4/30/21 Indy 11 Season Kickoff Sat 7:30 ESPN+, US Pulisic Scores in Champions League vs Real Madrid 1-1, NWSL Champion Cup last weekend

Rick Giesel passed away last weekend on the soccer field watching his son, former Carmel FC and CHS starting Goalkeeper Henry Giesel, playing a tourney in Ohio. Great story about him in the Current in Carmel this week.

“Watching Heath and Henry play soccer was his joy, and it is in some way fitting that he took his last breath on the sidelines of the pitch,” his wife Mary said. “We love him and we miss him already, but there is no doubt in our minds that he will continue to be present at every game Heath and Henry play.” Rick was a fantastic soccer dad and the entire Carmel FC family joins me I am sure in wishing his family Mary, Heath and Henry the best. A go fund me page has been set up to help with funeral expenses visit gofund.me/71b1c2f5.

Champions League – Pulisic 1st American to score in Semis

The US actually has a chance to put 2 Americans thru to the finals of the Champions League (the world’s greatest club competition) this season as Christian Pulisic became the first American to ever score in a Champions League Semi-Final match as his goal put Chelsea ahead 1-0 early on. 13-time Champions Real Madrid and Benzema did tie the match up at 1-1 so the two teams will head to London next week with Chelsea with a slight lead as they head home with the ½ goal lead.   Pulisic’s 5 Champions League goals also breaks Ft Wayne’s own DaMarcus Beasley’s record of 4.   Can’t wait to see if Pulisic can help Chelsea win at home next Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network and Paramount plus. PSG dominated the first half and should have scored at least 3 goals but their 1 goal scored was not enough as Man City recovered scoring 2 lucky goals in the 2nd half to take a 2- I will give cudos to the CBS Coverage as the Pre and Post game shows have been solid and CBS Sports Network is replaying the games at 7 pm each night and again at midnight along with other times overnight each week.  The Finals of course will be on Saturday, May 29th on CBSSN and perhaps CBS? 

Indy 11 & USL

The Indy 11 season starts Saturday as they will travel to their first game tomorrow at the Birmingham Legion on ESPN+ at 7:30 pm.  Just 1 week and Counting until the Indy 11 kickoff the home season at the Mike on Sat May 8 7:30 pm vs Tulsa. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May –- with hopes that will change in June.  Season Tix start at just $10 per game and are still Available.  Indy 11 Louisville opened their new stadium in style with 2-0 win last Sat night.  USL will have a new show USL All Access on SeriusXMFC Tues nights at 7 pm, of course the Indy 11 are heavily featured each Soccer Saturday at 9-10 am on 93.5/107.5  the Fan with the voice of the Indy 11 – Greg Rakestraw.

Expected Starting Line-Up





GK Jordan Farr

INDY 11 BYB Spot

Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview – USL Championship

Power Rankings USL – Indy 11th


The news out of Germany’s Red Bull Leipzig that American Coach Jessee Marsch is taking the head job next season is huge news for American coaches.  Marsch has moved up the Red Bull coaching tree from NY Red Bulls in MLS to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria where he is about to win his 2nd league title.  Will be great to see him unite with American Tyler Adams – with midfielder also rumored he may get a look for the German team currently in 2nd place just 7 points behind Bayern Munich.  Huge news for American forward Daryll Dike as Orlando has extended his stay at English Championship team Barnesly thru the playoffs at the end of May as they battle for the last EPL slot.  He has 9 goals in 18 games and was the Dykes player of the month in April. 


Great to see Javier Chicharito having success now for the LA Galaxy – his hat trick last weekend puts him at the top with 5 goals in just 2 games (he had 2 goals all last season).  The Mexican #9 has a chance to be one of the biggest stories in MLS this season.  The turnaround for the Galaxy has come along with their new coach Gregg Vaney which puts them at the top of MLS Rankings this week.  The huge game of the week has the Galaxy traveling to Seattle on Sun night at 9 pm of FS1. Look what popped up on the Toronto practice field in Tampa last week!

GAMES to WATCH This Week

Of course Champions League Semi Finals with Man City hosting PSG up 2-1 Tues and Real Madrid tied at 1-1 traveling to Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic on Wed both on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm lead off the big games this week. With pregame shows starting at 2 pm and post game right after on CBSSN as well.  Saturday Chelsea and Pulisic will host Fulham America at 12:30 on NBC – (Tune in folks – this will have the only 2 American’s currently starting in the EPL).  La Liga has 3 teams battling for the top and 2 of them play this weekend as Real Madrid host Osasuna Sat at 3 pm on beIN Sport, and Barcelona fresh off a loss Thurs travel to Valencia and American midfielder Musah at 1 pm on Sunday.  Sat night our Indy 11 of course start the season on the road at Birmingham at 7:30 pm on ESPN+, while at the same time the North Carolina Courage will look to grab a NWSL Cup playoff spot as they host Alex Morgan and the Orlando Pride at 7:30 on CBS Sports Network (look – you probably have this station you just don’t know it).

Sunday huge top 6 EPL battle between Man United and Liverpool with Champions and perhaps Europa League next year at stake on NBCSN at 11:30 on Sunday AM.  American Weston Mckinney and Juve travel to Udinesse in a must win situation on ESPN plus at 12 noon if they want to stay in the top 4 Champions League spots.  Here’s where all the American’s are playing.

Congrats to The Indiana Hoosiers who Won their 3rd Straight Big 10 Title and are headed to NCAA’s where they will play Sunday night.  The No. 3-ranked Indiana men’s soccer program (9-1-1) earned the third overall seed and a first-round bye. The Hoosiers will await the winner of Milwaukee (8-4-0) and St. Francis Brooklyn (5-1-2) in the first round of action.


Fri, Apr 30

2:30 pm ESPN+, Des          Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm NBCSN                       Southampton vs Leicester City 

7:30 pm ESPN2                  Phoenix Rising vs San Diego Loyal (Donovan)  USL 

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, May 1

7:30 am NBCSN                  Crystal Palace vs Man City

12:30 pm NBC             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Fulham (Robinson)

3 pm Peacock                     Everton vs Aston Villa

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Osasuna

7 pm Univsion                    Houston vs LAFC  MLS

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Orlando City vs Cincy 

7:30  pm  ESPN+         Birmingham Legion vs Indy 11

7:30 pm CBSSN                  North Carolina Courage (Lynn Williams) vs Orlando Pride (Morgan)

10 pm FS 1                          Monterrey vs Mazaltan

Sun, May 2

9 am NBCSN                       New Castle vs Arsenal

11:30 am NBCSN        Man United vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                     Udinese vs Juentus (McKennie)

12:30 pm Paramount +    NY/NJ Gotham FC vs Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)

1 pm ESPN                          Nashville vs Inter Miami

2:15 pm NBCSN                 Tottenham vs Sheffield United

3 pm beIN Sport                 Valencia (Musah) vs Barcelona (Dest)

7:30 pm Paramount +       Houston Dash vs Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) NWSL

9 pm FS1                     Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy 

Tues, May 4 

3 pm CBSSN                Man City vs PSG  Champions League Semis

8 pm FS1                             Atlanta United vs Philly  CCL

10 pm FS1                           Toronto vs Cruz Azul CCL

Weds, May 5

3 pm CBSSN                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Real Madrid  Champions League Semis

8:30 pm FS2                       Columbus Crew vs Monterrey CCL

10:30 pm FS1                     Portland vs America CCL

Thurs, May 6

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Villarreal vs Arsenal Europa Final 4

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Man United vs Roma Europa Final 4

Sat, May 8

7:30 am NBCSN                  Leeds United vs Tottenham

10:15 am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Atletico

12:30 pm NBC               Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

1 pm CBS                             NWSL Challenge Cup Championship                           

7:30 pm ESPN+, Myindy TV   Indy 11 vs FC Tulsa

Sun, May 9

10:!5 am ?                          Aston Villa vs Man United 

11:30 am NBCSN              West Ham vs Everton 

1 pm ABC                            Inter Miami vs Atlanta United 

2:!5 pm Peacock                Tottenham vs Sheffield United

2:45 pm ESPN+           Juventus (McKinney) vs Milan

3 pm ABC                    Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders

3 pm beIN Sport                 Real Madrid vs Sevilla 

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Austin FC

MLS Schedule

Indy 11 and USL

Goalkeeper Jordan Farr set to start for Indy 11 this season

INDY 11 BYB Spot

Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview – USL Championship

In Conversation With… Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven

Power Rankings USL – Indy 11th






2021 New Roster


Season Tix Available


20121 5 Atlantic Division Talking Points

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Central Division

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

2021 PREVIEW – Western Conference, Mountain Division

2021 PREVIEW – Top Five Forwards in the Championship

2021 PREVIEW: Top Five Goalkeepers in the Championship

2021 PREVIEW: Top Five Full Backs in the Championship



Jesse Marcsh’s Climb Up to Red Bull Leipzig in Germany a huge step for US Coach  SI Brian Straus

American Coach Jesse Marsch headed to #2 team in Germany – RB Leipzig – ESPNFC

Pulisic makes USMNT history with UCL goal
Pulisic Watch: USMNT star scores, draws 6 fouls v Real Madrid (video)

Orlando Forward Dike extends stay at Barnesly thru end of May 

Champions league Semi-Finals 2nd leg Tues/Wed

Pulisic makes USMNT history with UCL goal
Christian Pulisic becomes first US men’s international to score in Champions League semifinal

Christian Pulisic becomes first American to score in Champions League semifinal

Pulisic ‘didn’t expect to be so free’ for Chelsea UCL goal v Real Madrid

Pulisic Becomes First American to Score in Semis – SI – Avi Creditor
Three things we learned from Real Madrid – Chelsea

Three talking points from Real Madrid 1 Chelsea 1

Benzema embodies survival spirit after leading another Real Madrid recovery

Tuchel: ‘Composure, precision’ eluding Chelsea finishers as Werner ‘angry’

Chelsea’s Tuchel criticises Champions League reforms: ‘Quantity, not quality’

Steffen thought Man City interest was a joke –Goal.com
Three talking points from PSG 1 Man City 2

Man City get big-time performances from their big-time players
 ESPN ulien Laurens


Pulisic Update after West Ham Win
Premier League run-in: What’s the latest in the top four battle?

Premier League run-in: What is the relegation situation?

Muslim soccer player thanks opponent for allowing him to break Ramadan fast in-game

USMNT prospect Balogun signs new Arsenal contract

Henry and Shearer inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame

Soccer: Gator crashes Toronto FC training session in Florida

MLS Power Rankings Week 2

 Galaxy’s Hot Start not Just 5 Goals from Chicharito
‘Chicharito’ scores first MLS hat trick in Galaxy’s victory over Red Bulls

Top 5 surprises of Week 1 in MLS
Union stun Atlanta in CONCACAF Champions League

3 Takeaways Philly over Atlanta United



Nagelsmann to Bayern, Marsch to Leipzig: Bundesliga’s top clubs in transition
Advantage Barca, Bayern champagne on ice, ‘King’ Burak: Talking points from around Europe

Atletico defeat by Athletic Bilbao hands initiative to Barcelona

Inter on brink of Serie A title with ‘nine point’ win, Atalanta move second

Teams set to be allowed 26-man squads for Euro 2020

Danish FA calls for FIFA ‘action’ on Qatar World Cup

Nagelsmann to become new Bayern Munich coach

UEFA to probe Ibrahimovic’s alleged betting company investment


Pulisic Watch: USMNT star scores, draws 6 fouls v Real Madrid (video)

Nicholas MendolaTue, April 27, 2021, 3:23 PM

Christian Pulisic could’ve had at least one assist by the time he took matters into his feet in the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.Pulisic was at the heart of everything Chelsea was doing early at the Bernabeu, and he put the Blues up 1-0 within a quarter-hour of kickoff.Moments after Pulisic’s cross-box header to Timo Werner was denied by ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois, the American took advantage of the goalkeeper when given acres of space in the Madrid box.Antonio Rudiger looped a pass over the Madrid defense, and Raphael Varane had no idea that Pulisic had zipped behind him.The USMNT star was calm with the ball as only Courtois came near him, touching around the keeper before smashing a shot off Varane’s shoulder and into the goal.Pulisic’s fifth Champions League goal is easily his most important and gives him two for the Blues this season and three in his Chelsea career.

Pulisic Watch

7th minute: There have been some quick touches and tidy passes as Pulisic and Chelsea have held onto early possession but the chess feel of a late stage first leg is apparent.

9th minute: There’s an assi— oh no! Ex-Chelsea man Thibaut Courtois makes a terrific leg save on Timo Werner after Pulisic heads a deflected ball into a very xG place for his German center forward.

12th minute: A big part of the combination play as Chelsea brings the ball from right to left before Ben Chilwell’s cross goes out for a corner.

15th minute: He’s got their attention now — Pulisic scythed down by Nacho Fernandez at midfield.

22nd minute: The American leads a rush but a combination of miscommunication with Werner and a slightly-too-hard pass find the ball out of bounds for a goal kick.

25th minute: He’s got the ball off an incisive square pass and cut a ball back toward the top of the box but Chilwell mishits his drive through traffic and it’s wide for a goal kick.

41st minute: A quiet spell after Real equalizes, Pulisic is in the center of a three-wide rush and has the ball but Werner moves toward him instead of stretching the defense and seems confused when Pulisic plays the obvious ball. Werner smashes wide.

66th minute: A cagey if quieter start to the second half sees Pulisic subbed off with Werner, as Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech enter the fray.

FT statistics: 54 touches, 25-of-28 passes completed, three key passes, 54 touches, 13-of-19 duels won, six fouls drawn, two tackles, goal.

Pulisic Scores vs. Real Madrid, Becomes Third USMNT Player to Feature in UCL Semifinals


Christian Pulisic joined exclusive company on Tuesday with his appearance for Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, becoming just the third U.S. men’s national team player to feature on such a lofty stage—and the first to score on it.Pulisic joined Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, 2020) and DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven, 2005) with his showing vs. Real Madrid in the first leg of their semifinal clash, and he scored the opener to put Chelsea on the right path in a 1-1 draw. Pulisic joins Beasley as the only U.S. players to start a semifinal match, as Adams came off the bench for Leipzig vs. PSG last season following his heroic goal in the quarterfinals that clinched the club’s place in the final four.

Pulisic’s appearance comes nearly 16 years to the day Beasley started vs. AC Milan in a series that PSV ultimately lost on the away-goal tiebreaker. Pulisic will hope for a different fate, which could present him with the opportunity to become the first U.S. player in a Champions League final. Jovan Kirovski was part of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League–winning team in 1997, but he did not feature for the club that deep in its title run.On Tuesday, Pulisic very nearly helped give Chelsea the lead in the ninth minute, teeing up Timo Werner for an early point-blank chance only to have Thibaut Courtois make the save.He wound up taking matters into his own hands five minutes later, taking a long ball down from Antonio Rüdiger, rounding Courtois and showing his composure in the box before finishing for a key away goal. In doing so, he became the first U.S. player to score against Real Madrid and he became the highest-scoring U.S. player in Champions League play with five goals.Pulisic, who called the goal a “proud moment” in his postmatch remarks, exited as part of a triple substitution in the 66th minute, with Chelsea level at 1-1 following Karim Benzema’s 29th-minute equalizer.Pulisic has endured an up-and-down season at Chelsea, one beset by injuries and then required him to win back his place under Thomas Tuchel, who was the coach that gave him his first-team break when the two were together at Dortmund. He’s rounded into form recently, with three goals in his previous six appearances, including a pair against Crystal Palace in Premier League play on April 10.”I feel very confident in my body and fitness level at the moment,” Pulisic said on Monday in his prematch comments. “I have played a string of games. I had some time out in the past year and a bit. It is really just about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every game. I feel good about that right now.”Before Tuesday’s strike, Pulisic had one goal in the Champions League this season, which came against Krasnodar in the group stage. His most significant Champions League goal in his brief career to date came in the 2017 knockout stage when he helped Dortmund get by Benfica in the round of 16.His latest goal adds to what’s been a history-making season abroad for U.S. men’s national team players. Man City goalkeeper Zack Steffen became the fourth American to win the League Cup with his shutout of Tottenham last Sunday (he’s expected to be City’s backup vs. PSG in the other Champions League semifinal on Wednesday). Sergiño Dest became the first U.S. international to win the Copa del Rey after helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao earlier this month. In January, Weston McKennie won the Italian Super Cup with Juventus, while this past weekend, Mark McKenzie won the Belgian Cup title with Genk.

Marsch’s Leipzig Move a Step Up Red Bull’s Ladder and a Giant Leap for U.S. Coaches

While U.S. players are breaking glass ceilings in Europe, coaches still have a ways to climb, but no one has positioned himself better than RB Leipzig’s new manager, Jesse Marsch.



It would have been fitting if Neil Armstrong were still alive and available to break the news.Jesse Marsch’s managerial move from Austrian champion Red Bull Salzburg to German contender RB Leipzig is, in several ways, a small step. He’ll be working for the same bosses at the same company, wearing an almost identical logo and coaching a similar style of play. Marsch won’t even have to study a new language.In other potentially historic ways, however, Thursday’s announcement represents a giant leap for the U.S. game. It has been a season-plus of breakthroughs by U.S. players in Europe, many of whom have started to set new standards for Americans abroad. Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and their compatriots are redefining what’s possible. They’re proving to the powers that be that Americans can play the game at the highest level.Convincing them that U.S. players know the game, however, has been tougher. U.S. coaches remain largely sidelined by skepticism, inertia and the lack of an established pathway to Europe’s top leagues. Bob Bradley got his chance toward the end of 2016 at U.S.-owned Swansea City, but he was saddled with a struggling team and overwhelmed by doubters from the start. He used funny but intolerable phrases like “road game” and had American mannerisms, and when Swansea lost three Premier League matches in a row that December, he was gone. Bradley lasted 11 games. The benefit of the doubt had been less than zero.David Wagner (formerly of Huddersfield Town and Schalke 04) and Pellegrino Matarazzo (VfB Stuttgart) have managed in Europe’s “big five” leagues, but neither developed as coaches in the USA. Wagner, whose father is American, was born in Frankfurt and has spent his entire life in Europe. Matarazzo, who’s from New Jersey, has been in Germany for more than 20 years and got into coaching after spending a decade playing in the country’s lower tiers. He rose through the German ranks.Marsch is U.S. born and bred, and so, like Bradley, he’s vying to be considered an exception to what’s felt like a couple of almost ironclad rules: U.S. players don’t understand soccer, and they can’t lead or inspire a European locker room. It has taken years to forge a players’ pathway to Europe, and it’s still somewhat tenuous. Delivering a U.S. coach to a club like RB Leipzig, which was a Champions League semifinalist in 2020, always was going to require something a bit more novel—something that would cut through the skepticism and insulate a coach while he grew accustomed to the European game.Enter Red Bull. Bemoan New York’s status as the secondary appendage of a global soccer conglomerate all you like, but without the MLS team’s ties to Austria and Germany, Marsch never steps foot on a path that leads toward the top of the Bundesliga. After his 2012 departure from the Montreal Impact (reportedly by mutual consent), Marsch was hired by New York in the wake of the sudden dismissal of fan favorite Mike Petke. It was a moment of inflection for the club and its supporters and an opportunity for Marsch to prove himself in a skeptical environment. He blossomed, mastering Red Bull’s system of play while leading the team to the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2015. Marsch also shepherded Adams from the club’s USL Championship side to the first team, helping him become the elite midfielder who’d make his own way to Leipzig in 2019. https://d1e279f99c04e0b4e0cc992f5ed5561e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Red Bull’s teams are closely integrated, and Marsch had earned the trust of his colleagues and passed every audition. He trusted them in return, electing to leave New York in the summer of 2018 for an assistant’s role in Leipzig. It was a step back in seniority that prepared him for a subsequent leap forward. When Marco Rose departed Salzburg for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2019, Marsch stepped in as the seamless replacement.“Pedigree still matters a lot to people in Europe,” Marsch told The Guardian in 2019. “A year in the Bundesliga as an assistant and working under Ralf Rangnick gave me a little bit more to put in my back pocket to go into the next job. It has helped me be better at my job, but it’s also helped the perception of me here.”Salzburg was already an Austrian juggernaut, having won six consecutive league championships before Marsch arrived. But there was still plenty to prove. This was a head coaching gig in Europe. The dressing room would be his. The expectations and standards were high, and the Champions League beckoned.“My goal was to assimilate, to be myself, but to also honor the culture that I’m working in,” he told The Guardian.Marsch once again aced his exams, winning the domestic double with Salzburg, unleashing Erling Haaland on Europe and giving Liverpool and Napoli all they could handle in the continent’s biggest competition.“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg are doing here, the way they play football,” Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp said following the second game between the clubs. “Massive respect for Jesse and what they did.”That respect seems to have spread a bit throughout Europe. Marsch was linked to Borussia Dortmund over the winter, to Celtic last month and to Tottenham Hotspur this week. Whether or not those connections were legitimate, seeing an American’s name mentioned in those reports represents a big step. But Leipzig always was his most logical destination. Every Red Bull team is a feeder team—and like every German side, RB Leipzig supplies Bayern Munich. When Julian Nagelsmann announced on Tuesday his intention to take over the German champions this summer, Marsch immediately was listed among the favorites to succeed him in Leipzig. The confirmation came quickly. Marsch’s two-year contract begins July 1.It’ll be the most significant, high-profile test ever faced by a U.S. coach at the club level. And Marsch’s performance could have a lasting impact on the width of that transatlantic managerial pathway. He needed Red Bull to help blaze the trail, but now he’ll rise or fall on his own merit. He’ll be at the apex of the Red Bull pyramid, where results matter as much or more than development. He seems ready. He’s proven himself at every stop, and he’ll have the organization’s best players and resources at his disposal—along with the pressure that comes with Champions League expectations.”I love football—training, tactics, all of it,” Marsch told the BBC last month. “But people and relationships is what really makes me tick. And ultimately if you were to ask me why I came to Europe, it was to see if my idea of relationships and leadership could function in the most competitive environment in our sport.”His command of training, tactics and building relationships has taken him to the top at Red Bull, and further than any U.S. coach has gone before. Now he’ll really see if his ideas will work at the highest level, while the rest of the world gets its first look at an American doing the same.




Indy Eleven 2021 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/20/21, 5:00PM EDT


Having advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2019, Indy Eleven’s flying start to the 2020 season that saw it win four consecutive games and five of its first six supplied the belief that the side could go one better last year. Instead, a second-half swoon that included three consecutive defeats to rival Louisville City FC and two to Sporting Kansas City II helped the postseason slide away after a final-game defeat to Saint Louis FC.It’s hard to figure where things went wrong,  but regardless the Boys in Blue are going to have plenty of new faces for the 2021 season after a busy offseason in the transfer market. Both leading scorer Tyler Pasher (Houston Dynamo FC) and goalkeeper Evan Newton (Vancouver Whitecaps FC) were sold to Major League Soccer clubs, while potential newcomer Cal Jennings was sold to Los Angeles FC before playing a game for Indy after signing as a free agent earlier in the offseason.That said, there’s plenty of new talent coming on board, especially to replace Pasher’s absence in attack. Fellow Canadian Jordan Hamilton has produced impressively in previous stints on loan in the Championship from Toronto FC, while Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga also look like solid options to join the returning Nick Moon. Another new arrival is defender AJ Cochran, who could team with Karl Ouimette and Neveal Hackshaw to make a solid back three. After last year’s disappointment, things are set up for a positive rebound for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s squad.


Jordan Hamilton, Forward

Looking to replace Tyler Pasher – who notched 21 goals over the past two seasons – Indy brought in another forward from north of the border who could have just as large an impact on their attacking fortunes. Jordan Hamilton never quite found a breakthrough in Major League Soccer, although he did notch 11 goals in more than 50 appearances between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew SC. While on loan in the Championship, though, he proved  he’s capable at this level. Hamilton recorded eight goals in 10 games in the 2019 season, averaging a tally every 92.4 minutes. Indy will be hoping their new arrival is up there with the Golden Boot contenders.

Ayoze, Defender

The Spaniard may now be 35 years old, but his ageless ability to create and defend makes him an ideal fit as the left-sided wing back for Head Coach Martin Rennie’s system. Ayoze has notched 16 assists over Indy’s first three seasons in the Championship and has continued to shine so far in preseason ahead of the new campaign. Ayoze’s ability to create will certainly be welcome for Hamilton, Gordon Wild and Manuel Arteaga as they look to make their mark on Indy’s attack.


Jordan Hamilton, Forward: The Canadian brings experience from both MLS and the Championship

Aboubacar Sissoko, Midfielder: Shone in Canadian Premier League for HFX Wanderers in 2020

AJ Cochran, Defender: Former Championship All-League selection makes way from Phoenix

Manuel Arteaga, Forward: Venezuelan forward has played previously in Copa Libertadores


Tyler Pasher: Transferred to Houston Dynamo FC

Evan Newton: Transferred to Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Conner Antley: Signed with Tampa Bay Rowdies

Tyler Gibson: Signed with Louisville City FC

In Conversation With… Coach Martin Rennie, Indy Eleven

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/29/21, 8:00AM EDT


After a busy offseason that saw numerous players moved on via transfer to Major League Soccer clubs and the recruitment of high-profile replacements, Indy Eleven kicks off its 2021 USL Championship season this Saturday night with a visit to Birmingham Legion FC (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+). 

