So our Indy 11 remain undefeated to start with the best record in our history as we knocked off Sporting KC 2-1 in front of close to 5K in the stands at the Luke. Indy 11 will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Riverhounds on ESPN 2 – at 6 pm on Wednesday night! Four match-ups with Louisville FC headline the schedule along with 4 games vs St. Louis –these 3 teams should battle it out to make the expanded playoffs.
So the semi-finals are on TV Wednesday at 12 midnight Portland Thorns vs Houston Dash and Thursday at 10 am Sky Blue vs Chicago Red Stars on NBC Sportsnetwork with the Final Sunday on NBC (finally) the Semi’s are on streaming Wed 10 am and 10 pm. The games have been good –the ones I watch on replay on CBS Sports Network – I wish all the games were here – but we do get the big game on Sunday at 12:30 pm on NBC the finals!!
Pulisic Continues to Shine in EPL
So hopefully they were holding Pulisic back for the huge league games this weekend as he didn’t even see the field in the Semi-Final 3-0 win over Man United this weekend. I was ticked off to say the least as I settled into watch on Sunday (he was injured)– Chelsea face Liverpool on Wed at 3 pm on NBCSN – hopefully he’ll be on the field in this hugely critical game as they need a win and a tie in the last 2 games at least to secure a top 4 Champions League finish. Of course Liverpool will be presented the EPL Title Trophy after the game at Anfield around 5 pm after the game. hopefully it will be after a tie as Chelsea need the points. Its a 3 way battle between Chelsea 63pts/Man United 62/Liecester City 62 pts. for the 3rd and 4th spots.
MLS Is Back
I have to admit the MLS is Back Tourney has been pretty darn good – some really high scoring games as teams battle to win their group and advance on to the playoffs that start this weekend. Great to see games featured on weekday mornings 9 am on ESPN and evening games a lot of nights at 8 and 10 on ESPN and Fox Sports. The games have been really exciting and hopefully will give MLS a little bump in the US national Sports Scope before other sports start up later this month.
July 27 – 30 – River Road Soccer Complex. Camp offered for boys and girls ages 8 – 14. 9:00 – 11:00 am. $95
GAMES ON TV
Tues, July 21
9 am EPSN Toronto vs NE Revs
12:30 pm NBCSN Watford at Man City
2:45 pm NBCSN Aston Villa vs Arsenal
8 pm ESPN2 Atlanta vs Columbus
10:30 pm ESPN2 Montreal vs DC United
Wed, July 22
9 am ESPN Real Salt Lake vs Sporting KC
1 pm NBCSN West Ham at Man Unted
3 pm NBCSN Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
6 pm ESPN2 INDY 11 @ Pittsburgh
8 pm ESPN Cincy vs NR Red Bulls
10:30 pm ESPN Colorado vs Min United
Thurs, July 23
9 am ESPN Chicago vs Vancouver
1 pm NBCSN West Ham at Man Unted
1:30 pm ESPN+ Udineese vs Juventus
8 pm FS1 LA vs Houston
10:30 pm ESPN2 LAFC vs Portland
Sat, July 25
1:30 pm ESPN+ Genoa vs Inter
8 pm ESPN2 MLS Playoff Orlando FC vs ?
10:30 pm ESPN2 Philly Union vs New England Revs MLS Playoff
Sun July 26 – EPL Final Day/NWSL Finals
11 am USA Network Wolverhampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic) (Top 4 on line)
11 am CNBC Crystal Palace vs Tottenham
11 am NBCSN?? Leicester City vs Man United (Top 4 on line)
12:30 pm CBS NWSL Finals – from Utah
5 pm ESPN+/Desp INDY 11 @ St Louis
8 pm FS1 Toronto FC vs 3rd Group A
11 pm FS1 ?? MLS Playoff
Mon, July 27
9 pm FS1 MLS Playoff
11 pm FS1 MLS Playoff
Tues, July 28
8 pm ESPN MLS Playoff
10 pm ESPN MLS Playoff
Wed, July 29
7 pm ESPN+myindytv INDY 11 vs Hartford Lucas Oil
Pittsburgh to face the Riverhounds on ESPN 2 – at 6 pm on Wednesday
NWSL & MLS
EPL & World
How American Coach – became a coaching Star in Europe – ESPNFC
American coach Marsch named Austrian Bundesliga Coach of the Year
Indy Eleven at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 – 6:00 P.M. ET Highmark Stadium | Pittsburgh, Pa.
