12/24/21 Happy Holidays to All, US Men beat Bosnia Move to #11 in World, Holiday Game schedule from EPL

So we finally got a Free month Account for Apple TV and watched the first 2 seasons of Ted Lasso.  OMG – now our favorite show !!  All I can saw is Be a Gold Fish !!   

US Men Win

So the US Men finished out the year with most wins in 1 year as they notched their 17th win with a last minute 1-0 win over a 10 man Bosnia last week.  The win helped launch the US into the Top 11 in the World in FIFA’s World Rankings -1 above defending World Cup winner Germany.  The US men needed a tap in at the 87th minute mark as MF Cole Bassett tapped in a deflection shot from Louisville left back Jonathan Gomez just 5 minutes after checking in to claim the winner for the US.  The US dominated possession 78-22 especially in the 2nd half after a Bosnia player was sent off for a dirty tackle late in the first half.  The US welcomed winger Jordan Morris back for the first time in 2 years as he seems to have mostly recovered from his MCL tear last winter in England.  Overall the youngsters looked pretty good except for US Young Player of the Year Ricardo Pepi who missed a tap in and continued his scoreless run of US games to 4 overall.  Again the US dominated play – but just couldn’t break down the camped in Bosnian’s in the 2nd until the end.  Cardoso started at the 6 and was horrific giving way EVERY single pass he made until finally giving was to a better Jackson Yuell.  Roldan had some decent combos but continued to show why Musah is 10 times than he ever dreamed of being.  (Yes an 8 can take the ball forward like Musah and unlike Roldan).  Not sure why Acosta plays every game as he once proved he can’t play the 8  – his service on free balls was like a 14 year old and his passing in the middle – lets just say he’s a fine emergency sub dmid for Adams – but it was another full waste to see him in the attacking #8 slot where he should never see the field for the US.  Oh well  – we did get a chance to see Henry Kessler in the back with Walker Zimmerman in the middle and the 2 were fantastic.  In fact Kessler’s pinpoint passing out of the back was reminencent of what John Brooks used to do before he lost his touch and his speed earlier this year.  Bello was ok at best on the left back while Brooks Lennon the 18 year old from Atlanta United had some good moments but nothing spectacular on the right side back in his debut.  Turner did turn in his record setting 9th shutout for the US in one year.  All in all the game really sucked and I am sorry I watched it – but I am a sucker and this was just a nice little warm up game so who cares..  The MLS boys will be back for another 2 week camp in January as Berhalter prepares to ready the team for the critical 3 game qualifying window in late Jan and early Feb vs El Salvador (in Columbus), Jan 27, Canada on the road Jan 30 and Honduruas in Minnesota Feb 2.

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

EPL Leads the Holiday Schedule and moves to USA Network Jan 1  

Boxing day leads the EPL into extremely congested Holiday schedule with games every day of the week and of course cancelations for Covid all around.  Check the full schedule below as games run on NBCSN and USA Network and of course the pay Peacock until games officially flip to USA Network on New Year’s Day as NBCSN will be no more.  Of course USA Network has about 3 times the cable subscribers which should lead to more fans watching in the US as we move into 2020. With all the Covid issues – American Christian Pulisic has been thrust into a starting role as the #9 for Chelsea – with some success and of course some frustrations.  He’s not a #9 – but at least he’s getting game time.  Sunday 12:30 Boxing Day has Chelsea traveling to Aston Villa vs Steven Gerard’s team.  Tues gives us a battle of top 6 battler Arsenal vs Southampton at 10 am on NBCSN , followed by Leicester vs Liverpool @ 3 pm on NBCSN. New Year’s day/weekend gives us a USA Network set of powerhouse games with Arsenal hosting league leaders Man City at 7:30 am Sat, followed by Chelsea hosting Liverpool at 11:30 am on Sunday. 

Interesting Perspective on the power of Soccer here — Soccer punctuated a WWI Christmas truce between British and German soldiers. 

Congrats to former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr for his run in the playoffs and being in the running for the Save of the Week for the year Honors in USL.

Indy 11 launches its first WSL team with 3 former Carmel High school  players on the roster.  Katie Soderstrom, Krisina Lynch and Molly McGlaghlin all played their club ball for Indiana Fire in Indy will suit up for the Indy 11s inaugural womens season.   

Indy Eleven has penned the first three players to its inaugural women’s senior team roster. Forwards Katie Soderstrom and Kristina Lynch, and midfielder Molly McLaughlin are among the first players signed in USL W League history. Get to know the club’s first signings here!

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sun,  Dec 26

10 am NBCSN                      West Ham vs Southampton

10 am USA                            Tottenham vs Crystal Palace

12:30 pm NBC                     Aston Villa vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Brentford 

Mon,  Dec 27

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle United vs Man United

Tues,  Dec 28

7:30 am NBCSN                  Arsenal vs Wolverhampon

10 am  NBCSN                     Southampton vs Tottenham

12:30 pm NBCSN                Leeds United vs Aston Villa

3 pm NBCSN                        Leicester City vs Liverpool 

Wed,  Dec 29

2:30 pm Peacock                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brighton 

3:15 pm NBCSN                  Brentford vs Man City

Thur,  Dec 30

3 pm NBCSN                         Man United vs Burnley

Sat, Jan 1

7:30 am USA                        Arsenal vs Man City 

10 am  USA                          Watford vs Tottenham 

12:30 pm USA                     Crystal Palace vs West Ham United 

Sun, Jan 2

8 am ESPN+                          Getafe vs Real Madrid

9 am  USA                             Everton vs Brighton   

11:30 am USA                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool 

3 pm ESPN+                          Mallorca vs Barcelona 

Mon,  Jan 3

?? ESPN+                               Man United vs Wolverhampton (league cup semis)

?? ESPN+                               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham (league cup semis)

Thur,  Jan 6

12:30 pm Paramount+      Milan vs Roma

2:45 Para+                            Juventus (McKennie) vs Napoli

Fri,  Jan 7

2:30 pm ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs MGladbach (Joe Scally) 

Fri,  Jan 27

7:30 pm ESPN2                   USMNT vs El Salvador

Sun,  Jan 30

3:30 pm Paramount+        USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Jan 27

7:30 pm FS1                         USMNT vs Honduras

USMNT

U.S. can take away plenty of positives from low-key Bosnia friendly Kyle Bonagura

Bassett nets late goal in U.S. win over Bosnia

US Men End Positive Year with 17th Win – SI Brian Straus
Experimental, young USMNT beats Bosnia in friendly

Cole Bassett’s late goal gives U.S. men’s soccer team a record-setting victory

USA v Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 Friendly: What we Learned  By Adnan Ilyas

2021 USMNT December Friendly: USA 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina – Camp Candycane delivers a white elephant

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/three-takeaways-as-usmnt-close-2021-with-win-over-bosnia-herzegovina?fbclid=IwAR1eGuz-7GUjbCRfaiyXpNHEpuUwlfAkhuSarfY-Z2l3yGFRbavgrwjVLdQ

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/usmnt-player-ratings-bassett-roldan-and-zimmerman-impress-in-win-over-bosnia

USMNT’s Pepi: Olympic snub a ‘turning point’
USMNT striker Pefok scores 4 for Young Boys in Swiss league

USMNT Yunas Musah Scores in Copa Del Rey – SI  

Previewing the U.S. U-20 cycle: decent starting point but a lot of work ahead with little time

Mexico loses appeal of two-match stadium ban  

EPL 

Alisson relives goal that saved Liverpool’s season
Premier League to play on during Covid chaos

Christian Pulisic Watch: How did USMNT star perform for Chelsea at Wolves?

Can Thomas Tuchel stop the slide at Chelsea?
Ian Darke
Thomas Tuchel fumes at COVID rules as Chelsea drop more points

Tottenham vs Liverpool final score: Thrill-a-minute 4-goal draw

Why NBC Sports Network’s Shutdown This Month Could Be a Sign of Cable TV’s Bleak Future

WORLD

World Soccer’s Top 10 Stories of 2021
Bundesliga hits the halfway point and everything that’s new is old

Lewandowski bags record as Bayern go nine points clear in Germany

Barca’s young guns deliver late win over Elche, Atletico undone by Sevilla

Juve battle through fog to win at Bologna, Roma down Atalanta

Buffon: Juventus lost ‘DNA’ after Ronaldo arrival

Will Europe-South America plan to curb FIFA’s World Cup revamp do more harm than good?

USMNT Caps Memorable, Productive 2021 With One Last Late Winner

The USMNT has its sights on securing a return ticket to the World Cup, but first, a more experimental set of players with varying individual outlooks put an appropriate cap on the year.BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

For six hectic and challenging months, the U.S. men’s national team played games of consequence—finals and qualifiers contested in packed stadiums or hostile environments that offered a shot at a regional title, or priceless progress on the road to the World Cup. Then came Saturday night. In a rare and relatively quiet December friendly that served as an anticlimactic conclusion to a memorable year and a bridge to what’s expected to be another one, the Americans barely but deservedly defeated 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1–0, at the LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad was stocked almost entirely with MLS players looking to stay fit during the domestic offseason, while 61st-ranked Bosnia brought a collection of Premijer Liga hopefuls and started eight international debutants.Cole Bassett, the 20-year-old Colorado Rapids midfielder, made his own international debut as a second-half substitute and scored the only goal on an 89th-minute rebound.Played outside a FIFA international break, this was not a game of consequence. And it showed. Atmosphere and precision were lacking and the pace frequently flagged. But there was a chance the match would resonate in the record book and, more importantly, when World Cup qualifying restarts at the end of January. That was reason enough to play it. And if you’re going to play, you may as well try to win. So Berhalter fielded about as strong a lineup as he could, deploying qualifying regulars like Matt Turner, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan and Ricardo Pepi against the modest Bosnian XI. He also sent Seattle Sounders star Jordan Morris back onto the field in a U.S. jersey for the first time in two years. Getting Morris closer to World Cup fitness as he returns from ACL surgery was, by itself, another good reason to play this month. He went 77 minutes and was threatening on several occasions in the first half.“He’s trying to work off that rust and he’s doing a great job,” Berhalter said of Morris. “I’m excited to see what he can do in January. Hopefully it ends up being with the qualifying team.”Saturday’s victory was the national team’s 17th this year (17-2-3). That set a new program record, breaking the mark established in 2013. For just about everyone but Bassett, the satisfaction that accompanies that achievement will last a lot longer than memories of the night it was achieved. “In the end, we have something to be proud of,” Berhalter said. “We know there’s a lot of work still to be done, but happy with the effort of this group—particularly to show the resiliency to keep fighting and keep competing.”The Americans can be proud, but new challenges are coming quickly and this match was more about setting the stage. The U.S. is in second place (4-1-3) in Concacaf’s qualifying Octagonal, only one point out of first but also just one above fourth, which would mean a winner-take-all, one-game playoff next June in Qatar against a team from Oceania. By the time the Americans face El Salvador, Canada and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2, Berhalter’s MLS contingent would have been dormant for months. He had to build that bridge. So there was a two-week camp in Southern California punctuated by Saturday’s game, and there will be two more weeks of training before the FIFA window officially opens next month. “The whole idea is to keep the guys moving, especially guys in Major League Soccer,” Berhalter said Friday when explaining his goals for this winter. “Then we have another three weeks off where they have a program to do, and then we get back into camp. … So we’re hitting the ground running [in January] and it’ll be a very similar focus. Because if we want to compete like we do in this [qualifying] window, it’s going to be essential to have these guys fit.”But while focused on fitness against Bosnia, the U.S. appeared to forget about finishing. The match nearly hinged on the Americans’ inability to convert their chances, especially in the first half. Pepi missed a sitter in the 14th minute, misjudging and then whiffing on a beautiful low cross from U.S. debutant Brooks Lennon, the Atlanta United right back. Pepi, who was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year earlier Saturday, made a massive splash this fall when he tallied three goals across two qualifiers. But he hasn’t scored since—that’s a stretch of five internationals and four MLS matches.Morris nearly struck in the 31st minute, but his diving, point-blank header was well saved by Bosnia’s Nikola Ćetković. The visitors were reduced to 10 eight minutes later, when Amar Begić, a 20-year-old playing in his first senior international, was ejected after tackling Acosta late and high. The U.S. failed to capitalize, however, and created little during a second half marked by lots of possession (the U.S. finished the game with 73.5%), little final product and subs by both sides. The Americans relied primarily on crosses and were rarely threatening. Berhalter called the red card “the worst thing that happened” during the match because it prompted Bosnia to play more compactly.The subs, or “solutions,” as Berhalter likes to call them, finally came to the rescue late. Gyasi Zardes won a loose ball and touched it back to Jonathan Gomez, the Louisville City fullback who’s on his way to Real Sociedad. The 18-year-old whipped in a dangerous shot—its pace and accuracy were noticeable on a night of shanks and slices. Bosnia’s goalkeeper could only knock it down, and Bassett was there to finish it off. He also scored five MLS goals in 2021. “Cole’s a guy that shows up and scores goals. We were seeing that during the week with his finishing ability and he showed that again tonight,” Berhalter said, adding that assistant coach Anthony Hudson, who used to manage the Rapids, advocated for Bassett’s 78th-minute entry.It was a fitting end to a year in which so many games with far greater stakes were won late, from the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals clinched in extra time to three qualifying victories sealed in the final 25 minutes. It’s become part of this program’s identity, and Berhalter will hope the newest addition to that list offers some momentum going forward as well.“All this group is, is a point on the timeline of the USMNT. It’s a very special heritage. To be part of this is very special, and to really embrace that,” Berhalter said Saturday. “And when the guys had the opportunity to be able to get the win today, to have the record for wins in a year, they embraced it. It wasn’t pretty, but you saw the grit and determination that they needed and we pulled through.”

USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 friendly: Man of the Match

 veteran’s big return earned the honors.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 20, 2021, 7:00am PST

ended their 2021 with a 1-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina on Saturday night. The 89th minute goal by Cole Bassett was the difference for the USMNT in a match where Bosnia’s Amar Begić received a straight red card in the 40th minute. Despite the man advantage, the USMNT left it very late with the Bassett goal to set the record for wins in a calendar year.

There were a few notable performances, but overall the SSFC community rated the players with mostly 5s and 6s. It was the performance of a veteran that earned the top honors, as Jordan Morris had the highest rating and won SSFC Man of the Match with his play.

Here’s how you in the SSFC community rated everyone’s performance:

Jordan Morris – 6.88

Walker Zimmerman – 6.65

Matt Turner – 6.59

Cole Bassett – 6.43

Jonathan Gomez – 6.30

Henry Kessler – 5.57

Bryan Reynolds – 5.52

Brooks Lennon – 5.41

Johnny Cardoso – 5.23

Jesús Ferreira – 5.06

USMNT goals for 2022 World Cup year: Qualify, play the best players, figure out style, escape the group

https://a.espncdn.com/photo/2021/1217/r952263_1000x667_3-2.jpg

Dec 17, 2021Ryan O’HanlonWhat a weird year, huh? You can apply that to anything, of course, and the United States Men’s National Team was no exception.

First, they scraped by Honduras at home in the semifinals of the Nations League, saved by a last-minute header from Jordan Pefok. Then they played Mexico toe-to-toe, came back multiple times, won 3-2 in extra time and got pelted by beers. Then their European stars all went home, but they won the Gold Cup anyway, beating Mexico in the final, again. And a full-strength Mexico, to boot: Napoli‘s Hirving Lozano, Ajax’s Edson Alvarez, Atletico Madrid‘s Hector Herrera were all there!

It didn’t seem to matter who was on the field. Gregg Berhalter’s team were the kings of CONCACAF once again.And then… World Cup qualifying started. A scoreless draw at El SalvadorSure, any road point is a good point. A tie at home with CanadaHey man, Alphonso Davies is the best player in North America. A 1-0 halftime deficit in Honduras? Anyone have Bruce Arena’s phone number? And then, as we all remember, they rolled off four goals in the final 45 for a three-goal victory. That was followed by a dominant win against Jamaica, and all was well again.

Psych! Then they got dominated in Panama, losing, 1-0 and… OK, you probably get the pattern now. Next was an easy win over Costa Rica, then was a truly dominant dos-a-cero against Mexico, and then was a wet fart in Jamaica that ended 1-1, but probably should’ve been a loss.

When it comes to the U.S. men, the sky is always falling, the team is always rising — all at the same time. With one friendly left against Bosnia to go in 2021, it’s been a successful, if chaotic, year for the USMNT. So, it’s time to look ahead: What do we want to see from the team in 2022?

1. Just qualify, OK?

It doesn’t matter how, JUST DO IT.

Right now, CONCACAF has four teams fighting for three automatic spots. With six games remaining, Canada’s on 16 points, the U.S. on 15, and Mexico and Panama tied at 14. No-one else has more than nine points, and no-one outside of those four teams has a positive goal differential. But if the US somehow slips outside of the top three, they just need to avoid total collapse in order to finish fourth, which would mean a one-game playoff against the winner of the Oceania region: likely New Zealand.

2. Get your best players on the field together, just one time!

The main reason to be hopeful of a better tomorrow for a team that hasn’t reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup in two decades — and, you know, missed the last one completely — is the quality of the player pool. More specifically, it’s because of five guys.

There’s Christian PulisicChelsea‘s $70 million man. There’s Giovanni Reyna, who doesn’t turn 20 for nearly another full year and has already started 32 Bundesliga and Champions League games for Borussia Dortmund. There’s Sergino Dest, a starter at Ajax and then Barcelona. There’s Weston McKennie, a starter with Juventus. And there’s Tyler Adams, who scored a winning goal in the Champions League quarterfinals and has been one of Europe’s best swiss-Army knives for RB Leipzig.

They’re all 23 or younger. They’re all consistently playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world. And they’ve never appeared on the field together for the USMNT.

3. Figure out the center-forward spot

Uh, what? We’ve got Ricardo Pepi, dude.

Pepi is a great… prospect. He’s only 18, and he’s already scored 15 goals and played more than 2,500 minutes for FC Dallas. Players who play that much and produce that often at a young age tend to turn out pretty well. But that’s the future — not now, when the U.S. still needs to qualify for, and then play in, a World Cup.

Over the past calendar year, per the site FBref, Pepi ranks in the 90th percentile of MLS strikers in non-penalty goals… and no other attacking-related categories. At the site American Soccer Analysis, they’re created a stat called “goals added” (G+) that quantifies all of a player’s on-ball actions to determine how much value he adds to the team. Over the past season, Pepi added minus-1.95 goals to FC Dallas. How? Because he scores some goals and just doesn’t really contribute anywhere else on the field. Even his goal-scoring is a little inflated, too, as he’s on a bit of a finishing hot streak: 13 goals on 10.1 xG.

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In World Cup qualifying, it’s been a similar story. He’s scored three goals on 2.45 xG and he’s averaging 28 touches per 90 minutes — the fewest of all 34 players (including keepers) who have appeared in the Octagonal for the U.S. so far.

The wider tactical trend, too, is away from these kinds of “goals-only” center-forwards and toward more well-rounded players who contribute in all phases of play. Or: the kind of players the U.S. currently has lots of.

In addition to those five stars, Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah are both playing significant minutes at Champions League clubs this season, and they’ve both spent time at center-forward for Red Bull Salzburg and Lille respectively. Pulisic has also moon-lit as a false 9 at Chelsea. None of them are pure goal scorers, but for the U.S., they’re all getting on the ball as often, or more often, in the box than Pepi does.

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With Pulisic and Reyna back in the picture, there might only be three attacking spots available between the two of them, Aaronson and Weah. That’s four players, performing at a high level at the highest level. Should three goals in six games be enough to prevent Pepi from falling behind any of them in the pecking order?

4. Play one (1) normal game

Broadly speaking, the USMNT looks like a modern soccer team: they push the ball into the final-third and then keep it there by pressuring their opponents into turnovers. Through eight games, they’ve completed the largest proportion of final-third passes in their matches (known as “field tilt”) and only El Salvador has held its opponents to a lower pass-completion percentage.

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This is who they were against Mexico. They pushed the field tilt to 62 percent, and they’re the only team to hold El Tri below an 80-percent completion percentage. While the two trophy wins over Mexico were helter-skelter chaos, this was just controlled dominance: 18 shots to 8.

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But despite that game’s characteristics hewing closer to the team’s average qualities, it’s really the only match that’s looked like that. The opener against El Salvador was a wild track meet, where the U.S.’s average uninterrupted possession lasted for 5.4 seconds and 44 percent of their passes were played forward — the shortest time and most passes across the eight matches.

In the next match against Canada, the possessions lasted for 12.5 seconds and they played 25 percent of their passes forward — longest and least across the eight matches. And against Honduras, the field was tilted toward their opponents (45 percent for the US). Against Jamaica, the match featured just 87 possessions, compared to an average of 95 across all the games. Against Panama, that dipped down to 84 as the U.S. played a bunch of long balls and allowed their opponents to complete over 80 percent of their passes.

Things looked pretty good against an ancient Costa Rica team and Mexico, before the re-match with Jamaica, where the US allowed a PPDA (essentially, opponent passes allowed per defensive action in your attacking third) of 26.63. Their average across the eight games is 9.92.

Do you want to press and possess? Do you want matches where the ball is turning over constantly? Do you want to force passes forward? Do you want to move up the field slowly? Do you want to absorb pressure and counter?

All of the best national teams have some kind of identity; you know, roughly, how they’re going to play. Three years into Berhalter’s tenure, we still have no idea what the U.S. is going to look like in any given game.

5. Pick a keeper and stick with him

Matt Turner is just a much better shot-stopper than Zack Steffen. It’s an inarguable fact.

Per Stats Perform, the average keeper would be expected to concede 10.74 goals from the shots Turner faced in his 11 starts for the U.S. in 2021; he allowed four. Steffen, meanwhile, has faced shots worth 4.52 goals in his six starts, and he’s allowed five. Put more simply, Turner has started 11 matches and conceded four goals. Steffen has started six and conceded five. Their performances for their club teams, dating back to Steffen’s time in Columbus, backs this all up, too. Turner is one of the best keepers in league history; Steffen was a below-average shot-stopper.

After starting Turner for the first five matches of qualifying, Berhalter switched to Steffen ahead of the home match against Jamaica because of his ability on the ball. “We were looking at the games and how they were unfolding and were saying there’s more possession that we can be keeping in these games that we’re not,” Berhalter said at the time. “We think Zack is stronger with his feet, and we made that decision based on that.”

While I might not agree with this value judgment — stop over-complicating things, Turner will save more goals than Steffen — I think Berhalter needs to be aware of the argument he’s making here and stick to it.

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There was already a seemingly needless keeper controversy when Turner got benched for Steffen the first time around; the U.S. doesn’t need another one. The reality behind this decision is that the U.S. is going to concede goals that Turner would have saved. We saw it against Costa Rica and Jamaica already.

That’s going to keep happening, too — and it’s going to raise questions over the position again — but Berhalter is arguing that the hidden value in Steffen’s feet will more than make up for the goals he concedes. And if he’s not arguing that, well, Turner never should have lost the job in the first place.

6. Go for a run in Hamilton…

One of my personal favorite subplots of this qualifying cycle is Berhalter’s pre-game routine. Before the match against Canada, he was spotted running through downtown Nashville in his full USMNT get-up, holding his phone in his hand, while a couple fans cheered him on. Other USMNT supporters have told me they’ve spotted him doing similar cardio work through various other downtown metropoli that have hosted qualifying games this cycle.

I have a lot of questions: Can we get the guy some wireless headphones? How ’bout some shorts with pockets? Perhaps some attire that doesn’t scream “I AM USMNT MANAGER?” Or maybe he wants to be spotted? I don’t know. It’s all very strange, but if it’s truly a necessary pre-game ritual that Berhalter has adopted, then I want to see him do it, conditions be damned, before the upcoming Canada match in late January, in Hamilton, Ontario.

7. … and win a game there while you’re at it

The idea that “any road point is a good point in CONCACAF” was maybe true when the USMNT didn’t have Champions League starters up and down the roster, plus a number of backups also playing overseas. But it shouldn’t be now. Despite playing a much harder home schedule so far — i.e. they played Canada and Mexico at home — Berhalter’s side have been way stronger Stateside.

– Home: 68.5 percent field tilt, 1.90 xG/game, 0.67 xG against/game
– Away: 52.5 percent field tilt, 1.10 xG/game, 0.97 xGA/game

That’s somewhat sobering reading given the road matches against Canada and Mexico still to come, but quite simply, the U.S. now has easily the best and deepest player pool in CONCACAF. They should be able to go anywhere in North America — Hamilton, Costa Rica, and yes, the Azteca in Mexico City — play on their own teams, and win a game.

8. Get out of your group

There’s a long way to go, but the next World Cup is already less than a year away. A lot can change over that span. Injuries will happen — bad form will, too — while stars and starters can also appear out of nowhere. But the U.S. has reached a point where even if one of its top prospects doesn’t pan out or one of its main stars misses a major tournament, there’s still enough talent to make up for it.

Given how young the roster is and where the next tournament will be, 2026 seems like the World Cup to target for the U.S. to really do some damage. But according to just about any rating system out there, the U.S. is currently one of the 16 best teams in the world. They’ve got 12 months to prove it.

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi: Olympic squad snub a ‘turning point in my career’

Dec 17, 2021Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

Roughly nine months since being left off the United States‘ Olympic qualifying roster, USMNT and FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi called the snub a turning point to his season.”It just made me hungry,” Pepi said Friday. “It made me hungry to go on for the year. To do good for my club, do good for the national team and it was a turning point, for sure, in my career.”Pepi was included in the initial 31-player training camp ahead of the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, in early March, but didn’t make the cut when the roster was trimmed to 20 players. The team failed to qualify for the delayed Tokyo games and three of the four forwards on that roster — Jonathan Lewis, Benji Michel and Sebastian Soto — have not been involved in the mix for the senior side.Since being left off the squad, though, Pepi has experienced a meteoric rise that has seen him establish himself as the starting No. 9 for the United States during World Cup qualifying. Pepi is one of a handful of players expected to start in Saturday’s international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, California, that is being used to keep the players sharp ahead of next month’s three-match qualifying window.After scoring 13 goals for FC Dallas in 2021, Pepi has been the subject of speculation about a European transfer, but he stayed coy about his club plans, steering the focus toward the USMNT.”That moment is not yet to be decided,” Pepi said. “I feel like I have a game here ahead of me and that’s my main focus at the moment. I feel like we got to focus on the game and whatever happens is gonna happen, but we just got to be patient.”Pepi, 18, chose to play for the United States over Mexico in August and since appeared in six qualifying matches and scored three goals.The United States roster also includes Jonathan Gomez, a former teammate of Pepi in the FC Dallas academy and with North Texas SC in USL League One. Like Pepi, Gomez has the option to play for Mexico or the United States, and trained with El Tri during the summer. He is headed to Real Sociedad in Spain when the transfer window open in January after spending the last two seasons with Louisville City in the USL Championship.Pepi called Gomez’s decision about his international future a person one and that he is willing to be a sounding board for him or anyone faced with similar decision.”I’m always open to talk to them,” he said. “I always try to just tell him, ‘Do whatever you think is best. Go with your heart.”

CBS to Air Six Champions League Round-of-16 Matches on Broadcast TV

ANDREW GASTELUM Six Champions League round of 16 matches, including both home and away PSG-Real Madrid and Liverpool-Inter fixtures, will air on CBS’s main TV channel this winter. The round-of-16 fixtures were announced—twice—earlier this month after UEFA’s first draw was nullified after Manchester United was erroneously drawn with a team from the same group and left out of Atlético Madrid’s pot.  While a redo of the draw might have deprived fans of a Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi showdown in the original PSG-Manchester United fixture, CBS will still show Messi on its main channel for the first knockout game when PSG faces off against Real Madrid on Feb. 15. CBS will also broadcast the return fixture on March 9. Along with both Liverpool-Inter fixtures on Feb. 16 and March 8, CBS will also show the Chelsea-Lille first leg on Feb. 22 and the Atlético Madrid-Manchester United first leg on Feb. 23 on broadcast television. Meanwhile, the Sporting Lisbon-Manchester City, RB Salzburg-Bayern Munich, Villarreal-Juventus and Benfica-Ajax fixtures will be shown on streaming service Paramount+.

Here is the full English-language schedule for the Champions League round of 16 (all times ET): 

Tuesday, Feb. 15:
PSG vs. Real Madrid, CBS/Paramount+, 3 p.m.
Sporting Lisbon vs. Manchester City, Paramount+, 3 p.m.

Previewing the January transfer window: which Americans could be on the move?

We are a little more than a week away from the January transfer window opening and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts on many American players who could receive transfer intereest in the weeks ahead. 

THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW will soon be upon us and a bunch of Americans could be on the move – both within Europe, also moving from domestic leagues to abroad. Here are a look at some players we thing could be on the market.Of course, it’s important to note that not all players will move. This isn’t a comprehensive list either as some names will pop up unexpectedly. We’ve also already seen some announced moves like Chris Mueller to Hibernian and Kyle Duncan to Oostende. But here is a look at some players we thing could the subject of transfer interest for the January window.

 RICARDO PEPI

This is the big fish in the pond regarding a potential move. The FC Dallas forward was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year for 2021 and that was a no-brainer. The El Paso teenager scored 13 goals for FC Dallas along with three big World Cup qualifying goals for the U.S. national team. While he struggled a bit towards the end of the season for Dallas and also with the U.S. team in November and the December friendly, he still has huge potential to make a big move.Dallas is surely not going to sell him for cheap and will be looking for something north of $13 million. With COVID adversely affecting the budget for a lot of teams in Europe, the market his smaller for unproven players like Pepi. Only a few teams can afford him and there are several good forwards to be had.It’s a tricky situation. Dallas wants to get paid. Pepi wants to move, but needs to move to a place where he can play. The U.S. national team needs Pepi to play. In a World Cup year, the need to get this decision right for all parties is magnified. There is also the potential that perhaps Pepi remains in Dallas through the summer when more teams could have a better understanding of their budget and Pepi would at least be playing heading into the March qualifying window.There is genuine interest in Pepi and a lot of the many reports with clubs like Ajax are accurate. But, there is also a lot of moving parts to consider.

 JOHN BROOKS

It’s been a tough season for John Brooks who is in the last year of his contract with Wolfsburg. He’s been benched for long stretches, including most of December, and BILD recently ran a negative article about him with information that sounded like it came from within Wolfsburg, directly or indirectly.Brooks, 28, has a huge salary north of $3 million per year and the BILD could be public negotiation from Wolfsburg, or it could be a way to usher him out the door in January. In the last year of his contract, his transfer price isn’t that high right now.He’s a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on his game he is a very good central defender. Someone will take a chance on him, and Wolfsburg is playing so poorly (with or without Brooks in the lineup) the time might be right for all parties to go their separate ways.

JAMES SANDS

By any standard, James Sands had a great year. In 2021, the 21-year-old from Rye, New York won the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team and won MLS Cup with NYCFC. In both finals, against Mexico and Portland respectively, Sands was sharp over separate 120-minute outings.Sands has the versatility to play both defensive midfield and central defense but in 2021, he did well in both. He has also played his way onto the edge of the U.S. national team but is just outside of the main group.With NYCFC having won MLS Cup, his value has never been higher, and he has accomplished everything he can domestically. It seems like the time for him to try something else and NYCFC should be open to selling him. It would look good for the club’s academy players to be willing to sell a player who has severed the club well.Where is a realistic landing place for Sands? He might be able to do well in the lower portion of the Bundesliga. The Eredivisie is difficult for its high minimum salary requirements for non-EU citizens. Belgian teams make a lot of sense given the fewer non-EU restrictions, but do those clubs have money to spend? The Championship might also be a good option and he could probably obtain a work-permit.

 BRYAN REYNOLDS

 To state the obvious, it hasn’t been a good situation for Reynolds at Roma under Jose Mourinho. The club was even willing to let him join the U.S. national team for a rare December camp. Reynolds probably won’t transfer less than a year into his move to Roma but a loan, perhaps a long 18-month loan, seems like it would make sense. With a long loan, an option to buy could be justified since teams will know what they are getting.Reynolds could stay in Italy for a loan, but a loan to Germany or, more likely, Belgium makes the most sense. Reynolds was only a starter for FC Dallas for three months before is transfer to Roma at the tail of 2020. He didn’t play much in 2021. He still needs a lot of coaching for his development and there is also a lot of rust having not played much in over a year. He has a high upside but is very much a longer-term project. The first step is to get out of Roma, even for a loan (the longer, the better).

 REGGIE CANNON

 Reggie Cannon was close to leaving Boavista last summer but a move to Fulham was not completed in time. It only makes sense that another attempt at a move could be in the works and his situation isn’t much different from last season. He’s had a few good games (including his most recent game) for Boavista but has been in and out of the lineup for most of the past few months. He’s also dealt with an injury.With the uncertainty of COVID continuing, more teams in Portugal would love to sell non-essential players for cash. Cannon would probably like to move on as well and put himself into a more secure and better spotlight as he’s losing ground in the national team player pool.Like most non-EU dual citizen American players, Germany, the Championship, Belgium seem like the safest bets.

 AUSTON TRUSTY

 Earlier this week, Will Forbes reported a pending transfer that Auston Trusty was going to transfer from Colorado to Arsenal (two teams with common ownership). Whether such a move happens, it makes sense that he would have interest as an athletic, left-footed central defender.  Trusty, 23, is coming off a very good season for Colorado which he helped to a first-place regular season finish in the Western Conference. After a few mixed seasons which saw him depart Philadelphia for Colorado, Trusty got his career back on track in 2021. As a teenager, he was rated to the point where he was one of the rare youth players who made both a U-17 and U-20 World Cup team.

DARYL DIKE

 Daryl Dike, 21, has been first-team professional for only 18 months. In that time, he has scored 28 goals in 4277 minutes at the club level (he’s also scored three goals for the U.S. national team). That is an outstanding start to a professional career.He had a great loan to Barnsley but faded a bit towards the end of the Championship season. After some rest, and then a subsequent recovery after a shoulder injury he suffered at the Gold Cup, Dike continued to impress at the end of the 2021 season with Orlando.ike will eventually be in Europe full time, but him moving this window seems like it could go either way. Among all the options, another loan to England would make the most sense. He’s done wll there, and a bunch of Championship teams could see him as part of the solution to a promotional campaign. Then it will come down to Orlando including an option to buy and it would probably be more realistic than last year.

SERGINO DEST

It’s been a wild month for Sergino Dest. He got a new manager in Xavi and then there were reports that Barcelona was going to work with Dest intensely on tactics. Then there was another report that the club would look to sell him along with three other players in January. Then he was dropped from a lineup in La Liga. After Barcelona was bounced from the Champions League, Dest picked up an injury and Xavi said that he was missing games due to the injury and not because of transfers.The news is all over the place. So, what makes sense?Barcelona needs cash and, in normal times, Dest would be seen as an asset that could generate some much-needed money.  But there are fewer teams that can spend money right now. Barcelona wants to start a rebuild and Xavi wants to build the team in the way he sees fit – as opposed to getting the team he inherited to work. Barcelona isn’t going to win La Liga this year and finishing in the Champions League spots is also an uphill climb. What would hurt the rebuilding effort is making rushed and poor decisions – and unloading Dest in a buyers’ market could be costly.I think Dest could be sold, but Barcelona isn’t going to be quick to unload him either. If they don’t get a high price, they’ll wait until the summer. If Dest moves, it’s going to be to a big club that can match or exceed what Barcelona paid for him (€26 million). It’s a numbers game right now.

 WESTON MCKENNIE

 There have been rumors for most of the season linking Weston McKennie with moves – most commonly to a wide variety of Premier League teams. After his disappointing dismissal from the U.S. national team camp in September, the rumors became more prevalent. That made sense.But McKennie has responded very well since then. He’s played well, there have been no negative reports about him off-the field, and he serves a purpose under Max Allegri’s system. Juventus won’t win the scudetto, but the club is in the knockouts of the Champions League and McKennie could serve a purpose in those games adding physicality and energy.This isn’t to say Juventus won’t entertain offers, but I still think he stays. He serves a role on the team under Allegri and he’s not easy to replace. McKennie might be a perfect fit for a number of Premier League teams, but it is just as likely (or more likely) that Juventus doesn’t see the need to sell him.

TYLER ADAMS

One of the most important players on the national team, Tyler Adams has seen his minutes decline at RB Leipzig in what has been a disappointing season for both Adams and the club. On top of that, Jesse Marsch was fired, and Adams lost a manager who was familiar with him dating back to his days with Red Bulls II in USL.Leipzig is probably going to want to make a lot of changes to the current squad. There have been rumors linking Adams to teams – Arsenal being one, but there have been other teams mostly in the Premier League. It’s possible but the likely bet is that he remains through the season.As for if he does move, he is likely to have a wide variety of suitors in each of the top five leagues.

DJORDJE MIHAILOVIC

Djordje Mihailovic, 23, recently had a career revival in his first season in Montreal and he looked like the promising player many expected prior to his ACL tear at the tail end of the 2017 season.In 2021, Mihailovic scored four goals and added 16 assists – the second highest total in the league behind Carles Gil. He has an EU passport and recently trailed with Bologna in Serie A – which might drum up some interest. But even if he doesn’t go to Bologna, it seems like by letting him train in Italy, Montreal is open to explore a sale. 

COLE BASSETT

Bassett, 20, missed out on the U-20 World Cup due to COVID cancelling the tournament but he went on to have a nice season anywhere. The young Colorado Rapid homegrown was a key contributor to the team which finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season. He recently earned his first cap with the full national team and scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina.He’s wanted to make the move abroad for awhile but has been patient in making sure it’s the right opportunity. In the summer, he turned down a move to Benfica because it was mostly a move that would have started him off at the reserve level.Colorado is a club that will sell if the price is right and the club did well to sell Sam Vines to Royal Antwerp in August. Bassett won’t be held back but will a club step to the plate and make a real offer that both pays Colorado a fair sum and offers Bassett a real shot at first team minutes?   

CADEN CLARK

Caden Clark’s story is well known. He has been with the New York Red Bulls but earlier this year was signed by RB Leipzig (and promptly loaned back to New York for the remainder of the season). A lot has changed in the meantime. Clark’s minutes with New York haven’t been consistent since his appendectomy over the summer and Leipzig has had a disappointing season that has already resulted in head coach Jesse Marsch’s dismissal.Clark is set to train with Leipzig in January before returning to the states for a camp with the U.S. U-20 team – which will likely be a key player this cycle.If Clark is deemed to not be in the plans for Leipzig right now, what is the next step? It would either be a return to the New York Red Bulls, a lower-tier in Germany, or Red Bull Salzburg. Salzburg frequently gets mentioned and there is a reasonable case as the club is flying on all cylinders in the Austrian Bundesliga and can afford to give other players minutes. The lower tiers in Germany make sense as long as it is geared towards giving him minutes – which isn’t a guarantee on a loan.A return to the New York Red Bulls is a distinct possibility and it would be interesting to see if Gerhard Struber has plans to increase his minutes. Such a return would probably only run through the first half of the season followed by a midseason evaluation.ne benefit would be that it would allow him to attend U.S. U-20 camps and take a lead role in that team’s huge qualifying tournament in June.

MILES ROBINSON

This is a curious one in American soccer as Robinson is a legitimate U.S. national team player. He’s developed well in Atlanta but earning a move is tricky. Atlanta United is not FC Dallas in terms of transferring player because Atlanta considers its top players valuable (i.e. spending $11 million for Luis Araujo after he helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season). Atlanta is serious about winning and its fanbase is one of the largest in the league. Robinson is a key part of what the team wants to do.Robinson will soon be 25. So essentially, he will have to be sold as the final product as he has one more deal left in his prime years. He has a lot of things going for him – elite athleticism and a decent reading of the game. A move to a “Big Five” league is certainly within reach – although maybe not the Premier League. But if it’s predominantly midtable teams that are interested, can they meet Atlanta United’s asking price.While offers may not be in, it’s a safe bet a number of teams are taking a good, hard look at Robinson.

GEORGE BELLO

Bello, 19, now has multiple years as a starter for Atlanta United and is a skillful left back. He needs some work with his tactics, but he checks a lot of boxes, and he plays a position of need for many teams.  At his age, teams will be betting on his upside – which he has shown to be potentially high.Atlanta would certainly sell Bello for a less than Miles Robinson and that could open the door for a lot more different clubs – probably outside of the “Big Five” but still at a good club. 

TYLER BOYD

Tyler Boyd arrived in Turkey in 2019 with Ankaragucu and was terrific. He made a big transfer to Besiktas but that didn’t really work out. It was followed by loans to mid/lower half teams in the Super Lig where, aside for a few brief moments of solid form, has seen him fail to stand out.There are rumors that the LA Galaxy could be interested, and that would make sense for Boyd to perhaps continue to be paid well and play with a team that has hopes of winning. It’s hard to see of what his other options would be, and he could do far worse than join the Galaxy.

OTHER NAMES

There are going to be a bunch of names that will be in the rumor mill, but at this point don’t seem like having much of a chance- but again, that could always change.Brenden Aaronson has seen his same linked with a bunch of really big clubs – one was AC Milan. But Red Bull Salzburg is in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Shipping Aaronson off when the club is at its highest ever moment seems like selling the team, its fans, and Aaronson himself short. These opportunities are valuable and the club would be making a rather big statement that it isn’t serious about competing if it sells off its starting No. 10.  There has been a lot of talk also about Christian Pulisic but the American hasn’t really been able to get going this season at Chelsea due to injuries and COVID. Plus, a team like Chelsea needs depth with COVID ripping through many teams in Europe. Chelsea might eventually sell Pulisic, but a midseason sale during a time of schedule congested and COVID uncertainty seems unlikely – unless a huge offer comes in.Would BSC Young Boys sell Jordan Pefok? Perhaps. He recently scored four goals in one game and, while he is limited in his skillset, a dominant aerial threat and a powerful target in the box will always attract suitors. It’s hard to see Young Boys asking for a king’s ransom since they’re out of Europe.In Scotland, Ian Harkes is a player to watch as he is having his best professional season at Dundee United and probably wouldn’t be that expensive. His UK passport would allow him to move to England without the need for a work permit. 
In Germany, Taylor Booth is almost certainly going to be looking for a loan to get first team minutes. It seems unlikely he is going to make Bayern Munich’s first team anytime soon but he is good enough to start elsewhere – as he did earlier in 2021 with St. Poelten (which was relegated out of the Austrian Bundesliga). Booth headinig out on loan to a mid-tier league like Austria (again), Portugal, or the 2.Bundesliga, etc. seems like a good bet. In Philadelphia, Anthony Fontana is out of contract after he declined to sign a new deal with the Union. Unsurprisingly, his minutes declined as the season went along but his career minutes show that he is a productive player. Leaving on a free transfer has its risks since free players are cheap and clubs could simply be taking a flyer on them. But Fontana has an Italian passport and has wanted to try Europe. He could get that chance although it would probably be a low level.

In South America, one player to keep an eye on is Alan Sonora. The New Jersey-born central midfielder has spent his entire career in Argentina and is coming off his best season in 2021 with Independiente.At 23, he is a late bloomer but Independiente is one of the better teams in Argentina. It wouldn’t be surprising to see an ambitious MLS team make a move for him. MLS teams have been actively involved in Argentina for the last five years and Sonora has the benefit of not taking a foreign spot. He also is the same profile of a lot of players from Argentina who have come into the league with TAM money and perhaps that will be floated in Sonora’s direction.

Previewing the U.S. U-20 cycle: decent starting point but a lot of work ahead with little time

The U.S. U-20 cycle is underway and the current national team camp is part of that with eight players on Gregg Berhalter’s roster. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the U.S. U-20 team in detail at the start of the cycle with just a few camps planned ahead of a big summer tournament that will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTEDDECEMBER 17, 20217:30 PM U-20 analysis

THE 2023 CYCLE for the United States U-20 national team got underway last month with the hiring of new head coach Mikey Varas and the team’s first camp, the Revelation’s Cup in Mexico. The progress of team continued in December with eight age-eligible players invited to take part in the current full national team camp. Next month the U-20 team is expected to have its second camp.After the team was essentially dormant from all on-field activities for 22 months from January 2020 through November 2021, it is embarking on a critical eight month stretch which will conclude in the summer of 2022 when the team participates in a single tournament that will serve as qualification for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics (with the Olympics being a tournament the team hasn’t qualified for since 2008).While the full national team prepares for its final two windows of World Cup qualifying and continues to be the top story for the federation, the U-20 cycle will also be important for the program’s future. In 12 months, the 2022 World Cup will be over, and the United States will be looking for meaningful competitions ahead of being a co-host in 2026.
The 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics are going to be important tournaments ensure that the pipeline of young players continues to stay involved in program. The Olympics, in particular, would be a good way to build up public enthusiasm over the program ahead of the World Cup on home soil.So, it’s important. But how does the U-20 team look six months away from this important double qualification tournament.The answer? Pretty good.There are already a lot of players who aren’t just first-team professionals, but impact players. In older cycles having impact players at the start of the cycle was rare.Also, there aren’t many players who are clearly beyond the U-20 level this cycle. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna were never going to play in the U-20 World Cup. Tyler Adams was never going to play in the U-20 World Cup of his age group (he only played while playing up an age group in 2017). This cycle, the only debatable player right now is Ricardo Pepi.On the flip side, there are holes in the player pool. At the youth levels with only two birth years in a cycle, it is often hard to build a complete team with solid depth at every position. Some positions lag with coaches filling the voids with weaker players or players playing out of position.Here is a look at the various positions and where they stand. It’s not an complete list of the player pool but it is a look at the top players and some of the players who could emerge. As with the U-20 level, the player pool can shift quickly and new players can emerge almost out of nowhere.

 GOALKEEPING

 The 2015 cycle was the best the U.S. team has ever been in this position with Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath both in the player pool. Since then, it hasn’t been great and the 2019 cycle featured David Ochoa playing up a cycle. Ochoa would have been on the 2021 cycle too but since he defected to Mexico, the U-20 team hasn’t produced many goalkeepers who have been first-team players at the club level.
his year’s U-20 team is at the strongest starting point for goalkeeping since 2015.

Gaga Slonina has enjoyed more attention than perhaps any other U-20 goalkeeper at the start of a cycle. In August, he became the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire at just 17 and earned three clean sheets (including two against eventual MLS Cup winners NYCFC). He’s shown a nice upside and it is very rare to see a 17 year old earn a starting goalkeeping position on any first team.

This cycle has surprising depth Jeff Dewsnup, 17, has done well with the Real Monachs (and is a Real Salt Lake (homegrown) and could challenge Slonina. Chris Brady, also of the Chicago Fire, and Fulham’s Alex Borto are also strong contenders.

CENTRAL DEFENSE

This should be pretty big concern for the U.S. U-20 team at the moment. The U-20 team has been successful in 2015, 2017, and 2019 with three straight runs to the quarterfinals of U-20 World Cups. That success has been built on top central defenders.

In 2015 it was Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Erik Palmer-Brown. In 2017 it was Palmer-Brown, Carter-Vickers, and Justen Glad. In 2019 it was Chris Richards, Mark McKenzie, and Abubakar Keita. If the 2021 cycle happened, the starters probably would have been Atlanta United’s George Campbell (who has shown solid promise), and Jonathan Tomkinson (who has been making the bench recently for Norwich in the Premier League). Some of those players earned caps with the full national team but all are, at worst, good professionals. That’s a high level.

The 2023 cycle has some promising central defenders but doesn’t have the strong degree of certainty the last three four cycles have had.

Justin Che has been probably the most highly rated central defender of this age group and he’s currently in camp with the full national team. The problem, however, is that he is not getting many reps at the central defense position. FC Dallas played him at right back and he played both right and central defense while on loan with Bayern Munich’s youth teams earlier in the year.

Kobi Henry has also done well to boost his stock. He played nearly 1500 minutes this year for an Orange County team that won the USL Championship. He had a pretty good Revelations Cup in November and, by virtue of that, was called up to the full national team for the current December camp. At this early stage, he should be considered a front runner for a spot on the team.

Building up depth, or hoping depth emerges, is critical in the next six months for the team. Right now, the options seem to be at the USL level. LA Galaxy II defender Jalen Neal and San Jose Casey Walls struggled at the Revelations Cup but the performances from that camp need to be taken with a grain of salt given the makeshift nature of the team and coaching staff. But this position needs more work heading into January. Union defender Brandan Craig, Tacoma Defiance’s Cody Baker, Atlanta United’s Efrain Morales, and Fort Lauderdale CF (Inter Miami academy) defender Ethan Hardin, and Wake Forest Prince Amponsah are a few players who could be within the pool in the months ahead.The central defense pool has also been altered by the decision of two players to represent other countries. Red Bull Salzburg’s Bryan Okoh has always been tied to Switzerland and remains a part of the Swiss U-21 team. LAFC’s Antonio Leone, meanwhile, has played for the U.S. at the youth levels but has recently opted for Mexico’s U-20 team.

LEFT BACK

The U.S. U-20 team is in great shape at left back and this is the second straight cycle where it is a strength (in 2021, the U-20 team would have featured John Tolkin and George Bello whereas in 2019, Sam Vines was cut but he has progressed nicely).For the current 2023 cycle, the starting job will likely fall to Jonathan Gomez who was recently with Louisville City but will be heading to Real Sociedad in Spain in January. There is one caveat, however, as Gomez could still opt to play for Mexico (he played in Mexican camps in 2021). While he would be in Europe, it is hard to see his club denying his release for youth camps as it would allow him to play in meaningful games throughout the year.

Kevin Paredes is one of the top players in the U-20 pool and has played as a left back for DC United when using a wingback formation. He’s also played as a winger at times and with the U.S. national team in December camp (prior to leaving injured) he played as a winger. If Gomez is on the U-20 team, sliding Paredes into the winger position will get both Gomez and Paredes on the field into comfortable roles.Aside from those players, DC United homegrown Jacob Greene is an option and was on the roster at the Revelations Cup. Philadelphia Union II’s Anthony Sorenson, Atlanta United’s Caleb Wiley, and Inter Miami’s Noah Allen are all potential options as well.

RIGHT BACK

Normally a very deep position for the United States, right back is thin for the U.S. U-20 team.The first question will be whether Justin Che plays as a central defender or as a right back. He is likely a starter for the U-20 team at either position at the start of the cycle.Michael Halliday made first team appearances with Orlando City this year where he played well at times and struggled at other times. Still, that is not a bad starting point for a player of his age group and he should be in the mix.Sporting Kanas City homegrown Kayden Pierre was on the Revelation’s Cup roster and he is in the mix at the start of the cycle although he could be overtaken in 2022 if he still is with the club’s reserve team. The same could be said for FC Dallas homegrown Collin Smith who had a nice season with North Texas in USL. Smith is at a youth-friendly team in Dallas and could get looks if he continues to perform well.Mauricio Cuevas was most recently with the LA Galaxy II but is now unattached presumably to look for a move to Europe. He remains a potentially solid option after previously playing with the U.S. U-17 team before the shutdown but he hasn’t had many games recently.Born at the end of 2004, Erik Dueñas is one of the younger players in the current pool but has signed a homegrown deal with LAFC – where he made two appearances. Within the organization, he was coached by one of the best ever American right backs in Steve Cherundolo. He is in the middle of a long-term injury recovery but could emerge later in the cycle. 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

Defensive midfield is going to be important for this team but right now there isn’t a lot of depth.

This week, the New York Red Bulls signed Daniel Edelman to a homegrown contract, and it was a big move for both the player and the club. He is a highly rated U-20 player and should get first team minutes with New York next season. As a very good defensive No. 6 player, he is the best player at that position for the U-20 team and he probably will be an important part of the team.

Jeremy Garay signed a homegrown deal with DC United this past year and was part of the U.S. team at the Revelations Cup and played pretty well in the 2-1 loss to Mexico. He has also represented El Salvador but he will likely stick with the U.S. team if that road is open for him and he’s in the mix for the U-20 team.

The Seattle Sounder duo of Daniel Leyva and Reed Baker-Whiting are also under consideration. Leyva might struggle with his mobility and physicality while Baker-Whiting is very young and eligible for the following cycle.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

The strength of this U-20 team lies central midfield, both the No. 8 and the No. 10, as well as the wingers.

Philadelphia’s Jack McGlynn and DC United’s Moses Nyeman are the top options at the start of the cycle. McGlynn being part of a trio of Philadelphia Union players on this team, he earned a lot of first team minutes in 2021 and should be playing even more in 2022. Nyeman will need to play more for DC and his game is still rounding out. But his passing is very good and if he can add more defense, he’ll be in good shape.

 There are still positions up for grabs in central midfield. Zach Booth (brother of Tyler Booth) at Leicester City and Rokas Pukstas at the U-19 team for Hadjuk Split are in the pool but others will emerge in 2022. Kenan Hot wil have some interesting decisions ahead after leaving the Red Bulls set-up and going on overseas trials. He has spent time with U.S. youth national teams in the past before COVID and played the last half of 2021 wiith Hartford Athletic. 

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

The heart of this U.S. U-20 team is in the attacking midfield positions. This is where the team is deepest and strongest.

Caden Clark of the New York Red Bulls (and possibly RB Leipzig) and the Philadelphia Union’s Paxten Aaronson are at the top of the list and both have shown their class this year. Clark might also drift back into a No. 8 role because he has that versatility. He’s also effective in the press – which Mikey Varas will probably look to use. But both are locks to be on the team and see a lot of minutes in big games.

Quinn Sullivan, also of the Philadelphia Union, is one of the stronger 2004-born players in the pool and he gives Varas an option at the No. 10 as well as out on the wings.

Diego Luna of the El Paso Locomotive put up solid numbers in the USL Championship and had a decent Revelations Cup where he scored a classy equalizer against Mexico. For now, he is in a good spot to start the U-20 cycle.

The Chicago Fire’s Brian Gutierrez is also probably in a good position with the U-20 team and he earned decent reviews for his performance at the Revelations Cup and should be in line for call-ups early in 2022.

Head coach Mikey Varas will probably take January and possibly the second camp of 2022 to explore deeper options. That could open the door for Schalke’s Evan Rotundo, the LA Galaxy’s Victor Valdez, or Tacoma Defiance’s Juan Alvarez – who are all on the younger side from the 2004 birth year.

WINGERS

This is another position of strength for the U-20 team with several players already performing well at a high level.

Kevin Paredes will likely play as winger as opposed to a left back and he would easily be a starter at left wing. The DC United homegrown was a regular starter, when healthy, at the first team level and was strong on both sides of the ball.

Cade Cowell is another player who should feature regularly with the U-20 team and could be a starter. The San Jose homegrown is very physically strong and that could be tough to stop at the U-20 level. One caveat is that he could see time at the No. 9 under Varas given the lack of options at that position.

Dante Sealy is currently on loan at PSV from FC Dallas and is a regular with Jong PSV where he has five goals in 16 appearances and 876 minutes. On top of this, he has worwked with head coach Mikey Varas at Dallas and understands his system – which should give him an edge.

There are other wingers who could play their way onto the team Christian Torres would be a strong candidate, but the LAFC winger most recently opted to play for Mexico at the Revelations Cup.  

Colorado Rapids homegrown Dantouma Toure spent 2021 on loan at the Colorado Switchbacks and had a pretty good season. He recently went on training stints at Rangers and Arsenal in December and should be a player that gets a look early in 2022 with a chance of playing his way onto the team.

CENTER FORWARD

The center forward position for this U-20 team is very much up in the air. While it is thin, the best overall American for this age group plays the No. 9 in Ricardo Pepi.

Pepi’s involvement in this team is complicated. Right now, the full U.S. national team is his priority and he has started the team’s most important World Cup qualifiers to date. That will continue through the end of qualifying in March (assuming the U.S. team doesn’t have to play in the intercontinental playoff).

But the U-20 qualification tournament is in the summer. Is it conceivable that U.S. Soccer would decide to send Pepi to the qualification tournament to give the U-20 team every chance for success? While unlikely, you can’t completely rule it out. He wouldn’t miss any decisive games for the full national team this summer and looking ahead into next cycle, U.S Soccer is going to want its teams playing in important tournaments building up to the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

The fact that this tournament will serve as qualification for the Olympics could be a deciding factor to send Pepi with the U-20 team and end the federation’s Olympic drought. He most likely won’t play at the U-20 World Cup but the Olympics in 2024 would be a different story.  This country loves the Olympics and that would be a great way to build up enthusiasm for the World Cup team.

The gap between Pepi and the next best options is wide right now.

Malick Sanogo of Union Berlin made his U.S. debut at the Revelations Cup and is an option. Once a goal scoring machine at the U-17 Bundesliga level, his numbers have declined at the U-19 Bundesliga level (two goals in nine games, 732 minutes, both goals coming in one game against Werder Bremen’s U-19 team).

Minnesota United’s Patrick Weah was once considered a back-up option but he will be sidelined until late 2022 with a torn ACL.

Missael Rodriguez was on the Revelations Cup roster as a surprising inclusion. The Chicago Fire homegrown is yet to make his first team debut but earned the Golden Boot for the U-19 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs with a tournament-high six goals in five matches. He should remain in the mix with the U-20 team given the shallow player pool.

Tyler Wolff could also get a look and the Atlanta United homegrown (and son of Austin FC head coach and former U.S. international Josh Wolff) and his numbers were solid with Atlanta United 2 (six goals in 10 games) and he even made a few limited appearance with the first team.

Darren Yapi is a Colorado Rapids homegrown who has spent time on loan with the Switchbacks and previously played for the U.S. U-17 team. He’s now with Arsenal on a training stint and could be an option for Mikey Varas.

It’s clearly not a deep position for the U.S. team as there aren’t many options who are getting first team minutes either at the MLS level or at a similar or higher level in Europe. It might be a situation where Varas has to explore using a player out of position at the No. 9 – such as Cade Cowell.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

This is very interesting team that has some players starting off the U-20 cycle in great shape. Paredes, Clark, Che, Cowell, Slonina, Aaronson, and McGlynn have all impressed at the MLS level. There are a number of positions where it looks like the U.S. team should be able to match up well with a lot of good teams.But there are also weak areas and having a shaky central defense is probably the worst area for a youth team to be unsettled. Mikey Varas will have to manage that situation well for the team to have success. He also needs Daniel Edelman to pan out in the defensive midfield because he can help protect the backline.The striker position is also not in great shape, but it is manageable. The possible (albeit unlikely) addition of Pepi would change that completely.Right now, the U-20 team has to be viewed in two segments. From now through qualifying, and (if successful) from qualifying through the U-20 World Cup.

CONCACAF did the U.S. team a huge favor by having the qualifying take place in the summer and also by having it serve as qualifying for the Olympics. Few players should be denied a release to participate. MLS teams have typically been cooperative and Euro teams typical grant players a release in the summer as youth national teams give young players a chance to play meaningful games.

For this qualifying tournament, Mikey Varas should be able to have his top choice of players except for Pepi. If the U.S team is successful, the cycle can continue and Varas can build his team as new players emerge and others fade.

As with any U-20 team, the player pool changes very, very quickly. Players emerge in the matter of weeks and months, while others fade just as quickly. If you look at any previous cycle, the projected Best XI rarely resembles the Best XI come the U-20 World Cup.

Everything now, however, is about qualifying for the U-20 World Cup and the Olympics. Mikey Varas doesn’t have a lot of time and he will only have a few camps to put his team together. He has a decent starting point but a lot of work needs to be done to figure out the players who should be on the roster and to build a tactical plan and team chemistry. There should be enough talent to get it done but it’s far from a sure thing.

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12/17/21 US Men vs Bosnia Sat 8 pm FS1, MLS NYCFC Champs, Champ League Sweet 16 Set

US Men (MLS Group) vs Bosnia Sat 12/18 8 pm FS1

The US Men have a friendly tomorrow vs Bosnia Herzogova at 8 pm on FS1.  The men made up of all US based players have been in camp for about 10 days already as they get a chance to put their names in the hat for the all important Qualifiers in January.  A ton of youngsters in the group but the return of winger Jordan Morris who missed all of last year with a knee injury might well lead the group.  Expect to see him start along with Pepi and probably Cade Cowell up front.  I am interested to see if Justin Che gets anytime at right back along with how many youngsters Berhalter plays in midfield.  Would be cool to see Cole Basett or Jordan Cardoso at the attacking mid (8 slot).   I am thinking the US wins this one 2-1 maybe.   WTW4  

 Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Sat night  

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

MLS Cup Finals –NYCFC beats Portland 2-1 in PKs

Wow what a final – when my Timbers scored in the 94th minute with just seconds left before the whistle blew – I collapsed to the floor in joy.  Of course NYCFC recovered and despite some hairy moments when Portland seemed to have it won – NYCFC held on and took it to PKs.  NYCFC GK Andre Blake – playing in his first playoffs – was spectacular as his 2 saves on the first 2 shots – won it in PKs for the New Yorkers.  Anyone who saw the game – saw what is heralded as THE BEST soccer experience in the US for MLS soccer.  The Timber Army was every bit as glorious as I remember when I joined them for their first MLS Cup win in Columbus in 2015.   So disappointment city for me and my Timbers – but huge congrats to NYCFC with the win and Championship.  Maybe this will help them get a soccer specific stadium built rather than playing in Yankee Stadium. 

Champions League Sweet 16 Set – Games Feb 15- Mar 16

RB Salzburg vs Bayern Munich
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Benfica vs Ajax
Chelsea vs Lille
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Villarreal vs Juventus
Inter Milan vs Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

Sad to see the news that former Man City and current Barcelona striker Sergio Arguero’s career is over due to a heart condition discovered last week.  Crazy what is going on in England and across Europe with the Covid Game Cancellations – hopefully that doesn’t kill the normally busy holiday match schedules.  Matthew McConehey says soccer is Alright Alright Alright.  Huge congrats to Lindsay Horan for winning US Ladies Player of the Year and Trinity Rodman for winning young player of the year.  Also huge news that NWSL is now going to pay all the Ladies salaries and US Soccer will no longer be paying those wages – so they can be paid the same way the men are – by game and result rather than salary. Hopefully NWSL stays afloat and everything works out for all!

BIG GAMES TO WATCH  

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Dec 17

2:45 pm ESPN +                  Bayern Muchen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

3 pm beIN Sport                 PSG vs Lyonnais (Coupe De France) 

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

9 am CBSSN                 Atalanta vs Roma

9:30 am ESPN+             Hoffenhiem vs Mgladbach (Scally)  

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

10:15 am ESPN2           Real Sociadad  vs Villarreal

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12 noon CBSSN            Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Sampdoria vs Venezia (  )   

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

Tues,  Dec 20

3 pm ESPN+                         Arsenal vs Sunderland  English Cup

Weds,  Dec 21

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

Sun,  Dec 26

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

US Men

 WTW4 US vs Bosnia S&S  

Scouting Bosnia S&S

Who Stands to Gain the Most From USMNT’s December Camp?
Transfer news: Christian Pulisic wanted by Barcelona

Orange County SC’s Kobi Henry eager to make his mark during early call-up to USMNT

Transfer news: Juventus could sell USMNT’s Weston McKennie

Bundesliga wrap: USMNT’s Richards stoppage-time hero for Hoffenheim

Yanks Abroad – Last Weekend  –

MLS Final

NYCFC lift MLS Cup! How Ronny Deila’s team beat Portland Timbers

View from the pitch: How MLS Cup went down at Providence Park

VOICES: GREG SELTZER MLS Cup 2022 predictions: Your (very) early guide to top contenders
MLS end of season awards: a fiasco in Miami and Glesnes’ thunderbolt

“It was really a perfect match”: Pat Noonan leads FC Cincinnati

Champions League Round of 16- Feb 16


PSG to face Real Madrid in Champions League last 16 after draw farce

Barcelona to play Napoli in Europa League knockout play-offs

NWSL & US Ladies

Horan and Rodman win US POY

Horan: ‘Surreal’ to be named U.S. Soccer’s Female POTY

Rodman: Young POTY award ‘doesn’t feel real’
The Rush: Alex Morgan on joining Wave FC and stopping abusive coaches in sports

USSF, USWNT union deal averts strike  ESPNF Caitlin Murray
Alex Morgan is heading home to Cali, will play for San Diego Wave FC

US Soccer, USWNTPA extend CBA, end NWSL salary allocation system

EPL & World


England drawn against Italy and Germany in UEFA Nations League

Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero announces retirement due to heart condition

Sergio Aguero — Impish striker who became a Manchester City icon

Aguero retires with great legacy that is so much more than just his iconic goal
  Mark Ogden
Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

Ronaldo fires Man United in front of Norwich City

Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool relief like curing tooth pain; Gerrard talk is no worry

Tuchel: Chelsea ‘lucky’ to beat Leeds

Real Madrid’s win vs. Atletico feels decisive in LaLiga title race
  ESPNFC Gabriele Marcotti
Real Madrid move 13 points clear of Atletico after derby stroll

Clemson wins NCCA men’s soccer title, beats Washington 2-0

USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 friendly: What to watch for

An opportunity for a win to close out 2021.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 17, 2021, 7:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team complete their 2021 busy calendar tomorrow night in Carson, California when they host Bosnia & Herzegovina in a friendly at Dignity Health Sports Park. The USMNT enter the match with a 2021 record of 16 wins, 2 defeats, and 3 draws, and they’re looking for 1 more in the win column. Standing in their way is Bosnia & Herzegovina, the 61st ranked team in the world but one that presents an interesting matchup for the USMNT. With a young roster in camp, it will give some valuable experience to some American players looking to make the most of their opportunity in a USMNT uniform.

