6/12/20 EPL Returns Wed, MLS Tourney July 8, Italian Cup Fri/Sat 2:45 pm, La Liga/Bundesliga weekend games

We welcome back English, Italian and Spanish Soccer this weekend and next week.  Italian Cup action starts today- Semi’s with Juventus and Renaldo hosting Milan on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm Friday and Napoli facing Inter at 2:45 on Saturday – the finals are Wed at 2:45 .  La Liga (Spain) returned Wed and features Barcelona 4 pm on Sat and Real Madrid at 4 pm on Sun both on beIN Sport.    Wed we get the EPL back with Man City facing Arsenal at 2:30 pm on NBCSN along with some decent games next weekend.

MLS Returns July 8

MLS has announced their return with an MLS is Back World Cup Style Tournament starting July 8 in Orlando Disney World Area.  Round of 16 games July 25-28, will be followed by Quarter Finals July 30,  Semi-Finals Aug 5/6, and the Final Aug 11 on ABC.   It looks like most of the games will be televised many on ESPN networks and the remainder on ESPN+, the Winner will qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League 2021 and MLS will return with regular season after that.  Nice to see the draws holding local rivalries in place.  We’ll get El Traffico LAFC vs LA Galaxy, A Cascadia Cup Clash between Seattle and Vancouver, The Canadian Classic Toronto FC vs Montreal, The Rocky Mountain Cup of Colorado vs Sporting KC and the newly minted Hell is Real Derby between Columbus and Cincinatti.  Great to see all the Rivalries on hand – hopefully MLS will use this to help bolster the sport – as the only major league men’s sport playing in Early July.  Of course NWSL- the ladies return June 27th on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm with their World Cup Style Tourney from Salt Lake City Utah.  Full Tourney breakout below.

This Weekend US Players in Germany

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig travel to Hoffenhiem at 2:30 on FS2 Friday, while Sat gives us Dortmund and Gio Ryna still getting tons of playing time traveling to Dusseldorf 930 am on FS1 – where Morales came off the bench for 30 min last week and US Starting Keeper Zack Steffen is getting closer returning.  Timmy Chandler continues to start for Frankfurt and he’ll feature vs Hertha Berlin on Sat at 9:30 on FS2.  Sunday gives us Schalke and Weston McKinney vs Leverkusen at noon on FS2.  McKinney should return to start after sitting last game for yellow card accumulation.

Carmel FC has returned to Training !

Tryouts Confirmed for June 22

Anyone looking to workout 1 on 1 with Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr – can email him direct at farrjordn13@gmail.com   Not sure when CFC GK Training might return with new Corona Virus guidelines.

GAMES ON TV 

Fri,  June 12  

2:30 pm Fox Sport2                            Hoffenheim vs RB Leipzig (Adams)  

3:45 pm ESPN +                                  Serie A (Italy) Cup – Juventus vs AC Milan

4 pm beIN  Sport                                Valencia vs Levante

Sat, June 13

9:30 am FS1                                        Dortmund (Gio Reyna) vs Dusseldorf

12:30 pm FS2                                      Bayern Munich vs Mgladbach  

2:45 pm ESPN +                                  Napoli vs Inter Milan Copa Italia –

4 pm beIN  Sport                                Mallorca vs Barcelona

Sun, June 14 

8 am beIN Sport                                 Athetic Club vs Atletico Madrid

9:30 am Fox Sport1                            Manz vs Ausburg

12 noon Fox Sport 2                            Bayer Leverkusn vs Schalke (Mckinney)

1:30 pm beI N Sport                           Real Madrid vs Eibar

Tue  June 16  

12:30 pm Fox Sport2                          Mgladbach vs Wolfburg

2:30 pmFS2                                         Bremen (Stewart) vs Bayern Munich

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Barcelona vs Leganes

Wed, June 17                                      EPL Returns

Wed,  June 17  

12:30 pm Fox Sport2                          Frankfurt (Chandler) vs schalke (McKinney)

1 pm NBCSN                                       Aston Villa vs Sheffield United

2:30 pm NBCSN                                  Man City vs Arsenal

2:45 pm ESPN+                                   COPA ITALIA FINAL 

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Osasuna vs Atletico Madrid

2:30 pm FS2                                        Dortmund vs Mainz

Thurs,  June 18

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Real Madrid vs Valencia

Fri,  June 19 

1 pm NBCSN                                       Norwich vs Southampton  

1:30 pm beIN  Sport                           Granada vs Villareal

3:15 pm NBCSN                                  Tottenham vs Man United

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Sevilla vs Barcelona

Sat,  June 20 

7:30 am NBCSN                                  Watford vs Leicester City

9:30 am Fox Sport1                            Bayern Munich vs Frieburg

9:30 am FS2                                        RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10 am NBCSN                                     Brighton Hove Albion vs Aresnal

12:30 pm NBC                                     Wet Han vs Wolverhampton

Sun,  June 21

9 am NBCSN                                       New Castle (Yedllin) vs Sheffeld United 

9:30 am Fox Sport1                            Bayern Munich vs Frieburg

9:30 am FS2                                        RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

11:15 am NBCSN                                Aston Villa vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

