Zlatan began playing with Mickey Mouse and, according to Hannan, “doing crazy stuff.” Juggling. Nutmegging the Mick. Striking the ball 30 feet in the air, then assuming a full limbo posture with his legs bent back and his chest facing the sky before trapping the ball there — no bounce, as if the ball were a rotten grapefruit — then flexing his chest in order to pop the ball 3 feet up. The coup de grace: bicycle-kicking the thing off into the ether. Zlatan was going full Zlatan. For the love of God, why?”I just wanted to make Mickey Mouse happy. He was not answering me!” Zlatan protests. “Just blinking. So I kept doing tricks and asking, ‘You like that, Mickey?’ But I didn’t get any answer. Jst more blinking. So I’m like, OK, let’s try this, and this, and this.””That’s not normal,” I said.”I am not normal,” Zlatan agreed. Then, apropos of absolutely nothing and everything, he whispered: “It is a beautiful game, no?”

Alisson’s first year at Liverpool: How the goalkeeper became the world’s best and led Reds to CL glory

Jul 19, 2019 Melissa Reddy Correspondent ESPNFC

“There were so many positives — his physique, how he commanded his area, his comfort at building play — but what immediately stood out was his decision-making. You can spend hours working on technical aspects, but you have to have the natural ability to read situations and react so that you make the difficult things look simple.”Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach John Achterberg is talking about a time in 2013, when, hunched in front of the laptop in his home office, he began dissecting footage of Alisson Becker. His first impression was so strong that he began compiling an extensive dossier on Brazil’s No. 1, who was just 20 and playing for Internacional before permanently displacing his older brother Muriel (five years his senior) and the World Cup-winning Dida in the position.The army of scouts that scour Brazil for “The Next Big Thing” were zoned in on playmakers, but the young goalkeeper stood out to an unlikely talent spotter. Goalkeeper Alexander Doni, signed by Liverpool on a free transfer from Roma in 2011 and making just four appearances before his release, had taken note of the calm yet imposing figure wearing the gloves for Inter. He was convinced Alisson had an incredibly high ceiling and would quickly be considered elite at his position.”I kept in touch with Doni after he left Liverpool, and in 2013, I asked him if there were any goalkeepers in Brazil worth following,” Achterberg tells ESPN FC. “He responded without hesitation that I should check out Alisson at Internacional because he was going to be special.”I watched him and his style of play — he was comfortable with the ball, aggressive, positive — fitted in perfectly with what we needed at Liverpool. But most importantly, he was excellent at doing the basics right and really well. ‘Ali’ would anticipate danger and make all kinds of saves: easy, hard, high, low. He had the physical aspects in terms of height at 6-foot-4 and his athleticism.”Achterberg had seen enough evidence over a long stretch to suggest Alisson could be a game-changer for Liverpool, and the coach pitched as much during transfer discussions. “He had the right profile, ticked all the boxes. He came into our recruitment talks about a year or two after the recommendation from Doni, and I spoke to his agent. The problem at that time was getting him a work permit for the UK, which would have been very difficult.”Alisson’s wife, Natalia Loewe, has relatives from Germany and Italy, so the pair were in the process of trying to get Italian-Brazilian citizenship when Roma spent a bargain £7 million to sign him in July 2016. As luck would have it, the move to Serie A encouraged Liverpool to intensify their analysis given the heightened technical demands of the Italian league. Alisson was frustrated as Wojciech Szczesny’s understudy during his debut season in 2016-17, only clocking minutes in Cup games. But the Merseysiders already had the opportunity to examine him at close range in August 2016, during a preseason friendly defeat against Roma at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.”He played an impressive game, and I said to the boss [Klopp], ‘That’s the goalkeeper I keep telling you about,'” Achterberg says. “The next season, he was Roma’s No. 1 and confirmed why he was so highly thought of.”By December 2017, Liverpool were not alone in viewing Alisson as a primary transfer target. Real Madrid and Chelsea had both made approaches to the player’s camp, but the Reds had the advantage of the time and depth to their research. The Spanish giants realigned their sights and wanted to secure Thibaut Courtois from Stamford Bridge, which made the Blues the biggest threat to Liverpool landing their man. Chelsea dithered and eventually pursued Kepa Arrizabalaga as the Anfield side slowly chipped away at Roma, who were being obstructive with an initial base price of £62m in February 2018, which kept rising.The closing months of Liverpool’s five-year process of recruiting Alisson felt like football’s “House of Cards.” Talks would start and stall as neither the Premier League side nor Roma would blink in negotiations. During international breaks with Brazil, Philippe Coutinho, already at Barcelona after his £142m departure, was Liverpool’s chief salesman, ably assisted by Roberto Firmino. They detailed the family feel of the club to Alisson and spoke about the city, Klopp’s long-term vision and the adulation from the Kop.The keeper, who had experienced the power of Anfield during Roma’s 5-2 Champions League semifinal defeat in April 2018, was sold, but there were other obstacles. The Italians predicted desperation on Liverpool’s part after the Champions League final in Kiev, where a concussed Loris Karius made two decisive errors as Real Madrid beat the Reds 3-1 that May. Roma raised their valuation to £90m, which threatened to completely kill a deal. It took them softening their stance to such an extent in July that the fee for Alisson dropped to a guaranteed £56m, with £9m in add-ons for the long-awaited transfer to finally be completed.Klopp described Alisson as “one of the world’s best goalkeepers” when his signing was