10/30/20 – Champs League Week 2 & 3, EPL Big Games, USL Championship Sun eve

Games this Week on TV

So I tuned in to El Classico between Real Madrid and Barcelona last weekend and wow what a great game of soccer.  Barcelona struggled at home and honestly I thought American Sergio Dest might have been the player of the game for the Catalans as they dropped at 3-1 decision to Real Madrid – who really needed the win.  Also tuned into El Traffico and much like El Classico without the fans in the stands it was simply not the same.  Oh and the Galaxy are so bad without Zlattan that they fired their coach.  Of course the marquet matchup of Chelsea and Man United was a dud as they played to the first 0-0 game of the EPL season.  Pulisic disappeared and overall it was not good soccer to watch.  Hopefully this week Pulisic and Chelsea will give us more as they travel to Burnely Sat at 11 am on NBCSN.  Liverpool faces Westham at 1:30 pm on the dreaded Peacock Sat while Sunday the marquee Man United vs Arsenal will also be on the Peacock at 11:30 am.  Monday 6th place Leeds United and Leicester City (4th) are on NBCSN at 3 pm right after Fulham at 3rd place Aston Villa at 1 pm.  MLS does have Philly – yes Philly winners of 4 of 5 looking to hold on to 1st in the East as they travel to former Beast of the east now 3rd place Columbus Crew 9 pts back Sunday at 3 pm on ABC – here’s the match previewOh and Zlatan says Wear A Mask!

Champions League Group Stage Matchday 2 Results

So just 1 week after celebrating a record 5 American’s starting and 7 playing on Matchday 1 last week in Champions League – this week only 1 US Player started on matchday 2.  Dortmund Midfielder Gio Reyna was the only American starting this week as Sergino Dest of Barcelona, RB Leipzig’s Adams (Injured) (they lost 5-0 to Man U without him), and Ethan Horvath GK DNP.  Juve’s McKinney came off the bench following his recovery from Covid and Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic came off the bench but scored a goal and drew a penaltly for the Blues in his 25 minute stint a 4-0 win at Russia’s Krasnodar.  The big showdown between Juve’s Renaldo and Barca’s Messi was a dud as Renaldo tested positive for Covid still and Barca won 2-0.  A bit misleading as Juve did have 3 goals called back by VAR – at least of them ridiculous !  Which brings up a point.  I am a proponent of VAR – as a ref who misses things on the field sometimes I think its important to get a second look sometimes.  But when offsides is being analyzed with a line and a computer to say his toe was offsides by 2 inches 40 feet from goal?  Its too much.  If they are going to do that they need to relax the offsides rule somehow.  Too many goals are being disallowed now.  Its nuts.  And lets not get started on handballs.  Pulisic’s kick into the chest then arm of the defender 1 foot away should have never been a handball.  Things are getting a bit too tight it my mind!  Champs League Standings

UCL Games this Week

Not really any marquet games this week in Champions League Matchday 3 –Chelsea and Pulisic travel to France to face 4th place Rennes on Tues at 1 pm on CBS AA, Dortmund and Gio Ryna host Club Brugge at 3 pm Tues, along with PSG hosting RB Leipzig and Tyler Adams also at 3 pm – both teams need the win as they trail Man U by 3 pts.  The game to watch might be Real Madrid traveling to Inter Wed at 3 pm – the teams are at the bottom of their group and both need wins.  Here’s a great breakdown from Bill Connelly ESPNFC writer.

USL Championship on Sunday Night 8:30 pm

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will host the Phoenix Rising Sunday night as ESPN will televise the USL Championship game at 8:30 pm. Former Indy 11 Rival Cincy FC will say goodbye to Nippert Stadium with no crowd on hand as Cincy plays their last MLS home game this season before moving to their new stadium.  Sad I never made it to Nippert – I hear it was a great venue for soccer with packed crowds for most games.  I had planned to go this summer before the pandemic.  Kicking myself now for not going to a Indy 11 Cincy game there back in the day.  Oh well.   Speaking of the 11 – Hackshaw and Pasher were named to the 2nd Team All League Team.  Congrats. 

High School Playoffs Fri/Sat

Good luck to former Carmel FC and Carmel High coach Carla Baker as she assists now with Park Tudor in the Class A finals vs Lafayette Central Catholic at Grand Park Events Center Friday at 6 pm. Sat Guerin Catholic girls will face Noblesville at 8 pm at Fishers for the Class 3A title.  Admission: $12 per person. Children age 2 or younger free of charge. | Public Digital Sale Only starting at 1 pm ET / 12 pm CT on Thursday, Oct. 29 via GoFan. All ticket sales will be digital only via GoFan ticketing. No cash or credit card sales at the gate. Please purchase tickets online in advance and present your purchase verification on your phone to gain admittance at the gate. Videostream: All six soccer matches will be available at IHSAAtv.org via pay-per-view for $14.95 per match or $19.95 for access to all matches.

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Oct 31 

7:30 am Peacock                                Sheffield United vs Man City

10:30 am ESPN+                                 Werder Breman (Stewart) vs Frankfort (Chandler) 

9 am beIN Sport                           Real Madrid vs Huesca

11 am NBCSN                     Burnley vs Chelseas (Pulisic) 

12:30 pm Peacock?                      Liverpool vs West Ham 

1:30 pm  ESppn+                                 M’Gladbach vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3:30 pm Univsion                              Dallas (Hedges) vs Houston

8:30 pm ESPN+                                   Nashville vs Chicago Fire

Sun, Nov 1 

9 am NBCSN                                       Newcastle vs Everton

11:30 am Peacock                        Man United vs Arsenal

3:30 pm  ABC                    Columbus Crew vs Philly 

8:30 pm ESPN                   Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Phoenix Rising NASL Championship

Mon, Nov 2 

1 pm NBCSN                                   Fulham (Ream & Robinson) vs West Brom 

3 pm NBCSN                                   Leeds United vs Leicester City

 

Champions League TV schedule

All times Eastern.

Tuesday, November 3

Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Atletico Madrid (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

RB Salzburg vs. Bayern Munich (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Man City vs. Olympiacos (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

Porto vs. Marseille (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Midtjylland vs. Ajax (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Atalanta vs. Liverpool (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Wednesday, November 4

Zenit vs. Lazio (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Man United (Champions League Group Stage), 12:55pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Sevilla vs. Krasnodar (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Brugge vs. Dortmund (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Barcelona vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, UniMas, TUDN, CBS All Access 

Ferencvaros vs. Juventus (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, Galavision, CBS All Access 

RB Leipzig vs. PSG (Champions League Group Stage), 3pm, CBS All Access, TUDNxtra

Wed, Nov 12

2:45 pm FS1                      USA vs Wales

USA
Dortmund’s Gio Reyna becomes youngest American to start in Champions League

Lampard: “I never doubted Pulisic”

USMNT in UCL: Pulisic Scores, Draws PK for ChelseaBY AVI CREDITOR

Reyna Stands out as one of Best Bundesliga Midfielders So Far this Season

Doyle: Predicting the USMNT roster for the November window
Who’ll score USMNT’s goals on the road to the World Cup?

USMNT to Play Wales Wed, Nov 12 2:45 pm on FS1  

Champions League

Champions League fact or fiction: Man United are among favorites, Real Madrid won’t escape the group  Bill Connelly ESPNFC
Champions League wrap: Messi leads Barca at Juve; Dortmund, PSG win

Champions League roundup: Real Madrid, Atleti come back late

Real Madrid Walks Tightrope in Champions League – Jon Wilson SI

Is the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry all but over?
Juventus fall to Messi’s Barcelona without Covid-hit Ronaldo

Rashford scores hat-trick as Man Utd smash Leipzig 5-0 in Champions League

Sancho, Haaland rescue toiling Dortmund in ‘game that won’t go in history books’

Three things we learned from Manchester United – RB Leipzig

PSG win in Turkey with Kean brace as Neymar goes off injured

Pulisic scores, Chelsea pops Krasnodar

Zidane says Real deserved point after fightback at Gladbach

Liverpool edge past Midtjylland but Fabinho injury adds to defensive woes

Klopp downbeat on Fabinho injury; what now for Liverpool?