2 pm NBC                                           Everton vs Liverpool 

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid

Mon,  June 22

3 pm NBCSN                                       Man City vs Burnley 

1:30 pm EPSN+                                   Leccee vs Milan 

3:45 pm EPSN+                                   Bologna vs Juventus

Tues,  June 23

1 pm NBCSN                                       Liecester City vs Brighton

3:15 pm NBCSN                                  Tottenham vs West Ham

6 pm beIN Sport                                 Barcelona vs Athletic Club

Wed ,  June 24

1 pm NBCSN                                       Man United vs Sheffield United 

3 pm NBCSN                                       Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

Thurs ,  June 25

1 pm NBCSN                                       Southampton vs Aresnal

3:15 pm NBCSN                                  Chelsea vs Man City 

Fri  June 26

3:45 pm ESPN+                                   Juventus vs Lecce 

Wed, July 8                                         MLS Returns

NWSL Challenge Cup schedule

NC Courage vs Portland Thorns FC | June 27 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

NC Courage vs Houston Dash | July 1 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

NC Courage vs Orlando Pride | July 5 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

C Courage vs Utah Royals FC | July 12 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup quarter finals | July 17-18 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup semi finals | July 22 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

Challenge Cup final | July 26 | CBS Sports Network, CBS All Access,

 WORLD

 When will Europe’s top leagues start and finish: all you need to know

US Players Weekend Viewing Guide

Home advantage a thing of the past in empty stadiums 8hTom Hamilton

Serie A is back: Everything you need to know  27mGabriele Marcotti

EPL Teams with Toughest Road

USA

U.S. Soccer repeals ban on kneeling during anthem

Beasley: You get taught certain things as a Black kid in America

Is Pulisic’s spot at Chelsea in Danger as New Players Arrive?  ESPNFC

How the USWNT became a dominant force 3dBill Connelly   

U.S. international Johnson to leave Gladbach

MLS

Groups Announced for MLS Tourney – LA Teams in Same Group

MLS Is Back with Tourney – all we know – ESPN

MLS Tourney Details on Groups Stages

MLS Provides Details on Olrando Tourney in July

MLS won the CBA talks, but lockout threat left players angry 8hJeff Carlisle

Wiebe: What MLS is Back means in our changed world

Chris Duvall: “We’ve still got a long way to go”

MLS Hopes to be Back with Fans in Stands in August? – ESPNFC

Q&A: How the NWSL plans to restart on June 27

Indy 11

Club Statement on Black Lives Matter

USL Set to Resume Season July 11

Indy 11 Special to Support Healthcare Workers

Indy 11 Racing Indiana Jersey Released

Is Pulisic under threat at Chelsea as Werner and Ziyech prepare to arrive at Stamford Bridge?

5:00 AM ETJames OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC

Christian Pulisic recently claimed that “nobody even noticed me” on his first day with the Chelsea squad. As the Blues’ summer transfer strategy begins to take shape, he could be forgiven for wondering if that is still the case.The coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty in the financial planning of many clubs, but Chelsea are so far taking a purposeful and proactive approach to their decision-making.

Timo Werner‘s imminent acquisition was a smart piece of opportunism after Liverpool hesitated in meeting the RB Leipzig forward’s release clause. The subsequently swift agreement on a five-year contract worth up to £200,000-a-week is a further sign of their resolute will to challenge for the Premier League title.Werner will join Hakim Ziyech, a £38 million signing from Ajax, but Chelsea are not done there. They are actively pursuing another attacking player with Kai Havertz now the most likely candidate, as senior figures at Stamford Bridge act in the belief Borussia Dortmund‘s Jadon Sancho is destined for Manchester United. A loan move for Barcelona‘s Philippe Coutinho remains possible, but Havertz is seven years younger and available for a similar permanent fee — around £75m — a fact that has also not gone unnoticed by United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.


– Ogden: Chelsea, United make moves to challenge Liverpool, City

There is no guarantee Chelsea will be able to sign another attacking target, but the mere fact they are pursuing several targets highlights Frank Lampard’s dissatisfaction with his current options — a situation that could make Pulisic feel like the forgotten man all over again.Lampard has repeated one clear message in video sessions with the first-team squad at Cobham: move the ball quickly. The 41-year-old has rotated formations between 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 during his maiden season in charge of Chelsea but, no matter how they line up, Lampard views speed in transition as vital to success. It is a key reason why Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi were preferred in attack while Olivier Giroud was made to wait an eternity for his chance; both players are more mobile, able to stretch defences by running in behind and opening up more space for wingers coming in off the flank.Lampard has long wanted an upgrade in his preferred mould: a quick, incisive forward whose sharp movement will create almost as many opportunities for his teammates as it will for himself. He also needed a proven track record in front of goal. Werner and Lyon‘s Moussa Dembele fit the profile, the former proving an easier deal to conclude.And so, with Ziyech’s arrival already confirmed, suddenly two of the three attacking positions in Lampard’s preferred 4-3-3 shape appear occupied. Indeed, Werner could even play off the left with Abraham through the middle. Pulisic already faces a fight to prove himself part of Lampard’s first-choice lineup even without Havertz, Sancho or Coutinho joining the club. Such competition for places is inevitable at a top club targeting silverware, but the impending overhaul completes a turbulent first season in England for Pulisic.Last summer, the winger decided to cut short his postseason holiday to just one week — despite representing the United States in the Gold Cup — in an effort to ingratiate himself to Lampard. First contact with his new teammates — when boarding the bus in Japan for a preseason training session — came through bleary, jet-lagged eyes. Pulisic may have felt that “nobody even noticed me” in that underwhelming welcome, but players quickly warmed to a softly spoken yet fiercely determined American with obvious talent in abundance.It is worth remembering that Pulisic signed for a manager he never actually played for. Maurizio Sarri was sacked in June and sources have told ESPN there was only the briefest of conversations between the Italian and his new £58m acquisition upon his arrival in London. Pulisic was unveiled prior to the Europa League final, at a point when Sarri already knew he would be leaving the club and therefore never manage the U.S. international at Stamford Bridge.Pulisic had to deal with both the uncertainty of a new, as yet unidentified, manager and the immediate task of replacing the colossal presence of Eden Hazard, who was set for Real Madrid after seven years in west London. Settling into the English capital was easier than arriving at Dortmund at just 16. There was no language barrier to overcome, but with a price tag exacerbated by Chelsea’s inability to make any further signings because of their FIFA transfer ban, expectations have been high from the outset.

