Ok after bitching a month back about having to shell out $5 a month for Champions League to get CBS All Access to see the Final 8 games – that nasty Streaming only delima comes up again with NBC. Yes NBC has been great about showing us a lot of EPL games over the past couple of years most on a new Network called NBCSN which is now included on most cable networks (thanks in part to their EPL Coverage). They have featured the best pregame and post game set-up in the US for soccer and thrilled us by showing almost all of the games and all of the big games on either NBC, NBCSN or sometimes USA or CNBC. Their gold package was there to see all the other games from smaller EPL clubs that were playing what were essentially the 8 or 9th most popular game of the weekend – no big deal. Now with the New Peacock Streaming Service however – NBC wants us all to poney up again another $5 a month to watch now BIG Games like Tottenham vs Everton last Sunday. (yes I missed James debut)☹. Of course getting the streaming service is impossible however on TV unless you have Comcast cable because Roku and Amazon Firesticks don’t even recognize the new Peacock App. So poney up and watch the game on your phone with massive delays and no replays I hear?? I don’t even know what to say. Oh and buying Peacock doesn’t mean you get all the games? No you still need NBCSN for their games and NBC for their games. So this is not just spend $5 and get all the games like ESPN+. This is buy our app and still have to pay to get NBCSN. I tried to find a stream online with the Chelsea game Monday with no luck? Man being a fan of soccer in the US is honestly as difficult as like 4 to 5 years ago. Now the EPL (Peacock), Champions League, Europa League (CBS) , FA Cup, Serie A, German Bundelisga, European Nations League, MLS and USL (ESPN+) are all behind firewalls with monthly subs needed while Spain’s La Liga and France’s Legue 1 are on beIN Sports – a cable station few get. Univision and telemundo have some games as well – heck I don’t even know anymore as I don’t get those stations either. Heck even Serius Radio FC 157 – seems to have lost some games this year as well – they have always been the one constant place you could find the big game if nothing else. These are trying times my fellow soccer fans. I guess we’ll all have to share our logins and try to defeat the money grabbing stations trying to take our soccer away here in the US!!
Indy 11 fall to 2nd with 3 straight defeat to Louisville
Frustrating night for our Indy 11 – first they shut down sales the day before reducing capacity to 2500 instead of the normal 5000 – then we started a front line that had no chance of scoring – and of course we didn’t score. I assume Tyler Pasher – our leading scorer was injured as he didn’t enter until the 60th minute after we ere already down 1-0 to dreaded Louisville. City won 2-0 on the night. They really have our # – and now are all but assured 1st place in the East with mark of (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts.) The Indy 11 (7W-5L-1D, 22 pts.) still have a 4 point lead for 2nd place and should secure a playoff if they can knock off St. Louis (5W-4L-3D, 18 pts., 3rd in Group E) next week. The 11 host St. Louis Wed, Sept 23 at 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, tickets are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets. This is game 4 of a 5 game homestand.
Germany & Italy Start this Weekend on ESPN+
Germany kicks off its first season on ESPN with Friday’s opener wih fans of UCL Champion Bayern Munich hosting Schalke at 2:30 pm on ESPN. Saturday Werder Bremen and Stuart host Hertha Berlin at 9:30 am on ESPN+, and Gio Reyna and Dortmund will host B Mgladbach at 12:30 on ESPN+ (I miss free FS1 coverage already). Sunday at 9:30 Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig host Mainz on ESPN+. Italy and Juventus kickoff Sunday with newly minted midfielder Weston McKinney hosting Sampdoria at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.
Games to Watch
CBS has NWSL on Saturday at 1 pm with the North Carolina Courage hosting the Orlando Pride – the game last week 350K in viewership. Eight EPL games this weekend but only 2 of them on TV –Arsenal facing West Ham at 3 pm on Sat on NBCSN and Liecester City vs Burnley on NBCSN Sun at 2 pm. Real Madrid opens its campaign at Real Sociedad at 3 pm on beIN Sport Sunday, while early morning gives us Nice vs PSG at 7 am on beIN Sport. Of course the biggest game of the weekend in Chelsea – (WITHOUT CHRSTIAN PULISIC-who is injured still) hosting Liverpool on Peacock on Sunday at 11:30 am – too bad we can’t see it!!
Former Carmel FC GK Erin Baker and other Seniors at 2nd Ranked Carmel honored on Senior Night
It’s not every day you find out your mom played in a World Cup.Not everyone is Erin Baker.It wasn’t until seventh grade that Baker, now a senior goalkeeper for Carmel, got the news. “I’m not even completely sure if I understood how much of a big achievement that was and how unique it was,” Baker said. “I always thought it was pretty cool. I remember going and telling my friends and being like, ‘My mom played for the Canadian national team. Like, isn’t that cool, guys?’”
Carla Baker certainly didn’t have to wait that long to tell her daughter about a 12-year international career in Canada, one that reached its peak in 1995 when she played in the World Cup in Sweden. It was also the same year she won a national title as an assistant coach for Notre Dame’s women’s soccer team.“1995 was a very good year for me,” Carla said.
But that’s about as far as she will go in touting her own accomplishments. Even in her time as an assistant coach at the high school level, first for Carmel and now for Park Tudor, some players come and go without knowing her achievements.So even when it came to her own daughter, Carla wasn’t in a hurry to mention her own legacy. If anything, she was hesitant to do so — especially when Erin developed her own passion for soccer.“There’s no reason for me to brag about that. I didn’t want it to influence anything that she did,” Carla said of her daughter’s career. “I wanted her to play soccer because she loves playing soccer. I didn’t want her to play just because her mom was a national team player. I wanted her to be able to decide what journey she wanted to be on.”It wasn’t a coincidence that Erin a two-time All-State selection for Carmel, chose to be a goalkeeper.“Most people look up to their mom,” the senior said. “I’d always wanted to play goalkeeper because it was something that my mom did and I thought it was really cool.”While the younger Baker might not play for the national team, she has certainly made her mark. After sitting on the bench as a junior varsity player during her freshman year, she took advantage of roster turnover and was the varsity starting goalkeeper as a sophomore. That team won a state title, losing just once all season. Baker allowed just four goals all season with 45 saves.“I had the best defensive backline in the state that year,” she said. “It was an incredible first-year experience and I was able to learn, communication-wise, how to set up my defense.”
Carmel returned to the state finals last season, again losing just once, but this time in the championship match against Noblesville. Baker had 59 saves and allowed just five goals on the season. This season, Carmel is off to a 6-0 start. Baker has 21 saves and hasn’t allowed a goal.Baker’s persona has changed over the past few years as her role on the team has increased. Her leadership on and off the field has become a bigger priority, thanks in large part to her mom’s influence.“From a young age, I would watch her coach,” Baker said of her mom. “Observing how she talked to people, which was always super kind, she never made them feel bad about if they’re making a mistake, she would positively improve what they’re capable of. That was a big thing for me, learning how to show people respect as you lead them.”Baker isn’t sure what her college plans are yet. Of course, her mom isn’t afraid to vouch for her potential.“I think Erin can go on and play at a very high level if she chooses to do so,” she said. “And I’ll support whatever journey she ends up going on post-secondary.But Erin doesn’t feel pressure to follow in her mom’s footsteps.“I try not to connect her legacy with mine too much. She doesn’t put pressure on me,” Baker said. “If I didn’t want to end up playing soccer in college, that’s totally fine. I can do whatever I want. If I want to just focus on my academics, that’s totally fine. She just lets me make my own decisions.”Follow IndyStar high school sports insider Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon and email him story ideas at email@example.com.
Soccer on TV: Bundesliga kicks off on ESPN, Weston McKennie’s Juventus debut, NWSL on CBS, Chelsea-Liverpool
A decade ago, among the 23 players on the U.S. team that would win a World Cup group for the first time in 80 years, there were eight who spent the 2009-10 club campaign in England. Seven were on Premier League teams. On the 2015 squad that faced Mexico in a climactic playoff for a Confederations Cup place, there were seven men based in England. Four were from the Premier League, which was the most well-represented foreign circuit on the squad. For a while, it appeared the England’s top tier was either the most welcoming or most preferred (or both) destination for American players abroad. But if there were a World Cup next summer, following the 2020-21 English season, how many Premier League players would U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter likely call on?
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic is the country’s best player and is a certainty to start—if he’s healthy. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen appears to have the national team’s No. 1 shirt sewn up, but he may find minutes at Manchester City hard to come by. Defender Tim Ream is a veteran who has Berhalter’s trust, and Antonee Robinson is in position to make the left back role his own. But both play for Fulham, which is favored by many to face relegation after one season in the top flight. And DeAndre Yedlin has slipped behind right backs Sergiño Dest and Reggie Cannon on the USA depth chart, and appears to be on his way out at Newcastle United. There are additional Americans in England, either coming through at Premier League clubs, on loan from Premier League clubs, or in the Championship and League One. But at first glance, it does seem like the number of U.S. players in the top tier has declined. There are a few potential explanations: the increased buying power of MLS clubs, the Bundesliga, a dip in generational quality, the stringent U.K. work permit criteria or coincidence. Perhaps it’s some of each. Whatever the reason, as the Premier League season kicks off this weekend—less than two months after the 2019–20 campaign concluded—there are fewer Americans expected to play prominent roles. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less reason for intrigue.It begins with Pulisic, who enters 2020-21 facing more pressure and under a brighter spotlight than any American in Premier League history. And also, fittingly, with concerns about his fitness. Last season, following a groin injury and the pandemic shutdown, Pulisic lit up London and helped carry Chelsea to a fourth-place finish and the FA Cup final with five goals and four assists in 11 appearances. His adaptation to the Premier League was quick and appeared complete, and his ability to put defenders on their heels and change games was remarkable. He emerged as a legitimate star.But this season presents several challenges, both new and wearisome. The first is Pulisic’s health. When he’s fit, he’s borderline unstoppable. But on a worrying number of occasions in his young career, Pulisic, who turns 22 next week, has been sidelined with muscle injuries. He’ll always be the first name on Berhalter’s team sheet when healthy, but the unpredictability of Pulisic’s fitness isn’t ideal. And the Premier League is relentless.After scoring a sensational goal in the FA Cup final against Arsenal, Pulisic limped off with a hamstring injury. He’s been fighting to be ready for Chelsea’s Premier League opener on Monday at Brighton & Hove Albion, the last of eight games scheduled this weekend.“He’s doing well. The leg is doing really well. It’s recovering, it’s healing and he’s in good spirits and the club is focused on getting him back ASAP. We have a lot of confidence in Chelsea and a lot of confidence in their medical staff, and a lot of confidence in Christian,” Berhalter said two weeks ago.The U.S. manager said Pulisic’s “explosion on the scene” is “all down to his work ethic and him being focused on playing well. It was great to see, and we’re excited to see how he comes back and starts his second season in England.”Berhalter isn’t in denial, however. He knows Pulisic has struggled to stay healthy for extended periods.“This is something we have to look at, but it’s certainly not uncommon,” the coach said. “A lot of players go through this, particularly early on in their careers. But as his body strengthens and he gets used to these congested fixtures, I think he’s going to be fine.”Chelsea manager Frank Lampard certainly will want to see Pulisic healthy, but he’ll be better equipped to handle his absence than Berhalter. That’s because Chelsea is deep, and this summer the Premier League’s third-most productive attack got even deeper thanks to a spending spree by owner Roman Abramovich. The Blues spent around $200 million to acquire in-demand attackers Timo Werner (from RB Leipzig), Kai Havertz (from Bayer Leverkusen) and Hakim Ziyech (from Ajax).With that spend comes expectation, and in Lampard’s second season in charge, Abramovich probably will want to see his club push title favorites Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table and do well in the Champions League. The pressure for points, and maybe even for playing time, will be like nothing Pulisic has experienced in his career. It’ll be fascinating to watch. The second sure-fire USA starter in the Premier League is Steffen, who was U.S. Soccer’s men’s player of the year in 2018 and spent last season on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf. Man City has recalled the 25-year-old netminder, however, which leaves him sitting behind Ederson on Pep Guardiola’s depth chart. If City doesn’t make a move over the next few weeks, how many games can Steffen realistically expect to play this season? And would sufficient rust accumulate to give Berhalter pause when selecting his teams?Berhalter chose to focus on the positive when addressing the issue last month.“Man City is a super high level … To gain that experience for a year, to be in that training environment and have the opportunity to potentially break into that team is exciting, and I think it’d be worth it,” the manager said. “You always have to weigh if you’re going to be sitting on the bench and not playing enough games, but to me that opportunity alone is something special. Not too many players in the world get a chance to play for one club like that.“Hopefully they continue to play goalies in cups and other competitions and you can get some games there,” Berhalter continued. “Hopefully the national team can feature heavily in his development in that case.”Manchester City launches its quest to reclaim the title on Sept. 21 at Wolverhampton Wanderers (which features another American on the rise, 19-year-old midfielder Owen Otasowie).At the other end of the spectrum sit Ream and Robinson, who may get national team development every day while playing next to each other for the Cottagers. The USA’s left back spot is open, and Robinson has said he’s committed to seizing it. And Ream remains an experienced option for Berhalter at center back. It’s likely the pair will get plenty of work this season as Fulham adjusts to Premier League opposition. The club’s fight for survival will make for a tense campaign for the two Americans and for Berhalter, who will want as many players as possible competing at the highest level as qualifying for the 2022 World Cup begins next September. Fulham’s last stay in the Premier League lasted one season. It was relegated in 2019 after finishing 19th.Among other Americans on Premier League rosters, both Yedlin and Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers likely will be on the move. Yedlin, 27, has been at Newcastle for four seasons and his contract expires next summer. Both player and club have been considering their options, and reports have emerged recently tying the former Seattle Sounder to a potential return to MLS or to a league elsewhere in Europe. Carter-Vickers, 22, hasn’t been able to break through for Spurs and spent the spring of 2020 on loan at Championship club Luton Town. He was ever-present for the Hatters as they finished 19th and avoided relegation by three points. But that consistency was short-lived. The defender’s 2020–21 destination is uncertain. In recent days, AFC Bournemouth, which was relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, reportedly expressed interest in a permanent transfer.Matt Miazga is another American Premier Leaguer on perpetual loan. The 25-year-old center back has been on the books at Chelsea but spent the past four seasons at Vitesse Arnhem, Nantes and Reading. His contract expires in 2022, but a future at Stamford Bridge seems unlikely.Meanwhile, nobody would blink if Aston Villa loaned out American attacker Indiana Vassilev. He’s just 19. But the U.S. U-17 World Cup veteran, who signed with Villa out of the IMG Academy in 2018, already has earned his first taste of Premier League football. He made his debut on Jan. 18, entering as a substitute against Brighton, and then made three more cameo appearances as Villa staved off relegation by a point. So even if the number of Americans in the Premier League drops, there may be a new one to watch.The marathon Championship schedule begins Friday as Middlesbrough visits Watford, and a few familiar American faces will be starting their seasons this weekend. Duane Holmes, a crafty midfielder who played in two U.S. friendlies last year, was a regular starter for Derby County in 2019–20 before having injury issues toward the end of the season. The Rams host Reading on Saturday. Geoff Cameron remains at Queens Park Rangers (where he was named club captain), although he’s out of the national team picture. And New York Red Bulls academy product Matthew Olosunde, a defender who initially signed with Manchester United, now is at Rotherham United and was a regular as the club earned promotion from League One. The Millers begin their Championship campaign Saturday at Wycombe Wanderers. Remaining in League One but perhaps still on Berhalter’s radar is Lynden Gooch, who’s 24 and scored 10 goals in 33 matches for Sunderland last season.
