11/7/19 Indy 11 host Louisville in Finals Sat 3 pm, MLS Cup Sun 3 pm ABC, US Ladies vs Sweden tonight 7:30 pm FS1

Indy 11 host Eastern Conference Finals vs Louisville at the MIKE – Sat 3 pm

Huge 1-0 win for our Indy 11 at Nashville as Carmel FC GK Coach Jordan Farr again had a standout night in the victory with a couple of fantatic saves! Indy Eleven forward Tyler Pasher’s goal just inside the hour mark and a second straight shutout helped Indy Eleven advance past Nashville SC 1-0 in their Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown in Nashville.  Our Indy 11 will now host Louisville in the Eastern Conference Finals this Saturday afternoon at 3 pm at Mike Carroll Stadium on the IUPUI Campus downtown.  The Weather looks to be pretty warm – now is the time to get those tickets and join me in rooting on GK Jordan Farr and our Indy 11 to victory at home!!  The BYB is sold out but tickets are still available in what should be an electric atmosphere for the finals visit indyeleven.com/tickets or call for your tickets today at 317-685-1100.  Here’s CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 Starter Jordan Farr calling on everyone to come out at cheer him on!    

MLS CUP – Sunday 3 pm ABC – Seattle vs Toronto

Unbelievable that both road teams pulled off victories last week – in the Eastern and Western Conference Finals – as Toronto stunned Atlanta in front of 65K at Mercedez Benz Stadium 2-1 and Seattle shocked LAFC, the leagues’ top point scorer in MLS history.  With the newcomers sent home – the blue bloods of MLS soccer Seattle and Toronto will battle for MLS Supremacy as they are about to meet in the finals 3 of the last 4 years, with each team claiming the cup 1 time – both in Toronto.  For Seattle it will be their first time hosting the MLS Final (now that the Finals are played at the time with the best record).  The Stadium is a sellout = marking the 2nd straight year that MLS has filled a football stadium for its final.  The Game will be on Network TV – ABC for the first time in over 8 years – as MLS continues to make strides in the US sports world.  The exciting new 1 game format has been a huge hit – and I for one and thrilled to see the MLS Season and MLS Cup wrap up in early November rather than the 1st week of December.  The final kicks off at 3 pm on Sunday on ABC!

USA Ladies vs Sweden  Tonight in Columbus on FS1 7:30 pm

New US Coach Andonovski will coach his first game for the US Ladies tonight vs arch nemesis Sweden in Columbus. Quite a first game to manage – vs the only team to knock off the US in games that matter over the past 4 years.  It will be interesting to see how they look tonight on ESPN2 at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Of course the US Men have announced their roster for next weekend’s Nations League games vs Canada (Fri 8 pm) and Tuesday vs Cuba.  See full breakdown below.  Oh and boy do I love having a player like US Starlet Christian Pulisic playing in the EPL and Champions League competition.  Pulisic had a fine game Tuesday as he drew a penalty and had an assist in the amazing Chelsea comeback tie vs Ajax.  Chelsea battled back from a 4-1 deficit midway thru the 2nd half to time the game and stay alive as they look to advance to the round of 16 if they can edge our last season’s 2nd place finishers Ajax. Sorry to see the U17 Men out in 3 games in the U17 World Cup –  Mexico got to the round of 16 but for the US is was 3 games and 3 losses.  It appears on the US Men’s side –unfortunately we are consistently bad across the board.  Lets hope the U23’s do better in Olympic Qualifying.

Great Games on TV this Weekend

On top of the Indy 11 Final match-up Sat at 3 pm on ESPN+ (go and see it live!!), and the MLS CUP Final on Sunday on ABC at 3 pm, we have a ton of league match-ups in this last weekend before the international break.  The top 2 teams in the EPL – league leader Liverpool hosts 2nd place Man City at 11:30 am on Sunday on NBCSN, also Sunday we get the US Ladies hosting Costa Rica at 8 pm on ESPN2, and Milan vs Jueventus on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm.  Saturday gives us Leicester City vs Arsenal on NBC at 12:30 pm, after American’s are featured early as Chelsea and Pulisic host Crystal Palace at 7:30 am on NBCSN in the EPL and in the Bundesliga as McKinney and Schalke host American Goalie Zach Steffan and Fortuna Dusseldorf at 9:30 am on FS1. Finally Satuday Bayern Munich host Dortmund at 12:30 pm on FS2.

CHS_OliviaFray

Congrats to the Carmel High School Lady Greyhounds as the Defending State Champions finished 2nd to Noblesville 0-1 in the Finals.  Former Carmel FC player Olivia Fray, the daughter of former Carmel FC Director Andy Fray (left), won the Mental Attitude award.  Great to see so many former Carmel FC players on that roster – looking forward to next year.