He threw himself into preseason training, but concerns over fatigue and his robustness for the intensity of Premier League action led to a slow start. After a promising full debut in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool, Pulisic featured in just three of the club’s opening nine league games and none between Aug. 31 and Oct. 26. Burnley were the victims of his pent-up frustration on a cold evening at Turf Moor when he announced himself in English football with a superb hat trick.”I felt I’d done okay up to that point but I hadn’t really shown everything that I could do, so going into that game, I did have a chip on my shoulder,” Pulisic later recalled.Lampard could not hide his delight after Chelsea’s 4-2 win. “He’s going to be a big, big player for us,” said the Chelsea head coach. “He showed a lot of that today and now let’s see him go.”The Burnley outing marked the first of 12 successive starts across three different competitions as Pulisic hit a rich vein of individual form. However, Chelsea lost five times during that run as Lampard began to lament a cyclical problem: profligacy in front of goal. It wasn’t a failing laid solely at Pulisic’s door, but Lampard bemoaned the wastefulness of his attacking players with such regularity that by February he described himself as a “broken record” on the subject.This is the root of Lampard’s desire to reinvent Chelsea’s attack. With Willian and Pedro almost certain to leave when their contracts expire at the end of the season, Lampard has seen an opportunity for a changing of the guard. Werner is 24, Ziyech turned 27 in March. Abraham is 22, Mason Mount — who has played on the left wing and as a No. 10 — is 21, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is just 19. Aged 21, Pulisic can be at the forefront of this new era, but his prominence within it is in greater doubt than first appeared.Much will depend on Lampard’s preferred system in future. Lampard has opted for 4-3-3 in 15 of Chelsea’s 29 Premier League games this season. The pursuit of Havertz hints at a greater use of a No. 10 and a 4-2-3-1 shape in future. Pulisic can play there or off the flank.”I do really like playing on the left wing and also in that 10 spot essentially behind the forward,” he said. “I’d say those are my two favourite positions.”Yet rather than building a team around Pulisic in the same way Chelsea did for the player he replaced — Hazard — Lampard is keen for greater versatility and interchangeability of positions to make his team far less predictable than those irritating home defeats suggested. Werner’s ability to play off the left is a useful characteristic in that regard, also allowing Lampard to accommodate both him and Abraham should he so choose.An intriguing subplot in the coming weeks — and potentially months — is Abraham’s ongoing contract talks. He has two years left on his remaining deal, but having enjoyed a breakthrough season as Chelsea’s No. 9, he will understandably seek reassurances over his future role following the signing of Werner, who was convinced to join Chelsea partly on the basis he would be a first-team regular.Pulisic has no such contractual concerns to leverage any unhappiness. Instead, he simply has to deliver on his undeniable potential by becoming the “big, big player” Lampard previously forecast.

DaMarcus Beasley: You get taught certain things as a Black kid in America

June 10, 20201:09PM EDTJonathan SigalContributor

US men’s national team all-time great DaMarcus Beasley recently joined former teammate Jimmy Conrad for an interview on the latter’s Twitch channel, where they shared an honest conversation about race in America.Specifically, Beasley described the conversations his father had with his sons about how to act. His father grew up in Savannah, Georgia and experienced racial tensions first-hand.“We had those conversations and you had to act a certain way,” Beasley said. “He would say, ‘Make sure you don’t have anyone in your car that you don’t know, make sure you don’t wear your hat backwards if you wear a hat, make sure your hair is always cut, make sure you look presentable whenever you’re around people and outside doing whatever.’ Those things you get taught as a kid, growing up black in this country.”Before retiring as a Houston Dynamo defender last year, Beasley enjoyed a 20-year professional career that started with the Chicago Fire in 2000 and spanned more than 500 games for club and country, with stops at PSV Eindhoven, Manchester City, Glasgow Rangers, Hannover 96 and Liga MX side Puebla. He encountered players of all race and backgrounds, but diversity was difficult to find during his Fort Wayne, Indiana upbringing.“I only had three Black teammates through that whole process, throughout my whole soccer career in Fort Wayne,” Beasley said. “So, I didn’t really see color back then.”Eventually, Beasley went off to U.S. Soccer’s residency program in Bradenton, Florida. At that juncture, it was inspiring to see other Black players at the same level: “It was great to see and finally be with someone that looked like you and knew how hard it took to get there and to be able to joke a certain way, to get the jokes we’re kinda used to it.”For more from Beasley on race in America, his distinguished career and more, check out the entire interview here.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: things are getting interesting

There are some tight races to avoid relegation and qualify for European competition.