McKennie, Pulisic, Reyna and more: Breaking down a big season for USMNT stars across Europe
The 2020-21 soccer season is kicking off all over Europe, with the English Premier League and Spanish Primera Divisions beginning this past weekend, and the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A (both leagues available LIVE all season long on ESPN+ in the United States) starting on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 respectively. In addition to the usual talking points and discussions over title favorites and relegation threats, it’s indirectly a big season for the U.S. national team, who boast several of their stars in top European leagues along with several prospects beyond the 2022 World Cup cycle.
With so many USMNT stars dotted around Europe and gearing up for a long campaign, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Hamilton broke down where they all are, and what their prospects are for the new season.
Overall, Pulisic’s first year in the Premier League was a success, as he tallied nine goals and four assists in 34 league and cup appearances. In the process he put to rest any doubts about whether he could hack it skill-wise in the EPL, as he often dazzled on the left wing while also drifting inside.
This season, Pulisic will be hoping to build on what he achieved in 2019-20, but with an added challenge: staying healthy. The U.S. international suffered two muscle injuries — a hip ailment at the start of the year and a hamstring issue in the FA Cup final — and that continued a trend from his time at Borussia Dortmund. The competition for places is still there with the likes of Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arriving to replace William and Pedro, along with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with. But there seems to be a bit more faith in Pulisic heading into the season, as witnessed by him being given the No. 10 shirt. — Carlisle
As has been a recurring theme throughout his career, Brooks endured an inconsistent season for the Wolves. He made 31 appearances in all competitions in helping Wolfsburg to a seventh-place finish and qualification for the Europa League. But he also endured a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a month, and he was even benched for a time by manager Oliver Glasner in February. To his credit he reclaimed his spot shortly thereafter, but then faded a bit after the return from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Brooks is likely to continue to be a mainstay for Wolfsburg this season, even if his start — he was red-carded in a Europa League defeat to Shaktar Donetsk — was auspicious. That only highlights the need for more consistency. Can he achieve it? At age 27, Brooks is basically fully formed as a player, but one can still hope that his accumulated experience will see him raise his level during the current campaign. — Carlisle
All summer, as McKennie trained at Schalke waiting for his move, it looked like the USMNT star centre midfielder would be off to the Premier League. McKennie, 22, was being chased hard by Southampton and Leicester; then, as Andrea Pirlo settled into the hottest of seats at Juventus, in came the Serie A giants and in the blink of an eye McKennie was on a private jet to Turin.
McKennie is a brilliant box-to-box midfielder. Throughout Schalke’s tough campaign, in which they finished 12th in the Bundesliga, McKennie’s energy was infectious and he was a rare ray of light in a dismal campaign in Gelsenkirchen. He led from the front and was also one of the early voices in football’s messages of anti-racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
This season, McKennie will not have it easy at Juventus. At Schalke he was one of the first names on the team sheet, but this term he has the likes of Arthur (arriving from Barcelona for £66m), Sami Khedira, Adrien Rabiot, Rodrigo Bentancur and Aaron Ramsey to contend with for a spot in the starting XI. Still, expect him to thrive. He has signed for Juventus on a loan deal with the option to make this a permanent stay, and we predict this will become a formality as he slots right into life at the Serie A champions. — Hamilton
The versatile 21-year-old scored the winning goal for RB Leipzig in their Champions League quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 campaign and has established himself as a key cog in the Julian Nagelsmann machine. Having signed for the Bundesliga high-flyers from New York Red Bulls in January 2019 for a bargain £2.37m, Adams’ versatility means he can cover any position across the back four and happily slot in along the midfield. For a manager who doesn’t believe in formations and values pressing, Adams is a dream of a player.
Having played 18 times for Leipzig last campaign, Adams’ goals for this term will be to start more matches for the Bundesliga side. With a relentless campaign facing Nagelsmann’s squad as they battle on three fronts, with the Champions League also on their radar, his versatility and work rate will be key. The goal for Leipzig is a top-four finish in the German league, and Adams will be doing everything to ensure they reach and, ideally, surpass expectations like they did last season. — Hamilton
Having signed for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City from Columbus Crew in July 2019 for £6.14m, the goalkeeper is still waiting for his first-team debut as he spent last term out on loan at Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf. He made 18 appearances in Germany until injury cut short his season in December. Having suffered from a problem with his knee, he battled back to full fitness only to sustain MCL damage in April that saw him play no further part in the 2019-20 campaign.
Now back at Manchester City, Steffen is seen by Guardiola as a key part of their squad. With Claudio Bravo having left City at the end of last term on a free transfer and now between the pots at Real Betis, Steffen will vie with the world-class Ederson for a spot in City’s first team. He will likely clock up a number of starts in cup competitions and will add to his 17 caps for the USMNT. – Hamilton
The young right back enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20 and went from the fringes of the senior squad to being one of the most sought-after fullbacks in Europe. Dest, 19, signed his first professional contract with Ajax in December 2018 and made his first-team debut in August 2019. His impressive form for Ajax started turning heads at the Netherlands and then-boss Ronald Koeman was keen for Dest to declare for the Oranje. But Dest, who played youth-level football for the U.S., took his time to shore up his decision and opted for the USMNT.
His trajectory has been rapid, like his darts down the right flank, and he was crowned U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year for 2019. But there’s still a chance he has a new club by the end of the transfer window on Oct. 5 as he’s getting plenty of interest. Ajax have a practise of eking out one final season from their ridiculous list of prodigious young talents before they secure a move to one of Europe’s bigger fish. Bayern Munich are still being heavily linked with Dest, and if he moves there he’ll have Benjamin Pavard and Joshua Kimmich as rivals for a spot. But if he does stay put he’ll still be front and centre of Ajax’s Eredivisie and Champions League campaigns. He will look to another season of starting week-in-week-out for the Dutch giants and continuing to develop his game. — Hamilton
The sky’s the limit for the 17-year-old forward. Having joined Borussia Dortmund from MLS side NYCFC in July 2019, Reyna made his debut for the Bundesliga giants in January 2020 and scored a memorable first goal in their DFB-Pokal defeat to Werder Bremen in February. But it was enough to make people sit up and take notice, while those who had followed his promising career — including father Claudio, who won 112 caps for the USMNT, and mother Danielle Egan, who won six caps for the USWNT — knew it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Reyna would start making his mark for Europe’s elite.
It is easy to forget he has played just 18 first-team matches for Dortmund. But in a team that boasts all-world young talent like Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Reyna has the perfect role models around him to take his game to the next level. He is still waiting to make his USMNT debut — his first chance was delayed in the spring due to the coronavirus outbreak — but expect that to come sooner rather than later. He has all the ability and application to be a USMNT mainstay for the next 15 years, but his goals this season will be to get as much first-team football as possible for Dortmund and continue to develop. — Hamilton
Robinson’s 2019-20 campaign was a veritable roller-coaster. He was one of the few standouts on a Wigan team that ended up being relegated from the English Championship, with his runs forward offering a threat in attack. He nearly parlayed that into a dream move to AC Milan, only to have it scuttled by a heart condition that showed up during his medical. He eventually made a move to Fulham, freshly promoted back to the English top flight.
Robinson’s goal this season will be to force his way into the first team, no easy task at a Premier League club, especially with playoff final hero Joe Bryan ensconced at left-back. Robinson didn’t make the subs bench in the Cottagers’ 3-0 opening-day defeat to Arsenal, but given the investment Fulham have made in him, he’ll be given time to acclimate. — Carlisle
Injuries — in particular a recurring hamstring ailment — have so curtailed Weah’s playing time that he’s almost the forgotten man of the U.S. player pool. In his first season with Lille, Weah made just three appearances totaling 84 minutes. Given the time lost, this is very much a critical season for the New York City-born attacker. The early returns on the 2020-21 campaign are that Weah is still in the thoughts of Lille management, making two substitute appearances. Given the difficulty Weah has had staying healthy, it amounts to a promising start that he hopefully can parlay into additional minutes. — Carlisle
Patience paid off for Cannon, who, after two years in FC Dallas‘ academy, a brief stop in college soccer at UCLA and then three-plus seasons with FCD, made the move to Europe with Portuguese side Boavista in September. Since the start of the 2018 season, Cannon was a consistent presence at right back and while his numbers didn’t necessarily catch the eye — he had three goals and five assists in 68 league and playoff appearances — his attacking instincts impressed U.S. national team manager Gregg Berhalter.
At Boavista, Cannon will be making his initial foray into European soccer and he’s already made a positive impression, scoring the opening goal in the club’s 4-1 friendly win over CD Tondela last weekend. The right-back spot for the U.S. is there for the taking, so he’ll need to adapt quickly if he is to grab that position at the international level. — Carlisle
The big question for Yedlin is simple: Will he even be in Newcastle much longer? Yedlin was a peripheral figure last season, making 20 league and cup appearances, but just 10 starts in league play. (The majority of those came in the front half of the season, too.) Hip and hand injuries also made it difficult for Yedlin to remain in the lineup and he ultimately lost his starting spot to Javier Manquillo.
A change of scenery might do Yedlin good. One would expect that at age 27, and given his Premier League experience, Yedlin would be a shoe-in to be the right back for the U.S. men’s national team, but he seems far from first-choice there. If he can establish himself at a new club — Turkish side Besiktas is among the sides interested in Yedlin — then that might revitalize his career and allow him to reclaim his spot with the U.S. national team. — Carlisle
The center-back has been a mainstay with Cottagers for the last five seasons, making his 200th appearance for the club in the season-opening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. In last season’s promotion push, Ream made a staggering 47 league and playoff appearances, testament to his consistency and durability. His passing ability out of the back remains a strength, though as U.S. fans can attest he is guilty of the occasional gaffe.