CARMEL FC CLINICS NEXT FRI/SAT

Carmel FC would like to offer its youngest members, U8-U14 Boys and Girls, the chance to participate in the first ever Pass, Shoot, and Play Fall Clinics on November 15 and 16th at Murray Stadium.  The sessions will focus on enhancing players’ basic abilities such as foot skills, passing, touch, and shooting featuring different perspectives and tips from our diverse and experienced coaching staff.  Coaches from throughout the club have volunteered to make this clinic a completely FREE opportunity for your player to experience a new, unique training environment with other members from around the club!  The schedule will be as follows:

Friday, November 15

  • U8s through U10s from 6 – 7 PM
  • U11s and U12s from 7 – 8 PM
  • U13s and U14s from 8 -9 PM

Saturday, November 16

  • U8s through U10s from 12 – 1 PM
  • U11s and U12s from 1 -2:30 PM
  • U13s and U14s from 2:30 – 4 PM

Please RSVP in this link if your player is interested in participating http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/81dd903881283f0fe6f402d9ac64aba4.form

Indy 11

Indy 11 Defeats Nashville 1-0 advances to Eastern Finals Sat

Indy 11 Earn 1st Franchise Postseason Road Win at Nashville – Soctakes.com

Pasher Lifts Eleven Past Nashville, Into Eastern Final

Vote Indy 11 Most Impactful goals

USL Playoffs

DelPiccolo’s Header Sends LouCity Back to East Final

MLS CUP FINAL Sun 3 pm ABC

Warshaw: How the Sounders can topple TFC in MLS Cup

MLS Cup 2019: What you need to know about Seattle vs. Toronto FC 4hArch Bell

Spotlight on Schmetzer as Seattle returns to MLS Cup ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle

Seattle ready to regain spotlight from Atlanta, LAFC

Wiebe: Michael Bradley is the model for American players

Vanney: “It will take a lot to keep Jozy out” of MLS Cup

How much will home-field advantage help Seattle?

Kasey Keller: Seattle will show what MLS Cup means to the city

Vanney the master tactician? TFC players make the case

How TFC have fared with and without Jozy

MLS Cup in Seattle is hottest MLS ticket … EVER

The best moments in Seattle-Toronto MLS history

Jozy: It’ll take “a bit of a miracle” for me to play in MLS Cup

The neutral’s guide to MLS Cup

Carlos Vela wins Landon Donovan MLS MVP in a landslide

Vela is not just MLS MVP — he may be the best in all of North America

USA

The USWNT’s Andonovski era begins with familiar foe – Graham Hayes ESPN

USWNT players revved, ready for Andonovski era

Dest, Pulisic called into USMNT camp ahead of Nations League matches

who-should-the-usmnt-call-for-the-november-nations-league-matches

five-foreign-based-players-the-usmnt-should-call-in-for-novembers-nations-league

Reality checks for USA, Canada at U-17 World Cup

Champions League

chelsea-and-ajaxs-champions-league-epic-showed-both-sides-strengths-and-weaknesses

Lampard hails Chelsea spirit after ‘mad’ Ajax draw

Son refuses to celebrate out of respect to Gomes

Rodrygo, 18, nets hat trick in Real Madrid win

Leverkusen spring to life with win over Atletico

Icardi scores as PSG beat Brugge, reach last 16

Superb Costa winner seals Juve round-of-16 spot

Bayern reach round of 16 with Olympiakos win

City’s Ederson a doubt for crunch Liverpool clash

Man City average all over field ahead of Liverpool match

Goalkeeping

Highlights of Playoff Win – Including GK Jordan Farr’s Saves

Great Saves by Farr for Indy 11

PSG GK Kaylar Navas Saves the PK in UCL

GAMES ON TV

Thur, Nov 7

7 pm Fox Sports1               USA Ladies vs Sweden in Columbus

Fri, Nov 8

11 am Big 10 Network                     Penn State vs Purdue Ladies

3 pm NBCSN                                      Norwich vs Watford

Sat, Nov 9 

7:30 am NBCSN                                Chelsea (pulisic)  vs Crystal Palace

9:30 am Fox sports1                       Schalke (Mckinney) vs Fortuna Dusseldorf (Steffan)  

10:30 am NBCSN                              Tottenham vs Sheffield United

12:30 pm NBC                                  Leicester City vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm FS2                                   Bayern Munich vs Dortmund

