2/26/21 USWNT Wins Cup, CBSAA adds US games to Soccer Coverage, Chelsea vs Man U Sun 11:30 AM NBCSN

Games to Watch on TV

Not a lot to watch on Sat this week – as EPLs top spot Man City hosting 4th place West Ham at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Sevilla vs Barcelona and American Sergio Dest battling for 3rd in La Liga on beIN Sport at 10:15 am, and RB Leipzig with Adams hosting Borussian Mgladbach at 12:30 pm provide the only top ranked games.  Sunday does give us some good ones though as Man United travel to Chelsea and seldom used American Pulisic (can you sense the anger in my typing with the Dang German Coach Tuchel) and 4th place Roma host Italian leaders Inter Milan at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Arsenal do travel to Leicester City in 3rd at 9 am on NBCSN.  

Wed gives us Cup games in Germany as RB Leipzig and Adams face Wolfsburg and John Brooks on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm and Barcelona and Dest play Sevilla and midfielder Mussala) at 3:15 pm.   Lots of rumors this week at Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic to Bayern Munich and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna to the EPL have both been making the rounds.  Good thing I didn’t buy that long sleeve Chelsea Jersey yet!

USWNT beats Brazil 2-0, Argentina 6-0 to Win She Believes Cup

Of course the US finished up the Cup with a solid 5-0 win over Argentina to wrap up as Champions of the She Believes Cup for the 4th time in 6 tries.  The Argentina game saw Rapinoe score 2 more goals, Kristie Mewis 1 and 1 by Morgan (finally) – and 1 by Lloyd who really runs her butt off at the #9 slot.  I thought Morgan or Press should be starting up top but honestly Lloyd outhustles them both –and while she doesn’t always score – her assists and disruption are both pretty solid.  That’s a tough call for Coach A – but Lloyd’s got to be on the team if healthy.  At this point I think Press has earned a starting slot along with either Rapinoe or Heath on the wings.  I just realized Williams is 31 years old and with her inability to finish and score it might leave her out in exchange for someone like 20 yo Sophie Smith or 21 yo Macario.  The midfield is wide open but Lavell and Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz are of course starters.  Tough decisions on everyone else but Horan and MaCario I would think – maybe Kristie Mewis.   In the back its Dunn on the left, Ohara on the right with Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper in the middle – probably Sonnett as backup on the right side since she can play in the middle as well and perhaps 22 yo Tierna Davidson since she can play wing back, middle or Dmid?  Man cutting this roster to 18 is going to be tough. 

(Possible Olympic Roster assuming no injuries) 5 Mids/5 Forwards/6 Defenders – battling for spots in italics

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger -30/Tierna Davidson 22/Midge Purce  25 /Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Overall – I thought Brazil gave the US the most trouble.  They had 5 shots on goal – and just missed on 2 really good opportunities where they should have scored.  Still the US was dominant in a game that was wide open for most of the 90 minutes.  The US took the lead early when Christian Press received a good ball on the right wing and cut back on her left to score a solid goal.  After starting Press on the left, Morgan up top and Williams on the right I thought perhaps this is your starting line-up for the Olympics.  Morgan looked good up top but definitely rusty as she was just a step behind all night on scoring – but her passing was pretty spot on.  Williams was good but again just can’t score and at 31 years old she’s not better than those she’s battling for spots with.  When Rapino, and Lloyd came on – in the 70th minute – Rapinoe took advantage and had a solid goal off a cross where she just outfought the defender for the shot on goal to score in the 85th minute or so.  Again overall the US was better than Brazil – but Brazil should have scored to tie this game mid second half had a couple of shots where they could have scored if they hit the shot right.  The center of the US defense was exposed for its lack of speed as Brazil had some breaks thru the middle.  I thought Crystal Dunn at right back, who saved no fewer than 2 goals on the right side of the field from her right back spot, was perhaps the best player of the field.   Still looking at 1 or 2 more friendlies in April before the Olympics in late July.   

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Soccer on TV News  

So first huge news that CBS All Access (becoming Paramount+) next week has announced they have acquired the rights for Nations League games for CONCACAF which includes Men’s and Women’s US games when they are on the road.  They are also grabbing the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the US Men and Womens game and they are adding Brazil and Argentina Soccer League coverage.  So now CBSAA/Paramount will carry all of the US men’s and US ladies games the Nations League and for World Cup Qualifying games on the road.  Not sure how I feel about this – more games behind the firewall – I can only hope that they will at least show the big US road games on CBS or CBS Sports Network rather than just on the very poorly delivered online streaming.  (The streaming is live only until the next day – no pausing, or rewinding or forwarding the game like you can on ESPN+).  Yes it will be nice to have all the away games in one place.  I am still worried – we just have more games behind the paywall and less games on TV. Now even US games – normally picked up by Fox Sports 1 or ESPN or beIN Sport on TV – will now possibly be streaming only.  Not good for the sport in my mind but I guess if you have to pay to get Champions League and NWSL already then what the heck – give us everything.  I will say that CBS has done a good job with pregame and post game shows with Champs League and Europa League and NSWL coverage.  So I do think they will treat the games with respect – but man I hate to see more games not on normal TV.  

Speaking of Soccer on TV – over 600K watched the USA vs Brazil game on FS1 Sunday afternoon – somewhat disappointing in my mind – wonder what it would have done on Fox on Sunday at say 1 pm?   Oh well the 600K was the 3rd largest for a women’s game on FS1 other than World Cups.  I guess we see now why more soccer is not on Network TV – we American’s really don’t watch soccer do we?  Not even our Top Ranked US Ladies can draw 1 million fans to watch a game against a really good Brazil team on a cold Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  Everyone was watching NASCAR I guess.  I was pleased with the FS1 Coverage with a studio show lead in for both the Brazil game and the Argentina game – and the post game for the past 2 games was solid and pre-empted the hoops games starting after them.  Nice to see respect for the US ladies on Fox Sports for change. 


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 27

7:30 am NBCSN               Man City vs West Ham United

9:30 am ESPN+                Beilfeld vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Sevilla vs Barcelona (Dest)

12:30 pm Peacock             Leeds vs Aston Villa  

12:30 pm ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Borussia Mgladbach

2:45 pm ESPN+                 Hallas Verona vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                Getafe vs Valencia (Mussah)

Sun   Feb 28

6:30 am ESPN2                  Sampdoria vs Atalanta

7:30 ESPN+                         Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Union Berlin

7 am Peacock                     Crystal Palace vs Fulham (Robinson)

9 am NBCSN                     Leicester City vs Arsenal

11:05 am beIN Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Stasbourg

11:30 am NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man United

2:15 pm Peacock               Sheffield vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ESPN+                Roma vs Milan  

3 pm beIN Sport                Villareal vs Atletico Madrid

Mon Mar 1

3 pm NBCSN                      Southampton vs Everton

3 pm beIN Sport                Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Tues Mar2

3 pm NBCSN                      Man City vs Wolverhampton

Weds Mar 3  

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Leicester City

2:45pm ESPN+           RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) German Cup

3 pm ESPN+                      Barcelona (Dest) vs Sevilla Copa Del Rey

3:15 pm Peacock               Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thurs Mar 4

3 pm NBCSN                      Fulham vs Tottenham

1 pm Peacock                     West Brom vs Everton  

2:45 pm ESPN2                 Parma vs Inter Milan

3 pm Peacock                    Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

 Sat,  Mar 6

7:30 am NBCSN               Burnley vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun,  Mar 7

9 am NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Fulham (Robinson)  

10:!5 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby!

11:30 am NBCSN             Man City vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Mon ,Mar 8

3 pm NBCSN                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm ESPN+                       Inter Milan vs Atalanta

Tues Mar 9

Juventus (McKinney) vs Porto, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Borussia Dortmund (Reyna) vs Sevilla, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Weds Mar 10

Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (Adams). 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

PSG vs Barcelona 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Thursday, Mar 18 –
5 pm FS 1                            USA vs Costa Rica (Olympic Qualifying)

US Ladies

USWNT starting to implement Vlatko’s ‘principles’
Alex Morgan Scores First Goal as a Mom
Stand or kneel? How Megan Rapinoe helped US Soccer change its tune
SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0
Megan Rapinoe, USWNT dominate Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

Rapinoe brace opens floodgates as USA rout Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests
   Jeff Carlisle eSPN
Megan Rapinoe gives a nod to USWNT teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris with goal celebration
Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe lead U.S. past Brazil in SheBelieves Cup
Crystal Dunn had a ridiculous, goal-saving slide tackle to keep the USWNT ahead in its match against Brazil
Crystal Dunn on USWNT all standing for anthem: ‘Past the protesting phase’
Final Brazil Game Stats


Is it time for Pulisic to leave Premier League?
WATCH: Is there any sense in a Christian Pulisic move away from Chelsea

USMNT’s Morris out for season with ACL blow

Tackle-assist from USMNT’s Adams helps Leipzig pull within two of Bayern

Will Efra pick US or Mexico for Olympics? Kreis talks qualifying roster

Herc Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efra is a game-changer

Doyle: Breaking down the US depth chart for Olympic qualifying

Two Years of Berhalter: Tactical Evolution By Adnan Ilyas

Paramount’s new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

2020 Men’s Olympic Qualifying Full Schedule (all times ET)

Group Stage

Group A: Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic
Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and Haiti   (top 2 teams from each group advance to semis – 2 teams in final advance to Olympics.)  

Thursday, March 18 – Jalisco Stadium
USA vs Costa Rica (5 pm)  FS1
Mexico vs Dominican Republic (7:30 pm)
Friday, March 19 – Jalisco Stadium
Honduras vs Haiti (3:30 pm)
Canada vs El Salvador (6 pm) 
Sunday, March 21 – Akron Stadium 
Dominican Republic vs USA (7 pm)  FS1
Costa Rica vs Mexico (9:30 pm)
Wednesday, March 24 – Jalisco Stadium
Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic (7 pm)
Mexico vs USA (9:30 pm) FS1
Thursday, March 25 – Jalisco Stadium
El Salvador vs Haiti (7 pm)
Honduras vs Canada (9:30 pm)

Sunday, March 28 – Jalisco Stadium
1B vs 2A (6 pm)
1A vs 2B (9 pm)

Tuesday, March 30 – Akron Stadium
Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2 (9 pm)  FS1


Premier League fight for fourth: Liverpool to miss out? Breaking down the battle, key men

Liverpool ‘zombies’ walking through ‘depressing’ season, says Gary Neville

 Man City’s relentless streak and the uncomfortable questions it raises
Premier League talking points

Premier League Power Rankings


Manchester United face AC Milan in Europa League last 16

Manchester United and AC Milan will face off in the last 16 of the Europa League after being 
Inter on top, Bayern, Atletico and PSG all stumble: Talking points from around Europe


Thierry Henry steps down as Montreal head coach

Cincy: New West End Stadium almost complete, set for May opening

Doyle’s top 5 teams in MLS right now

Doyle: One big question for each East team as preseason begins

Doyle: One big question for every Western team as preseason begins

Paramount’s/CBS All Access- new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

The streaming wars are heating all the way up.B/y Rob Usry@RobUsry    Feb 25, 2021, 5:00am PST

We should probably preface this blog post by saying this isn’t sponsored content, just an honest assessment of the current Soccer streaming landscape that just shifted dramatically for U.S. Soccer fans.The streaming service currently known as CBS All-Access will be rebranded to “Paramount Plus” next week. With its new look comes a massive acquisition of soccer streaming rights that will make it a must-buy for any hardcore soccer fan, especially those that follow the USWNT and USMNT.In addition to having every UEFA Champions League (men’s) and Europa League match and acquiring the rights for the Argentine and Brazilian first divisions, Paramount Plus has signed a deal with Concacaf for some very important rights that will affect you.  Here’s a detailed description of the agreement between the two parties announced by Paramount on Wednesday:

Concacaf – offering more than 200 Concacaf matches, starting with the Concacaf Nations League Finals in June of this year, which will feature the U.S. Men’s National Team. Coverage will feature all 41 national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean across different competitions, including the qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, which will feature the defending champion U.S. Women’s National Team.The most important thing you need to know is that both the USWNT and USMNT will have World Cup qualifying matches streamed on this new platform in some fashion.  For the men’s side, the rights are split between away matches and home matches (plus Mexico away). During the last World Cup qualifying cycle the rights for away matches belonged to beIN sports, which to put as kindly as possible, did not go well. At least with this model, a modest monthly fee gets you access to every away men’s qualifier. When you consider that just ten years ago every single away qualifier (except against Mexico) was only available through closed-circuit pay-per-view, then this seems like an amazing step in the right direction.  The women’s World Cup qualifying tournament rights are included in the agreement in addition to being the home of NWSL.Paramount will also carry the men’s Nations League Finals this summer and the women’s Nations League beginning in 2023. In addition, they’ll offer plenty of other non-U.S. Soccer related events including the brand new UEFA Europa Conference League (third tier European club competition) beginning this fall.  While all the different streaming platforms that hold soccer rights in this country can be overwhelming, some are better bargains than others. Paramount Plus has jumped up near the top of the list of must-buys, for American soccer fans at least.

The network is expanding its soccer lineup with the addition of Concacaf men’s and women’s World Cup qualifying, the Argentine league and Brazilian league, according to Jonathan Tannenwald from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

CBS has English-language broadcasts rights to both the Concacaf men’s World Cup qualifying final stage games played outside of the U.S. and Mexico leading up to Qatar 2022, as well as the Concacaf women’s qualifying tournament that will send the nations to Australia 2023.CBS and Concacaf concluded their first-ever deal on Wednesday, expanding the network’s soccer portfolio that already has the National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League.The men’s World Cup qualifying eight-team final round is scheduled to begin in September. However, only five nations – the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras – have qualified to the round, leaving 30 teams divided into six groups to fight for the last three vacant spots during March and June to complete the eight-team final round. The early-round games are not a part of the CBS deal.

USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying schedule:

  • September 2021: Away game at team TBD, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Honduras
  • October 2021: Away game vs. Jamaica, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Costa Rica
  • November 2021: Home game vs. Mexico, home game vs. Jamaica
  • January 2022: Home game vs. team TBD, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Honduras
  • March 2022: Away game at Mexico, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Costa Rica

All the games CBS acquired the rights to will be available on CBS’s subscription streaming platform currently called CBS All Access. The rebrand to Paramount+ will take place on March 4.On the other hand, the Concacaf 2023 World Cup qualifying will begin in November with a new format. Thirty teams will be divided into six groups of five and the U.S and Canada will go directly into the eight-team-final-round tournament in July 2022. The U.S. and Canada earned the byes by being the top two teams in the region. CBS also acquired the rights to Concacaf’s men’s and women’s Nations League tournaments, starting with the men’s Nations League semifinals and final this summer. The U.S., Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are the four sides that will battle for the title at a single site still not determined. The first-ever women’s Nations League will begin in September 2023, after the World Cup. The two teams that qualify for the 2024 Olympics will not take part in the Nations League until the final round, which is scheduled for June 2024.Additionally, Paramount+ will become the new home for English-language coverage of Argentina’s Primera Division and Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A. The service will include over 600 matches from the two leagues. Soccer fans in the U.S. will have a chance to watch the likes of South American giants Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santos, Internacional, Palmeiras and Flamengo.

USWNT lessons from SheBelieves Cup: Team can build on positive momentum

2:11 PM ET      Julie Foudy    Contributor, espnW.com

Few were surprised that the USWNT won its fourth SheBelieves Cup in six years on Wednesday, but the Stars and Stripes certainly made the march to the title more of a slog than anticipated.–  Their opponents — Canada (missing seven key players), Brazil and Argentina (a late replacement for Japan due to COVID-19 concerns) — were not the quality of teams of past SheBelieves Cups, so I thought the tournament would be fairly one sided for the U.S., only that wasn’t the case. Canada looked quite good against the U.S. under their new head coach, Bev Priestman, Brazil was more organized under former USWNT head coach, Pia Sundhage, and Argentina? Well, Argentina was what we predicted… underwhelming. With the Olympics still scheduled to begin less than five months from now, let’s reflect on what we’ve learned from this SheBelieves Cup:

A healthy reminder

For the U.S., not playing their best and still winning the title is always a good thing. Here’s why: These players will return to their clubs knowing that their world domination is not yet complete. In Orlando, they were sometimes exposed at the back, errors that better teams would punish. The U.S. were not clean in front of goal, either — that could be the difference in a tight game against a better opponent. These players know all of this, and that will gently haunt them. They will watch the games back and work on getting things right, understanding that the SheBelieves Cup was a subtle, yet important reminder for them to keep that fire burning bright.

Roster Roulette

Speaking about keeping that fire burning, when USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, is asked about how many spots on his 18-player Olympic roster remain open, he says 18. Obviously, he has many locked in, but I do think due to the limited games and access to players and training camps, this Olympic roster is understandably going to take longer to decipher.

Roster roulette is a fascinating game to play, so let’s give it a try. Based on the last six games (three in SheBelieves Cup, plus Colombia twice and the Netherlands), and assuming Andonovski and his staff are taking two goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders, and five forwards, here are some scenarios (and the player options for that final spot in italics):

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger/Tierna Davidson/Midge Purce/Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Questions still needing answers

Where is Carli Lloyd in her comeback after missing most of 2020 because of injury?

Lloyd had a goal and assist against Argentina and looked sharper than in her previous SheBelieves Cup game, but she missed a few excellent chances vs. Canada. Rapinoe’s comeback, after also missing most of 2020, seems clearer. She finished the SheBelieves Cup as the leading scorer and also leads the team with five goals in five games in 2021. Rapinoe has shown she can still impact games quickly and consistently. I think Lloyd will need to show that in the coming months as well.

How has Alex Morgan recovered from missing 2020 due to pregnancy, a knee injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis spilling into 2021?

I thought her performance against Brazil was a plus. Her touches were sharp, her movement good. She also scored a nice goal against Argentina.

Did Lynn Williams help or hurt her case for breaking into the final 18 Olympic roster based on her play in this SheBelieves Cup?

This is a tough question for me to answer because I love so much of what Lynn Williams does with her speed. She gets into great positions and turns defenders, which makes her a consistent threat to the opposition. She also does a ton of work on the defensive side of the ball. All great attributes, yes, but her final pass and her finishing are far too inconsistent, hurting her chances to become a regular starter.  If Williams finished some of those opportunities against Canada and Brazil, the games would have been less of a slog.

How many younger players can Andonovski afford to break in? Will they be ready for the Olympics?

Catarina Macario struggled in midfield vs. Canada, but excelled as a forward in both games against Colombia. Unfortunately, Macario did not get to see a lot of time in this SheBelieves Cup as she went back early to her club in Lyon.

Sophia Smith came into the game in the 65th minute against Brazil and while she didn’t make much of an impact, she played a beautiful ball for the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal vs. Argentina. I think this young player may be on the outside peeking in, but she is going to be fun to watch. She runs at players better than most.Then there’s Kristie Mewis. Not a young player — she’s 30 — but she is new to the mix (or, more aptly, newly back in the mix) and has looked consistently sharp, with a goal and assist against Argentina.

Also to ponder:

– Would Andonovski consider taking five defenders, instead of six, since Julie Ertz can also play center-back?

If he did that and he took Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, O’Hara and Sonnett, the U.S. would have 3 natural outside-back options in Dunn, O’Hara and Sonnett. That seems thin for that position given the tight Olympic game schedule and how often O’Hara has been injured. That is why I think he takes six defenders and Ertz in midfield.  Since he does have the Ertz option at center-back, I think that sixth defender will have to be a player who can play outside back.

– How about the midfield mix?