This season will mark Ream’s third foray into the Premier League, having had previous campaigns with Bolton Wanderers in 2011-12 as well as Fulham’s previous season in the top flight in 2018-19. If Fulham are to avoid relegation this time around, Ream will certainly need to be at his best on both sides of the ball. Fulham can only hope that Ream’s consistency comes to the fore over the course of the campaign. — Carlisle
The 25-year-old centre-back signed for Chelsea in 2016, but has made two Premier League appearances in four years having spent much of that span out on loan. It’s long been Chelsea’s policy to buy promising talent and develop them by sending them out to trusted teams to aid their development. Miazga spent two seasons with Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie and six months at Nantes before arriving at Reading in the Championship. He has played there for the past 18 months.
Miazga made 24 appearances for Reading last term, in a campaign disrupted by a hamstring injury at the start of the season and an ankle injury in January. He picked up a red card in their defeat at Derby in June, following an altercation with Tom Lawrence after the final whistle, and would play one further match for the Royals. This term Miazga will likely spend another season out on loan and is not short of suitors, though his destination is at yet unknown. — Hamilton
Mark 2019-20 as a season that tested the hugely promising 20-year-old, though one that would have taught him a huge amount. Having been left out of the USMNT Gold Cup squad in the 2019-20 preseason, he had to battle with oscillating between starting for Werder Bremen and finding his role reduced to that of an impact substitute. He picked up an untimely hamstring muscle tear in December that kept him out for six weeks, but as Werder Bremen battled to avoid the drop in the latter part of the Bundesliga campaign, Sargent was instrumental in the German side keeping their spot in the top flight as they won their relegation playoff against Heidenheim.
The signs in 2020-21 are promising for Sargent, who played across the front line last term. He carried his impressive preseason form into Bremen’s opening match of the 2020-21 season proper, starting and scoring in Bremen’s 2-0 win at FC Carl Zeiss in the first round of the DFB-Pokal. — Hamilton
Morales shook off an early hamstring injury to be a steady presence for Dusseldorf last season in the center of midfield, making 31 league and cup appearances. But despite his ball-winning and prowess in the air, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Rhinelanders from avoiding the drop.
Now Morales will play in the 2. Bundesliga. It’s a league with which he is familiar, having spent a total of five seasons in Germany’s second tier with the likes of Hertha Berlin and Ingolstadt. The challenge this time around will be to return Dusseldorf immediately back to the top flight, and Morales appears to be very much in his team’s plans. He logged 78 minutes in a two-way midfield role in Dusseldorf’s 1-0 German Cup road win over Ingolstadt, the kind of result that Morales and Dusseldorf will need more of as the season progresses. — Carlisle
Boyd spent the 2019-20 campaign adjusting to the pressure and expectations of playing for Besiktas, one of Turkey‘s biggest clubs, and it proved to be an up-and-down campaign. The good news is that Boyd made 28 league and cup appearances, but he scored just three goals along with one assist. That level of offensive production was far below what he achieved during a loan stint the previous season with Ankaragucu, when he tallied six goals and four assists in 14 matches.
This season, matters are already looking up for Boyd, with Besiktas showing continued faith in the winger. That was repaid in part when he scored the opener in Beşiktaş’ 3-1 win over Trabzonspor to start the Turkish Super Lig campaign, cutting in from the left wing to fire inside the far post with the help of a slight deflection. Boyd and Besiktas will no doubt be hoping that this is a sign of things to come. — Carlisle
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Christian Cappis: The midfielder established himself at Danish Superliga side Hobro last season, making 30 league appearances and scoring one goal while filling a variety of central midfield roles. Cappis even secured an invite to the annual January camp for the U.S. men’s national team, though he was an unused substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica. Those performances were such that there was talk of Cappis moving on, but now he finds himself in an unusual situation. Cappis has two years left on his contract, but his work permit to play in Denmark wasn’t renewed and he had to leave the country. Reports out of Denmark say that Hobro’s owner, Lars Kühnel, believes that Cappis will be back some time in the autumn, assuming the player isn’t transferred. In the meantime, all Cappis can do is wait to see how the situation plays out. — Carlisle
Chris Richards: The 20-year-old centre-back is yet to make his USMNT debut, but is on Berhalter’s radar. He is at Europe’s reigning Champions League holders, Bayern Munich, and made his debut in June. This season he will either be in the first-team mix or leave on loan. — Hamilton
Matthew Hoppe: The Schalke forward has his sights set on breaking into the Bundesliga side’s first team this season and following in the footsteps of the departed McKennie. He is performing well for Schalke’s Under 19s and will look to put forward his case for senior recognition this term. — Hamilton
Ulysses Llanez: The 19-year-old signed for Wolfsburg from LA Galaxy in April 2019 and was promoted to the Bundesliga side’s first team a year later. He scored on his full USMNT debut in February, too, but he’ll spend the season on loan in the Dutch Eredivisie with SC Heerenveen after signing his first professional contract with Wolfsburg this week, a deal that connects him to the club through 2024. — Hamilton
INDY ELEVEN FALLS 0-2 IN LAST Game 2020 WITH LOUISVILLE CITY FC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 09/16/20, 10:15PM EDT
Indiana’s Team Still Controls Postseason Destiny with Three Games Remaining in Regular Season
In the final of four regular-season matchups between Indy Eleven and Louisville City, the surging Kentucky side posted a 2-0 win over Indiana’s Team at Lucas Oil Stadium. Following a late first-half score from Cameron Lancaster, a goal by Corben Bone in the 76th minute provided the final margin for the visitors.With only one point separating the rivals in the Group E standings coming into Wednesday’s affair, this latest chapter of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest (LIPAFC) series had plenty riding on it. While the result pulled Louisville (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts.) four points clear of Indy (7W-5L-1D, 22 pts.) atop the group, Indiana’s Team is still in control of its playoff destiny, itself sitting four points ahead of Saint Louis FC for the second available playoff spot from the group.“It was a disappointing score-line and a disappointing result for us. I was really proud of the players tonight and felt that we were unfortunate to certainly be down a goal at half time. In the first half, we were on top most of the time and they got a goal out of nothing, really,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “For the majority of the game, maybe my mind will change when I look back on it, I felt at this time we deserve much better than we got tonight. I don’t usually say that, and if I think we didn’t deserve to win, I would say that, but I definitely don’t think that we deserve to be on the losing side tonight.”If there was any doubt as to whether the last installment of the LIPAFC rivalry for 2020 would be a physical affair, Louisville’s Pat McMahon put that to rest early with a flying knee into the back of Ayoze just 60 seconds after the opening whistle. The energetic start was not entirely adversarial, however, with both sides circling together at midfield across the seventh and eighth minutes to pause the match and honor the ongoing movement around social injustice and the need for positive change in our sport and in our society.
Indy captain Paddy Barrett’s 13th minute shot from 50 yards out in an effort to catch LCFC goalkeeper Bun Lundt off his line began a series of half-chances for both sides that dominated the middle of the first half. Following a 37th minute yellow card issued to Eleven defender Karl Ouimette, Louisville took their possession and played all the way down the field, concluding with a corner attempt. Louisville defender Oscar Jimenez’s kick was headed out of the box, but it bounced to a waiting Antoine Hoppenot, whose right-footed strike was redirected by Lancaster past Indy goalkeeper Evan Newton and into the upper-right corner for his seventh goal of the season.Hoppenot was awarded with a shot-turned assist for his efforts, and two minutes later he nearly had one for himself, but his near-angle effort flashed just past the far-left post. Indy striker Nick Moon nearly equalized in first half stoppage time, but his header off a corner kick flashed just over the bar, leaving LouCity in front 1-0 heading into the break.
Not even two minutes into the second half, Indy Eleven’s energetic play almost tied the game, but midfielder Cam Lindley’s cutback pass from the endline that made its way past the keeper and into the center of the box was cleared before it could reach an Eleven teammate. The home side kept knocking on the door with two crosses providing plenty of danger at the top of the six-yard box around the hour mark, but a volley by midfielder Carl Haworth and a header by Ouimette two minutes apart both just missed Lundt’s frame.In the 76th minute, a counter-attack opportunity allowed Louisville to double its advantage. Midfielder Napo Matsoso crossed a ball into the middle of the field, where an unlucky deflection by Tyler Gibson fell directly to a cutting Brian Ownby, whose touch pass set up Bone behind the Indy defense. Bone successfully converted low and left in his 1-v-1 with Newton to get his fourth goal of the season and extend the Louisville lead.Indy kept the pressure on in an attempt to salvage a result, with substitute Conner Antley’s flick-on of Ouimette’s centering ball in the 79th minute that forced a save by Lundt at his left post providing the most drama of the Eleven’s late chances. Gibson’s last-ditch effort to get on the scoreboard from outside the box was high-and-wide in the 93rd minute, ending the action and keeping Indy winless against its rival in 2020.Indy Eleven continues its five-match September homestand next Wednesday, September 23, with the first of two pivotal meetings down the stretch of the 2020 regular season against Saint Louis FC. (5W-4L-3D, 18 pts., 3rd in Group E). The 7:00 p.m. kickoff on Indy Eleven’s annual Hispanic Heritage Night, presented by Financial Center First Credit Union, can be followed live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 0 : 2 Louisville City FC
Louisville City FC (8W-3L-2D, 26 pts., 1st in Group E)
LOU– Cameron Lancaster (Antoine Hoppenot) 39’
LOU – Corben Bone (Brian Ownby) 76’
IND – Karl Ouimette (yellow card) 37’
LOU – Paolo DelPiccolo (yellow card) 66’
LOU – Corben Bone (yellow card) 66’
LOU – Antoine Hoppenot (yellow card) 73’
LOU – Sean Totsch (yellow card) 79’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Neveal Hackshaw, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze (Conner Antley 72’), Drew Connor (Matt Watson 72’), Tyler Gibson, Carl Haworth; Jeremy Rafanello (Tyler Pasher 59’), Cam Lindley, Nick Moon
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Mitch Osmond, Ilija Ilic, Andrew Carleton
Louisville City FC (4-3-3, L–>R): Ben Lundt; Oscar Jimenez, Alexis Souahy, Sean Totsch, Pat McMahon (Wes Charpie 90’); Antoine Hoppenot (Brian Ownby 74’), Corben Bone, Speedy Williams, Paolo DelPiccolo (captain) (Jimmy Ockford 85’), Napo Matsoso (Akil Watts 90’); Cameron Lancaster (Jason Johnson 85’)
With the new season set to kick off Saturday excitement bounds as US Star Christian Pulisic was awarded the #10 shirt at Chelsea. Not 100% sure if he will be healthy enough to start on Monday vs Brighton at 3:15 pm but the #10 shirt certainly signifies how important the American is to Chelsea’s squad this season. Arguably the best player after the break – Pulisic will look to improve on his stats with a host of new potential scorers on hand like Timo Werner from Leipzig and Hakim Ziyeck from Ajax up front. Liverpool returns almost its entire squad from the title winning group of last year, while Man City added a player or 2 looking to overtake the champions. Of course my favorite – Fulham America – is back in the EPL with US players Tim Ream and the newly added US left back Antonee Robinson looking to hold down the defense – they kick off Saturday morning at 7:30 am on NBCSN. Liverpool vs newly promoted Leeds United follows at 12:30 on NBC. I think it will be a 4 way race between Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Chelsea (I hope with Pulisic starring) this season, with Liverpool and Man City the favorites for sure. Tons of previews and predictions below in the OBC.
US Weston McKinney to Juve is Huge
So huge news that US midfielder Weston McKinny has signed with Juventus – my favorite Italian club! If McKinny can actually get playing time at this Giant of World football – along the likes of Renaldo and Dybala. Man the sky is the limit! This is arguably the biggest club any American player has ever signed with and should pay huge dividends in the future assuming he can break into the starting line-up and play. I do think this hard working, ball winning midfielder will find a place for new Juve coach Pirlo. He opened his first press conference by speaking some Italian – which was a big hit with the Italian media. Huge news for McKinney and all of US Soccer you can watch the Italian Serie A on ESPN+ with the occasional game on ESPN 2 or ESPN News starting next weekend.
Indy 11 home vs Louisville Wed Sept 16
The Indy 11 took an important 2-1 win at home over Sporting KC II with goals from Nick Moon and Jimmy Rafanello in the first half and a late stand in a flury of action from KC late in the 2nd half to hold on for the win. With the victory, Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts.) repossessed the top spot in the four-team group, overtaking Louisville City FC (20 pts.) and setting up another fight for first between the two rivals on Wednesday night, Sept 10 at 7 pm in the Circle City and on MyIndyTV 23. The result also put some more distance between Indy and Saint Louis FC (18 pts.), the group’s other contender for one of its two playoff berths. Hopefully leading scorer Tyler Pasher will return from injury for this key showdown – a virtual must win for the Indy 11. Tickets for the next installment of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry series, set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets. This is game 3 of a 5 game homestand.