3 pm ESPN+                        Indy 11 vs Louisville (Playoffs)  @ IUPUI

3 pm EPSN+                                       Real Monarchs vs El Paso Locomotive (Western Finals)

3 pm beIN Sport                               Eibar vs Real Madrid

Sun, Nov 10

7:30 am Fox sports1                       Mgladbach (Johnsnon) vs Werder Bremen (Stuart)  

9 am NBCSN                                      Man United vs Brighton

10 am bein Sport                             Athletico Madrid vs Espanyol

11:30 NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Man City  

12:30 pm FS1                                   Ausburg vs Schalke (McKinney)

2:45 ESPN+                                       Milan vs Jueventus

3 pm ABC                    Seattle Sounders vs Toronto FC  MLS Cup

8 pm ESPN2                        USA Ladies vs Costa Rica

Mon, Nov 11

2:30 pm FS2                                      Spain U17 vs France U17  wC QF1

6 pm FS2                                            TBD vs Brazil U17 WC  QF2

Fri, Nov 15

12 noon beIN Sport           Brazil vs Argentina (friendly)

2:$5 pm EPSN+                                 Boznia vs Italy

7 pm ESPN2                        USA vs Canada (Nations League)

10 pm FuboTV, TUDN                     Panama vs Mexico

Nations League Game Sat-Tues

TUes, Nov 19

2:$5 pm EPSN+                                 Boznia vs Italy

7:30 pm Fox sport 1          Cuba vs USA (Nations League)

RECAP | INDY QUIETS THE MUSIC CITY, ADVANCES TO EAST FINAL sat 3 pm at IUPUI

By Indy Eleven Communications, 11/03/19, 12:30AM EDT

Pasher goal and another shutout sets up LIPAFC showdown for East crown

Indy Eleven forward Tyler Pasher’s goal just inside the hour mark and a second straight shutout helped Indy Eleven advance past Nashville SC 1-0 in their Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown at First Tennessee Park. Indy Eleven put together one of its most composed away efforts of the season at the biggest time possible, calmly controlling the run of play and having the bulk of the chances until Pasher’s breakthrough finally came in the 59th minute.The gritty road win, coupled with fourth-seeded Louisville City FC’s upset at top-seeded Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, set up Indiana’s Team to host the USL Championship Playoffs Eastern Conference Final between the regional rivals next Saturday, Nov. 9. Kickoff for the biggest Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest in history is set for a 3:00 p.m kickoff at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium. ndy Eleven Season Ticket Members can already save their seats for next Saturday’s Eastern Conference Final via an exclusive on-sale opportunity, while tickets will go on sale to the public Monday at noon via indyeleven.com/tickets and by phone at 317-685-1100. “It’s really exciting for the club … it’s going to be a fantastic occasion,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie of next weekend’s match-up. “Two really good teams, two close, local rivals. Two of the best teams in the country outside of MLS playing against each other for the right to host the league final. It will be a fantastic day at Carroll Stadium.”It was Indiana’s Team that controlled the first half, using high defensive pressure, calm possession, and a steady stream of corner kicks to keep Nashville back on its heels. The pressure nearly paid off in the 20th minute on a flurry of chances, starting with Pasher’s cross from the left that was spilled by Nashville SC goalkeeper Matt Pickers and just missed an onrushing Dane Kelly deep inside the area. Thirty seconds later it was another Pasher cross that drew calls for a handball when it ricocheted off center back Jimmy Ockford inside the area, followed shortly thereafter by a lash by Indy midfielder Kenney Walker that again forced Pickens into action.The action got heated a minute later when Eleven defender Ayoze stopped Alan Winn’s run up the middle of the field with a tackle from behind that resulted in pushing and shoving by both teams and yellow cards for Ayoze, Indy defender Karl Ouimette and Nashville midfielder Taylor Washington.The rest of the half would see the teams trade shots at goal that were handled relatively easy by Pickens and his opposite number in the Eleven goal, Jordan Farr. Pickens would stop efforts from within the area by Kelly, Pasher and defender Paddy Barrett, while Winn served as Farr’s nemesis on net, stopping one chance and watching another come perilously close to his right post.“I thought we played really well tonight. We possessed the ball with a lot of composure and played in their half a lot, especially in the first 25 to 30 minutes, which was important because that allowed us to settle into the game,” explained Rennie. “We had a few corners and opportunities around the goal, quite a few decent shots that [Nashville goalkeeper Matt] Pickens made some good saves on.”Farr would be forced into his best stop of the night just minutes into the second half, going low to his right to bat away forward Daniel Rios’ dangerous sidewinder from the penalty spot. It took until the 59th minute for another quality chance to come to pass, and this time Pasher would not pass it up. The Canadian striker would notch his team-leading 12th goal of the campaign with a first-time, half-volley touch that put Tennessee native Tyler Gibson’s pinpoint ball over the top of the backline inside the left post, giving the Boys in Blue a deserved advantage heading into the final half hour.  From there on out Nashville would wrestle control of the possession, but Indy absorbed the pressure well, allowing mostly half chances that struggled to make it through Indy’s increased numbers inside the penalty area. The hosts thought their moment to equalize had come in the 90th minute when defender Justin Davis tapped home Matt LaGrassa’s ball deep into the six-yard area, but the assistant referee’s flag was immediately – and correctly – raised to deem the play offside, allowing Indy Eleven to breathe easily and hold on for the massive result.“In the second half I thought we continued to play well. We got a great goal – great run, great pass over the back line and ended with a good finish,” Rennie said. “We continued to do pretty well on the ball after that and then in the last five minutes we had to really defend a few balls around the box. I thought we handled it all really well to give ourselves a great win. One of the great nights of Indy Eleven’s history, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

