Our Indy 11 returned home and absolutely dominated Hartford Athletic – Wednesday night with an impressive 4-1 victory. The result extends Indy Eleven’s (5W-1L-0D, 15 pts., most in USL Championship) daunting home unbeaten streak in regular season play to 28 matches (21W-0L-7D), now tied for the second longest such run in USL Championship history. Embedded in that stretch is a 12-game home winning streak in regular season play dating back to last July 20 that is also second longest in Championship annals – but could reach the apex with another three points the next time out this weekend. The 11 Return home at the Luke with a 7 pm game on Saturday, Aug 1 vs Sporting KC II. Tickets are available for the7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100.
Pulisic Helps Chelsea Win again – next Up FA Cup Final Saturday 1 pm ESPN+
While US starlet Pulisic didn’t have one of his best games Sunday his breakaway up the middle and release to Mount just before being taken down around midfield led to a fantastic Giroud goal that sealed Chelsea’s fate with a huge 2-0 win vs Wolverhampton. Pulisic was hacked and fouled all day as he tried in vain at times to run at the Wolves defense. He had a couple of looks at goal but overall he was held at bay by the Wolves defense. Pulisic will now look now to a Saturday visit to Wembley where I assume he’ll start vs Arsenal in the FA Cup final at 12 pm on ESPN+ The FA Cup Preview show will be on ESPN2 at 11:30 am. Not sure why this game is not flowing over to a network ESPN station but currently its set for ESPN+ Saturday.
EPL Finishes Season with Excitement
The English Premier League showed why it’s the Best/most followed league in the world as everything came down to the last half on the final day of the season. The finale certainly had plenty of excitement as Top 4 Champions League/Top 6 Europa League and of course Bottom 4 Relegation Battles were all still in play with 45 minutes to play in the last round of games on closing day. I had 3 TVs going as I attempted to watch as much as I could. In the end of course Chelsea and Man United secured top 4 slots for Champions League Qualification. Man U had to win the final and the 2-0 win at Leicester did that for them. It wasn’t easy and had Leicester not hit the post twice – who knows. But a controversial awarded PK lead to Man U’s advancement. Good to see the Red Devils back in Champions League along with Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea. As for Europa League top 6 spots – somehow Tottenham is in as their rather lame tie at home – just edged Wolverhampton who loss to Chelsea on the road. Wolverhampton can still qualify if Chelsea, who knocked them out Sunday, can beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final on Saturday. As for Relegation play – Aston Villa did just enough as their win kept them in the EPL for another season. Bournemouth and slide down. Of course the return of Leeds United from the Championship for the first time since 1993-94 headlines the teams moving up, along with West Brom and one other. The Championship playoff is still on for one of my favorites Fulham with US defender Tim Ream they will play Brentford at Wembley on Tuesday to see who goes up.
World – Champs & Europa Leagues are Back
Juventus secured their 9th straight Serie A Title with their win on Sunday as Christiano Renaldo scored his 50th goal in his 3rd league played in, he becomes the first player to score 50 goals in the EPL, La Liga, and Italy. The Serie A season wraps up this weekend on ESPN+. As league play wraps up we turn our eyes towards Champions League next Friday and Saturday, Aug 7 + 8. Two Games on CBS Sports Network with the others on FUBO TV, TDUN, (streamed on CBS all-access). I know they will be on fuboTV as Man City hosts Real Madrid up 2-1 on CBSSN along with Juve hosting Lyon tied at 1 on Friday at 3 pm, while Chelsea will travel to Bayern Munich down 3-0, and Barcelona hosts Napoli tied at 1-1 on Sat at 3 pm on CBSSN to wrap up Round of 16 play. Sure would be nice if they spread those games out. The Round 0f 8 – will be held in Lisbon, Portugal with single elimination Playoff games played over the following 20 days starting Aug 12-15.
The NWSL wrapped up their tourney on Saturday with solid #s on CBS – over 650K people watched the final on Sunday, the best ever rating for a NWSL Game. They actually outdrew the Sunday morning EPL and many baseball games over the weekend. Great news for the ladies still I am frustrated the final couldn’t draw 1 million viewers to the Champ game? The Houston Dash edged Chicago Red Stars 1-0. The Dash with literally zero US National team players was lead by England’s forward Rachel Daly who ended up winning the golden boot. Check some of these Saves from the Tourney.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, Aug 1
11:30 am ESPN2 ESPNFC FA Cup Preview show
12:10 ESPN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal FA Cup Final
2:30 pm ESPN+ Juve vs AS Roma
2:45pm ESPN+ AC Milan vs Caglaiari
2:30 pm ESPN+ Napoli vs Lazio
7 pm ESPN+Wish INDY 11 vs Sporting KC – Lucas Oil
8 pm ESPN MLS Playoff QF3
10 pm FS1 MLS Playoff QF4
Wed, Aug 5
3 pm CBS All Access Man United vs LASK Europa League
3 pm CBS All Access Inter vs Getafe Europa League
8 pm ESPN2 MLS Semi-Final
Thurs, Aug 6
1 pm CBS All Access Leverkusen vs Rangers Europa League
3 pm CBS All Access Wolverhampton vs Olympiakos
8 pm ESPN2 MLS Semi-Final
10 pm FS1 Tijuana vs Tigres Liga MX
Fri Aug 7
3 pm FuboTV, CBSSN Man City vs Real Madrid (Champs League)
3 pm Fubo TV Juve vs Lyon (Champs League)
Sat Aug 8
3 pm Fubo TV Bayern Munich vs Chelsea (Pulisic) (Champs League)
3 pm Fubo TV, CBSSN Barcelona vs Napoli (Champs League)
7 pm ESPN+MyindyTV INDY 11 @ Louisville FC
Tues, Aug 11
8 pm ESPN MLS is Back Tourney Final
Wed, Aug 12
3 pm FuboTV, Atalanta vs PSG (Champs League)