NWSL Games on Sat 3:30 CBS
With the NWSL kicking off its regular season – games will be featured on CBS over the next 2 weeks on Sat at 3:30 pm with the North Carolina Courage hosing the Houston Dash this Sat. See other games on CBS All Access and Twitch.
Carmel FCers on Carmel High Teams
I can’t believe I missed 2 of our Carmel FC GKs who made the CHS Boys team- I had a chance to slip out and see them play this week. Varsity Starter Henry Geisel is a former Carmel FCer, along with current Carmel FC’ers Charlie Featherson for JV, and Jacob Havice, Ryan Bartley and Kevin Russo for 9th grade! Congrats all!
GAMES ON TV
Fri, Sept 11
3 pm beIN Sport France- Bordeaux vs Lyonnais
4 pm beIN Sport Valencia vs Levante
Sat, Sept 12
7:30 am NBCSN Fulham (Ream, Robinson) vs Arsenal
10 am NBCSN Crystal Palace vs Southhampton
11 am bein Sport Montpellier vs Nice
12:30 pm NBC Liverpool vs Leeds United
3 pm bein Sport Cadiz vs Osasuna – Spain
3:30 pm CBS NC Courage vs Houston Dash NWSL
3:30 pm Univsion Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew
Sun, Sept 13
7:30 am NBCSN West Brom vs Leicester City
10 am NBCSN Crystal Palace vs Southhampton
11 am bein Sport Montpellier vs Nice
11:30 am NBCSN, Peacock Tottenham vs Everton
3 pm bein Sport PSG vs Marseille –France
8:30 pm ESPN+ Sporting KC vs Minn United
11 pm ESPN+ LAFC vs Portland Timbers
Mon, Sept 14
1 pm NBCSN Sheffield United s Wolverhampton
3:15 pm Peacock Brighton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
Wed, Sept 16
7 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+ Indy 11 vs Louisville FC at Lucus Oil
riFFri, Sept 18
2:30 pm ESPN Bayern Munich vs Schalke
Sat, Sept 19
7:30 am Peacock Eveton vs West Brom
9:20 am ESPN+ Werder Bremen (Stuart) vs Hertha BSC
10 am NBCSN Leads United vs Fulham (Ream, Robinson)
11 am bein Sport Lens vs Bourdaauex
12:30 pm NBCSN Man United vs Crystal Palace
1 pm CBS NC Courage vs Orlando Pride NWSL
3 pm bein Sport Celta Da Vigo vs Valencia – Spain
3 pm Peacock? Arsenal vs West Ham United
Sun, Sept 20
9:30 am ESPN+ RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mainz
11:30 am USA Network Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool
12 noon ESPN+ Wolfsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen
1 pm CBS All Access Chicago Red Stars vs Sky Blue NWSL
2:45 pm ESPN+ Juventus (McKinney) vs Sampdoria
3 pm beIN Sport Real Sociedad vs Real Madirid
Mon, Sept 21
1 pm Peacock Aston Villa vs Sheffield United
3:15 pm Man City Wolverhampton vs Man City
7 pm My Indy TV 23, ESPN+ Indy 11 vs St Louis at Lucus Oil
Christian Pulisic Chelsea No 10 sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?According to a report from The Athletic’s Simon Johnson, Pulisic will be given the No. 10 shirt at Chelsea for the 2020-21 season and beyond. That sound you can hear is USMNT fans rushing to their laptops to order their new Pulisic jersey.Pulisic, 21, had previously been wearing the No. 22 which he wore at Borussia Dortmund too but the Pennsylvanian winger is now being handed an iconic jersey.The No. 10 was previously worn by Willian, who wore it for just one season before leaving Chelsea for Arsenal on a free transfer earlier this summer. And of course we all know that before Willian, the No. 10 shirt at Chelsea was worn by Eden Hazard.Let the Christian Pulisic-Eden Hazard comparisons continue.Pulisic being handed this jersey number makes sense for so many reasons. Firstly, he is pretty much one of the first names on the teamsheet following his simply sensational form during ‘Project Restart’ in the Premier League. Secondly, imagine how many ‘Pulisic 10’ jerseys Chelsea are going to sell?Imagine how many young soccer fans in the USA will now be asking for a Christian Pulisic Chelsea No 10 jersey for their upcoming birthdays?Heck, every USMNT fan will be yelling ‘shut up and take my money’ as this is a big moment. Yes, it’s a shirt number. We get it. But this is a big deal for U.S. fans. Pulisic being handed an iconic jersey number at such a huge club rubber stamps his status as one of Chelsea’s top players and means he is viewed as a mainstay by Frank Lampard.The Pulisic hype is very real. From a USMNT perspective, we’ve all known that for some time now. The rest of the world is now fully on board the Pulisic hype train.Other Chelsea jersey news is coming up too, with Kai Havertz expected to be handed No. 29, while Thiago Silva will take No. 2.
Christian Pulisic news has calmed down at the moment, but with the start to the 2020-21 Premier League season just a few days away, the USMNT star will soon be front and center once again.Pulisic, 21, is currently recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered during the FA Cup final but he should be fit to play for Chelsea by the end of September.
As we saw from his incredible form during ‘Project Restart’ in the Premier League, the Pulisic hype is now very real. From a USMNT perspective, we’ve all known that for some time now. The rest of the world is now fully on board the Pulisic hype train after his 10 goals and five assists led to a Premier League Young Player of the Year nomination.What lies ahead for Pulisic at Chelsea in 2020-21?
A key cog in a new-look Chelsea attack
Pulisic will now have Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech joining him in the attacking lineup and these are exciting times for Chelsea. With veterans Willian and Pedro moving on, Chelsea have spent big to bolster their attack this summer and Pulisic’s performances at the end of last season have put him at the heart of tat new-look attack. Pulisic provides something a little different to the fluid movement and passing of Havertz, the trickery of Ziyech and the clinical finishing of Werner. As a quartet, they will be Chelsea’s future for the next five to six years.
Some of the latest Christian Pulisic news states that he will be handed the No. 10 jersey at Chelsea and it makes sense for so many reasons and it is a signal of how important he is to this team. Firstly, he is pretty much one of the first names on the teamsheet. Secondly, imagine how many ‘Pulisic 10’ jerseys Chelsea are going to sell worldwide, and in the USA? Pulisic has been compared to Eden Hazard so many times in his first season in England and the American winger will now be given the chance to be Chelsea’s go-to guy. This is only a shirt number but it means a lot and shows the faith Frank Lampard has in him. Pulisic is trusted by the Chelsea players and coaching staff and all of a sudden he’s taken on a leadership role in this young side. It will be intriguing to see if he can keep putting the team on his back in big moments like he did against Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City during ‘Project Restart’ this summer.
More competition than last season
Okay, so Pulisic struggled for minutes early in the season as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Mason Mount and Pedro were all favored ahead of him but this season will be no joke. As we mentioned above, he is likely to be a key cog in this attack but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a cog which can be placed to one side and isn’t at risk of getting rusty. If Pulisic’s levels drop there are so many key attacking players ready to step up. Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham are set to battle for a place on the bench and that shows you the new depth. Werner can play out wide, so too can Havertz and Mount, so Pulisic will have plenty of competition for his place on the left flank. That helped his levels rise last season but this season is probably even tougher as new talent is arriving and instead of youngsters and veterans to battle past, Pulisic now has to start over some of the best attackers in Europe such as Werner and Havertz.
Second-season syndrome: No longer an unknown
He was marked closely in the closing stages of the 2019-20 season after he kept ripping opposition defenses to pieces. Expect that to keep happening as teams started to double up on Pulisic because he was finding those half spaces between full backs and center halves far too often. Close attention from holding midfielders will be plentiful and Pulisic has to deal with the fact that teams will now be planning to shut him down, whereas for most of the 2019-20 season he wasn’t seen as a huge threat. Some of the most obvious Christian Pulisic news is that he is now a marked man.
Injuries could play their part
Pulisic suffered a big adductor injury in the middle of the season which kept him out for many months but the break due to the coronavirus pandemic allowed him to recover. Pulisic then suffered a bad hamstring in the FA Cup final and that was the last thing he needed. It also followed a trend. He’s had plenty of hamstring injuries during his young career already and his searing pace and lightweight frame means he will probably pick up these kind of injuries throughout his career. Chelsea have bulked him up and he will develop further, and needs to physically, if he’s going to be a sustained success in the Premier League. Expect Pulisic to develop hefty glutes like Eden Hazard in the coming months.
MCKENNIE to JUVENTUS -TAKES ANOTHER STEP FOR AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYERS
SEPTEMBER 9, 2020 BY JASON DAVIS
By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Sep 9, 2020) US Soccer Players – As is always the case with these things, it’s best to wait until it’s official. There’s no point in jumping ahead and getting excited until everything is official. These things have a history of falling apart at the minute.The world of big-time soccer transfers is a cauldron of intrigue. It’s often hard to separate fact from fiction. It’s best to wait until the old club issues a “goodbye and good luck” message while the new one gets excited on social media.Ask Manchester City fans how it feels to have everyone talking about your club as the new home of one of the best players in the history of the game, only to see it not happen. Before you know it, the player is sitting in shorts and slides talking about why he’s now not leaving the only club he’s ever known for a new adventure somewhere else.
Then there are the moments where the odd rumor picks up. All of a sudden, a player is making that ridiculous move. To put that another way, it’s now official. Weston McKennie is a member of Juventus Football Club. An American now plays for the biggest club in Italy and one of Europe’s elites.In July, Juventus won Serie A for the ninth time running and 36th title overall. The idea of anyone catching Juventus is almost laughable at this point. That’s because the club maintains its talent advantage via big spending while the rest of Serie A maintains a decidedly different financial existence.McKennie’s arrival in Turin came with the requisite social media hits, including a video in which the American midfielder got a first look at Juventus’s trophy room. Yes, that’s “room”, as in a large space filled with trophies. Most clubs barely need a trophy case. Juventus’s space would fetch $3000 a month on the New York apartment market, and it probably has better views.This is why McKennie’s surprise move to Turin is such a massive thing for the player and his home country. McKennie is taking a dramatic step up in level. He joins a club that expects nothing less than to win multiple domestic trophies and compete for the most celebrated silverware in the sport, the Champions League.McKennie’s growth as a young player in Germany happened in one of the best leagues in the world. Still, he never faced the kind of week-to-week scrutiny that comes with playing for a club as predominant as the Italian giants. McKennie’s transfer to Juventus cuts two ways for the 22-year-old. It’s both a daunting push into the unknown and a validation of his ability.Juventus is not in the business of counting pennies. It doesn’t sign on players it doesn’t think can do the job. Simply by acquiring McKennie, Juventus is vouching for him.With apologies to Christian Pulisic, who remains the most expensive American player in history following his transfer to Chelsea, McKennie joining Juventus is a new high watermark for players from the United States in Europe. Chelsea is ambitious but doesn’t have the pedigree of Juventus. Manchester United does and certainly did when Tim Howard jumped from Major League Soccer to the Premier League. American goalkeepers were well established in Europe at that point. In our bizarre section of the sport, it’s the field players who are different.There are plenty of unknowns about McKennie’s fit at Juventus and plenty of reasons to worry. That puts him in the same situation as many of his talented peers from soccer-rich cultures on the Continent and in South America.