announced on this day a year ago, but as Trent Alexander-Arnold has since stated to ESPN FC, “there is no one better on current form.”The 26-year-old is a Champions League and Copa America champion, pivotal to both triumphs with Golden Glove honours in those competitions as well as in the Premier League. He was labelled a “transformer” at Melwood, along with Virgil van Dijk, and there was confidence he would have as much of an impact on Liverpool’s rearguard, results and psychology as the world’s most expensive defender.The squad’s introduction to Alisson came at the lower floor of the palatial Hotel Royal in Evian-les-Bains last summer, where the club were based for a training camp. When he walked into the room in late July, there were audible gasps, with one player unable to conceal his excitement as he declared: “Get him in my f–king goal!”There were pauses during Alisson’s first training stints as his teammates stopped to marvel at and applaud him.”Straight away he made impressions on the team with the speed of his reactions in the training games and how he restarted play,” Achterberg says. “As soon as he caught the ball, it was ‘boom, counter-attack!’ because of the power and accuracy of his throws.The coaching staff believed the real challenge would come when Alisson made his first sizeable blunder. It came at Leicester City on Sept. 1, 2018, when he hesitated after receiving van Dijk’s misdirected backpass in the second half, which allowed Kelechi Iheanacho to dispossess him and square for Rachid Ghezzal to score. Alisson didn’t let the error affect him, and he owned up to it post-match, telling ESPN Brazil: “It was bad judgement, I made a mistake reading the play. I didn’t get a very good pass. We have to learn from our mistakes.”How he reacted to the gaffe was commended in the dressing room. “He stayed positive, so the team stayed positive,” Achterberg says. “If you play out from the back, there’s always risk. The players needed to make quicker options for him so he could find a solution earlier.”It’s really important if you make a mistake, you realise it’s gone and you move on, which is what he did. You have to be bigger than the mistake you made.”Clemer Silva, who coached the keeper at Internacional B, saw the very same attributes when Alisson was a teenager: He never lost focus after a fault. His effortlessness in high-pressure and testing moments means his brilliance is sometimes asterisked. That was the case with his save two minutes into stoppage time to thwart Arkadiusz Milik in last season’s Champions League matchday 6 game against Napoli.Liverpool were 1-0 up and had to win to progress to the knockout stages when Jose Callejon’s left-footed cross fell at the feet of the Polish striker in the six-yard box with only the keeper to beat. The speed with which Alisson reacted to the danger, the intelligence of his positioning and his size, panicked Milik into sending the effort straight at him.”The save Allison made, I have no words for that. That was, of course, a life-saver,” Klopp said in the aftermath. But many questioned whether it was actually that good. It was an example of Achterberg’s assertion that the Brazilian has a gift for making difficult things look simple.Marco Savorani, goalkeeper coach of Roma and widely regarded as the best in his trade in Italy, made the same observation. “Alisson is able to make everything simple. He reads the game, is very calm and calculated,” he said last year.This line of thinking is not recent either. Daniel Pavan, who schools keepers at Internacional, had been witness to Alisson’s development since he was a 10-year-old kid mimicking his brother; Pavan gave him the moniker “Iceman” due to his composure. Goalkeepers at Inter’s academy were drilled to be in the right position and cover as large a portion of the goal as possible rather than constantly making elaborate, acrobatic saves. They were taught to be smart rather than showy.Klopp regularly pinpoints Alisson’s intervention against Milik as one of Liverpool’s defining moments of 2018-19. For all the focus on the belief, bravery and goals that resulted in the Reds conjuring a historic Champions League comeback against Barcelona in the second leg of the semifinals, Liverpool’s players often admit that without Alisson’s one-man blockade against Leo Messi & Co., victory would have remained a fantasy.His efficiency continued in the 2-0 triumph over Tottenham in the final, and as such, there was a shared pleasure among staff and the squad that UEFA’s stellar, near 13-minute short film of the showpiece in Madrid ended with a shot of Alisson FaceTiming his family to show off his winner’s medal.Alisson has excelled on the grandest stages over the past year, his influence explicitly linked to silverware for his club and country. He has collected the three most prestigious goalkeeping accolades and went nine consecutive games without conceding in all competitions before reaching the Copa America final. That included shutting out Messi twice, for Barcelona and Argentina, as well as Harry Kane.Since moving to Liverpool, he has kept the same number of club clean sheets (35) as he has conceded goals. Lev Yashin of Dynamo Moscow was the first and only goalkeeper to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 1963, but Alisson surely has to be a part of the conversation this year. He is too humble to consider himself a possible candidate, playing down such talk last month. “There are a lot of top players aspiring for that prize,” he said. “I’m just a goalkeeper.”Roberto Negrisolo, the former Roma goalkeeping coach, previously provided the perfect counter.”This guy is a phenomenon,” he told Il Romanista of a player who was so far behind in terms of his physical development — he was chubbier and shorter than his colleagues — that his parents considered making him quit football at 15.”He is the No. 1 of No. 1s. He is worth as much as Messi because he is as important as Messi. He’s the type of goalkeeper who can define an era.”A year ago, Liverpool officials confided that £65m for Alisson would soon be seen as a steal. They were spot on, too: As Klopp himself admitted, Alisson is easily worth double as he regularly proved during the past 12 months.