If Vlatko felt strongly about both Macario and Kristie Mewis, Macario could go as a forward, but that means other forwards (like Lloyd, Williams and Smith) might not make the roster. I cannot see that happening. I think Lloyd is going. Her work on on both sides of the ball is still one of the best on the team. Add in her strong mentality and finishing ability in big moments, and even at 39 years old at the Olympics, she can help the team.

Their Superpower

With the Olympic rhythm being tighter than the World Cup schedule (two days rest at the Olympics, compared to three at a World Cup) and the Olympic roster being five players lighter than a World Cup roster, you can’t afford to bring players who may help the team or are not 100 percent fit. With only 16 field players and limited rest, EVERY SINGLE PLAYER must contribute, which is why the U.S. are the clear favorites to win the Gold Medal: their squad is much deeper than any team out there.That is their superpower. The U.S. can field two line-ups that are quite different, yet both strong, and we’ve seen Andonovski do this throughout his tenure with the national team. Who else in this Olympics pool could do that without losing much at all in that second group? Maybe Great Britain. For the U.S., it will be less about who is starting and more about managing the rhythm of minutes played per game so that whichever combination is on the field, they are aggressively dictating the tempo.Overall, I think the U.S. will take a big positive from this SheBelieves Cup because they remain undefeated under Andonovski, and let’s not forget: they did not concede a goal in this tournament, the first team to ever do that in the tournament’s history. (It just goes to show you the standard by which we judge this team’s performance, which I still think was far from their best.)Andonovski’s last chance to evaluate players against other international opponents comes in the April FIFA window (by the June window, the team will be set). It’s just the environment needed to make those final judgements and then start rallying the Olympic team of 18 together.Here’s to hoping an Olympics will indeed be played in July. Sending out my best YES-the-Olympics-will-be-played karma into the world right now. Do the same, please!

USWNT worked as a unit to unlock Argentina – Vlatko Andonovski

play Megan Rapinoe’s double vs. Argentina seals a fourth SheBelieves Cup title for the USWNT. (1:47)Feb 24, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Going up against an outmatched and tired opponent, the U.S. put the game away in the first half with a four-goal barrage in a 25-minute span. Megan Rapinoe scored twice during the spell with Carli Lloyd and Kristie Mewis padding the U.S. lead. Christen Press and Alex Morgan tallied in the second half. Morgan’s goal was her first for the U.S. since the 2019 World Cup semifinal against England.

While the result was expected, Andonovski was still assessing his team’s performance with a microscope as he attempts to identify the 18 players he will take to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics.”It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low, it’s hard to break them down” he said after the match. “And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions and how we can do it. So that was one thing that we’re looking at. How quick can we do it? Who can who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team?”So, the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles and the execution individually, as a group, as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for. So, overall very happy with how we are performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”Rose Lavelle was voted the tournament MVP, and while her goal in the 1-0 win over Canada was critical to the U.S. winning the title, she felt that the award should have gone to someone else.”Honestly I don’t know how I won that. I don’t know who picks that,” she said. “I think there were a lot better options … but I guess it’s always it’s always nice to be recognized!”For Morgan, there was relief at scoring for the first time since 2019. Morgan had missed considerable time with the U.S. team after giving birth to her daughter Charlie in May of 2020 and then enduring a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year.”To say it’s been a long time would be an understatement. It’s been over 500 days,” said Morgan via a zoom call afterward. “You guys don’t have to sugarcoat it. But I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team.”Morgan added that she feels she’s almost back to full fitness, and expects that to come in time with club side the Orlando Pride.”I feel like I’m getting my legs underneath me,” she said. “Getting 70 or so minutes the other night, it was a transition game, and I felt like at times I was trying to catch my breath. But looking at the numbers, I had a lot of running in that game, and I was happy with kind of the way that I’ve progressed.”I still don’t feel like I’m 100 percent. I feel like I’m 99 or so. I’m getting there, my timing needs to get better, my instincts need to get better, but I think that will come with like a month straight of team training.”

SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0

 strong ending to a tournament that has had its rough spots for the USWNT.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 24, 2021, 7:15pm PST

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Krueger, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe

It was indeed a game of roster rotation as Vlatko Andonovski rolled out his starting lineup against Argentina. Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson all got their first minutes, while Casey Krueger and Kristie Mewis got their first starts. There was also some tinkering with the forward line as Lynn Williams finally got some rest and Andonovski shifted Press to the right side.Right away the team looked much more fluid and mobile, although it can’t be discounted that they were facing a more tired, slower Argentina team at the end of the tournament. The US looked often for the direct ball over the back line or the wide play, staying away from Argentina’s attempts to compact the middle. Early on, there was an attempt by Argentina at defending in an orderly 4-2-4, facing up in compact lines particularly when Julie Ertz had the ball at feet and was looking to distribute. That fell off a bit as the US began to systematically, repeatedly tear the Argentina backline to shreds.Without Lynn Williams in the mix, it was mostly Rose Lavelle who was pulling the game wide on the right, with some crossing from Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara had a planned 30 minutes in the game before getting subbed out in the 32’ for Emily Sonnett.On the left, Casey Krueger had a very good first half, maintaining the high press while picking out Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis in pockets. Rapinoe had the first goal in the 16’. Lavelle own the ball back in midfield and popped it over the back line. It was a nice enough service that Rapinoe didn’t even need to touch it, just got behind it and finished it nicely.The second goal was in the 26’, once again Rapinoe. Christen Press drifted out of her lane to check back and pick up a ball, then turned and cleverly threaded it for Carli Lloyd. Lloyd did the smart thing and dropped it off for Rapinoe to finish. Then Lloyd got her own goal in the 35’, this time finishing off her own quick little pass from Mewis, who did a good job in the first half with her dynamic runs and late timing into the box.The fourth goal was in the 41’, this one for Mewis herself. The Krueger – Mewis connection paid off again as poor Argentina’s back line got cooked by yet another player making the turn and facing up to goal.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1364739558072532993&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.starsandstripesfc.com%2F2021%2F2%2F24%2F22300052%2Fshebelieves-usa-dispatches-tired-argentina-6-0&siteScreenName=StarsStripesFC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The half ended at 4-0.The second half started with a triple sub, as Lavelle, Lloyd, and Krueger came off for Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, and Midge Purce. Horan’s presence shifted Mewis to the right side of midfield, while Morgan went in as the 9 and Purce filled in at RB. The chance creation slowed down a little bit with the change. The US still alternated between trying to drop the ball right over the back line, this time for Morgan to peel off her defender(s) with speed, and pulling wide to create chances with crosses. Purce was effective here again, winning a lot of 1-v-1s and sometimes managing to cook two players in a row.

Argentina pushed back a little bit in the middle of the half, surging with some lovely possession ball while switching the point of attack and trying to lure in the US, but the defense was on it and snuffed out attempts to play in their forwards. Davidson looked solid here, working well with Sauerbrunn, tracking players as well as distributing out of the back.The US made another two subs in the 62’ with Ertz and Rapinoe coming out, and Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith coming in. Press was able to come left and Howell went in at DM, immediately bringing strong physical energy. Press continued to work well tucking into the halfspace to play quick one- and two-touch passing up the left and rotate into crossing and scoring positions.In the 77’ Mewis delivered a lovely cross that suckered the goalkeeper out; she whiffed it, but Morgan couldn’t quite finish it at the back post. Morgan got her goal eventually, though. Sophia Smith picked up the ball deep in midfield, ate up the space, drew in several players, and was able to feed an open Morgan sitting on the back line. Morgan turned and was gone, finishing the ball to make it 5-0.The last goal was in the 88’ Mewis served in a corner. Horan’s header got sent back across goal face, where Press was in good position to finish the second ball and make it 6-0, which was the score at full time.After the game, Andonovski said he was happy with the performance.“Even though they’re tired or we’re a better team, it’s always hard to play against the team that sits low,” he said. “It’s hard to break them down. And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions in how we can do it. So that was the one thing that we’re looking at, like, how quick can we do it? Who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team. So the the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles, and the execution individually as a group as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for.”He also had praise for two of the defenders he gave starts for the first time this tournament in Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson. “Early on [Krueger] had a couple of decisions that she made that I felt like she could have done a better job. But again, it was very early in the game. And once she started feeling the game and understanding the movement of the players ahead of her, I thought that she was very good. And on the other side defensively, there was nothing we can say. I mean, she was spot on in every action that she performed. On the other side, or next to her, Tierna, very calm, dictating the pace together with Becky and spraying balls left and right, I thought she did good.” Andonovski said that Krueger was a planned sub after 45 minutes, based on where she’s currently at in her fitness and recovery.When asked about his players rotating well through space, Andonovski said, “We work lots of different rotations, interchanging of positions. We work on players making different runs in different movements. And what we always say is, we give them tools, and they need to use them in different times in different ways.”That’s certainly what we got out of the team tonight. Once again, it’s important to remember this was against a tired team just getting their legs back under them after over a year out of the international game. But let’s not completely discount that this was a positive ending after two games where they struggled to execute, particularly given the player rotation, namely resting Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams. It was a glimpse of what he clearly wants this team to be, with versatile players able to move quickly and creatively in and out of passing channels. There’s a couple of FIFA windows upcoming that are probably going to be further opportunities to winnow this roster to 18 and get everyone back from the NWSL clubs fitter and sharper. With everyone back in game shape, that should be a really fun, really watchable, really dangerous Olympic team. Now the Olympics just have to actually happen.

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests

Feb 21, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Watching the United States women’s national team is an exercise akin to finding flaws in the Sistine Chapel. On most days, there is nary an imperfection to be found. But on the rare occasions when a defect is located in the Americans’ play, there’s a discussion to be had about whether it’s simple nitpicking or whether alarm bells should actually be going off.So what to make then of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brazil, one that all but clinches the SheBelieves Cup?In many respects, the U.S. did what it normally does. It carried most of the play, and eventually broke through with goals by Christen Press and substitute Megan Rapinoe. The defense bent, but held firm. The result was less about perfection and more about efficiency, especially in both penalty areasThe triumph was the 15th consecutive victory under manager Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis following the U.S. team’s second consecutive World Cup triumph in 2019. And it can’t be overlooked that the U.S. prevailed against a Brazil side that is currently ranked eighth in FIFA’s latest round of rankingsLooking beyond that metric, Brazil certainly has enough talent to threaten the U.S. There is longtime attacking lynchpin Marta, even as she plays in a wider role for manager Pia Sundhage. Forwards Debinha and Ludmila are skillful enough and mobile enough to threaten any team in the world, and did so on this day. Add in the fact that many of the U.S. players are still in preseason mode, and there’s every reason to think that the Americans’ are in solid shape as this summer’s Olympic Games come more into focus.

– Dunn explains why USWNT stood for national anthem
– Foudy: What the USWNT needs to do to stay on top

“It’s funny because I think every time I’m on this team, wearing this jersey, I feel like everyone expects us to never have a shot on goal against us, or no team to ever create a chance,” said defender Crystal Dunn. “And I can sit here and say I think we played a great game. I think Brazil is a talented group of players.”But part of the reason why the U.S. women have been dominant for so long is precisely because the team is held to high standards, even if at times the expectations border on the ridiculous. And there were enough flaws in Sunday’s match to think that there are some issues to keep an eye on as the departure for Tokyo gets closer.The U.S. delivered a more fluid performance against Brazil than it did in the tournament opener against Canada. That was due in part because Brazil was more adventurous in attack, leading to a more wide-open affair. But in both matches, the U.S. conceded some wide open chances in transition that weren’t converted. In some situations, the U.S. helped itself with some astute covering tackles, like when Dunn slid over in the 13th minute to block Ludmila’s shot, or when Julie Ertz’s recovery run just before halftime spoiled a Brazil counter. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher contributed as well with a first half save from Ludmila.But on other occasions, it was poor finishing by opponents that kept the U.S. net from being breached. Debinha will still be thinking about the opportunity she squandered in the 82nd minute. That is something the U.S. can’t continue to rely on going forward.The play of right back Emily Sonnet was a concern as well, as she came out second best in a number of duels, though Andonovski defended the player given she was up against Marta for much of the day.”A couple of times that I thought she could have done a better job,” he said. “But overall she’s playing against one of the best players in the world right now, and she was able to step in front, deny some of those passes going to her. She was able to get the ball a few times so overall good performance.”To Andonovski’s credit, the transition opportunities that were apparent in the first half were largely kept in check after halftime thanks to a few tactical tweaks. This included dropping Ertz a bit deeper to limit space for Debinha and Ludmila, as well as provide additional cover for center backs Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn. The U.S. also did a better job of getting pressure on the ball in midfield and slowing down Brazil’s attempts to play in transition.”We know that if we give them a lot of space as a unit that they’re going to expose it, and I thought in the first half, we didn’t do a good enough job in closing the space” said Andonovski. “After we adjusted the structure a little bit, I thought we did an incredible job in the defending their transition.”It’s worth mentioning however that in the prior game against Canada some transition opportunities were also conceded. It’s certainly no time to panic in terms of the U.S. defense, but there is reason to be wary of how teams look to exploit weaknesses.There seems to be a bit more patience attached to the team’s attack, with Lindsay Horan’s two assists the highlight, along with Rapinoe’s “Rock the Baby” celebration, an ode to teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris adopting a baby last week. Horan’s performance was a reminder that the Andonovski has options behind the injured Sam Mewis. Press showed her quality as well with a well taken goal.The return of Alex Morgan was alsoplus, given that it was her first national team start since giving birth last year. She put in an active shift over 71 minutes.All of that said, the U.S. team needed to be tested in this tournament, and it has been, which for Andonovski was the point of these matches all along.”We want to play the best competition possible,” he said. “We want to play against different types of opponents, opponents that will present different challenges, for a reason. So we can go back in a room now, back in the office, and study, why is it that they were able to get 10 shots on goal? What is it that we could have done different? And we hopefully we can get better from it.”As for perfection, the U.S. is hoping that happens later this summer.

Herculez Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efrain Alvarez is a game-changer

February 25, 20212:55PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=cboehm&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1614353294045 To borrow a concept from 1980s cinema, the US men’s national team technical staff had a “Say Anything” moment this week.Maybe including Efrain Alvarez on their 48-player preliminary roster for next month’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament wasn’t quite as bold or moving as John Cusack hoisting that boombox over his head outside his high-school sweetheart’s house. But it’s not all that often that a national team underlines their appreciation for a young player by including them in such a list all while they’re already on the list of the rival country next door.That’s music to the ears of Herculez Gomez.“With Jonathan Gonzalez and past players this had happened to, it was like, ‘Well, yeah, but what happened? They weren’t very good.’ That always seems to be the mindset, or the excuse,” the ESPN pundit and retired USMNT striker told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday.“For the first time in its history, you’ve had something like this happen, you have two national teams who are openly fighting for [Alvarez]. You have Gregg Berhalter, who has mentioned him more than once, who invited him to camp for the December camp [and] El Salvador game. You have a Mexican national team that is openly recruiting players in your own country, who are very keen on retaining said player and future players like him. So this is a game-changer.”A Mexican-American who played club soccer on both sides of the border but proudly represented the country of his birth at the international level, Gomez is one of the most vocal critics of U.S. Soccer’s approach to Latinos in recent years.But he sees reasons for optimism as Berhalter and US Olympic coach Jason Kreis work to make their program attractive to players like Alvarez and Gonzalez, the California native and CF Monterrey midfielder who sparked recriminations when he switched allegiances to El Tri in 2018. It’s all occurring even if “Efra” remains somewhat unproven at the first-team level, with one goal and five assists in 1,236 MLS minutes over the past two seasons.“Whatever he does, he’s going to let somebody down,” Gomez said of Alvarez. “That’s the reality of things, I’m sure within his own household there are contrasting views. So it’s a difficult choice. That was my immediate reaction.“Now, where can he most likely play? That gets a little murkier,” he added. “You look at the amount of players in the US men’s national team or youth national team pools that are that are emigrating abroad, it’s going to be a little bit tougher for him to maybe get in some of those camps, maybe get noticed more over players who are playing in Europe. And maybe that’s not the same on the Mexico side. Why? Because Mexico quite frankly isn’t exporting as many U-23 players as the States is at this moment.”Alvarez also faces questions about his best positional fit at the international level and his ability to match the physical and defensive demands of the systems preferred by Berhalter and Mexico coach Tata Martino. Former Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was quite measured with Alvarez’s playing time for similar reasons. But the Los Angeles native possesses rare levels of final-third creativity and Gomez finds the effusive praise of Efra’s former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic still ringing in his ears.“[Schelotto] was open about it, he needs to be a harder worker, he needs to take more responsibility. Tactically he needs to be more of a team player, all these different things,” said Gomez. “But I go back to Zlatan Ibrahimovic … they asked him about Efra and he blatantly says he’s the only one with the soccer brain. He’s the only one who understands how to play.“He’s talking about a kid who’s 16 years old [at the time]. So it’s got to blow your mind – if Zlatan, one of the greatest footballing talents of certainly my generation, and maybe in the world’s history of the game, has this kind of thought about a player who’s 16 years old, you’ve got to be asking yourself: What can you do to explode this talent? What can you do to make sure he’s on the right track to progress?”

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=cboehm&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1102062961084882944&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F25%2Fherculez-gomez-us-mexico-race-special-efrain-alvarez-game-changer&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px Herc warns that “there are going to be thousands more like Efra,” as both sides scramble to unearth and polish other dual-national gems among the Mexican-American diaspora. It’s the latest installment in a long-running competition, albeit one that may be charged with extra meaning as US-reared prospects become dramatically more attractive, and valuable, to big clubs across Europe.In 2019, the FMF (Mexican federation) hired USMNT icon and former US youth national team coach Hugo Perez to scout for El Tri-eligible talent in the United States. Gomez said they’ve reached out to him, too.“I have received phone calls from FMF asking me what they can do to openly recruit and help their cause within the States. I’ve been contacted by the Mexican federation before the US federation, which blows my mind,” he said.“I think finally both [national teams] are recognizing the importance of a certain type of player.”

2/20/21 USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun FS1, Milan Derby Sun, UCL Tues/Wed

USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun on FS1

She Believe’s Cup action was pretty good on Thursday night as the US ladies were really given a tough game by 8th ranked Canada as almost 1 million tuned in to view – the largest ever for a non World Cup women’s game on FS1 .  While the US had more shots (29-8) and more corners (13-5)  and more possession (65-35) it was honestly Canada who had the best chances at scoring until the US made subs in the 70th minute or so.  US GK Alyssa Naeher who had not faced a legit shot in like 3 games – had to come up with 2 solid saves to protect the US net.  While I thought Lynn Williams at right wing was a monster in the first half – almost scoring on 3 or 4 chances – the rest of the US offense just was not on cue.  Horan was decent – but with only 1 speedy forward in Williams – we just couldn’t break thru and get a good shot on net.  That all changed in the 70th minute when left winger Christen Press came on for Rapino, Alex Morgan came on for Lloyd and perhaps most importantly Rose Lavelle came on for Macario at midfield.  Rose showed her excellence immediately scoring 8 minutes later.  The offense just seemed to open up with the addition of these 3 stars and the US really coasted to the 1-0 win from there.   