American soccer’s ceiling exists in many forms. Coaching remains a difficult area for Americans, though Jesse Marsch is forging a path that could lead to greater respect. Sometimes it takes just one example to open the minds of the soccer elite. We might be looking at a future with much more American influence at the highest levels.It’s fair to think, however, that American players have to achieve at the game’s top tier before the rest will follow. The last two decades saw Americans make inroads into Europe’s top leagues. Several standout performers emerged as the standard-bearers for the first truly professional generation of players developed in the United States.Few of those players did their work at Champions League level clubs in the top five leagues, however. We’re talking about exceptions. Tyler Adams this season with Leipzig. DaMarcus Beasley with PSV back in the 2000s. Jovan Kirovski ‘s winning run with Borussia Dortmund in 1997. All of those were surprises.To put it more simply, Juventus is part of an ultra-elite group of clubs that have the resources and history to claim to be among the top 15 or 20 on the planet. Like Pulisic before him, McKennie is now in rarified air. If he succeeds, the impact will be immense.Serie A might not be the most popular foreign league in America, but everyone knows about Juventus. That was true before Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid to join the Italian giants, but the club’s visibility is even higher now. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine Juventus signed McKennie because of some desire to “grow” the club’s reach in the United States. McKennie isn’t a big enough name yet to have that sort of effect.Joining Juventus will raise his profile, however. Though McKennie isn’t the Sportscenter-ready attacking star that Pulisic is, his appearances on the field for his new club will garner attention from otherwise soccer-agnostic corners. There’s nothing more Americans like to do than wave the flag, and McKennie allows sports fans whether they care about soccer or not to do that.Juventus’s move for McKennie likely came down to a host of factors: availability, price, age, skillset, etc. Some of those could be spun to undermine the American’s talent and explain away his signing as a budget-minded move by a big club trying to maneuver its way around UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Even if there’s something to that theory, it hardly matters. McKennie is still at Juventus, and Juventus will still expect to lift trophies in 2021. It’s official, and it’s a really, really big deal.Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.
Dortmund’s Gio Reyna, the son of Captain America, is U.S. soccer’s next superhero
Sep 4, 2020Sam BordenESPN Senior Writer
Gio Reyna is terrified. It is June 13. His team, Borussia Dortmund, beat Dusseldorf earlier in the day. On the bus after the game, everyone is ecstatic. But Gio didn’t feel right. His throat is raw and he is tired.Only now, he can’t sleep. It is late, near midnight in Germany. Gio is cold, even under his blankets. His parents live halfway around the world in New York and he is alone in his apartment in a country where he doesn’t speak the language.Gio is 17. His fever spikes. His mind runs wild.What if it is the coronavirus? What if he has to quarantine for a week? Or a month? What if he can’t go home when the other players leave? What if Dortmund has to forfeit all of its games?Gio is a rising star in the Bundesliga. He is one of the American sensations who is supposed to help transform the U.S. national team over the next two World Cup cycles. His parents are soccer royalty and yet, even at his young age, there are plenty who believe he might end up being better than both of them.But at this moment, Gio isn’t any of those things. He is just a sick kid, far from home, who has sandpaper in his throat and a runaway train in his head. He tosses and turns, and then, finally, bolts upright, gripped suddenly by the thought that truly frightens him:What if I have the coronavirus and it leads to the whole league getting shut down? He groans. What if I ruin everything?
A MONTH LATER, sitting in the living room of his family’s house about an hour outside New York City, Gio can laugh, at least a little, about his hysteria that night. “My mind was going so many places,” he says through a shy grin. He had strep throat, it turned out, not COVID-19. He missed only one game.The experience still mattered, though. The sheer panic he felt that night in June was real, and the wringer he went through in the days that followed — as he dealt with doctors, his own worries and a series of internet rumors speculating that he had the coronavirus — left a mark. In many ways, it crystalized for him the biggest challenge that comes with being a prodigy at an age when you are supposed to be going to prom.”I’ve heard some athletes speak about mental health issues,” he says at one point, his eyes widening, “and I can understand why.”He explains that it isn’t about Dortmund. Not even a little. In truth, the soccer part of his life is perhaps the most straightforward for him. Gio’s game is a marriage of the best parts of his parents: his father, former national team captain Claudio Reyna, had legendary ball control and vision, and his mother, Danielle Egan, made her name at North Carolina, and on the women’s national team, with electric speed and a loping stride. Dortmund recruited Gio as he showed off both skill sets playing for New York City FC’s youth teams.He arrived at Dortmund’s academy last summer. Within months, he’d shown he could play at a higher level and spent the second half of the season with the first team, playing mostly as an attacking midfielder off the bench. His touch on the ball was unhurried. His confidence was high. He has quickly connected with two of Dortmund’s other young stars, Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho, and the trio play video games and bond over their shared love for television shows such as “Outer Banks” on Netflix.Haaland, who is quickly becoming one of the sport’s biggest names, has been “like a big brother,” Gio says, which “almost makes me feel like I’m at home a little bit.” The chemistry between the two of them, as well as Sancho, moves easily from on the field to off it, and after making his Bundesliga debut on Jan. 18 — moving past Christian Pulisic as the youngest American to appear in the league — Gio’s first goal was an absolute stunner.In that game, against Werder Bremen on Feb. 4, Gio made a sharp dribble near the top of the box and unleashed a wicked, curving shot that ripped into the top corner of the net as the stadium exploded. “It was just the perfect opportunity,” he says, breaking into a small smile as he runs through the memory again. “It couldn’t have been placed any better.”That part — the pure sport and competition — is what makes sense to Gio. It is straightforward. But there is another part to all this, he says. The part where he leaves school and moves into an apartment and tries to learn a language and gets strep throat and lives through a pandemic and tries to comprehend a worldwide reckoning on race all alone. That part? At 17, it is harder.Some of it is the little things. Lately, Gio has started ordering sweatshirts in larger sizes because he can’t seem to do laundry without shrinking everything, and any time he wants to go to the grocery store, he has to enlist someone — often, it’s Haaland — to drive him. Gio is still a few months from getting a license.Other issues weigh heavier. As news coverage of the U.S. government’s harsh response to protests in support of Black Lives Matter spread around the world, several Dortmund teammates asked Gio — the resident American now that Pulisic has moved on to Chelsea — what was going on. Why were these protesters being treated like this?Gio knew they were just talking to him as a peer, a status affirmation he craved, and he knew exactly how he felt about what he was seeing. But he also was sure that, like most 17-year-olds (and perhaps even most 77-year-olds), he wasn’t quite prepared to speak authoritatively on why, exactly, the United States hasn’t yet solved systemic racism. He didn’t have answers.”I support this movement like no other,” he tells me, “But in those situations, I just didn’t really know what to say.”Danielle and Claudio are certain that someday he will. Over the past year, they have felt so much pride about what they’ve seen from Gio. His play on the field, sure: That incredible assist against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League or the first goal are memories that won’t be forgotten. But impressive as they were, those sorts of accomplishment aren’t what his parents see as critical: They are more grateful that as Gio’s life has morphed from American teenager to European soccer star, his focus on what is important hasn’t shifted.Most days, Gio and Claudio talk after training is over, which is early morning in the U.S. There will be a few quick check-ins through lunch, and then, in the late afternoons, Danielle will FaceTime with Gio for an hour, setting him on the counter as she cooks dinner. They don’t have to chat the entire time; Danielle just likes hearing her son bang around his apartment because it’s the closest she gets to feeling as if he is at home. Gio enjoys it because it gives him a tether; it is what keeps him feeling safe.”He’s still so little in some ways, but he’s doing this man’s job and he’s still never exhibited that anything other than family is his main priority,” Danielle says. She nods. “I think that’s really important.” t is. Particularly when you consider what the Reyna family has already endured.
WHEN GIO WAS LITTLE, other parents in the local kids’ league were always more impressed by how far he could kick the ball, as opposed to how easily he could dribble it. This perpetually amused Claudio, whose father is Argentine and mother is Portuguese-American. It doesn’t take much to get him started on the misplaced priorities of many American soccer novices.”Everyone liked seeing him take goal kicks — like, goal kicks! — which, OK, I guess,” Claudio says, rolling his eyes. Even so, it wasn’t long before everyone, including the most casual observer, could see that Gio’s talent was remarkable.No one was shocked. Claudio played in three World Cups and Danielle won four college championships at North Carolina. But even as it became obvious he was a wunderkind, Gio wasn’t much interested in what his parents had done. He only wanted to be like his big brother, Jack.Jack was four years older than Gio, sturdy and strong and fast. The boys often played one-on-one soccer in the hallway upstairs, and most of the time the games ended with flailing punches, someone crying and “definitely some punishments,” Danielle says. As competitive as they were, though, Jack never hesitated to highlight his brother’s growing skills. At Gio’s games, Jack would often listen to the spectators on the other sideline, remarking about the tiny 6-year-old who was playing in the 8-year-old division, then sprint over to Claudio, cackling and shouting, “They don’t know what they’re in for!” as Gio would score again and again. Jack was plenty good at sports, too. He played everything he could, was a natural athlete and, in 2010, his soccer team won the New York State Cup. Everyone in the family was thrilled.But a few weeks later, Jack began complaining of crippling headaches. Doctors first suggested it might be a bad sinus infection, maybe, or meningitis. Then a CT scan showed a mass on Jack’s brain. There was a surgery and, finally, a diagnosis: Jack, who was 11, had brain cancer — specifically stage IV glioblastoma, a disease that typically affects people who are in their 70s.”We were just blindsided,” Claudio says. “It was literally, from one day to the next, our whole life changed.” His voice catches and he puts his hand to his face. “Everything you think is going to happen just … didn’t.”There were treatments. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Blood draws. Long days, waiting rooms and tests. Jack played with Legos over and over; he was often too tired to do anything more.
After about nine months, it seemed as though Jack’s cancer had responded to the treatments. Everyone felt a sliver of hope. But the disease returned a few months later, and the Reynas tried to squeeze in as many bucket-list items as they could, attending a big game or taking a family trip to Mexico or eating at a famous restaurant or going to a show. Jack’s speech began to decline. He couldn’t walk.On July 19, 2012, Jack died. He was 13. His baby sister, Carolina, was 2. Another brother, Joah-Mikel, was 5. Gio was 9.How can you measure what something like that does to a person? To a family? It is impossible. Gio never erupted; he never did any of the things the therapists told Danielle and Claudio to look out for. He never raged or lashed out. He went on, as best as he could, the way they all did. He stayed close to Jack’s friends. He became the big brother he lost. Now, when Gio comes home from Germany, he and Carolina and Joah have sleepovers together. They stay up late. They snuggle close.Gio doesn’t like talking about Jack publicly. So much of his life is on display — remember, the result of a nasal swab he took was literally international news — but he isn’t yet sure how much of his grief he wants to expose. Much of that is, as Danielle says, probably because he doesn’t want to be vulnerable on stage, and part of it is almost surely how deeply Jack still underpins all that Gio does.Gio still plays for Jack, still driven by the support he knows he would be getting from his brother. Within the family, Jack is a constant presence: His pictures are all over the house. When Claudio and Danielle and the kids sit in their Dortmund sweatsuits and watch Gio play on television, they sometimes talk about how Jack might have moved over to Germany to live with Gio during all of this, and how joyfully insufferable Jack might have been to his friends about what his little brother is doing.Claudio tears up when we talk about Jack, but he explains that it’s not just because of the tragedy of it all. Rather, it has to do with the incredible joy a parent feels when one of their children is proud of a brother or sister. That sort of admiration from one to another is almost ethereal, and the bond between siblings is the fiercest a family can know. For Claudio, thinking about how Jack can’t do that for Gio — even now, eight years later — remains devastating.”That is what’s so hard for Danielle and I,” Claudio says, and then he stops. His eyes water and he croaks, “That … you know … that Jack would be the happiest.”
ON JULY 28, Claudio loads Gio’s bags into the car and the entire family drives an hour to JFK Airport. The terminal is quiet. Normally, Claudio or Danielle would reassure Gio that one of them will be over to Germany in a few weeks to see him, but in these pandemic times, no one knows when that can happen. “See you … soon,” Claudio says. Gio walks into the security line.Sending one child to live on another continent after losing another child years earlier seems borderline impossible to me as a parent. But when I mention this to Claudio and Danielle, they are adamant it is not that difficult a decision. They lived abroad for years when Claudio played overseas (Gio was actually born in England during Claudio’s spell with Manchester City), so more than most parents, they have experienced a fair bit of their son’s life already.”We know there is so much in front of him,” Danielle says, “so how could we do anything but let him follow that path?”Danielle is pragmatic. She makes it sound simple. But was it? How easy could it have been? The Reynas call Danielle “Doctor D” because she always knows what medicine to take or what drink to sip when someone is feeling sick. She always makes things better. But that night when Gio thought he had the coronavirus — all Doctor D wanted was to be able to sit by his bed and help him — she was on another continent. As a parent, is there a more helpless feeling?But then, this is the journey. Dortmund is only a portion of it, too. The pandemic also delayed Gio’s first appearance with the U.S. national team, but that call-up is inevitable. Becoming a professional soccer player is part of Gio’s DNA, and representing the U.S. on its biggest stage is something Gio has been looking forward to for years. It comes with the name.”It’s basically in our blood,” Gio says.So, Danielle and Claudio let him go. To Germany. To national team games. To an Olympics, if it happens. To a World Cup, if the U.S. reboot is what everyone hopes.
