Man its great to have Champions League back!! Matchday 1 of the Group Stage is complete and man were there some surprises. Liverpool losing 2-0 in Napoli, Real Madrid being destroyed at PSG 3-0 and Chelsea (with American Christian Pulisic on the bench) losing 1-0 to Valencia after missing a PK late. The world’s top keeper Ter Stegan saved a penalty and had some great saves at Dortmund as Messi finally returned to the field in a 0-0 tie for Barcelona. Great games – though tough to watch with just a few games on TNT and the others on BR Live and FuboTV. The 2nd leg kicks off this week Tues/Wed as Tottenham hosts Bayern Munich at 3 pm after Real Madrid hosts Club Brugge. While Wed gives us Barcelona vs Inter on TNT and the American connections Chelsea and Pulisic (if he plays) and American coach of Salzburg travels to Cup Holder’s Liverpool – both at 3 pm on B/R Live.
Tues, Oct 1
1 pm TNT Real Madrid vs Club Brugge
3 pm Juventus vs Bayer Leverkusen
3 pm TNT Tottenham vs Bayern Munich
3 pm Galatasaray vs PSG
3 pm Man City vs Dinamo Zagreb
Wed, Oct 2
1 pm TNT Praha vs Borussian Dortmund
3 pm TNT Barcelona cs Inter
3 pm RB Leipzig vs Lyonnaise
3 pm Lille vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
3 pm Liverpool vs Salzburg (US Coach)
The US Men recovered a little from the embarrassing 3-0 loss to Mexico with a solid 1-1 draw with Uraguay. Hard to say – but new coach Berhalter has a plan and he appears to be sticking to it. Not sure we have the player quality to play out of the back and possess all game –but he seems heck bent on doing it. I do think the US has perhaps its strongest set of U23s – really U20’s since the Donovan/Beasley/Bocanegra group. I love that our coach wants to possess the ball and take it to teams rather than absorb pressure and counter attack. Its going to take some time and but I like the idea of expecting to play better teams hoping to dominate or at least be even on possession. We just need to solidify things on the back line and get a healthy Adams in at the 6 Role in front of that line and we’ll see where we go. Its going to take time however – and there will be some growing pains along the way. The US Ladies will be in Chicago on Oct 6th at 1 pm at Soldier Field as part of their Victory tour vs Korea – tickets are less than $35 and available here. Oh and great to see Megan Rapino win Women’s FIFA Player of the Year and Jill Ellis Coach of the Year!!
Indy Eleven move to a 17W-7L-5D (56 pts.) record on the season, engaged in a three-way tie on points for first place with New York Red Bulls II and Tampa Bay Rowdies, with Nashville SC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC trailing by one. Indy Eleven continues its four-game road trip this Saturday at Highmark Stadium, squaring up against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at 7:00 p.m. ET. Indiana’s Team travels north of the border four days later to take on Ottawa Fury FC for another 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff. Both matches will be streamed live via ESPN+.Indy returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on October 5 for Fall Fest against Memphis 901 FC. Kickoff for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. ET, and tickets remain available for as little as $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.
So 3 more teams clinched Playoff Spots last week and there are just 4 slots left with 1 in the East and 3 in the West. Zlattan Ibrahimovich and the LA Galaxy secured their slot last week while LAFC claimed the Supporters Shield finally as the team with the most overall points in MLS. Sorry to see Josef Martinez go down for Atlanta United – his 15 game goal scoring streak came to an end when we was carted off last week – hopefully Atlanta’s best player and last season’s MVP can return for the playoffs. The Playoffs started earlier this year – with the new single game elimination first round games at the team with the best record starting in just 3 weeks – Oct 19th. This Sunday teams battling for playoff position on Fox Sports 1 at 5 pm with NYRB hosting DC United and 7:30 pm Minn United looking for the #2 spot behind opponent LAFC.
A bit early in the season but the Madrid Derby kicks off Sat at 3 pm on beIN Sport – as Atletico Madrid will host Real Madrid and ESPNFC says Atletico might have the edge. In Germany Top of the table RB Leipzig might return American Tyler Adams from injury on Sat as they host American Weston Mckennie and Schalke at 9:30 am on Fox Sports 2 followed by Josh Sergent and Werder Breman traveling to Dortmund at 12:30 on FS2. The EPL gives us Chelsea vs Brighton at 10 am on NBCSN followed Everton hosting Man City at 12:30 pm on NBC Saturday and Leicester City hosting New Castle United Sunday at 11:30 am on NBCSN.
Good Luck to our Carmel FC teams playing in the Tourney at Grand Park this weekend! A reminder GK Coach Jordan Farr will be at both Carmel FC GK trainings the next 2 Weeks – Monday night at Badger 5-7 pm and Thurs nights 5:30 pm till 7:30 pm.
The CHS Boys have not lost a game in their last 9 and now stand at 8-3-2 overall as they enter the last week of play on the road at Guerin tonight 5 pm, Harrison High Tues before Sectionals at Zionsville.