Latest Form

USA

D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-1) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

Bosnia & Herzegovina

L (0-2) – Ukraine – World Cup Qualifying

L (1-3) – Finland – World Cup Qualifying

D (1-1) – Ukraine – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Kazakhstan – World Cup Qualifying

What To Watch For

Seize the moment. This is a prime opportunity for several players to make an impact on the match as well as show head coach Gregg Berhalter that in an important 2022, they will be ready when their number is called. It may be a friendly, but expect to see several guys play hard to show they can be a dependable option moving forward.

Take control in the midfield. Bosnia enters this match with a roster that has a combined 8 international caps from 5 players. You could argue that the most experienced part of the roster for the USMNT is in the midfield. That’s where the USMNT need to control the tempo of the match and keep consistent pressure on Bosnia’s defense.

Capitalize on scoring chances. Bosnia may be a team that hasn’t played well lately, but they have a system that normally tries to bog down opponents and limit their scoring chances. Scoring when the opportunity presents itself is something the USMNT is always working to improve. This will be a good test to see if the young kids can put the ball in the back of the net when it’s at their feet inside the box.

Lineup Prediction

With so many young players in camp along with some veterans, it presents some interesting options for Gregg Berhalter. In the end, this is what we predict we will see in the form of a starting lineup tomorrow:

Cowell// Pepi // Morris

Roldan /Bassett

Acosta

Bello/Zimmerman / Che / Gomez 

Matt Turner is the only goalkeeper with experience in camp and the arguable #1, so he gets the start. Justin Che gets the start alongside MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman, with George Bello at left back. If Kevin Paredes had been healthy, he likely would have recevied the start at right back. Instead, it’s dual national Jonathan Gomez who we should expect to see on the right side of the back line.In the middle, Berhalter goes with some experience, with Kellyn Acosta operating at the 6 and Cristian Roldan at the 8. Cole Bassett also gets the nod to provide some speed in the middle.   Up front, Ricardo Pepi gets the start ahead of Gyasi Zardes, who we should expect to see as a substitute later in the match. Jordan Morris is back with the national team and starts on the right wing, with Cade Cowell getting the start on the left.

Prediction

Bosnia’s lack of experience shows in this match, with the USMNT getting out in front early and carrying it throughout the match. The USMNT wins by a 3-0 score.

Who Stands to Gain the Most From USMNT’s December Camp?

A friendly outside of the international calendar isn’t the greatest litmus test, but it is a proving ground regardless—especially in the middle of a World Cup qualifying cycle.

AVI CREDITOR  SI  Any friendlies outside the FIFA calendar tend to be a bit weird. That’ll be especially true in the middle of World Cup qualifying for the U.S. men’s national team group gathered to face Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday. The competitive stakes are low, the rosters unorthodox, the motivations varying and the potential long-term impact a bit all over the place. Take last year’s December camp for the U.S., for example. Of the players in the starting XI that featured vs. El Salvador in Fort Lauderdale some 53 weeks ago, one now represents Mexico (Julián Araujo) and another plays for Canada (Ayo Akinola). Of the entire match-day squad, only six have gone on to be regular participants in World Cup qualifying (Brenden Aaronson, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Mark McKenzie, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta). Suffice it to say, it was not exactly the A Group. Nor is it for the U.S.—and its opponent—this time around.The team the Americans are facing at Dignity Health Sports Park outside Los Angeles is not the one that could call on the likes of Edin Džeko, Miralem Pjanić and Sead Kolašinac. It’s a young, almost entirely domestic-based side with a total, combined tally of 10 caps. As experimental as this U.S. group is—and it is very hodgepodge, mixing new elements and domestic-based players who have been relied upon in qualifying—Bosnia’s takes things to another level. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t gains to be had.Speaking to his team in its first gathering (as shown through U.S. Soccer’s Behind the Crest video series), U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter laid it all out quite bluntly.”What are our objectives of this camp? Optimize fitness levels as we approach [the January] window. We’re doing this camp for you guys, because we realize that if you guys want to play any part in January qualifiers, you need this. Because you need to be fit. Trust me, if you’re not fit enough, you’re not going to be able to play, because we know what those games are about; you guys have been around, you know what qualifiers are about,” Berhalter said.”Then we want to expand the USMNT player pool. Think about all the new guys that are in this camp. It’s fantastic. We love seeing new faces. But what I’ll tell you guys, we want to do this, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. That’s going to be up to you guys. We’re looking for guys that aren’t taking plays off, that are using every single training session to get better and are competing in every single training session.”The message has seemingly gotten across.There’s a lot of young players in this camp, me included. We’re treating it as if it were a normal camp, and everyone’s here to work hard to prove to Gregg that we’re here to stay,” said Taylor Booth, a 20-year-old midfielder who trains with Bayern Munich’s first team but plays competitively for its reserves, under former Argentina international Martín Demichelis.For others, the camp isn’t a first impression. Between Zimmerman, Acosta, Ricardo Pepi, Jesús Ferreira, Matt Turner and Cristian Roldan, there’s a number of players who have played varying roles in World Cup qualifying so far. They’re the ones to whom Berhalter is referring when he addresses the players that are in to stay fit.The newbies and established players who are returning from injury layoffs are whom this camp is really for from a long-term potential standpoint, though. D.C. United’s versatile Kevin Paredes was one of the more intriguing players in camp, but an ankle injury suffered in training will keep the 18-year-old out of contention. But who else stands to gain something in the long run by capping a strong camp with a sound showing vs. Bosnia? Here are three to watch. Jordan Morris

Morris is in his first U.S. camp since tearing his ACL last February, and it’s clear this period is effectively an audition for a spot that Berhalter has loosely been reserving for him should he return to form. Even with Morris out with his injury, he was name-checked regularly as a guy who has earned his place among the core players, and the way Berhalter spoke of him upon revealing his roster for this camp was of a manager eager to give the forward a shot.”If we don’t bring him into this camp, he has no chance of playing in qualifiers,” Berhalter said. “So our job now is to work with him these next four weeks when we’re in camp, to get him ready to see if he can make an impact in World Cup qualifiers. We know his talent level. We know what he brings to the team. He gives us a different dimension, and it would be nice to get him in a place where he can perform in these games. But we just don’t know yet.”The U.S. doesn’t need the 27-year-old Morris to be a starter, but seeing what he’s capable of doing will determine whether he’s still valuable enough at this juncture to be part of the picture.”He’s looking sharp,” said Roldan, Morris’s teammate for club and country. “He’s probably the first one to tell you that the speed of play was a little bit fast initially [when returning with Seattle], but I think it’s slowing down for him and the amount of games that he got that were kind of unexpected were really nice. So him being back in the mix is really nice to see. He’s doing really well and playing like he never left.”He admits, understandably so, that he’s still in the process of getting back to top form, and given he’s nine months removed from ACL surgery, that he’s playing at all—let alone participating in a national team camp—is pretty remarkable. “I was just getting back when we got knocked out of the playoffs, so I think this camp is a great opportunity to get back in with the group and continue to get my sharpness and my fitness levels back up heading into a big year next year,” Morris said.

Jonathan Gómez

Despite Antonee Robinson’s improved play and Sergiño Dest and Joe Scally’s versatility, left back is still, all these World Cup cycles later, not a set position for the U.S. Enter Gómez, the 18-year-old who is headed to Real Sociedad after this camp following a standout run at Louisville City in the USL Championship. A dual-national with Mexican eligibility, Gómez is the latest to be wanted by both sides of the rivalry in recent months (Pepi picked the U.S.; Araujo, David Ochoa and Efraín Álvarez opted for El Tri). It’s wise of Berhalter to put out the senior-team feeler now. While that ultimately didn’t pan out for Araujo, it’s a no-risk invitation with a potential high reward.”It’s important for us to get a good look at him,” Berhalter said. “Left back has always been an issue of depth for us. And we think he’s a talented player and we think he could be ready to make an impact now. So it will be great to see him and great to get to work with him.”

Booth profiles as a box-to-box midfielder on the U.S. despite playing at right back for Bayern Munich II, which he said was designed for him by Julian Nagelsmann to give him a more direct pathway to the first team, at a position where depth isn’t as overwhelming. He’s aiming to break through into a position on the U.S. that is largely solidified, but between injuries, coronavirus and other variables, you never know when a strong first impression will lead to something greater, and versatility can only help a player’s case when roster sizes are finite.”He’s got quality,” Roldan said. “He’s a player on the ball you want in the half spaces; you want him dribbling at players. He’s just really smooth on the ball, and now it’s about him understanding the system, understanding what Gregg wants, what our team needs from him so that he can transition into this squad really smoothly, but, man, he’s got quality. He’s a player that can change rhythm and disorganize the opponent.”Will a good showing in a friendly vs. Bosnia Lite be the end-all? Probably not. Chris Mueller scored twice against El Salvador in December 2020, returned for the subsequent January camp and hasn’t been back since. But now’s the time for Booth and players of his ilk to plant the seed that they belong—either for the remainder of the current cycle or as potentially foundational pieces for the next one.

USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2021 Friendly: Scouting Bosnia and Herzegovina

he USMNT closes the year against European competition. By Brendan Joseph  Dec 16, 2021, 5:00am PST

 for the traditional winter camp, an opportunity for mostly domestic talents to gain experience and become further acquainted with the program. The training period closes with a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The match is being contested outside of an official FIFA window, reducing the potential strength of both sides.This is the third meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 1-0-1 advantage. In 2013, Jozy Altidore scored a hat-trick to secure a 4-3 victory. Five years later, the sides played to a scoreless draw.Zmajevi (The Dragons) are enduring a dismal year, having won two out of 12 matches. The 2022 World Cup qualification campaign ended with a fourth-place finish in Group D, faint hope extinguished by losses to Finland and the Ukraine. Local press described the performance as “the weakest in [the country’s] independent history for all major competitions.” Bosnia has failed to reach the group stage twice since debuting in 2014.Bosnia is managed by Ivaylo Petev, a 46-year-old with previous stops at Ludogorets Razgrad, Levski Sofia, Limassol, Dinamo Zagreb, Omonia, Al Qadsiah, Jagiellonia Białystok, and the Bulgaria national team. This past January, the Bulgarian was appointed to the position, signing a contract through 2022 after predecessor Dusan Bajevic “failed to reach the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.” Since missing out on the World Cup, his employment status is tenuous, with the Executive Board of the Football Association not planning to reveal a decision until “after the New Year’s holidays.”Petev named a young and inexperienced 18-player roster for the friendly. The domestic Premijer Liga contributed all of the call-ups. The squad has a combined total of eight senior caps, representative of the non-FIFA window and pandemic restrictions. Almedin Ziljkić was held out “due to back problems.”

“Certainly, some more players would receive invitations, but the problem was that they were not vaccinated,” said the manager. “I have said many times that there are many interesting young players in the Premier League and most of them on this list are under 23. We are interested in how they will play in the national team jersey and against a quality national team. I expect maximum fighting spirit and commitment, because this is a chance for everyone to show the potential he has. It also gives us the opportunity to see who we can count on in the future.”

***

GOALKEEPERS (2): Belmin Dizdarević (Sarajevo), Nikola Ćetković (Borac)

DEFENDERS (7): Selmir Pidro (Sarajevo), Numan Kurdić (Sarajevo), Aleksandar Vojnović (Borac), Hrvoje Barišić (Zrinjski), Josip Ćorluka (Zrinjski), Vedran Vrhovac (Željezničar), Ajdin Nukić (Tuzla City)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Andrej Đokanović (Sarajevo), Amar Begić (Borac), Igor Savić (Zrinjski), Marijan Ćavar (Široki Brijeg), Mehmed Ćosić (Velež), Haris Ovčina (Velež), Sasa Maksimović (Sloboda)

FORWARDS (2): Jovo Lukić (Borac), Sulejman Krpić (Tuzla City)

***

Petev alternates between the 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations. He cited the USMNT’s speed and strength, intending to deploy a lineup that matches the opponent. While Bosnia is using a second-choice squad, the tactics of a deep defensive line and methodical, possession-based build-up should remain constant.The goalkeeper position is a toss-up between two young starters in the Premijer Liga. Borac Banja Luka’s Nikola Ćetković has experience at the youth international level. Belmin Dizdarević of Sarajevo is enjoying a strong run of form with seven shutouts in 17 matches. The latter is composed when stopping short-range shots, getting to everything within an arm’s length. He can also kick the ball to the opponent’s box, which is impressive and catches back-lines on the wrong foot.While towering veteran Hrvoje Barišić is available, Petev will likely opt to give younger players experience. After a half-season loan in Albania, Numan Kurdic has assumed a starting role for Sarajevo. The 22-year-old goes to ground often, diving in to stop advancing attackers. He has the opportunity to play next to Vedran Vrhovac of derby rivals Željezničar. His passing is an asset during the build-up, matched by frequent solo dribbling runs into space.Josip Ćorluka of Zrinjski, an attack-minded right back, appeared in a Nations League fixture against Italy last year. He pushes deep into the final third and fires in crosses, already contributing five assists this season. The other side of the field features Selmir Sidro from Sarajevo, who made his senior international debut in March against Costa Rica. The 23-year-old is a decent dribbler, plays long passes from his own half, and manages to disrupt counter-attacks with contact-free interceptions.The defensive midfielder position is taken by Andrej Đokanović, a 20-year-old that has already won the league and cup twice, well on the way to 100 club appearances. After claiming the ball, his immediate instinct is to make a vertical pass, attempting to break the opponent’s lines. This friendly is a massive opportunity for the young six who is looking to become a more frequent inclusion for the national team.Over the summer, Marijan Cavar returned home after three-and-a-half years on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt and Greuther Fürth, having failed to make an impact at either club. The former captain of the Under-21 team is trying to regain career momentum in his first senior call-up since 2018. On his best days, he is a hard tackler and facilitator of possession, the most active player on both sides of the ball. His partner in the midfield could be Igor Savić, a top domestic talent with four goals for league-leading Zrinjski. Not only standing out due to above-average height, his smooth movement and incisive passing are crucial if Bosnia is going to win the match.Tuzla City right winger Ajdin Nukić is one of the most experienced players on the roster with two caps, both from friendlies this year. He covers his entire half of the field and racks up assists, preferring to sneak behind fullbacks to play a cross but also drifts inward for the occasional finish. The left winger role can be filled by Sasa Maksimović, who tends to stay closer to the center of the field and serve as another striker. The native of Brčko fights hard for second balls, often regaining possession after a turnover.Sulejman Krpić is enjoying a solid season for Tuzla City after moving over from Romanian side Astra Giurgiu. The 30-year-old has the opportunity to earn his first senior cap. He runs the channels and beats out defenders for headers. The manager could also opt for the younger Jovo Lukić, a 6’4” target man that is dangerous on crosses and when holding possession.Results from winter camp can be a mixed bag, but Bosnia could put up a fight as local talents attempt to display the strength of the domestic league. For some players, these non-FIFA window friendlies are their sole call-ups to the national team, never to be included long-term. The run of play tends to be a little more disconnected than normal as there is less continuity and chemistry. The USMNT should emerge with a victory due to having more experience than the opponent, although surprises are known to happen.The match is scheduled for December 18th at 8:15 p.m. Eastern, 5:15 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FS1, UniMás TUDN, and Fubo TV (free trial).

UEFA Champions League last 16 draw: Schedule after ‘void’ draw

  • Joe Prince-Wright  Mon, December 13, 2021, 9:20 AM EST·3 min read

The initial UEFA Champions League draw for the last 16 has been declared void, as a technical issue caused chaos as European soccer’s governing body performed the draw in Switzerland.But the second draw of the day proved successful. Thank goodness.After a technical glitch which incorrectly paired Villarreal with Manchester United in the last 16, footage has appeared which showed United not being placed in the draw to face Atletico Madrid and Liverpool also not being correctly placed into a pot.UEFA then confirmed that the draw would be conducted again at 9am ET on Monday. Here is the statement in full:

“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone at 1500 CET.”And here is a look at what happened:

Who fared well?

As for the officially official draw, all four Premier League teams will be very happy with their Round of 16 ties.

Liverpool face Inter Milan, Manchester City were paired with Sporting Lisbon and Chelsea drew Lille (just like they did in the void draw), and Manchester United were drawn against Atletico Madrid after being paired against PSG in the initial draw.That will be a huge sigh of relief for Man United, and Atletico, as the latter drew Bayern Munich in the now infamous ‘void draw’ earlier on Tuesday.PSG against Real Madrid is the tie of the round as two heavyweights collide.Below are details for the Champions League draw, with the full schedule, dates, how to watch, latest odds and more.

How to watch UEFA Champions League live, stream and start time

Kick off: Last 16 games take place Feb. 15 to Mar. 16
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: Paramount+

UEFA Champions League draw for last 16 – Full schedule

RB Salzburg vs Bayern Munich
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Benfica vs Ajax
Chelsea vs Lille
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Villarreal vs Juventus
Inter Milan vs Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

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12/10/21 MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC Portland vs NYCFC, Madrid Derby Sun, Champ League Sweet 16 Set, US Men next Sat

MLS Cup Finals – Portland Timbers vs NYCFC – 3 pm on ABC

The Portland Timbers are headed to their 4th MLS Cup and for the first time ever THEY ARE HOSTING NYCFC on Saturday at 3 pm on ABC   What a send off it would be for Portland legends Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to win the MLS Cup on their home field in what could be their final seasons in green. 

Obviously the Timbers Army is one of the best supporters sections in the US and rivals those in England and Europe for rowdiness.  From the Tifos, to the inventive chants to the wonder of Timber Joey cutting a log with a 4 foot Chainsaw after every goal  – Portland’s Providence Park is Special.  NYCFY has been playing tremendous having won 7 straight before making their unlikely run thru the Eastern Conference to the finals.  NYCFC got lucky to face a COVID devastated Philly Union team last weekend as they were down 7 starters – of course NYCFC was also missing their superstar Valentin Castellanos who should make a huge difference for them on Saturday.  A Timbers win would give them 2 MSL Cup Titles matching their Cascadian Cup archrivals Seattle.  I like Portland to pull off a tough 2-1 match in the end.  LETS GO TIMBERS !!  A TV audience of millions will be in for a real treat this Saturday – be sure to add it to your Saturday plans!!  All About the Victory Log.   Want to get a tear in your eye and help understand the Timber family click on this link – You Are My Sunshine – Timber Jim.  
2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph?
  ESPN

MLS Cup brings Portland’s Providence Park party to life  Jeff Carlisle

MLS scores 17-year high in post-NFL Thanksgiving slot

Airing immediately after an NFL game, a Major League Soccer playoff match (Colorado-Portland) averaged 1.85 million viewers on FOX Thanksgiving Day — the largest MLS audience on a single network since 2004 (DC-San Jose: 1.97M). Keep in mind MLS has attracted larger combined audiences across multiple networks, including 2.01 million for the 2016 MLS Cup.

EPL, MLS viewership up

As of last week, the ongoing English Premier League season was averaging 609,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ English and Spanish-language networks — up 14% from last year and the highest at this point of the season since 2015-16.

In other soccer action, the recently-completed MLS regular season averaged 276,000 viewers across the ESPN family of networks — up 18% from last year (233K) and the networks’ most-watched season under their current media rights deal. The Univision family of networks averaged 245,000 (+22%) also a new high. Viewership on Fox Sports increased 4%, though exact figures were not immediately available. Shifting to national team play, the November 12 United States-Mexico World Cup qualifier averaged 2.9 million viewers on Univision and 1.32 million on ESPN2 and the November 16 Jamaica-United States match drew 200,000 on Universo (English-language coverage streamed on Paramount+).

US Men (MLS Group) vs Bosnia Sat 12/18 8 pm FS1

The US Men have a friendly next week vs Bosnia Herzogova next Saturday. Dec 18 at 8 pm on FS1.  The men made up of all US based players have been in camp for about 7 days already as they get a chance to put their names in the hat for the all important Qualifiers in January.  A ton of youngsters in the group but the return of winger Jordan Morris who missed all of last year with a knee injury might well lead the group.  Expect to see him start along with Pepi and probably Cade Cowell up front.  I am interested to see if Justin Che gets anytime at right back along with how many youngsters Berhalter plays in midfield.  Would be cool to see Cole Basett or Jordan Cardoso at the attacking mid (8 slot).  

Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Next Weekend

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Reynolds/Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that. 

Games to Watch this Weekend

Sat gives us a German matchup of American’s as RB Liepzig and hopefully Adams will face MGladbach and right back Joe Scally on ESPN+ at 9:30 am.  Chelsea and Pulisic will travel to Leeds at 10 am on USA Network while Liverpool welcomes Aston Villa and new coach former Liverpool Gerrard at 10 am on NBCSN.  Of course MLS cup is 3 pm on ABC.  Sunday gives us the Madrid Derby as Real will host Atletico at 3 pm on ESPN+.  Real Madrid stand well atop of La Liga while Atletico are 10 pts back in 4th. 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Wolverhampton

9:30 am ESPN+             RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mgladbach (Joe Scally)  

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds 

10 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United 

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                        Brighton vs Tottenham 

10:15 am ESPN+                Osasuna vs Barcelona (Dest)

11:30 NBCSN                       Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Tues,  Dec 14

3 pm NBCSN                        Man City vs Leeds

Weds,  Dec 15

3 pm NBCSN                        Arsenal vs West Ham 

Thurs,  Dec 16

2:45 pm NBCSN                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm Peacock                      Liverpool vs New Castle

Fri,  Dec 17

2:45 pm ESPN +                  Bayern Muchen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

3 pm beIN Sport                 PSG vs Lyonnais (Coupe De France) 

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

9:30 am ESPN+             Hoffenhiem vs Mgladbach (Scally)  

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

12 Paramount+               Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC 


2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph?
  ESPN

MLS Cup brings Portland’s Providence Park party to life  Jeff Carlisle
Blanco ‘ready’ for MLS Cup after ‘miracle’ recovery
  Austin Lindberg
NYCFC borrow Portland playbook, meet MLS’ model club in final
  Dan Hajducky
The Timbers face an MLS Cup final and their city’s troubling history with race

New York eye Timbers upset in MLS Cup final

The days of Lampard and Pirlo have gone for NYC FC. And the team is better than ever

Timbers shut out Real Salt Late for Western title, MLS final berth

NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM  Diego and Yimmi Chara making MLS Cup a family affair

Gio Savarese: MLS Cup 2021 will show soccer’s growth in Portland, United States

BETTING ODDS  MLS Cup 2021 Odds: Will Portland or NYCFC have the edge?

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly 5dJeff Carlisle

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game
Las Vegas closing in on MLS franchise; Aston Villa owners involved

Revs ace Gil named MLS MVP

EPL & WORLD


USMNT, MLS legend Chris Armas to join Manchester United coaching staff

Klopp: Gerrard will manage Liverpool one day  6hAramide Oladipo
Gerrard’s Liverpool return starts audition to replace Klopp
Mark Ogden

Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid preview: The best attack in Spain takes on a team in transition   ESPN Bill Connelly
Real Madrid aim to tighten grasp on La Liga in derby against Atletico

Leon edge Atlas in Liga MX final thriller

Daughter provides update on legend Pele in hospital: He’ll be home for Christmas

Champions League 

Champions League talking points: Barca’s new low, group stage MVP1dESPN

Champions League breakout XI: Nkunku, Nunez and more1dTor-Kristian Karlsen
Chelsea stumble at Zenit to lose top spot in UCL; superb Christian Pulisic assist (video)

brahimovic’s Champions League hopes take a curtain call as AC Milan fade out against Liverpool3dMark Ogden

Barcelona’s Champions League exit shows just how far they have fallen2dSam Marsden
Atletico grab unlikely last 16 Champions League spot

Xavi angered by Barcelona UCL exit: ‘This is our reality and it p—– me off’

Tuchel miffed by Chelsea’s focus in costly draw2dReuters
Villarreal survive Atalanta fightback to claim final last 16 spot

Europa League group results: Leicester, Celtic out; West Ham, Rangers advance

USMNT

Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina? By Justin Moran

With the USMNT camp underway, Morris discusses his comeback and goals

Report: FC Barcelona’s Sergino Dest wants Bayern Munich move  By CSmith1919

Weston McKennie is back at Juventus training after recovering from knee injury  December 9, 2021 by Larry Henry Jr

Jordan Morris grateful for USMNT return after two years away

European Weekend Preview: Madrid Derby, Gerrard’s Anfield return, and more.

Aaronson joins McKennie and Pulisic in American contingent heading to UCL Round of 16
USMNT’s Dike using snub as ‘fuel’ for January return
  1dColin Udoh

MAKING THE CASE: Christian Pulisic for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Weston McKennie for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Yunus Musah for Chipotle U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Kellyn Acosta for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Gianluca Busio for Chipotle U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Brenden Aaronson for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

Santos’ Acevedo, Galaxy’s Araujo showed they could help Mexico’s World Cup quest  1dCesar Hernandez

LADIES

Who should the USWNT schedule for SheBelieves Cup?  By Donald Wine II

Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris set to join new NWSL teams  By Parker Cleveland
Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris want to win NWSL championship with Gotham FC

Sam Kerr levels pitch invader during UEFA Women’s Champions League match between Chelsea and Juventus

2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

USA TODAYFri, December 10, 2021, 1:16 AM

Major League Soccer’s 26th season will come to a close with Saturday’s MLS Cup (3 p.m. ET, ABC and UniMás).For the third time in seven seasons, the Portland Timbers are in the league’s championship game. However, this is the first time that the Timbers will host MLS Cup at their venerable home stadium, Providence Park, and in front of their famous supporters group, the Timbers Army. The Timbers won MLS Cup in 2015 in Columbus against the Crew, but were defeated in the 2018 title game by Atlanta United.New York City FC – which joined MLS as an expansion team in 2015 – is appearing in its first MLS Cup.- an the Timbers win a title on their home turf, or will NYCFC cap a remarkable postseason run with its first league championship?

MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

Here is how USA TODAY Network experts see MLS Cup 2021 going down:

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1. Portland has an obvious edge in hosting the 2021 MLS Cup final at Providence Park, but New York City FC regains a more important edge with the return of Valentin Castellanos, the best goal scorer that will be on the field for both teams. Prior to Castellanos’ red card against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinal and subsequent suspension for the conference final win against the Philadelphia Union, the 2021 Golden Boot winner was in-form with two playoff goals (vs. Atlanta and New England). He’ll be grateful to see competition again in the championship match after his suspension. NYCFC took out Philadelphia without Castellanos, so it’s hard to imagine them getting knocked off from their title push with him back in the fold.

Drake Hills, The Tennessean: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 0. MLS Cup final experience and home-field advantage will play a big part in this outcome, but so will Felipe Mora. Portland’s Chilean striker has 12 goals to his name this year and one can vividly envision Providence Park erupting in uncontrollable elation after a Mora goal to break the scoring deadlock. There’s too much of a force from the Timbers, even though NYCFC’s “Taty” Castellanos will be returning from his one-game suspension in the Eastern Conference final. Portland will get weird on Saturday and the Timbers will lift its second MLS Cup.

Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1. Toward the end of their careers, what a send-off it would be for Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to win MLS Cup on their home field. But I’m going with the upset on the belief that New York City has slightly better offensive firepower than Portland. This pick is somewhat of a bet that Valentin Castellanos comes back from a suspension with vengeance and will be the most dangerous man on the field. New York gets its first major pro sports championship since 2011.

Jim Reineking, USA TODAY Sports: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 1. Let the Cascadia trash talk begin! With a victory Saturday, the Timbers would match their bitter archrivals, the Seattle Sounders, with two MLS Cup victories. The Timbers will enjoy as good a home-field advantage as any MLS Cup participant has enjoyed (Seattle in 2019 and Atlanta in 2018 also come to mind) at Providence Park and in front of the raucous Timbers Army. Not only will NYCFC have to contend with that, but the cross-country trip and third playoff game in 12 days are a big ask for a game of this magnitude.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS Cup 2021: Portland Timbers-New York City FC title game predictions

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph or can NYCFC win first title?

ESPN

Two hundred and thirty-eight days ago, 27 teams had visions of lifting MLS Cup. That dream has long been extinguished for all but the Portland Timbers and New York City FC, who contest the league’s showpiece event on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC).

For the first time, the Rose City hosts the final, the atmospheric Providence Park the backdrop for the Timbers’ third MLS Cup appearance in seven years. It’s a dream locale for the league, and a matchup that will see either dancing in the streets in one of its most fervent markets, or a long-awaited payoff for a glamour club in NYCFC who have shifted strategy from star power to growth potential.

Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC

Even before an $85 million renovation projec expanded Providence Park’s capacity to 25,218 prior to the 2019 season, the Timbers had one of the best home atmospheres in Major League Soccer. The historic site had served many purposes since its original construction was completed in 1893, but over time it evolved into somewhat of a spiritual home for soccer in the United States.

Even with the modernization that came with expansion, the stadium — tucked into the Goose Hollow neighborhood — kept its historic charm. Despite the presence of turf, it’s a venue fitting for the biggest stage the league has to offer. Despite the gloomy weather expected on Saturday as Portland hosts MLS Cup for the first time, the atmosphere should be a point of a pride for the league.

What a difference one result or four points can make.

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly 5dJeff Carlisle

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

Had the Timbers lost to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final or finished with fewer points than NYCFC, MLS Cup would have been played at Yankee Stadium, and while playing in the largest media market in the country would have had its benefits, even a sold-out Yankee Stadium would have been an awkward look on TV.It’s not unusual that both NYCFC and Portland were better at home during the regular season, but few teams in the league had such a wide discrepancy between home and away performances than the two left standing. NYCFC had twice as many points at home (34) as they did on the road (17), while Portland’s split (35/20) was similar. That on its face is reason enough to cast the Timbers as the favorites to claim their second MLS Cup, following their first that came with a 2-1 win at Columbus in 2015.

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

“I’ve heard it is a very good atmosphere, but there is nothing more fun than playing in a stadium with a good atmosphere,” NYCFC coach Ronny Delia said. “We have to deal with the noise to be playing away, but we have been playing away against the best team in the league (New England) and did well. And it was also quite noisy there and also in Philadelphia. This is maybe a step up when you’re talking about noise but I think we have players through these things many times.”As of Wednesday, Delia said he hadn’t settled on a starting XI. The only change he confirmed was obvious: After missing the conference final against Philadelphia due to a red card, Golden Boot award winner Valentin Castellanos will return to the lineup. That should certainly provide a spark to the NYCFC that was stagnant in long stretches against the Union.

Portland has reinforcements in attack, too. Dairon Asprilla missed the conference final due to a red card and Sebastian Blanco was an unused sub due to injury. It still remains to be seen how effective Blanco can be coming off a hamstring injury, but given that he was available over the weekend it’s reasonable to expect him to have some kind of role on Saturday.

During the regular season, NYCFC and Portland played with conflicting styles. Only four teams possessed the ball with a higher percentage than the Pigeons (52.99%), while no team played on the counter more than Portland, who had the lowest possession percentage in MLS (44.9%). Still, they ultimately got to the same place: NYCFC’s 64.65 xG ranked No. 2 in MLS, while Portland’s 56.18 was No. 4 — and they both scored 56 goals, which ranked only behind New England (65) and Sporting Kansas City (58). — Bonagura

Predictions:

T Whatever defensive frailties plagued Portland during the regular season have been fixed in the playoffs, with just one goal conceded in three games. Granted, the Timbers haven’t faced an attack like NYCFC’s, especially with Castellanos back in the lineup. But with Blanco and Asprilla returning to play at least a role in Saturday’s match, and with Providence Park in full voice, look for the Timbers to prevail. — Carlisle

N NYCFC already beat the best regular-season team in league history on the road in these playoffs, so winning at Portland certainly is a reasonable outcome. Just not likely. Portland simply plays at another level at Providence Park and with the support it can expect on Saturday, that carries the day. — Bonagura

T For anyone who has never been to a Timbers game at Providence Park, the easiest description of the atmosphere is the anti-Yankee Stadium for NYCFC games. The fans, including the sizable Timbers Army, will be on top of NYCFC, and it should be the most raucous crowd the Timbers have played in front of since before the pandemic. Also: Since MLS eliminated the neutral site host for MLS Cup in 2012, the home team has won all except two: when the Timbers won in Columbus in 2015 in a strange game, and when the Seattle Sounders FC won on penalty kicks in Toronto after a scoreless slog in 2016. Home-field advantage in MLS matters. The Timbers’ defense is a concern, and will struggle if Castellanos has a good game, but coach Giovanni Savarese usually figures it out. — Murray

T  It certainly feels like the stars have aligned for Portland. It’s hosting its first final, as it seems Diego Valeri‘s time in Stumptown is winding down. It would be fitting to send the four-time MLS All-Star and one of three players in league history with both 80 goals and 80 assists into the sunset with another Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Fortunately, both heart and head say this is the Timbers’ to take. — Hajducky

T It’s rather remarkable that NYCFC, whose road form in 2021 was pedestrian at best, went to New England and then Philadelphia to knock off the Eastern Conference’s two best teams. What lies in wait in Portland, though, will be something else entirely. Saturday’s MLS Cup stands to be the most atmospheric, emotional contest in the league’s history, and if that fervent fan support doesn’t get the Timbers up for the contest, I don’t know what will. — Lindberg

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Winter Finals

MLS Cup Final action on Saturday afternoon and an American matchup in Italy

By jcksnftsn  Dec 10, 2021, 12:09pm PST

Welcome to a lovely winter weekend, where there is limited action on Friday. However, there is a full day Saturday, including the MLS Cup Final and American vs. American action in Italy in addition to our usual slate of Bundesliga games and a smattering of matches from Spain and England. Let’s get it started by jumping in to that Saturday action.

Saturday

Portland Timbers v New York City FC – 3p on ABC

The Portland Timbers will represent the Western Conference in the MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, they have no USMNT representation to speak of, so let’s jump straight over to NYCFC, who represent the Eastern Conference and also have a smattering of USMNT players in their midst. The third keeper at the last couple of USMNT camps has been NYCFC’s starting goaltender Sean Johnson, who gave up one goal and had three saves against the Philadelphia Union’s second squad in the Eastern Conference Final. James Sands also started the match and played the full 90. Digging a little deeper, 19-year-old right back Tayvon Gray went the full 90 as well.

Other notes:

  • Josh Sargent also gets the broadcast network treatment when Norwich City take on Manchester United at 12:30p on NBC. Sargent will of course be facing off against new Manchester United assistant….Chris Armas?!?

Streaming overseas:

  • Chris Richards got his first start in five matches in Hoffenheim’s 3-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend. This weekend, his club will face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Gio Reyna remains out while his Borussia Dortmund side face Bochum at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Your American head-to-head Bundesliga matchup of the weekend sees Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig facing Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach at 9:30a on ESPN+. It will be Leipzig’s first league match since replacing Jesse Marsch.
  • Christian Pulisic came on as a sub and picked up an assist midweek in Chelsea’s disappointing 3-3 draw with Zenit Saint Petersburg. The club will be looking to bounce back from two straight disappointing matches, including their loss to West Ham last weekend, when they face Leeds United at 10a on Peacock.
  • Matt Miazga will be looking for his first start in seven matches when Deportivo Alavés face Getafe at 10:15a on ESPN+.
  • Germany isn’t the only country getting a taste of Americans vs. Americans this weekend, Italy also gets in on the action as Weston McKennie’s Juventus face Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia at Noon on Paramount+.
  • John Brooks was yanked at the half in Wolfsburg’s 3-0 loss to Mainz last weekend and did not start the team’s Champions League loss at the hands of Lille. His club will face Stuttgart and the remaining American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo at 12:30p on ESPN+.

Sunday

Osasuna v FC Barcelona – 10:15a on ESPN+

It looks like Sunday could be a relatively quiet day but Sergiño Dest and Barcelona will take on Osasuna mid-morning. Dest’s role with the club has become fairly uncertainly unfortunately. The right back was a halftime sub amid rumors that club and player would both be open to a move. Barcelona suffered a 1-0 loss to Real Betis last weekend and a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in Champions League play, crashing out of the competition without making it to the knockout rounds. They now sit in seventh place, six points back of qualifying for next season’s edition of the competition.

Streaming overseas:

  • It seems that Timothy Weah is injured again and will be out for the remainder of 2021. His club face OIympique Lyonnais at 7a on beIN Sports.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Fürth face Union Berlin at 9:30a on EPSN+. Fürth are on pace for a historically bad Bundesliga campaign so check this one out if you like watching train wrecks.
  • Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt face Bayer Leverkusen at 11:30a on ESPN+. Chandler has started five straight matches for Frankfurt across all competitions.
  • After a year off, Richie Ledezma made his return from injury to appear for Jong PSV last weekend. He then was included in the squad for the senior team’s Europa League clash with Real Sociedad, though he did not make it off the bench. PSV face NEC at 2p on ESPN+.

Champions League talking points: Barcelona’s new low, group stage MVP, dream round-of-16 clash

Matchday six of the Champions League brought the group stage to a close. Three teams — AjaxBayern Munich and Liverpool — qualified for the knockout phase with a 100% record while ChelseaManchester City and Manchester United ensured that the Premier League will be fully represented in the round of 16.

But not all of Europe’s big clubs had it their way: Barcelona will join Borussia Dortmund in the latter stages of the Europa League, while AC Milan finished bottom of their group.

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We asked Gab Marcotti, James Olley and Alex Kirkland to answer some of the big questions arising from this week’s matches.

What caught your attention on matchday 6?

Marcotti: Porto vs. Atletico Madrid was obviously an old-school slugfest, right down to the brawls and the late goals. Porto were hard done by and Atletico confirm themselves as everyone’s favorite villains. I also found it weird that RB Leipzig, with nothing to play for, beat Manchester City (who also had nothing on the line, but Pep Guardiola put out a good team). Liverpool showed that energy and fresh legs (as Jurgen Klopp said) can matter more than quality, if the mindset and motivation is right.

Olley: Thomas Tuchel getting angry. The 11 months he has been in charge of Chelsea have been an almost undiluted success, but, following on from a sticky patch in the league, he saw his team surrender top spot in Group H at the death as Zenit St Petersburg equalised in the 94th minute on Wednesday. Finishing in first place is never a guarantee of an easy round-of-16 draw, but Tuchel has bemoaned the Blues’ sloppiness in “the details” of late and this is another example.

Kirkland: Barcelona’s group stage elimination for the first time in 21 years. Yes, it felt inevitable — they were never going to go to Munich and win, even with Bayern already through and the match being played behind closed doors — but the manner of the 3-0 defeat was yet another reminder of just how far Barca have fallen. “This is our reality … it has to be a turning point,” coach Xavi said. Winning the Europa League would be a start, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: this Barca team might not even find themselves among the favourites for that competition.

Marcotti: Sebastien Haller. Duh. Not only did he score in every round — with 10 goals in total, including four in one match at Sporting CP — but he helped Ajax top their group with six wins out of six games. And, without him, I’m not sure they even qualify.

Kirkland: It’s hard to look beyond Haller, who scored in all six of Ajax’s group games — a feat previously only achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo — on his debut in the competition. Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects such as Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Liverpool’s Mohamed SalahReal Madrid‘s group-stage success felt more collective than individual. Their outstanding players were dotted around the team and stepped up at key moments: Karim BenzemaVinicius JuniorToni Kroos and Eder Militao.

Olley: Haller is the obvious candidate. Alex and Gab make the case for him perfectly so for the sake of variety, I’ll go for Ronaldo. The Manchester United star — who is ranked No. 2 among the world’s top forwards in ESPN’s FC 100 for 2021 — single-handedly dragged into the knockout phase, scoring three times against Atalanta as United took four points from the Italians when they deserved none. He even helped give caretaker boss Michael Carrick a winning start at Villarreal. He turns 37 before the round of 16 begins, and there is almost a constant danger of United overindulging him, but Ronaldo remains the man for the big occasion.

In light of the Super League breakaway attempt, does the Champions League show there is no need for change?

Kirkland: The climax to this group stage was genuinely thrilling, with big names like Barcelona, Dortmund, Milan and Sevilla eliminated and it felt like there were few games with nothing riding on them. Matches that the Super League’s backers would prefer never to see take place threw up proper shocks: Young Boys beating Manchester United or Sheriff Tiraspol winning at the Bernabeu in September. But it’s also true that the nature of the group-stage format mean those upsets don’t tend to matter much — United and Madrid both ended up topping their groups. What absolutely doesn’t count as improvement is the catastrophic reform that UEFA plans to implement in 2024, abolishing the group stage in favour of a “Swiss model” league which will mean even less drama.

ESPN FC 100

For the sixth straight year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches! A collection of Top 10s features No. 1s from six clubs, with 41 new entries and 28 nationalities. Read

Marcotti: Well, it’s changing format anyway as we move to the “Swiss model”. Personally, I thought things were fine as they were in terms of groups-to-knockout format. Yes, there are some games of no consequence at the end. But just think how many of those we have in domestic leagues across Europe every week. In any case, the Super League wasn’t ever really about format as much as it was about cost control, financial redistribution and access.

Olley: The current format is probably the most bloated version of the Champions League that can exist while still retaining a sufficiently competitive element throughout. It isn’t ideal, but it looks better than the incoming “Swiss model.” And, at the very least, the surprise results achieved by Sheriff, Young Boys and others only underline the flawed arrogance of the biggest clubs trying to make the European Super League a closed shop.

The round-of-16 tie you want to see is…

Marcotti: Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain would be tasty. And I would love the idea of Salzburg’s young guns taking on the old master, Ralf Rangnick, at Manchester United.

Olley: Real vs. PSG would obviously be brilliant, but what about Chelsea vs. Bayern? Thomas Tuchel vs. Julian Nagelsmann, Chelsea back at Bayern in the stadium where they beat them to win the whole thing 10 years earlier. Maybe being back on German soil might even reignite Timo Werner

Kirkland: Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain, please: it could be dubbed “the Kylian Mbappe derby,” and it would be a chance to see what Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are made of. Sure, they’re top of a weakened LaLiga, but are they really much better than Zinedine Zidane’s side were last year? This tie would help us find out. If not, I’ll take Madrid vs. Chelsea, a rematch of last season’s semifinal, for the same reason.

With the USMNT camp underway, Morris discusses his comeback and goals

Jordan Morris is back with the USMNT in December after making his return from an ACL tear he suffered while with Swansea City in February. The Seattle winger has taken some important steps recently but whether he is ready to help the U.S. team will be determined in the weeks ahead. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta reports. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 09, 2021  4:10 AM

THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team is currently assembled in California with a roster that is a blend of mostly domestic players with various levels of experience ranging from young U-20 players to established veterans.Jordan Morris, 27, is among the more experienced American players on the roster with 39 caps. But unlike many other veterans, Morris needs this camp to justify that he is ready to help this team when World Cup qualifying resumes at the end of January.On December 18, the U.S team will host Bosnia & Herzegovina and if Morris plays it will be his 40th cap. Through his first 39 caps, the Seattle native has 10 goals playing mostly on the wings. The problem for Morris, however, has been injuries. Back in February, Morris tore his ACL in his fourth appearance on loan with Swansea City in England. The loan was terminated and Morris returned to the United States for surgery in LA.“I remember when I was going down to have my surgery, I flew to L.A,” Morris recalled. “On the plane ride down, I was working on kind of my goal sheets for this year and next year trying to bring some positivity into things. And part of my goal this year was to get back on the field before the season ended and get back into a national team camp before next year.”Both of those goals ended up happening. Morris returned to the field for the Seattle Sounders on November 1 and ended up making three appearances to conclude the season. He managed to start his final outing in the playoffs and play 104 minutes as Seattle lost in a shootout to Real Salt Lake following a 0-0 deadlock.Morris said that he in terms of fitness, he feels like he is at a pretty good level but his sharpness still has a ways to go.“It’s definitely still part of the part of the process,” Morris said. “I’m only probably nine months out from my surgery now and so was able to get back on the field a little bit earlier than what was maybe first anticipated – which is great. But things are still going to be coming… My fitness is at a pretty good level. It’s the sharpness and getting all that back… I’m feeling pretty good with it, but definitely understand that I have more to go.”Prior to the start of camp, Gregg Berhalter discussed Morris and his recovery. While he was happy to have Morris back with the team but that he simply doesn’t know yet whether he is ready to help the team in World Cup qualifying. After this camp, there will be a January training camp leading up to the international window for key domestic players.Whether Morris remains with the team for the big three qualifiers is an open question.

“If we don’t bring him into this camp he has no chance of playing qualifiers, right?” Berhalter said. “So our job now is to work with him these next four weeks and then when we’re in camp to get him ready to see if he can make an impact and help in qualifiers. We know his talent level, we know what he brings to the team, it gives us a different dimension and it’d be nice to get him in a place where he can perform in these games but we just don’t know yet, so we’ll have to wait and see when he’s in camp. He’s made a lot of progress with Seattle they did a great job of getting him back on the field.”While at camp, Morris will get the opportunity to also be a veteran leader in addition to being a player who has a lot to prove. On the current team there are eight players eligible for the United States U-20 national team in 2023. Many of these players are coming off their first full season as a first-team professional.Morris has been following the progress of the team and the player pool during his recovery for most of the year. He is encouraged by where the team currently sits in the Octagonal round of qualifying but admits that it has been hard to watch and not be at a point where he can be settled for selection.or now, Morris is happy to be at the point where he can at least fight for an opportunity. Unfortunately, injuries are nothing new for Morris. His recent ACL tear was the second of his career. He also suffered a different knee injury at the 2017 Gold Cup which forced him out of the remaining World Cup qualifiers – which ended with the team’s failure to book at place in Russia.Morris has had had an uneven career because of injuries but is now trending up. When looking at where he wanted to be on the eve of his surgery in February, he has made great progress. But now, the next steps will be just as hard.“I think the team has done so well in some difficult environments to get really good results,” Morris said. “I obviously wasn’t part of those games. But watching from afar, it was really difficult and wishing I could potentially be out there playing.”“Throughout my rehab, getting back to be part of the national team – that was the main goal, to recover, get back to my best as quickly as possible and try and get back in with this group because that just means everything,” he added. “For me, it’s just doing what I what I normally do – trying to stretch teams, get in behind, use my speed to unbalance teams and stretch things a bit. I’m just grateful to be back in this camp and looking forward to continuing to work.”

Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina?

Do you prioritize keeping players fresh, or seeing new faces? By Justin Moran@kickswish  Dec 10, 2021, 6:00am PST

The USMNT roster is out for December Camp ahead of a friendly next Saturday against Bosnia & Herzegovina. 26 players are available for selection, but only 11 can start. Gregg’s stated camp goals are to keep players fresh so they’ll be ready for World Cup qualifiers in late January, and to evaluate new players.The roster has many players who are positionally flexible. On the left is the roster mapped out in Gregg’s typical 4-3-3 with a single 6, dual 8s and no number 10, based on which positions players were listed in the roster announcement (FW/Mid/Def). On the right is all players available at each position, including which players could play as a single 6, a 10, and an 8 (whether single 8, dual 8s, or double-pivot behind a 10). The permutations are nearly endless.

Starting points

Let’s start with a couple easy picks:

  • Ricardo Pepi will likely start up top
  • Matt Turner likely in net
  • Aaron Long & Walker Zimmerman seem the obvious CB pairing, although Long’s fitness level is unknown
  • Kellyn Acosta seems likely to start either as a 6 or an 8
  • Jordan Morris seems likely to start out wide

That leaves left back, one wing spot, and the midfield up for discussion.

There’s a good chance Jonathan Gómez will be in Spain before the game on the 18th. JoGo told WDRB.com he expects to arrive in Spain between Dec 7th and 14th. If JoGo is available, it would certainly be exciting to see him start, and Kevin Paredes could be pushed up higher to play on the wing. If JoGo is gone, Paredes could see the start at left back. George Bello is on the roster, and has 5 caps this year, but has not been convincing in World Cup qualifying so far, and was left off the November roster. Bello still has a bright future, but this game might be better served by gathering some information on JoGo or Paredes.  Options abound in the midfield and out wide. The lack of midfielders on the roster suggests that Berhalter could start Johnny or Yueill at the 6, with Acosta as an 8. Clark, Ferreira, Paredes, and Roldan seem the most likely to start out wide opposite Morris. Cowell could as well, but he was a bit disappointing at Revelations Cup with the U-20s.

Double pivot?

This roster has a lot of players who are capable of playing as dual 8’s in a double pivot, and several whose best position is probably a number 10 (Ferreira, Clark, Booth). Could this be an opportunity to try out a new shape? One of the biggest problems in the U.S. player pool is not having a like-for-like Tyler Adams replacement. One possible solution to that problem is to switch to something closer to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two holding midfielders and one creative attacking mid. This friendly provides the perfect chance to test that shape, if Berhalter is interested in doing so.

New faces, new spots

This camp includes many players who haven’t played much under Berhalter, many of whom are positionally flexible. Here are some different tests Gregg could run during this game:

  • Jonathan Gómez at left back (if he sticks around for the game)
  • Kevin Paredes as left back or winger
  • Bryan Reynolds at right back
  • Johnny as a solo 6 or in a double pivot
  • Bassett as a dual 8 or winger
  • Caden Clark as a 10, dual 8, or winger
  • Taylor Booth in a double pivot, as a 10, a dual 8, or out wide
  • Ferreira as a 10, dual 8, or winger

Obviously Berhalter won’t be able to run all these tests in one game. I also think he should try to avoid having players in more than one position if the game, to the extent possible, so their instructions can be clear. There’s also the question of how many variables should be in play, and how many controls. Pepi, Turner, Zimmerman, and Acosta are likely to be controls, at the very least.

Here’s one lineup that would keep several players fresh, while also testing out some new faces and trying a different shape:

Garber: Las Vegas the favorite to Join MLS Next  to

The race for the 30th MLS expansion team has a clear leader now, and while we may not know for a while which market will secure the spot, what is clear is that the league is looking West, only one of the markets that previously held down the role of expansion favorite.Talks between MLS and prospective ownership groups in Las Vegas are “making progress”, Don Garber confirmed in his State of the League Address on Tuesday. Garber acknowledged that Las Vegas is the current frontrunner, though not the only market in contention for the league’s 30th expansion spot.In addition to Las Vegas, MLS is also “still in discussion with other markets” including Phoenix and San Diego, Garber confirmed. Phoenix also has a USL side and would be seeking first-time involvement in the top-tier league while San Diego recently announced a new NWSL expansion side, the San Diego Wave.One market that was not mentioned by Garber was Sacramento, which has plummeted out of the expansion picture due to the city’s inability to secure an ownership group with enough financial muscle having had prospective investors pull out of the project. The billionaire tandem of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawris filed to trademark for a soccer team named the Las Vegas Villains earlier in 2021 and Garber confirmed the league is working with Edens on the Las Vegas possibility. Bill Foley, owner of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights had been interested in joining the MLS expansion race, but recently confirmed that he has withdrawn from consideration.Las Vegas has become a sports boomtown in recent years, with the NFL’s Raiders relocating to Las Vegas and opening a state-of-the-art stadium. The NHL’s Vegas Knights have also been a success.“I am just blown away by what’s going on in Las Vegas and I’ve been in the sports business for a really long time. I didn’t see it coming.”Garber acknowledged that the league has examined expansion in Las Vegas for many years. He said the league met in its early years with former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman about possible expansion.“We’re very bullish about the market and we’ll continue to plow forward,” Garber said. “I can’t really comment on what our stadium plans are at this point because there’s still fluid. But you know, hopefully sometime in the next couple of months, we’ll have more to talk about.”

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12/06/21 MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC Portland vs NYCFC, UCL Tues/Wed, US Men tix for Columbus Jan 27 on Sale  

Tix on Sale for US Men to Play in Columbus Thur Jan 27 7 pm vs El Salvador Anyone interested in roadtripping? If so reach-out  — I think I can get American Outlaw tickets (up to 4) around $75-$80 each.  

MLS Cup Finals – Portland Timbers vs NYCFC – 3 pm on ABC

I gotta chance to watch both MLS Conference Finals this weekend – and wow is Portland a hotbed of Soccer.  The Portland Timbers are headed to their 4th MLS Cup and for the first time ever THEY ARE HOSTING on Saturday at 3 pm.  The Timbers Army is one of the best supporters sections in the US and rivals those in England and Europe for rowdiness.  From the Tifos, to the inventive chants to the wonder of Timber Joey cutting a log with a 4 foot Chainsaw after every goal  – Portland’s Providence Park is Special.  A TV audience of millions will be in for a real treat this Saturday – be sure to add it to your Saturday plans!!  All About the Victory Log

Great crowds were on hand for both Conference Final games – Portland’s Timber Army was in rare form as 25K were on hand for Portland’s solid 2-0 victory over the Cinderella Real Salt Lake.  Highlights Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

Philly’s 20K park was full to the brim and the Sons of Ben (supporter’s section) sounded much louder than just 20K.  While the atmosphere was great the youngster of Philly gave NYCFC all they could handle for 80 minutes before finally falling 3-1.  Philly was missing 11 players (6 starters) due to Covid protical which just left them too undermaned.   Highlights Philly Union vs  NYCFC

Champions League Group Stage Final Round – Barca, AC Milan, Atletico could be out? 

Several of Europe’s biggest teams are staring at early exits UEFA Champions League as the final round of the group stage kicks off to headline this weekend’s Soccer on TV and Online.  Barcelona, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are some of the teams still fighting for knockout round survival heading into the final group matches. Group B has been locked up by Liverpool, leaving Atlético Madrid, AC Milan, and Porto to decide who will join them. As things stand, Porto controls its own with a win over Atlético Madrid. It might feel like a stretch, but the Portuguese powerhouse held Atlético scoreless in the September matchup and has a reputation to protect after making it to last year’s quarterfinal round.AC Milan has to find some sort of magic trick to hand Liverpool its first loss in UCL play this year, but if it can, the possibility is there to move up to second and secure the chance to fight another day in the knockout round if Porto can’t take care of business.Wednesday’s Bayern Munich – Barcelona matchup is a hard one to gloss over, and the stakes are high. Barca hasn’t exactly struck fear into the world’s elite this year, and you probably wouldn’t want to bet on them beating the German giant, but it could spell the end of their UCL campaign if they don’t. A loss plus Benfica win (which is likely) over Dynamo Kyiv will render Barcelona Europa league contestants for the first time ever.Here is a look at This Week’s Top 5 Matches to Watch, as well as a full rundown of This Week’s Soccer on TV and Online:

This Week’s Top 5 Matches to Watch

1. Bayern Munich vs Barcelona – Barcelona is effectively eliminated if it can’t pull off an upset.

2. AC Milan vs Liverpool – Milan needs a lot of help to avoid heading to the Europa ranks, but crazier things have happened. Can they muster up an upset in an effort to control what they can?

3. Wolfsburg vs. Lille – John Brooks and Tim Weah are both vying for a place in the knockout rounds, but only one of the USMNT teammates will go through, and this one will decide which makes it.
4. Mexico vs Chile – Back-to-back losses in World Cup Qualifying have El Tri looking out of order. Can Mexico course correct with something better against a respectable CONMEBOL opponent?

5. Napoli vs Leicester City – The Europa League isn’t what either team would like to be battling in, but from the neutral point of view, this is a fun matchup that should serve as a good test for both teams. Who comes out on top?

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that. 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tuesday, Dec 7

UEFA Champions League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –      PSG vs Club Brugge
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Manchester City (Steffan)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –           AC Milan vs Liverpool
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Ajax vs Sporting CP
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Porto vs Atlético Madrid
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Shakhtar Donetsk vs Sheriff
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Real Madrid vs Inter Milan
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Borussia Dortmund vs Beşiktaş

Wednesday, Dec 8

UEFA Champions League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –      Zenit vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          Juventus vs Malmö FF
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Lille (Weah)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Salzburg (Aaron) vs Sevilla
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Atalanta vs Villarreal
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Dest)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Manchester United vs Young Boys (Pfuk)

9 p.m. –TUDN USA, TUDN.com –               Mexico vs Chile

Thursday, Dec 9

UEFA Europa League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          Real Sociedad vs PSV
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Sturm Graz vs Monaco
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –   Napoli vs Leicester City
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Antwerp vs Olympiakos Piraeus
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Olympique Lyonnais vs Rangers
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Fenerbahçe vs Eintracht Frankfurt
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Genk vs Rapid Wien
3 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –                 Celtic vs Real Betis
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Lazio vs Galatasaray (Yedlin)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Ferencváros vs Bayer Leverkusen
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –           West Ham United vs Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Olympique Marseille vs Lokomotiv Moskva

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN           Man City vs Wolverhampton

9:30 am ESPN+             RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mgladbach (Joe Scar?)   

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds  

10 am NBCSN??           Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United  

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                      Brighton vs Tottenham  

10:15 am ESPN+                Osasuna vs Barcelona (Dest)

11:30 NBCSN                      Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

2:45 pm CBSSN                  Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                     Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

Champions League

Barca, Atletico in danger of Champions League exit
Atletico troubles bring fresh scrutiny on Simeone ahead of Porto decider

Ancelotti: Madrid as good as Man City, Bayern
Klopp ‘must’ rotate for Champions League trip to Milan

MLS Super Cup Finals

MLS analysis: Portland downs RSL convincingly, NYCFC slips past undermanned Union  ASN Brian Sciaretta
New York City beats Covid-hit Union to reach MLS Cup final

 Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  ESPN FC Kyle Bonagura 
Portland beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 to reach MLS Cup final

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly ESPN FC Jeff Carlisle

Charra part of the heart and Soul of Portland

Bob Bradley looks to Turn things Around in Toronto  

EPL

Report: USMNT, MLS legend Chris Armas set to join Manchester United coaching staff
Ralf Rangnick on Ronaldo’s work rate, Manchester United press in win

Tuchel questions Chelsea focus after shock defeat at West Ham

USA / World

 Berhalter’s 26-player December camp roster mixes veterans and youth  ASN Brian Sciaretta

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe  ASN

Leipzig bring down the curtain on Marsch’s unhappy tenure
Jesse Marsch out as RB Leipzig coach after five months

Lewandowski nets double as Bayern down Dortmund to go four points clear

Barca, Atletico in danger of Champions League exit

Martyn WOOD  Sun, December 5, 2021, 10:59 PM·4 min readXavi Hernandez faces his first critical test as Barcelona coach with the club at risk of failing to make the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in two decades.A goalless draw at home to Benfica last month left Barca with their destiny in their own hands, but with a much trickier final game away to Group E winners Bayern Munich.Spanish champions Atletico Madrid have their work cut to secure one of the five unclaimed last-16 tickets after three defeats on the spin, while all four teams remain in the hunt in an unpredictable Group G.

AFP Sport looks at what’s at stake going into the final round of Champions League group games:

Ballon d’Or backlash from Bayern?

Barca find themselves on the ropes ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Germany, but it could have been far worse were it not for Benfica forward Haris Seferovic’s glaring miss in stoppage time at Camp Nou.

Bayern are one of three teams with a perfect record in this season’s competition, and Robert Lewandowski’s perceived Ballon d’Or snub may give the star striker extra incentive to prove a point.

Xavi suffered his first defeat as Barca coach on Saturday against Real Betis. He rested key players with a view to the game in Munich, where victory would guarantee Barca go through as runners-up in Group E, extending their 20-year run of reaching the knockout phase.A youthful Xavi was establishing himself as a mainstay of the midfield when Barca exited in the first group stage of the 2000-01 competition.  Failure to secure maximum points would open the door for Benfica to pip them to second place, with the Portuguese needing to beat Dynamo Kiev in Lisbon.

Three-horse race and four-way showdown

Porto, AC Milan and Atletico will battle it out for the second qualification spot behind Liverpool in Group B.

Two-time former European champions Porto hold a one-point edge over both rivals ahead of the visit of Atletico. Milan host a Liverpool side that Jurgen Klopp could rotate heavily ahead of a busy festive schedule.

Last season’s Europa League winners Villarreal, beaten at home by two late Manchester United goals on matchday five, go to Atalanta knowing they will advance at the expense of the Italians if they avoid defeat in Bergamo.

Austrian champions Salzburg appeared to be coasting through after accruing seven points in three games, but back-to-back away losses mean they could still miss out. Salzburg can seal a knockout berth with a draw at home to Sevilla, who in turn would qualify if they win.

Lille top Group G with eight points and will progress if they get a point at Wolfsburg. The Germans are last in the section but victory would send them through instead. 

Already in the last-16 pot

Eleven clubs are assured of their place in the last-16 draw on December 13, five of which have already clinched top spot. Erik ten Hag’s impressive Ajax will attempt to complete a perfect group stage for the first time in club history at home to Sporting, certain of second above Borussia Dortmund irrespective of Tuesday’s results.

Manchester City cannot be caught by Paris Saint-Germain in Group A, while Real Madrid have a two-point lead over Inter Milan in Group D ahead of their Bernabeu showdown.

Holders Chelsea, who go to Zenit Saint Petersburg for their final Group H game, will nail down top spot if they match Juventus’ result at home to Swedish outfit Malmo.

Ralf Rangnick made a winning start to his spell as United’s interim manager and is safe in the knowledge his team will move on as winners of Group F come what may against Switzerland’s Young Boys.

Europa League consolation

All third-placed clubs will drop into the Europa League, but a revised format now sees them face the group runner-ups from the second-tier tournament in a play-off round before the last 16. Sheriff Tiraspol, losers of three straight games after shocking Real in September, will continue their European adventure in the Europa League, as will Dortmund and Zenit.  RB Leipzig look favourites to finish third behind City and PSG despite parting ways with coach Jesse Marsch. The Germans are level on points with Club Brugge but have the head-to-head advantage prior to their home game with Pep Guardiola’s side.

MLS Cup Playoffs 2021: Saturday Dec. 11: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC, 3 p.m. ET (ABC, UniMás)

USA TODAY  Sun, December 5, 2021, 8:10 PM· The matchup for the 2021 MLS Cup is set.  The Portland Timbers – winners of the Western Conference – will host New York City FC – winners of the Eastern Conference – at Providence Park on Saturday, Dec. 11 (3 p.m. ET, ABC). For Portland, this is the club’s third MLS Cup, winning the league title in 2015. NYCFC, meanwhile, is making its first appearance in the championship game.  MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

Here is the 2021 MLS playoff schedule with dates, times and television information. Live streams for ABC/ESPN games available on Watch ESPN; FOX games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available to be live streamed on fuboTV.

MLS CUP

  • Dec. 11: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC, 3 p.m. ET (ABC, UniMás)

CONFERENCE FINALS

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

ROUND 1

Which teams have won MLS Cup?