USL Championship Playoffs – #NSHvIND
Eastern Conference Semifinals
(#2) Nashville SC  0 : 1  Indy Eleven (#3)
Saturday, November 2, 2019 – 8:00 p.m. ET
First Tennessee Park – Nashville, Tenn.
Attendance: 4,174

Scoring Summary:
IND – Tyler Pasher (Tyler Gibson) 59’

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Ayoze (Yellow Card) 21’
IND – Karl Ouimette (Yellow Card) 23’
NSH – Taylor Washington (Yellow Card) 23’
NSH – Matt LaGrassa (Yellow Card) 81’
NSH – Jimmy ckford (Yellow Card) 90+2’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-5-2, L–>R): Jordan Farr; Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze, Drew Conner, Tyler Gibson, Kenney Walker, Macauley King; Dane Kelly (Cristian Novoa 70’), Tyler Pasher (Matthew Watson 86’)
IND Substitutes: Holden Brown (GK), Nicolas Perea, Mitchell Osmond, Eugene Starikov, Ilija Ilic
Nashville SC lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Matt Pickens; Justin Davis, Forrest Lasso, Jimmy Ockford, Darnell King; Taylor Washington (Derrick Jones 62’), Boluwatife Akinyode, Matt LaGrassa, Alan Winn (Kharlton Belmar 82’); Lebo Moloto (Ropapa Mensah 67’), Daniel Rios

NSH Substitutes: Connor Sparrow (GK), Ken Tribbett, Bradley Bourgeois, Kosuke Kimura

The USWNT’s Vlatko Andonovski era begins with a familiar foe

Vlatko Andonovski faces a challenge in his first game as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. Sweden is No. 5 in the world and a team that has got the best of the United States in major tournaments. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Graham HaysespnW.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maybe it’s for the best that Vlatko Andonovski’s first game as head coach of the United States women’s national team will skip right past the beginner stage.Rather than easing in, Andonovski gets Sweden. The team that finished third in the most recent World Cup. The team the U.S. can’t seem to escape in World Cups and Olympics. The only team that ever knocked the Americans out of one of those major tournament before the medal round. Pesky Sweden, ranked fifth in the world and already safely qualified for next summer’s Olympics in Japan. And just for good measure, forecasts for this part of Ohio call for temperatures dropping into the 20s by kickoff Thursday night with the potential for rain, sleet, snow — or all of the above.It doesn’t matter that the game, well, doesn’t matter. There’s nothing on the line for either team, and the U.S. players are tantalizingly close to a well-deserved break that begins next week. But it’s Sweden, and it’s going to be a soccer game. And that’s the one thing that will feel familiar to Andonovski right now.

– USWNT players revved, ready for Andonovski era
– U.S. Soccer names Andonovski manager
– How Reign FC coach made a name for himself
– Without Jill Ellis, what’s next for the USWNT?

