US Men vs Mexico Fri Night 8 pm FS1
Its USA vs Mexico –time – TONIGHT !! Excited to see so many new young players in camp this week at newcomers from the U20 team include Paxton Pomykal and Sergino Dest from Ajax. Hoping to see a younger but experienced team tonight with John Brooks back on the center line with newcomer Dest on the left and Reggie Cannon (who played so well vs Mexico last time) on the outside right and probably Aaron Long inside. I hope to see Alfredo Morales in the Dmid – as he’s starting at Dusseldorf now – but maybe its time to put Wil Trapp out there to show he’s not good enough at this level. (I for one do not trust Trapp). Look for Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan to fill the attacking mid roles – while Chrisitian Pulisic finally moves to his proper wing position. Not sure who is on the other wing between Tyler Boyd and Sebastian Lletget. Finally hopefully we will see Josh Sargent up top – fresh off this last weekend Josh Sargent Scores Wonder First goal for Werder Brennan. I certainly hope we get to see some Paxton Pomykal along the way as well. Either way its USA vs Mexico Tonight – must see TV!
Goalkeepers: Jesse Gonzalez, FC Dallas; Brad Guzan, Atlanta United; Sean Johnson, New York City FC; Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
Defenders: John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Germany); Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas; Sergino Dest, Ajax (Netherlands); Nick Lima, San Jose Earthquakes; Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls; Daniel Lovitz, Montreal Impact; Tim Ream, Fulham (England); Miles Robinson, Atlanta United; Walker Zimmerman, LAFC
Midfielders: Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy; Weston McKennie, Schalke (Germany); Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany); Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew; Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes
Forwards: Corey Baird, Real Salt Lake; Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey); Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders; Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England), Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Germany); Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew
Indy 11 Beats Top Team in East to Slide into 3rd overall
Our Indy 11 tied Louisville 1-1 before returning home to extend their home unbeaten Streak to 21 games. That’s 21 straight games without losing over 2 years at their new home in Lucas Oil Stadium. So let me ask you soccer fans – how many of you haven’t been to a game in the Luke? Honestly as the 3rd place team in the East fresh off a win over the top rated NY Red Bulls 2 1 to zero on Wed night – a team that hasn’t lost in front of its home fans but 1 time in 2 years – what do they have to do to get you to come out and take in a game? While the Eleven are averaging over 9K per game – it takes 20K to get the Luke really rocking! Cincy did it starting in year 2 – averaging 20K+ per game and are now in the MLS. There are only 4 more chances this year to take in a game. Lets fill that lower bowl on our final 2 Saturday night games Indy ! Next Games are Wed, Sept 11 vs Ottawa at 7 pm at Lucas Oil followed by Hispanic Heritage night next Sat, Sept 14. Kickoff for that 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.
Carmel FC Goalkeeper Training will be Monday at Badger and Thursday next week at Shelbourne. Indy 11 Goalkeeper and Carmel FC Head GK Coach Jordan should be there for both sessions this week.
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Sept 6
2:45 pm ESPN2 Germany vs Netherlands (Euro Qualifiying)
8:30 pm Fox Sports1 USA vs Mexico
Sat, Sept 7
12noon ESPN+ England vs Bulgaria (Euro Qualifiying)
2:45 pm ESPN+ France vs Albania (Euro Qualifiying)
2:45 pm ESPN+ Serbia vs Portugal (Euro Qualifiying)
7:30 pm ESPN+ Cincy vs Toronto FC
10:30 pm ESPN+ Portland vs Sporting KC
Sun, Sept 8
2:45 pm ESPN News Sweden vs Norway (Euro Qualifiying)
2:45 pm ESPN+ Finland vs Italy (Euro Qualifiying)
Mon, Sept 9
2:45 pm ESPN+ Northern Ireland vs Germany (Euro Qualifiying)
2:45 pm ESPN+ Scotland vs Belgium
Tues, Sept 10
2:45 pm ESPN2 England vs Kosovo(Euro Qualifiying)
2:45 pm ESPN+ France vs Andorra (Euro Qualifiying)
8 pm FS1 USA vs Uruguay
9:30 pm Fox Desportes Hondurus vs Chile
10 pm Univision, FUBOTV Argentina vs Mexico
Weds, Sept 11
7 pm MyindyTV Indy 11 vs Ottawa at Lucas Oil
7 pm ESPNNews Orlando Pride vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL
Fri, Sept 13
2:30 pm FS2 Dusseldorf (Steffan /Morales) vs Wolfsburg, Sept 11
Sat, Sept 14
7 pm MyindyTV Indy 11 vs Bethlehem Steel at Lucas Oil
Pulisic intrigued by possibility of playing in Olympics
Christian Pulisic gushes about life at Chelsea under Frank Lampard
– Horncastle: Juve, Napoli show Serie A is wide open
Armchair Analyst: What I want to see from the USMNT against Mexico
September 5, 20191:34PM EDTMatthew Doyle Senior Writer
he US men’s national team have two friendlies coming up, as you probably well know. They’ll play against Mexico in New Jersey on Friday night (8:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN), and then against Uruguay next Tuesday in St. Louis.
These games are big in that they’re against two very good teams – the Mexico side we’ll see on Friday night should be a level-and-a-half above the one that beat the US in the Gold Cup final, as Tata Martino has basically a full-strength roster this time – and these games are not big in that they are friendlies. The US should feel pressure to come out and play like their lives depend upon the result, given that things can get out of hand in a hurry against excellent teams. And the US should feel free to experiment and take chances and kick the tires on new personnel and new tactical ideas and new formations given that … yeah, they’re friendlies. A bad loss would be a humiliation, but it also kind of* doesn’t matter.
(*) Weirdly, we’re in an era in which friendlies against smaller Concacaf sides matter a little bit more than friendlies against Mexico right now. One of the things Gregg Berhalter & Co. have to do in the next 24 months is just beat the living hell out of the Panamas and Trinidads of the world and rekindle a little bit of the fear those teams used to feel when they faced off against the US. Non-Mexico Concacaf teams have gotten too used to going toe-to-toe with us.
Beating those teams is how you make the World Cup. Failing to beat those teams is how you miss the world cup.Beating Mexico is awesome in any context, but any honest assessment of the player pools and relative form of the US and Mexico says that El Tri are significantly better at the moment. Games like Friday’s are about making progress in closing the gap rather than establishing genuine superiority. Be sure to check out Andre Wiebe’s look at possible XIs we’ll see.Ok, my preamble is over. Let’s just put together a list questions, concerns and requests for the next 180 minutes:
Change the defensive shape in midfield
There’s been a lot written – a lot of it by me – about The System™, Berhalter’s very clever way of getting his side into a 3-2-2-3 formation when the US are in possession. It’s been written about because the way Berhalter has gone about getting his team into that shape has often been clever and sometimes ingenious. It’s been fun to watch.There’s been less written about the team’s defensive shape, which has been a pretty standard 4-2-2-2. And in the Gold Cup final, we saw what might have been the limits of that look as the lack of a true third central midfielder put the US at an almost constant numbers disadvantage against a Mexican side that just swarmed them, especially in the second half. Neither Michael Bradley nor Weston McKennie are reliable ball-winners at the international level at this point, but in their defense they were playing 2v3 and getting overrun.In both of these games I’d like to see a more standard 4-3-3. It’s ok to simplify a bit in order to win the numbers game, especially since it should open up playing time for players who are good at winning the second ball…
Punish the press & win the second ball
Berhalter’s teams always love to build from the back, but Martino did not let them do that at any point in the Gold Cup. And in the early going the US took advantage of that by repeatedly playing over the top of the press and then winning the second ball:It’s very Red Bulls-ish in the idea is less about completing meaningful passes and more about winning the ball in crucial spots where you have, if not necessarily numerical superiority, dynamic superiority. Christian Pulisic getting onto the ball on the move is a nightmare for even the best defenders in the world, and the “on the move” part is the dynamic part.When teams press you they are picking their poison. They are saying it’s worth it to exchange the danger of getting beat over the top for the increased chances of winning the ball in the attacking third and ramming it down your throat. The US very nearly made Tata regret that decision, and the truth is if Pulisic and Jozy Altidore had been a little sharper in front of net they could’ve been 2-0 up inside of 20 minutes.But after those first 20 minutes, the US didn’t do as good of job of winning those second balls. Whatever the midfield shape, if Mexico press then the US have to punish them for it.
Pulisic on the wing & a ball-winning 10
Pulisic is not a central midfielder, or a pure No. 10, or any other label you want to put on it. Maybe he grows into that (probably not, though).Regardless, he is so good on the wing now that it doesn’t make a ton of sense to play him elsewhere. And that becomes especially evident given the need for an extra, ball-winning/duel-winning presence in central midfield.It’s got to be Sebastian Lletget or Paxton Pomykal there. Lletget has had an under-the-radar year for the Galaxy, who are still struggling to figure out their best formation and approach. But he wins 57.4% of his duels, which is Ozzie Alonso/Diego Chara territory. Pomykal is even better in those situations, at 59.7% (for context, Jonathan dos Santos is at 52.5%).The numbers don’t tell the entire story, of course, but they’re a useful data point for understanding each player’s skill set.And to be clear: Neither guy is a true No. 10. Both guys have strengths in the attacking third – they combine well; have good, quick feet; are good on the half-turn; both are willing to take space off the ball – but neither is a pure chance creatorThat doesn’t matter, though, because in the modern game the No. 10 is a less specialized role, and in the US set-up it’s less about visionary passing and more about the ability to execute pre-arranged patterns. Lletget’s already shown a facility for that, and hopefully Pomykal will get his chance to show the same.Beyond anything else at this camp I’m very, very interested in seeing whether Pomykal and Lletget can affect the rhythm of the game by 1) winning second balls, and 2) facilitating. If they’re able to do that in central midfield, that changes so, so much about how the US can/should play.