Man City cruises to win at Marseille

Kimmich strike maintains Bayern Munich’s record run in Europe
8/10 Ziyech and Werner impress, Pulisic scores as Chelsea cruise3hShaun Reynolds
EUROPE
‘European Super League’ or new-look Champions League — what does the future hold?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic urges fans to mask up to stop COVID-19: ‘You are not Zlatan, do not challenge the virus’
Barcelona reverting back to rough pre-Messi era?
Europa League: Arsenal, Napoli win; Leverkusen upset

Spurs stunned by Antwerp as Milan, Arsenal cruise to victories

 

EPL
Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 7

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard must get his stars to shine or face certain drama  Ian Darke

Lampard responds to Marsch on Pulisic: He’s recounted it wrong
Man United clear favorites over Arsenal in MW7

Man United vs Arsenal Preview
Which Premier League club in Europe has the toughest road?

Lower-league football clubs ‘face extinction’ without rescue package

 

MLS & USL

MLS to Use Points Per Game for Playoff Seeding, Standings BY AVI CREDITOR SI
Guillermo Barros Schelotto out in LA
Portland Timbers clinch 4th consecutive postseason appearance

Nashville SC becomes sixth MLS expansion team to clinch playoff berth in first season

LAFC clinches MLS playoff berth with win over Houston Dynamo
Boehm: FCC dream of bright future as they bid farewell to Nippert
USL Champ Final Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Phoenix Rising at Al Lang
Phoenix won’t host USL final after slur incident
Phoenix Rising coach back after anti-gay incident
USL League One cancels championship game after multiple positive COVID-19 tests

  

USMNT in Champions League: Pulisic Scores, Draws PK Off Bench for Chelsea

AVI CREDITOR

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The American contingent in the Champions League was largely confined to the bench on Wednesday, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any room to contribute.Christian Pulisic came off the bench in the 71st minute for Chelsea, drew a penalty and scored the final goal of a 4-0 rout of Krasnodar in Russia in one of the two early games on the day across Europe’s premier competition.Pulisic, who recently returned from injury, scored his first goal of the season and tied DaMarcus Beasley’s record for an American in the Champions League with his fourth career goal in the competition with his 90th minute finish, a near-post tally from close range.Earlier, minutes after his inclusion, Pulisic received a pass after a run down the middle, and his shot from inside the box hit off the hand of a Krasnodar defender for a penalty kick that Timo Werner went on to convert to make it 2-0. The only American to earn the start on Wednesday was Gio Reyna, who was given his first start in Champions League play by Dortmund vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg. He nearly scored, putting an early shot wide of the post, and he also absorbed a harsh tackle and got up limping on a first-half tackle, though he shook it off and remained in the game. He came off in the 84th minute, with Dortmund leading 1-0 on the strength of a Jadon Sancho penalty kick. Erling Haaland’s insurance goal gave Dortmund a 2-0 victoryWeston McKennie (Juventus vs. Barcelona), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona vs. Juventus), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig vs. Man United) and Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge vs. Lazio) were the other Americans whose teams were in action on Wednesday.For McKennie, he had yet to play since being cleared of the coronavirus prior to his entry in the 75th minute on Wednesday. As for Dest, Sergi Roberto was preferred over the 19-year-old despite his impressive showing in El Clasico last weekend, and Dest remained on the bench throughout his side’s 2-0 win in Turi.  Adams is recovering from a knee injury suffered in training, so his exclusion from RB Leipzig’s 5-0 defeat to Man United wasn’t all that surprising, and Brugge starting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was cleared of coronavirus, sending Horvath back to the bench for Wednesday’s 1-1 draw despite his performance in last week’s win over Zenit.

Frank Lampard rejects claim he doubted Christian Pulisic’s top-flight ability

By Nick Purewal, PAPA Media: SportOct 29, 2020, 11:58 AM

Frank Lampard has insisted he never doubted Christian Pulisic’s ability to thrive in the Premier League.Lampard has moved to set the record straight after claims from Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch that the Chelsea boss had been unconvinced by Pulisic on taking the Stamford Bridge helm.Pulisic netted twice for Chelsea in a pre-season friendly against Salzburg in the summer of 2019, after which Marsch claimed Lampard revealed reservations about the USA forward.Marsch claimed Lampard said of Pulisic “he’s got a lot to learn so we’ll see how he does” and that the Chelsea boss has had to revise his opinion of the ex-Borussia Dortmund star.But Lampard rejected those claims and moved to explain the situation – in a bid to reassure the 22-year-old Pulisic he always knew the full extent of his talents.“I did read the comments, I was surprised that Jesse had managed to read my mind as well as he thought he did,” said Lampard.“He’s recounted the conversation wrongly, so I have to put it right. Because it was a game against Salzburg where we played them and Christian scored two goals in pre-season.“Afterwards, fair enough, Jesse came up to me and said what a talented plyer Christian was, which I knew and I agreed with.“And I spoke about the fact that it was so exciting to see how he could develop for us with the talent that he has.“That was the conversation. Jesse managed to put it across slightly differently.“Maybe Jesse knows the feeling of American managers and coaches who travel into Europe, so maybe has things that I don’t get.

“But one thing I did get, I played in America for 18 months, and I will never underestimate the desire that American players have, to learn and improve and take on information, and understand the technical side of the game.“So when you have that, which Christian has, and you have incredible talent, it was never in doubt for me.“My only thing is I coach in the Premier League and I’ve played in it for nearly 20 years, so I understand the rigours of it. “And I suppose that probably brings me on to Christian’s development last year.“It’s clearly the toughest league in the world to come and play at a young age from a different league.“And it’s not just Christian who would have felt that in his early stages.“Some of the greatest players in Premier League history, whether they came from America or Europe, or anywhere in the world, have felt that

.34 appearances

  • 11 goals
  • 9 assists

“What Christian did was find his feet very quickly and have a breakthrough season in the Premier League where he produced more goals and assists than he had produced previously.“So I thought his performance last year was massively impressive on his own.“He will get better and better because he’s a young player. And I never doubted it in the first place.“And that’s not me jumping on Jesse, because I think there’s probably a bigger issue there with American players. I don’t want to comment on that, he can field that himself.“But as a manager I never doubted Christian. And it’s important for me to put that straight actually, more for Christian than anything.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard must get his stars to shine or face certain drama

USMNT has Pulisic and Reyna in form, but who will score the goals on road to 2022 World Cup?

For all the excitement around the latest young batch of USMNT prospects — a quick look at their potential can’t help but make fans dream a little — there are still question marks over who will be the main man up front to score the goals that lead them into the 2022 World Cup.While you have the outstanding Christian Pulisic already settled on one wing and Giovanni Reyna likely playing in the attacking midfielder role, there is a notable vacancy at striker. The honor has been shifted around over the past few years, but inevitably comes back to Jozy Altidore. He will be 32 when the next World Cup arrives, never mind the lingering questions over whether he is still good enough.

Jump to: Stock Watch | A few minutes with | Scouting report

That said, there are a number of potential options spread around Europe.

When one MLS sporting director was asked by ESPN who they’d start up front, the response was short and to the point: “Josh Sargent.”

Sargent hasn’t scored in 438 league minutes this season for Werder Bremen, his only goal of the campaign so far coming in the German Cup against third-tier Carl Zeiss Jena. Even though he’s spent time on the right wing at the tail end of last season and at the start of this one, he’s now being played up top.