The #2 Ranked Carmel High School Girls squad hosted #1 Noblesville on Monday night and the top 2 ranked teams in the state played to a 1-1 tie as a packed house – including a ton of Carmel FC players who showed up. Sure was great seeing so many former Carmel FC players starring for the Carmel High Varsity and JV teams ! The CHS Girls play at Zionsville at 1 pm Sat before returning home for Senior Night vs Westfield Monday at 5 pm JV / 7 pm Varsity at Murray Stadium vs Westfield.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, Sept 28
7:30 am NBCSN Sheffield United vs Liverpool
9 am ESPN+ Juventus vs SPAL
9:30 am Fox sports2 RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Schalke (McKinney)
10 am NCBSN Chelsea vs Brighton
12:30 pm NBC Everton vs Manchester City
12:30 pm FS2 Dortmund vs Werder Bremen (Josh Sargent)
3 pm beIN Sport Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (MADRID DERBY)
Sun, Sept 29
9:30 am FS 1 Dusseldorf (Steffan) vs Freiburg
11:30 am NBCSN Leicester City vs New Castle United
5 pm Fox Sport 1 NY Red Bulls vs DC United
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Minn United vs LAFC
Tues, Oct 1
1 pm TNT Real Madrid vs Club Brugge
3 pm TNT Juventus vs Bayer Leverkusen
3 pm Tottenham vs Bayern Munich
3 pm Galatasaray vs PSG
3 pm Man City vs Dinamo Zagreb
Wed, Oct 2
1 pm Genk vs Napoli
3 pm TNT Barcelona cs Inter
3 pm RB Leipzig vs Lyonnaise
3 pm Lille vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
3 pm Liverpool vs Salzburg (US Coach)
7 pm ESPN+ Indy 11 vs Ottawa
Fri, Oct 4
2:30 pm F2 Dusseldorf (Steffan /Morales) vs Hertha
Sat, Oct 5
10 am NBCSN Liverpool vs Leicester City
Sun, Oct 6
9 am NBCSN Southampton vs Chelsea
11:30 am NBCSN New Castle United vs Man United
EPL & World
Premier League player Power Rankings
– Toe Poke: What you mised from FIFA The Best awards
Dutch Keeper Van Sari is Women’s GK of Year – WC Save
Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.
Josef Martinez extends record scoring streak to 15
MLS Power Rankings: LAFC, NYCFC remain on top as playoffs near
Is Christian Pulisic’s lack of playing time at Chelsea cause for alarm?
Sep 25, 2019 Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
When Christian Pulisic‘s $73 million move to Chelsea was announced in January, there were equal parts excitement and trepidation.The anticipation came from having the American heading to one of the world’s biggest clubs for a fee more than three times the previous record for a U.S. international. If Pulisic could break through with the Blues, there was a chance that he could live up to the predictions — or hopes — that he would become the first transcendent American star.But the enthusiasm was tempered by concern over how much he would actually play, especially coming off a season with Borussia Dortmund in which his time decreased due to a combination of injury and the emergence of Jadon Sancho. When Maurizio Sarri — Chelsea’s manager when Pulisic’s transfer was agreed upon — returned to his native Italy and Frank Lampard came in to replace him, the American’s position looked even more vulnerable.Just six weeks into the season, Pulisic has shown flashes of ability, like when he set up Olivier Giroud‘s goal against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, but has found minutes harder to come by recently. When he has featured, he struggled to make much of an impact, often opting to play it safe.
“OK” is the word that keeps coming up from those assessing the American’s performances. That hasn’t been enough to keep Pulisic in Chelsea’s starting lineup, even as he returned from international duty early. In fact, heading into Wednesday’s Carabao Cup match against Grimsby Town (ESPN+, 2:45 p.m. ET), he has been an unused substitute three games in a row.
The lack of minutes has, in some cases, been circumstantial. During last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, Lampard was forced to burn two substitutes in the first half when defenders Emerson Palmieri and Andreas Christensen were injured.But other signs are more disheartening. When Mason Mount was injured early in Chelsea’s 1-0 Champions League defeat to Valencia, Pedro was summoned, not Pulisic. The return of Willian, hurt at the start the season, has also made minutes tougher to come by. With Callum Hudson-Odoi also on the mend, the competition is set to get more intense.
“It’s so early,” said former U.S. international Landon Donovan, who enjoyed two loan spells in England with Everton. “You don’t want to get carried away, but the signs don’t look great so far for Pulisic, especially when you have Pedro, Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi also not starting in [the Liverpool] match. You would think he’s moving down the pecking order.”Pulisic was already operating at a deficit, given that Mount spent all of last season on loan at Derby County, where Lampard was manager. While Mount has endured uneven moments of his own, he has scored three goals. Pulisic, by contrast, has yet to find the back of the net. Others like Pedro and Willian are more proven, even as they are getting on in years (32 and 31, respectively).
“The number that they bought Pulisic for helps, but the shake-up in management doesn’t because there’s no tie,” said former Leicester, Tottenham and Fulham goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “Lampard isn’t tied to Pulisic. He’s not saying that this is the guy I wanted and give him the benefit of the doubt. He had nothing to do with signing Pulisic.”So how does the 21-year-old earn Lampard’s faith? There’s really only one way, and that is through his performances during training and in games.”There’s very little politics that goes into playing time over there,” said Brad Friedel, who spent the bulk of his career in the Premier League with the likes of Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham. “It’s a very straightforward scenario where the best play. It doesn’t matter what your last name is. It doesn’t matter generally how much they paid for you, although if you get into the stratospheric wages that can put a little bit of pressure on.”It will be turning up for training, working hard, being better than the other players in your position, and the most important thing: scoring and assisting and winning games. If you’re not involved in the scoring and winning and assisting and all that, you will not play over there, especially at a club like Chelsea, because they’re going to be under pressure to win.”In some respects, the fact that Pulisic is having difficulty breaking through is not surprising. The Premier League, and Chelsea in particular, has witnessed supremely talented players struggle during their initial foray in England. Neither Kevin De Bruyne nor Mohamed Salah managed to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, only to return to England and flourish at Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively. It speaks to how difficult the adjustment can be, even if you’re moving from a quality league like the Bundesliga.”The Bundesliga, the quality is really high, but the EPL is just crazy physical, beyond what people can imagine,” Donovan said. “There’s definitely an adjustment period for any player going there. It’s not easy.”There’s consensus that Pulisic will get additional opportunities, starting with Wednesday’s Carabao Cup match. Lampard has said as much, while the fact that Chelsea is operating under a transfer ban until the summer gives the manager few options but to persist with what’s at hand. The key for Pulisic is to seize his chance and leave Lampard with no choice but to play him. That will be an ongoing process, one that will be monitored closely stateside, given that World Cup qualifying starts next June.It’s not time to hit the panic button, but by the middle of the season, if it’s not changed, then he needs to consider what his options are because leading into [World Cup] qualifying and hopefully the World Cup, he needs to be playing games,” Donovan said.The flip side is that if Pulisic does break through, he’ll emerge a stronger, more refined player. Moreover, time is on his side, given the size of his transfer fee and the fact that he signed a five-year contract.”I think it’s great for players when it happens, though it’s probably not nice for them at the time,” Friedel said. “But it really makes players grind out to earn their place and learn how to play in a new league. It should in the end be really good for him if he takes it the right way.”U.S. fans will be hoping that is the case.
