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
Bassett // Roldan
Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Reynolds/Che
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
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
NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly 5dJeff Carlisle
Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality Kyle Bonagura
EPL & WORLD
Klopp: Gerrard will manage Liverpool one day 6hAramide Oladipo
Gerrard’s Liverpool return starts audition to replace KloppMark 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’
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?
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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?!?
- 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+.
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.
- 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 — Ajax, Bayern Munich and Liverpool — qualified for the knockout phase with a 100% record while Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United ensured that the Premier League will be fully represented in the round of 16.
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 Salah. Real 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 Benzema, Vinicius Junior, Toni 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?
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.
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.
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.”