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around USMNT stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

Although his adaptability is one of his huge strengths, it’s at striker where his long-term future lies. That same MLS sporting director told ESPN that for all his time floating around the attacking positions, “Sargent is a center-forward, simple.” He was left off the 2019 Gold Cup squad, a snub that affected him — but he is a resilient man, used to coping with the unpredictability of top-level football, and he could prove to be the tip of the diamond in a forward lineup of Pulisic, Reyna and potentially Jordan Morris or Gyasi Zardes.

While Sargent is one obvious choice, elsewhere in Europe there are some bubbling nicely as others struggle to state their claim. Sebastian Soto made an offseason transfer from Hannover 96 to Norwich and is now on loan at SC Telstar in the Dutch second tier, where he has scored five goals in six games. There were rumors he was contemplating switching his allegiance from the United States to Chile, so if he’s picked for the November internationals, he will confirm his commitment.

Of the other players likely to feature in the next batch of USMNT friendlies, Tim Weah and Konrad de la Fuente are still looking to establish themselves at Lille and Barcelona, respectively. De la Fuente has experienced some first-team action for Barcelona, but will get most of his game time with Barca B this year on the wing. Weah is playing off the bench at center-forward for Lille, but has not been playing a whole lot after missing most of last season through injury.

The much-admired Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, was on the USMNT radar earlier this year, sources told ESPN, and has two goals in seven matches for SC Caen in Ligue 2. He is switching between the right wing and center-forward positions, but he’s coming along nicely; even though he is also eligible for ItalyFrance and Jamaica, he said recently he’d go to the U.S. “with his eyes closed” if they came calling.

Is 20-year-old Josh Sargent the answer to the USMNT’s present and long-term future striker conundrum? Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

Tyler Boyd and Bobby Wood have also been options in the past, but neither has enjoyed the easiest of starts to the 2020-21 campaign. Boyd is out of the Besiktas squad due to a cap on foreigners, which means he will be blocked from getting game time until he can secure a move in the January transfer window. Wood, 27, has made just three substitute appearances for 2. Bundesliga side Hamburg.

Another wild card could be Andrija Novakovich, who is at Alessandro Nesta’s Frosinone in Serie B and could be one to reemerge from the shadows. He won the last of his three USMNT caps in 2018 and has two goals in six games for his club side this term. Other options, who are yet to declare their international allegiance, are Arsenal‘s New York-born Folarin Balogun, 18, and ex-France youth international Jordan Siebatcheu, who is on loan at Young Boys from Rennes.

The common theme here is that potential USMNT center-forwards are largely playing out on the wing for their club sides. If U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter is looking at goals per game and more traditional strikers then, as one source suggested to ESPN, the answers to the conundrum are in Scandinavia.

Icelandic American Aron Johannsson won the last of his 19 USMNT caps in 2015, but look at his scoring record this season: he has 13 goals in 22 matches for Hammarby. Switching between a false nine and No. 10 role, he has been ruthless, showing some of his best form after a few injury-plagued years. He’s one who could feature in the November friendlies, and one source told ESPN: “Don’t discount him; he’s going to be in contention.” He may not be at Hammarby for long, either, with interest being shown in him from former club AZ Alkmaar, MLS and Russia, sources told ESPN.And then there’s Haji Wright and Emmanuel Sabbi. Wright, 22, has five goals in seven contests for Danish Superligaen side SonderjyskE after barren seasons at Schalke and VVV-Venlo. He started the season on the bench, but his brace against Aalborg in round three saw him force his way into the first XI and he marked that occasion with a goal against Brondby in mid-October. Sabbi has also found success in Denmark, having scored two goals in six for Odense while primarily playing out wide.

If you’re looking to sketch out a U.S. team for the 2022 World Cup, then you can expect a 4-2-3-1 with Altidore the sole striker, a source close to the team told ESPN. The general feeling is that Berhalter is hoping Sargent emerges before then, but that remains a big if. They also are hoping for big things from Jeremy Ebobisse of the Portland Timbers, but until someone really grasps that opportunity, it’ll be Altidore or Zardes up front with a supporting cast of Pulisic, Reyna and likely Morris.

It may end up being “goals by committee,” one source said, but there’s an opportunity to become the USMNT’s go-to striker entering the 2022 World Cup. — Tom Hamilton

USMNT Stock Watch: Who’s up? Who’s down?

How are the players Berhalter will be relying upon for World Cup qualifying performing with their clubs? ESPN’s correspondents from around the world bring you inside information to help explain the successes and stumbles of American players plying their trade overseas.

Ale Moreno praises the performance of Sergino Dest in his first-ever El Clasico despite Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat.

Sergino Dest, Barcelona — On the rise : The right-back has made a dazzling start to life in Spain, looking assured first in the Champions League against Ferencvaros and then in the Clasico at the weekend against Real Madrid, when he was Barcelona’s best player. Dest, who has been starting in place of the injured Jordi Alba but long term is expected to play on the right, has drawn rave reviews from the staff at Barca, with sources telling ESPN’s Sam Marsden that they cannot believe how quickly he’s settled in despite being just 19 and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world. Sources added that Dest has thrown himself fully into life at Barcelona, promising to learn both Spanish and Catalan, and immediately looking at home in Barcelona’s quick passing game.

Bobby Wood, Hamburg — Trending down : At one stage the USMNT’s most consistent goal scorer, Wood has seemingly disappeared in the past two seasons. Still not 28, Wood hasn’t played for the U.S. since 2018, and at present is finding game time tough to come by in the 2. Bundesliga with Hamburg. He’s only made three substitute appearances this term, a dramatic fall for a player who once scored 17 goals in a season at this level and later was a Bundesliga regular. While the goals have dried up, it may not be all doom and gloom for Wood, as new Hamburg manager Daniel Thioune told ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that he rates what he sees with Wood. For now though, Wood is trending down, as he has failed to crack Hamburg’s starting XI this season and has not scored a club goal since Nov. 2018.

Sebastian Soto, Telstar (on loan from Norwich) — On the rise : The 20-year-old continued his red-hot start at loan club Telstar, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win at Helmond Sport last weekend. With five goals in six games so far in the Dutch second tier, Soto continues to showcase elite goal-scoring instincts and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. The biggest question remaining is who he will represent at the international level. Eligible for both the United States and Chile, the Real Salt Lake academy product is awaiting his first senior call-up and could have a big decision to make come November. “I have heard both countries want me, but until I get something that is actually official, then I don’t have a decision to make. I am just waiting,” Soto recently told Dutch broadcaster NH Sport.

Jonathan Amon Nordsjælland — Trending down : More bad luck for the 21-year-old South Carolina native. After playing — and scoring a winner off the bench — in his first club game for 13 months two weeks ago, Amon reinjured his knee and now will undergo another surgery. The winger, who looked lively in two caps for the U.S. at the end of 2018 and start of 2019, has a fracture in his knee and now faces another lengthy spell on the sideline. This week’s setback is the latest in a series of bad injury breaks for Amon, with Nordsjaelland sporting director 

A few minutes with … Matt Miazga

Given what Pulisic has done lately at Chelsea, it is easy to forget that central defender Matt Miazga was the first young American to make the move to Stamford Bridge back in 2016.

Now 25, Miazga recently joined Belgian giants Anderlecht on a season-long loan, where he will continue his development under Vincent Kompany, one of the top center-backs of the past decade.

Tom Hamilton caught up with Miazga to talk about his new club, his future at Chelsea, working with Kompany, his place within the United States men’s national team and much more.

Scouting report: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona B)

“Konrad,” as he’s simply known in Spain, has represented the United States at most youth team levels and rose to prominence as a 17-year-old at the Under-20 World Cup last summer. The wide man with a seemingly endless repertoire of trickery was drafted into the Barcelona first-team squad in September and subsequently made his debut in a preseason friendly.