So as much as the team’s first training camp with Andonovski is about introductions — of himself, of new assistant Milan Ivanovic, of a playing style, a philosophy and expectations — it is also about the more routine act of preparing for 90 minutes on the field.”He has touched on Sweden a bit,” U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle said this week. “Obviously we’re pretty familiar with them, but he’s already shown us film of us playing against them. I think it’s obviously going to start to ramp up even more so in the next two days, but he’s already getting us prepared.”Those are comfortable rhythms for Andonovski. As a coach in the National Women’s Soccer League, the remit wasn’t to prepare a team for games of consequence months down the road. Whatever game in front of him was the game that demanded his attention. The standings demanded as much.That will change as coach of the U.S., which plays a lot of games that aren’t really about the result but instead about building toward those handful of weeks in World Cups or Olympics when the results matter more than anything he has yet experienced in the sport.It’s just one way in which Andonovski’s new job, his first at the international level, differs from any previous job he held. He’s coached two of the players who will be available Thursday — Allie Long and Becky Sauerbrunn. He’s coached against almost all of the others, Paris Saint-Germain defender Alana Cook the lone exception. But it’s still different in this environment.”Any leap between professional and international, you’re bringing together all the players that are the best in the league and putting them together,” Sauerbrunn said. “It’s not a big step, but it’s just an elevation of the speed of play, of tactics, obviously the pressure of having so many people watching you.”So it’s a little bit of a leap, but also a leap I know Vlatko can do because when I first met him, he had never coached the women’s game [at the senior level]. And he did all this research.”That was in Kansas City when the NWSL launched. He wanted that coaching job so much that he made himself an expert on the player pool of a league that hadn’t played a game — watching film, talking to other coaches, doing whatever he could to learn. He learned quickly enough that the team reached the playoffs that first season.”So when he got hired [for the U.S.], I knew he was going to be staying up late watching all this film,” Sauerbrunn added. “I have no doubt in my mind he has researched and is very thoroughly knowledgeable of all the Swedish players, all the formations that they’ve played in the past — he’s probably watched all their games from the past year. He’s just that type of coach.”In that sense, Sweden is the perfect opening opponent. This isn’t really a meaningful game, a friendly at the end of a long year. But that doesn’t mean it will be an uncompetitive game. It is something to prepare for.”I’ve never had Vlatko before, but I feel like I’ve already learned so much from him,” Lavelle said. “Individually and as a team, too, I feel like he’s just somebody who is going to make us better.”He’ll have to make do this week without Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe, all of whom started when these teams played in the World Cup (Tierna Davidson and Ali Krieger are also absent with injuries, leaving the back line seriously depleted in experience).Sweden’s roster isn’t at full strength, either. Captain Caroline Seger didn’t make the trip, with coach Peter Gerhardsson making that sound like a load management decision at the end of a long year. Also missing are defenders Nilla Fischer and Linda Sembrant and midfielder Elin Rubensson, all of whom started the World Cup semifinal against the Netherlands.Conversely, the reigning Olympic silver medalists are bringing uncapped forward Hanna Bennison, who just turned 17 last month. She’s the youngest of four uncapped players on the roster, while three more players have single-digit appearances for the national team.With confirmation Tuesday that the United States will host CONCACAF Olympic qualifying next January and February, the sites still to be announced, the timeline begins to take shape. This is just the beginning.After playing for him for five years in Kansas City, Sauerbrunn knows Andonovski better than anyone on the roster. She described a meeting between the two this week in which he asked about things the team had done before, ways they went about their work that they liked and that he might be able to incorporate. There will be a lot of that in the weeks ahead, a learning curve.”It’s just so early that I didn’t really have any feedback to give him,” Sauerbrunn said. “But I think that was his way of seeking me out in case there is something that I see that players would prefer over how it’s been going the last few days.”But for all that is to come, Thursday offers something familiar to go with all that is new.Thursday is a game that won’t be easy to win, a game that merits preparation. And that should make Andonovski feel right at home.

MLS Cup 2019: Familiar foes Seattle and Toronto FC face off in an MLS Cup grudge match

10:39 AM ETArch BellU.S. soccer writer

And then there were two.After a pair of major upsets in the conference finals, MLS Cup will again be contested by the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC on Sunday at CenturyLink Field (3 p.m. ET; ABC/ESPN 3 | Tickets).According to FiveThirtyEight’s SPI, the Sounders are a 65% favorite to win it all on Sunday and are fancied by the sportsbooks, too (-210 Seattle, +185 Toronto). But you can’t always trust the numbers. Here’s everything you need to know heading into Sunday’s final.

Backstory: It’s deja vu all over again. For the third time in four seasons, these two teams square off for MLS’ biggest showpiece. The previous two meetings occurred at Toronto’s BMO Field, with Seattle winning in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw in 2016 and Toronto winning 2-0 in 2017. There’s a fair bit of history among the players themselves, too: 10 of the TFC and Seattle players in this year’s postseason also appeared in their previous two finals: six from the Sounders (Nicolás Lodeiro, Cristian RoldanJordan MorrisJoevin Jones, Román Torres, Stefan Frei) and four from Toronto (Michael BradleyJustin MorrowJonathan OsorioDrew Moor).