Sept 27-29 viewing guide and open thread
By jcksnftsn Sep 27, 2019, 9:00am PDT
a number of USMNT regulars in action as well as a few fringe players available to keep track of in nationally-broadcast games. Additionally, Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin are reportedly closer to returning, potentially increasing the viewing opportunities. Here’s what we’ll be watching this weekend:
RB Leipzig v Schalke 04 – 9:30a on FS2
Tyler Adams has reportedly returned to full training with RB Leipzig and thus is nearing return to game action, though it’s unknown if he will be available for this weekend’s top five matchup with Weston McKennie and Schalke. Currently, RB Leipzig sit in first place in the Bundesliga and are coming off a 3-0 win over Werder Bremen. The team has the third most goals in the league and their stingy defense has allowed just three goals through five matches.
Schalke who sit in 5th place in the Bundesliga, have won three straight games. Weston McKennie was back in a starting role for Schalke last weekend in their 2-1 win over Mainz 05. The young man was once again playing a bit all over the place and it will be interesting to see if the team looks for a consistent role for him moving forward or if “a bit all over the place” role is his consistent role.
- Christian Pulisic started midweek for Chelsea in their 7-1 Carabao Cup win over fourth-tier Grimsby Town. While Pulisic picked up an assist, he didn’t do much to distinguish himself either positively or negatively which means he’s likely back to the bench on Saturday when Chelsea face Brighton & Hove Albion at 10a on NBCSN.
- Josh Sargent received his second start of the season last weekend in the teams 0-3 loss to RB Leipzig. Werder Bremen are in 10th place with two wins and three losses thus far, and this weekend they will be facing third place Borussia Dortmund at 12:30p on FS2.
- Ventura Alvarado and Necaxa are coming off a 2-1 win and looking to keep pace at the top of the table. Currently the team is in second place, three points behind Santos Laguna (though with a point in hand). They take on Juarez this weekend at 8p on ESPN Deportes.
Fortuna Düsseldorf v Freiburg – 9:30a on FS1
Zack Steffen continues to get lots of work behind a league-worst Fortuna Düsseldorf defense that has given up 89 shots through five games. The team is currently in 13th place with four points and based on their current form, it’s going to take a phenomenal season from Steffen for the club to avoid relegation. The team is coming off a 2-1 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach and is looking for their first win since the opening weekend of the season. This weekend, Düsseldorf will be facing fourth place Freiburg, who are coming off a 1-1 draw with Augsburg and have just one loss on the season.
- DeAndre Yedlin is available for selection but was left out of the 18 last weekend, so it seems unlikely he’ll be right back in the starting lineup this weekend when Newcastle faces Leicester City at 11:30a on NBCSN.
Five things we learned from the Champions League
Jed CourtAFPSep 18, 2019, 5:19 PM
Paris (AFP) – Champions League holders Liverpool suffered defeat at Napoli this week, while Paris Saint-Germain laid down a marker by brushing aside Real Madrid and Juventus were held by Atletico Madrid.ere, AFP Sport takes a look at five things we learned from the opening round of group-stage matches:
PSG can cope without ‘MSN’
Paris Saint-Germain faced their first real test without the suspended Neymar and the injured duo of Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani at the Parc des Princes against Real Madrid.But Thomas Tuchel’s men showed they can cope without their star front three, as Angel Di Maria’s double and Thomas Meunier’s late strike secured a 3-0 victory over the record 13-time winners.The French champions were not short on firepower, with close-season signings Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia both providing a threat going forward.With Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe all to return, hopes will be higher than ever in the French capital this season that PSG can reach a maiden Champions League final.
Liverpool not unbeatable
Holders Liverpool came unstuck for the second straight season at Napoli as a combination of poor finishing and sloppy defending cost Jurgen Klopp’s men in a 2-0 loss at the Stadio San Paolo.The famed front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all guilty of wasting chances on Tuesday, while UEFA men’s player of the year Virgil van Dijk made an uncharacteristic error to gift Fernando Llorente Napoli’s late second.It was a first defeat for Liverpool, on a club-record 14-match winning streak in the Premier League, since their 3-0 loss in last season’s semi-final, first leg at Barcelona.”It should hurt because there were opportunities for us,” said Klopp, whose team lost 1-0 in Naples last year before going on to lift the trophy.
Tottenham’s soft underbelly
Last season’s runners-up Tottenham let a two-goal lead slip for the second time this season in a 2-2 draw at Olympiakos.Mauricio Pochettino criticised his team’s desire after a tame performance which was only enough for a point thanks to Harry Kane and Lucas Moura scoring in four first-half minutes.”It’s not about tactics, it’s not about quality players, it’s about the quality of preparing yourself to be ready to fight,” bemoaned Pochettino, who also saw his team draw after leading 2-0 against rivals Arsenal earlier this month.Spurs have won just three of their last 12 matches in all competitions.
Salzburg hoping to be ‘new Ajax’
Austrian champions Salzburg laid down a marker in their first group-stage game since 1994 as teenage sensation Erling Braut Haaland scored a hat-trick in a 6-2 demolition of Genk.The 19-year-old striker, who has scored 17 goals in nine matches this term, thinks his team can emulate Ajax, whose young side knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus in a surprise run to the semi-finals last season.”Everything is possible. We all saw Ajax last year, it would be nice to be the new Ajax,” the Norwegian told uefa.com.