Thur, Aug 13
3 pm FuboTV, RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid (Champs League)
Fri, Aug 14
3 pm FuboTV, Napoli vs Barcelona (Champs League)
Sat, Aug 15
3 pm FuboTV, Real Madrid vs Man City (Champs League)
Tues, Aug 18
3 pm FuboTV, Champs League Semis
Weds, Aug 19
3 pm FuboTV, Champs League Semis
Sun, Aug 23
3 pm FuboTV, CBSSN Champions League Finals
Fulham and USMNT defender Tim Ream have a chance to qualify for the Premier League if the team can Brentford on Tuesday.Club has history with U.S. players »
Manchester United passed up chance to sign Pulisic, reveals ex-Red Devils scout
Changes to CONCACAF WC Qualifying Revealed for US
NWSL Crowns New Champion – Graham Hayes ESPNFC
- Houston Dash beat Chicago Red Stars to capture NWSL Challenge Cup
- The mental toll of life in the NWSL Challenge Cup bubble
- Record TV Audience watch Final on CBS
- Save of the Tourney
Steve Clark shakes off mistake, becomes the hero for the Portland Timbers
Portland overcomes miscues, gets past Cincinnati in shootout
Rossi scores pair, LAFC gets revenge in win over Seattle
NYCFC upsets Toronto FC 3-1, advances to MLS quarterfinals
Chelsea’s Pulisic declares himself ‘100% fit’ for FA Cup final
10:12 AM ETJames OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard had said the 21-year-old was struggling with a minor unspecified problem in recent weeks, leading to his omission from the semifinal win over Manchester United.
Pulisic only featured as a substitute against Liverpool last week, and although he started Chelsea’s final Premier League game against Wolves on Sunday, which ended in a 2-0 win, the winger was replaced 12 minutes from time as a precaution.
However, in an exclusive interview with ESPN, Pulisic said, “I never had a real issue. I’m 100% fit.”The news will come as a boost to Lampard and Chelsea, who are seeking their ninth FA Cup success and second big final victory over Arsenal in a year after beating them 4-1 in Baku to lift last season’s Europa League trophy.Pulisic had not yet signed for the Blues at that stage, but he said he had exchanged messages with former Borussia Dortmund teammate and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, telling him “You can score one goal but you can’t win!”The pair remain close, with Aubameyang advising him on life in London prior to leaving Dortmund. But there has been no contact this time, as Pulisic singled out the Gabon international as a major threat after he amassed 27 goals in all competitions for the Gunners this term.”I know him quite well,” Pulisic added. “He is incredible, the way he gets in good areas. He’s always dangerous, so we are definitely going to have to be cautious of that, and they have some other good players. But he is definitely one guy that you have to look out for.”We’ll always be good friends. I played together with him for a long time. Right now, we are definitely focused and want to win. It is going to be a good battle; and not so much on the pitch, but we will always be friends off the pitch.”The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we’ve been in good form, we’ve been playing well, and we’re going to try and bring that into the game. In the end, it is one game, and in a final, anything can happen.”
Rating Pulisic’s first Premier League season
July 28, 2020, 10:08 AM
Now seems like a good time for a rating on Christian Pulisic based on his first Premier League season as the USMNT star is well and truly in the news for his displays.
[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – Analysis ]
With his debut PL campaign for Chelsea in the books and an FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg left for the USMNT star in the 2019-20 season, it’s safe to say Pulisic’s first season in England has been a rollercoaster.
From a decent start to being left out, then a hot streak in the fall followed by an injury and an even hotter streak to finish the season, Pulisic, 21, has pretty much experienced all of the highs and lows the Premier League has to offer and has consistently been in the news.
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All season long we’ve followed the journey the USMNT star has been on during our weekly ‘Pulisic Watch’ analysis which looks at how he’s fared in each game and the latest injury news and updates, plus comments from Lampard and his teammates.
He’s an overall look at how he performed in the Premier League and a Pulisic rating out of 10.
- Hat trick at Burnley– The moment the world stood up and took notice of Pulisic as he was truly big news to the rest of the planet. Up until that point he hadn’t scored in the PL, or for Chelsea, but his treble at Turf Moor ignited a purple patch which saw him put in fine displays and score against Palace and Watford soon after.
- Goal v. Man City– After the restart he was majestic and this goal underlined his incredible form. Picking the ball up on the halfway line after a Man City mix up, he ran at goal with his searing pace, dropped his shoulder and finished across goal. This was pure Pulisic.
- Sub performance v. Liverpool– With Chelsea losing 4-1 at Anfield, he jumped off the bench and had an amazing assist, missed a big chance and scored a beauty. All in the space of a few minutes. Jurgen Klopp, the man who bought him to Borussia Dortmund, had to stand there and laugh as Pulisic ran the show. Against Liverpool. At Anfield. On the night that hoisted the PL trophy.
- General restart displays– His form since the June restart has been wonderful. Four goals, two assists, two penalty kicks won and ripping apart defenses time and time again. Lampard worked with him on his midfield runs during the break and he is popping up in more dangerous positions, plus looks fitter and stronger. Finally having a break did him the world of good. Lampard said he can reach the levels of Mane, Salah and Sterling. Woah.