By jcksnftsn  Jun 12, 2020, 8:00am PDT

We remain focused on the Bundesliga this weekend, where four matchdays remain and positions are starting to be finalized, relegation is looming ever more threateningly, and the pressure of every match is clear. There will be five Bundesliga matches of USMNT significance broadcast nationally in the United States, along with two additional games on Fox’s more exclusive packages with significant European or relegation implications.

Friday

Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig – 1:30p on FS2

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig have a three point advantage in securing a Champions League birth over Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach who are tied with 56 points. Leipzig could have pulled five points clear in the race for the European competition, but playing with ten men for half the match after Dayot Upamecano was sent off, the team gave up a goal at the death against last place SC Paderborn last weekend. Tyler Adams started the match in a central midfield role and played the full 90, but was moved to right back as the team shifted things around following the loss of their central defender. The team’s pattern since the return to break has seen Adams start every other match while coming on for 30+ minutes when he begins on the bench.

This weekend, the team will face Hoffenheim, who are currently in seventh place, within two points of Wolfsburg for Europa League qualification. Hoffenheim have picked up eight points over the past four weeks thanks to a soft schedule that has seen them face three of the bottom four and 12th place FC Köln.

Saturday

Fortuna Düsseldorf v Borussia Dortmund – 9:30a on FS1

Fortuna Düsseldorf and Alfredo Morales seemingly have more to play for on Saturday given their tenuous position in the relegation battle. Currently, Düsseldorf sit in 16th place, which is the relegation playoff spot. The team is 3 points behind Mainz 05 for guaranteed safety and 3 points ahead of Werder Bremen for guaranteed relegation to the second division. Morales came off the bench last weekend and played 24 minutes in the team’s 2-2 draw with Hoffenheim, who played nearly the entire match down a man. Zack Steffen is reportedly close to a return for Düsseldorf, but it remains to be seen if the team (perhaps with some “advice” from parent club Manchester City) will bring him back down the stretch or let him ride out the season to avoid any potential aggravation.

Düsseldorf’s opponent this weekend is second place Borussia Dortmund, who currently sit 7 points behind Bayern Munich for first place and 7 points ahead of ‘Gladbach and Leverkusen for 5th place. While not mathematically eliminated from either direction, such a move would be shocking and their fate could be determined this weekend. Giovanni Reyna continues to look for that first start, and it would be a bit surprising if he doesn’t see one down the stretch. Still, he continues to see regular minutes which, in and of itself, is a significant accomplishment for a 17-year-old at one of the top clubs in Germany.

Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt – 9:30a on FS2

Timothy Chandler started and went 90 minutes for Eintracht Frankfurt in their midweek loss to Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the dfb Pokal. Chandler came off the bench last weekend in the teams 0-2 loss to Mainz. The team has little to play for down the stretch, being 10 points from European qualification and 10 points above relegation. Chandler has seen a consistent role with the club in the second half of the season, though lately the starting opportunities have been more difficult to come by.

Eintracht faces Hertha Berlin this weekend, who are 3 points ahead of them and sit at 9th in the table. Seven points back of Wolfsburg, Hertha also seem unlikely to make a move for the Euro spots, but the club had been on a very impressive stretch picking up 10 points in the first 4 games since resuming play before losing 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund last weekend.

Looking through the paywall:

  • John Brooks and Wolfsburg look to solidify their Europa League position when they face a SC Freiburg team that is just four points behind them at 9:30a on Fox Soccer Plus.
  • Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen face Paderborn at 9:30a on Fox Soccer Match Pass in a match that is absolutely critical if they are to avoid relegation.

Sunday

Schalke 04 v Bayer Leverkusen – Noon on FS2

Weston McKennie missed Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Union Berlin last weekend due to yellow card accumulation. While a 1-1 draw with the 14th placed team might not seem significant, it did snap a four game losing streak for Schalke. It was just the team’s 5th point in their last 12 matches, and they are looking for their first win since January. The lack of results has seen Schalke drop from a European contender to 10th place. This won’t get any easier this weekend as they face fifth place Bayer Leverkusen, who are looking to crack the top four and a Champions League berth.Let us know what you’re watching this weekend as the Bundesliga rolls on.

MLS is Back Tournament draw sees LAFC, LA Galaxy picked together

4:21 PM ET  ESPN

Major League Soccer held its draw for the MLS is Back Tournament as the league prepares to return to action at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on July 8 in Kissimmee, Florida.The Eastern Conference portion of the draw saw Canadian rivals Toronto FC and Montreal Impact drawn against one another in Group C and 2018 MLS Cup champions Atlanta United paired with the Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati and the New York Red Bulls.On the Western Conference side of the draw, defending MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders were the seeded team in Group B and were paired with Cascadia rivals Vancouver. In Group F, LAFC was picked alongside the LA GalaxyHouston Dynamo and Portland Timbers.The tournament will consist of a group stage with each team playing three matches, followed by a knockout stage. The final will be played Aug. 11. The teams were drawn into six groups, with the top two teams in each group, plus the four best third-place finishers, qualifying for the round of 16.

