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.
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
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
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
US Ladies & NWSL
US Players overseas
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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?
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”