- Being benched for 5 out of 6 games straight in the fall– This was pretty much as low as it has been for Pulisic in recent years. I spoke with him in September after he was an unused sub for five games in a row following the home win v. Brighton. He said it was ‘very frustrating’ and that Lampard hadn’t really given him any feedback, as Pulisic was upset but determined to prove the doubters wrong. A few weeks later he was assisting off the bench and building his way back into the team.
“I knew it was going to be tough coming here. It is never going to be easy. I’ve got to grind it out,” Pulisic said. “I want to be back and be a part of the team and help the team win games. I want to play as many minutes as I can, that is really my goal, I want to be on the field… It is tough for me right now. I just have to continue to learn. Like I said, I want to be on the field really bad, I have to continue to work and prove myself to be there.”
- Injury in January– Just when Pulisic was firing on all cylinders he suffered a nasty adductor injury in January which was then aggravated as Chelsea tried to rush him back. The injury kept Pulisic out from January 1 to March and then the pandemic arrived to shut down the league. In hindsight it forced Pulisic to have a long break as he’d been playing year-round for many years due to his USMNT commitments. The injury was very frustrating for Pulisic, and Chelsea, as their form dipped with him out of the team. Lampard and Chelsea’s players admitted they missed his creativity.
- Champions League campaign– Not directly linked to his Premier League displays, but missing a big chunk of the Champions League games due to not being in the team in the fall, then injured for the first leg Round of 16 clash agains Bayern Munich was a bummer for Pulisic. He started three of Chelsea’s seven UCL games this season, so far.
Generally, this has been a very good first Premier League season for Pulisic who scored nine goals and added four assists in 19 Premier League starts. His form since the restart has left Chelsea fans salivating at what he can go on to achieve and he truly seems like he can have a similar impact to Eden Hazard, not just with his style of play but with the goals and assists.
Rating out of 10
I’m going to give Pulisic a 7.5 out of 10. If we base this rating purely on his form since the restart it would be 9.5 out of 10 but we have to take all of the ups and downs into account and there’s no doubt it took Pulisic a while, as expected, to adapt to the Premier League. Now that he’s physically at the top of his game we are seeing his skill and talent shine through. The USMNT star has a huge future ahead of him at Chelsea and although many believed Frank Lampard wouldn’t get the best out of him, the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history is certainly teaching the American sensation how to time his runs into the box to perfection and helping him with his finishing.
Where does he already rank in USMNT stars in the Premier League
There’s a lot of talk in the news about Pulisic already being the best-ever American player in Premier League history. I hear you, I really do, but he’s played one season. He has a little way to overtake Clint Dempsey but he’s on the way and he’s having a huge impact at a huge club. Pulisic’s potential is greater than any other American goalkeeper or outfield player who has graced the Premier League before.
Here is where I would currently rank Pulisic in terms of the greatest USMNT players in Premier League history:
2. Tim Howard
3. Brad Friedel
4. Christian Pulisic
5. Brian McBride
Christian Pulisic exclusive: U.S. star ready to help lead Chelsea to FA Cup glory, excited for next season
11:05 AM ETJames Olley Senior Writer, ESPN FC
There is an image that Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic recalls when he wants to escape the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being an American soccer player in the Premier League.”Back home, especially, when I’m back on the farm with my sister, I watch her ride horses, kind of live a really simple life,” the Chelsea winger tells ESPN. “That’s just what I love to do.”Football is always around me, but there are times when you can’t let it stress you out too much.”Appropriately enough, Pulisic’s sister Devyn — or Dee Dee, to her friends — owns and runs a 13-acre farm called Tranquility Stables in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a short 30-minute drive from the family’s hometown of Hershey. It is perhaps a result of growing up surrounded by this serenity that Pulisic is able to navigate the highs and lows of a tumultuous debut season in west London with such equanimity.Pulisic bought the property for his sister, 17 months his senior, in a reciprocal show of support that emanates from his father, Mark and mother, Kelley. Both parents played football at George Mason University, enabling them to some extent to prepare their son for a journey that took him to Borussia Dortmund at age 15, continued with a £57.6 million move to Chelsea last summer and now, this Saturday, puts him on the brink of marking his first season in England with a major trophy as the Blues face Arsenal in the FA Cup Final. (Stream LIVE/U.S. only: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Life for Pulisic in England began with daunting comparisons to Eden Hazard before Pulisic was even able to kick a ball for the club. Hazard departed for Real Madrid after seven years as the club’s talisman, dragging his team almost single-handedly to Europa League glory in his final match. Chelsea were unable to sign any other players, aside from making Mateo Kovacic‘s loan deal from Real Madrid permanent, due to a FIFA transfer ban and so the pressure on Pulisic to perform was immediate.”It was definitely just noise,” he said of the Hazard link. “People love to make comparisons, they do it in all sports I think and that’s just how it is. I understand that, but never was I looking to compare myself to him or trying to bring what he had. I never really looked at it like that. I always just focused on myself, wanting to do my best because that’s what I’m here to do.”I’ve definitely learned a lot — coming to a new league, a brand new team, a lot of things changed for me. I think I had a lot of stuff to overcome as well with an injury in the middle of it. Obviously COVID-19 changed a lot of things as well. To be here in this position after my first season, I think I can say I’m happy. I think I’ve come a long way.”Although he made a promising full debut in August’s UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool in Istanbul, Pulisic only started three of their opening nine Premier League games, as Lampard harboured concerns about the 21-year-old’s fitness levels despite joining up with the club earlier than expected last July, a week after the U.S. lost the Gold Cup final to Mexico. Pulisic seized his opportunity, however, in October, with a hat-trick against Burnley that triggered a run of 12 consecutive starts across all competitions. By the turn of the year, a groin problem halted his season and when he was close to a full recovery in March, the coronavirus pandemic reached England and shut the sport down.”Having a big injury was definitely tough for me,” he said. “I thought I was playing well and in good form. Obviously, that put a big stop on things at the time. When lockdown started, it gave me that extra time to really make sure I’m 100 percent fit, ready to go, and it put me on a level playing field when everyone was back because everyone hadn’t played for a while. It gave me a quick refresh and a chance to go again.”Pulisic worked closely with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coach Adam Burrows to improve his physicality for English football, while Lampard has spent time working with him on an individual basis, pinpointing specific runs from deep that would make him more effective. The impact of that work behind the scenes has been clear.