Josh Sargent, please
We know Altidore can manhandle most center backs, and we know Gyasi Zardes‘s limitations in those situations.We don’t know a ton about Josh Sargent at this level just yet. There’s a lot we suspect, and there have been pretty strong data points in the past. Just think back 11 months:
Sargent’s going to have to do some of the donkey work the US asked of Altidore in the Gold Cup final, and hopefully he’ll also get to do some of the combination work you can see in that compilation above.I will be actively disappointed if he doesn’t start vs. Mexico, even with his fitness concerns.
What type of d-mid?
Berhalter very explicitly wants a defensive midfielder – like Bradley or Wil Trapp – who excels at hitting long diagonals to the flank in order to pick out a winger in isolation or an overlapping fullback in primary assist zones. A few of the US goals this summer came from exactly those types of passes.“What I’d say is we always want a player that has a good range of passing and if you look at a lot of chances we created in the Gold Cup it’s from trying to overload on one side of the field, we can’t overload, it comes back into the middle and then that player plays a diagonal ball to a fullback or to a winger running behind the line. How many goals did we score in the Gold Cup like that?” Berhalter told The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio last month. “So I feel like we need that person on the ball. A person has to be able to process the ball in tight space, has to be able to open up, has to have the vision and the technique to be able to hit a pass like that. Michael is a great example of a guy who can do that, Wil is a good example of a guy who can do that.”We want to see these qualities from other players because that’s a really valuable weapon in soccer.”In the long-term, this is a request from Berhalter to Tyler Adams: Please add this to your game! In this camp, it sounds like a suggestion that another Bundesliga starter, veteran Alfredo Morales, will get his opportunity to prove he can do this as well.Morales has been a fine player for a long time, but long-range, zone-moving passing has never been his forte. He has an opportunity in this camp, it seems, to show otherwise.Of course, Martino did everything in his power to take those passes away from the US back in July. The El Tri central midfield swamped Bradley and McKennie, daring the rest of the team to build enough to beat them. It didn’t happen.There’s a lot on the line in this camp for both Trapp and Morales. Trapp knows the system and has the range of passing, but has frequently looked out of his depth both athletically and defensively against good teams at the international level. Morales has been on the outside looking in for nearly half-a-decade, and this might be his last, best shot at carving out a meaningful international career.
Invert the left back
I actually suspect that neither the right back nor the left back will be inverted, playing that hybrid FB/DM role against Mexico that Berhalter concocted back at the start of the year. It feels too risky against a team that’s likely to line up Rodolfo Pizarro (dominant in the Gold Cup final) on one side and Hirving Lozano on the other.But if he’s determined to try The System™ in this one, I’d like to see him swap sides and have the left back invert rather than the right back doing so. Both Sergino Dest and Nick Lima have proven their comfort at LB, and both have shown a measure of comfort coming inside as ad hoc defensive midfielders.It would be a slightly different, but worthwhile look. And any time Dest, in particular, is pushed forward into attacking spots, he is a potential game-breaker.For what it’s worth it sounds like Dest is going to play a bunch in these games. You can listen to Berhalter’s full interview on last week’s Extratime here:
The No. 1 CB pairing
It’s just important to get John Brooks and Aaron Long some reps. Maybe they won’t be the No. 1 pairing a year down the road when World Cup qualifying starts, but at this point the US should proceed as if they will be. Get them used to each other.nd get them used to beating the first wave of pressure on the ball, please! Brooks and Long both have the ability to drop a shoulder and step past a closing defender, which is becoming a required skill for center backs at the highest levels of the game. There will be times against both Mexico and Uruguay when they’re required to be brave.Worth noting that Miles Robinson, who’s in his first full camp here, has shown to be very, very good at this already:
Folks are calling it “The Miles Robinson Run”. It’s the perfect advertisement for ball-carrying center backs. MR receives the ball, moves past an onrushing opponent, breaks into midfield, and forces the opposing right back to step to him, leaving a left-sided attacker in space.
Wes the boss
My biggest complaint about McKennie thus far in his young career is that he doesn’t find the game enough. His usage rate has tended to be lower than you’d expect of a $20 million-rated central midfielder, and against El Tri this summer there were times when it looked like he was just determined to stay as far away from the engine room as possible. He’s basically the opposite of Adams and Pomykal in that regard.The beginning of his Bundesliga season has been promising in this regard. He’s still not close to being a field general, but he’s not an E-2 anymore. He might be an NCO at this point, with the potential for much more.Long-term, though, in Berhalter’s system (and David Wagner’s at Schalke), he’s going to be asked to boss the midfield – everything from receiving on the half-turn in traffic, to hitting long switches, to creating overloads with his movement, to popping up between the lines in possession, to creating easy outlets for his back line. And, of course, to getting around the damn ball defensively and winning it.We already know that he can be a devastating force when playing downhill in attack – either running off the ball, or carrying it himself – but there’s so much more he needs to do in order to reach his potential and be the type of player a team (club or country) can build around.
Patience in possession
Related to the above, and to the Lletget/Pomykal discussion, and to the Sargent’s combination play idea, and to everything else: The US have to be both more patient and more confident on the ball in those instances when they do establish some possession. Let runs unfold, be willing to cycle up-and-down the field, and trust that you have the skill and shape to do it.
Gimme this lineup:
Wiebe: Three starting lineups for the USMNT’s revenge match vs Mexico
September 5, 201912:43PM EDTAndrew WiebeSenior Writer
This is not a tactical deep dive. This is not a think piece that’ll strain your brain. I’m leaving the heavy lifting to Matt Doyle. He’s got nothing better to do than spill thousands of words previewing a couple friendlies, and I respect that.I’m standing over the US men’s national team grill, beer in hand, throwing red meat on the flames. These USMNT XIs have been marinating in my mind for a couple days: one dedicated strictly to fan service, one I hope to see against Mexico and one my prediction for what we’ll actually see on Friday against Mexico (8:30 PM ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN). Yes, I am still upset that rain ruined my Labor Day barbecue.While you peruse the lineups – you’re free to drop your own squads in the comment section for evaluation – hit play on this Extratime interview with Gregg Berhalter from last week. You’ll learn something. Promise. I’ve got it all cued up for you, too.
What the fans want
Sergino Dest, you get an international debut against Mexico! Miles Robinson, you get an international debut against Mexico! Paxton Pomykal, you get an international debut against Mexico!Josh Sargent, your reward for staying patient after that Gold Cup snub is a start against Mexico! Score a goal or two, please. Lord knows US Soccer Twitter and MLS Reddit don’t want to see Gyasi Zardes up top again.What could go wrong, right? As Doyle said on Mass Confrontation on Tuesday, “throw the kids into the blender!” Everybody likes smoothies! Unless you’re the fruit…As for the rest of the team, we saw Reggie Cannon against El Tri in the Gold Cup final, so now it’s time for Nick Lima to get a run out and show us all what San Jose Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda has taught him. We also haven’t seen Alfredo Morales in US colors since 2016. Into the lineup you go, Bundesliga vet! Everybody seems to believe Christian Pulisic will be more effective on the wing. Your wish is my command (and he gets to combine with Dest!). Tyler Boyd starts for Besiktas, and therefore he starts for the US.There’s no doubt this is fun to imagine, even if it might not be so fun to see this XI in practice against a Mexico team that’s got Chucky Lozano and Chicharito back in the ranks.
What I want to see
Light your torch, grab your pitchfork and join Doyle in pounding on my front door. Yes, Gyasi Zardes is in my team. Yes, Tim Ream and Wil Trapp also start. Yes, I believe/hope that the best version of the USMNT likely has other names at striker, left back and defensive mid a year down the line.That’s not to say Zardes, Ream or Trapp are bad players! They aren’t! This is a chance to prove they belong in the lineup. Good luck to them.We all know a friendly against Mexico isn’t actually a “friendly,” so some consistency and experience in the team is important. Sargent, Dest and Pomykal can come off the bench. Just because they don’t start doesn’t mean they won’t play. I’m on record, by the way, saying Sargent ought to get the nod in his hometown next Tuesday against Uruguay.Against El Tri, the US must do a better job pressing defensively and dealing with the press when in possession than they did in the Gold Cup final.Sebastian Lletget ought to help with the latter. He’s not afraid to take the ball in tight spaces, and he can turn and create opportunities to play the ball to Pulisic’s feet in space or in behind to Jordan Morris or Zardes. Lima deserves a shot against Mexico, and he is more than capable on both sides of the ball. Morris gives Berhalter a direct route to goal and speed Tata Martino has to respect. Plus, he’s a willing defender. Track those runs, Jordan!
What Berhalter will probably do
UPDATE, 3 pm ET on Thursday: Berhalter announced at his pregame press conference that Sergino Dest will start the match. Get excited, folks! Best I can do is 10 for 11! I will be over the moon if I get seven of 11 right here. I feel most confident about, in order, Pulisic, Zack Steffen, Weston McKennie, John Brooks, Aaron Long, Trapp and Zardes.Doyle believes Dest will start, both because Berhalter has raved about him publicly and also because the US needs to send a clear signal to the dual-national that he’s a big part of the program’s future. I think that could come against Uruguay. In the meantime, Ream provides a stay-at-home option to give the US defensive structure behind Pulisic.Cannon vs. Lima (or maybe Dest) at right back? Yeah, I have no idea. Zero. I closed my eyes and threw a dart at the wall. I expect to be wrong. The odds aren’t great. As for Morris and Lletget, I already explained those selections above, just from my own perspective. Berhalter will tell us what he thinks when the lineup comes out on Friday.
USA vs. Mexico, 2019 friendly: What to watch for
It’s back. The United States Men’s National Team will face off against Mexico tomorrow at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. If you’re thinking it hasn’t been that long since the last time these two teams have played, you’re absolutely right. It was July 7th when the two teams last faced each other in the 2019 Gold Cup final, which was a 1-0 victory for El Tri. Less than 2 months later, the teams will square off again. In a not-so-friendly matchup, who will have the edge? Will some of the newer players make an impact? Tomorrow, the latest chapter in North America’s biggest rivalry is written.