These two have met plenty outside the playoffs, too. In their all-time head-to-head series, Seattle has won nine of the 14 regular season meetings.

Playoff path: It’s fair to say that the East’s No.4 seed and the No.2 team in the West have had a serious journey this postseason. With a revamped playoff schedule and the added tension of a single-elimination format, both teams arrive at Sunday’s final with some miles in their legs. They both emerged from the first round and coincidentally, both needed extra time to do it.Seattle survived a wild affair with FC Dallas, 4-3, before rolling to a 2-0 victory against Real Salt Lake in the conference semifinal and an enormously impressive 3-1 win at Supporters’ Shield-winning LAFC in the conference final. They not only managed to nullify 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela at the Banc of California stadium, but scored with three of their five shots on target. Economical, to say the least.

As for Toronto FC, they scored a whopping four goals in extra time to overcome Wayne Rooney and DC United 5-1 in the first round before edging top seed New York City FC 2-1 in the conference semifinal thanks to a late penalty from Alejandro Pozuelo. (The foul by Ronald Matarrita was so inexplicable and so unnecessary that he should almost be credited with an assist.) The Canadians played the upset card again in downing reigning champions Atlanta United 2-1 in the conference final via a late, outside-the-box golazo from substitute Nick DeLeon — don’t let him shoot from range, Seattle, as as three of his six playoff goals have been launched from beyond the penalty area — and leaving the near-70,000 in Mercedes-Benz Arena sitting in stunned silence.

Connecting thread: As mentioned above, this is the third MLS Cup meeting between the two in four years, but perhaps providing a bigger hint of what’s to come Sunday was their lone regular-season meeting earlier this season, in which Seattle overcame a Jozy Altidore brace to win 3-2 at home at CenturyLink Field.

Another thread running between these storied foes is Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. He was traded from TFC to Seattle back in December, 2013 and has been an institution between the posts in the Pacific Northwest ever since. Frei has played in 13 postseason wins since then, the most in MLS over the past six seasons. The only other players with more than 10 wins over that span are fellow Sounders Cristian Roldan (12) and Nicolas Lodeiro (11). Could his experience prove crucial in settling Sunday’s contest?

Tactical contrast: It will be a genuine chess game considering that both sides leaned heavily on strong defensive and counterattacking performances to reach this point. In short, they can’t both sit deep and wait for the other team to make a move: soccer’s come a long way from its days getting skewered by The Simpsons. With Seattle playing at home and having full use of its stable of attackers — unlike TFC, who might be without Jozy Altidore — the feeling is that Seattle will be the more aggressive of the two and leverage its flying full-backs to spread open the TFC defense. Still, TFC are a team that likes to press and can use that tactic to slow down the Sounders’ midfield.

Toronto and Seattle have a lot of experience in the postseason: Sunday marks their third meeting in MLS Cup in the past four seasons. ESPN

 

Headache: At this stage, one would be hard-pressed to think of a selection headache for Seattle. The XI that took the field in Los Angeles will likely take the field again Sunday against TFC. The only potential foreseeable change could be at center-back if coach Brian Schmetzer feels like restoring Roman Torres in place of Xavier Arreaga to add experience and a bit more muscle.

One thing that might be a no-brainer is continuing with the winning combo of Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz. (More on both of them in a minute). According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Sounders are 21-5-4 (regular season) and 4-1-0 (postseason) when these two are in the starting lineup together.

The big question for Toronto FC boss Greg Vanney is the status of Altidore. If the big man is 100 percent, you have to think he’ll get the start, though Nicolas Benezet and Richie Laryea have shown in this postseason that they can help fill the goal-scoring duties.

Star man: It seems like Seattle has a different star man each match. Against FC Dallas, it was Jordan Morris; Lodeiro stepped up against Real Salt Lake and Ruidiaz was the star in toppling consensus favorite LAFC. In this case, we will continue with the Peruvian striker, whose big game pedigree is beyond reproach: four postseason games, four goals and three assists.Overall, Ruidiaz has been a revelation for the Sounders. His six playoff goals since joining the team at the end of June, 2018. Not only has that pulled him level with Clint Dempsey for No.2 on Seattle’s all-time playoff scoring chart, but he’s tied for second-most goals in a player’s first five MLS postseason games behind LA Galaxy legend Carlos Ruiz (seven).

Despite a more discrete performance against Atlanta United, Alejandro Pozuelo is still the main man in red, and he will relish the challenge of playing spoiler in attack. His 12 goal, 12 assist season made him just one of four players to break double digits in both categories in 2019, with Vela the only one with more than 12 in both categories. He’s also scored twice and assisted twice in the playoffs, making him TFC’s most potent threat.