Since the restart, Pulisic has started eight of Chelsea’s 10 games — only missing the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United and a starting role at Liverpool due to a minor injury — and played a pivotal role in the Blues securing Champions League qualification by finishing fourth in the Premier League. Preparations for next season have already begun, with Chelsea attempting to sign German playmaker Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen in addition to new arrivals Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, who are already training with the first-team group.
All three can operate in a variety of attacking positions. With Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Olivier Giroud among those vying for first-team minutes, it appeared at one stage that Pulisic faced a fight to form a key part of Lampard’s vision for the future, especially given Lampard regularly castigated his forwards for a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
“There have been a lot of occasions this year when we want to finish off games and that’s really important,” said Pulisic. “We’ve done a pretty good job of that lately and we want to keep that up. Bringing in guys with a lot of attacking ability is only going to help us.”It is really exciting. I’m getting to train with those guys now, getting to know them. They are big players, they’ve proved that at their old clubs. It is going to be a really exciting year moving forward. Obviously we have a lot of options and a really strong team. We are looking forward to seeing what we can do next season.”Any real attacking position, we are all used to. We have played in different spots. It is really important and it gives us different looks at times. Playing in different positions at times, I think that could be really effectiveBefore that, however, there’s a Wembley date against Arsenal to consider. The Blues have won the world’s oldest club knockout competition eight times and this is their third final in four years, having beaten Manchester United in 2018 but lost to the Gunners a year earlier. Although fans are prevented from attending due to COVID-19, the showpiece occasion will pull in a worldwide television audience in the hundreds of millions, including a growing following in America on ESPN+, hoping to celebrate the USMNT star lifting silverware. Typically, however, that level of hysteria washes over Pulisic.”When I’m over here [in England], I don’t really feel like [a vanguard] at all,” he said. “Obviously I’m in a team with incredible players and in a league with huge names, huge players, so I don’t really think of that too much. I understand the standing I have in the U.S. and with the national team. That’s a different story, but it isn’t something I think about too much.”I’m sure its grown a bit. The Premier League is the biggest league in the world. A lot of Americans follow it much more, so you could say that. When I’m in America, I kind of go off the grid and be with my family and friends.”In normal times, Pulisic’s family would be among the 90,000 spectators at Wembley.”I’m sure my family will be watching back home,” he added. “It is tough times, obviously. You’d love to have them there and fill out Wembley, but we’re going to do the best we can under the circumstances and they’ll definitely be watching and supporting.”That’s the thing my family is the best at, never letting me get too low, never getting too high either. They are always there to talk to me and discuss things that aren’t about football as well. They are always there. They have been the best support system for me, coming up from when I first started in Dortmund and then being here so I am really thankful to have them.”Wembley is a beautiful stadium. We’ve just played there and obviously without fans, it is going to be a little different but the feeling will be the same if we can get that trophy.”We want to go out on a high.”
FA Cup Final preview: Arsenal – Chelsea
Nicholas Mendola NBC SportsJul 30, 2020, 4:17 PM
Arsenal-Chelsea: Frank Lampard wants Chelsea to bring silverware into the new season, having already clinched a place in the Champions League.
Mikel Arteta needs that silverware just to keep his project in the Europa League.
[ MORE: Sancho to Man Utd latest ]
Yeah, the stakes are high for Saturday’s FA Cup Final, where the tournament’s winningest side meets its blue London rivals at 12:30 pm ET.
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FA Cup history
Arsenal has won the FA Cup a record 13 times, one more than Manchester United and five more times than its Saturday opponents. Chelsea last won in 2018 while Arsenal won the previous season.
Last chance for silverware
While Chelsea is still technically alive in Europe, down 3-0 to Bayern Munich and the home leg of a Champions League Round of 16 tie, the FA Cup Final is far and away both clubs’ best chance at silverware in their new managers’ first seasons in charge.
Arsenal is without Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Gabriel Martinelli. It looks like Hector Bellerin will be a game time decision.
Billy Gilmour is out for Chelsea, who is waiting on the fitness of stars N’Golo Kante and Willian.
American star Christian Pulisic is not facing any injury problems and said he “never had a real issue” over the last few weeks of the season despite coming off the bench against Liverpool.
Pulisic also spoke about the final and challenging old pal and mentor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for hardware. From ESPN:
“The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we’ve been in good form, we’ve been playing well, and we’re going to try and bring that into the game. In the end, it is one game, and in a final, anything can happen.”
Odds and ends
Arsenal is +235 to win while Chelsea comes in at +114 according to DraftKings with a +250 chance of it going to penalty kicks.
The Blues took four of six points off Arsenal in Premier League play this season, winning 2-1 at the Emirates on Dec. 29 and drawing 2-2 at Stamford Bridge three-and-a-half weeks later.