Local/National TV: ESPN2
2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS
Indy Eleven: 3W-0L-0D, 9 pts., 1st in Group E
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC: 2W-0L-0D, 6 pts., 1st in Group F
It’s an early-season showdown deserving of a national audience – and that’s just what Indy Eleven and Pittsburgh Riverhounds will have, courtesy of ESPN2, when they meet Wednesday evening near the confluence of the Steel City’s famed three rivers.
The contest features two of the three highest scoring offenses in the 35-team USL Championship through four weeks of action, Pittsburgh’s nine goals placing second, followed by Indy with eight. Eleven forward Tyler Pasher paces the league with four goals, while Riverhounds SC attacker Kenardo Forbes paces the USLC in assists with four helpers of his own.
“Pivotal” might be too heightened a term this early in a season for a game featuring two teams sitting atop their respective groups with spotless records. However, their form out of the gates have Indy and Pittsburgh as the East’s teams to beat in 2020 (don’t take our word … USLChampionship.com’s Nicholas Murray have Indy #1 and PIT #3 in the latest Power Rankings), which makes their first of two meetings during the shortened 16-game campaign one likely to be circled for end-of-the-season reviews come October.
Of the 17 Championship squads with at least three games under their belts, Indy Eleven is the only one to start off with three victories. A win Wednesday would not only make Indiana’s Team the first in the USLC to reach double-digit points, but it would also end Pittsburgh’s 25-game home undefeated streak in regular season play – a figure Indy might be in awe of were it not for the fact it’s similar run does the Riverhounds two better at 27.
Indy Eleven will look to even its all-time regular season series with Riverhounds SC, its record currently standing at 1W-2L-2D (6 GF/9 GA) after meetings across the 2018 & ’19 USL Championship campaigns.
Pittsburgh also had the leg up in their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup meeting last season, a Third Round affair the Riverhounds took via a 1-0 score at Highmark Stadium on May 29. Indy Eleven exacted a bit of revenge just three days later with a dramatic 2-1 win at Lucas Oil Stadium, while Pittsburgh took the return leg in regular season play via a 3-0 scoreline back in the Steel City in September. Despite not being grouped together, the close proximity of the two growing rivals has them playing twice during the shortened 2020 season, with Indy Eleven set to host Riverhounds SC in the Circle City on August 15.
INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH | DF PADDY BARRETT
We’ve noted the voracity of the Riverhounds attack, which means the Eleven back three – anchored by the Irish captain Paddy Barrett in the middle – will likely be under sustained pressure. Expect Barrett and the Indy defense to be up for the challenge, as the squad has conceded just once in the last 254 minutes of play after a two-goal hiccup in the first 16 minutes of the season opener at Memphis 901 FC. Pittsburgh will also have to account for Barrett in the opposite final third as well, as his deft finish in last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City II was preceded by eye-opening long-distance efforts in each of the last two outings.
PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS SC PLAYER TO WATCH | MF KENARDO FORBES
The 2019 USL Championship MVP finalist and All-League First Team performer was a thorn in the side of Indy last year, as he notched a late game-winner in their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fixture in May and tallied twice in a 3-0 win late in the regular season. The veteran Jamaican playmaker is continuing his assault on opposing goals in 2020, already notching four assists – including a trio in last Saturday’s 6-0 drubbing of Philadelphia Union II. With five chances created and three successful crosses in just two matches, Forbes has entered the restart in midseason form and will once again need to be the focal point for Indiana’s Team all over the field.