L (0-1) – Mexico – Gold Cup Final
W (3-1) – Jamaica – Gold Cup Semifinals
W (1-0) – Curaçao – Gold Cup Quarterfinals
W (1-0) – United States – Gold Cup Final
W (1-0 AET) – Haiti – Gold Cup Semifinals
W (1(5)-1(4) AET) – Costa Rica – Gold Cup Quarterfinals
What to watch for
How will the defense hold? Against Mexico last time, the defense did a fairly decent job for the first 45 minutes of the match. In the second half, they wilted under the pressure of Mexico’s attackers, eventually allowing the Gold Cup-clinching goal. Will there be a new game plan to hold El Tri off the scoreboard?
Can the USMNT limit Mexico’s possession? It’s likely unrealistic to hope that the USMNT can hold possession longer than Mexico, but the Yanks can’t allow El Tri to have 70-80% possession. If the midfield can limit Mexico to having the ball only 50-55% of the time, that means more opportunities for the USMNT to move forward and try to score. You can bet that head coach Gregg Berhalter will want to do what it takes to keep the ball off the feet of Mexico’s attackers.
Is there a hero in this group? Who’s going to step up? Every USA-Mexico match needs a hero, someone that can rise up and seize the challenge and be the guy that fans remember when it’s all over. Will it be a veteran? Will it be a newcomer hoping to make an impact? Someone will need to take charge and lead this team.
Gregg Berhalter wants to develop a consistent lineup, but he also wants to evaluate some talent and determine if they can be counted on in a big time match. This is as big as it gets for a friendly. To that end, it’s expected that Berhalter opts for consistency with the lineup that he has used the most. LINEUP Steffan // Ream/Long/Brooks/Lima DM –Morales AM McKennie & Roldan Pulisic & Boyd on Wings – Zardes up top.
In goal, Zack Steffen is back, and Berhalter will likely stick with him. Tim Ream, Aaron Long, John Brooks, and Nick Lima make up the back line, with Lima operating in that hybrid right back to defensive midfielder role. It’s entirely possible we eventually see youngster Sergiño Dest, but it’s hard to imagine that he makes the starting lineup.
In the midfield, Alfredo Morales is the lone “newcomer” that gets a look in the starting lineup. He operates the defensive midfield role, leaving Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan free to roam and move the ball forward. Those three guys also seem to be the best three on the roster at holding possession as well, so it could be what Berhalter chooses to keep the ball away from Mexico.
Up front, expect Christian Pulisic to play on the right, but he will also operate space in the middle as a center attack mid at times. Tyler Boyd is back in the lineup and will patrol the left. He will have the challenge of covering a lot of space on the left side, particularly when McKennie presses forward. Finally, Gyasi Zardes is Berhalter’s main choice up top, so expect that to continue against Mexico.
This is going to be a slugfest on a soggy night in New Jersey. Not a lot of action will happen with expected torrential rains associated with Hurricane Dorian moving through the North Atlantic Ocean. However, one man will become a hero: Tyler Boyd. He hammers home a rebound in the final 30 minutes to give the USMNT a 1-0 victory.
Berhalter concedes Mexico ‘slightly ahead’ of USMNT ahead of friendly rematch
Goal.com 6 hours ago
The U.S. coach believes his team are behind their rivals at the moment but says his squad will continue to fight for Concacaf supremacyUnited States national team manager Gregg Berhalter believes Mexico are “slightly ahead” of his squad, but says his squad remain in a position to battle them for Concacaf supremacy.The Americans face their biggest rival in a Friday friendly, the first game for either national team since El Tri topped the USMNT 1-0 in the Gold Cup final.
The victory for El Tri in Chicago continued a recent spell of dominance in Concacaf since the fall of 2017, when Mexico qualified top of the region in World Cup qualifying while the USMNT missed out on the 2018 tournament.And though Berhalter conceded Martino’s team has a bit of an edge at the moment after its Gold Cup final win and triumphs in World Cup qualification, he believes the USMNT remain in the battle to reign supreme in Concacaf. “I think that we’re both in a position where we’re battling for supremacy in Concacaf. We’re both trying to be the top team,” Berhalter said at a news conference Thursday. “I think right now Mexico is slightly ahead of us, having beaten us in the last game and performed well in the last few years.”But when we play them, you see the intensity takes a different level. Everything is up a level. The tempo of the game is up, tackles are a little harder. These are special games. It’s always an occasion to be playing against Mexico – even if it’s a friendly game or a Gold Cup game or qualifying game or World Cup game.”Friday’s friendly will be a back-to-back meeting for the two nations, albeit separated by two months. It will also feature different squads than the ones that battled in the Gold Cup final. Berhalter once again gets the services of center back John Brooks, who missed the Concacaf championship with an injury. There are also returns for Bundesliga duo for Josh Sargent and Alfredo Morales.Mexico’s team is different as well, with World Cup veterans Hector Herrera, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Hirving Lozano among the players who didn’t take part in the Gold Cup but are in Tata Martino’s squad for the September games.But Berhalter is looking forward to the opportunity to face the same opponent twice in a row, anxious to see how his adjustments will pay off. “That’s the beauty of playing them in the next game. You get to make adjustments,” said Berhalter, who played in the rivalry matches as a player and now is participating as the coach. “You get to look at what you want to learn, how you want to learn, change things a little bit, how the team is going to react. For us it’s good. What we’re trying to do is just gather information on Mexico, gather information on what we can do to off-balance them.”These are fun games. When you get to play them back-to-back, we’re obviously going to alter things and see what affect it can have.”The contest is set to kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET. at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
3 key battles for USMNT v. Mexico
Daniel Karell NBC Sports•September 5, 2019
The U.S. Men’s National Team has a chance to avenge its defeat to Mexico in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup final as CONCACAF’s two giants face off in a friendly match on Friday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.The teams will look slightly different on Friday than on that July evening in Chicago, but it should be a terrific matchup between two squads full of talented youngsters, with some veterans sprinkled in. There will be battles all over the pitch, but here’s three key matchups to keep an eye on during the match.
Christian Pulisic v. Miguel Layun/Luis Rodriguez
All eyes will be on Christian Pulisic – and his Mexican winger counterpart Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. More on that later. Pulisic could certainly play in midfield, as the top of a three, but he seems more likely – having been listed as a forward on the roster, to take up one of the wide positions.That puts a lot on Mexico’s wide players on the backline, Jesus Gallardo on the left and either Miguel Layun or Luis Rodriguez on the right, to keep Pulisic in front of him. If Pulisic can repeatedly find space down the wings and cross into the box, that could leave to issues. Also, they’ll have to communicate effectively if Pulisic floats around, combining with the center forward to create goal-scoring opportunities for himself too.In the Gold Cup final, Andres Guardado and Edson Alvarez did enough to stifle Pulisic. If he plays out wide, away from those pair, can he be the difference?
Lozano v. Reggie Cannon/Sergino Dest
Similar to Pulisic, another key matchup will be the USMNT outside backs against Lozano. Assuming he starts on the left, Lozano will likely go up against incumbent right back Reggie Cannon or Sergino Dest. Both are young and inexperienced at this level, but they certainly have the speed to keep up with Lozano in a footrace.Lozano presents a difficult opponent, as he can certainly play within the channels or play outside along the wing, and he’ll certainly be a key focal point that El Tri will try and utilize during the game. How Cannon or Dest respond to this matchup will certainly also help the pair in future USMNT call-ups.
Aaron Long v. Raul Jimenez
Long, subject to transfer rumors from West Ham, will likely be battling with Wolves star forward Raul Jimenez all evening. Jimenez has taken his game to a new level, turning into a consistent scorer and great striker for Wolves. He’s a rare breed of a physical target forward, who also has excellent technical ability on the ball.For Long, he’s adept at positioning and reading the game from his time as a central midfielder growing up and his transition to centerback with the New York Red Bulls. He’ll have to be on his toes, anticipating passes into Jimenez’s feet or his head, as well as win long-balls in Jimenez’s direction. If the USMNT can keep Jimenez quiet in front of goal, it bodes well for the final score.
Pulisic intrigued by possibility of playing in Olympics
RONALD BLUMBritain Soccer Premier League
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, left, and Sheffield United’s John Egan battle for the ball during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (John Walton/PA via AP)
SHORT HILLS, N.J. (AP) — Christian Pulisic thinks about all the talented young American players and thinks they could go far in next year’s Olympic men’s soccer tournament, perhaps himself included.”I would never completely count that out because it’s a huge honor to play for your country in the Olympics,” the 20-year-old Chelsea midfielder said Wednesday, two days before the U.S. senior national team plays Mexico in an exhibition.Olympic men’s soccer qualifying is limited to players under 23, with three overage players allowed for the final tournament in Japan. Age-eligible Americans include Pulisic and midfielders Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Tim Weah.Clubs, however, are not required to release players for the Olympics or for qualifying, scheduled for March 20 to April 1 in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. The Olympic soccer tournament runs from July 23 to Aug. 8 in and likely would overlap a contemplated preseason tour by Chelsea and perhaps the start of the Premier League season.”A lot of factors come into play, I guess, but we’ll see,” Pulisic said.The United States failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournaments, a stumble that preceded the senior team’s failure to reach for last year’s World Cup. Pulisic thinks the U.S. could emulate Mexico, which won the 2012 Olympic men’s soccer gold.”We’re a confident young group of guys and I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t,” he said. “We set big goals for ourselves and, yeah, that would be one of them. That would be something I think we could do.”Pulisic was acquired by Chelsea in January from Borussia Dortmund for a 64 million euros (then $73 million) transfer fee, the most for an American player, then loaned back to the German club for the remainder of the season. He made his Premier League debut in the opening 4-0 loss at Manchester United and has started the last three league matches under new coach Frank Lampard, who replaced Maurizio Sarri.”It’s amazing. I mean, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s incredible,” Pulisic said. “It worked out really well, for sure. Frank’s a great guy and he’s helped me so much and he understands where I’m coming from and he’s done a really good job and helped me, teaching us, especially a lot of the younger guys on the team.”Pulisic laughed when asked who was the better player: himself or Mexican winger Hirving Lozano,”I’m not going to give you like an Ibra answer here,” he said in a reference to huge-egoed LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who two years ago boasted “lions do not compare themselves to humans” when asked where he ranked himself among strikers. Pulisic, naturally introverted, is reticent at times when speaking with media.”I’ll never be comfortable. I don’t like being in front of cameras,” he said. “I’m still getting used to it, I guess.”