2020: Columbus Crew over Seattle Sounders (Mapfre Stadium), 3-0

2019: Seattle Sounders FC over Toronto FC (CenturyLink Field), 3-1

2018: Atlanta United over Portland Timbers (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), 2-0

2017: Toronto FC over Seattle Sounders FC (BMO Field), 2-0

2016: Seattle Sounders FC over Toronto FC (BMO Field), 0-0 (Sounders won penalty shootout, 5-4)

2015: Portland Timbers over Columbus Crew (Mapfre Stadium), 2-1

2014: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (StubHub Center), 2-1 (extra time)

2013: Sporting Kansas City over Real Salt Lake (Sporting Park), 1-1 (SKC won penalty shootout, 7-6)

2012: Los Angeles Galaxy over Houston Dynamo (Home Depot Center), 3-1

2011: Los Angeles Galaxy over Houston Dynamo (Home Depot Center), 1-0

2010: Colorado Rapids over FC Dallas (BMO Field), 2-1 (extra time)

2009: Real Salt Lake over Los Angeles Galaxy (Qwest Field), 1-1 (RSL won penalty shootout, 5-4)

2008: Columbus Crew over New York Red Bulls (Home Depot Center), 3-1

2007: Houston Dynamo over New England Revolution (RFK Stadium), 2-1

2006: Houston Dynamo over New England Revolution (Pizza Hut Park), 1-1 (Dynamo won penalty shootout, 4-3)

2005: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (Pizza Hut Park), 1-0 (extra time)

2004: D.C. United over Kansas City Wizards (Home Depot Center), 3-2

2003: San Jose Earthquakes over Chicago Fire (Home Depot Center), 4-2

2002: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (Gillette Stadium), 1-0 (extra time)

2001: San Jose Earthquakes over Los Angeles Galaxy (Crew Stadium), 2-1 (extra time)

2000: Kansas City Wizards over Chicago Fire (RFK Stadium), 1-0

1999: D.C. United over Los Angeles Galaxy (Foxboro Stadium), 2-0

1998: Chicago Fire over D.C. United (Rose Bowl), 2-0

1997: D.C. United over Colorado Rapids (RFK Stadium), 2-1

1996: D.C. United over Los Angeles Galaxy (Foxboro Stadium), 3-2 (extra time)

Portland Timbers’ Major League Soccer dream becomes a reality

Dec 5, 2021  Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

Portland Timbers midfielder Santiago Moreno settled the ball with his chest and turned centrally. He had received the pass near midfield and suddenly found himself in acres of space with teammates flanking him on both sides. He drove toward the penalty box and when the defenders didn’t close out, he released a shot from just beyond the penalty arc.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa has his post covered, but Moreno’s shot ricocheted off the post, into Ochoa and back into the net. “What a perfect moment to score his first goal,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said.The strike put Portland up 2-0 in the 61st minute and, with the way Savarese’s side had been playing, it might as well have been lights out. The Timbers still had to see out the match, but it was at that moment when the raucous crowd at Providence Park could start to taste it: The Timbers were going to MLS Cup. Half an hour later it was official.And not only that, by virtue of their regular season points total, the Timbers will host whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Union or New York City FC.Reaching MLS Cup isn’t new territory for the Timbers — they won it in 2015 and were runners up in 2018 — but Saturday’s return trip will be the first time they will play host to Major League Soccer’s grandest stage.For Savarese, that has been the dream since he started managing the team in 2017.”The dream became a reality,” he said. “And the only way this became a reality is because of the hard work everyone has put in this year and all these years that have been here. To be able to win this game tonight and host MLS Cup is something that we feel very proud and excited about.”It also provides the Timbers with plenty of reason to be confident headed Saturday’s game. During the regular season, only the New England Revolution — which set the league’s single-season points record — won more games (12) than Portland did at home (11). The combination of one of the league’s most enthusiastic fan bases with a turf playing surface has turned Providence Park into a fortress.”It’s definitely very important for us to be home,” said Timbers forward Felipe Mora. “Just being with our fans here, they make us feel great at home. So that’s going to be really important to play in the final.”As the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, Portland took an unlikely path to get here. It opened its playoff run with a 3-1 win against Minnesota United before beating top-seeded Colorado Rapids 1-0 on the road to earn another home game in Saturday’s conference final. Both Philadelphia and New York City went into the playoffs with better seeds, but were just off the Timbers’ regular-season points total (55).

Sloppy defending from Salt Lake in the fifth minute gave Portland the cushion it was looking for. A poor effort to clear the ball from seven yards in front of goal by Aaron Herrera put the ball at Mora’s feet and his quick reaction sent the ball back toward goal beyond Ochoa’s reach.Portland got the win despite its best attacking player, Sebastian Blanco, watching from the bench. With another week to recover from a hamstring injury that was initially thought to have kept him completely out of the lineup against RSL, he figures to have a good shot at being back in the starting XI.The loss spells the end of the line for RSL, but what a magical run it was. The team was moments from being eliminated on Decision Day only for Damir Kreilach’s last-minute goal to keep the season alive. Then came the historic win-without-a-shot game to advance through Seattle and a strong showing to knock off Sporting Kansas City.

“I couldn’t be more proud of being a part of this group,” RSL interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Nobody gave us a shot when the season started and no one gave us a shot when the playoffs started either. And so to have the mental toughness to overcome the perception of who we are is fantastic. You can always look at things from either perspective, but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and commitment of this group that I was able to lead.”As usual, MLS Cup will run through a team from the Pacific Northwest. No team other than Portland or Seattle has represented the Western Conference since 2014.

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philadelphia as MLS Cup calls for Bronx Blues

8:03 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

From the moment word emerged that 11 Philadelphia Union players would miss Sunday’s Eastern Conference final due to MLS health and safety protocols, attention was rightly focused on the five starters who would sit out.The likes of goalkeeper Andre Blake and captain Alejandro Bedoya would be spectators. So would three fourths of the usual backline, with center-backs Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes as well as left-back Kai Wagner also out. But the knock-on effect was that the Union would have precious little depth to change the course of the match should that be required. Opponents New York City FC were missing some key players as well, most notably MLS Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos, but it was obvious that manager Ronny Deila had more resources on his bench than counterpart Jim Curtin. In the end, that proved to be the difference, as New York City came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to substitute Talles Magno‘s late goal, and set up an MLS Cup showdown on Saturday with the Portland Timbers (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC).Conference finals are rarely remembered, save by the fans of the teams who win them, even if there is a contrived trophy presentation at the end. MLS Cups make more of an impression. But such was the gutty performance by the Union — as well as NYCFC’s comeback — that Sunday’s encounter will likely stick in the memory a bit longer than most.The circumstances alone made for a unique matchup. Word emerged Friday that the Union were hurting in terms of personnel. On Saturday, there was confirmation that 11 players would be out, and there was concern that the game might devolve into a farce unbecoming of a conference final. For Curtin, even filling out his lineup card was a challenge.”When I was writing in the team messages at the beginning of the game there are a couple of names I didn’t know how to spell quite yet, so I had to do some peeking at the backs of jerseys, which is a situation that was unique for sure,” he said.Fortunately, that blowout scenario was avoided. While Deila was complimentary of the Union players who took the field, and noted that Philadelphia’s style didn’t change, he admitted that the home side’s depleted numbers did change the mental dynamic of the match.”It has a different pressure to us to be more, ‘We have to win,’ instead of, ‘Amazing to win,'” he said.Perhaps that explains the rather tepid nature of the first half, when NYCFC had the vast majority of the ball but never really threatened the Union goal. In fact, Philadelphia’s patchwork backline led by Aurelien Collin — who had played one minute of competitive soccer for Philadelphia the past two seasons — looked comfortable for the better part of an hour. And when Kacper Przybylko forced an own goal from Alex Callens in the 63rd minute, it really looked like the Union would get their “Rocky” moment.But after scaling the mountain, the Union’s legs weren’t strong enough to stay there. The lead lasted all of 110 seconds, with Maxi Moralez hammering home a rebound to bring NYCFC level. From there, the Blues were running downhill.”I think we needed to get a period to get the crowd into it, to have a five-minute window where now it puts a little stress and pressure on New York City,” said Curtin. “Maybe they start to throw numbers forward and we can hit them on the counter.”By then, Deila had already made a trio of substitutions, turning to record signing Magno, Gudmundur Thorarinsson and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, all of whom helped tip the balance toward the visitors. Thorarinsson got forward with greater effect than Malte Amundsen, while Tajouri-Shradi and Magno perked up the Blues’ attack in the final third.As for Curtin, he was hamstrung, with little in the way of options as his valiant band of starters was gassed.”They had some weapons that came off the bench that I’ll just say are expensive,” said Curtin.The most expensive one of all delivered with less than two minutes of normal time remaining. Thorarinsson robbed Olivier Mbaizo, and fed Magno — a $8 million midseason acquisition — to fire home the game-winner from close range in the 88th minute.The goal was cruel on the Union, especially given that Nathan Harriel sent a free header over the bar just minutes earlier. But it seemed deserved for an NYCFC side that slowly turned up the pressure after halftime.”I think we were the dominant team in the second half,” said Deila. “And we knew that in the last minutes of the game, we will get more space and [create] more chances, and we did. The substitutes worked really, really good. You saw how fresh they were.”Curtin is the kind of manager who isn’t one to give into excuses, but he couldn’t help but let his mind drift into what-if scenarios. Nine months of sweat and effort went down the drain due to a virus that remains stubbornly part of American life. Without going into specifics, and stressing how he’s a firm believer in science, Curtin felt that the league’s COVID-19 protocols could do with some tweaking given “we had 11 guys that are healthy to play a soccer game that aren’t here because they have a version of sniffles.”He added, “You’re at a loss for words, man. I just feel bad for the guys that weren’t here, because again, they had incredible seasons. COVID sucks. I don’t know how else to put it. The protocols are the protocols, but could they be updated, adjusted for common sense? I don’t know. Again, it hurts.”In response to Curtin’s comments, a league spokesperson said, “Infectious disease experts and science drove the decision regarding why 11 Union players were listed in the MLS Health and Safety protocol.”That pain will linger for a while in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, it is NYCFC who will move on to MLS Cup.”What we have done so far, it’s been just amazing,” Deila said. “But the biggest one is coming on Saturday.”

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe

Jesse Marsch is out as the Leipzig manager. Many American players in Europe struggled with the notable excpetions of Chris Richards, Sam Vines, and Christian Ramirez. Overall it’s been a tough several months for Americans abroad and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta walks you through it all. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 05, 2021  10:45 PM

YET AGAIN, IT WAS another bad weekend for Americans abroad. It’s become a disappointing trend over most of the past few months and it should be a concern as many of the European leagues reach their midway point. A few good performances aside, this weekend was lackluster and the top story is that the top American club coach in the game lost his job.

 MARSCH OUT AT LEIPZIG

 Jesse Marsch is out as the RB Leipzig head coach after the club lost to Union Berlin 2-1 on Friday. Marsch was not actually on the bench for this game as he has missed the last three games due to COVID. Still, he was making the major decisions and relaying them to the staff. Tyler Adams started in the game and actually had an assist on Leipzig’s goal – although it was largely an individual effort.With the loss, Leipzig fell to 11th place in the Bundesliga while are also struggling to finish third in their Champions League group just to qualify for the Europa League.The leash Marsch had in Leipzig was short.  After winning two Austrian Bundesliga titles with Salzburg, Marsch moved to a Leipzig team which was the runners up in the Bundesliga the last two seasons.But the team was far different. Top players were sold as Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer were sold to Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konaté was sold to Liverpool. Marsch was brought in knowing he would be more tied with the Red Bull system than his predecessor Julian Nagelesman and he did so with a less talented squad. Marsch’s team dropped points at times where they shouldn’t have but the Wisconsin native wasn’t even allowed to get to the transfer window and essentially begin building his own team.Was it a harsh decision? Yes. But this is how European soccer works among the top teams in the top five leagues. Fellow American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo has struggled a bit with Stuttgart this season but he remains at the club because expectations aren’t quite as high. At big clubs, expectations are high and decisions sometimes aren’t fair. This isn’t the first time a manager a club of this level was treated with a rash decision.As for Marsch, he will land on his feet. Whether or not it is in Europe remains to be seen. He has served as an assistant manager before and that might be an option. He probably could also get a first team head coaching job as vacancies might open during the winter. With two Austrian Bundesliga titles, two Austrian cups, plus a long list of impressive young players he has managed (like Erling Haaland for starters), he will catch someone’s eye. With numerous MLS gigs still open and with the demand at an all-time high for coaches who know the league, it is easy to see teams willing to spend a lot on Marsch (LAFC is definitely the top job open domestically).It certainly is disappointing to see an American trailblazer like Jesse Marsch suffer a setback but almost all coaches get fired at some point. He won’t be unemployed for that long.

 ARMAS TO BECOME MAN U ASSISTANT

 On Monday morning, Taylor Twellman broke the news that former United States national team midfielder Chris Armas would join Ralf Rangnick’s staff at Manchester United as an assistant coach. Rangnick was hired as an interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021/22 season after the club fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Armas was on Jesse Marsch’s staff from 2015 to 2018 and his career highlight came in 2018 with the New York Red Bulls when Marsch left for Europe halfway through the season and Armas guided the club to the Supporters Shield. Armas was later given the job on a full-time basis but was fired in 2020 when the club began to struggle. He was hired as Toronto FC’s head coach ahead of the 2021 season but was fired 11 games into the season after winning just once.

In addition to coaching RB Leipzig, Rangnick had previously served as head of sport and development for Red Bull GmbH – which included a role overseeing the New York Red Bulls. During this period, New York won three Supporters Shields. It was at this time where Rangnick likely became familiar with Armas while he was a top assistant to Jesse Marsch.Regardless of how his two previous head coaching gigs ended, this is a massive opportunity for Armas to continue to learn and develop as a coach at an environment in Manchester United under an importnt figure like Ralf Rangnick. 

WHAT WENT WRONG THIS WEEKEND?

 Unfortunately, Marsch losing his job was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of rough news for Americans abroad (both Europe and South America).Two of the top American players remained out with injuries. Gio Reyna was still out for Borussia Dortmund and he did not play in the club’s 3-2 loss at home to Bayern Munich. Weston McKennie avoided a serious injury last weekend when a knock to his knee forced him out of a 1-0 loss to Atalanta. The Texan, however, was not in the 18 for the club’s 2-0 win over Genoa on Sunday.

Joe Scally at just 18 has been a model of consistency for Borussia Monchengladbach this season but he learned a hard lesson on Sunday when the club dropped a 6-0 decision at home to a very good Freiburg team. Like every player on M’Gladbach, Scally went the distance but did not have a good game. He was only at fault for Freiburg’s second goal, but he also wasn’t able to help his team push forward and help dictate the pace of the game. This was a useful learning lesson for a young player. A team that can beat Bayern Munich 5-0 can also lose to Freiburg 6-0.

Staying the Bundesliga, Pellegrino Matarazzo is the only American manager in a top league and his Stuttgart team blew a 2-0 lead at home to Hertha BSC in what was a 2-2 draw.

Mainz blew past Wolfsburg 3-0 on Saturday. John Brooks started for Wolfsburg but he struggled and was one of three Wolfsburg players pulled to start the second half.

Julian Green did not get off the bench for Greuther Furth in an embarrassing 7-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Furth remain on pace to be one of the worst Bundesliga teams in history with just one point and a -34 goal differential after 14 games. Whether it is good or bad that Green did not play is a debate simply not worth having. He can’t be in a good place in an environment like this and the fact that all he has to look forward to is the 2.Bundesliga next season is not idea to the progression of his career.

In the Premier League, Christian Pulisic played the final 12 minutes for Chelsea in a 2-1 derby loss away at West Ham. Pulisic was relatively uninvolved and was on the field for West Ham’s winner. Zack Steffen did not get off the bench for Manchester City in a 3-1 away win over Watford.

Last-place Norwich dropped a 3-0 decision on the road to Tottenham in an expected result. Josh Sargent was dropped from the starting XI but played the final 22 minutes. He had one big miss on the team’s best scoring chance of the game but otherwise was quiet. It’s been a rough season for Sargent and his biggest problem is confidence. If he buried the sitters, he’d be in a better frame of mind and better form.

In La Liga, Sergino Dest made his first start for Barcelona under new manager Xavi. Dest, like many of his teammates, struggled in a 1-0 loss at home to a very good Real Betis team. Barcelona needs a ton of work to become one of the elite teams in the world again. Dest was unable to get forward very much or create anything dangerous from the right side. He will get more opportunities, but this is a tough assignment with an anxious and disappointed fanbase which will probably push for massive overhauls.

On Friday, Matt Miazga went as an unused sub for Deportivo Alaves in a 2-1 loss on the road to Genanda. Alaves sit just two points above the relegation zone.

On Sunday, Yunus Musah played the final six minutes plus stoppage time for Valencia in a 2-1 away win over Celta Vigo. Musah had just three nonconsequential touches in his brief outing. The only other news from La Liga is that Matthew Hoppe remains out injured for Mallorca.

In Serie A, it was an absolute disaster for Venezia when they hosted Hellas Verona on Sunday. Both Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann started this game on the bench. The game couldn’t have started any better for Venezia which had a 3-0 lead at halftime. That is when the wheels completely fell off. Hellas Verona rallied with three quick goals and Venezia was reduced to 10 players. Busio came in in the 64th minute and Tessmann came in in the 75th to help stop the bleeding – but they were unsuccessful as Hellas Verona found an 85th minute winner.

Venezia still sit five points above the relegation zone and that is better than expected given where the club was after the first few games of the season. But their positive momentum has been halted and three straight losses have hurt. It remains to be seen if the heartbreaking nature of this loss will linger.

Also in Serie A, Bryan Reynolds was an unused sub for AS Roma in a 3-0 loss at home to Inter Milan. Jose Mourinho only used two subs in the loss. Reynolds will join the U.S. national team’s December camp at some point, but it remains unclear when Mourinho will let him go.

In Ligue 1, Tim Weah did not participate in Lille’s 2-1 win over Troyes, but his was likely due to rest ahead of the midweek Champions League game. Erik Palmer-Brown remains out injured for Troyes.

Marseille lost to Brest 2-1 at home on Saturday. Konrad de la Fuente started but was ineffective and was subbed out at the 57th minute mark. The Miami area native has struggled to make an impact for the past six weeks. Still the club see the upside are are continuing to let him play and work through it. The loss, however, might force a change. 

In Belgium, Chris Durkin earned the start for St. Truiden and played 82 minutes but the Richmond, VA native wasn’t able to help his team avoid a 2-1 loss at home to upstart leaders Union St. Gilloise.

In Portugal, U.S. national team right back Reggie Cannon was an unused substitute for Boavista as they conceded a stoppage time equalizer to Maritimo to play to a 1-1 draw at home.

In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre and Heracles hold the last automatic survival place after dropping a lethargic 1-0 decision to Heerenveen. 

In the Swiss Super League, Jordan Perfok started for BSC Young Boys as they hosted Servette on Saturday. Pefok was subbed out at halftime (with Young Boys up 1-0) due to a teammate’s red card forcing a defensive tactical shift. The tactical adjustment did not work and Servette rallied for a 2-1 win. The four-time defending Swiss champs, Young Boys are nine points behind leaders FC Zurich and are in fourth place.

In Turkey, U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin started and played 89 minutes for Galatasaray in a 1-1 draw at home with Altay. Yedlin picked up a yellow card and wasn’t bad, but this has been a disappointing season for Galatasaray, which expects to compete for the title every season. But in 2021/22, Galatasaray are in seventh place and 16 points behind Trabzonspor.

At the very bottom of the Turkish Super Lig, things are worse for Tyler Boyd. He remains a starter for Rizespor but rarely making any sort of positive impact. On Saturday, he played 66 minutes for Rizespor in a 4-0 loss to Fenerbahce. The club sit dead last and are eight points deep in the relegation hole. Boyd is at the club on loan from Besiktas who would love to unload him as soon as they can.

In Argentina, Alan Sonora has been having a good season for Independiente but was off his game and struggled in a 1-1 draw with San Lorenzo on Sunday night.

In Serie B, Andrija Novakovich was an unused sub for Frosinone in a 1-1 draw with Ternana.

In the Championship, Matthew Olosunde made his first start of the season – playing right back for Preston North End but wasn’t able to help his team achieve a result in a 1-0 loss on the road to Blackburn.

Finally, at the top of the Championship, Tim Ream and Fulham were unable to take advantage of a big opportunity when hosting second place AFC Bournemouth at Craven Cottage. Ream played well but a 1-1 draw to Bournemouth is disappointing despite the result keeping Fulham atop the table. Antonee Robinson missed the game with an illness.

 RICHARDS SURGES FOR HOFFENHEIM

 While most of the weekend was dismal for Americans abroad, the one American who managed to put in a top performance in one of the top European leagues was Chris Richards. It came at a good time for Richards who was making his first start for Hoffenheim since October 23 and came through with a performance that showed why he should be starting for Hoffenheim.In a 3-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt (which fellow American Timothy Chandler started in the loss), Richards was not at fault for either of Eintracht’s goals. Defensively, he was solid and won just about every lose ball which he had a chance to win. He frequently intercepted Eintracht’s passes into the box and was solid in nearly every facet of the game except for his long-balls out of the back.Richards was not in a great place heading into this game as he had lost his starting spot with Hoffenheim. Still, he was a regular off the bench (not common for a central defender) so it was clear that he was eventually going to get another chance. In this game, he seized his opportunity.

 RAMIREZ’S BIG OUTING FOR ABERDEEN

 Heading up to Scotland, Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez remains one of the Scottish Premierships best goalscores this season and the former Houston Dynamo, LAFC, and Minnesota United forward bagged two for his club in a 4-1 win over St. Mirren. Those two goals gave him eight goals in the Premiership this season and 11 in all competitions for Aberdeen since transferring from Houston in June.Ramirez’s first goal (Aberdeen’s second goal) was a really impressive finish.It will be intresting to see what happens to Ramirez after this season. He’s no doubt going to be in demand by a club who could use someone to help immediately.

 VINES IMPRESSES FOR ANTWERP

 Sam Vines hasn’t always been solid for Royal Antwerp since completing his transfer from the Colorado Rapids in August – following winning the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team. His integration was slowed by a broken collarbone and he missed six weeks.But Vines has been solid more times than he’s been off and he has locked down the starting left back job for Royal Antwerp, which now sits in second place in Belgium’s First Division.n Sunday, Vines went the distance in a 1-0 away win over last-place Beerschot. His numbers were decent. What has been particularly striking about Vines and his early steps at Antwerp is that he’s become more of a conventional left back. At Colorado and with the U.S. national team, he was very offensively minded. At Antwerp, he is defensively minded. While there have been concerns over this area of his game, his defense has been solid. Now, if/when he reintroduces his offense to the mix, he could be very, very effective as a top left back in the Belgian league.

 ANYTHING ELSE GOOD?

 There is no sugar coating that this weekend was mostly entirely negative for Americans abroad. There still were some other net positives aside from Richards, Ramirez, and Vines.Mark McKenzie returned to the starting lineup for KRC Genk and he played the entire game in a 1-1 draw with KV Mechelen. Genk are likely to be disappointed by this result as KV Mechelen were reduced to 10 players in the 62nd minute with the score 1-1 but were able to bunker their way for a draw. McKenzie wasn’t tested much defensively and was on the ball a lot. It was a big positive to see him return to the starting XI even if he wasn’t tested all that much.

In Ligue 1, Nicholas Gioacchini played the final 22 minutes for Montpellier in a 1-0 win over relegation battling Clermont Foot. Playing right wing, he had just nine touches but was aggressive in trying to get the ball forward.

In the Austrian Bundesliga, Brenden Aaronson was not expected to play for Red Bull Salzburg as it was hoped he could rest ahead of the Champions League this week. The runaway leaders found themselves trailing 1-0 at the hour mark and Aaronson came into the game in the 63rd minute. Salzburg ended up rallying for a 2-1 win. While Aaronson was not directly part of either of the goals, he helped his team keep up pressure to earn the win – which kept them 12 points ahead of 2nd place Wolfsberger.

In the Scottish Premiership, Cameron Carter-Vickers returned to the starting lineup for Celtic on Saturday against Ian Harkes and Dundee United. Carter-Vickers missed the last game due to “personal issues.” Carter-Vickers ended up having a very good game and picked up a rare assist in a 3-0 win. Hakres was good for Dundee United but his club was simply overmatched. 

NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE

 In the Danish Cup, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 63 minutes for OB Odense in a 2-0 away win over Randers. Christian Cappis played the final 13 minutes for Brondby in a 2-0 home loss to Midtjylland.

In the Austrian Bundesliga, Thomas Roberts was an unused sub for Austria Klagenfurt in a 1-0 away win over TSG Tirol.

On Monday, Joel Sonora and Banfield will visit Newell’s Old Boys. Johnny Cardoso and Internacional will host Atletico MG.  Shaq Moore and Tenerife will visit Cartagena.

Finally, a big congratulations for Duane Holmes who had a very good reason to miss Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw with Barnsley on Saturday.

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

12/03/21 MLS Champ Finals Sat 6:30 FS1, Sun ESPN 4 pm, USL Orange Co, US Ladies split, US Men tix, UCL next week  

The US Ladies win 1 and tie 1 vs Austrialia

So the youngsters went to the land down under and after dominating in a solid 3-0 win in the first game – struggled with a 1-1 tie in the 2nd game as a late deflection let the US down.  The scoring got started in the 4th minute for the USWNT, once again by Ashley Hatch. After an Aussie turnover around midfield, Lynn Williams led a quick counter with a pass to a streaking Midge Purce, who collected it right on the endline. From there, she was able to find an open Ashley Hatch, who slotted it home for the opening goal.It was the 2nd consecutive early goal for the NWSL’s Golden Boot winner against Australia. She opened up her international account in the first game against the Matildas last weekend with a goal after 24 seconds.USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy, making her second straight start, continued to show quick reflexes between the posts. She was able to make a huge save in the 21st minute to keep the lead for the USWNT.Both teams had chances in the first half, but the USWNT were the better team. Purce had a couple additional chances to add to the USWNT score total in the 1st half, but close misses kept the score 1-0 at the half.

MLS Conference Finals Are Here West – Portland vs Real Salt Lake Sat 6:30 pm on FS1 and Sun Philly hosts NYCFC 3 pm on ABC

And then there were four. The MLS Cup playoffs conference semifinals saw Supporters’ Shield winners and record points scorers New England Revolution upset on home turf. On the other side of the bracket, fellow No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids were similarly dumped from the postseason in front of their fans. The playoffs started with a field of 14 teams. Among the 10 clubs eliminated, the four with the most regular-season points all are now watching from home, including my beloved Seattle Sounders.  It’s been dramatic knockout soccer full of upsets, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to stop now that we’ve reached the conference final stage.   Full Preview Here   Playoffs Bracket

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that.  Meanwhile Orange County FC the team that knocked Jordan’s San Antonio out of the playoffs won it all on the road over the Tampa Bay Rowdies Sun night on ESPN 3-1.

Tix on Sale for US Men to Play in Columbus Thur Jan 27 7 pm vs El Salvador

Anyone interested in roadtripping? If so reach-out  — I think I can get us up to 4 American Outlaw tickets around $75-$80 each.   

Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

Carmel Dads’ Club is growing! Since 1959, our nonprofit organization has continued to expand to meet the needs of the Carmel community, and we hope to continue to foster that growth as we move into 2022. While still recovering from the unique challenges of the past few years, our Carmel Dads’ Club members have come rushing back to youth sports programming in full force. The organization welcomed more than 13,000 participants in 2021 – a record setting milestone. It’s our goal at Carmel Dads’ Club to not only meet the expectations of our members, but to exceed them. To stay in a position where we can offer a quality youth sports experience to any child in Carmel who is interested, we have worked diligently for many years to open a new facility at Mark Badger Memorial Park. In January, that dream will finally become a reality. With the ability to host all twelve CDC sports (plus new programming), the new 130,000 square foot facility will usher in the next chapter of Carmel Dads’ Club. As with any other organization, growth comes with new commitments and larger responsibilities. From organizing and running leagues to maintaining our facilities, a tremendous amount of work goes into coordinating twelve different sports with programming ranging from pre-k to high school. That’s where we need your help.

Our Annual Fund Drive makes sure we have the financial means to keep our non-profit organization running smoothly. Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 4  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United   

10 USA                        Wolverhampton vs Liverpool   

12:30 pm                     Dortmund vs Bayern Munchen

12:30 NBC                   Watford vs Man City

6:30 pm FS1                Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake MLS Finals  

Sun  Dec 5

9 am NBCSN                Man United vs Crystal Palace

11:30 NBCSN             Aston Villa vs Leicester City  

3 pm ABC                   Philly Union vs NYCFC MLS Finals

Tues/Wed Dec 7 & 8  – Champions League Group Stage Finals  

More to come later

MLS Conference Finals Sat/Sun

MLS playoffs conference finals preview and predictions
No owner, no coach, no star: RSL are MLS playoffs’ team of destiny
  Caitlin Murray

NYCFC reaches Conference final after penalty shootout win over No. 1 Revs
MLS rival reportedly looking to buy out Union head coach Jim Curtin

Ronaldo considered purchasing MLS franchise

US Men


USMNT names MLS-heavy squad for Dec. camp
 
Jeff Carlisle ESPN FC
U.S. men’s soccer roster skews young ahead of friendly to cap exceptional year

USMNT names MLS-heavy squad for Dec. camp
Tyler Adams: USMNT working hard to work hard, erase entitlement mentality (video)

How family put Adams on the path to soccer stardom

EPL


Premier League top three set for titanic title battle

Man Utd job too good for Rangnick to turn down

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 14

Manchester United vs Arsenal final score: Three things we learned

World  

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund preview: What to watch for in Der Klassiker  Bill Connelly   
Germany reimposes COVID-19 attendance limits, mask rules amid surge

Bayern Munich waiting on Goretzka for Dortmund clash

PSG wait for Messi to find Ballon d’Or form with Neymar out

Denmark’s Eriksen back in training after Euro heart-attack

Why Messi’s Ballon d’Or win shouldn’t make you angry

US Ladies & NWSL   

USWNT, Australia battle to 1-1 draw in final friendly of 2021

Red Stars trade Ertz, Gorden to Angel City FC for expansion draft protection

Sam Mewis traded to Kansas City Current

US Players overseas

Saturday

West Ham United v Chelsea FC – 7:30a on NBCSN

Christian Pulisic appears to be fully recovered from injury as he started and went 90’ on Wednesday in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Watford. Minutes management could mean he doesn’t start again three days later as the club face West Ham but it would be surprising if he doesn’t see at least some time. Currently there is a tight three team race between Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool for the top of the of the table with just two points separating the three clubs, but it’s Chelsea who have the advantage and currently sit in the top spot. Their opponent this weekend will be West Ham who currently sit in fourth place, and while they are seven points out of first they are also in their own tight race as they hold a one point edge on Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying position.

Other notes:

  • Bryan Reynolds has been making the bench again but has not seen minutes for Roma. The club face Inter Milan in a marquee matchup at Noon on CBSSN.
  • Bobby Wood came on an scored the late match winner for Real Salt Lake who will now face the Portland Timbers at 6:30p on FS1 in the Western Conference Final.

Streaming overseas:

  • John Anthony Brooks and Wolfsburg look to make their own move up the table as they face Mainz at 9:30a on ESPN+. Currently Wolfsburg sit in seventh place, two points back of Freiburg for fourth and two points ahead of Mainz in ninth.
  • Chris Richards seems to have slipped into some sort of regular substitute role for Hoffenheim who face Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Furth will look for their second point of the season when they face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Sergino Dest is also on some uneasy footing as rumors out of Barcelona indicate that he has work to do to solidify his position with the club. Dest has returned from injury but was an unused substitute last weekend in the teams 3-1 win over Villarreal. Barcelona face Real Betis at 10:15a on ESPN+.
  • It’s a top of the table clash for Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at 12:30p on ESPN+ but Giovanni Reyna remains unavailable for Dortmund who have dealt with a number of injuries this season but remain just one point back of Bayern.
  • Timothy Weah started and picked up an assist on Wednesday in Lille’s 2-1 win over Stade Rennais. Lille remain in 12th place but just six points back of fourth place Nice. This weekend they will face Troyes at 1p on beIN Sports.

Sunday

Philadelphia Union v New York City FC – 3p on ABC and ESPN Deportes

The Philadelphia Union and NYCFC get the primetime broadcast treatment this weekend in the Eastern Conference MLS Cup final. The match brings together the two remaining clubs with the most potential USMNT interest as well. The Union continue to give playing time to some of their youngsters including Leon Flach, Jack McGlynn, and Paxten Aaronson, none of whom have broken into the senior USMNT side but all three of whom could have an impact down the road. Philadelphia advanced to the Eastern Conference Final thanks to a shootout victory over Nashville as Nashville were unable to convert any of their four attempts while McGlynn and Jack Elliott each buried theirs.

NYCFC also advanced to the final thanks to a shootout victory as USMNT third keeper Sean Johnson saved the New England Revolutions second shot and Matt Turner was unable to keep out any of the four well taken shots by NYCFC. James Sands and Tayvon Gray also started the match for NYCFC with Sands playing a midfield role and Gray playing 120’ at right back.

Streaming overseas:

  • Josh Sargent has started the past two matches for Norwich but is still looking for his first goal contribution for the club. The club has eight points from their last four matches but remain in the relegation zone as they face Tottenham Hotspur at 9a on Peacock.
  • Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann and Venezia will look to bounce back from a 4-0 loss to Atalanta, their second straight loss, when they face Hellas Verona at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Pelegrino Matarazzo’s second Bundesliga season with Stuttgart is not going as well as their first season, currently the team sit in 15th place, tied on points with Augsburg for the relegation playoff position. The team continues to find ways to score but their 23 goals conceded is second worst with only Greuther Furth (39!) behind them. The club face Hertha Berlin this weekend in what looks like could be an important relegation battle. The match is at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally and Borussia Monchengladbach face Freiburg at 11:30a on ESPN+. Despite making his Gladbach debut this season Scally leads all field players in minutes this season and is the only one to have started every match.
  • Weston McKennie’s has apparently dodged a bullet as his scary looking knee injury turned out to be relatively minor. Juventus face Genoa at 2:45p on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah started Valencia’s Copa del Ray match against CD Utrillas and picked up a goal and assist in the 3-0 victory over the tiny club from a town of 3,000. Probably not a career defining moment but you take what you can get.

MLS playoffs conference finals preview and predictions: Who will contest MLS Cup?

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And then there were four. The MLS Cup playoffs conference semifinals saw Supporters’ Shield winners and record points scorers New England Revolution upset on home turf. On the other side of the bracket, fellow No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids were similarly dumped from the postseason in front of their fans.

The playoffs started with a field of 14 teams. Among the 10 clubs eliminated, the four with the most regular-season points all are now watching from home.It’s been dramatic knockout soccer full of upsets, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to stop now that we’ve reached the conference final stage. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Caitlin Murray, Dan Hajducky and Austin Lindberg preview both of this weekend’s matches, predicting which clubs will participate in the league’s showpiece event on Dec. 11 (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC) and whose players will be anxiously awaiting the 2022 preseason while chewing on the bitter taste of defeat.

Eastern Conference final

2. Philadelphia Union vs. 4. New York City FC (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET; live on ABC)

Sunday’s final isn’t the one most predicted, but it still features two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Blues have done well to make it this far, taking out No. 5 Atlanta and top-seeded New England along the way, but Sunday’s match will be NYCFC’s ultimate test. New York was already without Anton Tinnerholm (torn Achilles) and Keaton Parks (blood clot surgery), but now it will be without Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos due to the pair of yellow cards he picked up against the Revs. James Sands is an injury worry as well. Castellanos’ absence is every bit as big as it looks, as the Argentine scored in both of NYCFC’s playoff wins so far.

So who will step in to take his place? In the two games Castellanos missed this season, Talles Magno deputized, although he seems to have fallen out of favor of late. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi could also step in. He has been effective as a super-sub/spot starter in his four seasons with NYCFC, and tallied seven times in 2021, although most of his playing time came as a wide midfielder.Heber is a more like-for-like option, but a substitute role seems more likely. The Brazilian returned to the field in September after recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, but has logged just 95 minutes in seven Philadelphia will be at close to full strength now that defender Olivier Mbaizo has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, and the question for the Union is the same as always: Where will the goals come from? Kacper Przybylko — the Union’s version of the Phantom Menace — is the most likely source, having scored 12 times during the regular season. The team’s defenders, Jakob Glesnes foremost among them, are capable as well. But keep an eye on Daniel Gazdag. The scorer of Philadelphia’s equalizer against Nashville perked up over the last month of the regular season, and he’ll need to be at his best against a stingy NYCFC defense. — Carlisle

Predictions:

NYCFC showed their resilience in surviving the last moments against New England — when they were essentially down to nine players — and then prevailing on penalties. But the Union always seem to find a way, and with Castellanos sidelined, the home side should prevail. — Carlisle

As tempting as it is to pick NYCFC after they knocked off New England, it’s hard to go with the Pigeons without Castellanos in the lineup. This Philadelphia team isn’t as good as the one that won the Supporters’ Shield a year ago, but it’s good enough to win MLS Cup. — Bonagura

New York City FC is a very good team plenty capable of going to Chester, Pennsylvania, and staging an upset — but it becomes difficult without Castellanos. Remember, he was the one who scored NYCFC’s second goal in their 2-2 draw to the Revs on Tuesday. The Union still don’t have the big-game players you can count on to score goals when the stakes are high, but they do have Andre Blake, runner-up for Goalkeeper of the Year, who ought to keep them in it long enough for Philly to find a game winner at home. — Murray

A round of applause to NYCFC for that howitzer of a match against New England. I said going in that anything other than a Revs victory would be an upset of historic proportions. That’s exactly what we got in one of the most entertaining MLS matches in recent memory. Unfortunately for NYCFC, they lost Castellanos to a red card in the process and youngsters Sands and Tayvon Gray got banged up. Conversely, Philadelphia stopped red-hot Nashville in its tracks, Blake holding it scoreless in a PK shootout. This feels like Philly’s match to lose. — Hajducky

Look, being without Castellanos puts NYCFC on the back foot before a ball has been kicked, but they’ve already lost Tinnerholm and Parks for the season. Ronny Deila’s team is no stranger to the next-man-up philosophy, and with the likes of Moralez and (the admittedly maddeningly inconsistent) Medina in place to shoulder the attacking burden, I think the Bronx outfit has what it takes to spring another upset. — Lindberg

Western Conference final

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4. Portland Timbers vs. 7. Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET)

If Real Salt Lake are to extend their magical playoff run and reach MLS Cup, it will represent a significant reversal of fortune from the regular-season series against Portland. The Timbers swept all three meetings between the clubs, outscoring RSL 12-4 in the process, with all of them coming in August or later. In Salt Lake’s last trip to Portland, the Timbers won 6-1 in what was one of the most lopsided games in MLS all year.

This isn’t the regular season, though, and since the playoffs began the unpredictable nature of a knockout competition has been on full display. After being held without a shot and still advancing against Seattle via penalties in the first round, RSL were better against Sporting Kansas City. They created the better chances and erased an early 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 on a stoppage-time goal from Bobby Wood. Both wins came without Albert Rusnak, who tested positive for COVID-19, but the captain will return for the game against Portland.

The Timbers return to the conference final for the fourth time since entering MLS in 2011, with the latest coming in 2018. After a tough stretch in October, Portland ran off three straight wins to end the regular season before a 3-1 win against Minnesota United and 1-0 defeat of the top-seeded Colorado Rapids to open the playoffs. Portland will be without midfielder Sebastian Blanco due to an apparent hamstring injury and forward Dairon Asprilla, who was red-carded late against Colorado. Those two combined for 17 goals during the regular season, ranking second and third on the team behind leading scorer Felipe Mora— Bonagura

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

Predictions:

RSL have ridden the role of underdog all the way to the Western Conference final, but are they really the underdog now? They’re getting players back and Portland will be without Blanco and Asprilla. It’s the playoffs, and Diego Valeri is chomping at the bit to play a bigger role, so of course the Timbers will win. — Carlisle

With Rusnak expected to be back in the lineup for RSL and the Timbers without Asprilla and Blanco, the scales tip back toward the visitors. Salt Lake is clinging to that team-of-destiny vibe, and it would be very MLS for a team that snuck into the playoffs with an interim coach to play for MLS Cup. — Bonagura

I bet against RSL twice already, and twice I got burned in my predictions for it. This might be me upsetting the soccer gods and messing with their destiny, but I’m going with RSL here. Sure, their head coach quit in the middle of the season to become an assistant at a less dysfunctional club. Sure, two MLS clubs have found new owners in the past year and RSL still sit without a buyer after their previous owner walked away amid allegations of racism and sexism. Sure, the Timbers were consistently better than RSL all year long. But why can’t RSL go to Portland and pull out the sort of upset MLS is known for? If Blanco, the heartbeat of the Timbers, is injured, all while Asprilla — also known as “Mr. November,” a nickname that covers October through December — is out with a red card, then RSL have a fighting chance. After the Washington Spirit won the NWSL last month amid similar chaos, I believe RSL can do the same in MLS. — Murray

It’s remarkable that Real Salt Lake are even here. Their manager left in late August — taking a baffling demotion to assistant coach with Seattle — the team’s ownership is in flux, and they eked past perennial title contender and first-round opponent Seattle in a penalty kick shootout while registering zero shots. But they also outshot, out-possessed and outplayed Sporting KC in the conference semis. Interim manager Pablo Mastroeni has his feisty squad believing it’s them against the world and, hell, maybe it is. I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story; the Carl Spackler-ian Real Salt Lake move on to the final. — Hajducky

Consider yourselves jinxed, Utahns. Sorry. But without Blanco, Portland has lost the stir that’s mixed its drink for the final three months of the season. RSL have the belief and the momentum to take their Cinderella run all the way to MLS Cup. — Lindberg

USMNT calls up MLS-based players ahead of friendly vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina

11:00 AM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter has named a 26-man, Major League Soccer-heavy roster to a training camp ahead of a Dec. 18 friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina.Players will begin reporting to camp in Carson, Calif. on Dec. 5. The camp is being held ahead of a trio of World Cup qualifiers starting in late January, and is intended to keep MLS players fit now that the offseason has begun for most of them.The match against Bosnia falls outside of a FIFA international fixture date, leaving players who are still in-season largely unavailable. Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Berhalter said: “It’s essential that when we hit the field [for the next World Cup qualifier] on Jan. 27, we have guys that are ready to compete at a World Cup qualifying level. So this camp is essential to have.”We understand that guys have been playing all year, they’re fatigued, and that’s why the program will be slightly different. But we’ve got to keep them moving and looking forward to competing against Bosnia on Dec. 18.”The group is highlighted by MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman of Nashville SC, and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner of the New England Revolution.

Among recently called up players who won’t make the trip include Orlando City SC striker Daryl Dike and Atlanta United FC defender Miles Robinson.

On Dike, Berhalter said: “He’s beat up. He needs recovery. The most important thing at this time for Darryl is to get rest and recovery that he can focus on coming back in January and building himself up again.”The roster also contains 12 uncapped players. Of the 26 players called in, five play outside of MLS, including two who played last season in the USL Championship in Louisville City defender Jonathan Gomez and defender Kobi Henry of recently crowned title-winners Orange County SC.Gomez is the latest dual national to be involved in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Mexico squads, having already represented both countries at youth level. He recently secured a transfer to LaLiga side Real Sociedad, and will join them officially from Jan. 1.”It’s important to start bringing these guys up to the senior team and give them that experience. With Jonathan, he’s also U-20 eligible. He wasn’t at that camp, but you know Jonathan’s a guy who’s going to be going overseas in January, it’s important for us to get a good look at him,” Berhalter said.The other non-MLS players are Roma defender Bryan Reynolds, Internacional midfielder Johnny Cardoso and Bayern Munich II forward Taylor Booth.There is also a recall for New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, who missed most of the 2021 MLS season due to a torn Achilles tendon.Berhalter also said he is close to finalizing ex-FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez as an assistant, after Nico Estevez officially took over the Dallas job on Thursday.

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

USWNT, Australia battle to 1-1 draw in final friendly of 2021

An unlucky deflection is the difference.

The United States Women’s National Team settled for a 1-1 draw against Australia Tuesday at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. A late deflected goal by the Matildas’ Kyah Simon proved to be the difference in a match where the USWNT once again focused on getting some much-needed experience for the younger players on the team.

Starting XI: 18-Casey Murphy; 23-Emily Fox (19-Imani Dorsey – 77’), 12-Tierna Davidson, 5-Alana Cook, 3-Sofia Huerta (14-Emily Sonnett – 86‘); 10-Lindsey Horan, 17-Andi Sullivan (4-Becky Sauerbrunn – 86‘), 16-Rose Lavelle; 6-Lynn Williams (8-Ashley Sanchez – 81’), 7-Ashley Hatch (13-Morgan Weaver – 70’), 11-Midge Purce (22-Kristie Mewis – 70’)

Unusued Subs: 1-Jane Campbell

The scoring got started in the 4th minute for the USWNT, once again by Ashley Hatch. After an Aussie turnover around midfield, Lynn Williams led a quick counter with a pass to a streaking Midge Purce, who collected it right on the endline. From there, she was able to find an open Ashley Hatch, who slotted it home for the opening goal.

It was the 2nd consecutive early goal for the NWSL’s Golden Boot winner against Australia. She opened up her international account in the first game against the Matildas last weekend with a goal after 24 seconds.USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy, making her second straight start, continued to show quick reflexes between the posts. She was able to make a huge save in the 21st minute to keep the lead for the USWNT.Both teams had chances in the first half, but the USWNT were the better team. Purce had a couple additional chances to add to the USWNT score total in the 1st half, but close misses kept the score 1-0 at the half.Australia’s Sam Kerr provided some scary moments for the USWNT early in the 2nd half, with a couple scoring opportunities for the Matildas. One shot went wide for a goal kick, while the second one drew a corner kick.Lynn Williams was incredible for the USWNT throughout the match. While she did not score a goal, she had the hockey assist on Hatch’s goal, and she had several moments where she was dangerous with the ball at her feet. In the early part of the second half, she had a beautiful curling shot on goal that Aussie goalkeeper Lydia Williams had to do well to send the ball wide for a corner kick.There was a nervy time for the USWNT in the 68th minute, as Casey Murphy took an extra touch on a back pass and almost had the ball deflected into the goal by Aussie forward Hayley Raso.The substitutes started to come on late for the USWNT, and in the 80th minute, one of them had a terrific chance on goal. Morgan Weaver, who subbed on for Ashley Hatch in the 70th minute, had a chance at a breakaway, but had the ball taken away by Aussie defender Steph Catley.In the final 10 minutes, despite a lot of pressure, the USWNT were able to withstand the Aussie attack, providing some more scoring chances of their own. However, bad luck found its way to the back line super late in the match. In the 88th minute, Kyah Simon fired a shot that took a wicked deflection off substitute Becky Sauerbrunn that Casey Murphy had no chance of stopping, and the Matildas had the late equalizer.In the 2nd minute of stoppage time, the USWNT thought they had the game winner, as Tierna Davidson fired a beautiful cross into the box that Lindsey Horan hammered home. However, Horan’s goal was rightfully called back for offside. Despite a final chance, the USWNT and Matildas settled for the draw.The USWNT finish 2021 with 17 wins, 2 losses, and 5 draws. That included a SheBelieves Cup title and a bronze medal in the Olympics. In 2022, the focus will be on qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the USWNT can enter the next year knowing that they have some incredible young players that just need the opportunities on the field to be great.

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund preview: What to watch for in Der Klassiker, Germany’s biggest game

6:31 PM ET  Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

Derbies, rivalry matches and clasicos serve as useful mile markers over the course of a long soccer season. They give us an excuse to check in on two key teams, see how everything is going and see what has happened since the last time said teams met. With the Bundesliga’s Der Klassiker — Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund — resuming Saturday in Dortmund (watch LIVE, 12:30 pm ET, ESPN+), let’s indeed do some checking in.

What’s happened since the last time these German heavyweights last faced off? To answer this question, I both dove into the statistics and spoke with former Bayern Munich and German national team captain Philipp Lahm.

The teams are separated by just one point in the Bundesliga table

Since Bayern’s 3-1 win over BVB in Germany‘s Super Cup on Aug. 17, Bayern’s sixth straight win in the head-to-head series, both teams have battled injuries and random bouts of inconsistency. Borussia Dortmund have seriously missed star striker Erling Haaland, absent for six Bundesliga matches and three Champions League matches with injury. But other core players like left-back Raphael Guerreiro, winger Gio Reyna, midfielders Emre Can and Mahmoud Dahoud, attacking midfielder Thorgan Hazard and defender Mats Hummels have all missed time as well, while burgeoning star midfielder Jude Bellingham also suffered a minor injury last week; his status for Saturday is uncertain.

As the midway point of the season approaches, first-year manager Marco Rose has barely had a chance to field his full, first-choice lineup, even in practice. We therefore haven’t yet gotten a clear vision of what Rose wants to implement in Dortmund, either. “He’s had the rather poor luck of having a great many injuries to deal with,” Lahm said. “For that reason he might have experimented around a bit, and it hasn’t always worked well. I believe he’s still in the process of finding the right system that fits for Dortmund, but for that, again, he needs healthy players.”BVB’s issues mostly snuck up on them in Champions League play, where they began with two wins, but lost three straight matches by a combined 10-2 and were relegated to the Europa League knockout rounds. But even with a diminished lineup, they’ve managed to eke out key wins in league play, most recently winning 3-1 in Wolfsburg last Saturday.Bayern’s issues haven’t been quite as significant, and they certainly haven’t impacted the club’s Champions League status: the 2020 European champions have won all five of their group stage matches so far by a combined 19-3. But 2-1 losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg provided some unexpected dropped points, and they were eliminated from the DFB-Pokal in jarring fashion via a 5-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.New manager Julian Nagelsmann, who himself missed a couple of matches due to a positive coronavirus test, has been forced to juggle his lineups, particularly in the midfield.Joshua Kimmich has missed time due to quarantine and a positive coronavirus test — he’s out for Saturday’s match as well. Right-back Benjamin Pavard, who often tucks into a midfield role during buildup play, missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury, Corentin Tolisso missed the next month with a calf issue, and now summer acquisition Marcel Sabitzer has suffered a calf injury as well. Bayern still have Leon Goretzka, with Tolisso and Pavard both available, but they might not enjoy the same midfield advantage they typically do against BVB.Despite Bayern’s better form in Europe, the two teams are indeed separated by just one point in the Bundesliga table, and nobody else is within six points of the top. While the league has produced some pleasant surprises, it’s easy to see this as a two-team race.”Some teams have surprised me — Freiburg being one of them,” Lahm said. Freiburg are in fourth place and could have been higher if not for recent one-goal losses to Bochum and Bayern. “They’ve been doing an excellent job so far. But I believe that the championship will be decided between Bayern and Dortmund. I think Leipzig and Leverkusen have left some points behind, so I believe it will be a Bayern-Dortmund thing at the end.”A winner on Saturday would lead the way into Matchday 15.

BVB’s poor injuries luck has been offset by good fortune in league play

Rose’s side have overachieved their expected goal figures to date — they’re averaging 2.1 xG per match and allowing 1.6, but in terms of actual goals, they’re scoring 2.5 and allowing 1.5. The over-achievement comes primarily from Haaland, who has managed to score 10 league goals on 7.1 xG in just 557 Bundesliga minutes — the equivalent of 6.2 full matches. But the defense is perhaps lucky not to have suffered more mishaps: while they are ninth in the league in goals allowed and sixth in shots allowed per possession (0.12), they are 11th in xG allowed and 16th in xG allowed per shot (0.14).Rose’s style is one of ball control, but the juggled midfield has left them as vulnerable as ever to counterattacks.As one would expect, BVB have been a profoundly different team with and without Haaland. “Erling Haaland is an extremely important player for Borussia Dortmund,” Lahm said, “not just in terms of his football skill, but also in terms of his attitude, what he does for the team, what he does for the other players, pulling them along, infecting them with his enthusiasm and really helping them all to get better.”When Haaland is in the lineup, they are prolific and free-flowing — in his seven league matches, they have averaged 2.6 points per game and 3.3 goals with 1.9 goals allowed. Without him, they’re more conservative, averaging 1.7 goals, but allowing just 1.0 and still squeezing out 2.0 points per game.The Norwegian striker’s presence is obviously impactful, but Donyell Malen‘s recent play has to be encouraging, too. The 22-year old, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven in July, has scored only twice in league action, but those goals came in his last two matches. His shot volume has slowly increased as well.”He’s joined a new club, it’s a new league, so things take their time,” said Lahm. “He’s certainly a player of excellent skills, and a player you simply need to let play and you need to give some time to. Things take time.”alen’s 23-yard firecracker in the 55th minute against Wolfsburg gave BVB a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into Rose’s plan with Haaland back to full strength.

Despite the shuffled midfield, meanwhile, Bayern remains Bayern

They are statistically dominant, even in losses. Bayern average 3.0 xG per match (0.9 more than second-place RB Leipzig) and 3.2 goals (0.7 more than BVB). They attempt far more shots per possession than anyone else, and average the highest xG/shot in the league. In all competitions this season, star striker Robert Lewandowski already has 25 goals in 20 matches, winger Serge Gnabry has eight goals, do-it-all Thomas Muller has six goals and 12 assists, and a resurgent Leroy Sane, moving back to his natural left wing — he played on the right for previous manager, Hansi Flick — already has nine goals and nine assists.”I believe Julian Nagelsmann simply saw where Leroy Sane can play with the utmost self-confidence and placed him back there,” said Lahm of Sane’s improvement. “Also, a player who changes clubs like Leroy a year ago, it’s important to gain that self-confidence by simply being allowed to play several matches in a row. There can be good matches and bad matches amongst them, but that kind of approach can reinstate the confidence in a player.”Sane has played 1,442 minutes in all competitions this year, nearly 60% of what he logged all of last season (2,454).Bayern are almost as dominant defensively, allowing both the fewest shots per possssion and lowest xG per shot. They also have the most set-piece goals and have allowed the fewest; thanks in part to the addition of Dayot Upamecano from Nagelsmann’s former club, RBL, they can challenge opposing attackers with almost shocking success. Left-back Alphonso Davies has won 80 of his 123 duels this season (65%), while Upamecano and fellow centre-back Lukas Hernandez have combined to win 80 of 120 (67%). Their DFB-Pokal loss to Gladbach, in which they allowed a steady stream of high-quality scoring chances, was the exception to basically every rule.In Nagelsmann, Bayern have found a natural successor to both Pep Guardiola (who managed the club from 2013-16) and Flick (2019-21).”I believe that Julian is quite a fan of Guardiola’s and has taken his model,” Lahm said. “Bayern under Guardiola became this kind of varied approach: sometimes three [at the back], sometimes four, sometimes four in a defensive mode, sometimes three in an offensive mode. Nagelsmann is a young, very modern type of coach, and with Guardiola kind of having left his mark on the Bundesliga I think he’s become quite a model to follow.”As one would expect, they’ve been less impressive without Kimmich, the No. 2 midfielder in the ESPN 100. They indeed lost to Augsburg on Nov.19, and they achieved bare-minimum advantages in wins over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League (2-1) and Arminia Bielefeld (1-0).”Obviously Kimmich is an extremely important player for Bayern Munich,” said Lahm. “That is true today, and certainly also in the future with Goretzka. If such key players, such as Kimmich, are missing during a top match, that’s something not to be taken lightly. That certainly does not help.”

This has only been so much of a rivalry of late

While Bayern won only six of 10 in the series between Nov. 2016 and Aug. 2019, they’ve since won six in a row by a combined 18-7. BVB is good at taking the fight to the German champs, taking leads of 2-0 (in Munich) and 1-0 (in Dortmund) in last season’s league clashes, but Bayern reeled them in each time. Over these six matches, Bayern has averaged 16.3 shots and 2.5 xG per match to BVB’s 8.2 and 1.2. They’ve enjoyed higher xG in five of six matches, more touches in four and a higher pass completion rate in five.BVB has an opportunity with Haaland’s return and a Kimmich-free Bayern midfield, but it’s hard to bet against a winning streak. “Haaland is back after his injury, so that is definitely an important factor,” Lahm said, “and also they’ll be playing in Dortmund in their own stadiums, so I expect this to be a very close match.”But I personally have my bets on Bayern Munich.”That’s usually a pretty good bet.

Expect plenty of fresh faces as new Indy Eleven coach Mark Lowry rebuilds roster

Kevin Johnston  Special for IndyStar  11/20/21

– There are two general methods for soccer coaches when it comes to roster construction and tactics. Coaches can seek out players who fit their desired system, or go the more square-peg-round-hole route by adapting a system to fit their roster.As far as those two schools of thought go, newly appointed Indy Eleven manager Mark Lowry is firmly in the former camp. The 36-year-old Englishman likes square pegs to go in square holes, and round pegs in round holes.”The players that we bring in will reflect the vision that I have of how the team should play,” Lowry said. “That’s non-negotiable. I believe in having good players, but I believe in more having players that fit how you want them to play. Talent alone doesn’t win games.”With the rebuild here, with the need to instill an identity and establish those things, I will get to put my kind of fingerprint – or my footprint – on the roster, bring players in that reflect what I want in the team and can get it done and execute it.”

More Indy Eleven:Indy Eleven push back Eleven Park site announcement

After hinting that a few players on his inherited roster are already under contract for 2022 during an appearance on 107.5 The Fan’s “Kevin and Query” this week, Lowry told IndyStar he expects significant turnover beyond the handful of returnees. “I think that’s probably pretty obvious to everybody,” he said. “Everyone’s been involved in the game for a while. Players understand how it works. Clubs and front offices understand how it works every season.” Six of those returnees were revealed by the club this week: forward Manuel Arteaga, midfielders Nicky Law and Ayoze, and defenders Karl Ouimette, Neveal Hackshaw and Jared Timmer. Expect quite a bit of change beyond that core group. After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, it’s perhaps a necessary approach for the Eleven to take. “We have some great, great holdovers from last season,” he added. “There are a few of them (whom) I’m excited to get to work with. But there’s also room for us to kind of grow as a club and grow as a team, and bring players in to kind of begin a new era and bring that success back to Carroll Stadium.”Lowry’s familiarity with Indy dates back to the NASL days, having served as both head and assistant coach with Jacksonville Armada FC.Lowry also has a background as a scout in addition to youth academy coaching experience. He’s worn many different hats within the game, skills he said will serve him well at a club that’s branching out with a women’s team and an academy side. “We believe the process of finding our next head coach was worth the considerable due diligence taken in recent months, which involved interest from more than 250 candidates from across the soccer world,” said Eleven president and CEO Greg Stremlaw in a statement. “We firmly believe in Mark’s ability to again make Indy Eleven one of the elite USL Championship competitors on the field and burnish our credentials as one of the league’s premier organizations. ”Lowry boasts a stellar track record in his three seasons in the USL Championship having guided his former club, El Paso Locomotive FC, to the postseason all three years, including a pair of trips to the Western Conference final. The young head coach appears aware of the task at hand and confident he’ll restore the club back to its winning ways. “Teams need to hate coming to Indy to play Indy Eleven,” Lowry said. “It can’t be nice for teams. We need to create that atmosphere and that environment.”

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11/23 Champions League today/Wed, US Ladies Fri 11 pm FS1, MLS Playoffs continue, USL Champ Game

The US Ladies take Youngsters to Australia for Fri 11 pm game

The USWNT will take 2 young 6 foot GK’s and along with a host of new young forwards for their 2 games in Australia Friday night at 11 pm on FS2 and Again Tues at 4 am on ESPN. 

U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) –VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

Champions League Matchday 5

Champions League play returns with American’s stars McKinney for Juventus traveling to Chelsea Tuesday at 3 pm on Paramount plus to face teammate Christian Pulisic (fresh of this goal in 20 minutes over the weekend) winner wins their group.  Lille and Tim Weah will also host RB Salzburg and Brendan Aaronson at 3 pm Tuesday with both teams needing just a win to qualify.  Serginio Dest and Barcelona with new coach Javi will try to stay alive vs Benefica while Villarreal and Man United will battle for a the top spot at 12:45 in their group.  With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing.   Read it all in the Ole Ball Coach

MLS Playoffs Continue Tues

Nashville will host Orlando City in the East at 8 pm on FS1, while the Defending Champ Seattle Sounders will host Real Salt Lake at 10:30 pm on FS1.  Playoff soccer is worth the watch in MLS! Playoffs Bracket Matt Turner – NE Rev and USMNT Goalkeeper was named GK of the Year in MLS – see story below!

NWSL Washington Wins Championship in Louisville

What an exciting final it was in Louisville as the game went to extra time with USWNT defender Kelly O’hare winning the game in extratime on a fantastic header to give the Washington Spirit the win over the Chicago Red Stars 2-1.  Its been a tumultuous season for the NWSL – but the final has things looking up as a good crowd was on hand and a CBS audience looked on Saturday.  San Diego and LA bring expansion teams in for next season which should add some excitement for the league.

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in a 2-1 shootout loss to Orange City for San Antonio late Saturday night.  Farr stood on his head and made some fantastic saves before finally succumbing in the shootout 5-3.   Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note!  Meanwhile the USL will wrap up its season Sunday night on ESPN2 or ESPN+ with the Tampa Bay Rowdies hosting Orange County SC at 8:30 pm.  

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tues  11/23    UCL

12:45 pm EST              Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich  Paramount+

12:45 pm EST             Villarreal vs. Manchester United  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              BSC Young Boys (Pfuk)  vs. Atalanta Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks)  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+

8 pm FS1            Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff

10:30 pm FS1    Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake  

Wednesday, November 24  UCL

12:45 pm EST              Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam   Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Liverpool vs. FC Porto  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid  Paramount+

Thursday, November 25 (Europa)

12:45 pm EST              Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (  ) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+

3:00 pm EST                Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp Paramount+

11 pm FS1          USWNT vs Australia

Sat, Nov 27

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs New Castle 

7:30 am ESPN+           Fulham (Robinson) vs Preston North End

9:30 am ESPN+           Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Dortmund 

10 USA                         Liverpool vs Southampton 

12 noon CBSSN?        Juventus (McKinney) vs Atalanta

11 am beIn Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/28  

9 am NBCSN                Man City vs Westham 

11:30 NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man Uniteded 

11:30 ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Leverkusen                  

3 pm ESPN+                Real Madrid vs Sevilla

3 pm ABC                    Sporting KC vs TBD   MLS Playoff

5:30 pm ESPN             Philly Union vs TBD  MLS 

8:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Orange County SC

Tues  11/30   

4 am ESPN                   USWNT vs Australia

7:30 pm FS1                New England vs NYCFC   MLS Playoff

Wed 12/1

2:30 pm Peacock         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Watford

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Everton vs Liverpool

Thurs  12/2

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Man United vs Arsenal 

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo. Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

US Men

 Behind The Crest: USMNT Revives “Dos a Cero” vs. Mexico

Ricardo Pepi’s Story (video)

How US Players Did this Weekend

U.S. Overtakes Mexico as Concacaf’s Top Team in FIFA Ranking

Champions League 

Chelsea vs Juventus: How to watch, team news, odds, prediction

COVID-19: De Bruyne to miss three games

Xavi unfazed by possible UCL exit: Let me dream
Xavi’s winning Barcelona debut, Vlahovic magic vs. Milan: Weekend review
  ESPN
Villarreal vs Manchester United: How to watch, team news, odds, 

MLS

Playoffs Bracket

Orlando Readies for Nashville Matchup

Three Takeaways from Philadelphia’s playoff win over NYRB

Blanco & Reynoso: Argentine playmakers central to Portland vs. Minnesota playoff game

HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: New York City FC vs. Atlanta United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | November 20, 2021

Seattle Sounders give update on Lodeiro, Ruidiaz, Joao Paulo fitness before RSL clash

LAFC, head coach Bob Bradley mutually agree to part ways

New England Revolution’s Matt Turner named 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

Report: Jozy Altidore to depart Toronto FC

EPL


Why Solskjaer’s Man United tenure fell apart
 
Rob Dawson
Man Utd malaise runs deeper than failed managers

Reports: Pochettino wants to become new Manchester United boss

Manchester United manager search: Who will replace Solskjaer?

Antonio Conte: Tottenham turnaround shows players are buying in

NWSL

Washington Spirit beat Chicago Red Stars to win their first NWSL championship

NWSL Ends Its Season of Reckoning With High Hopes and a Worthy Final
NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil
  itlin Murray
Coach of NWSL’s Red Stars resigns amid report of emotional abuse

NWSL Final features USWNT Players

Champions League group stage: what every team needs to go through

Nov 3, 2021Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the Champions League round of 16, with third-placed teams dropping into the Europa League preliminary knockout round. Teams that finish bottom are eliminated from Europe.

QUALIFIED FOR UCL ROUND OF 16: Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool

ELIMINATED: Besiktas, Malmo, RB Leipzig

GROUP A
Nov. 24: Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-GermainClub Brugge vs. RB Leipzig
Dec. 7: RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Club Brugge

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man City4301+89
2 – PSG4220+38
3 – Brugge4112-64
4 – Leipzig4013-51

Manchester City: Need a point to go through, and can secure top spot with a win at home to PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain: Will be through with two draws, or if Club Brugge fail to win either of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of qualifying.

RB Leipzig: Have been eliminated from the Champions League and must win away to Club Brugge to stay in contention for a place in the Europa League.GROUP B
Nov. 24:Liverpool vs. FC PortoAtletico Madrid vs. AC Milan
Dec. 7: FC Porto vs. Atletico Madrid, AC Milan vs. Liverpool

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Liverpool4400+812
2 – Porto4121-35
3 – Atletico4112-24
4 – Milan4013-31

Liverpool: Have qualified as group winners.

FC Porto: Will be through on Matchday 5 if they win at Liverpool and Atletico lose to AC Milan. Four points will also be enough.

Atletico Madrid: Know that at least a draw at home to AC Milan will definitely keep their fate in their own hands ahead of the trip at FC Porto on Matchday 6. Could be eliminated if they lose to Milan and Porto beat Liverpool.

AC Milan: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of staying in the Champions League, but their best hope may be to edge third and drop into the Europa League. Will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Atletico.

GROUP C
Nov. 24: Besiktas vs. AjaxSporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund
Dec. 7: Ajax vs. Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund vs. Besiktas

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Ajax4400+1212
2 – Dortmund4202-46
3 – Sporting4202+26
4 – Besiktas4004-100

Ajax: Have qualified and need a point to win the group.

Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund hold second place on head to head, which means a win at home to Sporting will send them through. A draw would leave them needing a win at home to Besikas to seal second place.

Sporting CP: Victory at home to Dortmund by 2+ goals will send them through to the round of 16 on Matchday 5.