Atalanta’s attacking style exposed
Italian debutants Atalanta claimed third place in Serie A and a spot in the Champions League last season after a thrilling campaign that saw them finish as the leading goalscorers in the Italian top flight.But their hopes of transferring that form to European club football’s top competition suffered an early blow with a 4-0 thrashing at Dinamo Zagreb.It was only a second win in 25 Champions League group-stage matches for the Croatian champions, and leaves Atalanta with plenty to do to get out of a group which also includes tournament favourites Manchester City.
Messi beats Van Dijk, Ronaldo to FIFA The Best
Sep 23, 2019
The award was handed to the Barcelona and Argentina captain at a ceremony in Milan.Messi, 32, led Barcelona to a fourth La Liga title in the past five seasons, scoring 36 goals and providing 15 assists in 35 league matches last campaign. He posted 51 goals and 22 assists in all competitions.Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric won the award last year — as well as the Ballon d’Or, which is awarded by France Football — breaking up a decade-long duel between Messi and Ronaldo for the prize.However, this is Messi’s first The Best award, having gone without a top personal honour since 2015.Ronaldo and Messi had won every main individual honour since Kaka’s triumph in 2007. They each won the last two FIFA World Player of the Year awards — Ronaldo in 2008 and Messi in 2009 — as well as the Ballons d’Or in those years.From 2010, the two awards merged and became the FIFA Ballon d’Or with Messi claiming four in a row. In 2013 and 2014, the Ballon d’Or returned to Ronaldo before Messi won a fifth in 2015.
In 2016, FIFA introduced The Best award, which ran alongside the Ballon d’Or and Ronaldo won both that year and retained them in 2017 before Modric’s clean sweep in 2018.Messi’s win is somewhat of a surprise with Van Dijk, a centre-back who transformed Liverpool’s defence on the way to the Champions League crown, having won the European best player award.In the final voting, Messi finished with 46 points, while Van Dijk (38 points) and Ronaldo (36) finished second and third respectively. The rest of the top 10 was rounded out by Liverpool forwards Mohamed Salah (26) and Sadio Mane (23), Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe (17), former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong (16), ex-Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (16), ex-Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt (9), and Tottenham striker Harry Kane (5).Additionally, Debrecen forward Daniel Zsori won the Puskas Award for his overhead kick against Ferencvaros during a Hungarian league match.Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp took home coach of the year, while Reds goalkeeper Alisson was named best keeper.United States head coach Jill Ellis and midfielder Megan Rapinoe collected women’s coach and player of the year, respectively, for the USWNT’s World Cup triumph this summer, while Netherlands goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was voted women’s goalkeeper of the year after helping her country to the final of the competition.Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa was given the fair play award.
Lampard praises Chelsea youngsters. What now for Pulisic?
Joe Prince-Wright,NBC Sports Sat, Sep 14 1:55 PM EDT
Chelsea’s young English core stood tall in the 5-2 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, as Tammy Abraham scored a hat trick and both Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount scored goals.All 10 of Chelsea’s Premier League goals have been scored by Englishman, and USMNT star Christian Pulisic was dropped from the starting lineup and was an unused sub as Frank Lampard watched Chelsea’s best performance of the season after switching to a 3-4-3 formation.Speaking to the BBC’s Match of the Day after the game, Lampard had high praise for Chelsea’s young stars.“Delighted for them all but particularly for Fikayo Tomori. He has worked so hard from where he started to now it’s superb. Also Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount – we are trying to give chances to the youngsters and they are scoring, taking their chances and showing us why we should keep putting them in the team,” Lampard said. “They deserve it, they have the quality but they also have a love for the club because they have come through the ranks. It’s not just the youngsters though – players like Willian are having fantastic performances that are just as key.”The fact that Lampard is not only praising Chelsea’s other young stars but also the man who came in to take Pulisic’s place, Willian, is hardly good news for the Pennsylvanian winger.Yes, he will get plenty of minutes due to Chelsea being in the League Cup, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup this season, but the fact Chelsea performed so well in a 3-4-3 formation doesn’t bode too well for Pulisic going forward.He can play in one of the wide forward positions tucking in, but Lampard is likely to want a player who is a little more powerful and adept at the defensive side of the game in those wide positions.After being handed valuable minutes early in the season, Pulisic has already struggled to provide Emerson and/or Cesar Apzilicueta with defensive cover so far this season. His safe passes and failure to take games by the scruff of the neck have really restricted his impact for Chelsea in the Premier League.He is still just 20 years old, but Pulisic has to start delivering when he gets minutes for Chelsea. The Premier League is a ruthless environment and right now Willian, Mount, Pedro, Callum Hudson-Odoi and probably even Ross Barkley are ahead of Pulisic in the pecking order.That might be harsh, but that’s the reality of being in the PL and at Chelsea.
LAFC beat Dynamo to lift MLS Supporters’ Shield
1:06 AM ETReuters
Carlos Vela scored his 30th goal of the season, and Diego Rossi connected on the go-ahead score in the 70th minute as LAFC clinched the 2019 MLS Supporters’ Shield with a 3-1 victory Wednesday over the visiting Houston Dynamo.LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta put the game away with a goal off a direct free kick in the 82nd minute when he curled a shot from just outside the corner of the penalty area into the right side of goal. LAFC (20-4-8, 68 points) finally clinched the best record in the league, in just its second season, by ending a five-match winless streak. The team did have four ties during that stretch but had not won since Aug. 21 against San Jose.Vela became just the second player in MLS history to score 30 goals in a season as he moved one away from the record set by Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez last season. Vela became the first player in league history with 30 goals and 15 assists in the same season.LAFC seemed doomed to another tie, which would have left them just short of clinching the Supporters’ Shield. But Rossi scored an opportunistic goal late in the second half off a diving header.Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa tried to clear a ball out of the Houston penalty area, but the ball hit off the crossbar and came back onto the field. Rossi went with a diving header off a high bounce and beat Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis for his 16th of the season.Vela scored a goal in his seventh consecutive game when he converted on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute for a 1-0 lead. Lee Nguyen earned the attempt when he was fouled in the penalty area by Houston’s Kiki Struna.The Dynamo (11-17-4, 37 points) tied the score 1-1 in the 28th minute on an LAFC own goal. Struna directed a loose ball in the LAFC penalty area toward goal. The ball was cleared off the line by LAFC’s Mohamed El-Munir, but it rebounded off goalkeeper Tyler Miller and into the net.