Pulisic will be part of a rare trio of Americans this fall in Champions League Group D, joined by 18-year-old Ajax defender Sergiño Dest and Weah’s Lille, who is missing the match against Mexico and Tuesday’s friendly against Uruguay because of a hamstring injury.Dest introduced himself to Pulisic this week and joked about the possibility of playing against him.”I was asking him are you playing on the left side, right side, things like that?” Dest said with a smile.Pulisic left Hershey, Pennsylvania, to sign with Dortmund at age 16. While living in Germany, he could meet up with McKennie, a starter for Schalke. McKennie is proud of his friend but doesn’t have a chance to follow his club exploits too closely.”I’m not a big guy to watch sports,” McKennie said. “It’s always a big deal whenever you have an American you know being in Europe let alone at a giant club like Chelsea. I’ve heard he’s been doing well.”Pulisic has played primarily on the flanks with Chelsea, and falling back deep at times is part of his responsibility”Learning to help more on the defensive side of things, which is like a good challenge for me, as well,” he said.With the U.S., he has increasingly ventured into the central portion of the field. Coach Gregg Berhalter changed Pulisic’s listing from midfield to forward for this training camp.”We want him to be able to affect games in a number of different ways,” Berhalter said. “We want to be able to isolate him one vs. one at times but we also want him getting them ball between the lines.”Notes: Dest played for the U.S. at this year’s Under-20 World Cup and could make his senior debut Friday. He said the Royal Dutch Football Association contacted him about the possibility of playing for the Netherlands’ Under-23 team. Dest said he was not sure whether he would accept an invite from the U.S. for next month’s CONCACAF Nations League camp. By playing in a competitive senior match, Dest would tie himself to the U.S.
Aaron’s Long Road: USMNT, Red Bulls Center Back’s Unlikely Journey
Brian Straus,Sports Illustrated Wed, Sep 4 11:15 AM EDT
If there’s a level playing field to be found anywhere at an MLS club, where some make millions while others carpool to training with roommates, it’s in the sauna at the Seattle Sounders’ Starfire practice facility. That was the place where one of those millionaires, Clint Dempsey, often would hold court.Dempsey could be guarded, curt and cautious. But once you were familiar, you could become something like extended family. And that was the case whether you were his playing peer, an assistant equipment manager or Aaron Long, a relative no-name whose most significant soccer accomplishment at the time was the All-Big West selection that followed his junior season at UC Riverside.Inside the sauna, you were just another teammate in a towel. All were equal.“After training, he was always in there,” Long said of Dempsey. “We’d have these little sauna talks.”It turned out they had something in common that may have sparked some of those talks—a late start. Until the day he retired and no matter what he accomplished, Dempsey was fueled by the time he missed. When Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley were 20, they were at the World Cup. When Dempsey was 20, he was a junior at Furman. He wasn’t scouted or celebrated as a youth, and then as a pro, his determination to compensate for that delay was relentless. He spoke about it frequently. Dempsey wasn’t focused on establishing dominance or dominion where he was. He fixated on forging a new path through higher and more challenging terrain.“In terms of Clint, he did mention that: ‘I’m against the clock.’ He’d say little things like that. I figured strikers just have that mentality,” Long told SI.com. “I don’t know if I’m racing against the clock. But I do know I have things I want to accomplish, and I have less time in my pro career. I’m very aware.”They now have something more in common. They’re unlikely U.S. national team players. Long’s status isn’t in question now, even though he has only 11 caps. After a strong Concacaf Gold Cup—during which the central defender started five of six games, scored twice and earned a spot on the tournament’s Best XI—he seems like the most probable starter among the backs selected to take part in the USA’s upcoming friendlies against Mexico (Friday at the Meadowlands) and Uruguay (Sept. 10 in St. Louis). To draw a line from that spot in U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s 11 to the beginning of Long’s career in San Bernardino County, Calif., seems almost impossible. “It’s a story. It’s incredible,” said Chris Armas, Long’s coach at the New York Red Bulls. “It wasn’t the natural progression of guys coming through the national team ranks—youth national teams. It just wasn’t the path that he took. It was the one less traveled. He gets a lot of the credit—most of the credit. He has to.”Long said, “I wasn’t exactly a top dog comin through.”To say the least.Long grew up about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, over the San Gabriel Mountains in what he called “the high desert.”“He’s not really from California. He’s from the desert. you know? He claims he’s from L.A., but he’s from like an hour-and-a-half away,” said good friend (really) and Red Bulls center back partner Tim Parker. “We land at LAX and we get to [the hotel in] Santa Monica and he goes, ‘[inhales deeply] Ah, I’m home.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re like an hour-and-a-half away. what are you talking about?’”Long made the Cal South state team once, in his final year of eligibility. He played near the fringes, and when it was time to pick a school he signed his one and only scholarship offer, from family friend and Riverside coach Junior Gonzalez. Long was a robust, athletic box-to-box midfielder, and at the end of his senior season at Riverside, even though he wasn’t invited to the 2014 MLS combine, he’d done enough to get drafted toward the end of the second round by the Portland Timbers. He went on two USL loans and then was cut in July.The rival Sounders scooped him up, and Long rode the bench for the rest of 2014 before starting the following season with S2, the club’s new USL reserve outfit (it’s now Tacoma Defiance). It was in Seattle, before those sauna talks, that Long’s evolution began. Sigi Schmid appreciated Long’s midfield versatility and imagined him as a “Brad Evans-type”—someone who could transition between multiple positions in midfield and along the back line.But Evans was still entrenched as the Sounders’ resident Brad Evans-type, leaving Long to spend the year in the USL. By its conclusion, he was 23 and still hadn’t played an MLS minute. The Sounders offered to bring Long back as the S2 captain in 2016. There also was interest in the Twin Cities, where Minnesota United was making its expedited jump to MLS. And then there was a somewhat surprising call from the New York Red Bulls, whose enticing proposal came with a hard and fast condition.Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch promised Long a preseason with the first team. But it was going to be as a center back. And only as a center back.It was not an easy decision.“It was moving across the country. I’ve been a west coast guy my whole life, Even Portland and Seattle are a couple hours a way from my parents. My girlfriend, who I’m still with, lived in Seattle at the time,” Long recalled. “Then there’s the whole thing where like, I don’t know anyone on the Red Bulls. I don’t know anything about Jesse Marsch. I don’t know anything about this Red Bulls system, this Red Bulls pressing. And I have to play this whole new position that I don’t really love, to be honest. As a center mid, you don’t love center back. You want be on the ball.”But he also wanted to avoid regression. And he could feel the clock starting to tick. So he packed up and switched coasts, making the sort of leap into the unknown that’s often necessary to further or jumpstart a career. Dempsey would’ve approved.“Jesse says, ‘Look, we think we’re a good place for young players. We see athleticism in you—courage,’” Armas told SI.com. “He was a confident kid. Showed up and worked hard, showed a real ability to read the game well and just put out fires. He had a top speed that was impressive. And he had the mind and feet of a six.“He decided to choose us, thankfully. He got thrown into the fire,” Armas continued. “Introducing the style of play to him, playing fast, this was a culture shock for a lot of players. You sink or swim. He swam. He was great. Jesse worked with him.”Long needed games at center back, so was willing to sign a USL contract because the club so frequently included Red Bulls II players in first-team training.“The culture at Red Bull is insane. It’s integrated like crazy, more so than anywhere else,” he said.The USL team was a juggernaut, rolling through the regular season before thrashing Swope Park Rangers, 5-1, in the final. Long was the league’s defender of the year, and the Red Bulls II roster included several players who made the jump to MLS, including Tyler Adams and Derrick Etienne.Only FC Dallas partisans would dispute the Red Bulls’ position as American soccer’s premier talent identifier and incubator. Whether it’s turning a journeyman like Bradley Wright-Phillips into an icon, Adams into a Champions League player, or Brian White into this season’s co-leading scorer, the club has become a launch pad. Long’s ascent is testament to the efficacy of the Red Bulls’ approach.“It helps that I was naturally pretty good at [center back], for sure, but the amount of time Jesse put into a USL player was crazy. The amount of time he spent with me doing video and talking to me after my games. He watched every Red Bulls II game. I think they still do, the coaches. That’s why they develop so much young talent. They watch every single USL game, which Seattle didn’t, by the way. That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t so keen on going back there,” Long said. “Jesse would call me in after every game, and we’d do personal video sessions. A lot of work went into it, and as a second-team guy, I was blown away. I was like, ‘This guy definitely cares about me. He definitely sees a future.’”Armas, then an assistant and now in charge with Marsch off to a strong start at Red Bull Salzburg, confirmed that they still watch every RBII match. New York’s frenetic style also was ideal for a player still learning the mental side of the position.“The club was perfect for him,” Armas said. “It’s aggressive, and it keeps him alert at all times. He almost got fast tracked and had to play catch-up. Playing center back on this team—what a demand. We’re not sitting deep in a block, shifting and stepping. It’s massive fires to put out, reading the game, combativeness, playing forward, playing fast. There’s a lot of details to how we play and I credit the philosophy of our club to his development.”Finally, things began happening quickly for Long. In 2017, he started 33 MLS regular season and playoff games, and then in ’18, there was another breakthrough. He was the league’s defender of the year, the Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield and in September, he earned his first national team invitation of any kind, junior or senior. He roomed with Parker. And although Dave Sarachan left Long on the bench during a pair of friendlies, the interim manager gave him his USA debut the following month against Peru.Parker jokingly said Long’s ego was out of control upon his return to the Red Bulls form U.S. duty.“He comes back and starts criticizing everyone,” Parker deadpanned.Which means, of course, that Long did anything but, instead handling it with his disarming California cool. Long is funny, candid, somewhat acerbic, and confident—without appearing to stray toward arrogance. He draws attention to himself only with his play and an inexplicable haircut.