Quick off the mark, brilliant one-v-one offensively and with strong balance, the 2001-born attacker prefers to operate on the left-wing, often side-stepping opponents to cut inside on his favored right foot. His boyhood hero was Barcelona legend Ronaldinho, but on the pitch, he draws a closer comparison to another Brazilian: ex-Barcelona star Neymar. Like the two South Americans, Konrad enjoys setting off on dazzling runs and, once he hits top speed, he has a similar ability to make a full-back look foolish.

Having already attracted praise from manager Ronald Koeman, the young American is looking to add more consistency to his game. Improving his team play and working even more on his weaker left foot will be key as he knocks on the door of a senior debut at Camp Nou.

Armchair Analyst: Predicting the USMNT roster for the November window

October 29, 202012:34PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

\It has quite obviously been the very weirdest year for soccer in the US, and that includes for the US men’s national team and every level of the youth national teams. March was supposed to be a Olympic qualifying for the U-23s and a massive, European-based camp with a pair of friendlies. There was no summer tournament scheduled for the USMNT, but there would have been at least six friendlies, the Olympics and a big U-20 camp. Then this autumn, World Cup qualifying proper was supposed to start.All of that has been wiped out by the global pandemic, and so neither the USMNT nor the U-20s have played since January. The U-23s haven’t played at all in 2020. It’s been a year of nothing.And yet it’s also been kind of an awesome year for the USMNT, right? Christian Pulisic leveled up to become one of the very best wingers in the world. Tyler Adams has gotten healthier (though not 100% healthy) and slid into more of a game-controlling quarterback role instead of a game-destroying terrier role. Weston McKennie moved from Schalke, who play the worst soccer in the world, to Juventus, who very much don’t. Gio Reyna put his miserable performance at the U-17 World Cup behind him almost immediately after it happened and has broken through in a big way for Borussia Dortmund, starting the majority of their biggest games even at just 17 years old. Sergino Dest went from part-time starter at Ajax to part-time-starter-after-a-$20 million-move to Barcelona, and acquitted himself well in his first El Clasico.Just one of those things would have made 2020 some sort of win for the USMNT. All five of them happening in the course of a few months is kind of mind-bending. We have rarely had a single player suiting in those types of major roles for clubs at that level, and when it did happen it was usually a ‘keeper. Now, however, we’ve got five players in major roles for five of the best teams in the world, and all are age 22 or younger.It’s not just those five, though. Chris Richards started getting sporadic minutes for Bayern Munich. Tim Weah made his first halting steps back from a long-term injury. Antonee Robinson almost moved to AC Milan, then did move to Fulham in the Premier League. Josh Sargent is a regular starter in the Bundesliga for the second straight season, and hasn’t yet turned 21. Reggie Cannon made a move to Portugal with Lille — and a perennial place in European competition — the likely next stop. Zack Steffen has solidified himself as Manchester City’s No. 2.No USMNT fan could’ve realistically asked for more. In terms of how the vast majority of our young core has developed, this has been a banner year. So that means that for the USMNT, it has been a banner year.And quite obviously the weird part is that we’ve yet to see these guys get on the field together and put the above progress and development to work in Red, White & Blue. Reyna and Richards have never played for the full national team. Weah, whose most recent cap came in 2018, has never played for Gregg Berhalter after missing basically all of 2019 with injuries. Adams and Robinson have played for Berhalter just once.Those numbers would be very different if 2020 had been a normal year, in any sense. We’d have a better sense of how they fit and who Berhalter rated where, and, of course, how they’d play.Which brings us to next month’s international date, during which the US are scheduled to play Wales on November 12 and maaaaaaybe Panama after that if all the paperwork can be sorted. Both games will be in the UK.This is the first chance to see all or, at least, most of that young core on the field together in any sort of setting. After 10 months of waiting the USMNT will be back, and it should be a different and much-improved bunch over what we saw throughout most of 2019.Given travel restrictions placed on people coming from the US these days, I expect Berhalter to call in a predominantly European squad with a few MLS players from non-playoff teams mixed in. There is no cap on the numbers of players Berhalter can call in, and given how many camps have been missed this year, I’m expecting him to go big — much bigger than the usual 23-man roster. Here we go:

GOALKEEPER: Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Jonathan Klinsmann (LA Galaxy)

Steffen is still the clear No. 1 in Berhalter’s eyes, which doesn’t appear likely to change. Horvath went a year without playing, then got on the field earlier this month for Brugge in the Champions League and had himself a blinder. It was a nice moment for the kid.  Klinsmann has struggled mightily since being handed the starting job in Carson, but he’s one of just two U-23 US ‘keepers getting starting minutes anywhere in the world. The other — and presumed Olympic starter based upon form and, especially, footwork — is San Jose’s J.T. Marcinkowski, who will be busy prepping for the playoffs.

Berhalter and pretty much everyone at U.S. Soccer has talked about how important the Olympics are this cycle, so I suspect he’ll give a potential qualifying ‘keeper a call and an invite across the pond to train with the first team, which itself is packed with Olympic-eligible players. Even if Klinsmann seems unlikely to play a big role in Olympic qualifying… you never know. And there’s no harm in bringing the kid to this camp.

FULLBACKS: Dest (Barcelona), Cannon (Boavista), Robinson (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Shaq Moore (CD Tenerife)

Dest and Cannon are locks, and are probably the starters. Robinson has struggled defensively in his past US appearances, but he was young, the competition-level was mostly high, and the entire team was mostly a mess in those caps. He is an easy call. So are Yedlin — despite the fact that he hasn’t played for Newcastle this year, and is clearly out the door come winter — and Moore, who has quietly won a starting job in the Segunda Liga.Something to think about with regard to fullback usage, which has been a point of contention since literally Berhalter’s first game in charge: The last time the US took the field, back in February against Costa Rica, we saw both wingers pinch inside and both fullbacks (Sam Vines on the left; Cannon on the right) push forward at pace in a pretty linear way. There was no tucking into central midfield or any of the other misdirection that Berhalter spent much of 2019 trying to bake into the way the team plays.That bodes well for Cannon (who actually won the match-deciding PK on the overlap), and especially Robinson and Yedlin. Both of those guys have the straight-line speed to go endline-to-endline but neither is the type of gifted technician who’d be comfortable coming inside and dictating play in the way that, for example, Dest or Adams (when playing fullback) can.  Moore is, I’m sure, a bit of a mystery to most US fans. The short scouting report: right-footed, straight-line player; exceptional crosser; probably a little sleepy defensively to the point that he’s actually been played as a classic, non-inverted winger a bunch.

CENTER BACKS: John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Tim Ream (Fulham), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Vienna), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Bournemouth)

The only questions here are fitness with regard to Richards and Carter-Vickers, each of whom have suffered knocks and been out for a bit.And also, consider the stability and progress of that massive cohort of young players mentioned in the lede against the instability and one-step-forward, two-steps-back nature of the careers of Miazga, Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers. It is a night-and-day difference, and should be a reminder to the fanbase to appreciate this moment when so many of our best players are steadily advancing their careers for great clubs.Another thing to consider: If playing for the likes of Anderlecht, Austria Vienna and Bournemouth is the bad outcome… that’s actually pretty good!

DEFNSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional Porto Alegre), Chris Durkin (Sint-Truiden)

This is the “quarterback” role and we should pretty obviously see at least 150 minutes of Adams in this spot if he his healthy. Berhalter has indicated, over the past year or so, that he’s planning to use Adams in central midfield, but has also been cagey about which spot. In the past I think there’s been an argument that Adams’ best skill — his front-foot pressing and ability to cause turnovers — can be best brought to bear in more of a No. 8 role, but given the role he’s now playing for Leipzig, his personal preference and his growth as a passer of the ball, as well as need within the USMNT and the other options at the No. 8 and 10 spots… I hope Berhalter doesn’t overthink this. Let’s see the kid take a few snaps.Cardoso might actually be more of a No. 8, though I have the 19-year-old listed as a No. 6 here. He’s played both spots for the Brazilian giants both domestically and in the Copa Libertadores.Durkin has played myriad roles for Sint-Truiden during an up-and-down season, and I think it’d be pretty easy to make the case that he hasn’t really earned a call-up based upon his play. But his skillset matches what Berhalter has traditionally looked for from the No. 6, and Durkin’s still just 20 — i.e., Olympic-eligible — so as with Klinsmann, it’s an easy call to bring him to this camp even if he’s very unlikely to see the field.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: McKennie (Juventus), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg U-23s)

Holmes has struggled for fitness and for playing time once he’s been fit, but it’s worth bringing him into camp. The same is probably true for Kayo, who’s yet to make his first-team debut for Wolfsburg but seems to have been fast-tracked in a way that Uly Llanez and Kobe Hernandez-Foster were not.I’m curious to see if McKennie and Adams would play side-by-side out of possession, as Sebastian Lletget and Jackson Yueill did against the Ticos. It was much more of a 4-2-3-1 double-pivot look than Berhalter had previously used, and would seem to be a snug fit for this group.

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Lletget (LA Galaxy), Richie Ledezma (Jong PSV)

Reyna’s debut is obviously one of the main selling points of this camp, and he should start and play as many minutes as Berhalter and Dortmund’s sports science department think is appropriate in the middle of a Bundesliga season. I want to see how he’ll fit into the same midfield as Adams and McKennie.Lletget gets the call because he is basically the only potential USMNT starter in MLS whose team did not/is not going to make the playoffs, and obviously he’s been excellent for the US. There is no reason not to bring him even if he’s unlikely to play much during this camp.As for Ledezma… I still believe. His progress has been nowhere near as linear or quick as the likes of Reyna, McKennie, Adams or Pulisic, and there are times where his deficiencies — he’s super right-footed; his set piece delivery is erratic; he lacks physicality — are on full display even in the Eerste Divisie, a level of soccer that is honestly no higher than the USL Championship.

But he’s still pretty young (just turned 20) and still has a high upside. And like others on this roster, he’s here because he’s likely to be a big part of Olympic qualifying, so why not bring him along?

WINGERS: Pulisic (Chelsea), Weah (Lille), Luca de la Torre (Heracles Almelo), Llanez (Heerenveen), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Konrad de la Fuente (Barca B)

Pulisic on the left, and then we figure out what works best on the right. I’m hoping it’ll be Weah, even though he’s played few minutes (and they’ve mostly been at center forward) since returning from injury. Weah’s also not a prototype modern right winger in that he’s not super-dangerous 1v1 off the dribble, but he’s a smart and inventive passer and is very good in the half-spaces. If you look back to the February game, Berhalter had the wingers tuck inside quite often and operate there while the fullbacks overlapped and the Free 8s pulled deeper.

De la Torre, unlike Ledezma and Llanez, is actually starting Eredivisie games, so into the mix he goes. Same with de la Fuente, who had a few nice preseason appearances for the full Barcelona side but is, as of now, still a Barca B player.

I could live without Boyd, who struggled in his last few US appearances and has been left out of Besiktas’s squad both domestically and in European play. But also, I see zero harm in calling him in.

CENTER FORWARDS: Sargent (Werder Bremen), Nicolas Gioacchini (Caen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Haji Wright (SonderjyskE)

Sargent should basically get every single No. 9 second available here even though he’s mostly been played as a winger or second forward for Werder (though that’s about to change given the injuries in that squad; Sargent should get a few weeks to lock down the No. 9 job).Gioacchini is a 20-year-old center forward playing at a decent level (Ligue 2) whose hold-up play is more impressive than his finishing for the time being. Soto is a 20-year-old center forward playing at a low level (Eerste Divisie) whose finishing is more impressive than his hold-up play for the time being. Neither have really earned a full USMNT camp, but deserve’s got nothing to do with it at this point. They are here to get a feel for the system, which could/should lay some of the foundation for what they may be asked to do with the Olympic team.The same is true for the 22-year-old Wright, who I’ve never particularly rated. He did not cut it in Germany or the Netherlands, but he now has five goals in 240 minutes in Denmark. There is real “Romain Gall” energy to this burst of form, and I will not shed a tear if he is not called in. But I certainly won’t complain if he is.I will complain a bit if Aron Johannsson is called in. He’s about to turn 30, has played more than 2,000 minutes in a season exactly once, and is only scoring against bottom-tier teams in Sweden. Even when he was in his athletic prime and scoring regularly in the Eredivisie international soccer was too quick for him; I can’t imagine that would be different now. If you want to reach for a European-based veteran to call for this camp, I’d honestly throw Bobby Wood a lifeline instead. Like Johannsson his career has been marred by injury, but he’s just 27 and unlike Johannsson he has a history of delivering big goals for the USMNT and looking physically capable of handling international play. He has scored massive goals in official competition against Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama, and those are exactly the type of goals the US will need over the next 18 months.I’m not as concerned about our center forward depth chart as others — I think Sargent will come good, I think Gyasi Zardes will score tough goals, I’m betting big that one of Daryl DikeJeremy Ebobisse or Ayo Akinola will hit, and I think Jozy Altidore‘s got at least a little something left. But I do worry about the types of goals that Wood scored at Honduras back in 2017, and would feel like 10 percent better about the depth chart if he was somewhere scoring them.So if you want a vet, call Bobby. Otherwise, for this camp I’m good with the four kids.

My 11

Sargeant

Pulisic, Reyna, Weah

Adams, McKinney

Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Dest

Steffan


  • You could pretty easily talk me into Dest starting on the left, Cannon on the right and Robinson off the bench.This is early for Richards, who’s only played a few minutes at right back for the Bayern first team, but he’s worth it as a prospect and I’d be fine with this unless Miazga, Palmer-Brown or Carter-Vickers just buries him in training.I could see Lletget starting in midfield and Reyna as the right-sided winger given the way that winger operates for Berhalter.Anyway, it’ll be great to have the USMNT back and I genuinely can’t wait to watch these guys play. It’s been too long.

Real Madrid Is Walking a Champions League Tightrope

Real Madrid lost its first group match and very nearly lost its second, with big deficits and desperate comebacks not a sustainable formula for good fortune on the Champions League stage.