USLChampionship.com’s Nicholas Murray caught up with Indy Head Coach Martin Rennie to talk about new Houston Dynamo player Tyler Pasher, getting his break in Cleveland, what it means to be returning to Michael A. Carroll Stadium permanently, and the players he’s most excited to have aboard for the new campaign. 

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Nicholas Murray: So, have you been keeping up with Tyler Pasher the last couple of weeks? 

Martin RennieYeah, I’ve noticed he’s done well the first couple of games. Not surprised at all, though, it took us three years to really get him going, but he’s a great player, got great ability. 

NMHow does it make you feel to see him not only getting starting minutes for the Dynamo, but looking sharp in the way he’s performing? 

MR: Not surprised, but really happy. That was the thing, he was with us for three years and the first year he didn’t really play, had a lot of things to work through and I think we worked very hard to help him, but his ability is way beyond. I think his level is above MLS, he can play at a level higher than that, it’s just whether he can put it all together and find that little edge that you need to have. Technically and physically, he’s a top, top player. 

NM: I’ve got to say, it’s been really exciting for me given how much I’ve enjoyed talking with and watching him play. It feels like it used to be mostly defenders that could move up from the Championship and find a solid starting spot somewhere, this feels new with an attacking player like Tyler starting to shine a bit more brightly. 

MR: Exactly, and we sold four players in this window, and while Evan [Newton] was a goalkeeper, the other three were all attacking players. Cal Jennings has already been on the field, Josh Penn has already been on the field in MLS as well, so they’re also very talented players and I think you’ll see a lot from them, especially because Josh Penn’s so young, he might surprise at just how well he can do, but Cal Jennings has that potential as well. 

It’s really good for a club like Indy Eleven to be able to sell those guys, and it’s helped us recruit guys that are very talented that could also do that.   

NM: Do you think we’re getting close to a turning point in terms of the way top Championship players are starting to be perceived by more MLS executives? 

MR: It’s hard to know. I think it should be the case. There are certainly a number of guys who have had success at this level who would definitely be able to do well in MLS, and definitely would add to the squad of an MLS team – the first 15, 16 players – so I definitely think that. The game’s maturing, the USL Championship’s developing, there’s a lot of very talented players and really excellent coaches, and I think there’s going to be more of a pathway for players and coaches into MLS going forward. 

There’s a lot of guys who come over from other countries – coaches and players – and they don’t know the system, they don’t adapt to the culture. There are always some, of course, that are big hitters that have done really well, but there’s a lot of guys that are on that next level down where there are better players than them in the USL. 

NM: Last year – I hate to drag that back up – everything seemed to be going right, and then suddenly it wasn’t anymore. What was that post-mortem like looking back on how the season unfolded, ultimately missing the postseason? 

MR: I think last season was really an unusual year, and obviously you’ve got to review everything and take lessons from it, and we definitely did that, but you’ve also got to look at it and say we’re in the middle of the most unusual part of time in history, certainly our history, and I think it impacted us in the sense that we started off really well, going along really well, had a lot of good results, lot of wins, and then didn’t finish well. I think there were some reasons for that, some if it was just the mental drain on players over time in the sense of you were just going to training, going back to your apartment, go to training, go back to the apartment. You weren’t really socializing too much, when you went on the road you weren’t able to connect with people, get out of your room and that, so I think there were a lot of things outside soccer that impacted us last year, and maybe impacted us more than some other people.  

Of course, it affected everyone and there’s no excuse that comes just down to that, but I do think that was a factor. I think as well, there was a lot for us to learn in making adjustments and growing our team and adding to our squad. One of the big things that we took from it was over the past few years, we’ve built a very good team, we’ve become one of the best teams in the USL, but we want to be the best, and to do that we maybe need to find some other players that maybe haven’t played in the USL before.In the three years before, the players that we’d signed had been players at this level, and they’d been good players at this level, but if you want to be better than that, you’re going to have to try and find some players that are above that level, and that’s very hard to do, but we feel like we had a long offseason and an opportunity to do really put so much time into scouting and recruitment. 

There were also players available this year that aren’t normally available, so I think we were able to get some guys that would normally have been out of our price range or budget, but also just wouldn’t have really been looking at the USL. With what’s going on in some other markets, they were interested, and we’ve been able to get some guys we’re really excited about.  

NM: You mentioned this earlier, the higher you go, the more you start to think about it, there can be a challenge that when things don’t go right, you can start to question yourself – I think that’s true of any profession, not just soccer. How do you try to compartmentalize, learn and then move on without looking back too regularly? 

MR: I’ve done this for a long time, I’ve done it for about 15 years, and before that I had a 10-year career in business, and from that one of the skills you learn is winning, but then learning from your mistakes and moving forward from it. There’s no point dwelling on your mistakes or beating yourself up about, ‘oh, this game didn’t go well,’ or ‘we lost that cup final, this means we’re terrible.’ The reality is we’re very close. All the teams I’ve coached, we’ve won, I’ve been successful, but there are some of them that were just a game or two away from being the best, and that’s really the trick, finding a way to win those consistently, win those big one or two games that take you over the top. That’s, I think, where we are with Indy Eleven and where I am as a coach, and I think that’s a good place to be. 

Obviously, the best place to be is to be winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, and keep winning, but there’s only a couple of coaches in the world that do that, and even they have years and days and weeks where it doesn’t work out. That’s just part of the game, when you’re playing, when you’re competing, there’s another team and another club trying to win, so you’ve got to give respect to the others as well.  

NM: You’re back at Michael A. Carrol Stadium – The Mike – this regular season, which I think a lot of fans are excited about. After the taste you guys got during the 2019 Championship Playoffs, what is it going to mean calling that venue home for the full campaign this year? 

MR: I think that’s something everyone involved with the club is very excited about – the front office, the players, and of course the fans – just because the atmosphere in that stadium is really electric. It’s almost like a European-type venue where it’s really loud, the fans are very close to the field, it’s open air as opposed to Lucas Oil where you couldn’t have any pyrotechnics or anything like that. It’s a great venue, it’s an old venue but it’s a venue with character, and a venue that brings certain homefield advantages as well. 

NM: Your preparations seem to have been going well, too. How close do you think we are to seeing a fully realized lineup and the potential that it holds the newcomers that have come aboard this offseason? 

MR: We have our first game this weekend on [May] 1st, and then our second game on the 8th, then we have a week off, and then the week after we get back at it and then we’re consistently playing after that. The first couple of weeks, we want to be ready to go and play and win and do well – and we think we can – and at the same time I think we’ll be building our squad at that time. We’ll be learning more and more, we’ll be getting guys into full fitness to start those games, so it might take those first two couple of weeks, but I think hopefully once we’re into the mid- to end-of-May we should be up and running and looking good. 

NM: Who are you most excited about in terms of the newcomers that have joined the club, because for me personally, I love Jordan Hamilton, I’ve gotten to know him a little bit seeing him when Toronto was down here for preseason, and the ability he brings, I’m really excited to see what he can do full-time in this league. 

MR: Me too, I think in preseason him and Manuel Arteaga – who you might not know – both scored six or seven goals each. They’re both strikers, they’re both very good, high-level players, and that was something I think last year we didn’t really have, a No. 9, and now we’ve got a couple of guys who can score goals, who can hold the ball up, who can lead the front line, who can do a lot, so I think those will be two to watch, but there’s quite a few guys that maybe aren’t well-known in the USL but are very good players.  

Someone like Gerson Koffie, who has played about 200 games in MLS, has played at a high level in Europe, he’s a really accomplished player. Abou Sissoko was the best player in the Canadian Premier League last year, he isn’t well-known here but we’ve seen him up close throughout this preseason and he’s an extremely exciting player, very talented, and then there’s guys like Nicky Law, who people here don’t really know but has played 500 games in his career and is extremely fit, extremely motivated and I think has scored 100 goals, 100 assists in his career, which is just phenomenal for a midfield player.  

NM: I know the hype train from Canada has been steaming down the tracks about Sissoko, so I’m really excited to get to see him on a regular basis. I got to see him a little bit in the Canadian Premier League last year, those games were airing on Fox Sports, so I got a couple of chances to see that league in action, but I think he’s a really intriguing prospect. 

MR: He is, and I just think there’s a lot of guys in our team that have a lot to prove. There are guys like Patrick Seagrist, who’s on loan, who’s a very talented player, Rece Buckmaster, who a short time ago was playing in MLS Playoff games for the Red Bulls, so there’s a lot of guys like that who are maybe a little bit below the

I think also this season, because last year was a little bit different, I think a lot of teams in the USL looked at last season as, ‘Oh, we had a really successful year,’ but they may not have been playing against the best competition every week, and there’s a significant difference between the top three or four teams, and the bottom eight teams. So, if you were in a group where you were playing the bottom eight teams on a consistent basis, you might come away thinking, ‘we don’t need to improve our team that much, we’re right on track.’ If you look at us, where it was pretty much Pittsburgh, Louisville, Saint Louis pretty much every week, then we look at our season a bit differently.  We’ve been working so hard to improve our team, we’ve put so much into really improving and developing and even selling players, so I think this season’s going to be interesting. Last year might have thrown a few people off on exactly where their team’s at. Not sure, but just a feeling I’ve got. 

NM: If you had to rate yourself, where would you put Indy in the pecking order in terms of the Eastern Conference? 

MR: [Pauses] I don’t know, that’s one that comes back to bite you, doesn’t it? Because as a coach it’s my job to see ourselves as the best, and it’s our job to see ourselves as the ones that can win it all, and I think that’s definitely possible for us. That’s not being disrespectful to other teams, because I think there’s a lot of good teams – Pittsburgh, Louisville, Birmingham, Tampa – and others that are always going to be good like Charleston, Hartford were good last year, so there are a lot of good teams in the East and there are new teams in the East that I don’t really know. Even teams like Kansas City last year had a lot of players who were not young, academy kids, who were talented players who were 23, 24, looking to make their breakthrough into the First Team. 

Ultimately as a coach of any team, I’ve got to believe my team can be the best, and I’ve got to believe that my team can win it all, and I’ve got to believe that we can be consistently winning games and playing in an exciting way, because we can. We’ve already shown that in preseason, but now it’s up to us to show it in the regular season, and then importantly to do it, but then to keep doing and to be consistent with that. I think we’ve got the players to do it, we’ve got the coaching staff to do it, what we really need is that connection amongst each other, that culture and that sense of team sprit that we feel like we’re getting that is just so, so important. 

NM: The Mike’s great, everyone’s excited to be back there, but we’re seeing the new venues start to appear around the Championship that are really taking the league to a new place in terms of infrastructure. We’ve seen the plans for Eleven Park. What would it mean for Indy to see Eleven Park come to fruition as a permanent home for the club? 

MR: That would be an absolute gamechanger because we already have all the other pieces in place. We’ve got the fanbase, we’ve got the front office, we’ve got the people on ticket sales, sponsorships, all that kind of thing, we’ve got incredible ownership, unbelievable training facility, great housing, really nice place to live, all sorts of recovery, nutrition and psychology there for the team, but the stadium is the key because that’s where you can find a home and a field that can take you over the top and maybe even allow you to add a few more players to the squad. That, to me, would be a gamechanger. 

NM: Do you hope it happens? Do you think it happens? 

MR: It will happen, there’s no doubt about it.   


By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/30/21, 11:00AM EDT  size=1 width=”100%” align=center>

#BHMvIND Gameday Preview   Indy Eleven at Birmingham Legion FC   Saturday, May 1, 2021 – 7:30 P.M. ET   BBVA Field | Birmingham, AL   FOLLOW LIVE    Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)  


Indy Eleven: 7W-7L-2D, 25 pts. (+2 GD), 3rd in Group E  

Birmingham Legion FC: 7W-5L-4D, 25 pts. (+10 GD), 2nd in Group G

 The dawn of Indy Eleven’s eighth season will break this weekend in the heart of Alabama, where Indiana’s Team will take on Birmingham Legion FC as both teams begin their “Central Conference Era” at BBVA Field. The first of 32 USL Championship regular season affairs will break the chain of 210 days without a game in official competition, ending the longest hiatus between games in Indy Eleven’s growing history.With that much time off, it is needless to say that Head Coach Martin Rennie is not the only one itching to see what the new-look Eleven have in store – though he’ll certainly be the most interested observer. The Scottish skipper led a roster overhaul that features 16 new Boys in Blue added to 10 returnees – with only six of those familiar faces seeing minutes in Championship action for Indy in 2020.Those that return will be looking to quickly expunge the memories of last year’s grueling finish, the squad’s 7W-7L-2D record and 25 points ultimately falling just short of qualifying for one of two postseason bids from a Group E that arguably was the Championship’s “Group of Death” in 2020. Meanwhile, Birmingham didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either, but their earlier body of work stood tall enough to overcome a 1W-4L-1D mark down the stretch run of the regular season. The Hammers’ first USL Championship Playoff berth did not last long, however, ending their first time out with a 4-2 loss in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to eventual conference victor Tampa Bay Rowdies.Indy Eleven’s 2021 preseason left plenty of room for optimism, with an impressive 2-0 showing against a young outfit from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a thorough 3-0 trouncing of USL League One side Forward Madison FC, and a 1-1 draw against fellow Championship foe Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to close things out last weekend. The preseason featured plenty of goals from the new forward tandem of MLS veteran Jordan Hamilton and Venezuelan newcomer Manuel Arteaga, both of whom will look to make up for the departure of two-time defending Eleven scoring leader Tyler Pasher (currently showing out for Houston Dynamo FC after his offseason transfer to the MLS side).The club’s “fountain of youth” – midfielder and newly-named captain Ayoze – also showed he has plenty left in the tank during his preseason performances, while third-year pro Nick Moon also provided plenty of spark mostly from the right flank.In goal, it looks as if fourth year Eleven performer Jordan Farr will earn the number one spot between the posts over newcomer Bobby Edwards. In front of him, there will be plenty of competition for spots on Rennie’s three-man backline, a corps stacked with talent that includes two-time All-USL performer Neveal Hackshaw, vice-captain Karl Ouimette, another one-time All-USL honoree in A.J. Cochran, 15-year Austrian leagues veteran Nedeljko Malic and former Butler University standout Jared Timmer.Meanwhile, Birmingham enters 2021 having added serious fuel to its attacking fire in the person of defending USL Championship Golden Boot winner Junior Flemmings (15 goals in 2020), the Jamaican set to play alongside two of the league’s other top scorers from 2020 in forward and fellow countryman Neco Brett (9 goals, T-9th) and Brazilian playmaker Bruno Lapa (8 goals, T-11th).Alex Crognale, who enjoyed a cup of coffee with Indy Eleven in 2019 on loan from Columbus Crew, was Birmingham’s Defender of the Year in his first season with the squad in 2020 and will look to anchor the Legion backline that added ex-STLFC standout Phanuel Kavita in the offseason. Rennie will see another familiar face in Daigo Kobiyashi, the 38-year-old midfield stalwart now in his third season in Birmingham; he was under Rennie’s charge with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2013, the first of the Japanese legend’s five MLS campaigns. Behind everyone will be Matt Van Oekel, the 34-year-old goalkeeper who will be familiar to Eleven fans – although he could be pressed for time this season by Valparaiso native Trevor Spangenberg. 


With both of 2020’s originally scheduled meetings cancelled after the COVID 19 pandemic caused an early season re-shuffle into groups, the series history consists of their 2019 contests, both won by the home sides.Indy Eleven impressed in the first meeting on June 26, 2019, a comprehensive 3-0 win at Lucas Oil Stadium that featured a five-save shutout by Jordan Farr and tallies by Tyler Pasher (7’) and Thomas Enevoldsen (90+1’) bookending Mathieu Laurent’s own goal (44’). Legion FC got the better of Indy in the return match at BBVA Field on Sept. 20, Brian Wright’s 39th minute goal proving enough in a 1-0 triumph over an Eleven squad that finished with 10 men after Drew Conner’s 53rd minute red card.Saturday’s game marks the first of four 2021 matchups, the series continuing with a pair of meetings in the Circle City three weeks apart on July 3 and July 24 and concluding back in Alabama on Oct. 10.


Even with all of the shiny new toys to play with in regards to the Eleven’s bevy of offseason additions, Moon’s preseason showings earns him the pole position in this space. The former All-USL League One performer showed flashes of his potential at forward during his first campaign with the Eleven in 2020, but early returns from 2021 seem to indicate he’ll provide more danger facilitating from out wide, be it from the midfield or top-line positions.When the competition stiffened over the last three spring exhibitions, the 24-year-old had a hand in five of the squad’s six goals (a goal, two assists and two hustle players resulting in “hockey assists”), helping to make the case for his inclusion in Rennie’s first XI selection this weekend. With Pasher’s production needing to be replaced, don’t be surprised to see Moon fill his fair share of that void alongside Hamilton, Arteaga, and Gordon Wild.


While Matt Van Oekel was the original option because, well, it seems like we’ve been playing against him for forever, the more we looked into it the more the spotlight shone on Lapa. The 23-year-old burst onto the Championship scene during his rookie campaign in 2020, starting all 17 matches for Birmingham after a decorated collegiate career at Wake Forest University.Including Legion FC’s playoff match, he went on to lead the team in chances created (35) and in shots (26), tie for the team lead in assists (5), and finish second in goals (8). The midfielder finished the season as one of only two players in the Championship to tally at least eight goals and five assists – the other being reigning league MVP, Solomon Asante of Phoenix Rising FC. For all the firepower the Jamaicans Neco Brett and Junior Flemmings bring to the front line, Lapa deserves at least as much attention – and you can bet he’ll get plenty of it from the Eleven midfield collective in an attempt to cut off his dangerous service.

4/23/21 USL Kicks off Sat, SuperLeague Fails, Pulisic/Chelsea in must win vs West Ham Sat 12:30 NBC, Champ League, USWNT Games Set, MLS Week 2


So all the talk in Soccer this week has been Super League – a shame since MLS got off to a pretty good start on National TV this past weekend as over ½ million watched LA and Miami on ABC the largest since 2011.  Miami just barely lost their home opener on ABC Sunday as the LA Galaxy and Chicharito retuned to formed with 2 goals by the Mexican in a 3-2 thriller over Miami.  Saturday on Fox Austin looked much better than your average expansion team in giving LAFC all they could handle in a 2-0 loss in LA as over ½ million watched as well.  The big news was 2019 MVP Carlos Vela being subbed early on injury when he wasn’t ready to come off in confusion.  Supposedly he will be fine to return next game for LAFC.  Seattle kicked things off Friday night with a solid 4-0 thumping at home of last season’s surprising Minn United.  And finally Columbus and Philly tied in Columbus Sunday on FS1 – 0-0 as both teams looked tired from midweek CONCACAF Champions League wins.  This weekend the biggest matchup is 4 time Finalist Seattle traveling to LAFC Saturday at 6 pm on ESPN for a battle of the top 2 teams in the West over the past 2 seasons.  Hopefully Carlos Vela will be back in the line-up for Bob Bradley’s crew.  Saturday At 3:30 pm on on TUDN and Univision – Carmel’s own Matt Hedges and Dallas will travel to San Jose both teams looking for their first wins, whilejust before at 1 pm on ESPN+ Cincy will travel to NYCFC.  Sat at 10:30 pm on ESPN+ Indy 11 fans can watch former forward Tyler Pasher and Houston as they travel to Portland  to face the Timbers. 


A record 5 teams are advancing to the Final 8 of the CONCACAF Champions League. Toronto FC will face Club Azul on Tues on FS1, while Toronto faces Mexican stalwart Club America. At least 1 MLS team is guaranteed into the Final 4 as Atlanta United and Philly will faceoff for a spot.  Could this finally be the year MLS wins the CCL? 

Super League

All the talk this week was about A New Breakoff Super League with the top teams from Spain, Italy, and England leading the group of 15 huge clubs looking to replace UCL – Champions League midweek competition with a new Super League with set teams each year.  The richest, most recognizable teams in the world – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Juvenus were the 12 announced teams with Germany’s Bayern Munich, Dortmund and France’s PSG expected to fill out the 15 permanent members (though they publically said no the entire time).  Five other clubs would play their way in – to fill out the 20 team – (2 leagues of ten) – that would included 2 games per team in each league with the top 4 teams advancing to a playoff.  While the concept of having the largest most recognizable teams in the world play each other more often is appealing.  Having those 15 teams as permanent locked in members is the issue here.  Finishing top 4 or top 3 so you can be in Champions League would be no more.  Arsenal finishes 11th in the league but it still in?   This was the fatal flaw of this concept.  Champions League is just that – champions – finish in the top 3 or 4 in your league and you get to be in next year and get the rewards and windfall of money that comes with that.  Interesting that this new plan comes along with Juventus, Dortmund, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham all battling for top 4 slots this year to even make next year’s Champions League.  I am thrilled it blew up and very quickly at that – the fans spoke up and shamed them into backing down.  It will be interesting to see if another group or these try this again in a few years – again I think having a few more of the top teams playing each other in Champions League is a great idea – obviously however – automatic membership for the big 15 teams is not the way to do this. 

Indy 11 & USL

Two Weeks and Counting until the Indy 11 kickoff the home season at the Mike on Sat May 8 7:30 pm vs Tulsa. Due to stadium limitations only season ticket holders will be allowed in for the games in May – with hopes that will change in June.  The 11 will travel to their first game next Sat at the Birmingham Legion on ESPN+ at 7:30 pm.   The USL starts this Sat night with Louisville hosting Atlanta United 2 in their new stadium at 7 pm on ESPN+.  See some season previews below and I will have more preseason previews next week when more teams start playing.  USL Pre-Season Rankings

US Women

Close to 300K watched the US beat France on ESPN2 a couple of weeks back on Tuesday afternoon – not bad seeing as Champions League was going head to head against them.  The Groups have been announced for the Olympics this summer and of course the US will face #5 Sweden first.  The US always plays Sweden in the group stage it seems and will be looking to avenge being knocked out by them in the last Olympics in the US’ worse showing ever.  The US also plays New Zealand and Australia in the group stages with the top 2 teams advancing to the next round.   

GAMES to WATCH This Week

Of course Champions League Semi Finals with Man City vs PSG Wednesday and Real Madrid hosting Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic on Tuesday both on CBS Sports Network at 3 pm lead off the big games this week. With pregame shows starting at 2 pm and post game right after on CBSSN as well.  Great to see these games on TV – instead of just paramount plus (hopefully they are simulcasting on both for those that just have PP.)  Saturday a huge top 4 EPL battle between West Ham and Chelsea with Champions League next year at stake on NBC at 12:30 on Saturday.  Sat AM a German battle of American’s battling for top 4 slots as #3 Wolfsburg and John Brooks host #5 Dortmund and Claudia Reyna at 9:30 on ESPN+.  Sunday its League Cup finals and a chance for American GK Zack Steffan to raise a trophy with Man City as they face Tottenham (sans Jose Marino who was relieved of the head job) at 11:30 am on ESPN+.