“He’s a real guy,” Armas said.Long believed in himself even when others didn’t, and he’s chased his goals with the sort of disciplined relentlessness that earns respect rather than antipathy.He needs those skills now more than ever. Because on the heels of his sterling Gold Cup, and with his professional bona fides cemented, European clubs came calling. Long said he is “very grateful” to the Red Bulls. They signed him to an extension in January that’ll pay him $800,000 this season and is guaranteed through 2021. They gave him the chance, the coaching and the platform he needed. But there’s little point to that platform unless you use it. And now Long wants to leave. He’s moved once for the chance to take his late-blooming career to the next level. And like Dempsey, he believes it’s time to do so again. Long turns 27 next month. There are only so many contracts left for a player that age. The window to move abroad won’t stay open forever.In January 2016, the Red Bulls sent 20-year-old center back Matt Miazga to Chelsea for $3.5 million. Adams, regarded by many as a future USA linchpin, made an in-house move to RB Leipzig for $3 million. That’s the same amount that West Ham United offered the Red Bulls in July for Long. It was rejected. An unidentified French club upped the ante to $4 million. That would tie the record for a transfer fee paid for an MLS defender. The Red Bulls weren’t interested.Long acknowledged his frustration. Meanwhile, the club was caught between competing missions. Yes, the Red Bulls have a proven knack for developing players and identifying talent and, yes, participating in the transfer market should be a vital component of every MLS team’s mission. But there’s only so much pride New York fans can take in knowing their club is where careers are born but not always where they blossom. From Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley to Tim Ream, Adams and Miazga, New York is known more for transfers than for titles.The club is starved for the latter (Supporters’ Shields are nice, but it’s not a championship of anything), and you can’t hang a transfer fee from the rafters. Selling a top player requires the development or acquisition of a replacement. That’s not always a given, even at Red Bull. Doing so in short order, with the playoffs approaching, represents an especially tough sell for a club with multiple constituencies. There’s the player and the market. But there’s also the fans, sponsors and community who have been through more on-field heartbreak than any others in MLS.“He can play in almost any league in the world. But what we need is another club out there to see his value and come in strong with an offer that makes sense to our club. … We’re not going to just give away our best players,” Armas said. “It’s always going to be what’s best for the club with the player in mind. We don’t want to hold anyone back. We never have,” Armas continued, before rattling off the names of former Red Bulls. “They want a starting center back. One of our best players, starting for the national team, and he’s growing still. [The offer] has got to match that. At the same time, no matter what the offer is, of course there’s frustration if it doesn’t work out. I understand that.”Armas said his relationship with Long remains good. In the end, it’s not up to the manager anyway. Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett and Red Bull Global executives Oliver Mintzlaff and Paul Mitchell will have the final say. Either way, it’s out of Long’s hands. His ability to shape his career has been limited, and the fate of his team and his potential appeal during the January transfer window will be impacted by his performance this fall.Parker joked that if the Red Bulls finally win MLS Cup, they’ll all go to Europe.“He had a tough time early on, when this came and went,” Armas admitted. “Like I said, he’s a real guy. He’s not going to have those dreams and have a chance to go and then just show up like nothing’s going on. Yeah, it bothered him. But he wasn’t a distraction to the team at all. He shows up every day as a pro. He endured a lot emotionally, but it didn’t stop his commitment to the team.”Long will get another chance in the shop window over the next couple weeks with the USA. Berhalter’s style is more balanced and possession-based than New York’s, but Long’s midfield pedigree is important to a manager who wants players who can see and pass through lines. Plus, there’s a chance at another crack at Mexico following defeat in the Gold Cup final.“We could’ve and should’ve won that game, in my opinion,” Long said, still sore over his silver medal. “It’s almost like a new rivalry beginning with these new generations. There’s not enough bad blood at this time between some of the players like Tyler Adams, Weston [McKennie], Christian Pulisic, and the young Mexican guys. Over 10 years, there’s going to be a lot of crazy games and there’s going to be some serious bad blood. Seeing Jozy [Altidore] and Michael [Bradley] getting psyched for that game was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”Then comes the MLS Cup playoffs, perhaps more Red Bull heartbreak, and then the transfer dance will begin again. Considering his past, it might seem like Long is already playing with house money. But he’s always felt capable. So the next big step is an integral and inevitable part of his journey.“I understand where they’re coming from. … [But] I’ve got to make moves and I need to make them as soon as possible,” he said. “I want to take every opportunity I can take. I’m riding a wave right now and I want to see where it goes.”Added Parker: “He’ll have more opportunities. He’s good enough, and hopefully it happens again this winter. It would suck to lose Aaron, and it would be kind of good to lose Aaron.”It sounds like he’s channeling Ben Affleck’s Chuckie in Good Will Hunting when he said, “Because you’d be losing a bad guy in the locker room!”More banter, amid what’s becoming serious business.“I want to see Aaron succeed,” Parker said. “Whether that’s in New York, in Europe, whatever his desires really are.”
Dest set for US debut but could switch to Netherlands
RONALD BLUM,Associated Press 4 hours ago
FILE – In this May 24, 2019, file photo, Ukraine's Serhii Buletsa, front, duels for the ball with United States' Sergino Dest during a Group D U20 World Cup soccer match in Bielsko Biala, Poland. Dest, an 18-year-old Ajax outside back eligible for the United States and the Netherlands, could make his U.S. debut in Friday's exhibition against Mexico but also has been in contact with the Dutch soccer federation. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)
SHORT HILLS, N.J. (AP) — Sergiño Dest’s tenure with the U.S. national team could be lengthy. Or he might cut it short.The 18-year-old defender is scheduled to start Friday night’s exhibition against Mexico in his debut for the American senior team but could switch his affiliation to the Netherlands in the future.Eligible to play for both nations, the outside back is keeping his options open after getting playing time with Dutch power Ajax at the start of this season.”I’m happy for this opportunity and I’m happy that I’m here right now, but I don’t know for the future yet,” he said this week at the U.S. team’s hotel.Dest was born in Almere, Netherlands, and his mother is Dutch and his father is a Surinamese-American. Dest played for the U.S. at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and this year’s Under-20 World Cup, reaching the quarterfinals at both tournaments.While the Royal Dutch Football Association has contacted him about making a change, Dest decided to report to U.S. camp this week. Asked about the conversation Wednesday, he paused and smiled before answering.”Yeah they said something to me,” he replied. “It was not the first team yet, it was with the Under-23s. They want to have a meeting with me. I keep the options open for both ways.”He would not commit to playing for the U.S. next month in CONCACAF Nations League games against Cuba and Canada. Because those are competitive matches, if he appears for the Americans he would not be able to switch to the Dutch.”It’s about communication,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said, “and then creating an environment that they want to be in.”There is little depth at outside back for the U.S., and the right-footed Dest can play on both sides. DeAndre Yedlin and Tyler Adams, the top right-sided U.S. players, have seen sidelined by injuries since spring, and left back is a traditional American weak spot.”I don’t think age matters. If you’re ready, you’re ready, and I think him coming in here is a sign of that,” said 21-year-old midfielder Weston McKennie, a regular starter for Germany’s Schalke. “It seems like he definitely has a good attacking mentality and good speed and everything that his position really needs.”Dest grew up in the Netherlands and had been to the U.S. only once, a trip to New York when he was about 14, before joining the U.S. youth team program. He started four of five matches at the Under-20 World Cup in Poland. His failure to get his head on the ball in a clearance attempt led to Ukraine’s first goal in an opening 2-1 win, and he rebounded to play far better in the following games.”I was thinking it’s like a childish fault and I was still a little bit upset about it in the hotel,” he said. “I learned from that moment.”His profile rose during preseason with Ajax, which was seconds from reaching the Champions League final last season before allowing a stoppage-time goal to Tottenham. Dest made his first-team competitive debut for Ajax in the Dutch Super Cup against PSV Eindhoven on July 27.”I played with second team and I did really well, so they gave me a chance in preseason to play with the first team and that went very well,” he said. “My focus was I want to stay there and I don’t want to go back to the second team.”He has since appeared in three Eredivisie matches and a pair of Champions League qualifiers.”Everyone has their own progress, right, and the speed in which they continue to progress is unpredictable,” Berhalter said. “He got an opportunity, he seized his opportunity and now he’s a starter for Ajax, a semifinalist in the Champions League, and that’s an unbelievable story.”Berhalter called Dest in mid-August and offered him the invitation to U.S. camp.”I didn’t expect it,” Dest said. “I like to play for the U.S. I love the opportunity.”Ajax was drawn into Champions League Group D, which Dest called “the opportunity to show myself to the world.” He could face a pair of young Americans, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Lille’s Tim Weah, a teammate on the Under-20 team.Dest playfully tried to gain some tactical knowledge this week from Pulisic.”I was asking him are you playing on the left side? Right side? Things like that,” Dest said.Dest could slot in nicely on either side for the Americans, still experimenting ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying next September,”It happens all the time where you see a guy get an opportunity, take advantage of that opportunity,” Berhalter said. “You never can tell when it happens, who it’s going to happen to, but Sergiño’s in a good moment now, and we definitely want to capitalize on that.”Notes: The game is a rematch of the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in July, when Mexico beat the U.S. 1-0 despite missing many of its top players, including Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernández and Jesús Corona.
Forget Barcelona and Real Madrid: Atletico have the look and feel of La Liga champions
Sep 3, 2019Graham HunterSpain writer
Sometimes, especially when you’re trying to win just your third title in 42 years, you need things to go your way.You need the crowd to, almost literally, become your 12th man. You need your substitutes to produce three goals in two games. You need a wonderkid. You need your greatest comeback in a decade. You need your richer, more powerful rivals to drop four or five points across three games. And sometimes you need to suffer a shock, something akin to waking up to find a scorpion in your pajamas. Oh, and a last-minute winner to go clear at the top of the table doesn’t hurt either.
Ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to the mad, pulsating but deeply promising world of Atletico Madrid — Spain’s sudden title favourites. Mind you, please whisper that phrase or Diego Simeone might take you by the shirt front and pin you to the wall. More of that later.Let’s join all those dots, starting with the 12th man.On Sunday night, as Simeone’s rather punch-drunk men tried to haul themselves back into their contest with Eibar after going 2-0 down inside 20 minutes before Joao Felix struck back, goalkeeper Jan Oblak began a move by rolling the ball out to his central defender, Jose Gimenez. Now, I don’t know for sure whether Gimenez was planning his postmatch meal or just taking a standing micro-nap, but he had his back turned. At that moment, he couldn’t have dreamt that an Atleti attacking move might be starting with him.The ball rolled towards Gimenez, unbeknownst to him, and Eibar look poised to go 3-1 up at the Wanda Metropolitano. But at that crucial moment, the 12th man, or rather 54,000 of them, roared to the rescue. Just before Gimenez’s position became fatally embarrassing, every man, woman, child and ball-boy in the stadium screamed at him to wake up and pay attention. No parental warning needed here because while there was language which would make anyone blush, I won’t repeat it.As soon as the Uruguayan was startled into turning around and gathering the ball, Atleti’s move for Vitolo’s goal that would draw them level at 2-2 began. The newspapers on Monday morning should have read: Assist: Lemar/Crowd. But they didn’t.
Remember the fears that leaving the now demolished Vicente Calderon stadium might be, for Atleti, like Samson getting a haircut? A huge drop in power? Forget it.The subs? Well Vitolo now has two goals in two blistering second-half performances, each contributing to wins which looked like being a draw and a defeat respectively. Thomas Partey joined the party (do excuse me) with a 90th-minute winner despite having only been on the pitch just over 10 minutes.Afterwards, Vitolo said: “I’ll keep on fighting in every training session, with every match minute I get to help the team and to try and force the coach into picking me.”Thomas added: “Every one, starter and sub, feels equally important here. The work the team did from the moment Eibar went 2-0 up was absolutely phenomenal.”The two of them followed the right actions with the right words. Everyone here sings from the same hymn sheet. Smells like 2013-14, doesn’t it?Whatever else is going on, Simeone has all his back-up players pawing the ground with energy, resilience and determination rather than sulking. They seem to know that the biggest trophies are always won by an 18-man squad, not 11 men. While 19-year-old Rodrigo Riquelme didn’t turn the game on Sunday, his introduction as a sub means that Atleti‘s coach, unfairly branded as “conservative,” has now brought on seven homegrown kids for their debuts since April last year.I don’t think it’s necessary to explain, again, what a dramatic impact Simeone has had on the club, the fan base, the media, the training ground environment, the squad, the academy or the trophy cabinet (seven in just under eight years). But I’ll bet you didn’t know that not only was Sunday against Eibar the first time his team had conceded twice at home before the 20-minute mark, or that Atleti hadn’t fought back to win from 2-0 down since 2009?Sunday’s fightback against Jose Luis Mendilibar’s Eibar represented just that for Atleti — calamitously shipping in one smash-and-grab goal, followed by a comedy second to give the impression that Barcelona drawing and the prospect of Real Madrid doing the same later on didn’t matter to them.But they have this wonderkid, see?Joao Felix is not only special, he’s durable and oozes winning mentality. After hogging the entire European preseason with his performances, the Portuguese phenom, still just 19, has a goal, an assist and a penalty won through three games for the top-of-the-table and title favourites. His delightful piece of skill (the Spanish have begun to call such tricks “delicatessen” recently) near the halfway line to take a crisp pass, flick it past his marker and set Diego Costa off on a run which would end with Felix side-footing home Atleti‘s first to make it 2-1, brought a primeval roar of approval from the gullets of the red-and-white 54,000.Yet when the Portuguese starlet tired, Simeone had the chutzpah to replace him with match-winner Partey. Normally a right-back, midfield enforcer or even a centre-back, here the Ghanaian was deployed as a second striker … and scored. I liked the cut of Simeone’s jib postmatch. He said: “I saw that Joao was flagging and I knew that Thomas had the impetus to play off Diego Costa. I wanted speed, I wanted to attack Eibar.”It brought drama, a third goal, postmatch questions about winning the title and three beautiful points but Simeone remained realistic.”If you win 3-2 then you’ve committed some errors. But the point is the fight back and winning. We want to win, then win some more then win again and again …” was his payoff, an homage to Luis Aragones, his only challenger as Atleti’s most famous, most loved servant, and the ‘Wise Old Man of Hortaleza’s’ historic phrase: “Ganar, y ganar y volver a ganar.“Atleti are well stocked across their squad, trust their academy products, look fit, fast, renewed with the energy and competition that astute new signings can bring and, up front, they seem to ooze scoring power.Here’s the rub. It’s not for nothing that they’ve only won the title twice since 1977. Madrid and Barcelona have often claimed La Liga with “moderate” performances where their deep resources are impossible for Atleti to emulate. This time Simeone has the resources, several special players, a throbbingly good home support and his principal rivals are, at best, flat-planing and, likely, regressing.That leaves us with the fact that if they are to become Spanish champions it will be the first time in nearly half a century that they’ve done so starting as most people’s outright favourites. A burden.Expect the “one game at a time,” “we aren’t thinking about that” and “if you mention the title one more time” to be growled out from Atleti‘s Majadahonda training ground and postmatch news conferences all the way to next May. When, based on recent evidence, great things await.
It’s time to map out successful, meaningful change for women’s soccer
Sep 3, 2019Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC
There’s no debate: as a standalone tournament, the Women’s World Cup is a rip-roaring, commercially viable success. The 2019 edition broke women’s football viewing records around the world. This happened not only in Europe, where the time zones were friendly and new marks were set in France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, but also in the United States and Brazil. In fact, according to FIFA, Brazil set a new global viewing record when 35 million watched the Selecao take on France in the round of 16.And it’s not as if this audience was simply football junkies getting their fix at the end of the European season because there was nothing else on. They had plenty of other options, from the European under-21 championships to the Africa Cup of Nations, from the Copa America to the Gold Cup and Major League Soccer.The tournament was rightly celebrated across mainstream media, but you can’t help but wonder what happens next and whether the right questions are even being asked, not just of FIFA, but of stakeholders in the women’s game — players, fans, associations — around the world. Because the risk for women’s football is that it becomes like most Olympic events: massive audiences and media attention every four years, and then zero on the Richter scale until the next Olympiad. And like many Olympic events, it becomes not a true mass participation sport but a niche pursuit for the privileged elite.There is a significant window of opportunity for women’s football. It requires creative thinking. It requires belief. It requires a willingness to hold institutions, from FIFA to federations, to account. Above all, it requires a clear-eyed realization that the priority must be making the game accessible and sustainable to every woman and girl who wants to play it. With that said, here’s my take on the some of the most important issues facing women’s football as it looks to build on the successful Women’s World Cup.
Q: OK, let’s start at the top, with FIFA. Shouldn’t we be holding it to account over equal pay and equal prize money?
A: I can see why you would conflate the two issues, since much of the media has. But they’re entirely separate.Equal pay refers to what women’s national teams earn relative to their male counterparts. In some federations the women’s team is not just more successful, but also generates comparable, if not greater, amounts of money than the men’s team. It’s not quite “pay” in the sense that these aren’t salaried employees, but more like contractors. It’s also complicated by the fact that for most of the bigger men’s teams, the bulk of the players’ earnings comes from their club sides and the national team stipends are basically pocket money, whereas for the women they’re often the main (and sometimes only) source of income. So it seems justified and reasonable to treat the men’s and women’s teams equally.Norway were among the first federations to do it, and in the U.S., the women’s team took legal action last March.
Q: What about prize money? The men’s prize money pool in 2018 was $400 million. The women’s prize money in 2019 just $30 million.
A: Like I said, that’s a totally different issue. The men’s World Cup also had 32 teams instead of 24, so on a per-team basis, on average, the men’s prize money was 10 times as high. There’s a reason for that. (I’ll get to it in a minute.) But what many seem to fail to understand is that prize money doesn’t go to the players. It goes to the federations that then decide how to allocate it.Some of it goes to World Cup preparation and expenses — in the case of less wealthy federations, FIFA covers the cost with an additional pot of $20m — some of it goes to players and staff. In the case of men’s teams there’s another massive expense relative to the women: insurance. FIFA pays the cost of insuring players at the World Cup itself, but not for qualifiers and friendlies. But obviously you need to play qualifiers and friendlies to get there.In any case, there’s nothing stopping successful women’s teams like the United States from going to their federation and demanding equal pay, as they have done. It shouldn’t be tied to prize money.There’s also another, more pertinent, reason why discussion about investing in the women’s game shouldn’t focus on prize money.
Q: What’s that?
A: Increasing prize money would simply steer more cash to those who need it least. The countries who perform best at the Women’s World Cups are all wealthy nations with the best-established women’s football programs. All eight of the countries with the most registered women footballers reached the round of 16 in France and seven of the eight made the quarterfinals. That shouldn’t be surprising: when you have far more players to choose from and more money to train them you usually end up winning.FIFA’s mission is to promote and develop the game worldwide, not to run a commercial enterprise that rewards countries which already enjoy all sorts of advantages. Every dollar spent on prize money is a dollar not going into development, and FIFA’s job is primarily development. Roughly a quarter of FIFA member nations (156 of 209) don’t even field senior women’s teams and it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) for a woman to play organized football at any level.This gap is why there’s such a disconnect in the conversation. The U.S. and Australia, two of the countries that have pushed hardest for increased prize money, are actually two of the ones who, frankly, need it least. The U.S. has more than 1.6 million registered women’s footballers, which is roughly 40 percent of all registered women’s players in the world. It has Title IX, which ensures opportunities for women to play at university level. These are luxuries most of the world’s countries can only dream of.Demanding more prize money from FIFA smacks of a “first world” attitude if it comes at the expense of development money, especially when these players can (and should) get more pay from their own federations.