With two games to play in the regular season, LAFC are now three points behind the New York Red Bulls’ MLS record of 71 points in a season set last year.
Armchair Analyst: What I’m watching for over the final two MLS weekends
September 26, 201912:23PM EDT Matthew DoyleSenior Writer
OK, here we are: The very end. The final 180 minutes of the year for all 24 teams.As always, there’s a lot on the line this time of year as teams try to elbow their way into the playoffs, or into home field advantage. Let’s think about that, and what might come next – in the playoffs themselves. One eye on the present, one eye on the future, and off we go…
Are LAFC still the favorites?
A month ago LAFC weren’t just the presumptive Supporters’ Shield winners, nor even the presumptive runaway Supporters’ Shield winners. They were the runaway best team in MLS history, seemingly on an inexorable journey toward records for points, points per game, goals, goal differential and winning margin. They played soccer as beautiful as it was irresistible. And then 60 minutes into last month’s El Trafico, Carlos Vela pulled up lame. They still might break all those records above, and they did officially clinch the Shield on Wednesday night. But it’s still probably fair to say that things haven’t quite been the same, for one reason or another, since last month against the Galaxy. The good news is that Vela is back, but there are two other issues now. One is that smart teams have adjusted to how LAFC play and are harder/better/faster/stronger at exploiting space when the Black-and-Gold’s fullbacks overlap:
That’s fixable. Coach A has a certain style of play, and Coach B makes an adjustment, and it’s back to Coach A to figure things out. Bob Bradley’s been playing this game for damn near 40 years, and I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve.The second problem is a bigger one. Adama Diomande “voluntarily entered into MLS’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (“SABH”) Program” according to LAFC comms last week, and there’s no known timetable for his return. Obviously Diomande getting well is the only real priority here, but from an on-field perspective… after LAFC traded Christian Ramirez, they didn’t go out and get another center forward. Dio’s it.So now they’re playing a busted-up 4-3-3 wherein their fullbacks can’t get as high as early in the play as they used to, and Vela is no longer playing the position where he was having the best season in MLS history (right wing), and is instead playing as a false 9, and there’s no actual remedy for this on the roster as it’s constructed right now.Over the past month LAFC have trended from “might not smash the record” to “might not set the record” to “might not even be the favorites.” They’re a very different team than they were at the start of August.Worth noting, though: Toronto FC and Atlanta United both kind of went into the tank down the stretch each of the last two seasons (it cost Atlanta the Shield), so maybe LAFC are just trodding a well-worn path.
Can Atlanta United cope without Josef?
No. And I felt that way before NYCFC murked ’em on Wednesday night.Josef is the second-best player in the league, and is arguably the most important player in the league. Bobby Warshaw came up with his “break in case of emergency” plans for how Atlanta could maybe go about replacing their MVP, and I respect the effort he put into that as well as the fact that the Five Stripes still have a ton of talent on that roster.But I don’t think there’s any real way for them to replace Josef Martinez. He is not just their GOAT-level goalscorer, he is an inimitable tactical piece with his off the ball movement, and – most importantly – their emotional and spiritual leader. When their season was fading in mid-July, it was Josef who put them on his back. Now he’s gone.I think Wednesday night in the Bronx is a sample of what’s to come until he comes back healthy… this year or next.
Are NYCFC just a regular really good team, or something beyond that?
First, read Bobby’s column breaking down the Pigeons’ smashing of Atlanta, which is instructive in terms of both what they do and who they are. This is the key point:
NYCFC use their positional play to set up the field in a way that suits them. Before you know it, Moralez and Mitrita and Heber and Valentin Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi are flying at you and you’re cooked like the chewy stew at grandmas. Nobody wants that.And if you over-compensate to compress the middle of the field, they switch to a 3-4-2-1 and release their wingbacks to attack the space down the flanks. Instead of piercing through the middle, they get the ball wide and crash the box.NYCFC have weapons and they use them. They also have one of the best defenses in the league, have been one of the best teams in the league both at home and on the road, and they’re going to have home field advantage in the East. They are 17-4-5 since mid-April, which is not just “good” that’s “they’re a steamroller.” They’ve done it with and without a whole cadre of key players. They are easily – easily! – the favorites in their conference.That said, they’ve been thoroughly outplayed by TFC twice this season and historically don’t have a great record against the East teams that have dominated the past few years (TFC, RBNY and Atlanta). Nor have they ever done anything of note in the playoffs.If the Reds in particular advance out of that 4/5 game and are NYCFC’s first opponents, it’ll be a very nervous team in light blue taking the field.
Yeah but who’s second in the East?
Atlanta have, by almost any measure, an easier final two games (at Montreal, home vs. New England), but Philly (at Columbus, home vs. NYCFC) are not missing their best player. Even though I’d want no part of NYCFC at home on Decision Day presented by AT&T, I still think I’d rather be the Union. Philly have a one-point lead and a “we don’t give a damn” toughness/swagger that’s so much fun right now.Look at this staredown!!!!That is just lovely. And to be perfectly clear: Philly need that No. 2 seed more than Atlanta do for the culture and for the proof of concept, while I think Atlanta need it a lot more for reasons that are about to be made clear.”Yeah, getting second in the East matters because then you get to host the game against the third seeded team in the Conference Semifinals,” but that’s only true if you both get there. And you’ve got a much, much better chance of getting there from the second seed than from the third seed, because the third seed likely has to play Toronto, RBNY or D.C. United. Do you want to face one of them in a one-off, even at home?The second seed, meanwhile, will face…
Oh man, that East seventh seed is rough
New England got a miracle result Wednesday night with a goal in the 87th and then another seven minutes into stoppage. They had no business being in that game, but came away with a point thanks to a late Timbers meltdown en route to a 2-2 draw. It was a great moment for the Revs, and they justifiably celebrated like they’d won.But they sure haven’t been doing any actual winning lately. New England have just one W in their past nine games, and have NYCFC and Atlanta rounding out their schedule. They have been poor by almost every metric. The same goes for the Fire (home vs. Toronto, at Orlando) and Orlando (at Cincy, home vs. Chicago) either of whom can pass New England if the results break right.Any of those three teams is massively preferable to matching up against any of the three teams that could occupy the sixth spot.The second seed in the East is the biggest prize on the table right now. Both Philly and Atlanta desperately need to snag it.