It could go in any direction, as Chelsea’s shown itself to be a chance producer but also a chance waster and capable of defensive errors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Bukayo Saka are electric talents who can punish the Blues. Pulisic has a huge chance to make another great moment in his young career. Let’s call this one as a going to kicks.
NWSL’s unlikely Houston Dash give sport its first coronavirus-era champion
The Houston Dash are the first professional American sports team to celebrate a championship amid the coronavirus pandemic. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Jul 26, 2020Graham HaysESPN.comEmail
The first professional sports league in the U.S. to resume competition amidst a pandemic, the National Women’s Soccer League proved that there was a way for the games to go on.In winning the monthlong NWSL Challenge Cup after never so much as reaching the playoffs in their first six seasons in the league, the Houston Dash showed those games could still matter.Why else would Houston midfielder Kristie Mewis struggle to contain the tears after a hamstring injury forced her out of the final in the first half? Why would defender Megan Oyster throw her head at a cross in the closing minutes, knowing she left her injured ribs open to the collision that inevitably knocked her to the ground when a similarly desperate opponent lunged at the ball?
Why would league MVP Rachel Daly, exhaustion showing in second-half stoppage time, find just enough energy to flick a pass to midfielder Shea Groom, who somehow still had the legs to run around Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and score the goal that sealed a 2-0 win?Why would forward Nichelle Prince even want to be in Utah, let alone creating chance after chance and chasing back on defense, barely a month after her father passed away — and mere weeks after she waited out quarantine alone in a Utah hotel room after returning to the bubble from her home in Canada?Why would anyone do any of that if their paycheck was guaranteed even if they opted out?In a year in which control over our world has never felt more fleeting, the ability to accomplish something is a powerful motivator. Even if only for 90 minutes on a field marked out in chalk.”We’re just winners today,” Daly said afterward. “And I think that’s what we want to be known as.”For the briefest of moments Sunday, it looked as if Houston would play the role often ascribed to championship newbies — the role that Chicago coach Rory Dames admitted his team filled a season ago in its first championship game when it came out flat against North Carolina in the opening minutes. On this occasion, with Houston at first hesitant at kickoff, Chicago’s Savannah McCaskill got loose down the flank in the opening minute and crossed the ball into dangerous space. The Dash eventually cleared the ball, but warning lights flashed brightly.Except Houston, which spent essentially the entire month in Utah ceding possession to its opponents and creating its own chances in short bursts with the ball or on the counter attack, continued to do just that. Mewis raced down the left side in the fourth minute, played in by Daly despite getting knocked to the ground in the process, and dribbled past defender Kayla Sharples, who tugged Mewis from behind for an obvious penalty.Daly, who said she was still reeling from the collision at midfield, ceded the penalty kick to midfielder Sophie Schmidt. The veteran Canadian international calmly converted the chance.”I don’t think it changes the game plan a bit because you’re in the fifth or sixth minute, so there’s a lot of game left,” Dames said. “But the worst thing to do, even if you’re in the regular season in a three-game week, the worst thing to do in that third game is to go down a goal early because now you’ve got to muster up energy to chase and be able to play higher and press.”The moment encapsulated much about the entire tournament. A promising but inexperienced second-year player, Sharples was in the starting lineup for the final because Casey Short, one of the best defenders in the league and a regular part of Vlatko Andonovski’s national team rosters, was out with a head injury. The Red Stars also played most of the tournament without standouts Tierna Davidson, Morgan Gautrat and Yuki Nagasoto because of injuries.Whether players were injured during the tournament or opted out of participating beforehand, there was a significant list of stars absent for some or all of the tournament. No team was going to win with its first-choice lineup. Everyone had to adjust — and that after a limited preseason.The only team without any members of the U.S. team that won the World Cup last summer, Houston wasn’t immune to the churn. Not long after she drew the penalty and appeared to grab her left hamstring in some discomfort — but long enough that she made at least one more all-out sprint down the left side — Mewis admitted to Dash coach James Clarkson the preexisting hamstring injury wouldn’t allow her to continue.Enter CeCe Kizer, who played just 32 minutes in her first five appearances in the tournament. The Dash barely missed a beat.”I think it’s really important to credit CeCe,” Daly said. “She’s been an integral part of our team. She stepped up today, she played phenomenal. And to fill somebody like Kristie’s boots is very difficult. For me, as a natural center forward with her behind me, I get communication, I get the ball fed to me. It’s difficult to lose a player like that, but credit where credit is due.”
And in stoppage time, it was up to Daly to offer one last example. So apparently exhausted on another blisteringly hot day at the end of a brutally long month that you could see her hands slip to her knees as the ball bounced around the midfield, Daly gathered herself long to pay Groom in for the final goal. The goal that guaranteed the Dash will never again be afterthoughts in the NWSL story.”I probably was running on E at that point, my tank is a little bit empty,” Daly acknowledged. “I just saw Shea go and I knew she was going to score. In the past, I might have tried to do that myself and try and dribble the whole field. But I think as a leader on this team, I’ve had to step up and be more for other people this year. Shea’s come in and done phenomenal. I mean, I just keep assisting her, but she doesn’t assist me.”She was, to be clear, just kidding about the last part — and according to Clarkson, the assist that earned Daly the Golden Boot via tiebreaker was even worth an extra $10,000.If the Dash played fewer games to earn their trophy than any other NWSL champion, they and the rest of the tournament field also passed a test unlike any sports has seen in our lifetimes.”This was a unique tournament for us,” Red Stars star Julie Ertz said afterward with a wry and weary chuckle. “But one of a lot of growth — a lot of growth on the field, a lot of growth off the field. For me, a lot of growth as a leader. This is definitely a tournament I’ll never forget, obviously playing soccer games and being able to come back and be with my team and grind every day. I think we’ve learned a lot about mental health for sure. Which is obviously important going through.”The first league to return, the NWSL now becomes the first to figure out what comes next. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird this past week indicated, while stopping short of confirming or offering a timetable, that the league will explore ways to play more games this year.But pulling off the past month, which featured more than 2,000 minutes of soccer and, according to the league, more than 2,000 coronavirus tests without a positive result (excluding the positive tests that forced Orlando to withdraw before it traveled to the Utah bubble), was its own feat for all involved.”It’s interesting because each tournament or any team I’ve been a part of, it’s all about the journey to get somewhere,” Ertz said. “For us, this was really special for a lot of reasons that really only us 28 that are here plus the coaches really will ever understand.”The mood was slightly different for the Dash, Daly happily sipping a celebratory beer from a league sponsor as she answered questions. But that particular sentiment was shared.”We’ve faced so much adversity,” Daly said. “More than anybody in the world could understand — and they’ll probably never know.”The NWSL was the first league to get back on the field. The Dash were the first team to remind us how much that can mean.