Brazil destroyed Argentina 4-0 Thurs so the battle with Brazil on Sunday will probably be our most difficult game overall.  It will be interesting to see who Coach A – rotates in after he was clearly disappointed in the showing by his team vs Canada.  Interesting that Coach Andonovski will look to extend his record best 14-0 start vs the former US Coach Pia Sundhage now Brazil head coach – who of course lead the US to 2 World Cup wins. 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Sun Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET FS1
Wed Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET

USA vs Argentina 7 pm ET on FS1

Games to Watch on TV

Christian Pulisic is reportedly unlikely to play due to injury when Chelsea takes the field against Southampton at 7:30a on NBCSN. Antonee Robinson has not started the last couple of matches for Fulham after leading the team in minutes since his introduction. The club face Sheffield United in a battle of relegation threatened teams.  Giovanni Reyna did not make it off the bench for Borussia Dortmund in their 3-2 win over Sevilla in Champions League play on Wednesday. But we look for him to return Sat at 12:30 on ESPN+ when Dormund face Schalke and American forward Hoope.  Reyna has started three straight league games for the club, though the personal and team results in those competitions have been uninspiring. This is the first full season for the young man, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was running into some issues with fatigue, but the club has a good chance to pick up points when they face last place Schalke.

Sunday’s big games are all behind the firewalls – as ESPN+ has the Milan Derby at battle of 1st vs 2nd as AC Milan and Zlatan (who scored his 500th goal last week) take on Inter Milan Sunday at 9 am. Peacock has all the EPL games Sunday including West Ham hosting Tottenham at 7 am, Aston Villa vs Leicester City at 9 am and Arsenal vs Man City at 11:30 am.  It’s a US v US matchup in the Bundesliga, as Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen on Sunday at noon on ESPN+. The two clubs have worked their way to middle of the table and are tied on 23 points, though they are only five points ahead of the relegation playoff position. Sargent has been a regular start for Bremen, while Richards has not started every match but has worked himself in very quickly since joining Hoffenheim from Bayern Munich.  Timothy Weah picked up the goal in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Ajax in Europa League play. The team will look to hold on to their first place Ligue 1 position when they face Lorient at 11:05am Sunday on beIN Sports  and Fanatiz. Finally 3rd place PSG will host 4th place Monaco at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Of course Champions League is back Tues/Wed – Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid on Tuesday on CBS Sports Network along with Lazio vs holder’s Bayern Munich both at 3 pm on CBSAA.  While Wed gives us Borussia Monchengladback vs Man City and Italian’s Atalanta vs Real Madrid at 3 pm both on CBSAA.  Tough news for US forward Jordan Morris who was stretchered off his game Sat for Swansea.


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 20

7:30 am NBCSN               Southampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Atletico vs Levante

12:30 pm NBC                   Liverpool vs Everton  

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun   Feb 21

7 am Peacock                     West Ham vs Tottenham

9 am ESPN+                       AC Milan vs Inter  1 vs 2 Italy

9 am Peacock                    Aston Villa vs Leicester City

11:30 am Peacock             Arsenal vs Man City

12 noon ESPN+                  Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Werder Bremen(Sargent)

3 pm beIn Sport                PSG vs Monaco

3 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Brazil She Believes Cup

6 pm FS1                             Canada vs Argentina women

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

4 pm FS1                             Canada vs Brazil women

7 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Argentina She Believes Cup

US Ladies

U.S. women bracing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test  Jeff Carlisle ESPN  
U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Rose Lavelle delivers for USA women in SheBelieves Cup win over Canada

Lavelle’s late laser drives USWNT past Canada in SheBelieves Cup 

Black History Month: Christen Press, what did you do?!
Lynn Williams moves forward in quest to make U.S. Olympic team at SheBelieves Cup

Revealed: how the pay gap at US Soccer goes all the way up the ladder
Crystal Dunn looks to do more
US Players Getting Tired overseas?  


US Players on TV this Weekend S&S

Koeman: U.S.’s Dest switched off against Mbappe

American Youngsters Richards and Weah Shine in Europa League Action

Doyle: Current USMNT depth chart for midfielders & forwards

Tuchel: No decision made on Pulisic future  ESPNFC
Transfer news: American striker Hoppe on PL radars

Transfer news: USMNT’s U21 GK CJ Santos to Burnley

Is there reason to be worried about Christian Pulisic at Chelsea? (video)
Tuchel on Pulisic omission: He will be important
Tuchel defends latest Pulisic omission
US Men’s Olympic Qualifying Schedule Starts Mar 18



Mbappe and Haaland show that their time is now

Pirlo’s ‘clueless’ Juve under-fire after Porto flop
Pirlo says lacklustre Juventus handed Porto victory ‘on silver platter’

Juve lay another first-leg egg in the Champions League with loss to Porto
Mbappe leads PSG to statement win as Barca malaise deepens
  Gabriele Marcotti
Mbappe hat-trick stuns Barca to put PSG in sight of quarter-finals

3 Things We Learned PSG Pound Barca 4-1
Liverpool seize control over RB Leipzig in Budapest

‘Salah, Jones 8/10 for superb showing in Liverpool’s win over RB Leipzig

Job only half done’, Henderson warns Liverpool
Haaland strikes late as Dortmund and Leverkusen drop points

Serie A: Inter leapfrog AC Milan for top spot; Juventus fail to capitalize

Lukaku ‘firing on all cylinders’ as Inter go top of Serie A
Zlatan Scores 500th Goal



Reports: Thierry Henry to Bournemouth? Here’s the latest
Seltzer: Top 10 Americans in MLS for the 2021 season


 .S. women preparing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test in SheBelieves Cup – Andonovski

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States women’s manager Vlatko Andonovski said he is looking forward to playing an “unpredictable” Brazil side in the second match of the SheBelieves Cup for both teams.Brazil currently tops the tournament standings on goal difference over the U.S. following their 4-1 win over Argentina on Thursday and the Americans’ 1-0 win against Canada. With the U.S. facing Argentina in its final game of the tournament, Sunday’s match will likely decide who claims the top spot.– But the tournament is more about preparation for the Tokyo Olympics later this year, and Andonovski feels Brazil will provide a unique challenge for his team.”There is no certain pattern that we can say, ‘Okay, this is what they’re gonna do every time,'” he said on a Zoom call with reporters. “That’s what makes Brazil special, that they’re so unpredictable that we’re gonna have to overcome those challenges or come up with solutions in the split second. I’m actually looking forward to see how our team [will] react.”Marta remains one of Brazil’s main threats, with Andonovski noting that the scouting folder on six-time The Best FIFA Women’s Player award is “pretty thick” given the player’s longevity. She’s joined by North Carolina Courage forward Debinha in leading Brazil’s attack.”She’s an incredible player,” said Andonovski about Debinha. “Her creativity and ability to change and play in between the lines in the middle of the field, but also make runs behind the line and in the side games is incredible. I think she’s one of the best players in the world.”Andonovski had previously spoken of how disappointing the U.S. team’s performance was in its win over Canada on Thursday. That said, he highlighted how the U.S. took 29 shots and had 27 open play crosses. He also noted that many of his players are very much still in preseason mode given that the NWSL season won’t start until April 9 with the Challenge Cup.”They’ve not played, they haven’t had the touches with their teams. They haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis,” he said. “OK, once it all comes in play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come.”With the U.S. playing three games in seven days over the course of the tournament, Andonovski will have to juggle his lineup to a degree. One change he hinted at was that Rose Lavelle, scorer of the game-winner against Canada, will see more of the field.Lavelle does have a history of injury, but Andonovski said he’s not worried about the midfielder’s health based on what he’s seen.”We’re not worried at all,” said Andonovski about Lavelle. “She’s playing hard, she’s training hard, so we’re excited to have her here. And I think we’re going to see the best of Rose as we’re going forward.”