They know the pressure will only grow hotter. Claudio’s nickname was “Captain America” and by going to Dortmund just as Pulisic did, Gio has made it even easier to put himself alongside the player many see as the most important player in the U.S. men’s revival. There are other players at big clubs who will make a difference, too — Weston McKennie has gone from struggling Schalk to Italian giants Juventus, and Tyler Adams is a key player at Leipzig — but Reyna’s potential is unmatched.Gio, at least for the moment though, seems unbothered. “My dad did a lot of things, I know that, but he’s my dad — to me, he’s my dad,” Gio says. “My mom is my mom. And I’m going to be me.” Some days, he says, that means putting together a sharp move with Haaland or Sancho in front of goal, while on others it means playing FIFA past midnight with Joah, who always likes to play as Dortmund so he can start his big brother on the bench.All of it is important. And all of it — soccer and family — is what Gio sees as the existence he is chasing. A few weeks after returning to Europe, he scores the first goal of Dortmund’s exhibition schedule by coolly slipping the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs after taking a pass from Haaland. In the second preseason match, he does it again and adds another.Claudio and Danielle and the kids watch the stream of the second game back home, howling. That night, they talk with Gio on FaceTime about the match, and how Gio got to play through the middle more and what it feels like to start off the season as part of the team’s plans. There are so many matches — league games and cup games and the Champions League — that Gio is certain he will have more chances than ever to prove he belongs.”There is so much happening, in his world and around the world and everything,” Claudio says on the phone when we connect last week. “But when we talk to him, it’s like he sounds …” Claudio pauses and thinks for a second. Then he says, “It’s like he sounds ready.”Danielle and Claudio have lived what Gio is living, but not as he will live it. Not in this time. Not in this moment. In the end, Danielle says, “He’ll be himself.” And that will be enough.
Bocanegra joins National Soccer Hall of Fame; Cherundolo, Solo snubbed
The National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct one human this summer.That player is a no-doubter in Carlos Bocanegra, who deserves plenty of praise for his incredible USMNT tenure and a solid club career with Fulham, Rennes, Saint-Etienne, and Rangers in addition to multiple stops in MLS.But instead we’re (again) left wondering who voted against other no-brainers like Steve Cherundolo and Hope Solo, a year after the Hall somehow saw fit to put in Sunil Gulati last season over Cherundolo. That’s not meant as a knock on the career of Gulati but measuring him as clearly above Cherundolo is… a challenge. Solo has 202 caps for the USWNT and only nine players have more than the three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup Golden Glove winner. Perhaps the controversial nature of her off-field and anti-establishment life has hurt her in the eyes of voters, and Abby Wambach wasn’t even close to unanimous last season.Cherundolo played from 1999-2014 for Bundesliga mainstays Hannover 96 and was even captain of the German club. He’s won 87 USMNT caps and been hired on the staffs at Stuttgart, Hannover, and the USMNT before joining the Germany youth set-up.Tell me what Hall of Fame voter should be shutting down either!There are now 40 members in the National Soccer Hall of Fame including five executives. Five are former or current U.S. Soccer presidents and MLS commissioners, which is good news for… current and future U.S. Soccer presidents and MLS commissioners (This omits a sixth in Cindy Parlow Cone, who was elected as a player far before she was elected USSF prez).Each has a great story to tell, sure, but a number of those stories would collect less ears than Cherundolo’s and Solo’s (Jaime Moreno’s and Lauren Holiday’s, maybe too).If you want people to respect your process and selections, have a respect-worthy process.
Chelsea’s attack, Man United’s goalkeepers, Real Madrid midfield: Biggest dilemmas for 2020-21
Sep 3, 2020Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks in the European soccer universe, with teams attempting to cram a full offseason’s worth of both transfers and transfer rumors into the shortest offseason ever. But as moves have become official, they have created a few particularly interesting position battles among the top teams on the continent. Here are a few of the most interesting, and most important battles on the docket, the outcomes of which could decide title races in Europe’s biggest leagues.
(Note: the list below is not intended to be a comprehensive list of contenders, but a focus on teams with new-ish players and particularly interesting decisions to make. So the absence of Liverpool, for instance, isn’t a suggestion that Liverpool won’t contend in the Premier League this year.)
We’ll start with one of last year’s most definitive storylines. Manchester City allowed the most high-quality shots in the Premier League in 2019-20. Opponents averaged 0.144 XG per shot, the highest in the league, and while it’s pretty common for a high-possession team to give up good looks because said looks are often coming in rare counter-attacking chances, City was still average at worst in this department when winning the title the year before.
There were a couple of reasons for this. First, the aging Fernandinho moved from defensive midfield to central defense, with new acquisition Rodri taking his place in the DM role. Rodri is brilliant from a pressure standpoint — his 228 ball recoveries easily led the team — but he was less effective than Fernandinho in terms of tactical fouls and emergency tackles. That gave opponents a few more fast-break opportunities.
Then, their opponents made the most of those chances by charging in on a disheveled set of defenders. Star CB Aymeric Laporte was hurt for much of the season and never really reached fifth gear, which meant that Fernandinho went from backup to minutes-leader. Voila: quality shots.
With Fernandinho now 35, and with John Stones and Benjamin Mendy struggling to fully retain Pep Guardiola’s trust, a remodel has begun. A healthy Laporte could solve one problem, but City have acquired 25-year-old Nathan Ake from relegated AFC Bournemouth and might not be done. How this duo shakes out will determine a massive portion of the Premier League race, perhaps even more than if City were to acquire Lionel Messi up front.
Jan Joost Van Gangelen believes Solskjaer will play Donny van de Beek alongside both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.
We don’t completely know what United have in store for the remainder of this transfer window, but theoretically they don’t have to make any major move. The Red Devils were the Premier League’s points leaders after acquiring Bruno Fernandes in late-January, and while both attack and defense have room for upgrades, there were no definitive weaknesses.
Adding 23-year-old midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax gives United an upgrade in creativity in the middle, but as things currently stand, the most interesting position battle might come at the back.
With 23-year-old Dean Henderson returning from loan after two productive years with Sheffield United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now must decide between one of the most proven long-term entities in the league (29-year-old David de Gea) and a battle-tested, but not Europe-tested, Henderson.
Goalkeeper stats are obviously context-dependent, but here are some per-90 averages from all competitions in 2019-20:
– de Gea: 10.5 shots against, 1.02 XG conceded from shots on target, 1.02 goals against, 70.1% save percentage – Henderson: 11.2 shots against, 1.17 XG conceded from shots on target, 0.94 goals against, 74.5% save percentage
Keeper stats can be unreliable. De Gea was unsustainably brilliant in 2017-18, unsustainably bad in 2018-19 and directly in between last year. Henderson, meanwhile, posted better averages last year in the Premier League than the year before in the Championship. That’s not quite how that’s supposed to work. Do you rely on last year’s small-sample success as a sign of years of brilliance to come and cast de Gea aside? Do you stick with the veteran a bit longer?
Chelsea will, upon the addition of Havertz, boast seven or eight Premier League-quality attackers for what might amount to either three or four spots in the lineup. How in the hell will this all fit together?Here’s what we broadly know about each player:- Werner, Abraham and Giroud are all primarily centre forwards. Over the last three years in league play, from the center, Werner has averaged a combined 0.84 XG+XA (expected goals plus expected assists, per Opta), Giroud 0.79 and Abraham 0.70. We’ll see how Werner’s numbers are impacted by the move to the Premier League.- Ziyech split time between central midfield and right winger at Ajax; predictably, he was more productive at the latter (1.07 XG+XA, last three years) than the former (0.95), but if clutter becomes an issue, he could move around.- Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi are primarily wingers. Hudson-Odoi has been used almost completely on the right, while Pulisic has logged lots of minutes on the left and right through the years.- Havertz could be the wild card, assuming he indeed ends up in the blue shirt. Over the last three years in the Bundesliga, he logged 37% of his minutes from a central attacking midfielder role (0.45 XG+XA), 32% at right winger or right attacking midfield (0.54), 16% in central midfield (0.44) and 8% as a centre forward (0.74). He could be the anchor for lots of different looks.Lampard has a wealth of options, but we’ll see what choices he makes.
Real Madrid’s midfield
Gab Marcotti says “it’s not a good look” for Gareth Bale to be complaining about Real Madrid not letting him go.
You know the coronavirus stoppage has thrown the sports world for a loop when Real Madrid decides it needs to watch its spending for a bit. Los Blancos haven’t really brought anyone new into the fold this offseason, and they might not, but they do have one pool to choose from: loanees. But while players like midfielder Alberto Soro (back from Zaragoza), fullbacks Alvaro Odriozola (Bayern Munich) and Sergio Reguilon (Sevilla), winger Hugo Vallejo (Deportivo) and striker Borja Mayoral (Levante) might all eventually figure into manager Zinedine Zidane‘s plans to some degree, one particular loanee will officially see his time come at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu: midfielder Martin Odegaard.
The 21-year old from Norway made his Real Madrid debut at the age of 16, but made just three appearances before getting sent away to soccer boarding school: the Eredivisie’s SC Heerenveen for two years and Vitesse for one, followed by a year of finishing school at Real Sociedad, where he logged 40 appearances in all competitions, with seven goals and 10 assists. He joins an already crowded midfield that includes veterans Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro, plus 22-year-old up-and-comer Federico Valverde. All four of them logged over 1,900 minutes in league play last year.
His passing stats are more like Casemiro’s than anyone’s, but with Sociedad he averaged 0.37 XA+XG per 90 minutes, better than anything the Madrid quartet has produced over these last few seasons.
Does Modric give way to the youngster? Does Zidane end up fancying Odegaard more as a winger, as he was used for quite a few of his Eredivisie minutes? His usage could determine whether we have a La Liga race this year, or whether Real runs away with the title.
Talking about Barcelona at the moment is the ultimate in known-knowns vs. known-unknowns. The latter — that whole “Leo Messi very much wants out, but the transfer fee is mammoth, even by European soccer standards” thing — muddies up the waters for talking about anything else. But here’s what we do know: Barca did trade Arthur to Juventus for Miralem Pjanic, brought in winger Francisco Trincao from Braga and brought back attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Bayern Munich.
We’ll have to wait to figure out Coutinho’s and Trincao’s roles, because we have to see what happens with Messi first. But let’s talk about the Barca midfield.
Last year it was led by 23-year-old Frenkie de Jong, Arthur (24) and three veterans in Sergio Busquets, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic. Rakitic is gone, Vidal could be soon and, as mentioned, Arthur was replaced by the 30-year-old Pjanic, who was second on Juve in assists last year.
A starting point of de Jong and Pjanic, with Busquets still playing a large role, is pretty good, but I continue to hold out hope that new manager Ronald Koeman will determine that de Jong could play more of an interesting role moving back to centre-back, where he played for Ajax for much of 2017-18. He has still averaged 0.18 assists per 90 from that position — by comparison, he averaged 0.08 from central midfield for Barca last year — and playing there allowed some of his nature-made defensive abilities (ball recoveries, aerials, dispossession) to shine.
If Koeman thinks Pjanic and Busquets can hold down the fort in a 4-2-3-1 (or perhaps youngsters like Carles Alena and Riqui Puig can play larger roles), then he has an opportunity to move de Jong and improve his attack while improving his defense. Either way, Koeman has some decisions to make here.
Bayern Munich’s wings
Jan Joost Van Gangelen says Sergino Dest needs to be more consistent to regain his starting role at Ajax.
There could still be a bit of a domino effect of moves regarding the Champions League winners during this transfer window — if midfielder Thiago ends up leaving for Liverpool, as seems to be his desire, then that might prompt a new acquisition and position battle. But right now, all we know for sure is that Coutinho is heading back to Barcelona and former Manchester City winger Leroy Sane has moved back to Germany.
Sane joins an astounding crew of wingers at the Allianz Arena. Serge Gnabry scored 23 goals in all competitions last year, primarily from the left wing. Kingsley Coman scored eight, including the Champions League clincher. Veteran Ivan Perisic came into his own after Hansi Flick’s midseason hire, and the Inter Milan loanee could still end up in Munich this coming year. Thomas Muller can play out wide when he needs to, and Alphonso Davies might have become a world-class winger if he hadn’t instead become a world-class fullback last season.
Sane’s 2019 injury might have led us to forgetting just how good he is, but during Manchester City’s two Premier League title runs in 2017-18 and 2018-19, he posted a combined 20 goals and 25 assists. He’s outstanding. If he’s in the lineup, some other outstanding winger won’t be.
Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfield
TormeisterErling Haaland will be lining up at the top of whatever formation manager Lucien Favre favors. That much we know. The 20-year-old scored a combined 44 goals for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund last season and returns for a full season at the Signal Iduna.