PREVIEW | INDY ELEVEN LOOKS TO IMPROVE STRONG AWAY RECORD AT NASHVILLE SC

By IndyEleven.com, 07/25/19, 5:30PM EDT

 

Boys in Blue head to Nissan Stadium for second fixture against fifth-place Nashville SC

FOLLOW LIVE:

Local/National TV: N/A

Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click for a free 7-day trial)

Radio (Spanish): N/A

In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Honda

SETTING THE TABLE:

Indy Eleven: 11W-3L-4D, 37 pts., 3rd in Eastern Conference

Nashville SC: 9W-5L-5D, 32 pts., 5th in Eastern Conference

Click here for the full USL Championship standings

FIRST 2019 MEETING:

Indy Eleven 0 : 0 Nashville SC | Saturday, May 25

The Boys in Blue shared points with Nashville SC the last time the two teams faced each other on Indy 500 Weekend in Indy. Goalkeeper Evan Newton recorded his fifth consecutive home clean sheet after stopping a Nashville side that didn’t start either star striker in Cameron Lancaster or Daniel Rios. The best chance of the game came early in the 15th minute, after a through ball freed Nashville forward Tucker Hume for a one-on-one opportunity just outside the Indy six-yard-box, but Newton, quick off his line, nullified the goal scoring chance and saved a point for Indiana’s Team.

#INDvNSH:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats 

LAST TIME OUT:

Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Loudoun United FC  | Saturday, July 20

The Boys in Blue returned to winning ways last Saturday night after the toppling Loudoun United FC, 2-0. Late-game theatrics courtesy of forward Thomas Enevoldsen (fifth goal of 2019) and midfielder Tyler Pasher (team-high eighth goal) paved the way for the double over Major League Soccer’s D.C. United’s affiliate side. Evan Newton helped record the team’s 10th clean sheet and his seventh of the 2019 USL Championship season. The victory sees Indiana’s Team extend its undefeated streak at home to 18 games.

#INDvLDN:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats 

Memphis 901 FC 0 : 2 Nashville SC  |  Wednesday, July 17

Goals from defender Jimmy Ockford and leading goal scorer Daniel Rios saw Nashville SC edge out Memphis in the Tennessee rivals’ second and final meeting of the 2019 USL Championship regular season. The second fixture featured the same exact score line as the first, played back on April 13. The clean sheet was Nashville’s seventh this year, ranking tied for fifth across the 36-team Championship and trailing Indy’s league-best mark by three. The clean sheet is also the fifth time in 2019 that Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens has kept the goose egg from cracking.

