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

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

US Men Win

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

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sun,  Dec 26

10 am NBCSN                      West Ham vs Southampton

10 am USA                            Tottenham vs Crystal Palace

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

3 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Brentford 

Mon,  Dec 27

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle United vs Man United

Tues,  Dec 28

7:30 am NBCSN                  Arsenal vs Wolverhampon

10 am  NBCSN                     Southampton vs Tottenham

12:30 pm NBCSN                Leeds United vs Aston Villa

3 pm NBCSN                        Leicester City vs Liverpool 

Wed,  Dec 29

2:30 pm Peacock                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brighton 

3:15 pm NBCSN                  Brentford vs Man City

Thur,  Dec 30

3 pm NBCSN                         Man United vs Burnley

Sat, Jan 1

7:30 am USA                        Arsenal vs Man City 

10 am  USA                          Watford vs Tottenham 

12:30 pm USA                     Crystal Palace vs West Ham United 

Sun, Jan 2

8 am ESPN+                          Getafe vs Real Madrid

9 am  USA                             Everton vs Brighton   

11:30 am USA                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool 

3 pm ESPN+                          Mallorca vs Barcelona 

Mon,  Jan 3

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

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

Thur,  Jan 6

12:30 pm Paramount+      Milan vs Roma

2:45 Para+                            Juventus (McKennie) vs Napoli

Fri,  Jan 7

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

Fri,  Jan 27

7:30 pm ESPN2                   USMNT vs El Salvador

Sun,  Jan 30

3:30 pm Paramount+        USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Jan 27

7:30 pm FS1                         USMNT vs Honduras

USMNT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USMNT Yunas Musah Scores in Copa Del Rey – SI  

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

Mexico loses appeal of two-match stadium ban  

EPL 

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

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

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

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

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

WORLD

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

Lewandowski bags record as Bayern go nine points clear in Germany

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

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

Buffon: Juventus lost ‘DNA’ after Ronaldo arrival

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

USMNT Caps Memorable, Productive 2021 With One Last Late Winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Morris – 6.88

Walker Zimmerman – 6.65

Matt Turner – 6.59

Cole Bassett – 6.43

Jonathan Gomez – 6.30

Henry Kessler – 5.57

Bryan Reynolds – 5.52

Brooks Lennon – 5.41

Johnny Cardoso – 5.23

Jesús Ferreira – 5.06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Just qualify, OK?

It doesn’t matter how, JUST DO IT.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Figure out the center-forward spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Play one (1) normal game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Pick a keeper and stick with him

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Go for a run in Hamilton…

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Get out of your group

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

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

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

Dec 17, 2021Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 RICARDO PEPI

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

 JOHN BROOKS

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

JAMES SANDS

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

 BRYAN REYNOLDS

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

 REGGIE CANNON

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

 AUSTON TRUSTY

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

DARYL DIKE

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

SERGINO DEST

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

 WESTON MCKENNIE

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

TYLER ADAMS

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

DJORDJE MIHAILOVIC

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

COLE BASSETT

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

CADEN CLARK

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

MILES ROBINSON

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

GEORGE BELLO

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

TYLER BOYD

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

OTHER NAMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

 GOALKEEPING

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

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

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

CENTRAL DEFENSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEFT BACK

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

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

RIGHT BACK

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

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

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

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

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

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

WINGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

CENTER FORWARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OVERALL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Sat night  

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG GAMES TO WATCH  

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Dec 17

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

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

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

9 am CBSSN                 Atalanta vs Roma

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

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

10:15 am ESPN2           Real Sociadad  vs Villarreal

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12 noon CBSSN            Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Sampdoria vs Venezia (  )   

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

Tues,  Dec 20

3 pm ESPN+                         Arsenal vs Sunderland  English Cup

Weds,  Dec 21

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

Sun,  Dec 26

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

US Men

 WTW4 US vs Bosnia S&S  

Scouting Bosnia S&S

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

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

Transfer news: Juventus could sell USMNT’s Weston McKennie

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

Yanks Abroad – Last Weekend  –

MLS Final

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

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

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

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

Champions League Round of 16- Feb 16


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

Barcelona to play Napoli in Europa League knockout play-offs

NWSL & US Ladies

Horan and Rodman win US POY

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

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

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

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

EPL & World


England drawn against Italy and Germany in UEFA Nations League

Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero announces retirement due to heart condition

Sergio Aguero — Impish striker who became a Manchester City icon

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

Ronaldo fires Man United in front of Norwich City

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

Tuchel: Chelsea ‘lucky’ to beat Leeds

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

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

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

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

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

Latest Form

USA

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

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

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

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

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

Bosnia & Herzegovina

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

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

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

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

What To Watch For

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

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

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

Lineup Prediction

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

Cowell// Pepi // Morris

Roldan /Bassett

Acosta

Bello/Zimmerman / Che / Gomez 

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Gómez

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Who fared well?