Besiktas: Are out of the Champions League and will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Ajax or Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat against Sporting.GROUP D
Nov. 24: Inter vs. Shakhtar DonetskSheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid
Dec. 7: Real Madrid vs. Inter, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Sheriff

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Madrid4301+69
2 – Inter4211+37
3 – Sheriff4202-16
4 – Shakhtar4013-81

Real Madrid: Must win away to FC Sheriff to guarantee qualification on Matchday 5, while two draws from their remaining two games would also send them through.

Inter Milan: Will be through with a game to spare should they beat Shakhtar and FC Sheriff fail to beat Real Madrid. Four points will also see them through for certain.

FC Sheriff: Will be out if they lose to Real Madrid and Inter beat Shakhtar. They may need to hope Inter fail to win and it goes down to the final day for a place in the knockout stages.

Shakhtar Donetsk: Are going to have to win both their remaining games and hope other results go their way if they to have a chance of going through or dropping into the Europa League.

GROUP E
Nov. 23: Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern MunichBarcelona vs. Benfica
Dec. 8: Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona, Benfica vs. Dynamo Kiev

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Bayern4400+1512
2 – Barca4202-46
3 – Benfica4112-44
4 – Dynamo4013-71

Bayern Munich: Have qualified for the round of 16, and need a point to win the group (or can do so with a defeat if Barcelona fail to win at home to Benfica).

Barcelona: Will be through with win a win at home to Benfica on Matchday 5.

Benfica: Must avoid defeat to Barca to stay in contention. Two wins guarantees second place.

Dynamo Kiev: Have to win both remaining games, and hope Barca lose at home to Benfica, to have any chance of staying in the Champions League. They could yet overtake Benfica for the Europa League slot with a win in Portugal on Matchday 6.GROUP F
Nov. 23: Villarreal vs. Manchester UnitedYoung Boys vs. Atalanta
Dec. 8: Atalanta vs. Villarreal, Manchester United vs. Young Boys

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man Utd4211+17
2 – Villarreal4211+47
3 – Atalanta412105
4 – Y Boys4103-53

Manchester United: Will be through with a win away to Villarreal in their next match. Four points from the two games will also guarantee progress.

Villarreal: Will definitely be through if they beat Man United by 2+ goals or 1-0.

Atalanta: Can guarantee a place in the round of 16 with two victories, and four points would be enough if Villarreal lose to Man United.

Young Boys: Still in contention but need to win at home to Atalanta to have any realistic hopes of finishing inside the top 2. If they lose to Atalanta, they are sure to finish bottom of the group and exit Europe.

GROUP G
Nov. 23: Lille vs. FC SalzburgSevilla vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Dec. 8: FC Salzburg vs. Sevilla, VfL Wolfsburg vs. Lille

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Salzburg4211+27
2 – Lille412105
3 – Wolfsburg4121-15
4 – Sevilla4031-13

FC Salzburg: Will be through with a win at Lille on Matchday 5, and that will seal top spot if Wolfsburg fail to beat Sevilla. Two draws will also send them into the round of 16.

Lille: If they can win at home to Salzburg, a point away to Wolfsburg would be enough to send them through.

Wolfsburg: Are sure to still be in contention on Matchday 6, when a win at home to Lille will guarantee at worst a place in the Europa League.

Sevilla: Will be out of the Champions League if they lose at home to Wolfsburg, and also be sure to finish bottom should Lille win at home to Salzburg.

GROUP H
Nov. 23: Chelsea vs. Juventus, Malmo vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Dec. 8: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea, Juventus vs. Malmo

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Juventus4400+712
2 – Chelsea4301+59
3 – Zenit410303
4 – Malmo4004-120

Juventus: Have qualified, and need a point away to Chelsea to seal top spot.

Chelsea: Need a point to go through, and would also progress with a loss at home to Juve should Zenit fail to beat Malmo. Must beat Juventus to have a chance of topping the group.

Zenit St Petersburg: Must win both their remaining games, and hope Chelsea lose to Juve, to go through. Would also need to beat Chelsea by 2+ goals to win the head to head.

Malmo: Are out of the Champions League and must beat Zenit by 5+ goals to overtake them on head to head and have the best chance of finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.

Champions League predictions, Matchweek 5 (from Joe Prince-Wright)

Tuesday

Dynamo Kiev 1-3 Bayern Munich
Villarreal 2-2 Manchester United
Chelsea 2-1 Juventus
Barcelona 2-1 Benfica
Sevilla 1-1 Wolfsburg
Malmo 1-2 Zenit
Lille 2-0 RB Salzburg
Young Boys 1-3 Atalanta

Wednesday

Besiktas 0-3 Ajax
Inter 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting 1-3 Dortmund
Man City 3-2 PSG
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Milan
Liverpool 3-1 Porto
Clube Brugge 2-1 RB Leipzig
Sheriff 0-4 Real Madrid

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 1 results

Sevilla 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Young Boys 2-1 Manchester United — Solskjaer, Maguire reaction
Lille 0-0 Wolfsburg
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Chelsea 1-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg — Tuchel reacts, praises Lukaku
Malmo 0-3 Juventus
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich
Dynamo Kiev 0-0 Benfica

Besiktas 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan 0-1 Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Porto
Club Brugge 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan — Klopp reaction
Man City 6-3 RB Leipzig — Grealish reactionSporting Lisbon 1-5 Ajax

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 2 results

Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter Milan
Ajax 2-0 Besiktas
Real Madrid 1-2 Sheriff Tiraspol
AC Milan 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Sporting Lisbon
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Man City
Porto 1-5 Liverpool
RB Leipzig 1-2 Club Brugge

Wednesday

Atalanta 1-0 Young Boys
Zenit 4-0 Malmo
Wolfsburg 1-1 Sevilla
Bayern Munich 5-0 Dynamo Kiev
Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Lille
Juventus 1-0 Chelsea
Benfica 3-0 Barcelona
Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 3 results

Tuesday

Besiktas 1-4 Sporting
Club Brugge 1-5 Man City – Recap
PSG 3-2 RB Leipzig – Recap
Ajax 4-0 Borussia Dortmund
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 Real Madrid – Recap
Inter Milan 3-1 Sheriff
Atletico Madrid 2-3 Liverpool – Recap + Klopp reaction
Porto 1-0 AC Milan

Wednesday

RB Salzburg 3-1 Wolfsburg
Barcelona 1-0 Dynamo Kiev
Lille 0-0 Sevilla
Benfica 0-4 Bayern Munich
Chelsea 4-0 Malmo
Zenit 0-1 Juventus
Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal
Man United 3-2 Atalanta – Recap

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 4 results

Tuesday

Malmo 0-1 Chelsea – Pulisic returns
Wolfsburg 2-1 RB Salzburg
Dynamo Kiev 0-1 Barcelona
Sevilla 1-2 Lille
Bayern Munich 5-2 Benfica
Juventus 4-2 Zenit
Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Atalanta 2-2 Man United – Ronaldo grabs a point for United

Wednesday

AC Milan 1-1 FC Porto
Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon 4-0 Besiktas
Man City 4-1 Club Brugge – Recap
RB Leipzig 2-2 PSG
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Ajax
Sheriff 1-3 Inter Milan
Liverpool 2-0 Atletico Madrid – Recap

USMNT’s Roller Coaster Remains on Track for World Cup Qualification

After beating Mexico and tying Jamaica, two windows remain for the U.S. to book its trip to Qatar next fall, and the outlook is a positive one.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

 says something about the U.S. men’s national team that members were disappointed by Tuesday’s 1–1 World Cup qualifying draw in Jamaica. Points are tough to come by on the road in Concacaf, but this young squad doesn’t put a cap on its confidence, expectations or ambition.“I felt like we could’ve won every game so far in qualifying,” midfielder and de facto captain Tyler Adams said in Kingston.But it also says something about the Americans that they haven’t—that they struggled to impose themselves on a less talented Reggae Boyz squad and may have been fortunate to escape with a point. Although the U.S. took an early lead on a goal by Tim Weah, the hosts replied with a breathtaking strike from West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, then successfully bypassed the U.S. press with a series of long balls before nearly winning the game with a late header that was ruled out by the referee.Qualifying is a roller coaster, coach Gregg Berhalter said. So was the tie in Kingston and the November window at large, which began with last week’s 2-0 dismantling of Mexico in Cincinnati. That isn’t just coach speak. It’s an accurate assessment. The U.S. is now just past the midpoint of Concacaf’s Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers directly to the Qatar World Cup and an additional side to an intercontinental playoff.It’s been almost all ups and downs, from the lows of the frustrating home draw with Canada, Weston McKennie’s September suspension and the whole team’s awful night in Panama, to the historic highs of that brilliant second half in Honduras, the comeback against Costa Rica and then the next-generation “Dos a Cero” in Cincinnati. Through it all, Berhalter has started 30 different players and given 26 their World Cup qualifying debut. It’s been a struggle at times, and the 4-1-3 record could, and maybe should, be better. But it’s also quite an achievement for a young team that’s learning as it goes. Toss in the fact that the Americans so frequently take the field without many of their highest-profile players (Gio Reyna and Sergiño Dest missed this month’s games and a recovering Christian Pulisic was a second-half substitute), and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, or at least satisfied, with the performance so far.The U.S. is in second place with six qualifiers remaining, and it’s on pace to reach Qatar.“I think we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said in Kingston. “[We’re] basically having to get the guys experience on the fly. We’re playing an Olympic-age team. The average age again was Olympic-eligible—22 [and 341 days]. It’s really learning as you go, and the guys have done a great job adapting to that. We’ve had very strong home performances. We’ve gotten five points on the road already, in four games.“We’ll use the winter and spring of ’22 to hopefully get qualification, but the guys have been great,” the manager continued. “When I look at the year of ’21 in general, you know we lifted two trophies. We’re in the position where we want to be (in) World Cup qualifying. We’ve won 16 games already [tying the single-year U.S. record]. The guy have done a great job. It’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”But like the response to Tuesday’s tie, there should be a bit of concern woven in to the optimistic outlook. Second place is good. It’s also somewhat treacherous. Although there’s now some separation between the top four and bottom four in the Octagonal, the U.S. is only one point above fourth place, which would mean a one-game, neutral-site playoff against a team from South America, Asia or Oceania next June (the draw is Nov. 26). A worst-case scenario of a trip to Qatar, a potential site, for a winner-take-all game against the likes of Uruguay or Japan with a World Cup berth on the line is hovering over the horizon.Among the six games remaining for the U.S. are the three that arguably are the toughest on the Octagonal schedule: at Canada on Jan. 30, and then at Mexico (March 24) and at Costa Rica (March 30). The Canadians are vastly improved and undefeated in qualifying, and the difficulty of winning in Mexico City and San José is long established. The U.S. is a combined 0-21-4 in World Cup qualifiers in those two inhospitable cities. And so the margin for error at home is pretty much gone, and a point or two on the road very well may be necessary as well. There’s still a lot of work left to do.

What Vlatko Sees in USWNT Roster Newcomers

The U.S. women’s national team is gearing up for Nov. 27 and 30 friendlies in Australia, where they haven’t played in 21 years.Twenty-one is also the age of the current roster’s youngest player (Sophia Smith). The squad, which was announced Tuesday morning, is full of the next generation, in fact. Of the 22 players, 12 have 10 international caps or fewer. Five don’t have any caps at all.“Part of the reason why we picked some of the younger players, or some of the inexperienced players, is to give them a taste of what this environment is all about and also to show them that they have potential to be on the World Cup team, and I think that’s the best motivation they could have,” said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

THE USWNT’S FULL ROSTER HEADING TO AUSTRALIA LATER THIS MONTH, ACCORDING TO A PRESS RELEASE TUESDAY.

Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman were also invited to join the roster but opted out due to undisclosed reasons.

The frontrunner for NWSL Rookie of the Year, Rodman has yet to make an appearance with the senior national team. Her presence would have added to a young offense that already has three rookies.

Defense is the only position that doesn’t have any uncapped players. Alana Cook heads to Australia with two caps, while Emily Fox has six and Sofia Huerta seven.Let’s take a closer look at the particular areas of the field Andonovski is keen to rebuild and the players he is eager to see.

CASEY MURPHY AND BELLA BIXBY

In the absence of Alyssa Naeher, who is out with a knee injury, veteran Jane Campbell will lead the goalkeeping trio that includes the North Carolina Courage’s Casey Murphy and the Portland Thorns’ Bella Bixby, each with no caps.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to put those young goalkeepers in the top and challenging environment and to put him through some adversity and see how they deal with it,” Andonovski said. “I think that Australia’s an incredible team … We’ll find out very fast who is cut for big games under pressure.”Bixby had a standout season in the NWSL, starting 16 matches and recording nine clean sheets to earn a nomination for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year.“She’s done a very good job individually to keep those shutouts, so she’s one of those players that needs an introduction to this environment,” the coach said.Bixby and Murphy were teammates on the national U-23 team from 2017-18. Murphy also started on the U-20 squad.Andonovski is familiar with Murphy after coaching her with OL Reign (then Reign FC) in 2019. He saw her improve on a weekly basis and, after watching multiple videos to evaluate her progress this year, has noticed her continued development with the Courage. In North Carolina’s quarterfinal game against the Washington Spirit on Sunday, Murphy made 13 saves to send it to extra time, where the Courage eventually lost.“We’re glad to say that she’s ready for the next level of her career,” he said.

ASHLEY SANCHEZ

With zero caps for the USWNT, Ashley Sanchez steps onto the pitch as the only novice in the midfield.

The 22-year-old, however, has a multitude of experience with the youth program, from the U14 level all the way through U15, U17 and U20. Competing in the U17 and U20 FIFA Women’s World Cups in 2016, she became the first player in U.S. history to play in multiple World Cups in the same year.

Andonovski has been following Sanchez’s progress with Spirit closely all season.“Some of the things that she’s developed first and foremost is she’s better at the things that she was good at,” Andonovski said.Specifically, Sanchez thrives at solving problems under pressure, whether it’s finding tight spaces, connecting with the front line or getting back on defense.“I think that she she’s becoming a little bit more of a rounded player,” Andonovski said.

FORWARDS

The attacking third will feature the most youth, as five of the six forwards have 10 caps or fewer. While Lynn Williams leads the offense with 43 caps, Bethany Balcer and Morgan Weaver will look to get their first.“The forward position is an area where we felt like we need to increase the competition,” Andonovski said. “And not just the competition; we need to increase the overall experience of the players. We have to give them games like this.”The coach seems to be taking into consideration player performances in the NWSL, where five of his forwards have seven league goals or more to rank among the top 10 scorers. Ashley Hatch won the NWSL’s Golden Boot award with 10 goals during the regular season.Weaver of the Portland Thorns appears to be the outlier, with just one goal in 19 NWSL games this season. But stats aren’t everything. Similar to Williams, the 24-year-old is a workhorse off the ball and puts defenders under a lot of stress.Balcer, the 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year in her third season with the OL Reign, has been a weapon on attack. Five of the nine goals she’s scored this season have come by way of headers. She’s also the first player from an NAIA school to have made an NWSL roster. At Spring Arbor University from 2015-18, Balcer had 129 goals in 98 appearances.

GAME TIMES

The first match will kick off on Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time in Sydney. For North America, that’s Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2.The team plays again Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. local time, or 4 a.m. ET on ESPN.

ANDONOVSKI NAMES 22 PLAYER ROSTER FOR USWNT MATCHES IN AUSTRALIA TO END 2021

BIOSTEEL TRAINING CAMP ROSTER INCLUDES 10 TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIANS AND 12 PLAYERS WITH 10 CAPS OR FEWER

NOVEMBER 9 2021

ON THE PITCH

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2021) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named 22 players for the trip to Australia that will feature two matches against the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts to end the 2021 schedule.

The roster features 10 members of the 2020 Olympic Team and 12 players with 10 caps or less — including five uncapped players — and has an average age of 26.3 years. Andonovski will choose 18 players to suit up for each of the two matches.

The first match will take place at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time (Friday, Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2) and the second will be at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. ET on ESPN).

“We still have a few players out with injuries, so this roster is a mixture of players with a lot of experience in World Cups and Olympics, some who have been a part of the program for a while but who are looking to make their mark in international soccer and a few who are getting a first chance with the National Team in an event like this,” said Andonovski. “We’ve turned the page towards 2023 World Cup qualifying and rarely do we get the chance to test young players in environments filled with adversity, so we need to take advantage of what these two games will offer us. It’s exciting to get a chance to see all these players together in our environment and give them a chance to play against one of the best teams in the world.”

Twenty-one of the 22 players on the roster play in the National Women’s Soccer League with 17 on teams that made the NWSL playoffs. Midfielder Catarina Macario, who has scored eight goals in her past nine games with Olympique Lyon in France, is the only player on the roster not playing domestically.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has not played in Australia for 21 years. The most recent visits were in 2000, a year in which the USA played in three different competitions in Australia, the final one being the Sydney Olympics where the USA earned a silver medal. Football Australia expects large crowds for both matches.


U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) – NOVEMBER MATCHES VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • The roster features 10 players who won bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics and six who were on the team that won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
  • After 36-year-old veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, followed by 30-year-old midfielder Kristie Mewis. The youngest is 21-year-old forward Sophia Smith.
  • There are only two players on the roster age 30 or older — Sauerbrunn and Mewis. The average age of the remaining 20 players will be 25.6 years on the first match day in Australia.
  • The average caps per player on the 22-player roster is 32.
  • Andonovski called up two uncapped goalkeepers in six-foot Bella Bixby of Portland Thorns FC and six-foot-one Casey Murphy of the North Carolina Courage. Both have had quality seasons with their respective clubs and Murphy made a playoff record 13 saves in 1-0 quarterfinal playoff loss to the Washington Spirit on Nov. 7.
  • This is the first time the USWNT has ever had two goalkeepers six-foot or over on one roster.
  • While Murphy has yet to earn a cap, this will be her sixth event training with the full USWNT. Most recently, she was in with the USA for the trip to Sweden and France last April and she was the starting goalkeeper for the USA at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. This is Bixby’s first full WNT call-up, although she does have experience with the Under-23 USWNT in 2017 and 2018 when she was known as Bella Geist, prior to her marriage.
  • Both goalkeepers join 2020 Olympian Jane Campbell, who has seven caps and who earned a shutout against South Korea on Oct. 26 in Minnesota.
  • Sauerbrunn is by far the most experienced player on the roster with 197 caps, and she is joined by 2020 Olympic Team center back partners Dahlkemper (77) and Tierna Davidson (43) as well as outside back Emily Sonnett (61), who played in two matches in Japan. The other three defenders have a combined 15 caps.
  • Seven of those caps belong to Sofia Huerta, who has been playing outside back of late for OL Reign and is the only player in women’s soccer history to have played for the USA and Mexico at the senior level. Huerta switched associations in 2017 and earned her caps over 2017 and 2018 but has not been back with the WNT until this trip.
  • Huerta was tied for the NWSL lead in regular season assists this year with six.
  • Alana Cook, also of OL Reign, earned one of her two career caps in 2021, playing the full 90 against Colombia on Jan. 22.
  • The other defender is Emily Fox of Racing Louisville, who played well in both of the USA’s most recent matches, against South Korea in October, in which she earned her fifth and six caps.
  • The midfielders are perhaps the most experienced position group. Andi Sullivan (20 caps) and Ashley Sanchez (0 caps) of the Washington Spirit are the only two of the six midfielders who were not at the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Sullivan’s experience with the senior National Team dates back to 2016, when she was a junior in college at Stanford. Sullivan started at defensive midfield in the USA’s most recent match against South Korea on Oct. 26.
  • This will be the third full WNT camp for Sanchez, who made history by being the first American to play in both the FIFA Under-17 and Under-20 Women’s World Cups in the same cycle, something she did in 2016. She also attended the October 2020 training camp in Denver and was called into one training camp under Jill Ellis in March of 2016. She also attended the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019.
  • The group of forwards features just one Olympian in Lynn Williams, who had a goal and an assist in the quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands in Japan and who has 13 goals in her 43 career caps.
  • The other five forwards have a combined 19 caps and three international goals, two for Margaret Purce and one for Smith.
  • Of the six forwards, four of them – Bethany Balcer, Ashley Hatch, Smith and Morgan Weaver – were at the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019. Aside from the ID camp, this will be the second full USWNT event for Balcer and the first for Weaver.
  • Hatch was awarded the Golden Boot this season as the top scorer in the NWSL with 10 goals while also scoring the game-winner in the 1-0 quarterfinal playoff victory over the North Carolina Courage on Nov. 7. Balcer and Margaret Purce finished the regular season with nine each while Williams and Smith had seven scores each. Smith led the league in shots with 72 and shots on goal with 36.
  • Hatch earned her first cap in 2016 in Sandy, Utah in a 16-minute performance against Switzerland when she was still playing at BYU. She earned her second in 2018 vs. Mexico.
  • Eight of the 10 NWSL clubs have players on the roster with Portland Thorns FC having five. OL Reign and the Washington Spirit have four each and the Houston Dash has three.
  • Eleven players on the roster have represented the USA in a FIFA Women’s World Cup at the youth level.
  • Three players on the roster were named to the NWSL Team of the Month for October: Huerta, Hatch and Purce.
  • Five players on the roster are up for end-of-the season 2021 NWSL Awards.
  • MVP: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit) and Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Defender of the Year: Alana Cook (OL Reign)
    Goalkeeper of the Year: Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Rookie of the Year: Emily Fox (Racing Louisville)

NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil

Nov 20, 2021Caitlin Murray

In a National Women’s Soccer League season that will be remembered more for its leaguewide off-field problems than its splendid play on the field, the Washington Spirit became a fitting champion Saturday, beating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in a thrilling extra-time finish.

To say that the Spirit’s road this season to the final was a rocky one would be an understatement. The NWSL stepped in and banned their coach after player allegations of abuse failed to prompt the team’s owner to act. A power struggle between that owner and another investor ensued, with the players publicly demanding the team be sold. And the Spirit had to forfeit two regular-season games after a COVID-19 outbreak, earning a hefty fine for protocol violations too.

In a word, the Spirit’s season has been chaos. But the only way the Spirit could come back from a goal deficit and beat the Red Stars on the league’s biggest stage was not by ignoring the chaos swirling around them — the players simply had to embrace it. “It’s been a lot of different emotions but we’ve been leaning into them and soaking up the chaos and seeing what we could do with it,” Spirit captain Andi Sullivan said. “I don’t think you could create something else like it.”You probably wouldn’t want to either — the Spirit were hardly the only team in the NWSL dealing with off-field problems this season — but the Spirit’s unique ability to use the uncertainty to their advantage means there is no better team to go down in NWSL history as the 2021 champion.”People have no idea what we’ve all gone through,” veteran defender Kelley O’Hara said. “The resiliency and perseverance of every single player on this team is pretty incredible and something that I haven’t had on any NWSL team I’ve been on. It’s the best feeling ever to be ending on a win.”In the first half, however, it looked like perhaps an emotional toll had finally caught up with the Spirit. Whether it was the weight of the stakes or the drain of their off-field turmoil, something tamped down some of the Spirit’s flair and flashiness, which had carried them through the playoffs to the final.

Trinity Rodman, the 19-year-old breakout who was named Rookie of the Year, looked frustrated as she created dangerous moments for the Spirit but couldn’t tap into her previous magic. In the 11th minute, she had only to get around center-back Sarah Gorden for a breakaway, but the NWSL Defender of the Year poked the ball away. Later, after some ball circulation to create space for Rodman, she pulled the trigger from the top of the box, but it went straight to goalkeeper Cassie Miller.

“I was extremely frustrated with myself and our movement of the ball,” Rodman said. “Once you can get out of your head and keep focusing on the next pass, the next shot, the next ball, that’s gonna get you to the end.”Since early in the match, Rodman was seen at times bent over clutching her side as if she were cramped from overexertion — but she never stopped. She leaned in even more and single-handedly shifted the match’s momentum, leading a Spirit turnaround in the second half. It started in the 62nd minute when Rodman fired a rocket off the post from well outside the box, a chance that seemingly rattled the Red Stars’ back line. Three minutes later, Rodman took on three defenders, finally breaking free with a nutmeg through the last defender’s legs before another shot from distance. But her key contributions would be assists that followed, not goals.In the 66th minute, Rodman slipped a ball to Tara McKeown, who was fouled in the box, earning a penalty that Sullivan buried to equalize. After the match moved to extra time, Rodman lofted a long ball to the back post in the 97th minute, finding O’Hara’s head. It was O’Hara’s first goal of the 2021 season.”We never quit,” Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe said. “We never gave up on each other and that second half shows who we are.”For the Red Stars, it was a brutal end after it looked as though they’d overcome their own set of challenges.Coming into Saturday, they were already missing starters Julie Ertz (left thigh), Casey Krueger (illness), Alyssa Naeher (right thigh) and Kealia Watt (right knee). Within 12 minutes, captain and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo had to come off with an injury, replaced by Makenzy Doniak. More bad luck struck before the half, when Mallory Pugh went down with injury — but, as has become the Red Stars’ identity, they stayed locked in and scored in first-half stoppage time, despite being down a player. Arin Wright (nee Gilliland) lofted a long cross to the back post and Rachel Hill nodded it home.After losing the 2019 NWSL championship and the 2020 Challenge Cup, the Red Stars have now lost their third consecutive final.”It’s been hard because we’ve had that taste in our mouth of losing a final like that,” said Morgan Gautrat (nee Brian), one of Chicago’s most consistent players this season. “It’s why we go to practice every single day and we play every minute like it’s the last.”For anyone who didn’t know about the Spirit’s off-field problems or the reckoning in the NWSL at large, Saturday’s final had all the normal trappings of a celebratory finish to the regular season: full stands at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky; supporters for each side banging drums and cheering; players putting in a high-level, competitive, focused performance. “The crowd brought it — there were some people heckling me,” O’Hara said, laughing.But there were hints of the shadow cast by the tumultuous season that preceded the final. Local fans of Racing Louisville took it upon themselves to bring some large hard-to-miss signage for the Spirit: “We support Spirit fans. Sell the team, Baldwin.” Spirit fans who made the trip brought their own signs urging majority owner Steve Baldwin to sell amid a public and ugly power struggle for control of the club. Baldwin, who stood by former Spirit coach Richie Burke even as players alleged abuse, has been pitted against Y. Michele Kang, the female minority owner who has earned the backing of Spirit players.Other signs scattered throughout the stadium offered even weightier slogans like “Listen. Believe. Protect.” And “#NoMoreSilence. Support NWSLPA.”Those signs were, of course, a reference to Burke, the coach accused by Spirit players of berating them with cruel name-calling and racial remarks. When Baldwin caught wind that journalists were looking into it, he claimed Burke had health problems and gave him a front-office job instead of firing him, which prompted the NWSL to step in and ban him. But the signs were also a reference to a larger backdrop of abuse and mistreatment of players that forced a reckoning in the NWSL this year.The most shocking allegations came against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, who two players said forced them to kiss as he watched, sent them lewd photos and showed up to film session in his underwear. A player filed a formal complaint in 2015, and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson let Riley quietly leave the club in what was framed as a routine non-renewal after poor on-field results. Riley quickly landed a new job, and was fired last month only when the players shared their stories publicly for the first time. The NWSL’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, resigned last month under fire for refusing to investigate Riley earlier this year.

“It’s been a really long year for every team, for different reasons — a bunch of adversity on and off the field, and it’s necessary to make this league better,” Gautrat said, reflecting on Saturday’s final. “But I do think it was a great showing — 120 minutes of end-to-end soccer, good goals and excitement.”The NWSL championship wasn’t even supposed to be in Kentucky. It had originally been scheduled to be played in Portland, Oregon, the city that has nicknamed itself Soccer City, USA — but to accommodate a national noon East Coast broadcast slot, it would be played at 9 a.m. local time, which drew outrage from players and fans. The mishandling of the allegations against Riley from the Portland Thorns front office didn’t make the location any more attractive.But that the players managed to force the league to move its marquee event some 2,000 miles away was yet another testament to the power of the players. In a professional league, players shouldn’t have to get involved in fixing off-field problems as often as NWSL players have, but they’ve risen above the challenges repeatedly, as the NWSL final put on full display.That’s as true for the Spirit players as anyone else, as no club has dealt with more problems — at least in public — this year. It’s fitting that the Spirit have been the best team in the NWSL at coming back after conceding a goal first: their whole season has been a comeback of sorts. They haven’t lost since Burke was finally fired months ago, a hot streak that carried them to the final, and on Saturday they made enduring a season of messiness well worth it.”We’ve been in playoff mode since the end of the September — we controlled what we could control, and that was winning,” O’Hara said. “Here we are.”

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11/18/21  USA ties Jamaica 1-1, 2nd in group, NWSL Finals Tix on Sale in Louisville Sat 12 noon CBS, MLS Playoffs Start, Indy 11 New Coach Named, Champ Leagues Tues/Wed, Italy, Portugal to WCQ Playoffs

US Ties Jamaica 1-1

The USMNT is fortunate to salvage at tie at Jamaica 1-1 as a late goal by Jamaica was called back on an over the back call. (Hi-lights)   I thought the starting line-up was spot on with Busio stepping in for Weston McKinney (suspended Yellow Card) and Richards stepping in for Miles Robinson (Red Card suspension).  The only thing I would have done is put Matt Turner back in Goal for Zack Steffan.  Steffan played great vs Mexico – but Turner is our best Shot Stopper and with bad field conditions – I just preferred Steffan back there (please don’t tell me he wouldn’t have made that save on the goal – he’s done it in every game.)  It was a great strike by Jamaica’s superstar and Adams should have never left him open but Steffan was out of spot, his footwork questionable and his reach incorrect.  Sorry but Turner at least gets a paw on it – (may not of saved it but) it was hit from 30 yards out.  Still the US definitely looked less energized in the empty stadium but we outshot them 9-6 with each getting just 2 shots of goal each.   They got off to a great start as Man of the Match Tim Weah scored the 1st goal and the first 20 minutes we looked solid.  But the energy left the US after the Jamaica wonder goal by Michail Antonio of West Ham United – and the US really didn’t recover.  The addition of Pulisic and Acosta did not impact the game in the 65th minute this time – as Musah (Strep Throat) and Weah (who looked exhausted after going 90 vs Mexico) came off.  I thought Busio was way over his head as he didn’t win 1 challenge all night and was basically a blank spot on the field.  He’s young – he’ll learn.  Musah just 18 was special as always  – but the defense didn’t step up in the 2nd half and the midfield was overrun some in the 2nd.  Overall this is a disappointing result and we were lucky to get out with a point.  Later Canada rose to top in the table as they Stunned Mexico in IceTeca 2-1Highlights

US Stands in 2nd – But

A quick glance at the Table has the US where we want to be in 2nd place overall with 15 points.  But the US honestly has the most difficult run down the stretch.  We still play at Canada in January and at Mexico and Costa Rica in late March.  That’s 3 games – where you don’t expect to pick up points.  That’s part of why the Jamaica game and letting that 3 points go – hurts.  The US, of course, must win our final home games with El Salvador and Hondorus in January and Panama in March – but we might need to get a least a point and a tie at Canada/Mexico or Costa Rica – we have never done that in qualifiers in Mexico or Costa Rica – and Canada honestly looks like the top team in CONCACAF right now.  So while things looks good now – finishing in the top 3 (the 4th team has to playoff to get to the World Cup) is still not a lock.  The good news for the US is Panama is the closest battling for th 3rd spot and they still travel to Costa Rica/Mexico/Jam while finishing up at home with the US.  

Remaining CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents

points in parenthesis

Canada (16) : at HON, vs USA, at SLV | at CRC, vs JAM, at PAN

USMNT (15): vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON | at MEX, vs PAN, at CRC

Mexico (14): at JAM, vs CRC, vs PAN vs USA, at HON, vs SLV

Panama (14): at CRC, vs JAM, at MEX | vs HON, at USA, vs CAN

Costa Rica (9): vs PAN, at MEX, at JAM | vs CAN, at SLV, vs USA

Jamaica (7): vs MEX, at PAN, vs CRC | vs SLV, at CAN, vs HON

El Salvador (6): at USA, at HON, vs CAN | at JAM, vs CRC, at MEX

Honduras (3): vs CAN, vs SLV, at USA | at PAN, vs MEX, at JAM

More on 2-0 Win over Mexico from Cincy

So this was my view from the Glorious American Outlaws Section vs Mexico last week after we scored the goal – (some pics) the atmosphere was amazing as Dos a Cero was achieved at home in front of a stadium full of American Outlaws in Cincy.  Special shout out to Jeremy Stroebel and Witney Zalenski of American Outlaws Indy as they helped me secure fantastic tickets behind the goal in the AO section just 2 days prior to the game.  If you aren’t a member you should join, if nothing else join us for US games at Union Jack in Broad Ripple. 

Of course by now everyone has heard about the Quote from Mexican Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa – about the US Seeing its self in the Mirror and wanting to be Mexico.  Pulisic’s goal and then pulling up his shirt to show the Man in the Mirror on his T-shirt was the ultimate response.  God I love Pulisic !!  Cool video – Man in The Mirror

Here’s a hilarious sequence on US Coach Greg Berhalter  who by the way has beaten Mexico 3 times in a row – NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE – and has us at the Top of the Table midway thru World Cup Qualifying. Listen I question his tactics sometimes – but you could argue this is the Best coaching job by a US Manager ever.  Was he is doing with a team that’s average age was 23 years old Friday night is amazing.  He has completely changed the way we play – he has adjusted to his talent – which is young but outstanding – and he adopted a high press attack that absolutely dominated Mexico.  The first half was even – but the US just ran roughshod over El Tri in the 2nd half with 55% possession and far more shots.  (19-9 overall).  We are young and Mexico is old – the torch is being passed to US – and its time the world took notice.  We still have been qualification games ahead but Berhalter has the US playing better, more offensive, attacking futbol than anyone ever.  At this point I would say the Jury is no longer out on Berhalter – its time to give him the respect he has earned – he’s our Coach – will be our Coach thru the 2022 World Cup when this team makes a Quarterfinal run.  He’s a former US National Team player, an MLS Champion Coach, and now he’s making his mark on our national team. 

 Interesting news that Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic – is said to be on Barcelona’s wish list for Jan transfer

NWSL CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS   Sat 12 noon at Louisville on CBS  Tickets Available Just $15

Interesting watching #1 Seed Portland and all those US players lose 2-0 at home to the Chicago Red Stars.  Sophia Smith, Becky Saubraun, Klingingberg, and the NWSL Regular Season Champs Thorns lost to the young Red Stars and Tierna Davidson. Even without quarter-final hero Mal Pugh (due to COVID-19 protocols), the Red Stars still had enough offensive firepower to eliminate the top-seeded Thorns yesterday.  Red Stars forward Katie Johnson scored just minutes after subbing in for an injured Kealia Watt, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe netted an insurance goal in the second half to secure the 2–0 win. No. 2 OL Reign vs. No. 3 Washington Spirit: Both sides netted a goal within the first 12 minutes, but Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez defied the laws of physics to score the 68th minute game-winner and send Washington to their first title game since 2016. Undefeated in 11 straight on-field matches, the Spirit appear unstoppable. Now all that’s left is the championship game…and finding a new ownerWhat’s next: Neither the Spirit nor the Red Stars have won an NWSL title, but that’ll change this  Saturday at 12 p.m. noon in Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium on CBS.  Tickets are just $15 – if you have daughters who play soccer you should scoop up tickets and head down there!!

Indy 11 Names New Coach

Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday.  Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first 3 seasons of play, the first 2 of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“

GK Jordan Farr plays for San Antonio in USL Conference Finals Sat Night, 10:30 pm on ESPN+

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr on load to San Antonio has reached the conference finals after a huge 2-0 win over Rio Grande Valley FC.  Next up for San Antonio and Farr is a trip to LA to face Orange County SC at 10:30 pm on ESPN+.  In the Eastern Conference Final its Indy 11 rivals Louisville FC traveling to Tampa Bay to face the Rowdies in St. Pete’s Al Lang Stadium at 7:30 pm on ESPN+.

MLS Playoffs Start

The MLS Playoffs start Sat with Phlly hosting NY Red Bull at 2:30 and Sporting KC hosting Vancouver at 4 pm all on Telemundo.  Sad the playoffs don’t hit US English Speaking TV until Sunday with the NYCFC hosting Atlanta United and Joseph Martinez at 3 on ABC – at Yankee Stadium and Portland hosting Minn United at 6:30 pm on ESPN.  (Previews) .  Predictions Here’s the Playoff Bracket.

NBC Pays 2.8 Billion to Keep EPL

News today that the NBC has bid $2.8 billion to keep exclusive rights to the EPL – lets hope that means they will give us more NBC network games that matter.  Will be interesting to see with NBCSN – going away 12/31/21 – that USA Network – which has much more coverage will be the home of the EPL along with NBC. I would love to see them add the 10 am Sat AM games to NBC – why not ?  NBC doesn’t do any college game coverage until after 2 pm on Saturday’s and EPL would be interesting head to head vs college gameday coverage on ESPN and Fox.  I was actually hoping ESPN would get a little piece of the package as well – they would cover the EPL more if they did.  But oh well – glad at least that NBC stepped up.  Big games this weekend include Chelsea’s vs Leicester City at 7:30 am on NBCSN on Sat and Liverpool hosting Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC.  Sunday has Man City hosting Everton 9:30 am on NBCSN. 

Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath dies after lengthy COVID battle

Brian Haenchen, Indianapolis Star  Thu, November 18, 2021, 3:06 PM·3 min read

Guerin Catholic boys soccer coach Chris McGrath died Wednesday morning, according to a CaringBridge entry by his wife, Shari McGrath.McGrath was hospitalized due to COVID in mid-September, and was later moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator, according to a blog post from school president Rick Wagner in early October. He is survived by his wife, and their three children: daughters Emily (17) and Julia (19), and son Ryan. “Chris peacefully passed away this morning at 10:45 surrounded by his family,” Shari wrote. “He fought one hell of a fight, but there was nothing more that the medical staff could do for his lungs. “In an email to the school community Wednesday, Wagner asked for continued prayers for McGrath’s family, as well as GC faculty, staff, students, and “most especially the boys soccer program, as these young men move forward during this challenging time.” “The Guerin Catholic community sends our love and support to the McGrath family and the boys soccer program,” a statement from the school on Twitter read. “May he rest in peace.”McGrath, who was an active member of the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association, won more than 60 games during his tenure as Golden Eagles head coach (2016-21), with semistate appearances in 2019-20. Assistants Jacob Cloran, Jim Alvarez and Anthony Alvarez shared coaching responsibilities in McGrath’s absence, guiding the senior-driven Golden Eagles to the sectional finals, where they lost to eventual Class 2A champion Brebeuf Jesuit.”We’ve just come together as a group,” Cloran said after a 2-1 victory over Cardinal Ritter in the Sectional 26 semifinals. “When you’re on a team, you lift people up when you’re down and you work through things.”McGrath’s involvement in the Indy soccer scene extended well beyond his role as Guerin coach.

In fact, he was perhaps best known for founding Sogility, a soccer-specific training facility in Westfield that takes a technology-driven approach to training. Opened in 2018, the indoor facility has been so popular that the company plans to break ground on a new, larger building to the east of its current location later this year.“While we mourn Chris’s untimely passing, his influence on elite soccer in Central Indiana will be a part of his legacy,” Sogility CEO Jimmy Carson said in a statement. “We will continue to grow Sogility based on the foundation he established. Please keep his family, the Sogility family, and all those that Chris influenced in your prayers.”A prayer service for McGrath is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent’s 86th Street near the benches and statue at Entrance 1, according to a press release from Sogility. Further details about the arrangements are to come.A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the McGrath family late last month has raised more than $23,000 towards its goal. Those interested in donating should follow this link.  Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Sat 11/20  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+           Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

11 am beIn Sport         PSG vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

8 pm FS1                      Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN                Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds  

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah) 

3 pm ABC                    NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS 

Tues  11/23    UCL

12:45 pm EST              Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich  Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Villarreal vs. Manchester United  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              BSC Young Boys (Pfuk)  vs. Atalanta Paramount+

03:00 pm EST “          Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks)  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+

8 pm FS1            Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff

10:30 pm FS1    Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake  

Wednesday, November 24  UCL

12:45 pm EST              Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam   Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Liverpool vs. FC Porto  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid  Paramount+

Thursday, November 25 (Europa)

12:45 pm EST              Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (Mckensie) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+

3:00 pm EST                Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp (Vines) Paramount+

Sat, Nov 27

11 pm FS1          USWNT vs Australia

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

My View after the 2nd Goal from the USA vs Mexico Last Week


USMNT lessons: McKennie is vital and defense has depth, but will road form hurt them?
 
Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC

USMNT were fortunate, frustrated to leave Jamaica with draw in World Cup qualifying
Opinion: With disappointment of 2018 World Cup qualifying still fresh, USMNT’s draw feels more like a loss

Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw Brian Straus SI
What we learned from Concacaf qualifying: USA wobble as Canada surge to the top

Tim Weah scores and USMNT holds off Jamaica for tie in World Cup qualifying
2022 Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers: USA 1-1 Jamaica – A fortunate draw away from home
Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health

US Will Qualify – How Far Can they Go?  
USMNT player ratings: Tim Weah shines as rest of attack sputters vs Jamaica

Player Ratings – USA vs Jamaica

Breaking down the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica: thoughts & player ratings ASN

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying draw at Jamaica

What we learned from the USMNT’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at Jamaica

USMNT U-20’s lose to Mexico, ending Revelations Cup winless

US U20 Sanogo Enjoys Positive Experience with US U20s

Clint Dempsey, Hope Solo headline finalists for National Soccer Hall of Fame

CONCACAF QUALIFYING

Assessing the Octagon with 2021 over and just two windows remaining

Three Takeaways from Canada’s historic Iceteca win over Mexico
Mexico out of its element — 14 degrees — in loss in Canada in World Cup qualifier
  Eric Gomez

Mexico Emerges From the Cold Feeling the Heat in World Cup Qualifying

WORLD QUALIFIERS


Four-goal Mbappe fires France to World Cup finals, Belgium also qualify

Portugal could face Italy in World Cup playoffs

Southgate unleashes attacking talent, but England fall short of expectations  James Olley

Wales seal World Cup playoff spot with draw vs. Belgium

Chile hope England-born Ben Brereton Diaz can salvage World Cup hopes  Tim Vickery

Neymar, Messi close in on what could be their last World Cup

Indy 11 & USL Championships

   

·          INDY ELEVEN INSTALLS MARK LOWRY AS HEAD COACH

· ·         Championship Playoffs Preview: Orange County SC vs. San Antonio FC & Jordan Farr at GK 

·         Championship Playoffs Preview: Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Louisville City FC

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Patino at the Double as San Antonio Downs Toros

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Lancaster’s Late Winner Sends LouCity Past Independence

·         Championship Playoffs Report: Ekra’s Goal Lifts Rowdies Past Legion FC

·         Built from the Grassroots Up, Detroit City FC Eager for New Stage in Championship

·      Indy Eleven to Compete in USL Academy League Playoffs

MLS Playoffs


Who will win MLS Cup in 2021? Predicting every Round 1 matchup and a champion

Bandwagon guide to the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs: Who to root for and why

Ranking Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoff teams by tier as the regular season ends

Eastern Conference Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs preview Video

Western Conference Preview Video

Caden Clark: Don’t overlook “darkhorse” New York Red Bulls in playoffs

Orlando City seek sharper edge in attack to break down Nashville in Round One matchup

MLS Looks to Upgrade its TV Contract
David Blitzer Group Near Deal to Buy MLS Club Real Salt Lake

Galaxy dig at Mexico boss over Chicharito snub

Besler retiring after storied 13-year MLS career
Bob Bradley is out as LAFC coach after four seasons

NWSL FINALS & USMNT

Mallory Pugh could miss NWSL final due to COVID-19 protocols

NWSL VIDEO hicago and Washington Pull off Stunners to Advance to Finals Sat

Spirit, Red Stars Advance to NWSL Final

OL Reign’s Fishlock, Harvey scoop NWSL awards
Thorns’ Bixby Says Father Died Before NWSL Semifinal

USWNT to play two-game series in Australia

USWNT adds youth to squad vs. Australia

San Diego NWSL new side to be called Wave FC

Angel City Jersey Drop
Behind the Scenes: The unveiling of Angel City FC’s first kit

WORLD

Wjhat to Expect from Xavi as New Barcelona Manager
Gerrard embracing pressure at Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard: Aston Villa aim to push for Europe

BIG GAMES TO WATCH  

30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+           Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

11 am beIn Sport         PSG vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

8 pm FS1                      Santos Laguna vs Atletico San Luis (Liga MX)

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN               Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds  

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah) 

3 pm ABC                    NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS 

Tues  11/23  

12:45 pm EDT             Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson)  Paramount+, Galavisión, fubo TV

12:45 pm EDT             . Manchester United  Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

Malmö vs. Chelsea (Pulisic) Paramount+, UniMás, TUDN, fubo TV

04:00 pm EDT             Dynamo Kiev vs. Barcelona (Dest) Paramount+, PrendeTV

04:00 pm EDT            

04:00 pm EDT             Villarreal vs. BSC Young Boys (Pefok) Paramount+, TUDNxtra, fubo TV

  

World Cup qualifying bubble watch: Portugal, Mexico and Italy are in varying degrees of trouble

Henry Bushnell   Wed, November 17, 2021, 12:35 AM

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal have taken long routes to the World Cup before. Eight years ago this month, in fact, they were 20 minutes and one goal away from missing the tournament altogether. Four years later, Italy reminded international soccer that its giants aren’t immune to qualifying failures. That the unthinkable can happen. That the sport’s bluebloods can miss out on its banner event.And four years after that? Here we are again. Only this time, the road is even longer.Qatar 2022 is 12 months away. Its field is essentially half-full. And for now, neither Portugal nor Italy is a part of it. The last two European champions suffered stunning upsets this past weekend, and stumbled into a perilous playoff round that could still send them to the World Cup, but also could send them home. Each will have to win two do-or-die games in March to avoid ignominy. They could even find themselves on a collision course that inevitably subjects at least one of the two to the unthinkable fate.Oh, and they aren’t alone. World Cup mainstays from the Americas are struggling, too. None has outright missed the World Cup just yet. But a few are very much on the bubble as the 32-team competition takes shape.What follows is a snapshot of that bubble after a wild November international window that concluded with 13 teams officially qualified; with 38 other nations realistically in play for 19 unclaimed spots; and with Canadians diving into piles of snow to celebrate a famous win over Mexico.So, let’s dive in with them.

Already qualified (13)

  • Brazil — Unbeaten and nearly perfect in South America’s qualifying gauntlet
  • Argentina — Also unbeaten, and now officially en route to Qatar after Tuesday’s draw with Brazil. Last cycle took Argentina to the brink, needing a final-day hat trick from Lionel Messi. This cycle, by those standards, was smooth.
  • France — Uninspiring but never truly threatened in a weak European group
  • Belgium — Dominant yet again. Belgium’s last World Cup qualifying loss was in Estonia on Oct. 14, 2009.
  • Spain — Scraped by Sweden on the final two matchdays
  • England — Scored 39, conceded 3 in 10 games. British media have transitioned from moaning about their team to moaning that World Cup qualifying is a waste of time.
  • Germany — Stunned by North Macedonia early on, but cruised thereafter
  • Denmark — One of the first to secure qualification — and didn’t drop points until they had
  • Switzerland — The beneficiary of Italy’s final-day flop
  • Netherlands — Left it late, but held off Norway and Turkey to finish atop their group
  • Croatia — Had to beat Russia on the final day … and did, thanks to an injured defender’s clumsy, monsoon-aided own goal
  • Serbia — Stunned Portugal with a 90th-minute winner to send Ronaldo and Co. tumbling toward the playoffs
  • Qatar — Automatically qualified as the host. No business being at a World Cup otherwise. (No business being the hosts, either, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

The locks (2)

(Percentages in parentheses are each team’s qualification odds from We Global Football)

Iran (100%) and South Korea (99.9%) — On 16 and 14 points, respectively, in an otherwise astonishingly weak Asian Group A, where no other team has more than 6 points. The top two qualify automatically. There are four games to go. Those two will be Iran and South Korea.

The likelihoods (4)

Ecuador (98.2%) — Six points clear of fourth place in South America with four games to go. Two stumbling South American teams would have to pass the Ecuadorians. And with two of their remaining opponents, Brazil and Argentina, already qualified, a late collapse seems unlikely.

Saudi Arabia (86.2%) — Absolutely strolling through the tougher of the two Asian groups. The Saudis often struggle against World Cup-caliber opponents, but steamroll lesser foes.

United States (96.2%) — At first glance, the U.S. is right in the thick of an Octagonal dogfight. But it looks like the best team in CONCACAF. It still gets Honduras, El Salvador and Panama at home. Nine points from those three games should be enough on their own. Even a fourth-place finish would leave the Americans as likely favorites in an intercontinental playoff. “We’re on the right track,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said Tuesday. And he’s right.

Canada (95.5%) — Unbeaten and roaring toward a first men’s World Cup berth since 1986. Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Mexico, in frigid Edmonton, felt like a crowning capital-M Moment. Yes, there are still only two points separating first and fourth place. But the Canadian’s look like strong favorites to qualify.

The top of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)

The non-playoff bubble (9)

Mexico (97.3%) — So, on one hand, Mexico still has the top combo of talent and experience in CONCACAF; it has four of six remaining matches at home; it’s still in great shape to qualify. On the other hand, it’s reeling after losses to the U.S. and Canada. It could have a new coach when qualifying resumes in January. This feels a lot more like 2014 — when Mexico very nearly missed the World Cup — than 2018 — when it qualified comfortably.

Panama (46.2%) — Two massive comebacks have Los Canaleros punching directly up at Mexico and the U.S., level on points with El Tri in third place. If there’s a team that can unseat the current top three, it’s them.

Japan (90.3%) and Australia (49.8%) — Both trailing Saudi Arabia. One will nab the second automatic qualifying slot in Asia’s Group B, the other will likely win the Asian playoff. (Japan’s probability is so much higher than Australia’s because its one-point lead is more significant than you realize, because three of its four remaining matches are at home, and because it’s a much better team than the Socceroos.)

Colombia (72.2%)Peru (24.2%)Uruguay (46.3%)Chile (20.3%) and Bolivia (1.6%) — If we accept that Ecuador is in, these five nations, separated by two points, are scrapping for just one automatic qualification spot and one intercontinental playoff berth.

Colombia, narrowly leading the pack and with the easiest remaining fixtures (Peru and Bolivia at home, already-qualified Argentina and lowly Venezuela away), is in the best shape of the bunch. But Uruguay has the most talent and World Cup experience.

Bolivia, meanwhile, has been dominant in La Paz. A result in Venezuela in January could put it in position to pull off the biggest shock of the qualifying cycle.

South America’s qualifying table. (Screenshot: Google)

The European playoffs (12)

Europe’s final three participants will come from a 12-team playoff field that’s chock-full of intrigue. The teams will be drawn into three pods of four. One-off semifinals and a final in each pod will send one team to Qatar and three packing.

There are six seeded teams, including Portugal and Italy, that can’t meet in the semifinals. But there’s nothing protecting them from sharing a pod, and potentially meeting in a high-stakes final.

Games will take place in March. Here’s the seeding for the Nov. 26 draw, which will determine matchups and brackets:

Seeded: Italy (49.5%), Portugal (44.9%), Sweden (32.6%), Wales (28.3%), Russia (28.1%), Scotland (22.2%)
Unseeded: Poland (20.5%), Austria (17.0%), Czech Republic (17.0%), Ukraine (15.8%), Turkey (13.7%), North Macedonia (10.5%)

The African playoffs (10)

In Africa, 10 four-team groups produced one winner each. Five of the 10 winners will be seeded, five unseeded for the playoff draw. Each playoff is two legs, with the victor going to the World Cup and the vanquished watching from home.

Seeded: Algeria (68.7%), Senegal (62.4%), Morocco (58.0%), Tunisia (54.4%), Nigeria (52.7%)
Unseeded: Cameroon (47.2%), Egypt (44.0%), Mali (42.2%), Ghana (37.8%), DR Congo (32.7%)

The intercontinental playoffs (1)

The fifth-place team from South America, the fourth-place team from CONCACAF, the winner of a playoff between two third-place teams from Asia, and one team from Oceania will be pitted against one another for two spots in Qatar. The matchups will be determined by a draw. Home-and-home series will be played in June 2022 — after the World Cup group stage draw has already taken place on April 1.

It’s not entirely clear how Oceania plans to choose its contestant in the intercontinental playoffs. But that contestant will almost certainly be New Zealand (43.7%).

The longshots (7)

Paraguay (1.0%) — No wins against non-Venezuelan opponents. Still only four points behind Peru in fifth, but with four nations to leapfrog to get there.

Costa Rica (8.1%) — A 95th-minute winner against Honduras on Tuesday night established Los Ticos as the best bet to crash CONCACAF’s current top four.

Jamaica (4.2%— Seven points out of the playoff place with six games to go. Is it doable? With Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey in the fold, yeah. But likely? No.

UAE (3.1%)Lebanon (0.7%)Iraq (8.0%) and Syria (0.3%) — One of these four teams will meet Australia or Japan in the Asian playoff — where they’ll be a heavy underdog to advance to an intercontinental playoff, where they’d be a heavy underdog as well.

Still mathematically alive: Oman, China, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga and 

USMNT’s World Cup qualifying lessons: McKennie is key, defense has depth, but will road form hurt them?

Nov 17, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

For the United States men’s national team, the just concluded round of World Cup qualifiers finished much like the previous two. There were more positives than negatives even if there was a nagging sense that points were left on the table. In this instance, Friday’s 2-0 defeat of rivals Mexico provided its usual boost, but like most sugar highs, the buzz wore off. Tuesday’s 1-1 road draw with Jamaica was disappointing because the Americans were expected to perform better, and ultimately, the USMNT found itself fortunate to escape Kingston with a draw.

The most encouraging sign of progress arrived via Tim Weah. The Lille attacker was an absolute menace against El Tri, wearing a groove down the right wing with his persistent, positive runs and delivering a critical assist on Christian Pulisic‘s goal that opened the scoring. He followed that up with the 11th-minute goal against Jamaica that gave the U.S. a brief lead.

Weah’s performance built on his showing from the previous window, in which he forced the game-winning goal against Costa Rica, and such has been the winger’s play that the U.S. hasn’t really felt the absence of injured attacker Gio Reyna. On a team in which effective wing play is prized, Weah has cemented his spot in manager Gregg Berhalter’s rotation and looks a solid bet to head to Qatar, should the U.S. qualify.The other source of comfort came from the team’s center-backs — in particular, Walker Zimmerman. This is a player who was left off the initial roster for the October window, was then called in due to John Brooks‘ back injury and subsequently looked sharp in games against the Reggae Boyz and Panama. In this window, Zimmerman made the most of additional playing time and was a dominating presence in both matches, though he counted himself lucky to be bailed out by a foul call on Damion Lowe that wiped out what would have been a late, game-winning Jamaica goal.Miles Robinson was solid against Mexico, his late red card notwithstanding, while Chris Richards has performed well in both of his World Cup qualifying starts. The center-back position has been touted as an area of strength and depth, and it became so clear in this window that Brooks, long thought to be a lock for the starting XI, arguably has some considerable work to do to win back his spot.The progress showed by the likes of Weah and Zimmerman hints that there is indeed depth within the U.S. player pool, but like just about every team on the planet, the depth is uneven and there are certain individuals the U.S. simply can’t do without.One of those is Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder rebounded from the two-game, internal suspension meted out by Berhalter, and he remains the emotional hub for this team — so much so that his absence was palpable against the Reggae Boyz. At present, there’s simply no other player who provides the same level of two-way play as McKennie, which is all the more reason he needs to compete with more discipline. It’s one thing to pick up a yellow card for a tactical foul; it’s another to be issued a caution for getting into a fracas with an opponent, which is what happened against Mexico.Pulisic’s value also remains immense, as his substitute performance against Mexico reaffirmed. The only concern is his durability. USMNT fans will be hoping that the two months between now and the next window will see the Chelsea winger build on his fitness and get a run of games with his club, which is no easy task given the talent around him.The striker position has some questions around it as well. Ricardo Pepi spent the past two matches basically taking his share of lumps for the team and he held up relatively well, assisting Weah’s goal on Tuesday. But it seems as though the U.S. could benefit from having a different (read: more physical) kind of forward at its disposal. Berhalter loves his strikers to be mobile, which is better to help press from the front. It’s also why, at present, a player like Jesus Ferreira is in the mix while Daryl Dike isn’t. But there may be a time when the USMNT will need a scrappier kind of goal, and Dike seems much more likely to conjure up that kind of play than Ferreira or even Josh Sargent. Through all of this, eight games into the World Cup qualifying campaign with six to come in early 2022, the U.S. finds itself about where it hoped to be, in second place. Achieving this while missing some key players like Reyna, Pulisic and McKennie for extended stretches leads to more of a glass-half-full perspective. Compare and contrast that with four years ago, when the USMNT was perpetually vulnerable and ultimately slid out of the top four.However, there’s also a nagging sense of déjà vu because the Americans seem unable to string together impressive performances. When the U.S. last qualified in the 2014 cycle, the team put its stamp on that qualifying campaign with a three-game winning streak; a similar run of form didn’t materialize four years later. It’s easy to pin this lack of consistency on the team’s youth, but the choice of young players isn’t something that’s been forced on Berhalter — it’s an approach he willfully chose long ago.ayThe reality is that the Octagonal is turning into a four-horse race with the U.S. challenged by Mexico, Canada and Panama. Just two points separate those sides, while Costa Rica still has a heartbeat following its dramatic home win over Honduras. One place the U.S. does not want to be in is fourth in the standings, which would force an intercontinental playoff. Circumstances can change quickly, too — look at how Mexico went from first to third in this window — and the U.S. doesn’t want to head into the last qualifying window in March needing a result at either Mexico or Costa Rica.The 2021 calendar year has been one of achievement for this U.S. side. It claimed two trophies and fashioned a rare three-game winning streak against Mexico. Along the way, this group of players is maturing, too, but for all of this team’s growth, the USMNT needs to find more of a killer instinct on the road in World Cup qualifying that will create some separation between itself and the other contenders. Doing so will take the U.S. to its ultimate goal.

Opinion: With disappointment of 2018 World Cup qualifying still fresh, USMNT’s draw feels more like a loss

Nancy Armour, USA TODAYTue, November 16, 2021, 11:24 PM

Forgive supporters of the USMNT if they don’t share Gregg Berhalter’s calm and positivity.The angst from the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s shocking failure to make the World Cup four years ago remains, making a winnable draw in Jamaica feel more like a loss. No matter how many times Berhalter said the team is on track, that ending this window in first or second place is what they wanted, fans will eye the Concacaf standings warily, wondering how costly those two dropped points might be.The Americans are in second place in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings, with Canada in first and Mexico in third. But only the top three teams automatically advance to the World Cup in Qatar next year and, with six qualifiers left, just two points separate the top four teams.“We’re looking at it as good result,” Berhalter insisted after the U.S. men needed a questionable disallowed goal to escape Jamaica with a 1-1 tie Tuesday night. “Anytime you can get a point away from home is a good thing in Concacaf, I want to be very clear by saying that.”Most qualifying windows, that would be a reasonable statement to make. But all those near misses in 2017 have left their mark. Had the U.S. men only won another home game four years ago, or picked up another couple of points on the road, they would have been in Russia.Instead, they were shut out for the first time in 32 years, kickstarting the rebuild that has produced the youngest U.S. team ever. Most talented, too.Which helps explain the frustration with Tuesday night’s result.The USMNT had one of its finest performances ever against Mexico on Friday night. The “Dos a Cero” scoreline might have been similar, but this victory was like none of the others. The U.S. men dictated the style and tempo of the game, forcing El Tri to adapt and react rather than the other way around as usual.Christian Pulisic being sublime was not a surprise, but Tim Weah and Yunus Musah were revelations. Weston McKennie’s command and skill underscored why the U.S. men are a lesser team when he’s not on the field. Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson were a dynamic combination on the backline.It was the kind of performance that grabs the attention of the rest of the world, a declaration that this is not the same old U.S. team.And then, four days later, the USMNT was lucky to avoid a loss against Jamaica.“It was all in our hands,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “The U.S. didn’t create any goal-scoring opportunities tonight. They were gifted with a goal one time. The guys kept their head, stayed in the game, managed to equalize, and I think we could have gone on and won the game. Numerous opportunities presented itself, but we didn’t capitalize on it.“We could have easily come away with three points. But I’m grateful and we keep fighting.”Yes, the field was patchy, to put it kindly. The conditions were brutal, with temperatures in the 80s that made humidity feel more like the 90s. The Americans also were short-handed, with McKennie (yellow-card accumulation) and Robinson (red card) out and Pulisic still on limited minutes.But these are the kind of challenges all teams encounter. Conditions in Qatar are going to be tough, too. There will be quick turnarounds between games, particularly the deeper the tournament goes.If the Americans want to play with the best, want to be the best, they’re going to have to find ways to rise above whatever obstacle is put in front of them.Maybe it’s not fair to expect the young Americans to have it figured out yet. They are, as Berhalter pointed out, an Olympic-age team, with an average roster age of about 22.“Each game we play, we grow,” said Weah, who followed his breakout performance against Mexico with the lone U.S. goal Tuesday. “The consistency will come. We’re all young.”With 15 points after the first eight games, it’s hard to fathom the USMNT not qualifying for Qatar. But the top four teams are so close that one bad game — or two dropped points, perhaps — could make the difference between booking an automatic trip to Qatar and having to sweat out a playoff.And the rest of the USMNT’s games won’t be easy, with trips to Canada and Mexico in the last two windows.Not only is Canada much improved, Canada Soccer isn’t above gamesmanship. It staged Tuesday night’s game in Edmonton, where it was so cold the federation giddily dubbed Commonwealth Stadium “Estadio Iceteca.” Azteca has always been a house of horrors for the USMNT, with just one victory there in a rivalry that dates back to 1934.”We don’t take anything for granted,” Berhalter said. “The next window is going to be important.”Especially when you’ve left points on the table.Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT doesn’t have luxury of leaving points on table in qualifying

The USMNT will surely qualify for the World Cup. The real question: How far can it go while there?

Henry BushnellTue, November 16, 2021, 7:01 PM

The U.S. men’s national team is going to qualify for the World Cup. That was true before this past weekend. It was especially true after a rousing Dos a Cero defeat of Mexico on Friday. It’s still true after a 1-1 draw in Jamaica that some will brand disappointing. The U.S. entered Tuesday night with a 98.3% chance to qualify, per one model. Its odds remain well above 95%. It will need roughly nine points from its last six games, and unless something goes horribly wrong, it will surely get them.The real question now, after a successful November window, is not whether the USMNT will reach Qatar. It’s how much damage the U.S. can do while there.The answer based exclusively on a viewing of Tuesday’s game in Kingston would be a timid “not much.” The U.S. started strong, and took a lead via the ascendent Tim Weah. But it faded after a Michail Antonio rocket leveled the score. Control of the game eluded the U.S. midfield. Second-half chances for the Americans were scarce. A guilt-edged Jamaican miss and a questionable call helped them escape with a point.

MICHAIL ANTONIO. THERE WAS NO STOPPING THAT. 😳His second goal in three appearances for Jamaica 🇯🇲 pic.twitter.com/r6uK1XUCkZ

But all of that that would ignore the bigger picture. This team, which regularly sets “youngest to” and “youngest since” records, is growing on the fly. It’s been good enough, despite inexperience and injuries and suspensions and grueling travel, to rise to the top of CONCACAF’s “Octagonal,” North and Central America’s qualifying grind. More importantly, there’s no telling how much better it can get.

This young USMNT will continue to grow

The only certainty is that the USMNT has time. Twelve months, to be exact, until it will gather in Europe or Qatar. Twelve months for teenagers to mature, for early-20s stars to learn, for a young core that still has never played 90 minutes together to absorb one another’s tendencies, to get in tune.  The team’s youth has been discussed plenty in recent months. U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter has said plenty that it still isn’t discussed enough. Tuesday’s starting lineup, with an average age under 23, was the second-youngest in USMNT World Cup qualifying history. It trailed only an October lineup. The front six, with 23-year-old Christian Pulisic recovering from injury and 23-year-old Weston McKennie suspended, were aged 22, 21, 21,19, 18 and 18. They play in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1. They play in the Champions League, and have been linked with some of the world’s biggest clubs. In Qatar, they’ll presumably be joined by Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna (19) and Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest (21). They are the generation that American soccer message-board obsessives always dreamed ofome will question why they couldn’t beat Jamaica, or Panama last month, or El Salvador the month prior. But “going through [qualifying] for the first time is challenging,” Berhalter pointed out in October. “CONCACAF is hard,” Tim Weah said last week. Conditions are “difficult,” Berhalter said Tuesday, and “rough,” Weah said. “Away games are super hard,” he added. Several teammates have echoed similar sentiments.They are the youngest senior national team in the world, bar none. And while their current collective strength is debatable, their future is clearly brighter than their present. Twelve months ago, a few of Tuesday’s starters weren’t even in the USMNT picture. Their development over the past year has been remarkable. Their development over the next year is the type of prospect that should have U.S. fans salivating.”I think we’re growing,” Weah said. “Each camp that we come in, the games that we play, we grow.”That is not to say that the Yanks will enter November 2022 as group favorites or World Cup contenders. It’s to say that — well, they could, couldn’t they?They won’t be Brazil or France, or Argentina or England. But why can’t they grow into the Netherlands or Colombia or Switzerland? And something even greater when the World Cup arrives on U.S. soil in 2026, when much of the current core will be in their primes?