#MEMvNSH:  Highlights  |  Recap  |  Stats

#NSHVIND STORYLINES

  • Indy Eleven holds a 5W-3L-0D record on the road in 2019 (17GF/10GA), averaging 1.25 goals allowed per game.
  • After their May 25 stalemate, Indy’s all-time record against Nashville SC stands at 2W-0L-1D (3GF/1GA).
  • An Indy Eleven win and New York Red Bulls II draw or loss this weekend will propel Indiana’s Team into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. The Boys in Blue sit one point behind NYRB2 and six behind the East-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies, but holds two games in hand on both squads.
  • Indy boasts an impressive defense, leading the Eastern Conference in clean sheets and tied for first in the USL with 10. Goalkeeper Evan Newton has the second most clean sheets in the Eastern Conference and is tied for fourth overall in the USL Championship with seven.
  • That stingy play has allowed Indiana’s Team to post the second best goals allowed mark in both the Eastern Conference and USL Championship, its 0.67 average on 12 goals allowed just a sliver behind the Rowdies’ 0.65 pace.
  • The Boys in Blue have scored in each of the last eight games, including five multi-goal games. (15GF/5GA). In fact, the last team to hold the Boys in Blue scoreless happened to be Nashville SC back on May 25.
  • Indy midfielder Tyler Pasher has scored or assisted in eight of his last nine starts (7G/1A).
  • Nashville SC’s Ramone Howell spent four years playing at Valparaiso University in Northwest Indiana, where he made 67 appearances and scored seven goals.
  • Nashville fullback Justin Davis is no stranger to Indy Eleven, having faced the side 10 times with Minnesota United from 2014-2016 and twice in 2018 with Nashville SC.
  • Davis’ fellow wing back Darnell King faced the Boys in Blue a total of nine times while playing for Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies from 2014-2016.
  • Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens has faced the Boys in Blue with both Tampa Bay Rowdies and Nashville SC. The Brickyard Battalion’s favorite netminder had a 2W-1L-6D record against Indy Eleven in nine games with Tampa Bay Rowdies and owns a 0W-2L-1D record against Indy with Nashville SC.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | FW THOMAS ENEVOLDSEN

The man who’s been on the pitch the most for Indy Eleven is forward Thomas Enevoldsen, as the native of Denmark has started every one of Indy’s 18 games and played all but three minutes of those starts. The tenacious forward has racked up five goals along the way – and his never say die attitude and tireless engine have played key roles in his goal scoring exploits.Despite being denied scoring opportunities throughout the season – and refreshingly wearing his frustrations and emotion on his sleeves – the Dane never stops making runs into the box and putting himself in the right positions to score as he showed against Birmingham Legion FC with a 91st minute goal last month and against Loudoun United FC on Saturday with an 81st minute goal. Enevoldsen also plays more than a nine role for his club. He’s not afraid to help create chances for teammates as a 10, as he leads Indy Eleven in chances created with 41, two of which have resulted in assists.

NASHVILLE SC PLAYER TO WATCH | FW DANIEL RIOS

Neither influential striker Cameron Lancaster or Daniel Rios started for Nashville SC the last time the side traveled to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Boys in Blue, most likely the result of playing 90 minutes against Birmingham Legion three days before. Failing to start against the Boys in Blue on May 25 is the only game this season that Rios hasn’t started of his 19 appearances.In that time, the Mexican has scored 12 goals, seeing him tied for the leading goal scorer honor in the Eastern Conference and tied for second in the Championship’s Golden Boot race. The 24-year-old has been potent recently, having scored four goals in his last five outings. Expect Rios to attempt to land a shot on goal this go around against Indiana’s Team, after failing to take a single shot in the 13 minutes he played off the bench on May 25.

MATCH-UP TO MARK | INDY’S TYLER GIBSON VS NASHVILLE’S MATT LAGRASSA

If coaches Martin Rennie and Gary Smith were choosing teams for a pickup street soccer game and had their pick of the Championship’s solid selection of “number sixes” to hold down the middle third, they’d likely stand pat with Gibson and LaGrassa, respectively.

Both midfielders encapsulate what it means to be a box-to-box, do the dirty work that goes unnoticed, holding midfielder. For starters, both midfielders have incredible engines. Gibson has started every match of Indy’s 18 games played and has played all but six minuts of those appearances, being subbed off one time to avoid injury. On the other hand, LaGrassa has started all but two of Nashville’s 19 fixtures, failing to play only 40 minutes of his 17 starts. Each trail only a forward in minutes played on their respective squads – Gibson trails Enevoldsen by three minutes and LaGrassa to Rios by 62 minutes.