MLS IS BACK TOURNAMENT: KEY DATES

June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 8: Group stage begins
July 25-28: Round-of-16
July 30- Aug. 1: Quarterfinals
Aug. 5-6: Semifinals
Aug. 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final

GROUP A (Eastern Conference)
1. Orlando City SC*
2. Inter Miami CF
3. New York City FC
4. Philadelphia Union
5. Chicago Fire
6. Nashville SC

GROUP B (Western Conference)
1. Seattle Sounders*
2. FC Dallas
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
4. San Jose Earthquakes

GROUP C (Eastern Conference)
1. Toronto FC*
2. New England Revolution
3. Montreal Impact
4. D.C. United

GROUP D (Western Conference)
1. Real Salt Lake*
2. Sporting Kansas City
3. Colorado Rapids
4. Minnesota United

GROUP E (Eastern Conference)
1. Atlanta United*
2. FC Cincinnati
3. New York Red Bulls
4. Columbus Crew SC

GROUP F (Western Conference)
1. LAFC*
2. LA Galaxy
3. Houston Dynamo
4. Portland Timbers

* denotes seeded team in each group

All of the group stage matches will count in the regular-season standings, with the winner of the tournament earning a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, regardless of whether it is a U.S. or Canadian club. The first match pits MLS’ Florida teams Orlando City and Inter Miami in Group A against one another, with a total of 54 matches played over the course of the tournament.Teams will begin to head to Orlando starting on June 24, though arrival dates will vary because most teams will prefer to train in their home facilities. Teams must arrive no later than seven days before their first match.In addition to matches that count in the regular-season standings and the Champions League berth, players will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.”We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said on Wednesday. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play.”MLS has been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic since March 12, when the regular season was just two matches old.

MLS is Back Tournament: What we know about player testing, groups, schedule

5:10 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Major League Soccer’s plan for getting back on the field is now official, almost three months after the 2020 season shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. The return will come in the form of a World Cup style competition to be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. The competition, called the MLS is Back Tournament, will begin with a group stage followed by knockout rounds.

Plans for this competition have been in the works for almost the entirety of the shutdown, and they didn’t come to fruition until some tense negotiations with the MLS Players Association over a new collective bargaining agreement had been concluded. All told, the players gave up over $100 million in economic concessions.

With the plans now in place, here’s what you need to know — and the things we still don’t know — about MLS’s return.

– MLS is Back Tournament: Full draw includes LAFC vs. LA Galaxy
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

What will the tournament look like?

The league’s 26 teams were divided into six groups. There was one six-team group in the Eastern Conference — thanks to Nashville moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference — along with two four-team groups. The Western Conference consists of three four-team groups.

As the host city, Orlando was seeded in Group A, with Atlanta United, Toronto FC, LAFC, the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake comprising the remaining seeded teams. The games will begin on July 8, with each team playing three matches. (Fans in the United States will be able to watch games live on ESPN networks.) The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout stages, with the final being played on Aug. 11. (Full game schedule is TBC.)

What are some of the highlights from the draw?

Several top rivalries were drawn together in the group stages on Thursday, with LAFC and LA Galaxy ending up the highlight of Group F alongside Portland Timbers and the Houston Dynamo.

Defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders were drawn against their rivals in the Pacific Northwest, the Vancouver Whitecaps, in Group B while the team they defeated in the 2019 final, Toronto FC, were drawn in Group C against fellow Canadians Montreal Impact as well as D.C. United and the New England Revolution.

The two Florida teams, Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC, were also drawn together in Group A alongside Philadelphia Union, New York City FC, Chicago Fire and Nashville SC in the tournament’s only six-team group.

The kickoff times are weird. Why is that?

At first glance, the schedule certainly seems bizarre. The games will be held at 9 a.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET, and 10:30 p.m. ET (2 p.m. GMT, 1 a.m. GMT and 3 a.m. GMT). The reasoning is simple: it will avoid playing games in the midday blast furnace — average high temperatures are 92 degrees, with an average low of 78 degrees — that is high summer in Florida.

How many people will be inside the bubble? And can they leave?

All told, there will be 1,200-1,500 inside the bubble, which will (mostly) consist of the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee. These include players, coaches and support staff, as well as league personnel. The players and staff from hometown club Orlando City will also be inside the bubble. Leaving the hotel for anything other than team- and/or league-approved events is prohibited for as long as that player’s team is in the tournament.Teams will head down to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World starting on June 24, but each club has some flexibility in terms of arrival time. Those teams operating in locales with loosening stay-at-home orders will opt to stay in their home markets as long as possible, helping to limit time spent away from families. That means it may be July before some teams arrive in Orlando.It’s expected that six to eight teams, usually those subject to more stringent local restrictions, will opt to get to Orlando closer to June 24.What if a player goes stir-crazy and leaves? In a subsequent interview with ESPN, Garber conceded that “the bubble is not airtight.” But in terms of the steps to be taken if a player decides to go out on the town, the protocol on that is still being crafted.In a bid to prevent players from breaking the bubble, Garber said, “There will be a significant amount of player-engaged activities that our group is now working with Disney on.”That said, discipline will be required. “We’re going to need our collective commitment to ensure that we’re not leaving that environment in any way because that’s only going to threaten the health of themselves and everybody around them,” Garber told ESPN.

 

What about on the field during game days?

Game days will see personnel divided into three tiers based on the level of testing they’ve undergone. The top tier includes players, coaches, club officials, referees and medical staff. Pool photographers, broadcasters, league staff, VAR staff, communications staff and the stretcher crew will fit into Tier 2. Tier 3 will be comprised of media, non-rights holder TV crews, photographers and a club’s digital staff.Tier 3 personnel will not be subject to testing for COVID-19. The league is considering having a limited number of media inside the bubble, which would require them to undergo testing. All told, 183 people will be on or close to the field for matches, with the number increasing to 189 for the opener and final. (More on testing further down.)