Q: What exactly do you mean by “development money”?
A: These are funds that FIFA sends to member associations to promote football development. It can mean everything from coaching education to building pitches and training centers to buying equipment to leasing minivans to drive kids to matches. Right now, in addition to the general funds that FIFA makes available to member nations, it also has half a billion dollars earmarked specifically for women’s football programs.As FIFA president Gianni Infantino says, if you don’t run a woman’s program that meets certain requirements, you don’t get the money.
Q: Can we trust FIFA to hand out this money, given its past history of corruption and malfeasance? A football pitch is a football pitch after all: how do we know it’s going to be reserved for women’s football? In fact, how do we know it’s not going to be used for some local FA official to build himself a new swimming pool?
A: No doubt stuff like that happened in the past, as Infantino himself readily admits.Money just leaks out of the system. FIFA says it has tightened up requirements and oversight to ensure it won’t happen. And, possibly because of this oversight (or maybe because they simply don’t care), many FAs have left money on the table, But it requires more vigilance on a local level, that’s for sure, and it requires education — people in less developed footballing nations demanding the funds are spent — as well as, perhaps, some solidarity from the bigger, wealthier countries.
Q: But isn’t FIFA sitting on $2.75 billion in cash reserves (money sitting in the bank at the end of the last fiscal year)? Surely it can do both: increase prize money and increase development funds.
A: Of course it can, and that’s what Infantino has pledged to do. He wants to double prize money to $60m (plus another $40m to help cover World Cup expenses for less wealthy nations) and also double development funds for the women’s game from $500m to a billion over the next four-year cycle. It’s just a little disappointing that so much of the talk has focused on prize money and not development.In any case, hopefully this whole argument will be moot next time around.
Q: How’s that?
A: What many don’t seem to realize is that more than 95 percent of FIFA’s income comes from a single tournament every four years: the men’s World Cup and, specifically, the sale of tickets, commercial and broadcast rights.Effectively, the men’s World Cup subsidizes everything FIFA does, from development grants to organizing competitions like the Women’s World Cup, youth tournaments, beach soccer and so on. Without the men’s World Cup, none of these things would exist because none of them can pay for themselves — at least that was the case in the past.Take the current cycle from 2015 to 2022: those rights were sold off between 2010 and 2012, and FIFA would sell its international tournaments to broadcasters as a package deal by territory. You’d pay for the men’s World Cup, primarily, and FIFA would throw in competitions such as the Women’s World Cup, the under-20s, futsal and beach soccer for “free.” Infantino vows to change that when the next set of rights — for the 2027 World Cup — comes on the global market and, on a regional basis, possibly earlier.He pointed out that the men’s World Cup, with its global reach of around 4 billion, generates $6.5 billion in revenue. If the Women’s World Cup in France reaches a quarter of that audience, it should generate a quarter of the men’s World Cup revenue, or around $1.6 billion. Instead, because the commercial and broadcast rights are bundled with the men’s, it has generated close to zero: some ticket sales, minor local sponsorships and some merchandise and/or concessions.When he took charge of FIFA in 2016, Infantino appointed a dedicated head of women’s football, Sarai Bareman. Now the goal is to market the Women’s World Cup as a separate competition. If you look at the numbers and audience, surely sponsors and broadcasters will come on board. That’s a huge first step, and when it happens, it will be easier to increase prize money as well. But the goal, as far as FIFA is concerned, has to be development, grassroots and access to the game.
Q: What about the top end, the women we saw at the World Cup in France?
A: Here again it’s complicated, and this is where the biggest decisions need to be taken, not so much by FIFA but by those who care about the women’s game. Some see professional women’s leagues as a key stepping stone to promote and grow the sport. I’m not so sure
Q: How come?
A: There are basically two models for this. Neither has had much success thus far, though it’s still early. In Europe, they’ve tried to piggyback off of men’s clubs. On the surface, it makes sense since you already have a strong brand, ready-built facilities and a fan base that loves the club. Commercially, though, it has been tough.Atletico Madrid drew more than 60,000 for the visit of Barcelona last season in Spain and 39,000 showed up to watch Juventus take on Fiorentina in Italy. In reality, those are one-off, heavily marketed games that saw many tickets given away free or at deep discounts. Atletico’s average attendance is about 600 a game, while Juve attract less than 500.
Even in England’s Women’s Super League, or WSL, the only fully professional league in Europe, attendance is less than a thousand people per game. The Times reported that the FA, which runs the WSL, “did not see the women’s domestic game as a long-term project” and “were not the ones to take it forward.”In the United States and Australia, they’ve opted to create leagues and clubs from scratch with a franchise system. The first attempt at a fully professional league was the WUSA, launched in the wake of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, which lasted three years before investors pulled the plug. (There’s an excellent ESPN 30 for 30 about it.) Another league, the WPS, was started a few years after that and also went bust shortly thereafter.Now there’s the NWSL, in its seventh season. They’ve tried to avoid mistakes of the past by being more conservative in their spending (an approach also taken by the W-League in Australia) and their attendances, around 7,000 a game, are the highest in the world. (Those numbers are swelled a little by the staggering success of the Portland Thorns, who average 20,000 a game, which is higher than 14 of the 24 MLS clubs.)
Q: OK, so the numbers aren’t huge in most cases, but it’s still sustainable professional football, right?
A: Well, yes and no. The three fully professional leagues have very tight salary caps. The average NWSL salary is $21,000 (with a minimum of $16,000) and in the W-League, it’s $14,000 (with a minimum of $7,000). If that’s your only income, it puts the player close to the poverty line. In the U.S. in particular, where many of these players are college-educated and have more lucrative career options, it can be a tough sell.In England’s WSL, the average is around $34,000, but many teams are losing money: both Manchester City and Chelsea, for example, lost more than a million dollars last season on their women’s teams. Elsewhere in Europe you have a mix of professional teams paying high wages and being bankrolled by benefactors, and amateur sides, with players taking second jobs.So I guess it depends on your definition of sustainability. For now, it’s sustainable under the European model if someone subsidizes it. And it’s sustainable under the U.S./Australian model if you pay players a pittance.
Q: So are you saying that we should just abandon women’s professional club football?
A: Not at all, but we need to remember that the men’s game has a hundred-year head start and didn’t turn fully professional in most cases until 50 years ago. In other words, it grew organically, which is why it’s so important to grow the base, develop the game and get people playing, perhaps more so than seeking out investors to bankroll professional clubs.The reality is that investors, whether they’re NWSL owners or big European clubs bankrolling their women’s teams, want to see a return on their investment at some point. And if it doesn’t materialize soon enough, they often walk away, as they did with the WUSA and WPS. Reaching profitability from scratch takes time.
- So what should they do?
A: First of all, realize that the landscape across the globe is different and what’s good for women’s football in the U.S. may not work in China or Brazil or Germany.Second, don’t automatically mimic the professional men’s game and its structures, whether it’s the European setup or the U.S. version with franchises and no promotion/relegation. Those models developed over time for different reasons, neither is perfect and, most importantly, they may not fit the needs of the women’s game.In Europe, where a number of countries have a couple of professional teams and the rest are amateur, that might mean creating cross-border leagues to raise the standard and generate commercial critical mass. In the U.S., where distances are vast and travel costs massive, that might mean regionalizing play.More broadly, rather than insisting on the word “professional” (i.e. paid) maybe the emphasis ought to be on “full-time,” meaning ensuring women have a guaranteed certain number of hours to train per week, along with mechanisms that allow them to take time off. That would expand the base and help the club game grow organically.Most of all, maybe they could learn from other sports, like cricket and rugby.
Q: Oh? Why those sports?
A: Because cricket and rugby, despite having been around for a very long time, face some of the same challenges — and have some of the same strengths — as the women’s game. They’re not mass participation sports the way men’s football is and, like women’s football, they have to compete for attention. But they do have a thriving international game that commands huge audiences — think the Six Nations in rugby or the Ashes/Twenty20 in cricket — and the Women’s World Cup showed that women’s football can attract comparable audiences. So maybe the objective should be to monetize international women’s football since the interest is already there.Infantino wants to create a Global Nations’ League, along the lines of the very successful UEFA Nations’ League. That could well move the needle, and you already kind of see it in the U.S. with the women’s team’s “Victory Tour.” Indeed, this is one of the starkest differences between men’s and women’s football and, perhaps, one that the women’s game ought to embrace: stars are identified more with their national teams than with their clubs.Megan Rapinoe was all over the mainstream media after the World Cup, yet very few casual fans could name the club for which she plays (the Seattle Reign). It’s evidence of the different balance of power that exists in women’s football. You couldn’t imagine, say, Manchester United releasing Paul Pogba two months before the World Cup and then letting him go on a France national team victory tour for a month afterward the way many U.S. women did.
Q: OK, but they can’t just make a living playing for the national team, they need club football, no?
A: Sure. But maybe the answer is, if the international game is lucrative enough, putting a pool of players (say the top 50 or top 100) on central, or “national team,” contracts with the federation. (This is how it works in cricket.) That would give you a talent base from which to choose and relieve the pressure on leagues like the NWSL and others to pay the players.
And maybe, at the high end, you can create seasonal tournaments for the world’s top players.Infantino talked about a Club World Cup: it was one of his five proposals on the eve of the Women’s World Cup final this summer. You take the world’s top 24 club sides, put them in one place for a month and host a tournament. With fewer travel costs, centralized promotion and more stars, maybe it can work. Or — and I admit this is out of left field — you have mini-tournaments where the stars are drafted in, like the Indian Premier League does for cricket, to play in short, offseason competitions outside of their club careers.The point is there are creative solutions. Men’s elite football, with its polarization, imbalance of power and Euro-centrism, doesn’t need to be the model for the global women’s game.These are all conversations that need to be happening. FIFA can help — and after decades of hindering, it’s finally on board — so too can sponsors and investors. (But, remember, their help comes with strings attached.) What the women’s game needs most is for the people who care about it to sit down and figure things out. And that needs to happen before the window of opportunity generated by France 2019 closes.