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

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

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

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

UEFA Champions League draw for last 16 – Full schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPL, MLS viewership up

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

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

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

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

Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Next Weekend

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Reynolds/Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

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

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

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

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

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

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

Games to Watch this Weekend

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

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Wolverhampton

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

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds 

10 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United 

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                        Brighton vs Tottenham 

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

11:30 NBCSN                       Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Tues,  Dec 14

3 pm NBCSN                        Man City vs Leeds

Weds,  Dec 15

3 pm NBCSN                        Arsenal vs West Ham 

Thurs,  Dec 16

2:45 pm NBCSN                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm Peacock                      Liverpool vs New Castle

Fri,  Dec 17

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

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

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

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

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

12 Paramount+               Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC 


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

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

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

New York eye Timbers upset in MLS Cup final

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

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

Revs ace Gil named MLS MVP

EPL & WORLD


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

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

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

Leon edge Atlas in Liga MX final thriller

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

Champions League 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USMNT

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

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

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

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

Jordan Morris grateful for USMNT return after two years away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LADIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESPN

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

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

Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC

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

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

What a difference one result or four points can make.

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

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

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

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

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

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

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

Predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Winter Finals

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

Other notes:

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

Streaming overseas:

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

Sunday

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

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

Streaming overseas:

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

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

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

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

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

What caught your attention on matchday 6?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ESPN FC 100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 09, 2021  4:10 AM

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

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

Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina?

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

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

Starting points

Let’s start with a couple easy picks:

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

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

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

Double pivot?

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

New faces, new spots

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

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

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

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

Garber: Las Vegas the favorite to Join MLS Next  to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week’s Top 5 Matches to Watch

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

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

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

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

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

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

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tuesday, Dec 7

UEFA Champions League

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

Wednesday, Dec 8

UEFA Champions League

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

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

Thursday, Dec 9

UEFA Europa League

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

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN           Man City vs Wolverhampton

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

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds  

10 am NBCSN??           Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United  

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                      Brighton vs Tottenham  

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

11:30 NBCSN                      Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

2:45 pm CBSSN                  Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                     Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

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

Champions League

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

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

MLS Super Cup Finals

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

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

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

Charra part of the heart and Soul of Portland

Bob Bradley looks to Turn things Around in Toronto  

EPL

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

Tuchel questions Chelsea focus after shock defeat at West Ham

USA / World

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

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe  ASN

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

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

Barca, Atletico in danger of Champions League exit

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

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

Ballon d’Or backlash from Bayern?

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

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

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

Three-horse race and four-way showdown

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

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

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

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

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

Already in the last-16 pot

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

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

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

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

Europa League consolation

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

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

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

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

MLS CUP

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

CONFERENCE FINALS

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

ROUND 1

Which teams have won MLS Cup?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portland Timbers’ Major League Soccer dream becomes a reality

Dec 5, 2021  Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

8:03 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

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

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe

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

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 05, 2021  10:45 PM

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

 MARSCH OUT AT LEIPZIG

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

 ARMAS TO BECOME MAN U ASSISTANT

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

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

WHAT WENT WRONG THIS WEEKEND?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 RICHARDS SURGES FOR HOFFENHEIM

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

 RAMIREZ’S BIG OUTING FOR ABERDEEN

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

 VINES IMPRESSES FOR ANTWERP

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

 ANYTHING ELSE GOOD?

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

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

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

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

NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

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

The US Ladies win 1 and tie 1 vs Austrialia

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

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

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

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 4  

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

10 USA                        Wolverhampton vs Liverpool   

12:30 pm                     Dortmund vs Bayern Munchen

12:30 NBC                   Watford vs Man City

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

Sun  Dec 5

9 am NBCSN                Man United vs Crystal Palace

11:30 NBCSN             Aston Villa vs Leicester City  

3 pm ABC                   Philly Union vs NYCFC MLS Finals

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

More to come later

MLS Conference Finals Sat/Sun

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

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

Ronaldo considered purchasing MLS franchise

US Men


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

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

How family put Adams on the path to soccer stardom

EPL


Premier League top three set for titanic title battle

Man Utd job too good for Rangnick to turn down

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 14

Manchester United vs Arsenal final score: Three things we learned

World  

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

Bayern Munich waiting on Goretzka for Dortmund clash

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

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

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

US Ladies & NWSL   

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

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

Sam Mewis traded to Kansas City Current

US Players overseas

Saturday

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

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

Other notes:

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

Streaming overseas:

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

Sunday

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

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

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

Streaming overseas:

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

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

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

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

Eastern Conference final

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

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

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

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

Predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

Western Conference final

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

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

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

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

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

Predictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unlucky deflection is the difference.

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

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

Unusued Subs: 1-Jane Campbell

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

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

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

6:31 PM ET  Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite the shuffled midfield, meanwhile, Bayern remains Bayern

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

This has only been so much of a rivalry of late

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

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

Kevin Johnston  Special for IndyStar  11/20/21

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

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

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