Champions League draw: Ronaldo, Juve unlikely to win; how far can Man City go?
Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC
The Champions League is back, but not as we know it. With 12 teams, 11 games and a World Cup-style last eight, it will take seven straight knock-out ties in the space of 12 days at two venues in Lisbon, Portugal, to decide who will be crowned European champions.With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the 2019-20 Champions League to be suspended in March with half of the Round of 16 still to be completed, UEFA has condensed the competition into a new format in order to play this season’s tournament to a conclusion. And following Friday’s draw, we now have a route map to the final, at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2019-20
The quarterfinals, semifinals and the final will be played as a final eight straight knock-out tournament at the homes of Benfica and Sporting CP.
|Round of 16||Aug. 7, 8|
|Quarterfinals||Aug. 12, 13, 14, 15|
|Semifinals||Aug. 18, 19|
Gian Piero Gasperini’s team are a dangerous outsider in their first-ever Champions League campaign, and although they will go into their quarterfinal clash against Paris Saint-Germain as underdogs, the form book suggests they should actually be fancied to progress to the semis.Atalanta are on a six-game winning streak in Serie A and have already booked their place in next season’s Champions League. They have also shown incredible fighting spirit to make it this far, having lost their first three games in Group C — conceding 10 goals in the process. But with PSG out of action since March due to the cancellation of Ligue 1, Atalanta should have a major advantage in terms of match fitness. They can definitely eliminate the French champions and make it to the semifinals.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Semifinals
Is this finally the year that Atletico Madrid end their agonising wait for Champions League glory? Diego Simeone’s team certainly have a golden chance to make it to the final, having been paired with RB Leipzig in the quarters before a match-up with Atalanta or PSG in the semis.Having eliminated holders Liverpool in the Round of 16, Atletico will go into the mini-tournament as favourites to reach the final having embarked on an eight-game unbeaten run in La Liga since the restart last month. Atleti possess the experience and quality to make it past Leipzig and whomever they face in the semis, but with an array of heavyweights lining up in the other half of the draw, they could be facing another heartbreak in the final, six years after losing to Real Madrid in Lisbon in the 2014 final.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Final
Barcelona must negotiate the second leg of their last-16 tie against Napoli before booking their trip to Lisbon, but with Quique Setien’s side earning a 1-1 draw in Italy in the first-leg, they will be favourites to make it to the last eight. They face a tough route to the final, though, with Bayern Munich — leading Chelsea 3-0 from their R16 first-leg tie — likely to be Barca’s opponents in Lisbon.Barcelona should be able to count on superior match fitness, having been in action throughout July, unlike Bayern, but while Lionel Messi will always be able to win any game on his own, it is doubtful that Barca will be able to keep it tight enough at the back to see off the German champions.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Quarterfinals
Bayern’s last-16, second-leg tie against Chelsea at the Allianz Arena will serve as a much-needed competitive work-out for Hansi Flick’s team, whose 3-0 first-leg win at Stamford Bridge makes the return game a formality.But once they get to Portugal, will Bayern be sharp enough to go all the way? Their last competitive game was against Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal final on July 4, but their rivals in England, Spain and Italy have continued to play and will arguably have greater match fitness in mid-August.Robert Lewandowski, the leading scorer in this season’s competition, is the ace in the pack for Bayern, but they can also rely on the attacking quality of Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies. Bayern will travel to Lisbon as favourites to win the tournament.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Winners
The best that manager Frank Lampard can expect from the last-16, second-leg against Bayern Munich is a game that provides his young team with invaluable experience for the future.Chelsea were well beaten by Bayern at Stamford Bridge, suffering a 3-0 defeat that could have been much heavier. But with Lampard’s team on course to return to the Champions League next season, the trip to the Allianz Arena is the perfect opportunity to expose his emerging stars to playing against Europe’s elite.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Round of 16
Maurizio Sarri’s team must still overcome Lyon in the second-leg of their last-16 tie, but with the game being played in Turin, the Serie A leaders will expect to progress, especially against a side that has played just once since March. Once in Lisbon, though, Juventus will face a daunting route to the final, with Manchester City or Real Madrid waiting in the quarters before a potential clash with Bayern Munich in the semis.In a one-off game with Cristiano Ronaldo in the team — and don’t underestimate how much he will want to win the Champions League in Lisbon again — Juventus are a genuine contender, but it’s difficult to see them resisting City’s firepower if they face Pep Guardiola’s team in the last eight.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Quarterfinals
Rudi Garcia’s team emerged from Group G with just two victories in six games, but they remain alive in their last-16 tie with Juventus having earned a 1-0 win in the first-leg in France. They are capable of producing an upset if Juventus have an off-day in Turin next month, but Lyon realistically appear to have run their race in this season’s Champions League.