Fri, Apr 23

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs Everton

4 pm bein Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Getafe

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Orlando City

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, Apr 24

7:30 am Peacock                Liverpool vs Newcastle 

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

11 am beIN sport              Metz vs PSG

12:30 pm NBC Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United

1 pm ESPN+                        NYCFC vs Cincy  MLS

3:30 pm Univision, TUDN San Jose vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) MLS

3 pm beINSport                  Real Madrid vs Real Bettis

6 pm ESPN                  LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

7 pm ESPN+                        Louisville vs Atlanta United 2 USL

10:30 pm ESPN+                Portland Timbers vs Houston (Pasher) MLS

Sun, Apr 25

9 am NBCSN                       Leeds United vs Man United

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

11:30 am ESPN+                Tottenham vs Man City (Steffan) (League Cup Final)

2 pm Cock                           Aston Villa vs West Brom  

2:30 pm ABC                      Forentina vs Atalanta  –   Italy

3 pm beINSport                  Athletic Club vs Atletico Madrid

6 pm FS 1                            La Galaxy vs NY Red Bulls

Tues, Apr 27

3 pm CBSSN                Real Madrid vs Chelsea (Pulisic) Champions League Semis

8 pm FS1                             Atlanta United vs Philly  CCL

7 pm Para +                        Washington Spirit vs  NY/NJ Gotham FC

10 pm FS1                           Toronto vs Cruz Azul CCL

10 pm Para +                      OL Reign vs Red Stars NWSL

Weds, Apr 28

3 pm CBSSN                PSG vs Man City Champions League Semis

8:30 pm FS2                       Columbus Crew vs Monterrey CCL

10:30 pm FS1                     Portland vs America CCL

Thurs, Apr 29

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Villarreal vs Arsenal Europa Final 4

3 pm CBSSN? Para+           Man United vs Roma Europa Final 4

Sat, May 1

7:30  pm  ESPN+         Birmingham Legion vs Indy 11

7:30 pm CBSSN                  North Carolina Courage (Lynn Williams) vs Orlando Pride (Morgan)

Sun, May 2

9 am ?                                 New Castle vs Arsenal

11:30 am NBCSN              Man United vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                     Udinese vs Juentus (McKennie)

12:30 pm Paramount +    NY/NJ Gotham FC vs Racing Louisville FC (NWSL)

1 pm ESPN                          Nashville vs Inter Miami

2:!5 pm Peacock                Tottenham vs Sheffield United

3 pm beIN Sport                Valencia vs Barcelona

7:30 pm Paramount +       Houston Dash vs Portland ThornsFC (Dunn, Horan, Sauerbrunn, Smith) NWSL

9 pm FS1                     Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy  

MLS Schedule


US Players overseas this week

Gold Cup sites include six stadiums in Texas

U23 Men’s Debacle Debrief – SI –

USWNT to face rivals Sweden at Tokyo Olympics

Man United’s Heath returns to U.S. with injury

Ahead of Man City-Chelsea showdown, Dahlkemper details life across the pond

SuperLeague Debacle

Super League cabal have spectacularly failed to read the room– Mark Ogden

Will New Super League Destroy Global Soccer?  – Yahoo

How to Fix Super League Issues and make it Work – Harry Bushnell Yahoo Soccer

Klopp not Happy with new Superleague

Defiant UEFA announce new Champions League  – Mark Ogden

Are there Real Problems in Soccer that the Super League could help solve?  538

Champions league Semi-Finals Tues/Wed

Defiant UEFA announce new Champions League  – Mark Ogden

Champions League talking points: Man City, Real Madrid the teams to beat?
Marquinhos among PSG trio back in training before Champions Legaue semi

Gundogan: New UCL format ‘just the lesser of two evils’; ‘more and more and more games’


Indy 11 and USL

USL Starts Sat Night

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Central Division

2021 PREVIEW – Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

2021 PREVIEW – Western Conference, Mountain Division

2021 PREVIEW – Top Five Forwards in the Championship

Louisville City Player Remembers his first Game




21 New Roster

Season Tix Available

Man City’s De Bruyne fit for League Cup final, PSG clash
De Bruyne, Aguero, Kane injury updates ahead of League Cup Final

Guardiola backs USMNT’s Steffen, confirms League Cup spot

Iheanacho fires Leicester into FA Cup final on fans’ return

Jose Mourinho: from ‘Special One’ to trophy-less Tottenham tenure

Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho after 17 months
Rodgers pleads for Leicester to stay focused on Champions League race


Depleted Real can’t keep pace with Atletico
Advantage Atletico after patched-up Real Madrid held by Getafe

Juve’s Champions League at risk, Inter edge towards title despite Napoli draw
Bundesliga: Brooks’ Wolfsburg, Reyna’s Dortmund win to set up huge tilt


Best Saves April early

Costa Rica and PSGs GK Keylor Navas (the Puma) Saves

Navas 10 Saves Sends PSG Thru

Great Saves from International Break

At 44 Buffon still one of the Best

Great Saves Mexican Keeper

Ter Stegen VS Manuel Neuer Who The Best Goalkeeper Of Germany?!!


USWNT to face old rivals Sweden at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Apr 21, 2021ESPN

The United States women’s national team have been drawn against old rivals Sweden as well as Australia and New Zealand in Group G for the Tokyo Olympic football tournament, it was announced on Wednesday.

Great Britain will face Canada and Chile as well as hosts Japan in Group E, while European champions Netherlands were drawn against Brazil, China and Zambia in Group F.  

The USWNT are seeking to become the first women’s side to win a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal back-to-back.”After waiting an extra year for this Olympics, the draw represents a real milestone in our journey and helps us focus in even more on our preparation and what we need to do to achieve our goals,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said.”We have great respect for all three of our group opponents and we know this tournament will push us to our limits both mentally and physically, as well as challenge us every game technically and tactically, so we will do everything we can in the next three months to prepare for success.”There will be a new winner in the women’s tournament, with 2016 champions Germany failing to qualify.Great Britain will be led by former Olympic gold medallist Hege Riise at the tournament.”There is no doubt we have been drawn in a very exciting group. The host nation Japan are an extremely talented team and have been a strong force in women’s football for many years,” she said in a statement.”Canada are another very good physical team, as we saw earlier this month when England and Wales both faced them at home in the April FIFA window. Chile are not a team I know quite as well, but they put in a very impressive performance against Cameroon to secure their place in this summer’s Games for the first time in their history.”Riise will name her 18-player squad — which will feature players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — at the end of May.The men’s draw saw Rio 2016 Olympic men’s champions Brazil being drawn against GermanyIvory Coast and Saudi Arabia in Group D.

Hosts Japan will face MexicoSouth Africa and France in Group A while two-time Olympic champions Argentina will play SpainEgypt and Australia in Group C.

Group B consists of New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras and Romania.

The football tournament at Tokyo will take place from July 21 to Aug. 6 in six cities across Japan.

Men’s Olympic draw

Group A

Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France

Group B

New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras, Romania (would have been US)

Group C

Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia

Group D

Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia

Women’s Olympic draw

Group E

Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile

Group F

China, Brazil, Zambia, Netherlands

Group G

Sweden, United States, Australia, New Zealand

Debacle Debrief: Inside U.S. Soccer, Stewart’s Response to a Qualifying Failure

The U.S. U-23 men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the Olympics isn’t American soccer’s first big setback, but it is the first one to be assessed by U.S. Soccer’s new technical setup.

BRIAN STRAUS  APR 21, 2021  SI  


It’s quite possible, if not probable, that the players who would’ve helped the USA finally qualify for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament were in Belfast, 5,000 miles away from the action.It was the evening of March 28, and the senior U.S. national team had just beaten European opposition on European soil for the first time in nearly six years. The late-night celebration took place in one of those bland, beige hotel meeting rooms, where staff and players gathered to watch their U-23 compatriots face Honduras in Guadalajara. The winner in Mexico would qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, the draw for which was held on Wednesday morning.Fifteen of the players on the senior squad that defeated Northern Ireland that day—a result that helped vault the USA into FIFA’s top 20 for the first time since 2014—were Olympic eligible (and that doesn’t include the likes of Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Timothy Weah, who weren’t in camp). Yet thanks to FIFA regulations that limit access to players for junior events, the only contribution they could make toward the Olympic cause was to watch on a pull-down screen and hope. And they went to bed disappointed. Their colleagues in Guadalajara were second-best all evening, just as they’d been second-best for most of Concacaf’s qualifying tournament.The senior U.S. men have failed to qualify for one of the past eight World Cups, and it took an almost incomprehensible array of bad decisions to make that happen. The U.S. U-20s have failed to qualify for one of the past dozen U-20 World Cups. The U.S. U-17s have missed out on one of the 18 all-time U-17 World Cups. American failure happens, but it’s been largely the exception at the regional level. Yet the U-23s have now missed out on three straight Olympic tournaments. What is it about that age group, or that event, that has so bedeviled U.S. Soccer?Perhaps the answer this time is simple: The men who could’ve ended the streak and taken the USA to Tokyo just weren’t present. But there’s a counterpoint: By now, shouldn’t U.S. Soccer and MLS have produced more than 20 U-23 players who can beat Honduras? The timing and conditions surrounding Concacaf’s qualifying tournament certainly weren’t helpful. The U.S. men were still in preseason—many had gone three months without a competitive game—while their opponents were deep into their domestic campaigns. Combine that lack of match fitness with the heat and altitude of Guadalajara, and you have a recipe for poor passes, missed traps and heavy legs. But then again, maybe those are just excuses—feeble attempts to justify failure by those unwilling to do the hard work and face hard truths.The Olympic elimination touched a nerve, perhaps unearthing some U.S.n soccer PTSD left over from the 2017 disaster in Couva. There was a lot of frustration. But this failure is different from that one, and from the two prior Olympic disappointments, in one crucial way. This time, U.S. Soccer has the full-time technical people in place to evaluate it and make possible changes.There was no more engaged viewer last month than Earnie Stewart, U.S. Soccer’s sporting director. His position didn’t exist in 2017. Before Couva, the federation president was the driving force behind the hiring and firing of national team coaches, with a rubber stamp from the board of directors. Following World Cups, U.S. Soccer’s various departments would prepare reports and evaluations and share them with the rest of the federation. The national team’s coaches would critique the soccer performance. Conclusions or recommendations would emerge from that collective effort.Those days are gone. U.S. Soccer has overhauled its technical structure since Couva and has hired soccer people to make soccer decisions, for better or worse. Stewart, who reports to CEO Will Wilson, is supported by two full-time general managers: Brian McBride on the men’s side and Kate Markgraf on the women’s. All three are decorated former players, and Stewart earned administrative experience at NAC Breda, AZ Alkmaar and the Philadelphia Union before moving to Chicago in the summer of 2018. The soccer side of U.S. Soccer now is in their hands, and they’re the ones charged with crafting the evaluation and response to an outcome like the one in Guadalajara.There’s a routine in place. Stewart meets with the two GMs every week, and then with the two senior national team coaches, Gregg Berhalter and Vlatko Andonovski, every other week. In addition, Stewart heads the federation’s Internal Technical Board, which gathers twice a month to discuss big-picture topics. The ITB includes Stewart, the GMs, director of technical development Barry Pauwels and director of sport development Dan Russell. Pauwels, who is Belgian, joined the USSF as the director of coaching education in early 2018 and now oversees the federation’s big-picture technical plan and the implementation of principles of play across different age groups. Russell has been in Chicago since 2013 and is the administrative lead in charge of initiatives like coaching education, talent identification and referee development. https://7e486f2bd90cbedbba10f21b5f6e4c96.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html It’s that group, and not just the coaches, who are now responsible for camp and competition debriefs and soccer policy. Only Russell, who worked in coaching education back in 2017, was at the USSF before Couva. The ITB also occasionally reports into the Technical Development Committee, which is a subset of federation board members that keeps track of on-field developments. The board and federation president don’t make soccer decisions, but they can weigh in on a prospective hire (especially where salary is concerned) or dismiss Wilson, the CEO.What happened in Guadalajara wasn’t U.S. soccer’s first setback. But it is the first to be evaluated and addressed by a modern, in-house technical structure. Stewart, who departed Mexico after the first two group-stage games, decided on this occasion to let the situation breathe a bit before diving in. He elected to have a detailed debrief with U-23 coach Jason Kreis and Berhalter on April 8, more than a week after the defeat to Honduras. The conclusions from that call would then be brought to the ITB. “I don’t react to reactions. That doesn’t help me in my daily job, so I don’t do that for the most part. That’s a waste of time. But my first reaction is it’s disappointment,” Stewart said of the furor that followed the immediate aftermath of the loss. “In this case, first I made sure that everybody could have their moment for themselves. After that, we actually had the debrief and talked about those elements that could make it better for the future.“If I hear it correctly, the banter—and it goes back to three years ago and what happened [in Couva] and the, ‘What are they doing?’ and all that kind of stuff, I guess the expectations were still the same for this group—which is fine,” Stewart added. “That was the group that was there. That was the group that was available. And unfortunately, we didn’t perform up to par. And that’s what we spoke about on [April 8]. What are the things that we could’ve done? We looked at camps. We looked at programming. There were a couple opportunities—two players we could’ve brought in inside the FIFA window [at the end of the Olympic qualifying tournament]. Would that have been something we should’ve thought [more] about? But we made choices.”They made choices in terms of the coaches who were appointed (the U-23 gig isn’t full-time, and Kreis has now returned to his job at Inter Miami) and in terms of the roster. There was criticism of Kreis’s team when it was released. Concerns that it lacked sufficient heft at the attacking midfielder and striker positions arguably were supported by the results. But Stewart told Sports Illustrated that, considering the refusal of European clubs to release players for Olympic qualifying (he revealed that Barcelona wouldn’t let Konrad de la Fuente go, even though he’s not part of their first team)—heck, Atlanta United even prevented three players from going to Guadalajara—they were content with the roster they had.“They were rightfully there in that place and didn’t perform to the standard that there was. Even if we’d brought in [different players], they would’ve been in the same situation as well,” Stewart argued. “They’re also players that hadn’t played and hadn’t played games for a longer period of time. [Outsiders believe that] the players that are not there are always better than the players that are there and don’t qualify. … No, those players were the ones that were chosen to represent us and bring us to the Olympics and unfortunately it didn’t happen.” Having concluded that the individual players and manager weren’t the primary problem, insofar as they were the best available, Stewart and the USSF’s new technical setup are left to address the big-picture issues. After three Olympic misses in a row, the federation has to find a way to make those available players better. FIFA isn’t going to change its rules governing releases for youth competitions. Concacaf has offered no indication that it plans to move the tournament away from the early spring, and MLS certainly is in no mood to change to a winter schedule. Odds are that when the 2024 qualifying competition comes around, U.S. Soccer will be sending a squad of young MLS players just exiting their offseason. The challenge is to put them in position to overcome those obstacles. Those hurdles may be reasons. They may be excuses. But they’re probably not going away.One way to address the issue is to make the U-23 team a more constant fixture. That would include a full-time, permanent coach and additional camps and games. U.S. Soccer tried to do some of that during the most recent Olympic cycle and staged a half dozen U-23 camps throughout 2019. The pandemic put a stop to that early last year, however. Stewart said continuity and familiarity are crucial at every age level, and he hinted he’ll be asking the federation to expand the budget to handle even more U-23 initiatives going forward.“The programming that got put in place for U-23 was actually a step up from anything we had done in the past. Every FIFA window we would have the group together. That actually happened in the year leading up before COVID,” Stewart said.“If there’s one thing I’ve learned over all these years, no matter if you’re in a club environment or you’re in youth national teams, you need platforms for talents to play as much as possible at the highest level that there is. Adding that programming is good and if you add programming, that means you’ll have full-time coaches that are always there.”Kreis was named U-23 coach in March 2019, in time for the first U-23 camp of the cycle and just one year ahead of the originally scheduled Olympic qualifiers. Appointing one much earlier, and getting a prospective player pool up and running further in advance, sounds like something that might address some of the USA’s issues at the age group. But Stewart can’t just snap his fingers and make it happen, he said. There are budgets and competing priorities, and the board would have to decide that the U-23s and the Olympics, whose importance on the men’s side remains debatable, are worth the investment. At least there’s someone in Stewart’s position to advocate for change.“All coaches should be full-time,” Stewart said. “I would say that is something internally that we need to discuss with U.S. Soccer, because my wishes are not the only wishes that there are. We have a lot to do when it comes to soccer in the United States and what we do for membership, and then what we do for programming as well. And that all has to fit. I’m a huge proponent of having full-time coaches in every position and having as much programming as possible.”

All Stewart can do now is plan for the future and try to put the next generation of Olympic hopefuls in position to reverse a troubling trend. He knows U.S. Soccer likely will have to rely solely on MLS players, and he knows those players—barring an MLS overhaul—probably will be less match-fit than their counterparts come qualification. The only way to overcome that is through chemistry and quality, and that is now the federation’s mission. The group sent to Guadalajara simply wasn’t good enough to handle that obvious adversity. It’s also true that a few years ago, there’s no way a selection of players in their early 20s would’ve been good enough to beat Northern Ireland in Belfast, or to find their way to a bunch of Europe’s leading clubs. The U.S. player pool is improving. That hotel meeting room was evidence. U.S. Soccer and MLS just haven’t reached the point where they’re producing enough players to do both. Stewart and his colleagues must now see if they can accelerate that process while maintaining focus on their top priority, which is developing players for the senior team. It’s an opportunity and responsibility that hasn’t been available at U.S. Soccer before, and their solutions will be a valid test of the federation’s new technical structure.“The really good part is actually that we have a group of I’d say, 20 to 25 U-23 players that are performing at a really high level. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, they’re all in Europe and they would not be released,” he said. “I’d say the player pool from two years ago until today has gotten bigger, more players, younger players, so that part is positive. But it’s not that a player pool grows from whatever it was 2.5 to 3 years ago and now all of a sudden you have 50 or 60 that all have the same level. That’s not where we’re at.”Stewart continued, “I think we can make a huge huge step in the United States because we have a lot. We really have a lot. But at the same time, I think there’s extra steps that we can take and once we take those steps, I’m sure in 5 to 10 years from now, we can actually talk about it that way.”

4/16/21 MLS Kicksoff Tonight, Pulisic stars in UCL-FA Cup Sat vs Man City, USWNT ties and wins,


The MLS season kicks off its 26th season this weekend with 27 teams with the new Austin FC added the season will last thru Nov 7 with the postseason in Dec.  Games start on Fox, FS1 and ABC as more and more games will be on the main networks this summer.  Of course ESPN+ continues to be the home of MLS with most games that aren’t on regular TV being featured there.  Lots of predictions and season previews below.  I always like to wait until after the first weekend to make my picks – but I see LAFC, Portland and Seattle (4 of the past 5 finals) battling it out in the West – while I like Columbus, NE and Philly or perhaps Orlando in the east.  Last Season’s top 2 teams in the West Seattle and Min United will kick things off tonight on FS1 at 9:30 pm, right after Houston with former Indy 11 striker Tyler Pasher host San Jose on ESPN+.   Sat gives us Western Favorites LAFC facing expansion newcomer Austin FC at 6 pm FOX with their exciting new partial owner –  right on right on right on – Mathew McConaghey – you have to check out some of these interviews below. He will be good for MLS!   

Matthew McConaughey Shares How Soccer Became Such a Huge Part of His Life (Exclusive) Video
McConaughey, Austin prepare for ‘100-year war’ in MLS

Matthew McConaughey on role with MLS’ Austin FC: ‘Not interested in just being a mascot’

Local teams Cincy and Chicago Fire will both play at 8:30 pm on ESPN+ as Cincy travels to Nashville and Chicago hosts New England.  Finally Sunday we get defending MLS Champs Columbus Crew hosting a rebuilding Philly Union at 5:30 pm on FS1 right after Beckem’s Miami hosts the LA Galaxy in their new stadium at 3 pm on ABC.   Interesting that no real stars were brought in this off season.  Chicago replaced the entire team which is good – they have stunk for years but I am not sure there is anyone I would say – hey I am going to drive to Columbus, Cincy or Chicago to see play like in the past.  The overall quality and competitiveness may be better, but I am not sure how many real stars we have in the league this year.  Yeah I am missing Zlatan!   


A record 5 teams are advancing to the Final 8 of the CONCACAF Champions League Including Toronto FC who upset Mexican powerhouse Leon.  Toronto FC will next face Club Azul in Late April, while Toronto faces Mexican stalwart Club America. At least 1 MLS team is guaranteed into the Final 4 as Atlanta United and Philly will faceoff for a spot.  Could this finally be the year MLS wins the CCL?  Catch all the action starting Apr 27/28 on FS1 and FS2.   

US Women win 1, tie 1

The US women looked rather lackluster in their 2-0 win over France on Tuesday.  Unfortunately France did not start their best players as many had returned to Lyon for club play.  That left an un-experienced group not really reflecting the #3 ranked team in the world.  France will not be in the Olympics so perhaps a slow build for them.  Morgan started up front with Rapinoe on the left and Press on the right.  Hi-lights  Morgan was especially active up front and drew a PK before slotting her first goal of the game for the US 2nd  I am going to say that Morgan has reclaimed the #9 slot after her return from pregnancy.   The defense looked stronger with the return of Dahlkemper along with Sauerbrunn in the middle of defense.  The midfield was dominant with Mewis and Lavelle starting together for the first time.  When Horan came on and moved Lavelle to right wing – it was especially dominant.  Overall the US looked good – but this was a watered down France so hard to really gauge if we got better after Sweden overall.  I do have to say this – ESPN2 did a horrible job with the audio not matching the video for the entire daggum game.  The announcing crew was fine but the audio not matching up for 90 minutes in not excusable at any level but certainly not for the #1 Ranked US Ladies.  Come on ESPN!!  Also playing this game at 3 pm at the same time as Champions League PSG vs Bayern Munich was stupid.  1 pm, 5 pm any other time would have been fine – but even France’s starters elected to stay home and watch PSG on TV – bad planning US soccer as literally no one in the world tuned in. 

The US Ladies were fortunate to get the tie at Sweden on Sunday on Fox.  Sweden definitely took the game to the US and I would call this an equal game pretty much in possession and in shots, heck GK Naeher had to come up with 2 big saves.  The penalty call late was certainly questionable – as to OHara was in the box or not.  I think she was on the line which is in – but it could be argued either way – certainly a harsh call from Sweden’s perspective.  I thought the US was exposed on both flanks as Sweden came down the left side beating O’Hara many times.  I also thought the younger Davidson at centerback had some issues and was a weak point on the day.  Up front Williams was non-existent on the right as Christian Press looked much there when Rapinoe came in late.  Would still love to see Mewis and Lavell on the field at the same time like the World Cup.  Horan is playing fine but I think Mewis and Levell might be the best 2 in the world right now.  Again a 1-1 tie was fortunate for the US and this will hopefully serve as a good wake-up call for the US before the Olympics. 

Champions League

Wow – Champions League rarely disappoints – as another shocker with PSG and Neymar knocking holders Bayern Munich out 3-2 on Aggregate after a fine show at home with a 1-0 loss that PSG should have won like 3-1 if not for GK Nueur and the dang post 3 times.  Real Madrid completed the win over Liverpool blanking 2 year’s ago champs 0-0 at home in route to a 3-1 aggregate. Man City cheated and knocked off my Dortmund and of course the biggest story may be Pulisic’s Man of the Match play vs Porto.  It sets up an exciting Semi-Finals later this month with Chelsea vs Real Madrid and Man City vs PSG. 

Barca lose 2-1 to Real in El Classico

 I had a chance to take in the entire 2nd half of El Classico – and it was well Classic !  The hard fought 2-1 win by Real Madrid – continued to show the magic of Zidane as he once again pulled the right triggers despite missing great players in Ramos and Varane in the middle of defense.  Courtios made some great saves and Madrid survived the home game in soaking wet and 50 degree conditions. Sad to see American Serginio Dest go off after a ball bounced off him for an own goal on a free kick. This sets up a 3 way race with Atletico Madrid 1 pt up on Real and Barcelona just 2 pts off the lead with a game hosting Atletico on the final game of the season.  The title race is one with just 5 games to go. 

Games to Watch This Week

The FA Cup Semi-Finals are this weekend with Chelsea and Christian Pulisic facing Manchester City and American GK Zach Steffan on Saturday at 12:30 pm on ESPN+ – don’t ask me why this game is not moving to ABC, ESPN or some ESPN network station – Pulisic is coming off of back to back Man of the Match performances for Chelsea – has scored 3 goals in the last 3 games and was the best player on the field in their Champions League draw with Porto as he was fouled a record tying 11 times (tied with Messi).   Sunday Leicester City will face Southampton at 1:30 pm on ESPN+ all the games at Wembly of course.  I have given you the rundown on the MLS games on TV this weekend, be sure to tune in – the more we watch – the more games they will give us folks.  That Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota game should be especially exciting tonight at 9:30 on FS1.   Everton vs Tottenham today at 3 pm on NBCSN also as they battle for top 6 Europa spots. 

Saturday the Copa Del Rey finals pit Barcelona and American Serginio Dest vs Basque standout Athletic Club at 3:30 pm on ESPN+.   Sunday early morning has American Robinson and Fulham desperately fighting relegation vs Arsenal at 8:30 am on NBCSN followed closely by Serie A 3rd place Juventus and American midfielder McKinney traveling to 4th place Atalanta at 9 am on ESPN+.   Finally 9:30 on ESPN+ gives us a battle of American’s as Dortmund and Claudia Reyna host Werder Bremen and forward Josh Stewart.  All before the 3 pm MLS double header on ABC then FS1 .

Former Carmel FC GK playing for Depauw

It was fantastic to see former Carmel FC Goalkeeper Grey Collins playing his second season for DePauw University.  They faced off against the Indy 11 at home last week where he garnered his first start of the season. So proud of him and his progression at Depauw.  Grey was one of the first GK’s I started training with Carmel FC back when he was U12 and he played with the club all the way thru High School – always one of my favorites!  Good luck on the season Grey – we’ll be rooting for you!  