U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Kevin BaxterThu, February 18, 2021, 11:13 PM With one loss in the last five years, the women’s national team has grown accustomed to teaching whatever lessons are learned during its games. But Thursday in Orlando, Fla., it got schooled by Canada in a sloppy SheBelieves Cup match the U.S. was fortunate to escape with a 1-0 victory.“We’re going to go back and try to learn from this,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “That’s a good learning opportunity for us; that good teams are going to punish us.”The only goal came from second-half substitute Rose Lavelle, who latched onto a loose ball after a Christen Press free kick and pushed a shot through a crowd at the near post in the 79th minute. That spoiled an otherwise spectacular effort by Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, who took over for injured starter Kailen Sheridan in the 11th minute and made nine saves.At least the U.S. got those shots on target. The Americans took 29 shots, but most of those either went over or around the goal or were deflected by Canadian defenders.“I don’t know if rusty is the right word,” Andonovski said. “When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed.”Canada, ranked No. 8 in the world, hasn’t beaten the U.S. in 20 years, and with several starters unavailable because of injuries and club requirements, that streak seemed safe. But playing its first game under new coach Bev Priestman, Canada was not intimidated by the top-ranked Americans, testing U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher three times.That’s as many saves as Naeher had made in her last three international games combinedThe tournament will continue Sunday with the U.S. playing Brazil, a 4-1 winner over Argentina in Thursday’s first game. Marta, who plays in the NWSL with Orlando, opened the scoring for Brazil with a penalty-kick goal in the 30th minute.Canada will play Argentina in Sunday’s second game. USA vs Brazil: what to watch for Solve that midfield chaos, don’t let Debinha do Debinha things to you. By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 20, 2021, 1:01pm PST So you started off your SheBelieves Cup having the weaknesses of your high press exposed. If you’re Vlatko Andnovoski, that’s a fantastic thing because that’s the whole point of this tournament before the Olympics: figure out the problems, tweak the tactics, test the personnel. Andonovski had this to say in a press call before the game against Brazil: In terms of Canada, something that jumps out is the lack of [our] execution. I mean, lack of finishing. We went through everything that we wanted to do. And I felt like we executed our principles very well, we were able to create 28 shots, 27 crosses in open play. So we created six goalscoring opportunities off of the process, we created the other seven or eight opportunities in open play that we could have scored a shot, but we didn’t. Yes, it was disappointing, maybe at the moment, but we got to know that these players are in the offseason still… They haven’t had touches with their teams. they haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis. And once that all comes into play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come pretty soon. And now he’s got Brazil to further break down his plans, and if he wanted someone to put pressure on his midfield in particular, he couldn’t have asked for a better suited team. Brazil is coming into this game with a relatively confident 4-1 win over Argentina. And as one might expect, Marta and Debinha both did plenty of heavy lifting for their country, with Debinha often the architect of their attack. Andonovski: We’re gonna have to solve their free flow in the middle. We know that Marta has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. Debinha, I said earlier, she has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. So there’s going to be problems and challenges that they’re going to present that will create for us, that we’ll have to overcome. And there is no certain pattern that we can say, okay, this is what they’re going to do every time. On the US side, Andonovski will be looking for better challenges from his players and better connection with the ball. Perhaps we’ll have some starter rotation; it might be nice to see Christen Press start over Megan Rapinoe, who looked like she ran out of gas after about 30 minutes. Before the game, Press talked about complementing Crystal Dunn on the left and how Dunn winning her 1v1s both offensively and defensively frees Press to go forward, which the team needed against Canada.It might also be nice to see more time for Alex Morgan. Morgan looked like you’d expect for a player who hasn’t had consistent time, a half-step off on her timing. But she looked dangerous nonetheless, and with more minutes to dig in, she could get a real confidence-boosting goal under her belt to get her fully back into the swing of things for the NT.On the other side of the field, Andonvoski said that he wants Midge Purce to get used to right back. “With the national team, with her club team, if she has an opportunity to play there, that’s what she needs,” he said. “We could see in the game against Canada that she did an incredible job when she was in the attacking half or when we were in possession. I thought that she would help us advance forward, came up with some good crosses, combination with Lynn [Williams].” But Andonvoski also pointed out that one big difference in this game is that Purce will likely be pitted against Marta, making her lockdown ability much more crucial and an area in which he will be looking for growth from her.As for that midfield test, Lindsey Horan will absolutely need to bring more of her second-half energy from the game against Canada and crisp up distribution while not getting frustrated and involved in rough fouls. Catarina Macario may also be asked to really help pressure her own left side of the pitch, either bypassing Marta or forcing her out of position to add to Brazil’s numbers there, leaving some space for Purce to operate.Where Canada was slightly chaotic and plenty physical, the US will probably want this game to settle down a bit and rely more on good execution. USWNT vs. Brazil, 2021 SheBelieves Cup: Scouting Brazil Marta and Debinha are in Orlando, but who else makes the engine go?By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 19, 2021, 10:00am PST The United States Women’s National Team will take on Brazil in their second match of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup on Sunday in Orlando. Both teams top the standings with 3 points, with both securing victories Thursday night. In looking at Brazil, they have some of their veteran players back along with some new faces that look to get into the rotation under coach Pia Sundhage. Their roster has had a few changes since it was announced in late January. Last week, Fabiana tested positive for COVID-19, so she was replaced by Kathellen, while Luana and Formiga were denied a release by their club, Paris Saint-Germain, last weekend. They were replaced by Geyse and Valéria. The 25-person roster for Brazil: Goalkeepers (3): Bárbara (Kindermann), Aline Reis (Granadilla), Letícia (Benfica) Defenders (8): Tamires (Corinthians), Camilinha (Palmeiras), Tainara (Palmeiras), Rafaelle (Changchun Zhuoyue), Bruna Benites (Internacional), Jucinara (Levante), Antônia (Madrid CFF), Kathellen (Inter Milan) Midfielders (7): Andressinha (Corinthians), Júlia Bianchi (Palmeiras), Andressa Alves (AS Roma), Marta (Orlando Pride), Adriana (Corinthians), Chú (Palmeiras), Ivana Fuso (Manchester United) Forwards (7): Ludmila (Atlético Madrid), Debinha (North Carolina Courage), Bia Zaneratto (Wuhan Xinjiyuan), Christiane (Santos), Giovana (FC Barcelona), Geyse (Madrid CFF), Valéria (Madrid CFF) A Seleção got off to a great start in the tournament yesterday by defeating archrivals Argentina 4-1. Marta and Debinha opened up the scoring for the Brazilians, while Adriana and Geyse both got their first international goal.  Brazil likes to get out into open space, where their players can create scoring opportunities with pace and agility. Brazil was able to create some chances in what was a physical game, and they tested the Argentine keeper with crosses into the box and trying to free Debinha and Marta on the break.When they do that, they are left open to the counter attack and there are huge holes created by players who move forward. A couple of times during the match, Brazilian goalkeeper Aline Reis came way off her line to clear balls back towards the offensive end because the defense had gaps from so many players moving forward.While they may be testing out some new players to the team (11 players have less than 10 caps), you have some players on their last cycle – like Marta, Christiane, and Tamires – that are looking to make one last Olympics roster. There is quite a bit of depth, but they will be missing Formiga and Luana against the United States. The depth becomes much younger, and it will be a tall task for Brazil to ask them to control the tempo against the best team in the world. Still, they have the pace, creativity, and passing to give any team fits. And, if they can string it together, they will get chances and test the American defense routinely in an effort to steal the win.Brazil takes on the USA Sunday at 3:00pm ET, with coverage on FS1 and TUDN. SheBelieves: USA beats Canada 1-0 in tight-ish game There were some real hold-your-breath moments in this one, but the US came good in the end.  By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 18, 2021, 6:56pm PST  Stars and stripes Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Margaret Purce, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Catarina Macario, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams It was a slightly clunky first half from the United States as they took on northern neighbors Canada. If the thought was that Canada would be easy pickings due to a depleted roster, the thought was quickly dispelled due to the US’ own occasionally plodding midfield and loosey-goosey crossing and set pieces.The US started out with their usual high pressing, gaining possession and position very early, looking really galvanized particularly through Crystal Dunn. Canada looked shaky, their goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan clearing a ball directly into Carli Lloyd’s legs, then Desiree Scott giving away an early foul right outside the 18-yard box for tackling Carli Lloyd. Megan Rapinoe’s free kick went into the Canadian wall, though.Midge Purce also got in on the action; she and Dunn put in a real shift trying to execute their wide responsibilities, with Dunn often setting the play from the left touchline looking for targets from the forwards. They certainly attacked with their usual relentlessness, but not with precision, though some of it was also Canada’s determined, physical defending.The US midfield wasn’t quite as mobile or involved in the play, kept at range by Canada, often containing Canada’s own midfield to keep them penned in, but not able to pressure Canada’s center into giving way or coming too far out of position.Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to come off early with some kind of non-contact injury, but though her substitute Stephanie Labbé looked shaky in her first few touches, the US wasn’t able to capitalize on a wobbly keeper. The US had a great opportunity in the 20’ as Carli Lloyd cleverly rainbowed the ball over her head to Lynn Williams, who made a near no-look pass knowing that someone would be running into space. That was Catarina Macario arriving late and slipping past the defensive line punched up around Lloyd and Williams, but her showt was high and wide.The game began to descend into chippiness, with Canada physically sticking tight to US players as part of their concentrated defensive efforts. The US earned several set pieces through pressure, not letting Canada out of their third, but wasn’t able to convert any chances. The line of confrontation began shifting towards the midfield, with Lindsey Horan doing more on the defensive side of the ball. But as the US wasn’t able to neatly close down these midfield forays, Canada nearly scored a quick one in the 38’ as no one picked up Janine Beckie on the far post for a cross.The game really devolved near the end of the half, with Williams testing Labbé with shots at range, and a goalmouth scramble in stoppage after a bobbled shot that still didn’t yield a goal. The half ended at 0-0.The US started the second half with no changes. Things immediately got physical again as both sides threw their bodies into ball challenges. Julie Ertz pushed high to try and help press on Canada’s players turtled up in the center, but even when the US was able to slip their playmakers the ball, they were all defended very tightly.The fullbacks, often relied upon to win their 1-v-1 battles to create scoring chances, weren’t winning enough of them. Neither Purce nor Williams was finding much joy against Allysha Chapman. But conversely Lindsey Horan turned up the dial on her own physical intensity, playing ballwinner against all comers, cutting off players or simply tracking them down as they attempted to break away from her at speed. The US had a snafu in the 59’ as a Dunn giveaway let Nichelle Prince run freely at the center backs. Prince managed to angle her run to just about beat Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, but fluffed her final ball, making some kind of abortive pass instead of shooting, letting the US off the hook. Then another giveaway, this time with Prince trying to drop the ball off for late-arriving Janine Beckie, whose shot selection was subpar and denied by Alyssa Naeher.In the 63’ the US made a triple sub, pulling Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Macario for Christen Press, Alex Morgan, and Rose Lavelle. All three made a definite impact, Press able to help dominate the wide channel on and off with Dunn, Morgan providing an unpredictable and sometimes untrackable target in front of goal, and Lavelle opening up the midfield with her movement on and off the ball.In the 69’ Dunn toyed with her defender, got around her, and crossed the ball for a Morgan header that was just wide of the post. The game opened up nearing the 75’, the US making mistakes in midfield that allowed Canada to pick up turnovers and push back towards the US defensive end. But then in the 79’ Lavelle broke through with an extremely nice angled shot, picking up a loose ball that wasn’t cleared off of a free kick.It was to be the only goal of the night.In the 82, the US made their last three subs, pulling Dunn, Horan, and Purce for Casey Kreuger (nee Short), Kristie Mewis, and Emily Sonnett. Mewis had some nice pickups in midfield, looking to play direct to Press and Morgan. And why not, when the two of them were fresh and full of running.The game ended at 1-0. Still, there wasn’t necessarily sense that it was as close a game as the tight result might indicate. Yes, Canada had some heartstopping chances, but as Vlatko Andonovski emphasized after the game, these came from US mistakes and not necessarily from Canada tactics.“If you look at the chances that they created, the chances that they had, was after we lost the ball in the middle. It wasn’t because they broke us down, we lost the ball in the middle and they went straight down towards our goal,” said Andonovski after the game.“It’s a great learning opportunity,” he said. “Regardless of how we did, we’re going to go back and try to learn from this because I thought [Canada] were very disciplined, they were very aggressive in the middle of the field in the central channel, and they were able to create turnovers in regards to how we were trying to build. Obviously that’s a great learning opportunity for us to know that good teams are going to punish us or will create opportunity or make mistakes in that.”Next up: USA vs Brazil on February 21 at 3 PM ET. The game will air live on FS1 and TUDN. USMNT’s Morris stretchered off in Swansea match vs. Huddersfield 1:07 PM ETESPNUnited States international forward Jordan Morris was stretchered off with a leg injury in Swansea City‘s 4-1 loss to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.Morris, who came on as a substitute at half-time, left the game in the 66th minute after landing awkwardly.Swansea did not give any official details about the injury.”It does not look good, does it? I don’t know the extent of it but we have our fingers crossed for him,” Swansea manager Steve Cooper said after the match. “We will know more in the days to come, but it did not look a good one, that’s for sure.”He will travel back with us, he is currently in a knee brace and on crutches.”We will get the best attention to him as soon as possible.”Morris, 26, joined Championship club Swansea on loan from the Seattle Sounders in the January transfer window.He made his Swansea debut in a 3-1 win over Rotherham on Jan. 30.In better news for the U.S., American midfielder Duane Holmes scored his first two goals since his return to Huddersfield, helping his side to an important win as they seek to avoid relegation from the Championship. Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on Christian Pulisic future: ‘No decisions’ made for summer James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC Thomas Tuchel has said he wants Christian Pulisic to stay at Chelsea but admitted “no decisions” have yet been taken over the club’s summer plans.The USMNT international has started only in the FA Cup fifth-round win at Barnsley on Feb. 11 during Tuchel’s six-game tenure. Pulisic is a doubt for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton, and although the 22-year-old has also recently missed Chelsea’s victory at Sheffield United due to personal reasons, a lack of game time has fuelled speculation he could leave the club this summer. However, when asked at a news conference whether the forward still had a future at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel replied: “Yes, today, clearly yes, but it is not only my point of view. We have to see. For me, clearly yes because Chelsea bought Christian for a reason, for his quality, for his potential, and it is our job to bring out the best in him.”He proved in many weeks that he has the level to be a Chelsea regular player, to have a big impact in this club. It’s a challenge now to hold this level, to improve and to maintain the level and keep improving.”Pulisic, who has a contract until 2024, has struggled with persistent injury problems since arriving at Chelsea in the summer of 2019 but particularly after a hamstring injury suffered in last August’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.Former Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard revealed the club were exploring specific training programmes amid fears Pulisic was struggling to cope with the rigours of regular first-team football.Although Tuchel did not necessarily share that view, he said Pulisic is unlikely to be risked to avoid another “cycle” of fitness problems.”We are not concerned, we are not worried, but the physical, medical department is on that,” he added. “Now we have little issues in the calf. He stopped training yesterday before it becomes an injury.”So I would not say it is an injury; at the moment it is risk management to not be injured. That relies on his history of having injuries, so we do not want to enter the same cycle.”It is sometimes like this, and the main thing for Christian is to stay positive, keep the head up and, like I said before, be ready because he can have a big impact when he starts and he can have a big, big impact when he comes off the bench with his intensity.”There are absolutely no decisions made for the summer. There is simply no time for that at the moment, and this is not the moment now. There is today no need to think about it.”Thiago Silva has not recovered from a thigh problem and will miss the game against Southampton, but Tammy Abraham was expected to train on Friday afternoon despite limping off in Monday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle with an ankle problem. Kai Havertz is also fit after shaking off a knock.   The Unexpected Rise of Another U.S. Teen Abroad Matthew Hoppe was a relative unknown before a scoring binge in the Bundesliga. Now the 19-year-old American finds himself keeping company with a more heralded cast of prospects—all while trying to save his storied club from relegation. BRIAN STRAUS  FEB 16, 2021  SI    No. 43 isn’t really a conventional soccer number. It’s a free safety’s number, a NASCAR number, a number that looks slightly out of place in a sport where jerseys with lower digits predominate.That stems from the sport’s black-and-white days, when the 11 eligible players were numbered 1 to 11 and positions often had numerical designations. The center forward wore No. 9. Consider how far 43 is from 9, and you’ll have a sense of how far Matthew Hoppe once was from leading the line for a big German club—a club that’s counting on him to help deliver a miracle.Hoppe was unexpected, just another young, relatively unknown American toiling at the fringes of a European club. He was a project. But Schalke 04 was a team in crisis, falling to the foot of the Bundesliga and in need of fresh legs and a spark. When Hoppe was called up to the senior side for the first time in late November, having scored just one goal in 15 games for the reserves, he found the No. 43 shirt waiting for him. No one asked what number he preferred. He didn’t think to tell anyone. He was at the bottom of the roster. Expectations were modest.“I was brought up pretty abruptly,” Hoppe says. “I walked into the locker room for the game, and there was No. 43. It was 43. I had a few numbers growing up and I didn’t really care much at that point, because I’d had so many.”He might want to consider keeping this one. It’s been seen around the world and now is part of club lore, thanks to a stunning hat trick in January that helped Schalke avoid German soccer infamy. Hoppe, a 19-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., has risen from unheralded reserve to joint top on Schalke’s goal-scoring chart. Two weeks ago, he signed his first professional contract, tying him to the grateful club from Gelsenkirchen until the summer of 2023. Unwanted by his local MLS outfit and overlooked by junior U.S. national sides at every age group, Hoppe has provided his desperate, 116-year-old German team that spark.“I think after I got my first goal, I felt like I was about to cry,” he says. “I think it took me a few days and even a few weeks just to process the whole thing. I still look back and watch all the clips and it gives me a special feeling. … I think it changed my life.”Saturday is the 158th competitive Revierderby, the grudge match between Schalke and its eternal rival, Borussia Dortmund. Berlin is Germany’s capital and Munich hosts its top team, but the industrial Ruhr valley in the west is the spiritual home of German football. And the Ruhr revolves around the Revierderby, the coal (Schalke) vs. steel (Dortmund) turf war between clubs situated just 20 miles apart.There will be an American on each side. Dortmund has Gio Reyna, the son of two former U.S. national teamers. France’s renowned L’Equipe just named him one of the top five U-20 players in the world. Reyna, 18, was a U.S. U-15 international and the star of New York City FC’s academy teams while father, Claudio, a National Soccer Hall of Famer, was the MLS club’s sporting director. Gio made his senior U.S. debut the day before his 18th birthday. He has pedigree to spare and has been pegged for stardom for years.And Schalke has Hoppe, who was cut from the LA Galaxy academy after a single season and who, if not for his successful 2019 tryout in Gelsenkirchen, probably would’ve enrolled at San Diego State. The soccer team there has made a single NCAA tournament appearance in the past decade. Four months ago, only the most dedicated followers of U.S. prospects knew who Hoppe was.The odds that he might share a field with Reyna in 2021, and the odds that he’d catch the eye of U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter, were incalculable until recently. But that’s the beauty of the global game. One never knows where the next breakthrough player might be hiding.In Hoppe’s case, after being dismissed from the Galaxy academy, it was with the Irvine Strikers, a competitive youth club in Orange County, Calif. He got his first taste of German soccer during a two-week tour, and then at 16, he earned an invitation to play at Barcelona’s affiliate academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. There, Hoppe switched permanently from attacking midfielder to striker. Tall, aggressive and blessed with an appetite for thankless running, Hoppe developed into an elite target forward, and he was among the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s leading scorers. In the summer of 2019, Hoppe returned to Germany for a couple of trials. Schalke wouldn’t let him leave until he’d signed an academy contract. It was San Diego State’s loss.Gelsenkirchen once was the heart of European coal production. Schalke’s club culture is infused with mining, from the player tunnel at the Veltins-Arena, which is designed to resemble a mine shaft, to the Knappenschmiede academy, which has been one of the country’s most productive. “Knappenschmiede” translates very roughly into “where young miners are forged.” Schalke is accustomed to labor-intensive development. It fits the culture. Players are stars when they leave, not when they enter. Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Leroy Sané, Julian Draxler and U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie are among the graduates.“We are famous for hardworking men,” Schalke technical director Peter Knäbel says. “We love this attitude—the coal miners. Maybe you don’t fulfill every technical criteria when you come, but you invest. You go on. You are positive, natural, direct. We love these people in our region—to be open-minded, to be interested in learning. It really matches with the west part of Germany.”Hoppe fit in. He’s relentless and voracious, motivated by shortcomings rather than intimidated by them. After scoring five goals in 20 appearances for Schalke’s U-19 team, Hoppe was sent back to California at the onset of the pandemic.“I was expecting to be home two to three weeks, and then I ended up staying home for four months,” Hoppe says. “I would train every day, two to three times a day. I’d wake up at six in the morning every day to train with a small group of people. It was so my body would have some time to recover throughout the day. And yeah, I was able to come back [to Schalke] sharper than I’d ever been and fitter than I’d ever been. I don’t think I’ve worked harder in my whole life than those four months.”Upon his return, Hoppe earned a promotion to Schalke II, which plays in Germany’s regionalized fourth division. But there was something in the air over Gelsenkirchen last fall. While Hoppe struggled to score, the senior team nosedived. At the end of November 2019, Schalke was in third place in the Bundesliga. It finished the 2019–20 season in 12th. A year later, in November 2020, it was in 18th—dead last. Head coach David Wagner, a former U.S. national team forward, was fired after two games. His replacement, Manuel Baum, was let go in December. When Christian Gross was appointed two days after Christmas, Schalke was 0-9-4 and already facing the prospect of relegation.Schalke is a big club. It advanced as far as the UEFA Champions League round of 16 five times in the 2010s. On Deloitte’s most recent annual list of the top revenue-generating teams on the planet, Schalke ranked 16th. Relegation typically is an unthinkable impossibility at clubs like that. But circumstances have been unkind at Schalke, which was deep in debt and flirting with bankruptcy following the summer 2020 resignation of longtime chairman Clemens Tönnies and the deep impact of the pandemic, which eradicated match-day revenue. Several players, including McKennie, were sold or loaned out in an effort to boost the books. As the 2020–21 season unraveled, there were disciplinary issues with a few important senior players.It was into this storm that Hoppe was thrust. And it was because of this storm that he got his chance.“If the first team was winning all its games, I think Matthew would’ve never had the chance to go up,” says Schalke II GM Gerald Asamoah, a club icon who played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. “He had the chance to move to the first team to train with them, and he performed well. The situation with the first team is not good, so the young guys have a chance to move up when they do their best in my team.“Matthew is a player. You can put him on the field and he just runs,” Asamoah continues. “He’s a fighter. He was a fighter and he’s fast, and I think the position where we are with the first team, we needed such a striker who is fast, who will find space to run inside, and Matthew was the one who did it well. So that’s the reason why he got the chance, opening spaces for the other players.”Nobody expected goals. Schalke needed a player to stretch the field, someone who might make the opposition sweat a bit when the ball turned over, and Schalke looked to create a chance on the counter. That role requires immense fortitude, because a lot of those runs are for naught and because there’s often not a lot of help. It demands fitness and character.“This is a boy who has incredible ambition, a great commitment and clearly only has Schalke on his mind,” Gross said of Hoppe shortly after taking over. “He wants to do everything he can to get us out of this situation, really an exemplary professional. Although he is still young, he doesn’t shy away from doing a huge amount of work.”In a time of crisis, Schalke could live with Hoppe’s lack of experience and professional refinement. The club was impressed with his work rate and level of fitness and commitment, Knäbel said, and at its lowest point, it still could rely on what it had always done well—mining talent, polishing it and preparing it to flourish with the first team.Hoppe made his Bundesliga debut in the No. 43 jersey on Nov. 28 as Schalke lost, 4–1, to Borussia Mönchengladbach. He was on the bench for the next four matches (appearing in three) and then started again at Hertha Berlin on Jan. 2. That 3–0 defeat extended Schalke’s embarrassing Bundesliga winless streak to 30 games (0-20-10), dating back to the point when the wheels started to fall off toward the end of the 2019–20 campaign. The record, set in the mid-1960s, was 31, and it was held by a small club called Tasmania Berlin that now plays in Germany’s fifth tier. TSG Hoffenheim would visit the Veltins-Arena on Jan. 9. Ignominy awaited.“The biggest pressure that I ever had in my 30-year career is to be relegated, to have the knockout match for playing for relegation. There you play also for everybody who’s working in the club. This is the biggest negative pressure that you have. For sure there is a lot of pressure to play the final of a World Cup. But what can you lose? You can only win,” Knäbel explains.“But I never felt a pressure in the middle of the season like this day [against Hoffenheim],” he continues. “The word that I have in my head is ‘shame.’ It would have been the biggest shame [to match the record]. It made it a match where everybody was looking, and you could see it was really a lot of pressure.”Somehow, Hoppe avoided the worst of that pressure. He’d been informed, certainly, but the Bundesliga was new to him. German football was new to him. He hadn’t lived through that history. Had the club’s original plan been followed, he’d still be down with the reserves. Expectations remained modest. He was a Hail Mary. It was the winless streak that opened the door and so in a way, the Hoffenheim game was like a World Cup final. Hoppe could only win.“I think the pressure in our youth team was huge for Matthew, because we expected more from him. But now being in the first team, nobody’s expecting something from Matthew because everybody knows he’s from the second team,” Asamoah says. “Now he doesn’t have any pressure on him. He’s just doing what he loves, and he’s not putting any pressure on himself. He just goes out on the pitch and does his best.”Informed of Asamoah’s assessment, Hoppe said it rang true.“I think that does play a major role in it. When you’re given this opportunity, nobody expects anything out of me and I just do whatever I want to try to impress the fans and the coaches,” he says. “I think when I got the chance, my head was free and, not only that, I was able to just put all my focus and all my energy into training and into the games. And that was able to translate into goals.”They came quickly, before Hoppe or anyone else could really take a breath and assess the magnitude of what was happening. Schalke and Hoffenheim were scoreless in the 42nd minute when Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit, one of the players who’d been suspended in November, slipped a through ball to Hoppe in the left channel. The finish was exquisite—a first-time, left-footed chip over Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann that required immense composure and confidence.Hoppe had ignited. In the 57th minute, Harit and Hoppe connected again, this time on a pass that split Hoffenheim’s center backs. Hoppe timed his curling run perfectly, accelerated and rounded Baumann with ease. Schalke led by two. The best of the lot came six minutes later as Harit, again, found Hoppe, again, running smartly behind the Hoffenheim defense. Hoppe beat Baumann with the outside of his right foot as he raced by, then slid on his knees in celebration while flashing the ‘hang loose’ sign. The Californian had become the coal miners’ hero.The match ended, 4–0, the streak was snapped and Hoppe couldn’t suppress his smile as he conducted a short postgame interview. The Schalke staff played “California Dreamin’” over the stadium speakers.“I don’t know how to feel,” Hoppe said. “I’m excited. I am happy that the team got the win and that I was able to contribute to it.”Hoppe became the third U.S. player to score a hat trick in one of Europe’s big five leagues, following Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea). He was the youngest Schalke player to accomplish the feat in Bundesliga play and the third-youngest player ever to notch a hat trick in the top divisions in Germany, England, France, Italy or Spain, according to Diario AS.Hoppe took his uniform home, along with a match ball signed by his teammates. He received congratulatory messages from Berhalter and U.S. compatriots around Europe. In Turin, where he now plays for reigning Italian champ Juventus, McKennie uploaded a video showing him celebrating boisterously in his living room.“That was the day of Matthew Hoppe when he saved our asses, or however you can explain it,” Knäbel says. “He avoided this shame for the whole club.”Hoppe’s momentum continued through the next two games. At Eintracht Frankfurt on Jan. 17, he outran a defender to a looping ball and, from an acute angle, hammered a shot through the goalie’s legs. Three days later against Köln, he beat the goalkeeper to a loose ball in the penalty area and finished with his right foot.Both goals leveled the score. Schalke lost both matches.In under two weeks, Hoppe had surged to an unforeseen and startling level of renown. He was on the cover of kicker, Germany’s leading sports magazine, and was named the Bundesliga’s rookie of the month. Media requests were flooding a last-place club. Two weeks ago, Schalke rewarded him with that first pro contract.“I’m living my dream. It’s actually happening,” Hoppe says.But dreams don’t last, and Hoppe and Schalke have had to wake up to some stark reality. After he scored five goals in three games, opponents knew what was coming. Hoppe’s quick, alert and decisive play had been scouted and planned for. He’s continued to start but now hasn’t found the net in the past five matches. Since the Hoffenheim game, Schalke is 0-4-2 in league play, and it was eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by VfL Wolfsburg. Heading into Saturday’s Revierderby, Schalke is 1-14-6 and nine points out of 16th place and a berth in the season-ending relegation playoff. It needs a miracle. It may be unfair to the 19-year-old, but it’s tough to imagine how that miracle might happen if Hoppe doesn’t find another groove.“Everybody expects more from Matthew, because we now know he can score goals, but I think we still know he’s a young player,” Asamoah says. “He needs his time. We don’t want to put pressure on him. But we now know we’ve found a striker, a young guy, who maybe in the next years can help Schalke 04 to be what we were. We don’t put pressure on him, but we keep hoping he keeps doing what he did.”Knäbel adds, “Now the race has started, because you know the analysis departments of the other clubs, they are really big and they know everything about you. You are calculated. You are analyzed. And then you have to develop your game.”In a way, that will be the real test—to perform when everyone is watching. Hoppe took the world, and his own club, by surprise. But Dortmund and relegation loom, and Schalke has signed veteran center forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a Dutchman who played for the club during the Champions League years, to mentor and compete with Hoppe.”It’s not a fluke that he scored five goals recently,” Huntelaar told the club’s website. “He makes good runs. His mentality is great. He has a wonderful future ahead of him if he keeps it up.”If he keeps it up.That’s the measuring stick at the highest level. That’s the demand. And it’s what Berhalter is looking for as he plans for a busy 2021, when the U.S. will have Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying matches on the docket.“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” the U.S. manager said last month. “I think that a player establishes himself by continuing to perform at this level that he is at. So it’s great to see him reach these heights, and now he needs to maintain it. And if he does that, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity with the national team.”Hoppe said his approach won’t change. His rise was fueled by focus, fitness and humility. He paid attention to what he wanted and not what he didn’t have. With the attention, the exposure and the contract come expectations. Under the shadow of relegation comes pressure. For Hoppe, the changes must remain external.“I notice it but I try not to think about it too much. I just try to stay under it,” he says. “That’s what everyone says: Keep everything the same and don’t do anything different. Don’t try and change anything too much.“There’s obviously that pressure there,” he adds. “But you can’t think about it. You just have to focus on what you have to do and that’s all you can do. If you start thinking too much and overthinking and your head’s not clear, you can’t do what you need to do. That happens sometimes in football. You just have to do your best to keep moving forward and not thinking about it.”In the end, this is what Hoppe wanted. His appetite whet on those tours with Irvine Strikers and the Barcelona academy, he dreamed of playing in Europe—with all the trappings, both positive and pressure-packed. He said he enjoys it when someone recognizes him at the grocery store, and he can’t wait until fans return and he can experience the legendary atmosphere surrounding Schalke’s games. The prospect of relegation is part of the package.“Even though it’s difficult and hard at times, it’s what every player kind of dreams of, you know? To be able to get an opportunity like I had and be able to just play,” Hoppe says.No matter how the season turns out, Hoppe likely will have provided its highlight. He’s not a Schalke legend. That comes with sustained excellence over time. But the club’s most dedicated fans will never forget him. He was the one who saved their asses, who with a bolt from the blue rescued them from suffering an historic indignity. Asamoah and Knäbel both struggled to come up with a coherent explanation for how such a modest player, who’d scored once for the reserves, delivered so spectacularly at that moment.Knäbel decided he was O.K. with that ambiguity. Even during this season of suffering, Hoppe’s outburst was something to savor.”Is it not the thing that makes this game so lovely and so interesting?” Knäbel asks. “It’s not about mathematics. It’s about emotions. We tried to explain it, but leave it like it is. Leave the player, leave the game, its little secrets. We want to analyze everything, to explain everything and how it works. But it works. I’m so happy for him. All members of the academy are so happy for him. We should leave it like this and not over-explain everything.” US men’s national team depth chart for midfielders and forwards | Armchair Analyst February 12, 20213:11PM EST    Matthew DoyleSenior Writer  MLS.com  https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=MattDoyle76&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1613752086999 Here’s Part 2 of the US men’s national team depth chart. As I wrote in Part 1 (defenders and goalkeepers), this is mostly my perception of how head coach Gregg Berhalter sees things, though with a few personal preferences thrown in. And I’ll reiterate this point: It’s my guess that every single player who gets on the field in World Cup qualifying over the next 16 months will come from the below list, because the time for experimentation is over. The door is not entirely shut — nobody would’ve had Matthew Hoppe on any list three months ago — because attackers are different than defenders and defensive midfielders, but it’s shutting. And if you’re going to burst through, it’s going to take something special on the level of what Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller pulled off last year. But even that might not be enough. The US roster is pretty stacked. Ok, enough preamble. Let’s go: Defensive Midfielders Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) So it’s already complicated. Adams has played exclusively at right back and right wingback for Leipzig in 2021 — you’d have to be some sort of genius to have seen that coming — and has only played in the “quarterback” midfield role sparingly. I think there are obvious reasons for this, with the biggest being that he struggles to receive, turn and play forward, especially when in traffic. That is a crucial part of being a defensive midfielder in a modern, possession-heavy system, and it’s the weakest part of Adams’ game. The other parts of Adams’ game are so strong that he’s the clear No. 1 anyway. His ball-winning is elite, his athleticism is elite, his shielding is very good and his front-foot defending — basically, his defensive IQ and reading of the game — is world class. World Class. That both stops counterattacks and creates turnovers in good spots, and since the US have been more of a pressing team since the start of 2020, and since the US have gone from a 3-2-2-3 attacking shape to a 2-3-2-3, Adams is pretty clearly the choice here. Yueill‘s skillset is the polar opposite. He is brilliant at receiving the ball in traffic, with his back to goal, then turning and spotting the exact pass that the situation calls for. He does, however, lack the range and bite that Adams has, and while he’s improved a ton in terms of shielding the back-line, his front-foot defense is a work in progress: https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6226756860001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The improvement curve is good, though. And it’s worth noting that even against a team as poor as Trinidad & Tobago last month, the US build-up kind of fell apart once he came off. I used to joke that the US needed cloning technology so that we could start Adams at RB, DM and one of the CM positions, but I think now what we need is some sort of genetic fusing tech, because if we could combine Adams and Yueill into one player we’d have the world’s best d-mid. As it is, though, this is a very strong start to the depth chart. It drops off a bit with Cardoso, the 19-year-old Brazilian-American who’s battled injury and illness and has seen his role with Internacional reduced substantially since September. But he’s still very much in the rotation and looked competent as hell in his US debut in November, so I’m not particularly worried. THE NEXT GROUP: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) Bradley looks cooked to me and he removed “US men’s national team” from his social media profiles — which is usually a tell — but it’s not out of the question that he’d play a part in qualifying given the schedule crunch. He can’t really move anymore, but is still a superb distributor of the ball. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: James Sands (NYCFC) If he could stay healthy, I’m pretty sure he’d have a couple of caps by now. Sands might not be Berhalter’s style, though, as he’s an old-fashioned destroyer who shies away from hitting line-breaking passes. If he takes that step this year for NYCFC, he could jump into the top three.Andres Perea (Orlando City SC) Perea struggled in his full international debut last month and might not be a true No. 6, but he’s young and full of upside, and Berhalter recruited him for a reason. I’m curious to see where he plays for Orlando this season.Owen Otasowie (Wolves) I almost included him on the center back depth chart since I think that’s his long-term spot. Otasowie’s reads are fairly slow and his body positioning is straight-up weird for a defensive midfielder, and while he’s not old (he just turned 20) he’s not precisely a kid anymore. He needs to find a spot and start getting minutes.  · Central Midfielders Weston McKennie (Juventus)Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)Yunus Musah (Valencia)Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg)Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids)Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders) I used to break this list up into “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” delineating between the responsibilities of a No. 8 and a No. 10. But that is pretty useless now, since it’s clear that Berhalter prefers to play with two advanced central midfielders who both attack and defend. How they split responsibilities has more to do with their individual proclivities and strengths, as well as who’s playing winger and fullback on their side of the field, than it does with anything structurally inherent to Berhalter’s system. So I’ve been thinking of them as “free 8s” or “8.5s.” Neither is a true 8, though either can be if the situation calls for it. Neither is a true 10, though both are expected to do No. 10 things when the US are on the front foot. I do have it in my head, though, that certain guys are better as a right-sided free 8 and other guys are better on the left. Lletget, for example, does well when inverted, while Aaronson is a much more linear player who’s at his best on the right side. Either one could play either position, which goes for the rest of the guys on this list as well, but when they’re paired together, it’s pretty clear who would function on which side. From where I sit, that would likely mean McKennie as the right-sided, box-arriving free 8 and Lletget becomes more of a tempo-setting, inverted free 8 on the left in the current first-choice XI. Musah was great for the US last autumn, but man has he struggled in La Liga: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359316128896610305&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also hasn’t officially committed his future to the US, but I’m pretty certain he will. That will be a good thing no matter how brutal Valencia are to watch this season. Aaronson has hit the ground running for Jesse Marsch in Austria, though I will have questions about his ability to find and control the game until he shows an ability to find and control the game. You can’t be a low-usage player as a free 8 no matter how dynamic you happen to be in other areas. Acosta’s faced the same usage issues through his career, but he’s worked his way back into the picture thanks to a strong 2020 with Colorado. Roldan has looked tentative in his last few US caps and nowhere near as dynamic off the ball as he often does with the Sounders, and I suspect he’ll soon be below some of the other guys I’m about to mention. But it’s worth keeping him on the list here because 1) Berhalter’s kept him in the frame, 2) he can play multiple positions, and 3) he’s a beloved teammate. That matters a lot. THE NEXT GROUP: Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf) I maybe should’ve listed Morales as a d-mid instead, but he plays a more advanced role at the club level and has usually played a more advanced role in his caps under Berhalter. Even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s still just 30 years old.Julian Green (Greuther Furth) Speaking of having been around forever, Green is having his finest pro season at the age of 25 playing as a shuttler in the Clovers’ 4-4-2 diamond. He hasn’t been called in since Berhalter’s been in charge and I genuinely don’t think he will be any time soon, but Berhalter name-checked him in a recent press conference as a player they’re monitoring, so here he is. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) If he can stay healthy, he will push into the depth chart, and eventually push into a starting role. He covers a ton of ground, wins duels at an absurd, Ozzie Alonso-esque clip, is super press-resistant and his passing vision is just… https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1161845929152045056&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px But the “if” part of staying healthy is huge, and he’s 21 now. He’s got to get healthy, get out there and stay out there. Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas) When Tessman came on against T&T he was in one of the more advanced roles, but he might be better-suited as a Yueill-type regista instead. Either way he has the talent to push up and into the gameday 18.Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids) Bassett is probably the best box-arriving, accent run central midfielder in the pool (other than maybe McKennie). His timing getting into the box is a weapon in Berhalter’s system, but he’s got to show he has the other pieces — comfort on the ball in traffic, availability in build-up, defensive awareness — nailed down before he rises up the ranks.Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers) I was genuinely surprised to see Williamson sent home from camp before the T&T game given how strong a season he had in Portland, and how multi-faceted his game is. He carries the ball exceptionally well, is smooth receiving in traffic, and works hard defensively. I am certain we will see him in a future camp.Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg II) I have generally avoided putting pure prospects on this list (sorry to all you Moses Nyeman stans) because I don’t think a pure prospect is going to push in over the next year, but I’m making an exception for Kayo. The 18-year-old has now been to two US camps and has been promoted up to Wolfsburg’s second team. He is gifted both technically and athletically, and if he pushes through to the Wolfsburg first team by the end of this season, I won’t be at all shocked to see him earn a role with the full USMNT.Caden Clark (RBNY) This one might be a reach since the 17-year-old Clark has barely figured for the US even at the youth levels, but he was dominant in the USL Championship and outstanding in MLS last year. If his 2021 is reminiscent of Aaronson’s 2020, into the pool he goes. Though it’s perhaps slightly more likely he’d end up going into the pool as an inverted right winger. · Left Wingers Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)Jordan Morris (Swansea City)Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids)Chris Mueller (Orlando City) You’ve probably noticed already that I made the executive decision to only list guys at one spot, even though the reality is they’re in play for at least two (or sometimes more) different positions. Sergino Dest, for example, is my current first choice at both right and left back. But in my prior column, he was only listed at right back. The same is true for Pulisic and Morris, who are Nos. 1 & 2 at both right and left wing. If there were a game tomorrow they would be the starters, and that’s been earned over a number of years via their play for club and country. And that means even during downturns in form — as Pulisic is now experiencing in West London — let’s not kid ourselves about whether he’s written on the team sheet in pen. He is. Morris isn’t, but I still think he’s got the inside track on the other starting winger job (I look forward to the avalanche of Gio Reyna stans in my mentions once this is published). The big surprise of last month’s camp was that Lewis beat out Mueller, who’d been so good over the course of 2020. Lewis scored damn near this exact same goal vs. the Soca Warriors: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1284308553507823617&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also has pretty close to the same skillset as Morris. Mueller is more well-rounded, and probably more comfortable and effective playing on the right (as he does for Orlando), but he made a compelling pitch as a left-winger vs. El Salvador. THE NEXT GROUP: Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas) Saucedo emerged for Pumas in a big way, but has struggled with injuries over the past six months. The 24-year-old is maybe less of a pure winger than Berhalter likes, but if he plays well in Liga MX he could be a factor.Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal) Mihailovic, like Saucedo, is less of a pure winger and more of a wing playmaker. He’s been in and out of US camps over the past two years, and it’s entirely conceivable that he could play a role for the US this cycle. I just think it’s unlikely to be a large one. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Uly Llanez (Heerenveen) It seems as if Llanez, who started and scored vs. Costa Rica last year, is on his way out of an unhappy and unproductive loan at Heerenveen, and due a return to the Wolfsburg reserves. He’s still just 19, but there has been zero professional progress (I think it’s fair to say there’s been professional regression, to be honest) over the past year.Richie Ledezma (PSV) One of my favorite players from that great 2019 US U-20 team, Ledezma was just breaking into the PSV first team and had just earned his first US appearance before doing his ACL. I like him better long-term as a No. 10, but given Berhalter’s system and Ledezma’s lack of defensive presence, it’s more likely that when he returns to fitness, he does so as an inverted winger. · Right Wingers Tim Weah (Lille)Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)Paul Arriola (Swansea City) Weah is finally approaching full health after three hamstring tears over the course of 12 months, and that means he’s approaching the top of the depth chart as well. In all honesty, I think you could make a case for him as the starter at any of the spots* in the front five — he’s that smart and that talented. (*) Including forward, which is where he’s most often been deployed for Ligue 1-leading Lille. That’s right, folks, there’s an actual title race in France this year! But for the sake of this exercise, I’ve got him at the top of the right wing depth chart. I don’t think he’d start over Morris (or maybe even Reyna) if the US had a massive game tomorrow, but it wouldn’t shock me and I certainly wouldn’t hate it if he did. The dude is just so precise and unselfish in his movement: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-4&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1357077731498995713&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px One thing to understand here is that excellent off-ball movement is additive no matter the team, the scheme or the score. Weah is perhaps the best player in the entire pool off the ball, and he brings a ton of skill on it to boot. Reyna has hit a wall, as have Dortmund. After coming out of the gates with 2g/4a in his first five games, he’s registered just 2g/2a in the subsequent 24 while bouncing between central midfield and left wing, and struggled in his two US appearances in November. Growing pains happen to basically every teenager, so I don’t think folks should sweat it too much. I also don’t think anyone should have him atop any depth charts at the moment, though. Placing Arriola third is rough on him given how he’s performed under Berhalter, but good players get pushed down the ladder when the pool fills with more talent. THE NEXT GROUP: Tyler Boyd (Sivasspor) Remember when it seemed like Boyd would be the big recruiting win of Berhalter’s tenure? Things sure have changed quite a bit, and not really in a good way for Boyd. He moved to Besiktas ahead of the 2019/20 season and while it seemed like a dream move at first… nope. He just could not put the ball in the net, which eventually cost him both his starting job and his spot on the roster. He just started a loan at Sivasspor, and while it seems unlikely he’d work his way back into the US mix, it’s not impossible. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Konrad De La Fuente (FC Barcelona) The 19-year-old has made a trio of appearances for Barca, playing 26 minutes. He’s spending most of his time with Barca B, where he’s not exactly lighting it up — just 1g/0a in about 600 minutes. He seems pretty far away from any first-team role, but kids can level up out of the blue and he is still, in fact, a kid. If that happens and he’s suddenly getting regular Barca minutes, he’ll get regular USMNT minutes, too.Benji Michel (Orlando City SC) Michel is a lot like Morris in that he’s a forward who’s really learning to play winger, and has done so well enough to at least earn a camp. He didn’t get onto the field vs. T&T and he seems pretty far from the first-team, but he’s on the radar at the very least, and stranger things have happened. Center Forward Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC) You know and I know that if there was a must-win game tomorrow, Gyasi would start as the No. 9. That will bother a lot of people and I have certainly been guilty of some Gyasi slander in the past, but he has evolved: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-5&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1283956196672712705&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The man is never going to be Berbatov in his link-up play — hell, he’ll never be Sargent or Altidore, for that matter — but he’s risen to functional levels, and in terms of just knowing the dance steps and timing of Berhalter’s system, no one in the pool is better. Put him out there with those wingers and those central midfielders, and he will score. And if he’s not scoring it’s because he’s making hard runs to drag defenders away from the top of the box which opens space for other guys to score. If Sargent did that — if he knew the steps that well — he’d already be No. 1 on the list. He’s the most naturally talented forward the US has produced since Jozy, but like Jozy he’s not particularly good off the ball. That goes a long way toward explaining his paltry finishing totals in the Bundesliga. How much longer will Jozy have a spot on this list? It’s likely down to fitness. He got the start in the most important game of the Berhalter tenure thus far (the Gold Cup final vs. Mexico) and was the best US player through 45 minutes. But by the hour mark, he was off. That was almost two years ago. He’s 31 now and spent the bulk of last season looking like a guy who’s logged a lot of miles and can’t go 90. Maybe that changes in 2021. THE NEXT GROUP: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) Is he a 9 or not? Berhalter clearly thinks so, and in two caps Ferreira’s given ample evidence that Berhalter is correct. I have questions about his athleticism at the international level, but for now the bigger questions will come at the club level. They are “what position does he play?” and “will he even get on the pitch?”Daryl Dike (Barnsley) The big man STRUGGLED in his US debut last month, but I’m giving him a mulligan. Like Sargent and Altidore he’s not particularly dynamic off the ball, which is something he’ll have to work on — be it in England, or in the US.Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers) Ebobisse was pretty obviously beaten out by Ferreira and Dike in the most recent camp. As with Ferreira there are questions about his best position long-term (though unlike the Ferreira situation, I think there’s a pretty clear answer with Ebobisse: He’s a center forward).Nico Gioacchini (SM Caen) Gioacchini’s a true target-man who is both physical and fearless. He hasn’t exactly lit up Ligue 2, but he’s getting regular playing time and looked solid for the US vs. Panama.Aron Johannsson (Lech Poznan [reportedly]) I don’t think there’s any chance Johannsson actually pushes his way into the picture, but as with Green I’m including him on the list since Berhalter name-checked him last month. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC) I wasn’t sure where to list Ayo since “we might lose him to Canada” isn’t a large group. So I’ll list him here since… we might lose him to Canada. I hope we don’t, as Akinola has thus far been the most clever and consistently goal-hungry in his movement of the youngsters (and almost all of these guys on the forward depth chart are really young) thus far.Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04) Five goals in three games! The first American with a hat-trick in the Bundesliga! Hoppe did the damn thing, but now the challenge is to keep doing it. His goalscoring record for Schalke’s developmental sides was not good, and there is a reasonable amount of concern that his outburst was a flash in the pan. That said, his off-ball movement is sharp and I think it’s generally wise to trust forwards who make good runs.Sebastian Soto (Norwich City U-23s) Berhalter did Soto a solid and got him enough appearances to earn a work permit, which means he’s got a chance to earn his way up to the Norwich first team. Until that happens, I don’t really expect him to figure into Berhalter’s plans again.Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) Pepi, who just turned 18, might have a higher upside than any other forward in the pool. And that’s why he’s here — there’s a part of the multiverse where he wins the starting job for Dallas, bangs in 20 goals, and pushes his way into the picture. He’s got that type of talent.