Have the players signed off? How do they feel about it?

The players have agreed to go, but there are definitely mixed emotions. On the one hand, players are eager to get back on the field; on the other, they don’t want to be away from home for six weeks to do it. The bitterness from the CBA negotiations — in which the league threatened to lock out the players — remains. Safety is an issue as well.”Players are going to show up. I think players are going to compete, and, we’ll do that part of it,” said Minnesota United midfielder Ethan Finlay. “But there’s a lot of ownership that these teams are gonna have to take because, frankly, we’re taking a bit of a safety risk, not just on the health and safety side but with fatigue. Injury risk is going to go up probably dramatically.”Guys understand that and know that, but they’re also willing to do it because of the circumstances that we’re in.”

Does every player have to go?

Exceptions will be made, but on a very limited basis. Players with an underlying medical condition that might make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 must get permission from the team medical staff to go to Orlando. A player might also be excused if their partner is pregnant, a situation that applies to both the LA Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and LAFC’s Carlos Vela, the reigning league MVP.

A recent report in the L.A. Times indicated that Hernandez would take part in the tournament. Vela’s status is still to be determined.

How often will there be testing?

All individuals deemed “essential members” of a team’s delegation will be tested both prior and after traveling to Orlando. Prior to travel, these tests include two Polymerase Chain Reaction (“PCR”) tests 24 hours apart. Players will also undergo a baseline serology (antibody) test as part of a physical exam that also includes a temperature check and the completion of a screening questionnaire.Players, coaches and support staff will be tested every other day for two weeks after arriving in Florida. Those individuals, as well as referees, will then be tested regularly, including prior to each matchday.

What other steps is MLS taking to prevent players and staff from contracting COVID-19?

In conjunction with leading health experts, MLS has created guidelines and best practices to help reduce risk and prevent spread of the coronavirus. These include wearing face coverings, social distancing, general hygiene (avoid touching face, wash hands frequently, avoid sharing food, bottles, towels or equipment, etc.), as well as disinfecting surfaces. These guidelines will be extended for matches.Players, coaches and officials are asked to exercise care when spitting or clearing their nose during games, and those sitting on the bench are required to wear masks and practice social distancing to the maximum extent possible. Players involved in the game are asked not to exchange jerseys or kiss the ball.The Walt Disney World Resort and the Swan and Dolphin Hotel will be providing enhanced cleaning of all venues and enforcing appropriate capacity management and other social distancing guidelines.

Is everyone at the complex getting tested?

The definition of “essential personnel” doesn’t include everyone. Individuals working at the hotels and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will undergo self-temperature screenings and a standardized screening questionnaire, but they will not be tested. A positive response to the daily questionnaire or a temperature check above 100.3 degrees must be reported, and the individual in question will be isolated immediately and PCR testing will be performed.The lack of testing would seem to create a vulnerability in the “bubble” that MLS has created, but Garber said he isn’t worried.”Those staff/people will not be coming in close contact with our players,” Garber said. “And if they were going to be in close contact, we would manage it through a different protocol. So we’re all going to be living in a world where we’re not going to be able to test every person that comes in contact with each other or comes in contact with us as we go on with our lives.”

What happens if someone tests positive?

Prior to traveling to Orlando, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will not travel and will be isolated and overseen by club medical staff. Contact tracing will also be triggered to identify close contacts. Individuals whose test reveals they had a previous COVID-19 infection may travel to Orlando if they are no longer symptomatic.If an individual tests positive while in Orlando, an isolation protocol will be implemented for the player along with contact tracing.In terms of what would happen if there were multiple positive tests, Garber said there is no specific protocol in terms of the tipping point that would cause the tournament to be suspended or canceled.”It’s why we’re so focused on regular testing and ensure that we do what we need to do to keep our players safe,” said Garber.

Given that the NBA will be in that location part of the time, what level of collaboration was there between the two leagues and Disney?

In the wake of the pandemic, sources tell ESPN that MLS has been in close contact with other sports leagues, collaborating on such issues as human resources, legal issues and security. That includes the NBA. Garber and NBA commissioner Adam Silver have a collegial relationship that sees them meeting every few months. That level of contact has increased given the upheaval the sports world has undergone.But in terms of the Orlando tournament, Garber told ESPN.com that there has “not been a lot of contact” between MLS and the NBA. Rather, the conversations have been with Disney executives in a bid to make sure the tournament runs smoothly.”We’ve been negotiating and dealing with Disney and our hotels to determine what our needs are operationally,” Garber told ESPN.com. “I haven’t had those conversations, but our staff has with Disney to ensure that we are able to both be accommodated in a very large resort and that both leagues’ needs are being met.”

Will these games count toward the regular-season standings?

Yes and no. The group stage games will count in the standings in the standard sense — three points for a win, one point for a tie — while the knockout stage games won’t count at all.So what’s to stop teams from putting all of their efforts into the group stage and none thereafter? A purse of $1.1 million should do the trick, though we don’t yet know the breakdown of how this money will be allocated. The winner of the tournament will also secure a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

What about the regular-season sch=dule after this is over?