Fri, Apr 16

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Hoffenheim

3 pm Peacock                     Everton vs Tottenham

3 pm beIN Sport                 Lille (Weah)  vs Montpellier

8pm ESPN+                         Houston vs San Jose –MLS

9:30 pm FS1                       Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota  MLS Kickoff

10 pm paramount +          OL Reign vs Houston Dash   NWSL

Sat, Apr 17

7:30 am NBCSN                  Newcastle United vs West Ham

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Bayern Munich                        

12:30 pm ESPN+              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City –  FA Cup

3:30 pm ESPN+                  Copa Del Rey – Athletic Club vs Barcelona

6 pm FOX                            LAFC vs Austin

8:30 pm EPSN+                  Nashville vs Cincy

8:30 pm ESPN+                  Chicago Fire vs New England

Sun, Apr 18

7 am beIN sport                 PSG vs Saint Ettienne

8:30 am NBCSN                 Arsenal vs Fulham (Robinson)

11 am NBCSN                     Man United vs Burnley

9 am ESPN+                        Atalanta vs Juve (McKinney)

9:30am ESPN+                   Dortmund (Reyna) vs Werder Bremen (Stuart)

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Leicester City vs Southampton

3 pm ABC                            Miami vs LA Galaxy

5:30 pm FS1                       Columbus vs Philly

10 pm ESPN+                    Vancouver vs Portland

Tues, Apr 20

3 pm peacock             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brighton

6 pm Para +                        NY/NJ Gotham FC vs North Carolina Courage NWSL

8:30 pm Para +                  Red Stars vs KC NWSL

Weds, Apr 21

1 pm Peacock                     Tottenham vs Southampton

3 pm NBCSN                       Aston Villa vs Man City 

7 pm Para +                        Orlando Pride (Morgan) vs Washington Spirit NWSL

10 pm Para +                      Portland Thorns (Rapinoe) vs OL Reign NWSL

Thurs, Apr 21

3 pm NBCSN                       Leister City vs West Brom

Fri, Apr 23

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs Everton

4 pm bein Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Getafe

7:30 pm FS1                       Sporting KC vs Orlando City

10 pm FS 1                          Tijuana vs Necaxa

Sat, Apr 24

7:30 am Peacock                Liverpool vs Newcastle 

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

10 am NBCSN                     Liverpool vs Aston Villa

11 am beIN sport              Metz vs PSG

12:30 pm NBC Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United

1 pm ESPN+                        NYCFC vs Cincy  MLS

3:30 pm Univision, TUDN San Jose vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) MLS

3 pm beINSport                  Real Madrid vs Real Bettis

6 pm ESPN                  LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

7 pm ESPN+                        Louisville vs Atlanta United 2 USL

10:30 pm ESPN+                Portland Timbers vs Houston (Pasher) MLS

Sun, Apr 25

11:30 am Peacock             Tottenham vs Man United

2 pm Cock                           Sheffield vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ABC                      Forentina vs Atalanta  –   Italy

3 pm beINSport                  Real Bettis vs Athletico Madrid

MLS Schedule


Eastern Conference Winners Predictions 

Western Conference Winners Predictions 

MLS Cup Winners Predictions

MLS Western Conference Preview: LAFC, Minnesota Lead The Pack While Familiar Faces Follow

MLS Eastern Conference Preview: Crew & Revs Lead Pack Of Mass Rebuilds

MLS Power Rankings

Yahoo – Season Preview

Matthew McConaughey Shares How Soccer Became Such a Huge Part of His Life (Exclusive) Video
McConaughey, Austin prepare for ‘100-year war’ in MLS

Matthew McConaughey on role with MLS’ Austin FC: ‘Not interested in just being a mascot’

DC United hires Lucy Rushton, 2nd female GM in MLS history
D.C. United to make history by hiring Lucy Rushton as club’s new general manager

Sounders undergo overhaul after another run to MLS final

Columbus Crew and Austin fC will be forever tied – SI – Brian Straus
Cincy Season PreviewColumbus Season Preview

Chicago Fire Season Preview

20 young American players to watch in the 2021 MLS season

 Toronto Shocks Leon, Philly, Advances

MLS Puts 5 Teams in the Final 8 of CCL  


US Ladies

USWNT explore options, show versatility vs. Sweden, France as Olympic prep continues
 Julie Foudy

US Uneven in Performance vs Sweden
USWNT gets back in win column with strong win over No. 3 France

Rapinoe, Morgan score as USWNT beats France

U.S. coach: Alex Morgan regaining sharpness

Carli Lloyd Becomes Third USWNT Player to 300 Caps
USWNT Lawsuit Settled in Part Though Appeal Over Pay Still Looms

Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family

NWSL investigates Gorden racism allegation


CHAMPIONS + Europa League

 Pulisic Fouled record 18 times in Champs League game
Pulisic Watch: USMNT star fouled 11 times as Chelsea advances

Four things from the Champions League quarter-finals
Chelsea into Champions League semis for first time since 2014

Neuer blames first-leg loss for Bayern’s Champions League exit

Guardiola on Man City quadruple path: ‘It’s incredible what we’ve done’
Tuchel: Chelsea reaches UCL semis with ‘solidarity, discipline, courage’

PSG edge epic Champions League tussle with Bayern despite second-leg defeat

Three things we learned from Borussia Dortmund – Man City
Klopp on Liverpool’s Champions League exit: ‘We lost the tie in Madrid’

Hansi Flick mulling Bayern future as signs point toward Germany job

‘Happier than before,’ Neymar feels ‘at home at PSG’

3 Things We Learned – Liverpool vs Real Madrid

Barca Blame Ref on 2-1 loss to Real Madrid in El Classico

Neymar Was The Guy At The Bar Contemplating ‘Just One More Shot’ Against Bayern

Pulisic Matches Record That Messi Held For Last Decade; Chelsea Advances To Semis

US Men

Denver to host Nations League with U.S., Mexico  Jeff Carlisle  ESPNFC

Gold Cup final set at Raiders’ site in Las Vegas

Captain America –Pulisic is back – Goal.com

US new Sensational Forward D Dike interview on Men In Blazers

Pulisic, Dike, Mckennie, & De La Torre Star In Big Weekend For Yanks In Europe

Yanks Abroad: Pulisic, Dike & McKennie highlight an exciting weekend

Daryl Dike scores 8th goal in 14 league matches for Barnsley

Pulisic Watch: USMNT star fouled 11 times as Chelsea advances

Pulisic makes Chelsea Better

USMNT’s Robinson reveals pride in ‘Fulhamerica’ legacy

Barcelona open to offers for USMNT’s Konrad in summer – sources

Indy 11- season starts May 1






Return to the Mike

21 New Roster

Season Tix Available


Indy Eleven Adds Bloomington Native Jeremiah Gutjahr to Roster

Hundreds of Hopefuls Attend 2021 Open Tryout

Indy Eleven & WISH-TV Extend Broadcast Partnership through 2022 Season

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club Acquires Forward Cal Jennings via Transfer

LAFC over Columbus Crew for MLS Cup? Our 2021 predictions, MVP favorites, team-by-team talking points ESPN

The 26th season of Major League Soccer kicks off on Friday as Houston Dynamo host San Jose at BBVA Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) and after a wild season in 2020, it’s a clean slate and a reset in 2021 with a full schedule, another new team (welcome, Austin FC) and plenty of iconic players and teams with a lot to prove. And so, a little over four months since Columbus Crew SC thumped Seattle Sounders to win MLS Cup, we’re back and ready for a fun season.

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Who is your MVP?

Carlos Vela, LAFC — Injuries slowed Vela in 2020, but now he’s healthy again and looks primed to repeat his stellar form of 2019. That and LAFC looks set to be just as aggressive going forward this season as it has in the past. Vela figures to be the prime beneficiary of that. — Carlisle

Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota United — It’s easy to forget that “Bebelo” joined Minnesota as recently as September, because he produced two goals and 14 assists in his first 16 appearances for the club. That sort of production so early in a player’s transition to MLS is rare. He’ll be more prolific with former Boca Juniors teammate Ramon Abila now leading the Loons’ line. — Lindberg

Carlos Vela, LAFC — After a year in which his availability was limited for various reasons, the expectation is that Vela will return to something close to the form he showed in 2019, when he turned in the best individual season in league history. — Bonagura

Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew — This award is Vela’s to lose and Josef Martinez is primed for a feel-good return season, but Zelarayan has what it takes to build on the late form he found last season that led to him winning MLS Cup MVP. Like defending regular-season MVP Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto, Zelarayan will be key in creating lots of chances rather than scoring tons of goals. But is Zelarayan even the best player on the Crew roster?

Carlos Vela, LAFC — After a stop-start season due to opting out of the MLS is Back tournament and injuries, look for the Mexico playmaker to rekindle the form that saw him set the league ablaze in 2019 to the tune of 34 goals and 10 assists en route to the Golden Boot and the MVP award. — Elvin

Who are your Eastern Conference winners?

New England Revolution — Let’s face it, parity is rife in the Eastern Conference. Any one of a half-dozen teams could win. But I’m going with New England given how well the Revs played once Carles Gil returned to fitness. Manager Bruce Arena has shored up the team’s weaknesses, adding more bite in midfield with the arrival of Wilfrid Kaptoum. Arnor Ingvi Traustason has also been added for attacking depth. Health is an issue for any team, but at present, New England looks primed to make a run at the conference title. — Carlisle

Columbus Crew — Last year’s MLS Cup champs are the favorites to win the East, and will edge out New England, NYCFC and Toronto for that crown. With Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi ZardesJonathan Mensah and Darlington Nagbe returning, and the additions of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kevin Molino and Alexandru Matan, Caleb Porter’s side should be even better in 2021. — Elvin

Orlando City — The Lions should forget about Daryl Dike returning and will probably play without fullback Joao Moutinho for a long stretch. But if things go well for that attack — NaniMauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato stay healthy while Chris Mueller and Andres Perea continue to grow — this team can definitely claim the East. — Guerra

Columbus Crew — The Crew deserve top preseason billing after their march to MLS Cup, but there are strong cases to be made for the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, Atlanta United, New England Revolution and Orlando City. — Bonagura

Columbus Crew — Columbus was consistently among the best teams in the league throughout 2020, culminating in a well-deserved MLS Cup. Since, Caleb Porter has added sharp-shooting Bradley Wright-Phillips, wide threat Kevin Molino and hard man Perry Kitchen. There is quality and depth that rivals any club in the league. — Lindberg

Who are your Western Conference winners?

LAFC — LAFC was an MLS Cup contender when the curtain fell on 2020, but sporting director John Thorrington did plenty to address the team’s needs, acquiring defenders Marco Farfan and Kim Moon-Hwan. This was on top of adding center-back Jesus David Murillo late last season. There’s always a chance that the likes of Seattle, Portland, Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota could rise to the top, but with Vela and Diego Rossi still on board, LAFC is poised again to make a run at the championship. — Carlisle

Minnesota United — The Loons’ infamous three-year plan culminated with a playoff berth in 2019, and they were oh-so-close to appearing in MLS Cup last season. Now, with Emanuel Reynoso having a full season under his belt, and Ramon Abila taking up the No. 9 position that had previously been a revolving door of underwhelming forwards, Minnesota has positioned itself as one of the favorites for MLS Cup in 2021. — Lindberg

LAFC — An impressive run to the CONCACAF Champions League final with their full complement of players was instructive about the heights LAFC can hit. They’re the clear favorite in Western Conference, ahead of the usual cast of characters, including Portland, Seattle, Sporting KC and even FC Dallas. — Bonagura

Portland Timbers — Like Vela and the MVP race, this is probably LAFC’s to lose. Seattle, SKC and FC Dallas will make things fun the playoffs. However, the Timbers’ veteran laden-midfield — coupled a good striker rotation in Jeremy EbobisseFelipe Mora and (eventually) Jaroslaw Niezgoda — will emerge out West.

LAFC — With Seattle losing Jordan Morris to injury, and the Portland core a year older, look for LAFC to capitalize after an underwhelming 2020 league season. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Eduard Atuesta are as good a trio as any in MLS, and Bob Bradley and Co. also made a couple of nice offseason additions to address their issues at full-back. Brian Rodriguez’s future (on loan at Almeria) remains a question, as is the center-forward position, but LAFC will outgun Portland and SKC to win the West. — Elvin

Who are your MLS Cup champs?

LAFC over New England Revolution — For all of its regular-season brilliance during its first three years in MLS, getting to the MLS Cup final has eluded LAFC, but this is the year they should break through. New England, meanwhile will fall just short, making it 0-for-6 in the grand finale. — Carlisle

Minnesota United over Columbus Crew — The Loons stand to possess too many options for any opponent to successfully stop. There’s the playmaking of Emanuel Reynoso, the finishing of Ramon Abila and opposite winger Robin Lod, as well as rumored additions Franco Fragapane of Talleres and Adrien Hunou of Stade Rennes. And we haven’t even mentioned a midfield of Ozzie Alonso, Jan GregusHassani Dotson and Wil Trapp— Lindberg

LAFC over Columbus Crew — A theoretical Columbus-LAFC final would certainly deliver both in terms of star power and an entertainment perspective. LAFC, who broke records in 2019 when they were last at full strength, have unfinished business and with Carlo Vela and Diego Rossi in attack, they get over the hump and knock off the reigning champs in what would be a blockbuster final. — Elvin

LAFC over Columbus Crew — LAFC gets over the postseason bump, which will serve as an appropriate sendoff for Diego Rossi, who is overdue for a move to Europe. — Bonagura

Orlando City over Portland Timbers — A rematch of the MLS is Back tournament in 2020. Alexandre Pato and Nani play like its 2010, Joao Moutinho returns to form, Chris Mueller makes his case to stay in USMNT mix, and Orlando beat a Portland that will could face a roster reboot in 2022. — Guerra

MLS 2021 season preview: Key questions, who to watch and much more

Andy DeossaThu, April 15, 2021, 6:38 PM Major League Soccer’s 26th season is about to kick off, with the opening match between the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes on Friday evening. The Columbus Crew are the defending champions, and everyone will be eager to take the trophy off them. It figures to be a deep field of challengers, too, with at least half the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals comprised of MLS clubs.What can we expect in 2021?

Key MLS 2021 season storylines

Can the Crew repeat?

MLS hasn’t seen back-to-back champs since the 2011-12 Galaxy. But if you look at the additions Columbus made this offseason in adding skilled winger Kevin Molino and ageless goal machine Bradley Wright-Phillips, there’s no reason to believe the Crew can’t do it. Oh, and don’t forget about MLS Cup MVP Lucas Zelarayán. This team is stacked and has a shiny new stadium to prove it in.

Who are your Eastern Conference winners?

New England Revolution — Let’s face it, parity is rife in the Eastern Conference. Any one of a half-dozen teams could win. But I’m going with New England given how well the Revs played once Carles Gil returned to fitness. Manager Bruce Arena has shored up the team’s weaknesses, adding more bite in midfield with the arrival of Wilfrid Kaptoum. Arnor Ingvi Traustason has also been added for attacking depth. Health is an issue for any team, but at present, New England looks primed to make a run at the conference title. — Carlisle

Columbus Crew — Last year’s MLS Cup champs are the favorites to win the East, and will edge out New England, NYCFC and Toronto for that crown. With Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi ZardesJonathan Mensah and Darlington Nagbe returning, and the additions of Bradley Wright-Phillips, Kevin Molino and Alexandru Matan, Caleb Porter’s side should be even better in 2021. — Elvin

Orlando City — The Lions should forget about Daryl Dike returning and will probably play without fullback Joao Moutinho for a long stretch. But if things go well for that attack — NaniMauricio Pereyra, and Alexandre Pato stay healthy while Chris Mueller and Andres Perea continue to grow — this team can definitely claim the East. — Guerra

Columbus Crew — The Crew deserve top preseason billing after their march to MLS Cup, but there are strong cases to be made for the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, Atlanta United, New England Revolution and Orlando City. — Bonagura

Columbus Crew — Columbus was consistently among the best teams in the league throughout 2020, culminating in a well-deserved MLS Cup. Since, Caleb Porter has added sharp-shooting Bradley Wright-Phillips, wide threat Kevin Molino and hard man Perry Kitchen. There is quality and depth that rivals any club in the league. — Lindberg

Who are your Western Conference winners?

LAFC — LAFC was an MLS Cup contender when the curtain fell on 2020, but sporting director John Thorrington did plenty to address the team’s needs, acquiring defenders Marco Farfan and Kim Moon-Hwan. This was on top of adding center-back Jesus David Murillo late last season. There’s always a chance that the likes of Seattle, Portland, Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota could rise to the top, but with Vela and Diego Rossi still on board, LAFC is poised again to make a run at the championship. — Carlisle

Minnesota United — The Loons’ infamous three-year plan culminated with a playoff berth in 2019, and they were oh-so-close to appearing in MLS Cup last season. Now, with Emanuel Reynoso having a full season under his belt, and Ramon Abila taking up the No. 9 position that had previously been a revolving door of underwhelming forwards, Minnesota has positioned itself as one of the favorites for MLS Cup in 2021. — Lindberg

LAFC — An impressive run to the CONCACAF Champions League final with their full complement of players was instructive about the heights LAFC can hit. They’re the clear favorite in Western Conference, ahead of the usual cast of characters, including Portland, Seattle, Sporting KC and even FC Dallas. — Bonagura

Portland Timbers — Like Vela and the MVP race, this is probably LAFC’s to lose. Seattle, SKC and FC Dallas will make things fun the playoffs. However, the Timbers’ veteran laden-midfield — coupled a good striker rotation in Jeremy EbobisseFelipe Mora and (eventually) Jaroslaw Niezgoda — will emerge out West.

LAFC — With Seattle losing Jordan Morris to injury, and the Portland core a year older, look for LAFC to capitalize after an underwhelming 2020 league season. Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Eduard Atuesta are as good a trio as any in MLS, and Bob Bradley and Co. also made a couple of nice offseason additions to address their issues at full-back. Brian Rodriguez’s future (on loan at Almeria) remains a question, as is the center-forward position, but LAFC will outgun Portland and SKC to win the West. — Elvin

Who are your MLS Cup champs?

LAFC over New England Revolution — For all of its regular-season brilliance during its first three years in MLS, getting to the MLS Cup final has eluded LAFC, but this is the year they should break through. New England, meanwhile will fall just short, making it 0-for-6 in the grand finale. — Carlisle

Minnesota United over Columbus Crew — The Loons stand to possess too many options for any opponent to successfully stop. There’s the playmaking of Emanuel Reynoso, the finishing of Ramon Abila and opposite winger Robin Lod, as well as rumored additions Franco Fragapane of Talleres and Adrien Hunou of Stade Rennes. And we haven’t even mentioned a midfield of Ozzie Alonso, Jan GregusHassani Dotson and Wil Trapp— Lindberg

LAFC over Columbus Crew — A theoretical Columbus-LAFC final would certainly deliver both in terms of star power and an entertainment perspective. LAFC, who broke records in 2019 when they were last at full strength, have unfinished business and with Carlo Vela and Diego Rossi in attack, they get over the hump and knock off the reigning champs in what would be a blockbuster final. — Elvin

LAFC over Columbus Crew — LAFC gets over the postseason bump, which will serve as an appropriate sendoff for Diego Rossi, who is overdue for a move to Europe. — Bonagura

Orlando City over Portland Timbers — A rematch of the MLS is Back tournament in 2020. Alexandre Pato and Nani play like its 2010, Joao Moutinho returns to form, Chris Mueller makes his case to stay in USMNT mix, and Orlando beat a Portland that will could face a roster reboot in 2022. — Guerra


USWNT explore options, show versatility vs. Sweden, France as Olympic prep continues

Apr 14, 2021   Julie Foudy   Contributor, espnW.com

  • EmailAs we inch closer to the summer Olympics — dare I say, even in a whisper, that I feel confident the Games will indeed happen — I will, of course, spend a lot of time dissecting the U.S. women’s national team. Given that the roster size for the Olympics is only 18 players, my completely unscientific dissection will only intensify as we get closer to June.But I digress. Let’s go back and review the two most recent games the USWNT played in Europe: their 1-1 draw vs. Sweden in Stockholm on Saturday and their 2-0 win over France in Le Havre, France, on Tuesday.

Vlatko Andonovski, USWNT head coach, came into this two-game European swing knowing it would be the toughest test his side would face leading into the Olympics, and the U.S. came to Europe with a 15-0 win/loss record under Andonovski, the most wins by any U.S. coach to start their tenure. Until Sweden, of course. (Why does it always have to be Sweden?)Sweden had different plans for this U.S. team. Only by the grace of god (aka there was no VAR being used), the U.S. women were gifted a penalty in the late stages to salvage a draw. Instead of what should have been a free kick outside the penalty area, Megan Rapinoe instead placed the ball on the penalty spot … and we all know how that show ends.All in all, Sweden played a tremendous game. Clean, tactically solid and defensively excellent, they matched the U.S. stride for stride for most of the 90 minutes. If Kosovare Asllani & Co. had been a little more clinical in front of goal, they could have secured the win. The U.S. did outshoot Sweden 20 to 9 but just never found their rhythm. They were not as technically clean as we’ve seen them in the past, especially in the final attacking third.The good news for the U.S. (beyond equalizing, of course) is that this back-and-forth game was a wonderful (and always needed) reminder of the work that still needs to be done. Those reminders, especially when relatively bruise-free, are gifts in life.The other good news? This was the first of two games, which gave the U.S. a chance to address some of the shortcomings against France. As Andonovski pointed out after Saturday’s tie: “It is not good enough, not good enough to win the Olympics. This is a good thing for us. I don’t wake up wishing we don’t do well, but still you are exposed to something we hadn’t seen before. We will address it going forward.”

Well, address it they did. In typical U.S. fashion, the players extracted the lesson from the Sweden game and brought a renewed energy and focus to the clash with France. (One thing to remember: This was essentially France’s B-team.) They were missing six of their Lyon stars due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the club, meaning key players such as Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, Amel Majri, Sakina Karchaoui and Delphine Cascarino were unavailable. Yes, that hurts. They also did not start Sandy Baltimore or Kadidiatou Diani, two standouts from their win vs. England days earlier.

Baltimore came on in the second half, though Diani never saw time on the field. Also, PSG star and leading scorer in Ligue 1 Marie-Antoinette Katoto played only the first half. In fact, only two French starters remained from that classic quarterfinal clash in Paris at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Contrast that with 10 of the starting 11 for the U.S. The only starter missing for the U.S. from that game was Tobin Heath, still out with an injury. France fielded a young and talented side, yes, but not nearly the French team we are accustomed to seeing.The U.S. got off to a great early start (exactly what they didn’t do against Sweden) and were swiftly up 2-0 thanks to Alex Morgan. Morgan drew a PK in only the fifth minute, which Rapinoe of course calmly converted, and then Morgan herself finished a beautifully slipped-in ball from Christen Press in the 19th minute. From there, the U.S. never looked back.France sat in a low block most of the game, showing so little urgency in the second half that it looked as if the U.S. were the team down two goals. In full command, the U.S. even had a chance to try something they have never done before: bring in all four midfield stars together. Yes, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle finally got to share the field, and full disclosure: I loved it. Lavelle played up high on the right side and was very active coming inside. I’ve wondered of late whether the four could play in a diamond, or whether Horan could play as a false 9. There are lots of options, and the promising point is that it gives the U.S. another layer of versatility.

For some final good news, folks, we officially have a field of 12 teams that have qualified for the Olympics. The 12 teams, in alphabetical order, are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the USA and Zambia.Say it in a whisper… I can see the light.

USA defeats lackluster France 2-0

USA tightened up after a rough game against Sweden, but also faced a weaker opponent.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Apr 13, 2021, 2:34pm PDT

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe

The United States got an early momentum swing in this game as they picked up a penalty call in the 4’ for a takedown on Alex Morgan. But despite Megan Rapinoe calmly burying the ball to make it 1-0 early on, by no means did the US completely dominate the field, even with an understrength French roster facing them. They also had a lower line of confrontation at times, dropping off and picking their fights in the midfield. Andonovski could be heard at times asking them to step harder to try and expose a leaky back line.And indeed, Alex Morgan looked like she’d picked up a step since previous outings, playing the target forward at times, getting behind the defenders easily (though sometimes while offside). Morgan got the second goal for her efforts in the 19’. Christen Press dropped her a lovely through ball and Morgan simply slipped both her defenders to run on and finish.France had their own chance in response in the 22’, forcing a diving fingertip save from Alyssa Naeher. They weren’t making a lot of big shots on target, but they were able at times to give as good as they got against Crystal Dunn and force errors from her. Dunn also had some unforced errors with her passing, but she also had an incredible recovery and drive at goal in the 35’ with a hard shot on target to force the save. Then another chance from wide, this time from Kelley O’Hara on the right, making the cross for Rapinoe, who darted in from behind the defender. Her touch wasn’t quite enough to make it past the goalkeeeper.The game felt more erratic as the first half wound down, with not a ton of urgency from the Americans, who seemed content to run it out at 2-0.France tried to change it up in the second half, bringing in Sandy Baltimore as a sub, and for a while that channel on the pitch was pretty lively. The French also tried pulling the game wide right as well while looking for the switch to an open Baltimore to set her up for a cross or shot, but that wasn’t fruitful.The US tried working into the box playing off each other through the halfspaces on both sides of the field, with Rapinoe, Mewis, and Lavelle are playing each other in and making runs, but these plays often didn’t result in a shot on target.In the 63’ Rapinoe subbed off for Lindsey Horan, which, very interestingly, pushed Lavelle closer to a right forward position. Press went to left forward. Lavelle helped counteract Baltimore on the right side a bit, giving them more options to carry the ball out of pressure there. Horan at times drifted so high as to look like she was in a two-front with Morgan, trying to get numbers up and pressure the French CBs together.The US made two more subs in the 75’, with Carli Lloyd replacing Morgan in a like-for-like, and and Sophia Smith replacing Press at LF as well. Smith looked a little bit tentative out there at times, particularly when teeing up in front of goal. She was a target for Horan, who was extremely active in that left channel, forcing the ball to the touchline and looking up at who was int he box.There was a nervy moment in the 80’ when a Baltimore cross in front of goal missed Naeher and Dunn’s attempt to clear almost looked like it might have created an own goal, but she managed to get the ball away. After that, the last 10 minutes plus stoppage were a holding pattern, the US not pushing too hard, and France seemingly sitting back and waiting for their fate to arrive. The game ended at 2-0.As much as fans might have been looking for some kind of response to the US having to chase Sweden for so much of their previous game, this wasn’t the most emphatic response. Part of it might have been the opponent, a rotated French team with lots of off-the-bench players. The most interesting thing to happen was honestly the use of so many midfielders, not pulling Lavelle when Horan came on. With Vlatko Andonovski often committed to the 4-3-3, it’s been quite a conundrum having such an incredible midfield and only having three of them on at a time.After the game, Andonovski said this was something he was trying as a way to create overloads in the middle, particularly with Lavelle’s ability to come inside, giving them a 4-on-3 advantage. And it worked at times, as the US was able to clog up a lot of the midfield and limit France’s ability to look forward, while also giving Lavelle yet another area of the field in which to create trouble. Of course, any tinkering with the system needs time to gel, and so we’ll see if this experiment continues in the next round of pre-Olympic friendlies.