Whitley: For Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh it was more than just about winning David Whitley  Gainesville Sun  

A letter was sent to a search committee at Florida in 1994. The school was starting a women’s soccer program and needed a coach. A longshot candidate wanted to make her case.”I am intrigued with the possibilities involved in creating a new program and would be committed to making the University of Florida one of the top programs in the country,” she wrote.Twenty-seven fast years later, Becky Burleigh can say “Mission accomplished.”Actually, she could have said that 20 years ago. Seemingly in a blink, the Gators were national champs.And seemingly in a blink, it’s about to end.Burleigh, 53, announced her retirement two weeks ago. She’ll step down after the spring season, which begins next week.The announcement was a surprise, but not a shock. After two decades of kicking butt, UF’s program has struggled lately.COVID-19 has split this season into halves, and the Gators went 2-7-1 in the fall. Discontent arose, but the grumbling was awkward. It’s hard to call for a beloved queen to be kicked off the throne she built.  I couldn’t tell you what went wrong or whether it could have been fixed. But Burleigh can tell you what one of the problems was: Emotional energy.”If you feel like you cannot consistently bring that every single day and do it enthusiastically, then it’s time to let somebody else do that,” she said. “That’s what a team deserves, especially at this level.” https://3912d23a357ba500a287f0a9c8da84ba.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html She’s been enthusiastically doing it since she was barely old enough to order a drink. Burleigh was 21 when she became head coach at Berry College.Coaching is all-consuming, especially when you do it the Burleigh Way. She doesn’t just concentrate on the X’s and O’s, she’s a mother, professor, counselor, confidant and cheerleader.”She means a lot more to us than just a coach,” midfielder Syd Kennedy said. That’s the difference between winning and success. Any successful coach has to win games. But winning games does not necessarily equate to success.That comes from making the people not just better players and coaches, but better people. It comes from giving countless Rotary speeches, helping charities and making your city a better community.Burleigh was raised in Tarpon Springs, but had never set foot on Florida’s campus until she showed up at the athletic offices for her interview.”The vibe was young and exciting and people were getting after it,” she said. “And then you see the resources.”Athletic Director Jeremy Foley offered the 26-year-old Burleigh the job. She said yes. He stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome to the Gators.”And the rest is women’s soccer history.In just four years, the Gators were hoisting the NCAA Championship trophy. They went 26-1 and beat North Carolina 1-0, snapping the mighty Tar Heels’ 70-match unbeaten streak.That’s the same North Carolina that pounded Florida 9-0 two years earlier. Burleigh knew the Gators weren’t ready, but they needed to learn from the best.hose early bumps forged relationships that went beyond the soccer pitch. Proof came when players told her they’d ordered her a birthday present.”I was thinking it was like a sweatshirt,” Burleigh said.It was a dog named Copa. He was eventually joined by another yellow Labrador named Cody. Then came Buddy, Rose, Large Marge and Lucy.”All rescues,” Burleigh said. “All mutts.”All loved their owner so much they hated to see her go to work in the morning. A lot of times, they went with her.The sight of a dog wearing goggles and sitting in the sidecar of Burleigh’s scooter became one of Gainesville’s charms.Ah, those scooters.Burleigh figured out early that parking was a problem on campus. She started scooting to work, only to discover there also was no scooter parking.In fact, you’d get a ticket for parking a scooter at a bike rack. Burleigh got her share.”I tried to befriend the parking people,” she said. “Didn’t work. Those people are hardcore.”She eventually ordered a sign she’d hang above her scooter.”Parking for Soccer Coach’s Scooter Only.”It was fake, but it worked for a couple of years. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine Urban Meyer appealing a ticket before the UF parking politburo.”They didn’t rescind any of the tickets,” Burleigh laughed, “but they at least appreciated the effort.”Burleigh’s always had an innate need to expand herself, to try new things. Even if the program was still winning like it’s 1996, the tug to move on would have been hard to ignore.So as she rides her Vespa into the sunset, how do we measure the only coach Florida women’s soccer has ever known? It’s partially by the 14 SEC titles and 22 NCAA tournament berths and 507 wins. But it’s also by the emotional energy Burleigh brought every day.It’s by the life problems she helped players work through. It’s by the bonds she forged. It’s by the smiles she spread.And it’s by all the misty-eyed people who’ve approached her the past couple of weeks.”It’s like you’re going to a funeral, but you’re not dead,” Burleigh said. “They’re going to say a lot of nice things about you.”There are a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps the biggest is that Burleigh wasn’t just a winner at Florida.She was a resounding success.— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun’s sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com.