MLS is hoping that by the time the tournament ends on Aug. 11, restrictions around the country will have loosened up enough that games can be held in a team’s home stadium. Those games are likely to happen without fans, though Garber offered hope that if the situation improves enough, fans might be able to attend games before the season is done.”Whether or not we’ll have any markets with fans is also uncertain, but we’re also hearing about different guidelines that have been established state by state where there’s even a possibility that some fans might be able to attend games,” Garber said.The hope is that the league will get an extra 18 games in after Orlando, which would make for a 23-game regular season. That’s about two-thirds of a normal league schedule. One scenario has MLS Cup being played in mid-December, but the situation remains fluid.

Assessing the USWNT one year after it won the 2019 Women’s World Cup

Jun 4, 2020Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the United States’ victory in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup — its second straight and fourth overall — it is a good time to look back at how this team has come to top the sport and where its largest vulnerabilities lie moving forward.

Let’s study as well and celebrate a decade of dominance. To do this, I’ll be calling on data from the past three World Cups plus other tournaments and recent friendlies at which Opta data was collected.

Looking back

After allowing a 117th-minute goal to Homare Sawa and losing in a penalty shootout in the 2011 World Cup final, the U.S. ruled the rest of the decade. In two Olympics (plus qualification) and two World Cups (plus qualification), the USWNT won 37 matches, drew just twice and lost only once, in a 2016 Olympic quarterfinal shootout versus Sweden. It scored 170 goals in these matches (4.3 per match), allowed 15 goals (0.4 per match) and won the two World Cup finals by a combined 7-2. And since the SheBelieves Cup began in 2016, pitting four of the world’s best teams in a round-robin competition, the U.S. has more titles (three) than losses (two).

It is fair to say the U.S. dominates women’s soccer to a degree unmatched by any team in men’s soccer. How does that domination take shape on the stat sheet? In what areas of the game has this team asserted its superiority?

Shot quality

In the 2019 Women’s World Cup, seven of 24 teams averaged at least 14 shot attempts per match. Six of them — Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Spain and Sweden — averaged 16.2 shots and 1.5 goals per match. The seventh, the U.S., averaged 18.4 shots and 3.7 goals. The average goals-to-shots conversion rate in the tournament was 11.1%; the USWNT’s was 20.2%. While the U.S. averaged 2.95 expected goals (XG) per match, it averaged 3.71 actual goals, a difference of +0.76, the highest in any of the past three World Cups.That is probably unsustainably high. For one thing, this sample includes the team’s 13-0 pasting of an overwhelmed Thailand. For another, while the difference between goals and XG is certainly part skill, it’s also part randomness. Outliers will regress toward the mean. That said, it was also part of a trend. The U.S. enjoyed a +0.26 difference between goals and XG in 2015, too, and has been around +0.44 for other recent tournaments and friendlies.To the extent that skill is at play instead of randomness, it comes down to shot quality. In 2011, 34% of the USWNT’s shots were on target. In 2015 and 2019, it was 44%. In 2011, 60% of its shots were taken inside the box; in 2015, it was 72% and in 2019, 74%.

USWNT Goals-To-Shots Conversion Rates, Last Two Years

PLAYER SHOTS PCT. OF SHOTS IN BOX GOALS CONVERSION RATE
Carli Lloyd 90 87% 19 21%
Alex Morgan 80 84% 15 19%
Megan Rapinoe 54 48% 12 22%
Tobin Heath 37 68% 10 27%
Christen Press 59 75% 8 14%
Lindsey Horan 50 74% 7 14%
Mallory Pugh 27 82% 7 26%

The combination of brilliant crossing and strong positioning from forwards such as Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh, with incredible long-distance accuracy from wingers like Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, has given the U.S. the most consistent and deadly striking ability in the world.Two other areas of play deserve mention here: crosses and set pieces.Crosses can end up as a Hail Mary option when an attack hasn’t produced anything better, but in the right hands — say Rapinoe’s, Heath’s or Christen Press’ — they can be a direct route to success. The U.S. has slowed its use of crosses through the years — from 25.4 per 90 minutes in the 2011 World Cup to 18.4 last year — and simultaneously increased their effectiveness, from a 28% completion rate in 2011 to 34% in 2019. (The average completion rate at the 2019 World Cup was 25%.)Over the past two years in a U.S. shirt, Rapinoe, Heath and Press have combined for a completion rate of 35% on crosses, with Crystal Dunn not far behind at 29%. In fewer attempts, Pugh (36%), Tierna Davidson (47%) and Lindsey Horan (46%) have also been deadly. Obviously it helps to have players the caliber of Lloyd and Morgan on the end of these passes, but the quality of service has been impeccable.

It’s the same story with set pieces. Each of the past three World Cups produced an average of about 0.3 goals per match from set pieces; the U.S. improved its average from 0.3 in 2011 to 0.6 in 2015 to 0.9 in 2019. And it’s the same cast of characters involved: Rapinoe, Heath and Press serve up the chances when a pass is required, and Horan (six goals from set pieces), Lloyd (five) and Morgan (three) finish them off.

Ball control

When you’ve got a team as talented and athletic as the U.S., a lot of management comes down to keeping the players motivated and getting them ready to scrap.