The pair are excellent defensively, each leading their team in interceptions. The 28-year-old Gibson has racked up 20 interceptions and LaGrassa 25, a fifth of which came against Indy Eleven in May. Each also leads their team in passes played, as Gibson has played 968 passes to LaGrassa’s 771. The one area that Gibson has a slight edge over 26-year-old LaGrassa is passing accuracy, which he displayed in the first meeting against Nashville where he averaged 94 percent pass completion while LaGrassa completed 77 percent. Gibson – a native of Knoxville, Tenn. – boasts an average 89 percent passing accuracy this season as opposed to LaGrassa’s 79 percent. Look for these two to boss the midfield and butt heads on more than one occasion come Saturday night.

THREE THINGS | WEEK 20

By Drew Kamaski, 07/23/19, 10:45AM EDT1

Our Three Things from Indy Eleven’s 2-0 victory vs. Loudoun United FC

SECOND HALF FORM

The Boys in Blue have taken a liking to scoring goals in the second half over the last two months. In June, Indiana’s Team tallied nine of its 12 goals within the second stanza of each match. The trend has rolled through July as well, as all three of Indy’s goals have come in the latter half of matches, adding a bit of entertaining drama to the team’s recent run.The first second-half goal this month came through a penalty at the death, finished by Ayoze in the team’s first visit to Hartford Athletic on July 13. Late-goals two and three came in last Saturday’s 2-0 home win against Loudoun United FC, Thomas Enevoldsen opened the game’s scoring in the 81st minute, followed by Tyler Pasher’s devastating nutmeg goal that sealed victory 10 minutes later in stoppage time with his eighth goal of the season. The Boys in Blue will aim to continue the form in front of net at Nashville SC and North Carolina FC over the next two weeks, after playing to scoreless draws in the first meetings of 2019.

DANE KELLY

If we’re looking at stellar second-half performances, look no further than Dane Kelly’s 23 minutes against Loudoun United FC. The Jamaican’s impact was felt almost immediately after nearly breaking the deadlock eight minutes into his late-game appearance, a through ball from Pasher freed Kelly for a one-on-one from the left side of the box, but his effort was pushed wide.Kelly left his mark on the match via an assist six minutes later. The 28-year-old’s perfectly weighted one-touch pass into Loudoun’s penalty area created space for Enevoldsen to tuck a shot down middle and between the wickets of Loudoun’s ‘keeper, handing the Boys in Blue the lead. He might not have scored the goal, but his ability to read Loudoun’s defense and vision to play the pass crafted the opportunity.“I think one of the things that helped us was Dane [Kelly] came on fresh and helped us stretch the opposition,” Head Coach Martin Rennie said. “Once he came on we had quite a lot of chances.”

KEEPING IT CLEAN

The 2-0 victory over Loudoun United FC marked goalkeeper Evan Newton’s seventh clean sheet of the 2019 campaign and his first since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him a month. Newton recorded four saves in the team’s eighth shutout at home this season. Last season’s Golden Glove winner has recorded all but two of those eight home clean sheets, with Jordan Farr laying claim to the outliers against Atlanta United 2 and Birmingham Legion FC.The team’s strength at home has come through the stellar play of the back three in the 3-4-3 formation coach Rennie has deployed this season. The Scotsman’s squad has allowed just two goals in 10 home matches, boasting the lowest goals allowed tally in the entirety of the league (12) after Tampa Bay Rowdies conceded its 13th on the season against Saint Louis FC last Saturday.  “It’s always good to get a clean sheet and the guys in front have done a good job,” Newton said. “You have to keep pushing and I’m confident with everyone on this team and whoever’s in front.”Indy Eleven will take to the road the next two weeks with the chance to put some distance between its closest foes on the Eastern Conference table, starting with next Saturday’s meeting against Nashville FC at Nissan Stadium (8:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+). After traveling to face North Carolina FC on Saturday, August 3 (7:00 p.m., live on WISH-TV & ESPN+), the Boys in Blue will enjoy a bye week before returning home for back-to-back Sunday affairs against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 18 (Faith & Family Night) and Charlotte Independence on Aug. 25 (“Red Out” Summer Celebration). Tickets for those contests at Lucas Oil Stadium remain available for as little as $15 and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

ATP_Gen_350x250

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