JONATHAN WILSONOCT 27, 2020

Two very late goals for Real Madrid at Borussia Monchengladbach perhaps staved off any real talk of crisis. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw, though, does not tell anything like the whole story: this was a Champions League performance that only magnified the doubts about Zinedine Zidane’s side on another night that seemed to confirm the era of Spanish domination in Europe is over. A single point from its first two games mean Real Madrid is in serious danger of failing to make it through its Champions League group for the first time since 1997. On every previous occasion, Madrid has been in a group, it has progressed from it. After winning three Champions League titles in a row, Madrid has been eliminated in the last 16 in each of the last two seasons. This time it may not even get that far. The defeat last week against a second string Shakhtar Donetsk felt freakish, the result of an abysmal first half. But two familiar traits stood out, worryingly: Madrid’s physical timidity and the lethargic nature of much of its attacking. Against Monchengladbach, Madrid again was outmatched both physically and for speed, and again it looked dully predictable going forward. If Madrid’s hope was that victory in Saturday’s Clasico was a sign that all was suddenly well at the club, it was soon dashed. In retrospect, that win perhaps merely highlighted how far Barcelona had fallen. As Barcelona’s president Josep Bartomeu resigned Tuesday with the comment that he and its board had approved the club’s involvement in a yet-to-exist European Super League, it was impossible to avoid the thought that you can see why Europe’s elite feel like they need it, if this is how they’re going to play against the team currently sixth in the Bundesliga. All the familiar problems, all the issues that have beset Real Madrid against Cadiz and then Shakhtar were there again in Germany. Zidane’s side began well enough against an unusually cautious Monchenladbach, and perhaps there was a confidence there in the early stages. But there was a lack of pace and imagination about its play, and the longer the first half wore on, the more comfortable Monchenladbach appeared. Over the past couple of years, Spanish sides have repeatedly struggled against physically aggressive sides. Whenever Monchenladbach pressed, Madrid looked uneasy, and the opening goal stemmed from Toni Kroos twice being dispossessed in quick succession. Marcus Thuram side-footed home powerfully, but the goal was created by a remarkably precise nutmeg pass from Alassane Plea after Sergio Ramos had been drawn out of the back line to deal, not especially effectively, with a long ball. Madrid began the second half as it had the first, with a flurry of attacking, and Marcos Asensio, who had been by far its most dangerous player, hit the bar with a bouncing volley. But the sloppiness remained. As Thuram advanced just before the hour mark, nobody closed him down. Plea’s volley was saved by Thibaut Courtois, but, with Ferlan Mendy loitering lazily by the goal line where he’d been unable to prevent a cross, Thuram was kept onside to tap in the rebound. Only a fine save from Courtois then prevented Plea putting Madrid 3-0 behind for the second Champions League game in a row, and two other fine chances were squandered. By the final 10 minutes, though, Monchenladbach was exhausted. It had opportunities to break, plenty of them, but weary limbs misplaced passes and weary brains chose the wrong option. At the same time, some sort of muscle memory kicked in for Madrid, and it began to ramp up the pressure. Karim Benzema pulled one back, as Casemiro strained to keep the ball in play with a header beyond the back post. Then, three minutes into injury time, Casemiro slammed in the equalizer as Sergio Ramos headed back across goal for him. The sense of Spanish decline was intensified by events back in Madrid, where Atletico squeaked an unconvincing 3-2 win over Salzburg thanks to Joao Felix’s second goal five minutes from time. Again though, the Spanish team was rattled by opponents with far fewer resources who looked sharper and smarter. After a 4-0 defeat at Bayern Munich last week, Atletico can at least be relatively confident of progress. Real Madrid, though, faces Inter in each of its next two games. Antonio Conte’s side had much the better of a 0-0 draw against Shakhtar but, not for the first time, failed to make the most of its domination. Its pressing and pace, though, will trouble Madrid. The cracks the late comeback papered over could very quickly be exposed next week.

Champions League fact or fiction: Man United are among favorites, Real Madrid won’t escape the group

2:15 PM ETBill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

This year’s Champions League compressed group stage is a pedal-to-the-metal sprint — three straight midweek contests, two weeks off, then three more midweek affairs. The odds are shifting and swaying constantly, and they will do so again next week. One-third of the way through, let’s step back and see what has and hasn’t changed, fact-or-fiction style.

Manchester United has helped itself the most so far

FACT. Comparing FiveThirtyEight’s Champions League projections from after the draw was made to this week, we find that a few teams have either taken care of business or benefited from others’ failure to do the same.

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Biggest increase in odds of advancement to knockout rounds, per FiveThirtyEight:

— Manchester United: up 45 percentage points, from 49% to 94%
— Shakhtar Donetsk: up 31 percentage points (28% to 59%)
— Lazio: up 20 percentage points (36% to 56%)
— Sevilla: up 17 percentage points (75% to 92%)
— Atletico Madrid (from 67% to 82%), Porto (46% to 61%) and Club Brugge (29% to 44%): all up 15 percentage points

United’s form through two matches has been devastating. They are one of four teams with a goal differential of at least +5 so far. (The others? Bayern MunichBarcelona and Manchester City.) Granted, Bayern’s 4-0 win over Atletico was all sorts of impressive, but after beating PSG in Paris last week, United absolutely pummeled RB Leipzig — defending Champions League semifinalist and current Bundesliga leaders — by a 5-0 mark on Wednesday.Against Leipzig, United played the organized, no-quality-shots defense that earned them a Champions League spot last season — something they lacked at the start of Premier League play in September — and got a lovely goal from a just-onside Mason Greenwood in the 21st minute. After sitting back and remaining organized for most of the second half, they unleashed counterattacking hell on RBL, scoring four goals (three from Marcus Rashford) in a period of 18 minutes towards the end.

United have transformed Group H’s Group of Death status into a two-way death battle for the moment. Obviously they need this form to continue, but as things currently stand, they’re in great shape to win the group, while the loser of next week’s PSG-Leipzig battle is staring Europa League qualification in the face.

Real Madrid has hurt itself the most

FICTION. Zenit St. Petersburg has, but Los Blancos are close.

Biggest decrease in odds of advancement to knockout rounds, per FiveThirtyEight:

— Zenit St. Petersburg: down 38 percentage points, from 56% to 18%
— RB Leipzig: down 26 percentage points (65% to 39%)
— Real Madrid: down 25 percentage points (78% to 53%)
— FC Salzburg: down 21 percentage points (38% to 17%)
— Paris Saint-Germain: down 17 percentage points (84% to 67%)

No one had a more disappointing first 170 minutes of the Champions League than Zinedine Zidane‘s squad. They gave up three first-half goals to Shakhtar last week and failed to equalize during a late charge. They then gave up two Marcus Thuram goals in the first 60 minutes at Borussia Monchengladbach and looked to have no answers whatsoever until goals from Karim Benzema, three minutes before stoppage time, and Casemiro, three minutes into stoppage time, salvaged a point.They remain in last place in Group B, but thanks to the 0-0 draw between Shakhtar and Inter, no one in the group has more than four points and Real’s slate is still reasonably manageable if they figure out how not to fall behind by multiple goals in every match moving forward.While three of eight groups already have two teams with odds of 90% or greater to advance, per FiveThirtyEight, and three more have one over 90% and another over 60%, Group B is an absolute mess. All four teams are between 36% (Gladbach) and 59% (Shakhtar).Inter Milan, the second-best team in the group on paper, has failed to take advantage of Real’s struggles. They generated 3.5 xG to Gladbach’s 1.5 last week, but came away with a 2-2 draw. This week, they completely shut down Shakhtar and produced a 1.8 to 0.1 xG advantage, only to leave Donetsk with a scoreless draw despite some extremely high-quality chances for both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Inter’s failings have kept the door open for not only Real, but also the group’s two underdogs.

The Champions League is a game for the veteran teams

FICTION. The kids have been awesome so far.

Sixteen players have scored at least two goals so far, and while that list does include some elderly gentlemen — Barcelona’s 33-year-old Lionel Messi, Manchester City’s 30-year-old Ilkay Gundogan — it also features nine plays aged 23 or younger. Rashford (22) leads the way with four goals, while some of the game’s youngest stars have showed up in a major way: Borussia Dortmund‘s Erling Haaland, Atletico’s Joao Felix, Man City’s Ferran Torres, PSG’s Moise Kean and FC Salzburg’s Dominik Szoboszlai are all 20 years old and in possession of a pair of goals.

It goes beyond goals, too:

— PSG’s Kylian Mbappe (somehow still 21) is tied for the assists lead with two.

— Mbappe, Szoboszlai, BVB’s Jadon Sancho (20), RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku (22) and Liverpool‘s Trent Alexander-Arnold (22) are among the 19 players with at least five chances created.

— Alexander-Arnold, Szoboszlai, RBL’s Dayot Upamecano (22), Salzburg’s Mohamed Camara (20), Ajax’s Perr Schuurs (20), Shakhtar’s Dodo (21) and Atalanta‘s Cristian Romero (22) are among the 17 players with at least 17 ball recoveries.

— Szoboszlai, Haaland, Juve’s Dejan Kulusevski (20) and Barcelona’s Trincao (20) are among only 11 players with at least four possessions won in the attacking third.

— Mbappe, Salzburg’s Enock Mwepu (22), Midtjylland’s Jens Cajuste (21) and Shakhtar’s Tete (20) are among 12 players with a take-on success rate of at least 50% in at least 10 attempts.

Szoboszlai might have been the most productive player in the tournament so far, and no matter what the category, you’ll find quite a few players who aren’t yet able to drink legally (or at least rent a car) in America just yet.

The Premier League will get four teams into the knockout rounds for the fourth straight year

FACT. FiveThirtyEight gives all four Premier League participants — Liverpool, City, United and Chelsea — at least a 93% chance to advance. City is at 98%, and the only points these four have dropped at all came in Chelsea’s home draw against Sevilla. While there’s still time for a collapse, there is at the moment an 80% chance of all four advancing to the knockouts and only a 2% chance that two or fewer make it.

What they do when they get to the knockouts, we’ll see. The last three years have seen a wide array of fortune. In 2020, Premier League teams occupied one-quarter of the knockout slots but advanced only one team to the quarterfinals and none to the semis. In 2018, the league advanced five teams but got only two to the quarters and one to the semis.In 2019, meanwhile, the Premier League basically ran the competition, advancing all four teams to the quarterfinals and occupying both finals spots. The group stages are a chance for a league to show collective strength — and the Premier League has that in droves at the moment — but the knockout rounds add a healthy dose of randomness to the proceedings.

La Liga’s eight-year streak of getting 3+ team into the knockout rounds will end

FICTION, but it looked like fact well into Tuesday’s matches.

La Liga appears stuck in the past a bit, and not only because Barcelona is still giving Messi, Gerard PiqueSergio Busquets and Jordi Alba a lot of minutes.

While attacking is on the rise and scoring is up in Europe’s other major leagues, it’s all down in Spain: per 90 minutes, goals have fallen from 1.24 per team to 1.07, shots from 11.3 to 10.3, shots on goal from 3.9 to 3.5 and xG from 1.4 to 1.2. While Serie A has nine teams averaging at least two goals per match, the Premier League has eight and the Bundesliga has four, only two La Liga teams hit that mark, and none average more than 2.0. One of them is Atletico Madrid.

Let me rephrase: Diego Simeone’s Atletico is leading the league in scoring!A lack of goals alone doesn’t mean the quality of play is low, of course. Atletico, Athletic BilbaoReal Sociedad, Sevilla, league newcomer Cadiz and others are all playing dynamite defense, allowing both low shot quality and low shot quantity.The Champions League has thus far shown us that this isn’t only because of quality defense, however. There’s also a lack of tactical answers.Sevilla is in great shape to advance because of said defense, but they’ve scored only once in two matches. Atletico got completely outclassed by Bayern and couldn’t prevent Salzburg from generating a run of high-quality chances in the middle of Tuesday’s match in Madrid. Meanwhile, in response to deficits against both Shakhtar and Gladbach, Real had few answers beyond sending hopeful crosses into the box or attempting long bombs. Through 70 minutes on Tuesday, Gladbach had generated more xG in seven shot attempts (1.31) than Real had in 17 (1.24).Luckily for both Madrid clubs, as their matches passed the 80-minute mark on Tuesday, both Gladbach and Salzburg ran out of gas. They were attempting to spring forward into counterattacks as they had all game, but their legs weren’t following and their collective first touch made it seem like they were playing in metal boots. Within 10 minutes, Atletico had scored to go up 3-2, and Real had scored twice to tie Gladbach. Pure talent, experience and endurance had won out, if only barely.These respective rallies changed the league’s odds of Champions League success quite a bit. As things now stand, Barcelona has a 99% chance of advancing (again per FiveThirtyEight), Sevilla is at 92% and Atletico is at 82%. Real Madrid has work to do (53%), but has a fighting chance to pull it off. Mashing these odds together, we see that the league has a 40% chance of advancing all four teams to the knockouts and a 48% chance of advancing three. While the league has enjoyed only two semifinal appearances in the last three years, its streak of having lots of teams in the round of 16 will at least continue to survive.

Real Madrid-Inter Milan is the biggest match of Matchday 3

FACT, followed closely by RB Leipzig-PSG.

Indeed, group hierarchies have mostly been established at this point. It will now take a couple of solid upsets to prevent Bayern and Atletico from advancing from Group A, Chelsea and Sevilla from Group E, or Barcelona and Juventus from Group G; per FiveThirtyEight’s odds, Groups C (Manchester City and Porto), D (Liverpool and Atalanta) and H (Manchester United and PSG) have established favorites too.

We still need quite a bit of clarity from the blurry Group B, however, and while a match between Real Madrid and Inter — two of only eight clubs to have won the European Cup/Champions League multiple times — will always seem pretty big, this one’s huge. The teams will meet in Madrid on Tuesday, then play again at San Siro when Champions League play resumes at the end of the month.

Depending on how things play out, a very good team could end up with lots of work to do in its final two matches. Of course, this means that Group B’s other match next week is also quite big.Biggest matches of Matchday 3:

— Group B: Inter Milan at Real Madrid on Tuesday. Both teams have a 53% chance of advancing, per FiveThirtyEight. That obviously skews dramatically if one team pulls off an outright win.

— Group H: PSG at RB Leipzig on Wednesday. The last time these teams played, PSG was running circles around RBL in the Champions League semis. If RBL wants any chance of getting back to the late stages, they’ll need a very different result this time.

— Group B: Borussia Mönchengladbach (36% chance of advancing) at Shakhtar Donetsk (59%) on Tuesday. Shakhtar’s odds could skyrocket with a win and an Inter-Real draw.

— Group D: Liverpool (93%) at Atalanta (62%) on Wednesday. Liverpool has a 73% chance of winning the group, but the Reds’ lineup remains in flux, and Atalanta can even those odds significantly with a strong performance.

— Group C: Manchester City at Olympiacos on Tuesday. A disappointing performance against Porto diminished Olympiacos’ odds significantly — they’re now at only 33% to advance — and they’ll need a significant upset to get back on even terms.

— Group F: Club Brugge at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. BVB began the tournament with a dud at Lazio, but their win over Zenit, and a diminished Lazio squad’s draw in Bruges, gave them second life. A home win over Brugge would put them in excellent shape.

Manchester United are going to win the Champions League while finishing seventh in the Premier League, aren’t they?

FICTION. They’re going to win it while finishing 12th.

Actually, whom are we kidding? That’s FICTION, too. Bayern’s winning this thing, again.

FC Cincinnati looking forward as they say goodbye to their Nippert Stadium cradle | Charles Boehm