And the final two spots in the West?
Also not great! Portland blew a 2-0 home lead to draw and San Jose blew a 1-0 home lead to lose just last night. The Quakes have lost four straight, the Timbers are 2-4-2 in their last eight – all at home – and the third member of this dance, FC Dallas, are winless in three. Right now it’s the Timbers in sixth (45 points + the first tiebreaker, which is wins), Dallas in seventh, and San Jose in eighth (44 points).All three teams control their own destiny. Dallas control it a little bit differently, though:
Jacob’s math is correct.Anyone who claims to know how this one is going to shake out is a big fat liar. Any of these teams can beat pretty much anyone, and have proven it. Any of these teams can lose to pretty much everyone, and have proven it.I have a sneaking suspicion, though, it’s going to come down to that final weekend when the Quakes pay Portland a visit at Providence Park. I imagine that game will have the intensity of a steel-cage death match.
What is the West hierarchy beyond LAFC?
Wait, are we back to accepting that LAFC are the absolute favorites? We are, for the sake of this argument? OK then…
In general, I have three rules of thumb in the playoffs:
- If you have multiple match-winners in attack, you can really mess teams up (LA Galaxy)
- If you have proven, veteran winners up the spine, you can 1-0 your way through the bracket (Minnesota)
- If you’ve been there before and don’t get rattled, you’re probably in good shape (Seattle)
That’s the order I’ve got those teams in right now. The Galaxy are still a mess defensively, but I’d be utterly terrified of lining up across from Zlatan and Cristian Pavon. I think that’s a scarier proposition for any playoff team than lining up against Ike Opara and Ozzie Alonso, which is more “unpleasant” than “scary” because you know they’re totally content to just bunker in and wait you out, then annihilate you on the break or set pieces.
Of course, they really do need to play better than they did on Wednesday. Sporting missed about five tap-ins
Seattle are 3-4-3 in their past 10 games, and I’m not sure they even deserve to be in this conversation. They’re not scaring anybody and I really, really question whether they have the team or the ethos to wait you out and wear you down. But they’re Seattle, and Nico Lodeiro‘s still Nico Lodeiro so here they are.But yeah, back to LA for a second: Zlatan has 12 goals in his last eight games, and wow, wouldn’t you know it! That coincides almost perfectly with Pavon’s arrival!Turns out adding an in-his-prime Argentine international attacker to your team is a good way to boost attacking production (the Galaxy are crossing less and soccering more). They have scored 23 goals in Pavon’s nine appearances, and a lot of those have come against good teams.
D.C., Toronto and RBNY coming alive…
I mean, maybe. I think it’s kind of hard to say a team that just lost to Montreal is “coming alive,” but certainly in the regular season the Reds have been legit. Same goes for D.C. (they’ve won three straight, all by shutout) and RBNY (back-to-back 2-0 wins that might’ve saved a job or two).With D.C. it comes down to Wayne Rooney looking free and unencumbered by whatever it was that was holding him back earlier this season, combined with a new-look, press-everywhere-out-of-a-mid-block midfield that is just miserable to play through. With their defense, and Rooney’s work – he’s one of the superstars in this league who actually defends – suddenly the backline hasn’t been engaged in pure rearguard actions (though they showed a few weeks back in Portland they can still do that if called upon).And then when they do win the ball, Wayne goes and does whatever he wants while everyone else just runs. There’s not a lot of set patterns of positional play, it’s “see space, take space, trust Wayne.” It’s a good plan.TFC, as I mentioned above, have been legit in the regular season with a 6-1-5 record since late June. Truth be told it should be 9-1-2, but a howler from Quentin Westberg at New England, a missed penalty at Yankee Stadium and a late, ridiculous challenge from Chris Mavinga vs. LAFC turned a trio of wins into draws. The Reds have actually been at least six points better than their already good second-half-of-the-season record indicates.But while I think Westberg’s biff was a one-off, Mavinga showed again on Wednesday night that he’ll still make those kinds of plays and cost his team points. As for finishing penalties… if I were a betting man, I’d see how much I could get for hitting “Toronto FC will miss a penalty in the postseason.” And if it goes to a shootout I would be shocked if they advanced. I bet they would be, too.The Red Bulls have been less convincing despite their back-to-back excellent results, and just based on pure talent they don’t have match-winners like Rooney, Jozy Altidore or Alejandro Pozuelo. For what it’s worth, here are a few arguments in RBNY’s favor:They’re 5-4-2 against Eastern Conference playoff teams, with just one loss in their last five.They’ve dropped a ton of points from winning positions this year, mostly through lack of intensity.”Lack of intensity” should cure itself down the stretch.It is easier to press for 90 when the weather cools down a bit.After last year’s lesson, I bet Chris Armas will have his team pressing no matter the situation.We’ll see what happens this weekend against D.C. My money is on United, but I think if I was an Atlanta fan I’d be rooting like hell for the Red Bulls because the last thing I’d want to see is a fired-up RBNY team coming into that 3/6 game looking for blood. And they absolutely would be.
So that means RSL are the sleeper team everybody’s forgotten about?