Unlikely NWSL season will have an unlikely Challenge Cup champion
12:43 PM ETGraham HaysESPN.com
The Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Portland Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC will breathe easier these days. Not because players are more accustomed to the altitude in the Salt Lake City area. Not because they will play all remaining games in the NWSL Challenge Cup on the Rio Tinto Stadium grass after five games on artificial turf. And not because the forecast offers any relief from the heat (it doesn’t).It’s mostly because that in proving themselves one of the best teams in the history of the sport, the North Carolina Courage suck the oxygen out of any room, or stadium, they occupy.But after Portland eliminated the top-seeded and previously unbeaten Courage in a quarterfinal, the NWSL will, for the first time since 2015, settle a championship without the team that won three championships and three NWSL Shields beginning in 2016, including its time in Western New York.A league now in the midst of the unlikeliest of seasons will have an unlikely champion.
- The mental toll of life in the NWSL Challenge Cup bubble
• Thorns FC’s Horan provides a glimpse inside the bubble
• Sky Blue FC, Chicago Red Stars both advance to NWSL semis on penalties
That’s a good story especially in the cases of Houston and Sky Blue, franchises that began this year with no playoff appearances and 56 more losses than wins between them since Houston entered the league in 2014. It’s also an important story. A league in which bad franchises stay bad is a league that stagnates. A league in which they aspire to championships, even if only in a monthlong tournament necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, is a league that can thrive.
Houston has no playoff appearances in its history but has more often been mediocre than disastrous. Sky Blue, on the other hand, is only a couple of years removed from exploring the full depths of disaster. Amid a one-win season in 2018 came reports detailing inadequate facilities, poor housing and general dysfunction. The team at least adjacent to the biggest market in the league ranked last in attendance. Sky Blue had the second and sixth picks in the 2019 draft. Both players opted to sign instead in Europe, the only first-rounders to do so.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that people close to Alyse LaHue tried to talk her out of taking the job she now holds as the team’s general manager. Many people. But she did all the same, first on an interim basis early last season and then permanently last fall. Play improved throughout last season — not by miraculous degrees but steadily as a coaching carousel finally settled on Freya Coombe by the end of the campaign. With LaHue willing to listen to all complaints, at a full variety of volumes, from fans whose allegiance dated back to WPS a decade ago, the team’s image improved. A pair of games at Red Bull Arena late in the year drew big crowds — more than half as many in those games alone as the team drew the entire 2018 season.
Then came the offseason announcement that the team was finally trading its outdated and difficult-to-reach home at Rutgers for Red Bull Arena on a full-time basis. Suddenly, Sky Blue, which also traded for World Cup winner Mallory Pugh during the offseason, had a world-class facility far more easily accessible by public transportation.”It opens up for us a lot of new business opportunities as well,” LaHue said. “Really, Red Bull Arena was the next step for us in our growth as a professional club.”Except that is on hold after the sports world shut down before Sky Blue could make their full-time debut at Red Bull Arena.”You basically have a new job now,” LaHue recalled of the message to staff as the NWSL put its season on hold just as preseason training was commencing. “Whatever you did before, if you can figure out how to do it completely digital, that’s what you’re going to do now.”It says something about the shift from organizational dysfunction to, well, function that while there was plenty of outside debate about whether the NWSL could even survive a shutdown. Sky Blue spent more time on innovation than existential fretting. For starters, in addition to offering refunds to season-ticket holders who needed or wanted them, the team developed a digital season ticket service that offers fans regular online contact with players and staff. Those have continued through the tournament in Utah, connecting team and fans in a way likely to outlast the necessities of remote connectivity during a pandemic.But any turnaround is ultimately only as successful as what the players make it on the field.In a normal season and with a full roster that included additions Pugh, Midge Purce and McCall Zerboni, Sky Blue would have been a popular sleeper pick. LaHue even acknowledged the playoffs were the target. But with little in the way of a preseason to further adapt to Coombe’s system — and without franchise cornerstone Carli Lloyd and Pugh because of injuries — the NWSL Challenge Cup was, in the general manager’s words, aptly named.”I think you would have been able to see a much better-put-together picture that we are attempting to build right now,” forward Ifeoma Onumonu said of a longer season. “I think we’ve got a lot of good things going for us with the short amount of time we’ve had already.”And here they are in the semifinals, seven years after the team’s first and only playoff appearance.Sky Blue haven’t been a revelation in Utah, but it’s amazing how many breaks talented and well-run teams tend to catch. Start with some brilliant goalkeeping from Kailen Sheridan. Add steady veteran play from Gina Lewandowski, Nahomi Kawasumi, Estelle Johnson, Sarah Woldmoe and Zerboni, and suddenly surprises like Ghanaian midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe emerge from the positive environments in which they’re immersed.