October 29, 20207:37AM EDTCharles BoehmNational Writer

FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding was abruptly interrupted as he began to answer a reporter’s question a little more than halfway through a Wednesday morning outdoor media availability at Nippert Stadium.It wasn’t a pushy journalist, but a top-of-the-hour tolling of bells near the University of Cincinnati’s on-campus arena, loud enough to impose a minute-long wait on the proceedings — and a timely metaphor for FCC’s curtain call at their birthplace and home for the past five years.Cincy hosted Sporting KC on Wednesday for their final match at Nippert, going down to a 1-0 defeat. Next season they’ll move into their new West End Stadium, a gorgeous soccer-centric venue some two miles to the south, closer to the heart of the city and seemingly a strong contender to become one of the most appealing grounds in MLS from the moment it debuts.Bitter disappointment swirls around FCC and their fans as COVID-19 risk mitigation forces them to bid farewell to Nippert behind closed doors. The intimate college football venue, which hosted its first event way back in 1901, proved a perfect place to hatch the club and spark the city’s soccer renaissance.Technically speaking, the Orange-and-Blue climbed not one but two levels of the North American soccer pyramid at Nippert, first taking the pitch in USL in 2016 when that league occupied the third tier, then topping out as USL Championship regular-season winners in 2018 before joining MLS last year.The stadium’s atmosphere and dimensions, paired with savvy marketing by the club to pack the house routinely and showcase the impressive supporter culture of “the Bailey” section, made FCC a head-turning success right out of the gate. They drew particular attention for the spirited crowds cheering their Cinderella run to the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup.“Even without fans, I think it looks nice, I think it’s a good stadium to play at for the players. It’s got something special,” head coach Jaap Stam, who thanks to the pandemic has never had the chance to witness first-hand a loud night at Nippert, said on Monday. “Changes are being made. You want to grow the club as well. We’re building a new ground, as everybody knows. So hopefully we can eventually make history over there.”A sobering season of expansion struggle left a bruise or two, and Cincy are still looking up at the rest of the Eastern Conference in the standings as they close out 2020. Stam is their fourth coach in two years. The roster remains a work in progress. And their 11 goals scored in 21 matches ranks worst in the league by some margin, a product of a defense-first approach to stop the bleeding and build a sturdier foundation.It’s time for a new chapter, and the move to the West End provides a timely tentpole in that regard.Even as GM Gerard Nijkamp preaches patience on the ongoing rebuild, FCC’s leaders emphasize their desire and capacity to contend for honors from the opening day of their new place. They also believe that modern amenities and creature comforts like a full roof, steeply-raked stands with fans in close proximity to the pitch and a grass surface instead of Nippert’s artificial turf can amplify the cauldron they’ve been tending over at UC.“We’re proud of our pricing, we’re proud of the homework and research that went into the stadium. You look behind me at the incredible visual of the Bailey, and the unwavering support of our best fans – our supporters of FC Cincinnati will have the ultimate home in West End Stadium,” Senior VP of Sales & Ticketing Jeff Smith said on Wednesday, noting that FCC’s 4,500 club seats have already sold out.“We nearly doubled the size of the Bailey, with unbelievable amenities in the stadium, a chair-back seat for everyone. All the seats are under cover, unprecedented food and beverage experiences, and the ultimate proximity of our seats to the action. We believe that West End stadium will provide the ultimate fan experience in Cincinnati. So, a fun day today as we celebrate the past. We look at our history, but we continue to move forward and transition into 2021.”Cincy and their fans put in incredible work to come this far this fast. Now the future looms, a graduation of sorts. It’s the job of Stam and Nijkamp to have them ready to go full-bore from the jump in the West End, with a stronger squad and a more proactive playing style. The clock is ticking down to next spring.

HACKSHAW, PASHER NAMED TO USL CHAMPIONSHIP 2020 ALL-LEAGUE SECOND TEAM

By Indy Eleven Communications, 10/28/20, 1:30PM EDTShare


Boys in Blue Duo Earn All-League Nod Following Standout Performances

The United Soccer League honored standout performers from the regular season on Wednesday with the announcement of the 2020 USL Championship All-League Teams, which included Indy Eleven defender Neveal Hackshaw and forward Tyler Pasher being named to the All-League Second Team.“Congratulations to Tyler and Neveal for being recognized in the Championship’s All-League Second Team,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “Both players did well this challenging season and deserve the accolades that come their way.”Hackshaw ranked third in the league in passes completed with 791 and led all outfield players in total recoveries (151). In addition to leading the team in blocks (10) and interceptions (24), the Trinidad and Tobago international found flashes of brilliance in the attacking third, notching two goals on six shots and creating seven chances for his teammates.  This marks the second consecutive All-League Team selection for the 25-year-old Hackshaw after he garnered a spot on the First Team – and a Defender of the Year nomination – for his standout performance in 2019.Pasher earned his All-League debut after another stellar performance in the attacking half of the pitch. The 26-year-old started the season on the front foot, tallying six goals in six games in one of the fastest starts in USL Championship history, a feat that earned him the league’s Player of the Month award in July. The Canadian winger-turned-striker finished the regular season tied for seventh on the Championship’s Golden Boot chart with 10 goals, bringing his Indy career total to 24 and placing him just two behind Eleven all-time leading scorer Eamon Zayed. Pasher also finished the year with two assists, led the team in chances created (30), and ranked third across the league in shots (50).The 2020 USL Championship All-League Team was voted on by club management and a league-wide media panel that included representation from every USL market.With 2020 now in the book, Indy Eleven continues to prepare for the upcoming 2021 USL Championship season. Deposits for new 2021 Season Ticket Members are now available at IndyEleven.com/2021-season-tickets or by calling 317-685-1100.

2020 USL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-LEAGUE SECOND TEAM

GK – Brandon Miller, Charlotte Independence: Miller earned the second All-League selection of his career after a stellar campaign that helped the Independence return to the USL Championship Playoffs for the first time since 2017. Miller led the league with 61 saves and recorded five shutouts with a save percentage of 73.5 percent.

D – Leland Archer, Charleston Battery: Archer’s third season with the Battery saw the Trinidad & Tobago center back produce a breakout campaign as he recorded 50 clearances and 95 recoveries while posting a passing accuracy rate of 80.1 percent in the middle of a strong Battery back line that helped the side earn its 13th consecutive postseason berth overall.

D – Alex Crognale, Birmingham Legion FC: One of Birmingham’s key offseason arrivals, Crognale was stellar in the center of the club’s defense as he finished tied for fourth in the league with 73 clearances and also made 73 recoveries while completing the fifth-most passes in the league (757) at an accuracy rate of 85.8 percent.

D – Neveal Hackshaw, Indy Eleven: The Trinidad & Tobago international earned his second consecutive selection to the All-League Team after another strong year for Indy. Hackshaw ranked third in the league in passes completed with 791, led all outfield players with 151 recoveries and made 24 interceptions for the Boys in Blue.

D – Jordan Scarlett, Tampa Bay Rowdies: One part of the Rowdies’ defensive makeover during the offseason, Scarlett was ever-present for Tampa Bay as he made 63 clearances and 34 interceptions defensively while notching a goal and assist in attack. Scarlett also recorded four Big Chances Created as his timing in the penalty area added another weapon for the Rowdies on set pieces.

M – Christiano Francois, Reno 1868 FC: The Haiti international continued to be one of the most electrifying wingers in the league as he recorded six goals and seven assists to help Reno record the best record in the regular season. Francois notched 33 chances created and completed 31 dribbles, consistently putting opposing defenses on the back foot.

M – Kevin Partida, Reno 1868 FC: In his third season with Reno – including a stint on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes in 2019 – Partida served as the pivot in the center of midfield that helped Reno succeed. The Nevada native sported a passing accuracy rate of 82.1 percent on 51.4 passes per 90 minutes and won 61.9 percent of his duels to help 1868 FC to the best record in the Championship.

M – Chris Wehan, New Mexico United: Earning his second All-League selection of his career, Wehan was one of the key figures in New Mexico’s return to the Championship Playoffs for a second consecutive season. The attacking midfielder recorded six goals and four assists while recording 21 chances created, but came up with three game-winning goals for his side as it reached the postseason despite playing its full schedule on the road.

F – Rufat Dadashov, Phoenix Rising FC: The Azerbaijani international made a big impact in his first game for Rising FC with a hat trick and continued to find the net consistently to lead the squad to the top of Group B. Dadashov recorded 11 goals and four assists in the regular season, but was also notable in his link-up play that saw him register 21 key passes and a passing accuracy rate of 72.4 percent overall.

F – Dane Kelly, Charlotte Independence: The Championship’s all-time leading scorer produced a return to form in his first season with the Independence, scoring 11 goals to lead Charlotte back to the postseason for the first time in three seasons. Kelly also notched a pair of assists as he earned the fourth All-League selection of his career.

F – Tyler Pasher, Indy Eleven: In his second season as an out-and-out striker, the Canadian standout got out to one of the fastest starts in the Championship’s history with six goals in Indy’s first six games and finished the regular season with 10 goals and two assists while notching a passing accuracy rate of 83.5 percent to earn his first All-League selection.

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