The USMNT’s route to qualification

First things first, of course. They won’t take qualifying for granted. Berhalter will make that clear as he sends his players back off to their clubs on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. He won’t like reading this. Mathematically, a place in Qatar is far from secure. But with home games remaining against El Salvador, Honduras and Panama, it’s overwhelmingly likely. The worst-case scenario, at this point, is a fourth-place finish and an intercontinental playoff, in which the U.S. would very likely be favored.So a ticket will surely be punched in March. Attention will then turn to what the USMNT can do with it, and how far it can go. A year of vital growth — from 18 years old to 19 in some cases, from 21 to 22 in others — will hold the answers.

USMNT ‘on the right track’ for World Cup qualification despite disappointment of dropped points in Jamaica

November 17, 2021 by Larry Henry Jr  SBI  

The U.S. men’s national team concluded its 2021 competitive schedule on Tuesday night with a road draw against Jamaica, and although the result won’t feel like a positive to many, the Americans continued on the right track heading into its final six World Cup Qualifying matches.Gregg Berhalter’s side saw an early advantage slip away in a 1-1 draw with the Reggae Boyz in Kingston, hanging on for the USMNT’s third draw through eight qualifiers overall. While the USMNT did drop two points on the road, hanging on against a Jamaican side desperate for points was key to ending November’s window without a defeat.“We’re not looking at tonight as a disappointing result, we’re looking at it as a good result,” Berhalter said postmatch. “Any time you can get a point on the road is a good thing. I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more from tonight is completely natural, but this is a point we’ll absolutely take from the road.“What we will do now is evaluate, we’re going to be back in camp in about two weeks for the friendly against Bosnia and then we have another break before the January camp begins,” Berhalter said. “There’s not a lot of rest for us. The message to the guys was to come into this camp and end in one of the top two spots and we’re in position to do that. Now we have six qualifiers left and hopefully we can see the qualification.”Outside of Michail Antonio’s thunderous blast in the 22nd minute, the Americans held the Jamaicans to only one shot on goal. Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards did well to keep the West Ham forward in check for most of the match, while DeAndre Yedlin did the same with Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey.Timothy Weah continued his good run of form with his second international goal, showing off his determination in the box and clinical ability from a tight angle. Ricardo Pepi and Brenden Aaronson both logged a lot of running in the match, pressuring Andre Blake and the Jamaican backline for their 77-minute outings.It wasn’t a glamourous performance by the Americans at all, but it’s another positive step for this youthful squad of players.“I think we’re on the right track, having the guys get experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-eligible team in regards to age, roughly 22.3 years old average age. The guys have done a great job adapting to that and we’ve had some very strong performances at home and the road performances we’ve earned five points from four matches.”“In 2021 we’ve lifted two trophies, we’ve won 16 games, and we’re where we want to be in qualifying,” Berhalter said. “The guys have done a great job and it’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”The USMNT will take plenty of positives from its four-point window, especially after handing rivals Mexico its first loss of qualifying on Friday. Several young players are racking up consistent minutes in the squad, providing an early glimpse of what the long-term roster could be for 2022 and beyond.Veteran players like Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Zimmerman have contributed big moments this month and will now aim to continue playing leading roles heading into the new year. Other players like Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, and John Brooks could be back into the squad by January and February’s qualifiers, giving Berhalter even more options to call upon for matches against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.“The first window was a major learning experience for us in terms of how to mentally prepare for these three games and get through the travel and we got five points from those matches,” Berhalter said about the September window. “Then the next two window we still averaged four points in each of those, so that’s pretty good when you think about the inexperience and youth of this group.“We’re learning on the fly,” Berhalter said. “One game is in a cold environment, the next is in a tropical place, so it’s all different challenges we have to face. I think the guys have done a good job of learning as we go, and now it’s about making sure we’re ready for 2022. We will take our position for right now.”

Gregg Berhalter praises USMNT backs, Michail Antonio; Updates Pulisic, Musah health

Nicholas MendolaTue, November 16, 2021, 8:44 PM

Gregg Berhalter wasn’t about to play the blame game when it came to the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday in Kingston.In fact, he was all about the positives.The USMNT coach celebrated his back line and really his entire team after the Americans took four of six points from Mexico and Jamaica to stay in a World Cup qualifying position more than halfway through the Octagonal.“I think we’re on the right track, having to get the guys experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-aged team and it’s really learning as we go. We’ve had really strong home performances and got five points on the road. When I look at 2021 in general, we lifted two trophies and we’re in the position we want to be in World Cup qualification.”

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.The Yanks are now off until a December friendly and a pair of January qualifiers, and will certainly hope to be a bit healthier when they come back to CONCACAF matches.There’s a question of whether all players will be released for the January games, but Berhalter could use only Christian Pulisic off the bench, lost Weston McKennie and Miles Robinson to yellow card accumulation, didn’t have Giovanni Reyna at all, and had to play an ailing Yunus Musah versus Jamaica.

“Yunus was a little bit under the weather,” said Berhalter, who lifted Musah with 24 minutes to play in Kingston. “He came down with strep throat and we could tell that was taking a toll on him. We were thinking about halftime. But I don’t want this to be about the field.”Berhalter explained that his pregame comments about Pulisic perhaps starting were about gamesmanship, as the American came into the match when Musah exited the fray.“He wasn’t ready to start the game,” Berhalter said. “He’s working his way back, man. We wanted to keep the big picture in this window. He’s doing well.”Berhalter heaped praise on center backs Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards for Tuesday’s performance as well as Miles Robinson’s work alongside Zimmerman against Mexico.

After all, Jamaica’s forwards are their strength.“It was one big moment, his goal, but we all watch Michail Antonio every week in the Premier League and he’s dominating,” Berhalter said. “He can turn really well, if you get in a physical battle you’re probably not going to win. Don’t forget Leon Bailey, Tecatito, Raul Jimenez, Lozano. We faced some good competition this window and our back line held up well.”As for the pitch, Berhalter didn’t like it but knows that Jamaica had to fight the same battle.“It gets really choppy and you have to get the ball out of tight areas,” he said. “It’s tough. Both teams had to deal with it and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to go side to side to get behind them and Jamaica wanted to go direct. Chris Richards and Walker Zimmerman did a really good job with Antonio and what came their way.””I was happy to get the goal against them but unfortunately we didn’t get the full points but we take the one point and we continue.”Tim Weah joins @jennyachiu to discuss the @USMNT‘s draw on the road against Jamaica. 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/fUsuzLQ3I5

Jamaica vs USMNT final score: 3 things we learned as Weah scores again

By Nicholas MendolaNov 16, 2021, 7:02 PM EST

The United States men’s national team made it four of six points from the international break, burnishing its World Cup stock with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica on Tuesday in Kingston.They’ll take it.Timothy Weah’s acute finish put the Yanks ahead 1-0 only for Michail Antonio’s vicious goal from 34 yards to leave the match level at halftime.A dodgy pitch and officiating that apparently required X-ray worthy fouls for a whistle to be considered left this match ugly despite the two fantastic goals.Gregg Berhalter’s Americans open the door for either Mexico or Canada to pass them for first on the table with a win later in Edmonton, but their 15 points will find them in an automatic qualifying spot until at least January.

NBCSportsRemaining CONCACAF World Cup qualifying opponents

Jamaica’s fourth draw leaves it with seven points through eight matches. The Reggae Boyz will finish at least four points out of the playoff spot.


Jamaica vs USMNT final score, stats

Final score: Jamaica 1, USMNT 1

Scorers: Weah (11′), Antonio (22′)

Shot attempts: USMNT, 9-6

Shots on goal: 2-2

Possession: USMNT, 62%


Three things we learned from Jamaica vs USMNT

1. The F in CONCACAF is for Foul: The past few qualifiers have seen CONCACAF nations targeting Christian Pulisic with contact after contact, much of it the illegal variety, and Jamaica made sure to foul just about everyone in a U.S. shirt. Pulisic was on the bench to start but Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson were targeted and sent airborne on multiple occasions.

2. Jamaica finding itself: The USMNT may end up grateful to have played Jamaica twice in the first eight qualifiers because Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey are just finding their footing and each other in the Reggae Boyz shirt. Antonio, of course, scored a vicious goal from 34 yards, and Bailey was a first-half menace to the USMNT. The Reggae Boyz may have drawn too many matches already, but should only get better as long as Antonio and Bailey keep showing up.

3. Lack of VAR benefits USMNT? The joke that is CONCACAF not helping every Octagonal nation have access to VAR may have actually helped the United States, as Jamaica had the ball in the goal late only to see Walker Zimmerman adjudged to have been fouled by the scorer. Replays showed that the play was close enough that a video reviewer might have awarded the goal.

Man of the Match: Liam Moore

The Reading center back was a handful for the Yanks, with three clearances, a blocked shot, two interceptions, and a tackle helping Jamaica limit true danger from the Americans.


Jamaica vs USMNT recap

The subpar pitch conditions were on display early as both teams fought odds bounces and worse footing, and Weah showed confidence when he put the Yanks ahead despite the territory.

Weah worked a 1-2 with Ricardo Pepi, who had worked back toward the ball from inside the 18, and worked his defender before spinning a shot past Andre Blake, off the far post, and over the line.

2-0 was a distinct possibility when Andre Blake robbed Brenden Aaronson after the Reggae Boyz defenders blocked a Ricardo Pepi chance.

Jamaica leveled the score before the break when Antonio buried a shot from 34 yards after being given a glimmer of light from an aggressive backtracking Tyler Adams.

Gianluca Busio looked very good for the Yanks in the early stages of the second half and curled a shot just over the bar in the 52nd minute.

Bobby Decordova-Reid should’ve had it 2-1 to the visitors when Antonee Robinson cut out a cross onto the path of the Fulham man, who missed badly over the goal from the edge of the six.

Christian Pulisic entered for the final 24 minutes and was fouled twice, drawing a free kick, but was otherwise fairly well-handled by the Reggae Boyz.

Jamaica had the ball in the goal in the 84th minute but it was a fairly-clear foul on Walker Zimmerman that allowed the Reggae Boyz’ would-be goal.

USMNT player ratings: Tim Weah shines as rest of attack sputters vs Jamaica

By Andy EdwardsNov 17, 2021, 7:24 AM EST

The USMNT picked up another point on its path to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Tim Weah standing out as the Yanks’ best player and back-to-back man-of-the-match winner.The rest of the attack, though? Not so much. The defense was solid and only conceded from a seemingly impossible strike. Balancing those two facts will not be easy for USMNT fans, especially now that World Cup qualifying goes on hiatus for two months.Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary from not onnly PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized), but also PST’s honorary American (for a night, or until the USMNT plays England in the World Cup again), Joe Prince-Wright (also italicized)…


GK – Zack Steffen: 6 (6.5) – So, Steffen is the no. 1 goalkeeper again, just like that? There was plenty of uproar last month when Matt Turner kept the starting place when Steffen returned to the team, but it doesn’t appear to have nuked the USMNT’s chemistry or confidence, as some believed it would. Having two trustworthy goalkeepers is a luxury, not a problem. And no, there’s no way Turner (or probably any other goalkeeper in the world) gets to the lightning bolt that came out of Michail Antonio’s foot (WATCH HERE – Jamaica’s only shot on target for 75 minutes).

When it comes to Antonio’s goal, could he have saved it/broken his hand? It’s a slim possibility, but I have a hard time faulting the Manchester City keeper for not getting to the vicious shot from distance. With the dodgy pitch, his footwork was important. (NM)

RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6 (5.5) – Sergiño Dest remains the starter at right back (when healthy), but the November international window made it quite clear that Yedlin is the firmly entrenched backup.

Didn’t get close enough on multiple occasions to stop crosses and should have been punished when Bobby Decordova-Reid missed a sitter. Some poor crosses in the final third, too. Very much Sergino Dest’s backup. (JPW)

CB – Chris Richards: 6.5 (6.5) – This was a tough spot for Richards to step into, especially after watching the Miles Robinson-Walker Zimmerman partnership blossom as World Cup qualifying wore on, but Richards never looked out of his depth while battling for 90 minutes against one of the world’s most in-form strikers at the moment. This was a big test, and he passed.

A tough outing for the young center back, but he did OK. Tried to step high on Antonio as much as he could. Couldn’t get on the ball (usually a huge strength of his) as much as he would have liked, but stood tall. (JPW)

CB – Walker Zimmerman: 7 (7) – With Robinson unavailable due to suspension, the responsibility of organizing the defense fell solely on Zimmerman. Typically, it’s Robinson who waits behind as Zimmerman surges forward to break up play ahead of the backline, but Zimmerman pulled double-duty to ease the 21-year-old into a tough spot. He did it well, as evidenced by Jamaica’s paltry attacking output.

At times he was exposed for pace by Antonio, but the West Ham man does that to a lot of defenders. Calm, composed, and a big part of keeping the Yanks organized. The question isn’t whether he’s one of America’s top two center backs, but how much of a problem that will be against more explosive center forwards at a World Cup. (NM)

LB – Antonee Robinson: 5 – It’s hard to remember Robinson doing anything other than squaring the ball for Decordova-Reid inside the USMNT’s six-yard box. He’s been great in recent outings, but it wasn’t his finest moment.

DM – Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6) – For a second straight game, Adams’ impact was limited by opponents’ plan to deny him easy possession of the ball and simply harass him at every turn when that didn’t work. This is the new reality for the USMNT and Adams, the Yanks’ most important and influential player, as he continues to ascend to the next level. Good news: Adams and Berhalter are smart enough to adjust when World Cup qualifying resumes in January.

Solid and steady throughout, but could he have done more to stop Antonio cutting inside and driving toward goal on his stunning strike? Probably. Getting caught on the wrong side of forwards cutting in from the left is one weakness in his game that he must work on. The captain dug deep alongside Busio and Musah, but the USMNT definitely missed Weston McKennie (suspension) in midfield alongside Adams. (JPW)

CM – Gianluca Busio: 6 (7) – Speaking of tough spots, Busio was likely selected to replace McKennie with the aforementioned anti-Adams gameplan in mind. With Adams unable to get on the ball as often as Berhalter would like, having a pair of ball-carrying shuttlers one line ahead would, in theory, fix the USMNT’s supply chain issues. It’s a big change, on the fly, with limited training time, and so on and so forth. The inexperience of Busio and Yunus Musah fell short of what the USMNT needed from its central midfield duo, though neither individual struggled by any means.

It was a night with precious few standout performances from the USMNT, but Busio was the new piece in the puzzle, and I thought the Venezia youngster showed the composure of a much older player (being pro since you’re a kid at Sporting KC helps that maturity along). He was very good in tight spaces and even found himself into shooting position for what would’ve been a marvelous second goal. (NM)

CM – Yunus Musah: 6 – See, above: Busio, Gianluca.

RW – Tim Weah: 7.5 (7.5) – This game featured Weah’s best moment to date in a USMNT shirt, even if not his best overall performance. Heck, it wasn’t even his best outing during this international window. It wasn’t so long ago that Weah looked like he might fall considerably short of the lofty hopes and dreams of USMNT fans, but he has clearly hit a massive development upswing in the last 6-12 months, and the USMNT is benefitting in big ways.

Start him at a 7 for the goal alone, a wonderful finish that showcased physicality, power, and a quality finish. Weah is daring Berhalter to play anyone else opposite of Christian Pulisic, and honestly he may be next man up if Ricardo Pepi continues to run cold. (NM)

LW – Brenden Aaronson: 5.5 – An anonymous game from arguably the most consistent attacking player through the first two windows (six games). The physicality of the Jamaican challenges made it plenty difficult for Aaronson to remain upright.

CF – Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 (5) – The 18-year-old was unlucky to not score the USMNT’s second goal shortly after the first, but that was about it from Pepi. The problematic position remains problematic. Countdown to World Cup: 12 months, at which point he’ll (hopefully) be a street-wise veteran.

Hardly had a kick, but kept on working up top. Involved in build-up to Weah’s goal. Some hefty challenges on him early in the game seemed to unsettle the FC Dallas forward. After his fine start to qualifying, the teenager is a marked man. He’s playing like a player who knows they have a lot of big European clubs watching them. Everything seems a little rigid and forced right now. (JPW)

Sub – Christian Pulisic: 5.5 – A fully fit, full-of-confidence Pulisic doesn’t do this, but goodness was it frustrating to watch on Tuesday, and I’m glad someone else noticed it. The USMNT needs more from its most accomplished attacker, and hopefully it will come with fitness and playing time.

Breaking down the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica: thoughts & player ratings

The United States national team finished the November window with four points from two games. The players were perhaps a bit disappointed but the team is still on a heallthy pace to qualify. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the game with his thougths, analysis, and player ratings after a second viewing

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA    NOVEMBER 17, 20214:50 AM

THE UNITED STATES DREW Jamaica 1-1 to end its November window and turn the page heading into the final two World Cup qualifying windows in January and March. The game wasn’t pretty and the U.S. team could have done better, but drawing on the road still keeps Gregg Berhalter’s team on pace to qualify.The starting XI was hardly as surprise. Nine of the players remained from the lineup that defeated Mexico while Chris Richards replaced the suspended Miles Robinson and Gianluca Busio replaced the suspended Weston Mckennie.Meanwhile, Jamaica had its best starting XI featuring Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio. Playing in Kingston, the U.S. team was matched up against the best Jamaica had to offer.The U.S. team started strong with Tim Weah scoring in the 11th minute. On the play, Weah received the ball in the midfield, played it to Ricardo Pepi. With his first touch, Pepi got the ball back to Weah who moved into the box, got around Bobby Decordova-Reid, and then beat Andre Blake for a 1-0 advantage.The lead lasted just 11 minutes as Antonio got the ball in the midfield, took advantage of space on the left side of the midfield, and unleashed a 34-yard blast that beat Zack Steffen.The U.S. team controlled the remainder of the first half but was unable to capitalize.The second half became very physical. The U.S. still held the possession edge but Jamaica had two dangerous chances, once when Antonee Robinson was lost on a cross and Decordova-Reid sent a shot over the bar. Then towards the end, Jamaica had a goal called back when Damion Lowe was judged to have fouled Walker Zimmerman before his header.The final whistle sounded with both teams disappointed. The U.S. team failed to take advantage of a big opportunity while Jamaica’s position in the table is in terrible shape as it sits seven points back of qualification.Here are some thoughts on the U.S. performance.

 FINAL THIRD/SET PIECES LACKING

 Poor field conditions aside, the U.S. team controlled the run of play.  Consider this, the U.S. was 326/428 in passing while Jamaica was just 171/269. The U.S. completed 155 more passes than Jamaica, nearly twice as many. The U.S. team also had a huge edge in completed passes in the attack half: The U.S. team completed 154 passes in the attacking half while Jamaica had just 92That pressure did not yield nearly enough chances. Heading into 2022, the final ball needs to be there.  lso, crossing was very ineffective. The U.S. team was credited in the stats as sending in 20 crosses. Only twice were these crosses accurate.Set pieces are the biggest weakness of the U.S. team so far this entire World Cup qualifying campaign. It is surprising because the team was effective at this in Nations League and at the Gold Cup. In qualifying, there has been no end-product. Last night, the U.S. team had Pulisic, Busio, and Aaronson taking the kicks without any success.

 THE PHYSICAL GAME

 Without Weston McKennie, Gregg Berhalter elected to start two teenagers in a three-man midfield in Yunus Musah and Gianluca Busio. While talented, Jamaica was able to neutralize their talent with a lot of fouls and forcing the U.S. team into trying to win second balls as opposed to having opportunities to dribble.The midfield structure broke down a lot. Tyler Adams typically likes to get on the ball 80-100 times a game. When he does that, the rest of the team plays better and the other midfielders are able to attack more. Against Jamaica, Adams had just 55 touches and was not able to have the impact in the game he typically does.Adams had the biggest drop off but then that led to the other midfielders seeing a drop off. Busio had just 66 touches over 90 minutes. Musah had 46 touches over 66 minutes and his replacement, Kellyn Acosta had just 12 over his 24 minutes.When the U.S. midfielders are not on the ball but the U.S. team is controlling possession, that either means that the defenders touch the ball a lot, the ball was involved in the front three, or the ball is forced out to the wings a lot. Neither Aaronson, Weah, or Pepi had 30 touches, so Jamaica’s pressure was designed to not allow the U.S. team to have an easy time in the middle of the field.Jamaica finished with 15 pass interceptions while the U.S. team had just four. Yes, the U.S. team should have more since they had more attempts, but Jamaica was able to telegraphy well what the U.S. team was trying to do.The physical game really hurt the U.S team’s midfield. If Weston McKennie played, he could have won more physical battles and helped the team go up the middle.The wingers and fullbacks couldn’t threaten enough from wide positions to open the game up.

 LOOKING AHEAD

 The U.S. team has a favorable window in January but a brutal window in February. Is the U.S. team going to rotate lineups or try to keep the same XI in-tact? Winning the two games at home is absolutely critical to the team’s chances and El Salvador and Honduras are good opportunities where the team should be heavily favored.Set pieces, better crossing, and winning the physical games are key. One thing 2021 has taught is that only rarely are teams ever going to be completely healthy. Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest should be back from their current injuries (and Pulisic should be fit) but will there be more injuries?The U.S. team has done well this qualifying campaign considering that it is sending out starting XI’s with average ages often under 23 and none of the players having been through qualifying before. It’s learning on the fly.The good news is that it is far more likely that the U.S. team continues to improve as opposed to regresses. But limiting mistakes and finding ways to make big plays is what typically determines qualifying or not.

 PLAYER RATINGS

 THE STARTING LINEUP

 Zack Steffen: The Manchester City goalkeeper allowed a shot from 34-yards and while it was a brilliant shot, Steffen’s positioning could have been better. He wasn’t forced into any big saves and made a few mistakes in the second half with his distribution and decision-making to leave his line. He did make a few nice clearances off crosses and set pieces. Rating: 5.0

Antonee Robinson: The Fulham-based left back had a tough game and was lucky Decordova-Reid didn’t score after he got past Robinson. His passing just wasn’t there. Rating: 4.5

Chris Richards: The Hoffenheim central defender did well to cover for Antonee Robinson, who was typically pushed deeply into the attack. He had a few suspect moments but generally acquitted himself well. Rating: 6.5

Walker Zimmerman: While some of his long-balls weren’t accurate, Zimmerman’s aerial ability was important to team’s defense as he won 7/10 duels and 6/8 aerials, and had four clearances. Jamaica was sending balls into the box and Zimmerman regularly did well to defend them. Rating: 7.0

DeAndre Yedlin: While his crossing was also lacking, Yedlin was solid defensively and made no major mistakes. Rating: 5.5

Tyler Adams: It was a tough assignment for Adams who far more defensively inclined than the other midfielders. He broke up players but didn’t get on the ball nearly enough. When he did, he did well and had a nice range of passing. Rating: 6.5

Gianluca Busio: His first World Cup qualifying start, Busio had a nice shot from distance and was on the ball more than all of the other midfielders. He set up two chances and his passing range was sharp. Rating: 7.0

Yunus Musah: It was a strong start to the game for Musah but he faded a bit (and it was later revealed he had strep throad). He’s a threat off the dribble but had some tough turnovers too. Rating: 6.0

Brenden Aaronson: The Salzburg attacker was good in the press to limit Jamaica’s possession. His final ball wasn’t there but he was aggressive every time he was is possession. Rating: 6.0

Tim Weah: The Lille attacker had a fantastic goal when he blew through the Jamaican defense. He tired but is strong start to the game gave the U.S. team and edge and the lead. Rating: 7.5

Ricardo Pepi: The FC Dallas forward need to get the ball more for shots – he had just two shots which were both blocked. He worked well with Weah on the goal for the assist. Rating: 6.0

 THE SUBSTITUTES

 Kellyn Acosta: The Colorado midfielder added some bite to the midfield late. Rating: 6.0

Christian Pulisic: Pulisic came off the bench and battled hard, drew a bunch of fouls. His set piece delivery didn’t improve the U.S. team’s struggles but Pulisic helped to keep Jamaica on their back foot. Rating: 6.5

Paul Arriola: The DC United winger only had four touches but won a corner late. Rating: NR

Jesus Ferreira: The FC Dallas attacker only had two touches but one of them was a dangerous ball into the final third. Rating: NR

The Thump and the Whistle: Decisive Sounds Define USMNT’s ‘Decent’ Draw

After a booming goal from Michail Antonio and a late, favorable foul call, the U.S. may be fortunate to leave Jamaica with a point, but it’s a valuable one in the big World Cup qualifying picture.  Brian Straus SI 

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The sound of Michail Antonio’s foot striking the ball had almost the same reverberation—the same sort of visceral thump you can feel surge through your chest—as the beat in the Bob Marley medley that was blasting inside Jamaica’s National Stadium about half an hour earlier.This is a country that’s defined in part by sound, and so the first match played in front of Jamaican fans since before the pandemic fittingly was as well.There was the din of the vuvuzelas and air horns carried by the small but enthusiastic crowd of 4,100 here at the venue they call The Office. There was the unmistakable leathery punch you could hear across Independence Park as Antonio, a new Reggae Boy recruit, leveled the score on a stunning, world-class goal that altered Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier. And then there was the whistle that saved it for the U.S. men’s national team, which unexpectedly benefited from a road refereeing decision that fell its way.The Costa Rican middle man ruled out a potential Jamaican game-winner in the 84th minute, thus preserving a 1-1 draw for the Americans. Perhaps if The Office was filled to its 35,000 capacity, Juan Calderón would’ve been less decisive or sympathetic in that critical moment.“I don’t think you get that call at times,” said U.S. center back Walker Zimmerman, the player Jamaica’s Damion Lowe was adjudged to have fouled before heading home what would’ve been the backbreaker. “So it’s fortunate.”But this was an odd game in a slightly surreal setting. Jamaica has been taking the pandemic really seriously. There are signs and billboards around the capital reminding residents to comply with protocols. Entering a hotel, business or bus often required temperature checks and/or a liberal spritz of hand sanitizer, and masks are ubiquitous inside and out. Once Marley’s music ended, the stadium PA was used most frequently to remind fans scattered around the bleachers to keep their masks on and stay six feet apart.A national curfew of 8 p.m. pushed Tuesday’s kickoff forward to 5 p.m, which feels almost like lunch time in Concacaf. And so the moon rose over the lush green hills sitting just behind the arena as the U.S. and Jamaica contested a scrappy and physical qualifier during which you could hear just about everything—from the shouts of individual supporters to the pivotal plays that’ll shape the road to Qatar.“It wasn’t really much of a soccer match. It was more just physicality—who could run longer and just continue to fight, and I’m proud of the boys of how they did that,” U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. “It wasn’t a pretty match and we knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty game going into it. We knew that we needed to fight and that’s exactly what we did. We got a decent result.”There was some pregame pressure on the Americans to equal the proactive performance they put on last Friday in Cincinnati. There, the U.S. played Mexico off the TQL Stadium stadium pitch in what became an instant “Dos a Cero” classic. Conditions were far different here in the Caribbean, however. Weston McKennie’s suspension and Yunus Musah’s strep throat (he played 65 minutes) impacted the U.S. midfield, the Reggae Boyz were buoyed by having any fans at all and the choppy field lent itself to the direct, long-ball soccer the hosts chose to play. Absent the requisite chemistry and rhythm in midfield, not to mention the turnovers it often creates against teams that try to keep the ball, the U.S. was left to try to limit Antonio and compatriot Leon Bailey and endure the slog.The draw (and Canada’s subsequent win over Mexico) ensured the U.S. (4-1-3) would conclude the November window in second place in the Concacaf Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers to next year’s World Cup and the fourth to an intercontinental playoff. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said here that he was happy with that big picture, even if Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t ideal. The lineup he fielded in Kingston was the second youngest in the U.S.’s World Cup qualifying history, averaging under 23 years of age.“We’re looking at it as a good result. Any time you can get a point away from home it is a good thing in Concacaf qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that. For the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road,” he said.“We wanted to end in first or second position this window, and we’re in position to do that. We’re going to do that. So that’s positive. And now we have six games left—two windows [early next year]. And that’s where we want to hopefully seal the ualification.” The Americans looked like they ready to take a big step toward Qatar early Tuesday. They enjoyed the stronger start and took an 11th-minute lead through winger Tim Weah, this month’s U.S. revelation. The son of a Jamaican mother (and a very famous father), Weah lifted the visitors in front with a beautiful run through two defenders and a tight-angled, left-footed finish past goalkeeper Andre Blake. It was the potential highlight of the night for 10 minutes.Antonio, 31, is new to the Jamaican national team but he’s an established Premier League star who’s tied for second on the 2021-22 scoring chart. The London-born son of Jamaican parents had harbored hopes of playing for England, but after several close calls, he agreed to represent the Reggae Boyz and finally received his passport in August. Tuesday’s game was just his third appearance.In the 22nd minute, he picked up the ball in midfield and held off and then turned Tyler Adams before cutting back onto his right foot and unleashing a shot that echoed around the stadium and shook in the air, bedeviling Steffen. Antonio has Premier League class and confidence infused into an imposing tank of a body. He didn’t do much else Tuesday—the U.S. back four was excellent. But his 35-yard sonic boom reset the game.“Jeez, it was a good one,” Adams said. “Usually when a player cuts in from there, you’re not thinking that he’s going to shoot it. But he didn’t hesitate.”Steffen said the shot’s movement reminded him of the Jabulani, the controversial 2010 World Cup ball that seemed to have a mind of its own.“It was coming in fast. It was moving. I’d have to see it again, but I don’t think I really had much of a chance,” Steffen said.It took the reeling Americans until the second half to rediscover their legs, and Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a promising shot that curled just over the crossbar. But the better chances fell to the hosts. Christian Pulisic’s 66th-minute entry failed to spark the U.S. and as the visitors began to sit deeper, Jamaica earned a corner kick and appeared to take the lead. But as Lowe was racing toward his bench in celebration, Steffen had already taken the free kick and sent the U.S. on the attack. The whistle was quick, both Berhalter and the players said. And while Jamaica didn’t protest much, the lack of VAR in Concacaf qualifying may have helped the Americans.“It looked like he shoved Walker. I thought it was a good call,” Steffen said.“I think the ref blew the whistle pretty early,” Zimmerman said. “I think he had his eyes on it from the beginning of the play, thankfully.”“He called it really early, so it seemed he was pretty confident of the call,” Berhalter added. “He blew the whistle early and that was a relief.”A quick whistle and a sigh of relief—those are the sounds of a close call and a point on the road. But what you won’t hear from this U.S. contingent is a moan or lament. The perspective following the tie was mostly broad and positive. This team is now familiar with the Concacaf grind, and everyone knows what sort of pitfalls lie on the road to the World Cup. The Americans avoided them, for the post part, in Jamaica. Four points in a two-game window that included a showdown with Mexico, and which was played with a handful of high-profile players missing or injured, is a decent return.Berhalter will convene separate camps in December and January. There will be a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Dec. 18, and then qualifying resumes with critical matches against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2. The top half of the Octagonal standings is air tight, but the U.S. is where it wants to be.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in Concacaf qualifying, you know we’re on the right track,” the manager said. “We’re going through a lot here, man, and we’re learning on the fly and the guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position right now and focus on 2022.”

What we learned from the USMNT’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at Jamaica

By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76    ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE   MLS.com Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 08:45 PM

The US men’s national team went down to Jamaica on Tuesday evening and, for 20 minutes, they looked a whole hell of a lot like the side that beat Mexico Dos a Cero last week. Sure, they were missing Weston McKennie’s energy and attacking presence in central midfield, and yes, they were struggling some with the spongy turf of Independence Park.

But Tim Weah scored himself a golazo in the 11th minute and damn near set up another in the 15th. The US were all over the ball, all over the hosts and all about creating distance atop the Octagonal standings for the first time in World Cup qualifying.

Then, in the 22nd minute, Michail Antonio got loose in midfield, strode into the final third and unleashed a thunderbastard from 35 yards that Zack Steffen only managed to wave at as it went top bins. Out of nothing it was 1-1, and after that goal a giddy and gorgeous US outing turned into more of a grim, resolute and ultimately fairly lucky road point.

It was, in one game, an example of how the US want to play – front foot, high energy, connecting passes, multiple runs and runners in the box – and how they absolutely, positively must not. Because the Antonio golazo immediately took the wind out of the US sails, and they never quite got it back.

That’s the big-picture story of the game. Let’s dive into some of the minutiae:

• Each window thus far has had at least one player step forward and make a case for themselves. This window will be remembered as the Tim Weah & Walker Zimmerman window.

Weah, through 20 minutes, was in the same type of form that got him the Man of the Match nod vs. El Tri, and scored as pretty a goal as you could ever hope for. This is gorgeous:

Zimmerman, meanwhile, won everything in the air* all night, and his distribution continues to be an asset rather than a negative. I suspect both these guys made strong cases to be starters once the next window comes around.

(*) Go rewatch how dominant Zimmerman was in the air, consistently outjumping everyone on the field. And then minutes from full time, he suddenly can’t jump higher than 12 inches off the ground?

That doesn’t track. What does track is that he was pretty obviously held down – a classic, clever striker’s foul – and the angle that shows it just wasn’t available on the broadcast. A guy who’s won everything in the air for the past two games doesn’t suddenly forget how to jump.

• Ricardo Pepi’s link play continues to evolve, though his hold-up play is coming along more slowly.

Often those two things are conflated. For clarity, here’s what I mean: On sequences like the one that led to Weah’s goal, in which Pepi gains a yard of separation from his defender, he’s become much more dangerous at connecting meaningful passes. And because his soccer brain and game sense are growing damn near exponentially, he’s become smarter and better at timing his movements and finding those pockets where he can create a yard of space and start linking play.

Where he still struggles is with the physical demands of rugged hold-up play. By this I mean he still can not put his back into a defender, hold them off, shield the ball and allow his teammates to advance upfield. He still lacks that physicality and feel.

When the US are flowing, as they were in the first 20 minutes, Pepi’s improved link play is a game-changer. When the US are bogged down, as they were for most of the final 70, his lack of rugged hold-up play is noticeable and can make it tough for the midfield to find a release valve.

• Ok, about that midfield: Gianluca Busio, McKennie’s replacement, had a chance to make a statement. The one he ultimately made was “I’m no replacement for Weston McKennie.”

Busio’s young and has been very good with Venezia, and I think it’s fair right now to say that he’s much better suited to tactical games on pristine Serie A turf than he is for physical battles in the chop and slop of Concacaf. It’s not just that he doesn’t win those physical battles, it’s that he’s rarely in position to fight them in the first place.

As of the 60th minute he hadn’t registered a tackle, interception or a foul. Worse yet is that he hadn’t registered a single duel as per Opta, which is almost impossible for a central midfielder. That lack of midfield confrontation speaks to how uninvolved he was – how the Reggae Boyz didn’t even feel his presence – and explains, to a pretty good degree, why the US midfield struggled to dominate the game the way they’d managed against El Tri.

He did play better over the final 20ish minutes, but by that point the game was gone and the US were just holding on.

• Compounding this was Tyler Adams having, by his standards, a poor outing. The most glaring moment came on Antonio’s goal. Watch, at the very start of this clip, how Adams jumps a potential passing lane rather than immediately getting touch tight on Antonio:

This is a mistake. The reason Antonio strode into the attacking third in rhythm is because Adams made the wrong choice there, and then was never able to scramble back and get touch tight. If he had been, he’d have blocked that shot, or even forced Antonio into a pass.It’s still a golazo, obviously. But these seemingly tiny margins matter a great deal when facing a striker as dangerous as Antonio.

• I agreed with Briana Scurry’s halftime analysis on Paramount+ that Steffen should’ve done better with his footwork, reading of the play and technique to at least give himself a chance at getting a hand to Antonio’s shot.

That is not the same thing as saying that I think he should’ve saved it, or that Matt Turner would’ve saved it. But Steffen’s sloppy footwork is a recurring theme and explains why he often gets a weak push when attempting to save shots that are going high. Think Daniel Royer’s goal in the 2018 playoffs, or Niall McGinn’s goal from earlier this year.

From a goalkeeper friend of mine:

He just gets going sooo late.

When there is an above-shoulder save across your body, you want to use your top hand (which would be his right in this situation). He just doesn’t have time to get a deep enough plant on his left so he can rotate his torso.

So when you see a keeper use their left in a situation like that, it’s a tell-tale sign that they’re reacting late for some reason.

• Chris Richards was pretty good, though I think he was lucky to get away without being called for a handball in the first half. Still, games like this are very good growing experiences for a young center back who has a good chance of starting in Qatar a year from now, should the US qualify.

• Both fullbacks had weird games – good at the start, but DeAndre Yedlin became bizarrely disengaged, while Antonee Robinson’s sloppiness seemed to increase exponentially with each passing minute.

I don’t know why, and each of them had a hand in one of the game’s pivotal moments: Bobby Reid’s spectacular miss midway through the second half. Easily the biggest let-off of the game for the US.

• Brenden Aaronson constantly got into good spots and just lacked the burst and/or 1-v-1 ability to leverage them into high-quality chances. Then Christian Pulisic came on and… stood at the touchline, waiting to get on the ball then dribble, inverted, into midfield.

It’s not a useless thing by any stretch, as Pulisic drew multiple fouls in dangerous spots, and with better service that actually could’ve been a difference-maker.

But it’s hard to watch the US and not imagine what it would be like if Pulisic was as willing to do the early, hard running as Aaronson is. Watching him repeatedly go 1-v-3 into the hurt locker has become dispiriting.

———

A four-point window is good. Not great, obviously – six would’ve been great. If it’d been six, I’d have fired off a “congrats to the USMNT for qualifying for the World Cup tweet” and risked the wrath of the soccer gods.

But they’re not there yet. This is a young team and Berhalter is still sifting his way through important parts of the roster, and right now it’s clear that the drop from McKennie & Musah to the back-up No. 8s is something of a glaring issue. But even as that’s happened, the US have discovered more depth at center back than most thought was available ahead of qualifying.

So the process continues. Qualifying for the World Cup has never been easy, and that certainly hasn’t changed this time around.

Three Takeaways from the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying draw at Jamaica

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Tuesday, Nov 16, 2021, 10:35 PM  MLS..com 

The US men’s national team didn’t win, which means a large chunk of their fans will be irate for the foreseeable future. And yes, there were ample shortcomings and misunderstandings in Tuesday evening’s 1-1 draw with Jamaica at the National Stadium in Kingston.But as one who witnessed a past edition of the USMNT contrive to lose in a similar scenario at that lovable, vuvuzela-haunted concrete bowl, I’m here to tell you: Gregg Berhalter, Tim Weah & Co. should snatch that point with both hands and escape Independence Park gratefully.  Here are three observations from the Yanks’ eighth game, and 15th point, of the Octagonal.

1

Clunky tempo in the land of rhythm

Jamaica have punched far beyond their weight on the global stage in cultural terms, due in large part to the incredibly vibrant musical landscape that’s gifted the globe with reggae, dancehall, the building blocks of hip-hop and myriad other styles.

The USMNT couldn’t find their flow at all on the scruffy pitch at The Office, however.

Whether it was the surface, the sultry Caribbean air, the din of horn honks from the small (COVID-19-restricted) crowd, the hole of the suspended Weston McKennie – whose value was strikingly underlined by his absence – or a combination of everything, the relentless pace of play and fluid passing exchanges that lit up Friday’s thumping 2-0 win over Mexico were nowhere to be found.

“The conditions change – as you’re playing on that field more, it turns, and it gets really choppy, and then you have to try to get the ball out of tight areas, it becomes challenging,” said Berhalter postgame, making sure to note that while his players were disappointed with the result, he felt just fine gutting out a road point.

“Our passing percentage was down a good bit; Jamaica’s was extremely low in the game. So it’s just the conditions, both teams had to deal with it, and we chose slightly different ways to go about it. We wanted to keep the ball on the ground, move the ball side to side and get behind them. And Jamaica chose to play very direct and relied on first balls and second balls … Overall, a very disruptive game because of the direct play of Jamaica.”

2

Big players make big plays

The general perception is that the USMNT boast superior talent to the Reggae Boyz, understandable given the two teams’ relative places in the Ocho table. Weah’s wonderfully-taken early solo strike seemed to vindicate that point of view, with the slick winger – whose mother is Jamaican – continuing his rich run of form for both club and country.

But that’s a generalization applied across an entire squad. And no one on the pitch possessed more strength, attacking menace and overall quality than the dangerous Michail Antonio, who flipped the game on his head with that astonishing piledriver that hurtled past Zack Steffen from long range to equalize the score.

That’s one of the elite strikers in the world’s most popular league, a talent who could well be starring for England right now if a few junctures in his career had unfolded a bit differently. He’s now scored in back-to-back games for Jamaica and no matter where the islanders are in the standings, his individual ability merits great caution and respect from any opponent.

Berhalter praised the USMNT’s Chris Richards-Walker Zimmerman center-back duo for how they coped with Antonio and the hosts’ overall bombardment of long balls and searching deliveries down the channels. Still, the US back five let their concentration slip in that fleeting phase of broken play, and the West Ham man made them pay.

“We know what his capabilities are,” said Reggae Boyz coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore of Antonio. “He was blessed with a wonderful strike; I think he had the Americans on their back foot for most of the game, and I think it’s a great performance for Michail tonight.”Antonio’s strike destabilized the visitors and underscored their failure to build upon Weah’s solid start, which should have allowed them to better manage the terms of engagement. Letting a game like this spin out of their control and become a ragged, end-to-end affair invited Jamaica back into it when they should’ve been feeling demoralized at falling behind yet again.

“When you talk about the direct play, the physical duels in this game, it was challenging, and it was a lot of stretched field, open field,” said Berhalter. “And it made it hard to get around duels sometimes and very difficult. But overall, I think both teams competed well, and we’ll move on.”

3

Yay, more goalkeeping discourse

Antonio’s howitzer blast was a gorgeous hit by any measure. What’s more subjective is whether Steffen could’ve done better on the play.

For some observers – this correspondent included – it’s uncharitable, even unrealistic to suggest that any other goalkeeper would have a ghost of a chance to parry it away from the top corner. Others, like US women’s national team goalkeeping legend Briana Scurry on the Paramount+ studio analysis team, saw red flags with the Manchester City man’s footwork as he reacted to the ball rocketing off Antonio’s boot, and there’s something to that.

It might not be fair to dock Steffen points for conceding a worldie like that. Yet he looked jittery for much of the rest of the match, punching instead of catching a couple of box deliveries and looking static on the late Damion Lowe headed corner-kick finish that was waved off by a soft-looking foul call. And it slots all too neatly into the ongoing debate about whether he’s a better option than Matt Turner in the USMNT nets.

Conventional wisdom says Turner is the superior shot-stopper and has the advantage of regular minutes with the New England Revolution, while Steffen’s distribution and all-around game gives him the edge but comes with the drawback of only spot match duty as the backup to Ederson at City. After the Mexico game, Berhalter revealed that the coaching staff had tracked the number of possessions gained by Steffen’s comfort with his feet compared to Turner’s more basic passing.

Yet he’s quite noticeably stopped short of declaring Steffen to be his No. 1, even though that was the de facto reality for much of Berhalter’s tenure before this year. On Friday he noted that Steffen would have to “keep his form” to stay ahead of Turner, adding “we’re not hesitant to change goalkeepers.”

Some people consider a clear, undoubted No. 1 in goal to be a bedrock element of a successful team; Berhalter is apparently not one of them.

Assessing the Octagon with 2021 over and just two windows remaining

The November games are over and CONCACAF now has just two qualifying windows remaining. There is now separation between the top half and the bottom half. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the top four teams and discusses the pros/cons of where each sits in their pursuit of qualifying. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
NOVEMBER 17, 2021
4:00 PM

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THE OCTAGON or “Ocho” will now head into the final two windows with each team playing three times in January/February and then three times again in March. Each team has played eight games heading into 2022 and after the November window, we can see a clear separation between the top half and the bottom half.

The top half consists of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Panama – in that order. Just two points separate leading Canada from fourth-place Panama. A five-point gap separates Panama from the bottom half where Costa Rica sits with nine points, Jamaica with seven points, El Salvador with six points, and Honduras with just three.

It is not impossible for Costa Rica to move into the top four, but for now it seems like current top four are the most likely to finish in the top four. We just don’t know their places.

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As most know by now, the top three qualify for the World Cup while the fourth-place team has to go to an intercontinental playoff – where it could likely be the underdog.

Between Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Panama you have a four-team race for three spots.

Here is a look at each team and why their fans should feel both optimistic and concerned over their current standing.

CANADA

Points: 16

January Window: @Honduras, USA, @El Salvador

March Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Panama

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Canada is atop the group, is playing well, has yet to lose, and the 2-1 win over Mexico capped a six-point window and created a sense of euphoria the country has never seen about its men’s national team in well over a generation. The team is loaded with talent with Alphonso Davies perhaps the best player in all of CONCACAF, Jonathan David/Cyle Larin comprising of the best forward tandem, and Tajon Buchanan another budding player full promise. Everyone is stepping up and on Tuesday it was Alistair Johnston who made a big play to create Larin’s first goal over Mexico.

Schedule-wise, Canada is done with Mexico and doesn’t have an away trip to the United States. A lot of the heavily lifting has been done.

Canada seem is riding a wave of positivity that seems destined to carry it to Qatar and then in a spot to build up its team ahead of co-hosting the tournament in 2026.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

Canada has performed well thus far but has been doing so mostly at home. Of its eight games, five have been in Canada. While it has earned draws on the road against the USA, Mexico, and Jamaica (certainly very strong accomplishments), it will now have to play four of its final six games on the road in Central America. Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are tough places to play and a hiccup or two should be expected.

There are also a bunch of other things that should cause concern. In each of the upcoming windows, the team is going to have to travel a lot. 1) Assemble in Canada, 2) travel to Central America and play game one 3) return all the way to Canada for game two and 4) travel back to Central America for game three. On top of the travel, the fluctuation in temperature between Canada in the winter and Central America could be eighty or ninety degrees.

While four games are on the road, one of the home games is against a U.S. team that is a regional power that has won both the Gold Cup and Nations League in 2021 while beating Mexico three times.

Also, combine this with the fact that for the January window, Canada’s MLS based players will still be offseason and that makes it harder considering the Canadian team, while boasting an strong XI, is still not as deep as the U.S. or Mexico yet.

UNITED STATES

Points: 15

January Window: El Salvador, @Canada, Honduras

March Window: @Mexico, Panama, @Costa Rica

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

The United States team is generally improving. Without question, the team is in a much better start than it was a year ago. It’s starting lineups now typically boast an average age of under 23 so a learning curve was expected. For years, American fans have been stressing the future of this team. But the talk now is turning into something substantive on the field. And the team is also getting deeper. It won the Gold Cup with mostly reserve players and then against Mexico this past window, there was no Gio Reyna, no Sergino Dest, Christian Pulisic had to come off the bench, and John Brooks was left off the roster due to form. The U.S. team can miss chunks of its main group and still compete well.


The good news for the U.S. team is that the team seems far more likely to continue to improve than to regress. After a draw against Canada, the U.S. team looked comfortable playing at home against teams that it should beat with wins over Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The team is playing home games like it did when players like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Carlos Bocanegra carried the team through very strong qualifying cycles in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

That is very important when you consider the two home games in January are against El Salvador and Honduras, which are struggling to compete in the Octagon. If the U.S. team can compete like it should, it should rack up points in January. When you look at Panama’s tough window in January, there is real opportunity for some big separation.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

The United States has three brutal road games remaining. Heading to Canada is going to be no fun and the U.S. team has never won a competitive game away at Mexico or away at Costa Rica. After a loss on the road to Panama, can the U.S. team find a way to eke out points in any of its four toughest road games? The game against Jamaica wasn’t reassuring.

That puts an unusual amount of pressure on the team to win its remaining home games – which are very doable, but the team can’t slip up. Massive squad rotations worked in the road trip to Honduras but didn’t against Panama.  The U.S. team needs to enter March in a strong position because that window is its hardest of qualifying.


The U.S. team is young and that has paid off, but the remaining part of the schedule is a test of maturity. Winning the toughest road games in this region is hard. Just, look at the beating Mexico took in November if you’re looking for proof.

MEXICO

Points: 14

January Window: @Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama

March Window: USA, @Honduras, El Salvador

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Mexico had a brutal November window. They had tough road tests against the United States and Canada and came up short against two emotionally changed opponents in hostile environments. Fair enough.

But despite that, Mexico is in strong position when you look at the standings. Just three of its first eight games have been at home. It only took a beating in its two hardest games. Compared with the United States – which has its hardest road games coming up – Mexico was also able to draw at Panama, win at Costa Rica, and win at El Salvador. Those seven road points more than offset the two losses in November to put it on pace to qualify.


Azteca is a brutal place to play and Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador will be heavy underdogs. Hosting the U.S. team can be tricky as the U.S. team should be confident and has draw there the last two cycles. But by the time the third window rolls around, Mexico will have momentum and will be looking to go in for the kill against its archrival.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

Games aren’t played on paper. On paper, Mexico should be favored in most of its upcoming games. But Mexico’s toughest opponent isn’t another CONCACAF team. It’s Mexico. This team can beat itself when it is down and the November window set the stage for a winter of discontent where fans are angry with head coach Tata Martino. The players say dumb stuff to the press and are visibly frustrated on the field (this was visible against the U.S. in Cincinnati and against Mexico in Edmonton).

All it’s going to take is a stumble out of the gate in January and the normally supportive home crowd could turn angry at its own players. Mexico’s passion for its own national team cuts both ways and the self-destruct button is within reach.

PANAMA

Points: 14

January Window: @Costa Rica, Jamaica, @Mexico

March Window: Honduras, @USA, Canada

OPTIMISTIC LOOK

Who is hotter than Panama now? The November window was epic for Panama which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Honduras 3-2 on the road. Then at home to El Salvador, Panama was down 1-0 in the second half but defeated Hugo Perez’s team 2-1 to complete a perfect six -point window.


A team that can will itself to win through a belief in itself is always a dangerous team. The players are all very emotional and are able to score goals when needed. They are seemingly never out of any game and the team rotates effectively – so they’re not reliant on any one or two players.

PESSIMISTIC LOOK

The team has been boosted in large part by two wins – a 1-0 home win over the United States when the U.S. was just off. Then a staggering 3-0 win over Jamaica on the road. But Panama also drew at home to Costa Rica and drew at home Mexico (which are below what the U.S. and Canada did to the same opponents). It also lost on the road to El Salvador. Panama’s most recent wins were against the two worst teams in the Octagon and Panama needed epic rallies for those wins.

Panama has a harder schedule than the United States, Mexico, and possibly Canada. If it can win at Costa Rica or Mexico, only then will they have the inside track towards a top three finish.


The team has a wave of positive emotion right now but the biggest detriment to momentum is time. Two months until the next qualifier will halt that momentum and Panama will have to press forward with its talent. While Panama is good, it doesn’t have the talent of Canada, Mexico, or the United States.

OUTLOOK

Soccer is tough to predict, and predicting CONCACAF is almost impossible. One bad bounce, one bad call, one big mistake can change everything.

Despite the problems Mexico had in November, it has the right schedule ahead to not just qualify but to finish atop. Four out of six games at Azteca has it just where it wants to be. It also has a decent number of points on the road. November’s scheduling was just too tough. Tata Martino might be embattled, but Mexico should find the remainder of the schedule winnable.

The United States doesn’t have an easy schedule like Mexico, but the January window is favorable. The team is improving, and the young players are gaining experience a fast rate.


Canada has put itself in a great position. The four road games and travel are difficult but it will become easier for the players to take if they sense a World Cup ticket is getting close. They might have some hiccups, but they have enough talent and experience to cross the line.

Panama seems like the odd team out here. The schedule is tough, their momentum will dissipate with the two-month break. Panama is a good team, but a bit behind the other three.

For that reason, I’ll predict the top four order of 1) Mexico, 2) United States, 3) Canada, 4) Panama

Written Version: Landon, Wahl and Witty on Jamaica 1, USMNT 1

The Boys Break Down a Point Away in CONCACAF Grant Wahl Nov 18

As we do after every USMNT World Cup qualifier, I was joined by Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham to discuss the USMNT’s 1-1 tie at Jamaica in Kingston. I really enjoyed this discussion and think you will too.

Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Landon, Wahl and Witty on the Road to Qatar. I’m Grant Wahl. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ve got a special episode in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 1-1 tie against Jamaica on World Cup qualifying Matchday 8. Landon’s with us tonight, I think from Southern California. You in San Diego, Landon?

Landon Donovan:

I’m in San Diego. Yes.

Grant Wahl:

Awesome. Witty’s in South Florida. I’m in Kingston, Jamaica, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter, which you should sign up for free or pay at grantwahl.com to get my posts in your inbox. Guys, it’s great to be with you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

What’s going on, Witty?

Chris Wittyngham:

I didn’t love that performance, but it’s a point on the road and I’m told that that’s what you’re supposed to get. It’s a point on the road. So I guess I’m okay with it.

Grant Wahl:

This was a really interesting one guys, just doing some postgame interviews with the players in particular. They’re disappointed about this, which I know we’ve discussed this over time. Getting a point on the road in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying is not a bad thing, as long as you’re getting three points at home. U.S. has been doing that lately. But it was just interesting to see this sort of reaction from the players here. It was pretty muted. They felt they could have gotten three points. Landon, what was your sense of the whole thing?

Landon Donovan:

Exactly what I expected as I always say. So listen. All the factors, if you just took everything out of it, and you said U.S. against Jamaica on neutral ground without having played a game three days earlier, et cetera, et cetera, you’d say, “Okay.” You’d be disappointed in a 1-1 result. I know very well all the factors involved. So hugely emotional game against Mexico. It is so difficult three days later to get up emotionally for a game against one of the bottom dwellers of the group, away with lots of travel, plus the physical recovery involved. It’s just difficult and not an easy place to play, not a great field, no atmosphere in the stadium, all these different reasons. And that makes it difficult. So in the end, just take the point, get on the plane, go back to your clubs and we’ll see you in the new year.


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Grant Wahl:

Chris, what stood that to you in this game?

Chris Wittyngham:

Well, I think I would be surprised that the U.S. players felt like they deserved more from that game, because their performance did not. I mean, the only thing that deserved a win from that is that they were 1-0 up. But after that, they didn’t really play very well. And I thought they left a lot out there just in terms of their attacking play. They couldn’t really keep possession of the ball very much. Gianluca Busio, I thought, was the only player that was helping them tick, but didn’t offer really anything else and didn’t really offer much threat in the final third. He’s certainly a player that was a lightning rod for conversation tonight. But I think, in the overall, I really hated that playing surface. It just, you can tell how much it hurts the United States’ ability to play. They’re just not used to it.

Everything that we saw from Yunus Musah that we loved in Cincinnati on Friday, it’s negated by the playing surface. And it was also revealed after the game that he had strep throat as well. So he was kind of playing through it as well. And then I think, when you just look at Jamaica, everything except for their front three is basically a really high end USL team or a low end MLS team. But that front three, just by virtue of the names and the pedigrees, they can summon a moment. And that’s exactly, that’s all they did is they summed a moment.

Although, I mean, they probably frankly, should have won the game considering the chance that Bobby Decordova-Reid had, and the goal that was disallowed from Damion Lowe as well, but Decordova-Reid, Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey. That’s Premier League pedigree up top. If they played in a U.S. shirt we’d be like, “Oh, wow. Look, they’ve got three players who have been in the Premier League up top.” And so, those are real threats and Antonio summoned a moment and they probably could have snuck away with all three points, given the other two chances that they had.

Grant Wahl:

Two really good goals in this game though, Tim Weah putting the U.S. up 11 minutes in, third straight, good game for Weah, even though he did tail off in the second half. He said he got really tired, and here’s a guy who’s not playing 90 minutes every game at club level right now. And then, Antonio with maybe the best goal I’ve seen somebody score against the U.S. in quite a while. And that totally changed Jamaica because until that point, the U.S. was completely bossing this game. The goal kind of comes out of nowhere from distance. But then after that, it seemed like it perked Jamaica up and they actually performed more toe to toe with the U.S. for the rest of the game. And I felt like what Chris said is true, that if one of these teams looked like they were going to win the game in the second half, it was Jamaica, not the United States.

Landon Donovan:

Yeah. I agree with that, Grant. And, my experiences playing against Jamaican teams is very much rhythm based. And confidence based, when things are going their way and things are going well, they play better, especially at home. And so, when the U.S. come out, score the goal sort of on top of the game, Jamaica looked like a bottom feeder in the group, and then they score the goal and everything changes. And so the momentum shifted. They actually had real belief again. And to be honest, probably should have had a man sent off with the tackle on Tyler Adams. And were fortunate not to have that, but they were much better the rest of the game. And I’ll just say it again, if you’re the U.S., just get out of Jamaica, get on the flight out of Kingston, take the point and we’ll see you in the new year.

Chris Wittyngham:

But I guess, the U.S. fans’ response and I saw when Gregg Berhalter said that a lot of the responses were, “Why are you happy with this? Why are you happy with a point?” And I understand, that’s the formula, right? This is basic math. You’re trying to get to … I saw on Twitter, it’s basically 1.7 points per game is enough to qualify you for the World Cup. If you win all your home games and draw your away games, you’re at two points per game and you’re doing the math. But there was a feeling coming off the Mexico game that it was a step forward. And again, we’ve done a few of these pods with away Concacaf matches. And you’re wondering, what is it that you’re not able to replicate away from home? Why does a goal deflate you in that way?

Landon Donovan:

But Witty, we’re going to have this re-education process every four years with new U.S. fans. And it’s amazing that we are having these conversations because it means we’re bringing new U.S. fans in all the time. Every time we qualify and then make a World Cup, we’re bringing in new fans. But the reality is, I can promise you if we’re sitting here in 12 years, we’re going to have the same conversation. Why couldn’t they beat El Salvador? Look at all these guys playing at Barcelona and Real Madrid. And it’s just, we’re going to have the same conversation every time. It’s not easy. And there’s all these mitigating factors and you saw it again tonight.

Grant Wahl:

Maybe we should have titled our podcast, The Re-education Camp.

Landon Donovan:

Exactly.

Grant Wahl:

But I do want to talk a little bit about the absences for the U.S. in this game and the impact that they had on it. So Miles Robinson out, first time he hasn’t played, I think, in qualifying. I thought Chris Richards was fine replacing him in this game. Now Weston McKennie, out on a yellow card suspension. And I wrote this after the game. And I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are. I feel like the central midfield three of McKennie, Adams, and Musah is so far in away the best central midfield for this U.S. team right now. And I feel like if you don’t have all three of them, you’re going to have some issues. That just seems to be what happens here. And I almost feel like they’re so complementary to each other that the whole becomes better than the sum of the parts in a way.

And I thought that not having McKennie out there, Musah didn’t play as well. Adams didn’t play quite as well as he normally does. And Busio wasn’t bad or anything. And he had a really nice shot attempt on goal at one point, but it was just different and it wasn’t quite as effective. And you’re playing on the road and I realize there’s other factors here, but I just feel like that central midfield three really works well together. And you can tell when even just one of them is not there.

Landon Donovan:

So I’m going to beat a dead horse and Witty, you just tell me to shut up, but this is why, again, I got so frustrated when Weston made those decisions. And they’re just a different team when he’s not on the field versus when he is. And would he have made a difference that won the game at this point? At this point I would bet money, yes. You can say in the Canada game, well, who knows, but I think he would’ve made a difference tonight. Maybe he breaks up the play where Michail Antonio scores the goal. Maybe he gets in the box and gets on the end of a header. You just don’t know. And so that’s why you need him on the field. And you saw it again tonight when he’s not on the field, we just look like a different team. Tyler Adams and Musah were fine. Nothing, they weren’t terrible. They were fine. But that combination of three, and tell me if you disagree, Witty, but they are just, like Grant said, just better than what we have right now.

Chris Wittyngham:

I guess my feeling would be a level of concern off of that, that there isn’t someone who I feel can step in. I was really hoping that Busio would have a better game. I think it’s a really tough spot for him to be in, just because I think a lot of that game, if you look at the three-man midfield of Jamaica, it’s all about physicality. It’s all about being able to get stuck in. And that’s not really Busio’s strength. I think he’s getting better in Italy. It’s a perfect league for him to learn that. But he’s 19.

And I thought, Daniel Salloi had a nice backing of his former teammate when he said, “Hey, do you remember your first game in World Cup qualifying when you were starting at 19? It’s tough.” But to your point, Landon and Grant, Weston McKennie has not started an away World Cup qualifier since the opening day against El Salvador. And you can’t imagine there’s a player that’s better suited to the style of play away in Concacaf in the U.S. team than Weston McKennie. I guess I’d just ask you, what do you feel like that indispensability is with Weston? What do you feel like the U.S. lack through his absence?

Landon Donovan:

That’s a good question. So I’ll answer first. Grant, I’m curious to hear what you have to say. First of all, there’s a physicality, that Busio is a very good player, but Weston just has a physicality about him. That’s different. He covers ground differently. He wins duels differently. He tackles differently and he gets on the end of crosses, gets himself in the box and scores goals, which is different. And then there’s a dynamic between the three of them that it’s hard to pinpoint. You can’t necessarily pinpoint chemistry and why that is, but there is, it’s become clear. And so Busio might be the right guy, eventually too, or maybe he’s the fourth guy to those three or Kellyn Acosta is the fourth to those three. But right now, those two just don’t have the chemistry, Kellyn Acosta and Busio, that the other three have. And, you’re seeing that grow game after game.

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Will Never Be the Same

So I’m Savoring Every Moment of the Octagonal   Grant Wahl   Nov 15

IRISH TOWN, Jamaica — I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss the men’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in the future. The current format has more or less stayed the same since qualifying for World Cup 1998: The USMNT has been part of a months-long home-and-away tournament involving five—or, this time, seven—other teams in the region.The games truly matter, and if you’re someone who follows it closely—I’m covering all 14 qualifiers on-site—you also get a memorable travel experience around some of the most gorgeous parts of North and Central America and the Caribbean.But I’m treasuring every moment this time around because it’s likely never going to be the same again for the USMNT. The U.S., Mexico and Canada are co-hosting World Cup 2026, and while FIFA hasn’t yet made it official that the hosts will receive automatic bids, everyone assumes that will be the case. So the U.S. almost surely won’t need to qualify in the next cycle. What’s more, the men’s World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams in 2026. So even when the U.S. has to qualify for World Cup 2030, the challenge will be infinitely easier if CONCACAF sends, say, a guaranteed six teams to the World Cup instead of the current three. There just won’t be that much at stake for the USMNT.And don’t get me started on what happens if FIFA gets its way and institutes World Cups every two years (World Cup 2028?), which wouldn’t leave time to have a meaningful regional qualifying tournament like this one.