“I’ve been blown away by what the technical staff and the players have pulled off,” LaHue said. “Obviously going into the semifinals of this tournament is just pure joy.”I don’t even have another word for it. It’s just pure joy.”North Carolina will be back, but it’s good to see what the rest of the league can do with a little room to breathe.So how do the semifinals set up?
Portland Thorns FC vs. Houston Dash (12:30 p.m. ET)
Portland is no stranger to semifinals, having reached at least that stage in six of the league’s first seven seasons. But even if its current No. 8 seed is a bit harsh for a team that lost just once in the preliminary round, and that in stoppage time, these aren’t the normal Thorns.
Tobin Heath opted out of the event. Adrianna Franch and Becky Sauerbrunn are out with injuries. Even Lindsey Horan had come off injured by the time Morgan Weaver scored the winner from a Rocky Rodriguez assist against North Carolina. Horan is listed as questionable for the semifinal with a left hip injury. But if she plays, Portland still has a special midfield with Angela Salem playing behind the developing chemistry of Horan and Rodriguez. Not to mention that it seems far more likely that Christine Sinclair still has a goal in her than that the Canadian legend will go without all month.
Houston scored five goals in its first two games, so in a tournament largely starved for it, there is clearly offensive potential. And yet the Dash have also gone more than 300 minutes since they last scored, the longest active streak among the semifinalists. So we’re not exactly working with convincing sample sizes either way.
There is so much to like about adding Shea Groom as a creative presence alongside Rachel Daly or watching Katie Naughton and Megan Oyster develop chemistry as center-backs in their first season together. But Houston has also ceded the edge in possession in every game and been less accurate in their passing than their opponents in the past four games. Playing on the counter and looking for the quick strike makes for a test of nerves in the team’s first semifinal.
Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars (10 p.m. ET)
If the Red Stars win a title without scoring a goal, would we stop talking about Sam Kerr? It makes for an interesting thought experiment. At some point Kerr’s name will stop appearing (multiple times) in conversation about the team, but the Red Stars are still going to have to first prove they can score consistently without the former MVP. But with the team last among the eight participants with just 10 shots on goal, and the only goals scored by defender Casey Short and since-injured midfielder Morgan Brian, it’s a fair, if also repetitive, narrative.
It would have helped if the Red Stars had either Brian or Yuki Nagasato available for the semifinal. Both remain out with injuries after also missing the quarterfinal. Chicago has options, especially with Savannah McCaskill’s ability to play in a variety of attacking roles. But it’s worth noting that Chicago was the last team other than North Carolina to score multiple goals against Sky Blue, winning 3-0 in New Jersey last September against a defense that will probably look largely familiar Wednesday. Brian and Nagasato each scored a goal in that win. The other goal? Kerr, of course.