⚽NWSL: Chicago Red Stars owner/ESPN host Sarah Spain and NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue were fined yesterday for their tweets in support of Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden, who, along with her boyfriend, was racially profiled after last week’s season opener.

  • Why the fine? The league had issued a memo asking front office members not to comment on the investigation of the situation. Hmm…time to walk that talk, NWSL.

Denver to host Nations League with U.S., Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica

12:31 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle  U.S. soccer correspondent

The United States men’s national team will play on June 3 against Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals in the altitude of Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High, the confederation announced on Thursday.

The semifinals, featuring the USMNT vs. Honduras and Mexico vs. Costa Rica, will be held on June 3. The final and third place matches will take place three days later. The semifinal matchups were determined by the outcome of group stage play in the fall of 2019, with the four League A winners advancing. All four matches are scheduled to take place during the first June FIFA match window.The semifinals were originally scheduled for June 4 last year in Houston and the final on June 7 last year in Arlington, Texas, but were rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The CONCACAF Nations League includes all 41 of our member associations, making it a true celebration of our football, our region and our unity as One CONCACAF,” said CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani. “The 2019 group stage was a huge success in delivering more competitive football for all men’s national teams across CONCACAF. Now we can look forward to a great final four in the outstanding facility that is Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High, and to crowning a first ever CONCACAF Nations League champion.”The CNL Finals will serve to crown the first-ever champion of a competition created to provide more competitive matches for all 41 CONCACAF member associations, and maximize the official match dates available within the FIFA international calendar.

U.S. Men’s Soccer Key Dates

Friendly vs. SwitzerlandMay 30
Nations LeagueJune 3-6
Friendly vs. TBDJune 9
Gold CupJuly 2-Aug. 1
World Cup qualifyingSept.-March ’22
2022 World CupNov. 21-Dec. 18 ’22

The USMNT’s top players will likely take part in the tournament. USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter had said previously that his Europe-based players — such as Chelsea‘s Christian PulisicJuventus‘ Weston McKennie, and Barcelona‘s Sergino Dest — would be given time off following the Nations League event and ahead of World Cup qualifying, which is set to begin in September.

The U.S. will also participate in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, with that final set for Aug. 1 in Las Vegas.CONCACAF added that it will provide information regarding any local and federal COVID-19 protocols which will need to be observed by attending fans.

Denver and Empower Field at Mile High have hosted soccer events in the past, including matches at three CONCACAF Gold Cups in 2013, 2017 and 2019.The U.S. Under-23 men lost to Honduras, 2-1, in the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying semifinal last month.

Premier League run-in: What’s the latest in the top-four battle?

The Premier League run-in is here and the business end of the season will provide plenty of drama, as always, as the countdown to the final day on May 23 is on.So, what is left to play for? Who needs what? Which teams will be scrapping away in the final seven games of the season?

Our weekly series, the run-in, keeps you fully up to date on all of the different battles going on up and down the Premier League.Below we focus on the all-important race for the top four and UEFA Champions League qualification, which is more interesting that it has been for the last decade, and perhaps longer.

This will be epic.

Premier League top-four battle: The run-in analysis

Let’s assume that runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City and second-place Manchester United (nine points above fifth place) will finish in the top four, and that leaves two Champions League spots up for grabs. Six into two does not go.

So, who else is in the mix?

There are just eight points between Leicester City in third and Everton in 8th, and the latter also have a game in-hand so that gap could close further.

Right now, upstarts Leicester and West Ham are in the driving seat but Chelsea and Liverpool are now lurking just outside the top four and Jurgen Klopp’s men have a much easier schedule, on paper, than the other top four contenders.

Leicester City
Current position: 3rd
Games played: 31
Current points: 56
Goal difference: +18
Remaining schedule: West Brom (H), Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A), Newcastle (H), Manchester United (A), Chelsea (A), Tottenham (H)

West Ham United
Current position: 4th
Games played: 31
Current points: 55
Goal difference: +12
Remaining schedule: Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H), Burnley (A), Everton (H), Brighton (A), West Brom (A), Southampton (H)

Current position: 5th
Games played: 31
Current points: 54
Goal difference: +19
Remaining schedule: Brighton (H), West Ham (A), Fulham (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H), Leicester (H), Aston Villa (A)

Current position: 6th
Games played: 31
Current points: 52
Goal difference: +16
Remaining schedule: Leeds (A), Newcastle (H), Man United (A), Southampton (H), West Brom (A), Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H)

Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 7th
Games played: 31
Current points: 49
Goal difference: +17
Remaining schedule: Everton (A), Southampton (H), Sheffield United (H), Leeds (A), Wolves (H), Aston Villa (H), Leicester (A)

Current position: 8th
Games played: 30
Current points: 48
Goal difference: +3
Remaining schedule: Tottenham (H), Arsenal (A), Aston Villa (H), West Ham (A), Sheffield United (H), Wolves (H), Man City (A)


By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/09/21, 2:00PM EDT

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20 Local Broadcasts Include Six on WISH-TV, 14 on MyINDY-TV 23; June 15 Home Match vs. Pittsburgh to Air Nationally on ESPN Deportes, with Remaining 31 Contests Available via ESPN+

INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven today finalized its 2021 broadcast calendar, which will feature six matches on WISH-TV, 14 games on MyINDY-TV 23 (WNDY), and one nationally-televised broadcast as part of the USL Championship’s 19-game slate on ESPN linear networks.  The club’s home tilt with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium on Tuesday, June 15, is one of nine Championship fixtures that will air nationwide on ESPN Deportes in 2021. Indy Eleven’s remaining 31 regular season contests – and over 700 additional Championship and USL League One matches in 2021 – will be available via live streaming video on ESPN+.

“We are thrilled to have ESPN return to Indianapolis to feature the best atmosphere in the USL Championship this June,” said Indy Eleven President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Stremlaw. “We’re proud that, once again, between WISH-TV, MyINDY-TV 23, and the ESPN family our fans will be able to follow every single minute of Indy Eleven action in 2021.”

Fans can sign up to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month (or $59.99 per year) at ESPN.comESPNplus.com or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). The Disney Bundle also provides access to ESPN+ in addition to the popular Disney+ and Hulu streaming services.

The Championship season will culminate on Sunday, November 28, with the 2021 USL Championship, set to be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2. The contest between the Eastern and Western Conference Title-winners will also air on ESPN Deportes, with kickoff scheduled at 8:30 p.m. ET.

“This is the biggest and brightest platform we’ve ever had for our league,” said USL Executive Vice President Court Jeske. “We are thrilled at the wide selection of games, clubs and landmark moments that will appear on national television this season. It’s a special thing for our league to be able to showcase our clubs and cities across the USL Championship and League One on ESPN’s networks in addition to streaming an incredible schedule on ESPN+.”

As announced last month, WISH-TV and MyINDY-TV 23 – Indy Eleven’s founding Official Broadcast Partners – will deliver the action to local fans for an eighth straight season. The stations will combine to carry all 16 regular season home contests at “The Mike”, including six that will air on WISH-TV, starting with a June 5 meeting with Memphis 901 FC and concluding September 18 with the last of this year’s four matchups against archrival Louisville City FC.

MyINDY-TV 23 will air the remaining 10 home games plus all four away affairs on the local broadcast slate, including a June 26 clash against Louisville at Lynn Family Stadium and the squad’s regular season finale on October 30 at Memphis.

In addition to the two-hour game window, every local broadcast will be followed by the Honda Post-game Show, a wrap up of the evening’s action featuring extensive highlights and interviews with personalities from Indiana’s Team.

Visit indyeleven.com/2021-schedule for the most up-to-date schedule and broadcast information surrounding Indy Eleven’s 2021 season.


Saturday, May 8 vs. FC Tulsa | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, May 22 vs. Sporting Kansas City II | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Wednesday, June 2 vs. OKC Energy FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, June 5 vs. Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Tuesday, June 15 vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC | 8:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23 / ESPN Deportes

Saturday, June 26 at Louisville City FC | 7:30 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, July 3 vs. Birmingham Legion FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, July 17 vs. Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, July 24 vs. Birmingham Legion FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Wednesday, August 4 at FC Tulsa | 8:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, August 14 vs. OKC Energy FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, August 28 vs. Real Monarchs SLC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, Sept. 4 vs. Atlanta United 2 | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Saturday, Sept. 11 vs. Sporting Kansas City II | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, Sept. 18 vs. Louisville City FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | WISH-TV

Sunday, Sept. 26 at OKC Energy FC | 6:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 2 vs. Atlanta United 2 | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 16 vs. Louisville City FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 23 vs. FC Tulsa | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23

Saturday, October 30 at Memphis 901 FC | 7:00 p.m. ET | MyINDY-TV 23


By Indy Eleven Communications, 04/10/21, 6:15PM EDT  Canadian Striker Jordan Hamilton Renews Acquaintances with MLS Side by Bagging Brace for Indiana’s Team in 65-minute Exhibition

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Indy Eleven used a pair of goals by forward Jordan Hamilton and a number of key saves from goalkeeper Jordan Farr to post a 2-0 win over MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The 65-minute affair was contested at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill.

The neutral site affair was a game with familiar faces to both fan bases. Indy Elven Head Coach Martin Rennie was the sideline boss of the British Columbian club throughout 2011-2013, when the first Canadian team in MLS history reached the Playoffs while also winning a Cascadia Cup. The stay of new Eleven midfielder Gershon Koffie in Vancouver was twice as long, the Ghanian’s tenure starting in 2012 with two seasons under Rennie’s watch and lasting into the 2016 campaign.On the opposite bench, longtime NASL and USL Championship coach Marc Dos Santos brought goalkeeper Evan Newton into the MLS ranks via transfer in late January, this after seeing up close what the number one between the posts for Indiana’s Team the last two seasons could do en route to becoming the Championship’s career leader in shutouts and saves.In the 4th minute, it was a beautiful turn by Hamilton that turned the scoreboard first.  Midfielder Nick Moon began the play with a shoulder tackle before playing a nifty 1-2 with the newest member of the Eleven, Cammy Smith, just right of the area. Moon’s first-time cross was accepted by Hamilton as he spun centrally, freeing a half-yard of space. The Scarborough, Ontario-native left nothing to chance from just eight yards out, firing hard to beat Newton and put Indy up in the early going.The Eleven continued to push the pace, the ninth minute seeing Smith put a low shot on frame that took a fortunate deflection right into the arms of Newton. Two minutes later the ex-Eleven ‘keeper was at it again, making a big stop on Koffie, who found a recycled corner from Ayoze land at his feet in the heart of the penalty area.The tide of the match turned in Vancouver’s favor for the next ten minutes, Farr making a routine save in the 12th minute and a much larger one a minute later, when he went low and looked big to stop Theo Bair’s close-range effort. The resulting corner provided more danger for Whitecaps FC, but defender Gianfranco Facchineri headed over from 10 yards.The 17th minute saw Farr make back-to-back saves, the first on a nice diving effort to his left to parry diagonally and away from dangerous traffic. The next minute saw him cut down a chance on the left endline, the Oregonian sliding in sternly – but fairly – to tackle away.Indy took back the wheel with two big chances down the right flank around the 23rd minute, both involving Moon. The first again saw Newton forced into a save, this time by the Scotsman Smith, whose shot marked the final big chance of the first 30 minutes. The Eleven earned the first chance of the second half with a jailbreak out of tight space that turned a Vancouver set piece chance into a 2-v-2 counter with Smith on the ball. His chip for Hamilton’s central run was just a hair heavy and gathered by Newton.

However, Hamilton’s second was inevitable, and he bagged his brace in the 40th on a play that began with Moon fighting hard to earn a throw-in on the right sideline. His snappy restart caught Vancouver off guard, allowing midfielder Aboubacar Sissoko to clip a short ball for his fellow Canadian to finish inside the right post from about 15 yards.Vancouver nearly got one back in the 43rd minute as Damiano Pecile put Kamron Habibullah into the left channel on a counter, but after looking to the far post he drug his near effort just outside the woodwork. On the 50th minute Smith got Moon involved again on the right side, but his cross to the six for Indy’s trialist forward was nodded out for a corner on a pivotal intervention by a Vancouver defender.The final quarter-hour until was relatively quiet until the game’s final attack in the 65th minute, when Sissoko’s chip unlocked a trio of defenders for Smith, whose shot from 25 yards whistled just high.Only three weeks remain in the Indy Eleven preseason, which winds down with exhibitions the next two Saturdays against Forward Madison FC of USL League One and fellow Championship side Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.Those friendlies will help Indy Eleven build towards the club’s 2021 USL Championship opener at Birmingham Legion FC on May 1, followed a week later on Saturday, May 8, by its home opener against FC Tulsa. Currently, the only way to save a spot for the team’s return to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium is by becoming an Indy Eleven Season Ticket Member. Learn more out packages starting at only $170 for 17 games and secure one of the limited memberships remaining by calling 317-685-1100 or visiting the Tickets section of indyeleven.com.

2021 Spring Preseason Exhibition (65 minutes)

Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Vancouver Whitecaps FC (MLS)

Saturday, April 10, 2021 – 3:00 p.m. ET

SeatGeek Stadium – Bridgeview, Ill.

Scoring Summary:

IND – Jordan Hamilton (Nick Moon) 4’

IND – Jordan Hamilton (Aboubacar Sissoko) 40’

Disciplinary Summary:

VAN – Gianfranco Facchineri (yellow card) 60’

Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Jordan Farr; Neveal Hackshaw, Nedeljko Malic; Karl Ouimette; Ayoze, Gershon Koffie, Aboubacar Sissoko, Cammy Smith; Guest Player, Jordan Hamilton, Nick Moon

Vancouver Whitecaps FC lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R): Evan Newton; Keishean Francois, Javain Brown, Cristian Campagna, Gianfranco Facchineri; Patrick Metcalfe, Michael Baldisimo; Kamron Habibullah, Damiano Pecile, Amir Batyrev; Theo Bair

2021 Preseason Calendar

March 23 – Indy Eleven  3 : 1  Detroit City FC (NISA)

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

March 27 – Indy Eleven  5 : 0  Bridges FC

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

March 30 – Indy Eleven  6 : 0  DePauw University (NCAA)

Grand Park  | Westfield, Ind.

April 10 – Indy Eleven  2 : 0  Vancouver Whitecaps FC (MLS)

SeatGeek Stadium  |  Bridgeview, Ill.

April 17 – Indy Eleven vs. Forward Madison (USL League One)

April 24 – Indy Eleven vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL Championship)

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

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

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

 Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

4/9/21 USWNT vs Sweden Sat 1 pm Fox, Tues 1 pm France, El Classico Sat, NWSL Starts Tonight, MLS next Fri, UCL Tues/Wed

 US Women to Face Sweden Sat 1 pm on Fox and France Tues 3 pm ESPN2

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.  The US plays Sweden on Sat at 1 pm on Fox as they look to avenge their last Olympic loss in 2016 before heading to France for a 3 pm game on ESPN2.  US Sweden Preview



Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)


Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)


Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario –OUT HURT (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)


Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured

NWSL Kicks Off

The US Women’s Soccer League kicks off its season tonight with a rematch of the Championship as the defending Champs Houston Dash will host the Chicago Red Stars at 8:30 pm on CBS Sports Network and Paramount plus (formerly CBS+), Sat night we get to see Racing Louisville host their first game vs the Orlando Pride at 7 pm on Paramount+ .  All the NWSL games will be featured on Paramount plus ($6/month) with occasional games on CBS Sports Network and CBS.  .  The Season will kick-off again with 21 game Challenge Cup this time at home stadiums around the country.  Interesting that the season is starting during an international break so all of the US Women and many world stars are playing for their countries this weekend.   The Challenge Cup will continue thru May 8 with a Cup Champ Game on CBS on Saturday May 8th.  The regular season will then get underway the following weekend and continue thru the summer.  (Check out season previews in the ole Ballcoach)

Champions League

The final 8 got underway last week and it was thrilling.  Real Madrid found their scoring on the way to a 3-1 lead on struggling Liverpool going back to Anfield Wed at 3 pm on Paramount+.  Another upset had PSG taking a 3-2 lead over Bayern Munich at home as GK Kaylor Navas was spectacular with 11+ saves.   They wrap up Tues at 3 pm.  Of course Wed Pulisic and Chelsea will face Porto with a 2-0 lead in hand.  Pulisic played well off the bench in the 70th minute and should have scored a goal on a shot that hit the post.  I have been frustrated with CBS – as they showed no Champions League coverage on Tues/Wed but then showed the pregame/Goalazo show and postgame for Europa League on Thursday on CBSSN with the individual games on Paramount plus.  Champions League is a far bigger deal why not at least show the pre and post game shows on CBS Sports Network if not 1 of the 2 games on at 3 pm each time?  That and how in the world are both games of the top 8 teams in the world playing simultaneously?  Crazy!  Anyway I assume the 2nd leg of the Europa League will be Goalazo format again on Thursday with 3 EPL teams still alive – enjoy. 


The MLS season kicks off next weekend with games on Fox and ABC as more and more games will be on the main networks this summer.  Of course ESPN+ continues to be the home of MLS with most games that aren’t on regular TV being featured there.  Last Season’s top 2 teams in the West Seattle and Min United will kick things off next Friday night on FS1 at 9:30 pm.  Of course before then – 4 MLS teams have gotten off to their best ever Concacaf Champions League start with wins or ties on the road in the first leg.  I have to admitI tuned in and the play was good especially for Columbus 4-0 winners.  Play continues this Tues/Wed night on FS1 at 6 and 8 pm.   4 TakeAways for CCL this Week

Games to Watch This Week

Besides the US Ladies Sat + Tues 3 pm games, the NWSL kickoff tonight at 7 pm on CBSSN and the Champions League and MLS CCL games Tues and Wed we have plenty of good games to watch this weekend.  American’s Josh Stewart of Werder Bremen and Adams of RB Leipzig will play at 9:30 am Sat on ESPN+ as RB Leipzig looks to hang on to 2nd place in the German league.  Of course EL CLASSICO is Saturday at 3 pm on beIN Sport as Real Madrid and Barcelona battle to take over 1st place in La Liga.  Plenty of stories lines on if this is possibly Messi or Ramos last Classico games against each other below (in the ole ballcoach).  Sat at 10 am Liverpool will host Aston villa while at 12:30 pm on NBC Chelsea will face Crystal Palace with US Christian Pulisic probably coming off the bench late.  Sunday we get Tottenham vs Man United unfortunately on Peacock at 11:30 am and a first ever on ABC a Serie A Italian league game Fiorentina vs 4th place Atalanta.  


Fri, Apr 9

3 pm Peacock                       Fulham (robinson) vs Wolverhampton 

8:30 pm CBSSN                     Houston Dash vs Chicago Red Stars  NWSL

10:30 pm paramount +       Portland Thorns vs KC   NWSL

Sat, Apr 10

7:30 am Peacock                 Man City vs Leeds

9:30 am ESPN+                    Werder Bremen (Stewart) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)  

10 am NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 pm ESPN+                  Stuggart vsDortmund (Reyna)

12:30 pm NBC                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace    

1 pm FOX             Sweden vs USA Ladies

3 pm beIN Sport               Real Madrid vs Barcelona (El Classico)

7 pm Para +                           Racing Louisville vs Orlando Pride  NWSL

Sun, Apr 11

11:30 am Peacock               Tottenham vs Man United

2 pm Cock                             Sheffield vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ABC Fiorentina vs Atalanta 4th in Serie A

3 pm beINSport                    Real Bettis vs Athletico Madrid

Tues, Apr 13

3 pm TUND, Para+               Porto (0)  vs Chelsea (2) (Pulisic) UCL

3 pm Paramount+               Bayern Munich (2)  vs PSG (3) UCL

3 pm ESPN2                        France vs US Women

6 pm FS1                                Marathon 1  vs Portland Timbers 1  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                                Alajulense 0 vs Atlanta United 1  CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                            Cruz Azul vs Archaie

Wed, Apr  14

3 pm CBS SN                         Liverpool  1 vs Real Madrid 3  UCL

3 pm Paramount+               Man City 2 vs Dortmund 1  (Reyna) UCL

6 pm FS1                               Saprisa vs Philly Union  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                               Leon vs Toronto FC  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS 2                               Olympia vs America 

Thurs, Apr 8

3 pm CBS SN                          Granada  0 vs Man United  2  Europa

3 pm Paramount+                Aresenal 1 vs Slavia Praha  1 Europa

8 pm FS1                               Real Esteli vs Columbus Crew  CCF Champ League

Fri, Apr 16

3 pm Peacock                       Everton vs Tottenham 

9:30 pm FS1                         Seattle vs Minnesota  MLS Kickoff

10:30 pm paramount +       OL Reign vs Houston Dash   NWSL

Sat, Apr 17

6 pm FOX                               LAFC vs Austin

8:30 pm EPSN+                     Nashville vs Cincy

Sun, Apr 18

3 pm ABC                               Miami vs LA Galaxy

5:30 pm FS1                         Columbus vs Philly

10 pm ESPN+                          Vancouver vs Portland


US Ladies

US Sweden Preview – S&S


International Friendly: USWNT vs. Sweden – Match History & Preview | Five Things to Know

USWNT REWIND: Challenge Cup Set to Kick Off, Victories in England and France

 USWNT Out To Avenge 2016 Debacle At This Summer’s Olympics

 The United States faces a tough challenge vs. Sweden at the ..
Morgan frustrated by NWSL Cup schedule
Kathleen McNamee

Rapino encouraged by Tone Shift by US Soccer
Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family

 NWSL Starts this Weekend

NWSL 2021 Season Preview  
NWSL buzz ahead of Challenge Cup reaches new heights

Full NWSL Challenge Cup Schedule
NBC Sports to air 2020-21 FA Women’s Super League

Orlando Pride Send Kit to Space
Morgan frustrated by NWSL Cup schedule
Kathleen McNamee
Carli Lloyd on 2020: Worst of times, best of times as soccer star reunites with family


Breaking Things Down After the First Leg – EPSNFC Marcotti
Lack of ‘killer instinct’ leaves Bayern facing Champions League exit

Mbappe stars as PSG win at holders Bayern Munich

Chelsea punish wasteful Porto to put one foot in Champions League semis

Klopp says Liverpool Champions League comeback will be tough at empty Anfield

Three things we learned from Real Madrid v Liverpool

Vinicius double puts Real Madrid on top against Liverpool

Ruthless Real Madrid turn to Barca after Liverpool rout

Dortmund dream of downing Man City despite ‘brutally annoying’ away defeat

Pep says no quadruple pressure, KDB calls late Dortmund goal a ‘shame’

– Ogden: Man City win, but UCL dream looks wobbly
Goal Compilation of the Day: UCL Quarterfinals – 04/07/2021
Europa League wrap: Late goals see Man United win big(ger), Arsenal draw


Concacaf Champs League MLS vs Mexico, CA

4 TakeAways for CCL this Week
Horror tackle, brawl mars Philadelphia’s debut CCL win (video)

CONCACAF Champions League: 10-man Atlanta wins, Portland draws

Portland Timbers draw CD Marathòn in opener of the CONCACAF Champions League

Darlington Nagbe: Columbus have the tools to win Concacaf Champions League


USMNT rise in latest FIFA world rankings

Tuchel: Pulisic will be ‘huge weapon’ for Chelsea

USMNT Number #9 Power Rankings: The Top 10

Americans at home: MLS is back, again, still, who should we talk about?