One of the under-the-radar stories of the past month is that the Claret-and-Cobalt just haven’t been good enough. They played well in Portland, and lost 1-0. They went to Minnesota and were pretty good, but the Loons were plain better in a 3-1 win. They were smart to rest their regulars and got a well-earned point in New England this past weekend, but having a fresh group of starters did nothing for them on Wednesday in a 2-1 home loss to the Galaxy. LA didn’t out-play them; they out-talented them. he margin for a team like RSL is slim, and in order to expand that margin they needed home field for at least a game. A month ago, they had it in their grasp.Now they need to win both their remaining games (which they should), and for Seattle or LA to entirely fall on their faces. It all seems unlikely.So yes, that means RSL are still under the radar and are indeed the sleeper team everybody’s forgotten about. The silver lining is that’s exactly how they entered last year’s playoffs before beating LAFC and giving Sporting a real scare, and… well, it’s the 10-year anniversary of this:”The underdog has won.” It seems implausible to suggest they could do so again, but that’s what we all thought the first time. Maybe history’s ready to repeat itself.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN FALLS 2-1 AT ATLANTA UNITED FC 2
By IndyEleven.com, 09/25/19, 11:45PM EDT Boys In Blue Fall After Netting First-Half Equalizer, Remain Tied for First Place in Eastern Conference
Despite a hard-fought effort, Indy Eleven falls on the road 2-1 to Atlanta United FC 2. Indiana’s Team drew level in the 36th minute when defender Paddy Barrett recorded his first goal of the season, but a second-half goal by Atlanta’s Andrew Carleton proved to be the game-winner for the home side.“I think it was a very open game. We’re disappointed to give away a goal on a set play because we really hadn’t given up too many chances, so that was something we have to improve on,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “It’s not something we really have made too many mistakes on this season, but that was one we needed to improve on.”Indy Eleven move to a 17W-7L-5D (56 pts.) record on the season, engaged in a three-way tie on points for first place with New York Red Bulls II and Tampa Bay Rowdies, with Nashville SC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC trailing by one.The first chance of the game came just seven minutes in when Indy Eleven midfielder Tyler Pasher followed a pacey run with a square pass across the face of Atlanta’s goal. The grounded pass skid just inches out of reach of Indy forwards Gabriel Rodrigues and Eugene Starikov to tap the ball in, the opportunity ending wide of the far post. Two minutes later, Starikov nearly headed home a free kick swung in by Indy defender Ayoze, but his effort landed comfortably in Atlanta ‘keeper Brendan Moore’s arms.The home side began to ask questions in the 14th minute, Atlanta’s George Bello ripped down Indy’s right flank after gaining possession in the midfield as Eleven defender Karl Ouimette gave chase. Indy goaltender Evan Newton did enough to take away the near post as Bello shot far and struck the iron, keeping the scores level.Atlanta would strike first, though. After absorbing the 10 minutes of pressure from Indy that followed, a corner played in the 24th minute by Atlanta’s Mikey Ambrose connected with defender George Campbell at the penalty spot. Campbell headed the ball down and forced Newton to go to ground to make the save, but the attempt forced through the goalkeeper’s glove and into the net.The lead was short-lived as Barrett drew level 12 minutes later. Starikov came up big with another headed effort on frame off a direct free kick from Ayoze. The nod was pushed wide by Moore for a save but fell short enough for Barrett to grab the tap-in equalizer on an open net.Indiana’s Team nearly took the lead into the half after striking the post in the 44th minute. Eleven midfielder Matt Watson flicked a square pass back to Ayoze at the top of the 18-yard box. Ayoze’s one-time effort looked on target before first deflecting off the foot of Starikov, followed by redirecting away off the post as the sides went into the locker rooms level at one.The Boys in Blue began the second half similar to the first, immediately applying pressure and creating a chance in the 46th minute. A long ball from Ayoze located defender Neveal Hackshaw unmarked at the back post. The Trinidadian made solid contact with a header, but the effort flew straight into Moore’s arms as the game remained level.Atlanta surged back into the lead in the 61st minute, forward Luiz Fernando played a short pass to Carleton at the top of Indy’s penalty area. Fancy footwork saw Carleton weave through the 18-yard box before slotting home into the bottom left corner, his fourth goal in as many games.Newton stood strong to keep the game at 2-1 in the 74th minute after a ball to the right side of Indy’s box freed up Fernando for a shot on goal. Luckily for Newton, the shot was directed to the covered near post, making for an easy save. Newton came to the rescue again eight minutes later as Jack Metcalf carried the ball into the Indy box before playing a square pass to Fernando. The forward took a quick touch before taking a shot, a wide attempt that Newton would push away to safety.Indy’s final chance of the evening came in the first minute of stoppage time, Ayoze played in a cross from the left flank into a packed Atlanta box. Despite the excellent service, the ball ended up on the roof of the net as the last opportunity of the night went begging and the final score read 2-1 in favor of the home team.“We feel disappointed today because we feel like we missed a couple of chances in the last few weeks to put ourselves clearly out in front of everybody, but at the same time, we knew that this phase of the season would be quite a challenge,” Rennie said. “We have a lot of games in a short space of time, so we need to keep perspective on things. I think that most teams would like to be in the position we are in at the moment, but we now need to capitalize on it.” Indy Eleven continues its four-game road trip this Saturday at Highmark Stadium, squaring up against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at 7:00 p.m. ET. Indiana’s Team travels north of the border four days later to take on Ottawa Fury FC for another 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff. Both matches will be streamed live via ESPN+.
Indy returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on October 5 for Fall Fest against Memphis 901 FC. Kickoff for the contest is set for 7:00 p.m. ET, and tickets remain available for as little as $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.
USL Championship Regular Season – #ATLvINDbb Indy Eleven 1 : 2 Atlanta United 2
Wednesday, September 25, 2019 – 7:30 p.m. ETFifth Third Bank Stadium – Kennesaw, Ga.Attendance: 1,026
2019 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (17W-7L-5D, 56 pts., 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Atlanta United 2 (8W-16L-6D, 30 pts., 14th in Eastern Conference)
ATL – George Campbell (Mikey Ambrose) 24’
IND – Paddy Barrett (unassisted) 36’
ATL – Andrew Carleton (Luiz Fernando) 61’
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN CLINCHES PLAYOFF BERTH WITH 2-1 WIN OVER BETHLEHEM STEEL FC
By IndyEleven.com, 09/14/19, 11:30PM EDT
Forwards Ilija Ilic and Dane Kelly score in second half to push Boys in Blue back to top of Eastern Conference standings, home unbeaten streak to 23 games
Goals from Indy Eleven forwards Dane Kelly and Ilija Ilic secured the club’s 23rd undefeated match in a row at Lucas Oil Stadium and a spot in the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs in a 2-1 win over Bethlehem Steel FC.