Natalie Portman part of L.A. ownership group for NWSL expansion team in 2022
Kevin BaxterLA Times•July 21, 2020
After a 12-year break women’s professional soccer is coming back to Southern California, with a star-studded ownership group led by actress Natalie Portman announcing Tuesday it has secured the rights to bring an NWSL team to the market for the 2022 season.“L.A. is a city that has a fanatical sports fan base. And obviously, we’ve shown that we have the ability to support multiple teams and multiple different leagues,” said media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, another of the principle partners in one of the few majority-women ownership groups in professional sports.“By bringing together this unique group of people, we actually have this ability to engage and promote and not only support the best players, but also grow the league by putting a spotlight on it and hopefully igniting a fire here that will touch other places,” Uhrman said.Others in that 30-member group include World Cup and Olympic champions Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Rachel Buehler, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Abby Wambach; actresses Eva Longoria, Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain, venture capitalist Kara Nortman and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.“We wanted to make sure that we brought in incredible partners who were from the soccer world, who are leaders in sport, in tech and business and entertainment because that’s really so much what our city is about. Each of us has our special ability to bring to the team,” said Portman, who began work on the Angel City project after the U.S. victory in last summer’s World Cup.“It just seems like it was ideal to bring [women’s] soccer to L.A. because we have such passionate fans here, such robust youth soccer,” she added. “It’s just an incredible kind of culture shift if we can bring more attention and light and celebration of these incredible athletes.”The franchise, which is using Angel City as its tentative nickname, is in discussions with several potential venue partners and hopes to announce both a venue partner and a permanent name by the end of the year. The Galaxy confirmed they are in conversations with Uhrman. The MLS team shared an owner and a stadium with the Sol, the last first-division women’s team to play in Southern California, before that team disbanded after one season in 2010. Women’s Professional Soccer, the league the Sol played in, folded two years later.LAFC, Southern California’s other MLS team, also said it was supportive of the effort to bring an NWSL team to the area.Last October the nine-team NWSL, the first professional sports league in U.S. to resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic, awarded an expansion franchise to Louisville, Ky. That team will begin play next spring. Angel City will have nearly two years to prepare for its launch, scheduled to take place the year between the two biggest events in women’s soccer — the Olympic Games and the World Cup.“There’s many steps that need to be taken along the way, so I think it gives us a good runway,” Portman said. “And with [COVID-19], it seems reasonable too.”
Natalie Portman-Led Group Wins Women’s Soccer Expansion Team in Los Angeles
Emily Caron and Scott SoshnickVariety•July 21, 2020
Academy Award–winning actor Natalie Portman and a group of predominantly female founders were awarded the rights to bring a National Women’s Soccer League team to Los Angeles in 2022, Variety’s sister site Sportico reports.
Portman and tech venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, who led the investment with his fund, Initialized Capital, are sidelining the traditional ownership model. Founding the NWSL’s 11th team through an expansive investor ownership group that includes a number of Hollywood, tech, venture, media and sports stars, the startup-like setup is itself as notable as the names behind it.Twelve former U.S. Women’s National Team players, including FIFA World Cup champions Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach were also announced as part of the founding investor group, as are actors Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Uzo Aduba, America Ferrera and Lilly Singh, as well as author Glennon Doyle.A handful of other entrepreneurs, as well as executives from Netflix and Baby2Baby, round out the 32-member initial ownership group, which has also received local support. Well before the announcement, residents formed a grassroots local supporters group to help an L.A.-based NWSL team gain traction.“Normally in startups we think about finding product-market fit, and this is one of those [situations] where the market is very much asking for the product already. L.A. is ready,” Ohanian told Sportico. The Reddit co-founder also made a personal investment into the team on behalf of his wife, tennis star Serena Williams, and their daughter, Olympia — now likely the youngest owner in sports at two months shy of three years old.“I’m looking at this as a business decision. Yes, I believe there are a lot of good social reasons for this to be a successful enterprise, but this is first and foremost a capitalist one,” Ohanian added. “This is where esports was five years ago, except these teams are far more marketable; the athletes are far more popular and have already transcended the sport and culture. And while I am all for [what] this represents—a generation of athletes who should get paid what they’re worth, who should get treated fairly and equally—I also know this is tracking in the right direction. The free market is actually going to show that this has been undervalued for way too long by far too many people.”Without a team name or venue partner announced yet, the group — which established WFC LA, Inc. as a limited liability company in June with Uhrman listed as CEO and president — is calling itself “Angel City” as a nod to its future home. Angel City will join the Portland Thorns and OL Reign, located in Tacoma, Wash., as the league’s third West Coast team, and it will follow Racing Louisville FC, set to debut in 2021, as the NWSL’s next expansion franchise.“After spending time with the USWNT players, their union rep, and getting to know some of the owners of the NWSL and the league’s supporters, it became clear having a team in L.A. could not only elevate the league and players’ exposure, but also bring these incredibly talented women to the city of L.A. — my city,” Portman told Sportico. “We have the ability to engage, promote and support the best players in the world in the most popular sport in the world on a yearly basis, not just every four years.”