Crystal Dunn’s time arrives to be one of American soccer’s top stars

Dunn has long been one of the U.S. team’s top players, but she has become especially marquee lately — perhaps because everyone knows she’s not going to move up from left back any time soon. Crystal Dunn on the ball during a U.S. women’s soccer team game against Colombia last month.John Raoux / AP by Jonathan TannenwaldPublished eb 13, 2021 It’s nothing new that Crystal Dunn is one of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s best and most popular players.But something about Dunn’s status right now feels a little more emphatic, a little more intentional. You see it in sponsors’ ads, in the national team’s social media posts, and in the many other ways an athlete is seen as a star these days. Her status will only grow in the coming months, as she gets ready for the Olympics and makes her club debut with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, the league’s biggest team. It’s also nothing new that Dunn is one of the U.S. team’s most forthright players. But she hasn’t always been forthright on a subject she cares about a lot: her distaste for playing left back with the national team. Those who know her well, from her club coaches to teammates and media members, have long been aware of it. (That group includes this reporter, to whom Dunn called left back “my secondary position” in an interview after the 2019 World Cup.) Only recently has Dunn been willing to really put it out there — and the biggest breakthrough came just last month. In an interview with Forbes, she said she wants to be a midfield playmaker for her country “because it is a position that not a lot of Black women play.”“Playing at a 10 [creative role] means that I am now combating the stereotypes of being fast, physical, and strong,” Dunn said. “I am passionate about wanting the world to see more Black women, especially in the roles that don’t fit the stereotypes that have been placed on us.”Why did Dunn decide to finally let loose now? She reflected on that in a news conference Saturday ahead of Thursday’s SheBelieves Cup opener against Canada (7 p.m., FS1, TUDN) “I think I’ve always given the very soft answer of, ‘Yeah, I don’t like playing left back, you knw, but I’m a team player,’ and all of that is so true,” she said. “But I think it’s also important people realize what I deal with on a daily basis is very much different than most players, you know.”Dunn played an attacking midfield role for her former club, the North Carolina Courage. She is expected to have a similar job in Portland. She said she feels “more myself” in that position, “playing freely, getting involved in the attack, and just, you know, expressing myself in the way that I’ve always thought was the ay I should be expressing myself.”But she also wants to make sure she’s a role model as a team player.“As much as I am proud to represent my country, be on this team, you know — right now considering myself a starter, but always competing to stay on the field and remain a starter, I think people need to know that, you know, I’ll do what it takes to be on the field, even if that means that I am not particularly happy inside,” Dunn said. “But I do think of the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is winning an Olympic gold medal, wanting to be a part, and being impactful on the field. And if that’s at left back, then that’s at left back.” Crystal Dunn, center, on the ball during a U.S. game against England last March.John Raoux / AP She also knows the bigger picture includes the fact that attacking midfield is the national team’s most stacked position. Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and now Catarina Macario are vying for starting jobs in the center; Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press are the leading wing creators.Then comes the biggest roadblock of all. Dunn is the best left back in the national team pool, and it’s not close. In fact, the competition is so far behind that there isn’t a clear No. 2.Casey Krueger (née Short and recently married) has come close to the status, but has never seized it. Emily Sonnett, a longtime centerback and right back, played some left back against Colombia last month. And while Emily Fox has a bright future, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NWSL draft hasn’t played a pro club game yet. Meanwhile, Dunn keeps excelling. In fact she has gotten even better in the role under current U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose playbook gives her considerable latitude to join the attack. She even got to play left wing some last month, which got plenty of attention. (Andonovski said afterward he knew how happy she’d be.) Crystal Dunn (19) celebrates with Lindsay Horan (9) and Julie Ertz (8) after Horan scored a goal against Colombia on Jan. 22.Alex Menendez / Getty Images / TNS “I think he really understands that a lot of us do play slightly different roles sometimes in club [teams] and with the national team, and I think he’s allowed people to feel as free as possible in that role,” Dunn said. “For me, obviously being an outside back, I’m like, yeah, I get it, gotta defend, but I’m also like, I’m trying to get involved in that attack, like, you know? And I think he understands that.”However Dunn’s role evolves in the future, this much is certain: Her role as one of the U.S. national team’s most prominent players is only going to grow. And she will continue to not hold anything back.“I think I am the one to push those boundaries and say, you know, we need to change the narrative of only white women play this sport, only white people play this sport,” she said. “I want to be very clear that whether it is me who is ever considered a face of women’s soccer, that really isn’t my goal, but my goal is for the Black women coming after me to feel like they even have a chance to be the face of this sport.”

2/12/21 US Ladies She Believes Cup Thurs 2/18 FS1, Champs League Sweet 16, Bayern Munich wins FIFA World Club Cup, Big TV Games

Games to Watch this Weekend

The battle in the EPL continues Sat with a 3rd vs 4th place battle with Leicester City hosting Liverpool at 7:30 am on NBCSN followed by 1st place Man City hosting Tottenham at 12:30 on NBC.  Dortmund and US Mid Gio Reyna are desperate for wins to get back in the top 4 vs Hoffenhiem and new American loanee Chris Richards from Bayern Sat at 9:30 am on ESPN+.  Not much on Valentines Sunday maybe 3rd place Wolfsburg with American Defender John Brooks hosting 5th Borussia MGladbach at noon on ESPN+.  Of course Champions League Sweet 16 first legs are back and Barcelona vs PSG will take the feature spot at 3 pm on Tuesday on CBS Sports Network, while Liverpool will play US Mid Adams and RB Leipzig in Bucharest at 3 pm on CBSAA Tuesday.  Wed gives us Porto hosting Juventus and American McKinney at 3 pm on CBSAA while Dortmund and Gio Reyna will travel to Sevilla at 3 pm for the CBS Sports Network game I think.  Funny CBS bragging its going to show us the Champions League Final on CBS.  Whoa – we have to pay to watch the BEST GD 16 teams in the World play in the Round of 16 or 8 or 4 – behind a horrific firewall Pay Channel CBSAA without even the ability to re-wind – but they are going to bless us with the final on CBS network TV.  Thank you oh CBS Gods. 

Oh Wed at 3 pm Everton will host EPL League leader Man City on NBCSN  – weird timing.   Of course the US Ladies will host the She Believe’s Cup with a Thurs 7 pm matchup vs Canada on FS1 – right after Brazil faces Argentina at 4 pm on FS1 from Orlando. 

US Ladies – She Believes Cup Starts Thurs

The US will face Argentina first Thurs at 7 pm on FS1 live from Orlando.  Good to see both Alex Morgan and Christen Press return to the squad and it makes the She Believe’s Cup must see TV as coach tries to 1 stay undefeated and 2 try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer.  We hope! 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21)

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Thur Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET  FS1
Sun Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Wed Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET  FS1

 World Notes

Congrats to Bayern Munich for winning their 6th cup this year – by winning the FIFA World Club Cup 2-0 vs Mexican Side Tigres.  This is the first time a North American team has advanced to the Finals of the World Club Cup – and speaks well of our own MLS Squad LAFC who lost in extra time after 2 legs to Tigres.  Imagine a MLS team at the FIFA World Club Cup vs a Liverpool or Bayern or Juve?  LAFC and Bob Bradley were just 1 lucky goal away from being there.  Also huge congrats to Juve Legendary GK Gigi Buffon who just turned 43 last week – as he kept a clean sheet for Juventus vs league leader Inter on Wednesday to help his team with Renaldo and McKinney advance to the Italian Cup Final. 

FA Cup – Final 8

If you didn’t see the FA Cup Cup game on ESPN+ between Everton vs Tottenham on Wed you missed 1 hell of a game – 9 goals scored 7 in the first 90 minutes. Kane, James, Son all scoring huge goals to swing the momentum – it was just fantastic soccer.  Premier League leaders Manchester City will take a trip to Everton and Manchester United travel to Leicester City in the FA Cup quarterfinals following the draw on Thursday.  Everton, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-4 in a thrilling match on Wednesday, will host Pep Guardiola’s City, who set a top-flight record with a 15th straight victory in all competitions when they beat Championship Swansea City and US Forward Jordan Morris 3-1.  Manchester United will take on fellow league title contenders Leicester. United, who last won the FA Cup in 2016, are bidding to win the trophy for the 13th time.  Second tier Bournemouth and American will host fellow south coast club Southampton, who beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 on Thursday to make the last eight.  Chelsea, who won 1-0 at Championship side Barnsley, will entertain the Premier League’s bottom club Sheffield United. The matches will be played on the weekend of March 20-21.


(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Feb 12

2 pm NBCSN                     Man United (Press) vs Man City (Mewis, Levelle) Women’s EPL

Sat,  Feb 13

7:30 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Liverpool

8 am beIN Sport                 Atletico vs Granada

9:30 am ESPN+                Dortmund (Reyna) vs Hoffenhiem (Richards)

12 ESPN+                           Juventus (McKinney) vs Napoli

12:30 pm NBC                   Man City vs Tottenham

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Union Berlin

Sun, Feb 14

9 am ESPN2                       Cagliari vs Atalanta  Italy

9 am NBCSN                      West Brom vs Man United

10:!5 am beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Valencia

11:30 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Leeds United 

12 noon ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Borussia MGladbach

2:!5 Peacock                      Fulham (Robinson) vs Everton

2:45 pm ESPN+                Inter vs Lazio  Italy

3 pm beIn Sport                 Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Feb 15

1 pm NBCNS                      West Ham vs Sheffield United

3 pm NBCSN                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs New Castle United

Tuesday, Feb. 16

RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Barcelona vs. PSG, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

Porto vs. Juventus (McKinney), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Sevilla vs. Borussia Dortmund (Reyna), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

3 pm NBCSN                     Everton vs Man City

Thurs  Feb 18

1 pm CBSAA                      Real Sociadad vs Man United

4 pm Fox Sports 1             Brazil vs Argentina  She Believes Cup 

7 pm Fox Sports 1            USA Women vs Canada She Believes Cup

Sat,  Feb 20

7:30 am NBCSN               Southampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Atletico vs Levante

12:30 pm NBC                   Liverpool vs Everton  

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun   Feb 21

7 am NBCSN                      West Ham vs Tottenham

9 am ESPN+                       AC Milan vs Inter  1 vs 2 Italy

9 am NBCSN                     Aston Villa vs Man City

3 pm Fox Sports 1            USA Women vs Brazil She Believes Cup

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Champions League Sweet 16 is Back

 Atletico-Chelsea UCL game moved to Bucharest
RB Leipzig-Liverpool to be played in Budapest
Neymar out vs. Barca; questions style of play
PSG’s Neymar injured ahead of big clash at Barca
CBS to Show Champ League final on CBS

Round of 16

Tuesday, Feb. 16

  • Leg 1: RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Barcelona vs. PSG, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

  • Leg 1: Porto vs. Juventus (McKinney), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Sevilla vs. Borussia Dortmund (Reyna), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Tuesday, Feb. 23

  • Leg 1: Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

  • Leg 1: Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

 US Men

USMNT, Northern Ireland announce March international friendly
USMNT, Barcelona defender Sergino Dest out injured

USMNT, Mexico battle for teenage star Munoz
WATCH: Brenden Aaronson’s first Red Bull Salzburg goal was a beauty
Americans at home: Yanks who need to bounce back in 2021
Gregg Berhalter confirms squad rotation for Gold Cup & Nations League

 US Ladies

Fully recovered from COVID-19, new mom Alex Morgan prepares for Tokyo Olympics  LA Times
Power couple: Rapinoe and Bird on cover of GQ
Black History Month: Couldn’t keep Shannon in a Boxx
Defender Casey Krueger Replaces Alana Cook On for the 2021 Shebelieves Cup
Heath ruled out of SheBelieves Cup with injury

US Women overseas


MLS 2021 regular season to begin April 17!
MLS players ratify seven-year collective bargaining agreement with league

Concacaf history made as LAFC conquerors Tigres advance to Club World Cup final

New York Red Bulls sign youngest player in club history, turns 15 on Weds.
Bogert: What Brenner signing means for Cincy & what’s next
MLS ref Drew Fischer assigned to Club World Cup third-place match
Open Cup: Full details on restructured tournament for 2021


Bayern Munich beats Tigres, wins second Club World Cup
RB Leipzig emerge as Bayern’s biggest Bundesliga rivals
13hDerek Rae
‘Exceptional’ Ibrahimovic breaks 500-goal mark to keep AC Milan top

Morocco defeat Mali to become first back-to-back CHAN champions
 FA Cup QFs: Leicester-Man Utd; Everton-Man City
Premier League Power Rankings

Chelsea issue update on Christian Pulisic

Pogba to be sidelined for a ‘few weeks’, says Solskjaer

Premier League referee contacts police after death threats

Mike Dean receives death threats; Soucek red card overturned

Klopp scrambles for answers as Liverpool’s season unravels

Alisson gifts leader Man City win at fading champ Liverpool

 INDY 11



 Morris, Arriola’s delayed moves to Europe show there’s more than one path to USMNT stardom

Feb 9, 2021ESPN

These days, the career path for young American players seems straightforward: Get your butt to Europe as early and as quickly as possible, and then progress from there. It’s an approach that, in the past six months alone, has seen the likes of Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas to Roma), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union to Genk), Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia to FC Salzburg), and Daryl Dike (Orlando City to Barnsley), each make moves abroad before their 22nd birthdays.The recent exodus continues an ever-growing trend for American stars, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Giovani Reyna having all previously crossed the Atlantic as youngsters.Jump to: A few minutes with Cannon | Stock watch: Brooks, Pulisic, Siebatcheu, De La Fuente

All of which makes the paths taken by Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris feel anachronistic by comparison. Both recently completed loan moves to English Championship high-flyers Swansea City — and could line up against Manchester City this Wednesday in the FA Cup (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) — but did so at the relatively advanced age of 26. Not that it’s too late by any means.”My goal was always to grow as a player, and that continues to be my goal,” said Arriola. “How can I push myself? How can I take myself to the next level?”Granted, each career carries with it its own momentum. For some, the path is clear early on and resembles a beautifully paved road. Others can get stuck in blind alleys or turn down opportunities to move abroad, the path not taken haunting them at the end of their playing days. There is also a school of thought that starting out abroad and then returning to MLS is akin to forever turning one’s back on foreign opportunities. Yet that is what Arriola did, beginning his career with Liga MX side Club Tijuana, where he spent four years.

While Arriola made himself useful for Xolos, he never quite rose to the ranks of being indispensable. So when D.C. United came calling in 2017 with a $3 million transfer fee, he jumped at the chance, eschewing other opportunities overseas, and became a consistent presence for both the Black-and-Red and the United States men’s national team. All the while, the California native never closed the door on future opportunities abroad.”My thoughts were I can use MLS as a trampoline bounce, and then go further if I was successful,” he said. “I found some stability [with DCU], and I was able to establish myself. I continued to want that same type of career where you’re a constant impact player, you’re always involved in games.”As much as it’s become a cliche that there are myriad paths to a successful pro career, Morris seemed to violate even more tenets of how best to navigate that path. He turned down a homegrown deal with the Seattle Sounders when he was 18 in order to go the much-maligned college route and attend Stanford University. His reasoning was simple — with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Eddie Johnson on the team’s books, playing time would be hard to come by. Going to a high-level program like Stanford would still test him.”Going [to Stanford], I felt that my path was just going to be: play however many years there, hopefully, try to win a national championship and then come back to the Sounders because European teams aren’t scouting college kids,” he said.A scrimmage against the U.S. men’s national team ahead of the 2014 World Cup changed everything. Morris impressed then-U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann so much that he was called up to the senior team later that year, becoming the first college player in 15 years to play for the USMNT. Then in 2015, in his first international start, the forward scored in a friendly against rivals Mexico. When Morris decided to turn professional in early 2016 following his junior year at Stanford, he trained with and received an offer from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Seattle was also trying to land the forward, but it was clear what most observers thought he should do: Head to Germany. Morris disagreed, joining the hometown Sounders instead.”Going over to Bremen, I definitely felt that pressure, that people thought that was the best option for me,” Morris said. “But I knew myself. And I knew what I felt was going to be best for my career and where I felt I would develop the best and I felt that was going to be Seattle.”That decision was panned in some circles: then-U.S. international Jermaine Jones said at the time that Morris took “the easy way.” But Morris felt that being near home would help him adapt to the professional game, and time has shown the move clearly paid off with a pair of MLS Cups to his name. When Morris tore his ACL in 2018, being close to family aided his recovery. And like Arriola, Morris never felt like he was completely giving up on a European move.”I felt confident that that option would be there,” he said. “But again, at the time, and even now, if I played my whole career in Seattle, I think I would have been really, really happy and fulfilled and felt that I developed really well as a player.”