Lyon have already exceeded expectations this season, so the campaign has been a success, whatever happens against Juve.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Round of 16
Manchester City will probably never have a better chance of winning the Champions League … if they can finish the job against Real Madrid in the last-16 after winning 2-1 in the first-leg in Spain. City simply don’t lose one-off cup ties — their last defeat in any one-leg cup game was against Wigan in the FA Cup in February of 2018 — so the format in Lisbon will suit them and they will also be primed to peak just in time for the tournament by Pep Guardiola.From an attacking perspective, City will strike fear into every opponent, but their defensive weaknesses could be their downfall against teams as organised as Bayern or Juventus. Expect City to overcome Juve in the quarters, but if they meet Bayern in the semis, it could be the end of the road.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Semifinals
Napoli must get a result against Barcelona in the Nou Camp next month to progress to the quarterfinals, but Gennaro Gattuso’s have been inconsistent since the restart. They have won the Coppa Italia, but are out of the running for Champions League qualification, so they will travel to Barcelona needing to find their best form to pull off an upset.An empty Nou Camp may help them, but they still remain heavy underdogs against Lionel Messi & Co. over 90 minutes.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Round of 16
The decision by the French football authorities to cancel the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season in the wake of the coronavirus crisis has left Paris Saint-Germain with a mountain to climb if they are to end their desperate pursuit of Champions League glory.Thomas Tuchel’s team were impressive when eliminating Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16, but without competitive football since, they will prepare for Lisbon with friendly games against Le Havre, Shamrock Rovers and Celtic before domestic cup games against Saint-Etienne and Lyon. With all their opponents playing competitively since June, PSG must play catch-up — and fast.Atalanta may be the best draw they could have hoped for, but fitness may be PSG’s downfall.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Quarterfinals
The loss of Timo Werner, who will not play in the remainder of Leipzig’s Champions League games following confirmation of his move to Chelsea, has left the German side without their most potent attacking weapon. And with a quarterfinal tie against Atletico Madrid awaiting them in Lisbon, the absence of their top scorer will leave Leipzig as big outsiders to make it to the semis.They will be organised and still carry a threat, but Atletico will have too much quality and nous for Julien Nagelsmann’s team.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Quarterfinals
Real are on course for the La Liga title in Spain, meaning they will travel to the Etihad for their last-16, second-leg with the confidence to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit. But with captain Sergio Ramos suspended following a red card in the first game, Real will have to nullify City’s multi-pronged attack without their best defender.It’s dangerous to write off Real Madrid in any situation, especially a one-off game in which they need to fight back from 2-1 down, but City should be too strong for them on this occasion.
HOW FAR WILL THEY GET? Round of 16
– Man City vs. Bayern Munich
– Atalanta vs. Atletico Madrid
Bayern vs. Atletico
Tyler Pasher scores. Indy Eleven win. Put it on repeat.
Kevin Johnston Special for IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS – After dropping their first result of the season Sunday, the Indy Eleven responded with a 4-1 victory over Hartford Athletion Wednesday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium, their fifth win in six matches.
What’s been the common denominator in all the wins? Tyler Pasher, Indy’s leading scorer and most dynamic offensive threat, was among the team’s starters. The Eleven are 5-0-0 this season when Pasher starts; they lost their only match when he didn’t.
Pasher came off the bench Sunday at Saint Louis FC as coach Martin Rennie rotated his squad to cope with a congested schedule. Pasher entered late, but only logged about 20 minutes and couldn’t find an equalizer as Indy fell 1-0.
“The Saint Louis game was tough,” said Indy forward Nick Moon. “It was like 90 degrees on turf, a match with a three-day recovery.”
Then again, Pasher hasn’t always needed ample time to make an impact. On the final possession of the match in stoppage time July 22 at Pittsburgh, Pasher chested the ball down on the other side of the hallway line before slaloming through the defense and hammering a shot from distance into the top shelf for a last-gasp 1-0 win.
And Pasher’s latest feat? He moved into second on the club’s all-time scoring list with another tally Wednesday, his 20th for the team, passed Justin Braun (19). He now trails only Eamon Zayed (27).
“Well, in the first part of the first half, I kind of was dropping in a little bit too much,” Pasher said. “I know that’s not what I’m meant to be doing in my space. So, what I had to do was kind of push forward a little bit more and kind of threaten the backline.”
The Eleven jumped out early on a link up between Macauley King and Moon in the fourth minute. King bended a ball toward the far post and Moon headed it by Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda. Pasher set King up with a square ball out wide to begin the sequence.
Hartford responded just after halftime, however, as Alex Dixon’s effort deflected through Indy defender Mitch Osmond’s legs and by goalkeeper Evan Newton.
But no Eleven match this season would be complete without a Pasher go-ahead goal. Once again, he obliged.
Ilija Ilic settled the ball on a broken play and tapped it to an accelerating Pasher, who found himself in on goal. His left-footed blast beat Mandanda to put Indy up 2-1.
Midfielders Drew Conner and Matt Watson ruined any hope Hartford had of a comeback by adding two more in the 81st and 87th minute, respectively. Karl Ouimette assisted on both strikes.
Conner put in a superb shift for Indy on both sides of the ball. Several timely slide tackles thwarted Hartford attacks, and he also started a few counters the other way with balls into space for Pasher and others.