With the win – the sixth in Indy’s last eight games – Indiana’s Team again shares the top of the Eastern Conference table with New York Red Bulls II, tied on points (56) and overall league wins (17). While New York technically holds the goal differential tiebreaker, Indy Eleven still has one game in hand on the Empire State squadThe 80th minute game-winner by Kelly was his third for the Boys in Blue in less than a month, and all have come at home after the 80th minute of play. The goal allowed is the first on home turf since Charlotte Independence snuck one past ‘keeper Evan Newton on August 25, and just the fifth all season for the USL Championship’s top defense.“The character to come back was excellent. Obviously there are a bunch of really good players on this team. Most teams have that, but there is a connection between the players,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “They fight for each other and care about each other. They have a good culture in the locker room. It’s a unique group of players and that’s what I think makes the difference on a night when players are tired.”The Boys in Blue nearly opened the scoring seven minutes into the game via leading goal scorer and midfielder Tyler Pasher. After defender Ayoze played a lofted ball into the box that freed Pasher on the right, the Canadian took a touch into space and placed a shot that nearly forced through the legs of Bethlehem goalkeeper Matt Freese.Indiana’s Team continued to press and nearly broke the deadlock 10 minutes later. Forward Cristian Novoa, receiving his second consecutive start, played a back-heel pass to Ilic inside the left side of Bethlehem’s penalty area. The Serbian took a touch onto his right foot and attempted a curling shot that ultimately struck the crossbar and edged over the goal.Ilic nearly found his place on the scoreboard again in the 23rd minute of play. Multiple give-and-goes between Pasher and Ayoze eventually led to a cross from the Canadian that connected with the head of Ilic at the back post. Ilic’s header bounced off the ground and nearly crossed the line, if not for a goalline clearance from Freese, who continued to have an impressive first half of play.Bethlehem Steel created their best chance of the first half in the 25th minute after forcing Indy defender Neveal Hackshaw into a turnover near the center line, Bethlehem forward Michee Ngalina stealing the ball before bursting down the right flank. After making an impressive run into the Indy box, Ngalina unleashed a driven shot in a one-on-one attempt with Indy ‘keeper Evan Newton. The 31-year-old goaltender denied the first effort before a quick second came his way, which he again denied for a quick double-save.Indy continued to dominate possession and generate chances the rest of the half, but remained unable to convert as the sides entered the locker rooms even at nil-nil.Ilic finally broke the deadlock eleven minutes after the start of the second half, scoring the goal he looked certain to get in the first half. Indiana’s Team earned a corner after an extremely impressive point-blank reaction save from Freese, the ensuing set piece finding midfielder Macauley King, who played a lofted pass into the box that connected with Ilic. The Serbian displayed remarkable control taking the ball down in the six-yard box with a head-high touch before smashing home a first-time shot for his second goal the of season.“I’ll tell you something – the strikers win you the game, but defenders win you the championships,” said Ilic, who was quick to credit the other side of the ball after the match. “So if you have a good defense throughout the season, that’s how you get to the top. I would say that this year the defenders are actually much better than the strikers for us. We have the best defense across the league and I’m really happy for the guys. They just keep providing clean sheets.”Bethlehem nearly answered in the 59th minute through a corner kick. Steel FC defender Nathan Harriel nearly nodded a corner over Indy’s goal line, but the crossbar came to Newton’s rescue, deflecting the ball back into play. Harriel returned fire as the redirected ball fell back to his feet, but a goalline clearance by defender Paddy Barrett kept Indy’s sheet clean for the time being. Despite Indy’s best efforts to retain the lead, Steel FC equalized from a short corner in the 76th minute. The ball would be pushed off to Bethlehem’s Ngalina, who played in a cross to the back post that found teammate Ben Ofeimu lurking in Indy’s six-yard box. The center back caught Indy’s Newton off his line and tapped into an open goal, bringing the scores even at 1-1.Bethlehem’s equalizer wouldn’t last long, as four minutes after scoring Indy would surge back into the lead. A long ball by Indy midfielder Drew Conner found Pasher at the top of Bethlehem’s 18-yard box, and Pasher played a square pass with his head just prior to being fouled by Freese, who rushed off his line to attempt to clear. Kelly played on and took full advantage of Bethlehem’s open net with a half-volleyed strike to regain the lead at 2-1.Hungry for more, Kelly nearly doubled the lead twice in the final 10 minutes, but Indy would eventually settle to possess quite comfortably through the end of regulation and six minutes of stoppage time – and then some – to secure yet another home win and a second consecutive berth in the USL Championship’s postseason.“We made the playoffs tonight with five weeks to go. That’s a huge achievement. Every club looks to make the playoffs and we’ve done that,” Rennie said. “We have much higher aspirations than that. We want to be at the top and give ourselves the best chance to win when the playoffs come. But that’s quite a while away. We’ve still got a lot to play for, but we’ve got playoffs to look forward to in the future. Finish first would be our goal.” Indiana’s Team will hit the road its next match, as the Boys in Blue travel to Alabama to take on Birmingham Legion FC next Friday, September 20. The first match in a three-game, nine-day road trip kicks off at BBVA Field at 8:00 p.m.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvBSTIndy Eleven 2 : 1 Bethlehem Steel FC
Saturday, September 14, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. ETLucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 12,103
2019 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (17W-5L-5D, 56 pts., 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Bethlehem Steel FC (7W-14L-6D, 27 pts., 13th in Eastern Conference)