USMNT’s Robinson reveals pride in ‘Fulhamerica’ legacy

Barcelona open to offers for USMNT’s Konrad in summer – sources

After a yearlong absence, Mexican national soccer team again will play often in U.S.


Solskjaer welcomes rivalry between goalkeepers De Gea and Henderson

De Bruyne signs new contract for 4 more years at Man City


 Will this Be the Last EL CLASSICO for Messi and or Ramos?    
Zidane hopes there will be more Clasicos for Messi and Ramos

Messi happy again but Barca wonder if this Clasico will be his last

 Griezmann nets hat trick with third child born on same day

Lille trace unlikely path towards French title

Serie A: Lukaku drives Inter closer to title, Juve settles for top four hope

MLS Stars Next Fri 4/16

Season Previews for Every Club – MLS.com

Cincy Season Preview

Columbus Season Preview

Chicago Fire Season Preview

Indy 11 – Season Starts May 1


Return to the Mike

21 New Roster

Season Tix Available


Indy Eleven Adds Bloomington Native Jeremiah Gutjahr to Roster

Hundreds of Hopefuls Attend 2021 Open Tryout

Indy Eleven & WISH-TV Extend Broadcast Partnership through 2022 Season

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club Acquires Forward Cal Jennings via Transfer

USA vs Sweden: match preview and how to watch

The USWNT begin their Eurotrip against Sweden.

By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Apr 9, 2021, 6:00am PDT

The United States last saw Sweden when they were beating them 3-2 in a friendly in Columbus in 2019. Prior to that, they beat Sweden 2-0 in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup in Le Havre. And before that they beat them 1-0 in their own country in Gothenburg in 2017. So perhaps any narratives about lingering tension from that time Sweden ignominiously booted the United States from the Olympics are well and truly over. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a competitive game; you don’t haul a whole team over to Europe during COVID just to enjoy a relaxed friendly. There’s serious Olympic slots on the line with just one more FIFA window after this before things kick off in Japan, although USSF may be pulling players outside of the window to prepare.

Looking at Sweden

Iconic Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl is out for this game, after positive COVID tests at her club, Atletico Madrid. She was replaced by 23-year-old Emma Holmgren, currently uncapped for the WNT. Holmgren is one of several young and relatively untested players on this squad, although they are certainly backstopped by a core of mega-experienced players like Nilla Fischer, Linda Sembrant, Kosovare Asllani, Sofia Jakobsson, and Caroline Seger.

Asllani and Jakobsson have been having an overall decent time of it in Spain with Real Madrid, and alongside Blackstenius, create an obvious offensive core to watch. On the other end of the field, center back Magdalena Eriksson could be a target for the United States’ high attacking pressure, stopping her from using her ability to cycle the ball out from the back and limiting Sweden’s ability to work out of pressure deeper in their own territory. And in the middle, even at 36 and 211 caps, Caroline Seger is still one to watch as a two-way midfielder whose defensive work and passing can help flip the team from being on the back foot to transitioning in attack.

Sweden roster: Jennifer Falk, Emma Holmgren, Zecira Musovic, Jonna Andersson, Magdalena Eriksson, Nilla Fischer, Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Emma Kullberg, Josefine Rybrink, Linda Sembrant, Jessica Wik, Filippa Angeldal, Kosovare Asllani, Hanna Bennison, Stina Blackstenius, Rebecka Blomqvist, Filippa Curmark, Lina Hurtig, Sofia Jakobsson, Madalen Janogy, Fridolina Rolfö, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Olivia Schough, Caroline Seger

Hard roster decisions for the United States

So you’ve got too many Olympic caliber players on your roster. Who weeps for Vlatko Andonovski?

Probably one of the players who he’ll be forced to cut, given there’s depth at every position with this bunch. Look at this roster and choose who gets viciously cut to make the roster fit the 18-player maximum?

USA roster: Jane Campbell, Casey Murphy, Alyssa Naeher, Alana Cook, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, Margaret Purce, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams

Okay, the goalkeepers are maybe slightly easier since you can only have two and you know Alyssa Naeher is probably going to be one of them. At center back there’s Cook, Dahlkemper, Davidson, and Sauerbrunn, with Sonnett additionally able to shift inside sometimes. Sonnett joins the fullbacks with Dunn, O’Hara, and Purce. Kristie Mewis might get the tragically short end of the midfield given the feel-good story of how she’s played her way back into the NT picture but how do you argue with a midfield that already has Horan, Lavelle, Macario, and Sam Mewis in it, with Ertz sitting deeper? Then amongst the forwards, who don’t even have Tobin Heath currently available due to injury, there’s even more decisions to make. Perhaps, controversially, Rapinoe might be in question here; she certainly still has the skill, but the engine is starting to fade. Do you keep someone who’s got the head for big-game moments and can still turn the tide but only has 30-45 minutes at a time in her legs, particularly given the fast-paced constraints and reduced recovery time of a tournament? Let’s find out together!

Time and TV info

USA vs Sweden  Saturday, April 10  1 PM ET / 10 AM PT   Live on Fox

How Real Madrid beat Liverpool, why Bayern should rally vs. PSG: Breaking down Champions League QF first legs

9:23 AM ET   Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

Well how about that for fun? The Champions League quarterfinal, first legs, produced a ton of excitement and drama. Some big results, too: Real Madrid shrugged off key defensive absences (Sergio RamosRaphael Varane) to thump Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, while Paris Saint-Germain enjoyed a bit of revenge against Bayern Munich, following last season’s 1-0 defeat for Neymar & Co. in the final to the Bavarian giants. There was also a nervy win for Manchester City against Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea cruised to a comfortable (kinda) win over FC Porto.

With the first legs of all four Champions League quarterfinals in the books, let’s take a look at the stats that mattered most from each match and what matters the most heading into next week’s second legs.

Jump to: Real Madrid vs. Liverpool | Man City vs. Dortmund | Bayern vs. PSG | FC Porto vs. Chelsea


Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

Return leg: Wednesday, April 14, 3 p.m. ET

Wanted: aggression

Real Madrid are third in La Liga and had to labor heavily to advance to the Champions League knockout rounds. Though they’ve flashed glimpses of all the obvious, expensive talent we’ve come to expect, this isn’t the most intimidating squad they’ve ever fielded. Heading into the quarterfinals, FiveThirtyEight gave Liverpool a 53% chance of advancing despite the Reds’ own laundry list of issues.


Liverpool played the first leg, however, like a massive underdog, even more than Borussia Dortmund, an actual massive underdog (18% chance of advancing), did. Everything about their approach screamed “let’s just get to the second leg down one goal.” Jurgen Klopp started neither his most press-friendly forward (Roberto Firmino), nor his most attack-minded passing midfielder (Thiago), opting for Diogo Jota and Naby Keita instead.

– Hunter: Kroos the master as Real Madrid thump Liverpool

Klopp’s system is based on a combination of possession principles and pure defensive intensity, but in Madrid, the Reds allowed 14.8 passes per defensive action, their third-highest average of the season. (The only times they were higher: against Manchester City in November, and against an equally passive Wolves in December.) They attempted zero first-half shots and logged just two touches in the penalty area.

The good news, if you can call it that: Things got better. In the second half (with Thiago subbed into the lineup), they allowed 11.6 PPDA and finished 32 possessions in the attacking third to Real Madrid’s 14. They still put only one shot on goal, and while that shot went in the net, so did a 65th-minute response from Vinicius Junior off of a throw-in. Liverpool might have been the better team, but they didn’t end up cutting their two-goal deficit.Still, the field tilted in their direction. That, combined with the road goal they managed to score, gave them a lifeline. A 2-0 win in Liverpool would put them through, and FiveThirtyEight’s projections still give them a 20% chance of advancing.

A 2-0 win requires you to keep Vini Jr. off the board, though

Two things stood out from Real Madrid’s performance: (1) they did a fantastic job of stretching Liverpool with long, accurate passes, and (2) Vinicius Jr. was maybe their best player for the second straight Champions League match.


The average match features about four to five switches of play (long, mostly horizontal passes that flip the ball from one side of the field to the other) per match. Real Madrid attempted 18, including four from Toni Kroos and three each from Lucas VazquezLuka Modric and Eder Militao. This horizontal action stretched Liverpool’s defense and opened up vertical passing lanes; Kroos, Modric and Casemiro, Real Madrid’s aging but still technically gifted midfield, also went 19-for-25 on long balls (forward passes at least 35 yards downfield). Kroos was 9-for-9, and a long ball set up the first of two Vinicius Junior goals.

If Kroos wasn’t their best player, Vini Jr. was. He’s becoming an extremely Real Madrid player: fine in La Liga, great in the Champions League. He’s averaged 0.38 goals and assists per 90 in league play, but he’s up to 0.83 in the UCL. For the second straight knockout match (following their 3-1 win over Atalanta on March 16), he was utterly brilliant. He put two of his four shots in the net and completed 14 passes in the attacking third.

If this version of the precocious 20-year-old continues to show up, Real Madrid could win the whole damn tournament.


Man City 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Return leg: Wednesday, April 14, 3 p.m. ET

Biggest red flag for City: high-quality chances

In one sense, it’s pretty simple to prepare for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, as you don’t have tons of options.


They’re much better at swallowing up counters before they begin than they were a season ago; it’s why they’re the No. 1 team in Europe right now, per FiveThirtyEight. But in each of their only two losses in the past six months (2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur and 2-0 to Manchester United), and in all four of their losses in the past eight months (including 5-2 to Leicester City and 3-1 to Lyon), the formula has been the same:

– None of these four teams had greater than 34% possession
– None averaged more than 0.09 shots per possession
– None allowed fewer than 17 passes per defensive action (PPDA)
– None finished more than 24% of their possessions in the attacking third
– None began more than five possessions in the attacking third (only Manchester United began more than two)
– All of them averaged at least 0.13 xG per shot (only Lyon was under 0.20)
– All of them put at least 50% of their shots on target (only Spurs were under 75%)

The FC guys react to the assistant ref asking for Erling Haaland’s autograph after Dortmund’s loss to Man City.

“Create great chances and strike them well” isn’t exactly the easiest advice in the world to follow, especially against the most expensive side in the world. But BVB have to be encouraged by the fact that of the seven shots in this match that generated at least 0.1 xG, they had three of them. And that total doesn’t include the disallowed tap-in BVB’s Jude Bellingham created for himself in the 31st minute, tipping the ball away from City’s Ederson before getting called for a controversial foul.


City will again control the ball in the second leg because it’s what City does. But if BVB can create four or five really good chances for itself and put two or three of them into the net — something a squad with Erling HaalandMarco Reus & Co. certainly have the skill to do on a really good day, though it would be great to get Jadon Sancho back from injury — then an upset and a spot in the semifinals is still possible.

When no one’s a forward, everyone’s a forward

Borussia Dortmund’s rigid defensive structure prevented City from creating quite as many chances as they’re used to, but like termites, City finds a way through a defense eventually. And while Ilkay Gundogan has benefited the most this season from Pep Guardiola’s occasionally striker-less attack, it was Phil Foden‘s turn on Tuesday.

– Marcotti: Unpacking the Erling Haaland transfer roadshow

Though ostensibly a left winger, Foden had nine of City’s 21 touches in Dortmund’s penalty area and produced four shots, including by far their two best scoring chances of the second half. He nearly put City up 2-0 in the 65th minute and then, making an identical run with Gundogan in the 90th minute (they did that a couple of times late in the match), he pulled back, received a pass from Gundogan and put home the game winner.

Wherever your defense lacks structural integrity, a City player will be there to exploit it. You just might know who it’s going to be ahead of time. Hmm. Maybe they aren’t simple to prepare for after all.


Bayern Munich 2-3 Paris Saint-Germain

Return leg: Tuesday, April 13, 3 p.m. ET

Bayern at its most relentless (and glitchy)

In all of the leagues for which Stats Perform logs matches and sends our way, here’s a complete list of matches since Aug. 1 in which a team (a) generated at least 2.5 more expected goals (xG) than its opponent and (b) lost. Matches in bold also featured a shots advantage of at least +25 for the losing team.

– English Championship: Bristol City 3, Swansea City 1 (Swansea’s xG advantage: +3.1)
– Ligue 1: Nice 2, Lens 1 (+2.9)
– Premier League: Crystal Palace 2, Brighton 1 (+2.6)
– Eerste Divisie: NEC 3, Volendam 1 (+2.6)
– Chilean Primera Division: Audax Italiano 2, Cobresal 1 (+2.6)
– Japanese J1 League: Vegalta Sendai 2, Vissel Kobe 1 (+2.6)
– UEFA Champions League: PSG 3, Bayern Munich 2 (+2.5)


At the moment there are 15,262 matches since Aug. 1 in our data tool. Bayern and Vissel Kobe are the only teams to pull off a loss with a +2.5 xG advantage and +25 shots margin.

makeshift formula I created last week named Bayern as the most watchable team in Europe’s “Big Five” leagues, and Wednesday showed us why.

On the rare occasions that they’re losing, they push forward with a relentlessness we rarely see. Their possession principles are strong, they circulate the ball from side to side, they surround the defensive box with what seems like 18 players, and they start shooting, and shooting and shooting.

Eric Choupo-Moting, Thomas Muller and defender (!) David Alaba had five shots each. Kingsley Coman, whose goal beat PSG in last year’s Champions League final, had four. Benjamin Pavard had three, as did Leon Goretzka in just 33 minutes. Midfielder Joshua Kimmich created 10 chances for his teammates.

PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, had two shots. In the third minute, with the score tied at 0-0, his first shot put Les Parisiens ahead. In the 68th, with the score tied at 2-2 and PSG having just blown a lead it spent nearly an hour protecting, his second shot provided the game winner. Neymar assisted both. The duo that was rendered scoreless by Bayern last August was cold-blooded and perfect in the two moments it needed to be so.


In the 11 minutes or so that this match was tied, PSG created two perfect chances and converted both. In the other 79 minutes or so, they bunkered down like no team has ever bunkered down before, creating one out-of-nowhere goal on a sudden change of possession and otherwise allowing Bayern a decent-looking shot every 170 seconds or so. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas had nearly as many saves as Mbappe had touches, but it somehow got the job done.

For now, anyway. In a week, Bayern will attempt to unleash hell once more, and it will be interesting to see what PSG comes up with to maybe slow them down a bit more this time.

Turns out missing that the best striker in the world matters

Bayern still fielded a lineup featuring Muller, Coman and Leroy Sane on the wings, Kimmich in the middle, etc. When manager Hansi Flick needed a quick tactical shift late in the first half, he was able to sub off Goretzka for one of the most exciting fullbacks in the world, Alphonso Davies, who completed 19 of 21 passes in the attacking third. Almost no team has the roster luxury that Bayern has.

At striker, however, they fielded Choupo-Moting, a PSG backup in 2020-21, instead of Robert Lewandowski, the best striker in the world at the moment. One figures that probably made a difference, but Lewandowski suffered a knee injury on international break and will remain out through next week’s second leg.

Now, it should be noted that Choupo-Moting performed almost exactly to the level stats suggested — his five shot attempts generated 1.2 xG and one goal. The biggest coulda-woulda-shoulda moments came from the trio of Goretzka, Pavard and Alaba, whose 11 shots generated 1.3 xG, some really tight misses and zero goals. But anything less than Lewandowski is a downgrade, and it’s easy to assume he would have created one more quality chance that Bayern’s lineup did not. That said, with all the injuries Neymar has had to deal with through the years, one doesn’t figure PSG feels too sympathetic at the moment.


FC Porto 0-2 Chelsea

Return leg: Tuesday, April 13, 3 p.m. ET

Porto ran out of ideas

Porto manager Sergio Conceicao had to be pretty pleased with his team.

In the round of 16, Porto went toe-to-toe with Juventus in the first leg and emerged the better for it, winning 2-1. They did the same in the second until a red card forced them to bunker down a bit, but they managed to survive anyway thanks to a Sergio Oliveira free kick in extra time that went under a pretty pathetic Juve wall and into the net. Still, they advanced by playing like themselves and not backing down.


They did so again on Wednesday against an even richer club. They attempted twice the shots as Chelsea and generated a slightly higher xG level (1.69 to 1.65). They pressured the ball effectively, ended nearly twice as many of their possessions in the attacking third and forced Chelsea to primarily play the role of a counterattacking, defensive team.

The Blues hogged possession, but attempted 62% of their passes in their own half and neither attempted nor completed many long balls or switches of play.

It was, for long stretches, possession for the sake of possession (and for making Porto run some miles off of its tires).


Porto was on the front foot for most of the first half, but in the 32nd minute, a seemingly harmless run of Chelsea possession created a Jorginho-to-Mason Mount goal out of almost nothing.

By this point, Porto had already generated two solid scoring opportunities: a blocked Luis Diaz transition move in the 12th minute and a scary corner-kick opportunity for Zaidu Sanusi in the 24th that sailed over the goal. Moussa Marega would create a decent transition chance in the 51st minute, and Porto nearly scored on another corner in the 56th.

Two-thirds of the way through the match, Porto had 11 shots to Chelsea’s three and had produced 1.6 xG to Chelsea’s 0.4 … and then they ran out of ideas.

In the last 30 minutes, they managed only one shot to Chelsea’s three, and all three of Chelsea’s shots could have gone in. Cesar Azpilicueta nearly headed home a free kick at the 63-minute mark, and Christian Pulisic thundered a counterattacking shot off the bar in the 84th minute.

Just 45 seconds later, Chelsea put the tie away with a one-man counter and goal by Ben Chilwell. The last three chances were Chelsea’s best of the evening, and Porto was saved by the bell, so to speak. If matches were 100 minutes long, this could have been 3-0 or 4-0.

Because matches are only 90 minutes, Porto still heads into the second leg with a shot. But Chelsea’s strong passing and stronger legs made the odds of a comeback pretty small.

NWSL Releases Full Schedule and Broadcast Details for 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Presented by Secret Deodorant

Opening match between Houston and Chicago to air on CBS Sports Network; Final to air on CBS Television Network & stream on Paramount+ Twitch to stream all games internationally

CHICAGO (March 9, 2021) – The National Women’s Soccer League today announced the full schedule for the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant. The 21-game tournament kicks off on April 9, 2021 with a rematch of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup final between Houston and Chicago at BBVA Stadium on CBS Sports Network, followed by Kansas City’s first match since joining the league in December 2020 against Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park at 10:30 p.m. EST on Paramount+, the premium streaming service from ViacomCBS.The opener and three additional games will air on CBS Sports Network, the final will air on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+, and every other game will stream exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. All games will be available internationally on Twitch, including in Canada for all games that are not on CBS Sports Network.“I’m so excited to kick off a new year in style with the 2021 Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant, and thrilled to once again partner with our friends at CBS Sports to bring the best women’s soccer league in the world to our viewers,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “My thanks to CBS, Twitch and all of our partners, for continuing to invest in this league and showcasing these incredible athletes.”“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the NWSL and build on the immense success across all platforms of the 2020 Challenge Cup,” said Dan Weinberg, EVP, Programming, CBS Sports. “The 2021 Challenge Cup will showcase soccer’s top players, and we look forward to bringing fans the action across CBS, CBS Sports Network and Paramount+.”In their inaugural season, Racing Louisville FC will make their NWSL debut on April 10, 2021 when they host the Orlando Pride at Lynn Family Stadium. Following their first-ever match in Portland, Kansas City will travel to Chicago and face the Red Stars on April 20 before playing their first home game at Field of Legends on Monday, April 26, 2021 vs. the 2020 defending NWSL Challenge Cup champions the Houston Dash. The first Cascadia rival match of the 2021 campaign will come on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 when Portland Thorns FC host OL Reign on CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. EST. The full schedule and broadcast details can be found below.The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant will see the league’s 10 teams organized into two divisions, East and West. Each team will play four matches in home markets, as approved by the NWSL’s Medical Task Force, followed by the top team from each division competing in the final slated for May 8, 2021 on CBS. The championship site will be determined by the league at a later date. For a full list of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup rules and regulations that differ from NWSL’s regular season policies and procedures, click here.

**All games to stream internationally on Twitch**

Friday, April 98:30 PMHouston DashChicago Red StarsBBVA StadiumCBSSN
Friday, April 910:30 PMPortland Thorns FCKansas CityProvidence ParkParamount+
Saturday, April 103:30 PMNC CourageWashington SpiritSahlen’s StadiumParamount+
Saturday, April 107 PMRacing Louisville FCOrlando PrideLynn Family StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 147 PMOrlando PrideSky Blue FCExploria StadiumCBSSN
Thursday, April 157:30 PMChicago Red StarsPortland Thorns FCSeatGeek StadiumParamount+
Friday, April 167 PMWashington SpiritRacing Louisville FCSegraParamount+
Friday, April 1610 PMOL ReignHouston DashCheney StadiumParamount+
Tuesday, April 206 PMSky Blue FCNC CourageMontclair StateParamount+
Tuesday, April 208:30 PMChicago Red StarsKansas CitySeatGeek StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 217 PMOrlando PrideWashington SpiritExploria StadiumParamount+
Wednesday, April 2110 PMPortland Thorns FCOL ReignProvidence ParkCBSSN
Monday, April 266 PMRacing Louisville FCNC CourageLynn Family StadiumParamount+
Monday, April 268:30 PMKansas CityHouston DashLegends FieldParamount+
Tuesday, April 277 PMWashington SpiritSky Blue FCSegraParamount+
Tuesday, April 2710 PMOL ReignChicago Red StarsCheney StadiumParamount+
Saturday, May 17:30 PMNC CourageOrlando PrideSahlen’s StadiumCBSSN
Sunday, May 212:30 PMSky Blue FCRacing Louisville FCMontclair StateParamount+
Sunday, May 24:30 PMKansas CityOL ReignLegends FieldParamount+
Sunday, May 27:30 PMHouston DashPortland Thorns FCBBVA StadiumParamount+
Saturday, May 81 PMChampionshipTBDCBS, Paramount+



USMNT rise in latest FIFA world rankings

https://www.nbcsports.com/vplayer/p/BxmELC/nbcsports_embed/select/media/30RA3Ff3VIRm?form=html&autoPlay=false&ssid=nbcsports_embed_yahoo Joe Prince-Wright  Thu, April 8, 2021, 8:45 AM

That sound you can hear is the USMNT on the charge back up the FIFA world rankings, as they are in the top 20 for the first time since 2014.After a number of hugely positive results, and performances, over the last 12 months, Gregg Berhalter has led the USMNT back into the top 20 in the world rankings and it feels like this is just the start for this young side. Recent wins at Northern Ireland and against Jamaica and Panama at neutral venues will have helped this ranking, so too did the draw away at Wales.

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A note of caution: all four of those games came with the USMNT having their strongest squad (barring a couple of players) available, while their opponents were severely understrength. Still, it has been a tough few years for USMNT fans so climbing back into the top 20 is a step in the right direction. The Stars and Stripes were ranked as low as 35th in 2017, and they have been hovering just outside the top 20 for a long, long time.With a friendly away at Switzerland in late May, then CONCACAF Nations League Final Four, Gold Cup and 2022 World Cup qualifiers coming up in the summer, there is a real chance for the U.S. to push closer to CONCACAF’s best team, Mexico, who is ranked 11th as they slipped down two places. European giants dominant the top 10 with Belgium in first, France second and Brazil in third. England sit fourth, Portugal fifth, Spain sixth, Italy seventh, Argentina in eighth, Uruguay is ninth and Denmark is tenth.  Below is the latest top 30, with plenty of changes coming up this summer as the Gold Cup, European Championships and Copa America tournaments take center stage.

Top 30 FIFA world rankings (April 7, 2021)

1. Belgium
2. France
3. Brazil
4. England
5. Portugal
6. Spain
7. Italy
8. Argentina
9. Uruguay
10. Denmark
11. Mexico
12. Germany
13. Switzerland
14. Croatia
15. Colombia
16. Netherlands
17. Wales
18. Sweden
19. Chile
20. USA
21. Poland
22. Senegal
23. Austria
24. Ukraine
25. Serbia
26. Tunisia
27. Peru
28. Japan
29. Turkey
30. Venezuela


Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: Messi, Ramos have helped define Clasico. Will this be their last?