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So I’m savoring everything on these trips. In Honduras, it was the pre-match fireworks that extended into the game’s first five minutes and the PA system playing Live Is Life, the soundtrack for Diego Maradona’s most memorable warmup of all time. In Honduras, it was the amazing pre-game pupusas from a food truck that I demolished on a paper plate, the Hondureña who made them smiling at my smiles. In Panama, it was doing a pre-game Twitter Spaces from the stadium in two languages with my friend Nicolle Ferguson.And the games in the U.S. have been a blast, too, from Nashville to Austin, from Columbus to Cincinnati. I’ve been blown away by all the new MLS stadiums, and the communal energy at those games has been off the charts. The convincing U.S. win over Mexico took it to a new level. There hasn’t been this much excitement around the USMNT since World Cup 2014 in Brazil.That brings us to Jamaica, which might be my favorite trip of the bunch. The game is in Kingston, which isn’t like the tourist destinations on the other parts of the island like Negril and Montego Bay (where most of the American Outlaws are staying, quite reasonably, before taking a bus to and from the game). My favorite place to stay here is a 45-minute drive into the Blue Mountains above Kingston. It’s a boutique place (that’s not overly expensive) called Strawberry Hill. Every morning I brew some local coffee, go out on my terrace with a ridiculous view overlooking the city and sit down to write. On Sunday morning, the beautiful sounds of singing from a nearby church service filled the air. This morning the sounds are coming from the roosters in the neighborhood. You couldn’t ask for much more. There’s a reason I’m staying here an extra day after the game and not returning to New York until Thursday.This isn’t a paid ad for Strawberry Hill, but if you ever come to Jamaica, consider taking the road less traveled—which is to say, narrow roads with crazy hairpin turns up into the mountains—and check it out. The place is owned by Chris Blackwell, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame producer who co-founded Island Records and brought to the global masses Bob Marley, U2, Steve Winwood, Grace Jones, Melissa Etheridge and a bunch of other artists. As you might expect, great music is playing all day long at the bar and restaurant here, and the walls of the place are covered in Blackwell’s classic music-themed photographs and, in one special room, gold and platinum records commemorating millions of albums sold. Strawberry Hill is where Marley came to recover after being shot in 1976. And you never know who you might meet here. One day when I was having a Red Stripe or three at the bar before a qualifier in 2013, I got into a fun soccer conversation with a guy who was clearly a fan of the game. It turned out to be Captain Horace Burrell, the longtime president of the Jamaican Football Federation. The Captain, as most people called him, had a fascinating life. He had served in the military for decades (hence: Captain), had fought on the U.S. side in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and had become wealthy as the proprietor of the Captain’s Bakery chain across Jamaica. In soccer politics, the Captain was an ally of both the notorious Jack Warner and U.S. Soccer. He served a six-month suspension from FIFA in 2011 for his role in the Mohamed bin Hammam CONCACAF bribery scandal.The Captain was what I’d call a charming rogue, in the same way that the former Mafia don Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno was described by the old New York City columnist Murray Kempton. The Captain served his time with FIFA—he got caught and deserved to—and he eventually came back stronger than ever, playing a major role with then-U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in 2016 in swinging the FIFA presidential election from Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman to Gianni Infantino in the final round of voting.The Captain passed away from cancer a year later. He was a figure in the grey areas of FIFA politics. But I’ll still remember having beers with him that day and getting a sense of what he was about. In the military he had picked up aviation skills. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he left Strawberry Hill that day in 2013 in his helicopter.

Who’s in? Who’s out? How every European nation made the World Cup finals

Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The group stage of European World Cup qualifying is complete, with only the playoffs left to decide the final three places at Qatar 2022.

QUALIFIED: GermanyDenmarkBelgiumFranceCroatiaSpainSerbiaEnglandSwitzerlandNetherlands

PLAYOFFS: Scotland, WalesCzech RepublicAustriaRussiaNorth MacedoniaSwedenPortugalPolandItalyUkraineTurkey

Here’s how the 10 groups played out.

GROUP A

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Serbia8620+920
2 – Portugal8511+1117
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

A stunning turnaround in Lisbon as Portugal threw away an early lead and a direct place at the World Cup finals.Renato Sanches netted on two minutes, only for Dusan Tadic to equalise just after the half hour. And the real drama came in the 90th minute, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal to win the group.Portugal are seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP B

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Spain8511+1019
2 – Sweden8503+615
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Spain had a worrying time against Sweden, needing a point to advance to the finals, before Alvaro Morata calmed the nerves with what proved to be an 86th-minute winner.Spain go direct the the World Cup finals, while Sweden enter the playoffs.Sweden are seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP C

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Switzerland8530+1318
2 – Italy8440+1116
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Switzerland scored three second-half goals at home Bulgaria to get the 3-0 win they needed to put pressure on Italy.

The European champions couldn’t respond, held to a goalless draw away to Northern Ireland.

It means Switzerland qualify for the World Cup and, just like in qualifying for the 2018 edition, Italy must go through the playoffs. Roberto Mancini’s team will be seeded in those playoffs.

GROUP D

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – France8530+1518
2 – Ukraine8260+312
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

France had sealed their place in the finals on Saturday, so on the last day it was all about the runners-up spot.

Finland had it in their own hands, but they fell to a 2-0 loss at home to France.

That opened the door for Ukraine, who won 2-0 away to Bosnia and Herzegovina to steal into second place. They will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP E

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Belgium8620+1920
2 – Wales8431+515
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Belgium qualified for the World Cup with their 3-1 win at home to Estonia at the weekend.

Wales and Czech Republic were already assured of a playoff place via the UEFA Nations League so the last day was about finishing second and hopefully being seeded in that draw.

Wales were losing at home to Belgium, but Kieffer Moore earned the 1-1 draw which confirmed the Welsh would be one of the best runners-up.

Although the Czechs beat Estonia 2-0, they will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP F

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Denmark10901+2727
2 – Scotland10721+1023
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Denmark qualified but missed out on finishing with a 100% record after defeat to Scotland in their last game.That victory was crucial for Scotland, and it means they will be seeded in the playoff draw.Austria didn’t finish inside the top two, but are guaranteed of being unseeded in the playoffs as a UEFA Nations League group winner.

Netherlands avoided the World Cup playoffs with victory over Norway. Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Image

GROUP G

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Netherlands10721+2523
2 – Turkey10631+1121
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Netherlands finally booked their place in the World Cup finals, but it took two late goals to be absolutely sure.

The Dutch would have been knocked out had Norway scored in Eindhoven, but goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay in the last six minutes sealed safe passage.

Turkey held on to second place ahead of Norway with a 2-1 win in Montenegro, but they will be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP H

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Croatia10621+1623
2 – Russia10612+1322
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Croatia got the win they needed against Russia in split to climb above their visitors and top the group.

Fedor Kudryashov scored an own goal in the 81st minute to give Croatia and 1-0 win.

Russia will have to go through the playoffs, where they will be seeded.

GROUP I

Group I

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – England10820+3626
2 – Poland10622+1920
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

England cruised to the World Cup on the final day, winning 10-0 away to San Marino.

But it wasn’t such good news for Poland, who had already qualified for the playoffs but lost their final match 2-1 at home to Hungary.

That defeat meant Poland would be unseeded in the playoffs.

GROUP J

Group J

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Germany10901+3227
2 – N Macedonia10532+1218
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Germany had already secured their place in October, leaving the playoff place up for grabs this month.

North Macedonia were in danger of throwing it away, drawing 1-1 at home to Iceland, before two goals from Eljif Elmas gave them victory and a place in the playoffs.

However, North Macedonia will be unseeded in the playoff draw so face an away semifinal.

HOW THE PLAYOFFS WORK

The 10 runners-up from the groups are joined by the best two UEFA Nations League group winners not to have finished in the top two of their qualifying group.

EDITOR’S PICKS

37dTim Vickery

We now know that Austria and whoever misses out on the top two from Group E between Czech Republic and Wales will qualify via the Nations League.

The playoffs, to be played in March 2022, will be seeded by qualifying points, with the two UEFA Nations League teams unseeded. The draw takes place on Friday, Nov. 26.

Seeded teams will be drawn at home against unseeded teams, to play one-legged semifinals.

SEEDED: Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales
UNSEEDED: Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria, Czech Republic

The finals will see the winners of SF1 play SF2, SF3 vs. SF4 and SF5 vs. SF6. There will be a draw, also on Nov. 26, to determine the home team in each final path.

Argentina looking confident, cohesive with World Cup spot secured

10:58 PM ET  Tim VickerySouth America correspondent

Argentina have qualified for the World Cup and extended their unbeaten run to 27 games,but Brazil will probably come away the happier side after Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw in San Juan.

Argentina were at full strength, on paper at least. Lionel Messi may not have been close to full fitness — he had only played the last 15 minutes against Uruguay on Friday and looked short of his usual sharpness. And over the course of the game they lost Cristian Romero, their best centre-back, and midfield anchorman Leandro Parades to injuries. Lautaro Martinez also left the game at the interval. He may have been feeling a knock, but his replacement was also an admission by coach Lionel Scaloni that the game was not going as he had planned. An out-and-out centre-forward, Martinez was not able to get into the game because Brazil blocked Argentina in midfield so effectively.ADVERTISEMENTBrazil were without both Neymar and Casemiro — the players referred to by coach Tite respectively as the technical leader and the competitive leader. The attack was extraordinarily youthful; centre-forward Matheus Cunha was making his first start for the national team, Vinicius Junior his second and Raphinha his third. The other member of the attacking quartet, Lucas Paqueta, looks like a grizzled veteran in comparison, but he has only consolidated his place in the side over the last few months.But with the wingers helping back, and full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro playing conservative roles, Argentina were denied the space to establish their customary passing rhythm in midfield. In comparison with the final of the Copa America in July, it was clear that the extra speed of Eder Militao at centre-back allowed Brazil to stay compact higher up the field so they could press more effectively. And if the defensive line was breached, the immaculate Marquinhos was there to cover. Alisson in goal was hardly troubled. He had to dive left to push away a shot from Rodrigo De Paul, and, in the 89th minute, Messi finally broke away but struck straight at the keeper.

CONMEBOL Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Brazil (Q)1335+23
2 – Argentina (Q)1329+14
3 – Ecuador1423+10
4 – Colombia1417-1
5 – Peru1417-5
6 – Chile1416-1
7 – Uruguay1416-7
8 – Bolivia1415-8
9 – Paraguay1413-9
10 – Venezuela147-16
1-4: Qualifies; 5: Playoff

The clearer chances, however, came at the other end. Vinicius fluffed an audacious chip after a clever pass from Paqueta. Matheus Cunha was still more audacious, and shot narrowly over from inside his own half with Emiliano Martinez stranded. A Fred volley clipped the bar after a free kick had been half cleared, and a rare Danilo burst set up Vinicius for a shot that Martinez got down smartly to save.There was, perhaps, little on show that will linger in the mind of the neutral. Maybe the venue did not help. The game was taken to the small northern town of San Juan, with the crowd close and creating a frenetic atmosphere. Argentina’s usual home, River Plate’s stadium in Buenos Aires, might have provided the stage for a more cerebral affair, with more light than heat. Bit ever here, there was something to be learned. Brazil have had cause for concern at a lack of emotional control — they clearly did not do themselves justice when chasing the game in the final of the Copa America. Here they were tested, especially when Nicolas Otamendi got away with smashing a forearm into the face of Raphinha. But they were able to keep their cool — just. And with plenty of attacking flair combined with a record of just four goals conceded in 13 qualifiers, they can build for the World Cup in confidence.As can Argentina who, if not at their best on this occasion, have put together their most solid, coherent and frequently attractive side for the last few years. Their new total of 29 points guarantees their World Cup place because so many of the teams behind them dropped points — including Chile, who went down 2-0 at home to Ecuador.

Everything went wrong for Chile in the first half. They went behind early to a well struck shot from rampaging left-back Pervis Estupinan. Soon afterwards they had Arturo Vidal sent off. And Alexis Sanchez limped off. They made a bold effort to haul themselves back into the game, but the points were sealed in stoppage time when midfielder Moises Caicedo advanced to score a cracker from the edge of the box.Ecuador were the big winners of this round. They went into the action safely in third place, with a four point cushion, which has now been increased to six. Effectively this means that they are guaranteed to go into the final two rounds still in third place. A slot in Qatar is now theirs to lose.Chile’s defeat means that they fall from fourth to sixth, outside the qualification places. They are overtaken by Colombia, despite a deeply disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Paraguay. For both sides it was their fifth consecutive game without a goal. But Colombia have been defending so well that they have only lost one in their last 10, and are crawling to the World Cup one point at a time.Into fifth, the playoff spot, climb Peru, who have made a remarkable rally since the Copa America in the middle of the year. Their 2-1 win away to Venezuela was open and dramatic, with the two sides trading punches. At 1-1 the game was decided by two set pieces. Peru won a free kick on the edge of the area, and Cristian Cueva’s shot flicked off the defensive wall and beat the keeper. Straight away, Venezuela were awarded a penalty. Darwin Machis had already scored a fine goal, but his kick was at a comfortable height for Pedro Gallese to save. Gallese had more problems in stoppage time when a Machis shot took a deflection, requiring a fine reflex save. Such moments turned one point for Peru into three — and the difference could well be vital when the competition comes to an end.Peru are a point ahead of Chile, and of Uruguay, who found new ways to self destruct in their latest defeat, 3-0 away to Bolivia.

The extreme altitude of La Paz is an extremely tough challenge for visitors, and for almost half an hour Uruguay appeared to be taking the sting out of the game. But there are risks in defending deep, especially for the goalkeeper. At altitude,the ball flies through the rarefied air more quickly than usual, making it hard for the keeper to judge its trajectory.Bolivia’s veteran Juan Carlos Arce sent in a cross from deep on the left, looking for centre-forward Marcelo Martins Moreno. He stretched but was unable to make contact. Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera had to prepare to cover his shot, and when the ball went straight on it came at him quicker than he expected, slipped through his hands and tricked in off the far post.Then, just before half-time, Uruguay needlessly gave away a corner. Their marking was slack, and Martins Moreno rose to give Bolivia a two goal lead and put Uruguay in the dreaded position of having to chase the game while gasping for oxygen. They lost 3-0, a result that keeps Bolivia’s hopes alive, but which may well bring an end to the remarkable near-16 year reign of Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez.

Who will win MLS Cup in 2021? Predicting every Round 1 matchup and a champion

Drake Hills, Nashville TennesseanWed, November 17, 2021, 8:29 PM

Records were broken and a resurgence was forged in Major League Soccer this season, as the New England Revolution, winners of the Supporters’ Shield, set a regular-season points record in the post-shootout era and the Colorado Rapids had their best conference finish in club history.The MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday and the Revs and Rapids enter as respective No. 1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Both received first-round byes.New England (73 points) will host either New York City FC or Atlanta United FC on Nov. 30 in the conference semifinal round, and Colorado will await the Portland Timbers or Minnesota United FC for a second-round clash on Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s who I think will survive Round One, followed by my picks along the way to the MLS Cup Final.

Drake Hills’ picks for 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs by USA TODAY Network 

Eastern ConferenceNew England is good. They’re record-setting good. But are they better than 2017 Toronto FC?

The Reds were the last team to do the double: lifting the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in the same season. U.S. Men’s National teamers Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and a dangerous Sebastian Giovinco helped TFC to lift the cup. I’m predicting New England to do the same.

MVP candidate Carles Gil (4 goals, 18 assists), goal-getters Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou (31 combined), teaming up with premier youngster Tajon Buchanan are enough firepower.

(4) New York City FC vs. (5) Atlanta United

Winner: Atlanta United

Atlanta United’s Luiz Araújo and coach Gonzalo Pineda were timely additions to Josef Martinez and Miles Robinson anchoring the Five Stripes. New talent working cohesively will be enough to limit NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos, who won the Golden Boot this season (19 goals, 8 assists).

(3) Nashville SC vs. (6) Orlando City SC

Winner: Nashville SC

Nashville SC has not lost at home this season, becoming the seventh MLS club in history to do so. A fourth meeting against Orlando City won’t be breaking that streak. Nashville’s MVP candidate Hany Mukhtar has scored two goals against the Lions this year.

(2) Philadelphia Union vs. (7) New York Red Bulls

Winner: Philadelphia Union

The New York Red Bulls are the sleeper team of the East and its record proves a 1-0 score line is all RBNY needs. Their last five wins were secured by a one-goal margin.

The Union is strong at Subaru Park and will be too strong for RBNY.

Western Conference

Rapids coach Robin Fraser took this club from a bottom-half team in the league to a No. 1 seed in three seasons, the first in club history.Colorado’s scoring comes by committee. Michael Barrios has been the attacking catalyst (8 goals, 8 assists), but the development of Jonathan Lewis (7 goals) and the return of Dom Badji (5 goals) has led the Rapids to the top.A seasoned playoff bunch like the Portland Timbers should end the Rapids’ MLS Cup journey in the second round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rapids home-field advantage and an early goal gets them passed the Timbers.

No. 4 Portland Timbers vs. No. 5 Minnesota United FC

Winner: Portland Timbers

Sebastian Blanco and Felipe Mora were worth a combined 18 goals this system. Add in the surprise of Dairon Asprilla adding a spark up front and they should handle business for Portland at Providence Park.

No. 3 Sporting Kansas City vs. No. 6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Winner: Vancouver Whitecaps

This seems to be the anticipated upset of the postseason. The way Vancouver ended the season against the Seattle Sounders, only losing one of its final nine matches, an upset is fitting. MLS newcomer Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dájome are two players to watch in this one.

No. 2 Seattle Sounders FC vs. No. 7 Real Salt Lake

Winners: Seattle Sounders

The Sounders should handle business at home in Round One. With a healthy Raúl Ruidíaz, a margin of multiple goals wouldn’t be a surprise.

For stories about Nashville SC or Soccer in Tennessee, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake. Connect with Drake on Instagram at @drakehillssoccer and on Facebook.

USMNT’s faltering draw to Jamaica illustrates bumpy road to Qatar 2022

WRITTEN BYMIKE DECOURCY

There was a moment in the first half, not even 20 minutes into the United States’ World Cup qualifier at Jamaica, that American midfielder Yunus Musah gathered the ball in the center of the field at Independence Park and contemplated one of his favored rampages toward the opposing goal. He had demolished Mexico with his physical strength and dribbling skill, and it was time to do the same to the Reggae Boyz.As Musah advanced, though, the ball did not. The field — yes, the field — had other ideas.It’s not always the opposing fans or the refs or the pressure of the circumstance. Sometimes, it’s as simple as lacking the comforts of home. For a squad that included three teenagers and was the second-youngest the USMNT ever deployed for a qualifier, being unable to count on the ball rolling evenly was among the many reasons it left Jamaica with a 1-1 draw and a single point to add toward its total.“We’re not looking at it as a disappointing result. We’re looking at it as a good result,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “Any time you can get a point away from home is a good thing in CONCACAF qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that.“I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road.”It’s a point more precious than American fans are likely to appreciate. The U.S. easily could have lost, given one blown opportunity at a wide-open tap-in for Jamaica’s Bobby Reid and a disallowed goal from his teammate, Damian Lowe, on an 84th-minute set piece.The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on forward Timothy Weah’s inventive 11th-minute goal, which required a sweet feed from striker Ricardo Pepi, two nifty moves from Weah and a left-footed finish past ace goalkeeper Andre Blake. That was answered 11 minutes later, though, when Jamaica’s Michail Antonio — currently third in the Premier League in goals for West Ham United — drove to the left against U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams, stopped and cut back to his right foot and left Adams behind. He blasted a searing shot from 34 yards that found the top right corner, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.“Obviously, it was a rough game. Not the result that we wanted,” Weah said. “We knew it was going to be difficult.“Conditions were rough, but that’s no excuse. We wanted to execute, but it wasn’t there today.”(Getty Images)

MORE: How USA can qualify for World Cup in Qatar

It’s difficult to reconcile this torpid performance against the brilliance of Friday night’s victory over Mexico. But combining the two gives the USMNT four points from the two-game window in CONCACAF qualifying, and still leaves it in position to earn an automatic position in the 2022 World Cup field.The Americans now have five points from four road games, slightly ahead of the “win your home games, draw on the road” standard that tends to assure qualification in this format. However, they’re also a couple points behind at home because of a 1-1 September draw against Canada. Their 15 points through eight games is three more than they earned in the entire 10-game qualifying round when failing to qualify for Russia 2018.Qualifying will not be easy. Not that it ever has been.“It was difficult conditions, it really was,” Berhalter said. “Controlling the ball, playing the ball was challenging. You can chalk it up to simply that. It was challenging field conditions, and the movements weren’t always clean. That’s something you can’t control.”This is not something Musah would have encountered often while growing up in Italy or later England, where he trained in the Arsenal youth program. Pristine pitches predominated once he moved to Spain to join Valencia in 2019, and that’s what was in place in Cincinnati — even though it rained — when the USMNT dominated rival Mexico to earn a 2-0 victory and take over first place in the final round of World Cup qualifying.After that moment in the 18th minute, though, Musah seemed to abandon the skill that had made him such a force against Mexico. With midfielder Weston McKennie out because of a yellow-card suspension — and with Musah muted and fellow teen Gianluca Busio just a shade hesitant in his first qualifying start — the Americans lacked the engine that had driven them four days earlier.Berhalter allowed that he thought Musah was bothered by the conditions, then told Sporting News he also was bothered by a case of strep throat.“We could tell that was taking a toll on him,” Berhalter told SN. “I don’t want this to be about the field, I really don’t. It was the same for both teams. We had enough time to be moving the ball. It was difficult, but we had enough time. And it’s just something you have to deal with. And we’re used to dealing with that.” Are they, though? Most of the USMNT still has played in just a few CONCACAF road qualifiers. Hesitation was horrifically huge for many of those who played Tuesday. So many circumstances that could have been devastating developed because players expected balls to roll into their feet, only to see them die and be beaten to the play by the opposition. There were passes fed in the direction of teammates that lacked the necessary pace, including one to Steffen that traveled so slowly it nearly allowed Jamaica another simple scoring chance.That’s what happened on the play that set Reid up, with U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin waiting too long to pursue what should have been a simple clearance. Instead, Jamaica was able to feed a cross to the far post, where left back Antonee Robinson tried to clear it for the Americans. Instead, he knocked it directly across the goal to Reid. What should have been a simple tap-in was blasted over the crossbar because Reid panicked.In the 84th minute, Jamaica’s corner kick was pursued by Lowe directly in front of the goal, but he was called for climbing over defender Walker Zimmerman’s back to head the ball past. Berhalter said he heard the whistle quickly, so he believed referee Juan Gabriel Calderon of Costa Rica was convinced of his call.“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in CONCACAF qualifying, we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said. “Just thinking about it, you don’t often get where you’re in a qualifying competition, one venue is freezing cold, and the next venue is this tropical climate.“Most continents, when they have qualifying, the weather’s consistent. So we’re going through a lot here, man. We’re learning on the fly. The guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position now and focus on 2022.”To be clear, he meant the six games remaining in qualifying that will be played in the new year — not “Qatar 2022.”The Americans are not there yet. And the road to get there will remain bumpy.

INDY ELEVEN INSTALLS MARK LOWRY AS HEAD COACH

By Indy Eleven Communications, 11/16/21, 9:35AM EST


England Native Set to Lead Indiana’s Team to Success Following Three Standout Seasons at the Helm of El Paso Locomotive FCINDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven secured a sideline leader for the future with today’s announcement of Mark Lowry as the fourth permanent head coach in club history. Lowry, one of the USL Championship’s most successful coaches since joining the league in 2019, has already begun his duties on behalf of Indiana’s Team and is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

“In Mark Lowry, Indy Eleven has found a coach who will be as passionate about connecting with and contributing to our community as he will be to strengthening our club on the field,” said Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President and Chief Executive Officer. “While still a relatively young coach, his impressive results speak volumes both as a tactician and a leader, and we cannot wait to see those traits put into action.“We believe the process of finding our next head coach was worth the considerable due diligence taken in recent months, which involved interest from more than 250 candidates from across the soccer world. We firmly believe in Mark’s ability to again make Indy Eleven one of the elite USL Championship competitors on the field and burnish our credentials as one of the league’s premier organizations,” Stremlaw concluded.


Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W-19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The 36-year-old native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first three seasons of play, the first two of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.“I want to put on record my sincere gratitude to El Paso Locomotive FC for the last three years. I had a wonderful time and will always be thankful for what they gave me,” said Lowry. “Looking forward, it’s an honor to be named Head Coach of Indy Eleven. It’s a club with an impressive history and one I’m familiar with dating back to the NASL days.“I’m excited for the challenge of getting the club back to where it belongs, fighting for championships and towards the top end of the table,” continued Lowry. “It’s what this fan base deserves, and you have my word I’ll work hard every single day to instill a winning culture and a culture of high standards that embody what it means to represent Indianapolis and the Eleven brand.”During El Paso’s recently concluded 2021 campaign, Lowry led Locomotive FC to an impressive 18W-4L-10D (64 points) ledger that easily clinched the Championship’s Mountain Division title and marked the third highest point total across the 31-team league. Lowry earned the July 2021 USL Championship Coach of the Month honor, which coincided with the club’s 23-game home undefeated run that stretched over a calendar year and was, at one point, the longest such streak in North American professional soccer.  Prior to El Paso, Lowry became familiar with Indy Eleven as a member of the Jacksonville Armada FC coaching staff. Lowry began his head coaching career as the interim boss of the then-NASL side in August 2016 before a positive run of results helped him shed the interim tag by that October. Following the 2017 NASL season, Lowry stayed on to lead Armada FC during their 2018 season in the NPSL’s Sunshine Conference before moving to USL Championship circles as the first head coach of El Paso Locomotive FC.Lowry also spent four seasons in the Orlando City SC organization, spending time with both their Academy system and U-23 entry in the then-USL PDL (now USL League 2). Prior to Orlando, Lowry gained extensive experience as a player, academy coach, and scout in the English professional system. Lowry was a player scout and academy coach for English Premier League (EPL) side Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in 2009 and a player scout for Birmingham City FC in 2007 and 2008, also then in the EPL. He currently holds his UEFA “A” coaching license.With Lowry now settling into his new position, Indy Eleven expects to make announcements surrounding its 2022 roster and coaching staff in the coming weeks.

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11/15/21 USA Wins 2-0 Over Mexico vs Jamaica Tues 5 pm on Para+, NWSL Finals Tix on Sale in Louis Sat 12 noon CBS, Huge Qualification Games Today/Tues

DOS A CERODOS A CERO – US Dominates Mexico in 2nd half  

It had to be 2-0 right?  USA vs Mexico – in Ohio – it had to be Dos a Cero.  The great thing about the result is like normal the US came alive in the 2nd half.  After a 0-0 start, where ball possession was even, and the chances were a little in Mexico’s favor as they had forced 2 very good saves from US Keeper Steffan with only 1 good shot of our own, the game turned in the 2nd half.  The US’ constant high pressure started to wear down a much older Mexican team – especially their older back line.  Tim Weah was running free down the right side all night and Pepi was holding up play and setting up good shots.  Finally when Pulisic (Capt America) came on he scored within 6 minutes of entering the game with a world class header across goal on a great cross to the near post by Weah.   The McKinney insurance goal 10 minutes later settled us in on Dos a Cero.  Here are Extended Hilights – US 2 – Mexico 0 in case you missed it.  The US plays at Jamaica tomorrow – Tues at 5 pm on Paramount plus only – NO TV.  Pregame starts at 4 pm – with the best coverage in the US.  Paramount + Free Trial. PS – James Sands has been added to replace Robinson and McKinney who will miss the Jamaica game with Red Card and yellow card accumulation.

Shane’s Roster Picks for Tuesday vs Jamaica 5 pm Paramount Plus

—– Steffen —–

— Scaly — Richards — Zimmerman — Robinson

—- Musah —- Adams —- Llegett

—- Weah —- Pepi —- Aaronson

Cincy and the New TQL Stadium were Fantastic Hosts

You Must See this — If this doesn’t give you chills – you aren’t American.  It brought tears to my eyes in the stands at Cincy – FINALLY US Soccer has a singer who understood his job was to lead us in Singing the Anthem.  And Of course ESPN was TOO DAMN Stupid to Show it live.  You only saw that if you were watching TUDN – which by the way you should always watch because – the US still doesn’t understand how to cover a soccer game.  Here are Extended Hilights – US 2 – Mexico 0 in case you missed it. I must say I am so blessed to have been at the 4 of the 5 2-0 wins in Ohio and Chicago and this one was no different.  Except I felt like the entire stadium this time was the American Outlaws section.  The singing was constant – everyone stood the entire game – and I could not pick out a section of Mexican fans. There were some scattered throughout the stands – tons outside the stadium – but inside they were hard to pick out.  It was a US home crowd and we stayed for 30 minutes after the win – it was Amazing.  Cincy will become the new goto stadium for US wins in Qualifiers – it was cold and rainy and it had a US Crowd Frenzy that helped carry the team to victory. 

Funny Moments

You have to check these things out – of course by now everyone has heard about the Quote from Mexican Goalkeeper Memo Ochoa – about the US Seeing its self in the Mirror and wanting to be Mexico.  Pulisic’s goal and then pulling up his shirt to show the Man in the Mirror on his T-shirt was the ultimate response.  God I love Pulisic !!  Cool video – Man in The Mirror

Here’s a hilarious sequence on US Coach Greg Berhalter  who by the way has beaten Mexico 3 times in a row – NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE – and has us at the Top of the Table midway thru World Cup Qualifying. Listen I question his tactics sometimes – but you could argue this is the Best coaching job by a US Manager ever.  Was he is doing with a team that’s average age was 23 years old Friday night is amazing.  He has completely changed the way we play – he has adjusted to his talent – which is young but outstanding – and he adopted a high press attack that absolutely dominated Mexico.  The first half was even – but the US just ran roughshod over El Tri in the 2nd half with 55% possession and far more shots.  (19-9 overall).  We are young and Mexico is old – the torch is being passed to US – and its time the world took notice.  We still have been qualification games ahead but Berhalter has the US playing better, more offensive, attacking futbol than anyone ever.  At this point I would say the Jury is no longer out on Berhalter – its time to give him the respect he has earned – he’s our Coach – will be our Coach thru the 2022 World Cup when this team makes a Quarterfinal run.  He’s a former US National Team player, an MLS Champion Coach, and now he’s making his mark on our national team.      Cool Interviews hear that crowd postgame – Go USA !    

NWSL Finals Set Sat 12 noon at Louisville on CBS  Tickets Available Just $15

Interesting watching #1 Seed Portland and all those US players lose 2-0 at home to the Chicago Red Stars.  Sophia Smith, Becky Saubraun, Klingingberg, and the NWSL Regular Season Champs Thorns lost to the young Red Stars and Tierna Davidson. Even without quarter-final hero Mal Pugh (due to COVID-19 protocols), the Red Stars still had enough offensive firepower to eliminate the top-seeded Thorns yesterday.  Red Stars forward Katie Johnson scored just minutes after subbing in for an injured Kealia Watt, and midfielder Sarah Woldmoe netted an insurance goal in the second half to secure the 2–0 win. No. 2 OL Reign vs. No. 3 Washington Spirit: Both sides netted a goal within the first 12 minutes, but Spirit forward Ashley Sanchez defied the laws of physics to score the 68th minute game-winner and send Washington to their first title game since 2016. Undefeated in 11 straight on-field matches, the Spirit appear unstoppable. Now all that’s left is the championship game…and finding a new ownerWhat’s next: Neither the Spirit nor the Red Stars have won an NWSL title, but that’ll change this  Saturday at 12 p.m. noon in Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium on CBS.  Tickets are just $15 – if you have daughters who play soccer you should scoop up tickets and head down there!!

See the Man in the Mirror Now Ochoa?

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

Today England can qualify for the World Cup by beating San Marino on the Road at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Italy has a tougher go as they need a win at Northern Ireland also on ESPN+ to advance as the Group Winners.  (updates as they happen)

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Mon 11/15  

2:45 pm ESPN+            Northern Ireland vs Italy

2:45 pm ESPN+            San Marino vs England

2:45 pm ESPN+            Scotland vs Denmark

Tues 11/16   

8 am   paramount + Egypt vs Gabinni

2:45 pm ESPN2 Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

Sat 11/20  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City

10 USA                         Wolverhampton vs West Ham

12 noon CBS               NWSL Championship Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

12:30 pm NBC            Liverpool vs Arsenal

2:30 pm Tele                Philly Union vs NY Red Bulls MLS Playoff

4 pm Tele                     Sporting KC vs Vancouver

7:30 pm ESPN+ Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville FC

10 pm ESPN+                San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Orange County FC

Sun  11/21  

9 am NBCSN               Man City vs Everton

11:30 NBCSN             Tottenham vs Leeds   

12 noon CBSSN          Inter Milan vs Napoli (Italy)                    

3 pm ESPN+                Real Sociedad vs Valencia (Musah)  

3 pm ABC                     NYCFC vs Atlanta United MLS Playoff

6:30 pm ESPN             Portland Timbers vs Minn United MLS  

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

Despite Reviving Dos a Cero, It’s No Time for USMNT to Reflect

USMNT felt Mexico’s disrespect. Christian Pulisic, with a win and a cheeky T-shirt, fired back
Dos a Cero again: USMNT blanks Mexico 2-0 for crucial World Cup qualifying victory

Opinion: Win over Mexico shows USMNT has the swagger to go with its considerable talent

Opinion: USMNT needs to follow Ted Lasso’s advice after Mexico win and ‘be a goldfish’

USMNT vs Mexico final score? Dos a Cero, via super-sub Pulisic

USMNT player ratings: 2022 World Cup in sight after beating Mexico

US vs Mexico —  MLS 

WORLD  

Zlatan Suspended for Late Foul in Game – to miss 1st game of playoff
Salah launches comeback as Egypt reach final qualifying stage

Di Maria winner puts Argentina on brink of WC qualification

England on verge of reaching World Cup as Kane treble destroys 

England qualify for World Cup with 10-goal rout of San Marino

Italy in World Cup play-offs after Northern Ireland stalemate

Argentina’s defense, Brazil’s temperament to be tested in World Cup qualifier
Tim Vickery

Who’s in? Who’s out? European World Cup qualification enters the final stretch

With one day remaining of the group stage of European World Cup qualifying, the race is hotting up for a place at Qatar 2022.

QUALIFIED: GermanyDenmarkBelgiumFranceCroatiaSpainSerbiaEnglandSwitzerland

PLAYOFFS: Scotland, WalesCzech RepublicAustriaRussiaNorth MacedoniaSwedenPortugalPolandItaly

That leaves one automatic qualification spot still up for grabs for group winners, along with two playoff places for the group runners-up.

Here’s the state of play across all 10 groups.

GROUP A

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Serbia8620+920
2 – Portugal8511+1117
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

A stunning turnaround in Lisbon as Portugal threw away an early lead and a direct place at the World Cup finals.Renato Sanches netted on two minutes, only for Dusan Tadic to equalise just after the half hour. And the real drama came in the 90th minute, as Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the goal to win the group.Portugal are guaranteed to be seeded in the playoff draw.

GROUP B

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Spain8511+1019
2 – Sweden8503+615
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Spain had a nervy time against Sweden, needing a point to advance to the finals, before Alvaro Morata calmed the nerves with what proved to be an 86th-minute winner.Spain go direct the the World Cup finals, while Sweden enter the playoffs.  Sweden should have enough points to be seeded in the playoff draw, but they must wait for confirmation.

GROUP C

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Switzerland8530+1318
2 – Italy8440+1116
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Switzerland scored three second-half goals at home Bulgaria to get the 3-0 win they needed to put pressure on Italy.

The European champions couldn’t respond, held to a goalless draw away to Northern Ireland.

It means Switzerland qualify for the World Cup and, just like in qualifying for the 2018 edition, Italy must go through the playoffs. Roberto Mancini’s team will be seeded in those playoffs.

GROUP D
Nov. 16: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Ukraine, Finland vs. France

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – France7430+1315
2 – Finland7322+211
3 – Ukraine7160+19
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

France (12 points) sealed their place at the World Cup with am 8-0 win over Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Finland (11 points) moved into second with victory over Bosnia, who are now eliminated, and must win at home to France on Nov. 16 to definitely secure the playoff place. They will be second regardless if Ukraine do not win in Bosnia.

Ukraine (9 points) now know they must win in Bosnia to make the playoffs, with Finland losing or drawing against France. If Finland lose, Ukraine go to the playoffs with any win.

If Finland draw and Ukraine win, it comes down to goal difference. If Ukraine win by one goal, goal difference would be level and it would come down to goals scored (as it stands, Finland have 10 goals and Ukraine 9). If goals scored also finishes level, Ukraine are second on head to head record.

GROUP E
Nov. 16: Czech Republic vs. Estonia, Wales vs. Belgium

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Belgium7610+1919
2 – Wales7421+514
3 – Czech Rep7322+311
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Belgium (19 points) qualified for the World Cup with their 3-1 win at home to Estonia.

Wales (14 points) are second ahead of Czech Republic (11 points), and both are assured of a playoff place via the UEFA Nations League if they finish third. However, Wales need at least a point at home to Belgium guarantee finishing second and have a chance of being seeded in the playoff draw. They will also finish second with a defeat if Czech Republic fail to beat Estonia.For Czech Republic to finish second, they have to win at home to Estonia, and need Wales to lose, meaning the two teams will finish level on points. The Czechs (+3) must then finish with better goal difference than Wales (+5). If goal difference finishes level, second place would be decided on group goals scored.

If records finish identical, Wales win the head to head. This can only happen if Wales lose and Czech Republic win by the same one-goal scoreline.

– UEFA World Cup playoff system explained

GROUP F

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Denmark10901+2727
2 – Scotland10721+1023
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Denmark qualified but missed out on finishing with a 100% record after defeat to Scotland in their last game.  That victory was crucial for Scotland, and it means they will be seeded in the playoff draw.Austria didn’t finish inside the top two, but are guaranteed of being unseeded in the playoffs as a UEFA Nations League group winner.

GROUP G
Nov. 16: Gibraltar vs. Latvia, Montenegro vs. Turkey, Netherlands vs. Norway

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Netherlands9621+2320
2 – Turkey9531+1018
3 – Norway9531+918
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Vastly superior goal difference effectively means Netherlands (20 points) will only need a point at home to Norway to qualify for the World Cup. They could only miss out with a draw if Turkey (18 points) win in Montenegro by at least 13 goals.However, Netherlands would miss out on the playoffs and finish third in the group if they lose to Norway (18 points) and Turkey win.Turkey are level with Norway, but hold second on goal difference (by one goal) following their 6-0 win over Gibraltar. Turkey know that a win away to Montenegro guarantees at least a playoff place.If Turkey (GD +10) and Norway (GD +9) both win, Netherlands are out and first and second will be decided goal difference. Turkey can only top the group if both they and Norway win. Turkey, who have scored 10 more goals than Norway, would need to win by the same score margin, or one goal fewer, to finish top on goal difference or goals scored.

A draw is definitely enough for Turkey for the playoffs if Norway lose.If Norway win in the Netherlands, they get at least a playoff, and win the group if Turkey fail to win. If Turkey win, Norway must win by two goals more than Turkey to overtake them on goal difference. A draw is enough for the playoffs if Turkey lose.If Turkey and Norway draw, Turkey are second on goal difference.If Turkey and Norway both lose, it will again come down to goal difference, so Norway would need Turkey to lose by a two-goal greater margin.Turkey and Norway won’t finish with identical records as Norway would need to win 12-10, even if Turkey only won 1-0.

GROUP H

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Croatia10621+1623
2 – Russia10612+1322
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Croatia got the win they needed against Russia in split to climb above their visitors and top the group.

Fedor Kudryashov scored an own goal in the 81st minute to give Croatia and 1-0 win.

Russia will have to go through the playoffs, where they will be seeded.

GROUP I

Group I

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – England10820+3626
2 – Poland10622+1920
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

England cruised to the World Cup on the final day, winning 10-0 away to San Marino.

But it wasn’t such good news for Poland, who had already qualified for the playoffs but lost their final match 2-1 at home to Hungary. That result means they have to wait for results on Tuesday to find out if they will be seeded or not, but their hopes and hanging in the balance.

GROUP J

Group J

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Germany10901+3227
2 – N Macedonia10532+1218
1st qualifies, 2nd into playoffs

Germany had already secured their place in October, leaving the playoff place up for grabs this month.North Macedonia were in danger of throwing it away, drawing 1-1 at home to Iceland, before two goals from Eljif Elmas gave them victory and a place in the playoffs.However, North Macedonia will be unseeded in the playoff draw so face an away semifinal.

HOW THE PLAYOFFS WORK

The 10 runners-up from the groups are joined by the best two UEFA Nations League group winners not to have finished in the top two of their qualifying group.We now know that Austria and whoever misses out on the top two from Group E between Czech Republic and Wales will qualify via the Nations League.The playoffs, to be played in March 2022, will be seeded by qualifying points, with the two UEFA Nations League teams unseeded. The draw takes place on Friday, Nov. 26.Seeded teams will be drawn at home against unseeded teams, to play one-legged semifinals.

SEEDED: Portugal, Russia, Italy, Scotland
UNSEEDED: Austria, North Macedonia
POT TBC: Czech Republic, Sweden, Wales

The finals will see the winners of SF1 play SF2, SF3 vs. SF4 and SF5 vs. SF6. There will be a draw to determine the home team in each final path.

European champions Italy and England can qualify for the 2022 World Cup on Monday but Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will have to wait until next year to battle through the playoffs.Portugal crashed to a 2-1 loss to Serbia on Sunday that sent the winners through to the finals in Qatar and forced Portugal into the playoffs in March as the second-placed team in Group A.

Christian Pulisic and USMNT revive ‘Dos a Cero’ lore, vanquish Mexico in World Cup qualifier

Henry BushnellFri, November 12, 2021, 11:03 PMIn this article:

 celebrates the first of two U.S. goals that beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on Friday. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

CINCINNATI — The half-fit savior jogged up the sideline at 10:31 p.m. He had, for over an hour here on Friday night, watched a World Cup qualifier from a shivering bench, bundled in a rain-repelling overcoat, helpless. He’d watched from a worn patch of grass just beyond the southwest corner flag as his teammates and their biggest rivals sparred, surging and retreating, trading crunching tackles and promising moments but, for 65 minutes, no goals.Christian Pulisic watched all of it, and knew he could change it.Five minutes after joining the fray, with his first touch the ball, he did.Pulisic, who’d been limited by injury to just 23 minutes of competitive soccer over the past two months, headed the U.S. ahead of Mexico on a frigid night in Ohio. Eleven minutes later, Weston McKennie doubled the lead. And ghosts reappeared. Dos a Cero emerged from its grave. Some 20,000 American fans sang it, those three Spanish words, flowing from the mouths of gringos, echoing around TQL Stadium the rest of the night.Those fans had stood without reprieve through drizzle and driving rain, as mid-40s temperatures dipped into the 30s. They’d hoped to revive that famous scoreline, to resuscitate the demons that Mexico had seemingly vanquished five years and one day ago, when it snapped the streak of four consecutive 2-0 U.S. wins in home qualifiers.For over an hour, the USMNT looked strong but incapable. Focused and passionate, but without cutting edge. Organized and intelligent, but without an extra touch of class. Possession and purpose without a breakthrough.Then Pulisic arrived, and Cincinnati came alive, and the past became the present. Perhaps the future, too. There may never be another U.S.-Mexico game like this. There may never be another opportunity in Ohio for El Tri to confront these demons.Dos a Cero, after another magical night, may just live on forever.

The Dos a Cero lore

It all began just up the road in Columbus, over 20 years ago, before a few current USMNTers were even born. The Mexican media dubbed it La Guerra Fría. Soccer’s cold war. Literally. The U.S. won 2-0. Mexicans froze. A legend was born.It solidified itself in USMNT culture that next summer at the World Cup. Dos a Cero again, then again in 2005, and by then it was more than just two numbers. It was a foregone conclusion, a rite of passage for U.S. fans, a date that got circled on calendars and a flight that instantly got booked, because the game would inevitably be in Columbus and the result would inevitably be 2-0. It was again in 2009. And again in 2013.

The names on backs of jerseys changed. Not much else did. Clint Dempsey could have made it Tres a Cero in 2013. Some fans revised the chant as he stepped up to a stoppage-time penalty kick. Others, though, cringed at the thought. One standing behind the goal that day swears that Dempsey “looked me directly in the eye, gave me a wink, and kicked the ball wide. And then looked up at us [fans], and kinda gave us a little sly grin, and kinda gave us a thumbs up, and clapped as he walked away to celebrate. So, I go to my grave saying, Clint did that for the culture.”

Such was the importance of Dos a Cero, and such was the sadness when it perished in 2016. (Cause of death: A Rafa Marquez dagger.) But the traditions it spawned? They persisted, and reappeared in Cincinnati this week. On Friday, as the sun set and temperatures ebbed, parking lots, bars and streets filled. Mexican and American and Mexican American fans came from all 50 states, and from south of the border, some having paid thousands of dollars for a ticket, some having gamed a system designed to prevent them from getting one.They danced and drank and sounded air horns. Some indoctrinated their kids. Others met friends they hadn’t seen in years. Many fraternized with the enemy. Starkly different cultures meshed in a largely white Midwestern county, harmonizing around the one thing they share: Soccer.This time, the city was different. The venue was brand new. The goosebumps and stomach pits, though, were familiar. U.S. fans felt them, and wondered whether their players would. Only one of the 11 who took the pitch to a coordinated, stadium-wide “U-S-A” chant on Friday had played in this game before. Would they understand its history? Its ethos? Could they cope?They answered resoundingly, and immediately.

Passion and intensity mixed with poise

They swarmed to the ball high up the pitch in the game’s very first minute. They stood up to Mexican elders in individual duels. Zack Steffen, a controversial choice to start the game in goal, calmly split Mexican opponents with passes. Tyler Adams, after some early mistakes, flew into tackles. Tim Weah and Ricardo Pepi combined, with a dummy and a flick, and with the confidence of men twice their footballing years.

The classiest players on the field were the Mexican stars. The usual suspects. Chucky Lozano was magical. His teammates cut through the U.S. press in the 18th minute, going back to front with six touches and five passes, and played him in on goal. Steffen sprawled for his biggest save of the night.

But those stars — Raul Jimenez, Tecatito Corona, Hector Herrera, Edson Alvarez — met resistance. They met DeAndre Yedlin’s shoulder and Miles Robinson’s grit. They outplayed Adams and McKennie throughout the first half, but Yunus Musah, all of 18 years old, ran the U.S. show. He wriggled in and out of tight spaces, his feel for the game precocious, his drive relentless. Standing on the sideline, U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter marveled.

“The quality, the bravery, the relentlessness,” he said of Musah postgame. “He just keeps going.”

But part of Berhalter also worried. His kids, clearly, were undaunted. They were outpossessing Mexico. Perhaps outstripping individual expectations. And yet they hadn’t found a goal.

“We have to get one,” Musah told Weah at halftime.

“I’m thinking how well we’re playing,” Berhalter said, “and it would’ve been a shame if we didn’t win the game.”

At a Thursday meeting, though, Weah said they’d talked about patience. About balancing intensity and poise. They emerged from their locker room at halftime — a full two minutes before Mexico did — with all of those attributes and more.

They kept their heads when the game got chippy and, in some instances, brutal. Jimenez put Adams on his back after an aerial duel. Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez very nearly gauged Brenden Aaronson’s eye. A scuffle ensued. The match frayed. Fans wondered, understandably, if there’d be a winner.

But Mexico had tired. The U.S. never did. “That’s the effect that we have on opponents,” Berhalter said. “When we can press them, and we can be that aggressive around the ball and with the ball, turning them around, making them face their own goal, it becomes really challenging.”

The Americans took control. And then, with around 25 minutes remaining, Berhalter looked to his right. Down the sideline, swinging his limbs, warming his muscles, was a $73 million forward with the final-third lethality that had been lacking.

“When we brought in Christian, it gave the team a boost,” Berhalter said. “And it also put some fear into Mexico. Because they know his quality.”

Dos a Cero lives forever

So on came Pulisic. Five minutes later, with the match seemingly stalling a bit, out wide the ball went to Weah. Weah, the coaches’ man of the match, drove at a defender, giving Pulisic time to sneak between two others in the box.

The ball skimmed off his head and past Memo Ochoa. As TQL Stadium exploded, Pulisic brought two fingers to his ears. As beer flew and 20,000 people leapt with joy, he lifted up his jersey, to reveal an undershirt, and send a message.

As the game resumed, and the USMNT refused to flinch, Mexico wilted. McKennie waltzed through a crumbling defense and finished.

Robinson got sent off late, few cared. It was Dos a Cero, again. It was Dos a Cero, Part Six. It was Dos a Cero, risen.

At the final whistle, U.S. players beamed and scurried onto the field. Up in the stands, U.S. supporters jumped. A middle-aged man clad in only a shirt and stars-and-striped shorts shed the shirt and waved it in the air.

And then came the chant, again and again, and again and again.

The players gathered at midfield, then took a lap around the field to soak it in. Perhaps they knew the context. Perhaps they didn’t. The World Cup is changing. The qualifying format will change with it. The U.S. and Mexico may never come back to Ohio, at least not for a meaningful game. This was the end of an era, of a ritualistic experience, of a series that has defined U.S. men’s national team fandom for two decades.

And it will always be associated with those three words.

Dos. A. Cero.

More to USMNT than Christian Pulisic, but Chelsea star proves vs. Mexico he’s the face of U.S. soccer

CINCINNATI — Christian Pulisic was there. He was there for a week of hard training. He was there in the dressing room as the players gathered round. He was there as the game began to tip in the second half. He was there in front of goal. He was there in the middle of that magical, glorious celebration that set TQL Stadium aglow.

Pulisic was there with the message on his shirt, the perfect person — the only person — who could deliver that necessary missive to Mexico, the one that makes clear this United States men’s national team is not interested in being anything other than its precocious, penetrating self. No one could say that Pulisic was the best player on the field in the thrilling 2-0 victory over its biggest rival Friday night. Pulisic played only 25 minutes and, in truth, even had it been 90, it was hard to imagine him (or anyone) surpassing the dynamic Timothy Weah, who delivered nothing less than everything you could want from a winger attacking from the edge against a dangerous opponent.But after missing the past three U.S. games because of an ankle injury, Pulisic reminded evryone, including Mexico, that he is this team’s talisman. Its star. Its leader, the kind of player who can, at any moment, grip a match in his hands and bend it just so.He came into a scoreless game. He pushed and pressed and prodded. He made a precise run at a precise moment to meet Weah’s impeccable cross. He headed the ball past Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper who suggested earlier this week that this young U.S. group has accomplished so little that it still sees El Tri when it gazes at its own reflection. As Ochoa floundered then in the bitter cold late Friday, Pulisic ran toward the corner and proudly pulled up his jersey to reveal the words scrawled in black marker on his undershirt: Man in the mirror.It was a flawless riposte, sly and knifing all at once. The Americans howled. The Mexicans slumped. The days of the U.S. being bossed by its rival are long since past.Even Pulisic, ever stoic with the media, allowed himself a relative crow. “We’ve come a long way in the past few years,” he said.


Earlier in the week, in a conversation at the team hotel, I asked Pulisic how he felt about the U.S.’s progress as this arduous World Cup qualifying cycle approached its halfway point. “I think we’re in a good position,” he offered quickly in the head-down, muted murmur that is his default. Then he paused and looked up. “In a week and a half, we could be in a great one,” he said.They nearly are. If the U.S. can get a result on Tuesday in Jamaica, it will head into the new year in excellent shape to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — a goal that, Friday’s excitement aside, is far bigger than any one win over a reviled neighbor.Pulisic, of course, is the only link to the 2018 World Cup qualifying failure, and he does not hide his desperation to lead this group back from those dregs. That is what made his injury so much more difficult to manage. Missing games for Chelsea was gutting enough, but having to sit idly by as the national team played three critical matches in the last window without him was brutal for Pulisic.Stuck in London, he went to sleep early on days the U.S. played and woke up in the middle of the night to watch the games, pacing in his living room. When his recovery progressed to the point he could rejoin Chelsea’s training a few weeks ago, he immediately began thinking about targeting a return in time for Mexico.He craved it. Pulisic makes no secret of the fact that he is not wired to be a vocal captain like Tyler Adams, but he nonetheless sees himself as a leader of this youthful U.S. group. And so he wanted to be present, to be visible, to be close.”I just want to lead in my own way,” he told me, “and I hope that the other guys can see that and then try to follow.”He needn’t worry. Even if many of his teammates are only a few years younger (Pulisic, remember, is still only 23), it is clear there is an abiding connection. Brenden Aaronson, who was among those asked to fill in with Pulisic out, said Pulisic “means so much to our team,” adding, “It’s like another confidence boost just having him here.”Weah said simply, “He’s our star player. He’s so deadly.”It was Weah and DeAndre Yedlin who came up with the idea to put “man in the mirror” on a shirt, and it is emblematic of Pulisic’s place within the group that he was the one who got to show it.It should be said: It is not his team. There is too much talent for any one player to take on that load, and the truth is that the U.S. is better because of it. But there is also no denying that Pulisic remains the ideal fulcrum around which this American roster pivots.That is what U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter — and, very likely, just about every American fan in the stands — thought when Pulisic took off his warm-ups, gave his coach a hug and ran onto the field late Friday.”When we brought in Christian, it gave the team a boost,” Berhalter said. “And it also, I think, put some fear into Mexico.”


Sports is, so often, simply a results business, and that concept is especially true in World Cup qualifying. Yes or no — did you accomplish that which you set out to do? Reaching Qatar next winter is, at bottom, the only measure that matters for this American team.But the journey remains important. The moments do have meaning. And Friday in the arena with their most important opponent was a moment for the U.S. players. They imposed their will on the game. They played their style, not Mexico’s. They threatened. They defended. They were patient, trusting that their work would be rewarded even if it took so long to arrive.Even more, they did not act surprised by their victory, did not lay false claim to being some sort of massive underdog who pulled off an upset. Their skill is indisputable and, to some, might even be superior. They had their crowd. They deserved to win on Friday and they did. It was a formative experience in the story still to be written about this gifted group.Now comes another moment. A road game in Jamaica feels like the classic comedown, the kind of match that slips away easily if not held with care. A win is ideal, of course, but even a steady draw would show the sturdiness of character to which the U.S. aspires. CONCACAF is hard and the most important course of action is often just figuring out how to avoid undoing the positive work you’ve already done.It is not clear what Pulisic will be able to offer on Tuesday in Kingston. He had played less than half an hour for Chelsea before rejoining the U.S., and the conditions in Jamaica — hot, humid and on a field that inevitably resembles the rough on a chewed-up golf course — are lacking for a fit player, let alone one coming back from an ankle injury.Might he come on as a late sub again? Perhaps. But even if not, the power lies in knowing that he is available. That he is back.Pulisic was there on Friday. Right where this U.S. team needs him most.

 

USMNT Duo Suspended for World Cup Qualifier in Jamaica

AVI CREDITOR

he U.S. men’s national team is flying high after a 2–0 winDos A Cero once again—over Mexico, which lifted the Americans to the top of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings. The victory did come at a cost, though.Midfield star Weston McKennie received a yellow card, giving him two in the 14-match competition, while center back Miles Robinson was dealt two in the second half, resulting in a red card and a sending off. McKennie’s accumulation and Robinson’s ejection mean both will be unavailable for Tuesday’s qualifier in Jamaica. Any player who accumulates two yellow cards over the course of the competition is forced to miss the subsequent match. McKennie, Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin were the U.S. players carrying yellows into Friday’s match vs. El Tri. John Brooks and Jordan Pefok also picked up yellows earlier in qualifying, but they are not in this camp.McKennie received his as part of the fallout of a skirmish that followed Chaka Rodríguez appearing to grab Brenden Aaronson’s face and eyes. Rodríguez saw yellow in that sequence, as did U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen.Robinson saw yellow in the 59th minute before getting his second in the 90th for taking down Hirving Lozano from behind. It left the U.S. down to 10 men for the duration of stoppage time. Robinson has been a constant in the back for the U.S. throughout qualifying, and his absence opens up a place for Chris Richards or Mark McKenzie, the other two center backs in camp in addition to Friday’s other starter, Walker Zimmerman.

Reviving Dos a Cero Is Worth Boasting, but It’s No Time for USMNT to Reflect

There was much to celebrate Friday night in Cincinnati after a memorable win over Mexico, but the World Cup qualifying road to Qatar is only halfway complete.

BRIAN STRAUS  Sports Illustrated

CINCINNATI — U.S. men’s national team players, coaches and staff—or at least the staff who had access to the stadium PA system here—weren’t too fond of the suggestion that they see only Mexico when looking in the mirror.El Tri captain Guillermo Ochoa implied last week that Mexico is and always will be the Americans’ exemplar and measuring stick. But with Friday night’s emphatic 2–0 World Cup qualifying win, which was its third straight competitive triumph over Mexico in just five months, this young U.S. side demonstrated that it’s developing its own identity. It has broader ambitions.There’s a catch, however. There’s always a morning after, no matter how glorious the previous evening might have been. And there’s always a response required, whether you win or lose. The U.S. (4-1-2) may be in first place at the halfway point of Concacaf’s Octagonal qualifying competition, but this isn’t the summit. Tickets to Qatar aren’t yet secured, and Jamaica (1-3-3) is on the schedule next Tuesday. If the U.S. spends too much time basking in the afterglow of Friday’s win or admiring its own robust reflection, it risks squandering its momentum and advantage. “This game is behind us now,” said U.S. winger Christian Pulisic, whose timely match-winning goal and “MAN IN THE MIRROR” undershirt were the talk of TQL Stadium late Friday. “It’s huge to help us to get three points, and now we’re first place in the group and to be in this position is unbelievable. But we haven’t accomplished our ultimate goal yet. Jamaica is going to be a tough match. We know what they’re about. We’re going to get the scouting report. We’re going to prepare as best we can. That’s all we can do now.”Tuesday’s game in Kingston will mark the second time during this World Cup qualifying cycle that the U.S. plays again shortly after a win. And the first one was a disaster. Last month, the the Americans eased past the Reggae Boyz in Austin, Texas, before flying to Panama City and face planting. The 1-0 loss to Los Canaleros marked their worst performance in almost two years.There are differences between that game and this week’s. That loss in Panama came on just three days rest and was the second of three October qualifiers. As a result, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter deployed a heavily-rotated squad in Panama that was missing the requisite chemistry, movement and attacking verve. But next Tuesday’s qualifier will come after four days rest and will conclude this international window. There’s almost no need to be cautious.“It should be reasonable that if we’re happy with the performance of the players in the first game, that they can continue on and play the second game and we won’t need to rest them or rotate them,” Berhalter said after unveiling this month’s squad.He had every reason to be happy with every performance against Mexico. But he’s not going to just send out the same XI. There are two suspensions to contend with, and they’re significant. Midfielder Weston McKennie is a casualty of the stupidly draconian yellow card accumulation rule that requires a player to sit out after receiving only two cautions across the entire qualifying competition. The scorer of Friday’s second goal, McKennie saw yellow following a second-half confrontation between several U.S. and Mexico players. He was also booked in the Octagonal opener at El Salvador.The U.S. will also play Jamaica without center back Miles Robinson, who’s arguably traversed more ground on Berhalter’s depth chart than any other player since the summer. The Atlanta United defender probably should’ve won the Concacaf Gold Cup MVP award, and he was excellent on Friday, partnering with Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman to take Mexico front man Raúl Jiménez out of the game. Robinson was sent off with a second yellow card in the 90th minute for a tug from behind on Hirving Lozano.

Tradition Restored, Respect Earned: USMNT’s Latest ‘Dos a Cero’ Hits All the Right Notes

The U.S.’s rallying cry against Mexico has officially been adopted by its new generation in a defining World Cup qualifying victory.  BRIAN STRAUS  Sports illustrated

CINCINNATI — This may be a generation of young U.S. players the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s ambitious, fearless and committed to its manager Gregg Berhalter’s stated mission “to change the way the world views American soccer.”But it still has an enthralling and timely appreciation for the classics.It’s the score made famous by their predecessors, the ones who pulled the U.S. men’s national team even with and often past their arch rival and long-time tormenter, Mexico. It became a slogan, an appellation and a call to arms: “Dos a Cero.” It was the score when the Americans bested El Tri at the 2002 World Cup and when they established a long-sought home-field advantage in nearby Columbus, where they won four straight World Cup qualifiers by that exact margin.If Friday night’s qualifier here in wet and chilly Cincinnati indeed was the last between the teams on U.S. soil, then this stretch of games that redefined U.S. soccer’s standing in the region ended on a perfectly poignant note. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie scored second-half goals, punctuating as dominant a performance as the U.S. has ever enjoyed against its rival. The 2–0 win lifted the Americans (4-1-2) to first place at the halfway point of Concacaf’s eight-team qualifying competition, which will send the top three finishers to next year’s World Cup in Qatar and the fourth-place side to an intercontinental playoff.The U.S., which visits Jamaica (1-3-3) next Tuesday, is now ahead of second-place Mexico on goal differential. But the gap suddenly seems bigger than that. After losing his first two matchups against El Tri, Berhalter has engineered an unprecedented three straight competitive wins in just five months—the Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League finals during the summer and then Friday’s signature triumph.Before making their case to the world, the Americans had to re-establish themselves locally. The failure to advance to the 2018 World Cup loomed large over this revitalized program as the new quadrennial cycle commenced. But this player pool clearly is made of different stuff. It’s exceptionally young for a contending national team—this month’s squad averages under 24 years of age—but its aspirations and confidence are evident. Many members play for high-profile clubs. Others are on their way. And they approached Friday’s game with no fear, pressing and harassing and going at Mexico until the visitors eventually and inevitably buckled.“When I think about our age and the youth we have in this generation coming up and having to compete against Mexico, that’s an experienced team. And these guys just keep going and they’re relentless,” said Berhalter, a member of that U.S. team that bested El Tri in ’02. “It’s the mentality of the group to be very aggressive. We wanted to put Mexico on their heels. We know they’re a good team, a well-coached team, and for us it was about, ‘How we can we disrupt them?’ And I think we didn’t want to show that sign of weakness by dropping off. We wanted to be aggressive and continue to press.” If it looked like the hosts played with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder, it’s because they probably did. Each and every qualifier is worth just three points, and the three points earned Friday are no more vital than the ones at stake in Kingston next week. But anyone who’s ever competed understands the nature of rivalry, and how that friction and antipathy can jumpstart emotions, highlight perceived sleights and heighten sensitivity. It’s not enough to beat El Tri. It has to sting.This week, veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa expressed an interesting take on the cross-border clásico. Those two wins over the summer and that winning overall record over the past three decades didn’t change the overall pecking order, he suggested, because the U.S. still defines itself by its relationship to Mexico.“Mexico has been that mirror in which they want to see themselves and reflect—what they want to copy,” Ochoa told reporters.Berhalter bristled during his pre-game press conference on Friday, saying that his players apparently still “have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico.” That was the cue. At some point between then and Friday’s kickoff. U.S. Soccer staffers put Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” on the stadium playlist. And Pulisic, separately and coincidentally, had the same phrase written on a white undershirt.When Pulisic scored the game’s opening goal on a quick near-post run and sharp, short-range, 75th-minute header, he lifted his U.S. jersey and showed off the undershirt to the fans sitting behind TQL Stadium’s south goal. And after the final whistle sounded about 15 minutes later—McKennie had tallied the symbolic second goal in the 85th—the arena’s PA system played Jackson’s hit.

Pulisic, McKennie Bring Dos a Cero Back for USMNT vs. Mexico

AVI CREDITOR sports illustrated

It’s Dos a Cero: The next generation.   Into Friday’s World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico for just five minutes as a second-half substitute, U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic scored the go-ahead goal in the 74th minute, while Weston McKennie added a second 11 minutes later to give the U.S. a familiar 2–0 win in an intense bout between the two storied rivals at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.The stakes were big, with the U.S. now topping the Concacaf Octagonal halfway through the cycle, tied on points with Mexico but ahead on goal differential. After the other results in the region on the night, the U.S. is a point clear of third-place Canada and three points ahead of fourth-place Panama. More importantly, the U.S. is eight points clear of fifth-place Costa Rica. The top three teams in the Octagonal automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team goes to an intercontinental playoff. The Dos a Cero scoreline had been a fixture in World Cup qualifying bouts between the two sides, with the U.S. winning 2-0 in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 before Mexico snapped the streak and prevented it from going to five in a row in Columbus in 2016, winning 2–1 to open the last round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. On a night the U.S. made it three straight wins in competitive matches vs. El Tri in a matter of five months, following summer triumphs in the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals, the Americans took back their tradition as well. The U.S. was a bit shorthanded for the match. Pulisic wasn’t available from the start, Gregg Berhalter announced Thursday, citing his bandwidth after just returning from injury, while Sergiño Dest and Gio Reyna were sidelined with injuries of their own. Mexico wasn’t playing with a full deck either, with the visitors facing a bit of a center back crisis. Néstor Araujo was suspended, while César Montes and Héctor Moreno were out injured, forcing manager Tata Martino to dip into his depth at a pivotal position.  Things were busy on the U.S. left to start the match, with left back Antonee Robinson pushing forward and trying to drive the U.S. attack only to be thwarted, while Jesús “Tecatito” Corona tried to go 1-v-1 on Miles Robinson—who was covering Antonee Robinson’s area—on the other end, with the Atlanta United center back coming out on top in their duel.  The first U.S. half-chance emanated from the right, though. Yunus Musah did well to keep possession in the midfield before finding Tim Weah out wide, and he picked out Mexican-American forward Ricardo Pepi, whose redirect in the box went wide of the target in the fifth minute.  Weah called his own number from long range on a one-man transitional moment a couple of minutes later, trying to beat Guillermo Ochoa with a low blast when he had Brenden Aaronson streaking forward into the box. The veteran goalkeeper calmly and cleanly made the save.   Mexico tested Zack Steffen for the first time in the 12th minute. Edson Álvarez curled a shot from over 20 yards out toward the left post, but Steffen, who got the start over Matt Turner for a second straight qualifier, was equal to it, diving to his right and pushing it around the target.  Steffen made another massive save in the 18th minute, when Hirving Lozano was played through by Corona and found himself on a breakaway. With DeAndre Yedlin bearing down, Lozano still had room to shoot, but a sprawling Steffen made the save.