The row of attackers behind Haaland, however, has minutes up for grabs. You could say that the youth-friendly BVB have made three primary young-talent acquisitions during this window: they signed 17-year-old Jude Bellingham from Birmingham, they brought Real Madrid’s 18-year-old Reinier in via a two-year loan, and they evidently managed to keep the marvelous Jadon Sancho for another season as Manchester United have seemingly elected not to meet the asking price.
Bellingham could play just about anywhere, but might mostly roam the midfield for BVB. Sancho does most of his work from the right wing, Thorgan Hazard dished 13 assists in league play from the left wing, veteran and central attacking midfielder Marco Reus is still good for double-digit goals when healthy, 17-year-old American Giovanni Reyna has potential from all of these positions (and has expressed a preference for that CAM spot), and Reinier posted six goals and two assists in 14 matches for Flamengo last year, also from the CAM position.
That’s five high-level players — without even counting Bellingham (who has looked good further up the field) — for two to three spots on the pitch.
Favre has to figure out a nice way to balance playing time for the club’s future stars while giving Bayern another fight, as BVB have done the last two years.
Julien Laurens believes Weston McKennie is the ideal player for Andrea Pirlo to bring in for Juve’s rebuild.
Back in July, as Juventus were wrapping up their ninth consecutive Serie A title, I wrote about how this was maybe the club’s least convincing win in the title streak and how the Bianconeri were a little bit lucky to both win as many close matches as they did and watch all their primary challengers falter at just the right time. I also noted something that club higher-ups most certainly already new: the roster needed a makeover. Juve was getting old and creaky and needed new energy, especially in the midfield.
The makeover has begun. Blaise Matuidi left for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, and forward Gonzalo Higuain is likely to follow. Miralem Pjanic left for Barcelona, while the younger Arthur was sent back in return. American Weston McKennie was brought in from Schalke, while a host of players returned from loans, including 20-year-old midfielder Dejan Kulusevski (10 goals and eight assists for Parma, albeit more from a winger role).
Their moves might not be over — we’ll see what happens with 33-year-old Sami Khedira and 29-year-old Aaron Ramsey — but that’s already a solid refresh. Arthur is a solid passer and could thrive in a pivot-type role, McKennie is developing a solid pressure-and-physicality presence, and Kulusevski is already a proven creator. Add them to a stable that still includes 23-year-old Rodrigo Bentancur, 25-year-old Adrien Rabiot and potentially Khedira and Ramsey, and you’ve got a lot of potential combinations for new manager Andrea Pirlo. But it might take him a bit to figure out the best combo of the bunch.
While Inter Milan has added wingback Achraf Hakimi, Atalanta has added attacking midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk and both AC Milan and Roma have made some interesting smaller moves (Lazio, not so much), by far the most interesting move among Juve’s main challengers came when Napoli added 21-year-old striker Victor Osimhen.
After scoring 20 goals on loan for Belgian side Charleroi in 2018-19, Osimhen landed at Lille and scored 18 for Lille, including two in the Champions League. Napoli were utterly desperate for firepower up front: Gli Azzurri averaged just 0.101 XG per shot in Serie A last year, second-worst in the league and by far the worst among contenders. Even an average performance in this regard could have resulted in five to 15 more goals, far fewer tight losses and a sustained title contention. So they spent a club-record $70 million for Osimhen, who averaged 0.19 XG per shot in Ligue 1 last year.
Manager Gennaro Gattuso prefers a 4-3-3 structure, which could lead to a couple of players logging lots of minutes outside of their best positions; will the addition of Osimhen provide the balance that last year’s attack lacked, or will it just create a logjam?
Premier League 2020-21 season preview: Big questions, new players to watch, team-by-team projections
Sep 8, 2020 ESPN
It seems like only yesterday that the 2019-20 season was wrapping up (well, maybe a month?) across Europe but after a quick breather and some UEFA Nations League fixtures as a sporting aperitif, it’s time for the 2020-21 Premier League season to begin.
There’s a lot to preview, too, with some clubs investing big this summer (we see you, Chelsea) and creating the tantalizing prospect of a three- or four-way title fight. (Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to set the pace, however.) Meanwhile, three familiar clubs (West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Leeds United) return to the top-flight, we’ve got a glut of top strikers and a slew of intriguing new signings to look forward to.Who will win the league? Who will fall short? What is each team setting as their goals and expectations for the campaign? We’ve got all that and more in our bumper Premier League preview to get you ready for the season.
It seems like only yesterday that the 2019-20 season was wrapping up (well, maybe a month?) across Europe but after a quick breather and some UEFA Nations League fixtures as a sporting aperitif, it’s time for the 2020-21 Premier League season to begin.
There’s a lot to preview, too, with some clubs investing big this summer (we see you, Chelsea) and creating the tantalizing prospect of a three- or four-way title fight. (Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to set the pace, however.) Meanwhile, three familiar clubs (West Bromwich Albion, Fulham, Leeds United) return to the top-flight, we’ve got a glut of top strikers and a slew of intriguing new signings to look forward to.Who will win the league? Who will fall short? What is each team setting as their goals and expectations for the campaign? We’ve got all that and more in our bumper Premier League preview to get you ready for the season.
Christian Pulisic has plenty of objectives for this season for Chelsea. There are more goals, more assists and more trophies to secure. But perhaps most of all, there is one that can be taken for granted: health. The American sustained a hip injury just before the new year, and he had yet to return to the field before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. Upon the season’s resumption in June, Pulisic hit top gear, only to sustain a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final.That injury could shelve him for the start of the season, though sources close to the situation say he’ll be back training this week. One can only hope that when he returns, he can reprise the form he showed at the end of the season, when he was among the best players in the Premier League.Granted, at a club like Chelsea, the competition for places is always fierce, and nothing has changed on that front. If anything, it’ll be tougher in 2020. Pedro and Willian are gone, but Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech arrived from Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax, respectively, for combined fees of over $130m. There are also holdovers Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to contend with on the flanks. Maintaining fitness will allow Pulisic to see off those challenges and build upon his debut season with the Blues.
Yet the arrivals of Havertz and Ziyech, as well as world-class forward Timo Werner, also present an opportunity. Their success will create more spaces for Pulisic to exploit. Havertz, who operated mostly as a central playmaker with Leverkusen, seems a complimentary piece to Pulisic, with Ziyech capable of operating on the opposite wing. Assuming Pulisic stays fit this season — and there are never any guarantees there, as we’ve seen — he could and should thrive alongside such quality. — Jeff Carlisle
Will we see the same four teams in the top four?
Liverpool and Manchester City were by far the best two teams in the Premier League last season, and they are likely to set the standard again. The levels of consistency they’ve shown over the past two years suggest they will again compete for the top two positions. Beyond that, Chelsea’s business in the summer transfer window has been eye-catching and if the majority of their new players can settle quickly, they look best equipped to challenge the top two.
Manchester United were a different team during the second half of last season after the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon and if they can replicate that consistency over a full campaign, a top four finish shouldn’t be a problem.Arsenal, Tottenham and Leicester will all challenge for the Champions League places, particularly Arsenal and Tottenham, who should be over the upheaval of both changing managers in midseason last year. Arsenal have shown they can beat the best teams under Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho will have his Tottenham side organised and well-drilled.Last season’s top four will fancy their chances of repeating it but there should be a more sustained challenge from the chasing pack. — Rob Dawson
Can Man United do better than fourth?
The challenge for Manchester United this season is to back up the talk with actions. Three semifinals and a third-place finish in the Premier League last season represented progress for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the task now is to take another step forward. The message from Solskjaer since his arrival in December 2018 has been about his rebuild taking time, but there comes a point when it needs to turn into trophies and a Premier League title challenge.Since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in January, United have shown they are capable of long runs of good form, but that has to be replicated over an entire campaign if they are going to get back to where they were under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek is a positive addition to the squad in midfield, but there are other gaps to fill, and United’s prospects of bridging the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City will depend on how well they perform in the transfer market before the deadline on Oct. 5. Chelsea have already made their statement with a number of high-quality signings.United’s start will be crucial. Start well and they won’t have to answer questions about whether they can qualify for the Champions League — and the attention will turn to putting pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City at the top end of the table. Start poorly and Solskjaer could be facing questions about his future by Christmas. — Rob Dawson
Which side of North London will reign supreme?
Arsenal vs. Spurs is always a battle, and consistency will again be key to seeing who “wins” North London as Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho embark on their first full seasons in charge.A few big victories put a gloss on what was Arsenal’s worst finish in 25 years. The signing of an experienced Premier League player in Willian will go a long way to reinforcing Arsenal’s defence, while the choice between two first-rate keepers in Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez gives Arsenal a solidity they’ve been missing. Bukayo Saka‘s breakout season hints at promise, but it’s hard to look past securing the services of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — the latest is that he’s “close” to signing a new deal — as key to any Arsenal success.Despite Mourinho’s abrasive approach to management, he did oversee an upturn in Spurs’ fortunes last season. While the expectation might have been for some headline summer signings, Mourinho has opted for solidity instead with Premier League-proven additions in Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Wolves defender Matt Doherty and veteran goalkeeper Joe Hart. Popular or not, Mourinho was brought in to win trophies, and being in the Europa League might lead Spurs to focus on other, attainable competitions.It’s hard to look past the excitement that Arteta has brought to Arsenal, an injection of energy that was sorely needed after a tired few years. Mourinho’s colourful management history (and tendency to self-destruct) has prevented a similar bump at Spurs, putting the Gunners in good stead to paint North London red this season. — Kathleen McNamee
After last season’s surprise-packed Sheffield United finished ninth in the Premier League, they have set the benchmark for the latest crop of promotion hopefuls. West Brom and Fulham have the most recent top flight experience — WBA finished last in the Premier League in 2018, and Fulham copied them 2019 — but it’s Leeds who we expect to enjoy their return to the elite for the first time since 2004.Under the maverick Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have a manager who has forged a side that trusts in the system and fears nobody. The summer signing of Spanish striker Rodrigo from Valencia for £30m — he should contribute at least 15 goals — and defender Robin Koch from Freiberg are bits of smart business, while they also have managed to bring back in the impressive Jack Harrison from Manchester City on loan. Kalvin Phillips is getting international recognition in the UEFA Nations League with England, while Pablo Hernandez is ageless, so expect this Leeds team to run and run with El Loco, ensuring they leave nothing on the field.
West Brom have recruited well, and Fulham still have several of the players who experienced their last Premier League adventure, but neither side boast the same strength in depth as Leeds, nor the Bielsa factor. — Tom Hamilton
Who will contend for the Golden Boot?
When it comes to goal scorers in the Premier League, the question once again this season is: Can someone new break into the Golden Boot Club? After all, it’s always the same stars topping the charts. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy won last season with 23 goals, one ahead of Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who shared the award the season before with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Salah lifted the Golden Boot alone in 2018 after his incredible campaign (32), ahead of Harry Kane, who finished first for the previous two seasons with 29 and 25 goals, respectively. Then there’s always Man City’s ageless Sergio Aguero, who’s never far from the top.
So can someone break the hegemony of the “top six” players, or will it be one of them again?
Southampton’s Danny Ings got very close last season, with 22 of his own. Can he go one better? Can Chelsea’s new signing, Timo Werner, be the man? Or how about Man City’s Raheem Sterling? Can Man United’s Anthony Martial or Wolves’ Raul Jimenez improve on their 17 league goals from last season? Or are we in for a big surprise “à la Kevin Phillips” — he notched 30 for Sunderland in 1999-2000 — from the likes of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Rodrigo (Leeds United) or Callum Wilson (Newcastle)?
Whoever wins it will be hoping to set a new mark. Salah’s 32 goals in 2018-19 was the highest tally since Alan Shearer and Andy Cole hit 34 in 1994 and 1995. Can someone do better this season? Only Phillips (2000), Thierry Henry (2003), Cristiano Ronaldo (2008), Robin Van Persie (2012), Luis Suarez (2014) and Salah achieved 30+ goals in a single season in the past 20 years. Whatever happens, it promises to be another close and exciting race… — Julien Laurens
What can we expect from Marcelo Bielsa?
The only thing we can truly expect from Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa this season is the unexpected. After a 16-year absence from the top flight, Leeds are finally back where many believe they belong, but it needed the unpredictable genius of Bielsa to crack the code of promotion from the Championship.
Leeds won the Championship title by playing classic Bielsa football — a game of fast-moving possession with players capable of moving around the pitch at high energy. When they faced Arsenal in the FA Cup third round at the Emirates last season, Bielsa’s Leeds gave an hour-long masterclass that belied their lower-league status before losing the game due to a lack of cutting edge.