Barcelona: Enjoy Messi, if this is indeed the end

Right now, it seems certain that Lionel Messi is revitalised, happy, evangelically recommitted to Barcelona — as certain as it was last August that he would be, at any cost, leaving FC Barcelona. Relations are at the point that, by May or June, it seems realistic that he will announce he’s staying at Camp Nou under a new contract. But that’s the point.It seemed 100%, cast-iron certain just a handful of months ago that everything was broken, that Messi was sick to the back teeth of being surrounded by mediocrity and mendacity, and yet here we are. A full 180-degree pike, with triple salchow, change of attitude and all it requires now is what any person in sales will tell you is the hardest part: closing the deal.For those reasons, it’s obligatory to mark this weekend’s Clasico by saying that if there were another reverse-flip, if Barcelona somehow displeased him with their inability to sign new talent or in their capacity to offer him the right remuneration over the next two or three years — lots of ifs and buts — or if it turned out that there’s something special on offer at Manchester City or PSG, then this would be his last chance to play Real Madrid in blaugrana colours.Whichever side of the Clasico divide you find yourself on, it’s a sobering thought even for us neutrals. Sixteen years of Messi vs. Madrid, and his magic-on-demand, have flitted past us like countryside images out the window of a high-speed train. Gorgeous and imprinted on our consciousness, but gone far too soon.For the good of this fixture, for the nourishment of La Liga and, unquestionably, for the benefit of FC Barcelona, who are fundamentally committed to keeping their in-house genius, let’s hope that win, lose or draw, we see the nimble, dancing, scheming legend from Rosario, Argentina gliding and dribbling across the Camp Nou and Santiago Bernabeu pitches many more times in classic Clasicos.But if not, what are we left with? His impact has been gargantuan: that’s the only word for it. It should probably go without saying that Messi has faced no other rival as many times as he’s played Real Madrid, one of the two clubs that was hovering in hope when, back in 2001-02, negotiations between Barca’s slow directors and his father, Jorge, were turning sour.

Just as Spain‘s FA made tentative moves to discover whether Messi wanted to play for La Roja instead of Argentina — Messi was appalled by the idea — Madrid were primed and ready to pounce when, finally, a couple of Camp Nou men woke up to the fact that they absolutely had to find a way to retain this 13-year-old whose massive talent outsized his tiny frame.And once they failed to get him, Madrid became a foil. From his Clasico debut, one sharp, tangy November evening in Spain’s capital nearly 16 years ago, until this weekend at an empty but nonetheless iconic Alfredo Di Stefano stadium in Madrid’s superb training complex, if Los Blancos didn’t exist, Messi would have had to invent them.”I’m Argentinian, but I feel very Catalan,” said Messi in a recent sports paper interview in Barcelona. It showed, too.

I was at his debut against Madrid, sitting next to my friend John Alexander, whose ticket in the section reserved for friends and family of Real Madrid players had “from Zinedine Zidane” stamped on it. I’d ducked work duties and was just there to savour it — little did I know there would be a clever, confident cameo performance that, though dwarfed by Ronaldinho’s two brilliant goals in a 3-0 win that night, would endure long past the Brazilian’s sell-by date.Messi was an imp that night. He cared not a jot for the stage or the baying Real Madrid fans; he wasn’t put off by the racist abuse that both Samuel Eto’o and Ronaldinho suffered, nor could Madrid’s players subdue him. Two Clasicos later, the seeds that were sown in his first game against Real Madrid flowered with a hat trick at Camp Nou, as when Barcelona’s 10 men (with defender Oleguer red-carded) wrested a 3-3 draw against a thunderously powerful, Ruud van Nistelrooy-inspired Madrid.The stories and the images go on, and on. But for once, the stats actually tell a good tale.

Before the era of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pep Guardiola the coach, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Messi, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Sergio BusquetsNeymar and Luis Suarez, it’s not that Barcelona couldn’t beat Real Madrid — it’s just that they didn’t do it all that often. The all-time Clasico scorecard was heavily balanced in favour of Los Merengues.No more; the head-to-head stats are as tight as the seals on a submarine’s port-holes. The trophy count, particularly in La Liga and the Champions League, has metamorphosed. And notwithstanding all the brilliant talent I mentioned, along with a dozen more essential, exceptional cameo role players, the number one catalytic element, by far, has been Messi. Why not, he’s a genius? Which is why, ahead of this weekend, it’s a little strange to break down Messi’s Clasico numbers.Like I said, he and Madrid are like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Superman and Lex Luthor, Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote, Tom and Jerry. (Please note, who’s the hero and who’s the baddie depends wholly on which club you support: the roles are fully interchangeable!) This 33-year-old Argentine, born some six-and-a-half-thousand miles from the Spanish capital, has imposed himself on the fixture. Nobody, including his compatriot (Di Stefano) after whom this weekend’s stadium is named, has scored more goals when Real Madrid and FC Barcelona do battle. Ever.

Messi’s overall stats against Barca’s mortal rivals: Played 44, Won 19, Drawn 11, Lost 14, 26 goals, 14 assists and 11 yellow cards.

What do you reckon about those figures? Less impressive than you remembered? Stunning because it’s against one of the best, most ambitious, most “winning” clubs in football history? What’s your take?One of the standout facts, I reckon, is that one way or another, Madrid have increasingly got his measure in recent seasons. Against Los Blancos, Messi has ‘only’ scored five times in their last 17 meetings. He’s not hit the net in a Clasico for three years now and it’s four years since Messi scored while winning a Clasico in La Liga.Hmm. Interesting, no?

It’s linked that six of the 14 defeats Messi has suffered against Real Madrid (roughly half) have come in those last 17 matches, in which he’s only managed to score five times. (By the way, Karim Benzema has scored five goals across his last 19 Clasicos, just to put Messi’s slight drought in context.) It may well be that this little marvel is the most dominant figure in the history of a beautiful, dangerous, culturally volatile fixture, but his win rate is less than 50%!Of the 23 other club opponents Messi has faced 10 times or more, his win rate is usually much higher than that, hovering around 80% in most instances. Against no other opponent, whether club or country, has Messi lost a double-digit number of games. Next closest is Atletico Madrid, against whom he’s lost eight of 42 meetings while winning 24. Against no other opponent has Messi had more yellow cards (11), either.

It is, I think, a picture of how this Herculean talent used to hit Madrid like a hurricane, often left opponent coaches and players in smithereens, but has gradually been reigned into a status closer to a small storm as Madrid built defences, prepared better and began to understand what to expect. And in my mind, it’s not just about Messi ageing or the Barcelona squad declining. It’s kudos to Real Madrid for working out the answer to “how do you solve a problem like La Pulga?”You can take it to the bank that Barcelona’s No.10, who just became their all-time leader in appearances — to accompany all his other all-time achievements — is obsessed with winning the league and Copa del Rey double this season. He knows better than anyone that despite his renewed appetite for life at Camp Nou, the deal to stay is never definitive until terms are thrashed out and the ink is dry on a bumper contract.

The thought of another trophyless season, even more so if this were to be his last in Catalunya, is utterly abhorrent to him. Did you see his evangelistically joyful celebrations when Sevilla were defeated in the Copa semifinal at Camp Nou last month? Or the huge, emotional leap into Ousmane Dembele‘s arms when the Frenchman scored a last-minute winner against Valladolid at Camp Nou on Monday?

This Saturday’s Clasico, as part of the route to what might become Messi’s 11th Liga title, will have him as tense, as hungry and as filled with competitive adrenaline as any he’s played in since the 2011 Champions League semifinal first leg when, it turned out, he gave probably his all-time, signature performance.This meeting happens against a backdrop of Madrid having won, clinically and deservedly, at Camp Nou last autumn, Madrid being the defending league champions and Madrid owning the head-to-head record this season that would automatically make them champions if the two sides finished equal after 38 games. It also comes against a backdrop of Messi having looked sluggish and short of cutting-edge crispness against Valladolid, having gone over two weeks without a match during the international break.It’s not an arithmetical fact, but the suspicion lingers that unless Barcelona can win this test against their (and Messi’s) favourite rivals, the league title may just be beyond them. It is a fact, however that since December, Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona have intermittently played the most thrilling, most electric and smartest football of this strange La Liga season. Can they convert that to a seismic result when the chips are down?Whether or not this happens to be Messi’s last joust with his eternal rival, and given that one of his chief tormentors, Sergio Ramos, isn’t playing, will the Argentine’s inherently voracious instincts mean we are in for a Clasico masterclass in which he torments Real Madrid with his old majesty?Saturday brings another Clasico in the Messi Era. Intriguing, intense and unmissable, but hopefully not “adios, maestro.” — Graham Hunter

Real Madrid: It’s not just about Messi, but his longtime rival, Sergio Ramos

You know who won’t miss Messi if he goes? Real Madrid. Oh, wait, actually that’s not right. Or at least not entirely.

In the history of the Clasico (which wasn’t always called the Clasico), only Di Stefano and maybe Johan Cruyff have done as much to tilt the power balance towards one of these great, historic rivals. And Cruyff had two chances, as player and as manager, to do it.

If Messi scores at the weekend, or indeed any weekend between now and the end of the season, it will be the thirteenth season in a row that he’s scored at least 30 goals. No one has had a prolonged run of success like it — not even Di Stefano, not quite. No club has lorded it over the league and the cup like Barcelona have with Messi.

He’s won 10 league titles and that, of course, means 10 league titles Real Madrid haven’t won, at a time — let it not be forgotten — when they too have had some of the best players in the world.


How Vinicius Junior overcame his biggest flaw vs. Liverpool

Alejandro Moreno breaks down how Vinicius Junior was able to influence Real Madrid’s 3-1 win vs. Liverpool.

Just look at the stats Graham has outlined there. Or listen to Ramos, Madrid’s captain. “Without Leo, we would have won more,” he says.

It’s simple, but it’s true.

Ramos knows that well; he knows the danger, has felt the hurt. Messi has felt it too, quite literally. Remember in 2010, when Barcelona won 5-0 and the last thing Ramos did was run over and boot him into the air — not so much a tackle, as an assault — and one so premeditated that the referee that day, Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez, could see coming. “It was one of those you can ‘smell,'” he recalled. “I saw him running towards Messi and I thought: ‘he’s going to whack him.'”

Which he did.

Ramos would want rid of Messi, you would think. And yet, when it looked like the Argentine was about to go this summer, he insisted that there was no need for Messi to leave. “We’d like him to stay here,” Ramos said. “He makes his team better, the league better, and the Clasico nicer.”

Saying so underlines his own success, Madrid’s success; maybe it makes sense. Maybe it’s even selfish as much as it is admiration. After all, facing the best makes you better, and beating the best makes success even greater. True rivalries are built on this. Ramos knows that too, and was explicit about it: “It’s good for those of us who like to beat the best,” he said.

And yet, Ramos has never had any doubts that “the best” meant Messi. The Madrid captain even took on the late Diego Maradona when he had criticised Messi, saying that the 1986 World Cup-winning captain was “light years” behind his countryman. In a recent interview, Ramos even said that he would “100%” like Messi to join Madrid if he had to leave Barcelona. He would put him up at his house if it helped.

Yeah, nice try, Sergio. But it is true that Messi’s departure would take something from this game. It’s true, too, that Ramos’s absence would as well.

And this is the other element in play here. Madrid’s captain is injured and will be unavailable on Saturday, though he will be at the game as ever, his voice booming around. If Messi may be about to play his last Clasico, Ramos may have already done so. His contract is up at the end of the season, and while it always feels like there can’t be any outcome other than him and the club agreeing a deal to keep him there — “the best thing for the club is that Ramos stays, the best thing for Ramos is that Ramos stays,” teammate Nacho said this week — he still hasn’t renewed and his relationship with them isn’t good.

Maybe he could go to Barcelona instead, then?

Without Messi, Madrid would have won more, and yet they come into this game knowing that they can’t really afford to lose. That’s the bad news; yet it’s also the good news.

Here are two lists:

– LiverpoolAtalanta (twice), Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Inter Milan, Barcelona
– Alcoyano, LevanteShakhtar Donetsk (twice), Alaves, Cadiz

Guess which one is the list of games Madrid have won, and which is the list of games they lost?

OK, so you knew that one, but it’s still quite something to lose to all of those teams in the second list. As is the fact that they didn’t beat Elche or Osasuna either while they haven’t lost to any of the big teams. And yet, when it mattered, Real won. Against the bigger teams, they won. As they always seem to do.

Last year, Zidane had been on the verge of the sack before Christmas, and he went on to win the league. This year, the same thing happened: in December, he was on the way out. He had just “hours” left in the job, El Mundo claimed. Madrid had won less than half of all their games, faced elimination from the group stages of the Champions League for the first time ever, and a huge week lay ahead, with must-win games against Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atletico.

They won all three.

They have to win this Clasico too, and as ever, the obligation is an opportunity.

Madrid come into this game clinging to the hope of winning the league, which just three or four weeks ago seemed impossible. So do Barcelona. For much of the season, a title didn’t seem likely for either of them. Atletico were too far ahead. Now, the gap is tiny: a single point from Barcelona, three above Madrid. Atletico have opened the door, and the wolf is there. Two of the fanged devils, in fact.

Neither of these teams are top and yet it still feels like that the one who wins will emerge from this weekend as favourites. Madrid have lost just once in 19 league games. Barcelona have lost none in 19. Atletico have won only three of their last eight. It’s huge, but then it always is. It may be decisive, but then it’s almost always that too.

It may also be the last time we see either of these men: Messi on the pitch, Ramos up in the stands. And you can guarantee — absolutely guarantee — that Ramos will seek out his nemesis from Rosario at the end. You can’t help thinking that they’ll be back. You can’t help hoping so too, that all of these words here are worthless — yeah, sorry about that, but plus ca change and all that — and that with any luck, we can do it all again next year. Because when eventually they go, a generation will go with them.

Madrid fans will miss Ramos. They, like him, might even miss Messi too.

Well, sort of. — Sid Lowe


Following the COVID-19 sports pause, the NWSL was the first professional North American team sports league to return to action in 2020. After the season was postponed in March, the inaugural Challenge Cup kicked off in June with record-setting viewership numbers. Music to our ears.

  • And although the Orlando Pride withdrew from the tourney before play began, there were no positive COVID-19 tests throughout the tournament. The league’s successful month-long bubble tourney paved the way for other sports leagues to return to action.
  • Behind stellar play from the aforementioned MVP Daly, the Houston Dash hoisted the Challenge Cup trophy after defeating the Chicago Red Stars 2–0 in the final.

🚨 This year’s format

While the 2020 Challenge Cup was played in a bubble in Salt Lake City, Utah, this year’s tourney will be held in home markets. The NWSL’s 10 teams (expansion team Racing Louisville FC joins the fray this year) are divided into two divisions — East and West — with each team playing four matches, one against each team in their division.

  • From there, the top team in each division advances to the championship game scheduled for Saturday, May 8th, airing on CBS in the U.S. and on Twitch in Canada. HYFR.
  • And while the Challenge Cup doesn’t have an impact on regular season standings, it does offer teams a chance to sort things out and gain momentum ahead of the May 15th regular season start. Give us all of the soccer, please.

Another major factor in this year’s Challenge Cup is the scheduling. With an international break overlapping with the start of the tournament, NWSL teams will be without some of their top talent for at least the first two games. Teams with deeper rosters will be eager to capitalize and grab points in those early matches. Keep an eye out.

💪 The teams

op contenders: As the regular season champions and NWSL Championship winners for both 2018 and 2019, North Carolina Courage had an unexpected early exit from the 2020 Challenge Cup, but we feel they’re destined to return to their winning ways in the East Division thanks to their deep roster.

  • The West Division — led by Portland Thorns FC and the Chicago Red Stars — is seriously stacked. With all-time leading international goal scorer and Canadian Christine Sinclair as their captain, the Thorns should have no trouble finding the back of the net.
  • As for the Red Stars, they’ll be entering the tourney with a new ownership group and be playing with a chip on their shoulders as they look to avenge last year’s loss in the final. Watch out, world.

Middle of the pack: In the East, the Washington Spirit and (newly rebranded!) NJ/NY Gotham FC will contend to overtake the favored Courage. The Spirit are stacked on defense with USWNT members Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett. As for Gotham, it’s all about the offense, with USWNT strikers Carli Lloyd and Midge Purce leading the way.

  • The Houston Dash and OL Reign have the odds stacked against them in the West Division. Even though the defending champion Dash have most of their core players returning, they’ll likely struggle at the start with players out for international friendlies.
  • The Reign might benefit from their later start, as they open their season against the Dash on April 16th. With offensive stars Megan Rapinoe (pronounced Ra-PEE-noe), Quinn and Tziarra King, the Reign could defy expectations this go round.

Just happy to be here: Rounding out the East are the Orlando Pride and new kids on the block Racing Louisville FC. The Pride will be competing in their first-ever Challenge Cup, after having to withdraw last year due to COVID-19, while new Louisville fans will just be happy to see their team take the field.

  • The final team in the West is Kansas City (KC) NWSL (formerly the Utah Royals). While KC probably won’t hoist the trophy, we’re still celebrating their new ownership group, which includes former college soccer player Brittany Matthews, Patrick Mahomes’ fiancée.

💃 The offense

Trinity Rodman, Washington Spirit, Forward: As the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NWSL draft, Rodman will make her highly anticipated debut against the stacked Courage tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET. With key pieces of the Spirit offense playing internationally,  she will have a chance to make an immediate impact.

Megan Rapinoe, OL Reign, Forward: Wherever Rapinoe goes, we follow. After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Rapinoe is excited to return to the NWSL. After the USWNT’s April friendlies, Rapinoe will likely be back in time for the Reign’s tilt with the stacked Portland Thorns on April 21st. Mark your calendar.

Shea Groom, Houston Dash, Midfielder: Groom’s breakout three-goal performance in the Dash’s 2020 Challenge Cup run earned her a new three-year contract ahead of last year’s Fall Series. And Groom brought the heat again, scoring three goals and adding two assists. Houston, other teams might have a problem.

Desiree Scott, KC NWSL, Midfielder: This year will be somewhat of a homecoming for the CanWNT vet, as she first played for FC Kansas City during the NWSL’s inaugural 2013 season. She’ll bring a wealth of experience to this fresh-start club after returning from playing in Canada’s international friendlies.

🏆 Defense wins championships

Casey Krueger (née Short), Chicago Red Stars, Defender: With USWNT defenders Julie Ertz and Tierna Davidson away at friendlies, the Red Stars will rely heavily on Krueger, who started every game for Chicago during last year’s Challenge Cup run.

Abby Erceg, North Carolina Courage, Defender: This lockdown defender was named to the 2020 Challenge Cup Best XI and, heads up, she can get it done on offense too. Get you a girl who can do both.

Bella Bixby, Portland Thorns FC, Goalkeeper: Bixby’s breakout performance during the first few games of last year’s Challenge Cup was sadly cut short due to an ACL tear. We can’t wait to watch the Oregon-native run it back in her home market this year.

Ashlyn Harris, Orlando Pride, Goalkeeper: After being left off the USWNT roster for upcoming friendlies and the Pride missing out on the 2020 tournament, we’re expecting big things from Harris in her Challenge Cup debut. Talk about mom goals.

4/2/21 US out of Olympics, US Men Win Twice, Champs League back Tues/Wed, US Ladies vs Sweden/France next weekend


US Eliminated from Olympics by Honduras Sun 2-1  

The US Men failed to qualify for the Olympics again – for the 4th straight time – the U23 US men are not going to the Olympics.  They were knocked out again by a good Honduras team that simply would not be denied.  Despite having more possession in the first half (55-45) the US trailed in shots 4-1 and in goals as Honduras scored on the final play of the 1st half off a free kick from distance was bodied in beyond Stefan. The US simply had no connection in the final third and missed on numerous opportunities to line up shots in the first half.  I thought having Jack Yuelle not playing the #6 holding midfield and instead playing the 8  – hurt the US making the transition from offense to defense which really didn’t make sense. Early In the 2nd half – US GK Ochoa – after saving the US all tourney long –made a stupid play and mishit a ball dropped to him right into the Honduras forward and it bounced painfully into the net.  The 2-0 deficit was too much to overcome for the US despite repeated shots and attempts late in the 2nd half.  The US dominated the final 15 minutes and had numerous shots towards goal that simply would not go in.  To say its devastating to the US and the men’s U23 is an understatement.  Yes you can argue that this is unfair as most of the best players who are U-23 in the US who are really good – were playing for the full national team on Sunday.  Pulisic, Dest, Reyna, Musah, were all wearing beating Northern Ireland rather than playing in this tourney – as most European clubs won’t release our best players to play.  Still the thought of adding a few of our real superstar U23s for the Actual Olympics certainly had my mouth watering.  A full U24 list of US stars could have certainly competed for Gold – but you have to qualify – and this B team of US players simply couldn’t get it done.  Yes our B team should have gotten it done – but alas – the US men are once again sitting home for the Olympics since the last group played in 2008.  That’s 15 years of no Olympics for the men.  Sad. 

US Men Dominate 2-1

The US Men won their first European road game in over 10 years as they defeated a slightly undermanned Northern Ireland 2-1 over the weekend.  Pulisic and Reyna scored the US goals and both looked on target for most of the day Sunday.  The US came out in a 3-5-3 alignment with Brooks and Carter back in Germany removed off the backline.  Robinson held down the left with Pulisic playing a similar role that he plays now with Chelsea on the left inside tucked behind our #9.  Overall the US held possession for about 60-40 and outshot NI  – as well.  A good game for the US Overall.  So Weston McKinney was bared from playing for the US this past week by Juve because he had a slight knock.  So what does he do?  He hosts a party at his house during Covid.  He along with some teammates have been suspended from this week’s games – f

US Women to Face Sweden Sat Apr 10 1 pm on Fox and France Apr 13

The US Ladies will face a pair of top 10 foes on the road in Europe as a warm up to the Olympics this summer.  This roster which includes 20 of the 21 players on the She Believe’s Cup roster could well be a final preview of who will be on the 18 person roster to Japan this summer.


Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)


Alana Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)


Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Catarina Macario –OUT HURT (Lyon), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City)


Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Manchester United), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Man United) is Still Injured


Champions League Is Back!  The Final 8

The final 8 of Champions League returns Tues/Wed on CBS Sports Network and Paramount at 3 pm with Man City vs Dortmund I assume on Paramount and Liverpool and Real Madrid ((without Sergio Ramos) on CBS Sports Network Tuesday.  Wed gives us Bayern Munich (without Lewendowski) vs PSG (with Neymar) on CBS SN and Chelsea and Pulisic vs Porto on Paramount plus both at 3 pm.  Don’t ask me why they can’t spread these dam games out and not play them at the same time?  Its crazy – best 8 teams in the world and they play the only 2 games of each day as the exact same time.  European Soccer is just stupid sometimes – especially EUFA.  



Sat, Apr 3

7:30 am NBCSN   Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Brom

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

12:30 pm ESPN2                RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN               Leicester City vs Man City

2:45 pm ESPN2                  Bologna vs Inter Milan

3 pm NNCSN                       Arsenal vs Liverpool

3:30 pm beIN Sport          Athletic Club vs Real Sociadad

Sun, Apr 4

9 am NBCSN                       Newcastle vs Tottenham

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

11:30 am NBCSN               Aston Villa vs Fulham (Robinson)

2:30 pm NBCSN                 Man United vs Brighton

3 pm beINSport                  Sevilla vs Athletico Madrid

Tues, Apr 6

3 pm CBS SN                       Real Madrid vs Liverpool  UCL

3 pm Paramount+             Man City vs Dortmund (Reyna) UCL

6 pm FS1                             Marathon vs Portland Timbers  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                             Alajulense vs Atlanta United CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                          Cruz Azul vs Archaie

Weds, Apr 7

12:45 pm ESPN+                Juve (McKinney) vs Napoli

3 pm CBS SN                       Porto vs Chelsea (Pulisic) UCL

3 pm Paramount+             Bayern Munich vs PSG UCL

6 pm FS1                             Saprisa vs Philly Union  CCF Champ League

8 pm FS1                             Leon vs Toronto FC  CCF Champ League

10 pm FS 1                          Olympia vs America  

Thurs, Apr 8

12:45 pm ESPN+                Juve (McKinney) vs Napoli

3 pm CBS SN                       Granada vs Man United  Europa

3 pm Paramount+             Aresenal vs Slavia Praha Europa

8 pm FS1                             Real Esteli vs Columbus Crew  CCF Champ League

Fri, Apr 9

3 pm NBCSN                       Fulham (robinson) vs Wolverhampton  

Sat, Apr 10

1 pm FOX                           Sweden vs USA Ladies

3 pm beIN Sport              Real Madrid vs Barcelona (El Classico)

Wed, Apr 13

3 pm ESPN2                      France vs USA Ladies


5 things we learned from USMNT friendlies

Berhalter explains new formation; Pulisic wants to be USMNT leader

Berhalter shares next step for USMNT Man of the Match winner Pulisic

US men’s national team player ratings: Reyna, Pulisic …
USMNT vs Northern Ireland: Player Ratings- Pulisic stars
OneGoal USMNT Player Ratings – USA v Northern Ireland …
 USMNT player ratings: Reyna, Pulisic, Aaronson impress vs. N. Ireland
U.S. men’s national team breaks out a three-man back line, extends unbeaten streak

Musah tied to the US with appearance at Northern Ireland
USA v. Northern Ireland, 2021 Friendly: What we learned
Daryl Dike reportedly drawing interest from Everton
McKennie, Juventus teammates facing fines after party


U 23s Men Fail to Qualify for Olympics
Why FIFA blocks the U.S. men’s national team from playing for an Olympics spot

US U-23 player ratings: High marks for Yueill, few others in Olympic qualifying failure

Boehm: Three takeaways from the US’ gutting Olympic qualifying failure  Boehm MLS.com 

Kreis: US “absolutely devastated” after Olympic Qualifying defeat

Carrillo: ‘Arrogance’ knocks U.S. out of Olympics

The USMNT has talent, now it’s up to US Soccer to create a culture of winning


US Ladies

Macario out of U.S. games vs. France, Sweden
U.S. women’s soccer calls up 23 players as Tokyo Olympics preparations continue

Host Cities for 2023 World Cup Announced



Champions League predictions: Bayern Munich, Chelsea to reach the final?
Neymar back for PSG in time for decisive week

Juve suspend Dybala, McKennie, Arthur vs. Torino
Pandemic blamed for lack of VAR in World Cup qualifiers after Ronaldo fury

The history of promotion and relegation in the Premier League era

Champions League is Back

Sources: Ramos to miss Barca, Liverpool ties

Man Utd, Liverpool can play Euro ties in Spain

Haaland one of the best in the world – Guardiola
Battle for Premier League top four heats up

Bayern without Lewandowski, French title tussle and long-awaited final – what to watch in Europe

Basque rivals finally meet in delayed Copa del Rey final

Why FIFA blocks the U.S. men’s national team from playing for an Olympics spot

Kevin Baxter Mon, March 29, 2021, 4:34 PM 

Honduras defender Wesly Decas, center, comforts U.S. forward Sebastian Soto, right, beside Ulysses Llanez following Honduras’ 2-1 win in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying match on Sunday. Why isn’t the U.S. men’s national team allowed to play for an Olympics berth? (Fernando Llano / Associated Press)

A U.S. national team featuring 15 players off European megaclubs such as Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Roma beat Northern Ireland on Sunday in a friendly, the soccer equivalent of an exhibition game. Teenager Gio Reyna scored the first goal and Christian Pulisic, the youngest player to ever captain the men’s national team, scored the second as the U.S. beat a European team at home for the first time in six years.