Where the game will be won or lost: Seattle took advantage of a soft LAFC midfield to put Bob Bradley’s men to the sword. TFC’s midfield trio of Michael BradleyJonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado aren’t afraid to get nasty, so chances are it will come down to whether Seattle can handle and beat the TFC press in midfield.

X factor: If Seattle find themselves struggling in the second half and are in need of a goal, Victor Rodriguez is a pretty nice playmaking option to have coming off the bench.

TFC’s penchant for big goals off the bench or from unheralded players is remarkable, with the likes of Benezet, Laryea and DeLeon scoring massive goals, so it would be no surprise if Patrick Mullins or Tsubasa Endoh somehow tilts things in TFC’s favor.

This could also be a spot where home field advantage factors in. Toronto has only won in two of its eight all-time visits to the west coast. The last time they did it? A 1-0 victory decided by Jozy Altidore’s penalty on May 6, 2017. That said, they have the third-best record away from home in MLS this season, picking up six wins and seven draws in 19 games. Only conference champions LAFC and NYCFC managed more, but they’re watching the remainder of the playoffs at home.

Toronto FC will win because: Unbeaten in their past 13 MLS matches, TFC have become a team of destiny, with contributions from almost everyone on the squad. That confidence and belief will bear out in Seattle to complete an unlikely Cup conquest.

Seattle will win because: Buoyed by their boisterous crowd, the Seattle attacking trio of Ruidiaz, Morris and Lodeiro will overwhelm TFC’s defense in the second half to lift the trophy. If they can break the game open in the first half, even better: the Sounders are 12-0-0 when leading at the break this season, including in the playoffs.

Prediction: Seattle 3-2 Toronto. The 2019 postseason has been the highest scoring in MLS history, with a current average of 4.1 goals per game, so we’d expect this game to bring the fireworks rather than offering up another tight, tense affair decided by a solitary strike.

Seattle’s third MLS Cup final in four years shines spotlight on Schmetzer — whether he likes it or not