Americans in Europe

Could either player have developed quicker if they had pounced on overseas opportunities earlier in their careers? It’s impossible to say. One or both might have seen their stock skyrocket, but plenty of American careers have dried up in Europe as well. They certainly head to Europe now as more established, mature players.Timing was a factor as well in terms of making a move now. Morris said he had been feeling the itch in recent years to test himself overseas. With MLS not scheduled to start until April 3, Arriola spoke of not wanting to wait a few months for his next competitive match, especially as he continues to return to full strength following an ACL injury of his own. With a busy international calendar ahead, testing themselves and staying sharp will be paramount. And now they’ll have each other to lean on as well, on a club in the thick of the Premier League promotion race.”Paul and I are really close, [and have been] for a while now with the national team,” said Morris. “He’s one of my good friends, so it’s pretty surreal actually, that we ended up in the in the same spot.”Especially given the paths they took.— Jeff Carlisle

A few minutes with … Reggie Cannon

USMNT right-back Reggie Cannon joined Portuguese outfit Boavista in September after three-plus seasons in MLS with FC Dallas.The 20-year-old recently caught up with ESPN’s Tom Hamilton to discuss his decision to move to Europe, life in Portugal and what it is like at Boavista so far.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

John Brooks, Wolfsburg — On the rise: Brooks has quietly been one of the top-performing Americans in Europe this season, commanding a Wolfsburg defence that has conceded just 19 goals in 19 Bundesliga games, the second-best mark in Germany’s top flight. In fact, Wolfsburg have not conceded a goal in five consecutive games over all competitions, with Brooks playing every minute during that span. The 28-year-old was reportedly available for transfer last summer, sources tell ESPN, but it would seem Wolfsburg are quite happy that they have held onto the American.According to one German journalist, Brooks has formed an “ideal partnership” with newcomer Maxence Lacroix due to Brooks’ experience and Lacroix’s speed. If Brooks’ can replicate his recent club form with the national team, it would be a huge boon for the USMNT, as inconsistency has defined his international career so far.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea – Trending down Trending down: Thomas Tuchel confirmed after Chelsea’s win over Sheffield United on Sunday that Pulisic was omitted from the squad because of “family issues,” but the 22-year-old’s involvement under the new Blues boss has been limited to 84 minutes in four games.

Sources tell ESPN’s James Olley that the United States international’s diminished game time could be explained by a couple of reasons: the club’s medical staff are concerned that the United States international is at risk of suffering another hamstring injury, and Tuchel is keen to evaluate the squad at his disposal, already having a good understanding of what Pulisic offers after their time together at Borussia Dortmund.

Jordan Siebatcheu, Young Boys (on loan from Rennes) — On the rise: If Siebatcheu is an unfamiliar name to you, it’s perhaps because he has never played for the United States at any level. The Washington D.C.-born forward, who on loan at Swiss giants Young Boys from Ligue 1’s Rennes, bagged a hat-trick last week to take his tally for the season to seven goals in 17 games for the Swiss Super League leaders. While things didn’t work out for him initially at Rennes, sources tell ESPN that the French club remains quite positive about his future, expecting him to return and fight for a starting place next season.

The former France Under-21 international remains eligible for the United States and, in an interview with American Soccer Now last year, hinted he would be open to representing the Stars and Stripes. Given the USMNT’s uncertainty at striker, don’t be surprised if the in-form Siebatcheu receives a call-up from Gregg Berhalter soon.

Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona — Holding steady: After surprisingly cracking Barca’s first-team out of preseason at the tender age of 19, De la Fuente has faded into the background a bit in recent months. The winger has managed just 26 minutes for Barca so far this campaign and thus has been turning out for Barca B recently to get playing time.With Ronald Koeman adamant that youngsters need to play and gain experience, sources tell ESPN that if Barca can keep players fit, the plan now is for him to train with the first team in the week, join up with the B team on Friday or Saturday and then play for them at the weekends. Breaking into a star-studded Barca team was always going to be a tall task for the youngster, and next season Barca will have to decide whether it is best for his development to stay around the first-team again or go out on loan and get minutes.

Scouting report: Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds has just 31 MLS appearances to his name and has yet to represent the United States above the Under-18 level, yet two of Italy’s biggest clubs, Juventus and AS Roma, were desperate to sign him during the winter transfer window. Why? Potential.

Roma ultimately won the tug-of-war for the 19-year-old right-back, the latest bright talent –Weston McKennie, Chris Richards, Reggie Cannon, etc. — to emerge from FC Dallas’ fruitful development pipeline. What they are getting is a player with huge upside, as Reynolds possesses great size (6’3″) and speed, and is an excellent crosser of the ball. Reynolds’ time as a winger earlier in his career also seems to have really benefitted him from an attacking perspective, particularly as a dribbler and in terms of his directness. This past season he picked up three assists for Dallas but with the number of chances he created (16 in 19 games), that figure could have easily been higher.Where Reynolds will need to continue to develop is as a defender. While far from a liability this past season, the youngster was inconsistent at times defensively, and he definitely has room to improve when it comes to tracking runners and not getting caught too far forward. This seems to be a common thread with most young full-backs, and given Reynolds’ recent position switch, this could simply be dismissed as inexperience at the position.Reynolds is not a player who will jump into Roma’s starting XI overnight but he does possess tremendous attacking potential as a full-back long-term, and that is what top clubs are shelling out the big bucks for these days.

Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan energized by return to USWNT

By JULIA POEORLANDO SENTINEL |FEB 11, 2021 AT 8:24 PM As Alex Morgan pushes to return to top form with the U.S. women’s national team, the star striker says she’s looking to Orlando Pride teammate Sydney Leroux for guidance and support balancing life as an elite athlete and a mother.Leroux and Morgan have played together and against one another for more than a decade — in the Pac-12, the NWSL and with the national team. But due to pregnancies and injuries, they have rarely shared the pitch in Orlando.This season will be different as the two forwards chase comebacks delayed by the pandemic.Morgan said she believes they can help each other achieve their goals.“I’m really happy to have Syd on the team just to be able to help guide me,” said Morgan, who is still early in her return from giving birth to her daughter, Charlie. “She has been here quite a few years with kids, and this is kind of really my first go-around into a full season. … I feel like having Syd on my team, having another mom to be able to lean on in certain times is really important for me.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CLIsO6yF6Zo/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=13&wp=658&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.orlandosentinel.com&rp=%2Fsports%2Forlando-pride-soccer%2Fos-sp-orlando-pride-alex-morgan-orlando-pride-20210212-2gzi5cqj5zdpdgtwcrh33j7s2u-story.html#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A3694.81999999698%7D The pair trained together for several weeks before preseason began. During early sessions, Morgan noted their immediate chemistry on and off the field.Morgan and Leroux offer each other an important link as stylistically unique strikers. Off the field, Morgan said they can talk about anything now — sleep schedules, favorite snacks, their favorite new pajamas for the kids.Leroux offers advice and support to Morgan, who joins a small group of mothers in the NWSL.“I think I’m being a mom of two and a woman, I think we can do it all,” Leroux said. “I hope that I prove that to girls and women and moms every single day.”Morgan said this support has become essential as she prepares for the 2021 NWSL season, which will be her first full season back since pregnancy after a short loan stint in Tottenham.

Morgan’s comeback always ran through Orlando. The striker said she never planned to remain in England with Tottenham long-term. At most, she considered staying for the remainder of the FA WSL season, then returning to the Pride for the NWSL regular season.But Morgan wanted a smoother transition into the regular season and the chance to be closer to family before the NWSL season began.Charliehas now become a common sight at the Pride’s training facility and the Americans’ hotel. Morgan said her presence only sharpens her desire to perform on the pitch.“Now also having Charlie, I feel like I’m making the most of it when I go to training,” Morgan said. “I don’t want to give 90%. I want to make sure I give 100% every time I go to training, because that’s pulling me away from Charlie.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLFIlSuhPRS/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=13&wp=658&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.orlandosentinel.com&rp=%2Fsports%2Forlando-pride-soccer%2Fos-sp-orlando-pride-alex-morgan-orlando-pride-20210212-2gzi5cqj5zdpdgtwcrh33j7s2u-story.html#%7B%22ci%22%3A1%2C%22os%22%3A4954.024999999092%7D Morgan’s return plan was delayed in January when she tested positive for COVID-19.

Charlie and Morgan’s husband, Servando Carrasco, got sick after flying from England to Los Angeles, where they shared photos celebrating the Christmas holiday with a group of family members.Morgan said the sickness was challenging for all three.

“I actually had a lot of symptoms from COVID,” Morgan said. “I was fairly sick.”Morgan said her family took two weeks to sleep and rest before she could begin to attempt training again. It took at least three weeks, she said, to return to feeling like herself.“It took a lot of patience as well on my end,” Morgan said.After fighting through COVID-19 symptoms, Morgan said she’s no longer feeling lingering effects from the virus. She’s now training at full speed with the national team as the U.S. prepares to host the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando later this month.Although the pandemic delayed Morgan’s return to the club and international stage, she said the extended recovery time was something of a “silver lining” throughout the last year.The striker said she’s refreshed and believes she’s at a similar point physically and mentally as her teammates.When asked how close she felt to a return of her tea-sipping goal celebration, Morgan said she nearly felt back to that caliber of play.“I’m kind of waiting for the tea to cool down right now to take a sip, you know,” Morgan said. “Not quite there, but it’s coming soon enough.”For Morgan, all of this preparation is happening with an understanding that her ultimate goal — the Tokyo Olympics — might not happen.The pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and reports of a potential cancellation have swirled during the past month.Morgan said the Americans are continuing to train with the expectation of competing this summer, but adaptability has become key as she approaches the new year.“You have to prepare like it’s gonna happen, knowing that it could could be shut down with a moment’s notice,” Morgan said. “We’ve seen that in leagues all over the world and that’s just part of the world that we’re living in right now. It’s definitely a different mindset, because I never would have imagined that you would just be told that you’re not playing a game the next day and be like, ‘Okay.’ But that’s literally the mindset you have to take now.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.

Black History Month: Couldn’t keep USWNT mid Shannon in a Boxx

Shannon Boxx is one of America’s greatest soccer players ever, and she excelled while also living with lupus.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 9, 2021, 9:00am PST

Shannon Boxx was a unique player for the United States Women’s National Team. She was a player that played the right style at the right position at the right time, and is known as one of the great players in U.S. Soccer history. But, it was a diagnosis late in her career that made her career even more unique.Boxx grew up in Torrance, California with her white single mother. Her father was black, but there wasn’t much interaction with him. One thing that Shannon latched onto early was soccer, and her talent was very evident even in her youth. She dominated youth soccer in California, leading her local team in Torrance to 4 state championships and 2 USYSA Final Fours. She was a Parade All American in 1995 for high school soccer, and she also excelled at volleyball, softball, and basketball during her high school days.

Boxx earned a scholarship to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and as a freshman, she helped the team to its first national championship. She played for 4 years in South Bend, and was All-Big East 3 years in a row. She has the most appearances in Notre Dame history with 101 matches. It was at Notre Dame that Boxx began to discover more of her African American heritage.“For me, I really learned about my other half. I took African American studies. I majored in it. I think that was one of the best things I could have ever done. My mom couldn’t teach me those things. So I went and taught myself and learned those things when I was at Notre Dame.”

After Notre Dame, she played a couple seasons with the Boston enegades of the W-League and with 1. FC Saarbrücken in the Frauen-Bundesliga, but almost retired because of her unhappiness. She then came home to play in the new Women’s United Soccer Association, getting drafted in the first round by the San Diego Spirit. She played every match in her first year in 2001, but her minutes diminished over the course of 2002. She was traded to the New York Power, and in 2003 her career took off. She was named to the All-WUSA team in 2003. Tony DiCicco, the coach of the 1999 World Cup-winning United States Women’s National Team, had served as commissioner of the WUSA. He called Boxx “the best [defensive midfielder] in our league…physical, strong, technical…I was never that big of a Shannon Boxx fan. The league proved me wrong.’’Boxx also played for the Los Angeles Sol, Saint Louis Athletica, FC Gold Pride, and magicJack of Women’s Professional Soccer before finishing her career with the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2015. It was when her break came with the Power in 2003 that she finally broke through to the USWNT.Boxx had been a member of the United States U-21 player pool, but in August 2003, Shannon Boxx received her first USWNT call-up by then national team coach April Heinrichs. She became the oldest player to debut for the USWNT and the first uncapped player to ever make a Women’s World Cup roster for the team. She scored her first goal in a warmup match against Costa Rica, following up with another goal in the last warmup match against Mexico and again in the USWNT’s World Cup opener against Sweden. Boxx was the first American woman to score 3 goals in her first 3 matches with the national team.She was a major contributor for the team during the 2003 World Cup, starting 5 matches and scoring against Canada in the 3rd place match. She used that to vault into serving as the regular starter for the national team. She started 31 of 32 matches in 2004, including every match at the 2004 Olympics, helping the team secure a gold medal. She was 7th in FIFA World Player of the Year voting. In 2005, she only improved from there, playing well enough for the USWNT to finish 3rd in World Player of the Year voting, behind Birgit Prinz and Marta.Boxx was injured for almost all of 2006, but was able to return in 2007 in time to be named to the World Cup roster. She featured in every match except for the 3rd place match, which she sat out due to suspension after receiving 2 yellow cards in the semifinal against Brazil.It was in 2007, at the age of 30, that Shannon Boxx was diagnosed with lupus. She had been experiencing extreme fatigue and joint pain and excessive muscle soreness after training session. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, produces antibodies that destroy healthy tissue in the body because the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy tissue and viruses.Boxx was diagnosed with lupus in 2007 when she was 30 years old. At the time she was playing for the U.S. National Team and had begun feeling extremely fatigued; regular training sessions left her with joint pain and muscle soreness. Still, Shannon was not to be deterred. She was an integral part of the 2008 Olympic team that secured its second straight gold medal in Beijing, China.Shannon continued to play, not revealing her lupus diagnosis publicly. It didn’t stop her from dominating on the field. She continued as a regular star for the USWNT in the 2011 World Cup, playing all but one match as the Americans lost to Japan on penalties in the final. She didn’t let lupus deter her from still being a regular contributor for the team. She was named to the 2012 Olympic roster, and the team went to England to win its 3rd straight gold medal. After that Olympics, Shannon Boxx revealed to the world that she had lupus, and that she had been managing it while still being able to play the game she loved at its highest level.Despite winning 3 Olympic gold medals, there was one goal that eluded her: a World Cup trophy. Boxx continued to play, and she earned a spot on the 2015 Women’s World Cup squad for the United States. She continued to feature where needed for the USWNT, as they won the title. Shannon Boxx, having turned 38 during the tournament, lifted her first World Cup trophy. She announced her retirement soon after the end of the tournament in Canada, playing her last match with the national team against Brazil in October 2015.Shannon’s last name may have been Boxx, but she couldn’t be kept in one. Not by lupus, injury, or people doubting her. She persevered through a national team career that spanned 12 years and 195 caps. Her unique style of play, combining grace with physicality and strength, was made even more distinctive by the fact she continued to play that way with a debilitating disease doing its absolute best to hold her back. She defeated that doubt, that injury, that fatigue, that soreness, and will forever live as one of the USWNT’s most decorated legends. 

Americans at home: Yanks who need to bounce back in 2021

Now that we’re going to have an MLS season, let’s talk about soccer

By Parker Cleveland@AekprrAcdeellnv  Feb 9, 2021, 6:00am PST

Since we’re going to have a 2021 MLS season, it’s time to focus yet again on the game on the pitch. With some high stakes games coming up for the USMNT this year, Gregg Berhalter will be narrowing down the roster ahead of the 2022 World Cup. There have been some big moves in recent months with players going from MLS abroad, however some players have dropped off the mark and will need a strong year to stay in the national team conversation. Let’s take a look at who can step up in the domestic league.

Paxton Pomykal – The Dallas midfielder jumped into the national picture of up and coming MLS players following a stellar 2019. That year he started 20 games across the midfield for FCD and logged 1876 minutes. 2020 was cut sadly short as Pomykal required season ending surgery. He certainly has “the look” of a solid midfielder and at 21 has a while to go before his talent is truly known, but a step forward this year will improve his prospects for playing with the USMNT at either the senior or U23 level.

Jesus Ferreira – His eye popping play in the friendly after January camp against Trinidad & Tobago was certainly a good sign. At 20, he has plenty of time to grow as a goal scorer, but he took a step back last year. An 8 goal/6 assist line in 2453 minutes in 2019 was followed by a lackluster 1 goal/1 assist line with 979 minutes last season. Dallas shuffled him across the field though and if he can find a consistent position it may help along his development. Still, he has obvious talent and if he can start to produce in 2021 he may be headed to Tokyo, Qatar, and beyond.

Mason Toye – The attacker looked like he was breaking through with Minnesota United in 2019. That year he had six goals and three assists in 820 minutes across nine starts and 17 appearances overall. 2020 was less productive. Last year Toye had just one goal in six starts for the Loons who traded to Montreal mid-season. In Canada, or wherever Montreal had to play home games, he did not score and played just 152 minutes. He has a huge opportunity this season as Thierry Henry looks to build a re-branded team. Toye might be fairly fringe when it comes to chances of being on the national team, but if he can prove he deserves to start to Henry, that will speak volumes about his future.

Jonathan Klinsmann – 2020 was something of a rollercoaster year for the son of legendary manager Jurgen Klinsmann. After testing himself at the highest level with Hertha Berlin, Klinsmann joined St. Gallen in Switzerland. He did not break through with the team and subsequently transferred to the LA Galaxy. The keeper didn’t exactly impress with the club and started four games with a clean sheet and 11 goals allowed. That’s not a good number of goals allowed in four games. MLS has been a proving ground for American keepers and a way for them to move abroad, see Zack Steffen for example. However, Klinsmann will first have to win the starting job as LA looks to bounce back after a poor 2020 campaign.

Miles Robinson – Joining Ferreira among players who stood out against Trinidad & Tobago, Robinson will look to somewhat bounce back in 2021. After seeming to breakout with Atlanta United in 2019, the defender seemed a bit off last year. That said, Atlanta spent most of the year struggling for any kind of identity or consistency under interim manager Stephen Glass. Robinson’s best strength has always been his one v. one defending, but he’ll need to add a few more clubs to his bag if he wants to be in the conversation for starting at centerback in Qatar. New manager Gabriel Heinze was a world class defender in his playing days and should help Robinson make a jump in his career and show what he can do in what should be a more competitive season for Atlanta in 2021.

Jozy Altidore – Finally, there’s Jozy Altidore. The third all-time leading scorer for the USMNT might not be the first choice starter going into the World Cup in 2022, but he still has something to offer the team in terms of leadership and coming off of the bench. That said, he needs to prove on the field that he belongs and will deserve a roster spot. Altidore has struggled with injuries throughout his time in MLS having never started more than 25 games or appeared in over 27 since coming back to the league in 2015. In his most recent relatively successful year, Altidore scored 11 goals with 7 assists in 18 starts for Toronto in 2019. A full off season with an extra month tacked on will give him extra time to be healthy for 2021, but he’ll need to stay on the field and keep his numbers up for Chris Armas’ team to stay in the USMNT picture.

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2/5/21 US Men win 7-0, Indy 11 move back to the “Mike, FIFA World Club Cup, US Ladies Back in Camp

Indy 11 Move back to the “Mike” – Carroll stadium at IUPUI 

Count me among those who is happy to see our Indy 11 moving back to the Mike – sorry but as nice as Lucas Oil is – its simply too big for a USL soccer team.  Even 20K was just swallowed by the enormity of the 60K+ stadium.  The Mike while not as nice – seems full with 10-15K in attendance – and that’s important.  Plus when I walked around the Mike – I always saw someone I knew –never happened at Lucas Oil.  Now I would love to see a game or 2 at Lucas Oil – maybe the opener or Louisville?  But overall I am all in on the move back to the Mike and back into the BYB section behind the goal !!  Not sure how I feel about New jerseys with Puma – I just got last season’s jersey finally. 