USMNT analysis

DOS-A-CERO Again! Pulisic ignites USMNT rally to down Mexico in Cincy

The United States national team wrote another memorable chapter to its long-standing rivalry with Mexico. While it featured many new players, the 2-0 scoreline remained the same with Christian Pulisic breaking the game open with a huge goal and Tim Weah putting on a dazzling performance. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down with his thoughts and analysis.

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA   American Soccer now —  NOVEMBER 12, 20213:55 PM

AT HALFTIME, it seemed like the game could have gone either way with the score even at 0-0. Mexico had some nice chances, but the U.S. team had some nice chances but was only lacking its final ball. The second half, however, told a completely different story and the U.S. defeated Mexico by the iconic 2-0 score to notch a third competitive win over Mexico in 2021 and move into first atop the Octagonal World Cup qualifying group.

The U.S. team simply came out and took the game to Mexico in the second. The U.S. team dominated and had the better of chances. Mexico struggled to get anything decent going in their final third. The U.S. team was able to press much higher up the field.“The second half is when we started to pull away,” Berhalter said. “The first half was an entertaining half, it was back and forth and both teams were taking shots at each other. The second half is where we started to pull away.”“That’s the effect we have on our opponents. when we can press them and we can be that aggressive around the ball and with the ball, turning them around make them face to face your own goal becomes really challenging.”With the U.S. in control of the possession and pressuring Mexico, the turning point came in the 69th minute when Berhalter subbed in Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea star has missed most of this season for the Blues – first due to COVID and then due to an injured ankle. He had made a few late cameos in England before the break and was not fit to start.But he was fit to make a difference. In the 74th minute, five minutes after entering, he turned the game decidedly in favor of the U.S. team with a critical goal off a beautiful pass from Tim Weah.“We bought in Christian he gave the team of boost and it also put some fear into Mexico, because they know his quality,” Berhalter said. “So, anytime we can bring in players like that, and they can make an impact is a good thing for us.”In the 85th minute, the U.S. put the game out of reach when Tim Weah swung a ball into the middle for Jesus Ferreira. The FC Dallas attacker played it off to McKennie who attempted to play it back to Ferreira. His pass was deflected off a defender and came back to him and he had an opening through the defense. He moved in and beat Guillermo Ochoa with the shot.The U.S. team was able to play out the win but suffered a late second yellow card to defender Miles Robinson who was sent off and is now suspended for the Jamaica game. He will join Weston McKennie as two players who will miss that important game.When the final whistle sounded, the U.S. ended yet another 2-0 storied win over Mexico. It is now the sixth time the U.S. team has defeated its archrival with that iconic scoreline in World Cup or World Cup qualifying with the other editions coming in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

Here are some thoughts on the win

WEAH WAS THE MOTM

 Gregg Berhalter gave Tim Weah the “Coach’s MOTM” and it was the right decision. In the first half, Weah was actively pushing the ball forward whenever he had the chance and this prevented Mexico from pressing too high as it kept them on their heels a little bit.Then in the second half, Weah was the key difference maker. His cross set up Puslic beautifully for the opening goal and then it was his pass to Ferreira that was instrumental in McKennie’s late goal.
For the three wins the U.S. team has had over Mexico this year, this was the best offensive performance from any American players. It would take going back to Landon Donovan to find a player who had a better offensive game against Mexico.Weah’s raw numbers were simply fantastic across the board.

PULISIC BUILDS USMNT LEGACY

 Christian Pulisic has had a wonderful career so far and while he is yet to play in a World Cup, he has scored some important goals for the team. This was probably his biggest so far. The U.S. team is desperately trying to reverse the legacy of 2017 and change a new narrative.The two wins over Mexico this summer were important but this one put the exclamation point on what has been a good year for a program that has built a deep pool of players. This win put the U.S. team in an excellent position in World Cup qualifying and Pulisic’s goal is what turned the tide from a good U.S. performance into a winning performance. That is what star players are supposed to do.

 MIDFIELD RISES TO THE OCCASION

 The starting midfield for the U.S. team was sloppy with its passing in the first 20 minutes. The remainder of the match, however, the starting trio of Adams, McKennie, and Musah were dominant. In the second half, it was no contest.For the starting trio, they won 22/35 of their combined duels. The physicality they brought to the game gave the U.S. team an edge, and it wore and older Mexican team down.
While McKennie scored, the most complete midfield performance was Yunus Musah who is one of the most direct midfielders the U.S. team has had. When Beharlter preaches “verticality,” Musah seems to fit this plan.Gianluca Busio has been pushing for a starting spot, but Musah will probably make it tough for him. Busio and Musah both are still a little defensively naive and it is tough to start both of them together. But for now, it’s tough to take Musah off the field.

 YOUTH PROVIDES THE EDGE

 The U.S. national team has three wins in three games against Mexico this year. In those three wins, the U.S. team has scored six goals. Five of those six goals have been scored after the 74th minute (27th, 82nd, 114th, 117th, 74th, 85th).It’s an older Mexican team and a very young U.S. team. Berhalter was quick to point out how he wanted to wear Mexico down. This strategy has been very effective. The U.S. has found a way to own the latter parts of the game and that has been key.Will the U.S. team be able to do that in Azteca next year? That’s a tough assignment.

 ZIMMERMAN’S BIG NIGHT

 Walker Zimmerman had a very, very big night for the U.S. team. He was a steady presence in the back and dominated in the air. Aside from one turnover in the first half, it was pretty much flawless defensively. It wasn’t just winning duels, he was intercepting passes and doing well in his 1v1 defending.This was a defining performance for Zimmerman who probably put himself on the inside part of a top 23-player roster. If Berhalter is going to call in four central defenders he’s probably one of them. The odds are that John Brooks regains his form. That would probably have John Brooks, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, and Chris Richards as the top four central defenders at the moment. 

STEFFEN’S STANDS TALL

 It was one of the most talked about decisions in the starting XI since it was known in advance. Berhalter opted to start Zack Steffen over Matt Turner. It was talked about because both goalkeepers have done well, and both should feel they have reasons to start.In this game, Steffen did well and the fact that he got the nod in this game probably makes it a realistic guess he will be the team’s starter in big games – at least for now. Turner will still get chances and is probably a slightly better shot-stopper than Steffen. But Steffen’s ability to play out of the back and distribute the ball worked well here and it the U.S. team earned a lot of key possessions out of it.Of course, Steffen has dealt with several injuries over the years and has missed a lot of time. The fact that he rarely plays for his club also could see his form fluctuate. But for now, Steffen put himself in a great situation. 

LOOKING AHEAD TO JAMAICA

 On Tuesday, the U.S. team will face Jamaica in Kingston and keeping the entire starting lineup from this game together is impossible because Miles Robinson and Weston McKennie are suspended.There are some other evaluations which Berhalter will have to consider – mostly around fitness levels of some players. Most likely it will be players like Tim Weah and Yunus Musah haven’t been regular starters with their respective clubs and playing two full games from the start with extensive travel are tough questions.Berhalter admitted after the Mexico win that he was thinking about calling in extra players but those would almost certainly be for cover.
In central defense, Zimmerman and Chris Richards seems certainly to be the combination. In place of McKennie, Kellyn Acosta has been the backup in that role for most of the year. While Gianluca Busio could get the start, it would be in place of Musah and it would be hard to see the two teenagers starting together.The rest of the lineup should be pretty much the same and Pulisic, like against Mexico, will be a big offensive weapon off the bench.

 Player ratings

THE STARTING LINEUP

 Zack Steffen: The Manchester City backup goalkeeper had a big outing with important saves in the 12th and 18th minutes while having solid distribution. Rating: 7

Antonee Robinson: The left back pushed forward and defended well although his crossing and final ball sometimes let him down. Rating: 6.5

Walker Zimmerman: The Nashville SC stallwart had a first-rate performance in central defense and was most responsible for the cleansheet. He also had some nice passes out of the back that created nice possessions. Rating: 7.5

Miles Robinson: The Massachusetts native was sent off in the 89th minute with his second yellow card but the U.S. was up 2-0 and coasting. Prior to that, Robinson had a nice game where he defended well and won his duels. His first yellow card was unnecessary. Rating: 6.5

DeAndre Yedlin: The team’s loan veteran from the 2014 World Cup team wasn’t flashy but was just dependable and strong. He made no real mistakes and was there defensively whenever needed. Rating: 6.5

Tyler Adams:  Adams had a tough beginning of the game but settled in nicely. His second half was strong and he allowed the attackers, fullbacks and other midfielders to push higher up the field and build pressure. Rating: 7

Weston McKennie: The Juventus midfielder scored the team’s second goal but also did a ton of dirty work in the middle of the field to disrupt Mexico’s attack. Rating: 7

Yunus Musah: It was a big outing from Musah who passed well in the open field and was always looking to dribble quickly and create chances. He linked up well with Weah and Mexico struggled to contain his skill an athleticism. Rating: 7.5

Brenden Aaronson: The New Jersey native had a shot inside of the 20th minute but couldn’t get enough on it and hit it straight at Ochoa. While he had other positive moments, he didn’t stand out as much as he typically does and his set piece deliveries can be better. Rating: 6.5

Tim Weah: It was Weah’s best performance for the U.S. team and one of the best offensive performances a U.S. player has ever had against Mexico. While he didn’t score, he had a stellar assist on Pulisic’s goal and his pass to Ferreira was instrumental in the second goal. When Mexico was playing well in the first half, Weah was part of the U.S. team’s effort to get the ball forward and not let Mexico step too far into the attack. He was everywhere and Mexico had no answer for him. Rating: 8.5

Ricardo Pepi: His scoring touch let him down but Pepi was able to contribute in other ways. He set up Musah for a good chance in the first half. It was clear Mexico was paying a lot of attention to shutting him down, but Pepi wasn’t invisible and had his moments. Rating: 7

 THE SUBSTITUTES

 Christian Pulisic: Pulisic did what star players do, create a moment of magic to give his team an edge. His goal was the defining moment. Rating: 7.5

Kellyn Acosta: The Colorado native replaced a tired Musah and helped see out the win. He didn’t do much either way. Rating: 5.5

Jesus Ferreira: Entering into the game in the 82nd, Ferreira played with some nice energy. He had a big hand in the second goal in getting it to McKennie (not credited with an assist because McKennie’s attempted pass didn’t work). He missed a late shot wide – which he could have done better but was probably lost in the moment. Still, his energy was solid. Rating: 6.5

Chris Richards: A stoppage time sub to fill the void in central defense left by Robinson’s red card. Rating: NR

 THE COACH

 Gregg Berhalter: You can’t argue with the result, the decisions, or the performance. The U.S. team looked prepared. The lineup was 100% right and his non-lock picks – Steffen, Zimmerman, Weah – all worked out. His subs changed the game and the team made some important adjustments at halftime as the U.S. began to take the game to Mexico after the break. Rating: 8.0

As global soccer’s landscape shifts, was USMNT-Mexico the best we’ll ever see at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium?

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer  Mon, November 15, 2021, 8:59 AM

TQL Stadium is about six months old, and it might have already peaked and hosted the best-ever night its history.Due to the shifting landscape of international soccer, we might never again see a soccer spectacle at the stadium as big as Friday’s U.S. men’s national team game against vaunted rival Mexico in FIFA World Cup qualifying.At the outset of the July 28 press conference at TQL Stadium announcing the USMNT’s quadrennial home match against Mexico in World Cup qualifying, FC Cincinnati Chief Executive Officer and Controlling Owner Carl Lindner III proudly declared: “We’ve done it.”And they had done it. The biggest match and the most intense rivalry in North American soccer, and therefore one of the prominent international fixtures in the world, would be staged at TQL Stadium. Building a venue worthy of the game and bringing it to Cincinnati was no small achievement.Four months later, the match was executed to perfection. Friday’s game was nothing short the spectacle you expect of USMNT-Mexico, complete with chippy on-field drama and a famous “Dos a Cero” victory that immediately took its place in USMNT lore.

USMNT-Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier: Winners, losers from TQL Stadium

Opinion: Win over Mexico shows USMNT has the swagger to go with its considerable talent

A World Cup qualifier against Mexico is as big as it gets for USMNT and its fans. There’s another happening in March 2022, too, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Bigger venue, pro-Mexican crowd, of course, and every bit as much passion and flair.

But after that game, the biggest match we know in North American soccer might cease to exist as we’ve come to understand and love it in its present context.

There won’t be a qualifying cycle for the next World Cup for these decades-old foes. The event is to be jointly hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and allows the three host countries to qualify automatically.The 2026 World Cup is also the tournament that will see the field grow to 48 national teams from 32.

In enlarging the World Cup field, it’s more likely regional heavyweights will have an easier path to qualifying. There will be less risk of missing the tournament altogether, which befell the U.S. for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and nearly happened to Mexico four years earlier in Brazil.And then there’s still the possibility (albeit a fiercely debated one) of switching the FIFA World Cup from being staged once every four years to a biennial event. That could also upend that qualification process as we know it.The USMNT-Mexico rivalry will remain, of course. The border countries will meet again in games both meaningful and friendly.FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding told The Enquirer on Wednesday he expected the rivalry to continue unabated, with future meaningful match-ups likely to occur in the Concacaf Gold Cup, which crowns this FIFA region’s champion national team every two years.The newly introduced Concacaf Nations League will exist, too. That competition, which saw the Americans meaningfully triumph in the championship match over Mexico in June, attempts to make a kind of league season out of international matches for the region.But Friday’s match still might have been the end of an era, and the best night TQL Stadium will ever know.It’s not that FC Cincinnati did anything wrong. The venue and the club that reside there aren’t at fault, of course, but having tasted built a stadium worthy of hosting the match and experienced the extravagance of USMNT-Mexico firsthand, it would also be Cincinnati’s loss to see the rivalry diminished.To be sure, this isn’t just a Cincinnati problem.A lessened USMNT-Mexico rivalry on the men’s side is a broad, pressing concern for both countries. It was discussed at length in the week leading up to the match, and American players and coaches were regularly asked about it.If it doesn’t get bigger than USMNT-Mexico in World Cup qualifying, and the stakes and format of World Cup qualifying are going to shift, how can there ever be another USMNT-Mexico match like Friday’s, and the one in March to come?How can Cincinnati ever again know white-hot soccer feuding set against frigid temperatures and driving rain, and 26,000 still packing the stands?

Asked Thursday about the future of the USMNT-Mexico rivalry, U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said, “it could potentially change.””I think about the rivalry over the years and the impact of these games, what they’ve meant to our fans and Mexican fans and the rivalry and how the rivalry’s grown, you know, it’s been great,” Berhalter said. “I’ve been asked ‘is it gonna change? Will the rivalry change?’ And I don’t think it will.”We may not be able to play qualifiers of this magnitude, World Cup qualifiers. But we’ll see them down the road in a lot of meaningful games and the rivalry is always gonna be intense. You know, we’re both fighting to be top of our region and when you have two teams like this going at each other, there’s always gonna be heat.”This is not to say TQL Stadium doesn’t have big games and events left in it.The stadium’s in its infancy, and by every account U.S. Soccer has enjoyed the two events it helped stage there in 2021 (the U.S. women defeated Paraguay in a post-Olympics friendly in September).In terms of the city at-large continuing to be a destination for major matches, TQL Stadium should be at the top of the list for future consideration regarding MLS All-Star games, friendlies, Gold Cup matches, and other events.

There’s also Cincinnati’s bid to host 2026 World Cup matches. The bid isn’t to host the USMNT specifically and Paul Brown Stadium would be the host venue, but if the tournament comes to the city in 2026, you can bet that would be like nothing the region has ever experienced.And then there’s FC Cincinnati. The club fell on hard times upon entering Major League Soccer and has finished last in the league for three consecutive years. The club is a popular punching bag for national MLS pundits but the reality, as well as the custom in North American sports, is that all expansion projects eventually improve.Better days will come at the club level in Cincinnati. MLS Cup playoff soccer at TQL Stadium would be a very enticing proposition given the club’s rabid support.Bringing an event like the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier for Qatar 2022 to Cincinnati was always going to be special. Regardless of the outcome, it promised to be memorable and historic.The game that resulted, combined with the scenes around the city for a week leading up to the match, surpassed expectations. History was made, and then some.The stadium’s reputation grew for the right reasons, and U.S. Soccer, be it the men’s or women’s national teams (probably both), will surely return eventually.Still, that doesn’t promise the spectacle Cincinnati witnessed on Friday. Scenes like that are becoming scarce, so we simply might not ever again see a night like Friday for as long as TQL Stadium stands. That’s simply the reality of the impending sea change in the world’s game.


Written Version: Landon, Wahl and Witty on USMNT 2, Mexico 0

Mike Ryan Joins the Group to Break Down a Huge U.S. Win Over Its Archrival     Grant Wahl Nov 14 

As we do after every USMNT World Cup qualifier, I was joined by Landon Donovan and Chris Wittyngham (along with the Dan Le Batard Show’s Mike Ryan) to discuss the USMNT’s big 2-0 win over Mexico in Cincinnati. I really enjoyed this discussion and think you will too.

Grant Wahl:

Hey there. Welcome to Landon, Wahl and Witty On The Road To Qatar. I’m Grant Wahl. Thanks so much for joining me. We’ve got a special episode in partnership with Meadowlark and Le Batard and Friends with reaction from Landon Donovan, Chris Wittyngham, Chris Wittyngham and me to the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-0 dos a cero win over Mexico on World Cup qualifying Matchday 7. Landon is in Washington D.C. tonight. The rest of us are here in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I’m writing for my Substack newsletter at grantwahl.com. Go there to read all my stuff. Guys, great to be with you. How are you?

Landon Donovan:

I’m buzzing. I wish I was there. You guys must be electric.

Chris Wittyngham:

Yeah. I mean the atmosphere was crazy from minute one, walking into the stadium. It’s jam packed. In the first half, you felt confident. The U.S. wasn’t really vulnerable except for that one chance for Chucky Lozano, but you wondered where were they going to find the attacking breakthroughs from? Then they came in the second half.

Mike Ryan:

A true home-field advantage and all the games should be at Cincinnati?

Grant Wahl:

This was totally pro U.S.. You’ve got a few Mexican fans sprinkled throughout, but very much pro U.S.. We’ve been in so many stadiums over the years, for USA-Mexico games in the U.S., where that’s not the case, where it’s very pro Mexico. I want to get a sense of what happened in the second half of this game, because that was the best half I have seen the U.S. play against Mexico since maybe the 2013 World Cup qualifier in Columbus, where you, Landon, scored. Was that your thought?

Landon Donovan:

What it looked like to me, I said to someone at halftime, I was on the phone and I said, “Although Mexico had the two, certainly one, most dangerous chance, it felt like the U.S. had the tempo of the game the way they wanted it. The only way Mexico were going to get a chance was through Raúl holding the ball up, Raúl Jiménez, and maybe Chucky Lozano running behind.” Off of that movement, him holding it and Chucky from outside-in to attack the U.S. team, but Mexico just looked like they did not have a way they were going to score. They never looked dangerous except for the one chance. In the U.S., in the first half, it wasn’t clean or perfect, but they were at the top of Mexico’s box over and over and over and over. You just felt at some point there was going to be some sort of breakthrough. I just felt like we looked like the team that was going to score, even though Mexico had the bigger chance in the first half.

Chris Wittyngham:

To me, the thing that most stands out about that performance is that the U.S. were the ones that were pressing. The U.S. were the ones that were causing Mexico problems. My feeling in the Tata [Martino] era has always been his sides come out and cause the U.S. problems, and you’ve got to survive the first 15 minutes. But it was exactly the opposite and Mexico never grew into the game. It never felt like this is going to be a team that is going to create consistent chances. I think that comes down to the center back partnership of Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson. Zimmerman, in particular, I thought was absolutely massive for the U.S..

You feel like you found a couple of center backs there. That’s your partnership going forward. Play the two of them. They know exactly what they’re doing. They negated Mexico. They did a good job. The one fear I had when you look at the lineup, the two Robinsons, Zimmerman and [DeAndre] Yedlin is, could this team play out from the back? They actually found direct forward passes that were not just knocking the ball along. It was with intent and Ricardo Pepi did a decent job with handling those. Tim Weah did a decent job at those, but really it was the assuredness of the fact that allowed them to press forward.

Mike Ryan:

I think we found our center back pairing for the World Cup run in Qatar. To see Walker Zimmerman really step up to this level in this moment was really reassuring and really good for MLS, and really good for the future of that center back position. They totally neutralized Raúl Jiménez.

Grant Wahl:

He really didn’t have a big impact on the game besides decking Tyler Adams. Miles Robinson did get a second yellow, so we are going to see a different combination down in Jamaica. I think Chris Richards is a terrific player with a really bright future. I’m curious to see if we see him making that replacement, but Zimmerman did not put a foot wrong in this game. I did think Tim Weah was the man of the match for the U.S. For the second straight game, the game winning goal, connected to Tim Weah, a guy who wasn’t even going to start ahead of Paul Arriola in the last game, and came in because Arriola got hurt in the warmup [against Costa Rica]. Do you get a sense, Landon, that Tim Weah is really starting to establish himself as a player who could make a difference for the U.S.?

Landon Donovan:

It certainly looked like it tonight. He looked comfortable, confident, like he belonged in the team. I haven’t seen him look that way yet. So I think he’s just growing, as all players do at that age, and feeling comfortable and confident. What you want, ultimately, is competition. You saw it tonight with Zack Steffen, and now Matt Turner. You saw it with Tim Weah’s performance. When Gio [Reyna]’s back, what does that mean? What does that mean for Paul Arriola? You want that. You want competition, but I want to touch on Walker Zimmerman. I thought Tim Weah was fantastic, but for me, Walker Zimmerman was the man of the match. He just neutralized Raúl Jiménez in almost every aerial duel. The one he lost, Raúl Jiménez held the ball, laid it off and Chucky Lozano was in behind for their one chance. I also want to give Gregg Berhalter a ton of credit.

They came out and went after Mexico. We’ve seen the U.S. team in the past, a little more hesitant, sitting back, a little more savvy, tactical in the way they defended. They just went after them and put them under pressure. Mexico, to their credit, tried to play out and tried to play out and tried to play out, but Walker Zimerman was isolated one v one a decent amount of times and he just won every duel. The U.S. absolutely pummeled Mexico in just duels. I think it was like 65 to 40. They won every duel and that just turned the game into the U.S.’s favor so they could just keep Mexico pinned their end, pile pressure on, as I always say. Then eventually, they made them crack and won the game.

Chris Wittyngham:

Landon, am I being hyperbolic if I say that this is in some ways, the U.S. justifying, I think, what’s been a journey for a decade, probably? When Jurgen [Klinsmann]  takes over, with Berhalter, they’ve been trying to implement a style of play so that when they go into big games, it’s not just about bunker and countering and the hard work. Am I diminishing your achievements with the U.S. national team if I say that this is the U.S. living up to the identity that they’ve set forward for themselves more than they ever have?

Landon Donovan:

Here’s the reality, Witty. In the late ’90s, early 2000s, we played 15, 18, 20 games together a year, plus a January camp, so we were together all the time. We were able to build partnerships, build relationships. In modern football, you just don’t have that. They don’t have time to train together, work together. I’ve said that all along. It’s really hard for Gregg to actually implement a style of play when you have guys for three days of training, and they’re mostly just recovering because they played a game on the weekend in London or somewhere in Europe.

What I saw tonight , and what it felt like to me, was continuity starting to build. You had that same midfield three with Weston [McKennie] and Tyler [Adams] and [Yunus] Musah, and they looked comfortable. They knew how to play together. Center back pairing, or the back line pairing isn’t always the same, but you’re getting more of the same guys together on the field, consistently. Pepi now on the field consistently with Brenden Aaronson. All of that stuff matters because you start to build a rhythm with the player next to you. That’s what you saw tonight. They look like an actual team versus a lot of really good, talented players who hadn’t had enough time to train together.

Grant Wahl:

I also want to mention, I just came out of the press conferences, separate press conferences for Tata Martino and Gregg Berhalter, but the same word being used. A lot of intensidad from Tata in his talking about the U.S., and then Gregg saying first thing, “Intensity. That was how we won this game.” He was impressed with their effort in the first half, but especially in the second half, he feels like they wore them down in the second half of this game and gave themselves the opportunity to get the goals. It still took Christian Pulisic coming on.

Mike Ryan:

Well, that’s where I wanted to jump in. The super sub Christian Pulisic, the best player was being the best player. It’s great to see him in that form. He flashed in that sub appearance in the Champions League for Chelsea. To see him really take advantage of this opportunity and be the best player, was super encouraging to me as a Chelsea supporter and as an American supporter. Landon, I’m curious what your thoughts were on Christian Pulisic’s appearance.

Landon Donovan:

Yeah. You know what that goal reminded me of, guys? That, to me, looked like a Clint Dempsey goal. When I saw it, it just looked like Clint. It was inside your guy, taking a chance, bang in front of goal and he smashed it home. You don’t think of Christian as that type of player. But I’ve said this consistently about him. He does not have a weakness in his game. There’s nothing he can’t do on the field. That’s why it’s frustrating when he is injured, right? That’s why it’s frustrating when Gio’s not here, right? That’s why it’s frustrating when Weston got into trouble or when he’s injured. These are special players who can change the game in an instant. It was really fun to watch him come in after he’s been out for so long and make an impact. I was really happy for him.

Grant Wahl: Christian Pulisic, by the way, showing off a t-shirt after his goal that said, “Man in the mirror.” Now there’s a story here. He’s not just a Michael Jackson fan, everyone. Memo Ochoa, the goalkeeper for Mexico, had said this week, “Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself.” That ticked off this U.S. team. Gregg Berhalter talked about that yesterday. Lack of respect. Clearly, Christian, or someone close to Christian, put a t-shirt together at some point today.

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11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

11/11 /21   2 Tix for US-Mex for Sale at COST, US vs Mexico Fri 9 pm ESPN 2, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs Sat at 9 pm

So lets start with I have 2 extra Tickets for the US game vs Mexico on Friday night – in Cincinnati in the American Outlaws Section behind the goal.  This is a standing room section with Crazy American Outlaw fans and is a very exciting section to be in.  Tickets at my cost of $145 each for 2 tix.   RE or call me at 317-748-7174 if interested in join us or meeting us at the game.

Roster Set for US Men vs Mexico on Friday night 9 pm ESPN2 from Cincy

Its here – the biggest game on the calendar every 4 years – outside of a World Cup – is World Cup Qualifying USA vs Mexico.  I have been blessed to be at a whole bunch of 2-0 (Dos A Cero) games in the Midwest including the last 4 in Columbus with 3 wins and of course the devastating loss 4 years ago.  So what happens this time?  First of the US sits in 2nd place – so we don’t have to beat Mexico (who is undefeated in qualifying thus far).  However, after back to back wins in the Nations League with our A team and then the Gold Cup with our B team – expectations are extremely high.  The US will have Christian Pulisic back – interesting to see if he starts or comes on in the 2nd half – considering his fitness and recovery from his ankle injury that has had him out for 2 months.  My guess is he starts – he’s our Captain – and I just don’t see him not starting.  Interesting to see John Brooks was not brought in for this set of games – he is back and playing in Germany – so I think this is a sign he’s not first choice for Coach Berhalter right now.  I am ok as long as Miles Robinson is in the middle – I think Zimmerman or Chris Richards are fine starting beside him. Either way none of them has faced the pressure of Qualifying vs Mexico – but certainly Miles has shown his a starter in INK if he’s healthy.  The left will be Antonee Robinson of course with Joe Scally (the18 year old new guy starting for Monchengladbach right now). Is he too young to start vs Mexico – in his first ever game (cap).  I don’t think so – he’s played Bayern Munich,  Dortmund – the kid can hold his own!  I think he starts but wouldn’t be surprised if Yedlin starts instead with Dest out injured.  I think Matt Turner is your GK.  He’s our best shot-stopper and that’s what you need vs Mexico.  Don’t play out of the back as much – kick away and let your goalkeeper protect his net without the BS buildup out of the back vs MEXICO.  The midfield is set in my mind – Adams at the #6, Mckinney and Musah at the shared #8 slots.  Finally up top its Christian on the left, Aaronson on the right and Mexican American youngster Pepi (get on the Pepi train) up top.  Of course knowing Coach B – don’t be surprised if Lleget or Paul Arriola slides in the starting line-up somehow.   I think it’s a huge game – honestly this might be the last time – a game this important is played in Qualifying like this.  We host the 2026 World Cup so no qualifying next round – and who knows if the World Cup will become every 2 years vs 4 (HORRIBLE IDEA) which would change qualifying completely.  I for one can’t wait !!  9 pm kickoff on ESPN2 – with pregame starting at 8:30 pm I think.  I am picking the US 2-1 (though I would love 2-0) of course !!

Shane’s Starting line up vs Mexico

Pepi

Aaronson/Arriola (adjusted at 5 pm)

McKennie/Musah

Adams

Robinson/Robinson, Zimmerman, Scally

Turner

US MEN  – DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 24/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

 DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 4/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 17/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 14/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 0/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 8/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 69/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 20/2)

 MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 42/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 20/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 7/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 27/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 9/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 13/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 41/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 2/2), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 4/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 40/16), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 16/1)

MLS Playoffs Set

So MLS Decision day was exciting as the LA Teams could not qualify despite tying the final game where they needed a win to advance.  New England and Bruce Arena claimed the Supporters Shield for most points in MLS.   Here’s the Playoff Bracket with games starting next Saturday Nov 20. 

Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr Plays Sat night on ESPN + for San Antonio

Farr looks to start his 2nd game after a 2-0 shutout win vs San Diego last weekend.  San Antonio will host Rio Grand Valley FC  on Sat night at Toyota Field at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the game available live on ESPN+  in the Western Conference Semi-finals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs.   Jordan is up for Goal of the Month for October.

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Thurs 11/11   

2:45 pm ESPN +           Greece vs Spain

2:45 pm ESPN +          Romania vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN+            Ireland vs Portugal

7:30 pm fubu               Brazil vs Colombia

Fri 11/12

2:45 pm ESPN2            Italy vs Switzerland

2:45pm ESPN +            England vs Albania

8 pm Paramount+        Honduras vs Panama

9 pm ESPN2                 USA vs Mexico 

9:10 pm Para +            Canada vs Costa Rica   

SATURDAY, NOV. 13 on ESPN+


Malawi vs. Cameroon (8 a.m. ET)
Liberia vs. Nigeria (11 a.m. ET)
Ivory Coast vs. Mozambique (2 p.m. ET)
France vs. Kazakhstan (2:45 p.m. ET)
Montenegro vs. Netherlands (2:45 p.m. ET)
Belgium vs. Estonia (2:45 p.m. ET)

Sun 11/14  

9 am ESPN+                  Croatia vs Russia

12 pm ESPN+               Armenia vs Germany

2:45 pm ESPN+            Spain vs Sweden

3 pm CBSSN               OL Reign vs TBD- NWSL Playoffs

5:30 pm CBSSN          Portland Thorns vs TBD

Tues 11/16   

 2:45 pm ESPN2          Wales vs Belgium

5 pm Paramount+      Jamaica vs USA

6:30 pm fubo               Argentina vs Brazil

9 pm Para +                Canada vs Mexico

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo.Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

USA

How to Make USA vs Mexico a Home Game – the Challenge
How will USMNT lineup versus Mexico in big home World Cup qualifier?

How should the USMNT line up vs Mexico?  Stars and Stripes

USMNT-Mexico: World Cup qualifying clash’s key players, storylines

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM
US, Mexico set for CONCACAF ‘Clasico’ in World Cup clash

Aaronson: Pulisic back for U.S.-Mexico a ‘boost’
  Jeff Carlisle
Tuchel warns USMNT: Don’t ‘overuse’ Pulisic

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico as World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever
Five things to watch in USMNT vs Mexico in World Cup qualifying

Pepi: U.S.-Mexico a ‘special feeling’ for family
CBS to make US qualifier at Jamaica only available as stream

Report: USMNT forward Daryl Dike wanted by Serie A clubs

USMNT defender Chris Richards continues to make mark in Bundesliga

U.S. Soccer’s New Nike Deal Is Its Biggest Ever Partnership
Straus: The U.S.-Mexico Stakes Are Different for Ricardo Pepi

Creditor: Yedlin’s Experience a Differentiator Among Young U.S. Team

Straus: A Lot of Fight, a Little Fate and a Course Correction for USMNT

Straus: Musah’s Wait Was Worth It—and He’s Worth the Wait

Mexico taps Raul, Chucky for U.S., Canada

World

 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for on every continent
England’s Rice out of World Cup qualifiers with illness

Spain and Italy face decisive dates in World Cup qualifying

Immobile out of Italy’s World Cup qualifying deciders

Injured Chiellini out of Italy’s final World Cup qualifiers

Brazil, Argentina eye Qatar World Cup qualification

Zlatan jokes of ‘old body and young mind’ ahead of Sweden return

Paul Pogba out with injury; Ogbonna suffers ACL issue

African players in Europe: Zaha stars as he mulls Ivory Coast future

Germany’s Süle positive for virus, Kimmich among 4 more 

MLS Playoffs


Decision Day delivers drama and heartbreak
  Jeff Carlisle
D.C. United wins, but misses MLS playoffs by just one point in heartbreaker

Galaxy and LAFC fail to wrap up MLS Cup playoff berths

MLS all-time scorer Wondolowski retires

MLS playoffs set; Castellanos wins Golden Boot

Josef Martinez’s brilliant volley puts ATL in the playoffs

US Women + NWSL Playoffs

Vlatko Andonovski reveals USWNT November roster
Crystal Dunn embraces union role, says USWNT won’t “settle for anything other than equality”

Carli Lloyds Career is over
Ashley Hatch’s extra-time goal lifts Spirit to dramatic NWSL playoff win

EPL


Antonio Conte on Tottenham: ‘Work is the only medicine for us’

Drab draw with Everton shows task ahead for Conte at Tottenham

Beaten after 7 months, Liverpool stunned by soaring West Ham

USMNT’s Berhalter on Mexico: Two trophies didn’t seem to have earned their respect

3:51 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

CINCINNATI — United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter says that his side still has “a long way to go” to get the respect of rival Mexico.

Speaking to reporters on a Zoom call ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier between the two longtime rivals (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), Berhalter said the two victories the U.S. enjoyed over Mexico last summer — in the CONCACAF Nations League and the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals — have done little to change Mexico’s perception of the U.S.  

“When you hear things coming out from their camp, that we want to be [Mexico], where we’re looking at some mirror that’s Mexico and we want to see ourselves or something like that, it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico,” Berhalter said. “The two victories in the summer I guess didn’t do a lot to get that. We’re going to have to do it [on Friday] by our play on the field.”Berhalter revealed that Christian Pulisic won’t start the match after making a recent return from an ankle injury, while Zack Steffen will start in goal ahead of Matt Turner.Pulisic injured his ankle during the World Cup qualifier against Honduras in September, and has made just two substitute appearances for club side Chelsea since then. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel mentioned recently that he hoped Berhalter would be “responsible enough” with his use of Pulisic, a plea that left Berhalter bemused.”He’s been training for four days [with Chelsea], and common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days, and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “I understand Tuchel’s concern. Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes in this trip anyway. He’s not going to start [Friday].As for Steffen, the Manchester City keeper has made just four league and cup appearances this season as the primary backup to Ederson, while Turner has been playing every game for the New England Revolution. Yet Berhalter opted to go with Steffen, whom he managed previously when both were with the Columbus Crew.”They’re both great goalkeepers, no question about it,” said Berhalter. “We’ve seen that in camp this week. Zack is going to start the game [Friday]. But you know, there’s very little separating them at this stage and we could just as easily went with Matt. We decided to play Zack.”Much has been made about the U.S. team’s choice of venue. The U.S. Soccer Federation has acknowledged being strategic, aiming to ensure that the crowd is pro-U.S. by placing the game in a smaller stadium and in a city farther way than some other locales with large Mexican-American populations.”We take pride in having Latino fans and that’s something that’s important to us and we hope that in the future guys like Ricardo Pepi will help us get more Latino fans,” said Berhalter. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s with Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd and it’s not always easy to ensure that.”Mexico figures to have a sizable advantage in experience, one that Berhalter acknowledged his side can’t make up. He estimated that Mexico’s average age will be 29 while the U.S.’s will be closer to 22 or 23. But he hopes that the experience his side has gained in recent years — including four matches against El Tri — will be enough.”We’ve learned from that game, and it’s important that we’re taking all those lessons on board as we prepare for [Friday] night.”As for Mexico, El Tri manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said that he is focused on the winning and breaking the two-match losing streak to the U.S.”We’ve looked at the games against the U.S. and we’ve worked on doing things differently. We never think of not playing for the draw,” Martino said. “Set pieces were a big factor in the previous games, it is how they won those matches.”As for the location of the match being a factor to limit Mexico fans, Martino added: “We always feel the support of Mexicans, in whichever place that we play.”

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

Opinion: Another chapter begins in the USMNT’s storied rivalry with Mexico

Nancy Armour, USA TODAY

Fri, November 12, 2021, 7:21 AM

When the U.S. men’s national soccer team defeated Mexico twice this summer — with a trophy at stake each time, no less – it seemed to signal a change was coming in what has often felt like a lopsided rivalry.

The Americans were young, but brimming with talent. Players who not only are playing in Europe, but starting for clubs that play in the UEFA Champions League. Players that other countries had courted, aggressively.

But prestigious as the Gold Cup and Nations League might be, the Americans won’t really get their archrival’s attention until they win when it matters.

Like Friday.

The World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati won’t make, or break, either team’s chances of playing in next year’s tournament in Qatar. Concacaf’s top three teams advance to the World Cup, and Mexico currently leads the Octagonal at almost the halfway point, with the USMNT three points behind.

There is something to be said, however, for taking points away from Mexico. And, more importantly, letting El Tri know once again that this U.S. team is every bit its equal.

“We have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico. I guess the two games this summer didn’t do a lot to get that,” coach Gregg Berhalter said Thursday, an edge in his voice. “We’re going to have to do a lot tomorrow on the field.”

For decades, Mexico had the run of Concacaf. And the U.S. men. From 1937 until 1980, Mexico had a 24-game unbeaten streak against their neighbors to the north, with many of the margins laughable.

There was the 7-2 drubbing in a qualifier for the 1958 World Cup, which came after a 6-0 rout. In several of the games, the U.S. men didn’t even manage a goal.

Fortunes began to change in the mid-1990s, as the U.S. men began their climb toward soccer respectability. A USMNT win here, another there, games that were competitive. Finally, in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup, there was a landmark U.S. win.

Goals by Brian McBride and Landon Donovan stunned Mexico, which was eliminated 2-0 while the Americans – the Americans! – advanced to the quarterfinals. “Dos a Cero” wins sealed the USMNT’s spot at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and the Americans won by that same scoreline to book their place in the 2014 tournament while putting Mexico on the brink of missing out.But the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia forced a rebuild.

MORE: USMNT coach talks about what might be his most important game yet

This is, arguably, the most talent and depth the U.S. men have ever had, led by players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna (who remains out with a hamstring injury). Of the 25-man roster for this round of qualifiers, 15 play in Europe.The Americans are young, however, with the average age of their recent rosters in the early 20s. It has taken the team time to come together, with the USMNT getting off to a rough start in qualifying.The wins over Mexico this summer served notice, though, of what this team could be. The decision in August by teenage phenom Ricardo Pepi to play for the USMNT, rather than Mexico, only solidified the notion that the Americans are on the rise.“I knew I had to take my own path,” said Pepi, who has been even better than the Americans could have hoped, scoring three goals in his first four appearances. “We have a very important game and I want to make sure I represent the U.S. in a good way.“It’s going to be a special feeling. A special feeling having my family in the stands, having me put the U.S. jersey on,” Pepi added. “I feel like I’m going to get goosebumps for sure. I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and very prepared for it. It’s going to be good.”One game won’t erase Mexico’s advantage in the all-time rivalry. Nor will it be enough to get the USMNT the respect it wants from its old foe.But it’s a good place to start.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

Preview, prediction for USMNT vs. Mexico FIFA World Cup qualifier at TQL Stadium

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati EnquirerThu, November 11, 2021, 8:16 PM

It doesn’t take much heat to cause the storied rivalry between the U.S. men’s national soccer team and Mexico to boil over.The running footballing feud between the countries appears set to do so once again after it remained on a high simmer following an eventful and successful summer for the Americans.The USMNT took two trophies off the Mexicans this past summer, winning dramatically in both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals in June and August, respectively.Whether its a friendly match or a cup final, there’s never a throwaway encounter between the U.S. and Mexico, but meetings in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches tend to trump all other encounters.

More: What you need to know for the U.S. men’s national team’s match with Mexico at TQL Stadium

That makes the high-stakes USMNT-Mexico qualifying match Friday at TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m.) a chance for “El Tri” to claim the grandest form of redemption against its most bitter rival.Following the second of the USMNT’s successful trophy conquests in which it downed Mexico, and with the ongoing World Cup qualifying cycle looming, Mexico was forced to cope with criticism and doubt ahead of its qualifying campaign.Now, a victory by the Americans would pull them even with Mexico on points in the eight-team, round-robin qualifying group from which the top three teams advance directly to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.Conversely, Mexico could go six points clear of the U.S. with a victory, and provide itself with redemption after a summer of perceived failures.Mexico head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino was widely viewed to have called upon some of the country’s most-trusted, experienced players for November matches against the U.S., as well as Canada (Tuesday, 9:05 p.m.).Taken together, some view this two-match stretch as Mexico’s most difficult in the qualifying process.For the Americans’ part, head coach Gregg Berhalter assembled a group believed to be talented but still somewhat inexperienced in big matches on the international stage.However, the American player pool surely gained confidence and experience from its summer successes.”I think that the experience that we gained from playing in those tournaments over the summer gave a lot of different players the opportunity to play in big games,” American midfielder Tyler Adams said during a Thursday news conference. “The big takeaways obviously from that were raising two trophies at the end of them. That was our goal in the summer but at the end of the day, those trophies don’t mean anything to us now moving forward into this game because we have a World Cup on the line.”

How Mexico responds tactically and stylistically to the open, attacking matches of this past summer remains to be seen.How the young American team responds to Mexico’s response could ultimately decide the outcome of the contest. The maturation process could unfold quickly and in real-time on Friday.What seems certain for Berhalter is that respect from the Mexicans is still lacking, even after back-to-back wins with trophies on the line.”For us, despite being a young group, we know what this is about,” Berhalter said during a Thursday interview. “When you hear things coming out from their camp (like) we want to be them … it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico and the two victories over the summer, I guess, didn’t do a lot to get that so we’re going to have to do it (Friday).”

The Game

Kickoff: 9:10 p.m.; Friday at TQL Stadium

TV: ESPN2

Series info: Mexico leads the all-time series with a 36-21-15 record against America.

Roster notes: Gregg Berhalter on Thursday stated that Chelsea FC’s (England) Christian Pulisic wouldn’t start against Mexico as he’s returning to full fitness from an injury. Berhalter also confirmed Zack Steffen would start at goalkeeper for USMNT.

Cincinnati.com prediction: USMNT 1, Mexico 1.

USMNT

Record in Concacaf World Cup qualifying: 3-1-2, 11 points (second place)

FIFA world ranking: No. 13

Head coach: Gregg Berhalter

Mexico

FIFA world ranking: No. 9

Record in Concacaf qualifying: 4-0-2, 14 points (first place)

Head coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino

Mexico roster:

(club/country)

Goalkeepers (3): Rodolfo Cota (Leon), Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), Alfredo Talavera (Pumas UNAM)
Defenders (9): Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo/Spain), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Julio Cesar Dominguez (Cruz Azul), Hector Moreno (Monterrey), Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez (Tigres), Osvaldo Rodriguez (Leon), Jorge Sanchez (Club America), Johan Vasquez (Genoa/Italy)
Midfielders (9): Edson Alvarez (Ajax/Netherlands), Sebastian Cordova (Club America), Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Andres Guardado (Real Betis/Spain), Orbelin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos “Charly” Rodriguez (Monterrey), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Hector Herrera (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Ricardo “Canelo” Angulo (Chivas)
Forwards (5): Jose Manuel “Tecatito” Corona (Porto/Portugal), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey), Raul Jimenez (Wolves/England), Henry Martin (Club America), Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (Napoli/Italy)

Noteworthy: Since 2000, the U.S. and Mexico have split their World Cup qualifying contests via a 4-4-2 record.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Cincinnati

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer Thu, November 11, 2021, 11:11 PM

One could reasonably argue that TQL Stadium will be the site of the most important night in Gregg Berhalter’s managerial career to date.

Berhalter, who has been the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team since late 2018, will lead his side out against Mexico’s national team Friday at FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium (9:10 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in a pivotal FIFA World Cup qualifying match in the Concacaf region.

The eight-nation qualifying group will see the top three finishers qualify automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and while the Americans have controlled the series against Mexico this century, anything can happen when the two sides meet.

Berhalter’s already taken two trophies off the Mexicans this year in winning the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals against “El Tri,” but it doesn’t get bigger for the head coach of the USMNT than the World Cup qualifier played against Mexico on American soil.

More: Inside the USMNT roster that will take on Mexico at TQL Stadium

Ahead of the start of the camp, which kicked off Monday at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford with 10 players present, Berhalter conducted an exclusive interview with The Enquirer. The conversation ranged from further dissection of the health of Christian Pulisic, arguably the biggest American star in the November camp, to Joe Scally, the 18-year-old Borussia Mönchengladbach rising star that’s been called into the senior national team for the first time.

Berhalter also reflected on the selection of TQL Stadium as the site for the all-important USMNT-Mexico clash, and a 2017 U.S. Open Cup match in which his Columbus Crew were eliminated from the tournament by FC Cincinnati.

Enquirer: We’re less than a week out from the Mexico match. Now that it’s finally here and is the next match to play, what are the emotions? What’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach?

Gregg Berhalter: “You know, it’s a good question. In the context of World Cup qualifying, it’s just another game, right? But in terms of the rivalry and the history and the times when you get to play them with a pro-U.S. crowd in a great stadium, I mean, it makes it special. It really does, and we’re focused on playing our game, playing a good game, and really just looking forward to giving this young group the experience of this game.”

E: The home match (for the U.S.) against Mexico in World Cup qualifying – a lot of people will say that’s the big one in the career of a U.S. national team manager, whether they get two cycles or one or whatever, the perception is this is the big one. Do you agree with that?

GB: “I just think it’s a great event. All the qualifiers that we play at home are amazing but this takes it to another level. It’s like amazing-plus. Because of the attention around the game, because of the amped up crowd, all of this just turns it into a really special event. For us as a group, we’re relishing this opportunity. We’ve played them four times already and all four times were in the United States but you could argue it wasn’t a pro-U.S. crowd. So, now we get to play in Cincinnati with our fans behind us and we’re looking forward to it.”USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter talks with a member of his team at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati ahead of a 2019 Gold Cup match against Venezuela. E: In our American soccer consciousness, we heap so much attention on this Mexico match. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for that but why do you think the game takes on the importance that it does from an American perspective?

GB: “I think it’s because they’ve been top dog in the region historically, right? And now we come in and we have something to say about it. And we, over the years and the early 2000s, we started dominating the matchup. It was something that – no one likes to be taken off their perch and this was something where it became personal and the matchups have been heated. For the U.S. fans, the U.S. loves to see winners and to see the national team start to get some good victories against Mexico, it meant a lot. All that intensified the rivalry. Now, if you’re talking about in the 70s and they’re beating us every game, the rivalry wasn’t as intense, right?”

E: In the 2018 Russia World Cup cycle, the U.S. lost its home match to Costa Rica and that was one of the key results in that cycle. The math is different in this qualifying cycle because it’s an eight-team group as opposed to six like it was previously, but you reversed that result back on Oct. 13 in a 2-1 win (at Lower.com Field). That was the last match you played in qualifying and since you’re trying to kind of do the same thing on Friday against Mexico and reverse a loss from that previous cycle, how big do you think it was to reverse the Costa Rica result?

GB: “We didn’t really look at it like that. We looked at it like we want to have a good performance, a strong performance, and we want to win the game. It wasn’t really something that crept into our mind. You know, this group is a different team, has a different focus and we want to win our home games. And whether it’s Costa Rica, Jamaica, whoever – we want to win. We have Mexico, and Friday night will be no exception.”

E: A couple questions on site selection for this Mexico match. You’ve managed twice in Cincinnati – a big game (a U.S. Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew) at the club level and the Venezuela friendly (in 2019). I wonder how your experience managing in those games, and taking stock of what this city offered on those occasions, impacted whatever voice you had in picking the site for this Mexico game.

GB: “We had a working group that got together and evaluated what’s gonna be important for each game. We looked at the weather, we looked at the crowd, we looked at the facilities – both training and stadium. We looked at the distance of that game to the next game, and overall, my personal experience here really helped me understand what the fans are like.

“I’ve mentioned, I referenced the game we had against Cincinnati in the Open Cup and that was one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in the United States because of both fan bases in the same stadium in big numbers. Diverse colors that were contrasting. It was a fantastic game, so I just know that when you talk about a pro-U.S. crowd, I was very comfortable with the fact that we’d get that in Cincinnati. With the venue (TQL Stadium) being what it is, it’s a top-class facility in Major League Soccer.”

E: Did you get to come and walk the stadium or take a tour during the selection process?

GB: “We had people come look at it. I didn’t personally. I was invited by the club to come to the opening game and unfortunately, due to my schedule, I couldn’t come but I got a lot of feedback and did the virtual tours and all that stuff.”

E: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about that 2017 Open Cup match. Time has passed. I remember the post-game and it was emotional, and there was just so much stuff there with those two organizations back in 2017. A lot of that has dissipated and now it’s just a great rivalry in MLS but what are your recollections of that night?

GB: “I mean, you don’t like to lose any game so that was never fun. Our fans were disappointed and your fans were excited. It was a great game. It’s a storybook-type of run that FC Cincinnati had that year and I don’t like to lose at all but I still remember the experience. I think overall, it was a great atmosphere in the stadium and that’s what soccer’s about. You got the away supporters as well, and that’s what made it a great event.”

E: In terms of where you are in the process of starting the November camp, you’ve picked your squad, you’re still waiting for the players to arrive. Can you describe what it’s like for you watching the last club matches for the players after you’ve named your squad? Especially with the Mexico game on-deck. I imagine there are a lot of nerves and maybe some personal investment in their performances because you’ve just named them to the national team.

GB: (Laughter). “It’s the worst. After you’ve named the roster, you want to put them in a glass case. What we’ve learned is to expect the unexpected and you just have to take it like that but it is nerve-racking when you name a squad and they still have to play a game, sometimes two games with the Champions League midweek, and you’re really just anticipating something happening but it’s also part of it. That’s part of being an international manager.”

 I’m sure you addressed this to the best of your ability last week on your Zoom call and I’m not sure how much would have changed in just a few days, but do you have a better sense today of what you can lean on Christian Pulisic for in this camp and how you’ll manage his situation (coming off an injury)?

GB: “I think the important thing is that Christian leaves camp healthy and ready to push on with Chelsea. That’s gonna be first and foremost in our minds, and then when we get him in camp, seeing exactly where he’s at and seeing exactly what his role will be, so we haven’t determined exactly what his role will be but I’m sure he’ll be on the field in these games.”

E: Joe Scally. People are excited to see him get this call-up. What factored into the decision to call him in and what are your expectations for a younger player in his situation?

GB: “I think that it’s a case where he’s earned it. He’s pushed his way into the team by playing every week and playing at a high level and winning games, and playing against good team. It’s like that’s the beauty of the national team, when guys can really play their way onto the team. Joe’s an example of that. We’re not looking at the age. We’re looking at his quality, and we’re looking at what he’s doing every single week. You know, Joe’s certainly performed well. He’s the only player in this camp that hasn’t been in a camp before. We’ve used a lot of players over these last two years so it’s nice to get some consistency, but with Joe, he’s a guy that’s earned his way into the group.”

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: World Cup qualifying: Gregg Berhalter talks USMNT vs. Mexic

Christian Pulisic back for USMNT-Mexico gives ‘confidence boost,’ says Brenden Aaronson

2:06 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States international midfielder Brenden Aaronson said the return of Chelsea star Christian Pulisic gives the U.S. a “confidence boost” ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (watch or stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) against rivals Mexico.

Pulisic missed out on the previous round of qualifiers due to an ankle injury he sustained against Honduras back in September. He only recently returned to the field for Chelsea, featuring as a substitute in both the 1-0 win against Malmo FF in the Champions League and the 1-1 draw last weekend against Burnley.  U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter has made it clear he doesn’t expect Pulisic to log heavy minutes against Mexico, and then Jamaica four days later. Prior to the Burnley match, he spoke of progressing Pulisic “in a safe way” and that “we’re also not willing to risk anything.”But Pulisic was among the 10 U.S. players that took part in Monday’s training session and those in attendance spoke of how important his return to the side is.”With Christian being back, I mean, for the whole team, we know how much quality has,” said Aaronson. “He’s been with the national team for a long time, doing his thing, and he was here through the last qualifying and he did a fantastic job then. He means so much to our team, so it’s awesome having him back. It’s like another confidence boost just having me here.”Fulham and U.S. defender Antonee Robinson added, “Christian coming back in, it’s massive for the group just having him around. In general, like, just being a good lad, being around him, and being a leader off the field. And we know when he gets on the field, whether he starts or has to come off the bench, then he’s a player we can rely on to put his all into the team and create chances and help us if we need him to get the win.”Nonetheless, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel stressed caution over Pulisic’s minutes while on international duty, saying that the player “still feels some pain.””I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough,” Tuchel previously told reporters. “Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. has had the upper hand in recent encounters with El Tri, prevailing with their full side in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, and then with largely a reserve side in August’s Gold Cup final. But Aaronson knows that the U.S. can’t rely too heavily on previous results.”We got the best of them the two times before, but this is something totally different,” he said. “It’s World Cup qualifying and it’s a different kind of beast, so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Chelsea boss Tuchel: USMNT’s Pulisic still ‘in pain’ ahead of key qualifiers

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has said that United States star Christian Pulisic is still “in pain” ahead of the key World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica this week, and has warned U.S. counterpart Gregg Berhalter against overusing the 23-year-old forward.

Pulisic was named in the U.S. squad last week after returning from an ankle injury sustained in the 4-1 victory over Honduras two months ago but has only played a total of 23 minutes in substitute appearances for Chelsea against Malmo and Burnley.

The U.S. sit in second place in the qualification standings in the race to reach the Qatar World Cup, three points behind Mexico and a point ahead of third-place Canada ahead of the crucial meeting against El Tri in Cincinnati on Nov. 12.

But when asked if Pulisic was ready to play a significant role for the U.S. during the international window, Chelsea boss Tuchel cast doubt over whether the forward will be able to feature for the full match at the TQL Stadium on Friday.”The answer is if you look at the minutes, the question is maybe answered,” Tuchel told reporters following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Burnley. “I hope that they don’t overuse him and are responsible enough.”Christian still feels some pain. It is a matter of pain management. It’s not a matter of a re-injury or being still injured. It’s just still painful. He has tried hard.”He wants desperately to come back. We needed him back. It was a good start for him in Malmo. Today he had 10 minutes [against Burnley]. We are a bit worried.”Hopefully everybody, including himself, is responsible and doesn’t get carried away by emotions and by helping his country to win a super important match. Hopefully it all goes well and the minutes will elevate him and he will come back stronger.”The U.S. have already been hit with a double injury blow, as Barcelona full-back Sergino Dest and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna were ruled out of the fixtures against Mexico and Jamaica.The absence of both players heightens the importance of Pulisic’s return, but Berhalter has insisted that he will be cautious in managing the Chelsea forward’s minutes after spending the past two months on the sidelines.”We’re gonna see what kind of minutes he gets [against Burnley],” Berhalter told reporters after naming his 25-player squad last week. “It was unexpected that he played against Malmo and he ended up playing a little bit.”So for us, it’s about progressing him in a safe way. We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels, and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”

U.S. Soccer’s biggest challenge vs. Mexico: Making a home game an actual home game

Henry Bushnell  –Wed, November 10, 2021, 1:30 PM

CINCINNATI — The most popular soccer team in the United States is a traveling circus that draws Incondicionales everywhere it goes. “Unconditionals,” the Mexican national team calls them. Diehard fans of El Tri who, in recent years, have filled stadiums coast to coast. They packed Soldier Field. They took over Las Vegas. They regularly make the U.S. men’s national team a de facto road team at home.But once every four years, in Ohio, U.S. Soccer doesn’t let them.When the U.S.-Mexico rivalry resumes in World Cup qualifying here on Friday, American officials expect Cincinnati’s glistening TQL Stadium to fill with red, white and blue. They’ve planned light displays and synchronized chants. They expect a rabid, patriotic, crowd, in part because they — a group of prominent U.S. Soccer staffers that includes USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter — have worked for months behind the scenes to create it.They “absolutely” believe that they could sell out a 100,000-seat stadium for this game, which one U.S. Soccer employee calls “the Super Bowl of what we do.” But they know many of the 100,000 would be Mexican Americans. And they’d rather win. So, using everything from Census data to complex ticket lotteries, they follow a 20-year-old blueprint to make this home game … well, a home game.

Gaming the ticket allocation

Nearly a quarter-century ago, before Dos a Cero and frigid Columbus, with USMNT fandom nowhere near as robust as it is today, U.S. Soccer brought its first modern-era qualifying showdown with Mexico to Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts. And on that April day in 1997, from a crowd of 57,000 with split allegiances, it learned a lesson.“If you’re playing against a team that has a large community of expats in the U.S.,” longtime U.S. Soccer official Sunil Gulati said in a recent interview, “you almost have to play in a smaller stadium.”So U.S. Soccer took its 2001 qualifier against Mexico to 24,000-seat Crew Stadium in Columbus, where it could more selectively sell tickets. It won the game in front of an overwhelmingly pro-U.S. crowd. So it simply kept coming back. The lore around the venue and a succession of 2-0 victories made that decision almost automatic, even as moderate-size, soccer-specific stadiums multiplied across the country. Amy Hopfinger, U.S. Soccer’s vice president of events, remembers “at least entertaining the idea” of playing the game elsewhere in 2016. “But,” she said in an interview, “there was no real consideration.”That choice alone, though, didn’t ensure that stars and stripes would fill the stands. Behind the scenes, U.S. Soccer’s commercial department refined the process that does. They grant exclusive ticket access to a variety of groups with ties to the American soccer establishment. For Friday’s game in Cincinnati, they designed a “weighted random draw,” essentially stacking a lottery in favor of fans who pay to be U.S. Soccer “Insiders.”The first batch of tickets went to fans who pay a $500 annual membership fee. The second and third went to lower-level paying members. The fourth was available to recognized U.S. supporters groups, such as the American Outlaws, and to FC Cincinnati’s MLS season ticket holders. Only the fifth and final batch was available to non-paying “Insiders.” In total, according to a federation spokesman, there were requests for more than 30,000 tickets. Requests for around 10,000 tickets were left unfulfilled. The general public never got access.

The scheme, of course, is rooted in the fact that relatively few of these members will support Mexico. And it has worked. The average fan-ratio estimate from those who attended qualifiers in Columbus is roughly 85-15 in favor of the U.S. Five consecutive World Cup cycles brought a true home-field advantage. Only a USMNT loss in 2016 opened up the venue selection process to other candidates — and, perhaps, some thought, to other regions of the country.But according to Donald Wine, a prominent American Outlaws leader, “a few more Mexican fans have gotten into the building each time.” The secondary market offered opportunities. So do free or cheap memberships. The scheme isn’t foolproof. It’s penetrable. Which is why the location of the game still matters.“I still don’t think we would go to a strong Mexican American community,” Hopfinger said.

Finding a U.S.-friendly venue

U.S. Soccer’s unofficial venue selection committee comprises Hopfinger, chief commercial officer David Wright, longtime administrative whiz Tom King and director of marketing Mike Gressle — but also Berhalter, sporting director Earnie Stewart and USMNT general manager Brian McBride. They consider dozens of factors, but ultimately, for the Mexico game, as Berhalter said last week, “our priority was finding a venue that we know we’d have a pro-U.S. crowd.”

He went on to mention the nation’s “rich Hispanic heritage.” Mexican Americans, specifically, now make up 12.2% of the U.S. population. Not all of the 36.6 million care about soccer; and not all of those who do care root for El Tri. But many are fanatics. The Mexican national team plays roughly three times as many games in the U.S. as it does on home soil, in part to attract those fanatics. When U.S. Soccer schedules friendlies against Mexico — when revenue is the primary concern — it tries to attract them too.But when it schedules qualifiers, it tries to avoid them. It knows that the Mexican American population is concentrated in certain regions and hubs. And it surely knows, for example, that no major hub is within a four-hour drive of Cincinnati.

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

(US Census Bureau/Yahoo Sports illustration)

In fact, only one, Chicago, is within seven hours. Just 4.4% of Ohioans identify as Hispanic, and only 1.8% claim Mexican heritage — both bottom-10 marks among U.S. states. Of the 17 states with MLS teams, Ohio’s Latino population share ranks last. And of the 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with MLS teams, Columbus and Cincinnati rank second-to-last and last.Not coincidentally, Columbus and Cincinnati were the two finalists to host the qualifier against Mexico, Hopfinger said. Dozens of cities bid in total. “Minnesota put in a real strong effort,” she said. “And there’s probably others in the Midwest. … We talked to Kansas City.” But in the end, only two were seriously considered.Other factors also bolstered Cincinnati’s candidacy. A fresh 26,000-seat stadium and eager fan base were two major ones. That fan base made Hopfinger “feel comfortable about tickets being taken and used by those supporters,” rather than seeping onto the secondary market — where pickings have been extremely slim. Tickets are going for over 200% of their already-high face values. “So we feel really confident in not only how we priced it, but also in that ticket holders are actually utilizing their tickets,” Hopfinger said.Demographics, though, have been and will remain part of the calculus. Hopfinger mentioned “understanding census data and things like that.”“And I don’t think that’s the final determination,” she clarified. “But it is a conversation that we have.”

Party planning

With tickets almost certainly in USMNT-supporting hands, Aaron Gonzalez and the American Outlaws go to work. Gonzalez is U.S. Soccer’s head of event production. AO is the largest nationwide U.S. fan group, with some 30,000 members across all 50 states. Together, they create a spectacle that is equal parts organic and carefully orchestrated.They began the orchestration before Friday’s location was even announced. The moment it was, in late July, AO leaders contacted their Cincinnati chapter. Over the coming months, drummers and “capos” — chant coordinators — got involved. They dreamt up and painted a “tifo,” a massive banner that they’ll raise minutes before kickoff.Gonzalez, meanwhile, planned a party unlike any he’d planned before. “We’ve circled this date for a long time,” he said. Fans will arrive here on Friday to find a high-tech LED wristband in their seat. After warmups, lights will dim, the wristbands will brighten and flash, covering the stands in red, white and blue. A “manifesto video” will play. Eight laps of pyrotechnics will illuminate the field as players emerge from the tunnel. The U.S. starting lineup will be introduced via call and response. A PA announcer will boom first names; thousands of fans will scream surnames on cue. Then a noise meter, an in-stadium host and a countdown will prompt them as 9:10 p.m. nears.Gonzalez has scripted much of this on his own, or with input from colleagues. But in one case, input came from the head coach. At previous games, Gonzalez and AO had coordinated a slow-clap chant right at kickoff. Many outsiders felt that it deadened the raucous atmosphere building toward the game; that it was an awkward departure from the roar that typically greets an opening whistle. Berhalter apparently felt similarly. He met with Gonzalez. They decided that the clap — modeled after Iceland’s Viking clap, but accompanied by “U-S-A” — should instead welcome players to the field several minutes earlier. Their new goal for the moments before and after kickoff, Gonzalez said, is to “try to create chaos, this noisy atmosphere, this awesome sound.”And then, for 90 minutes, 26,000 fans will try to sustain it. AO and other organized supporters groups will try to simplify their chants and get the entire stadium involved. Because they know, as USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta said Tuesday, that “being at home, in a pro-U.S. crowd, is definitely huge.”They also know that this opportunity, to fill the ears of Mexican players with “U-S-A” chants, is rare. So they’re going to make the most of it.And even if they aren’t 20,000-strong; even if Mexican fans find their way in and claim some 20 or 25% of seats, “you’ll be able to feel that it’s 100% American,” Gonzalez said. “That’s our goal.”

Cherish USMNT vs. Mexico; World Cup’s future will change the rivalry forever

1:27 PM ETSam BordenESPN Senior Writer

Yunus Musah had only heard about it. The fire. The intensity. The bags of urine flying from the stands like gross, golden grenades. Tall tales, you know? Lore. Musah had heard stories, but it wasn’t until this summer that he finally saw a sliver of it with his own eyes.