3:32 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

In Seattle, it has become a rite of autumn. The Sounders make the MLS Cup playoffs, they usually make a deep run toward the final, and the spotlight shines on manager Brian Schmetzer to the point of discomfort.One would think that given his nearly 40-year association with the Sounders — from his playing days to managing the team in the second tier to being an assistant in MLS to managing the team in the top division — Schmetzer would welcome some deserved praise. But any attempt to bestow accolades on the Seattle native is met with near instant deflection. One can almost hear him squirm over the telephone. Praise is for the players, his assistants or even opposing coaches. That’s why the word “steward” is most often applied to Schmetzer, and it fits. He is the organization’s conscience, its north star. “The club is in his DNA,” Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey said of Schmetzer. “When he speaks, he speaks sincerely and humbly, and those are things that really resonate with not just our fanbase but the wider community.”That ethos will be put to the test Sunday, when the Sounders square off against Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final (3 p.m. ET, watch live on ABC). It marks the third time in four years that the two sides have met with MLS supremacy on the line, and it amounts to the rubber match, with each team having hoisted the trophy once. Yet this is the first time Seattle has hosted the title game, so for Schmetzer, it resonates even more.”I am immensely proud of this franchise,” he said. “Being a guy from Seattle and this being your hometown team, and then the way my career path kind of happened — [starting in Seattle with] a couple of stops down in San Diego, a year in St. Louis and Tulsa — to have the MLS Cup final here, you’re so fired up.”Seattle’s run of MLS Cup finals would normally catapult a manager into discussions about the league’s best coaches, yet Schmetzer’s name hardly ever comes up. Granted, the fact that the Sounders are always in the playoffs — they’ve reached the postseason every year since joining the league in 2009 — means there’s no “most improved” component to get him attention. There haven’t been many wow moments in the regular season, either, with Seattle finishing second in the Western Conference each of the past three seasons. There’s also the matter of high expectations, given that the Sounders have 13 players making above the maximum salary.That lack of notoriety matters not at all to Schmetzer. He is a nearly perfect fit for the organization and the city at large.”I’ll let all the experts tell me whether I deserve all the praise for all this stuff, whether it’s the team, whether it’s Garth, whether it’s [owner Adrian Hanauer], whether it’s my assistants,” he said. “I think there’s a successful enough organization and what we all have are small bits and roles and parts within the team.”How has Schmetzer achieved so much success? His approach is all about balance: when to push and when to ease off in terms of tactics and in his talks with players. His steady accumulation of experience as a player and coach positioned him well to impart his vision.Schmetzer’s style can be traced to his modest but lengthy playing career that spanned the heyday of the old North American Soccer League in the early-1980s, its demise and the transition to the alphabet soup of various indoor leagues.”My gift to the game was my endurance,” Schmetzer said with a trace of humor. “I could run, I could get up and down the left wing. Steve Daley used to raise his arm and say, ‘Schmeeetz!’ And I’d take off, and I’d run, and he’d pass the ball somewhere else.”Schmetzer recalled that when he was an indoor teammate of Preki’s, he was always aware of where his more talented teammate was, the better to pick up the defensive slack when the ball was lost.”Those little things helped me have a pro career just because I was smart enough to figure out a way how to get people to say, ‘That Schmetz, he’s a pretty handy guy,'” he said.Along the way, he made note of the different locker room dynamics on the teams for which he played. There was an American-Brit divide in Seattle, and the Tulsa Roughneck team “was the tightest group of players I’ve ever seen.” In San Diego, there were multiple cliques, so Schmetzer made sure to bounce around among them. The experience of bridging those divides was useful during his coaching career, given the disparity in pay in MLS and the impact that can have on a locker room.When Schmetzer transitioned into coaching, his time managing youth teams gave him an understanding of how to develop young players. He spent seven seasons managing the Sounders in the various second divisions of the time and then took on the role of assistant under Sigi Schmid for another seven-plus years. Under Schmid, Schmetzer would imagine he was making the decisions, and if the head man did something different, Schmetzer would tease apart the reason.Schmid passed away in December, adding another emotional layer to Sunday’s final. Schmetzer’s gratitude toward his old mentor remains clear.”Sigi’s memory was unbelievable. Organizationally, structurally, he was better than I was,” Schmetzer said. “I learned a lot from Sig as far as how to win in MLS.”It made for an extensive apprenticeship at all levels, so when the call to take over from Schmid came midway through the 2016 season, Schmetzer was ready. That included the knowledge of how his role would change once he was the man in charge.”Their livelihood is now in your hands,” he said of his players. “What they require is honesty, whether it’s the brutal honesty of, ‘Hey, you’re not playing this weekend,’ or the brutal honesty of, ‘We’re not going to renew your option for next year.’ How you say that is massively important, as much so as when you compliment a player for a good job, trying to boost the player’s confidence. It’s different as a head coach than when I was an assistant.”Schmetzer emerged as a well-rounded coach, adept in all aspects. He describes himself as a players’ coach in the mold of former Sounders manager Alan Hinton, who signed Schmetzer as a teenager in 1980. He has also shown that he can throw out a tactical wrinkle or two, as he did in the Western Conference final against LAFC.

“I think to get to the level that you need to get to in order to coach in MLS, you can’t be too light on the tactics piece,” said Sigi Schmid’s son Kurt, previously Seattle’s director of player personnel and now the technical director for Inter Miami. “But that being said, he’s definitely very good at man management. I think some people can manage big groups really well, big personalities really well. I think Brian is really good at managing individuals really well. No one bats 1.000 in that department, but I think for the large majority of players who were there, he was always pretty good about just developing good relationships with those guys and even if guys walked away after hearing things they didn’t like.”That ability to connect with players spans young and old alike. He has moved youngsters such as Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris along and bonded with veterans such as Roman Torres and Stefan Frei.”There’s a closeness there within the group because they know that we as a staff have their best interests at heart,” Schmetzer said. “That closeness is developed out of mutual respect. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go on double dates with the players and their wives.”Schmetzer has been adaptable as well. Lagerwey notes that the 2016 team that Schmetzer led to that year’s MLS Cup was more rugged following the midseason loss of Clint Dempsey to a heart ailment. The following year, there was the challenge of repeating as MLS Cup champions. The disappointment of being eliminated to archrival Portland last season was eclipsed this year by the run to the final, with Seattle dispatching LAFC along the way.”I think that his kind of enduring quality has been that he can coach that 2016 run-and-fight team, and now he can coach this team which can play soccer,” Lagerwey said. “We can score a bunch of different ways and be more varied in our attack and our approach and how we play. The credit to him is he can manage both. His message resonates with both groups.”Schmetzer called 2019 his toughest year, given the forced retirement of defender Chad Marshall, the injury to forward Will Bruin and the suspension of Torres for using performance-enhancing drugs. But now Schmetzer is on the cusp of another title.”If I can get them all to believe that if they work for each other and fight for each other, that’s the best way they can win, then I’m doing my job as a manager,” he said.With a win Sunday, praise from outside will surely follow, whether Schmetzer wants it or not.

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