US Men beat T&T 7-0

Well T&T is not good – but 7-0 is pretty impressive against anyone.  Man the US U23s really showed up today as FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira’s welcome party included a hand in 5 of the 7 goals – scoring 2 and assisting on 3 more from a tucked #9 slot. Jonathan Lewis was also super with 2 goals on the night from the left wing spot.  The backline included 3 U23s with Same Vines at left back and Atlanta center back Miles Robinson looking especially strong.  Even new GK Matt Turner got in the act  – saving a PK late – as he battles for the #2 spot behind Steffen.  Overall the US got lots of contributions from over 10 U23 players as we got to see what our Olympic qualifying team in March will probably look like.  Man I would love to see us get to the Olympics and then bring back our European players like Pulisic, Adams, McKinney, Reyna and more to try to bring home the gold.  Doubt that will happen but qualifying in Mexico next month would be huge. 

US Men Overseas

Good to see Barca right back Serginio Dest is back in the starting line-up after fighting injuries over the past few weeks.  Sad to see Pulisiic’s role change at Chelsea with the new coach there – a half time sub performance last game where he supplied an assist was follow with a 70th minute sub vs Tottenham where he had a couple of chances but couldn’t quite connect.  That has been Pulisics luck this year – close but no cigar.  The current formation doesn’t look to favor a player like Pulisic with literally 7 defensive minded players in a 5 – 2 – 2 – 1.  Perhaps he can snag that left mid slot but replacing Mount seems unlikely.  Jury is still out.  Exciting to see 2 American’s now on Swansea City in the Championship – Seattle’s Jordan Morris and DC United’s Paul Arriola as they push for promotion – currently in 2nd (games on ESPN+).  Also U20 Prospect Bryan Reynold’s signing with Italy’s Roma is huge!  I think after the success from Dest and especially McKinney dominating at Juve – that teams around the world now have their eyes on young prospects in the US.  Sad to see Center Back from NY Red Bulls Aaron Long not get the call from Liverpool and turned down on a flip to a Championship squad.  I know Long would have cleared that long ball on the goal they gave up to lose this week. 

US Ladies Back to Camp – She Believes Cup in 2 weeks

My is this US ladies team deep.  Good to see both Alex Morgan and Christen Press return to the squad and it makes the She Believe’s Cup coming up in 2 weeks vs Canada, Brazil and Argentina must see!  Just to try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer.  We hope! 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21)

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET  FS1
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET  FS1


(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 7

7:30 am NBCSN               Aston Villa vs Arsenal

9:30 am ESPN+                  Schalke (Hoppe)  vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

12 ESPN+                           Juventus (McKinney) vs Roma

12:30 pm NBC                   Fulham (Robinson) vs West Ham United

3 pm NBCSN                     Man United vs Everton

Sun, Feb 7

6:30 am ESPN2                   Benevento vs Sampadoria

7 NBCSN                            Spurs vs West Brom

9 am NBCSN                      Wolverhampton vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+                 Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs Frankfurt

11:30 am NBC                  Liverpool vs Man City

1 pm FS2                            Palmeiras (Brazil) vs Tigres (Mexico)  FIFA Club World Cup

2:!5 Peacock                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Sheffield U

3 pm beIn Sport                 Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Feb 8

1 pm Fox Sport 1              Al Ahly vs Bayern Munich (Europe) FIFA Club World Cup

3 pm beIN sport                 Atletico Madrid vs Celta de Vigo

Tues,  Feb 9

1 pm NBCSN                      Wolverhampton vs Arsenal

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +        Inter vs Juventus (McKinney)-  Coppa Italia

3:!5 pm ESPN+                  Man United vs West Ham FA Cup

Weds,  Feb 10

12:30 pm ESPN+              Swansea City (Morris, Arrialo) vs Man City FA Cup

3:!5 pm ESPN+                  Everton vs Tottenham  FA Cup

Thurs  Feb 11

10 am  pm FS2                   3rd place Fifa Club World Cup

1 pm Fox                            1st place FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP FINAL

3 pm ESPN+                      Barnsley vs Chelsea (Pulisic)


Indy Eleven Signs Ghanaian Midfielder Gershon Koffie

USA Men beat T & T 7-0  

USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 2021 friendly: Man of the Match  S&S

US Pounds T&T with mostly U23s – SI Avi Creditor

Ferreira repays Berhalter’s faith as USMNT begins 2021 brightly  Jeff Carlisle
Gregg Berhalter’s talent search continues to richly reward USMNT

Is Dest as good at Barca as USMNT fans hoped?
Bill Connelly

U.S. prospect Reynolds lands Roma move
USMNT defender Richards joins Hoffenheim
Source: NYRB turn down loan offer for Long
USMNT winger Arriola completes loan to Swansea City

McKinney, Adams, Hoppe,  leads 4 US players scoring goals last week in Europe

USMNT looks to capitalize on more swagger honed in Europe

Pulisic’s 2nd half leads to Assist

Pulisic Relishing False 9 for Chelsea
Hernández: Overnight sensation? How Matthew Hoppe went from underdog to Bundesliga standout


USA Ladies

Morgan, Press return to USWNT for SheBelieves
WSL: USWNT stars Lavelle, Press score goals for City, United
– Alex Morgan back with Orlando Pride after COVID-19 scare
– Japan withdraws from SheBelieves Cup, replaced by Argentina
– USWNT’s Tobin Heath out 10-12 weeks after suffering ankle injury


 Club World Cup participants – can anyone stop Bayern Munich?

Bayern to play African champion Al Ahly at Club World Cup

Gignac double sends Mexico’s Tigres into Club World Cup semis

Serie A: Leaders AC Milan bounce back; Inter, Juventus still lurking

Inter seek Fiorentina lift, Juve and Roma battle for third spot
Three talking points from the Premier League

Liverpool sign center backs Davies, Kabak on deadline day
Premier League player Power Rankings

 Christian Pulisic relishing false nine role under new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

Christian Pulisic has revealed Thomas Tuchel’s plans to deploy him as a false nine in the German’s Chelsea revolution.Pulisic has been reunited with the man who kick-started his senior career at Borussia Dortmund as Tuchel has taken the Stamford Bridge helm.The USA forward stepped off the bench and conjured a cute assist for Marcos Alonso’s stunning volley as Chelsea drove past Burnley 2-0 in Sunday’s Premier League clash in west London.Tuchel must find a way to maximise Chelsea’s abundant attacking talent, with misfiring forward Timo Werner a continued concern.Pulisic impressed in his roving role off the bench against Burnley however, and has now lifted the lid on how Tuchel could look to blend him into the Blues’ heady attacking mix.“It’s a kind of a false striker,” Pulisic told Chelsea’s official website.“It’s been good so far. We’ve got a new outlook on things, we have had a really good win so it’s been a positive start.“It’s been some crazy times recently and just to get a win left all the guys in the changing room really excited.“We have had a lot of fun in training and there are smiles on faces which is good to see.”Tuchel swept into west London last week to replace the sacked Frank Lampard, with Chelsea’s record goalscorer dismissed after less than 18 months in charge.Former Paris St Germain and Dortmund boss Tuchel has linked back up with Pulisic, and his old PSG defender Thiago Silva with the Blues.Chelsea laboured to a goalless draw with Wolves last Wednesday, but Sunday’s 2-0 win over Burnley offered hope for a return to more positive and clinical attacking play.The Blues will take on bitter rivals Tottenham in north London on Thursday, bidding to push themselves closer towards the Premier League’s top four.And Pulisic insists Tuchel’s men are excited about taking on Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.“It’s a good time to play them coming off a good result for us,” Pulisic added.“We’re feeling confident. We’re really excited. It’s a good chance to make a statement and most importantly really build some momentum. We know what a good result against a good team could do for us.”


By Indy Eleven Communications, 02/03/21, 1:00PM EST   Indiana’s Team to Call IUPUI Venue Home Until Completion of Eleven Park Project

Indy Eleven is ready to go “Back Home Again” for the 2021 season, as Indiana’s Team today confirmed it will return to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium for the squad’s fourth campaign in the USL Championship – and eighth year of play overall – beginning this spring.Indy Eleven will utilize Carroll Stadium as a short-term venue solution until its future home of Eleven Park is completed in the coming years. Indy Eleven recently announced the location for the transformative Eleven Park stadium and neighborhood development project will be revealed by the end of March.“Indy Eleven would like to thank IUPUI and Indiana University for their cooperation and partnership,” stated Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President & Chief Executive Officer. “During our first tenure at Carroll Stadium, the environment our fans created gave their Boys in Blue one of the best home-field advantages in all of American soccer. We look forward to helping our supporters recreate that magic once again as we await the construction of the world-class home they deserve in Eleven Park.”A limited number of new Season Ticket Memberships for the 2021 season at Carroll Stadium are available now and start at only $170.  Learn more and purchase by visiting indyeleven.com or calling 317-695-1100.Season Ticket Members from Indy Eleven’s 2020 season are encouraged to check their email inboxes in the coming days for details on how they can renew their memberships for the upcoming season.Additional ticketing options will be made available in the coming weeks upon the release of the squad’s 2021 schedule. USL Championship confirmed last week that its 31 squads would launch their seasons around May 1, with “floating start dates” slated to occur between April 24 and May 15.

More information on Indy Eleven’s return to Carroll Stadium can be found via a new FAQ now live at IndyEleven.com. In addition, the organization is continuing to work on a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plan for events at Carroll Stadium that will be in accordance with all local, state, and national health and safety guidelines; because of the continuous nature of updates on this front, the plan will be announced closer to the season start date.“We knew late in 2020 that finding another venue for 2021 could become necessary because of pandemic-related scheduling flexibility needed at Lucas Oil Stadium throughout this year,” Stremlaw continued. “Carroll Stadium provides our club the best option for success both on the field and in the front office. We look forward to working with IUPUI again in the coming years and cannot wait to see the passion – and smoke – coming from the stands once the season kicks off.”Indy Eleven called Carroll Stadium home for its first four seasons of play from 2014-17, encompassing the team’s entire tenure in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Multiple current members of the “Boys in Blue” also familiarized themselves with “The Mike” during the fall of 2019, when Indy Eleven hosted a pair of games in the USL Championship Eastern Conference Playoffs, including the club’s first USL Conference Championship appearance.In all, more than 620,000 fans and supporters filed into Carroll Stadium for a combined 70 regular season, postseason, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and exhibition contests between 2014-2019, adding a new and electric atmosphere to Indianapolis’ thriving sports scene along the way. Indy Eleven made history at the venue in 2014 when it became the first American professional American soccer team to sell out the entirety of its Inaugural Season. That year’s average attendance of 10,485 actually surpassed the team’s official venue capacity that season thanks to an overflow crowd of 11,048 at its Inaugural Match on April, 12, 2014 – a mark that also stands as the largest crowd for an Eleven game at “The Mike.”

Is Dest as good at Barcelona as USMNT fans had hoped? The numbers suggest the answer is ‘yes’


The full-back position has typically been one of sturdy competence for the United States men’s national team. At right-back, you’ve been witness to the Steve Cherundolos and Timmy Chandlers of the world; the pickings have been a bit slimmer at times on the left, but players like DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson have still brought professionalism and occasionally exciting play to the position. There’s sturdy professional upside, and there’s Jordi Alba– or Dani Alves-level upside: In Sergino Dest, the USMNT now has a starting Barcelona full-back in its player pool.Dest’s rise from Ajax youth prospect to Barcelona starter took place in what felt like milliseconds. Let’s take a look at what kind of player he is becoming and what he might have to offer for the U.S. and manager Gregg Berhalter.

First, the timeline:

Born in the Netherlands to an American father and Dutch mother, Dest made his Ajax B-team (Jong Ajax) debut as a 17-year-old in October 2018, less than two months before Berhalter was hired to lead the USMNT. By the following July, Dest had been promoted to the senior squad; he would play in 20 of 25 Eredivisie matches for the Dutch powerhouse in 2019-20, plus 10 of 12 Champions League and Europa League matches.Having represented the United States at both the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and the Under-20 World Cup in 2019, Dest officially committed to playing for the United States early in the 2019-20 season and has since made five appearances for his country. He played most of last fall’s friendlies against Wales and Panama, completing 86% of his passes with eight ball recoveries.By this point, you could say his status within America’s first-choice lineup had been fast-tracked. Having already played in the Champions League before his 19th birthday, he had moved to Barcelona before his 20th. Despite rampant budget issues, the Blaugrana acquired him on Oct. 1 for more than €20 million and quickly plugged him into the lineup. He’s played in 15 of 20 La Liga matches and played the full 90 minutes in five of six Champions League group-stage matches.

Although he has split his minutes between right- and left-back for the national team, Dest has been deployed primarily on the right at Barca, either because that’s where manager Ronald Koeman thinks he’s most capable or because Alba remains a mainstay at left-back. Dest has logged a goal and an assist, but his primary job has been to move the ball from the second level of the defense to the third. Turns out he’s quite good at it.


(The above shows where he tends to make the most plays and progressions and, no surprise for a Barcelona player, he spends most of his time way up the pitch.)

The full-back position is a tricky one to evaluate in a statistical sense, as it depends so comprehensively on the system at hand. But comparing him to other full-backs and wing-backs in Europe’s big five leagues, we figure out both his strengths and his specific duties pretty quickly.Among the 150 big-five full-backs and wing-backs with at least 750 league minutes this season, Dest’s pass completion rate (90.4%) ranks first, as does his completion rate into the attacking third (90.0%). No, these have not been long-distance passes, and yes, a lot of these passes have gone to Lionel Messi, which is to say they are high-percentage opportunities. But his accuracy and his speed on the ball get the ball where it needs to be almost every time. He’s also in the 99th percentile in completion rate from the middle third (92.8%) and in the 93rd percentile from the defensive third (82.6%).Dest has been excellent at retaining possession — his 12.1 possessions lost per 90 minutes are in the 95th percentile — and he is more than willing to attempt one-on-ones (3.1 take-ons per 90, 55% success rate). Stylistically, he fits nicely with the Kyle Walker or Ferland Mendy type of full-back. Or yes, Alba himself.One major reason for his high completion rate in attacking positions: He doesn’t attempt crosses. He ranks in the 24th percentile in cross attempts (1.9 per 90) and in the 14th in cross completion rate (10.5%). This is part of Koeman’s general approach: Barcelona attempt only 14.6 crosses per 90 minutes, third lowest in La Liga. This promotes ball retention and through short passing patterns, take-ons and, yes, Messi, Barcelona still lead the league in chances created.


Ferreira repays Berhalter’s faith as USMNT begins 2021 brightly
Julian Green’s USMNT plan: ‘Keep kicking butt’ until he gets another call
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help

For a possession-heavy team like Barcelona, the most direct effort in defense is not allowing the opponent to have the ball. Dest is brilliant in that regard, and that’s good, because he has room to grow in the actual defense department. He ranks in the first percentile — the very bottom, in other words — with 9.1 defensive interventions (defined as ball recoveries, tackles, interceptions, clearances, blocked shots and aerials won in the defensive third) per 90 minutes. He averages 5.1 ball recoveries per 90 (38th percentile), but only 0.4 pass interceptions (first percentile). He’s good for the occasional tactical foul, but he was not acquired for his tackling ability, which is still very much a work in progress.All of this fits with Barcelona’s defensive profile at the moment. Like plenty of possession teams, the Blaugrana get caught a decent amount on counterattacks; they are seventh in La Liga in shots allowed per possession (0.10), but they’re sixth worst in xG allowed per shot (0.13). Dest’s stats appear to very much be a product of the system, for better and worse. When asked to apply more pressure, it seems like he can — he averaged 11.2 defensive interventions per 90 last season with Ajax and 13.4 with Jong Ajax the season before.Still, Koeman wants to build from the back and hog the ball, and Dest is a lovely piece in this regard.

Berhalter wants to do these things, too. Since the start of 2020, the U.S. has played five friendlies, three against vastly overmatched CONCACAF opponents (Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, El Salvador) and two against more solid foes (Wales, Costa Rica). Against the former, they romped by a combined 19-2; they struggled offensively against the latter, beating Costa Rica 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Wales.- The U.S. overwhelmed the three overmatched foes with pressure and possession. They possessed the ball 64% of the time, completed nearly 88% of their (mostly short) passes, made more than 50 ball recoveries in each match and allowed just 9.3 passes per defensive action. (For context, only three big-five teams have allowed fewer than 9.3 PPDA so far this season: Leeds UnitedParis Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.)- Against Wales and Costa Rica, the offense disappeared, but the principles remained: 61% possession, 88% completion rate, 49 ball recoveries per match and a frantic, Ajax-like 8.6 PPDA.

Berhalter is doing a solid job of establishing his intended principles — granted, against mostly sketchy competition — and he’s doing it despite having yet to really narrow down the player pool. In these five matches, for instance, he’s played 11 different full-backs for at least a handful of minutes — everyone from potential regulars like Dest, Boavista‘s Reggie Cannon and the Colorado Rapids‘ Sam Vines, to less-tested youngsters such as Atlanta United’s George Bello and the LA Galaxy‘s Julian Araujo.It’s exciting, then, to think about what might be possible with a stable, truly first-choice lineup. It’s also exciting to realize that, in addition to Dest, the possession-and-pressure theme is pretty constant with the teams a lot of the members of this potential first-choice lineup play for.

– Winger/attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic — Chelsea: The Blues’ possession rate has been more than 60% for Pulisic’s entire tenure, and new coach Thomas Tuchel, who worked with Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund, is a PPDA true believer.
– Winger Giovanni Reyna — Borussia Dortmund: BVB have the highest possession rate (62%) in the Bundesliga and are second in PPDA (10.3), and despite having just turned 18, Reyna has already logged more than 1,500 Bundesliga minutes with the club.
– Midfielder Weston McKennie — Juventus: McKennie arrived with new manager Andrea Pirlo, who is quickly turning Juve into a modern possession club: they’re second in Serie A in possession rate (58.6%) and first in PPDA (9.9).
– Defensive midfielder Tyler Adams — RB Leipzig: The Red Bull machine has quickly become an avatar for modern soccer, and flagship Leipzig are currently both excellent (Adams scored the winning goal to send them to the Champions League semifinals last season) and possession dominant.
– Goalkeeper Zack Steffen — Manchester City: Steffen played for Berhalter’s Columbus Crew SC and has now made eight appearances for Pep Guardiola’s Man City. Safe to say, he knows what’s required of the modern sweeper keeper and play-out-of-the-back intentions.

Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).Plenty of others in the player pool are employed by either heavy-possession or heavy-pressure sides: defenders like John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Cannon (Boavista), Chris Richards (TSG Hoffenheim on loan from Bayern) and Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), midfielders like Julian Green (Greuther Furth) and Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), attackers/wingers like Jordan Morris (Swansea on loan from Seattle Sounders FC), Timothy Weah (Lille), Konrad de la Fuente (Barca), etc.

The lineups the United States field when the real matches begin — Olympic qualifying in March, the CONCACAF Nations League finals in June, the Gold Cup (and perhaps the Olympics) in July, World Cup qualifying in the fall — will boast an increasing amount of not only young talent, but also tactical familiarity.

Dest will almost certainly be a huge part of Berhalter’s plans. When he signed with Barca, he told ESPN, “You want to play every game against the best opponents and see where you’re at right now with your development. I think there’s enough room for me to improve, but I am on a good [path] and I like these games.”

With each level he’s advanced — from the Dutch second division to the Dutch first division to La Liga — his pass completion rates have improved, and his expected assist totals have remained steady. He might not be Alba or Alves yet, but he’s meeting the challenge. That should be very good news for both his and the USMNT’s future.