The expansion announcement comes on the heels of the USWNT’s 2019 FIFA World Cup win — where a record 1.12 billion viewers tuned into official broadcast coverage of the tournament — growth that continued with the NWSL’s own audience domestically and internationally. The league’s 2019 average attendance was up 21.8% over 2018 and 71.8% over its inaugural 2013 season. The ongoing Challenge Cup tournament in Utah drew a record-setting audience of 572,000 viewers for its opening match, marking a 201% increase over the NWSL’s previous high of 190,000.Los Angeles is already home to nine other professional sports teams, including two Major League Soccer teams, but has not had a professional women’s team since 2010, when the Los Angeles Sol of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer League dissolved.“It’s clear that Los Angeles in particular is a huge soccer market. Every time the USWNT comes to play, they’re selling out Dignity Health Sports Park,” Urhman said of the home of the Galaxy, one of the city’s MLS teams, which seats 27,000 fans. “We felt like that was the recipe for success: having this incredible ownership group that believes in our mission and our purpose and having a fan base that already exists, that is really willing this to happen.”In addition to the rights to the newest NWSL expansion team, the group announced a community partnership with the LA84 Foundation. Now a formal supporter of the Play Equity Fund, which works to increase youth access to sport within underserved communities in Los Angeles, Angel City is focused on sport as a vehicle for social justice and gender equity as much as it is concerned with its on-field product.“Our story from the beginning was different — from starting with three founding women to building a movement before even having the money, stadium, rights or fans [to now] being able to grow our list of founding investors,” Portman said. “We believe in setting higher expectations on and off the field, for our team, players and fans. Success to us isn’t only on the field, but our impact in our community, payback to our players and entertainment of the world. We are not a legacy team but a team of activists, athletes and entrepreneurs who are used to challenging the status quo and reshaping expectations.”
Red Stars Win 4-3 on Penalties After 0-0 Draw With Reign Advance to Semi’s
ASSOCIATED PRESSJUL 19, 2020
HERRIMAN, Utah — The Chicago Red Stars advanced to the semifinals of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament, prevailing 4-3 on penalties after a scoreless draw with OL Reign on Saturday night.Lauren Barnes’ attempt for the Reign hit the post to seal it for Chicago, which will play Sky Blue on Wednesday night with a chance to play for the title.Three of the four quarterfinal matches went to penalties. Under tournament rules, tie games after regulation go straight to a shootout rather than to extra periods.Sky Blue advanced 4-3 on penalties after a scoreless draw with the Washington Spirit earlier Saturday. Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan secured the victory when she stopped Bayley Feist’s attempt.The eighth-seeded Portland Thorns, 1-0 winners over two-time defending champion North Carolina on Friday, will play the Dash in the first semifinal on Wednesday morning. The Dash also advanced on penalties after a scoreless draw Friday night against the Utah Royals.The Reign’s Jessica Fishlock got her first start since tearing her ACL in a game last July. She had one of the best attempts in the first half, but was thwarted by Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who was solid throughout the game.Naeher, who was in goal last summer for the U.S. team that won the World Cup, punched away a header from a wide open Sofia Huerta in the 59th minute. Later in the half, she tipped Kristen McNabb’s shot from some 30 yards out.Kealia Watt had a good chance for Chicago out in front of the goal in the 67th minute but it went just wide.Goalkeeping has been highlighted in the quarterfinals, with just one goal scored — by Portland’s Morgan Weaver — in the three other games.The Reign were playing without U.S. national team star Megan Rapinoe, who opted out of the tournament.Group results determined seeding for the eight teams in the Challenge Cup. The league’s ninth team, the Orlando Pride, withdrew before the tournament because of positive coronavirus tests.