USWNT Hustle Board

CATEGORY (PER 90 MIN.) 2011 WWC 2015 WWC 2019 WWC
Ball recoveries margin +4.2 +4.9 +14.3
Possessions won in attacking third (A3) 12.5 4.7 10.3
Possessions won in middle third (M3) 38.6 29.0 37.1
Poss. won in M3/A3 margin +8.6 +6.4 +21.4
Pct. of opponents’ shots blocked 26% 26% 31%

The current player pool is the scrappiest yet. Lavelle, Ertz, Dunn and Horan have all averaged between 7.1 and 7.3 ball recoveries per 90 minutes over the past two years (in a smaller sample of appearances, Morgan Brian has averaged 8.2), and the U.S. absolutely dominated loose balls at the most recent World Cup. Its plus-14.3 margin for ball recoveries per match was easily the best in France (second-best: France at +9.8).The U.S. also created a lot of opportunities to collect loose balls. Despite teams rapidly improving in terms of possession play and ball control between 2011 and 2019, the U.S. won nearly as many balls in the attacking third last year as it had eight years earlier. And over the past two years, Heath, Rapinoe, Pugh, Sonnett and Brian have all averaged between 5.1 and 5.7 possessions won per 90 minutes in the attacking third.The pressure often begins the moment you earn possession and never ceases. While 44% of U.S. possessions reached the attacking third in both 2015 and 2019, for opponents it was 33% in 2015 and 25% in 2019.

Goalkeeping

In a small sample, a team’s save percentage can portend upcoming improvement or regression. If it’s particularly high, it’s going to fall (and vice versa), no matter your talent level.That makes it pretty difficult to judge U.S. goalkeepers. Not only is the World Cup a small set of games to begin with, but American goalkeepers have rarely been challenged. Thanks to both defensive pressure and blocked shots, they faced the second-fewest shots on goal per match in 2019 and fourth fewest in 2015. Still, they’ve aced the tests they’ve been given. Alyssa Naeher recorded an 80% save percentage in the 2019 World Cup, while Hope Solo hit 75% in 2015 and 77% in 2011. The overall average was in the mid-to-high 60s in each tournament.Looking at a larger sample of U.S. matches (tournaments and friendlies) from 2017 to 2020, the team’s average save percentage was 74%. Even accounting for small samples and potential regression to the mean, it’s safe to assume that U.S. goalkeeping has been, at worst, consistently above average.Since this is an individual position and is therefore reliant on singular talents over depth of athleticism, it will be interesting to see whether the pattern continues moving forward. Over the past three years, only three keepers have seen action in U.S. matches: 32-year-old Naeher, Ashlyn Harris (34) and Adrianna Franch (29). Maybe Naeher remains atop the depth chart through the next World Cup cycle, but if or when players like the Washington Spirit’s/Sydney FC’s Aubrey Bledsoe (28), the Houston Dash’s Lindsey Harris (26) and Jane Campbell (25), OL Reign’s Casey Murphy (24) or the Chicago Red Stars’ Emily Boyd (23) become options, they’ll have a high bar to clear.

Vulnerabilities

As good as the USWNT has been, we probably shouldn’t pretend it is invulnerable. As dominant as the U.S. appeared for much of the 2019 World Cup, it was still tied with Spain in the 75th minute in the round of 16 before being granted a semi-controversial penalty kick. The USWNT was still outplayed by France for much of its high-profile quarterfinal match. And both England in the semifinals and France outdid the Americans from an XG perspective.In other words, the U.S. still needed good fortune. Every team does. But the competition was awfully tight at the top, and it will probably get only tighter moving forward.

Possession Rates At The 2019 Women’s World Cup

COUNTRY POSSESSION RATE POSSESSION VS. TEAMS THAT MADE KNOCKOUT ROUNDS
Canada 62.7% 60.7%
Spain 60.9% 57.5%
England 59.7% 57.4%
France 58.6% 56.6%
Australia 60.6% 56.6%
Germany 56.7% 56.0%
Netherlands 57.0% 54.8%
Norway 50.5% 52.0%
United States 56.9% 50.8%

The main reason? Ball control. Obviously the possession game isn’t the only way to win in soccer — holding on to the ball doesn’t mean much if you don’t get anything out of it — but there’s a reason why every rich club in men’s soccer is trying to play it.In the World Cup last summer, six teams possessed the ball a higher percentage of the time than the U.S. Looking only at games against teams that advanced to the knockout rounds (so, filtering out matches against teams like Thailand), the U.S. was ninth in possession. It was 12th in pass attempts per 90 minutes against this pool of teams. Its number of solo possessions increased compared to 2015, and its average passes per possession decreased.While the defense remained excellent against all comers, the U.S. attack mostly vanished against the best teams in the tournament. France averaged 2.3 XG per match against knockout-round teams, but the U.S. averaged only 1.9. Its aerial and duel win percentages sank — a sign that the Americans’ physical dominance was wavering in some ways — and the USWNT struggled to control games against other strong teams.Mind you, the USWNT was still elite in the finishing department, still excellent at set pieces (like Rapinoe’s strike that put the U.S. up on France), still brilliant at defending and goalkeeping (recall Naeher’s late penalty save or Becky Sauerbrunn’s goal-line clearance against England), still better than its opponents in terms of ball recoveries and still, by far, the most talented and athletic team.While now-retired coach Jill Ellis was known far more for her elite player-management skills than her tactical brilliance, there are plenty of signs that certain nations, especially in Europe, are catching up. As the game continues its rapid advance, as investment continues to grow in other countries, as the player pool continues to grow more talented worldwide, and as the coaching also continues to develop, the tactical bar for winning big will likely continue to rise. We’ll see what Ellis’ successor, Vlatko Andonovski, has in store in that regard.

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