Four hours after that game ended, another U.S. national team kicked off in Mexico needing a win to qualify for the Tokyo Games. That team featured only three players from outside MLS, including a goalkeeper who has made just one MLS start. That team lost to Honduras and the U.S. failed to make the Olympic cut for the fourth time in five tries.

Which begs a simple question: Why was the A team in Europe playing a relatively meaningless friendly while a lesser team was in Mexico losing to Honduras in a game that meant everything? The answer isn’t as simple, but it has a lot to do with FIFA, the governing body for global soccer.

For starters FIFA required those big clubs to release their players to their senior national teams because Sunday’s game took place during an official match window set aside for international competition. But they weren’t required to release their players to events such as Olympic qualifying, which FIFA classifies as an age-group tournament. Even Atlanta United, an MLS club with close ties to U.S. Soccer, declined to let three of its age-eligible players go to the Olympic qualifying event.

While the women’s Olympic tournament, which debuted in 1996, has always been considered a major championship open to the best players in the world, that is more a product of FIFA’s long-held disdain for the women’s game than it is an attempt to raise the profile of the tournament. FIFA has long conspired to make sure the men’s Olympic event pales in importance to the World Cup, although the two competitions have a common beginning.

FIFA actually managed the 1920, ’24 and ’28 Olympic tournaments, which were amateur events that proved so successful the winners were considered “world champions.” But the International Olympic Committee opposed opening the competition to professionals, so FIFA took the sport out of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles to create and promote its own tournament, the World Cup.

Soccer returned to the IOC’s calendar in 1936, under FIFA’s direction, yet by then the World Cup had eclipsed the amateur tournament and the Olympics have never regained the prestige it once had — and both the IOC and FIFA share the blame for that.

By clinging to strict rules banning professionals into the 1980s, the IOC effectively kept the best players in the world out of its event, allowing the World Cup to become the globe’s largest and most important sporting competition. And FIFA intended to keep it that way, so when the IOC voted to allow professional players for the 1984 L.A. Games, FIFA watered down the competition by placing restrictions on who could participate.

It codified that in 1992 by turning the Olympic tournament into an age-group competition, limiting rosters to players aged 23 and younger, with three over-age exemptions. The IOC, it should be noted, didn’t protest, fearing that a World Cup-level event during the Games would overshadow traditional Olympic sports such as track and field, gymnastics and swimming.

But while some nations have figured out how to make that work — Argentina won back-to-back gold medals in 2004 and 2008, and Mexico has made the knockout round in seven straight World Cups while qualifying for six of the eight Olympic tournaments in the U-23 era — the U.S. has not.

Not only did the Americans miss the 2018 World Cup, but they’ve played in the Olympics just once since 2000 and have won just four matches in the Summer Games since 1992. Not exactly the kind of resume that cries out “soccer nation.”

However, Sunday’s loss to Honduras — a country that qualified for four straight Olympics and two of the last three World Cups — will sting more than the rest.

With the likes of Pulisic, Reyna, Sergiño Dest, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie and Tim Weah all age-eligible for Tokyo — provided they were able to secure release from their clubs, the final FIFA-constructed hurdle — the Americans would have entered the Games as medal favorites.

Now they’ll be watching on TV instead. And that will leave a mark, said World Cup veteran Stuart Holden, who, in 2008, scored the game-winning goal in the last Olympic match the U.S. won.

“You think about the opportunities we have to play in a tournament that replicates the World Cup, but also where we actually get to play in games that mean something against top teams from all around the world. That doesn’t happen other than the World Cup,” said Holden, now a Fox Soccer commentator. “The Olympics is that other opportunity that is a truly global tournament.”

Lionel Messi’s only international title came in the 2008 Olympics. Neymar delivered a gold medal for Brazil eight years later.

“Some of the best players to ever have played the game have played in the Olympics,” Holden said. “It actually kind of infuriates me that people just write it off as ‘Well, the Olympics doesn’t really matter.’ It definitely matters because of that opportunity. Imagine we could roll out a team with our best under-23s. We’d be up there for the first time ever, when it comes to a global tournament, with one of the best five teams going to the Olympics. That’s putting yourself in a conversation with Germany and Spain and Brazil, Argentina.”

On Sunday, expecting a U.S. victory, Holden broke out the Olympic jacket he wore during the Beijing Games, hoping to feature it during the Fox broadcast. Instead, he put it back in storage after the loss to Honduras. But the experience of those Games remains fresh, and Holden is sorry this year’s team won’t get the chance to make memories of its own.

“That stacks up with my best lifetime achievements,” said Holden, who won two MLS Cups, a Gold Cup and played in a World Cup match. “I remember walking out representing the United States in the opening ceremony, and you’re walking with the best athletes from all other sports, and it’s really such a unique opportunity, where sports collide.

“You feel like you’re representing Team USA. It was just such a special moment. I had a wave of emotions, anger, frustration, disappointment [that] these guys will miss out on that opportunity. It means so much to go to the Olympics.”

Apparently not to FIFA.This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Three takeaways from the US’ gutting Olympic qualifying loss to Honduras | Charles Boehm

March 28, 202110:31PM EDT  Charles BoehmNational Writer

All together now: Time is a flat circle.At least it is when it comes to US men’s national teams in must-win games over the past half-decade or so. Drop in the McConaughey “True Detective” gif wherever you see fit.On Sunday the US Under-23s had one game to win, one opponent to navigate past in order to reach the Tokyo Olympics, and they failed. There’s really no other way to say it. We can talk about circumstances and challenges and letdowns – and there is important context to consider – but for all the bumps and diversions on the road they’ve traveled over the past two years, this was an attainable ask for the U-23s.And they shot themselves in the foot, and were duly defeated by a deserving Honduras outfit. Goalkeeper David Ochoa wears the goat’s horns for his horrific error in possession right after halftime, but as you load your slings and arrows, remember: Ochoa, the youngest player on this roster, saved his team’s bacon in their vital opening win over Costa Rica, without which the US would’ve never gotten this far.Here’s three observations from another U.S. Soccer Waterloo.

They got the details wrong

Coach Jason Kreis made some debatable choices with his rosters, and could be accused of being overly dogmatic with his team’s shape and insistence on building out of the back. From where I’m sitting he did, however, trot out the strongest and most sensible starting XI at his disposal right now. Things got dicey soon after that, however.For some reason Andres Perea was preferred as the single pivot at the base of midfield, while usual holding mid Jackson Yueill pushed up into a No. 8 role, and the United States’ possession game suffered as a result, looking plodding and tentative for the game’s first hour.Perea is a rangy, powerful engine-room presence, while Yueill has the cultured range of passing to set the tempo and switch the point of attack. To me they would’ve made a lot more sense in the opposite deployment, but this was a purposeful wrinkle to try and catch Honduras out.“Andres is a great player, he disrupts a lot of the opponents’ transitional play and I think he’s very crafty with the ball,” said a somber Yueill postgame. “I think our game plan was to get me into higher spots and try to play good balls in behind to the runners.“The first half was a little slow in those moments, trying to break them down, but as the game got on I think me and Andres’ connection got better and better and we were able to find each other more. I think we could have utilized the outside wingers a little bit better and got behind them a little bit more.”It didn’t work, and that stymied US hopes of seizing the initiative with an assertive, front-foot start to the match.

The wiser, more mature team won

Soccer, it’s often said, is a game of mistakes. The side that makes fewer of them usually wins. And so it was at Estadio Jalisco on Sunday.

Los Catrachos did what they have done throughout this tournament and what their national teams have done for much of their modern soccer history: They were organized, tough, intense, committed, quick and purposeful in transition. As the final seconds of the first half ticked away, Honduras kept focus when the North Americans’ slipped, and were rewarded with Juan Carlos Obregon’s scrappy finish from close range, an opening goal of enormous weight.Obregon is actually a product of the US system; he was born in New York and played some college soccer before turning pro. His most recent club was USL Championship side Rio Grande Valley Toros. He didn’t tilt this game in his team’s favor with some transcendent display of skill; he sniffed out space at the back post on a speculative set-piece delivery into the US penalty box, committed himself at the right time and bundled home.From there on the US were chasing the game, and Ochoa’s gift on the other side of intermission magnified that. Why was the Real Salt Lake ‘keeper so casual with the ball at his feet? Why did he entertain such glaring risk with such scant corresponding reward?

We know that Jason Kreis and the coaching staff have been doggedly committed to playing out of the back, emphasizing the long-term gain even when short-range pain results. But composed decision-making is central to that philosophy and in that crucial moment, it was lacking. That’s on both Ochoa and the staff that have been preparing him for times like this.

This is one developmental data point among many

There are no excuses for the US men’s latest Olympic failure, EVEN IF the U-23s were missing the top 20 or so players on the depth chart due to their clubs electing not to voluntarily release them.And EVEN IF this created a talent deficit relative to what an ideal US roster could’ve been here, the group in Guadalajara fluffed their lines in a must-win situation, much like the full USMNT did on that fateful final night of 2018 Concacaf World Cup qualifying down in Couva, Trinidad & Tobago.It’s cause for self-criticism, even recriminations, any time a team of professionals falls short in such scenarios. But the alarm bells don’t screech quite as loudly this time as they did in 2012 and 2016, because over the past year or two the senior national team has practically become a U-23 team itself as a golden generation of young talent climbs into some of Europe’s biggest leagues and clubs.This month’s USMNT roster for the friendlies vs. Jamaica and Northern Ireland had an average age of just over 23, and were the protagonists in both of those two victories. We don’t yet know how that group will handle truly high-pressure games – we’ll learn more when they contest the Concacaf Nations League semifinals and World Cup qualifiers later this year – but it doesn’t seem overly optimistic to speculate that they’ll handle it better than the Olympic squad did.If they don’t? That’s when the panic strikes in earnest.

The USMNT has talent, now it’s up to US Soccer to create a culture of winning

More trophies, less crying  By Parker Cleveland@AekprrAcdeellnv  Mar 29, 2021, 7:30am PDT

The American soccer program has a long history of winning that is based not only on technical skill, but also a mentality that losing is not an option. It seems to get stronger as matches drag on and ruthlessly exploits whatever weakness an opponent has to overcome whatever strategy they’re using to stand in the team’s way. In fact, the strongest competition the team faces is for spots on its own roster. Of course this pertains to the US Women’s National Team.They are winners and competitors in the purest sense even conniving to have managers replaced or shunning family members in favor of following a training regime that gives an edge. If you somehow combined the will to win of Tom Brady and Serena Williams and multiplied it by 11 and you have the spirit of the USWNT. This is not something that is shared by the USMNT and was not on display as the USMNT U-23 team lost to Honduras last night.The game was pathetic and overall the US played badly in the tournament. Against Costa Rica the highlight was the performance of David Ochoa playing the game of his life to preserve a 1-0 win. Group stages in tournaments will have tough games like this, but it wasn’t an overall stellar performance. The team easily beat the Dominican Republic, but only after a fairly unsteady first half and several substitutions that clearly signaled a shift in the gameplan, whatever it was. With the game against Mexico, the USA conceded for the first time in the tournament, but the overall defensive approach to the game and entire qualification process hampered any ability to make a comeback.The US really played badly and was outmatched by Honduras. Yes, David Ochoa made a mistake in goal, but the overall moment of that goal pales in comparison to the overall approach of the team in the tournament. Rather than trying to be on the front foot and take the game to the opponent from the start, the side relied on its defense which was outmatched time and again aside from the Dominican Republic game. This is not how you win a tournament or even come in second place in one.Taylor Twellman, the distinguished statesman of deep cutting rants after disappointing losses, had this to say last night:

Obviously, the players share some responsibility for this, but the overall mentality and approach to the way they play is set by the coaching staff. After the game, Jason Kreis said this to reporters about what he told the team following the loss to try to pick them up:Right, ok Rocky, it’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and get back up. The point is though that you have to pick yourself up in the middle of the fight and get up, no champion sits around after a loss and laments that they lose more than they win.

Here’s what first came to my mind when I saw this:

This from the last match Kreis managed before becoming USMNT U-23 coach. In it, Orlando City lost its sixth game in a row and he blames the players for not trying hard enough. Aside from basically asking to get fired, this mindset should have disqualified him from being U-23 manager, or running an Arby’s or whatever. It is a mindset that the US Men’s program needs to erase from its vocabulary.If Michael Jordan thought to himself after he got cut from his high school basketball team, “well, you lose more than you win” we would have to suffer through everyone talking about if John Stockton or Patrick Ewing was the best basketball player of the 90s, MJ never would have punched Steve Kerr in the face and nobody would know who Steph Curry is. This is the kind of stuff on the line here, not the Olympics, but the entire cascade of events and history that follows it. Do you really want to live in a world where Reggie Miller and Karl Malone have won NBA titles? That is the world US Men’s Soccer wants you to live in.This is the kind of mentality that has a coach down a goal late in a Gold Cup Final against Mexico and he looks to his bench and uses his last sub on DANIEL LOVITZ. Luckily, some of the players on the senior squad seem to have a harder edge to their competitiveness than Kreis and possibly Berhalter. At the very least, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie seem absolutely hellbent on being the best possible player they can be and challenging themselves at the highest level.That said, setting the overall tone will come from Gregg Berhalter for the USMNT and changing the mentality from the one that Kreis feebly demonstrated to one in which the expectation is higher for the men’s program overall will need to be set by Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and General Manager Brian McBride. Frankly, they really do not need to look any further than to their counterparts on the USWNT for the culture of a champion.

. USMNT Tests Out a Different Look in Friendly Win at Northern Ireland

The 3-4-3 wasn’t an unequivocal success in the 2-1 victory, but formation flexibility will be key as the U.S. men’s national team progresses into the matches that truly matter.

BRIAN STRAUS  3/28/21 Sports illustrated

European national teams traditionally present a high hurdle to the U.S. men, and on Sunday in Belfast, coach Gregg Berhalter added an additional challenge to his players’ plates: a new formation.

For the first time in nearly two years, the Americans played with three center backs and two wing backs in a 3-4-3, and although there were several predictable growing pains, the visitors handled their assignments and their opponents well enough to secure a tight 2-1 triumph over Northern Ireland at windy Windsor Park. Gio Reyna scored on a first-half deflection, and Christian Pulisic added the game-winner from the penalty spot.

The victory not only extended the Americans’ unbeaten run to nine (8-0-1) dating back to the fall of 2019, it marked the first win against a European side on its home soil since June 2015. After four straight friendlies against Concacaf opponents and a nearly-two-year stretch during which 16 of 18 matches have been against regional rivals, Berhalter and his players were excited this week to prepare for a different sort of challenge.“It’s going to be a test for us. It’s something we haven’t seen in a little bit and I think the guys are excited to play a non-Concacaf team, and I know our coaching staff is really excited for this test and just to kind of get out of our own kind of region,” U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen said before the game. “We don’t have many opportunities to come to Europe and play European teams on their soil, so we want to get a win—an away win. So this is a really good test for us.”Northern Ireland is hardly a top European team. It entered Sunday’s game on an 11-match winless run. It failed to qualify for this summer’s European Championship. It’s ranked 45th in the world (well below the USA at No. 22) and on Sunday, it fielded only one player who started in the World Cup qualifying loss at Italy on March 25 (Blackburn Rovers midfielder Corry Evans). Yet the Green and White Army still presented a stiff challenge, as European teams always seem to do when they’re surrounded by the comforts of home. The depth of quality on soccer’s most powerful and successful continent is just different.Add to that the formation change, and the USA was in for an interesting day. Berhalter last played with three in the back in a June 2019 friendly against Jamaica, a 1-0 defeat during which the Americans created almost nothing going forward. Since then, he’s been focused on the 4-3-3 and on getting his young team more comfortable with a single, consistent approach. The best teams can vary their approach, however, and with talented players like Pulisic (Chelsea) and Sergiño Dest (Barcelona) playing in different spots with their clubs, the manager decided it was time to expand his side’s repertoire while giving future opponents more to think about.Berhalter said the formation change was prompted in part by Northern Ireland and in part by his team’s evolution.”We knew it was going to be difficult dealing with their first balls. We know they play with two strikers and the one player’s tall, really difficult to win the first ball from. So we wanted some protection for second balls,” the U.S. coach said following the game. “The second thing is, looking at their shape, we felt like we could exploit some spaces with our midfield configuration the way we had it, with basically four guys in midfield. The other thing is that we think it’s important to continue to challenge this group, and it was a good opportunity to do so tonight.”

The starting U.S. side was anchored by Aaron Long, Matt Miazga and Tim Ream in a back three, with Dest (on the right) and Antonee Robinson (left) as flank players. Dest had impressed as a left back in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Jamaica in Austria, but he plays as a right wingback for Barcelona and said this week that he’s happy either way.“For me personally, it’s not that hard. I can play on both sides,” Dest said after scoring a gorgeous goal against Jamaica. “Right back is good for me. Left back is good for me. I don’t prefer any to be honest. I just like to play the game, and it doesn’t matter for me which position I play.”With Dest and Robinson supposedly offering more width in the attack, Pulisic and Reyna, normally wingers in the 4-3-3, might have more opportunity to play inside and get closer to goal. Striker Jordan Siebatcheu, who plays in the Swiss league with Young Boys, made his first start. In the seventh minute, the new formation showed its promise. Siebatcheu laid the ball off for a nearby Pulisic, who split the opposing center back and right back with a smart pass toward the end line. Robinson was there to run on to it. His cross was just a bit too far in front of Siebatcheu, but the Fulham back’s ability to get behind the Northern Irish back line would’ve been exactly the sort of play Berhalter was searching for.Unfortunately for the USA, however, those plays were few and far between. More frequently, the unfamiliar runs and positions, some congestion in the offensive half and Northern Ireland’s ability to put pressure on the ball disrupted the visitors and led to slow, sluggish or broken play. Not surprisingly, the crispness and immediate fluidity just weren’t there. On two occasions in the first half, awkward midfield turnovers resulted in quick counters and scoring chances for the hosts. In the 16th minute, veteran Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty was played through but rolled his shot wide. And in the 38th, Shayne Lavery was set up with a similar chance but saw his goal-bound shot well saved by a diving Steffen.

“We trained about eight minutes,” Berhalter said of the new 3-4-3. “When you see the game you can see that there were good parts, but we still have a lot of work to go in the spacing, to really hurt the opponent. We got into some really good positions but weren’t able to hurt the opponent enough, I thought. But overall I’m proud of the guys the way they took in that information.”Where Northern Ireland failed to take advantage of its chances, the USA had the quality and good fortune required. In the 30th, Reyna enjoyed the sort of bounce he was looking for during a more frustrating outing three days earlier against Jamaica. Ream had some time and space in the left channel and fed Reyna inside, where the Borussia Dortmund youngster had an opportunity to take a couple touches and set up a right-footed shot. His blast deflected wildly off Northern Ireland defender Ciaron Brown and over the helpless goalkeeper.The match remained close as substitutes started to change the game’s complexion. But Pulisic, who played only 45 minutes against the Reggae Boyz, remained on the field and finally was rewarded for the confidence he demonstrated this week to use his dribbling skills and take on defenders. Pulisic was tripped up in the penalty area in the 59th minute and took the penalty himself, rolling it a few inches to the goalkeeper’s left for his 15th international goal.Berhalter lauded Pulisic’s skill, effort and work rate after the Chelsea forward’s man-of-the-match performance.”Forget about all the great stuff he does on the ball,” Berhalter said. “He just competed today, and when he’s in that type of mode he’s just an unbelievable player. That’s what I was most happy with today. It was relentless pressing. He just kept going and going and going, and he’s so good on the ball he can unbalance the [other] team. To me he had an overall really strong performance.”Said Pulisic when reflecting on both games this week, “I was happy with my performances and the team’s. It’s really good. It helps our confidence going out and getting two good results. It’s really nice to come in and get minutes again, get 90 today, and I’m definitely proud of the guys.”Regarding his role in the 3-4-3, Pulisic said, “I was definitely playing my game. Obviously positionally things changed a bit and from a formation standpoint, but when I get the ball I still have the same objectives in mind. I’m still going right at the goal and trying to create things, and I was able to do that today.”The U.S. had more of its way during the game’s latter stages as both teams made changes. Substitute forward Daryl Dike came close on a couple of occasions to scoring his first international goal, and Sebastian Lletget hit a one-timer reminiscent of his two goals against Jamaica. This time, however, his shot was saved. Northern Ireland halved the American advantage in the 88th minute as Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn beat Steffen with a beautifully struck, dipping half-volley from an acute angle.Northern Ireland will look to rebound quickly as it faces Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier on March 31, while the Americans will return to their respective clubs. The next time Berhalter gathers his team, the stakes will be much higher. After a friendly at Switzerland on May 30, a first-choice USA will face Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at a U.S. site to be announced. A third-place game or final against either Mexico or Costa Rica will follow. Although the Nations League title isn’t a major one, that international window is expected to be the final time Berhalter calls up his top European-based players before World Cup qualifying begins in September.

Champions League predictions: Bayern Munich and Chelsea to make it all the way to the final?


Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City must navigate a daunting route to the club’s first-ever Champions League final after the draw for the quarterfinals and semifinals pitted the Premier League leaders against Borussia Dortmund and the winners of the clash between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

With UEFA mapping out the road to the final in Istanbul by drawing both the quarters and semis, the prospect of Liverpool repeating their 2005 Champions League success at the Ataturk Stadium depends on Jurgen Klopp’s team overcoming Real Madrid in the last eight, before facing the winners of the Chelsea-Porto tie. Before winning the Champions League in 2005, Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semifinal with Luis Garcia’s infamous “ghost goal.”

The draw also keeps alive the prospect of an all-English final, with a box office clash between Real and Bayern also possible.

With the route to Istanbul now clear, ESPN has attempted to predict how the final rounds will shape up — and who will meet in the final on May 29.


Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund

While Manchester City will be strong favourites to progress over a Dortmund team that’s outside the top four in the German Bundesliga, it could all go horribly wrong for Pep Guardiola’s team if they fail to nullify the threat of Erling Haaland.

The 20-year-old, whose father Alfie played for City between 2000 and 2003, is a major summer target for Guardiola, but right now, he’s the biggest threat to City’s prospects of reaching the semis. Haaland is the top scorer in this season’s competition with 10 goals and will be unfazed by facing City, but Dortmund also have the attacking talents of former City youngster Jadon Sancho to cause concern for Guardiola and his players.



UCL draw: Madrid vs. Liverpool, Bayern vs. PSG

Dortmund’s weakness is at the back, as they’ve conceded nine goals so far this season in the competition. City, meanwhile, have allowed just one goal in eight Champions League games: a 14th-minute goal in City’s 3-1 win over Porto back in October. But as impressive as City have been, they’ve not faced a striker of Haaland’s quality during a soft run to the quarters, so the tie is less clear-cut that it would seem on paper.

City’s overall strength, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, should see them progress, but Haaland could turn the tie on its head.

Who qualifies? Manchester City