USA drops 3 goals on Portugal in second friendly
The United States women’s national team played out their second friendly against Portugal in Saint Paul much the same as their furst, utterly dominating space and gobbling the lions share of chances. They started off the half working the ball into wide space, often building through Tobin Heath or Morgan Brian, looking to finish on a cross. They also kept up pressure, defending high up the field, even pushing Julie Ertz higher and dropping Mewis behind her at times.Portugal contracted defensively again, looking hesitant to try and open up their play against the United States, making it hard to see through traffic around the goal. Abby Dahlkemper floated a great ball over all the congestion in the 18’ that dropped near perfectly for Carli Lloyd, but her volley went wide.Lloyd made up for the miss in the 22’ as she swept up a garbage ball that Portugal was still scrambling to clear. That didn’t open the floodgates, though. Portugal were definitely much more alert to crosses in this game and the United States resorted more to shooting from outside the 18. Portugal’s keeper certainly put together some great saves, including a big double block on both Mewis and the Heath follow up in the 29’, but she couldn’t stop the ref from awarding a penalty. Heath, perhaps with the aid of some small dark arts, earned a penalty kick in the 31’ for a foul just inside the box. Lloyd stepped up and buried it without hesitation to make it 2-0.But for the rest of the first half, the United States resorted to quick pushes or probing wide play without much in the way of shots on goal.The second half started off with a block of subs. Sauerbrunn, Sonnett, Heath, and Dunn all came off for Christen Press, Tierna Davidson, Casey Short, and Lindsey Horan. Davidson went left on the back line and Short took up her usual right back position, while Ertz dropped deeper, leaving space in the midfield for Horan. The change created some more movement through the midfield as Horan and Brian played off of each other, but the US still relied on dragging the game wide and building play through the flanks. It wasn’t a bad idea, trying to pull Portugal out of their shell, which they would sometimes do as two or three players swarmed Lloyd whenever she drifted wide.Horan also kept her head up just outside the box, pinging some hard shots from distance. She was unlucky to have one shot in the 62’ ring the crossbar after finding the shooting lane with a quick juke.The US made their fifth sub in the 57’ with Mewis off for Mal Pugh; Lloyd also dropped into the midfield to allow for Pugh to slip into the front line, with McDonald now playing centrally. McDonald didn’t get the chance to act as a target for much of the night, usually drawing other players out of position on set pieces or setting up the cross herself. She ended up getting replaced by her North Carolina Courage teammate in the 75’ as Kristen Hamilton came on for her first USWNT, which was arguably the best moment of the night.Lloyd and Press made for a decent duo along the left side, trying to play each other in quickly and often succeeding at dropping balls well enough to elude Portugal’s back line. But neither of them was quite able to put a finishing touch on the ball.The game picked up again in the last 10 minutes, first as Ertz made a hockey goalie stop on the ball to break up Portugal’s drive and restart play. Portugal’s only resort to stopping her was to literally attempt to drag her back by holding on to her with both arms. But the USWNT kept up the quick buildup from deep, which earned them a corner kick in the 83’. Press took the corner and Lindsey Horan slipped freely through Portugal’s zone to find the header and make it 3-0.That’s how the game ended, although not for lack of trying from Hamilton, who seemed fine in the fifteen minutes we got from her. It would be a shame if she didn’t get further opportunities to see where she fits in with the forward pool. It would also be nice to see the USWNT connect more through open play in their upcoming friendlies against South Korea; tonight they got a garbage goal, a penalty, and a set piece finish, but with a midfield as crazy good as the US has, in almost any configuration, they certainly have the ability to build very quickly through the middle and exploit defensive gaps.
RECAP | DANE KELLY’S LATE WINNER GIVES INDY ELEVEN 1-0 WIN OVER FIRST-PLACE NEW YORK RED BULLS II
By IndyEleven.com, 09/04/19, 10:45PM EDT
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Indiana’s Team Equals Club-record 21-game Home Undefeated Streak; Boys in Blue Now Within a Win of Top Spot in Eastern Conference
Indy Eleven kept its cool under pressure and a steady attacking assault by New York Red Bulls II, eventually working its usual late-game magic – this time courtesy of forward Dane Kelly – to notch a pivotal 1-0 win at Lucas Oil Stadium.“We felt New York’s space as the game went on, since they press really high, the space was going to be behind a lot,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “We knew Pasher couldn’t keep going behind for 90 minutes, so we felt that maybe with a little bit of time left that Dane would be a threat behind. That worked out well for us because then it keeps them honest all of the time. It was a great goal for us and, like I said in the beginning, against a really good team, lots of good players. I think their system and how they play is really hard to play against.”The win over Eastern Conference leading Red Bulls II allowed Indy Eleven (15W-4L-5D, 50 pts.) to jump into third place and within a win of the top spot, while still holding three huge games in hand on both New York (16W-6L-5D, 53 pts.) and second-place Nashville SC (51 pts.).Kelly’s 83rd minute winner off the bench also pushed Indy Eleven’s home undefeated streak to a record-tying 21 games, equaling a similar run across the 2015-17 seasons during the club’s NASL era at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. The home unbeaten streak, which began last July 7, includes a 9W-0L-4D ledger in 2019 at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Boys in Blue have outscored the opposition 17-4 and shut out nine opponents in 13 games after tonight’s clean sheet by goalkeeper Evan Newton, his eighth of the season and the club’s 11th overall.The game’s first action came as a pair of early chances for New York Red Bulls II, both by way of forward Mathias Jorgensen. The first came in the fifth minute as a cross played in deflected off Jorgensen’s foot and forcing Newton into a close quarters save. The second came five minutes later when midfielder Vincent Bezecourt played a cheeky chip into the forward, but his one-time volley inside Indy’s box carried narrowly wide of Newton’s post.Red Bulls II continued to apply pressure the bulk of the pressure until a 26th minute mistake by goalkeeper Evan Louro nearly led to the game’s opening a goal for the Eleven. A poor pass across his box was intercepted by Indy midfielder Tyler Pasher, who then faced Louro one-on-one. The New York ‘keeper nullified his mistake by coming up with a big kick save inside his six-yard box. Pasher nearly struck again in the 39th minute, when the pacey midfielder cut in on his preferred left foot after receiving the ball in the midfield. After easily dancing his way around three New York defenders, he unleashed a driven effort that floated just over the goal.The last action of the first half would come just before the whistle after a Red Bulls II corner was cleared only as far as defender Janos Loebe, whose left footed, one-time strike from the top right of Newton’s box rattled off the crossbar, leaving the sides to enter the half level at nil-nil.The first chance of the second half came in similar fashion to Pasher’s initial opportunity, a quick counter sprung by Indy midfielder Ayoze’s long ball in the 53rd minute freeing the Canadian for another one-on-one chance with Louro. Despite Pasher’s best effort to dribble past the goalkeeper, Louro stretched himself wide and got a paw to the ball, shutting the door on the goal scoring chance.Red Bulls II forward Tom Barlow nearly broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute, when a ball played into the box connected with the young forward. Barlow attempted an acrobatic flick with the outside of his right foot from near point blank range, but quick reactions from Newton allowed the Indy ‘keeper to push the ball wide. Two minutes later, Newton made another big save denying Loebe on another attempt from distance, this time thwarting the ball on frame with a strong two-handed diving save.Despite New York’s pressure and several quality chances, it would be the forward substitute Kelly who would break the deadlock in the 83rd minute. A long cross played in by fellow substitute Macauley King from the right flank would find the Jamaican at the back post. Kelly would climb and win the headed opportunity over two Red Bull center backs, sending the ball into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the 2019 USL Championship. The finish marked his second late-winner off the bench at Lucas Oil Stadium in the team’s last three home games, harkening back to the 81st minute tally that ultimately downed Saint Louis FC on August 18.Like much of the nation, Indy Eleven is keeping an eye on conditions along the Atlantic Coast, with Hurricane Dorian’s presence threatening a potential date change for this Saturday’s scheduled away game against the Charleston Battery (7:30 p.m. kickoff, live on ESPN+).Indiana’s Team will return to Lucas Oil Stadium with a pair of games next week, starting with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Night next Wednesday, Sept. 11, against Ottawa Fury FC, followed by its annual Hispanic Heritage Night, presented by Financial Center First Credit Union, against Bethlehem Steel FC – which will be preceded by La Plaza’s annual Fiesta Celebration on Georgia Street throughout the afternoon. Kickoff for both contests is set for 7:00 p.m., and tickets remain available for as little as $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvNY
Indy Eleven 1 : 0 New York Red Bulls
Wednesday, September 4, 2019 – 7:00 p.m. ET Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 9,124
2019 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (15W-4L-5D, 50 pts., 3rd in Eastern Conference)
New York Red Bulls II (16W-6L-5D, 53 pts., 1st in Eastern Conference)
IND – Dane Kelly (Macauley King) 83’
IND – Drew Conner (Yellow card) 17’
IND – Paddy Barrett (Yellow card) 28’
IND – Kenney Walker (Yellow card) 61’
IND – Karl Ouimette (Yellow card) 79’
NY – Amro Tarek (Yellow card) 92’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-5-2, L–>R): Evan Newton; Mitch Osmond, Paddy Barrett, Karl Ouimette; Ayoze, Kenney Walker (Matt Watson 76’), Tyler Gibson, Drew Conner, Lucas Farias (Macauley King 45+1’); Tyler Pasher, Ilija Ilic (Dane Kelly 78’)
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Eugene Starikov, Nico Perea, Gabriel Rodrigues
New York Red Bulls II (4-3-3, L–>R): Evan Louro; Sean Nealis, Amro Tarek, Janos Loebe, Edgardo Rito (Sean McSherry 62’); Jared Stroud, Vincent Bezecourt (Ben Mines 85’), Jean-Christophe Koffi (Kyle Zajec 75’); Christopher Lema Mathias Jorgensen, Tom Barlow
NY Substitutes: Rashid Nuhu (GK); Sebastian Elney, John Tolkin, Jordan Scarlett
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