If Leeds and Bielsa are to succeed in staying up this season, they have to find a way to score goals in games that they dominate, and the move for Rodrigo suggests that they have found a solution to that problem. That said, it’s best not to make assumptions where Bielsa is concerned. He will certainly bring a different flavour to the Premier League with his brand of football, but will it be too open and adventurous for the top division? And will Bielsa last the pace? Will he want to?
His track record has been patchy — he walked out on Lazio after two days in the job, quit Marseille one game into his second season and lasted less than six months at Lille — so time will tell whether he will stay for the ride with the Leeds or find the Premier League too challenging. — Mark Ogden
New arrivals to get excited about
The Premier League has seemed slower in the transfer market this summer given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but so far deals worth an estimated £850 million have been completed up and down the table.
Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive, and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. Here, he assesses the six incoming players worth paying attention to as the new campaign kicks off.play
Rodrigo, FW, Valencia to Leeds United, €30m: It may seem like a steep price for someone who’s just six months from turning 30, but in the Brazil-born Spanish international, Bielsa gets a quality player with plenty of pedigree. The left-footed forward, who had a rather unremarkable loan stint with Bolton 10 years ago, can play in practically any attacking position and is full of the energy, movement and determination that Bielsa requires from an attacker.
Quick, sharp and unpredictable, Rodrigo is an excellent counter-attack player.Kai Havertz, MF, Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea, €80m: Out of a spectacular bunch of summer signings by the West London club, the German is the cream of the crop. Despite being just 21, Havertz is already a seasoned Bundesliga player and already has useful experience in both the Champions League and the German national side. The superbly talented footballer with a lovely touch on the ball is capable of playing as an attacking midfielder through the middle, out wide to the right or as a deep-dropping forward.
On the one hand he’s an intelligent playmaker with the skill and creativity to set up goals and on the other he’s an excellent finisher who finds great positions in and around the penalty area.
Eberechi Eze, MF, Queens Park Rangers to Crystal Palace, €17.8m: The nimble, creative attacking midfielder moves from west to south London after an impressive season in the Championship. Most commonly deployed as an inverted wide midfielder on the left, Eze loves running at opponents and his outstanding balance makes him able to withstand challenges despite his relatively small build.
Now 22, Eze, who has plenty of clever ball skills and loves backheel passes, made his debut for the England U21 side last year and was closely monitored by several other Premier League sides before joining the London rivals. All in all, he’s a good finisher who’s able to hit the target from well outside the penalty area.Donny van de Beek, MF, Ajax to Manchester United, €39m: Despite spending heavily over the past few years, it’s only January 2020 signing Bruno Fernandes who has emerged as an instant hit for the Red Devils thus far, though it looks as though the 23-year-old Dutchman could follow in the same vein.
Judging from his profile, van de Beek has all it takes to succeed in the Premier League; he’s sharp, industrious, neat on the ball and has the priceless ability of converting well-timed attacking runs into chances and goals. Though he faces tough competition in midfield, one wouldn’t be surprised if van de Beek ends up as one of the first names on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team sheet once he gets settled.Ferran Torres, FW, Valencia to Manchester City, €23m: For a club accustomed to paying over the odds, the Spanish winger — who was about to enter the last year of his contract — represents something as rare as a bargain signing. Manchester City may not have ended up with Lionel Messi (yet?), but the 20-year-old Spaniard certainly possesses some of the technical abilities that are required for an attacking player to function within Pep Guardiola’s framework of fluid football.
Torres has usually been fielded as an out-and-out right winger, but expect him to take up more central positions in the blue shirt. An exciting, tricky flair player who is a delight to watch when at his best.
James Rodriguez, MF, Real Madrid to Everton, €25m: There’s no denying that the career of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner has gone somewhat downhill in the past couple of seasons, with just 18 league starts during the past two campaigns. However, the presence of Carlo Ancelotti speaks in favour of Rodriguez becoming a success at Merseyside, with the Colombian joining up with the Italian manager for the third time in his career.
While there might be some doubt about his mobility and determination to push himself for another challenge, the amazing left foot — with which he can finish from anywhere — is still evident. Coupled with his highly impressive vision and (hopefully) his playmaking abilities, this makes him potentially a major reinforcement for Everton. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen
The 2020-21 Premier League season in a sentence
You’ve read the big questions and you’ve got the new names to keep an eye on from week to week. Now it’s time to examine what each of the 20 teams might be expecting from the 2020-21 campaign and how they might (or might not) accomplish their goals. Tom Hamilton has you covered.
The goal will be a top-four finish and while Arsenal fans will be waiting to see if Mikel Arteta is further backed in the transfer window to achieve these lofty aims, they’ll take heart from Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s new contract and the signing of Gabriel Magalhaes to shore up their unpredictable defence.
After signing half of Europe’s stars, Chelsea fans will hope for a title challenge this season with new recruits Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech spearheading their charge; after a valiant battle, expect them to finish third.
After a dismal end to last season, Crystal Palace fans will be keeping everything crossed they manage to get a striker in who can score double figures this season; if they manage that, they should escape the drop, but it’ll be another nail-biting campaign from start to finish.
Their new-look midfield of Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure will give Everton fans confidence they are going to finish in the Europe places, but they will need to start the season well and hope Richarlison is firing on all cylinders.
FULHAM: (Promoted via Championship playoff, 81 pts)
This season will be about survival and learning from their last disappointing venture in the Premier League; however, they will fall short, but not for want of effort or application.
It’s a welcome return for Leeds this season and the Premier League will have to brace itself for Bielsa and their new big-money signing, Rodrigo, which should be enough to secure a mid-table finish and plenty of drama along with it.
Having lost Ben Chilwell this summer, Leicester will fail to emulate last season’s fifth-place finish with the Europa League, giving Brendan Rodgers a selection headache and a battle to keep his squad fresh.
Topping last season’s remarkable title charge will be hard, and Liverpool’s fans will hope for a repeat this term, but with Manchester City strengthening, they will end up finishing second by a hair’s breadth.
With Pep Guardiola probably still fuming at last season, Manchester City will be a wounded animal this term, and even without Leo Messi, they have recruited well over the summer (Ferran Torres, Nathan Ake) and should end up Premier League champions for the third time in the past four seasons.
The summer was dominated by Jadon Sancho talk and if they manage to get him over the line, United fans will be dreaming of a title challenge; fall short of that, and it’ll be another top-four fandango, but they should be good for a spot in the Champions League places.
Newcastle fans still aren’t rid of their controversial owner Mike Ashley, but with some smart recruitment over the summer — including Callum Wilson — Steve Bruce’s side will hope for a mid-table finish but will likely finish a little lower down.
It’s going to be hard to top last season, but teams will no longer underestimate Chris Wilder’s side; a mid-table finish is likely, yet they’ll still hand out defeats to some of the league’s bigger fish.
With arguably England’s most prolific striker in their ranks, Southampton fans will hope Danny Ings and some smart summer signings will be enough to see them break into the top half, but a finish of 10th or so is projected.
Flip a coin for this season: On the face of it, Tottenham should finish in the top six, but they could go higher if Jose Mourinho works his magic following a prudent summer’s transfers and they manage to keep their star players fit.
WEST BROM: (Promoted as 2nd in Championship, 83 pts)
They have recruited well over the summer, with Grady Diangana arriving and the wondrous Matheus Pereira signing permanently, and they have a smart manager in Slaven Bilic, but although West Brom fans will hope the team avoids relegation, it’s going to be a struggle.
Goals by the young forward duo of Nick Moon and Jeremy Rafanello were enough for Indy Eleven to fend off a late surge by Sporting Kansas City II, lifting Indiana’s Team to a pivotal 2-1 win at Lucas Oil Stadium that pushed it back into first place in the Group E standings.“I think we played well especially really up until the last 10 minutes in which we dropped a bit and they scored a great goal,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “Before that, I thought we were well on top – we created good chances and had a lot of shots, especially in the first half. It’s exciting to see two young players both playing up front together, both scoring goals.”With the victory, Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts.) repossessed the top spot in the four-team group, overtaking Louisville City FC (20 pts.) and setting up another fight for first between the two rivals one week from tonight in the Circle City. The result also put some more distance between Indy and Saint Louis FC (18 pts.), the group’s other contender for one of its two playoff berths. With the loss, Sporting Kansas City II (4W-7L-1D, 13 pts.) saw a dent put in its hopes for postseason qualification, now seven points away from being above the red line with just four matches remaining.The opening of the contest proved to be an emotional rollercoaster for Indiana’s Team, starting with the dip of seeing defender and captain Paddy Barrett receive the first of the game’s eventual seven yellow cards just three minutes in. However, the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd would be on a high soon after, courtesy of Moon’s second goal of the season in the sixth minute. The play began with a long service over the backline by midfielder Ayoze, who made his return felt instantly after missing the squad’s last two contests. From there it was all Moon, who maneuvered his way through a pair of SKC II defenders and saw his left-footed strike go between the legs of goalkeeper Brooks Thompson to give Indy the early 1-0 advantage.Ayoze seemed to be at the heart of Indy’s most dangerous chances – and Sporting’s mounting frustrations – in the first 45 minutes, suffering fouls to set up numerous free kicks in the final third, one of which he nearly converted on in the 36th minute. Three minutes later, his short layoff set up Rafanello to cut inside and unleash a 30-yard blast that just missed wide left. Meanwhile, the Indy backline – minus stalwart left-back Neveal Hackshaw – proved formidable against the young SKC attack, limiting the visitors to just one shot and a late corner kick in the opening stanza. The second half began with the visitors’ aggression boiling over, with SKCII shown three cautions in a span of six minutes just prior to the hour mark. That feistiness also had positive gains, the urgency to set the tone for the rest of the half resulting in captain Dillon Serna’s first true test of Eleven goalkeeper Evan Newton on a hard left-footed strike from outside the box. A few minutes later, a cross from Camden Riley set up a solid header opportunity for Dominik Resetar, which was pushed high and wide.Indiana’s Team kept its foot on the gas, too, driven by forward Andrew Carleton. The 20-year-old playmaker had a couple dangerous looks a minute apart, including one in the 57th minute set up by his dummy and a well-weighted through ball by Rafanello that forced Thompson into a tough save off his line.It would be Rafanello that would give the match a deserved second goal in the 63rd minute, set up by defender Carl Haworth’s cross from the right flank that bounced inside the Sporting six-yard box, making its way past a sliding Moon and three SKCII defenders. Waiting on the other end was Rafanello, whose tough first-time finish gave Indy a 2-0 lead and opened the account of the New Jersey native, making him the ninth Indy player to tally in 2020. Now down two goals, the visitors continued to attack in hopes of keeping their playoff aspirations alive in earnest. A moment of hope came in the 88th minute, when substitute Tyler Freeman’s right-footed free kick drove into the upper-left corner of Newton’s goal, setting up an energetic finish. In the second of three minutes of stoppage time, Sporting KC II thought it had its equalizer off another set piece opportunity, but while Daniel Barbir successfully put his header into the Indy Eleven goal, the finish was waived off after he was whistled for shoving Barrett to gain space at the left post.Indy Eleven will reach the middle of its five-match September homestand next Wednesday, September 16, when Indiana’s Team closes out its regular season series against Louisville City FC (6W-3L-2D, 20 pts., 1st in Group E). Tickets for the next installment of the Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry series, set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, are available at www.indyeleven.com/tickets, and those who cannot be there in person can follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.
USL Championship Regular Season – #INDvSKC Indy Eleven 2 : 1 Sporting Kansas City II Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. ET Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.Attndance: 5,066
2020 USL Championship records
Indy Eleven (7W-4L-1D, 22 pts., 1st in Group E)
Sporting Kansas City II (4W-7L-1D, 13 pts., 4th in Group E)
IND – Nick Moon (Ayoze) 6’
IND – Jeremy Rafanello (Carl Haworth) 63’
SKC – Tyler Freeman (unassisted) 88’
IND – Paddy Barrett (yellow card) 3’
SKC – Dominik Resetar (yellow card) 23’
SKC – Dillon Serna (yellow card) 53’
SKC – Camden Riley (yellow card) 58’
SKC – Jacob Davis (yellow card) 59’
SKC – Petar Cuic (yellow card) 73’
IND – Drew Conner (yellow card) 86’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Evan Newton; Mitch Osmond, Paddy Barrett (captain), Karl Ouimette; Ayoze (Conner Antley 82’), Drew Connor, Tyler Gibson, Carl Haworth; Jeremy Rafanello (Matt Watson 82’), Andrew Carleton, Nick Moon (Ilija Ilic 89’)
IND Substitutes: Jordan Farr (GK), Felicien Dumas, Matthew Senanou, Cam Lindley