“We know each other well,” Pasher said of the team’s success this season on passes in behind the defense. “We know what each player likes, and what each player dislikes. So, we can see the tendencies and what guys are doing. And that bond between all of us is getting stronger and stronger with every game.”
With the win, Indy has now defeated the current top-two teams in Group F, the other coming via the dramatic win over Pittsburgh.
The Eleven face another quick turnaround with Sporting KC II coming to town Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil.
RECAP | INDY ELEVEN REBOUNDS WITH DOMINANT 4-1 WIN OVER HARTFORD ATHLETIC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 07/29/20, 11:00PM EDT
Four Different Players Tally in 12th Straight Home Win at Lucas Oil Stadium; 28-game Regular Season Home Unbeaten Streak Now Tied for Second Longest Run in USL Championship History
Indy Eleven scored four goals in a match for only the fifth time in club history – but for the second time already in 2020 – using tallies by four different players to soundly defeat the previously undefeated Hartford Athletic 4-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.The result extends Indy Eleven’s (5W-1L-0D, 15 pts., most in USL Championship) daunting home unbeaten streak in regular season play to 28 matches (21W-0L-7D), now tied for the second longest such run in USL Championship history. Embedded in that stretch is a 12-game home winning streak in regular season play dating back to last July 20 that is also second longest in Championship annals – but could reach the apex with another three points the next time out this weekend at the corner of Capitol & South.After a back-and-forth first few minutes, it was Indy who broke the deadlock early and in style, a bullet header from Nick Moon counting for his first Eleven goal. Indiana’s Team broke forward exquisitely through Ilija Ilic, who held off a defender before spraying wide to Tyler Pasher, who played even wider to Macauley King on the right-hand side. It was King’s first-time cross that Moon met in the air, a beautiful lofted ball to the back post moving the scoreboard early.The Hartford Athletic press forced a few early mix-ups at the back for Indy Eleven, but none that proved too harmful. Around the quarter-hour play was stopped after a collision between two Hartford defenders, with both Sam Strong and Alex Davey coming up quite bloodied from the knock of heads. After several minutes on the pitch, Strong would walk off but be removed from the match, while Davey had his head wrapped and bandaged and eventually made his way back into the match.Hartford had the first true look at goal after the restart in play, a looping ball over the top that almost found Ever Guzman behind the Indy backline. However, the ball took a hometown bounce and saved Eleven ‘keeper Evan Newton from a difficult decision to exit his penalty area. The visitors followed that up with two more quick shots, both blocked in front of the goal by Karl Ouimette. Hartford midfielder Arthur Rogers forced a fine stop out of Newton in the 34th minute, a stinging effort from a yard inside the box. Newton could only parry it out however, and it fell to Tyreke Johnson who sailed the rebound effort wide.
Pasher won Indy a dangerous free kick toward the end of the half that he tried to curl in, but sent over the crossbar. The USL Championship’s leading scorer found his effectiveness limited during the opening stanza by the man-marking of Matheus Silva, but he grew into the match during first-half stoppage time and had a good shot saved by Hartford goalkeeper Parfait Mandanda. Pasher again created a great opportunity late into seven minutes of stoppage time, but was scythed down harshly by Davey, who received a booking. The ensuing freekick was built up into a shot from Conner Antley that Mandanda could only parry wide.Hartford equalized almost immediately into the second half, as Alex Dixon’s shot deflected off Mitch Osmond and fooled Newton, who couldn’t see it coming toward his net and was wrong-footed by a slight deflection. Harry Swartz had plenty of space down the left and played the ball in, which the Indy defense failed to deal with.The 1-1 deadlock would not last long, however, as Indy’s in-form talisman Pasher buried a shot past a helpless Mandanda after a great through ball from Ilic, making his first start of 2020 just days after the birth of his daughter. It was Pasher’s 20th goal for the club and sixth goal in six matches so far in the 2020 USL Championship, continuing a torrid pace that has him three goals clear of his closest competitors in the Golden Boot chase. The goal also marked his eighth goal in seven starts, a record dating back to the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal at Nashville SC on November 2.Indiana’s Team about grabbed their third through Ilic, who was looking to get on the scoresheet himself after assisting the go-ahead goal. Once again, King whipped in excellent service, but the Serbian forward couldn’t quite direct his flick on target. King created another fantastic chance in the 56th minute, finding Pasher over-the-top, but again Indy were denied their third goal of the match as Pasher’s chip landed nervously wide, having beaten Mandanda. Pasher then blazed over the bar three minutes later, agonizingly close to his second of the match that would have been set up by Antley’s square ball towards the penalty spot.Indy finally grabbed their long-awaited third goal in the 81st minute. Midfielder Drew Conner burst forward and latched on to a beautiful pass from the midfield stripe by Ouimette before tucking the ball coolly beyond Mandanda for 3-1.It was 4-1 six minutes later thanks to a copy-cat goal of Conner’s, this time slotted in by captain Matt Watson, who bolstered his squad with his insertion in to the match the 71st minute. Using every bit of pace, Watson outraced a Hartford defender to another Ouimette service before chipping the ‘keeper.Indy Eleven will end its busy stretch of five games in 15 days this Saturday, August 1, the same way it began – with a home contest against Sporting Kansas City II. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium are available starting at $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets. Fans unable to attend the match on Saturday evening can follow the action live on WISH-TV, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com (Spanish), and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvHFD
Indy Eleven 4:1 Hartford Athletic
Wednesday, July 29, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (5W-1L-0D, 12 pts., 1st place in Group E)
Hartford Athletic FC (3W-1L-0D, 9 pts., 1st place in Group F)
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