It wasn’t his fault he was unaware, either. Musah grew up in Italy, spending his youth soccer days playing in England. He is every bit as American as any other player on the U.S. men’s national team — he was born in New York — but until June, when he was part of the U.S. roster for the Nations Cup final, he’d never really grasped the singular truth that his teammates with U.S. roots seemed to understand from their first kick of a ball…

… The games against Mexico are different.”I only realized it then,” Musah told me one day last month, his eyes getting wide as he talked about the national anthems, the fireworks and the way the fans shouted and chanted at each other with that incredible heat that felt more like a rolling boil. He laughed. “That’s when I realized ‘OK — this is mad.'” It is, and it has been this way for decades, with every generation of American players, coaches and fans bringing their own backstory to the rivalry, only to inevitably end up in the same place. There is no debate on this particular subject, and no other perspective. When the schedule for the World Cup qualifying matches was announced, which match did you look for first? Which date did you put in your calendar right away?

Now, finally, it’s here again. Friday in Cincinnati. U.S. vs. Mexico (watch on ESPN2 or stream LIVE on ESPN, starting at 9 p.m. ET). Another one of these games that ripples up from the page. That crackles. That feels like the beginning to a new chapter in this story that we all crave the most.Only this time, it also feels like something is ending.


It should be noted that Musah wasn’t being hyperbolic. The atmosphere in Denver for that Nations League final really was something remarkable. The game, which featured the top players from each side, had all the U.S./Mexico hallmarks: contentious refereeing decisions, scuffles, grittiness, absurd emotional swings and, when it was over and the U.S. had won, the haughty dismissiveness from Mexico that comes from a group continuing to hold a marked advantage in the all-time, head-to-head record.As good as the feeling was that night, though, it was still the Nations League. It was still a tournament without history.The World Cup qualifiers between the teams, on the other hand, have always existed on a different plane. Theirs is a heightened sense of urgency, of importance, of meaning.The stakes are incomparable: for teams in North America, the World Cup is alone at the pinnacle. For all its charm, the Gold Cup isn’t the Euros or the Copa America; it just isn’t. It doesn’t have anything close to the same meaning to players or fans that the continental tournaments do elsewhere. Because of that, when Mexico and the United States play in a World Cup qualifier, the match isn’t simply about asserting superiority; it’s about standing in front of your rival on the road toward the only thing that truly matters.We know the moments. The “Dos a Ceros.” The brutal reverse by Mexico in Columbus five years ago that was part of the American death spiral. The scoreless draws in Azteca in 1997 and 2013. The U.S. has still never won a qualifier there.Those games are the root drama of this rivalry, its lifeblood. But in terms of carrying meaning, they might be nearly complete. The game at Azteca in this qualifying cycle isn’t until March, when one (or both) of the teams could be qualified. And with the 2026 World Cup being hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, those countries won’t need to participate in the qualifying tournament at all over the next four years. There will be only friendlies.Beyond that, FIFA has voted to expand the World Cup field to 48 teams (for now), which means that CONCACAF will receive at least six places in every tournament — a reality that’ll further drain the drama from the already top-heavy confederation. Traditionally, the final round of qualifying featured six teams (the Hex, as it was known) and three were guaranteed spots, giving the rivalry games their edge.Going forward? With the disparity in resources among the CONCACAF nations, it seems virtually impossible to imagine a situation in which either of the top countries is at risk of missing a World Cup when there are a half-dozen spots available. After all, since 1990, only seven of the 41 CONCACAF nations have even qualified for a World Cup, highlighting just how divided the region really is.

Now, let’s be clear: Nobody’s saying that the intensity in games between the U.S. and Mexico is going to suddenly disappear. It can’t. The players will always bring their own histories to the matchups, and more and more, those histories are infused with passion for the rivalry from the youngest of ages.When Paul Arriola was 14, he attended a U.S. youth national team camp that involved a trip to that summer’s Gold Cup final at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. It was the U.S. against Mexico, and Mexico routed the Americans 5-0. Arriola, who grew up in Chula Vista, California — right near the border with Mexico — looks back at that game as a particularly formative afternoon in his career.”We were all there with our U.S. polo shirts on,” Arriola told me. “And every time Mexico scored, we would get beer thrown on us [by the Mexico fans]. I remember getting so angry, and so frustrated that we were kids and these people were showing such passion that they were willing to throw beer on kids.” He shook his head.”Obviously, I have great respect for the rivalry and for the teams and you know, for Mexico and their fans, but it still drives me today to always want to win against them. Because, you know, I carry that extra edge. And that experience that I experienced.”Ricardo Pepi, who will likely lead the attack for the U.S. on Friday, grew up near the border in El Paso, Texas, and makes no secret of where his family’s loyalties were when he was younger.”I’m being honest with you: I always used to root for Mexico just because, you know, my parents rooted for Mexico,” he said. “They’re Mexican, I grew up watching Mexican soccer, I grew up watching the Mexican national team. And you know, those were times where, you know, we’re rooting for the Mexican national team in general. In my household, it’s all Mexican culture. And then I stepped foot out of my house and it’s all American culture.”He shrugged. Whatever is at stake, a U.S.-Mexico game will always be special for his family.”I started representing the U.S. and U.S. national teams, and I started feeling something for the crest,” he said, “and I said I was going to represent the U.S. with all my heart.”Friday’s game feels like the typical powder keg. The U.S. has a young, largely unproven team and has shown the expected inconsistency one would expect from such a group: disappointments like the home draw with Canada or the sluggish performance in the loss against Panama, juxtaposed against the vibrancy of the second half in Honduras or the fightback from an early hole to take all three points against Costa Rica. The unpredictability, for both good and bad reasons, has been persistent.Mexico, too, hasn’t been as automatic as it would like. It took a last-minute goal to beat Jamaica (largely seen as the weakest of the teams in the group) and draws against Panama and Canada (startlingly, at the Azteca) have laid bare their own vulnerabilities. The importance of this game, for both teams, is real.Does it seem most likely they both make Qatar? Certainly. But there’s enough scar tissue from 2018 for American fans, still enough doubt and still enough games left to play in this cycle that the significance of the match has surged. Brenden Aaronson, who figures to be one of many Americans playing in his first qualifier against Mexico, said he thinks it will be “a war.” Tim Weah, who came on as a substitute in that Nations League final, told me that was his “first time getting a taste of it. And it was an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to get more of it.”He isn’t alone; this is what everyone craves. The U.S. and Mexico. A packed stadium in Ohio. A World Cup spot in the offing for those players who can assert themselves.It is the best kind of night in American soccer, the sort of night that players and coaches and fans see anytime they close their eyes.Embrace it. Adore it. Revel in it. It might not be quite like this ever again.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  •  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM
Ricardo Pepi USMNT

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.

“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”

While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.

“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.

“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”

El Tren! Ricardo Pepi nets brace to continue incredible start to USMNT career

USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.

“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”

Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

Which Country has the Ultimate Home Field Advantage? THE OCTAGON

“They’ll eat you up and spit you out.” This is just one of the ways that players describe World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF. Whether it’s the heat of Mexico City, the noise in San Salvador, the cold of Columbus, each nation in CONCACAF uses it own,

In both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USA vs. Mexico: A fierce rivalry bred out of respect

While the game will be fierce, the respect will be ever-present.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Nov 11, 2021, 6:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team’s rivalry with the Mexican Men’s National Team is one of the fiercest and greatest international rivalries on Earth. Two teams within a confederation have, for decades, fought for the right to hold the title of Kings of Concacaf. And for the most part, the two teams have done that without interruption from any other teams within the region.USA vs. Mexico is the biggest soccer match on this continent. Many call it the Super Bowl of North American soccer. And that rivalry once again takes center stage Friday night in Cincinnati when the USMNT and Mexico face each other in World Cup qualifying.So many matches in the history of this rivalry have had epic moments, big goals, and trophies that were won. It permeates throughout the fabric of soccer in both countries, from the national teams to the federations, from the domestic leagues to the fanbases. Players hate each other, federations want to outdo each other, and fanbases strive for their teams to win over the other at all costs so they can hold the bragging rights and claim their team as the true kings of the continent.But, the hatred that you see on the field isn’t born out of anything malicious. Rather, it’s formed from something that’s more difficult to attain: respect.Back in 2015, Tim Howard broke down the rivalry more aptly than just about anyone has in quite a while:“I have always thought that your fate and reputation and your legend will ultimately be decided as a U.S. player by how you perform against Mexico,” Howard said. “Those will be the games you remember and cherish. We talk about the hatred, that is bred out of respect. They fear us and vice versa, because we have a mutual respect.”That mutual respect is why the games are intense, fierce, and full of passion on both sides. Ahead of the match on Friday, Tim Howard, who’s currently a Premier League analyst for NBC Sports, joined Julie Stewart-Binks for an interview on the upcoming episode of her show, Drinks with Binks, which streams on Saturday nights on Fubo Sports Network at 5:00pm and 5:30pm on both coasts (Fubo TV free trial). He reiterated that while he hates the Mexican players and the team and the federation, that hate is there because of the respect he has for them.That respect must remain for the rivalry to continue to be great. On Friday night, yet another chapter will be written in the book of USA vs. Mexico. While there will certainly be gamesmanship on both sides, both by players and coaches, and there will certainly be banter in the stands, the mutual respect must be the constant. The players want to win, the fans want to win, and it will seem that every soccer fan in North America will pick a side. But listen to the words of Tim Howard: the hatred is bred out of respect. Let’s keep respect at the center of this match as we cheer on the USMNT.

USA vs. Mexico, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Mexico

The two continental titans face off once again. By Brendan Joseph  Nov 11, 2021, 7:00am PSTThe United States Men’s National Team continues to fight through the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, currently at second place in the CONCACAF table. The next opponent was circled on the schedule well in advance, another Mexico fixture that is sure to provide all the expected thrills and drama. The two nations renew the rivalry at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second international match hosted by the recently opened venue.Mexico is managed by Gerardo “Tata” Martino, an experienced journeyman with stops at Paraguay, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, Argentina, and Atlanta UnitedAppointed to the role in January of 2019, the 58-year-old has compiled an impressive 33-5-5 record. Despite some criticism over the summer after losing in the finals of the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup, he has his team on pace to easily reach the World Cup.El Tri is undefeated in qualifying with a 4-0-2 record, topping the group. The last international window opened with a 1-1 draw with Canada, followed by wins over Honduras and El Salvador, 3-0 and 2-0, respectively. A recent friendly against Ecuador – played on a non-FIFA date, featuring a definitive second-choice group – ended in a 3-2 loss. The sour taste of the underwhelming summer is gone, washed away by success in more meaningful competition, where Mexico always seems to get the job done.Martino named a 26-player roster for the matches against the United States and Canada. The roster features 18 call-ups from Liga MX. Notable names such as Jonathan dos Santos, Uriel Antuna, Diego Lainez, Julian Araujo, and David Ochoa are not included.

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GOALKEEPERS (3): Guillermo Ochoa (América), Alfredo Talavera (UNAM), Rodolfo Cota (León)

https://de2d3190abee06490329602c3b91e1c3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html DEFENDERS (9): Héctor Moreno (Monterrey), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Luis Rodríguez (UANL), Julio César Domínguez (Cruz Azul), Jorge Sánchez (América), Osvaldo Rodríguez (León), Johan Vásquez (Genoa), Gilberto Sepúlveda (Guadalajara)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Andrés Guardado (Betis), Héctor Herrera (Atlético Madrid), Edson Álvarez (Ajax), Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey), Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Sebastián Córdova (América), Jesús Ricardo Angulo (Guadalajara)

FORWARDS (5): Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jesús Corona (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Napoli), Henry Martín (América), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

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Martino utilizes an attacking 4-3-3 formation with inverted wingers and dynamic fullbacks. The build-up is primarily through the wide areas, resulting in a centering pass, direct through ball, or quick shot after cutting inside. When maintaining possession, the ball is methodically cycled by the back line until a vertical one-two combination can be opened. Frequent decoy runs and dummies are also used to pull the opponent out of position and create space.The USMNT has struggled recently with defending crosses, particularly those played in transition. The back line is in an ongoing state of flux, compounded by John Brooks not being included in this camp. Impeding Mexico’s progress partially falls on the shoulders of Tyler Adams, but the run of play may generally avoid the rangy midfielder’s significant purview.

Lozano//Jimenez//Corona

Herrara//Guardado

Alvarez

Gallardo//Vasquez//Moreno//Sanchez At 36 years of age, Guillermo Ochoa remains the starter for Mexico, adding to his 120 caps. Now at Club América, he provides experience and a sense of stability, never rattled or bothered by high pressure situations. While no longer as explosive, his shot-stopping and ability to control the box make him one of the world’s most complete goalkeepers.Monterrey’s lockdown center back, César Montes, was removed from the roster due to an injury. Regular starter Néstor Araujo is suspended after earning two yellow cards against El Salvador. Mexico should be fine, as long as Héctor Moreno’s “muscle discomfort” remains a minor issue. The left-footed 33-year-old is a sharp passer and harrying defender, even finding the first goal in the previous fixture. His partner will be either Gilberto Sepúlveda of Chivas or Genoa’s Johan Vásquez, neither of whom possess much international experience. The latter appears to have gained Martino’s favor following a strong performance at the Tokyo Olympics and securing regular minutes in Serie A.Jesús Gallardo is the current first-choice left back, harboring the attacking instincts to overlap as the wingers cut inside. He is a flashy one-on-one dribbler and pushes deep into the final third. On the other side of the formation is Jorge Sánchez of América, who times his tackles incredibly well and is a decent crosser. While not as dangerous as his partner, the 23-year-old forces unexpected turnovers which spark counter-attacks. Veterans Julio César Domínguez and Luis Rodríguez could also feature if Martino prefers a more experienced player.At defensive midfielder, Edson Álvarez dictates proceedings for Mexico and will, at times, drop back to serve as a third center back. Whether cycling possession, swarming possessing lanes, or halting a dribbler dead in his tracks, the 24-year-old is constantly on patrol. He recently extended his contract with Ajax after a breakout year that saw the Dutch super club claim a league and cup double.El Tri is loaded at the central midfield position with plenty of talent available. Despite Martino appearing to pull back from Andrés Guardado, he started against Canada. A match with the USMNT may beckon for the veteran playmaker’s presence and ability to cycle the ball to the wings. His constant partner, Héctor Herrera, remains a favorite of the manager. The 31-year-old box-to-box still pushes the tempo at Atlético Madrid, arguably playing as a quasi-ten at the international level. As an alternative option, versatile Luis Romo emerged over the past year, known in Liga MX for hitting the most audacious of accurate long passes and field switches.Napoli’s Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is one of the most dynamic players in CONCACAF. The inverted winger charges into the final third and frequently beats defenders off the dribble. On the other side, Jesús Corona is similarly strong with the ball and pulling away opponents to open up space. He can cross from the wing and will also cut inside.Raúl Jiménez made a triumphant return to the national team last window after overcoming a horrifying skull fracture. The target striker played in all three matches, scoring a 90th minute insurance goal in the 2-0 victory over El Salvador. The 30-year-old is a handful and a problem, possessing the size and speed to punish opposing back lines. Whether in hold-up play or transition, he is going to wreak havoc and influence proceedings.The summer is long over, the triumphant Nations League and Gold Cup results irrelevant to World Cup qualification. This is a refocused and experienced Mexico that should be favored to claim all three points over an inconsistent USMNT, only weakened by some unforeseen issues at center back. The match promises to be an entertaining, back-and-forth affair that is unlikely to end in a scoreless draw or shutout.The match is scheduled for Friday, November 12th at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, 6:10 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, and Univision USA, and Fubo TV (free trial).

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Written Q&A: ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar

Grant Wahl  Nov 11Sebastian Salazar will be hosting ESPN2’s pregame and postgame shows for the USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier on Friday (

One of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had on a reporting trip came during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Sebastian Salazar and Arlo White joined me and a few other people in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (where we were covering the USWNT) to attend a Cruzeiro Brazilian league game at the same stadium where the USMNT famously beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. That was Sebi’s first national gig, with NBC Sports, and it came right before he joined ESPN.

It was clear that Sebi was a major talent on a national scale, and he has only continued that rise over the last few years. He and I caught up ahead of Friday’s big USMNT-Mexico World Cup qualifier, which he’ll be broadcasting for ESPN. Really enjoyed this conversation!

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is my friend Sebastian Salazar of ESPN. He’s the co-host with Hérculez Gómez of the excellent show Fútbol Américas, which you can see on ESPN+. Sebi also appears on ESPN FC and does play-by play with Julie Foudy on ESPN’s U.S. women’s national team games, among other things. Sebi, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Sebastian Salazar:

Hey, thanks for having me on. I’ve listened to the show for a while. So as I was telling you before, it’s always cool to appear on a show that you’ve listened to.

Grant Wahl:

I love it that we actually have listeners, I just get excited about this, who then come on as interview guests. So we’re recording this on Friday night, it’s coming out Monday, which means it’s USA-Mexico week in World Cup qualifying. And for you, as someone who pays close attention to soccer on both sides of the border, what does this week mean to you?

Sebastian Salazar:

Well, I can kind of give you the personal side of it first. I’m very much split. My dad is from upstate New York, kind of rural western upstate New York, and my mom is from Mexico City. So even our household is very much divided. And my dad is a fan of the U.S,.no doubt about it. He came to soccer late, but he’s a huge fan of the game. And the U.S. is his team. My mom taught me the game, and she loves Mexico and she doesn’t like their rivals. The U.S. is one of their rivals. So it’s a strange week on a personal level, because you feel a lot of conflicting emotions. And I think that’s kind of the center of the rivalry.

In terms of where the rivalry is now, I just think it’s an amazing kind of intersection. Mexico is kind of really honest about it, enjoying a great generation, but it’s probably, if not at their peak, kind of coming off it. And what is the U.S. team? The U.S .is this kind of explosion of potential. And so you’re kind of waiting for these two lines to cross and I feel like on both sides of the border, we’re kind of always wondering how close we are to that moment.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. It’s just a lot going on. What are you set to be doing for ESPN on Friday for the USA-Mexico broadcast?

Sebastian Salazar:

So we’ll have pre-game, halftime, post-game coverage, all that surrounding the match on ESPN2 as well as on ESPN+, they’re going to simulcast it. And we’ll have Jermaine Jones and Kasey Keller, the same guys that we had for the games in Columbus and Austin, it’s been great working with them. We’re kind of a new team starting to get to know each other, but you get those two guys over dinner and you realize they have stories for days. So my only job is to try and bring those out of them. And, I think, as we hang out more, it’s going to be better and better.

I think the pre-game show is going to have a lot of elements like it always does. We’re bouncing up to the booth, we’re using Sam Borden, who’s been our sideline reporter throughout these games. He’s got his more E:60 kind of storytelling side of things. And he’s going to dive into some interesting topics and people there. So I think from those aspects, we’re going to try to hit it from all angles. And we have an hour on the digital side, which is a real blessing. You need space for games like this. You need pre-game space. And the truth is, you work for TV stations, you know how hard it is to get on what they call linear TV. And so they can get you the game and about 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, but you can’t do U.S.-Mexico justice in 10 or 15 minutes pre-game, you need a proper hour.

So we’ll go an hour before. We’re probably going to go hours after. Fútbol Américas is going to do a special live edition right after the game as well. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. Especially in the Fútbol Américas show, we’re going to be pulling people from the Deportes side. So you’re really going to get in that moment, I think, a cool slice of where really both fandoms are at.


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Grant Wahl:

I think it’s really cool how your show does give us that. It’s a real look at both sides on sort of a 50-50 way, which I really appreciate to get that full context on things. I do want to ask you about the two coaches. If you’re Mexico coach Tata Martino, what are you thinking about this game? And what if you’re U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter? But I want to start with Tata. If you’re Tata, what are you thinking about this game?

Sebastian Salazar:

Are my stars going to show up? Really. Because that’s been the question with Mexico, is Chucky Lozano going to be the star player that we’ve seen him be really at the CONCACAF level, right, that elite difference maker. And the only name that I can think of in that category right now is Alphonso Davies. But can Chucky Lozano be that type of player? Can Raúl Jiménez be what he was pre-injury? He started to get some of those goals. He’s beginning to score in the Premier League, to convert that to the national team in a big significant moment against the United States. And the other real serious concern is his back line. I mean, his center back position is kind of a rotating shop right now. And I think until that gets settled, there’s real serious concerns for Mexico there.

The other point that is kind of obvious, we talk again about this young team perhaps overtaking an older team is when you look at the United States, they’re scary. They’re scary fast. They’re scary physical from a Mexican perspective, at least. And so I think, the right combination in that midfield trio, which I mean, you tell me a coach that isn’t desperate to figure that out, right? Unless it’s [Carlo] Ancelotti of Madrid, who kind of knows he has to be always going to be provided health, if you figure the right three out, man, you figured out a big part of your 4-3-3. He’s got to get younger there. He’s got to get leggier there. Because some of the guys like Andrés Guardado are just starting to show that they’re just a little too old for the speed of the international game.

So I think there’s a lot of concerns for the Mexico side. Yeah, you sit first in CONCACAF and that maybe allows you to tinker a little bit, to take some chances and get some answers in big games like this, which you can’t really replicate elsewhere. But I do think from a Mexican perspective, there are some warts under what looks like a pretty good qualifying run.

Grant Wahl:

So what if you’re Gregg Berhalter? What are you thinking about from your perspective?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. Well, the No. 9 position, man, right? It’s a position we talk about on Fútbol Américas all the time. Why now with Herc, right? You’re always going to bring up like top fives and this and that. But I think that’s been one of the running themes on the show is the top five at that position for the U.S. And I’m sure if you go back to the first one, I’m sure he’s got Jozy Altidore somewhere in there, like No. 2 or 3. And you can just see how much change there’s been since, what, we started the show not even a year ago, seven, eight months ago. So that position, really, is not just unanswered, but he’s tried so many different questions at it like beyond [Ricardo] Pepi.

And so I think, when you see Pepi in there for now, you think, “Great, listen, this kid’s amazing, and we hope the run for him continues. But you’ve got to have other options. So I’m thinking that’s a big concern for him. What you’re going to get out of your star guys too? Is Weston McKennie going to give you some of those goals that he’s been scoring for Juventus? We talked about it on the show.

To me, if you’re Mexico, you’re worried about him. He’s a big-game player. He’s a set-piece player. Set pieces for Mexico are really a nightmare, especially against the United States. For every Mexico fan, they’re a hold-your-breath moment. So Weston McKennie is a scary player for you. And then Christian Pulisic, who in other games against Mexico and honestly for this U.S. team, has been very quiet. What are you going to get from him over 90 minutes? 60 minutes? 30 minutes? Whatever you ask of him in that Mexico game, which is another big question for Gregg Berhalter. What’s the actual workload you can ask of Christian Pulisic after what we’ve seen is now kind of a cycle of him going to the national team, getting hurt, missing time with Chelsea.

Grant Wahl:

So when it comes to your show, Fútbol Américas, is it accurate to say that you’re trying to do something on the show that we see a lot more of in Mexican media than the U.S. soccer media, which is to say, having polémica, debates about the sport here?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah. So first of all, I wouldn’t say it’s probably unique to Mexican soccer, right? I think you see that in a lot of different places.

Grant Wahl:

Sure.

Sebastian Salazar:

Herc is Mexican American, I’m Mexican American, most of our production team is Mexican American, Latino. so they watch ESPN Deportes. We see the content that comes out of Argentina, which is where we produce a lot of our content. But yes, the bulk of it, Mexico City, shows like Fútbol Picante, those are kind of institutions in Mexican soccer. They set the narrative for what everybody is talking about, what’s in the papers. And I’ll be honest, that’s a show that I’ve idolized since I was a kid. Since it launched, not a kid, when I’m a much younger adult when it launched and being like, “Wow, this is something that I’m going to watch every night.”

And then, to have some of those ideas and try and bring that into an English-speaking setting and talking about the things that folks north of the border care about, right? Like doing it towards MLS and doing it with Liga MX, but in English, national teams as well, the women’s national team. I think it’s a good experiment, right? We’re doing something that is maybe different and seeing if there’s a market for it. But I think it’s also an honest clash of cultures. This is something that as more and more people from Mexico and of Mexican descent end up in the United States, things are going to come with us and come with our parents, and I think there’s going to be an influence.

And I hope that this is one of those influences. And this is one that is for the better and, really, enjoyment of the people in this space.

Grant Wahl:

So what has some of the response been from some of the establishment American soccer organizations, MLS, U.S. Soccer, groups like that, to some of the criticism that does come up on your show?

Sebastian Salazar:

Yeah, no, I think, we haven’t had that big blow-up moment yet. I think Herc and I, when we started the show, and I’m sure you’ve had these interactions as well. We’re kind of like, “All right, when’s that coming? Because we’re going to be right on that line over and over and over again,” and we knew what we wanted to talk about. We knew that there would be times when we kind of wanted to focus on things that maybe organizations would prefer ESPN not focus on. I think that’s really the power of the show is the platform of ESPN, right?

I mean, I’d love to think that it’s the things that we do that are unique and different. But having that platform is really what serves the show. And so in some ways, when you say something on the show, you know it’s going to get out, right? You know people are going to hear it. And it’s always interesting, right? Because you can tell people aren’t listening to the podcast or watching the show live, it’s always when the tweet goes out. I know you know that. It’s when you get that email and when you get that phone call.

I think we definitely have opened some good conversations. I’ve had people texting me like, “Hey, I disagree with this. What was this supposed to mean? What was that?” And, “Hey, you’ve got to clarify what you say,” or “You have to stand by what you say,” and at least, I won’t speak for Herc, I know he does a lot of work for the show. We put a lot of work into what we’re covering and what we’re saying. We’re not going to go out there and be irresponsible. We might go out there, shoot from the hip, but we’re not going to shoot from the hip irresponsibly, if it can be done. So we try to be as prepared as we possibly can be. And so I think in that way, while some of the criticisms might feel stinging, I feel like there’s always substance to it.

And as long as there’s substance, those conversations, I think, back and forth, can be had. The conversations that are the ones that I’m not involved in, right. And I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through this, when they go straight to your bosses. And those are when you’re like, “Okay, now I know I really did something wrong.” And if they’ve gone to the bosses yet, we haven’t heard about it, so we’ll leave it there.

Ricardo Pepi spotlight intensifies for USA-Mexico World Cup qualifying clash

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Wednesday, Nov 10, 2021, 03:50 PM MLS.com 

Gregg Berhalter uttered a great many words to explain the absence of several of his regular forward options last week when announcing the US men’s national team roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers vs. Mexico and Jamaica, including players like Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok.

The USMNT want to press their opponents, he noted, and prefer mobility, work rate and penalty-box movement in this November camp, which contains two matches instead of the three shoehorned into each of the September and October windows. But really, Berhalter’s justification for carrying a smaller cadre of strikers this time essentially boiled down to 11 letters: Ricardo Pepi.“This window is a short window; we see Ricardo playing a large portion of these two games,” said the coach. “So we think we’re in a good spot.”While both Berhalter and Pepi have quickly noted that his FC Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Tim Weah and even Christian Pulisic are also options at the No. 9 role, that’s quite an expression of faith in an 18-year-old player with just four career caps, all of them in this Concacaf Octagonal round.

Nothing changes, said the kid from El Paso.“I feel like as a national team player, you always have to prove yourself. You don’t have a spot saved for the team, you don’t have a starting spot that’s always going to be there for you,” Pepi told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I feel like every day you get an opportunity, you have to take the opportunity and be able to show yourself out. So I feel like I’ve been doing that.“I have Jesus behind me, who is also a good player, who is also just pushing me to be better and I’m pushing him to be better. So it’s always that competition between teammates that are going to make each other better.”USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta has walked a comparable path to Pepi. Now 26, Acosta rose through FCD’s academy to become a highly-rated young phenom, and at age 21 logged a full 90 minutes in a massive US-Mexico qualifier at Estadio Azteca in 2017, helping the Yanks gut out a 1-1 draw. The Colorado Rapids mainstay likes what he’s seen so far.“Ricardo, he’s great. He’s taken his opportunities really well,” said Acosta. “He showcased well in MLS and then coming into the national team, he’s been great, scoring a bunch of goals, being a force up front. And for him, I mean, just keep going and doing what he’s doing. I think he’s a guy that’s pretty level-headed despite everything going on around him. He’s done a great job of being confident and being a quiet assassin on the field, and credit to him.

“This is one of those games where he knows what’s at stake. And I think he’s ready, he’s ready for the task. And as a team as a whole, we’re all ready for it.”

It’s not hard to tell that Pepi’s three goals and two assists in those four USMNT appearances are a crucial factor in the program’s sudden reliance on him. However, the ante gets upped dramatically – in a number of ways – against Mexico at FC Cincinnati‘s home on Friday (9:10 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision, TUDN).

It’s not only a grudge match against an ancient rival, a regional giant and the early leader in the Ocho standings. It’s also the cradle of Pepi’s heritage, his parents’ birthplace and a country whose colors the dual-eligible talent wore at youth national team level.

“I’ve been an El Tri fan for most of Ricardo’s life and beyond,” Pepi’s father Daniel, who was also his first coach, told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “But when he decided to join the US and fight for the US – soccer-wise, I’m talking soccer-wise – I’m all USA, man. Let’s go USA … My El Tri shirt, it’s already behind every other jersey in the closet.”Ricardo, who expects 10 or more family members to be in the stands at TQL Stadium, once patterned his game after Raul Jimenez and remembers eagerly watching US-Mexico showdowns as far back as elementary-school age.

“Honestly, I was just rooting for Mexico back then. And representing the US, it’s very important that we go out there this next game and we go out and get the win,” he said, later adding that he visualized a moment like Friday’s as he made what he dubbed an agonizing decision of allegiance over the summer.

“There was a talk that I had with my dad, that I had with my family in general. I was just bringing everything to the table to them: I was talking about what it would be like walking out [onto the field] playing the game vs. Mexico,” Pepi said on Tuesday. “We talked about how special it would be, and how motivating that would be for me, just to be able to get called up to the national team, be able to play in that game. So that made me work harder as a player.”

both his choice of team and his levels of performance, Pepi carries rich symbolism for U.S. Soccer, especially in a moment where many of his fellow Mexican-Americans like Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy) and David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake) have picked El Tri. Add in the momentous winter ahead of him, during which he’s widely expected to be the subject of large transfer bids from European suitors, he would seem to carry great weight on his young shoulders.

Paso a paso; one step at a time.

“There’s conversations that I have with coach Gregg, I have conversations with my teammates here in the national team, players like Christian Pulisic, players like Weston McKennie who I’ve always tried to take advice from, because they’re in that place, in Europe, just playing at the highest level of soccer,” said Pepi. “So those are players that I’m always trying to talk to and just get some advice from them. And also just my family and my agent, I think they’re very important for me to just be able to keep my mind on what’s next and not focus on the future.”

He’s worn the spotlight well so far; it will surely shine brighter than ever on Friday.

“I’m going to get some goosebumps for sure,” said this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR leader. “I’m going to be very motivated for the game, and I’m going to be prepared for it.”

USMNT-Mexico rivalry intensified by recruiting dual-national talent

5:00 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  Eric Gomez

The games between Mexico and the United States have emerged as some of the most heated on the soccer calendar. Who can forget Rafa Marquez’s harsh red on Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup or Oguchi Onyewu’s wild-west staredown with Jared Borgetti in 2005? Giovani Dos Santos’ wonder-goal at the Rose Bowl in 2011 was an instant classic — and then there’s that certain Columbus scoreline.

Yet it isn’t just on the pitch that the two sides compete. Off the field, the two federations are engaged in a battle for players that is reminiscent of recruiting in college sports. The process begins in a player’s teenage years and can extend into their 20s. Players have even moved back and forth between each country’s programs, causing euphoria or consternation within the fan bases of each country.Of late, this battle has reached a crescendo. In the past three months, LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa — both of whom were part of the U.S. U-23 team that failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — announced that they had filed one-time switches to represent Mexico. Earlier this year, Efrain Alvarez also selected Mexico after having risen through the Galaxy ranks.On the other side of the ledger, FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi, born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents, pledged his international future to the United States. He’s made an immediate impact, scoring three goals in his first four appearances.After El Tri won the majority of competitive fixtures in the 2010s, the pendulum has begun to swing back towards the USMNT after victories last summer in the CONCACAF Nations League and the Gold Cup finals. Ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier (stream LIVE on ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET), ESPN dug into the recruitment process and how both nations attempt to convince players where to pledge their international futures.

‘It all started with Dennis’

Dual nationals have long featured in U.S. squads — from Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart in the 1990s to more recently Fabian Johnson and John Brooks. Mexico, however, has been more reluctant to engage that player pipeline, preferring to rely on more homegrown talent.As such the contest for dual nationals has appeared one-sided. Over the past decade, U.S. players with Mexican roots — like Carlos Bocanegra, Omar Gonzalez, Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez — have logged over 13,000 minutes and have played in at least one World Cup. By contrast, Mexico’s total is less than 1,500 minutes among the likes of Isaac Brizuela, Miguel Angel Ponce, Alvarez and Jonathan Gonzalez.But that strategy shifted under Dennis te Kloese, who worked with the Mexico Football Federation (FMF) in a variety of technical roles from 2011-12 and again from 2014 to 2018. Speaking to ESPN, Te Kloese — now general manager for the LA Galaxy — pointed out that in the late 2000s, Liga MX teams started to be more proactive in their recruitment of American players with Mexican roots after they restructured their youth sides.”That boosted some of the activities for the youth national teams in general, but also with some scouting activities in the U.S., and scouting in Mexico,” Te Kloese said. “There ended up some players in Mexico of Mexican-American descent, and they became candidates for youth national teams.”

Emboldened by the approach, the FMF expanded its reach into the U.S. by scouting different parts of the country, especially in the talent-rich area of Southern California.”That all started with Dennis,” said Sacha van der Most, a scout based in Southern California for the FMF until 2019. “When he was at [former MLS club] Chivas USA, we went through the youth teams in the local area, looking for players who fit the mold of what [former club owner Jorge Vergara] wanted for that team, these Mexican-Americans.”The approach has allowed Mexico to make further in-roads with young talent before they latch on with a club.”In Los Angeles and Orange County, I get groups of young players with Latin American roots from all over,” said Van der Most. “But most of them are Mexican-American. You could build a powerhouse team with just local Mexican-American talent.”If a player already has ties to the United States via their youth national teams, the federation will create a plan or presentation for them in order to detail the development they could potentially make with Mexico.”We would identify them and bring them in, and all that carried over when Dennis took on his role with the Mexican federation,” added Van der Most.Despite Te Kloese’s exit from the FMF in 2018 to take the Galaxy job, his modus operandi for scouting dual nationals has remained.”[Mexico is] very aggressive,” said Joaquin Escoto, the executive VP of operations for Alianza Futbol, which holds scouting combines in the U.S. that are attended by Liga MX clubs. “They’re always comparing, ‘Is that goalkeeper better than the one I have in that age group? If so, I’m going to try to convince them to come play for us.’ And they follow up very well and very fast. If it’s a player they know they want, they don’t go dark for three months, six months. They don’t waste any time.”

Culture, language factor in recruiting pitches

When discussing the recruiting battles, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter assumes one thing. “Mexico’s going after every single player that has a Mexican and American passport,” he tells ESPN. “That’s the way we just look at the world.”Therefore, Berhalter has two primary considerations in his pitches: the extent to which the player feels a connection to the U.S., and the ability to expose them to the environment in the U.S. setup.”We’re going to be successful by not only the talent we have, but the connection we have to each other and the connection we have to representing our country,” he said. “The power of that goes a long way.”So for me, it’s first about gauging where the player is at with the U.S., how he feels about the U.S., how he feels about the group. And then it’s about our environment, how can we create an environment that players want to be in and let the environment almost speak for itself.”The U.S. has had some notable recruiting successes under Berhalter’s tenure. Barcelona defender Sergino Dest opted for the U.S. over the Netherlands, while Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah did the same despite EnglandItaly and Ghana as his other options. In both instances, there was consistent communication from Berhalter and his staff that helped establish, and then deepen, those relationships.

The same can be said about Mexico’s strategy. Hugo Perez, a former player on the USMNT’s 1994 World Cup squad and an ex-U.S. youth coach, has also spent time as a scout for Mexico. Now the manager for El Salvador‘s national team, Perez said communication between players’ families and the FMF played a key role.

“They do a good job in communicating with the families. I think that’s a big difference,” said Perez about the FMF. “I don’t think, at least from what I remember after I left, I don’t know if anybody in the U.S. does that, or has the capacity to do that.”But the language is a barrier sometimes when you go speak to parents.”Those cultural and language connections pose a special challenge when it comes to recruiting Mexican-American players. Berhalter counters that USSF scouts and youth national team coaches are initially responsible for maintaining contact with dual nationals. As those players get older, it falls on Berhalter, USMNT general manager Brian McBride and USSF sporting director Earnie Stewart. Berhalter also feels he’s better served using other avenues by which to make a connection.”I don’t even try to compete with that. It’s not our jobs,” he said regarding Mexico’s approach of highlighting cultural and linguistic commonality. “Our jobs are to show the player what we can offer them in our program, show them what our environment looks like in camp, show them where they fit in with what we do on the field. And then ultimately, we’re comfortable with their decision.”While there remains criticism that U.S. Soccer doesn’t do enough to connect with the Latino community, Brad Rothenberg, who oversees Alianza Futbol as a VP with For Soccer Ventures, senses things are changing.”I’d say it’s taken the [USSF] a long time to become a bilingual organization,” he said. “It’s not there yet, but at least they’re improving because some of their stuff is now in Spanish. That’s a very specific example of how Latino players and leagues feel disconnected from the federation. I think the grassroots license is now bilingual. And there’s some content that’s bilingual. It’s just took a while to get there.”

How Gonzalez’s Mexico switch upped the rivalry ante

What really announced Mexico’s arrival in the recruiting arena was its successful pursuit of midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez. The Santa Rosa, California native had represented the U.S. from U-15 all the way to U-20. After being left off the team that represented the U.S. at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, Gonzalez broke into the lineup at Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey in the summer of 2018.When the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there was an expectation that Gonzalez would be called up to the senior team. Caught in the transition period between full-time managers, Te Kloese pounced. He flew up to his hometown, met with Gonzalez’s family and convinced him to switch to Mexico.”[Gonzalez] wasn’t really considered by the U.S. Soccer Federation at some point, so it wasn’t a very difficult recruiting trip to be honest,” Te Kloese said.Gonzalez, who declined to speak with ESPN for this story, has seen his career for both club and country stagnate. He’s on loan at Liga MX side Necaxa and has only made a total of three senior appearances for El Tri. But at the time, Gonzalez’s decision sent shock waves through the U.S. soccer community, with considerable criticism aimed at the USSF for failing to do more to make sure a player remained within its system.The experience with Gonzalez could been seen in the recent decisions of Alvarez, Ochoa, Araujo, and Pepi.When swaying Alvarez, the FMF emphasized how his playing style would better mesh with Mexico than the United States, and how he could have success with El Tri when given the opportunity to play.”With Efra, we talked a lot about his playing style, it’s just a very Latin, Mexican style,” said Van der Most. “The United States just doesn’t play like that, it doesn’t suit him. And he saw that early on. Ultimately, there were other factors of course — Efra really wanted to play for Mexico over anything else.”But his recruitment wasn’t always pleasant. Cresencio Alvarez, Efrain’s father, complained that before his son made his choice, the constant badgering of both the national teams was “traumatizing.”“One [federation] will call him, then the other one will, and then they’ll both call him at the same time,” he said in March.Meanwhile, Ochoa’s switch cast light on the emotional strain players sometimes suffer when faced with such this decision. In his Players’ Tribune essay detailing the how and why behind his switch from the United States to Mexico, Ochoa detailed his struggle in fitting in with both groups. After experiencing both sides via youth camps, the goalkeeper remarked, “in the U.S., I was ‘the Mexican.’ In Mexico, I was ‘the Gringo.'”This is why, according to Berhalter, he applies heavy doses of empathy when discussing a player’s future, even if they end up choosing Mexico. Berhalter went as far as to say how when Araujo told him of the decision to join Mexico, he was “proud” of the decision the player made. “There’s never bad blood,” he said. “I really feel for these guys.”And all I want is for them to make a decision that they’re comfortable with. Because if we lose a player, a player you know, that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that these guys know that we have their best interests in mind.”That is not to say that Berhalter is completely reliant on a soft sell approach. Pepi mentioned that it was his conversations with the U.S. manager that helped tip the scales. While Pepi wasn’t made available for an interview, a source with direct knowledge of the recruitment process credited Berhalter with helping seal the deal.”I think that the major thing, the difference maker was the fact that Gregg picked up the phone himself,” the source said. “Gregg expressed to Ricardo how much he wanted him in the program, how much he could use Ricardo in the near future. The credit here is Gregg. That’s really what it boiled down to.”

What Te Kloese and Berhalter insist on is that during the recruiting process, no promises are made in terms of playing time or participating in a particular tournament. It can also hurt a coach’s credibility down the road if a promise is made and not kept.”There’s an equation, and the equation is happiness equals expectations over reality,” said Berhalter. “I could promise a guy or talk to a guy about his role. But if that doesn’t come to fruition in the future, eventually you’re going to have an unhappy player.”But there is a sense that the U.S. isn’t emphasizing its success stories with dual nationals of Latino decent. Perez for one, is surprised that the U.S. doesn’t make use of their former national team players.”Hire your ex-World Cup Hispanic guys who worked or played for the U.S.,” he said. “They should be ambassadors of the U.S. right now. That’s what Mexico does.”

A personal choice, or a business decision?

For the discussion of cultural connections, a key aspect gets lost in the decision — that of practical, on-field considerations. The U.S. depth chart at forward was wide open, allowing a path for Pepi to make an immediate impact, though Berhalter credits the player for taking his chance.Mexico’s depth-chart issues at goalkeeper and right-back, respectively, could allow for Ochoa and Araujo to solidify those spots in the near future, but the competition won’t be easy.”I do believe the growing parity [between Mexico and the U.S.] will be a factor for a lot of these dual national kids,” said Gomez, who played for the United States from 2007 to 2013. “How many of these kids at the end of the day, if they have equal love in their hearts for both countries, look at how each team is doing and make a business decision?”Gomez’s ex-USMNT teammate Joe Corona counters that players will just go with their gut decision over cultural connections, depth charts or on-field success.”The bottom line is, [players] go with their heart in the end,” said Corona, who was eligible to play for Mexico and El Salvador. “There are other factors, but most guys will ultimately pick the team they root for and want to play for the most.”As a former member of the Galaxy, Corona played with both Araujo and Alvarez in 2019 and 2020. He recalls their experience of being courted by the Mexican national team as very different from his. In 2011, Corona was called into camp by the USMNT right before coach Bob Bradley was fired and the call-up fell through. Only then was he contacted by Mexico.And despite one appearance for Mexico’s U-23 side, Corona said his decision to play for the U.S. was made before he had even stepped on the pitch.”I had interest from one team and then it just snowballed,” he said. “I was very young — most guys are. It was a tough decision, but I’m very happy with the choice I made.”Corona also offers some advice to the players who’ll have to make the decision soon.”From my personal experience, everything happened so quickly to me,” said Corona. “I remember when I wanted to go pro, that was the last thing I thought about, choosing between Mexico and the USA. One thing that might help is preparing kids when they’re young. Letting them know they might have to choose from a younger age. It’s a good problem to have.”

 

Zack Steffen will start, but Christian Pulisic won’t in what could be the last great U.S.-Mexico World Cup qualifier

“This is the date you’re circling,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said, of the last big home qualifier in the rivalry before the nations co-host the World Cup, and the tournament expands to 48 teams.by Jonathan Tannenwald

CINCINNATI — In the standings, every World Cup qualifying game counts the same: three points for a win, one for a tie, none for a loss.But in hearts and minds across American soccer, one game counts just a little more: the home game against Mexico. And now, five years and a day since the last one, it’s that time again.“I think given what’s on the line, you know — a ticket to the World Cup — it just remains a massive fixture,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a date that U.S. soccer fans put down on their calendar and they can’t wait for it. … This is the date you’re circling, and you can’t wait to get in the stadium and see this game because you know you can get behind your team against their biggest rival with the World Cup on the line.”The news of the day was Berhalter’s announcement that Downingtown’s Zack Steffen will start in goal, and Hershey’s Christian Pulisic will not start in the attack. Pulisic has only just returned to action with his club team, England’s Chelsea, after being sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury suffered during the U.S.’ Sept. 8 World Cup qualifying win at Honduras.“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time; we’ll put him on the field and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want. … He will be ready to play; he won’t start the game.”That opens the door for Medford’s Brenden Aaronson to start in Pulisic’s spot, the left wing of Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.As for why Steffen will start over Matt Turner, Berhalter said, “There’s very little separating them at this stage, and we could have just as easily went with Matt. But we decided to play Zack.”

» READ MORE: Brenden Aaronson’s rocket ride to stardom hits its highest point yet ahead of the USMNT’s biggest game

In the 20 years since the U.S. turned the series on its head with its first 2-0 win over Mexico at Columbus’ old Crew Stadium, the matchup has grown into not just the most famous clash in North and Central America, but one of the great national team soccer spectacles on the planet.There have been four more U.S.-Mexico qualifiers in Columbus since the first, all 2-0 U.S. wins until El Tri finally snapped the streak in 2016 with a 2-1 win.The end of the Columbus streak is part of why the U.S. Soccer Federation moved this game elsewhere in Ohio. That FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium has around 6,000 more seats than the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field is likely another part, because it will put more money in the governing body’s bank accounts after the pandemic shutdown.But money isn’t the only consideration here, even with sky-high ticket prices. TQL Stadium’s 26,000-seat capacity is still small enough for U.S. Soccer to control who gets those tickets. That helps produce a pro-American crowd, instead of the sea of Mexican green that supports this country’s most popular men’s soccer team whenever the team plays in the United States.Why keep this game in Ohio instead of going to other soccer hotbeds? A report on the subject by Yahoo! Sports this week noted that Columbus and Cincinnati have the smallest Mexican immigrant populations of the 22 U.S. markets with MLS teams.But Mexico isn’t the only team whose fans can outnumber U.S. fans on American soil. Berhalter witnessed it when the U.S. played Costa Rica in northern New Jersey in 2016, and when he played against Guatemala and Honduras in Washington in the early 2000s.“We take pride in having Latino fans, and that’s something that’s important to us, and we hope that in the future, guys like Ricardo Pepi [a son of Mexican immigrants] will help us get more Latino fans,” he said. “When you’re talking about a World Cup qualifier, it’s really important to have a pro-U.S. crowd, and whether that’s Latinos in the stands or not, we want a pro-U.S. crowd. And it’s not always easy to ensure that. … It’s not about who you are, it’s about who you support.”» READ MORE: If you don’t know about U.S. men’s soccer rising star Ricardo Pepi yet, it’s time to pay attention

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2fc7Phg7sec?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inquirer.com The excitement level is as high as ever, amplified by the prime-time lights of a kickoff at just after 9 p.m. Eastern time (ESPN2, ESPN+, Univision 65 and TUDN). But it’s tinged with a bit of melancholy.Because the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are cohosting the 2026 men’s World Cup, they’re all but assured of getting automatic berths in the field. And with the tournament expanding to 48 teams at that point, enough teams from Concacaf will qualify that the regional governing body won’t be able to cap off its qualifying campaign with the round-robin slugfest that has been tradition since 1997.On top of that, when the U.S. and Mexico meet at Mexico City’s famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, they might have already booked their tickets to Qatar — or at least be on the verge of it.So for people who’ve been around this sport and this rivalry for a long time, this game will mean even more than usual. And if you’re new to it, sit back and enjoy one of the greatest soccer spectacles in which any American team takes part.

 

World Cup qualifying: What to watch in UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and more

5:00 AM ETESPN

The two-week international break might mean a pause for clubs, but it’s all systems go around the globe with World Cup qualifying and every continent is approaching the end of the road to Qatar 2022. Only three teams — including hosts Qatar, who qualify automatically — have already punched their tickets to the big show (well done, Germany and Denmark) and there are 95 nations still with a shot at securing one of the remaining spots in the 32-team field.

Europe (UEFA)

Spain in danger?
Luis Enrique’s side are starting to form an identity around a promising young core of players, but they’ve got work to do if they’re to make it to the World Cup. They are two points off Janne Andersson’s Sweden at the top of Group B and face the group leaders on Sunday, but their week begins with a trip to Euro 2004 champs Greece on Thursday

If Luis Enrique’s team get a victory in Athens, another win against Sweden on Sunday in Seville would guide them home as group winners, avoiding the pitfalls of the playoffs. But Sweden will also be gunning for that top spot, and travel to Georgia on Thursday evening (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 12 p.m. ET) hoping to maintain that slender lead at the top of the pool.

Spain will be without some key personnel — Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia are absent — but Dani Carvajal is included, making him the first Real Madrid player called up by the former Barcelona manager since March.

Ronaldo’s grudge match
Back in April, Cristiano Ronaldo was so outraged at his late winner against Serbia getting controversially overturned (there was no VAR in the opening qualifiers) that he threw his captain’s armband to the ground and stormed off at the final whistle. Sunday sees the two nations meet again in the return match in Lisbon, and World Cup qualification is on the line.

Serbia hold a one-point advantage over Portugal at the top of Group A, but Portugal have a game in hand. That extra match for Fernando Santos’ men comes against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET), who are out of the running for a spot at Qatar, but will offer resistance: Portugal needed two late Ronaldo goals to get past them in September. A result in Dublin for Portugal would mean they’d be in the driving seat for Sunday’s clash against Serbia, where Ronaldo will no doubt have a bearing on matters.

Could Italy really be dumped into the playoffs?
Italy’s match against Switzerland on Friday has all the hallmarks of a winner-takes-all clash. The two teams are locked on 14 points at the top of Group C, with both finishing off their pool stages with games they’d expect to win – Italy travel to Northern Ireland and Switzerland host Bulgaria. So it’s all eyes on Rome this week as Roberto Mancini’s European champions look to book their place in the World Cup and avoid the playoffs.

Italy’s 37-match unbeaten run came to an end in the Nations League semifinals against Spain in October, but they bounced back by beating Belgium 2-1 to take third. But they will be without a few key players in Nicola Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ciro Immobile, while Nicola Barella is an injury doubt. With their midfield depleted, Mancini could hand debuts to Lazio’s Danilo Cataldi and Torino’s Tommaso Pobega. They won’t have it easy against Switzerland, however, with Murat Yakin’s side keeping clean sheets in their last four matches – including a 0-0 draw in the return match in Basel in September.

Haaland a big miss for Norway
As Borussia Dortmund have found out over the past week, life without one of the best players in the world is tough. BVB striker Erling Haaland is out injured with a hip injury and may not be fit until Christmas, which will come as a huge blow for his country Norway as they seek to book their place at the World Cup.

Norway are two points behind Netherlands in Group G with two games remaining. Louis Van Gaal’s Oranje face Montenegro on Saturday, while Norway host Latvia. If both teams win, then the final match of the group next Tuesday in Rotterdam (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 2:35 p.m. ET) where the two teams meet will be fascinating. But if Norway drop any points, then they have Turkey sitting just two points behind them, looking to capitalize on any slip-ups for a playoff place.

Norway still have the likes of Martin Odegaard to help bolster their qualification hopes, but they’ll have to find a way to make up that shortfall of Haaland’s goal record — an impressive 12 in 15 appearances for the national side — in order to advance. — Tom Hamilton

North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)

Longtime rivals meet in Ohio
If there is a red-letter day for World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, it’s when United States and Mexico square off. The latest installment is set to take place this Friday at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio (stream LIVE on ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET) with both teams looking to cement their places among the three automatic qualification spots. Mexico leads the way with 14 points from six matches, and looks to be cruising towards Qatar. The U.S. is in second place, three back of El Tri.

– CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table

Yet such is the state of the standings that the U.S. is one result from being pulled back into the pack, and the memories from the failed 2018 World Cup qualifying effort still linger in the minds of some observers. The U.S. will have to make do without the likes of Giovanni Reyna and Sergino Dest, both injured, and a less-than-fully-fit Christian Pulisic. So with an away game against Jamaica set for the back half of this window, a victory over their bitter rivals would go a long way towards clinching qualification.

Canada‘s road to Qatar reaches a crucial point
The opening six games of qualifying have witnessed the continued rise of Canada. John Herdman’s side has already recorded credible road draws against the U.S. and Mexico, good enough for third place. The Reds have some emerging talents as well, with not only Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies in the mix, but also Lille‘s Jonathan David and the New England Revolution‘s Tajon Buchanan.

Canada has historically gotten ahead of itself at times, and this window will provide it with yet another test to see if it is for real, via home matches against Costa Rica and Mexico. A pair of wins would mean that most of the toughest fixtures are already out of the way, and clear the path towards its first successful qualification since 1986. — Jeff Carlisle

Africa (CAF)

The “Elephants” without their Eagle
Wilfried Zaha‘s absence from the Ivory Coast squad for their crunch qualifiers — including a blockbuster showdown with Cameroon — is shrouded in mystery. The Elephants boast arguably the most scintillating array of attacking talent on the continent, but will be missing star man Zaha after he was omitted by coach Patrice Beaumelle.

– Africa preview: Can youthful South Africa reach Qatar

Zaha refused to join the team in October because of “homesickness,” according to the coach, who revealed the attacker was reflecting on his international future. However, these quotes were denied by Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who expressed surprise at Beaumelle’s suggestion and told journalists that the forward still wanted to represent the Elephants.

Regardless of the dissatisfaction or misunderstanding at the root of Zaha’s absence, Ivory Coast have their work cut out to take a further step on the road to Qatar, with both Gervinho and Jeremie Boga also out. One point ahead of Cameroon with two games to play, the Elephants must face the Indomitable Lions in Douala in their final group game (stream LIVE on ESPN+, Tues. 11/16, 2 p.m. ET) — the biggest fixture of the campaign. Fail to progress, and expect fingers of accusation to be pointed at Zaha for abandoning the Elephants when they needed him most.

Will Nigeria let things slip?
Unlike Super Eagles generations of the past, Nigeria have always qualified for major tournaments under current German coach Gernot Rohr. They’ve reached three consecutive competitions and appeared firmly on course to advance to the final round (two-legged playoffs to reach the final) after being drawn into a relatively straightforward Group C. However, a shock home defeat vs. Central African Republic in October has raised concerns that the West African powerhouse may stumble again as two more tricky games await.

They lead Cape Verde by nine points to seven, but they must still host the Sharks — giant-killers on various occasions over the past six years — in their final game, and first play Liberia in neutral Tangiers on Saturday. Unlike some of Africa’s other giants, Nigeria are yet to settle on an effective playing style to see off the smaller sides, while their infamous 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone a year ago (despite being 4-0 up after half an hour) demonstrates just how vulnerable they can be.

Aubameyang vs. Salah for a World Cup spot?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appears primed to go down in history alongside the likes of George Weah, Mohamed Aboutrika and Abedi Pele as an all-time African great who never got the chance to showcase his talents at a World Cup.

With Mohamed Salah‘s Egypt starting the qualifying campaign slowly, Arsenal skipper Auba — now finding form in the Premier League — could have helped Gabon take the initiative in Group F. Instead, there have been familiar lapses — notably, back-to-back away defeats and allowing Egypt to snatch a 90th-minute equaliser in Franceville — though with two games to go, they’re not entirely out of the running. In matchday five, they must defeat Libya at home and hope Egypt fall in Angola (the Pharaohs have never defeated the East Africans away) to stand any chance.

If that occurs, the Panthers would then set up a winner-takes-all showdown in Alexandria on Nov. 15, meaning we could well see Aubameyang vs. Salah for a spot in the playoffs. — Ed Dove

South America (CONMEBOL)

Colombia need to get results against Brazil and Paraguay to remain on course for a ticket to Qatar 2022. Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

Expect World Cup spots to start filling up
World Cup qualifying is into the home stretch, with six matchdays remaining and four automatic spots up for grabs. Brazil and Argentina lead comfortably and will no doubt secure their spots in Qatar sooner rather than later. And Brazil can get over the line with a win against Colombia on Thursday.

– South America preview: Colombia looking to James for spark

The most contested battles are taking place below them. Ecuador are third on 17 points, while Colombia and Uruguay sit one point behind — the latter are in the fifth spot because of goal difference and would head into an intercontinental playoff if qualifying ended today. Further down, ChileBoliviaParaguay and Peru remain in contention despite their inconsistent form; Ricardo Gareca’s Peru are five points off fourth place place, with 18 points still to play for.

– CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table

Games to watch
The highlight for the upcoming window is Friday’s Clasico del Río de la Plata. Uruguay, with manager Oscar Tabarez under intense scrutiny, must win in Montevideo against an undefeated and supremely confident Argentina, the Copa America holders. If Uruguay lose, Tuesday’s game against Bolivia in La Paz will suddenly take on more challenges than just the dizzying heights of the capital.

Colombia‘s visit Thursday to Brazil is another one to watch, with the home team attempting to secure a spot in Qatar 2022. Meanwhile, Colombia has more draws than it would like in a tournament of this level and must impress in Sao Paulo with next Tuesday’s key game against Paraguay in Barranquilla looming. A win in Brazil should put Reinaldo Rueda’s Colombia in the best mood possible for Paraguay, and the return of midfielder James Rodriguez is a reason to hope. — Damian Didonato

Asia (AFC)

Where is Taremi for unbeaten Iran?
Given his star-player status in the country, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Porto striker Mehdi Taremi was omitted from Dragan Skocic’s squad for the upcoming Group A games against Lebanon and Syria. It’s since been reported that Taremi has not seen eye to eye with Skocic in recent times and failed to answer calls from team officials hoping to resolve their conflict.

– Asian preview: What’s to play for this week

There is still plenty of firepower in the Team Melli ranks, however, in the form of Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun and Feyenoord winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and two wins over the next week should still be well within their reach. Nonetheless, this issue with Taremi has longer-term implications for one of Asia’s top national teams, who gave a good account of themselves at the last World Cup and are expected to feature in Qatar next year.

– AFC World Cup qualifying tables

All to play for in Group B
Can Saudi Arabia maintain perfect start and keep Australia and Japan at bay? Although the latter two nations were expected to be the front-runners in qualifying Group B, it is Saudi Arabia who lead the way thus far as the last remaining team with a perfect record of four wins in the Asian qualifiers.

While they don’t boast as many illustrious names as their rivals — the entire squad plays in the domestic league — Saudi Arabia’s mix of experience and youth has caught the eye, and they already passed one big test with their 1-0 victory over Japan last month. Their next major hurdle is Thursday’s visit to Australia, where anything other than defeat should enhance their qualification prospects, especially given the top two are guaranteed berths at Qatar 2022.  On the other hand, perennial heavyweights Japan — the only Asian team to reach the knockout round at the last World Cup — are in desperate need of recovering from a slow start having already suffered two defeats in their opening four matches. Anything less than wins over Vietnam and Oman could spell trouble for the Samurai Blue. — Gabriel Tan

Oceania (OFC)

The qualifiers in Oceania were originally scheduled to kick off in the second half of 2020, but have faced multiple delays due to logistical challenges stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The latest update from the Oceania Football Confederation in September suggested that the remaining matches will now take place next March, potentially in the centralised, neutral venue of Qatar. — Tan

How the NWSL Semifinals Were Set—and How They’ll Be Won

The NWSL is down to four very capable contenders, each with its own winding tale of how it reached this point—and a key to determine whether a trip to the final will follow. ov. 11, 2021BY JIMMY TRAINA

Prediction: The Reign will get revenge for the October loss and edge a Spirit team that gives a valiant effort. In the end, OL’s experience and depth—particularly up front—will be too much.

Portland Thorns vs. Chicago Red Stars

5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

How the Thorns got here: Portland was widely seen as the league favorite heading into 2021, though that designation was given before the Reign’s in-season moves. And while the Thorns indeed won the NWSL Shield, holding off their Pacific Northwest rival by two points, they haven’t always looked like the top team in the league this year. It needs to be noted that just like Washington, Portland has played of late under the spotlight of being a central figure in the NWSL scandal focused on former Thorns coach Paul Riley. Longtime GM Gavin Wilkinson was officially replaced in his longtime role with the club last week as part of the fallout.

Since The Athletic broke the Riley story and the league took a player-driven break in early October, Portland has gone 1-1-3, and it scored just six goals over its final seven regular-season games. Still, the Thorns lead the NWSL in goal differential, on the back of only allowing a league-low 17. While the team traded star goalie A.D. Franch to Kansas City in August, Bella Bixby has proven to be a high-level starter between the posts, rewarded for her play with a USWNT call-up for two friendlies in Australia later this month. The attack remains daunting with the likes of Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn and Sophia Smith, even if it hasn’t always jelled in 2021. But on a team loaded with stars, it’s 33-year-old midfielder Angela Salem who is having the season of her life while holding down the No. 6 position, becoming the rare defensive midfielder to be nominated for NWSL MVP.

https://17bc7514ea1a4a374f0cfa695a7a48fd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html How the Red Stars got here: Chicago got off to a rough start in 2021, failing to win a game at the Challenge Cup before getting trounced 5–0 by the Thorns in the season opener. How fitting, then, that these two teams meet six months later for a spot in the championship. The May version of the Red Stars is a far cry from the current one, which has overcome injuries to Julie Ertz (who’s missed virtually the entire season) and Alyssa Naeher (out since the Olympics) to produce yet another quality side under Rory Dames.

The resurgence of two players in particular, Morgan Gautrat and Mallory Pugh, has helped drive Chicago’s season. Gautrat has performed at an MVP level in the midfield and served as an anchor of the lineup, while Pugh, finally healthy, played a career-high 23 games in the regular season and produced four goals and four assists (plus the quarterfinal game-winner) while continually being a thorn in opposing defenses’ sides. In her second year in Chicago, forward Kealia Watt has also settled in with a team-leading five goals, but that number is a reminder that, overall, this attack still uses a bit of a by-committee approach in the post–Sam Kerr era.

X-factors

Thorns: Smith has seven goals on the season, but the 21-year-old forward has just one in her last six games. Look for Portland to try to get her involved early and set the tone for the attack.

Red Stars: Sarah Gorden has been the Red Stars’ Iron Woman, playing every minute of every game in 2021. With the center back leading the defense, Chicago has surrendered just one goal across its last four games and put up nine clean sheets this season.

Prediction: Something wasn’t quite clicking for the Thorns on the field down the stretch. The Red Stars, meanwhile, are peaking at the right time, and their momentum will help them clip the home side in what’s sure to be a rousing atmosphere at Providence Park.

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Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

11/5/21   CHS teams finish 2nd in State, Champions League Dramatics, MLS Decision Day Sun, US Roster for Mexico Fri Set, Indy 11 GK Farr in playoffs tonight at 9 pm, Manchester Derby Sat

High School –  CHS Boys & Girls Finish 2nd in the State

Huge Congrats to the Girls and Boys Carmel High School teams and coach Shane Schmidt of the boys and Frank Dixon for the girls who each finished 2nd in the state this season after advancing to the State Finals last weekend at the Mike at IUPUI last weekend. 

The CHS boys fell to Noblesville 3 -1  while the CHS girls lost a heartbreaker 2-1 to Homestead on a goal from former Carmel FC star Emily Roper. 

Former Carmel FC GKs Chloe Fouts, Aubree Empie, Bethany Ducat, Claire Bartley

Carmel FC boys GK Charlie Featherson and Will Lathem

Proud of both teams including our former and current Carmel FC players on both teams on the boys side GK Charlie Featherson, Will Latham, Ricky Monsey, Cade Turton, and Cole Fogleman, along with GKs Aubree Empie, Bethany Ducat, and Emily Roper, especially the Goalkeeper’s who I helped coach along the way.

Roster Set for US Men vs Mexico on Friday night 9 pm ESPN2 from Cincy

The US men welcome Christian Pulisic back to the roster just in time for the biggest game of Qualifying vs Mexico on Friday night.  Your’s Truly is headed to Cincy Thursday night for the big game – Desperately looking for Tix still please RE:if you have any ! The US stand in 2nd place in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying with a 3-1-2 record during the first two “triple dates” and picking up 11 points total, including four on the road capped by a historic comeback in the 4-1 win away to Honduras on Sept. 8. Those results have lifted the United States into sole possession of second place after six matches.   Great to see Pulisic back – he looked ok in his 20 minute stint for Chelsea on Tuesday late and should see time this Sunday vs Burnley.  Thrilled to see new young defender Joe Scally a season long starter for Monchengladbach on the back line.  He could well step right in for the injured Serginio Dest who took a knock in their Champions League game this week.  Also interesting to see Pepi is the only legit #9 on the roster this time – as Zardes is hurt and Dike is in a playoff battle with Orlando.  Surprising not to see Young Boys striker Jordan Pfuk however up top.  I will have my preferred roster and wall to wall coverage next week heading up to the biggest game of the year USA Mexico next Friday!!   

US MEn  – DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB/COUNTRY; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 24/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

 DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL