3/29/22  USMNT vs Costa Rica 9 pm CBSSN, Indy 11 Home Opener Sat 7 pm

US Qualifies for World Cup with W, Tie or 5 goal loss to Costa Rica Wed Night at 9 pm on CBSSN 

Ok so 4 years after the debacle in Cuovo (Trinidad & Tobago) the legendary loss that knocked the US men out of the World Cup for the first time in 28 Years, the US Men have all but qualified for this Winter’s World Cup in Qatar. Pulisic claimed his first ever Hat Trick for the US team with 2 Pks and this spectacular goal.  The US crowd  in Orlando – unbelievable – as the atmosphere was like the American Outlaws Section all over the stadium. (Game Hi-Lites ).  My 3 buddies at the game all said it was the BEST Atmosphere they have ever seen for a soccer game in the US.   The Bottom line is the US is in the World Cup this winter – if we don’t lose to Costa Rica Wednesday night 9 pm on CBS Sports Network & Paramount plus -by more than 5 goals.  It would take a 6 goal loss to a Costa Rica team that is likely to be resting at least 7 of their starters and 9 overall now on yellow cards.  The stupidest rule in all of sports -yellow card accumulation- (across 10 Qualifying games plus any playoff) means that since Costa Rica would need a major miracle (a 6 goal win over the US Wednesday night at home) that Costa Rica will most probably rest all of their starters who have 1 yellow card to make sure they don’t miss the 1 game playoff in June vs New Zealand (probably) to a trip to Qatar.  To expect a player – especially a Dmid or Defender to only get 1 yellow card in 10 friggin games is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!  It cost us Weah and Yedlin this past game – and almost cost us Adams the past 2 games.  Its the dumbest rule in all of sports – imagine suspending LaBron because he got 1 yellow card (flop foul) in game 2 of the playoffs and again in game 6 of the conference finals and having him miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals – that’s what soccer does and IT’S THE DUMBEST RULE IN ALL OF SPORTS!! 

Shane’s Starting Roster for Costa Rica Wed

Pulisic //Pfok//Weah



Jedi Robinson//Robinson//Zimmerman//Yedlin

Steffan (should be Horvath)

I truly think Berhalter needs to see his best players on the field – if only for a half vs Costa Rica.  We still haven’t seen Pulisic, Reyna, & Weah on the field at the same time.  I would even consider putting Weah at the 9 slot – and putting Reyna on the right wing and adding De La Torre beside Musah just to see what that would look like (imagine when we add McKinney in the summer for De La Torre and Dest on the right back) – we have never seen our best players on the field at the same time since Berhalter became coach – mainly because of injuries.  Wow – we could really be good come World Cup time.  Wait – that’s right – we have to not lose by 6 goals Wed – before we can say World Cup.  I actually think Berhalter will put out a first team squad on Wed night – and we will find a way to actually win a game in Costa Rica for the first time EVER !!  We have tied before but never won in Costa Rica – I see the US winning 2-1 Wed night !! Go USA !!


Wow Orlando – what a magical night in the Mickey City – as the ENTIRE Stadium looked like an American’s Outlaw’s Section – the ENTIRE GAME.  They stood and jumped and screamed and sang – and JUST WOW !! Well Done Orlando !!  I had 2 buddies there who said it was the BEST Soccer Game they have ever been to.  Just Awesome !! The only complaint I had was how, just how could this game not have been on big Fox?  I mean what was on Fox Sun night  that the USA Men Qualifying for the Damn World Cup doesn’t slot a prime Time 7 pm start on Fox rather than Fox Sports 1 (The Simpsons and Ice Age).  Pre-game and Post Game on FS1 – sure but the dang Game should have been on FOX.  They host the Dang World Cup for Heaven’s Sake in just 8 months!


Some controversy as the US blowout 5 to 1 win over Panama – was not quite enough to celebrate Qualification into the World Cup.  The team came out with a Qualified Banner – and then quickly replaced it with the thanks to the US Fans – but we are being critized for it  that and Pulisic’s goofy Worm Celebration after the 2nd PK goal.  the   I absolutely loved how Fiesty he was – he was Angry and Intense –  and his first ever Hat Trick was needed.  You could tell he was ticked-off about missing that goal in Mexico – and he took it out on Panama. 

Oh and here’s  Why – on the Worm Celebration

Christian Pulisic explains his worm celebration from Panamá game last night. “I met someone really special yesterday. His name was Mason, and his one request was that if I scored, he wanted to see a worm celebration. That’s what that was for,” Pulisic said.

Mason Ogle is a 17-year-old high school student from Omaha, Nebraska. He is currently receiving treatments for bone cancer and tumors in his lungs, but still managed to play high school soccer last fall. He was invited by USSF to be the game ambassador yesterday.

Man is the Pulisic guy something or what? Please note that while Pulisic was the undisputed POG – the tandem of Zimmerman and Robinson have not given up a goal in 7 WCQ Games when they play together.  The Goal on Sun was Zimmerman and Long – and they just don’t have the same chemistry as Zimmerman/Robinson do.  Zimmerman is a BOSS – he could well be the Breakout star of the World Cup in Dec! 

Berhalter Was Spot On Again

I laugh at the people calling for Berhalter’s head – all he has done is take the youngest US team in history and one of the youngest in the world – and found a way to get us qualified (almost) despite never once having his best 4 players on the field at the same time due to injuries.  He has introduced tons of young players and found the likes of Brendan Aaronson, Musah, De La Torre, Busio, Pepi, Ferriera and more as he just finds a way to plug guys in and still make it all work – no matter who is out injured – he finds a way to balance the roster and get the result needed.  His true judgement will come in the World Cup this Nov/Dec but lets give credit where it is due – he’s 1 game away from getting us back in the World Cup with the youngest, most talented team the US has ever seen – he has turned us from a defensive – hold on for dear life counter attack team – to a possession based – dominate teams we are better than squad.  Again we’ll find out more in the World Cup but for now –  Berhalter has succeeded (Lallas video)

Anyone looking for a place to watch the big game Wednesday Night – the American Outlaws Indy will be hosting at Union Jack’s Sports bar in Broadripple!!

Indy 11 Host Home Opener Sat Night 7 pm at the Mike

The Indy 11 finally arrive home after 3 straight on the road and a 0-1-2 mark to start the season.  New GK Elliot Paniccomade GK of the Week in the USL as he helped the Indy 11 take a 1-1 tie at Louisville last weekend (hi-lights).   The 11 will kickoff their home opener at 7 pm Saturday night vs LA Galaxy II visit

 indyeleven.com/tickets to get single game tickets for as low as $16 plus fees.  Word on the Street is they are close to a sell-out so make those plans early to attend!!


Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

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USMNT looking to make history in Costa Rica
  23mKyle Bonagura

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for  By Rob Usry  S&S
Pulisic’s fiery Captain America display puts U.S. on cusp of World Cup
dSam Borden

Carlisle: Berhalter vindicated as U.S. thrash Panama
Report: U.S. 5-1 Panama
USMNT player ratings vs. Panama

Analysis & player ratings: Pulisic’s hat trick has USMNT on verge of World Cup ticket ASN

USA v. Panama, 2022 World Cup Qualifier; What We Learned By Adnan Ilyas
USMNT’s workmanlike reaction to win is understandable after 2018 World Cup disappointment | Opinion

Pulisics Hat Trick – has US at Edge of World Cup
USA all but seal place at World Cup as Pulisic hat-trick fuels rout of Panama

U.S. men’s national soccer team effectively clinch spot at World Cup in Qatar with one qualifier left to play

WATCH: Christian Pulisic’s 1st USMNT hat trick (That nutmeg-driven 3rd!)

Herc Gomez on US Win and W2 Look 4 – Video 13 min
Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal


2022 World Cup: How United States and Mexico can qualify 2dDale Johnson
Oh Canada! Larin and Buchanan lead team to first men’s World Cup since 1986

Canada clinches first World Cup berth since 1986 in front of raucous crowd


World Cup contenders: France, Germany, Brazil the teams to beat  Mark Ogden

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland  Mark Ogden

Mane’s Senegal beat Salah’s Egypt to reach WC

Top seeds confirmed for World Cup finals draw  Dale Johnson

World Cup: Who has qualified and who is still in contention? ESPN

Portugal are more than just Ronaldo, and stronger for it
Egypt loses World Cup playoff, Senegal fans fire laser pointers in pens

Lewandowski strikes as Poland punch World Cup ticket

US Ladies

USWNT’s Williams, Davidson suffer major injuries  hCaitlin Murray
USWNT, Kansas City forward Lynn Williams suffers season-ending injury

Tierna Davidson to miss 2022 season with ACL tear

Indy 11

Indy 11 Ties Louisville 1-1

Indy 11 GK Wins Team of Week Nod

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale


Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

How will USMNT lineup vs. Costa Rica?

Joe Prince-Wright Tue, March 29, 2022, 9:07 AM·3 min read

How will the USMNT lineup for their final World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica on Wednesday (watch live, 9:05pm ET)?

How do you lineup for a game which you can afford to lose by five goals and still qualify for the 2022 World Cup? 

It is an intriguing proposition for USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter because there are a plenty of things going on here:

1) you want to rest your star players. 2) you have to avoid a disastrous defeat which could knock you out of automatic qualification. 3) you need a certain amount of experience sprinkled throughout the team to avoid any kind of heavy defeat, but you want to give fringe players a chance.

Below is how I would line up the USMNT in Costa Rica, from the start, while remembering that you can make five subs and four of them would probably come on at half time to get the job done.

Latest USMNT news

Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal 2022 World Cup qualifying, live! Scores, how to watch, schedule, odds Costa Rica vs USMNT: How to watch live, stream link, team news

USMNT lineup vs Costa Rica (4-3-3 formation)

—– Horvath —–

— Moore — Robinson — Long — Yedlin —

— Acosta — Adams — Busio —-

—- Weah —- Pepi —- Reyna —-


Okay, most USMNT fans would want to play Zack Steffen, Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic to start. But what is the point? The job is 99 percent done. Those players have put in heavy shifts in two big games over the last few days.  The big question for Berhalter is this: do you start with your strongest team and if say it’s 0-0 or you’re only 1-0 down at half time, you then sub off most of the starters? Or do you start with a weaker lineup and then bring on the big boys at half time to close out qualifying in style?

I’d actually go for the approach of starting most of the back-up players to give them a chance to show what they can do. They are fresher, hungry to prove they deserve to be in the World Cup squad (it’s happening, folks) and I’m not sure there’s that much drop-off across the squad outside of Pulisic, Adams and Reyna. It really is a very even player pool, but you still need to put out a starting lineup which has plenty of experience just to get to half time in a good situation.

I would start Horvath in goal because there’s no need to risk Steffen picking up an injury (he had recent back issues at Man City) and he already looked a little shaky against Panama. I would give Antonee Robinson a rest and play Yedlin at left back, which he has done before. I would also play Aaron Long and Miles Robinson together at center back, then bring on Erik Palmer-Brown for Robinson. There is no doubt that Miles Robinson and Zimmerman are the USMNT’s first-choice CB pairing, so you need to see Long and EPB in these situations.

In midfield, Tyler Adams will anchor things with his experience, at least for the first half, while Gianluca Busio and Kellyn Acosta have shown they can be very useful with their energy and precision in the engine room. Tyler Adams should be given a rest given the incredible workload he went through against Mexico and Panama but he makes this team tick and should play for the first half. Then, Luca de la Torre and Cristian Roldan should come on to play 45 minutes.

Up top, Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi should start centrally, with Tim Weah and Gio Reyna (to continue his return to full fitness) either side to bring a spark to the attack. Christian Pulisic should only be used if desperately needed. He won’t be.

USA vs. Panama, 2022 World Cup qualifying: SSFC Man of the Match

Hat. Trick. Hero.

By jcksnftsn  Mar 29, 2022, 1:08pm PDT    S&S

The United States Men’s National Team is in spitting distance of clinching qualification for the 2022 World Cup thanks to an overwhelming 5-1 win over Panama in Orlando on Sunday night. The team has secured no worse than fourth place in the group which is enough to make the playoff match against Oceania’s group. However, the dominant score line means that they can qualify outright by doing no worse than a 5-0 loss to Costa Rica on Wednesday night. There were a number of good performances in this match, eight of the eleven players scored higher than a seven and only one player was lower than a six. Compare this to Thursday’s draw at the Azteca, which was one of the better performances of the Hex but only two players scored over a seven on the ratings scale and you start to get a sense for the joy coming out of the match with Panama and closing in on World Cup Qualification. Not surprisingly it was Christian Pulisic and his hat trick that shone brightest of all, Pulisic earned a 9.0 rating by the community and the SSFC Man of the Match.Pulisic buried both of his penalty kicks, the first to open the scoring and the second to put the game out of reach just before halftime, and then added a jaw dropping third in open play to cap off his hat trick.

The ratings for all the players, along with the referee and head coach Gregg Berhalter:

Christian Pulisic – 9.00

Antonne Robinson – 7.67

Paul Arriola – 7.60

Walker Zimmerman – 7.51

Tyler Adams – 7.43

Luca de la Torre – 7.32

Jesús Ferreira – 7.19

Miles Robinson – 7.02

Shaq Moore – 6.81

Yunus Musah – 6.34

Zack Steffen – 5.80


Giovanni Reyna – 7.04

Kellyn Acosta – 6.44

Aaron Long – 5.87

Gianluca Busio – 5.62

Jordan Morris – 5.62

Gregg Berhalter – 7.59

Referee Iván Arcides Barton Cisneros – 6.30

Pulisic, U.S. close to World Cup qualification thanks to his fiery Captain America performance

  • ORLANDO, Fla. — Tyler Adams has been the de facto captain for the U.S. men’s national team during this World Cup qualifying cycle, but when the U.S. players emerged from the tunnel on Sunday, Christian Pulisic was at the front, the armband wrapped tightly around his sleeve.

It was fitting, too. On the night the U.S. all but clinched its place in this winter’s tournament, Pulisic — one of the few links from the team that failed so spectacularly nearly five years ago — led from the start.Pulisic scored twice in the first half on penalty kicks. He scored again just past the hour with the sort of balletic footwork in front of goal that gives American fans fever dreams. He had to be restrained by Gregg Berhalter when he tried to run at a mob of Panamanian players during a minor scrape near the sideline. He got a yellow card for screaming at (and charging toward) the referee after the official called a fairly benign foul in midfield, even with the U.S. fully in control.In a game where the U.S. needed everything from its stars, Pulisic was a frothing ball of fire — exactly what Berhalter was thinking when he turned to Pulisic to be the captain.”I think because of the journey,” Berhalter said. “You have a guy that’s been there before. He was on the field when we didn’t qualify, and this was us saying to him, this is a new group, this is a new team, and you’re a leader. We wanted to show that.”Nothing could ever get back what was lost in Trinidad in 2017, but this match and this performance, from a player whose ebbs and flows so often drive the feeling about American soccer in general, was as sweet and special a salve on the scar as one could have imagined.”It was a huge honor to be captain tonight,” Pulisic said afterward. “Absolutely we can enjoy tonight, but the job’s not done yet. We have one more really important game, and we’re taking it very seriously.”Pulisic’s restraint was understandable: There is still some work to be done. The combination of results in other matches this weekend means that the U.S. can do no worse than fourth place in this CONCACAF qualifying table, which would put them into a one-game playoff for a World Cup spot. (If the USMNT goes this route, it will face either the Solomon Islands or New Zealand in June for a berth to Qatar.) The USMNT will assure itself one of the three automatic places with a win, a draw or even a loss that’s no worse than a five-goal margin against Costa Rica on Wednesday in San Jose. And while history tells us that the strangest things can (and sometimes do) happen, even by Couva standards, this would be a stretch.

Six years after making his national team debut as a 17-year-old wunderkind, Pulisic seems virtually certain to finally get the chance to represent the United States on his sport’s biggest stage. In many ways, Pulisic’s transformation from what he was in the last cycle to what he is now tells the story of this U.S. soccer team rebirth.


1 – Canada1328+17
2 – USA1325+13
3 – Mexico1325+7
4 – Costa Rica1322+3
5 – Panama1318-3
6 – El Salvador1310-8
7 – Jamaica138-11
8 – Honduras134-18
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

Back then, he was a diamond in the rough, one of the only fresh lights among a group of veterans trying to push for a final turn in the arena. Now, he is a relative veteran (even at 23), surrounded by a slew of rising American talent who have turned the U.S. into the sort of team that that no one would want to face in a one-off match. Berhalter, of course, deserves praise for marshalling this group — which has perpetually put out some of the youngest starting lineups in U.S. World Cup qualifying history — and pushing it to the brink of reaching its first goal. But the players have risen to the moment throughout this cycle whenever they needed it most, and they did it again against Panama.Pulisic was the motor. Five years ago, in the match before the ill-fated trip to Trinidad, Pulisic scored eight minutes into a victory over Panama here, running toward the corner flag and sliding on his knees in celebration. On Sunday, facing Panama in the same stadium, he put the U.S. in front in the 17th minute, coolly stepping up to take the penalty kick after Anibal Godoy fouled Walker Zimmerman in the area. This time, his revelry took him more to the sideline where he was surrounded by his teammates as the packed stadium thrummed.Six minutes later, Pulisic’s slick pullback pass led to Antonee Robinson‘s perfect cross and Paul Arriola‘s header to put the U.S. two in front. A four-man passing sequence led to Jesus Ferreira scoring a third before a half-hour had been played. Pulisic then added his second from the spot in first-half stoppage time, after which he asked his teammates for a bit of space and dropped to the ground before attempting a (very, very) short rendition of “The Worm” dance move.The Panamanians were out on their feet by that point. The stadium was bedlam. And Pulisic’s face was one of joy and glee.”I rate it like a solid 8,” Ferreira said of Pulisic’s attempt at “The Worm.” “Can’t give it a 10 because he didn’t go back down.” Arriola, while appreciating the spirit of the choice, said, “I’d probably give him a 5 just for flexibility. He could have been a little more flexible.”In truth, the last goal of Pulisic’s hat trick was the real prize. A pillowed touch and spin move around two defenders led to a lashed shot past the goalkeeper and reminded everyone that for all the pressure laid upon Pulisic — whether playing for Chelsea or the U.S. — there’s incredible talent beneath it all. When he’s in form, Pulisic’s pure skill and dynamism is at the highest level.With about 20 minutes remaining, Berhalter sent Gianluca Busio to midfield and the fourth official raised his board with Pulisic’s No. 10 on it in red. Pulisic removed the captain’s armband and passed it to Tyler Adams, then started a slow trot to the sideline as applause — including from Jordan Morris, who was waiting to come into the game — poured down.It was an ovation for a star. For a force. For a player who may not be the team’s every-day leader, but remains its face all the same. In 2017, the tears streaming from Pulisic’s eyes after the final whistle in Trinidad stood in for those of so many U.S. fans.Now, five years later, all that remains is the finish he’s been dreaming about ever since.

All But Done

Pulisic’s Hat Trick Fuels USMNT’s Blowout of Panama, Leaving a Formality in Costa Rica to Qualify for the World Cup

 Grant Wahl  Mar 28

ORLANDO, Fla. — If you’re Christian Pulisic, your first touch is never an end in itself. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it,” he once told me. “It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.”During the U.S.’s 5-1 thrashing of Panama in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier, Pulisic produced the first hat trick of his international career. His opening two goals came on penalties as the U.S. built a stunning 4-0 halftime lead, but the lasting image of a triumphant night will be of Pulisic’s sublime first touch—actually, first two touches—on his third strike of the game. With his back to the goal, Pulisic received Jedi Robinson’s cross with a caressing left-footed touch. But it wasn’t just that Pulisic brought the ball down cleanly; he also pulled it toward the goal between his own legs, allowing him to turn and beat his first defender. Now facing the goal, Pulisic took a single deft touch with the outside of his right foot, nutmegging his second defender and creating space for what looked, in the end, like an easy finish.

But none of it was easy. The hardest thing in soccer is true simplicity, as the great Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp showed us, and the most difficult place to do it is in front of the goal. When you watch the replay, it’s as if Pulisic is operating at a different speed from his opponents. The game slows down for him. Two touches. Shot. Goal. “What I like the most [about Pulisic] is his first touch,” his former teammate Nuri Sahin once explained to me. “When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”

Claudio Reyna on his son, Gio: “I remember when he was in the car and his team would lose when he was Under-11, Under-12, and he’d be crying after the game. And he’d get into the car and I would say, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay.’ And he felt like his teammates weren’t trying as hard as him. And I was like, ‘No, it’s probably they’re just not as good as you.’ And I was just trying to coach him through those moments. But he was so competitive.”…

We Beat Panama 5-1…But Was It Good Enough? Yanks Abroad

The USMNT needed a win on Sunday night, and they earned it in spades with a 5-1 drubbing of Panama. So why wasn’t that good enough? First let’s get the obvious accolades out of the way. More than any other game during qualifying, this was the one that Gregg Berhalter’s squad needed to win. Had the team taken anything less than three points, they would be at serious risk of not qualifying and setting up another nightmare scenario like what unfolded in 2017.Fortunately, the team won, and won by a lot. That means the game plan worked, and Berhalter and the boys all did their jobs well, and then some.Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick, the attack generated had 15 shots, and we won 5-1! How then, could anyone other than the most jaded of obsessively pessimistic analysts be dissatisfied?  I am. I am dissatisfied. However, not because of the overall performance, but because of trends I see that could hurt the team in its attempt to perform in the big show in Qatar later this year.I’m walking away from this game with a sour taste in my mouth, and it all started brewing inside me during the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes of this game showed what kind of one-dimensional, conservative tactician Berhalter really is.For the second time in two games, this time with a five-goal advantage and with Panama running around like a bunch of headless chickens, Berhalter sent on substitutes with very obvious orders:Bunker. Completely.Now I know you’re going to say “We didn’t need goals, so bunkering is fine”. If you said this, you wouldn’t be wrong. Bunkering is “fine”. It’s sound. It’s defensible. It’s safe. But it’s not what we should be doing in this type of situation, and I’ll tell you why. When we see a team bunkering at the end of a game, it’s usually because they are the underdog and trying to hang on for dear life. They have scraped together a goal, and somehow managed to keep the ball out of their own net. They’re not feeling confident in attack, so they just put everyone behind the ball and hope to weather the storm while the opposition attacks.Whenever a defender can get a foot on the ball, it’s launched forward, knowing full-well there’s no one from their team who will be able to get it. With no attackers to receive the ball, the other team can push higher and higher.We did it at the end of the game against Mexico too, and still came out with a point. In that case, it was appropriate in the cauldron (even if the half-capacity cauldron) of Azteca.So what’s the problem this time around?The problem with bunkering is that it invites the other team to attack with everything they’ve got. It is a tactic that screams inferiority.  We were destroying Panama. We were the better technical team and we had a five-goal cushion. Realistically speaking, we could have done anything at all for those last 20 minutes, and Panama was not coming back under any fathomable circumstance.Berhalter has spent nearly four years “teaching” this team to play with a possession-based style, but for some reason he decided we weren’t good enough in possession to protect a five-goal lead for 20 minutes.Or alternatively, he chose the wrong time, and the wrong quality of opponent to practice this tactic…again…for the second time in 72 hours.To flip the well-known phrase on its head: the best defense is a good offense.If we have the ball, they can’t score goals. We needed cool heads, and to circulate and recycle passes ad nauseam. I’m not saying we needed to attack and push for a sixth or perhaps a seventh goal against Panama.In fact I’m saying we shouldn’t, but we should not have gifted possession to an entirely overwhelmed opponent.Tactically, it’s a simple drill: get the ball from the keeper to the center backs, who trade possession back and forth between each other before pushing up one side. When that side closes, go back again and switch to the other side. If Panama pushes up so high the CBs are smothered, they can play a mid-range pass to a midfielder who brings it forward to link up calmly. Then pass back and repeat.It’s an important drill, but in a rare opportunity against real opponents in a game situation.There’s no need to drive forward, and at a 5-1 advantage, there’s no need to score. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the ball and hope they can’t break us down. We need to know how to keep the ball, and we had a chance to practice doing just that. We ended up with lower pass completion and only 39% possession on the night, and a lot of that comes from the bunker-and-boot-it ineptitude of the at the end of the game. But in the end, we won. The target from the start (and since that horrible day in 2017) has been to qualify for the final tournament in Qatar, and we have essentially done that.We can straighten all of this out later, right? Maybe.Maybe Berhalter has just been playing down to the CONCACAF competition this whole time, and when the World Cup comes, he’s going to turn it on. Maybe he’ll select only the best talent and let them loose with those European tactics that wouldn’t work against chippy teams on the pitted fields of CONCACAF.Maybe we’ll see our players performing as well in the US jersey as they have in their Champions League games. I mean, Jordan Pefok didn’t shank any sitters against Manchester United or Atalanta.It’s possible, but I don’t believe it. I believe the way you practice is the way you play in real game situtions. I don’t think there’s a magical switch that gets flipped to suddenly change what’s been drilled.  And believe me, what has been drilled is not something that is going to be as successful against Argentina, France, England or Italy….er….not Italy, as it has been against Panama, El Salvador, and Jamaica. This game was an absolutely perfect opportunity to possess the ball against a desperate team.We needed to make Panama chase us. We needed the experience of stringing together 50 passes that accomplish nothing other than tiring out and frustrating the opposition. The possession-based team that Berhalter is trying to craft needs to be able to do this, but it’s not something that is ingrained enough in the historical fabric of the USMNT to ignore those rare low-risk chances when we can practice it in a competitive situation.This is a skill for a team, meaning it can be learned and repeated. So why hasn’t it been learned an repeated? Does Berhalter think we’re not good enough to keep the ball?He’s a vocal coach on the sidelines and he’s barking orders for 90+ minutes a game, so why not remind Zimmerman to keep a short and long option in mind before getting the ball from Steffen? Spread wide when Steffen has the ball in the back, and be ready to distribute. Don’t follow the attacker when he comes inside to pressure the goalie.

Instead, everything was launched 50 yards upfield in a seeming panic.It’s not insane to think that we could go up a goal or two against a top team during the World Cup. It’s happened, and could happen again in a few months.If that happens, do we simply sub out our attackers and bunker? Maybe we should just let Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, or Paul Pogba go to town, praying they don’t find a crack in our rock-solid defense? Does that sound like fun? We all endured the firing line against Belgium in 2014. It worked then, for 90 minutes, but that was a rare instance of individual heroism by a keeper having the best game of his career.Realistically speaking, we’ll need to recover after playing 25 minutes of a high press, and being able to control the game while recovering would be nice, and less exhausting.

After decades of waiting, following several generations of players, and enduring too many promises broken, we finally have a group of players that are good enough to take their game to the other team. I don’t want to curse them with any labels, but from top to bottom, this is the most skilled pool of players that any USMNT coach has ever had at his disposal.After four years of learning curve and possession, why won’t Berhalter let the players play, and let the football gods decide? This is basic. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s what good head coaches of good teams do, and I believe we are a good team. But this is where we get to the crux of the problem.After watching the game against Panama, I don’t think that Berhalter believes we’re a good enough team to escape the bunker mentality.For USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, only his tactics can save us. We’re well drilled in how to win in CONCACAF. We will almost certainly qualify on Wednesday, barring some force of god stopping the game from happening. On Friday is the draw when we will find out our World Cup opponents (oh, how I missed this 5 years ago), and that will begin a whole new journey.But just like Berhalter doesn’t trust his players to execute, I don’t trust Berhalter’s tactics against the best in the world.I don’t think a team like ours should put everyone behind the ball for the final 20 minutes, even in a close against a hypothetical team better than Panama. If Berhalter can’t trust Giovanni Reyna, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio, and Jordan Morris to keep the ball from Panama, what are we supposed to do against Germany or Brazil or Ital….Portugal? Why even show up?We won in Orlando. We’re all but qualified for the World Cup. The thing is, we’re going to have to actually PLAY in the world cup. We have the personnel to be able to do something special, but they’re being muzzled.The coach is blinded by his confidence in his own strategies. He has proven that he knows how to use the talent at hand. However, he doesn’t trust that the best generation of players we’ve ever had can get it done. I’m disappointed because it seems he won’t let our golden generation do what they do best…play the game.All I ask is for the coach to have the same confidence in our players’ ability to control a game as their collective skill dictates.

Gregg Berhalter’s selections justified with United States on brink of World Cup berth

ORLANDO, Fla. — It is a manager’s lot in life to be second-guessed. Decisions are analyzed to the smallest of details. Mistakes get highlighted. That’s especially true of international managers, with a country’s armchair coaches never holding back.Credit is due, then, to U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter. Over the past week he had some tricky choices to make, especially ahead of the World Cup qualifier Sunday against Panama. The U.S. was coming off an exhausting 0-0 draw with Mexico in the 7,200-foot altitude of Estadio Azteca. How much could the U.S. manager rely on the players who played the bulk of the minutes in Mexico City? There was also the injury bug that forced the U.S. to do without Weston McKennieBrenden Aaronson and Sergino Dest. The yellow card suspensions to DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah, as well as the positive COVID-19 test for Reggie Cannon, further limited Berhalter’s options further.

Even given those challenges, Berhalter’s personnel decisions on Sunday invited scrutiny. Was Paul Arriola really the best choice out wide ahead of Gio Reyna? What about Shaq Moore being an emergency call-up at right-back over the Bundesliga pedigree of Joe Scally? Then there was the decision to start Jesus Ferreira up top against Panama’s hulking back line.All of them came through in massive ways, not only delivering on Berhalter’s “next man up” mentality, but speaking to the team’s depth. Arriola scored a gorgeous goal with a glancing header. Ferreira troubled Panama with his movement and scored the kind of garbage goal that was thought to be the domain of Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi. Moore barely put a foot wrong holding down the right side of the U.S. defense. And with Christian Pulisic delivering a hat trick — his first with the national team — the U.S. powered its way to a critical 5-1 victory over the Canaleros, putting the USMNT on the brink of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.”We wanted to be aggressive,” Berhalter said after the match. “We wanted to put them on their heels. We wanted to play with intensity and we also want to score goals. It’s great to see that output.”Granted, some of Berhalter’s decisions were made for him. The U.S. manager said that as many as 20 players and staff were laid low by a stomach bug after the Mexico game. Sources told ESPN that Reyna was among those impacted. But there was some internal logic to the decisions as well. Arriola’s work rate provided extra cover for Moore who last played for the U.S. back in October. It also allowed Moore to get into the attack where he was effective, helping to set up Ferreira’s goal. Arriola’s pressing helped on the attacking end as well. With Panama in desperation mode following its home draw against Honduras last Thursday, there was bound to be more space for Ferreira and his greater mobility to exploit.”We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window and an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” Berhalter said. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality we have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.”Berhalter pushed the right buttons in terms of playing time as well. A clearly fatigued Yunus Musah was pulled at half-time. Tyler Adams and Pulisic were substituted with the game well in hand, a move that prevented Adams picking up a caution that would have seen him suspended. The same was true of the team’s emotions. And the team’s depth pieces met the moment to make big contributions.

Keeping players engaged, especially when playing time drops, isn’t easy. It requires constant attention, keeping track of the pulse of the team and doling out playing time when the time is right. The performances throughout the entire team are proof that Berhalter is managing this aspect well.”The culture that Gregg and the staff have built for this group in this environment … we’re brothers,” Arriola said. “We really feel like that guys love coming into the national team getting together, on and off the field. I think we all click very, very well. And so we all understand that over time, number one is, in order to be a part of this team, you have to put the team first. And when I tell you everyone does that, everyone really, really does.”Of course, some decisions are no-brainers, namely penciling Pulisic into the starting lineup. Granted, the Chelsea attacker has endured an up and down qualifying campaign, coming through against Mexico at home, but also at times looking reluctant to push the tempo. But with Costa Rica’s 2-1 win in El Salvador preventing the U.S. from clinching qualification on the night, Pulisic delivered, scoring a pair of cold-blooded penalties in the first half — both off fouls by Panama’s Anibal Godoy — and polishing off his hat trick with a deft turn and finish from Antonee Robinson’s centering feed in the second.”We needed the three points bad to put us in a really good spot to qualify and we’re really happy with the performance,” Pulisic said through a team spokesperson after not being made available to reporters. “It feels great to get a hat trick, of course, my first one with the national team, but more importantly just to help the team to win and put us in a good spot with one game left.”The U.S. hasn’t completely wrapped up qualification just yet, despite the “Qualified” banner the players displayed after the final whistle that was then whisked away. It would take an unprecedented result in Costa Rica on Wednesday to slip out of one of the three automatic qualification spots. The Ticos would have to win by six goals to make up the edge the U.S. has in goal differential.Even with all of the tough results the U.S. has endured in Costa Rica over the years, the USMNT’s lead would appear to be safe. But the players, especially those that were on the field four-plus years ago when the U.S. failed to qualify, aren’t taking anything for granted.”I’m not celebrating anything,” said Arriola. “I was in this exact position, or very similar position four years ago, and we know how that qualification ended. So for me, I think it’s just maintaining focus, understanding that that we still have work to do and anything is possible. So for us, the mentality of this group is, and has to be to go down there to get a good result against Costa Rica.”Berhalter is of a similar mindset. There were enough sloppy moments on Sunday to make his radar perk up, and while the U.S. missed out on a chance to get a historic qualifying win at the Azteca, a win against the Ticos on Wednesday would make its own history.The final step is often the hardest. The U.S. has come far enough to be that close to qualifying. Wednesday is the time to break through and reach its goal.

 GB Flexes USMNT Depth Chart to keep 2022 World Cup Quest on Course

MLS – Charles Boehm  –  ORLANDO, Fla. – “Give the devil his due.”

The term is said to originate from William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” written more than 400 years ago about the Hundred Years’ War. For those unfamiliar, it’s evolved into shorthand for showing a necessary respect for even the most despised figure.It’s a concept worth considering for even Gregg Berhalter’s most ardent critics, of which there is no small number, now that the coach has steered the youngest US men’s national team in history right to the doorstep of 2022 World Cup qualification. And the area in which he may deserve the most credit is the management and cultivation of a deep player pool that has enabled the program to weather the peaks and valleys of Concacaf qualifying.

Only two starters in the Octagonal-opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador almost seven months ago were in the XI for Sunday’s 5-1 rout of Panama. In fact, only four of those 11 starters in September were even on this month’s roster. Conversely, key contributors against Panama like Jesus FerreiraPaul Arriola, Shaq Moore and Luca de la Torre watched the beginning of the Ocho from home.

That’s what happens on the way to a World Cup, where injuries, suspensions, gains and drops in individual form, and other complications can render the concept of an “ideal XI” nothing more than, well, an idea, a hypothetical exercise. This cycle’s intensely compact three-match windows have only further exacerbated that – and destabilizing chaos can roll in at any moment, like the stomach bug that Berhalter said afflicted 20 members of the traveling party in Mexico last week.“We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window, an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” the coach said after the big win at Exploria Stadium. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality. We have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call people players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.“The national team is difficult, because you don’t always have the guys that are in the best form or the guys that are most fit, because there’s injuries that happen. So I’m really pleased with guys like Luca stepping up, Gianluca Busio, Jordan Morris is involved now, a number of guys. But it makes a difference when you can call on these guys to perform.”

“‘Next man up’ mentality” has become one of Berhalter’s central talking points. According to U.S. Soccer, 29 players have made their first WCQ appearance on the road to Qatar, which ties the record set in the 1998 cycle. In all, more than three dozen players have seen the field, second-most in program history behind the 43 utilized on the road to South Africa 2010, which involved 18 qualifying matches compared to 14 total this time around.“We’re so fortunate that we have such a deep team with so many different qualities in the team,” said Tyler Adams last Monday. “It’s really, really exciting because a lot of guys can get different opportunities and we have so many different ways of breaking down opponents or structuring ourselves to be successful against opponents.”

As US players have filtered into big European clubs – most prominently, UEFA Champions League participants – with increasing frequency, it’s become common for pundits and supporters to frame the USMNT as far and away the most talent-rich side in the region, and thus a shoe-in for qualification, so long as Berhalter doesn’t fumble it away. But data gathered by MLSsoccer.com’s Jonathan Sigal shows how many of those top players have been available for only a fraction of the Octagonal.

Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna has played just 14% of the total minutes in the Ocho to date. Barcelona fullback Sergino Dest has taken part in 36% of those minutes; for Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen it’s just over 38%, Lille winger Tim Weah 45%. Even Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic and Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, this team’s spiritual leaders and tone-setters, have only respectively played 45% and 53% of the time. At one point Salzburg attacker Brenden Aaronson had appeared in every game, but a knee injury ruled him out on the eve of the current window.

Of the 11 Europe-based USMNTers (Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards on loan at Hoffenheim) whose clubs took part in this season’s Champions League, only the foundational Adams (83.5%) has logged more than 60% of the United States’ Octagonal campaign. (Some of these numbers reflect the coach’s discretion: Wolfsburg’s John Brooks was dropped after some uneven moments in September and has since plummeted down the depth chart.)

USA 2022 WCQ: Minutes for UEFA Champions League players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Tyler Adams (M, Leipzig)977 (83.50%)12/1
Brenden Aaronson (M, Salzburg)659 (56.32%)11/2
Weston McKennie (M, Juventus)624 (53.33%)7/6
Christian Pulisic (F, Chelsea)533 (45.45%)9/4
Tim Weah (F, Lille)527 (45.04%)8/5
Zack Steffen (GK, Manchester City)450 (38.46%)5/8
Sergino Dest (D, Barcelona)424 (36.24%)6/7
Gio Reyna (M, Dortmund)164 (14.02%)3/10
Jordan Pefok (F, Young Boys)139 (11.88%)3/10
John Brooks (D, Wolfsburg)135 (11.54%)2/11
* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays

“When you think about Weston, he’s probably one of the best midfielders in our region, right? I mean, you could make that argument,” said Berhalter before Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Mexico. “When you think about Sergino Dest, probably the best right back in our region; Brenden Aaronson, a top winger in our region; Chris Richards, big potential as a center back; Matt Turner, those guys that are missing.

“But really, when you look at it, we knew this was going to be the case. And I said it to you a long time before, you don’t have all your guys, and it’s how you respond when you don’t have your guys that’s important. And that’s what we have to do this window,” Berhalter continued. “It’s not about looking back. It’s about staying in the present, focusing on who’s here, who’s in camp, who’s ready to play, and go out and compete. Because one thing I’ll tell you is that these guys can compete. Everyone we have on this roster right now, all 26 of them can compete.”

Certainly, there have been blips and bumps along the way.

Berhalter’s bid to dig out a point with a rotated lineup during the October visit to Panama City fell flat, leading to a grisly 1-0 loss. An experimental lineup and formation at Honduras in the opening window put the Yanks on course for a similar setback, until some halftime adjustments helped prompt a dramatic comeback from 1-0 down to 4-1 winners in San Pedro Sula.

“It’s a grind,” said Arriola last week. “Every game presents different challenges, the different atmospheres. The World Cup is on the line and that intensifies the atmosphere, every single game.

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning.”

USA 2022 WCQ: Top minutes for MLS players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Miles Robinson (D, Atlanta)874 (74.70%)10/3
Walker Zimmerman (D, Nashville)723 (61.79%)9/4
Matt Turner (GK, New England)720 (61.54%)8/5
Kellyn Acosta (M, LAFC)581 (49.66%)12/1
DeAndre Yedlin (D, Miami)441 (37.69%)8/5
Sebastian Lletget (M, New England)229 (19.57%)4/9
Paul Arriola (F, Dallas)206 (17.61%)5/8
Jesus Ferreira (F, Dallas)196 (16.75%)5/8
Gyasi Zardes (F, Columbus)179 (15.30%)5/8
Jordan Morris (F, Seattle)128 (10.94%)5/8
_* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays


After the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic handicapped the preparations of the USMNT and national teams around the world, Berhalter had to make efficient use of his 2021 and late-2020 schedule. Calling in a litany of names and fielding two mostly distinct squads across Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup, he and his staff tried to balance the priorities of building chemistry, stoking competition, exposing as many players to his game model as possible and winning games.

It seems to have worked. He’s spoken more than once of his conversations with his predecessors Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann, and points to one of those as the source of a cardinal truth that has guided this process.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned – and Bruce hammered this home with me – is you’re never going to have your best team,” said Berhalter. “You’re always going to be missing players. And as soon as I came to terms with that, we were just much more peaceful about it. We’re much more intentional about the ‘next man up’ mentality, because that’s literally what it is.”

Now, pending Wednesday’s result in Costa Rica (9:05 pm ET | Paramount+, CBS Sports Network, Universo, Peacock), that approach has a deep, youth-filled squad on the precipice of a World Cup return.

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland

5:53 PM ET

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

PORTO, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo is heading to Qatar, but Mohamed Salah isn’t and neither is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose dream of becoming the first outfield player to bridge a 16-year gap between appearances at the World Cup fizzled out in a late, fruitless substitute rescue act for Sweden in Poland.

Every World Cup takes place with at least one leading player or major nation failing to qualify, but as the European and African sections came to a close (the conflict in Ukraine means that one spot is still to be assigned in the UEFA zone), the big names absentees are beginning to mount up.

Liverpool forward Salah, a potential Ballon d’Or winner this year, suffered his second penalty shoot-out heartbreak in less than two months as Egypt missed out on qualification by losing to Senegal — a repeat of their Africa Cup of Nations final loss to the same team.

And Ibrahimovic, who will be 41 when Qatar 2022 begins, can forget about returning to the World Cup stage for the first time — and probably last, but who knows with Zlatan? — since failing to score at Germany 2006 after his return from international retirement came to nothing. Robert Lewandowski‘s second-half penalty in Chorzow set Poland on the way to a 2-0 win and qualification for Qatar, ensuring that the Bayern Munich forward — for many observers, the best centre-forward in the game — will be at football’s biggest party when the World Cup is staged in November and December.

Salah and Ibrahimovic will join Norway’s Erling Haaland, who scored twice in a 9-0 win against Armenia on Tuesday, as World Cup absentees. Two of football’s biggest stars right now and a player who has been at the top of the game for over a decade, none of them will be in Qatar. And we haven’t even mentioned Italy, who have become the first European champions since Greece (winners in 2004) to fail to qualify for the World Cup.Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal booked their spot to the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday with a win over North Macedonia. Hugo Delgado/EPA

FIFA can be thankful that at least Ronaldo and his star-studded Portugal team will be in Qatar. Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Lewandowski will all bring their celebrity and class to the tournament, but none of them could be described as the next generation, or even players at their peak. All three have been superstars of the modern game, but Qatar will almost certainly be their last World Cup.

The new wave could have been led by Haaland had Norway qualified, but there are still enough stars heading for Qatar who can ensure that the spotlight doesn’t automatically fall on the old guard of Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski.

Sadio Mane‘s penalty against Egypt sealed qualification for Senegal, so the Liverpool forward will get the chance to do what Salah cannot by leading his country at the World Cup and potentially helping an African nation make it to the semifinals for the first time.Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench on Tuesday but could not help Sweden get past Poland in World Cup qualifying. PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe, who confirmed his superstar status with his performance in the 2018 World Cup final for France against Croatia, will see Qatar as his opportunity to knock Ronaldo and Messi off top spot in football’s elite rankings, while Harry KanePhil Foden and Raheem Sterling will also eye this World Cup as their chance to establish their global greatness.

Germany’s Kai HavertzChristopher Nkunku of France and Spain‘s Pedri are others who could emerge as World Cup stars in Qatar.


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But while all eyes will be on Ronaldo when Portugal play in Qatar, their performance in play-off wins against Turkey and North Macedonia highlighted the quality within Fernando Santos’s squad. Portugal are no longer a team solely reliant on Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s Manchester United teammate, Bruno Fernandes, scored twice to seal victory in Porto against the North Macedonians, who had eliminated Italy in the play-off semifinal, and the World Cup will unquestionably be a better tournament for his presence and that of Bernardo SilvaDiogo Jota and the Porto winger Otavio.

Portugal can defend too and, while they have deep reserves of flair further forward, there is no shortage of quality at the back, where the 39-year-old Pepe still organises and defends brilliantly. He and Danilo were outstanding against North Macedonia.

But although Portugal will be one of leading nations in Qatar, the party would have been greater had Italy, Salah, Haaland and Ibrahimovic also made it to the World Cup.

In their absence, others will create the headlines, and one of them could be Ronaldo. Qatar 2022 just wouldn’t have been the same without him.

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Costa Rica

The USMNT closes the Octagonal in Central America.

By Brendan Joseph  Mar 28, 2022, 1:34pm PDT  

The United States Men’s National Team has arrived at the end of the CONCACAF Octagonal, mere inches from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. The final match is against one of the region’s top programs, Costa Rica. Hosted at the Estadio Nacional in San José, the stakes are low provided Gregg Berhalter’s side can avoid surrendering handfuls of goals.Colombian manager Luis Fernando Suárez leads Costa Rica, assuming the role last June. He has extensive experience in charge of a variety of clubs and nations, including Atlético Nacional, Ecuador, and Honduras. After a slow start to qualifying, the 62-year-old has enjoyed a reversal of fortune, unbeaten in the last six matches.The last time these two teams met, the USMNT registered a 2-1 victory at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, Costa Rica has risen to fourth place in the CONCACAF Octagonal table with 16 points from six matches. Los Ticos are churning through a successful window, reeling off 1-0 wins against Canada and El Salvador.“I know very well, we have done everything in the right way,” said the manager. “Then I have to highlight the work of the team, the commitment they gave for the country. I feel a great pride in directing a spectacular human group. Everything has been very stressful, but that makes us bigger. We have some limitations and even so, we are competing and that speaks well of the courage of the Costa Rican.”


Esta es la lista de convocados para los juegos eliminatorios ante , y

¡VAMOOOOOS SELEEEEE! pic.twitter.com/i46TGAdlR3

— FEDEFUTBOL Costa Rica (@fedefutbolcrc) March 18, 2022

Suárez initially named a 25-player roster but made several alterations, dropping Randall Leal and Aarón Suárez . There are 18 call-ups from domestic Primera División, including 13 from local powers Alajuelense and Herediano. Notable figures like Cristian Gamboa, Óscar Duarte, David Guzmán, and Allan Cruz were left out of camp.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense)

DEFENDERS (9): Francisco Calvo (San Jose Earthquakes), Bryan Oviedo (Copenhagen), Kendall Waston (Saprissa), Rónald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millonarios), Daniel Chacón (Cartaginés), Ian Lawrence (Alajuelense), Carlos Martínez (AD San Carlos)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense), Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano), Alonso Martínez (Lommel), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Orlando Galo (Herediano), Jewison Bennette (Herediano), Youstin Salas (Grecia), Douglas López (Santos de Guápiles), Brandon Aguilera (Guanacasteca), Carlos Mora (Alajuelense)

FORWARDS (4): Joel Campbell (Monterrey), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense), José Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano), Anthony Contreras (Guanacasteca)


At this late stage of qualifying, the first-choice lineup is largely established, although the formation sometimes shifts between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-6-1. Over the past five matches, Costa Rica has completely ceded possession, with an average of 32.8% of the ball (stats via ESPN). From the run of play, inwardly cutting wingers are targeted with direct passes over the top of the back line. The attack has cause for concern with 11 goals in 13 matches, but the stingy defense surrendered a mere eight during the Octagonal round.

Projected Costa Rica Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)

Despite slowly being phased out of the starting role at Paris Saint-Germain, Keylor Navas is the undisputed number one for Costa Rica. He is an elite shot-stopper, setting himself up for a save with stellar footwork, sometimes a full second before the ball arrives. The three-time Champions League winner shows up in big moments, racking up dozens of saves in a single match as a routine. Perhaps indicative of this confidence is his preternatural ability to stop penalty attempts.

This is likely the last rodeo for elder statesman Kendall Waston, who competes for Saprissa in the domestic league. The 6’5” mountain is tasked with winning headers in the defensive and attacking thirds, at his best in close-range one-versus-one scenarios and preventing target strikers from turning. His partner has been the smaller and quicker Francisco Calvo of the San Jose Earthquakes, another threat on set pieces. The 29-year-old is a hard tackler that loves to go to ground and gamble on interceptions, making long solo runs after regaining possession.

Keysher Fuller should be familiar to USMNT fans from the busy home fixture, scoring in the first minute and misplaying a ball that led to the game-winner (or loser, from Costa Rica’s perspective). The Herediano winger-fullback is comfortable in the final third, often reaching the box before the striker. He is constantly running, whether on a charged dribbling run or to chase down an opponent. The left side of the field has been a back-and-forth lineup battle between Rónald Matarrita and Bryan Oviedo. With the former suffering a devastating injury against Canada, the more static veteran will be trusted to hang back and serve as a more stable presence in the build-up.

The defensive midfielder baton may have been passed from the captain Yeltsin Tejeda to 21-year-old Orlando Galo, unless the manager opts to deploy them together. The younger player is a converted right back that tackles hard and recovers quickly after errors. In the 15th year of his senior international career, Celso Borges is still patrolling the center of the formation. Costa Rica’s cap leader facilitates possession and swarms passing lanes, performing the necessary tasks of a box-to-box. Normally a winger, Herediano’s Gerson Torres has lined up in the number ten role. He makes long, slaloming dribbling runs and has the ability to score from distance.

GOAL COSTA RICA! Celso Borges strikes just before halftime and Los Ticos lead 10-man Canada. Another twist in the Concacaf table—and not a good one for the #USMNT

(via @TelemundoSportspic.twitter.com/AcmjP5BxRT

— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) March 25, 2022

Since making his senior debut during last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Alonso Martínez has become a regular part of the starting lineup. The Lommel SK winger plays a high line in hopes of leading the counter attack and looks to cut inside on one-two/give-and-go combinations in the final third. The goals have to come from somewhere, with the manager hoping that Joel Campbell can either score or more likely set up teammates. On the right day, his dribbling and general technical ability make him the most dangerous person on the field, with the potential to bewilder opposing defenders.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2mvc4TwpsGk?rel=0 A late addition to the roster, Anthony Contreras made his debut in November but has started the last two matches. The 22-year-old striker scored 13 goals this season on loan with AD Guanacasteca in the domestic league. His inclusion was considered a “great surprise,” but the developing talent acquitted himself well. Against Canada, he played an essential role pressing the back line and forcing turnovers.

Contreras rewarded the manager’s continued faith with the opener against El Salvador, a stupendous acrobatic effort. He took advantage of a misplayed clearance and hit a beautiful bicycle for his first international goal. This could be the genesis of the next great CONCACAF striker, having answered the door when destiny unexpectedly knocked.

Anthony Contreras gets on his bike!

Costa Rica are up! pic.twitter.com/JqHozcPNyP

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 27, 2022

The USMNT appears free from the burden of securing points on the road against Costa Rica. Los Ticos have been in this spot before but needs a win. As the match progresses and pressure builds, there may be openings for the American attackers to break through on the counter.

The match is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th at 9:05 p.m. Eastern, 6:05 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Paramount+, UNIVERSO, and FUBO TV (free trial).

INDY 11 GK Panicco Earns Team of Week Nod iin USL 

March 29, 2022 5:37 pm  Squad’s New Netminder Made Five Saves in Helping Indy Earn Rivalry Draw on Saturday

TAMPA/INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 29, 2022) – The USL Championship announced its Team of the Week for Week 3 of the 2022 regular season this afternoon, a list that included Indy Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco. The 25-year-old netminder is the first member of Indiana’s Team to make the league’s weekly Best XI ledger during the young season.Panicco earned the nod by making five saves throughout Indy Eleven’s 1-1 draw at archrival and Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC last Saturday night, helping the squad to a well-earned first point of the campaign.

The native of Paducah, Ky., who joined Indy Eleven on loan from MLS’ Nashville SC just prior to the start of the regular season on March 3, currently ranks tied for second across the USL Championship with 11 saves, which have contributed to his 73.3 save percentage and a 1.33 goals against average in his three starts thus far. 2022 marks Panicco’s second straight year in the Championship and comes on the heels of a standout 2021 campaign with Austin Bold FC, when he finished second in the league with 11 shutouts from his 28 appearances.

The Championship’s Player of the Week is selectedby the USL National Media Panel, which is made up of representatives from each media market in the Championship. Continue below to see the full Week 3 Team of the Week contingent.

Panicco and the rest of the Boys in Blue return to the Circle City for their 2022 Home Opener at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium this Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for that 7:30 p.m. kickoff and all 2022 matches at “The Mike” via a plethora of ticketing avenues – including single-game tickets2022 Season Ticket Memberships, discounted group tickets for parties of 10 or more, and expanded Premium Hospitality options – by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.

USL Championship Team of the Week – Week 3

GK – Elliot Panicco, Indy Eleven: Panicco recorded five saves as Indy withstood strong pressure from LIPAFC rival Louisville City FC to earn a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium and the side’s first point of the season.

Stefan Pinho Tally Helps Indiana’s Team Earn First Point of 2022 Against Eastern Conference Leader

View #LOUvIND Stats at the USLChampionship.com MatchCenter

LOUISVILLE, KY (Saturday, March 26, 2022) – The Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry again brought some of the best out of Indy Eleven, which picked up its first point of the 2022 USL Championship season courtesy of a draw 1-1 at Eastern Conference leading Louisville City FC. Forward Stefano Pinho opened his Indy Eleven account to give the Eleven a lead midway through the first half, but LouCity defender Sean Totsch’s 53rd minute finish brought the scoring to its eventual close, forcing a share of the spoils.

The road point allowed Indy to take a positive result away from its three-game road stint to start the season and gives Indiana’s Team some momentum leading into its home opener at IUPUI Carroll Stadium next Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET “Blue Out Blowout” kickoff via a plethora of options by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.While the rivalry game started off chippy, each team generated a chance within the first ten minutes, resulting in Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco getting a mundane save opportunity and midfielder Justin Ingram pushing a header wide. LouCity forward Wilson Harris and Eleven midfielder Nicky Law each influenced the following minutes by generating chances, with Wilson’s shot just wide right of frame the most threatening but not enough to force Panicco into action.Louisville came into the contest without conceding a goal while Indy entered the game without a tally on the year, but things changed for both sides in the 22nd minute when Pinho made Law’s continued creative work pay off. After Law shook his defender in the left side of the area to gain space, his short, driven cross to the back post was nodded home by the Brazilian striker Pinho, allowing him to celebrate his account opener in front a sizeable contingent of Brickyard Battalion supporters who traveled down I-65 for the rivalry showdown.Louisville responded with a chance of their own in the 28th minute through Jorge Gonzalez, whose free kick was sent right to Panicco at the netminder’s right post. Indy nearly found its second through midfielder Jonas Fjeldberg’s shot in the 34th minute that forced a miraculous save out of Louisville goalkeeper Kyle Morton, his leaping tip at full stretch sending the ball off the crossbar and away from danger. Louisville’s Amadou Dia nearly duplicated Fjeldberg’s curling effort in the 41st minute, but his dipping shot couldn’t find frame, allowing the score to remain 1-0 in favor of Indy Eleven heading into the half.The field tilted the home side’s way in the second half, and initially it looked like Eleven midfielder Sam Brown’s sliding tackle in the 52nd minute deep inside the area would help keep Louisville off the board. However, the ensuing corner saw Totsch get on the end of the recycled set piece 10 yards from goal, and his first-time shot through traffic evened the score. Panicco made two consecutive stops in the 57th minute to keep things square, thwarting Louisville’s unrelenting attack.The pace of play slowed down on both sides as legs got heavier after the hour mark, but LCFC’s Enoch Mushagalusa did look to sneak one in from distance in the 66th minute only to see Panicco collect the driven chance easily. A skirmish between the two rival clubs just inside the final 10 minutes set up a tense finish, which only got more heated after a pivotal goalline clearance by Eleven forward Rodney Michael in the 83rd minute. Longtime LouCity nemesis Paolo DelPiccolo looked primed to put the home side ahead after redirecting another corner, but the debutant Michael snapped into action to clear the chance off the underside of the crossbar, keeping the score deadlocked despite vehement pleas from the home side to count the would-be goal. Nothing came from six minutes of stoppage time, allowing Indiana’s Team to go three straight games undefeated at Lynn Family Stadium dating back to last May.

USL Championship Regular Season
Louisville City FC  1 : 1  Indy Eleven
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Lynn Family Stadium – Louisville, Ky.

Scoring Summary:
IND – Stefano Pinho (Nicky Law) 22’
LOU – Sean Totsch (unassisted) 53

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Jared Timmer (yellow) 35’
LOU – Brian Ownby (yellow) 85’
IND – Aris Briggs (yellow) 86’
LOU – Amadou Dia (yellow) 89’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Jared Timmer, Mechack Jerome, A.J. Cochran, Bryam Rebellon; Nicky Law, Sam Brown, Jonas Fjeldberg (Karl Ouimette 90’), Justin Ingram; Aris Briggs (Palmer Ault 90+6’), Stefano Pinho (Rodney Michael 72’)

IND Substitutes: Tim Trilk (GK), Ecris Revolorio, Bryce Warhaft, Luca Iaccino

Louisville City FC lineup (4-3-3): Kyle Morton; Ian Soler (Paolo DelPiccolo 45’), Wes Charpie, Sean Totsch; Amadou Dia, Napo Matsoso, Corben Bone, Manny Perez; Wilson Harris, Jorge Gonzalez (Enoch Mushagalusa 40’), Brian Ownby

LOU Substitutes: Parker Siegfried (GK), Jan-Erik Leinhos, Josh Wynder, Carlos Moguel Jr., Ray Serrano

3/26/22  USMNT vs Panama Sunday 7 pm FS1, How does US Qualify for the World Cup Sunday?  Italy out of WC

We Came, We Saw, and we Brought home the point !   Azteca stadium – the place where Mexico has only lost 2 times in over 30 qualifiers, a place where Mexico teams of past years have been invincible has been broken.  The US should have won this game and credit to the US Manager Gregg Berhalter who went for the win.  This was the best team we could put on the field for this game – yes right back Sergino Dest, midfielder extraordinare Weston McKinney, winger Brendan Aaronson and GK Matt Turner were all out injured – but Pulisic, Musah, Weah, Adams were all on for the start along with Steffan in the net and a surprising start for Ricardo Pepi in the #9.  No issue with the starting line-up and the US really outplayed Mexico in the first 45 minutes – as 2 very good shots on goal were turned away by the legendary Mexican GK Ochoa, including this gimme for Pulisic . See the Full hi-lights.   The insertion in the second half of Gio Reyna and Jordan Pefuk – looked to pick things up in the 2nd half.  They included these bits of magic from the Dortmund mid – Gio Reyna’s magical Run with announcer  –    in Slowmo   Very Maradona like

Then of course was this horrific miss by Jordan Pefok after a spectacular feed by Reyna – this was a marvelous sub by Berhalter and a devastating miss looking much like a 5 year old missing a tap in that honestly any forward at any level could not help but make and lets just say he missed.  This would have been the game winner – a 1-0 win at Azteca the FIRST EVER in qualifying .  Looking ahead the 0-0 tie gives the US the point and all but assures the US will qualify for the World Cup with a win on Sunday at home vs Panama at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

Shane’s Starting Roster for Panama Sun


Morris//Acosta//De La Torre//Reyna


Jedi Robinson//Robinson//Zimmerman// Moore (should be Joe Scally)


I like bringing Pulisic off the bench after halftime – not sure it will happen but Morris on the wing to wear them down until half – then Pulisic scoring early in the 2nd half. De La Torre in for a tired Musah and Reyna starting for Weah who is suspended for yellow cards. You could argue Reyna was the best player on the field (even if only for 30 minutes.) I like Ferriera in the false 9 role seeing as both our #9s failed to produce in Mexico. The defense held steady and will sub in the newly arrived Shaq Moore for yellow carded Yedlin – stinks that he didn’t call on Joe Scally the starting right/left back for MGladbach.

But I am not going to question – Berhalter at this point – he made all the right moves in this game. Just as he has during the last 2 rounds of qualifying for the most part. He has us on the brink of qualification and more importantly he has shepparded in a new American Soccer team – a young and exciting team that has moved past Mexico in CONCACAF and will take us to new heights in this game I love. We beat Mexico because we are better than Mexico – our players are better, our coach is better – we didn’t hang on for dear life so like many times in the past – we were the better team – had more chances – should have won 2-0 a statement that would have sent shockwaves across North America. Yes Canada is top of table – but the US will go further than the Canada in this World Cup -take that to the bank. The US wins this game vs Panama 2-0 – dos a cero – maybe 3 – 0. Reyna and Pulisic score.

GOALKEEPERS: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest; 7/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City; 26/0)

DEFENDERS: George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld; 6/0), Reggie Cannon (Boavista; 24/1), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 22/3), Shaq Moore (Tenerife; 13/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes; 3/0), Jedi Robinson (Fulham; 23/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 18/3), James Sands (Rangers; 7/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 72/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 26/3)

MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 49/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig; 25/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia; 8/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles; 5/0), Yunus Musah (Valencia; 13/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0)

FORWARDS: Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 43/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 7/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 44/10), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys; 9/1), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg; 10/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea; 46/18), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund; 10/4), Tim Weah (Lille; 21/2)

Full qualifying scenario below –  by Academy Coach Mark Stumph from Carmel FC

Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but 1 pt at Mexico, while symbolically cool – doesn’t really do much to change the US’s fate.  The bigger surprise result was Panama’s draw with Honduras.  That now puts the US in a spot where a draw with Panama assures them at least 4th place.  Costa Rica’s win over Canada keeps the US in the danger zone.  C-Rica play @El Salvador (who has nothing to play for).  A win there would set up a showdown with the US.  The good news is that the US has already beaten Costa Rica, so a tie in the standings should go to the US.  That gives us a little breathing room.

So, here are the scenarios:  a win vs Panama locks us in to at least 4th.  Combo that with Costa Rica not getting 3 pts at El Salvador and we are locked into at least 3rd.  That’s the great scenario.  If Costa Rica does win, the US would be 3 pts up on them playing a head to head with probably some complicated tie-breaker scenarios going on that should favor the US in most cases.

A draw vs Panama also locks us to at least 4th.  If Costa Rica gets 1 or 3 pts @ El Salvador, we would need at least a draw in the Costa Rica game to hold 3rd place.  A subsequent loss to Costa Rica could knock us to 4th.  Great scenario here – a US tie and Costa Rica loss locks the US into at least 3rd spot.

A loss vs Panama is bad.  Really bad.  That would put us in a situation where we have to at least tie Costa Rica to stay ahead of them.  A loss to Costa Rica would put the US in a spot where they would need help from Canada (@Panama) to achieve 4th place. Bottom line – we cannot lose to Panama at home on Sunday

Concacaf WCQ Games Today

5 pm Para+                            Canada vs Jamaica

6 pm Para+                            El Salvador vs Costa Rica

7 pm Fox Sport 1              USA vs Panama WCQ

So a little bit about the trip – first things first Mexico City was a real treat –the mixture of old Spanish architecture and food vendors literally on every corner was pretty cool.  I thought the city was safe and clean and very metropolitan and of course my buddy Oscars’s family – brother, cousin and Tias were wonderfully accommodating.  Yes Tia cooked meals for us twice a day and they were great.


As for Azteca – I will start by saying the traffic getting into the stadium was horrific – think LA El Trafico on steroids – the drive normally takes an hour and took us 3 – so bad we missed the first 20 minutes of the game.  But upon arrival and getting into the stadium – the reduced crowd was compounded by the new rule requiring all tickets to have been registered with your name, phone and contact info online before going in.  This had never been done before and the Mexican fans were slow getting in because they were all on their phones in disbelief when they were denied entry.  Trying to sign up.  It made for a late arriving crowd that was still 30 people long even when we arrived.  The other thing was that the police presence was almost overwhelming.  Riot gear – horses, cops on every corner of the stadium in force  (now they were all nice and friendly unlike most US cops I have encountered in those situations )  – but I think that combined with the reduced  capacity and of course Mexico’s horrific play – simply zapped  the energy  from the stadium.  I went in thinking UF vs Bama, Ohio State vs Michigan – and instead got FL vs South Dakota State or Notre Dame vs Navy – simply not a big game atmosphere.  In fact I sat around the 40 year line front row level 2 above the benches – but the US AO section of around 1000 people up high in level 3 – -definitely could be heard in the stadium – of course not as loud as the boos and calling for the firing of Tata Martinez.

Crazy times. And a bit disappointing with the crowd intensity – but still its an experience I will never forget – I came in saying I would take a 1 -1 draw – a win for both teams. But after the game – I really felt the US deserved the win –and Mexico – lets just say this is the weakest Mexican side I have ever seen.  I truly expect them to fire coach Tata Martinez after qualifying before the World Cup. 

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Sat,  Mar 26

5 pm ESPN+                            Charlotte vs Cincy

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Indy 11 @ Louisville City

7 pm  Para +                           Anglel City vs OL Reign NWSL

7 pm Para +                            NC Courage vs Orlando Pride NWSL

11 pm Para +                          San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Portland Thorns (Rapino)

Sun,  Mar 27

5 pm ESPN                             Portland Timbers vs Orlando City

5 pm Para+                            Canada vs Jamaica

6 pm Para+                            El Salvador vs Costa Rica

7 pm Fox Sport 1              USA vs Panama WCQ

Tues,  Mar 29

1 pm        ESPN+                     Senegal vs Egypt

1 pm ESPN+                            Nigeria vs Ghana

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Algeria vs Cameroon

7:30 pm Fubo TV                    Bolivia vs Brazil

7:30 pm Fubo TV                    Ecucador vs Argentina

7:30 pm fubotTV                     Chile vs Uraguay

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Saturday, April 9

7 pm USWNT vs Ubekestan at Lower.com Field in Columbus: Tickets

Indy 11 Season Schedule

Shane and my buddy Oscar in Azteca for USA vs Mexico


How will USMNT line up vs Panama in possible World Cup-berth clincher?

U.S. men’s soccer team eager to forge new path on cusp of World Cup 

The American Outlaws 1000+ were loud and proud at the top of the stadium in the Endzone – could hear USA chant as the game ended.


From Euro glory to World Cup disaster — What happened to Italy?

Mancini tells Italy we ‘must raise our heads’

Mancini eyes exit after Italy World Cup disaster

Bale slams Spanish critics after Wales heroics

Kane rescues England, Spain scrape home as World Cup build-up continues

Eriksen scores on Denmark return as England, Germany, Spain win

Eriksen scores emotional goal following his return to Denmark
Returning Messi scores as Argentina take unbeaten run to 30

Tchouameni heads late winner as France edge Ivory Coast

Salah sets up win for Egypt over Senegal, Slimani stuns Cameroon

How will USMNT line up vs Panama in possible World Cup-berth clincher?

Nicholas MendolaFri, March 25, 2022, 11:38 AM·3 min read

The United States men’s national team could qualify for the World Cup by the time the final whistle blows on Sunday’s home qualifier with Panama, this we know.Over-simplifying: Should Costa Rica drop points against El Salvador at 5pm ET, the Yanks can sew up a spot in Qatar with a win from their 7pm kickoff.

Who will be on the pitch if and when that happens requires some guess work.

[ MEXICO vs USMNT: Three things | U.S. Player ratings ]

By now there are few certainties when it comes to Gregg Berhalter’s lineup choices. The man who Initially viewed Tyler Adams as a right back now sees the RB Leipzig midfielder as so important to the center midfield that he removed him with 10 minutes left in an ascendant but scoreless match rather than trust the player take a yellow card and miss the next match through suspension, a risk inherent when the player was put on the pitch in the first place.Coaches evolve, players, too. We go on.So Adams will start against Paraguay. Christian Pulisic is a virtual certainty, too. After that, given Berhalter all of the injuries and illness within the squad and the trust he showed in Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown by inserting them into a crucible for hottest 10 minutes of what’s essentially the side’s biggest derby? Well, who knows what’s going on. We do know that Shaq Moore has been called up to give Berhalter depth behind DeAndre Yedlin after Reggie Cannon tested positive for COVID-19. Surely, with all due respect to Moore, Berhalter is hoping he’ll plug the new call-up into a final match at Costa Rica that will only be about positioning on the table, but who knows?

Can recent USMNT vs Panama matches tell us anything?

The answer to the heading? Not much.Berhalter’s gone up against Panama twice since late 2020, beating Los Canaleros 6-2 in November 2020 in Europe and losing 1-0 in Panama City five months ago.The second carries more weight, with the Yanks out-attempted 8-5 and failing to put a single shot on target. That was a heavily-changed side and Berhalter could name up a maximum of six starters from that match to this XI. There are another six on the bench, but suffice it to say that his XI in Panama was absent Adams and Pulisic as well as Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, John Brooks, and Miles Robinson.Neither Brooks nor McKennie will be available come Sunday, and you won’t see more than a half-dozen players from the 6-2 friendly win either.

How will the USMNT line up versus Panama?

Presuming Zack Steffen is no worse for the wear following a physical night against Mexico, he’ll likely be back between the sticks in Orlando.Adams and Pulisic are no-doubters and Giovanni Reyna’s turn off the bench at Azteca would’ve opened eyes even if he wasn’t being saved for a start against Panama.If DeAndre Yedlin’s slight limp was normal wear-and-tear, it could and maybe should be an unchanged back four, and it seems counterintuitive to put in Cristian Roldan or Luca de la Torre over anyone to start in the midfield versus Mexico. Gianluca Busio might make some sense as a wildcard.If the front three gets changed, perhaps Paul Arriola will get a nod but that would mean either Pulisic, Reyna, or Timothy Weah is not starting. Pulisic is Pulisic and the other two didn’t go 90 in Mexico, so we may see a nearly unchanged XI after all. The likeliest removal would be Ricardo Pepi.


Yedlin — Zimmerman — M. Robinson — A. Robinson

Adams — Acosta


Pulisic — Weah — Reyna

USA v. Mexico, 2022 World Cup Qualifying; What We Learned

The trip to the Azteca stadium is the scariest leg every cycle for USMNT in World Cup Qualifying. Yet, the US went into the match and went toe-to-toe with Mexico for a scoreless draw. Here’s What We Learned.

By Adnan Ilyas@Adnan7631  Mar 26, 2022, 11:30am    

If you had offered me 4 points vs. Mexico at the start of World Cup qualifying, I would have absolutely taken it. After that Azteca game, however, I’m feeling that the US were unfortunate not to have taken all 6 points. Which is crazy!

The trip to the Estadio Azteca is, of course, marked as the most difficult fixture for the United States Mens National Team at the start of every qualifying cycle. It’s not just the general quality of the Mexican national team; a trip to the Azteca means dealing with long travel times (often including time zone differences), poor air quality, and limited altitude acclimatization (the stadium sits at 7,200 feet above sea level). Every match in the Estadio Azteca is a severe test of adaptability and physical and mental stamina for the away team.

For each previous visit to the Azteca, the USMNT has aimed to merely hold a deep defensive line and hope to get a goal against the run of play. And, frankly, that’s been decently effective in recent visits, with the US unbeaten in the 3 previous matches in Mexico. But that’s completely different than going to Mexico and choosing to impose the game on Mexico. And that’s exactly what Gregg Berhalter had his players do on Thursday. The team went in and pressed Mexico, choosing to try and stifle their ability to play out across the whole field. It was a risky decision, one with serious chances of backfiring. But the team went and did it. Don’t be fooled by the goalless scoreline; the USMNT created two tap-ins that they just didn’t manage to score. The US controlled that game by playing the familiar style of pressing and possession that we’ve been seeing throughout qualifying.

The US–Mexico Rivalry Has Changed

When the USMNT beat Mexico in their home qualifier in Cincinnati, back in November, I asked Gregg Berhalter how the rivalry between the two teams had changed from back in his days as a national team player (Berhalter played vs. Mexico in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as well as in both legs of qualifying vs. Mexico). Here’s what Berhalter said:

I think fundamentally it hasn’t changed much, right? It’s two teams that, that understand what the rivalry means, understand that… how important this rivalry is for the region. You see when the teams are on the field, in the Nations League Final or the Gold Cup final, both teams want to win. And they want to compete. So… from that stand point, it hasn’t changed. What I think about our age, our, you know, the youth we have in this generation coming up and having to compete against Mexico, that’s an experienced team. And you know, these guys just keep going and they are relentless.

I think, from the standpoint of the intensity of the matches, I believe Berhalter. But looking at this most recent match in the Azteca, I can’t help but suspect that the relationship actually has changed since 2002.

It used to be the case that, at home, the USMNT won their qualifiers v. Mexico thanks to gutsy displays built on organization and physicality. Meanwhile, Mexico owned the right to say that they were the ones who truly played the beautiful game, and especially so in El Azteca, their fortress in mountains. But I think that’s changed. You just can’t look at Gio Reyna make this run, take on — and beat — all these Mexican players — in the Azteca! — and say that the US is the one without flair and style.Look, it’s definitely a stereotype that the USMNT’s of the past couldn’t play proper soccer. But the USA’s performances in past US–Mexico games were decidedly not displays of sophistication. I mean, in the 2002 World Cup match, the most definitive and iconic of all the dos-a-ceros, Gregg Berhalter himself punched the ball out of the penalty box and got away with it! These past matches were showcases of pragmatism, not aesthetics. But you can’t say that about these most recent two qualifiers v. Mexico. In both the home and away matches, the US took the front foot, asserting themselves on Mexico. The team successfully pressed Mexico to the point of suffocating their midfield. The US created chances from possession. Yeah, the team didn’t win this time, but I think the days of saying that El Norte can’t play real fútbol are over.And the results as of late reflect that. The US won three straight matches in 2022 in home soil, and now they’ve added a draw in Mexico to that list. And, while the team hasn’t managed to actually win in the Azteca in qualifying, this is now the third straight qualifying match in Mexico that they US has drawn. Add in the one friendly the team’s played in Mexico (a win), and the US is undefeated in 4, spanning a full decade. At this point, I am quite happy to declare that El Azteca is no longer a fortress, especially after considering Mexico’s recent record in World Cup qualifying (and how infrequently their national team actually plays their otherwise anymore).But this isn’t merely a mark of a turning of the tide in the rivalry. This isn’t merely the US having a dominant spell; there’s really something that’s changed with the relationship between the two teams. Take a look at the second part of that Berhalter quote.

What I think about our age, our, you know, the youth we have in this generation coming up and having to compete against Mexico, that’s an experienced team.

Berhalter highlighted the team’s youth. And I think that’s a huge part of what’s changed. Gio Reyna was out there clowning the experienced Mexican defenders, at the age of 19. Reyna could be doing that against Mexico for the next 15 years. Almost the entire core of the team is between 19 and 23 years of age. We could have this collection of talent for the next decade. And there’s now a full pipeline of players coming up, layers who are potentially just as technically gifted, tactically astute, and athletic as the current USMNT core. A full pipeline of talent that is every bit talented enough to assert themselves over Mexico.

The Math

So here’s the big question: How does this draw affect the USMNT’s qualification hopes?Here’s what the standings currently look like:

The US sits in 2nd with 22 points, three behind Canada and tied with Mexico. Costa Rica moved up into 4th place with 19 points, while Panama slipped to 5th with their draw v. Honduras. The top 3 automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the 4th place team has to go through a playoff vs. New Zealand.

With 22 points and a game against each of Panama (at home) and Costa Rica (away), the US sits in control of its destiny here. A win or a draw vs. Panama would guarantee that the US finishes ahead of Panama, and thus, in 4th place at the worst. A win vs. Costa Rica, independent of other results, would guarantee the US automatic qualification, while a draw would most likely give the US a minimum of 4th place (Costa Rica would need to beat El Salvador by at least 7 goals in their penultimate match… and that’s not happening).

Beating Panama and drawing Costa Rica would most straight forwardly give the USMNT automatic qualification, putting the US at 26 points and out of reach of either Panama or Costa Rica. As already stated, a win vs. Costa Rica would guarantee a World Cup berth, even if the US loses to Panama. If the US beats Panama, the team will still finish above Costa Rica and no worse than 3rd so long as Costa Rica does not overcome the 7 point gap in goal difference in their next two games, including the match vs. the US.

There are more scenarios depending on other results, but it would be tedious to go through all the possible permutations. The short of it is that the US needs to win at least one of their remaining games and for Costa Rica to drop points (whether v. the USMNT or El Salvador) for the US to be guaranteed a World Cup spot. Ideally, the US beats Panama while Costa Rica draws or loses to El Salvador, giving the US qualification with a game in hand. Given how difficult the away match in Costa Rica has historically been for the US, it would be far more straight forward to just win vs. Panama and maximize the chances of qualifying before the final match.

closing Thoughts

Congratulations go to Ricardo Pepi for playing in this match. While he wasn’t particularly effective in his 60 minute outing, that match must have been an absolutely huge deal for a Mexican American. And he deserves credit for his work rate and effort.

The gamble of going for a result vs. Mexico includes the question of how fit the team is to play vs. Panama on Sunday. The Estadio Azteca fixture is notoriously draining and it can affect a player’s fitness well after the match. On top of that, there was the risk of suspensions through red cards and yellow card accumulation. Indeed, we’ll be missing DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah through yellow card accumulation. The USMNT needs to win vs. Panama and that’s going to require evaluating fitness and rotating. The good news is that Panama looks beatable. They’ve dropped points in 3 of their last 5 matches, including a draw at home v. last place Honduras. After a strong start, their away form has dropped considerably. And they’ll be desperate to win vs. the US, potentially forcing a stoic defensive side into playing a more open game. Meanwhile, the MNT has depth and has played particularly well at home throughout qualifying. In addition, the USMNT’s youth potentially gives the team a quicker recovery time.

Costa Rica looks beatable. Look, I don’t want to have to count on getting a historic first result vs. Costa Rica. I’d rather see the USMNT take 3 points over Panama while Costa Rica drops points, securing a USMNT advancement. But Costa Rica has to go all out for three straight games and I’m not convinced that their collection of aging veterans will have enough gas in the tank by the time they play the US.

A lot of people were/are upset that the USMNT hadn’t already locked in qualification before this window, but that’s unreasonable. It’s reasonable for people to be anxious about whether the US qualifies or not, especially given that we didn’t qualify last time. But expecting the US to dominate so utterly is simply unrealistic. Qualifying is tough and chaotic and fans need to understand that. The USMNT has thus far done well and are on pace to qualify.

USMNT player ratings: Adams, Zimmerman defense will Yanks to Azteca point

CB Zimmerman was Man of the Match for his play along with CB Miles Robinson. The duo has yet to give up a goal in Qualifying – 7 games now.

Andy Edwards Fri, March 25, 2022, 12:30 AM

The USMNT picked up a point at Estadio Azteca on Thursday, playing bitter rivals Mexico to a scoreless draw in 2022 World Cup qualifying.The USA was wasteful at one end of the field, but resilient and unbreakable at the other end. As far as performances in Mexico City go, there won’t be many better. The result, on the other hand, should have been.Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some bonus commentary from PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized)…

GK – Zack Steffen: 7.5 – For a goalkeeper making his first international start since mid-November due to injuries, and having made precious few for his club side during that same time, Steffen was reassuringly confident on Thursday. He faced seven shots on target (saved all of them), showed both the short- and long-range distribution which once separated him from Matt Turner as the incumbent no. 1. As has been the case throughout World Cup qualifying, having two international-caliber goalkeepers is a good thing, not a bad one. Actually we have 3 + Horvath is better than we give him credit for – OBC

RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6.5 – It really pays to have a backup right back with 71 caps on the squad, just in case the starter gets injured days before a crucial rivalry game. Yedlin stepped into the team with Sergiño Dest (hamstring) out, put in 80 hard minutes and helped to keep Jesus Corona incredibly quiet (zero shots, just one key pass).

CB – Walker Zimmerman: 8 – With Raul Jimenez dropping into midfield in an attempt to pull the center backs out of position — either for Jimenez to play them in behind, or to create space for diagonal runs behind from the wings — it was imperative that Zimmerman and Miles Robinson be on the same page. One had to know when to go with Jimenez, while the other would stay. They handled that assignment rather well (zero shots, three key passes for Jimenez).

CB – Miles Robinson: 7 – Robinson had a rough start in the opening 15 or 20 minutes, but he settled in nicely thereafter and was continuously in the right place at the right time to make a key interception or clearance.

LB – Antonee Robinson: 6.5 – Offensively, Robinson was dangerous and always willing to throw himself forward. Defensively, there were a few hairy moments where he was caught out of position and/or ball-watching, thus freeing Lozano to run at the other Robinson one-on-one.

DM – Tyler Adams: 8 – Midway through the second half, there was a 10- or 15-minute period in which Mexico were quickly growing into the game and putting the USMNT under ever-increasing pressure. Perhaps Adams sensed that was his moment to step up and singlehandedly keep the score level at 0-0. He made three defensive plays in a matter of moments — tracking back into the left back position on a counter-attack, and twice stepping forward to win the ball or break up a Mexican attack with a foul. Because there were no shots (let alone shots on target) resulting from these moments, it gets lost in the chaos of USA-Mexico, but each was yet another prime example of Adams’ indispensability to the USMNT.

CM – Kellyn Acosta: 7 – Every team in the world — club or country, doesn’t matter — needs a Kellyn Acosta in their squad. With Weston McKennie (broken foot) out until this summer at the earliest, away to Mexico is a tough spot for most backups to step into, but Acosta had already played Mexico four times in his USMNT career (once in Mexico) and might have been the coolest head on the field. He provided the one thing the USMNT needed most against El Tri: stability in central midfield.

CM – Yunus Musah: 6.5 – Musah was less influential than he has been in games against CONCACAF’s not-giants (to be expected), but he remains 19 years old and at no point did he not look like he belonged on the field. He was made to track back and battle more than he’s done in the past, and he showed there’s more to his game than slick dribbling and combination play.

RW – Tim Weah: 6 – Weah lasted just 60 minutes and was scarcely involved in USMNT possession or build-up. Again, that was to be expected given 1) Mexico’s stellar wide attackers, and 2) attack-minded DeAndre Yedlin playing right back behind him. Weah was committed defensively — a hugely necessary contribution — though his yellow card means he’ll miss the game against Panama.

LW – Christian Pulisic: 6 – Pulisic had the first half’s best scoring chance in the 35th minute, but he somehow managed to put his shot in the one spot on the planet where Memo Ochoa could save it (below video). It’s hard to look past that moment, given the quality of the chance and the rest of the USMNT’s performance. He had another half-chance to start the second and forced Ochoa to make a (slightly) more difficult save.

CF – Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 – Pepi remains the USMNT’s best prospect at center forward — and these games are important for his development, no doubt about it — but the Yanks got very little from the 19-year-old on Thursday. The reality of the situation is that Berhalter doesn’t currently have anybody better or more reliable to select, and so Pepi must learn on the fly.

Sub – Gio Reyna: 7 – Reyna came on for Weah right on the hour mark and immediately looked to get on the ball, run at defenders and cause chaos. His long dribble through midfield seemed to indicate the 19-year-old (it’s so easy to forget just how young so many of them still are) is finally fully recovered from his torn hamstring and can potentially be a game-changer in the final two games.

Sub – Jordan Pefok: 5 – A painful miss that conjured memories of Chris Wondolowski against Belgium in 2014.

USA vs. Mexico, 2022 World Cup qualifying: SSFC Man of the Match

It was a substitute that stole the show.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Mar 26, 2022, 10:05am PDT  

The United States Men’s National Team walked out of Estadio Azteca with a draw Thursday night against Mexico, with both teams remaining scoreless on the evening. The USMNT had several great chances to take leads in the match and possibly steal 3 points on the road for the first time in Mexico, however fate only allowed them to bring a point to Orlando.

There were a couple notable performances that the SSFC community really enjoyed in this match. However, one player was leaps and bounds above the rest. Gio Reyna, for his efforts as a substitute in the match, earned a 7.83 average rating and the SSFC Man of the Match.

Reyna made a huge impact on the match in his short amount of time on the field. He had one long play that was described by Gregg Berhalter as Maradona-esque, while he almost set up Jordan Pefok for what could have been the golden goal that would have beaten El Tri. Those 2 plays, coupled with his overall play, put him over the top.

The ratings for all the players, along with the referee and head coach Gregg Berhalter:

Gio Reyna – 7.83

Walker Zimmerman – 7.12

Zack Steffen – 6.92

Tyler Adams – 6.90

Antonee Robinson – 6.89

Tim Weah – 6.53

Yunus Musah – 6.35

Miles Robinson – 6.26

Kellyn Acosta – 6.22

Christian Pulisic – 5.94

DeAndre Yedlin – 5.73

Aaron Long – 5.63

Erik Palmer-Brown – 5.60

Jordan Morris – 5.18

Ricardo Pepi – 4.99

Jordan Pefok – 3.74

Gregg Berhalter – 6.14

Shane with the Mexican flag girl – in Azteca after the 0-0 tie
Ochoa Big Head – after the tie !

3/23/22  USMNT vs Mexico Thur CBS Sports Network, How does US Qualify for the World Cup this week? 

Ok folks it is here.  The US Men must win this week to qualify for the World Cup this Winter (Nov 21-Dec 18).  What we have to do?   (Promo)   

We must beat Panama on Sunday in Orlando at 7 pm on FS1.   And we must either beat or tie Mexico at Azteca on Thursday night 10 pm on CBS Sports Network (& paramount plus) or if we lose to Mexico (where we have never won a Qualifier)


We must BEAT or TIE Costa Rica at their capital (full stadium 80k) where we have NEVER/EVER won and have never won or tied in a qualifier. 

The huge question all week in the US soccer circles is what does US  manager Gregg Berhalter do and how does he line up vs Mexico?  Do you put out your BEST team and go for the win in the altitude in a 50% full Azteca (including YOURS TRULY)  or do you go conservative and hold your best team for the home game vs Panama and road game at Costa Rica.   (see Video about this)  

Let’s start here – I do not understand the crazy’s who are calling for us to rest our players on a yellow (Adams, Yedlin, Steffan) or our better players at say left or center back and midfield.  The US has never won in Costa Rica!  Costa Rica’s starting goalkeeper Keylor Navas (PSG, Real Madrid) is back and healthy – he will not let us beat them in front of 100K drunk Costa Rican’s on the final day of qualifying if Costa Rica can knock us out and advance THEY WILL.  We couldn’t win on a tough pitch in Trinadad and Tobago 4 years ago against a high school quality team who was eliminated already – NO WAY we beat even an aging Costa Rica at their place on the final night.  NO WAY.  So we have to take a point at Mexico – we just have to PERIOD!!   Gregg starts his backups and what does that tell the team?  We can’t beat a team in Mexico who we have dominated the last 3 games – just because its on their turf?  They already lost to Canada and tied Costa Rica at Azteca just a few months ago.  Mexico is vulnerable and NOW is the time to BEAT THEM for a 4TH CONSECUTIVE TIME and draw a line in the sand – that WE ARE THE KINGS of CONCACAF – not Mexico !!  We are top 10 in the WORLD – not Mexico.   Of course this has nothing to do with me realizing a dream/bucket list – going to the legendary Azteca Stadium for this LAST EVER – meaningful Qualifying Round in Mexico.  This is simply what we are going to have to do to advance to the World Cup (unless we get help and Canada beats or ties Costa Rica in Costa Rica Thurs 10 pm Paramount+ or Panama 4 nights later.)

Shane’s Starting Roster for Mexico (McKennie, Aaronson, Dest out hurt)

Ferreira or Pefok

Pulilsic //Acosta//Musah//Weah   (I am ok with de la Torre – in for Musah)


Jedi Robinson//M Robinson or Long//Zimmerman//Yedlin

Ethan Horvath

If we are in the game after half – say behind 1 or tied – 55 to 60 min  I add Gio Reyna for Musah or Torre and I put Pefok up top for Ferreria. 

If we get behind by more than 2 – I pull Adams//Pulisic/Weah/Musah/Jedi save them for next 2 games. 

Fortunately for the US our talisman Christian Pulisic is fresh of another Goal in the Champions League Sweet 16, was named man of the Match and is playing some of his best ball of the year.  Returning to the line-up should be winger/mid Gio Reyna who is back and starting for Dortmund.  Also back to health should be Man City GK Zack Steffen (though Ethan Horvan is on fire for Notingham Forest in the Championship) so we should be covered in goal without the injured Matt Turner.  Along the back line while Barcelona man Serginio Dest was injured this week – centerback Aaron Long has returned to the fold after being injured last year.  Joining the team late was left back George Bello  – we could see him vs Panama.    

I like our chances – Mexico is not in form right now – I honestly think the US is going to go in and take a point at least. If GB starts our stars – I truly think we have a chance to get out with a 2-1 win – if not I still think its 1-1 and we get out with a tie and a HUGE point! The US needs to win this one with ME IN THE STANDS — I think we get it!!

   USA vs Mexico Video Preview  

US Roster for Mexico/Panama/Costa Rica

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (Rangers FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (9): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille)

Thursday         10 pm CBS Sports Net    Mexico vs USA

Sunday            7 pm Fox Sport 1              USA vs Panama

Wed                 9 pm Paramount+         USA @ Costa Rica


1 – Canada1125+14
2 – USA1121+9
3 – Mexico1121+6
4 – Panama1117+1
5 – Costa Rica11161
6 – El Salvador119-7
7 – Jamaica117-7
8 – Honduras113-17
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

Other Games to Keep and Eye on

Canada can all but wrap up 1st place in Qualifying if they can beat Costa Rica at the same time the US plays Mexico Thursday night on Paramount plus. It really helps our chances to settle into at least 4th place if Canada can knock off Costa Rica and then Panama on Wed at 5 pm on Para +.  In other huge World Cup Qualifying action – Portugal, Italy, & Turkey are all playing off to see who will advance to the World Cup from Europe A – Portugal hosts Turkey at 3:45 pm Thurs on ESPN2, while Wales faces Austria and Sweden hosts Czech Republic same time on ESPN+.   Friday we get African WCQ action with Egypt vs Senegal Friday at 3:30 pm on ESPN+ and again Tuesday at 1 pm.  NWSL week 2 Challenge Cup action resumes Friday/Sat nights on Paramount plus with Racing Louisville hosting Defending Cup Champs Houston Dash at 7:30 pm, while Washington hosts Gotham FC.  Sat its new team Angel City fresh off a 1-1 tie with San Diego hosting OL Reign, and the San Diego Wave and Alex Morgan hosting the Portland Thorns and Rapino all at 7 pm on Para +.  Of course our our Indy 11 will travel to Louisville at 7:30 pm on ESPN+ Saturday evening right after Charlotte looks for their 2nd home win vs Cincy at 5 pm on ESPN+.  

In other news I love me some Referee Mike Dean in the EPL – here’s a nice little tribute to his retiring –  his 100th Red Card.

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Thur,  Mar 24

3:45 pm   ESPN2                     Portugal vs Turkey

3:45 pm   ESPN+                     Italy vs North Macedonia

3:45 pm   ESPN+                     Sweden vs Czech Republic

3”45 pm ESPN+                      Wales vs Austria

7:30 pm FuboTV                     Brazil vs Chile

9 pm Para+                             Panama vs Honduras

10 pm CBSSN                     Mexico vs USA WCQ

10:05 pm Para+                   Costa Rica vs Canada

Fri,  Mar 25

1 pm ESPN+                            Cameroon vs Algeria

3:30 pm   ESPN+                     Egypt vs Senegal 

7:#0 pm Para+                        Racing Louisville vs Hooston Dash  NWSL

7:30 pm Para+                        Washington Spirit vs NY/NJ Gotham FC

8:30 pm Para+                        Chicago Red Stars vs KC

Sat,  Mar 26

5 pm ESPN+                            Charlotte vs Cincy

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Indy 11 @ Louisville City

7 pm  Para +                           Anglel City vs OL Reign NWSL

7 pm Para +                            NC Courage vs Orlando Pride NWSL

11 pm Para +                          San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Portland Thorns (Rapino)

Sun,  Mar 27

5 pm ESPN                             Portland Timbers vs Orlando City

5 pm Para+                            Canada vs Jamaica

6 pm Para+                            El Salvador vs Costa Rica

7 pm Fox Sport 1              USA vs Panama WCQ

Tues,  Mar 29

1 pm        ESPN+                     Senegal vs Egypt

1 pm ESPN+                            Nigeria vs Ghana

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Algeria vs Cameroon

7:30 pm Fubo TV                    Bolivia vs Brazil

7:30 pm Fubo TV                    Ecucador vs Argentina

7:30 pm fubotTV                     Chile vs Uraguay

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

USA WCQ Thur @ Mexico 10 pm CBSSN

2022 World Cup: How United States, Mexico and Canada can qualify
  Dale Johnson

Breaking down the USMNT roster for the final Octagonal window  -ASN

USMNT World Cup qualifying roundtable: Can injury-hit squad do what is needed to reach Qatar?
Best USMNT XI for final World Cup qualifiers

Adams: USMNT must book spot for World Cup
Hurting US men’s soccer team seeks boost in crucial World Cup push from Gio Reyna

Donald Wine – American Outlaw God
Top 25 players in the USMNT player pool right now

Liverpool finally solves Horvath, Forest, sets up FA Cup semi vs Man City

Straus: The USMNT-Mexico Rivalry Ventures Into the Unknown
Straus: By George, Tim Weah Is Humbly Reaching His Potential
Straus: A Young USMNT Learns to Embrace Concacaf’s Dark Arts

World Cup Qualifying

Games to watch Where
World Cup playoffs: No Ronaldo, Salah or Italy? What’s at stake?
  Mark Ogden

Who Can Qualify Next in Soutb American? The18.com
‘Nothing to lose’: North Macedonia eye playoff shock against Italy

Scotland could be playing Wales for a World Cup birth
Argentina recall Messi, add Man Utd starlet for WC qualifiers


3 Things We Learned at Inaugural game of NWSLs Expansion Teams Angel City & San Diego
Angel City creates memorable spectacle in franchise’s first exhibition match


World Cup draw seedings skewed by war, pandemic
Chicago Cubs owners fly to UK as shortlist for Chelsea bidders expected

Lukaku strikes as Chelsea reach FA Cup semi-finals

10 things we learned in the Premier League — Matchweek 30 & FA Cup

Antonio Conte: Performances making top four a possibility for 

Dybala to leave Juve in summer after contract not renewed

Clasico demolition vindicates Barcelona, shifts doubts to Real Madrid

Clasico thrashing could change everything for Barca, says Xavi

Juve keep pressure on top three, Roma thump Lazio

Indy 11

Indy 11 lose at Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-0

Indy 11 Preview – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

2022 World Cup: How United States, Mexico and Canada can qualify

3:56 PM ETDale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

The race to the 2022 World Cup finals is drawing to a close, with three rounds of games to be played in March to decide which nations from the CONCACAF region will head to Qatar in November.

How many CONCACAF nations qualify for the World Cup?


1 – Canada1125+14
2 – USA1121+9
3 – Mexico1121+6
4 – Panama1117+1
5 – Costa Rica11161
6 – El Salvador119-7
7 – Jamaica117-7
8 – Honduras113-17
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

The top three nations in CONCACAF qualify directly to the World Cup, which begins on Nov. 21 and runs through to the final on Dec. 18.The fourth-place nation in the region will face a playoff against the winner of the Oceania region, most likely New Zealand. The playoff will be one match only, and will be hosted by Qatar. The fixture is scheduled to be played on June 13 or 14.

Which nations are still in contention?

Of the eight teams in the final stage of qualifying, El Salvador, Honduras and Jamaica have been eliminated.That leaves Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and United States still with hopes of making the finals.

How each nation can qualify

1. Canada (25 points)

Coach John Herdman is all but certain to lead Canada to only its second men’s World Cup finals. The previous appearance came in 1986, when it lost all three matches to France, Hungary and Soviet Union without scoring a goal.Unbeaten throughout all 11 matches so far in this phase, Canada is guaranteed at least fourth and the place in the intercontinental playoff.Canada needs a maximum of two points to qualify automatically for the World Cup, but other results are likely to see it over the line even if it doesn’t achieve this.Additionally, if Panama fails to win at home to Honduras on March 24, Canada needs only a point at Costa Rica that day to qualify.

2. United States (21)

The 3-0 win over Honduras on Feb. 2 put the United States firmly in control of its own destiny, but with all three remaining matches against qualification rivals — including away fixtures to two of the strongest CONCACAF nations, Mexico and Costa Rica — it cannot start planning for Qatar yet.If USMNT fails to win in Mexico, it will really open up the group. Panama plays a Honduras team that hasn’t won any of its 11 matches, so victory for Panama would place it only one or two points behind the U.S. (Costa Rica would move close, too, if it beats Canada.) United States and Panama then would meet at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando on March 27; defeat for USMNT could leave it facing, at best, the intercontinental playoff.However, the United States can allay most fears with victory at Mexico — that would leave coach Gregg Berhalter needing at most two points from the remaining two matches.

3. Mexico (21)

While it may seem as though Mexico’s task is the same as the United States’, with both on 21 points, El Tri coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino has the benefit of, on paper, at least, a more favorable fixture list. After hosting the United States, Mexico then plays at bottom-of-the-table Honduras before completing its campaign at home to another already-eliminated team, El Salvador.It means that failing to win on March 24 may not be so damaging to Mexico as it could be to USMNT.If Mexico beats United States, it would need a maximum of two points to qualify for the finals. If Mexico draws against the U.S., it would need four points from the remaining fixtures. After a defeat, it would need to win both games to be certain, though again, other results may mean fewer would send it to the finals.

4. Panama (17)

Panama’s hopes of a second successive World Cup appear slim, and it has to win at home to Honduras on March 24 to retain any realistic chance of being, automatically, at least, at its second successive World Cup.With a win at home to Honduras, Panama will be within touching distance of one, or both, of Mexico and the United States, depending on the result of that tie.Its final two qualifiers are then against the top two nations in the group, and it would need at least a point at the U.S. before hosting Canada on March 30.Its best hope would appear to be a USMNT defeat in Mexico, and then to avoid defeat in Orlando to take it to the final day. Victory at home to Canada could then send Panama to the World Cup if USMNT fails at Costa Rica.

5. Costa Rica (16)

Costa Rica, which has been at four of the past five World Cup finals, is up against it and must win all three games to have a realistic chance of qualifying automatically.Three victories and a tally of 25 points gives it a shot, but it will also need one of Mexico or the United States to have poor results in the three matches. The fixture list suggests that is more likely to be the United States, so Costa Rica can only win its matches against Canada and El Salvador and hope it is within striking distance of USMNT when the two nations meet in the final qualifier on March 30.Panama, of course, would also have a say in what Costa Rica may require should it go down to the final round of qualifiers.

USA vs. Mexico, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for

A big showdown at the Azteca.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Mar 23, 2022, 8:42am PDT     Stars and Stripes.

The United States Men’s National Team head to Estadio Azteca tomorrow night to take on Mexico in a pivotal World Cup qualifying match. Entering the final window of World Cup qualifying, both teams still have some ground to cover in order to secure one of the 3 spots from Concacaf in the 2022 World Cup. The USMNT enter with several key players out due to injury, and will seek to win a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca for the first time ever. Mexico, currently level with the USMNT on points in the Octagonal, wants to show that they are still the dominant team in this rivalry, and there’s more pressure for them to prove it after a 2021 that saw the USMNT defeat El Tri 3 times.The USMNT need a combination of 6 points won or lost by Panama and Costa Rica to secure a World Cup spot. That will mean that a result in Mexico will be super important for the U.S. in order to close in on qualification.

Latest Form


W (3-0) – Honduras – World Cup Qualifying

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

W (1-0) – El Salvador – World Cup Qualifying

W (1-0) – Bosnia & Herzegovina – Friendly

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


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

D (0-0) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

D (2-2) – Chile – Friendly

L (1-2) – Canada – World Cup Qualifying

What To Watch For

Overcome the injuries. The USMNT have a ton of key injuries to players, including Sergiño Dest, Matt Turner, Weston McKennie, and Brenden Aaronson. For the rest of the guys on the roster, they’re going to have to step up to overcome those missing players. They’re capable of doing it, but they need to recognize the importance of the match and come out firing.

Keep guys fresh. Estadio Azteca sits at about 7800 feet above sea level, which will cause guys to get gassed early. Gregg Berhalter needs to make sure subs are ready to go so that the energy level on the field stays high.

Take shots and put pressure on the defense. The more the ball is down on the attacking end for the United States, the higher the pressure is for Mexico. In front of their fans who are unforgiving when El Tri doesn’t play well, the momentum can shift by keep Mexico on their heels.

Lineup Prediction

With so many injuries, there’s a big question on who will step in to fill the role of guys that have been dependable throughout qualifying. With the opportunity to steal points and bring the USMNT that much closer to qualification, here’s what Gregg Berhalter will likely present as his starting XI:Predicted Lineup vs. Mexico

Zack Steffen will get the start at goal, while the back line has Antonee Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, and DeAndre Yedlin in place of Dest. The midfield will have a new look to it, as Tyler Adams occupies his defensive midfield position and is joined by Kellyn Acosta and Gio Reyna. Luca de la Torre or Yunus Musah could also be in this midfield if Berhalter wants to go about it differently, but in the end, he starts by putting Reyna on the field.Up front, Christian Pulisic will be on the left wing, with Tim Weah on the right wing to give some added creativity and next level attacking. In the middle, Ricardo Pepi gets the start in the hopes he can find the magic he had last fall in matches against Honduras and Jamaica.It’s hard to predict this match, because the USMNT has played so well lately against Mexico. However, they’ve never won a World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca, despite taking points in the last 2 cycles. It’s an even game, with the final score being 1-1. The USMNT ends what could be its final World Cup qualifying trip to the Azteca by bringing a point home to Orlando.


SI – Brian Straus

The opportunity to play at one of sports’ most iconic and hallowed grounds—the place where Pelé and Brazil’s “jogo bonito” dazzled the world in novel living color and where Diego Maradona famously channeled both God and the devil—comes at a cost.News is always free on SI. Register to have it delivered to your inbox daily. The Estadio Azteca, Mexico City’s enormous and intimidating 87,500-seat stadium (it once held up to 107,000), sits about 10 miles south of the capital’s historic center and an exhausting 7,200 feet above sea level. When it’s full, and when the air is thin, hot and hazy, the Azteca inevitably extracts a heavy price.“It’s hard to play here. It wears you out. It’s just exhausting,” U.S. legend Landon Donovan said moments after a 2009 World Cup qualifying defeat.The Azteca tests and often saps your energy, will and resolve. Composure and focus are stretched to the limit. Players suffer, and even spectators unfamiliar with the environment can struggle climbing the concourse’s interminable ramps. Opponents will leave points behind. Earnie Stewart remembers leaving his voice there as well.“Once you leave the field, you can’t speak to each other anymore,” says U.S. Soccer’s sporting director, who played there twice during his 13 years as a men’s national team midfielder. “Coaching [teammates] at Azteca with a stadium full, with the vuvuzelas going and people shouting and chanting, to coach from one person to another over 10 feet, you have to shout the whole game,” he recalls. “And I just remember after games—one, because of the air but also two, just because of the amount of coaching that you try to do—it was really difficult to speak after the game. So you would actually lose your voice. It’s shot.”The Azteca is the towering, concrete embodiment of home field advantage. It’s soccer’s Death Star. Although the U.S. won a friendly there in 2012, in official competition the Americans are winless in 10 Azteca appearances (0-7-3) and just 1-23-3 all-time as a guest of El Tri. The draws—the narrow escapes—are the stuff of national team legend. And most visitors would be happy with that. Across 50 years, Mexico has lost only two World Cup qualifiers at Azteca. But for a young U.S. team that’s now on the precipice of dreamland or disaster, this week’s return to the Azteca is just the nail-biting beginning. An unprecedented challenge awaits. Pick your starting point and consider it the first day of school: the trauma of qualifying failure in 2017, the hiring of coach Gregg Berhalter 14 months later, the transition and commitment to youth following the onset of the pandemic or the humbling 0-0-2 start to World Cup qualifying last September. It’s all been building to this.Over the course of the next eight days, Berhalter and his historically young and promising squad will take their final exam. Everything they’ve developed and learned, every bit of experience, confidence and chemistry they’ve established, will be put to the test in the most meaningful games and in the most demanding environments. A ticket to the November-December World Cup in Qatar is the short-term prize. Longer term, the next eight days could serve as a referendum on Berhalter, Stewart and the trajectory of the most hyped and scrutinized generation of men in American soccer annals.The U.S. doesn’t necessarily need to take anything away from Azteca on Thursday evening. But if it leaves too much behind—if it loses its momentum, its energy or its focus—then it’ll risk missing another World Cup, compounding the persistent agony of that infamous 2017 defeat in Couva and forfeiting a priceless chance to build the sport ahead of the ’26 tournament co-hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada.“This is make-it-or-break-it time, you know what I mean? That’s really what it is,” says 2014 World Cup veteran DeAndre Yedlin, the most experienced player on the current roster. “You fail or you don’t. So yeah, we’re going to have basically three final tests that we have to be well prepared for, and I’m confident that everybody will be prepared for it.”Yedlin is the exception, and at 28, the new Inter Miami defender is about five years older than Berhalter’s average Octagonal starting lineup. So considering that lack of World Cup seasoning, second isn’t a terrible place to be in Concacaf’s eight-team final qualifying round. But it’s precarious. At 6-2-3, the U.S. has a tenuous hold on one of the region’s three automatic World Cup spots. The fourth-place finisher will be sent to a one-game playoff in June against a country from Oceania (likely New Zealand). The undefeated Canadians, who probably are the most surprising soccer story on the planet, have one ticket all but locked up. The remaining two are being contested by the U.S., Mexico (6-2-3), Panama (5-4-2) and Costa Rica (4-3-4).But what the standings don’t show is that the Americans have the toughest March of those five contenders: at El Tri, followed by Sunday’s home finale against fourth-place Panama in Orlando, and then a March 30 visit to Costa Rica, where the Americans’ all-time record is even worse than it is in Mexico. There are no bottom-feeders on the U.S. schedule. While three points in central Florida would be enough unless Costa Rica runs the table, a point taken in either Mexico City or San José would ease the nerves. And that’s far easier written than done.

Stage Is Set for Pulisic in USMNT’s Final World Cup Push


 “Whatever we’re predicting is going to happen in this window, throw it out. Because something else will happen, trust me,” Berhalter said last week. “That’s how this whole thing’s been going. It’s exciting and for us it’s only about staying in the moment, not getting ahead of ourselves and focusing on each training session and each game as they come.”Qualification typically is decided late. Through the six cycles of Concacaf’s six-team Hexagonal, which required 10 games, the U.S.’s fate was determined on matchday eight or later on five occasions. Stewart says they expected that sort of conclusion this time as well. What feels different now is the narrative and the nerves, at least outside the locker room. Failure is now a comprehensible outcome, and there are eerie parallels between this run and the 2017 disaster. They start with tight standings, an Orlando meeting with Los Canaleros and then a potentially decisive road finale.Complicating matters further are several noteworthy U.S. injuries and the compressed timeframe, starting with Thursday’s test in the altitude at Azteca. For comparison’s sake, a three-game World Cup group stage traditionally is scheduled over 11 days. These Octagonal windows last only seven, forcing Berhalter to consider significant squad rotation and delighting those who enjoy a little game theory. Fielding your strongest lineup in Mexico City and trying to secure that additional point may leave vital players with tired legs ahead of the must-win showdown against Panama. But save your best XI for game No. 2 and you might still wind up needing a good result in Costa Rica, where Los Ticos probably will be playing for their World Cup lives.Berhalter insisted that he has men with the fitness and mindset to run that gauntlet. Five U.S. players have started three times in one of the previous four three-game windows. But none of those windows kicked off at 7,200 feet. Such are the demands at Azteca that in the past, the U.S. spent several days training at altitude and even scheduled preceding qualifiers in Denver in order to ease the transition. The calendar doesn’t afford that opportunity this month, however. The U.S. practiced in Houston for a couple days before flying to Mexico on Wednesday, thereby limiting the amount of players’ exposure to the environment.“I wouldn’t rule out a player being able to play 90 minutes at Azteca and 90 minutes in Orlando and 90 minutes again in San José. When you look at some of our players, the rhythm that they’re playing is basically Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday through most of the year,” Berhalter said last week, adding that he plans to use all five available substitutes in Mexico. “So some of our players—not all of them—but some of them are prepared, and some of them will be able to play three 90-minute games. It’s just identifying who and then rotating other ones out.”Berhalter has tested varying levels of squad rotation during the Octagonal but has yet to solve the vexing second-game problem that’s caused so much of his squad’s distress. The U.S. is 0-2-2 in match No. 2 of a qualifying window and has scored just twice. One of those two defeats came in Panama, in what was the Americans’ worst performance of the competition.Then comes the visit to Costa Rica, where the U.S. is 0-9-2 all-time. For years, it was the cauldron of the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, with its steep seating and rock-hard artificial turf field, that was ground zero for so much defeat. But Los Ticos’ transition to their new Estadio Nacional just west of downtown hasn’t made that trip easier, as evidenced by the 4–0 shellacking imposed on coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. five years ago.Negotiating Concacaf can mean death by a thousand distractions. It’s about the little bits of gamesmanship and confrontation that, either individually or in sum, take your mind off the game or your eyes off the ball just enough to make a potential difference. The U.S. began the Octagonal with a baptism by firework—a display of pyrotechnics along the east side of the packed and rocking Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador that continued well past kickoff and almost certainly isn’t part of FIFA’s standard match protocol. This was far from the controlled, mostly sanitized environment that men from MLS or European clubs are used to, and it has a knack for leveling the playing field.“The one atmosphere that outperformed anything I’ve ever seen before from them was El Salvador. I’ve never seen that from them as a country in all my years playing down there,” Berhalter says.

“It’s different. I can’t completely get the grip on it, but there’s a reason why going away in Concacaf is so difficult,” says Yedlin, who’s played in MLS, England and Turkey. “Teams there, they get this extra sort of confidence. That makes it really difficult to play against them.“It’s written through history.”The Costa Ricans are masters of Concacaf’s dark arts. They don’t need Saprissa. In 2013 it began at the airport, where authorities forced the U.S. to exit through the public terminal and board a bus whose route and destination were shared with fans. Local clubs apparently were told not to make their facilities available for U.S. training, so Klinsmann’s team wound up practicing at a Dos Pinos dairy plant. The company’s mascot—a cow, naturally—interrupted media interviews with an airhorn. Game balls weren’t provided for training. The lights were turned out during the Americans’ prematch stadium session and walk-through. And then the U.S. was hammered.This national team isn’t that national team. But the U.S. still won’t want to leave qualification hinging on a successful trip to Costa Rica. Berhalter says he’s hoping that Concacaf’s evolution—games are now played at night, the Azteca has been refurbished, there’s a track around the pitch in San José, fields have improved, etc.—will help reduce the impact of those distractions. In addition, the Azteca likely won’t be full as the Mexican federation reportedly intends to prioritize security following FIFA sanctions for homophobic chanting and this month’s shocking riot during a Liga MX match in Querétaro.“This isn’t to minimize any of our opponents, but what I would say is everything in Concacaf has been turned on its head,” Berhalter says. “And I think that rings true to these opponents. I think Mexico at Azteca hasn’t been as dominant as they have in the past [3-0-2 in the Octagonal]. I wouldn’t look at it with the same sense and say, ‘Oh, this team has never won in Azteca. It’s an impossible task,’ or ‘This team has never won in Costa Rica. It’s a impossible task.’ Everything’s different.“It’s not that it’s easier. It’s just a little different.”The U.S. team that will sit for this final exam is a little different as well. The work Berhalter and his staff have been doing to develop depth within the context of his complex playing style—notably by contesting last year’s Concacaf Gold Cup and Nations League with almost entirely different rosters—will have to pay dividends this week. There are three major absences.Midfielder Weston McKennie is probably the most complete player in the pool and was massively influential after returning from his September suspension. The 23-year-old has become the face of this national team’s Concacaf learning curve, not to mention a box-to-box force on the field and a dynamic leader and personality off it. He’s out until the summer with a broken foot suffered while on Champions League duty with Juventus.“You don’t replace him,” Berhalter said of McKennie last week. “He’s been so important to this group that we’re not going to plug a guy in and get a like-for-like. But that’s O.K. We’ve won games before without him and we’ll do it again.”Workhorse winger Brenden Aaronson, the only U.S. player to appear in all 11 Octagonal matches, was ruled out Monday with a knee injury suffered over the weekend. And Barcelona defender Sergiño Dest, who adds a unique attacking dimension from out wide, is absent with a hurt hamstring.There is some good news, however. Christian Pulisic is in outstanding form at Chelsea and has a knack for showing up in big games. Borussia Dortmund tracker Gio Reyna is healthy and finally in the U.S. fold after months on the international sideline, and goalkeeper Zack Steffen has overcome back problems and started for Manchester City this past weekend. Other issues, like solving the lingering puzzle at striker, are more routine national team concerns.What’s not routine are the pressure and stakes permeating this week. Few U.S. players besides Yedlin remain from 2017. That history isn’t theirs. But Couva does inform the narrative, conversation and coverage around the current team, and it’s something that, collectively, they still somehow have to answer for. This squad has little choice but to lean on whatever differentiation it can find.“I think because we had a very good team [in 2017], we were a little bit too complacent,” Yedlin says. “We already felt like we had qualified. ‘We’re just playing Trinidad, dah dah dah. This should be an easy win or even a draw—whatever we needed. It should be easy.’ And we were just way too complacent with it.”The pain remains, and Yedlin said he’d be sure to pass that message on to teammates this week. But both he and Stewart said they’re not too worried about a repeat of that stunning implosion in Trinidad, or of the possibility that the stakes might be too much to bear. This particular pressure is new, but pressure itself isn’t. This generation of American players has changed the calculus, going to Europe at increasingly younger ages, making their way at some of soccer’s biggest clubs and competing under the brightest spotlights. Combine the experience accumulated in both the Champions League and Concacaf crucibles, and that should be enough to maintain focus.

“That’s a great thing about this team. You have young players but you also have players that are playing in extremely high-pressure situations all over the world, that are playing in great leagues with great teams. So they have that experience. They know what that’s like,” Yedlin says.“I know the players on this team do well at motivating themselves in whatever ways they need to,” he continues. “That’s another strength of this squad. These players have been in tough situations so young, they’ve really learned about themselves and they’ve really figured out themselves.”Stewart says this team has already proven it can respond to setbacks and adversity. It was composed and resilient in the tightly contested Gold Cup and Nations League wins over Mexico last summer. Berhalter and the players altered their messaging and tone following that September qualifying window, when talk of nine points was drowned out emphatically by the din at the Cuscatlán. It’s been an enthusiastically humble “one game at a time” approach since. And remember those second-match doldrums? The U.S. has bounced back each time, going 3-0-0 in the three Game No. 3s and outscoring opponents by a combined 9–2.“It’s always about the next play and that has been, from day one, a mentality of this team which becomes a mindset,” says Stewart, a veteran of three World Cups. “What I’ve seen is that this group has grown, that they accept challenges and also accept that sometimes things don’t go the way that you want. But you focus on your job and you continue with it. So their learning curve has been really good for a young group.”Stewart, an experienced technical director in the Netherlands and MLS who came aboard in 2018, hired Berhalter. He’s in charge of charting the big-picture path for both the men’s and women’s programs and insists that no single result will derail the sport’s American trajectory. The work he’s doing on player and coach development, competitive structure and playing style will continue regardless of what happens this week, and while he’s contemplating potential responses to any and all outcomes, he refused to address those this month. Right now, the focus is on Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica.“This is a pinnacle moment for soccer in the United States. We need to qualify. There’s no other way to say it,” Stewart says.Berhalter has said since taking over that his mission is to “change the way the world views American soccer.” Unless the June playoff is required, he’ll succeed by the end of the month. Either the world will take note of a redemption story authored by America’s first golden generation, or it will wonder whether the wealthy but wayward U.S. will ever really become a soccer nation. The stakes aren’t existential, but they’re close.“It’s all coming down to this window. That’s clear,” the manager says. “So when we come into camp and we kick off our first game against Mexico, a week later we’re going to know if we’re in the World Cup or not. Every other window you’re pushing it down to the next window and you just want to hang in there, you want to put yourself into position, and we’ve done that. And now it’s about finishing the job.”

Breaking down the USMNT roster for the final Octagonal window

ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the roster for the final USMNT Octagonal window by giving his thoughts on the big issue regarding the form of key players, replacing McKennie, the players who forced their way onto the team, the big absences, and how the team lines up.  BY BRIAN SCIARETTA POSTED  MARCH 17, 2022

UNITED STATES NATIONAL team manager Gregg Berhalter today announced his 27-player roster for the final three games of the Octagonal World Cup qualifying tournament. These will be the most challenging window for the U.S. team as it will face Mexico in Mexico City on March 24 (10 p.m. ET), Panama in Orlando, Fla. on March 27 (7 p.m. ET) and Costa Rica in San Jose on March 30.The roster is straight forward and contains only a few surprises. The most notable absences have been known for weeks – Matt Turner, Chris Richards, and Weston McKennie who are all injured. In one note, Berhalter denied that Turner’s injury was frostbite.The biggest cause for concern, however, came earlier in the day when Sergino Dest left Barcelona’s 2-1 Europa League win over Galatasaray in the 56th minute with an injury. Dest is on this roster but Berhalter noted that if Dest can’t go for the upcoming qualifiers, he will be looking to add a left back into the team in the coming days.On top of that, here is the roster and here are some thoughts.


 The form of several top players is certainly a big question mark heading into this camp. Not only does it raise questions in terms of how rusty they are but it also raises questions whether or not these players will be able to start all three games.

Tim Weah hasn’t started a game since February 2. He has played 1004 Ligue 1 minutes this season and 1355 minutes total this season for Lille. He’s played just 134 minutes since that February 2 start in a 5-1 loss to PSG and his minutes have generally been declining at Lille the past two months.

Gio Reyna has only recently returned from his injury. He’s made just three appearances since his September injury (with just one start).

Tyler Adams is another key player to the U.S. team. He has made just one start for Leipzig in the Bundesliga (and one in the Europa) since the last international window.Ricardo Pepi hasn’t been part of the team as long as the other three players, but he was considered the top No. 9 for the team at key points during this tournament and his move to Augsburg has been tough and he is still yet to score.  Those players have long been thought of being key to Berhalter’s plans for the team. All three are not coming into the window in a great place in terms of momentum and Berhalter touched upon all four.With Reyna, Berhalter said he would not rule out playing Reyna in the middle and added that “the issue is just his rhythm, his fitness, and his gametime the past five months.”The particular grind of playing in Mexico City makes it hard to see Reyna being considered as a starter for that game and how much of his role will likely come down to how he shows in training at the start of next week. Berhalter added that he is “mindful of his workload” the past few weeks.

With Pepi, he has made the team despite not scoring. Berhalter said he wants all his strikers scoring and said Pepi’s lack of goals “is a concern of mine but I’ve spoken to him at length and he’s ready to go this window.” He added that “it’s about getting back to the basics with him.”
Regarding Weah, Berhalter noted that Weah “has been getting a little bit more game time lately but certainly not the 90 minutes that we expect out of him. That is a little bit of a concern.” He added that he is probably going to have to use Weah in spots and that it’s not realistic to expect he can play three 90 minute games.With Adams, Berhalter was blunt in that it comes down to “mind over matter” with Adams and that “he’s an important part of the team who has to be on the field.”It was different answers to all three players. What’s to make of it? It seems that Tyler Adams will start unless he is suspended (he is carrying a yellow card). Weah will probably start one or two games in the upcoming window, but his minutes have been a concern. Pepi might be in a tough spot in this window to start and it seems like Berhalter has him involved to work with him. Reyna appears to be on a wait and see basis.


McKennie has become such an important part of the team and he is so unique that he can’t really be replaced directly. It’s going to take a different approach.yler Adams will surely start at the No. 6 unless he gets suspended, then it will be Kellyn Acosta. But even with Adams on the field, playing Acosta with him would provide for some of the defensive bite Mckennie brings – but it would lack the offense. Berhalter also added that Luca de la Torre, Gianluca Busio, and Brenden Aaronson were players he see helping to fill the void left by McKennie.Meanwhile, Musah seems as if he will be more of the advanced/attacking midfield role in that formation (while he could be backed up by Reyna or Cristian Roldan).


 Two players who played themselves onto the team were Jordan Pefok and Erik Palmer-Brown.

Jordan Pefok is a player who has just been scoring at an amazing clip in the Swiss Super League and is the leading scorer in the league. With 10 goals in his last nine games, he is the leading scorer in the league with 17 goals. He also has five goals in the Champions League (and qualifiers) for 22 in all competitions. His form has been lights out.He might not have a complete skillset with his hold-up play and his passing, but he is scoring goals and he is very tough to defend close to goal. He’s scoring at rate where you simply can’t leave him off. Not only would it not be fair to him, it would send a bad message to others in the pool that form doesn’t matter. If other American strikers were scoring as well, that would be one thing. But they’re not – domestically or abroad. So, this was a no brainer and Pefok also has a great chance of playing a lot of minutes this window.

Erik Palmer-Brown wasn’t necessarily a no brainer. Aside for a few moments, central defense has been a source of strength for the U.S. team. But McKenzie has faded, Richards is injured, and there continues to be a saga with Brooks. Palmer-Brown has only been capped by the U.S. team in Dave Sarachan’s brief tenure. He’s been a journeyman with his loans from Manchester City but his current stint at Troyes in Ligue 1 has allowed him to play in a “Big Five” league. The past three months he has really seized the opportunity.He also looks like a central defender who could give Berhalter what he wants. Compared with other players, such as Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers, who are looking to get into the mix, Palmer-Brown offers solid passing, good footspeed, and a high-level soccer IQ. Palmer-Brown might not play much this window as Zimmerman and Robinson should be the most reliable starters. But this is a good opportunity for him to start building his case for the future and perhaps making a late push to make the World Cup team, should it qualify.


 As with every roster, there are notable absence. Here is a look at the most notable absences.

John Brooks is by far the most notable absence on this roster but given that he has not been with the team since September, it was hardly surprising. Last year he was dealing with an injury and then there were concerns over his form. Today, Berhalter said he spoke with Brooks at length but added that he didn’t fit how the team wanted to play this window.Without knowing the nature of the discussions between Brooks and Berhalter, there are a few things in Brooks’ history that are important to note. He has historically had a tough time getting along with managers in his past. His relationship with Jurgan Klinsmann wasn’t smooth. He’s been called out a few times publicly in Germany by various managers and this past season, he’s been at the receiving end of very harsh stories in BILD (some speculating the source for the articles was Wolfsburg). Last month, the club announced Brooks was not going to return next season after his contract is up this summer.ithout even mentioning Berhalter, Brooks has had a tough time with managers in his career. He does generally work his way through things, but it is a process. Berhalter today said the door for Brooks’ return is open and I believe that. Brooks’ absences have been among the more talked about stories in the last several USMNT roster releases. Perhaps his return is best left to a time when there is far less pressure on the team than there is in the coming two weeks. Berhalter also noted that he has spoken in detail with Brooks recently.Gyasi Zardes wasn’t called up and the answer for which is that he simply was outplayed as a No. 9 by Jordan Pefok. Jesus Ferreira is also on the roster, but he is a different skillset who offers a little Berhalter a little variety in how he can attack.

Josh Sargent was the same as Zardes in that he was outplayed by Pefok.  Berhalter continued to note on Thursday that he believes Sargent will become a top-quality No. 9 in the future but lately he’s been playing on the wing at Norwich and just hasn’t been getting the opportunities to score.
Sebastian Lletget was not a surprise to being left off the roster. While Lletget has been playing well to start the season for New England, his role on the U.S. team has been diminishing and he hasn’t played for the team in seven games. It seems like time that as de la Torre continues to impress, Reyna is returning, and even Roldan is playing really strong soccer for Seattle (while also embracing his role on the U.S. team as a high-energy, late sub) that there isn’t room this time for Lletget. He could get a look this summer, but he really needs to surge for New England in the months ahead.


There are a lot of questions for how the U.S. could lineup in these windows.In goal, my guess is that it will be Zack Steffen or Ethan Horvath. I think Sean Johnson is number three at this camp. The fact that Steffen has returned gives him the edge, but it will probably be a decision. If Steffen passes the physical tests given to him, I think he starts at Azteca and in the other games.Central defense is likely going to be Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson. Robinson hasn’t been great in the early season with Atlanta, but Zimmerman continues to be excellent for Nashville. Long is still only in his first few games back from injury and Palmer-Brown hasn’t played yet under Berhalter. James Sands looks like he’s on the team to cover in both defense and in the midfield.Fullbacks right now are up in the air. Antonee Robinson is the starting left back and if Dest is out (which seems like a real possibility) another left back will need to be called in. That would also probably put Reggie Cannon into the starting right back role. Cannon is fine defensively, but he does not have the explosiveness in getting forward.In the midfield, Adams is a lock to start (unless he picks up a yellow and is suspended). Acosta might seem like the logical replacement for McKennie in Azteca given his success against El Tri and the need for a more defensive approach. Against Panama and Costa Rica, it might be a situation that more favors Luca de la Torre. In the most advanced position, Musah looks like the top choice now and it seems unlikely that Reyna should be favored to start. If Musah can’t go, Brenden Aaronson might slide into that role.Pulisic is a lock starter on the left wing. Weah is a bit of a wild card right now. He’s played well for the U.S. team but he is not playing a lot for his club. Meanwhile, Brenden Aaronson has been strong for Salzburg but he plays as a No. 10 there. Weah and Aaronson should split time on the right wing with Aaronson also likely playing in the midfield. If that happens, Morris could see time – and his form is picking up nicely for Seattle.Finally, up top I think Berhalter will want to ride the hot hand with Pefok and I think Jesus Ferreira has a good chance to play some minutes off the bench. Pepi is a tough player to put on the field right now with his form and confidence. How many minutes he plays could come down to how he shows in training when camp opens next week.

World Cup playoffs: No Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah or Italy? What’s at stake?

7:00 AM ET Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Can you imagine a FIFA World Cup in Qatar without Portugal‘s Cristiano Ronaldo or Egypt‘s Mohamed Salah? Or a tournament in which European champions Italy or African champions Senegal fail to qualify? Well the bad news for those mentioned, and fans across the globe, is that some of the game’s headline acts will see their Qatar 2022 dreams extinguished in the coming days during the World Cup playoffs.By the end of this international break, seven nations will have booked their place in this year’s World Cup through the playoffs. Three more will be confirmed when the Intercontinental playoffs and the culmination of the European path involving Ukraine take place in June.

In Europe, some of the major nations, including Portugal and Italy, are walking a tightrope after failing to top their qualification groups. And in Africa, five head-to-head ties over two legs will see some of the continent’s traditional powerhouse countries miss out.It promises to be a tense and dramatic round of playoffs in Europe and Africa, so here’s your guide as to how it will all play out.

How it works

In Europe, the 10 runners-up from the group stage, plus the two highest-placed teams in the 2021 Nations League who failed to achieve a top-two group finish (Austria and Czech Republic), have been drawn into three separate playoff paths.Each path has four teams, with two one-legged semifinals feeding into a one-off final. The seeded team is at home in the semifinal and a draw has already taken place to decide who has home advantage in the final.So there is no margin for error. It’s one game, in both the semis and the final, to decide who qualifies.Path A involves Wales vs. Austria in Cardiff (Thursday, 2.45 p.m ET., stream live on ESPN+) and Scotland vs. Ukraine in Glasgow, meeting to set up a final in Cardiff or Vienna. However, the conflict in Ukraine means this path will not be concluded during this international break.Path B was due to be Russia vs. Poland in Moscow and Sweden vs. Czech Republic in Stockholm (Thursday, 2.45 p.m ET., stream live on ESPN+), feeding into a final held in either Moscow or Chorzow, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to FIFA kicking the 2018 World Cup hosts out of the competition. Poland get a bye.Path C is the real show-stopper, with Portugal vs. Turkey in Porto (Thursday, 2.45 p.m ET., stream live on ESPN2) and Italy vs. North Macedonia in Palermo (Thursday, 2.45 p.m ET., stream live on ESPN+) potentially setting up a clash between Portugal and Italy in Porto for a place at the World Cup. Turkey will play Italy or North Macedonia in Konya if they beat Portugal on Thursday.In Africa, there is slightly more breathing room for the teams involved, with five separate ties being played over two legs. But some of Africa’s biggest teams and stars will miss out, with the winners of each tie qualifying for Qatar.

How has the war in Ukraine impacted the World Cup playoffs?

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, FIFA suspended Russia from all competitive football. The Russian Football Union (RFU) appealed against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but that was rejected on March 15.Prior to Russia being kicked out of the playoffs, the national associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic — Russia’s Path B rivals — all issued statements insisting they would not play any game against the Russians.Poland have now been given a bye to the Path B final and will face either Sweden or the Czechs at Slaski Stadium in Chorzow on March 29.In Path A, the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) requested a postponement of their playoff against Scotland. More than half of the Ukraine squad play their football in the country, so the majority of their players are unable to leave or prepare for a World Cup playoff.FIFA has sanctioned the postponement, and although no date has been confirmed for the Scotland-Ukraine game to be rescheduled, sources have told ESPN that it is hoped the fixture may be played in June. However, if the conflict continues, FIFA faces a tough decision in terms of a cut-off point for Path A to be concluded.The other semifinal between Wales and Austria will take place in Cardiff on Thursday, with the winners then playing a home tie against Scotland or Ukraine in the final at a time and date to be decided.

Who are the big names who could miss out in Europe?

One of the last two European champions won’t make it. Thanks to Portugal and Italy being drawn in the same path, one of the biggest nations in world football won’t qualify for Qatar.Failure to qualify would be disastrous for Italy. The four-time World Cup winners missed out in 2018 after losing a two-legged playoff against Sweden, but they now risk the same fate less than 12 months after beating England in the Euro 2020 final. A 90th-minute penalty miss by Jorginho against Switzerland in Rome last November ost the Italians top spot in Group C and has now left the Azzurri needing to beat North Macedonia before a one-off final against Portugal or Turkey for a place in Qatar.It’s also possible there will be no World Cup swan song for Cristiano Ronaldo in Qatar. The 37-year-old, the all-time leading goal scorer in men’s international football, has said he will retire from international duty after the World Cup, but he may not get that far. But for a 90th-minute goal for Serbia scored by Aleksandar Mitrovic in a 2-1 win in Lisbon last November, Portugal would have avoided the playoffs and qualified as group winners. Now the Euro 2016 winners face two tough games to qualify.In Path B, 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back in the Sweden squad and aiming to make it to Qatar after missing the 2018 competition. But if the AC Milan forward gets there, it will mean no World Cup for Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski, whose Poland team await the winners of Sweden vs. the Czech Republic in the final after their bye against Russia. So we could be set for a Lewandowski vs. Ibrahimovic showdown in Chorzow on March 29.

Who are the big names who could miss out in Africa?

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) performed the draw for the African playoff route on Jan. 22, which was the midway point of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. As a result, the seeded draw was based on the FIFA World Ranking prior to the tournament, with the five highest-ranked teams in one pot and the remaining teams in the other.The downside to that decision has been borne out in the playoff draw, which will see the two AFCON finalists — Senegal and Egypt — meeting for a place at the 2022 World Cup. If CAF had done the draw after the tournament, Egypt would have been among the top seeds and Africa would not have been faced with two of its best teams battling it out for one place in Qatar.But aside from one of Africa’s best two teams missing out, we also face either Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah failing to qualify for the World Cup. Mane and Salah are two of the biggest, if not THE biggest, stars in African football. They are also stellar names in the Premier League and Champions Leagues following their goal-scoring feats with Liverpool. But one of them will be spending November and December at home while the World Cup plays out.Cameroon vs. Algeria will see one World Cup regular qualify at the expense of another, while two of the traditional giants of African football, Ghana and Nigeria, will also play for one spot.

Are there any other playoffs?

However, an outbreak of COVID-19 infections forced Vanuatu to withdraw from the qualifiers over the weekend and the Cook Islands have also revealed a number of positive results, so the Solomon Islands and Tahiti are expected to progress by default and face New Zealand and Fiji in Qatar this week. The winner of the Oceania playoffs will then face the fourth-placed team in North America (CONCACAF) in Qatar on June 13-14 for a place at the World Cup.The fourth-placed team in Asia (AFC) will face the fifth-placed team in South America (CONMEBOL) for one qualification spot in Doha on June 13-14. Ahead of the final round of qualifiers, the AFC team will be either Australia or the United Arab Emirates, to play against Peru from CONMEBOL.

When is the World Cup draw?

It’s closer than you think. The draw for the group stage of Qatar 2022 will be on April 1 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center at 7 p.m. local time (4 p.m. GMT / 11 a.m. ET) .Thirty-two nations will be drawn into eight groups of four and the draw will be seeded based on the FIFA World Ranking. Those teams involved in playoffs in June will be assigned groups on a qualifier TBC basis.Teams from the same continental confederation, other than UEFA, cannot be paired together in the same group. A maximum of two UEFA nations can be placed in the same group.The 2022 World Cup starts on Nov. 21, with hosts Qatar playing the opening game at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. The final will be staged at the Lusail Stadium, Doha, on Dec. 18.

Christian the Closer: Stage Is Set for Pulisic in USMNT’s Final World Cup Push

With a berth in Qatar on the line and key players out injured or otherwise limited, the spotlight is on an in-form Pulisic to deliver for the U.S.

No U.S. men’s national team fan needs the reminder—especially not this week—but sometimes to get to where you want to go, you need to look back at where you’ve come from.For Christian Pulisic, the images of his face buried in his shirt upon the devastation of the U.S.’s failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup were brutal then and remain so now. Here was a 19-year-old playing a bigger role than should have been necessary coming to grips with utter humiliation—at no fault of his own—following the infamous defeat in Trinidad & Tobago that sealed the U.S.’s fate.Pulisic was the lone U.S. player to score in Couva in October 2017, and he’s one of the few remaining holdovers linking back to that group. He has gone on to win U.S. Soccer’s Male Player of the Year award three times since. For all of the U.S. talent sprouting up at top clubs in Europe, he remains the standard bearer for his rising generation. He’s a Champions League winner who has excelled in spurts at two of the biggest clubs and in two of the biggest leagues on the planet, and he’s still just 23. He’s more than held his own in the face of extreme hype. But while there have been times for others to step up throughout ’22 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. truly needs Pulisic to be its closer over the final three matches.The U.S. player pool is seemingly never at full strength, and, once again, a depleted top of the depth chart leaves the Americans thinned out. Brenden Aaronson has been ruled out with a knee injury. Gio Reyna and Tim Weah are players whom Gregg Berhalter has deemed unlikely to be 90-minute guys on multiple occasions during this window, if even once. Just three of the U.S.’s goals throughout qualifying have come from the center forward position (all through Ricardo Pepi, across two games, though he hasn’t scored a goal for club or country since that last October strike vs. Jamaica). Looking around the room, there aren’t many other places for the U.S. to turn for impact moments, starting at Estadio Azteca in Mexico on Thursday night and continuing in Orlando vs. Panama on Sunday before qualifying concludes in San José, Costa Rica, on March 30.But that’s where the “LeBron James of soccer” is supposed to rise to the occasion, and in big games, Pulisic has developed a knack for coming through with key moments. He has two goals in qualifying, both interestingly off the bench. His first was a match winner just minutes into his performance vs. Mexico in Cincinnati in November, while the second was a match icer in the early-February win over Honduras. Both came in big spots, with the U.S.-Mexico stage needing no introduction, while the win vs. Honduras allowed the Americans to remain on a more streamlined path to the World Cup entering the final window. In June, it was his cold-blooded penalty kick that wound up clinching the Nations League title.There are also times when it looks as if Pulisic feels the need to shoulder the load a bit too much, and it’s something he has recognized himself. It’s not hard to spot. His ability and willingness to take on defenders are two of his hallmarks, but when he forces the issue, the frustration of turning the ball over or failing to produce meaningful chances tends to snowball. It doesn’t help that he’s also often the focus of opponents’ physicality, absorbing fouls that can take a cumulative effect on a player.“Sometimes it is tough,” Pulisic told ESPN while at the FIFA Club World Cup with Chelsea in February. “I still haven’t completely learned. Especially going back to the U.S., sometimes I put too much pressure on myself that I need to do something special where I just need to play the best I can, do what I can do and hopefully people recognize that.“It is just about playing my game, doing it to the best of my ability and not worrying about what any outside sources say because that’s not what really matters.”Unlike in past camps, Pulisic isn’t coming in under a cloud of poor form or inactivity at Chelsea. He’s rolling in on the heels of a pair of goals in the Champions League round of 16, and he appears as engaged and as big of a part of Chelsea’s attack as he has been all season. He has big-game credentials for his club, too. In addition to the two recent goals vs. Lille, he scored in last season’s semifinal vs. Real Madrid to help send Chelsea to the final. He scored in an FA Cup final. He’s also been inches from scoring in Champions League, Club World Cup and Carabao Cup finals. And his current run of form couldn’t be better timed. The potential distraction of everything swirling at the club considering the sanctions on Roman Abramovich and forthcoming sale do not appear to have had a negative impact on his—or the club’s—play, and the U.S. should be better off for it.It’s been a pleasure to watch,” Berhalter said before Pulisic’s arrival in camp. “I say this all the time. … It’s a rollercoaster, especially when you’re at a club like Chelsea. When you’re at these massive clubs, it’s very, very difficult.”All they ask him to do is just to keep fighting, keep working and wait for his opportunity and he’s done that and he’s taken advantage of it. He’s become again an important part of their team. He’s shown that he can step up and score goals and make assists.“He’s got a great knack for arriving in the penalty box and he’s got a finishing touch to him. He’s very good when he’s in front of goal.“So for us, we expect very similar things. He needs to keep arriving in the box because we know, when he gets in good positions, he scores, and just continue to focus on the basics and he’ll be the leader that we expect him to be.”If he can accomplish that over the next week-plus, then there won’t be a question as to what the lasting images of this qualifying cycle will be, and they’ll be ones that U.S. fans and Pulisic himself will happily look back on down the road.

The USMNT’s Form, Fitness and Injuries That’ll Define the End of World Cup Qualifying

The last window is nearly here, but the U.S., again, won’t be at full strength. How the squad is utilized—and individuals’ form—will make all the difference.

You are reading 1 of 4 free premium articles. Subscribe for unlimited access for just $1. Members log in.It was just a week ago that it seemed as if things on the injury front were clearing for the U.S. men’s national team. Well, a lot can change in a week, especially in the bubble-wrap-or-bust world of the USMNT.Sergiño Dest’s hamstring injury and Brenden Aaronson’s knee injury are two late problems the U.S. has been forced to confront in the days leading up to the last batch of Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. Both were originally included on Gregg Berhalter’s 27-man squad for games against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, although Dest’s initial inclusion was a case of wishful thinking. The injury he suffered just hours before the roster reveal was confirmed a day later, as was George Bello’s call-up to replace him.But Aaronson’s curveball on Sunday changes the calculus even more. He suffered “knee problems” in the warmup to his scheduled Austrian Bundesliga match and was forced out as a result. The only U.S. player to appear in all 11 World Cup qualifiers to date, Aaronson has taken on a significant role for the U.S. Salzburg included him Monday on its list of players departing for international duty, but then ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported that Aaronson will miss 2-4 weeks with an MCL injury. Earlier Monday, U.S. Soccer maintained that Aaronson was “day-to-day” and would still report to camp, but that took a turn for the worse later in the day, with the federation ruling him out of camp entirely. “After reviewing the updated medical information and in consultation with Red Bull Salzburg, we have determined that Brenden Aaronson would not be available to play in the upcoming World Cup qualifying matches,” U.S. Soccer wrote in a statement. “We were hopeful he would be able to recover in time; unfortunately, that will not be the case. We hope he makes a speedy recovery.”There is no replacement as of now for Aaronson, leaving the U.S. with 26 players for the trio of upcoming games.The U.S. is on the cusp of qualification, but it hasn’t done enough to eliminate its margin for error. A defeat in Mexico on Thursday and the heat gets ramped up considerably ahead of Sunday’s home match vs. Panama (which, all emotion and rivalry aside, is the one the U.S. truly must-win). This entire process has been about relying on depth and overcoming injury and adversity, and so it’s only appropriate that the coda is about more of the same. The next three days will be defined by a discussion about squad rotation and the approach vs. Mexico. Go for the jugular in the altitude at the Azteca—where the U.S. has never won a qualifier—and risk being a bit more depleted vs. Panama? Or take a more conservative approach south of the border and put more emphasis on ensuring that the three home points on offer are secured?“I think the important thing first is to look at the starting point of where these guys are coming from,” Berhalter said. “If a guy is fully fit, and playing every week, and has 90 minutes under his belt for a considerable amount of weeks, he’ll be fine. They’ll be fatigued a little bit at altitude, but they’ll be able to get through it.”Fresh injuries and game-approach permutations aside, the weekend did provide a number of other key moments for U.S. players who have been called into camp. Here are the highlights and lowlights from those last appearances among those who will look to secure a World Cup berth in the next 10 days:

Reyna goes the full 90

If there were an antidote to the new injury problems, it was Gio Reyna’s 90-minute performance for Dortmund on Sunday. He may not have scored or assisted on a goal, and Dortmund may have dropped points in the chase to dethrone Bayern Munich, but from a personal standpoint, it was Reyna’s first 90-minute showing since the Sept. 2 World Cup qualifier in which he was injured. From then, it was five months out, followed by a brief return, another injury scare, a shorter layoff and then a return. In comments last week, Berhalter indicated that Reyna would not be entirely unleashed this window, given how recent his injury problems have been, but might Aaronson’s availability alter the calculus? If not, then MLS-based Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris are the next men up on the wing.“The important thing is us qualifying for the World Cup, first of all, but secondly is Gio returning healthy to his club, and we’re mindful of his load. We’re mindful of the work that he’s done the last couple weeks, and we’re going to adjust accordingly,” Berhalter said last week.

Steffen, Horvath both start in FA Cup

Another sight for sore U.S. eyes was a pair of FA Cup quarterfinals, with Zack Steffen backstopping Man City into the semis, while Ethan Horvath continued his run of starts at Nottingham Forest in a narrow defeat to Liverpool. His 1-v-1 save on Roberto Firmino was among his highlights in defeat.

USMNT World Cup qualifying roundtable: Can injury-hit squad do what is needed to reach Qatar?


The U.S. men’s national team has had a interesting relationship with the World Cup. After appearing in three of the first four competitions (1930, 1950, 1954), the Yanks missed the next nine before returning, in 1990, thanks to a pivotal qualifying goal by Paul Caligiuri in Trinidad & Tobago. (You can see where this is going, right?)From there, the USMNT represented at every World Cup from 1994 to 2014, going as far as the quarterfinals in 2002 … only to infamously miss the 2018 edition after failing to win in — you knew it was coming — Trinidad & Tobago. (They only needed a draw that night!) That pivotal defeat in Couva reverberated around the hearts and minds of U.S. fans until qualification for Qatar 2022 began, and with it a brilliant new generation of American talent. Despite the emergence of Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler AdamsSergino Dest and many more, their ticket to the World Cup this winter comes down to the final three games, including a game against Mexico in the fabled Azteca, and a potential winner-take-all clash in Costa Rica.ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Ryan O’Hanlon, Dan Hajducky and Bill Connelly offer their answers to the critical questions we’re all asking ourselves this week.

Is this shaping up to be another Couva situation?

Carlisle: I think the possibility of overconfidence, which was the real culprit four years ago, is reduced this time around. The U.S. knows how difficult these three opponents — Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica — are, so the requisite focus and intensity should be there.

Now, could the U.S. mess this up? Absolutely. But I think this will be down more to the pressure of the moment and the quality of the opposition than the U.S. thinking it has qualification in the bag.

Bonagura: It shouldn’t get that dicey, Jeff, but it’s certainly on the table and it would be foolish to write off a repeat with the lesson from 2017 still fresh. The game to simultaneously watch is Costa Rica at Canada. If Costa Rica wins (unlikely) that one, things will get even more interesting.

O’Hanlon: In the most general sense, yes. Barring a win against Mexico at the Azteca, the USMNT is going to need a result, on the road, in their last match of qualifying. The big difference: This team, even with the injuries, is way better than the 2017 team that failed to get a result on the road in their last match of qualifying.Hajducky: Whoa, whoa, guys: I thought we weren’t going to invoke that name! Couva. Sneaky.

The Americans’ track record in Mexico — 0-12-3 at Estadio Azteca in qualifying since 1949 — is stark. One point would be historic, three would initiate delirium. Canada, sans Alphonso Davies, will clinch automatic qualification with one more win; if they do so against Costa Rica on March 24, it could render USMNT’s tango with Los Ticos on March 30 a … sigh … Couva situation. But that’s assuming the U.S. don’t take points from Panama, currently in the playoff slot and squaring off against already-eliminated Honduras and nearly qualified Canada in this final round. The Stars & Stripes get Panama on home soil in Orlando, Florida, in an absolute must-win.

Going back to 2002 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, 1.3 points per game is the fewest an automatic qualifier has managed. Even with the new format (eight teams instead of six, 14 games each now), unless something goes wildly amiss, the U.S. men (1.91 PPG) are above that threshold. Even if they lose all three matches, they’d have managed 1.5 points per game — good enough for automatic (or intercontinental) qualification in each of the past two cycles.

For now, let’s breathe. Panic is reserved for March 30. (Have Taylor Twellman on standby just in case.)

Connelly: Look, the nightmare certainly isn’t off the table! While the odds are certainly in the United States‘ favor heading into the final three matches, the number of injuries for this group heading into the final matches is incredible. We will go the whole qualification period without ever seeing Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Sergino Dest on the pitch at the same time, and that’s absolutely incredible. size=1 width=”100%” noshade style=’color:#A5A6A7′ align=center>

Bigger loss: Dest or McKennie?

Carlisle: OK, it’s McKennie (no disrespect to Dest). Not only will McKennie’s talent be missed, but he’s been the heart and soul of this team since returning from his suspension last September. He has scored big goals and provided an emotional boost to his teammates on the field. He’s irreplaceable really. Hopefully his teammates can combine to make up for his absence.

Bonagura: I hate to say it, but Jeff’s right about McKennie! It’s not close — no one else on the roster has had more influence while they’ve been on the field than the Juventus midfielder during qualifying, and the drop-off from him to whoever slots in is more significant than when the U.S. plays Deandre Yedlin or Reggie Cannon in place of Dest.

O’Hanlon: Joining the chorus! McKennie all the way. During qualifying, he’s second on the team in shots, expected goals, chances created, touches in the penalty area and passes into the penalty area. Oh yeah, and he’s done all of that from midfield. There’s no one else in the player pool even remotely like him.

Who will score the goals?

Carlisle: This question should strike terror, but honestly, the U.S. has been pretty balanced in terms of where goals have come from in qualifying: Six from wingers, three from center-forwards, four from defenders and two out of central midfield (plus one own goal). Given the struggles of the No.9s in the talent pool and the loss of Brenden Aaronson to a knee injury, that means more onus on Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah. Perhaps Reyna will chip in, too, given his return to health.

Another thing to consider is how the U.S. team’s prowess on set pieces perked up against Honduras. Getting more production from there could be huge.

Bonagura: With Pulisic in form headed into this window, the expectation has to be that he will carry the offense. With that established, it will probably be someone like Walker Zimmerman or Cannon who comes up with an important goal.

Pick your XI for the Azteca and explain

Carlisle: Horvath; Yedlin, Walker Zimmerman, Miles RobinsonAntonee Robinson; Musah, Adams, Kellyn Acosta; Pulisic, Pefok, Weah

To rest or not to rest? That is the question. The selection of Horvath is down to the fact that he’s been playing more than any other U.S. keeper, and also has good history against Mexico. Yedlin’s experience gets him the nod at right-back, and the same is true for Acosta, who took part in the 1-1 draw at the Azteca during the last cycle, in midfield. This is going to be a grind-it-out affair, and Acosta is best suited for that.

It’s been suggested that Adams be saved for Panama given that he’s on a yellow card (and would face a one-game suspension if he picks up another), but then you run the risk of him playing in only one match in this window if he’s saved and then booked against Panama. Aaronson’s absence means Weah gets the nod at one of the wing positions. No central striker has really jumped out, but Pefok is in the best form of any of them, so he gets the nod up top.Bonagura: Steffen; Yedlin, M. Robinson, Zimmerman, A. Robinson; Adams; Musah, Luca De la Torre; Morris, Pefok, Pulisic

The idea that the United States should rotate at the Azteca to give the team a better shot at three points in a more pivotal — for qualification purposes — game against Panama is completely logical. But with five subs available, this also doesn’t mean it should be a full second-choice XI. I would plan to sub in Reyna (in central midfield), Weah, Pepi/Ferreira with the idea they will start in Orlando and earmark Acosta (for Adams) and another player (depending on the state of the game) for playing time.

Also, let Yedlin empty the tank and use Cannon against Panama.

O’Hanlon: Horvath; Yedlin, Zimmerman, M. Robinson, A. Robinson; Adams, Musah, Acosta; Pulisic, Ferreira, Weah

Jeff and I picked ours two weeks ago, but injuries to Dest and Aaronson necessitate a couple of tweaks. I’d swap Yedlin in for Dest, and I’d go with Jesus Ferreira as the third attacker. He has been lighting it up in MLS, and he was — controversial opinion alert — great in his start against El Salvador. His on-ball skills dovetail really nicely with Pulisic’s world-class off-ball movement.

Hajducky: Steffen; Cannon, M. Robinson, Zimmerman, A. Robinson; Adams, Musah, Acosta; Pulisic, Pepi, Weah

Some combination of Pulisic, Weah and Pepi up top with Reyna coming on as a sub; in midfield, Adams and Yunus Musah most likely stabilized by Acosta, the second-most-capped player on this roster; in the back, Antonee and Miles Robinson, Zimmerman and Cannon, who has played the full 90 in each of Boavista‘s past six league matches. My gut’s on Steffen in net, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Horvath’s form against Liverpool tilts the scales — especially the gutty breakaway save to deny Roberto Firmino.

Connelly: Steffen; Yedlin, M. Robinson, Zimmerman, A. Robinson; Adams, Acosta, Cristian Roldan; Pulisic, Pepi, Morris Berhalter tends to make pretty si

Which player will Berhalter regret not calling in?

Carlisle: For all the talk about John Brooks, if Berhalter wasn’t going to go in that direction, I’m a bit surprised that Tim Ream didn’t get another look given how well he played in El Salvador as well as for Fulham. Out of the three center-backs backing up Zimmerman and Miles Robinson — Aaron LongErik Palmer-Brown and James Sands — none of them have played in a World Cup qualifier, and the stakes now couldn’t be higher. Ream has the requisite experience and leadership that could help this team navigate its way through these three games.

Bonagura: It’s beginning to look like I’m on an island with this, but Matthew Hoppe was the only attacking player to make any sort of positive impression in the Gold Cup and would be a valuable asset in this window, especially now that Aaronson is out.

O’Hanlon: While the talent pool is deeper than ever, the USMNT still isn’t close to being flush enough to ignore a center back who was starting for a Champions League team this season. Plus, none of the other center backs in the pool can pass like Brooks. Without McKennie, Aaronson and Dest, Berhalter is going to have to pull a couple new attacking levers, but he left this one in Wolfsburg.

Hajducky: Given the ballyhoo, it’s easy to say Brooks, isn’t it? If Thursday in Mexico City turns sour, dissent might reach a fever pitch. The U.S. are short on attacking options, and Josh Sargent has been influential for a woeful Norwich City. I’d rather have Sargent on the bench than at home.

Connelly: I realize Brooks’ form isn’t spectacular, but bringing in Long and Palmer-Brown instead of him seems weird, especially with the trip to Azteca. Having that security blanket would have been nice. size=1 width=”100%” noshade style=’color:#A5A6A7′ align=center>

Three games for the USMNT. How many points do they get?

Carlisle: They’ll get four with a tie in Mexico and a win over Panama. That still might not be enough to guarantee one of the three automatic spots, so they’ll need some help from Canada to take points off of Costa Rica. Otherwise they’ll be headed to Qatar for a playoff.

Bonagura: Based strictly on gut feeling: lose at Mexico, win against Panama, draw at Costa Rica, for four points. This is a team that has the capability to get results in both road games, but the historical track record is tough to ignore.

O’Hanlon: Betting markets give Mexico about a 45% chance of winning, with 28% on a draw and 27% on a USMNT win. Expected points from that, then, is a little over one. Let’s say 2.5 for Panama — it’s home, and Panama will be pushing for a win, which theoretically helps the U.S. — and 1.5 for Costa Rica. Add it all up, and we’ve got five expected points — and a spot in Qatar.

Hajducky: Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m hoping for four points. Hell, I’m resorting to prayer for anything non-zero. Mexico is shaping up to be a heartbreaker, sure, but Panama on home soil (in a stadium they’ve never lost in) is an imperative three points. Still, Costa Rica might still be the most intriguing. The U.S. have only dropped one of the past six against Los Ticos back to mid-2017. They are, however, abysmal (and winless) in Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. They need to take maximum points against Panama in Orlando or March 30 is all-out mayhem, absent stars and nursing wounds.

Connelly: It feels like anything between one and nine is on the table, yeah? Mexico isn’t exactly in great form, and the U.S. will be favored against Panama, but you’d love to have something a lot closer to your full-strength lineup available. Alas, injuries stink, and it feels like four points is somewhere between realistic and semi-optimistic. So four.

USMNT’s Tyler Adams on World Cup qualification: ‘No other option’

United States men’s national team midfielder Tyler Adams said there is “no other option” but for the USMNT to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.The USMNT seek to return to the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, with three crucial qualifying matches left — at Mexico on Thursday, hosting Panama three days later at Orlando, Florida, and at Costa Rica on March 30. “We have to qualify, there’s no other option. I think that when you’re in big games and important games you always have to remember what motivates you and what you’re doing it for,” Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday. “We’re doing it for all the U.S. fans and we don’t want to let down our nation.”

Adams, who plays for Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, said he remembered watching the USMNT fail to qualify for 2018 World Cup. He pondered what could have been had that side reached Russia.

“I made my debut after that elimination, who knows if had we qualified if I would have been there,” Adams said. “The group has a great responsibility — qualifying for the World Cup, it’s the absolute minimum, we have to do that to continue to move the program forward.”The top three sides in the eight-team CONCACAF standings will automatically qualify for Qatar 2022, and the fourth place side will play an intercontinental playoff. Canada lead with 25 points, with the U.S. and Mexico each on 21 points but the U.S. ahead on goal difference. Panama is fourth with 17 points, followed by Costa Rica with 16. El Salvador (nine), Jamaica (seven) and Honduras (three) have been eliminated.Adams said the side welcomes the challenge of Thursday’s match at Estadio Azteca, where Mexico holds a 6-0-3 record in qualifying against the USMNT and have a 9-1-2 home record overall against the Americans. However, the U.S. have defeated Mexico the last three times they met, including wins in the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup finals, and a 2-0 win in a November qualifying match in Cincinnati.Playing this match on Thursday 7,200 feet above sea level, Adams said both sides will feel the elevation.”You don’t have to the opportunity to play in that kind of altitude everday, you have to get through the first 10-15 minutes to grind it out. I’ve played there with the youth side, but not with a lot of fans, so I’m excited,” Adams said.Borussia Dortmund star Giovanni Reyna said he understands the challenge of playing at the iconic venue, having heard about it from his father Claudio, a former USMNT captain.”I’ve heard about stories from my dad. I knew it was gonna be a tough game back in Denver [in the 2020 CONCACAF Nations League final] and every time we play them. They have a great crowd, great team so it’s gonna be tough to play there. We’re ready and excited,” Reyna said of Azteca.Reyna is returning to national team duty after battling a hamstring injury that kept him out action for over five months and only recently played a match for Dortmund. Nonetheless, the return of Reyna is a relief for Gregg Berhalter’s side that will miss key players such as midfielder Weston McKennie (two broken bones in left foot), defender Sergino Dest (strained left thigh), goalkeeper Matt Turner (foot/ankle), and Brenden Aaronson (knee).”I know I can help the group just with my playing and being here. We got really important games and our main goal is to go to the World Cup,” Reyna said. “I’m definitely going to be managing my fitness, we’re gonna be smart with it.”

Hurting US men’s soccer team seeks boost in crucial World Cup push from Gio Reyna

Nancy Armour, USA TODAY Tue, March 22, 2022, 5:21 PM

Gio Reyna’s goals for the next week are simple: Qualify for the World Cup, and stay healthy.The forward, one of the brightest young stars for the U.S. men’s team, is back with the Americans for the first time since September, when he injured his right hamstring during the first World Cup qualifier. Though his absence lasted longer than Reyna had hoped, his return comes at an ideal time for the Americans, who need to win at least one of their final three qualifiers to clinch a spot at the World Cup in Qatar.“I just want to help the group,” Reyna said Tuesday. “Our main goal is to go to the World Cup, and that’s what I’m here to help us do.”Concacaf’s top three teams automatically qualify for the World Cup later this year, and the fourth-place finisher goes to a playoff this summer against a team from Oceania. The Americans begin the final qualifying window in second place, but just four points separate them from fourth-place Panama. Costa Rica, which is currently fifth, is another point back.Of the four teams fighting for the last two automatic spots, the USMNT has the most difficult schedule. The Americans are on the road for two of their three games, beginning Thursday at Mexico’s Azteca Stadium.

They play Panama on Sunday in Orlando, then travel to Costa Rica for a game March 30.The USMNT has never won a World Cup qualifier at Azteca – heck, it’s only won one game there, period, a 2012 friendly – with the raucous crowd and the altitude, to say nothing of El Tri itself, traditionally presenting an insurmountable challenge. But Mexico has been decidedly vulnerable at home recently.Decidedly vulnerable against the Americans recently, too.The USMNT won all three matches against El Tri last year, a first. The Americans beat Mexico for the title in two tournaments, despite using two different squads. Reyna was part of the team that won the Nations League title, scoring the USMNT’s first goal in the 3-2 win.“Going against them is special,” Reyna said. “I’m not really thinking this time, ‘I need to score because we’re playing against Mexico.’ … If I score, it’ll be great. If I get an assist, it’ll be great. If I don’t (get) either and if we win, it’ll be just as great.“I’m not really focused on that too much,” Reyna added. “I’m more focused on getting three points.”Still, having Reyna back is a boost. Especially given Monday’s announcement that forward Brenden Aaronson, who has two goals and is the only American to play in all 11 World Cup qualifiers, is out with a knee injury.The U.S. men will also be without midfielder Weston McKennie, their best player in recent months. McKennie had one of the goals in the USMNT’s 2-0 victory over Mexico –in November.Reyna’s minutes are likely to be limited, given his long layoff. He injured the hamstring Sept. 2 in El Salvador, and didn’t play again for Dortmund, his club in Germany, until Feb. 6. A setback two weeks later, during his first start, sidelined him for another three weeks.But after coming on as a substitute in two games, Reyna started and played all 90 minutes Sunday.“I’ve built up a lot of strength over the last two months, three months. I’m pretty confident in my body at the moment,” Reyna said. “But it was great to get 90 minutes before coming into camp. It gave me a huge boost in confidence, knowing that I can do it now.”U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter has already said he’ll be careful with Reyna’s minutes. Though Berhalter has dismissed the idea of “saving” his best lineup for Panama, a game that is effectively a must-win for the Americans, it would seem to make more sense to sit Reyna, or bring him on as a substitute, against Mexico and then give him more minutes against Panama.“I probably need a few more weeks before I’m 100 percent fit in terms of running and playing 90 minutes consistently,” said Reyna, who said he had no issues after Sunday’s game.Though this will be Reyna’s first World Cup qualifier in Mexico – his first game at Azteca, period – he got a taste of the fierceness of the rivalry last summer. He’s also heard the stories from his teammates and, of course, his own father.Claudio Reyna was the U.S. captain for eight years, and played in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups. The elder Reyna had a hand in both goals in the USMNT’s historic win over El Tri in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup.“He’s told me about it,” the younger Reyna said. “It’s always a really, really good test for us. It’s always a really, really entertaining game for the fans. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting and there’s a lot to play for. So it’ll be great.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: World Cup qualifying bid at crucial point for USMNT and Gio Reyna

In the thin air of Estadio Azteca, USMNT faces a heavy task against Mexico

By Steven Goff  Today at 11:52 a.m. EDT|Updated today at 7:13 p.m. EDT

It’s hard enough playing a World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca, the mammoth den of Mexican soccer for more than a half-century. History, sound and fervor conspire against visitors, compounding the challenge of beating a world-class national team.Then there’s the matter of breathing. Depending on where you’re standing in the vast metropolis, Mexico City’s elevation is at least 7,200 feet, some 2,000 higher than Denver.On Thursday, the U.S. men’s squad will visit Azteca for its 12th of 14 qualifiers in a regional competition that will reward three automatic berths in Qatar in November. To enhance their chances, the second-place Americans are seeking at least a point.First, though, they’ll seek oxygen.“I remember thinking in warmups it wasn’t so bad,” former U.S. midfielder Stu Holden said, reflecting on a 2009 visit. “But when I came on the field and sprinted for five minutes, it was like someone had sucked all of the air out of the stadium. I felt my lungs burning.”

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Venue settings are part of the gamesmanship in Concacaf, which encompasses North and Central America and the Caribbean. This cycle, the United States and Canada chose the deep cold of St. Paul, Minn., and Edmonton, respectively. Honduras and Panama embraced the heat.Mexico’s added advantage is altitude.

“You make those runs forward, and then the recovery run coming back was like, ‘Wow,’ ” former U.S. captain John Harkes said. “You can’t get to the top of your breath. You felt it.”The United States has never won a qualifier in Mexico, dating from 1949, and has won once in 27 meetings in all competitions there (a 2012 friendly at Azteca). In the past six qualifying cycles, though, there have been three draws and three one-goal decisions.Altitude is not the primary reason for U.S. futility, but it does contribute. Coach Gregg Berhalter said his players “will be fatigued a little bit, but they’ll be able to get through it.”There are two approaches to preparing to play at great heights: arrive a week or two early or not until the day before the match.With players unavailable until a few days before most qualifiers because of club obligations, there is only one option. So the U.S. delegation is training in Houston before flying to Mexico City on Wednesday.“The strategy you can apply is to monitor the iron level in the blood and make sure these guys are not deficient before they report to camp,” said Pierre Barrieu, a former U.S. team fitness coach who oversaw preparation before qualifiers in Mexico City and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the Americans played at altitudes between 3,800 and 5,800 feet.Barrieu recommended getting hard work out of the way before arriving at altitude and conducting a walk-through rather than a regular practice the day before the game because, he said, “you would do more damage than good.”

Brenden Aaronson is ruled out of World Cup qualifiers

U.S. officials did not want to discuss their planning for this game, but Berhalter said: “The important thing is to look at the starting point of where these guys are coming from. If a guy is fully fit and playing every week and has 90 minutes under his belt for considerable weeks, he’ll be fine.”Berhalter said he also has relied on experience playing at Azteca in 2005 and receiving feedback from other national teams and MLS teams (in the Concacaf Champions League) that have competed there. His medical and training staff has done the rest.Air quality in the Valley of Mexico is also a consideration, though it has improved over the years.“There are little things you can do, but unless you are there at altitude, it’s hard to make a huge dent in it,” Berhalter said. “We’ve been checking the players’ blood and making sure they have the necessary things to compete at that altitude.”The U.S. team has tried other ways to acclimate. In 2017, with a longer buildup to the Mexico visit, the Americans trained and played a qualifier in suburban Denver and held a friendly in Sandy, Utah (4,450 feet). Twelve years earlier, they trained in Colorado Springs (6,035) and played a friendly in Albuquerque (5,312).Mexican players must adjust to altitude, too, but of the 29 players on the current roster, nine are with Liga MX clubs from high-altitude cities. Nine visit Mexico City regularly with their respective lowland clubs, and others have experience playing at altitude.

Mexico’s dominance at Azteca has waned, though. In this qualifying cycle, the team known as “El Tri” needed late goals to defeat Jamaica and Panama, settled for draws with Canada and Costa Rica, and routed last-place Honduras, 3-0.

Until 2001, when Costa Rica beat them, the Mexicans had never lost a qualifier at Azteca.This cycle, the team has played in an empty or near-empty stadium, the result of penalties for fans using homophobic language. About 40,000 are expected Thursday in a venue that once held more than 110,000 and now accommodates 87,000.

Only four players on this U.S. squad played in the previous qualifier at Azteca, in 2017: Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola, Kellyn Acosta and DeAndre Yedlin.“Just in the same way we prepared for that [Feb. 2] game in Minnesota, from a mental standpoint, this is no different,” defender Walker Zimmerman said. “Yes, this will be challenging. Yes, we are up for that challenge. There’s no doubt in my mind we will go out there with the right mind-set and push through the elements.”Medical studies and better preparation have helped neutralize the altitude advantage as well. Barrieu also pointed to the mental aspect.“The science is proven, but considering you can only control so much, how big of a deal do you want to make it?” he said. “One cycle, we really prepared for it, and it was not about altitude. If you can get the players in that state of mind, it’s mission accomplished.”Elevation is a bigger deal in La Paz, Bolivia, which, at 12,000 feet, is the highest capital city in the world. Studies show aerobic power at that altitude falls by 25 percent.Altitude only helps the home team so much. Since sweeping four home qualifiers in group play to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, Bolivia has floundered. This cycle, it’s 4-3-1 at home and 0-6-2 away.“When we qualified for the World Cup, that wasn’t just because of the altitude,” said retired D.C. United star Jaime Moreno, a former Bolivian national team forward. “That was because we had a really good team. We had good players. It was a combination.”In 2007, citing player safety and unfair advantages, FIFA banned international matches above 8,200 feet, which also affected Ecuador and Colombia. A year later, amid protests from those countries and their governments, the rule was rescinded.

“It definitely affects you,” Moreno said. “But if you have good players and you prepare the way you are supposed to, no matter how high you go, it will be okay.”

When the USMNT scored vs. Mexico at Azteca: ‘I felt like I teleported out of my body’

3:29 PM ETKyle Bonagura and Cesar Hernandez

It exists on what can seem like a mythical plane, with an aberrational combination of history, decibels and lack of oxygen leaving the Estadio Azteca peerless in North America. As just one of two stadiums to host the World Cup final twice, along with Rio’s fabled Maracana, few soccer venues can even remotely compare to Mexico‘s home ground.Stories passed down through generations of the United States men’s national team only enhance that perception, and their performances at the Azteca certainly don’t dispel it. In eight World Cup qualifying matches spanning five decades, the U.S. has never left the Azteca, nestled in the southern stretches of Mexico City, with a win.

“I think we built it up to be this almost impossible place to get a result,” said former USMNT striker Charlie Davies. “If you got a draw, it was huge. It was almost like a victory and for me, it was the game I literally dreamed of playing in since I was a little kid.”


1 – Canada1125+14
2 – USA1121+9
3 – Mexico1121+6
4 – Panama1117+1
5 – Costa Rica11161
6 – El Salvador119-7
7 – Jamaica117-7
8 – Honduras113-17
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

Heading into Thursday’s renewed (10 p.m. ET, follow LIVE with ESPN) fixture at the iconic setting, the stakes for both teams couldn’t be much higher. The United States and Mexico enter the final three-game window of World Cup qualifying tied for second in the CONCACAF standings, both with work to do to ensure safe passage to Qatar 2022.For the U.S., a loss could leave the team with a razor-thin margin for error with games against fourth-place Panama and fifth-place Costa Rica remaining. Mexico’s remaining schedule (at Honduras; vs. El Salvador) is more forgiving, but a loss would be historic on two fronts: It would be El Tri‘s first-ever loss to the U.S. in a competitive match at the Azteca and mark the first four-match losing streak in a rivalry played since 1934.

Before heading to Azteca for a qualifier in 2009, multiple U.S. players pulled Davies, then 23, aside. “They told me, ‘This is the big one. You’ll never play in another atmosphere quite like this,'” Davies said. “You might play in a stadium as big. You might play in front of this many people, but the hostility is second to none.”It’s the only place I ever played in where you could scream at the top of your lungs to someone who is five yards away and they can’t hear you.”Davies got the “full Azteca” experience. The team, managed by Bob Bradley at the time, flew in the night before the game and the players were instructed to use fake names when checking into the hotel. The idea was to mitigate unwelcome wake-up calls from Mexican fans, a tactic they’d been employed in the past to disrupt their rivals’ preparation. Still, an unofficial welcoming committee found their way in the lobby that night with airhorns and a symphony of car horns played outside circled the hotel all night.

“It was just to get your focus off the game and to all these other things,” Davies said.

‘Obligation for perfection’

Starting with the result in 1997, the United States-Mexico games at the Azteca in World Cup qualifying have all been competitive. The U.S. still hasn’t won there, but it has three draws in their last six trips while the other three losses have all been by one goal — and in two games, the U.S. scored first.”There was a lot of pressure,” said former Mexican striker Jared Borgetti about playing against the United States. “I didn’t have very many national team games. I didn’t have that much experience in those kinds of [World Cup] qualifiers.”Borgetti, who had yet to face the United States in an official competition before the 2001 qualifier, said there was “obligation to do things, very nearly, to perfection.” A crowd of 110,000 roared when 16 minutes into that match, Borgetti latched onto Alberto Garcia Aspe’s cross off a free-kick and knocked it in — a goal Borgetti recalled was “very tough” to score.”The games that always have something particular about them, something challenging,” Borgetti added. “Obviously, they leave you with a nice feeling, outside of whether you win or lose.”Efrain Juarez, who played in several key matches against the U.S. over the years, recalls that the 2009 edition was “not a normal game.” Why? Because he and his teammates watched themselves eating breakfast on national TV as helicopter cameras zoomed in on the team hotel.”When we woke up that day, it was crazy because three or four helicopters were around us,” said Juarez, now an assistant coach at New York City FC. “It was so funny.”

‘Too tired to celebrate’

Much is made about the altitude in Mexico City. At roughly 7,200 feet above sea level, there isn’t a perfect solution to adequately prepare for the toll the relative lack of oxygen takes on unaccustomed lungs.Prior to the trip to the Azteca in 1997, United States coach Steve Sampson got creative. The team spent two weeks near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of Los Angeles, which sits at a similar altitude as Mexico City. At night and in the morning, the players’ bodies would naturally acclimate, but they would also bus two hours away to the city of San Bernardino each day to train in a hot, smoggy environment — another exercise conducted to mimic the conditions they’d experience at the Coloso de Santa Ursula.“It’s impossible to say it didn’t help, we must have gotten something out of that,” said former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda. “That was the only explanation for how we were able to run as hard and long as we did because we had just spent two weeks in hell.”At that point, the United States had played away against Mexico 19 times, including competitive games and friendlies. They were 0-19-0.Wynalda started the 1997 game playing on the left side in midfield, but had to drop to left back when Jeff Agoos was sent off with a first-half red card. After a run of play that required Wynalda to sprint up the field in attack, then track all the way back, he was completely spent.”I run back and I tackle the ball out of bounds. I came over to the post looked right at [goalkeeper Brad] Friedel and threw up on his feet,” Wynalda said. “His response was, ‘Well, now you’re playing Waldo.’ And I was like, ‘I hate this.’ That place will make you spin anyway because you can’t breathe.”Wynalda was subbed off in the 71st minute — the game locked at 0-0 — and as he started to jog to the sideline, his teammates encouraged him to slow to a walk. They needed every chance they could to catch their breath, and the U.S. saw out the 0-0 draw to pick up their first-ever qualifying point in Mexico.”When we got in the locker room — what an amazing result — we were too frickin’ tired to celebrate,” Wynalda said. “We knew we had done something that never been done before but it was also just like, ‘I’m so glad that’s over with.'”

‘I’m not wasting oxygen on you’

Davies is only one of five American players — Willy Roy (1972), Rick Davis (1980), Eddie Lewis (2005), Michael Bradley (2017) — to score a World Cup-qualifying goal at the Azteca and for him, that 2009 goal stands as the pinnacle moment of his career.Tim Howard played a long ball into midfield. The ball popped to Landon Donovan in the center circle and after taking a touch around an El Tri player, he slotted a perfectly weighted diagonal ball into space for Davies. Following two clean touches, he beat Guillermo Ochoa to the far post.Juarez was that Mexican defender tasked with marking Davies.”He gets in the space and we couldn’t stop him because he was so quick,” said Juarez, who would later in the match get the assist on the game-winning goal.”I felt like I teleported out of my body. It was really an out of body experience,” Davies said. “I had always worked with a goal in mind that one day I could play in this match and here I am playing in it, in Azteca, with all the history with all the players that have played on that same pitch, I scored for my country.”The deafening crowd was left silent. Davies went to the corner flag to celebrate, but only Bradley joined him before it started raining bottles, coins and batteries. “At halftime, I remember going over to [Oguchi Onyewu] and was like, ‘Hey, man, how come you didn’t come celebrate?'” Davies said.

“He goes, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not wasting oxygen on you.'”But the U.S. squad soon wilted under the afternoon heat, with Israel Castro equalizing by halftime. Then, in the 82nd minute, Juarez’s moment of redemption when he got a deflected pass off to Miguel Sabah for the game-winner. The roar of the 105,000 fans in attendance was something, Juarez says, remains unforgettable.”I’ve played many, many years. Many big games with massive crowds, but that goal was special because the sound [from the crowd] is crazy.”Juarez recalls walking past an exhausted Donovan, who had attempted to close him down in the run-up of the goal.”I know how you feel when you’re not used to that situation [in the high elevation]. I saw his face, like two to three minutes before, I saw that he was struggling,” said Juarez, mimicking the way Donovan was catching his breath.As often is the case for a big win against the USMNT, Mexico fans party into the night and gather at the famed Angel de la Independencia monument. And despite helping Mexico stay on course to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Juarez made for an early evening.”My parents picked me up at the Azteca,” said Juarez, laughing. “I was in bed at 9:30, watching TV.”

A Look Into The CONMEBOL Qualifiers: What Does Each Country Need To Make The Next World Cup?

LUIS VIDALMARCH 23, 2022THE NEXT SIX DAYS ARE GOING TO BE RIVETING AND CRUEL.Last stop in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, and there are still a few spots for the 2022 World Cup up for grabs. Brazil and Argentina are already on the plane, while Ecuador, Uruguay, Perú, Chile and Colombia are still fighting for two direct tickets and one inter-confederation playoff slot. What do they need to fulfill their dreams? Here we have a guide with the results that could send them to Qatar.

CONMEBOL Standings — What Every Country Needs To Qualify

1) Brazil, 39 points (Goal difference: +27)

Status: Qualified

At this stage, Tite is trying to decide who is going to Qatar with him and Neymar. Competition is tough in the Scratch, so it will be very entertaining to see how the players will try to convince them. 

Next rivals:

  • Chile (Home), Thursday, March 24, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Bolivia (Away), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

2) Argentina, 35 points (Goal difference: +16)

Status: Qualified

After missing the last round of games per an agreement with PSG, Lionel Messi is back in the only place where he feels loved. And that’s the goal for these games: Snuggling him, nuzzling him, hugging him and making him feel important. 

Next rivals:

  • Venezuela (Home), Friday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Ecuador (Away), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

3) Ecuador, 25 points (Goal difference: +10)

Status: In contention

It is hard to imagine a world where Ecuador is not making the cut. La Tri could go to Qatar even losing both games because the three teams behind them (Uruguay, Perú and Chile) are basically killing each other. In any case, one mere point would be sufficient to avoid unnecessary suffering. 

Next rivals:

  • Paraguay (Away), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Argentina (Home), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

Embed from Getty Images

4) Uruguay, 22 points (Goal difference: -3)

https://631f2996044aa414780951b8ba3f119a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html Status: In contention

Los Charrúas will have a direct ticket to Qatar if they defeat Perú and Chile fails to get three points from Brazil. In the case of a draw, they will secure the inter-confederation playoff only if Chile loses. What if Perú beats them? Everything will be decided in the last qualifying game against Chile in Santiago. 

Next rivals:

  • Perú (Home), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Chile (Away), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

5) Perú, 21 points (Goal difference: -4)

Status: In contention

If they win both games, Qatar is in the bag. In that scenario, they will surpass Uruguay, and there will not be a need for suffering. On the other hand, getting three or four points leaves everything to math and odds. A draw against Uruguay and a victory over Paraguay could mean a direct qualification to Qatar (if Chile defeats Uruguay) or at least a spot in the inter-confederation playoff (if Uruguay wins against Chile). If Perú only beats Paraguay, it will secure the playoff spot only if Chile doesn’t get six points.

The worst-case scenario? Getting fewer than three points. Here, the team will be in desperation mode, praying for really painful deaths for Chile and Colombia. 

Next rivals:

  • Uruguay (Away), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Paraguay (Home), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

6) Chile, 19 points (Goal difference: -1)

Status: In contention

La Roja is not dead, but it needs an epic performance in the last two games. One to be sung about for ages, passing from generation to generation. Chile needs to defeat unbeaten Brazil in Brazil, then Uruguay at home, and hope Perú misses a couple of points to grab those tickets to Qatar. If Perú gets six points, the two victories will only earn Chile the playoff berth. 

In the case of getting three or four points total, Chile still can dream of the playoff spot, but only if Perú or Uruguay collapse in their last two games. 

Next rivals:

  • Brazil (Away), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Uruguay (Home), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

7) Colombia, 17 points (Goal difference: -3)

Status: In contention

From the epic narrative, we now go to the land of miracles. If Colombia wants a chance for the playoff berth — the only option on the table for them — they need to collect the whole six points in the last two games and then cross their fingers. Perú failing catastrophically would be welcomed, but there are a few other factors involved — Chile, goal difference, etc. — in this kind of Colombian Ave María. They will also need to score a goal, something they haven’t done in the last six qualifier games. 

Next rivals:

  • Bolivia (Home), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Venezuela (Away), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

Embed from Getty Images

8) Bolivia, 15 points (Goal difference: -12)

Status: Not qualified

Look, numerically speaking, Bolivia can still reach the playoff ticket to Qatar. But realistically, those chances are not even in the hands of God (if you believe in one). Can you imagine a world where Bolivia gets the six points, beating their rivals by more than seven goals, and where Perú, Chile and Colombia vanish from the Earth? 

Next rivals:

  • Colombia (Away), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Brazil (Home), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

9) Paraguay, 13 points (Goal difference: -14)

Status: Out

After seven games failing to score, la Albirroja sank to the bottom of the table and has no chance at all of going to Qatar. The complete cycle was a disaster. See you in the next qualifier. 

Next rivals:

  • Ecuador (Home), Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Perú (Away), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

10) Venezuela, 10 points (Goal difference: -16)

Status: Out

La Vinotinto at this point is rebuilding for the next cycle with José Luis Pekerman as head coach.

Next rivals:

  • Argentina (Away), Friday, March 25, 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Colombia (Home), Tuesday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

* All games are broadcasted through FuboTV

Zimmerman Sees Pressure on Mexico in Azteca Cauldron

Yanks Abroad Yanks Abroad

With barely two days before kickoff in Mexico’s Azteca to begin their final three World Cup qualifiers, USMNT starting defender Walker Zimmerman sees more pressure on their hosts to atone for their trio of losses in 2021.

Zimmerman and his American teammates completed the hat-trick over their southern rivals last year, beating them three times in official competitions. Zimmerman only played in the last of those three, the dos-a-cero result in Cincinnati in November, however sees all three wins as sources of confidence for the team heading into Thursday’s night game.“We can take some confidence from those games, just knowing that we’ve done it before, [and] we can do it again,” Zimmerman said to the press after arriving in the current USMNT camp in Houston, while still cautioning, “at the same time it’s qualification, [so] those games don’t matter anymore.”“It’s about qualifying for the World Cup,” he continued, adding “it’s a very important game for both teams.”With the always-grueling visit to Azteca being the most anticipated game of the qualifying cycle, and one of the most important when looking at the two teams’ current positions in the standings, he nevertheless doesn’t sense an air of nervousness amongst team and staff.“I don’t think it’s nervousness, I think it’s excitement,” he judged of their mindset. “At this level, you want to play in big games, you want to have that responsibility, recognize the importance of it and embrace it. I think we have that kind of DNA amongst a lot of our players.”The official home of the El Tri offers a myriad of challenges for visitors, ranging from the altitude, to air quality, and a notoriously hostile home crowd. The Nashville SC star is unfazed, and draws upon their recent arctic-blast win against Honduras in early-February as a model example of how to not only face the elements, but win under any condition.“It’ll be a great challenge for us,” he conceded. “There’s not too much experience of playing in Azteca for a lot of the guys. Certainly we have a few who were there and involved last cycle, and we know it’s going to be a challenge.”“Just in the same way that we prepared for that game [against Honduras] in Minnesota from a mental standpoint; I thought we approached that the right way and this is no different.”

Confidently emphasizing his point, he re-iterated, “It’ll be challenging, yes, [but] we’re up for that challenge.”“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll go out there with a good mindset and push through the elements, continue to encourage one another as we make our way through the game, and and come away with the result.”Of course the 11 players wearing the Stars and Stripes are only half of the equation, as they will face a Mexican motivated to atone for their multiple humiliations at the hands of the Americans in 2021.Zimmerman does hold Thursday’s opponents in high regard, but feels as though the onus will be squarely on them to prove themselves in front of their home crowd.

“Certainly they have a lot of talent,” he diplomatically assessed. “You definitely have to respect their strengths, know what their strengths are, and and try to eliminate them as best as you can.”“Based on that first performance [in Cincinnati], they probably walked away unsatisfied with their attack. We can expect them to be definitely up for this game, trying to prove something against us, and we’ve got to be ready to match that.”Reflecting on the recent 2-0 victory, where he played the full game in the defense, the 25-times capped international recognized that the team’s dominance was a result of them pulling all of the right strings.“I thought we did a very good job that first game,” he mused. “They broke through one or two times and created big chances, but Zack [Steffen] stood up big.”“I thought we did a lot of really good things with our ability to step up, not give them time, good 1v1 defending and [being] strong in duels. It’s going to take all those things again, and more, to make sure we can shut them down.”An additional weapon that was not available to Zimmerman and his teammates in November is 19 year-old Borussia Dortmund attacker Gio Reyna, who was still in the midst of recovering from a muscle injury at the time. Reyna’s return for this window excites the Georgia-born defender, and is a factor he thinks could be critical throughout all three upcoming games. “We’re thrilled to have Gio back back and involved in qualifiers,” he grinned. “Obviously he’s been out for a little while, but I know just from speaking with him, and even from his game on the weekend, [that] he is he’s super excited to be back, [and] to be involved on this team.”“It’s all of our goal to qualify for the World Cup, so I think knowing him [and] knowing the kind of guy that he is, he’s chomping at the bit to make a big impact in these three games.”“We’re going to need it. He’s the kind of guy who can change a game, and so having him available in any capacity is a boost for our team.”The USMNT will kick off against El Tri in Azteca on Thursday night, 9pm local time.

On the Ground in Mexico City

Grant Wahl #1 SOCCER WRITER Mar 23, 202
My friends and I went for a late-night taco visit to Los Cocuyos upon arriving in Mexico City (Photograph by Grant Wahl)

MEXICO CITY — God, I love coming to this place.

On Tuesday night, I arrived in the Mexican capital for the seventh time I will have seen a game here. This one, as usual, is big: A World Cup qualifier between the USMNT and Mexico—a true Bucket List game to attend—with just three matchdays left and neither rival having clinched a berth yet in Qatar 2022.

Literally the first thing I did after arriving was to join my friends Juan, Christian, Alexis and Charlie for tacos at Los Cocuyos in the Centro Histórico. It was a phenomenal welcome back to one of my favorite cities anywhere. CDMX is the kind of place everyone should go to on vacation at some point. There are amazing restaurants, must-visit museums and a creative buzz to the city that give it constant energy. Plus all the Mexicans I’ve met here (at least the ones not in the stadium) have been extremely welcoming and friendly over the years.

And, of course, the soccer culture is as vibrant as it is in any city, anywhere. Genuine A-List global fútbol history happened here, none more so than Brazil’s 1970 World Cup final triumph (Pelé’s team may have been the best of all time) and Diego Maradona’s best-individual-World-Cup-performance-ever heroics for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup.

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Mexico’s domestic soccer culture has a rich history as well. In 2007, I rented a car and went with my buddies on a Mexican soccer road trip from Monterrey to Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara to Toluca to Mexico City for an SI Latino story that you unfortunately can’t find anywhere online anymore.

The truth is there haven’t been that many games between Mexico and the USMNT in the country of Mexico over the years. Due to well-known immigration patterns and demographics, Mexico (the most popular soccer team in the United States) plays more games north of the border than south of it. That has left Mexico-USMNT games in Mexico to be the domain of quadrennial World Cup qualifiers and a famous friendly from 2012.

I’ve had some great memories of covering Mexico-USMNT games in Estadio Azteca over the years. Let’s break it down:

August 1, 1999: Mexico 1, USMNT 0 ET (Confederations Cup semifinal)

At age 25, I was visiting Mexico for the first time ever, and Bruce Arena’s team showed the USMNT was rebounding nicely from the fiasco of World Cup 1998. The first three games were in Guadalajara, where I made sure to visit the José Cuervo tequila distillery and saw the U.S. beat New Zealand and Germany (Ben Olsen and Joe-Max Moore with the goals!) in Estadio Jalisco along with a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Brazil to knock out the Lothar Matthäus-led Germans and advance to the semifinals. 

That trip was the first time I’d ever seen Ronaldinho, who was 19 and scored the game-winner against the USMNT. And it was the first time I visited the Azteca, one of the all-time intimidating atmospheres in sports. It’s wild how vertical the stadium is, a true ThunderDome of sport. And it was all the more impressive when the U.S. went toe-to-toe with Mexico into extra-time in front of a packed house. Jeff Agoos was the U.S.’s best player, a rock in the defense, but the U.S. couldn’t break through with a goal, and Mexico’s Cuauhtémoc Blanco finally broke through in extra-time for the win. The U.S. went on to finish third in the tournament, beating Saudi Arabia, and Mexico would beat Brazil in the final to raise the trophy.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the Mexico-USMNT World Cup qualifiers at the Azteca in 2001 (Sports Illustrated cheaped out and didn’t send anyone to cover Mexico’s 1-0 win) and 2005 (during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which I was covering). But I did write a magazine feature story in 2005 leading up to that qualifier (won 2-1 by Mexico) that went in-depth on the rivalry.

August 12, 2009: Mexico 2, USMNT 1 (World Cup qualifier)

The context for this showdown was fascinating. Bob Bradley’s USMNT was coming off a historic summer that included beating Spain and advancing to the Confederations Cup final in South Africa, where the U.S. had gone up 2-0 on Brazil before losing 3-2. Mexico staged the game at noontime on a weekday to ratchet up the heat, but Charlie Davies put the visitors ahead on an early goal and did the stanky leg to celebrate. 

Mexico came back, though, and got a late winner. What do I remember from that visit? 1) Then-ESPN president John Skipper (now my boss at Meadowlark) went to the game with Bill Simmons and got hit with a flying burrito, which only increased his interest in the rivalry, 2) I had a dish of crickets at a Mexico City restaurant (crunchy!), and 3) Landon Donovan revealed to me on a post-game phone call that he had contracted the swine flu. That information went on to cause the Bundesliga to sideline USMNT teammates Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley and others the following weekend.

August 15, 2012: Mexico 0, USMNT 1 (Friendly)

Jurgen Klinsmann certainly had his issues as a coach, but I always liked his willingness to play friendlies in hostile environments, even in CONCACAF. That paid off when Michael Orozco’s late goal gave the USMNT its first victory ever at the Azteca. Yes, it was a friendly, but it was still a big moment. I’ll always remember walking out of the stadium when somehow goalkeeper Tim Howard materialized next to me and pointed to a sign on the wall commemorating all of Mexico’s successes against the U.S. in the Azteca over the years.

Time to change the sign,” Howard said, and he was right.

March 26, 2013: Mexico 0, USMNT 0 (World Cup qualifier)

The context heading into this game was memorable, too. Klinsmann was under fire after Brian Straus’s bombshell Sporting News story (no link available, unfortunately) revealed turmoil inside the USMNT. But Klinsmann’s Yanks had just gotten a big three points against Costa Rica four days earlier in the memorable SnowClásico, and they picked up a precious point with a 0-0 in the Azteca to put the U.S. in a much better situation in World Cup qualifying.

June 11, 2017: Mexico 1, USMNT 1 (World Cup qualifier)

I honestly can’t believe it has been almost five years since the last Mexico-USMNT game in the Azteca, but life comes at you fast. This one saw Michael Bradley’s remarkable 40-yard blast into the goal that silenced the Azteca crowd, only for Carlos Vela to get an equalizer. Still, it was a sign that Bruce Arena had stabilized the U.S. qualifying campaign, only for things to fall apart with a subsequent home defeat to Costa Rica and the infamous final-game loss at Trinidad and Tobago to leave the U.S. out of the World Cup.

We go again here on Thursday, in what may be the last high-stakes World Cup qualifier ever between the two archrivals, and I can’t wait.

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3/18/22  USMNT Roster Named for Mexico Thurs on CBSSN 10 pm, NWSL Kicks-off, Champ League Elite 8, FA Cup, El Classico Sun

USMNT Final Qualifiers Are Here – Will we Qualify ??

So its that time – the Final Round of World Cup Qualifying is almost here – with some of the biggest non-World Cup games the US has ever played.  First on the road Thursday night at 10 pm ET on CBSSN vs 2nd place Mexico in Azteca where the US has NEVER Won a Qualifying game.  I will actually be in Attendance – so hopefully the US will send its strongest team – and look to either win or  at least tie the game.  The US must get 3 points on the following  Sunday home game vs Panama in Orlando at 7 PM before heading to Costa Rica for the finale in a country where again they have never won or tied in a qualifier – in fact they have never won period on Wed.   Fortunately for the US our talisman Christian Pulisic is fresh off another Goal in the Champions League Sweet 16, was named man of the Match and is playing some of his best ball of the year.  Returning to the line-up should be winger/mid Gio Reyna who is back and starting for Dortmund.  Also back to health should be Man City GK Zack Steffen (though Ethan Horvath is on fire for Nottingham Forest in the Championship) so we should be covered in goal without the injured Matt Turner.  Along the back line while Barcelona man Serginio Dest was injured this week – centerback Aaron Long has returned to the fold after being injured last year.  I will have much much more on the the US and the game with Mexico and the line-up expected  and more in a special Monday or Tuesday edition prior to my trip to Azteca !!!

US Roster for Mexico/Panama/Costa Rica

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (Rangers FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (9): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille)

Indy 11 Lose Opener 1-0 travel to Tampa Rowdies Sat 7:30 pm on ESPN+

Indy Eleven began its 2022 USL Championship regular season campaign by falling 1-0 to Loudoun United FC at a frigid Segra Field in Northern Virginia last Sat Night. New Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco kept Indy in the match with two saves – including a penalty kick stop late in the second half – but Indiana’s Team was unable to offset Loudoun striker Kimarni Smith’s tally in the 43rd minute.  New Head Coach Mark Lowry began his Eleven tenure by giving eight players their Indy debuts in the starting line-up, with captain and midfielder Neveal Hackshaw, midfielder Nicky Law, and defender A.J. Cochran serving as the only holdovers in the first XI.  The 11 will travel to the defending USL Champion Tampa Bay Rowdies Sat night at 7:30 pm on ESPN+.  This is the 2nd of 3 road games before returning for the home opener on Sat, Apr 2 @ 7 pm vs LA Galaxy II at the Mike.

NWSL Season Kicks off Tonight

NWSL kicks off the 2022 season with the Challenge Cup this weekend.  The league welcomes 2 huge new expansion teams in Angel City FC (LA) with Christian Press and the San Diego Wave with Alex Morgan leading the teams.   Paramount plus and CBS Sportnetwork will be the 2022 home of the NWSL – Angel City will host San Diego Sat at 9 pm on Para+, right after the NC Courage host NJ/NY Gothem City at 7 pm.

2021-22 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw

The final 8 teams of the top soccer in the world have been set – hopefully we’ll get some CBS coverage rather than Paramount plus coverage of at least a couple of the games.

Chelsea vs Real Madrid

Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid

Villarreal vs Bayern Munich

Liverpool vs Benfica

Games to Watch This Week

FA Cup on ESPN+ leads the weekend in England with Chelsea and American Christian Pulisic (fresh off his Champions League Goal Tues (in proper spanish) travels to Middlesborough at 1 pm on ESPN+ Saturday.  Sunday American Goalkeepers will be featured as Man City and US GK Zack Steffan travel to Southampton at 11 am while Backup US keeper Ethan Horthav (perhaps our hottest GK right now) will be backstop for Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool at 2 pm all on ESPN+.  Gotta love FA Cup !!

Sunday gives us a big top 6 battle as Tottenham will host West Ham United Sunday  at 12:30 pm on USA will one of these 2 teams finish in the top 6?   Of course El Classico with with Spanish leader Real Madrid hosting Barcelona (without American Dest who is injured) At 4 pm Sunday on ESPN+..– American Coach Jesse Marsch got his first win with a last second goal vs Norwich City last weekend (full hilights    see his reaction to the huge home win)!! Then they did it again @ Wolverhampton with a 3-2 win on the road today/Friday.  Congrats to Marsch – our very own Ted Lasso in the EPL (PS if you haven’t seen Ted Lasso on Apple TV – they won Best Comedy and Best Actor again – best show on TV!! FUTBOL is LIFE so go be a Goldfish).  ((See the American’s play))

CFC Goalkeeping Wed only Training this week at Badger Field House

We look forward to seeing all our GKs at training this Wed  – a reminder THURS TRAINING CANCELLED THIS WEEK – Coach Shane @ US vs Mexico Game.  Sorry we are late this week – Hoops gobbled up my time this week !! 

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(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Mar 19

8:30 am Peacock                     Aston Villa vs Arsenal  

1 pm ESPN+                            FA Cup Middlesborough vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:45 pm Para +                       Milan vs Cagliari  

3:30 pm Univision                   LA Galaxy vs Orlando City  

7 pm ESPN+                            Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies

7 pm  Para +                           Orlando Pride vs Washinton Spirit NWSL

7 pm Para +                            NC Courage vs NY/NJ Gothem City Harris/Krieiger NWSL

9 pm Para +                            Angel City (Press) vs San Diego Wave (Morgan, Dahlkemper)

Sun,  Mar 20

8:30 am ESPN+                       FA Cup  Crystal Palace cs Everton  

10 am USA                              Leicester City vs Brentford  

10:30 am ESPN+                     RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Eneiecht

11 am ESPN+                          Southampton vs Man City (Steffan) FA Cup

1  pm CBSSN                           Roma vs Lazio  

12:30 pm USA                         Tottenham vs West Ham United

2 pm ESPN+                            Nottingham Forest (Horvath ) vs Liverpool FA Cup

2:30 pm ESPN+                       Koln vs Dortmund (Reyna)   

4 pm ESPN+                            Real Madrid vs Barcelona (El Classico)

4:30 pm Fox Sport 1               Austin vs Seattle Sounders (Morris)   

7 pm Para+                             Houston Dash vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL

Thur,  Mar 24

3:45 pm   ESPN2                     Portugal vs Turkey

3:45 pm   ESPN+                     Italy vs North Macedonia

3:45 pm   ESPN+                     Sweden vs Czech Republic

3”45 pm ESPN+                      Wales vs Austria

7:30 pm FuboTV                     Brazil vs Chile

9 pm Para+                             Panama vs Honduras

10 pm CBSSN                     Mexico vs USA WCQ

10:05 pm Para+                   Costa Rica vs Canada

Fri,  Mar 25

1 pm ESPN+                            Cameron vs Algeria

3:30 pm   ESPN+                     Egypt vs Senegal  

7:#0 pm Para+                        Racing Louisville vs Hooston Dash  NWSL

7:30 pm Para+                        Washington Spirit vs NY/NJ Gotham FC

8:30 pm Para+                        Chicago Red Stars vs KC

Sat,  Mar 26

5 pm ESPN+                            Charlotte vs Cincy

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Indy 11 @ Louisville City

7 pm  Para +                           Angel City vs OL Reign NWSL

7 pm Para +                            NC Courage vs Orlando Pride NWSL

11 pm Para +                          San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Portland Thorns (Rapino)

Sun,  Mar 27

5 pm ESPN                             Portland Timbers vs Orlando City

5 pm Para+                            Canada vs Jamaica

6 pm Para+                            El Salvador vs Costa Rica

7 pm Fox Sport 1              USA vs Panama WCQ

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

5 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

6 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador  

Indy 11 Season Schedule

American Christian Pulisic Scores Again in Champions League for Chelsea

USA WCQ Thur @ Mexico 10 pm CBSSN

U.S. men’s national soccer team gets Gio Reyna back for critical World Cup qualifiers, but lose Weston McKennie

Pulisic, Reyna headline U.S. squad for last WCQs

Breaking down the USMNT roster for the final Octagonal window

How will GB Approach visit to Azteca for WQC?   Charles Bohm

Sergiño Dest injury complicates USMNT’s final World Cup qualifying push

Dest ruled out for USMNT; Bello called in

Brooks on snub: ‘My American identity at stake’

Marsch wins, Reyna returns, Pefok scores in mixed weekend abroad

 Seattle impresses in big win over Leon win, NYCFC also sharp, Fulham cruising, Balogun scores, and more

Chicago Cubs owners confirm bid to buy Chelsea

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Please…no madness

NWSL Starts

The NWSL Challenge Cup is here! What you need to know for 2022 Caitlin Murray

Natalie Portman wanted to shift football culture. So she founded Angel City FC

2022 NWSL schedule announced, regular season begins April 29

NWSL Season Preview on CBS

Why celebrating USWNT’s equal pay settlement may have been premature

Lack of accountability among NWSL owners makes you wonder: Why should players believe it’s changing?

New NWSL commissioner seeks to rebuild trust

Michelle Akers on assistant coach role with the Orlando Pride: ‘Sometimes great things happen when you least expect it’ by Pablo Maurer

What convinced the NWSL owners and players that Jessica Berman should be the league’s next commissioner by Steph Yang

Casey Stoney’s U.S. adaptation with San Diego Wave is underway: ‘This is just an incredible place’ by Steph Yang

Christen Press on Angel City: ‘I think playing for this club represents a new future for women’s sports’ by Meg Linehan

Flipping the switch: Jaelin Howell on the limits of control and making the jump to the NWSL and USWNT by Steph Yang

Angel City’s Savannah McCaskill: ‘Everything that I’m doing now is to try to get back to the national team’ by Steph Yang

Kris Ward to be named Washington Spirit’s permanent manager: ‘I think there’s a lot for us to do around culture’ by Meg Linehan

‘I can’t believe I have to buy another bathroom trash can’: A Q&A with Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams by Steph Yang

North Carolina Courage leadership’s response to Jaelene Daniels backlash worsens growing disconnect with fans by Steph Yang

The Angel City Effect: Hollywood stars and the USWNT unite to shape the NWSL by Meg Linehan

Champions League

Christian Pulisic’s precise finish restores Chelsea’s UCL advantage 
Champions League draw: Liverpool big winner, Chelsea draws Real Madrid

Villarreal humiliate Juventus to reach Champions League quarters

Europa League draw: West Ham vs Lyon; Barcelona could await

Barcelona fight back to reach Europa League quarter-finals

Indy 11

Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Preview

Building on the Opener

Indy 11 lose 1-0 @ Louden United

Indy 11 Preview – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale


Sounders in Champions League semis as Leon pay penalty

Pumas stun Revolution to reach CONCACAF Champions League semis

Buerki to leave Dortmund for MLS team St Louis City


Leeds & Marsch Win Another Game at the Buzzer 3-2
FA Cup preview: Liverpool, Chelsea on upset alert?

Klopp warns Liverpool’s title momentum is a ‘fragile flower’

Liverpool sink Arsenal to boost title bid, record-breaker Kane lifts 

Lampard breaks hand celebrating late Everton win

Trent Alexander-Arnold out “weeks” with hamstring injury for Liverpool

Reality of relegation threat dawning on sinking Everton

Renaldo Hat Trick lifts Man U to 4th
Man Utd’s Pogba reveals burglary ‘nightmare’


Russia’s request to suspend World Cup playoff rejected

Giovanni Reyna sets up Witsel winner, BVB creeps up on Bayern 
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NWSL Challenge Cup 2022: What to watch for, who’s fancied to win and more

Racing Louisville is our Closest NWSL Team
  • FacebookThe National Women’s Soccer League is back. We now know when the regular season starts as the schedule was released Wednesday — fans have long had a Groundhog Day level of anticipation for it, which arrives later and later each year. The season kicks off April 29 with Angel City FC hosting the North Carolina Courage. However, the third annual NWSL Challenge Cup starts on Friday, so let’s talk about that instead.What is the NWSL Challenge Cup? Why is there a tournament before the regular season? Great questions! Here is everything you need to know about the NWSL’s tournament before the season, including how it works and who you should bet on if you’re willing to risk your money on a league as unpredictable as the NWSL.

What is the NWSL Challenge Cup and how did it start?

In 2020, when the sports world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Challenge Cup was devised as a bubble-style tournament in lieu of a normal regular season. All the teams in the NWSL flew to Utah, where they were regularly tested for COVID-19. (One team, the Orlando Pride, never made it to Utah due to a COVID outbreak within the squad prior to leaving Florida.)


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With the Challenge Cup, the NWSL was the first major sports league to return to play during the pandemic in the United States — no small feat — and the event was a huge success. After more than 2,000 tests, no players tested positive inside the bubble, and the tournament drew the NWSL’s highest TV ratings since the league debuted in 2013.

The Houston Dash won the inaugural tournament, beating Chicago Red Stars 2-0 in the final.

OK, so why is the NWSL hosting the Challenge Cup in 2022 if there’s still a regular season planned?

By 2021, with vaccines rolling out and better strategies to mitigate the pandemic, the NWSL was ready to go back to having a normal regular season. But the league also didn’t want to let go of the Challenge Cup. Not only was it a ratings hit, but it helped bring a slew of sponsors into the league and let’s face it: Americans love tournaments.

– 2022 NWSL schedule: Angel City host North Carolina Courage in season opener
– New USL women’s league will play fall to summer schedule

The NWSL, of course, already has a tournament at the end of the season for the playoffs to reach the NWSL championship, but what’s better than one tournament? Two tournaments! The drama of a high-stakes prize proved too irresistible for the NWSL, so after bringing the Challenge Cup back in 2021 — with the Portland Thorns taking the 2021 prize on penalties over NJ/NY Gotham FC — it’s back again this year.

There has been some debate among NWSL fans about when is the best time to stage the Challenge Cup. Some advocate for a summer tournament, which would fit nicely during the World Cup and Olympics so the NWSL can keep going during those high-profile events, while allowing teams to have their national team stars for regular-season games. The NWSL has opted to avoid disruptions during the regular season and stage the Challenge Cup beforehand.

What’s the format and how does it work?

In previous years, the Challenge Cup was split into two five-team groups — one for the east, one for the west — and each team played everyone else once. From there, the top finishers in each group appeared in the final.

Now that the NWSL has expanded to 12 teams for the 2022 season with Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC joining the league, the Challenge Cup format has changed and added an extra round of competition. The league will be divided into three four-team groups for the east, central and west regions. The top finishers of each group will advance to the semifinals, plus the best second-place finisher across all three groups, and then the winners head to the final.

Tiebreakers will be goal differential first, then most goals scored — and then four other complicated factors that will hopefully not be necessary. If teams are still tied after all that, the NWSL will draw lots, but it probably won’t come to that. If the semifinals or final end in a tie after 90 minutes, there will be no extra time and the match will move immediately to penalty kicks.

So, is it part of the preseason then? Or is it a real tournament?

It really depends on who — and how — you ask.There’s no doubt that the NWSL team owners and broadcast partners are positioning the Challenge Cup as a legitimate tournament. The NWSL is full of competitive players and coaches who want to win every trophy possible, so when asked by journalists they generally say they are in it to win it. Whoever gets the Challenge Cup trophy will certainly use it for bragging rights.But let’s be realistic. After the Challenge Cup ends in May, there will be another five months of the regular season to go (give or take) and the Challenge Cup is not the time for teams to risk everything to push for the trophy. After a long offseason, players are still getting back into a rhythm with one another and back to full fitness individually, so the Challenge Cup is a way to ease into the swing of things.Also, consider the two expansion teams, Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC — the Challenge Cup will be their first time playing a competitive game ever. For those two teams, the Challenge Cup is going to be more about figuring out what they’ve got than trying to win a trophy. As Alex Morgan, a striker for the Wave, quipped with a smirk in a recent news conference: “It’s been a long preseason, and obviously the Challenge Cup will continue as part of the preseason…” That’s how you set the right expectations.

What are the groups?

Who are the favorites?

First, a caveat: the Challenge Cup is ripe for upsets and unpredictability because teams haven’t had a chance to fully build cohesion after offseason shuffling, and a lot of teams this year will be playing under new coaches who have not yet figured out how they want their teams to play.Last year, five different male NWSL coaches were ousted after allegations of inappropriate conduct: Rory Dames in Chicago, Paul Riley in North Carolina, Christy Holly in Louisville, Richie Burke in Washington and Farid Benstiti in Seattle. It was part of a reckoning that players within the league and involved in the NWSL Players Association hope will lead to lasting changes that ensure player safety. But the league also saw some turnover as longtime coaches in Portland (Mark Parsons) and Orlando (Marc Skinner) left for jobs in Europe.The Thorns look like a favorite because they won last year’s Challenge Cup and the NWSL Shield, but they’ve got a new coach, Rhian Wilkinson, who is new to the NWSL. The Red Stars reached the NWSL championship in November, but they too have a new coach, Chris Petrucelli, after Dames resigned within 48 hours of the final.The Spirit look like the best bet: they won the NWSL Championship last fall and, although they were one of the teams that had a coach exit over alleged inappropriate conduct, he left in August and the Spirit are sticking with Kris Ward, the interim who replaced Burke. Their roster has remained intact as well, including stars like Trinity RodmanAshley SanchezAshley HatchAndi Sullivan and Kelley O’Hara.Gotham and North Carolina aren’t the favorites on paper — both have new head coaches after they promoted assistants coming into this season — but because of the unpredictability of the Challenge Cup, they could well sneak through and win it all.

Who is not worth betting on?

There’s no reason to believe that Angel City and San Diego can’t become title contenders in the NWSL with the personnel and the resources they have, but there’s also no reason to believe those benefits will come instantly. Expansion teams historically struggle out the gate, and both teams will need some time for everything to come together. The Kansas City Current and Racing Louisville were the worst two teams in the NWSL last year, but they also came in as expansion teams. They may be better positioned for 2022 after learning some tough lessons last season — the Current in particular added some big names, including forward Lynn Williams, midfielder Samantha Mewis and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. But it’s hard to see them going from worst to first so quicklyThe Orlando Pride finished 2021 in terrible form, losing five straight, and they’re coming into 2022 with a new coach to the NWSL, Amanda Cromwell, and assistant coach Michelle Akers. They also have seen roster turnover — attackers Morgan and Taylor Kornieck went to San Diego, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger went to Gotham, among others. This is a new group that may warrant optimism, but it’s a wildcard right now and might need some time.


Stuttgart v Augsburg – 10:30a on ESPN+

While for several players it might be best if they just saw some rest this weekend, in the case of Ricardo Pepi, who has not seen the field in three weeks and has just over 90 minutes played in the past two months, it would be most excellent if he would see the field this weekend when Augsburg face Stuttgart. There have been multiple factors for Pepi’s lack of minutes recently, including Augsburg’s match last weekend with Mainz being postponed due to COVID concerns. But it is also fair to say that the splash signing hasn’t had the impact the team was hoping for when they acquired him in January. The club is currently in 14th place, just three points ahead of Hertha Berlin and Stuttgart, this weekend’s opponent who happens to sit in the relegation playoff spot. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side are coming off a 1-1 draw with Union Berlin and can vault Augsburg with a home win.

Broadcast matchups:

  • The LA Galaxy will face Orlando City at 3:30p on Univision and Twitter.
  • Sebastian Saucedo and Pumas UNAM had an epic comeback against the New England Revolution midweek in CCL play. Saucedo scored a goal in the three goal aggregate comeback. His club now now face Necaxa at 7p on Univision.

Streaming overseas:

  • Matt Miazga’s Deportivo Alavés face Granada at 9a on ESPN+. Miazga’s last start was four matches ago against Real Madrid.
  • Chris Richards remains out and was not included in Thursday’s roster release. His Hoffenheim side continue their push for Champions League play when they face a Hertha Berlin side gazing into the relegation void. The match will be at 10:30a on ESPN+.
  • Julian Green, Timothy Tillman and Gruether Fürth face Freiburg at 10:30a on ESPN+.
  • George Bello continues to see his minutes for Arminia Bielefeld increase and was mentioned by Gregg Berhalter as a potential injury replacement for Sergiño Dest. Bielefeld face Mainz at 10:30a on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah had started 7 of 8 matches for Valencia before missing last weekends match due to yellow card suspension. He should return this weekend for the team’s matchup against Elche at 11:15a on ESPN+.
  • Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea FC face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup quarterfinals at 1:15p on ESPN+. Dear Thomas, feel free to rest our boy.
  • Timothy Weah continues to be used sparingly for Lille, who face Nantes at 4p on beIN Sports, but he will undoubtedly be a key figure for the USMNT in the upcoming window.

MLS matches (all on ESPN+):

  • At 1p FC Cincinnati face Inter Miami and DeAndre Yedlin who could see a sudden uptick in minutes if Dest is indeed out.
  • New York City FC face the Philadelphia Union at 1p. The Union’s young Americans haven’t seen a ton of early season play but are getting some substitute minutes.
  • Toronto FC and DC United kick off at 3p. Toronto are looking for their first result of the season, while United took their first loss last weekend to the Chicago Fire.
  • Miles Robinson and Atlanta United face Djordje Mihailovic and CF Móntreal at 4p.
  • Gaga Slonina has not allowed a goal through three matches this season and lead the Chicago Fire as they now face Sporting Kansas City at 6p. The Fire reportedly turned down a request to release Slonina for the U20 camp.
  • Minnesota United face the San Jose Earthquakes and Cade Cowell at 7p.
  • Jesús Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal and FC Dallas take on the Portland Timbers at 8:30p.
  • The Houston Dynamo face the Colorado Rapids at 8:30p.
  • Walker Zimmerman and Nashville SC take on Real Salt Lake at 9:30p.


Southampton v Manchester City – 11a on ESPN+

Zack Steffen has typically started Manchester City’s cup matches, so this weekend could be an important one for him. Steffen has been dealing with injuries, and in fact he missed Man City’s last FA Cup match. But, he returned to City’s bench last weekend and seems to be available for selection on Sunday. Steffen is the clear favorite to start the USMNT’s decisive three matches in the upcoming window, so getting some playing time this weekend against Southampton would be huge, as he hasn’t seen any competitive action in six weeks. Southampton currently sit middle of the table in the EPL standings but are looking for their first win in four matches.

Broadcast matchups:

  • Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and the Seattle Sounders face Austin FC at 4:30p on FS1. Seattle are coming off a midweek 4-1 aggregate win over Leon in CCL play and have been rotating heavily, so it’s possible Danny Leyva or 16-year-old Obed Vargas see some more time.

Streaming overseas:

  • Gianluca Busio has returned to the fold for the USMNT, but before he joins up he’ll take the field with Venezia, who face Sampdoria in a pretty significant matchup for the relegation battle. Venezia currently sit three points away from safety and need to start finding results against lower level teams such as Sampdoria, who are four points ahead of them. The match can be seen at 7:30a on Paramount+.
  • Matthew Hoppe was not included in Mallorca’s squad on Monday as they lost to Real Madrid. They face Espanyol at 9a on ESPN+.
  • Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig face Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt at 10:30a on ESPN+. Adams has seen a dip in minutes recently, with some reports that there are ongoing injury concerns.
  • John Brooks was left out of the call up list again for the USMNT and continues to handle it publicly as well as anyone could hope. His Wolfsburg side face Bayer Leverkusen at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • After a long absence, Ethan Horvath could have a significant impact on the upcoming window if Zack Steffen is unable to make it through the three matches. Thankfully, he has recently taken over the starting role for Nottingham Forest, who have a difficult FA Cup matchup with Liverpool this weekend at 2p on ESPN+.
  • Giovanni Reyna is back in action and his Borussia Dortmund side face Köln at 2:30p on ESPN+.
  • It seems likely that Sergiño Dest will miss El Clásico this weekend due to the injury picked up midweek. Real Madrid and Barcelona will kick off at 4p on ESPN+.

MLS matches (all on ESPN+):

  • The New York Red Bulls face the Columbus Crew at 2p. Gyasi Zardes has been dropped from the starting lineup for Columbus and was not included in the USMNT roster.
  • Kellyn Acosta and LAFC will face the Vancouver Whitecaps at 10p. It seems likely that Acosta will see an uptick in minutes for the USMNT with Weston McKennie missing the upcoming window.


2022 NWSL Challenge Cup guide: Tournament format, match schedule, where to watch and more

By Meg Linehan Mar 18, 2022https://theathletic.com/app/themes/athletic/assets/img/comment-icon.png 3

The NWSL Challenge Cup returns for its third year on Friday, kicking off with an opening match between Racing Louisville FC and the Kansas City Current at Lynn Family Stadium 118 days after the Washington Spirit celebrated their 2021 NWSL championship win in a sea of confetti. The Challenge Cup is once again a preseason tournament, but as the league begins its 10th year, there are some bigger questions about its purpose and timing — not necessarily a bad thing for the NWSL.

A year ago, I wrote that the Challenge Cup as a preseason tournament was the right level of ambition for the NWSL, especially considering the state of the pandemic at the time. It gave the league some cushion in case COVID-19 affected matches. But since it also marked the return to matches in home stadiums with fans, the league positioned the Challenge Cup as a test run, but a fun one. A year later, there’s no question about either of those things. Now, the NWSL is back to considering more defining questions about the direction of the league and its growth, and where and how a tournament like the Challenge Cup fits in. 

We should adjust our expectations when it comes to this edition of the tournament. Two new expansion teams in Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC will get their first meaningful games against other NWSL competition, but both Freya Coombe and Casey Stoney have been pretty clear that they view this as more of a test run and development opportunity than a trophy they plan on winning right out of the gate. 

They’re almost certainly not the only ones, especially with how many new coaches — or interim ones made permanent, like the Spirit’s Kris Ward and North Carolina’s Sean Nahas — there are across the league, with Stoney, Amanda Cromwell in Orlando, Rhian Wilkinson in Portland, Kim Björkegren in Louisville, Matt Potter in Kansas City and Chris Petrucelli in Chicago. We’ll count Scott Parkinson heading to Gotham mid-season last year, plus Coombe leading Angel City for 2022, here too. Plus, don’t forget, a new incoming NWSL commissioner in April once Jessica Berman wraps up her time with the National Lacrosse League. 

The NWSL does need more competition formats beyond the regular season and playoffs, and the Challenge Cup fits the bill there. But for a summer filled with major international tournaments (most importantly for the NWSL: CONCACAF’s W Championship and Euro 2022, both slated for July), the level of play and overall success of the third edition of the cup might determine its future. Or at least, it should, in a league that has valued swift adaptation to changing needs. Top players have already made their opinion on this matter pretty well known, but there is a real chance here to think bigger than a three-year old competition, when it comes to potential formats (either with Liga MX Feminil or looking ahead to a possible Open Cup or international club competition) and where it falls on the schedule.

Either way, the games are upon us, and after an offseason filled with player movement (if you need a refresh on where everyone landed, the most recent rosters for every team are here), these games are going to have plenty of intrigue, and offer up real chances for chemistry to develop and starting roles to be solidified across the league. Will these games be good? Maybe not, but they’re going to give us a much better look at which teams are truly ready for the long grind of the NWSL regular season ahead.

Here’s our guide to the 2022 Challenge Cup, including the full schedule and how to watch, some notes on how the tournament will interact with the April international window and the start of the regular season, more on the format and regions for the tournament, plus three key games to watch.

Also, if you want to talk about all things Challenge Cup or have questions about the tournament, Steph Yang and I will be hanging out in a live room on Friday before the games kick off to discuss all things NWSL. We’ll go live at 2 p.m. ET, and if you miss it, the chat will be archived as an episode of Full Time with Meg Linehan.

The schedule

Last year, the NWSL was still making the effort to avoid overlapping games, but that’s not the case in 2022. Overlapping games are back, there’s plenty of midweek action and, of course, the big thing: the NWSL regular season starts while the Challenge Cup is still happening. There are three regular season games scheduled for the same day as the tournament’s final on May 7. 

Here’s the full tournament schedule, with information on how to watch. If you’re an international viewer, the matches will again be streamed on Twitch.

2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Schedule

Fri., Mar. 187:30 p.m.RacingCurrentParamount+
Fri., Mar. 1810 p.m.OL ReignThornsParamount+
Sat., Mar. 197 p.m.PrideSpiritParamount+
Sat., Mar. 197 p.m.CourageGothamParamount+
Sat., Mar. 199 p.m.Angel CityWaveParamount+
Sun., Mar. 207 p.m.DashRed StarsParamount+
Fri. Mar. 257:30 p.m.RacingDashParamount+
Fri., Mar. 257:30 p.m.SpiritGothamParamount+
Fri., Mar. 258:30 p.m.Red StarsCurrentParamount+
Sat., Mar. 264 p.m.Angel CityOL ReignParamount+
Sat., Mar. 267 p.m.CouragePrideParamount+
Sat., Mar. 2610 p.m.WaveThornsParamount+
Wed., Mar. 37 p.m.PrideGothamParamount+
Wed., Mar. 37:30 p.m.SpiritCourageParamount+
Wed., Mar. 37:30 p.m.Red StarsRacingParamount+
Wed., Mar. 38:30 p.m.DashCurrentParamount+
Wed., Mar. 310 p.m.ThornsAngel CityParamount+
Sat., Apr. 23 p.m.CurrentRacingParamount+
Sat., Apr. 24 p.m.WaveAngel CityCBS
Sat., Apr. 28 p.m.Red StarsDashParamount+
Sat., Apr. 210 p.m.ThornsOL ReignParamount+
Sun., Apr. 33 p.m.GothamCourageParamount+
Sun., Apr. 34 p.m.SpiritPrideParamount+
Thu., Apr. 1410 p.m.OL ReignWaveParamount+
Fri., Apr. 158 p.m.CurrentDashCBSSN
Sat., Apr. 167 p.m.PrideCourageParamount+
Sat., Apr. 167:30 p.m.RacingRed StarsParamount+
Sun., Apr. 173 p.m.GothamSpiritParamount+
Sun., Apr. 176 p.m.OL ReignAngel CityCBSSN
Sun., Apr. 177 p.m.ThornsWaveParamount+
Sat., Apr. 231 p.m.CourageSpiritCBS
Sat., Apr. 237 p.m.GothamPrideParamount+
Sat., Apr. 2310 p.m.WaveOL ReignParamount+
Sun., Apr. 245 p.m.CurrentRed StarsParamount+
Sun., Apr. 246 p.m.DashRacingCBSSN
Sun., Apr. 249 p.m.Angel CityThornsParamount+
Wed., May 48 p.m.TBDTBDCBSSN
Wed., May 410 p.m.TBDTBDParamount+
Sat., May 71 p.m.TBDTBDCBS

The good news is that, unlike last year, the Challenge Cup will pause for the FIFA window in April — and while the competition might not be great for the USWNT in those matches, players won’t have to feel bad about missing action with their NWSL clubs.

Only the semifinals and final will overlap with the regular season, but it remains a very strange decision to put regular season games on the same day as the Challenge Cup final — especially an expansion team’s home opener! Sure, Casey Stoney might be planning on using the tournament as a tool to prepare her team for the regular season, but this is the NWSL, after all. Stranger things have happened. Plus, the quick turn from the semifinals on Wednesday, May 4 is going to make it a very tight timeline, both for traveling teams and fans, to the May 7 games. 

There are probably reasons for how this all shook out — but it’s a very strange look for the NWSL, once again.

The format

We’ve got 12 teams for the first time, which means easy groups for the NWSL to arrange by region. Here they are.

2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Groups

North Carolina CourageChicago Red StarsAngel City FC
NJ/NY Gotham FCHouston DashOL Reign
Orlando PrideKansas City CurrentPortland Thorns FC
Washington SpiritRacing Louisville FCSan Diego Wave FC

Every team plays six matches during the group stage, in which they play their three groupmates home and away. The three group-winners advance to the semifinals, and the fourth spot is filled by whichever second-place team has the best record.

There’s no extra time in the NWSL Challenge Cup, so if the semifinals or final end in a draw by the end of 90 minutes, the match will be decided by penalties.

The full competition rules are posted on the NWSL website if you want to get into all of the details.

Suggested listening

Games to watch

Sat., Mar. 19 (9:00 p.m. ET): Angel City FC vs. San Diego Wave FC at Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton on Paramount+

Sat., Apr. 2 (4:00 p.m. ET): San Diego Wave FC vs. Angel City FC at Torero Stadium on CBS and Paramount+

All eyes are on newcomers Angel City and San Diego in the Challenge Cup. So in the interest of highlighting some other matchups, I’m going to cheat here and say both the Mar. 19 (with Angel City at “home” at Cal State Fullerton) and the Apr. 2 (with San Diego at home at Torero Stadium) games are appointment viewings for NWSL fans. It’s even easier for the April edition, with that match getting big CBS airtime. It’s a lot more than just Christen Press vs. Alex Morgan, too — though Angel City’s already had to adapt to some major losses on their backline in Sarah Gorden and Paige Nielsen due to injury. 

Fri., Mar. 18 (7:30 p.m. ET): Racing Louisville FC vs. Kansas City Current at Lynn Family Stadium on Paramount+

I do think this is a legitimately great opener for the tournament. Both teams have added some big players this offseason, and I’m ready to watch the relationship develop between Jessica McDonald and Ebony Salmon in Louisville. Plus, McDonald vs. Lynn Williams? I wouldn’t hate a wild, high-scoring opener here.

Thu., Apr. 14 (10:00 pm. ET): OL Reign vs. San Diego Wave FC at Lumen Field on Paramount+

If there’s one team I have very high expectations for this season, it’s OL Reign. They fell in the semis last year to the Washington Spirit, but despite losing their Lyon internationals this still feels like a team that should be at the top of the table in 2022. Portland and the Reign are going to probably benefit from having two expansion teams in their group, and they’ve also got a game against each other on opening night at Lumen Field, but I think the one to watch is how they do against Casey Stoney’s Wave. Maybe it’s the coaching matchup that I’m deeply curious to see for the first time, but OL Reign will be looking to set a tone for the rest of the year. I want to see them achieve it. 

Meg Linehan is a staff writer for The Athletic who covers women’s soccer, especially the U.S. women’s national team and the National Women’s Soccer League. She’s been thinking about women’s soccer pretty much nonstop since the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Follow Meg on Twitter @itsmeglinehan.

 Premier League title, Serie A title, Bundesliga top four: Ranking 10 most exciting races left in Europe

Mar 17, 2022Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

The annual marathon that is the European soccer season will soon hit its home stretch. After this weekend comes one final international break, and then it’s time to decide some titles. While plenty of key races have been over for a while — it feels like Paris Saint-Germain all but clinched the Ligue 1 title in September, while Real Madrid‘s LaLiga lead also looks pretty safe — many others will come down to the wire. Throw in some gripping relegation battles and the fact that lots of Champions League spots remain up for grabs, and we’ve got plenty to pay attention to in the final weeks of the season.

Here, then are 10 particularly intriguing battles to devour in the coming weeks. (Note: Odds below refer to FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings, found in their entirety here.)

1. Premier League title race

Liverpool have pulled off a magic act in recent months. They trailed Man City by 14 points on the evening of Jan. 15. City have only lost once in the last two months… and Liverpool are now within one point following Wednesday’s win over Arsenal. They’ve won nine straight league matches, and while City’s form hasn’t dipped much, they did still drop points against Southampton, Spurs and Crystal Palace.

For as well as Liverpool have played this season, it still appeared the race was over in mid-January as City’s title odds, per SPI, rose as high as 88%. Instead, we’ve got ourselves an incredible home stretch ahead and after winning the League Cup in February, Liverpool are still very much alive in the hunt for not only the Premier League, but also the FA Cup and Champions League. An unheard-of quadruple remains in play.From an overall dominance perspective, this isn’t quite the same as the 2018-19 race, in which Man City won the league with a near-record 98 points and Liverpool finished second with 97. The champion should end up with around 91-92 points this time around, but it’s still staggering how much these two teams have separated themselves from the rest in a league so flush with both cash and talent. They rank first (City) and second (Liverpool) in the overall SPI ratings, with Liverpool creeping ahead of a previously indomitable Bayern Munich.As we approach the Champions League quarterfinals, SPI gives these two teams a combined 48% chance of winning the tournament, leaving 52% for the other six teams to divvy up.The pair have gotten to this level by primarily being more polished versions of themselves. With its counterpressing and intensity, Liverpool is starting 5.9 more possessions per match than opponents in the attacking third, and they’re on pace to score 10 more goals than they did during their 2019-20 title run. Pep Guardiola’s City, meanwhile, have a possession rate of 68% and an average of 8.3 passes per possession. They have indeed dropped some points here and there, but their statistical domination has barely waned even as Liverpool was reeling them in.Any more dropped points for either team could be awfully costly. Can they both avoid any home-stretch glitches as they did late in 2018-19?

2. Italian Serie A race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Inter Milan 49%, AC Milan 33%, Napoli 15%, Juventus 3%
  • Key remaining matches: Inter at Juventus (April 3), Napoli at fifth-place Atalanta (April 3), Atalanta at Milan (May 15)

Women’s Super League title race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Chelsea 55%, Arsenal 45%
  • Key remaining matches: fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur at Chelsea (March 23), Tottenham Hotspur at Arsenal (March 26), Chelsea at Tottenham Hotspur (April 24), Manchester United at Chelsea (May 8)

The English women’s top division is poised for a spectacular finish. Arsenal are two points up on Chelsea, but the Blues have a game in hand; meanwhile, Manchester City trails Manchester United by three points, but also have a game in hand and a solid advantage in the SPI ratings, which see both races coming down to the wire.Arsenal have rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2020-21 campaign. They finished a distant third behind Chelsea and Manchester City, and they had to hold off a rising Manchester United just to secure third place and a spot in the Champions League qualifiers. (They rose through qualification and have since advanced to next week’s quarterfinals against Wolfsburg.)They’ve shored up their defense a bit, allowing just 10 goals in 17 matches, but more importantly, they’ve fared well in big league matches, taking eight points from four matches against Chelsea and Manchester City. They do still have to face two top-six teams in their final five league matches (home vs. Tottenham on March 26, at West Ham on May 8), but England‘s most decorated women’s club is well-positioned to win its first league title in three years.Thanks to Sam Kerr’s late winner against Aston Villa, however, Chelsea still controls its own destiny.The Blues have six league matches remaining, and thanks to a heart-breaking group-stage exit in the Champions League — they tied for first in the toughest group, with Wolfsburg and Juventus, but lost the tie-breaker due to head-to-head goal differential — they don’t have to deal with continental play.Injuries and some COVID-19 issues have wreaked havoc with Emma Hayes’ lineup choices of late, and sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich will create plenty of logistical hurdles for the team just as it is the men’s team. They must survive a rugged home stretch that features two matches with Spurs and a season-ending visit from United, but this team still has Kerr, Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder etc. and therefore, they still have a chance.

4. German Bundesliga Champions League race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund >99% chance of playing in the Champions League next year, RB Leipzig 68%, Bayer Leverkusen 67%, Hoffenheim 40%, Freiburg 20%, Koln 2%
  • Key remaining matches: Omitting Bayern and BVB, six matches remain between the other five teams listed above. (Three of them also play Bayern, while two play Borussia Dortmund.)With Bayern’s recent inconsistency, the Bundesliga title race isn’t quite over yet, even if SPI thinks it is (it gives Bayern a 97% chance of winning a 10th straight title). But even if that battle doesn’t produce much drama — for what it’s worth, BVB plays at Bayern on April 23 — the next four spots in the league hierarchy remain completely up for grabs.Bayer Leverkusen are clinging to third place at 45 points, but Die Werkself have dropped eight points in their last four league matches and just lost star playmaker Florian Wirtz to a torn ACL. Meanwhile, three torrid teams stand just a point back — RB Leipzig have pulled 22 points from its last nine league matches, Freiburg have 14 from seven, and Hoffenheim have 13 from its last five and 30 from its last 15.Recent results aren’t the be-all and end-all of course. Leverkusen have been pretty unlucky of late, and not just in the injuries department. Their +1.5 xG differential per match over the past two months is second in the league to only Bayern’s (+1.6), and they’ve pulled just six points from the last seven close matches — matches decided by either zero or one goal — that they’ve played, an unsustainably poor trend. Even without Wirtz, they’ve still got Patrik Schick (20 goals in all competitions) and Moussa Diaby (16 goals and nine assists) in attack, and their transition game is one of the strongest in the league.Still, holding on will be difficult. RB Leipzig have solved a lot of their disastrous transition issues in recent weeks, and while neither Freiburg nor Hoffenheim defend very well (even by Bundesliga standards) they boast major attacking firepower and have proven they can take points from the league’s best teams. Both Leverkusen and Hoffenheim have three remaining matches against top-six teams, while RBL and Freiburg each have two. (Freiburg also play Bayern on April 2, the same day RBL host Borussia Dortmund.)In short, this one is far from decided.

5. Premier League relegation race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Norwich City 99% chance of relegation, Watford 78%, Burnley 44%, Everton 38%, Leeds United 36%, Brentford 4%, Newcastle 2%
  • Key remaining matches: Excluding Norwich, there are eight remaining matches between the other six teams listed above, starting with Newcastle at Everton on Thursday and headlined primarily by Leeds at Watford (April 9), Burnley at Watford (April 30) and a soon-to-be-rescheduled Everton at WatfordIt’s a mess trying to figure out who might snare the third promotion spot from England’s second division; it’s just as messy trying to figure out who else will get sent down. Norwich are all but guaranteed, obviously, and Watford are in major trouble, but the Hornets host three different relegation rivals in the season’s home stretch — they’ll have a chance to save themselves, at least, and even if they can’t, they’ll have a major role to play in who survives.With the money involved in playing in the Premier League, this is always one of the tenser and more dread-heavy relegation battles in the sport. That counts double when potentially big clubs like Everton and Leeds are involved. The tension is high enough that it’s already producing moments like this, from Leeds’ dramatic late home win over Norwich on Sunday, in mid-March.Just imagine what April will be like.

6. Belgium Jupiler Pro league title race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Union Saint-Gilloise 65%, Club Brugge 24%, Anderlecht 7%, Antwerp 2%, Gent 2%
  • Key remaining matches: Gent at Anderlecht (April 18), followed by a round-robin playoff among the top four

Promoted from the second division just last season, Union SG remains one of the most incredible stories of the 2021-22 European club campaign. The Brussels club, which hasn’t won a top-division crown since 1935, is led by the incredible attacking duo of Deniz Undav and Dante Vanzeir (combined: 37 goals, 18 assists), and they’ve led the league from virtually start to finish thanks to a combination of thrilling and creative offense and committed defense.With just a handful of matches remaining in the initial 34-game season, they retain a seven-point advantage over Club Brugge with a game in hand. This is a great position to be in, obviously, but they’ll still have to survive the championship playoff in which the top four teams see their point totals cut in half (and rounded up) and everyone plays a six-game round robin.Union SG have fared incredibly well against Belgium‘s other top teams this year, but they’ll have to do so one last time to secure a stunning title.

7. English Championship promotion race

  • Relevant 538 odds: Fulham >99% chance of promotion to the Premier League, Bournemouth 79%, Luton Town 21%, Sheffield United 20%, Nottingham Forest 18%, Middlesbrough 18%, Huddersfield 12%, Blackburn 11%, QPR 7%, Millwall 6%, West Brom 4%, Coventry City 2%.
  • Key remaining matches: Omitting Fulham, 20 matches remain between the other 11 teams above, beginning with Bournemouth’s trip to Huddersfield on Saturday. And then, of course, there’s the promotion playoff between the No. 3-6 teams at the end of the season.In 1987, Luton Town finished a club-best seventh in the English top division; in 1992, the Hatters were relegated. They haven’t been back since. In 1995, Nottingham Forest finished third in the Premier League and qualified for the UEFA Cup. They were relegated two years later, bounced back for one year, fell back to the second division in 1999 and haven’t been back since. In 1995, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League. They continued to threaten for lower-level European competitions through most of the 2000s, but they fell out of the Premier League in 2012. They haven’t been back since.Millwall haven’t been in the top division since 1990, Coventry City since 2001. QPR bounced between the first and second divisions early in the 2010s, but have otherwise lived a second-division existence for most of 30 years. Huddersfield briefly earned promotion in 2017 for the first time in nearly a half-century, but they were back down within two years.All of the above teams are involved in this year’s promotion race. Granted, Fulham — a modern-day “yo-yo” club that’s been promoted and relegated several times — have all but locked up a promotion spot in its first year back down, and if Bournemouth win at Huddersfield on Saturday, the Cherries are in great position to return to the Premier League after just a two-year absence.The third promotion spot, which will be decided via a playoff between the teams ranked third through sixth at the end of the season, could feature quite a few storied clubs that have been desperate to return to the top division. For history alone, this should be a fascinating battle all the way to the promotion playoff finals at Wembley Stadium.

8. Ligue 1 Champions League race

  • Relevant 538 odds: PSG >99% chance of playing in the Champions League next year, Rennes 65%, Marseille 40%, Nice 39%, Strasbourg 28%, Lyon 12%, Lille 8%, Monaco 5%, Nantes 2%
  • Key remaining matches: Omitting PSG, 16 matches remain between the other eight clubs above, beginning with Lille at Nantes on Saturday and Nice at Marseille on Sunday.

As mentioned, there are plenty of major Champions League spots up for grabs. Arsenal seems to have taken control of fourth place in the Premier League but still has plenty of work to do. Juventus has eased ahead of Atalanta for fourth in Serie A, while Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have stormed ahead of challengers like Real Betis and Villarreal in La Liga, but those battles also aren’t over just late.Two of Europe’s big five leagues, however, have absolute barn-burners on their hands, though: France and Germany. We’ll get to Germany in a bit.

The top two French finishers earn an automatic spot in the Champions League, with third going into the qualification playoff rounds. For much of the season, bitter rivals Marseille and Nice have been jockeying for second, but after a dreadful winter stretch — they pulled just nine points from nine league matches from Dec. 1 through Feb. 11 — Bruno Genesio’s Rennes have found their form. Their 4-2 win over Lyon on Sunday was their fourth straight in league play, and it bumped them back to fourth place, within a point of Marseille and Nice. Strasbourg is only three points back as well.

Those four clubs seem to be the primary contenders for the two remaining Champions League spots, but established clubs like Lyon, Lille and Monaco all have both talent and plenty of remaining opportunities to make moves.

Boys in Blue head south for clash with defending Eastern Conference champs

Saturday, March 19, 2022 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Al Lang Stadium – St. Petersburg, Fla.

Local/National TV: N/A
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)   
Indy Eleven: 0W-1L-0D (-1 GD), 0 pts.; T-9th in Eastern Conference 
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 0W-0L-1D (0 GD), 1 pt.; T-7th in Eastern Conference 

OUT: FW Manuel Arteaga (knee), MF Ayoze (ankle)  DISCIPLINE REPORT   OUT: DF Alex McQueen (red card in 90’ on 3/12 @ LDN)



After opening the season in the sudden tundra of Northern Virginia last weekend, Indy Eleven will do a 180 towards the tropical clime of Tampa Bay for its Week 2 affair against the Rowdies on Saturday evening. The match will mark the first meeting of the old NASL rivals since 2019, snapping the hiatus caused by the Eastern Conference’s reshuffling across the last two COVID-affected seasons.


Loudoun United FC  1 : 0  Indy Eleven
Sat., March 12  | Recap  |  Stats  |  Highlights

Indy Eleven is looking to shake off its season opening loss – and perhaps a touch of frostbite (insert Matt Turner joke here) – suffered last weekend at Segra Field. While the Boys in Blue conceded the bulk of the possession, the chances of note were fairly even throughout the contest – and it was one individual moment of brilliance that made the difference. Ted Ku-DiPrieto’s 60-yard run in the 43rd minute set up Kimarni Smith’s eight-yard blast that gave Loudoun a lead it would hold for the duration of the match.Indy Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco would make a pair of saves to keep Indiana’s Team within arm’s reach, including a diving stop of Jackson Hopkins’ 79th minute PK that was among the five nominees for the USL Championship Save of the Week. The Eleven’s comeback efforts were hampered by Alex McQueen’s red card born of frustration in the 90th minute, handcuffing the Boys in Blue through four minutes of added time and keeping the English-born, Grenadian international defender out of consideration for Saturday’s visit to Florida.

Birmingham Legion FC  1 : 1  Tampa Bay Rowdies
Sun., March 13  | Recap  |  Stats  |  Highlights

The Rowdies came within a few minutes of opening their 2022 USL Championship campaign with three points and a clean sheet last Sunday evening, with Sebastian Dalgaard’s sly finish from 10 yards in the 34th minute putting Tampa Bay in the driver’s seat. However, Birmingham made sure to get something from its first league outing at the brand spanking new Protective Field, a long-distance strike from Marlon in the 86th minute pulling the sides level and forcing a share of the spoils. Despite losing the possession battle 40-60, the Rowdies doubled up the Legion in shots (9-5) and shots on goal (4-2), adding to the sense of points dropped on the evening.  

Of the 16 newcomers to Indy’s 2022 roster, a dozen of them made their Eleven debuts last weekend at Loudoun. Starters last weekend included Elliot Panicco, Mechack Jerome, Alex McQueen, Noah Powder, Justin Ingram, Bryam Rebellon, Aris Briggs and Stefano Pinho; an additional four players – Raul Aguilera, Palmer Ault, Sam Brown, and Jonas Fjeldberg – made their debuts off the bench in the second half. For the Indianapolis native Ingram and Brownsburg native Ault (a recent USL Academy Contract signing), their time at Segra Field marked their professional soccer debuts.Indy Eleven renews acquaintances with a more-than-familiar foe in the Rowdies, as the legendary club from Florida’s west coast has been a rival of Indy since the Eleven’s inaugural NASL season in 2014. Indy Eleven has a slight edge in its all-time series against Tampa, with the team’s record sitting at 3W-2L-8D. The squads are all even at 1W-1L-2D in USL play, but they haven’t met in nearly two-and-a-half years, with the last contest resulting in a 1-1 draw at Al Lang Stadium on Oct. 12, 2019.

The Rowdies have a pair of connections to soccer in the Hoosier State on their 2022 roster in defenders Conner Antley and Timmy Mehl.  Antley became the first player in USL history to earn a transfer fee while going from a USL League One club (South Georgia Tormenta FC) to a Championship side leading up to the 2020 season, when he started half of his 12 appearances during the Eleven’s 16-match COVID-shortened campaign (0G/0A).  Mehl made a name for himself during a four year stint at Indiana University from 2015-18, when he made 72 appearances for the Hoosiers under Head Coach Todd Yeagley. Mehl twice earned Second Team All-Big Ten Team honors in 2017 & 2018, when he helped to anchor a defensive unit at or near the top of the NCAA’s defensive categories.

With Alex McQueen out of consideration on the opposite right flank, the onus to provide support in attack down the touchlines may fall to Powder on the left side of the pitch on Saturday night. The New Jersey native turned Trinidad & Tobago international put in a full 90 in his Eleven debut last Saturday at Loudoun, but the state of the game kept him pinned back deeper than usual, mitigating his ability to combine and create around and into the final third. Take Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry’s emphasis on unlocking the attack in training this week and combine it with a much more favorable forecast and you could see much more out of Powder on both sides of the ball against the Rowdies.

New Look Eleven Fall on Road Despite Late Penalty Kick Save from Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco

LEESBURG, Va. (Saturday, March 12, 2022) – Indy Eleven began its 2022 USL Championship regular season campaign this evening by falling 1-0 to Loudoun United FC at a frigid Segra Field in Northern Virginia. Goalkeeper Elliot Panicco kept Indy in the match with two saves – including a penalty kick stop late in the second half – but Indiana’s Team was unable to offset Loudoun striker Kimarni Smith’s tally in the 43rd minute.New Head Coach Mark Lowry began his Eleven tenure by giving eight players their Indy debuts in the starting line-up, with captain and midfielder Neveal Hackshaw, midfielder Nicky Law, and defender A.J. Cochran serving as the only holdovers in the first XI.The Championship’s return to a full 34-game schedule meant a return to March football, and with a steady 20 mile per hour wind driving the wind chill into single digits at kickoff both teams fought the elements while trying to gain a foothold in the match. Eleven midfielder Justin Ingram found the game’s first chance just 90 seconds in, but the Indianapolis native saw his shot from the edge of the area saved. In the 12th minute Loudoun got their first serious look through forward Azaad Liadi, who just missed the frame with his first time shot off Sami Guediri’s cross to the back post.The match ground to a halt in the midfield for most of the next half hour, and while Indy Eleven found some measure of threat through a trio of crosses from the right flank, none resulted in shots. Loudoun finally started to create more chances of their own in the final ten minutes of the half, forcing Panicco into increased action starting with Ted Ku-DiPietro’s two-hopper from distance in the 35th minute.It was Ku-DiPietro that did the heavy lifting on the game’s lone goal just minutes before halftime. The United attacker ended a 50-yard run from midfield by playing Smith into the left side of the area, from where he stroked a left-footed effort from inside 10 yards into the upper corner to push Loudoun into the lead at the break.It was United still carrying the bulk of play coming out of the locker rooms, but Indy defender Mechack Jerome’s key tackle on Liadi inside the area in the 53rd minute stopped the most dangerous look for the home side in the opening minutes of the second half.Lowry looked to spark his side with the insertions of midfielders Sam Brown and Jonas Fjeldberg just after the hour mark. Fjeldberg had a golden opportunity to score with one of his first touches a couple of minutes later, but his 15-yard shot was cleared off the goalline by Loudoun defender Hayden Sargis to keep Indy off the board.The Eleven looked to have a reasonable shout for a penalty call in the 75th minute as forward Stefano Pinho went to ground under contact while leaping for a cross to the six that was eventually cleared out for a corner kick. The ensuing dead ball fell near the spot and at the feet of Cochran, but his low poke was smothered by United goalkeeper Luis Zamudio.Instead, it was Loudoun getting the benefit of the referee’s whistle on a questionable point to the spot in the 78th minute following Brown’s shoulder-to-shoulder challenge on Tyler Freeman steps inside the area. However, justice was served when Panicco came up big on the ensuing spot kick, going low and right to stop Jackson Hopkins, who also sprayed a follow up chance wide just 15 seconds later on a recycled chance.The Eleven’s comeback bid took a hit in the 89th minute when, after being whistled for a foul in the corner, defender Alex McQueen kicked out in the direction of United FC’s Jacob Greene. That put Indy down a man down across the ensuing four minutes of stoppage time, which included the pro debut of offseason USL Academy Contract signing and Brownsburg native Palmer Ault in the 93rd minute. Loudoun killed off the added time without much fanfare, keeping Zamudio’s clean sheet to earn the full three points.Indy Eleven will continue its three-game road trip to begin the regular season next Saturday, March 19, with a visit to the defending Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Rowdies. Kickoff at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., is set for 7:30 p.m. ET for a match that will stream live on ESPN+.Following the start of this year’s rivalry series with Louisville City FC on March 26 (7:30 p.m., ESPN+), Indy Eleven will return to the Circle City for its 2022 Home Opener at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium on Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for that 7:30 p.m. kickoff and all 2022 matches at “The Mike” via a plethora of ticketing avenues – including single-game tickets2022 Season Ticket Memberships, discounted group tickets for parties of 10 or more, and expanded Premium Hospitality options – by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.

USL Championship Regular Season
Loudoun United FC  1 : 0  Indy Eleven
Saturday, March 12, 2022
Segra Field – Leesburg, Va.

Indy Eleven: 0W-1L-0D, 0 pts.
Loudoun United FC: 1W-0L-0D, 3 pts.

Scoring Summary
LDN – Kimarni Smith (Ted Ku-DiPietro) 43’

Discipline Summary
IND – Neveal Hackshaw (yellow card) 20’
LDN – Jacob Greene (yellow card) 62’
LDN – Rio Hope-Gund (yellow card) 70
LDN – Grant Lillard (yellow card) 84’
IND – Aris Briggs (yellow card) 87’
IND – Alex McQueen (red card) 90’
LDN – Kimarni Smith (yellow card) 90+5’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Noah Powder, A.J. Cochran, Mechack Jerome, Alex McQueen; Nicky Law (Raul Aguilera 90+3’), Neveal Hackshaw (captain), Justin Ingram (Jonas Fjeldberg 62’), Bryam Rebellon (Sam Brown 62’); Aris Briggs (Palmer Ault 90+3’), Stefano PinhoIND substitutions: Tim Trilk (GK), Karl Ouimette, Jared Timmer

Loudoun United FC line-up (3-4-3): Luis Zamudio, Grant Lillard, Hayden Sargis, Rio Hope-Gund; Sami Guediri, Nicky Downs, Michael Gamble, Jacob Greene; Kimarni Smith, Azaad Liadi (Tyler Freeman 70’), Ted Ku-DiPietro (Jackson Hopkins 62’)

 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

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3/11/22  Indy 11 Season Opener Sat 6 pm ESPN+, Champ League Tues/Wed CBS 3 pm, Seattle vs LA 3:30 pm Fox, Man U vs Spurs Sat 12:30

Indy 11 Releases New Jersey’s

Indy 11 Season Starts Season Tonight 6 pm ESPN+

Ok  I am embarrassed I missed this – Conference tourney hoops season and work got me bogged down.  The Indy 11 kick off their 2022 season with raised expectations thanks to a huge pickup with its head coaching position this offseason, former El Paso Locomotive FC Head Coach and 2021 Championship Coach of the Year Finalist Mark Lowry as its new boss. Lowry’s success in El Paso and at prior stops has made him one of the brightest young coaches in North American currently, and the expectation will be his arrival helps vault Indy back to the heights it reached in 2019, when the side advance to the Eastern Conference Final in the postseason. Lowry has brought some trusted lieutenants with him from El Paso in defender Mechack Jerome and midfielder Bryam Rebellon, and there are some key holdovers from last season led by forward Manuel Arteaga and defenders Karl Ouimette and Neveal Hackshaw. The side has also been aggressive in free agency, acquiring Hackshaw’s Trinidad and Tobago teammate and 2019 title-winner Noah Powder and veteran forward Stefano Pinho. The 11 play at Loudaun United tonight on ESPN+ at 6 pm, the first of 3 straight road games to start the season before returning for the home opener on Sat, Apr 2 @ 7 pm vs LA Galaxy II at the Mike. 

  Indy 11 Preview – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

MLS Week 3

The largest crowd to ever see an MLS game over 74,700 people sang the National Anthem last Saturday in their opening game at Panther Stadium.   The final attendance topped the old MLS high of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Atlanta United played the Portland Timbers for the MLS Cup in December 2018.  Charlotte played well but lost on a galazo goal by LA Galaxy’s Alvarez.  Of course the story of the night might have been the exchange of jersey’s between LA’s Sacha Lljestan and former cancer patient now Charlotte FC’s Christ Hedgart.  This Week Atlanta United looks to return the favor as they host Charlotte in Atlanta on Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 4:30 pm.  Saturday’s huge game is Seattle hosting LAFC on Fox at 3:30 pm. 

Games to Watch This Week

Saturday gives us a huge top 4 battle as Man United host Tottenham Saturday at 12:30 pm unfortunately on Peacock – will one of these 2 teams finish in the top 4 or will Arsenal hold them off – they host Leicister City Sunday at 11:30 am on USA.  Arsenal has won 3 straight and 1 tie – City has won 2 in a row – good match-up Sunday on free TV!!  At 10 am Sunday – American Coach Jesse Marsch might get his first win with Leeds at home vs Norwich City and American forward Josh Stewart –a huge game for both Americans in the EPL !!  Sunday Chelsea & Pulisic host New Castle at 10 am on Peacock, while the Hammers host Frank Lampard’s Aston Villa at 10 am on USA Network.   (full schedule below in the OBC)  (See the American’s play)

 (full schedule below in the OBC)  (See the American’s play)

CFC Goalkeeping Wed only Training this week at Badger Field House

We look forward to seeing all our GKs at training this Wed/Thurs !!  Just Devastating hearing that Stanford Senior Goalkeeper Katie Meyer died by suicide last week.  Everyone hug your kids and remind them how much they are loved !   If you (or someone you know) need support, call the toll-free, 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text HOME to 741741 for free, which offers 24/7 support from the Crisis Text Line.

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Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 10% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

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(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Mar 12

7:30 am Peacock                     Brighton vs Liverpool

10 am USA                              Brentford vs Burnley

12 noon Para +                        Sampadoria vs Juventus

2:45 pm Para +                       Miln vs Empoli

12:30 pm Peacock                  Man United vs Tottenham  

12:30 pm ESPN+                     Gladbach (Scally) vs Hertha

1:30 pm Univision                   Inter Miami (Yedlin) vs LAFC

3:30 pm Fox                            Seattle (Morris/Roldan) vs LA Galaxy

6 pm ESPN+ Indy 11 @ Loudon United FC

10 pm Telemundo                  Guadalajara vs America

SunMar 13

10 am Peacock                        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs New Castle

10 am USA                              West Ham vs Aston Villa

10 am Peacock                       Leeds United (Marsch) vs Norwich (Stewart)

12 noon Para +                        Sampadoria vs Juventus

2:45 pm Para +                       Milan vs Empoli

12:30 pm USA                         Arsenal vs Leciester City  

12:30 pm ESPN+                     Dortmund (vs Bielfield  

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

4:30 pm Fox Sport 1               Atlanta United (Robinson) vs Charlotte  

MonMar 14

4 pm  USA                               Crystal Palace vs Man City

Tues, Mar 15 – Champ League

4 pm CBS                                Man U vs Atletico Madrid

4  pm Paramount+                  Ajax vs Benefica

9 pm FS2                                 Communciations 0  vs NYCFC  3 CCL

Wed, Mar 16– Champ League

4 pm CBS                                Lille vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

4  pm Paramount+                  Juventus vs Villarreal  

4 pm Peacock                         Arsenal vs Liverpool

9 pm FS2                                 Montreal vs Cruz Azul CCL

11:15 pm FS 1                         Pumas vs New England  CCL

Thur, Mar17– Europa  League

1:45 pm Para +                       Galatasary vs Barcelona (Dest)

1:45 pm Para+                        Leverkusen vs Atalanta

1:45 pm Para+                        Zvezda vs Rangers

4 pm Paramount+                   West Ham vs Sevilla  

8:30  pm FS1                           Leon 0 vs Seattle 3

Indy 11 Season Schedule

Indy 11

Indy 11 Preview – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Game with Loudon United Preview

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Indy 11 Season Schedule



Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

Soccer Saturday Radio Show Sat 9 am

USL Season Preview – USL Tactics

USL  Season Preview – 538

USL Season Previews – SB BNation

Eastern Conference Preview: https://www.uslchampionship.com/news_article/show/1212807
Western Conference Preview: https://www.uslchampionship.com/news_article/show/1213261


USMNT Viewing Guide – S&S

U.S. Soccer trying to lure Bayern Munich’s Malik Tillman

Pulisic’s Uncertain Outlook with Chelsea in $ Trouble – ESPN

Pulisic, Palmer-Brown, Pefok standout in otherwise tough weekend for Americans abroad

Champions League

Madrid’s shock rally past PSG had social media going wild

Sources: Neymar, Donnarumma in PSG bust-up

Report: Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, Gianluigi Donnarumma clash after Champions League exit

Mbappe may soon be prince of Madrid, but Benzema is still king

Sources: Security called as PSG chief goes for ref

Pep: Man City do not fear English teams in UCL

How Lewandowski’s 11-minute hat trick ranks in the all-time UCL list

Lewy’s record hat-trick in Bayern’s 7-1 win

Salah leaves shooting boots at home in 5/10 showing

Liverpool survive scare to reach UCL quarters

Barca held by Galatasaray, Rangers thump Red Star Belgrade


MLS Week 2: which of the 6 pointers are for real? Play Your kids update, and other thougths

New England Cruises at home over Pumas in CCL  3-0

Seattle impresses in big win over Leon win, NYCFC also sharp, Fulham cruising, Balogun scores, and more

Audio release alleges Timbers pressured Andy Polo’s wife not to press DV charges

Goalkeeping Around the World

Top 10 Goalkeepers in the World

Week 27 Top Saves EPL  

MLS Top Saves Week 2

MLS Top Saves Week 1  

Best Saves NWSL Women’s League last Season

Ethan Horvath could be US GK in Mexico – remember this summer

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Soccer Saturday

Indy Eleven ushers in new era with a new coach, new style and plenty of new players

Kevin Johnston Special for IndyStar   WESTFIELD – Under the guidance of new coach Mark Lowry, the Indy Eleven will embark upon a new era this weekend when they kick off the USL Championship regular season 6 p.m., Saturday at Loudoun United.Along with a new manager comes a new brand of soccer. Lowry said he expects his side to generate ample chances this year. For that to happen, it requires a high work rate.“How the guys work, and run, and tackle, and fight for each other — that’s what I want to be the identity of the team, first and foremost,” Lowry said. “So, anybody that comes to watch a game goes away thinking, ‘Man, Indy Eleven fought really hard. The effort was fantastic.’ Every single game, 100% effort from every single one of the players.”More on Indy Eleven:Expect plenty of fresh faces as new Eleven coach Mark Lowry rebuilds roster

Returning from the 2021 team are defenders AJ Cochran, Karl Ouimette and Jared Timmer, midfielders Ayoze Garcia, Neveal Hackshaw, Alann Torres and Nicky Law, and forward Manuel Arteaga.

Notice how Hackshaw is listed as a midfielder. That’s because he appears likely to move into a central defensive midfield role this season under Lowry after previously playing as a left-sided defender under former manager Martin Rennie.Torres played for Indy on an academy deal last year, but impressed enough to earn himself a full professional contract this season. A few other youngsters return on USL academy contracts, joining a handful of newcomers. Such deals allow the players to retain their amateur status. The full list of USL academy contract players on Indy’s roster includes reigning Indiana Mr. Soccer Palmer Ault (Noblesville), Luca Iaccino, Diego Sanchez, Aiden Benitez, Ecris Revolorio, Bryce Warhaft and Alex Svetanoff.Lowry believes most of the academy contract players’ experience will come on the training grounds.“It’s going to be difficult for them (to get minutes), I’ll be honest,” Lowry said. “We’ve got a strong 18, 19 pros this year.“If they work hard enough and if they come in every day with the right attitude, then the opportunity will be there for them eventually.”New to the roster are goalkeepers Elliot Panicco (on loan from Major League Soccer’s Nashville SC) and Tim Trilk, defenders Mechack Jerome, Alex McQueen and Noah Powder, midfielders Raul Aguilera, Justin Ingram, Sam Brown, Bryam Rebellón and Jonas Fjeldberg, and forwards Aris Briggs and Stefano Pinho.Ingram, a standout at Pike, gets to begin his pro career with his hometown club. Inter Miami selected Ingram in the second round of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, but he ultimately didn’t crack the roster. Miami’s loss became Indy’s gain.“It was actually a really good experience (with Inter Miami),” Ingram said. “They played me slightly out of position, more as a defender, which was definitely a little different than what I’m used to.“It wasn’t meant to be. And I’m here and I’m happy, so no complaints.”

Indy 11 Naveal Hackshaw moves to the #6 D-mid role.

Ingram, who spent two years at the University of Virginia before finishing at Loyola (Md.), played multiple years of local youth club soccer for current Eleven assistant coach Phil Presser, and credits Presser for helping develop his game.“He really prepared me for, at that time, college, but now Indy Eleven and my career as a whole,” Ingram said.Presser played a prominent role in bringing Ingram to the “Boys in Blue.”“I definitely spoke with him kind of throughout the whole process,” Ingram said. “Even over the last couple years, I trained with Indy Eleven during the summer, just while I’ve been on break from college games.”

What’s next for Indy Eleven and USL

Indy will play on the road two more times after Saturday’s opener — March 19 at the Tampa Bay Rowdies and March 26 at rival Louisville City — before finally hosting its home opener April 2 at Carroll Stadium against LA Galaxy II.The club still hasn’t provided a significant update on the status of its future home, Eleven Park, after canceling a site-reveal announcement originally planned for March 2021.As for what to expect of the Eleven this season, Lowry’s consistent success with the El Paso Locomotive — in the very same league — suggests that it’s a matter of when, not if, similar results are achieved in Indy.

Indy Eleven 2022 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 03/03/22, 5:00PM EST


There was plenty of optimism around Indy Eleven at the start of the 2021 season, and an early victory against Louisville City FC – breaking an extensive winless streak in the LIPAFC – felt like a notable moment. Eight games into the season, however, Head Coach Martin Rennie departed with the side 3-4-1 and things never properly got back on track as the Boys in Blue missed out on a postseason berth for a second consecutive season.Indy went big in filling its head coaching position this offseason, inking former El Paso Locomotive FC Head Coach and 2021 Championship Coach of the Year Finalist Mark Lowry as its new boss. Lowry’s success in El Paso and at prior stops has made him one of the brightest young coaches in North American currently, and the expectation will be his arrival helps vault Indy back to the heights it reached in 2019, when the side advance to the Eastern Conference Final in the postseason.Lowry has brought some trusted lieutenants with him from El Paso in defender Mechack Jerome and midfielder Bryam Rebellon, and there are some key holdovers from last season led by forward Manuel Arteaga and defenders Karl Ouimette and Neveal Hackshaw. The side has also been aggressive in free agency, acquiring Hackshaw’s Trinidad and Tobago teammate and 2019 title-winner Noah Powder and veteran forward Stefano Pinho. How it all comes together is going to be worth watching, with Indy’s vocal support eager to back a winner.

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Mechack Jerome – Haiti international makes move across country with Mark Lowry from El Paso

Noah Powder – Trinidad & Tobago international signed, won Championship Final in 2019 with Real Monarchs SLC

Stefano Pinho – Veteran forward will look to boost Indy’s attacking for with Manuel Arteaga

Jonas Fjeldberg – Norwegian winger shone in stint on loan with Rio Grande Valley a season ago

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Jordan Farr – Signed with San Antonio (where he lead them to the Western Conference Finals last year)

Nick Moon – Wing back signed as free agent with San Diego Loyal SC

Rece Buckmaster – Defender returned to Memphis 901 FC after one season in Indy

Gerson Koffie – Veteran midfielder departed as free agent

Peter-Lee Vassell – Jamaican international made move to Hartford Athletic as free agent


Neveal Hackshaw, Defender

The 2021 season was a disappointing one for Indy Eleven overall, but at the heart of the club’s defense, Neveal Hackshaw continued to show why he’s become one of the most respected left-sided defenders in the league. The Trinidad and Tobago international was the most consistent performer for the Boys in Blue over the campaign, registering a +0.97 Goals Added Above Average mark for the season, comfortably the highest on the team. Hackshaw’s versatility and quality will make him a valuable piece for new Head Coach Mark Lowry as Indy seeks a drive back up the Eastern Conference standings this season.

Manuel Arteaga, Forward

The central issue for Indy in the 2021 season was a lack of finishing in the final third, with the side only recording 32 goals in 32 games in the regular season. The lone bright spot was Manuel Arteaga, who recorded 10 goals and two assists in his first season at the club, effectively matching his Expected Goals and Assists marks over the campaign. With the potential for more creativity in the final third, the Venezuelan forward could find himself higher up in the race for the Golden Boot this season. If he is, then Indy should be back in a major way in the battle for the postseason.


Mark Lowry (1st Season)

Mark Lowry’s offseason move from El Paso Locomotive FC to Indy Eleven was maybe the most notable coaching change of this offseason in the USL Championship, bringing the bright young English coach to an Indy club looking to return to the league’s elite. Lowry’s track record is impeccable, and he enters having been nominated for the Championship’s Coach of the Year a season ago. Indy will be hoping the success he achieved in Texas can be quickly replicated in the Circle City.

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168 Indy Eleven conceded 168 shots on target a season ago, tied for the fourth-highest total in the USL Championship. By contrast, Mark Lowry’s former club El Paso Locomotive only allowed 101, a total the Boys in Blue will be hoping to come closer to this campaign as they try to tighten up defensively.


Venue: Segra Field
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Broadcast: ESPN+
538.com Predictor: LDN 32%, IND 41%, Draw 27%

The Lowdown: A new era begins on the road for Indy Eleven as the side takes to the field for the first time under Head Coach Mark Lowry against Loudoun United FC. The Boys in Blue will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their last trip to Segra Field, which saw Loudoun take a 4-1 victory last August, one of only four wins United recorded in the regular season in 2021.

Spotlight Players
Loudoun United FC – Grant Lillard: 
One of Loudoun’s new arrivals this offseason, the former Chicago Fire FC Homegrown will hope to reinforce the center of United’s defense in his potential debut.

Indy Eleven – Manuel Arteaga: The Venezuelan forward will be looking to get out to a strong start this campaign after notching 10 goals in his first season for the Boys in Blue.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: What to do about Weah

Also, don’t get caught by a midweek time changeBy jcksnftsn  Mar 11, 2022, 9:00am PST  

We’re about a week away from the next roster announcement and less than two weeks from the USMNT’s next competitive match, in Mexico City no less, and things are… interesting in terms of player availability. Weston McKennie is done for the season, Chris Richards hasn’t appeared since his injury with the USMNT in early February, Zack Steffen and Matt Turner are both dealing with injuries that are keeping them from playing, Giovanni Reyna may be close to returning but has missed significant time, and Christian Pulisic missed Thursday’s match due to “illness”. On top of all that other key contributors such as Tyler Adams and Timothy Weah have found playing time a bit sparse recently. Which leads us right into Friday’s action when Weah’s Lille will kick things off for the weekend.


Freiburg v Wolfsburg – 9:30a on ESPN+

Reports out of Germany are that John Brooks and Wolfsburg have mutually agreed that this will be his last season with the club. Brooks is out of contract at the end of the year and the two sides are not pursuing a new contract. In the meantime however it seems that Brooks will maintain his role for the club, he has started nine straight matches including last weekends 1-0 win over Union Berlin. Wolfsburg seem to be finding their form a bit with seven points from their past five matches, which broke a nine game winless streak. The team is sitting on 31 points, nowhere near their Champions League qualifying finish last season, and easing their way out of the relegation threatened zone.

It will certainly be interesting to see where Brooks lands next Fall and what role he takes on with his new team. At 29 he’s no spring chick but there should be some wear left on those wheels and his game is not dependent on some ridiculous level of athleticism. Whether he will be called in for the USMNT also remains to be seen as he has been left out of the last few cycles, which would have seemed unfathomable nine months ago but seems at least survivable now with the performances of Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, and Chris Richards.

Broadcast matches:

  • Inter Miami and DeAndre Yedlin are off to a rough start to their 2022 campaign, playing to a scoreless draw the opening weekend and getting thumped by Austin FC 5-1 last weekend. They will face LAFC who won their opener 3-0 and then played Portland to a 1-1 draw last weekend. The match will be played at 1:30p on Univision and streamed on Twitter.
  • Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders are also off to a slow start in MLS with their failure to score resulting in a pair of 1-0 losses to Nashville and Real Salt Lake. They’ll look to open their scoring against the LA Galaxy who have won their two openers by the same score line. The match will be on Fox at 3:30p.

Streaming overseas:

  • The Augsburg v Mainz match Saturday morning has been postponed so Ricardo Pepi will get a bit more rest this weekend.
  • Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart face Union Berlin at 9:30a on ESPN+ needing points to get out of the relegation zone, they are a point back of Hertha Berlin.
  • Chris Richards remains out for Hoffenheim who face his parent club Bayern Munich at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally picked up his first start since December last weekend in Borussia Monchengladbach’s 3-2 loss to Stuttgart. The club will face Hertha Berlin in another crucial relegation battle at 12:30p on ESPN+. Gladbach currently sit in 13th place, just four points ahead of Hertha who are in the relegation playoff position.
  • Yunus Musah will be serving a yellow card suspension Saturday after picking up his fifth yellow of the season last weekend. His team will face Getafe at 3p on ESPN+.

MLS streams (all matches on ESPN+):

  • Gyasi Zardes started on the bench again last weekend but did come in and pick up a goal for the Columbus Crew as they played San Jose to a 3-3 draw. This weekend Columbus will face Toronto FC and Michael Bradley at 1:30p.
  • Griffin Yow, Moses Nyeman and DC United have won their first two matches of the season though the victories came against Charlotte and Cincinnati so things should be a bit tougher this weekend against the Chicago Fire at 7:30p. With injuries to the USMNT’s first two choices at keeper the Fire’s Gaga Sloninia could see himself getting close to some action in the March window.
  • Sebastian Lletget has two goals in three matches across all competitions to start the season for New England who defeated FC Dallas 1-0 last weekend and are coming off a 3-0 win over Liga MX side Pumas on Wednesday. Real Salt Lake are coming off a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders thanks to a Bobby Wood goal. New England and RSL matchup at 7:30p.
  • The Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes also kickoff at 7:30p. San Jose has given up three goals in each of their first two matches and Philadelphia is coming off a 2-1 win over Montreal. Both teams have some interesting younger players though Cowell (San Jose) and Sullivan (Philadelphia) both came off the bench while Aaronson and McGlynn were both unused substitutes for Philly.
  • The MLS match of the weekend from a USMNT perspective is probably the FC Dallas v Nashville SC match with Ferreira, Arriola and Zimmerman the USMNT likely callups who will start along with Dallas’ midfield trio of Pomykal, Cerrillo, and Servania. This match will kick off at 8:30p.


Barcelona v Osasuna – 4p on ESPN+

Sergino Dest and Barcelona seem to have found their form under Xavi and have worked their way into third place in the la Liga standings on the back of an undefeated streak stretching 11 games that includes winning five of their past six matches. Dest was on the bench and came on as a late substitute in the teams 2-1 win over Elche last weekend and he started and went the full 90’ in their scoreless draw midweek with Galatasaray in Europa League action. He had also started the clubs three previous league matches prior to last weekend so while he may not be a sure fire starter every week he does seem to have found a regular role with the side. Their opponent this weekend, Osasuna, is pretty comfortably middle of the table, eleven points out of relegation, eleven points back of Europa League, and of course in eleventh place. They are coming off a 1-0 win over Villarreal last weekend.

Broadcast matches:

  • Miles Robinson and Atlanta United will face Charlotte FC at 4:30p on FS1. Charlotte are looking for their first points of the young season while Atlanta won their opener 3-1 over Sporting Kansas City but came crashing back to earth last weekend in a 3-0 loss to Colorado.

Streaming overseas:

  • Christian Pulisic missed Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich City on Thursday due to illness but will hopefully be available on Sunday as the club take on Newcastle United at 10a on Peacock.
  • I’m not sure who needs a win more Leeds United and their new American manager who have lost their first two matches since he took over or Josh Sargent and Norwich City who sit bottom of the table. This relegation derby is quite the match for US fans, it will be played at 10a on Peacock as well.
  • Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt face Bochum at 12:30p on ESPN+. Chandler was a late substitute last weekend in the teams 4-1 win over Hertha.
  • In some rare positive injury news Giovanni Reyna is reportedly ready to return to the field and should be available for Borussia Dortmund this weekend when they face George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld at 12:30p on ESPN+. Look for Reyna to get some substitute minutes in the second half.
  • Real Sociedad take on Deportivo Alaves and Matt Miazga at 1:30p on ESPN+. Miazga looks to be back to the bench since his start three weeks ago against Real Madrid.
  • Timothy Tillman, Julian Green and Greuther Furth face Tyler Adams’ RB Leipzig at 2:30p on ESPN+. Like Weah, Adams has found playing time a bit difficult to come by lately though also like Weah he seems like a sure fire starter for the USMNT regardless of his status with his club side.
  • Konrad de la Fuente has been the source of some unflattering reporting out of France recently, hopefully the young man is able to turn things around beginning on Sunday afternoon when Olympique Marseille face Brest at 3:45p on beIN Sports.

MLS streams (all matches on ESPN+):

  • The New York Red Bulls and Minnesota United close out the weekend with a 7p kickoff. NYRB have won their first two matches 3-1 and 4-1 while Minnesota have played a pair of 1-1 draws.

Bonus Monday content:

  • Tanner Tessman, Gianluca Busio and Venezia have a Monday match against Lazio at 3:45p on ESPN+. Venezia have lost their last two matches and fallen into 18th place, three points from safety.

Hit the comments section below to let us know what your watching, what you hope to see, or who you’re pulling for in the Leeds / Norwich City relegation battle.

English Premier League betting: Manchester United and Tottenham square off in a huge match

Nick Bromberg

Fri, March 11, 2022, 8:02 AM

The chase for fourth place in the English Premier League could get clearer this weekend.Arsenal is a favorite to get three points against Leicester City on Sunday. The Gunners currently occupy the fourth spot by a point over Manchester United and three points over Tottenham. Arsenal has three games in hand over United and a game in hand over Tottenham.Arsenał will also know where Man U and Tottenham stand before it kicks off too. The fifth and seventh-place teams in the table play each other at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. If United wins, it (temporarily?) jumps into fourth. If Tottenham wins, it’s tied with Arsenal on points but behind on goal difference.Outside of the race for the final Champions League spot, the biggest game of the weekend comes at the bottom of the table. Eighteenth-place Burnley visits 15th-place Brentford in a game that could be vital in May. Burnley is six points back of Brentford with two games in hand. A win for Burnley could get it out of the relegation zone and as high as 16th in the table.Here’s what you need to know for the weekend’s fixtures. All odds are from BetMGM. There are six games on Sunday after four games were played on Thursday. All games are Saturday unless noted.Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Liverpool (over/under 2.5 goals)

Brighton is in the midst of a slump. Liverpool keeps getting points without playing well and that can be a dangerous game. But Brighton’s current form doesn’t make us too confident that Liverpool is going to lose this game.

Brentford vs. Burnley (2.5)

Brentford beat Norwich over the weekend. We’re not sure what to take from that given that everyone is beating Norwich these days. We’re inclined to go with the Bees, but no result is going to surprise us.

Manchester United vs. Tottenham (2.5)

Manchester United could win by five goals and it wouldn’t be a stunner. Tottenham could win by five goals and it wouldn’t be a stunner. This could be a 0-0 draw and it wouldn’t be a stunner. That said, we’re going with the over.

Southampton vs. Watford (2.5) [Sunday]

The Saints are just a point back of Aston Villa and in 10th place in the table. Watford looks destined for relegation. Southampton is the pick.

Leeds vs. Norwich City (3.5) [Sunday]

It’s not often you see a team in the midst of a massive slide as a -175 to win, but that’s what’s going on with Leeds here. Could this be Jesse Marsch’s first win as coach? Possibly.

Everton vs. Wolves (2.5) [Sunday]

Everton desperately needs a win after getting thrashed by Tottenham on Monday. A Wolves win coupled with a Burnley win could drop Everton into the relegation zone. How crazy is that?

West Ham vs. Aston Villa (2.5) [Sunday]

This is a fascinating contest. West Ham arguably deserved a point against Liverpool over the weekend and lost by a goal to Sevilla in the Europa League on Thursday. David Moyes fielded a full-strength team in Spain — how many changes can he afford to make on Sunday?

Chelsea vs. Newcastle (2.5) [Sunday]

The turmoil surrounding Chelsea is the great unknown here. The club is allowed to operate despite owner Roman Abramovich’s asset freeze, though the club can’t make any transactions in the near future. Shirt sponsor Three has also backed out of its deal with the team. Chelsea should win, but a Newcastle win may be more likely than the +950 odds indicate.

Arsenal vs. Leicester City (2.5) [Sunday]

Leicester enters on a two-game EPL win streak, though the victories were over Burnley and Leeds. Arsenal has won three straight games and has gotten points in its last four. We strongly lean Arsenal.

#LDNvIND Opens Curtain on 2022 USL Championship Campaign

Indy Eleven at Loudoun United FC 
Saturday, March 12, 2022 – 6:00 p.m. ET
Segra Field – Leesburg, Va.

Local/National TV: N/A
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)   
Radio (Spanish): N/A 
In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers    
Live stats: #LDNvIND MatchCenter on USLChampionship.com 

Download the Indy Eleven Game Notes for #LDNvIND

Fans, rejoice! After waiting 133 days following the conclusion of its 2021 USL Championship campaign, Indy Eleven returns to action Saturday at Loudoun United FC in an evening affair that will open the curtain on the Championship’s 459-game regular season slate in 2022.

The last two seasons have seen Indy Eleven’s play largely limited to regional rivals after the USL Championship split its teams into smaller divisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the league reverting back to a 34-game season that includes intra-conference home-and-away series and the remaining balance against cross-conference opposition, Indy Eleven will be keen to start the year on the front foot as it reintroduces itself to Eastern and Western Conference foes old and new.

A lot has changed since the Boys in Blue last took to the pitch …

New Coach in Town

Saturday’s match will be the first official outing for Indy Eleven under the helm of Head Coach Mark Lowry, who was appointed to his new role near the start of the offseason last November. The 36-year-old comes to the Circle City after leading Western Conference side El Paso Locomotive FC through three consecutive postseason berths, including two trips to the Western Conference Final.

Lowry accumulated an impressive 40W-26-16L ledger during his three-year stint with the South Texas side, marking the fourth most USL Championship coaching wins in that time. Lowry was also shortlisted for the Coach of the Year honor last year having lost a league-low four games and led his former team to the top of the Mountain Division with 61 points.

After two years outside the playoff picture, Lowry came to the Circle City vowing to instill a winning culture inside the Eleven locker room. While results are not of paramount importance during the preseason schedule, early results have been promising, with Lowry’s squad ending its eight-game exhibition slate with a 5W-1L-2D record.

Welcome to the Team …

The returns of defenders Karl Ouimette, Jared Timmer and AJ Cochran; midfielders Neveal Hackshaw, Nicky Law and Ayoze; and forward Manuel Arteaga provided a core for Coach Lowry to build from thorough the offseason. However, with new leadership came a swarm of new names on the Boys in Blue roster, 16 (and counting) to be exact.

Amongst that new group are a few players that have been a part of Lowry’s stateside coaching career. Defender Mechack Jérôme and midfielder Bryam Rebellon joined Indiana’s Team after successful stints at El Paso Locomotive and Jacksonville Armada FC (NASL/NPSL), both veterans under the tutelage of Coach Lowry. Midfielder Raul Aguilera is another familiar face having been a product of Orlando City SC’s youth system during Lowry’s time as an academy coach (2012-15). Aguilera went on to eventually sign a homegrown contract with the Major League Soccer side before making the move to the Midwest.

Fostering youth development has been a key factor in Lowry’s roster build heading into the 2022 season. Seven members of the Boys in Blue are currently on USL Academy contracts, including midfielder Bryce Warhaft, who earned a spot on the roster after attending Indy Eleven’s 2022 Open Tryout in January and impressed throughout the preseason. In similar fashion, forward Luca Iaccino is considered one of the top prospects in the region due to the success he’s found with Chicago-based Sockers FC and the Chicago Fire Academy. Palmer Ault may be name fans are familiar with, as the forward scored two goals and an assist en route to Indy Eleven’s championship claim in the inaugural USL Academy Final last December. Moreover, three of Indy Eleven academy prospects are returning for their second season with the club (Ecris Revolorio, Aiden Benitez, Diego Sanchez), while goalkeeper Alex Svetanoff is returning for his third before he departs for the University of Louisville this fall.

Series History vs. Loudoun United FC
Overall record: 2W-1L-0D (5 GF/5 GA)
Away record: 1W-1L-0D (3 GF/5 GA)

Indy Eleven’s first two games against Loudoun came during the Virginian side’s 2019 Inaugural Season, and both went the Eleven’s way, starting with a 2-1 win at D.C. United’s (then) new home of Audi Field in the District on June 15. In that one, Tyler Pasher struck with one minute left in regulation to complete a comeback that started with Nelson Martinez’s 66th minute own goal. Just over a month later on July 20 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Pasher provided a late insurance goal that supported Thomas Enevoldsen’s 81st minute game-winner in a 2-0 victory.

Last season saw Loudoun serve as one of four “crossover” games for Indy Eleven outside of the Central Division, and the squad’s first visit to Segra Field was a tough one as United took the full points with a 4-1 win. Sammy Sergi’s late first half brace (43’, 45+1’) put Indy behind the eight-ball heading into the break, and by the time DF Karl Ouimette was able to put the Eleven on the board in the 79th minute United had already doubled its advantage minutes prior through Darluis Paz (73’) and Theodore Ku-DiPietro (76’).

The squads will reconvene late in the season at Carroll Stadium for the return match in Indy on September 25.

Player to Watch: MF Neveal Hackshaw

If you didn’t catch it above, perhaps one of the biggest changes the Indy Eleven faithful will notice in 2022 is a new position for one of the squad’s longest tenured players – although it’s a role that Hackshaw is indeed familiar with.

Lowry has the Trinidad & Tobago international slotted for the deep sitting role in a 4-man “diamond” midfield formation, which should be an easy translation for Hackshaw after playing more of a defensive mid role while with the Soca Warriors in recent years. While Hackshaw proved to be one of the Championship’s premier left backs since joining Indiana’s Team in 2019, this new role could unlock even more of Hackshaw’s underrated passing and vision – while also allowing him to utilize his immense physicality in the middle of the pitch.

There will also be one more “new-ish” role for Neveal in 2022, and again its one he’s familiar with. After donning the captain’s armband on sporadic occasions across his first three seasons with the Eleven, Lowry has named “Hack” a team captain alongside Ayoze for the 2022 season, allowing the 26-year-old the opportunity to tackle even more responsibility … perhaps while he does a little more tackling on the field as well.

USL Championship Power Rankings – Preseason

1Orange County SC
Week 1: @ COS
Ronaldo Damus is back, Cubo Torres has landed, and there’s plenty of returning quality across the squad for the defending title holder. Saturday’s opener and playoff rematch at Colorado Springs will be one of the games of the weekend.
2Tampa Bay Rowdies
Week 1: @ BHM
Tampa Bay’s defensive unit had almost unmatched continuity over the past two seasons, but even with the departure of Forrest Lasso and Evan Louro after award-winning seasons you’d expect that foundation to remain firmly in place this year.
3Louisville City FC
Week 1: v. ATL
Cameron Lancaster’s preseason injury is a blow, but the depth LouCity has added to its returning core will keep it right there in the contenders. The club’s best regular season saw it earn 66 points in 2018, that could be surpassed this campaign.
4Phoenix Rising FC
Week 1: v. MB
For the first time in a while Phoenix isn’t rated as the preseason favorite by fivethirtyeight.com. After putting up five goals in its preseason finale against FC Tucson, though, the new-look attack sure seems ready to maintain a remarkably high standard.
5San Antonio FC
Week 1: v. DET
Last year’s Western Conference Finalist was one of the toughest teams to play in the league last season and lived on the edge when it came to physicality. Championship newcomer Detroit City FC will likely be aware, and ready, as it heads to Toyota Field on Saturday
6Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Week 1: @ MEM
Five wins out of six in preseason has seen Dane Kelly find the net alongside his new teammates. The Hounds look in really good shape as they get ready to start season five under Bob Lilley.
7San Diego Loyal SC
Week 1: v. LA
SD Loyal was hyped for the start of last season, and then lost four consecutive games out of the chute. Don’t expect that to happen again as Landon Donovan’s side welcomes a Galaxy II side it swept across four meetings last season to Torero Stadium to start this campaign.
8The Miami FC
Week 1: v. NY
Last season’s progression and the club’s offseason additions have Miami looking on paper in a really good spot. Three points from Saturday’s opening game against the New York Red Bulls II would add to that optimism about where new Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ side is headed.
9Sacramento Republic FC
Week 1: v. ELP
The overhaul conducted on Republic FC’s roster was filled with major moves, all of which look really strong on paper. Saturday’s visit from El Paso Locomotive FC should be appointment viewing and could be the start of something big at Heart Health Park this season.
10El Paso Locomotive FC
Week 1: @ SAC
There are a lot of quality players returning for Locomotive FC this season, but last season’s underlying numbers said there might have been some major overperformance. Saturday’s test at Sacramento might give us an idea of where Locomotive FC is now.
11Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Week 1: v. OC
The Switchbacks rolled up seven goals in each of their final two preseason games. If they’ve got the defense sorted out with new goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell between the sticks, this squad could be extremely dangerous this season.
12Birmingham Legion FC
Week 1: v. TBR
Birmingham’s new-look attack will get to take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ newly organized defense in the club’s first regular season game at Protective Stadium on Sunday in what could be the key area of the contest on ESPN2.
13New Mexico United
Week 1: v. LV
Neco Brett’s addition to New Mexico United’s squad gives the club something it’s not had before – a consistent goalscorer. That’s going to be music to Chris Wehan and the rest of United squad’s ears as they look to become a consistent threat in the attacking third.
14Indy Eleven
Week 1: @ LDN
The Mark Lowry era begins at Indy Eleven on Saturday with a visit to Loudoun United FC. After missing the postseason for two consecutive years, getting out to a strong start this season would be a big boost for what looks like a solid squad.
15FC Tulsa
Week 1: @ CHS
FC Tulsa has added size and quality in both the defensive and attacking thirds, but the biggest question is which player is going to be the consistent goalscorer a top contender typically needs to have if Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side is going to be a serious contender?
16Rio Grande Valley FC
Week 1: v. OAK
The Toros look like they’ve got a solid foundation in defense and midfield, but aside from Frank Lopez the attack is looking a little light, and its unlikely they’ll be able to surprise anyone this season as they did at the start of 2021.​
17Oakland Roots SC
Week 1: @ RGV
Roots SC surprised a lot of people with its first-year success, and with new Head Coach Juan Guerra at the helm the side has added some interesting new pieces for the new season. Saturday’s opening game at RGVFC could be a sleeper pick in terms of intriguing matchups.
18Detroit City FC
Week 1: @ SA
From the outside, it sure seems like Detroit City FC likes a challenge. Getting to visit a San Antonio FC team that’s gone 14-3-7 at home over the past two regular seasons for your inaugural game in the league is certainly that.
19Memphis 901 FC
Week 1: v. PIT
Memphis saw two major pieces in defender Mark Segbers and Kyle Murphy depart this offseason, which leaves two big questions – who can fill Murphy’s goalscoring shoes, and who’s the new emergency goalkeeper?
20Charleston Battery
Week 1: v. TUL
The Battery got their new era under Head Coach Conor Casey to a rousing start with a preseason win against MLS expansion side Charlotte FC. As the club kicks off its 30th anniversary season, the expectations are raised at Patriots Point.
21Hartford Athletic
Week 1:BYE
Playmaker Danny Barrera is a difference-maker with 44 regular-season assists in his career. He’s going to need someone else to step up if Hartford’s going to vie for serious playoff contention.
22Monterey Bay F.C.
Week 1: @ PHX
The road to Cardinale Stadium’s opening begins at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix on Saturday night for Head Coach Frank Yallop’s squad. It’s going to take every ounce of focus to come away with an opening night result.
23Atlanta United 2
Week 1: @ LOU
Atlanta gets the unenviable task of going to Louisville for its first game of the season. A four-goal preseason outing against League One’s Greenville Triumph SC this past weekend delivered a positive to build on, though.
24LA Galaxy II
Week 1: @ SD
Los Dos has lost five times in seven all-time meetings with San Diego Loyal SC, and it gets to go to Torero Stadium to kick off the new season on Saturday. Not the easiest assignment.
25Las Vegas Lights FC
Week 1: @ NM
Las Vegas notched a 3-0 victory against defending title-holder Orange County SC this preseason. Then again, it beat Toronto FC 5-1 in preseason in 2019, so I’m going to need more convincing.
26New York Red Bulls II
Week 1: @ MIA
The Red Bulls II have some dynamic attacking pieces, but it’s got to be so much better defensively if it’s going to come out of its opening game at Miami with a result.
27Loudoun United FC
Week 1: v. IND
One of Loudoun United’s four victories last season was a 4-1 triumph against Indy Eleven, its visitors on Saturday. Lightning can’t strike twice, can it?
  • USL Tactics Season Preview: Profiles, power rankings, awards, and a title pick

Updated: 8 hours ago John Morrissey

Before I launch into a breakdown of every team in the league, I want to point you in the direction to a few resources that inform my approach to this process and can help contextualize the USL scene and offseason in general:

  • For desktop users and brave mobile visitors, my 2022 USL Hub has full team-by-team statistics, a full league transaction tracker, and predicted lineups for every single USL club.
  • The mobile crowd can visit my image-based 2022 Preview for a truncated version of those same team-by-team breakdowns and lineups.
  • Anyone who reads my content should familiarize themselves with my GAR Explainer, a data-laden screed on how I generate player-by-player value and performance estimates.
  • Of course, check out the USL Show for continuing coverage of the whole lower-tier ecosystem as well as my weekly USL Tactics Show.
  • For an actual smart take on the season ahead, please look into Nicholas Murray’s article on the league website. He’s so good at what he does, and I’ve linked to his Eastern Conference hub as a jumping-off point.

Now, let’s get into it on my end. Note that the “+/-” column references my last power ranking from a few weeks back.

Tier 1 – Title Contenders

Starting at the top of the table, I have the Tampa Bay Rowdies leading the pack. Forrest Lasso and Evan Louro are big losses from a league-best defense, but I believe in Timmy Mehl and C.J. Cochran as replacements at centerback and in goal. On top of that, I really think that Jake Areman and Jake LaCava give this team a marked boost in versatility and creativity at the wingback and attacking midfield slots. They free Leo Fernandes, spell the burden on Yann Ekra and Lewis Hilton, and just give this team a plethora of options. How? Areman’s utility as a left wingback lets Fernandes play higher, and Lacava’s brilliance as a high-gravity #10 (note 90th percentile forward passing and shot-taking) will let Hilton sit deeper to pull the strings and Ekra leverage his destroyer skillset. The 3-5-2 is still rock solid, Sebastian Guenzatti is still a monster (97th percentile xG, MVP by GAR), and this team is going to be scary.

Two western sides follow closely behind Tampa in the top tier, so let’s start with the new-look Sacramento Republic. In last year’s iteration, the Republic were stale and feckless, devoid of any movement in attack and sorely lacking a presence in zone fourteen. They rank so highly because I’m entirely sold on Mark Briggs’ overhaul in California’s capital. Additions like Matt LaGrassa (top-quarter xA and DAs in his last USL season), Zeiko Lewis (90th percentile plus xG or xA three years running), Rodrigo Lopez, and Nick Ross utterly remake a poor midfield, and there’ve been similar veteran additions at every position. Douglas Martinez has to come good to put Sacramento over the top, but I believe in him; think back to that 2019 Real Monarchs team he helped drag to a title. This team is too strong in every facet, and I haven’t even hit on the defensive talent characterized by old faces like Duke Lacroix and newbies like the enticing Irishman Lee Desmond or ex-Pittsburgh goalie Danny Vitiello. Expect big things here.

Meanwhile, Phoenix Rising has aptly replaced Solomon Asante with the deeply underrated Marcus Epps (98th percentile GAR), and you can easily imagine Arturo Rodriguez ascending to match the missing Jon Bakero’s impact; still, this team is a half-step worse than they were at this time in 2021. That said, the possessive, counterpressing Rising style, shifting from a 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 in block to an offensive front five, is carried by a midfield that largely returns, and you’d be crazy to put Santi Moar and Kevon Lambert outside of the title race. Ben Lundt (98th percentile GAR in 2020) is an underratedly giant add in goal as well; he’s brilliant on his line, which fits a team that needs stops against the counter rather than an aggressive sweeper.

Louisville City comes next here, solidly second in the Eastern Conference. A traditional reliance on bold fullback play and a high-line has finally seen this team lean more fully into a three-at-the-back, and the pickups of Enoch Mushagalusa (96th percentile GAR), Wilson Harris (11th in goals in 2020), Ray Serrano, and others symbolizes the youth movement with names like Hoppenot and Souahy out. For all the adjustments, however, familiar faces like Cameron Lancaster (99th percentile xG, league-leading minutes-adjusted conversion) and Sean Totsch are going to stir the drink and cement Louisville as a bonafide contender. You can see the intensity of the system tiring out Paolo DelPiccolo and Corben Bone’s ever-aging legs in the middle of the three-man central setup, but both are too heady to fall off the cliff quite yet. Expect more greatness here too.

Two more Eastern teams have a title shout for me, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds are first among them. All-time leading scorer Dane Kelly’s transition to the Steel City might be the biggest transaction of the offseason, and he’ll be fully activated alongside Alex Dixon and Russell Cicerone and with Kenardo Forbes feeding him (all three rated in the 97th percentile or better for GAR). Still, three defensive starters are out the door, and Todd Wharton’s retirement is a big deal. Bob Lilley will have this team roaring by the summer, but the ‘Hounds aren’t without questions. Nevertheless, Lilley’s ability to swap between back threes and fours, employ flat lines of six in the midfield, and get every drop of talent out of his side leave you feeling good.

The Birmingham Legion, whose loss of Neco Brett up top is massive, is in a similar neighborhood to the Riverhounds on quality. If Edi Horvat comes good, then this team is for real; every other component here is elite. For one, they were the USL’s second-best defense in 2021, and Phanuel Kavita is immensely underrated as a defensive anchor. The Legion are powered in transition by right back Jonathan Dean (91st percentile xA) and do-everything central midfielder Andersion Asiedu; the latter is slept on by my numbers but is as good a box-to-box destroyer and recycler as any player in the United States. They’ve been joined higher up the pitch by Marlon’s physicality via Tulsa and Enzo Martinez’s incision by way of Charlotte. Still, I just fear for the scoring here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we get an age-related Matt Van Oekel regression in goal. His Goals Saved Above Average jumped up more than a quartile from decent to elite last year, and he’s no spring chicken; either way, his team is legitimately a threat.

3/8/22  Champ League Tues/Wed CBS 3 pm, MLS Attendance Record set by Charlotte FC, US Soccer Elects Cindy Cone

US Soccer Votes in Cindy Cone

Great to see Cindy Parlow Cone was reelected to the Presidency of US Soccer over Carlos Cordeiro – the fact that it was a close vote is scary.  Anyone have an contacts for getting USA vs Mexico tickets in 3 weeks?  My buddy Oscar Gomez and I are flying out to stay in his parents place as we head to Azteca (bucket list) for the US all important Qualifier.  We have flights and a place to stay but are desperate for 2 to 4 tickets if anyone has a way to get them – please let me know.  (317-748-7174).

American Soccer Coach Jesse Marsch Almost Wins

Jesse Marsch brings solidity, organization to high-press (Leicester 1-0 Leeds ): This was much better from Leeds as they looked balanced in Marsch’s first game in charge. They had defensive solidity and were better organized and they were hardly opened up on the counter. They still pressed Leicester high but it was as a group instead of individually. The tweaks made by Marsch to the team Marcelo Bielsa built were instantly recognizable and the American coach will be pleased with pretty much everything he saw from his side. However, they have to be more clinical when they do get chances as they won’t get as many as they did under Bielsa. With 11 games to go, Leeds need points and they will need to find a way to score – but this was a solid start! 

MLS Week 2

The largest crowd to ever see an MLS game over 74,400 people sang the National Anthem on Saturday in their opening game at Panther Stadium.   The final attendance topped the old MLS high of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Atlanta United played the Portland Timbers for the MLS Cup in December 2018.  Charlotte played well but lost on a galazo goal by LA Galaxy’s Alverez.  Of course the story of the night might have been the exchange of jersey’s between LA’s Sacha Lljestan and former cancer patient now Charlotte FC’s Christ Hedgart.  In other news Portland’s Yimmi Chara added another incredible bicycle-kick goal

Games to Watch This Week

Of course Champions League Tues/Wed   and CCL kick off Tues/Wed this week with Liverpool hosting Inter Milan up 2-0 on CBS at 3 pm Tues, while Bayern Munich hosts Salzburg tied at 1 on Para +.  Wed has PSG taking its 1-0 lead to Real Madrid on CBS at 3 pm, while Man City will certainly play backups up 5-0 on Sporting on Para+.  Thurs/Fri gives us Europa League Play.  (full schedule below in the OBC)  (See the American’s play)

CFC Goalkeeping Wed/Thurs Training this week at Badger Field House

We look forward to seeing all our GKs at training this Wed/Thurs !!  Just Devestating hearing that Stanford Senior Goalkeeper Katie Meyer died by suicide last week.  Everyone hug your kids and remind them how much they are loved !   If you (or someone you know) need support, call the toll-free, 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text HOME to 741741 for free, which offers 24/7 support from the Crisis Text Line.

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Tues,  3/8 – Champ League   

3 pm CBS                              Liverpool 2 vs Inter Milan 0

3 pm Para+, Univision      Bayern Munich 1 vs Salzberg 1  

8 pm FS1                              NYCFC vs Comunicationes

10 pm FS1                            Seattle Sounders  vs Leon

 Wed,  3/9 – Champ League   

3 pm CBS                              Real Madrid 0 vs PSG 1

3 pm Para+, Univision      Sporting 0 vs Man City  6

8 pm TUDN                          New England vs Pumas CCL

10 pm TUDN                        Cruz Azul vs Montreal

Thurs,  3/10 – Europa + CCL

12:45 pm Para+, Univ      RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Sparkak Moskva

12:45 pm Para+, Univ      Sevilla (Musah?) vs West Ham United  

2:30 pm USA                       Norwich (Stewart) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm Para+, Univ              Barcelona (Dest) vs Galatasaray

3 pm Para+, Univ              Sevilla (Musah??) vs West Ham United  

3 pm Para+, Univ               Rangers vs Zvedzda

8 pm FS2                              Comunicationes FC vs Colorado Rapids CCL

10 pm FS2                            CD Montagua vs Seattle Sounders CCL

Sat,  3/12  

12:30 pm NBC                     Man United vs Tottenham  

3:30 pm Fox                  Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

Sun,  3/13  

12:30 pm NBC                     Arsenal vs Leicester City  

3:30 pm Fox Sport1       Atlanta United vs Charlotte  


Cindy Parlow Cone wins 4-year term as U.S. Soccer president, beats Cordeiro

U.S. Soccer Votes to Retain Cindy Parlow Cone as President

Pulisic Scores Goal has Assist on Sat vs Burnley
Weston McKennie injury update: Allegri says season over for USMNT star

Ethan Horvath could be our GK in Mexico – remember this summer

Pulisic, Palmer-Brown, Pefok standout in otherwise tough weekend for Americans abroad

Pefok Is the Answer at our #9 slot  – Yanks Abroad


The largest crowd to ever see an MLS game over 75,000 people sang the National Anthem on Saturday in their opening game at Panther Stadium.  

Charlotte Fans Sing National Anthem

Sacha Kljestan of LA Galaxy shares story of visiting Charlotte FC’s Chris Hegardt in hospital 12 years ago

Charlotte FC sets MLS crowd record of 74,479 in home debut (photos)


10 Things We Learned EPL Wk 28 – NBC
Player ratings: Manchester City vs Manchester United

Gulf in class clear to Rangnick as Man City humble Man Utd

Arsenal beat Watford to climb into Premier League top four

Coutinho ‘back to Liverpool form’ as Gerrard lauds Aston Villa

Champions League   

 Best bets: Champions League round of 16

UCL bold predictions: Mane delivers for Liverpool

Power Rankings after first legs

Mbappe a doubt for Real Madrid with foot injury
Champions League matchups as PSG heads to Madrid with edge

Mbappe set to face Real after training scare

Real Madrid get set for PSG by hammering Real Sociedad

Neuer returns in Bayern goal to face Salzburg in Champions League

Lewandowski’s Bayern contract doubts take focus off Champions 

Inzaghi not giving up on Champions League quarters despite huge task at Anfield

Bayern Munich hosts Salzburg

Goalkeeping Around the World

Top 10 Goalkeepers in the World

Week 27 Top Saves EPL  

MLS Top Saves Week 2

MLS Top Saves Week 1  

Best Saves NWSL Women’s League last Season

Ethan Horvath could be US GK in Mexico – remember this summer

Gigi Buffon Extends Contract 2 more years

Top 10 Gigi Buffon Saves


Around Europe: Real Madrid runs wild, Tammy Abraham leads Roma, Bayern slips
Mexicans call for answers after gruesome riot during Atlas vs. Querétaro soccer match

Dozens injured as fans clash at Mexico football match

Giroud sinks Napoli to fire Milan top

Barca and Atletico return to La Liga top four

Indy 11



Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

Charlotte FC sets MLS crowd record of 74,479 in home debut

Associated Press

Sun, March 6, 2022, 10:08 AM·4 min read

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Charlotte FC made a record-breaking home debut Saturday night, setting a Major League Soccer attendance mark of 74,479 in a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.Fans dressed in the team’s light, blue colors and wearing FC Charlotte scarves celebrated the team’s first game at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers since 1996.There were 69,522 there on Sept. 1, 1996, to watch Carolina’s first regular-season game – a 29-6 win over Atlanta. This long, anticipated MLS game shattered that mark.Things didn’t go as well on the field for Charlotte FC, who fell as Galaxy substitute midfielder Efrain Alvarez struck a hard shot from outside the box into the upper right corner in the 77th minute.[Charlotte FC (0-2-0) had a chance to tie in the final minute of stoppage time, but Daniel Rios’ header close to the goal off a cross from Alan Franco was stopped by LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Bond.The Galaxy have won both their games to start the season.Still, the loss didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm as they stood and cheered at the end, much the way they did at the start.“Welcome to the largest party Charlotte has known,” Charlotte FC and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper said to the crowd moments before kickoff.MLS Commissioner Dan Garber called it a historic night for the league. He said the crowd showed “there’s no limit to where our league can go.”LA Galaxy coach Greg Vanney had long thought North Carolina was hot bed for soccer and that showed in this contest.“It’s no surprise there was a fan base so ready and so eager to show support,” Vanney said. “Our job was to come here and be the spoilers of the whole thing so I’m happy for that.”Charlotte FC goalie Kristijan Kahlina said in recent years he had played games in front of 500 people in Bulgaria last year and as many as 14,000 in his native Croatia during his career. To see, “five times that, the support from our fans is unbelievable.”People lined up at the entrances about four hours before the match kicked off, eager to cheer for their hometown MLS club.Even the signature Panthers statues outside the stadium had Charlotte FC scarves draped around their necks for the occasion.“We’ve waited for this for a while,” said Lenny Romero, a Charlotte fan who wore a curly wig of Charlotte FC blue.People in Charlotte gear packed parking lots around the stadium that usually only get filled for Panthers’ football.Food carts and souvenir stands were everywhere with some fans even pulling out their Cornhole boards for football-style tailgates.The final attendance topped the old MLS high of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Atlanta United played the Portland Timbers for the MLS Cup in December 2018.Atlanta’s building also had the previous top attendance for a regular-season match, 72,548 when the United played the LA Galaxy in August 2019.Tepper’s bid for an MLS franchise was approved in 2019 with plans to play in 2021. However, that was delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.The first-year club played its first-ever match last week in Washington, falling to D.C. United 3-0.The team made improvements of about $50 million or so to enhance the stadium for soccer. A new tunnel was added at midfield, along with soccer locker rooms, training facilities and a player lounge.For several games, the stadium’s upper level will be closed to fans. Still, it would give Charlotte FC a capacity of about 38,000.Tepper was on the field about an hour before the start, waving and pumping his fist to cheering, grateful fans.Charlotte FC defender Jaylin Lindsey grew up and played youth soccer in the city. He was excited to play as a professional in his hometown. “It’s going to be like a homecoming,” Lindsey said this week.Fan Marshall Holin had followed the team’s development since it was announced three years ago and made the six-hour drive from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to downtown Charlotte.“There’s a huge love of soccer in this region and just a culmination of all of that and a recognition it’s something fun and great,” he said.Officials told WBTV about 20 rows of a section of the upper deck were cleared after halftime as a precaution when a cellular antenna slipped from its mount. No one was hurt and the spectators were relocated.

USMNT midweek viewing guide: Stepping up a level

Champions League is back, plus Pulisic-

Several USMNT players will be looking to raise their level this week, starting with Jesse Marsch and Leeds United. Brenden Aaronson goes for the upset against Bayern Munich, Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent face off, Sergiño Dest and Barça look to continue their fine form, and Zack Steffen looks for a Champions League start, as Concacaf Champions League continues in the evenings. Let’s get into it!


  • Bayern Munich v RB Salzburg, 3p on Galavision, Paramount+, fuboTV (free trial), Sling TV, TUDN.com: Brenden Aaronson will look to repeat his strong performance from the first leg, as he and heavy underdogs Salzburg are tied 1-1 with Bayern in Champions League. Malik Tillman could feature for the Bavarian club.
  • NYCFC v Comunicaciones, 8p on FS1, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV, FoxSports.com, TUDN.com: Keaton Parks, Sean Johnson, Tayvon Gray, and Alfredo Morales go on the road to Guatemala City as their CCL campaign continues.
  • Seattle Sounders v León, 10p on FS1, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV, FoxSports.com, TUDN.com: Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Stefan Frei, Obed Vargas, and Reed Baker-Whiting travel to Guastatoya for their CCL matchup (also in Guatemala).

Also in action:

  • Sheffield United v Middlesbrough, 2:45p: Folarin Balogun and Boro are trying to hold onto 6th place and a playoff spot, having won 2 of 3, and holding a 1-pt margin over two clubs just below them.
  • Swansea v Fulham, 2:45p: Antonee “Jedi” Robinson and Tim Ream are 11 pts clear of second with Fulham in the Championship table.


  • Manchester City v Sporting CP, 3p on Galavision, Paramount+, fuboTV, Sling TV, TUDN.com: There’s a chance Zack Steffen could see a rare knockout game in Champions League, as City return home from the away leg holding a 5-0 lead.
  • New England Revolution v Pumas UNAM, 8p on FS2, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV, FoxSports.com, TUDN.com: Matt Turner, Sebastian Lletget, DeJuan Jones, Saucedo, Ruvalcaba (CCL quarterfinal, Mexico City)
  • Cruz Azul v CF Montréal, 10p on FS2, TUDN, fuboTV, Sling TV, FoxSports.com, TUDN.com: Mihailovic (CCL quarterfinal, Torreón)

Also in action:

  • Real Betis v Eintracht Frankfurt, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt face their La Liga opponent in Europa League round of 16.
  • Internacional v Grêmio, 7p on Premiere, Sling TV: Johnny Cardoso will look to make his 5th appearance for Internacional in the new season.


  • Norwich City v Chelsea, 2:30p: Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent face off in the Premier League. Pulisic and Chelsea are looking to lock in top-4 position; Sargent and the Canaries desperately need points to avoid relegation.
  • Leeds United v Aston Villa, 2:45p: Jesse Marsch faces his second Premier League test, after a brutal 0-1 loss to Leicester.
  • FC Barcelona v Galatasaray, 3p on TUDN, UniMás, Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Sergiño Dest and Barça have won 4 straight, and both will be full of confidence as they face their Turkish opponent in Europa League, at home at the Camp Nou.

Also in action:

  • Partizan v Feyenoord, 12:45p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Cole Bassett looks to continue to break through at Feyenoord in this Conference League match.
  • Rangers v Crvena zvezda, 3p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: James Sands and Rangers welcome Red Star Belgrade to the Ibrox in their Europa League tie.
  • Marseille v Basel, 3p on Paramount+, fuboTV, TUDN.com: Konrad de la Fuente and Marseille face Basel in Europa Conference League.

That’s it! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s see who impresses this week!

UEFA Champions League Power Rankings: Manchester United struggle at Atletico Madrid; Chelsea leapfrog Bayern

Manchester City, meanwhile, hold down the No. 1 spot after the round of 16 first legs

By James Benge  Feb 23, 2022 at 6:56 pm ET8 min read

The first legs of the Champions League round of 16 ties are done and dusted and with it we are getting a clearer picture of who is likely to still be around at the business end of the competition. Big names including Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have work to do to reach the quarterfinals; if they are successful in doing so they will likely find themselves in the hat with at least three English teams after impressive wins for Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea put them within touching distance of the last eight.

Here are the most likely winners of the Champions League with glory on the horizon.

Craving even more coverage of the world’s game? Listen below and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

The top tier: Title or bust

These teams should be disappointed with anything less than a semifinal berth and frankly even that might not be enough, such is their talent profile.

about:blank 1. Manchester City (–)

Without living up to their own lofty standards City ripped through Sporting, all but guaranteeing themselves a spot in the last eight with a 5-0 win. The loss to Tottenham that followed in the Premier League might offer opponents something of a blueprint — drawing the press before hitting fast balls into the space behind the high line — but it will take a special performance indeed to both execute that plan and stop this devastating attack from scoring a hatful of goals.

2. Liverpool (+1)

Their attack will probably capture the headlines but what carried them to a 2-0 win over Inter Milan was a defense that could translate a lot of pressure around their penalty area into no shots that Alisson had to deal with. Couple that with a new found depth that can allow Klopp to swing games in his direction and you have perhaps the only team that might have a persuasive case to make for starting a tie against City on an even footing.

Serious contenders: If things go right, why not us?

It certainly is not beyond the realm of imagination that any of these teams could be lifting the European Cup in May, though it may require a few fortunate breaks for the tournament to go their way.

3. Chelsea (+4)

Things are far from perfect at Stamford Bridge, where Romelu Lukaku is at risk of becoming a $135 million outcast and the attack still looks a little clunky without the first-choice wing backs. And yet against Lille they looked like a team rediscovering their old blueprint of defensive solidity as they held Jonathan David and company at arms’ length in a comfortable 2-0 win.

4. Bayern Munich (-2)

The talent is undeniably there and the core of this squad has coalesced into a winning team late in this season. And yet there seems to be something a little insubstantial about Julian Nagelsmann’s side, not least a tactical approach that can on occasions seem a bit too clever by half, as in playing with almost no defense against Red Bull Salzburg. They will surely get through that tie but their tendency to overcomplicate may cost them in rounds to come.

5. Paris Saint-Germain (+1)

PSG could yet leap up these rankings if they hold on to their advantage from the first leg against Real Madrid, a curious match in which they found themselves more dominant both than they would have expected and than they would have wanted. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are devastating in transition, but not until Neymar’s introduction did they really look like they might break down the packed ranks of defense in front of them. If they get to future rounds might this be used against them?

6. Ajax (-2)

The winning streak is gone though there were signs of plenty of the good stuff in a 2-2 draw against Benfica where they once more put up gaudy advanced metrics, not least those 2.11 expected goals (xG) off just 11 shots. There was a sloppiness to their performance in Lisbon that perhaps reflects the fact that they have rarely been tested this season; if they get through in Amsterdam seeing their errors punished as they were on Wednesday may do Erik ten Hag’s side the world of good in the long run.

Possible quarterfinalists

Winning a round is perhaps the best-case scenario for these teams unless something dramatic changes.

7. Juventus (+2)

They might have made it easier for themselves after Dusan Vlahovic’s early goal but if you had offered Massimiliano Allegri and his depleted squad a 1-1 draw before the game they would surely have taken it. By the time they face Villarreal again next month their defensive numbers should have swelled whilst Paulo Dybala could be back in the side; that team ought to have enough to win at home and might even be able to get through another round.

 ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

8. Atletico Madrid (+4)

9. Manchester United (+1)

We’re doing these two together because I can’t see how anyone can really understand what on earth that game means for the standings of these teams against the rest of Europe. After all for the best part of 80 minutes Manchester United looked like a group of tourists who had taken a few too many wrong turns on the way to the Prado. One brilliant goal from Anthony Elanga, possibly the only cool head in the traveling party, does not undo that.

Equally Atletico had United at their mercy. They could have killed this tie, particularly in a second half when Ralf Rangnick refused to change a side that could get nothing right. Diego Simeone’s side used to be defined by its killer instinct but throughout this tournament Atleti have let good moments slip them by and handed opportunities to teams they have the quality to beat. Whoever gets out of this tie it is hard to see them going all that far.

10. Real Madrid (-4)

Carlo Ancelotti has rarely named such a baffling side in a European game. The three-time winner of this competition sent out a team that seemed paralyzed by fear at the Parc des Princes, one that just hoped to stem the tide and return to Madrid with the tie still alive. To their credit that is broadly what they did, a 1-0 deficit is not irretrievable, but the manner in which they went about their business had tongues wagging in the Spanish capital. 

Equally Los Merengues are hardly the most devastating force in the tournament — they rank 11th since the start of the group stage for expected goals per game despite a fairly favorable schedule — and will have to leave the gaps in behind that PSG will be craving. Ancelotti might have miscalculated here.

11. Villarreal (–)

A battling result against Juventus that looked harder to achieve after Vlahovic’s early goal, one which came with a blaring neon sign pointing in Raul Albiol’s direction, reading “run in behind this guy.” Unai Emery is of course willing to play with a low defensive line and it is easy to imagine Villarreal doing to Juventus what they just tried to do to them, nicking an early goal on the road and clinging on for dear life. Europa League history shows they can do so.

12. Benfica (+1)

In twice coming from behind Benfica showcased their battling qualities in an impressive performance against Ajax, one where they looked the more likely winners as the match wore on. “We had the better chances in the second half,” said Jan Vertonghen. “In the end, the game could have gone either way. Ajax were very good in possession and we were very good at playing into the space that was created as a result. All in all, this is an acceptable result to take to Amsterdam.”

13. Red Bull Salzburg (+3)

Matthias Jaissle’s side are still strong underdogs before their trip to Germany, understandably so. Better shooting from Bayern Munich’s frontline must almost be a given for the second leg whilst another high quality performance by Philipp Kohn in the Salzburg goal can’t be taken for granted. However this tie is certainly not done yet; as the Bavarians pushed for an equalizer last week they left gaps that Salzburg very nearly exploited. If they can hold tight at the back for long enough those fissures might appear again.

At the end of the road

Barring an unlikely set of results in the second legs, we’re about to wave goodbye to these teams.

14. Inter Milan (-6)

Inter are certainly not the 14th best team of the 16 left in the Champions League but the 14th most likely to win the competition sounds about right after a bruising 2-0 loss to Liverpool. Had Virgil van Dijk not been so exemplary then the Ivan Perisic-Edin Dzeko tandem might have paid off or Lautaro Martinez could have got away in behind. If there is hope for Simeone Inzaghi it is the knowledge that his side can get into dangerous positions against the Reds, the question is whether they can improve sufficiently in attack without leaving gaps for Mohamed Salah and company to exploit.

15. Lille (-1)

Though several players, most notably Renato Sanches, returned from Stamford Bridge with their reputation enhanced, Lille never really got close to Chelsea in a 2-0 defeat that leaves them highly unlikely to advance to the last eight. If they are to have any hope of scoring the two or more goals they need to qualify they will have to become more discerning in their shot selection, not one of their 15 shots on goal was worth 0.1 xG or more.

16. Sporting (-1)

Last time out we suggested that things could not possibly get worse for Sporting compared to the 12-1 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich they suffered on the only previous occasion they reached this stage of the competition… Well… Ermm… Let’s not take that for granted just yet.

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 28

By Nicholas MendolaMar 6, 2022, 4:21 PM EST

What did we learn during Matchweek 28 of the 2021-22 Premier League season? Plenty, even with one more match to go (Spurs vs Everton).Here’s a look at 10 things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW) and Andy Edwards (AE) are rejoined by Nicholas Mendola (NM) to share their observations from the most recent Premier League games.[ VIDEO: PL highlights ]

Let’s get to it.

1. Man City’s message sent (Man City 4-1 Man United): While many have been salivating at the idea of Man City allowing Liverpool back into the Premier League title race by — checks notes: dropping four points  in 2022 — City just keeps operating their clinic. Yes, Liverpool has a match-In-hand and plays City, but do you suspect that Liverpool will go unbeaten and City will lose twice? There’s a race, yes, but the Reds still have an incredible amount of work to do against a team that’s lost the xG battle in a game… twice in 28 matches this season. (NM)

2. Lacazette’s playmaking, hold up play making the difference (Watford 2-3 Arsenal): The French striker hasn’t been Mikel Arteta’s cup of tea from time-to-time but he’s showing that he’s up to the task of hassling back lines, finding the open man, and being a pest in so many different ways. Lacazette may not be a title-contending striker, but it would also be interesting to see how he’d do with, I don’t know, Man City? (NM)

3a. Liverpool’s defending not title worthy:(Liverpool 1-0 West Ham)The Reds have gotten to their place in this season’s Premier League title race largely by manufacturing loads of chances and finishing a whole lot of them, but both the midfield and back line were not near title caliber in defense as Fornals, Lanzini, and Michail Antonio has enviable chances to give not just one but three points to the visitors from London. Yes, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and others contributing big defensive plays — Naby Keita, too — but it’s necessary to note they also opened the door to other chances by switching off or making silly mistakes (NM).

3b. Liverpool’s defenders plenty good going forward: (Liverpool 1-0 West Ham): Trent Alexander-Arnold is a maestro with the ball at his feet and he had five key passes on the day including the set-up of Mane. Robertson had three key passes during his 90 minutes and Konate completed 5-of-8 long passes while Virgil van Dijk pushed a shot toward the West Ham goal. So even if the Reds were punished for a mistake, their defenders provided plenty of chances to have that mistake be in a 4-1 win rather than a 2-1 loss (NM).

5. Refreshed Kai Havertz shines with Pulisic (Burnley 0-4 Chelsea): Unused in three matches after scoring against Lille in the UCL, Havertz delivered a pair of goals at Turf Moor and showed that his growing chemistry with the American playmaker. There was a certain connection between Pulisic and former Chelsea big man Olivier Giroud, and the fits and starts of Havertz’s early days — with huge European highs and some serious lows — can find consistency, the Blues are going to find a new gear (NM).

6. Jesse Marsch brings solidity, organization to high-press (Leicester 1-0 Leeds ): This was much better from Leeds as they looked balanced in Marsch’s first game in charge. They had defensive solidity and were better organized and they were hardly opened up on the counter. They still pressed Leicester high but it was as a group instead of individually. The tweaks made by Marsch to the team Marcelo Bielsa built were instantly recognizable and the American coach will be pleased with pretty much everything he saw from his side. However, they have to be more clinical when they do get chances as they won’t get as many as they did under Bielsa. With 11 games to go, Leeds need points and not positive performances (JPW).

7. Fraser, Joelinton reclamation projects complete (Newcastle 2-1 Brighton): It’s actually bonkers to consider that Joelinton isn’t just functioning as a center midfielder but looking like he’s played there his entire life. Eddie Howe’s decision to play him there is a stroke of genius and the crazy price tag that made him look like a bust at center forward now looks like an appropriate fee for a havoc-wreaking midfielder who is outright dominating the middle of the park. Ryan Fraser has been much, much better after a near three-season drought following an outburst at Bournemouth that had him targeted by Arsenal and others. Howe rode through some poor performances early in their shared tenure up north but his patience is being rewarded (NM).

8. Coutinho destroys Saints’ press (Aston Villa 4-0 Southampton): Villa used a midfield diamond to thwart Saints’ high-press and it worked a treat. Luiz, McGinn and Ramsey did plenty of running and pressing to shut Saints down, while Coutinho floated in the gaps and caused havoc when he got on the ball. He’s only on loan from Barcelona but this was an example of the old Coutinho at work and he used to love picking Southampton apart during his time at Liverpool. It seems very likely that Villa will try to buy Coutinho permanently this summer and he looks at home as Gerrard has found the perfect role for him (JPW).

(Norwich 1-3 Brentford): The beekeeper can relax for a moment, though Thomas Frank will be forced to quickly put this slump-ender in his rearview mirror. Brentford was good money for the win despite a distinct lack of possession, but Toney was near his best and Kristoffer Ajer a difference-maker at both ends (NM).

10. Wolves in a rut (Wolves 0-2 Crystal Palace): At some point Wolves’ defensive solidity was going to break down and it has in dramatic fashion in the last week. Three-straight defeats to Arsenal, West Ham, and Palace have seen Wolves go from top four contenders to Europa League hopefuls. Their amazing form to get them in a great position to qualify for Europe was built on a solid defensive unit but they started this game slowly and their confidence seemed to be hit by losing late on at Arsenal last week (JPW).

Gianluigi Buffon signals intent to play on until he is 46 with new Parma deal

  • Goalkeeper signs extension with Serie B side until 2024
  • Buffon: ‘It is a beautiful and exciting challenge for me’
Buffon with defenders Enrico Delprato and Alessandro Circati – both of whom were not born when the keeper made his Parma debut in 1995. Photograph: Luca Amedeo Mon 28 Feb 2022 07.01 EST

Gianluigi Buffon has extended his contract with Parma until 2024, meaning the veteran goalkeeper will be 46 when the deal expires.Buffon rejoined Parma last summer and announced the extension during a press conference with the club president, Kyle Krause. “For me and my family, this is a wonderful day. I hope that the city and all fans will be happy,” Buffon said.The World Cup-winning Italian began his career with Parma, making his debut in November 1995 before joining Juventus in 2001. Buffon spent 19 years across two spells with Juventus, and one season with Paris Saint-Germain in 2018-19.uffon, who has won 10 Serie A titles and is the league’s record appearance maker with 657 games, pledged to “give his best, again and again” for Parma, who were relegated to Serie B last season. “My return was linked to the relationships and the deep bond I have always had with this city,” Buffon added.“If I hadn’t believed in what the president has in mind and in what we are doing, I would not have accepted this proposal,” added Buffon, who is also the club captain. “I am optimistic for the future of this club. It is a beautiful and exciting challenge for me.”Krause added: “[Gigi] is a great player and for us he is a great pride. In addition to his leadership skills, he is also a person with excellent human skills. We can see the passion he has for Parma every day, we are really happy for his commitment.”Buffon had started every Serie B game this season for mid-table Parma before a muscle injury saw him miss three matches in February. He returned to the side for Saturday’s 4-0 home win over Spal.


By Indy Eleven Communications, 03/04/22, 5:30PM EST   Forward Aris Briggs Registers Second Half Goal and Assist in Comeback Win

INDIANAPOLIS – In its penultimate match of the 2022 preseason, Indy Eleven pushed its spring exhibition record to 4W-1L-2D by defeating Chicago Fire FC via a 2-1 result. Indiana’s Team did its damage on the scoreboard in the second half, with goals by forward Aris Briggs and a guest forward helping the Eleven overcome an early first half goal by the visitors.Today’s 90-minute match took place behind closed doors at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium, which in 2022 will serve as the team’s home venue for a sixth season in what will be the Eleven’s ninth year of play. Indy Eleven’s final preseason contest will take place on Saturday afternoon at Columbus Crew 2, which will put a bow on preparations for the squad’s 2022 USL Championship regular season opener at Loudoun United FC next Saturday, March 12 (6:00 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+).After a quiet first ten minutes of play, the first true scoring chance for either side came in the 12th minute off a corner kick for Chicago. However, Eleven midfielder Neveal Hackshaw made a pivotal challenge to knock the short-range chance up and over goal, keeping the match scoreless. That changed just a minute later, when a Fire attacker beat a defender and converted on an uncontested shot from just inside the top of the area to take a 1-0 lead for the visitors.

The attack for Chicago continued to carry the better chances through about the first half hour, but goalkeeper Tim Trilk made three huge first half stops – including two on 1-v-1 chances – to keep the game within a goal’s grasp for the Eleven. The Boys in Blue gradually brought their own danger into the scoring area, including a display of great pace from the squad’s starting guest forward to create a chance in the 25th minute and a shot of his own that was blocked in the 32nd minute. Another chance fell to the foot of midfielder Justin Ingram for Indy in the 37th minute, but ultimately the score remained 1-0 in favor of Chicago heading into the break.Indy began a much more active second half offensively with an odd-man attack in the 48th minute spearheaded by midfielder Raul Aguilera’s pass towards the right endline for Hackshaw, whose near-angle shot landed in the outside netting. Shortly after in the 51st minute, Indy broke its scoring seal, as recently signed Academy player Palmer Ault deftly chested down a ball at the top of the area into the path of Aris Briggs, who took a touch before finishing from 15 yards to even the score. Indy quickly generated another chance on midfielder Bryam Rebellon’s saved shot, with Ault’s rebound follow up also snagged by Chicago’s ‘keeper.With the tide turned in Indy’s favor, Briggs continued the scoring chances for the home side with a saved header and highlight reel bicycle kick that went inches wide in the 59th and 60th minutes, respectively. While Ault’s brief appearance in the match as a halftime substitute ended in the 72nd minute, he nearly left one more good impression with his final action of the day, only to see his shot from eight yards out saved.Head Coach Mark Lowry inserted another guest forward in Ault’s place, and the move paid off with a game-winner in the 84th minute. After collecting Briggs’ flick-on from midfield, the striker carried for 20 yards up the middle of the field before sailing his 12-yard shot into goal for the 2-1 scoreline, which Indy Eleven carried through the rest of regulation and two minutes of added time despite a barrage of Fire crosses into the area.

2022 Spring Preseason Exhibition  Indy Eleven  2 : 1  Chicago Fire FC   Friday, March 4, 2021  IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.

 Scoring Summary:

CHI – Goal 13’

IND – Aris Briggs (Palmer Ault) 51’

IND – Guest FW #2 (Aris Briggs) 84’

Disciplinary Summary:

IND – Neveal Hackshaw (yellow card) 22’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Tim Trilk; Jared Timmer, Mechack Jerome, Guest DF #1 (Palmer Ault 45’) (Guest FW #2, 72’), Alex McQueen; Raul Aguilera, Neveal Hackshaw, Justin Ingram, Bryam Rebellon; Aris Briggs, Guest FW #1 (Sam Brown 72’)

Indy Eleven 2022 Preseason Exhibition Schedule

Wednesday, Feb. 9            Indy Eleven  7 : 0  Marian University

Saturday, Feb. 12                Indy Eleven  4 : 2  University of Indianapolis

Wednesday, Feb. 16         Indy Eleven  1 : 1  Detroit City FC

Saturday, Feb. 19                Indy Eleven  3 : 0  Sporting Kansas City II

Tuesday, Feb. 22                 Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC  2 : 0  Indy Eleven

Friday, Feb. 25                     Indy Eleven  1 : 1  St. Louis City SC

Friday, March 4                   Indy Eleven  2 : 1  Chicago Fire FC

Saturday, March 5              at Columbus Crew – CLOSED DOOR

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Americans abroad analysis

Pulisic, Palmer-Brown, Pefok standout in otherwise tough weekend for Americans abroad

Christian Pulisic’s standout performance clouded what was otherwsie a poor weekend for Americasn abroad. There were only a few bright spots as many Americans, including top players, offered very little. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down in great detail. 


THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad was dull and lackluster, for the most part. A big day for Christian Pulisic is sure to generate a lot of headlines, but beyond his out there really wasn’t much. Most of the top American players abroad either didn’t play due to injuries or only saw the field in limited minutes.After Pulisic, injuries prevented Weston McKennie, Chris Richards, and Gio Reyna from taking the field. Sergino Dest only played the final few minutes for Barcelona in its 2-1 win over Elche. Tim Weah was an unused sub for Lille in its 4-0 win over Clermont Foot. Brenden Aaronson played only the final 30 minutes for Salzburg in its 4-0 win over Altach – although this was surely due to the upcoming midweek Champions League visit to Bayern Munich. Tyler Adams did not get off the bench for Leipzig in a 1-1 draw with Freiburg.When you dug a little deeper into the player pool, news was particularly disappointing – particularly among players who have moved to new clubs within the past year.Gianluca Busio picked up a late injury and missed out on Venezia’s 4-1 loss to Sassuolo while Tanner Tessmann played just the final 15 minutes as their club is now three points deep in the relegation zone. Konrad de la Fuente was an unused sub for Marseille on Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Monaco. The Miami native was hit with a critical media piece from France last week that questioned his work ethic an commitment. Ricardo Pepi meanwhile went as an unused substitute in a 1-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld. Nicholas Gioacchini played only the final eight minutes for Montpellier in a 2-0 loss to Nantes.  In Spain, Matthew Hoppe and Matt Miazga were both unused substitutes for Mallorca and Deportivo Alaves, respectively. In Belgium the same could be said for Sam Vines and Mark McKenzie, neither of whom got off the bench (Royal Antwerp and Genk, respectively). Also in Belgium, an injury kept Kyle Duncan off Oostende’s squad that lost 3-0 to Anderlecht. In Portugal, Alex Mendez went as an unused sub for Vizela in a 3-1 loss to Santa Clara in the Azores.In addition to Pepi, the news wasn’t great for many of the players who were exported from MLS in January. Kevin Paredes wasn’t in the squad for Wolfsburg. Justin Che was an unused sub for Hoffenheim and Cole Bassett also went unused for Feyenoord.


 All this mentioned above doesn’t mean things are bad in the world of Americans abroad. It still is a numbers game and with more players based in the first team abroad, its means there are going to be more negative stories.This weekend was particularly brutal because aside from Pulisic, the top players all failed to produce. It’s not all bad. Injuries limited McKenzie, Reyna, and Richards and that simply happens. It would be more of a concern if they weren’t rated by their respective managers. Likewise, the fact that Salzburg was resting Aaronson ahead of a Champions League game is a good thing. That club is running away with the Austrian Bundesliga title and its priority right now is Bayern Munich.Players like Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann, things have gone relatively well because a relegation battle was always expected. Both players typically play when healthy.

But the concern over young players who have moved to new clubs within the past year is legitimate. Players like Cole Bassett, Kevin Paredes, and Justin Che were expected to need time to adjust. In fact, any playing time those three got the remainder of this season was a bonus. The preseason this summer was always a key period for them.For players like Matthew Hoppe, Mark McKenzie, Matt Miazga, and Konrad de la Fuente, the season just hasn’t worked out. Both were on the edge of the U.S. national team and have probably fallen off that radar for now. Whether they need moves or loans this summer will be decided in the coming months.Pepi is the biggest story, and he just needed an adjustment period, and never really got one. The huge price tag he fetched only increased expectations to a level where they shouldn’t be.As for the national team, it is particularly concerning. At this point, Gregg Berhalter would love to have more of his players coming into this defining window with personal momentum and confidence, but that doesn’t look like it will be the case.All of this doesn’t mean there wasn’t some good things or important things to talk about. There was. Maybe not as much as American fans would like, but there was.


 For Christian Pulisic, there is nothing but good news these days. The Hershey native has been starting regularly for Chelsea since the last window and Chelsea has been winning. Saturday’s 4-0 win over Burnley was its third Premier League win in a row. The team is also in control of its Champions League matchup against Lille after a 2-0 first-leg win.Pulisic was just great against Burnely where he nabbed an assist and a goal in the win. The assist was beautiful while the goal was a bit fortunate.No matter what, this is great to see as Pulisic is finally reminding some fans and journalists why he commanded such a fee by Chelsea. Some didn’t needed to be reminded but others did.For Pulisic, he just needs to stay in rhythm, and he can play at the highest levels. Injuries, unfortunately, have too frequently disrupted his progress but right now he is playing great because of all these minutes. His performances against Burnley was just evidence in how he is at a highwater mark this season. 


 One of the best American players this weekend was Erik Palmer-Brown. The central defender from Kansas City was tremendous for Troyes in a 2-0 away win over last-place Bordeaux. In the game, he played in the middle of a three-man backline that preserved a clean sheet on the road in Ligue 1.This week moved Troyes out of the relegation zone and a point clear of automatic safety. Troyes’ defense has stabilized a bit since the two-game run where they conceded nine goals in two games. Over their past two, they have conceded just once.Palmer-Brown had recently been on the right side of the three-man line but in this game, he was in the middle, and he looked much better.In this game, Troyes was on its backfoot throughout the entire 90 minutes. Palmer-Brown was tasked entirely with defending. He rarely was able to help his team in possession (Troyes had just 38% possession the entire game). Palmer-Brown had just 30 touches and 15 pass attempts over 90 minutes.Defensively, Pamer-Brown was a rock. He had seven clearances, three interceptions, six recoveries, was 3/3 in ground duels won, 4/6 in aerials won, and committed zero fouls.Palmer-Brown is now out of the Man City loan army and is signed to Troyes (which is also owned by City Football Group). But I could easily see him moving on this summer to a more stable club not involved in the relegation zone and to a team whose ownership isn’t focused on another club.American central defenders in Europe aren’t in great shape heading into the March window. Ream is older, Richards is injured, and McKenzie and Sands have seen their playing time fade. Berhalter hasn’t been interested in calling up Brooks in recent windows. Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers have been out of the picture but both seem like the next guys in. Between those two, Palmer-Brown seems like he would fit Berhalter’s style more.But regardless of this cycle, Palmer-Brown is probably in great shape heading into the next World Cup cycle. His game is rising at a time when players like Ream, Zimmerman, Long, and Brooks will likely be aging out. Palmer-Brown, meanwhile, will still be in his 20’s by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around. 


Jordan Pefok scored his 16th goal of the Swiss Super League season when his eighth minute header put BSC Young Boys ahead 1-0 on a poor Luzern team that sits second from the bottom.Unfortunately for Young Boys and its manager, former U.S. national team forward David Wagner, Luzern rallied from 2-0 deficit for a 2-2 draw. Young Boys has conceded late equalizers and late winning goal all season and this will be the reason why its four season reign as Swiss Champions come to an end. They are now trailing leaders Zurich by 15 points.Pefok is having a great season and he is absolutely a nightmare in the box.There are very good reasons to think that Pefok will be called up this window and American fans typically list Pefok among the recently omitted players they would like to have called up. Pefok is succeeding while other American fans are struggling to score.There are reasons why Pefok’s style might not translate over to the U.S. team – at least from a starting XI role. He doesn’t hold the ball up well, he doesn’t beat defenders with the dribble, and he doesn’t combine well with his teammates. But he does finish well close to goal. The question is whether or not the U.S. team will be able to get him the ball in the box enough?But when the U.S. team is chasing the game needing a goal while taking risks to get the ball forward, Pefok as a sub option seems pretty ideal at the moment.


It’s been among the most repetitive themes in this weekly column. Tim Ream and Jedi Robinson play well and Fulham win.On Saturday, Fulham coasted by Blackburn with a 2-0 win. The Cottagers are looking like the safest of bets to return to the Premier League next season as they sit atop the Championship and have a double-digit lead on promotion. This game was pretty refreshing because it didn’t even take an Aleksander Mitrovic goal to walk away with all three points.Robinson and Ream were rocks on the left side of the defense. Robinson had five interceptions and five recoveries over 90 minutes. Ream was 62/69 in passing with four clearances and three interceptions. It remains to be seen what happens to Ream this offseason and if he will remain with Fulham, but his legacy as a first-rate Championship defender who is a key piece for promotion is assured.Robinson meanwhile looks ready for a second crack at the Premier League.


 Unfortunately for George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld, they dropped a 1-0 decision to Augsburg in a game that will only tighten the relegation battle in the Bundesliga.Despite the loss, Bello played very well off the bench in his 15 minutes of action. This was by far the best he has looked in the Bundesliga since his January transfer. He was dangerous with his dribbles, smooth on the ball, and his crosses from the run of play were well driven. The only blemish is that he took multiple corner kicks at the end of the game, and they weren’t well-taken.But Bello did nothing but help himself in this game as he seeks more minutes and his first start – which should come if he continues to train well and play like this.Now that he is settled, a return to the U.S. national team could be in the cards as Berhalter will likely want a backup for Jedi Robinson at left back. Last window Sergino Dest was the starting right back and the backup left back. Berhalter will probably want a natural left-footed left back to backup Robinson and Bello looks like the best bet right now.


 Yunus Musah earned the start for Valencia on Saturday in a 3-1 home win over Granada. In this game, he was more centrally based and got a chance to have touches all over the attacking half. He played 73 minutes and picked up a highly questionable yellow card.Musah’s season has been all over the map. He’s been in and out of the lineup, his best performances in the Copa del Rey have been against lower-tier opponents and should be taken with a grain of salt. He’s also had a few games where he’s played quite well, even when based centrally.
This game was somewhere in between. He played fairly well against a Granada team that is battling relegation. He only had 33 touches over his 76 minutes. He was dispossessed three times but nearly had an assist on one occasion. He wasn’t terribly involved but still had moments where he tried to make things happen.The quality is there but it’s tough for Musah to really show well without a consistent run of starts. On the other hand, he has to earn them.


 Reggie Cannon made a position switch a few months ago for Boavista and it has really helped him. As opposed to his right back or right wingback positions, Cannon is playing on the right side of a three-man backline. It’s more of a central defense position but he still needs to use his mobility to chase attackers. This position gives him far fewer attacking responsibilities, but it does take advantage of his athleticism in a defensive role. It remains to be seen if Cannon likes this position or if he will want to stay in this role as he potentially moves clubs this summer. But he is doing well, and it could attract the interest among the growing number of clubs that now use a three-man backline. At least Cannon is embracing a role which is increasing in demand.

On Saturday, Boavista played a strong Braga team to a 1-1 draw. Cannon was an ideal fit both with his physicality and in his athleticism for the team’s defense. He won all of his duels and aerials. He also drew three fouls.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget- Will this translate into Cannon’s future? It remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen if this helps him with the national team because Berhalter still only occasionally plays with three in the back. But it does seem like it is an excellent use of Cannon’s skillset.


 John Brooks will probably soon fade out of Wolfsburg’s lineup. The club has already announced that he will not return next season (he is in the final year of his contract). Saturday’s 1-0 win over Union Berlin now has it eight points clear of the relegation playoff position. Once the club feels completely safe, it seems likely Brooks will shift to the bench as Wolfsburg will prepare for next season which won’t include their American defender.

Brooks has been playing better as of late for Wolfsburg and in this game, he was strong over 90 minutes. He had 63 touches, was 46/55 in passing (including 7/13 with his long-ball distribution), and he had five clearances in the clean sheet win. Brooks had a lot to do as Union outshot Wolfsburg 19-8 and had 13 shots from inside the box.

Wolfsburg’s midfield struggled to dictate the flow of the game and this put a lot of pressure on their defense – which did a nice job to limit the most dangerous of chances. Wolfsburg still had the better of genuine scoring opportunities and hit the frame once.Brooks has made himself into one of the most interesting players in the coming weeks and months. Where will his next club be? Will a team in MLS step up with a big DP offer? Will he return to the national team?For Berhalter, it will be tough to leave him out on grounds of form given absence of playing time with McKenzie and the injury to Richards. But is Brooks the type of player you can bring into a team for crucial games if he is not a lock starter?


 It was a mixed weekend for the rest of the players in England.

Josh Sargent got the start for Norwich in a 3-1 loss to Brentford at home. At this point, it is very difficult to see Norwich avoiding relegation. The team can just not string anything good together for the needed momentum. Now a 3-1 loss at home to a non-top 10 team is more indicative of its season. For Sargent was not dangerous in this game but don’t discount his return to the national team soon. Berhalter was in England to watch him play and while he has struggled, no American No. 9 has made a case to be the answer at the position.

Sargent has questions heading into next year. Teemu Pukki will soon be 32 years old. He has been a player who has twice been the answer for Norwich’s promotional efforts. Can he do it again? If no, can Sargent do what is needed at the Championship level? Promotion teams typically have a reliable forward who can consistently score. Sargent has yet to score consistently but at the Championship level, the pressure will be on him to do that for the first time.

Duane Holmes and Huddersfield defeated last-place Peterborough 3-0 on Friday. The win technically moved them into second place in the Championship but they have played four more games than AFC Bournemouth, who are just a point back. Realistically, Huddersfield sit in third place. But the team is playing very well as of late and is firmly in the promotional hunt.

Holmes goes through periods when he scores/assists a lot, to times when he doesn’t. Right now he’s not scoring, but remains very active and productive. He’s winning his duels and forcing turnovers. He’s bringing a lot of energy to Huddersfield’s game and he also had three key passes over his 76 minutes in the win.

Ethan Horvath made his third straight start for Nottingham Forest in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United. The goal he conceded at the end was not his fault but Forest still is within striking distance of the playoffs in ninth place (but only three points out). The big questions for Horvath now are whether he did enough to claim the club’s No. 1 goalkeeper position with Brice Samba’s suspension now over and whether he will get called into the U.S. national team camp for March.

My own personal take is that Forest will continue to start Samba, but that Horvath has made the leash shorter. Samba’s grip on the starting spot is not as tight. As for the national team, but Zack Steffen and Matt Turner are missing games due to injury. I think Turner will be back in time to play in March but, even if not, I think Sean Johnson is still ahead of Ethan Horvath right now. Johnson has been with the U.S. national team all qualifying campaign and there is a comfort level the players have built up with Johnson in training. Horvath played well in the Nation’s League final but that was nine months ago.

Finally in the Championship, Foloarin Balogun drew a penalty for Middlesbrough’s opening goal in a 2-1 win over Luton Town. Balogun, 20, is now getting his first real run of professional minutes in a Championship promotional battle while on loan from Arsenal. It’s a great place to get his feet wet.

There have been rumors lately that Balogun is being courted to make a one-time switch to representing the United States internationally from England, whom he played for at the youth levels. Former U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos tried, unsuccessfully, to have Balogun switch in 2019 ahead of the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Balogun was born in New York but moved back to England when he was very young.

There have been a few other rumors about dual nationals floating around lately in a switch to the United States. Bayern Munich U-23’s Malik Tillman, his brother Timothy Tillman at Greuther Furth, Nottingham Forest’s Alex Mighten, or Tenerife’s Samuel Shashoua. Some of these make sense, others do not. Sashoua and Mighten are not regular starters for second division teams. Malik Tillman has only occasionally been with Bayern Munich’s first team (it’s important to note that this year’s COVID waves have put some players around the first team level when they otherwise wouldn’t be in normal years). Timothy Tillman has been a starter at Furth, but that team is really a 2.Bundesliga team in terms of quality.

Balogun, however, makes more sense than any of them. He’s a speedy attacker and brings life to games. He can compete at the No. 9 when no other players had made a solid case for the position. He might eventually get beaten out, but he does look like a player who can at least compete for minutes. The big question, however, is how much his heart is into playing for the United States when his connections to the country are minimal.

In the third-tier League One, Lynden Gooch started and played 81 minutes for Sunderland in a 0-0 away draw in London to Charlton Athletic. Marlon Fossey continues to make a huge impact for Bolton Wanderers and the former U.S. U-20 right back added two assists in a 3-0 away win over Gillingham. He’s on loan from Fulham and there will be pressure on Bolton to keep Fossey, who has been excellent nearly every game. In that game, Charlie Kelman played the final three minutes for Gillingham.


 When you factor out Brooks and Bello, who we covered, it was a quiet weekend in Germany. As mentioned, Richards, Pepi, Paredes, Adams, Che, and Reyna did not play for a variety of reasons.

VFB Stuttgart’s 3-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach featured two Americans. Stuttgart’s head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and Gladbach’s right back Joe Scally who started. For Matarazzo, it was a huge win that gives it life in the relegation zone. The team is now just one point away from climbing out of the automatic relegation zone. After trailing 2-0, Matarazzo’s squad responded exceptionally well for the win. The club recently conceded late goals to drop key points. This was a complete reversal of fortune.

As for Scally, he struggled in this game on both sides of the ball. Scally has seen his minutes drop dramatically in recent months and he appeared rusty – with turnovers, getting the ball forward, and staying with his men defensively. It fit into the patter of a tough weekend for Americans in Europe.In the 2.Bundesliga, Ryan Malone started and went the distance for Hansa Rostock in a thrilling 4-3 win over Schalke. That away win moved Hansa Rostock two points clear of the relegation playoff position. The winning goal from Rostock was scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time and it came from American-born, but Swedish U-21 winger Nils Froling.

Also in the 2.Bundesliga, Nico Carrera made his first team professional debut for Holstein Kiel in a 3-4 loss at home to Paderborn. The Mexican-born former U.S. youth international came into the game in the 55th minute in the loss.


Aside from Erik Palmer-Brown, who was excellent, the remaining Americans in France didn’t fare too well.

Timothy Weah did not get off the bench for Lille in a 4-0 win over Clermont Foot. Nicholas Gioacchini only played the final eight minutes for Montpellier in a 2-0 home loss to Nantes. Konrad de la Fuente was an unused substitute for Marseille in a 1-0 loss hat home to Monaco.

In Ligue 2, French youth international but U.S. eligible Amir Richardson was quite good for Le Havre in a 2-0 win over Quevilly. Le Havre is in sixth place but is six points out of the promotional playoff position.


With Weston McKennie injured, there wasn’t too much to report on Americans in Italy.The late injury to Gianluca Busio kept him out of Venezia’s lineup for a 4-1 loss to Sassuolo. Tanner Tessmann played just the final 15 minutes and Venezia has hit hard times in the relegation battle. The team needs wins and it is now three points deep. Both players will face questions if they will remain with the club in Serie B. It is hard to see the more expensive Busio staying with the club.

In Serie B, Anrij Novakovich came off the bench in the 53rd minute and picked up a late equalizing assist for Frosinone in a 1-1 draw with Ascoli. American midfielder Anthony Fontana is injured for Ascoli and he awaits his Acoli debut.


 Neither Genk’s Mark McKenzie and Royal Antwerp’s Sam Vines got off the bench this weekend. While Kyle Duncan was injured for Oostende.

Chris Durkin played just the final 22 minutes for St. Truiden in a 1-1 draw with Mechelen.

Bryan Reynolds started at right back for Kortrijk in a 3-2 home loss to league-leading Union SG. It was an up and down performance from the former FC Dallas defender who is still shaking off the rust from a year where he played very little since making the move abroad.


 Ian Harkes started and played well in a 2-2 draw for Dundee United against Hearts. Harkes continues to show a lot of grown as a two-way No. 8 midfielder as the physical and defensive side of his game is progressing nicely. While some argue that it is tough to develop in the mid/late 20’s ages, Harkes is coming a lot way. He’s one of the more underrated American players and could be in line for a nice transfer this summer – perhaps to an MLS team willing to give him his second stint in the league.

ameron Carter-Vickers was solid, albeit not tested too much in a 3-1 win over Livingston. He continues to have a strong season for the Scottish leaders and is putting himself into an interesting situation this summer. Will Celtic spend the required money to buy him from Tottenham? Will the Scottish league push him enough as a player? It would give him a spot in the Champions League. In the loss, Scott Pittman played 76 minutes for Livingston while his teammate and former U.S. U-20 forward Sebastian Soto played the final uneventful 10 minutes.

American forward Joe Efford netted his first goal for Motherwell in a disappointing 1-1 draw with relegation battling Dundee FC. Motherwell has struggled since December while Efford was brought in during the January window. His performances have been mixed but this was a positive moment for him.

Chris Mueller, meanwhile, was sick and missed Hibernian’s 0-0 draw with St. Johnstone.


In the Eredivisie, Heracles lost 3-1 to a much better PSV Eindhoven team. Luca de la Torre fought hard on both sides of the ball but Heracles was overmatched in the loss. De la Torre was 6/11 in his duels and was 23/29 in his passing. He had just one turnover, which was impressive in a game against a strong opponent. He also had an impressive nine recoveries.

Cole Bassett, meanwhile, did not get off the bench for Feyenoord in a 1-1 draw with Groningen.


Aside from Musah, La Liga wasn’t the place for Americans this weekend. Sergino Dest played just five minutes for Barcelona while Matthew Hoppe and Matt Miazga did not play at all.  In the Segunda, Shaq Moore didn’t get off the bench for Tenerife in a 4-1 loss to Real Valladolid.

In Portugal, Alex Mendez did not get off the bench for Vizela in a 3-0 loss to Santa Clara.

In Turkey’s Super Lig, Haji Wright played just the final nine minutes for Antalyaspor in a 1-0 win over Sivasspor. Tyler Boyd started and played 90 minutes for Rizespor in a 2-1 loss to Giresunspor. Rizespor is now nine points deep in the relegation battle.

In the Greek Super League, Caleb Stanko played 58 minutes in defensive midfield for seventh-place PAS Giannina in a 0-0 draw with NFC Volos

In Hungary’s top-flight, Henry Wingo got the start and played the entire game for Hungarian leaders Ferencvaros in a 2-1 win over second place Kisvarda. The winning goal came in stoppage time an it was an important win that moved Ferencvaros five points atop the NB I table. Wingo is now looking for his third European title since moving abroad three years ago.

In Austria, Brenden Aaronson came off the bench in the 60th minute for Salzburg in an easy 4-0 win over Altach. Aaronson was being rested for the midweek Champions League game against Bayern Munich. Thomas Roberts wasn’t in the squad for Austria Klagenfurt’s 3-0 loss to Rapid Vienna. In the second tier, Uly Llanez started and played 57 minutes for St. Poelten in a 1-0 win over SV Horn. The winning goal was scored in the 90th minute after Llanez left.

In the Danish Superliga, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 76 minutes for OB Odense in a 2-2 away draw over Sonderjyske. Former San Antonio attacking mid Jose Gallegos was an unused sub for Sonderjyske. Christian Cappis played the second half for Brondby in a 1-0 win over Silkeborg.

In Argentina, Joel Sonora did not get off the bench for Velez Sarsfield in a 1-1 draw with Estudiantes while on Monday, his brother, Alan Sonora, and Independiente and host Godoy Cruz which might have American-born brothers Mattias Soria and Leandro Soria on the bench.

In the Gaucho state tournament in Brazil, Johnny Cardoso and Internacional posted a 1-0 win over CE Aimore, a lower-tier team in Brazil’s pyramid.

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3/4/22  CFC Coach Honored, American Jesse Marsch takes EPL job, Russia out of World Cup, UCL Tues/Wed, MLS attendance Record to Fall Sat at Charlotte?, Man Derby Sun

Huge Congrats to Carmel FC Coach Carla Baker for being honored again by the Canadian National Team

American Coach Jesse Marsch Takes over Leeds United

American coach Jesse Marsch has been named the new coach at Leeds United.  After successful stints as coach in MLS, especially with the Red Bulls organization lead to a dynamite go at Stausberg where he almost surprised Liverpool during the Champions League – and a failed stop at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga when all of his players either were traded or got  hurt – Jesse Marsch is back on the big stage.  This time in the EPL at Leeds United – the small club that moved up to the EPL last season under Belso ??? and is now desperately trying to stay above the relegation zone.  Jesse could well help keep Leeds United in the EPL – and if he does and makes them better over the new couple of months – things could look up for the American.   The parallels between popular American coach Ted Lasso on Apple TV have been joked about with Jesse – now trying to coach a team in London just like Lasso does in the  award winning comedy.    

Jesse Marsch 1st Interview as Leed’s United Coach

Ted Lasso’s 1st Interview TV Show

Jesse will get his first test this Saturday as Leed’s travels to Leicester City in desperate need of a win at 7:30 am on USA Network. 

Around the World of Soccer – Russia out of World Cup / Ukraine

Huge news that FIFA finally stood up and kicked Russia out of the World Cup in Qatar  after Poland and Sweden refused to play them in WC Qualifying (it was late – but this is the right decision).  Horrible news coming out of the Ukraine as soccer teams around the world have given salutes to Ukraine with many athletes including soccer players returning to fight for their country. 

US Soccer Prez Vote/US Soccer sells out to HBO Max and TBS/TNT for Coverage

Huge vote for the US Soccer President going on in Atlanta tomorrow as current president Cindy Cone battles former Prez Carlos Cordeiro.  I am not even sure how Carlos is allowed to run again after he was forced out after (his public embarrassment with the US Ladies team for years) hopefully the US power structure will keep former National Team player Cindy Cone in charge as she has done a good job for US soccer these past 2 years.  In other US Soccer News – the dam US Soccer Federation has sold the rights for our home US Soccer games to TBS and HBO Max  Get Ready to pony up US Fans – US Soccer doesn’t give a dang about you – Now you are going to have to pony up $15 a month to get HBO Max to watch the US men and women top games.  Oh sure the occasion crap game will be on TBS (who did just a horrific job with Champions League 2 years ago).  Sure the US soccer big brass has made more $ on the rights but at what cost?  What a stupid and horrible decision this is !!!!   

MLS Week 2

Good first week of soccer in MLS last weekend as the LA Galaxy, Seattle, Nashville and more got off to a good start.  Chicharito Delivers the Game Winner in the 90th minute on ESPN, Nashville Dominates on Fox.  This Weekend all eyes will be on Charlotte on Sat night at 7:30 pm on FOX as they look to break the record for most fans at an MLS game ever as they host the LA Galaxy.  The current record held by Atlanta United who is the team Charlotte plays at next Sat.  Other big news has Hector Herrer signed by Houston this week.  Sunday games of interest on TV include Austin FC hosting Inter Miami on ESPN at 4 pm and a 10 pm matchup on FS1 between Portland and LAFC.  (See schedule on the OBC)

Games to Watch This Weekend

The biggest game of the weekend is on Sunday at 11:30 am – the Manchester Derby as Man United host Man City and Napoli host AC Milan at 2:45 pm on Para+.   Saturday starts at 7:30 am on USA with American Coach Jesse Marsch taking the helm of Leeds United as they head to Leicester City in desperate need of a win. Liverpool will host top 6 team West Ham United at 12:30 pm on NBC after Chelsea and Christian Pulisic travel to Burnely with Chelsea billionaire Russian Owner Roman Abramovich looking to sell the team.  Of course Champions League and CCL kick of Tues/Wed of next week with Liverpool hosting Inter Milan up 2-0 on CBS at 3 pm Tues, while Bayern Munich hosts Salzburg tied at 1 on Para +.  Wed has PSG taking its 1-0 lead to Real Madrid on CBS at 3 pm, while Man City will certainly play backups up 5-0 on Sporting on Para+.  Thurs/Fri gives us Europa League Play.  (full schedule in the OBC) (See the American’s play)

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Sat,  3/5   

7:30 am USA                       Leicester City vs Leeds United (coach Marsch)

9:30 am ESPN2                   Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich

10 am USA                           Burnely vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

12:30 pm NBC                     Liverpool vs West Ham United  

12:30 pm EPSN+                Stutgart vs MGladbach (Scally)

3 pm beIN Sport                 Nice vs PSG

3:30 pm Univision              Sporting KC vs Houston Dynamo  

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Real Sociadad

6 pm EPSN+                         Chicago Fire vs Orlando City  

6 pm ESPN+                         Cincy vs DC United

7:30 pm Fox                        Charlotte FC vs LA Galaxy

Sun,  3/6  

9 am USA                              Watford vs Arsenal

11:30 am USA                     Man City vs Man United

12 noon CBS SN                  Juventus vs Spezia

2:45 pm Para+                    Napoli vs Milan

4 pm ESPN                           Austin FC v Inter Miami  

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Bettis vs Atletico Madrid

10 pm FS1                            LAFC vs Portland Timbers  

Mon,  3/7  

3 pm USA                             Tottenham vs Everton  

Tues,  3/8 – Champ League   

3 pm CBS                              Liverpool 2 vs Inter Milan 0

3 pm Para+, Univision      Bayern Munich 1 vs Salzberg 1  

8 pm FS1                              NYCFC vs Comunicationes

10 pm FS1                            Seattle Sounders  vs Leon

 Wed,  3/9 – Champ League   

3 pm CBS                              Real Madrid 0 vs PSG 1

3 pm Para+, Univision      Sporting 0 vs Man City  6

8 pm TUDN                          New England vs Pumas CCL

10 pm TUDN                        Cruz Azul vs Montreal

Thurs,  3/10 – Europa + CCL

12:45 pm Para+, Univ      RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Sparkak Moskva

12:45 pm Para+, Univ      Sevilla (Musah?) vs West Ham United  

2:30 pm USA                       Norwich (Stewart) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm Para+, Univ              Barcelona (Dest) vs Galatasaray

3 pm Para+, Univ              Sevilla (Musah??) vs West Ham United  

3 pm Para+, Univ               Rangers vs Zvedzda

8 pm FS2                              Comunicationes FC vs Colorado Rapids CCL

10 pm FS2                            CD Montagua vs Seattle Sounders CCL

Sat,  3/12  

12:30 pm NBC                     Man United vs Tottenham  

3:30 pm Fox                  Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

Sun,  3/13  

12:30 pm NBC                     Arsenal vs Leicester City  

3:30 pm Fox Sport1       Atlanta United vs Charlotte  

Stanford GK Katie Meyer death ruled Suicide


FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works  abriele Marcotti
FIFA, UEFA suspend Russian clubs, national teams from all competitions

Russia to appeal to sports court against World Cup ban

Cindy Parlow Cone Q&A: U.S. Soccer prez on why she should be reelected

Carlos Cordeiro Q&A: U.S. Soccer prez hopeful on why he’s running again

USSF to weigh gender equity rule for coaches

US Men

 Turner Sports, HBO Max wins U.S. Soccer TV rights in 8-year deal  By Donald Wine II
Turner Nabs U.S. Soccer Rights, Will Show Games on HBO Max

American coach Marsch hired as new Leeds boss
Jesse Marsch must fight US stereotypes as well as relegation at Leeds

Jesse Marsch discusses stigma around American coaches – ‘Frankly, they’re right’

Marsch out to change perceptions as he plots Leeds escape

Jesse Marsch to alter Leeds style – but insists approach will remain ‘fearless’

Let’s spare Jesse Marsch the Ted Lasso snobbery  The Telegraph

Jesse Marscch Cant Escape the Ted Lasso American Stigma =- and thats ok – The 18  

Jesse Marsch gets Rare 2nd Chance for American coach in Europe

Analysis: Marsch takes a high risk/high reward opportunity in historic Leeds hire
USMNT defender John Brooks will leave Wolfsburg this summer

MLS Wk 2  

MLS Power Rankings: LAFC, Nashville make statements of intent

MLS arrives in Charlotte, Carlos Vela show & more: Your must-watch Week 2 games
Welcome, Charlotte FC: How the Panthers’ ‘Other Football Project’ became a real club
  Kaila Burns-Heffner

Charlotte Ready for Full House –

“Super motivated”: Charlotte FC look to put on a show in home opener

MLS’s Houston Dynamo sign Mexico captain Hector Herrera

Xherdan Shaqiri: Can Swiss star “bring the glory” back to Chicago Fire FC?                        
Austin FC wants the wins to match the party in 2022

Who are the highest paid MLS players? Carlos Vela, Chicharito top the list

MLS teams should be racing to sign USMNT’s John Brooks after Wolfsburg exit


Manchester clubs face tricky derby as Leeds launch new era

Roman Abramovich puts Chelsea up for sale

Sources: Dodgers part-owner set for Chelsea bid
  ames Olley
Abramovich’s money the difference for Chelsea
James Olley
FA Cup wrap: Liverpool, Chelsea, Southampton through to QF

FA Cup wrap: Man City, Crystal Palace advance to QF; Spurs beaten  

Referees’ chief apologises to Everton over Man City errors

Chelsea, Liverpool put on Carabao Cup show, Barca clicking under Xavi, Napoli soar to Serie A summit Gabriele Marcotti

US Ladies

USWNT Stock Watch: Macario, Pugh impress, Rodman slowed by injury  Caitlin Murray

USWNT to play pair of April friendlies against Uzbekistan S&S
Analyzing USWNT’s SheBelieves Cup win: how data compares to the eye test
  1dBill Connelly

Lessons from USWNT at SheBelieves Cup: The future is bright, flashy, creative  Julie Foudy
Ashley Hatch: ‘We want the USWNT to be overwhelming for the other team’

Carli Lloyd speaks out about culture of U.S. Women’s National Team: ‘I 


Joy and flair return under Xavi as Barcelona renaissance continues  Graham Hunter
In-form Napoli look for title advantage in Milan showdown

Milan giants play out dull cup semi-final stalemate

PSG to ‘try everything’ to keep Mbappe from clutches of Madrid

Leverkusen hoping in-form Diaby can take down Bayern

Celtic and Rangers to play each other in Sydney

Nantes beat Monaco to reach first French Cup final in 22 years

Valencia defeat Athletic Bilbao to reach Copa del Rey final

‘Heavy hearts’ as foreign players and coaches quit Russian clubs

Indy 11






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FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works

Mar 1, 2022

Gabriele Marcotti Senio r Writer, ESPN FC

On Monday, FIFA announced that it was indefinitely suspending Russian representative teams (men’s and women’s). (In a joint statement, UEFA announced they were removing club sides from all competitions.) This means Russia will almost certainly not be participating in the Qatar World Cup in November. The previous day, FIFA had condemned the “use of force by Russia in its invasion of Ukrain.  In many ways, this is an unprecedented move by the game’s governing body. Here’s a Q&A to better understand the decisions and its implications.

Q: Russia were due to play in the men’s World Cup playoffs later this month and the women’s Euros in July. Is there any way back?

A: For the men, almost certainly not. Their playoff game against Poland was scheduled for March 24; they would need to be reinstated by FIFA. That won’t happen unless they reach a peace deal and reconcile with all those countries, including Poland, who have said they’ll boycott any match against them. (The World Cup draw to determine the eight groups is scheduled for April 1 in Doha, Qatar.)The women’s Euros is a bit different in the sense that it’s four months away. You hope and pray there’s enough time for the war to end and a resolution to be reached, but right now, it feels like a remote possibility.

Q: Why do you call this unprecedented? Haven’t countries been suspended from FIFA before?

A: FIFA suspends members all the time. Just last week, they suspended Kenya and Zimbabwe for government inference. Last year, it was Chad and Pakistan for the same reasons.

Usually it happens because of government interference, corruption or financial irregularities. Sometimes it can happen for doping or sporting corruption (like this famous case involving Chile in 1989). But to suspend a member nation for political reasons is very rare. It happened to Yugoslavia in 1992 at the height of the civil war and to South Africa in 1961 because of the country’s apartheid policy and insistence on fielding all-white teams. But there are key aspects that make this different.

Q: Such as?

A: First off, the speed of the decision. The invasion of Ukraine began less than a week ago. More significantly, in both the above cases, FIFA acted after resolutions from the United Nations. In 1992, Yugoslavia was sent home the day after a United Nations resolution imposing sanctions for atrocities committed in Bosnia. They were replaced in the European Championships by Denmark, who would go on to win the tournament. South Africa’s ban, which would last more than four decades, came after a U.N. resolution in 1960 calling on the government to abandon policies of apartheid and racial discrimination.This time, there has been no United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the invasion.

Q: How come?

A: Because Russia is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and therefore can veto any decision. So the resolution that was introduced, demanding that Russia withdraw immediately from Ukraine, was effectively vetoed.

Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).Q: Why does this matter?

A: FIFA is a sporting organisation, not a political one. It’s one thing to ban a country for political reasons when you’re backed by the U.N. It’s quite another when you’re not and you have to answer to your 211 members, some of whom might feel differently about it than many of those in the West who wanted Russia out straightaway.

It’s worth remembering that while Russia was the only one of the 15 Security Council members to vote against the resolution, another three abstained: India, China and the United Arab Emirates. That’s a sizable chunk of the world’s population right there.

Q: Is that why they didn’t suspend them on Sunday, instead issuing that somewhat tame provisional statement to simply ban Russian teams from playing on home soil, without an anthem or flags and calling themselves “Football Union of Russia”?

A: Pretty much. But here, it’s worth remembering what we’re talking about when we talk about FIFA.

While it can seem at times like a monolith run by an all-powerful president like Gianni Infantino, on this occasion it’s not as if he made the decision personally. It was taken by something called the FIFA Bureau, which is a fancy way of saying a Zoom meeting between Infantino and the presidents of the six confederations: UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, AFC, CAF and OFC.

Some of those present wanted to suspend Russia straightaway, adding a conditional road map for readmission, like withdrawal from Ukraine and a peace deal. Others were more cautious.

Q: Why? Because they didn’t have the “safety blanket” of a U.N. resolution to back them up?

A: Partly yes, but also because these are all elected officials and they answer to their members.

Like I said, not everybody felt as strongly about banning Russia as many NATO countries do. Some folks feel that there’s a double standard at play. After all, FIFA didn’t ban the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland and the rest of the “coalition of the willing” when they invaded Iraq in 2003 without an explicit authorisation from the U.N. Nor did they sanction Saudi Arabia when they bombed Yemen in 2015.

FIFA and the confederations wanted to make sure they had enough public support. And most likely, they knew they were going to get it, but they had to go through a process. https://playlist.megaphone.fm/?e=ESP6802460575 Q: What does that mean?

A: They wanted more member associations to come out in the open in support of a ban, and that happened almost immediately. Poland — Russia’s first opponents in the World Cup playoffs — said they would refuse to play against Russia. So too did Sweden and the Czech Republic, followed by more than a dozen others, which enabled FIFA to say they basically had no choice: It was either exclude Russia or a bunch of other countries.

They got further support on Monday when the International Olympic Committee issued its own statement, requesting that Russia be banned. Now, the IOC isn’t the U.N., but it’s a major global organisation. At that point, the FIFA Bureau felt empowered to proceed from a legal perspective as well.

Q: How so?

A: Because Russia can appeal FIFA’s decision by taking their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It’s an independent body, and in the past, it has gone against major sporting organizations, like it did when it overturned Manchester City’s ban for violating Financial Fair Play.

Russia have a good record there. When the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia for four years for failing to comply with regulations, CAS reduced it to two years. And just last month, at the Winter Olympics, it upheld Russia’s decision to lift the provisional suspension on figure skater Kamila Valieva. So FIFA wanted to make its ban as legally watertight as possible.Q: Is this ban fair toward Russian athletes? They’re not the ones waging war …

A: Some people feel that way and it’s why, even when Russia were banned from the Olympics, the athletes were still allowed to compete as individuals. But it’s important to note that the ban is on Russian institutions, not athletes. Russian players who compete in other countries — like Atalanta forward Aleksei Miranchuk, who scored on Monday night against Sampdoria, but did not celebrate — are free to play.Historically, there was a sense that sports and politics should always remain staunchly separate. This goes way back to Olympic Games in ancient Greece when, so the story goes, they’d actually suspend wars to compete in Olympiads. But folks figured out long ago that sports are excellent propaganda tools for governments, and the line has become blurred.In 1973, the Soviet Union boycotted a World Cup playoff game against Chile because of human rights violations by the government of Augusto Pinochet. In 1976, 28 African countries boycotted the Montreal Olympics after the IOC refused to kick out New Zealand, whose rugby team had toured South Africa in violation of a worldwide boycott. A number of Western countries boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The list goes on and on.More broadly, I think we’ve become more comfortable with our sporting institutions taking positions that in the past were deemed as “political” or “taking sides” and therefore unacceptable, whether it’s taking a knee before kickoff in the NFL, or the Premier League, or MLB moving its All-Star Game from Georgia in response to a new voting law, or the NBA moving its All-Star Game out of North Carolina because of its objection to a law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the state.We’ve come a long way from 1968, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Olympics for having the temerity to raise their black-gloved fists into the Mexico City sky. Which is why it won’t be surprising if we continue to see protests against Russia and solidarity with Ukraine until peace returns — and that includes during the World Cup qualification playoffs and the women’s European Championships.

Charlotte is ready for MLS: How the Panthers’ ‘Other Football Project’ became a real club

Mar 3, 2022  Kaila Burns-Heffner 

It’s transfer deadline day in Europe, and atop the 12th floor of a skyrise in Charlotte, North Carolina, Zoran Krneta darts back and forth through Charlotte FC‘s offices. A bell rings, signifying another season ticket sold, a tally is added to the ticket sales leaderboard and staff members prepare gift boxes to send out to new supporters.

Krneta, the club’s sporting director, suggests moving the interview to a local French bar. On the eve of potentially signing the club’s second Designated Player, he hoped his old fashioned would be celebratory. Ultimately, though, that deal fell through and, looking back, the whiskey would be consolatory.For Major League Soccer‘s newest expansion team, growing pains are natural and to be expected. When building a club from the ground up, firsts are meant to be celebrated — even if “first big signing to get away” isn’t necessary one of them. The first coach, the first kit, the first game: they’re all milestones worth toasting.The first game wasn’t as joyous as many hoped, ending in a 3-0 defeat to D.C. United. There’s still the home opener to come, though, on Saturday when Charlotte welcomes the LA Galaxy to the Queen City.The team’s highly publicized and ambitious goals are plastered all over the club’s walls: There’s 74K for the largest MLS crowd ever, 30K for the average attendance over the course of a season and 1 to symbolize hosting a playoff match. That ambition was born long before owner David Tepper spent a record-breaking $325 million expansion fee — eclipsing the $200 million St. Louis reportedly paid to join the league, starting in 2023 — to finally bring an MLS team to the Carolinas after several failed bids by previous entities, and it has been a common thread woven throughout the fabric of the fledgling club. It also goes beyond wanting to be the first MLS team to fill a roster spot through a reality show (which likely won’t happen until the back half of the season), or the first team in the league to hire a “chief fan officer.”The club says it’s all about being progressive.”We have been doing it differently since day one, and we’re not doing it to be disruptive and to be loud, we’re doing it because we actually think it will help us win on the field and off the field,” former Charlotte FC president and now-CEO of parent company Tepper Sports and Entertainment (TSE) Nick Kelly said. “If we can’t be the first person to do it, or we can’t be the best at it, or the only one who’s doing it, why are we doing it?”That emphasis on innovation has not been lost on MLS commissioner Don Garber. “I think any time you bring a new team into a league, you hope that they bring new ideas, that they innovate, that they make everybody better,” Garber told ESPN. “Having that enormous energy that only comes when you first join a league, I’m excited for it.”

Building a club

Before the expansion bid was announced, Charlotte FC existed as an acronym on an email subject line as OFP: the Other Football Project. In the fall of 2018, a small internal committee of Carolina Panthers staff members, whose responsibilities ranged from ticketing, to partnerships, to entertainment, to community, to digital, started assembling the groundwork for the MLS bid. OFP meetings took place twice a week in a vacant suite at Bank of America Stadium, after the day’s work for the Panthers was done. It was in those confines where the first pitch decks to the league were discussed, verbal commitments from potential suite owners were secured and where a hypothetical idea turned into a tangible team.”It was almost like an after-school project, developing this franchise,” said current Charlotte FC president Joe LaBue. “It was a lot of fun, just spitballing, whiteboarding, iterating what it would look like.” 17, 2019. The answer was a resounding “yes,” as more than 7,000 season-ticket deposits were made in the following 24 hours.”[Tepper] didn’t strike me as a karaoke guy, but you know, it showed that he’s got unbridled passion,” Garber joked, recalling the moment his newest owner broke into song alongside him. “He’s brought that same energy and passion from day one.”Tepper punted a soccer ball through priceless artwork in celebration at the uptown Mint Museum, and a pre-pandemic party took the city’s soccer scene by storm, like the one Charlotte had been fighting off all day.”We were gathered in Hooligans in the French Quarter in Charlotte, which is kind of the hub of the Charlotte soccer scene,” Matt Chantry, VP of supporters group Mint City Collective, said. “It was like sardines in a can in there. David Tepper just rolled in and was pouring pints, buying everyone beer and taking selfies with people leaning out the window and chanting.”The team was supposed to launch in 2021, alongside Austin FC, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed further celebrations by a year. The coronavirus impacted the timeline of renovations to Bank of America Stadium, home of the Panthers for the past 26 years — and soon to be Charlotte FC’s too — and any capacity restrictions would have deprived the club of the atmosphere and financial support that comes with an inaugural season.

Charlotte is now the sixth club in MLS to share its home stadium with the city’s NFL counterpart (along with Atlanta United, the New England Revolution, the Chicago FireNashville SC (until its new soccer-specific stadium opens this season) and the Seattle Sounders), and the third team to be housed under the same ownership (joining Atlanta and New England). Having Bank of America Stadium as an already-established selling point has been vital for the club in recruiting players and staff — even before Tepper invested approximately $50 million to transform the Panthers’ home into a multi-sport facility.

“This building, I don’t have this in Greece or in Poland,” DP Karol Swiderski said after being introduced to his new fans at the stadium. “This is something special for me.”

The challenge came in making Bank of America Stadium feel like it belonged to the football club as well. An entry corridor illuminated by chandeliers leads into a 2,600-square-foot dressing room equipped with a marble restroom and shower area. A soccer-specific training room, player lounges, sports medicine suites with hydrotherapy pools and offices were also built out for Charlotte FC.The club’s initial plan called for partnering with the city to transform the old Eastland Mall into a mixed-use redevelopment site that would house the team’s headquarters. That changed when Charlotte FC announced its headquarters would reside in Uptown and the academy would occupy the Eastland Mall site, with conversations over a long-term plan still ongoing. For now, the team is training on the natural grass of Matthews SportsPlex — formerly home to the USL’s Charlotte Independence — and at Bank of America ahead of games that will be played on turf.The league’s first chief fan officer, Shawn McIntosh, scrolls through recordings of original chants and jingles in a message thread he has with various supporters’ groups. They bounce around ideas for tifos and matchday traditions, and plan get-togethers to practice for the inaugural season. While the chants and traditions are new, Charlotte is quick to say the club is not building soccer culture in the Carolinas from scratch. Supporters groups like the QC Royals, who were established in 2015, had been cheering on other local clubs like the now-folded Stumptown AC and the Charlotte Independence for years. Those fans are hoping to make the team’s first home game the most-attended match in MLS history.”To have the largest crowd ever in an MLS game speaks to where our league is going,” Garber said. “That’s a story that will be heard around the world.”There have been hiccups along the way, though, primarily to do with ticket prices and fees associated with them.Charlotte is the first in the league to mandate a personal seat license for season tickets sold outside of the supporters’ and community sections — the latter having licenses covered through a sponsorship arrangement with healthcare provider Centene. Those license fees range from $350 to $900, with an option to pay over 36 months. Season tickets were already among the most expensive in the league, ranging from $486 to $2,250, drawing considerable criticism on social media. Despite those missteps, supporters have noted the club’s emphasis on authenticity and communication when it comes to addressing their concerns.”I’ve worked in sports for 13 years,” McIntosh said. “I’ve never seen this level of transparency. It starts from the top.”Fans were consulted in the early stages of the OFP meetings, and their level of interest helped bring MLS to the Carolinas. LaBue stressed the importance of maintaining those relationships. Just two days after he was announced as Kelly’s successor, he was exchanging contact information with supporters’ groups at a local bar.”I need them to be a sounding board,” LaBue said. “I don’t need them to be constant cheerleaders. I need them to hold us accountable.”

Building a team

Krneta was announced as the club’s first hire two weeks after the bid announcement. He co-founded Star Sports & Entertainment, where he brokered contracts across MLS, the Premier LeagueLaLiga and Serie A. His global connections have aided in putting the pieces of the club together, including bringing on Steve Walsh as a special advisor.

Leicester City won the Premier League with Walsh as assistant manager in 2015-16, and he’s credited with recruiting N’Golo KanteRiyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy — the three pillars of that title triumph. His appointment, along with the hiring of director of scouting Thomas Schaling from PSV Eindhoven, kickstarted the global search to build out the roster.

Walsh made a call to his former Leicester signee Christian Fuchs to gauge the defender’s interest in the new club. Fuchs’s family was already living in New York, so the move to the U.S. felt like the right decision, and he brings with him the experience of living one of soccer’s greatest Cinderella stories.”Him making me a Premier League champion … there is nothing else I need,” Fuchs said. “I trust [Walsh].” Charlotte signed its first player, Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz from Racing Santander, before the club even had a name or a head coach. In the early stages of recruiting, Krneta had to rely on selling the dream of building something new. Ruiz had other enticing offers, but he was all-in on the vision.Head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez was on the staff’s radar for 18 months, but hiring him only took four days. Simply put, they didn’t think they could get him.Ramirez had won the 2019 Copa Sudamericana as the manager of Ecuador‘s Independiente del Valle and was managing Internacional in Brazil‘s Serie A while Charlotte was interviewing other candidates. He was dismissed on June 11, and Charlotte secured the club’s first coach by July 7. It was love at first sight, and Ramirez became the youngest active head coach in MLS at the age of 36 (now 37).”It is like when you see the girl [for the] first time and you know, this is the girl for you. This is how I felt when I first interviewed Miguel,” Krneta said. I was like, ‘Wow, this is the coach for us. This is the coach to take us places.'”Prior to preseason, Ramirez jokes that he spends more time in Krneta’s office than in his own home. The two have neighboring offices and have formed a strong bond Krneta chalks up to two words: trust and respect. However, Krneta claims Ramirez keeps stealing his mineral waters from his office mini fridge. That’s OK, though; Krneta has been stashing away Ramirez’s protein bars to conduct “market research” for the players, he admits with a laugh.”We make a lot of jokes,” Krneta said. “Good banter,” director of player personnel Bobby Belair chimes in. “Fantastic banter,” Krneta adds.”The office atmosphere is great,” Krneta said. “And to be honest, I don’t think we would be able to pull this team together as we did if we didn’t have this kind of atmosphere in the office.”With Ramirez locked in, the team added another layer to its evolving identity: a game model. The system is a complex style of possession play that requires a specific type of player. Having the strategy solidified made Krneta’s approach clear, and finding some players with familiarity of the system certainly helped the build.Charlotte’s first U22-initiative signing Vinicius Mello was signed from Ramirez’s former team Internacional. Former Independiente del Valle players Alan Franco and Christian “Titi” Ortiz were picked up on loans. The club’s first No. 10, Ortiz, scored nine goals in 31 games under Ramirez in 2020, while midfielder Franco started all 11 matches in the 2019 Copa Sudamericana victory.”At Independiente, I had a great year and had a lot of fun. I grew up a lot as a player and a person, so I’m very happy to be here with Coach Miguel Angel Ramirez,” Ortiz said at his introductory news conference. “I know Miguel’s playing style and it helped a lot.”The club’s first DP was secured when Swiderski joined from Greek side PAOK, shocking former Poland manager Paulo Sousa. Krneta had called his longtime friend to do a character check on the 25-year-old striker, and instead, Krneta received recognition.”I’ve known Paulo for a long time so I called him and I said, ‘Paulo, Karol Swiderski?’ And he said, ‘What about him?’ I said we like him and he said, ‘Come on, he’s a Serie A player, he’s a Bundesliga player, there’s no way he will go to MLS,'” Krneta recounted of his conversation with Sousa. “Well, we have more or less done the deal, I just want to talk to you a little more about him. He said, ‘Amazing player. Amazing human being, amazing player. I can’t believe that you got that player.'”And yet, Charlotte FC has built the team without breaking the bank. To compete, Ramirez says the team will need to pay. Where it will pay, though, is still to be decided.What Charlotte won’t do is follow the MLS 2.0 blueprint and sign a big-name star in the twilight of his career.”Guys are showing by example, showing that we should be in the gym extra, that we should be watching film extra, that we need to do the little details and take care of our bodies,” midfielder Chris Hegardt said, referencing Fuchs and Ortiz. “I think ultimately that will make the team so much better.”

The final countdown

The first weeks of 2022 were uncertain ones for Charlotte, beyond the usual question marks that come ahead of an expansion team’s inaugural season.The president of Tepper Sports and Entertainment, Tom Glick, left the organization. Charlotte FC president Kell was promoted to replace him. The team’s technical director departed for an opportunity with the Columbus Crew.The sporting side also faced some unexpected fallout in its pursuit of multiple big-name signings. Most notably, it was outbid by FC Dallas for Paul Arriola and it backed out of signing Venezuelan striker Darwin Machis.Ramirez raised eyebrows two weeks before the start of the season when he told media members that it would be very difficult to compete for the playoffs. That certainly doesn’t lend confidence to the goal of hosting a playoff match.”Ahora, estamos jodidos,” Ramirez said on the day the Machis deal collapsed. The kind translation of that is, “Right now, we’re screwed.””He really was passionate about bringing in a player and was not able to do it, and he showed his disappointment,” Garber said “But that just gets him that much more energized to getting his team right and putting the right players on the field so that he can have the most attractive product for what I think is going to be a very knowledgeable and passionate fan base.”Ramirez will be the first to admit there are still gaps in the attack, but the plan was never to have the roster set in stone for game one. The front office wants flexibility to add players in the summer window, and it will be patient in assessing the players it’s missing to be competitive.”The best coach and the best teacher is the competition,” Ramirez said following the opening-day loss to D.C. “The competition will tell us what we need to improve and where we are doing well.”Every major league team in Charlotte has now lost game one. On the pitch, an unlucky series of decisions and the club’s first goal being overturned by VAR contributed to the score sheet, but Charlotte FC showed flashes worth being patient for as the club continues to evolve.”It is the start of a journey. The group that we are, the club that we are, we have been together for five weeks, six weeks. Nobody ever said it would be easy, that we would walk through the MLS. No. No chance,” said Fuchs, the team’s first captain. “You saw glimpses of our potential, but there is still so much to learn. It’s a big factor of being patient as well.”The goal is to build a competitive team for the long haul, and that will take some time. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Krneta said.

Leeds Gives Marsch a Rarity for American Coaches in Europe: A Second Chance

When it goes south for American coaches in top leagues, the door typically doesn’t reopen. But Jesse Marsch has a chance to make headway after a setback in Leipzig.

  • Given the chance to fire back, to plant the Stars and Stripes defiantly on English soil and remind them that “soccer” is, by the way, their word—one that was used comfortably in the U.K. for decades—Jesse Marsch instead opted for humor and humility.”I think there’s probably a stigma,” he said Thursday when speaking about American coaches at the top tier of the global game. “I’m not sure Ted Lasso helped. I haven’t watched the show, but I get it. I get it. People hate hearing the word ‘soccer.’ I’ve used the word ‘football’ since I was a professional football player.”Marsch’s first press conference as head coach—sorry, manager—of Leeds United immediately brought to mind the cultural and linguistic wringer through which Marsch’s mentor, Bob Bradley, was shoved five years ago. Bradley’s use of disqualifying Americanisms like “PK” and “road game” became a story and then, as struggling Swansea City failed to reverse course under the veteran coach, a weapon used to highlight his supposed lack of suitability for the job.Bradley lasted just 11 games/matches at Swansea (2-7-2) and never got the chance to bolster his squad during a transfer window. The Swans wound up staying up that season but then were relegated from the Premier League in 2018. They’re now 16th in the second-tier Championship.“I wish they hadn’t come and called, quite honestly, in that respect because the situation required real work and some time. And if they didn’t think I was the right guy, and everybody wasn’t on board—and ‘everybody’ needed to not just be the two American owners, but the chairman, the supporters’ trust and more of the supporters—look, if they didn’t think I was the right guy, they shouldn’t have called,” Bradley told ESPN in 2018.”So you either go somewhere where people recognize what you’re all about, and know that to get it right it’s going to take some time,” he continued. “Or you go places where at the end, when the wind starts blowing, everybody gets nervous, everybody’s shaking, everybody’s covering their own heads, and you know what happens at that moment.”What Bradley lacked was the benefit of the doubt. He was “Brad Bobley,” the loud and abusive caricature portrayed on Sky Sports’ Soccer AM show—yes, it’s called Soccer AM—who whacked players in the face with a clipboard and used outrageous terms like “cleat” and “upper 90.” He’d spent 20 years on pro sidelines, finished above England at the 2010 World Cup and nearly took Egypt to the next one despite a revolution and the Port Said riot. But he was also born and bred in the U.S., and while European clubs are coming to grips with the fact that American men can play the game, acknowledging that they also might know it requires another step entirely.Bradley may or may not have been the right fit at Swansea, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a qualified manager. He wasn’t Ted Lasso or Brad Bobley. There’s a point at which established coaches in all sports achieve tenure—not with a specific team, but in the profession. They’re allowed to fail but they’re still employable. They move from gig to gig, and have enough benefit of the doubt built up so that one slide or setback doesn’t ruin their résumé. American born-and-bred soccer coaches haven’t established that in Europe. Bradley moved from Egypt, to Norway, to the French second division and then to the Premier League. But after three months there, he was bound for MLS. Gregg Berhalter got 14 months at Sweden’s Hammarby, was fired after a 1-3-4 rut in the summer of 2013 and then returned to MLS. Pellegrino Matarazzo, a New Jerseyan who’s been in Germany for more than 20 years, is clinging to his first head coaching job at relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart. Californian Joe Enochs is managing in the German third division. David Wagner has established some measure of tenure—he bounced from Huddersfield Town to Schalke 04 to Swiss champion Young Boys—but his footballing ties to the U.S. are limited to his eight national team appearances in the late 1990s. He was born, raised and developed in Germany. There’s no stigma there.American coaches are in no position to be defiant. Their very existence prompts skepticism. And Marsch, who’ll make his Premier League debut on Saturday at Leicester City, didn’t hide from that Thursday. It’s his job to fit in, demonstrate deference for local football culture—not to mention the contributions of his iconic predecessor, Marcelo Bielsa—and then hope he gets the leeway to turn Leeds (5-13-8) around. “I think more and more in the States, we’re adapting to what the game here is in England and our connection with what this league is and what the culture of the sport is in this country,” Marsch said. “You know, I can understand that they don’t think that we have the experiences that can be created here in Europe. Frankly, they’re right. It was the reason I came to Europe. It was the reason I learned German. It was the reason I tried to adapt to new cultures.”Marsch may be trying to merge with the European football mainstream, but he’s still in position to alter perception and break barriers. This isn’t the first time an American has earned a high-profile coaching opportunity, but it’s still historic in a critical way: it’s the first high-profile second chance. It’s the first real shot at tenure. After progressing through the Red Bull system from New York to Salzburg and Leipzig, Marsch lasted just 20 games in Germany. His high tempo, high-pressing style wasn’t the right fit for a Bundesliga team in transition. At that point, it would’ve been easy to dismiss Marsch’s credentials. Maybe he got that far thanks only to Red Bull and when reaching the sport’s highest level, he was exposed as another American wannabe.Serious clubs didn’t pursue U.S. coaches out of the blue. Swansea, after all, was controlled by Americans Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien. Hammarby is partly held by AEG, which also owns the LA Galaxy—the club where Berhalter finished his playing career. There were established connections that paved the way. But Marsch appears to have been hired by Leeds solely because of what he’s achieved as a coach (the San Francisco 49ers are minority shareholders). There’s a reputation and some benefit of the doubt being established.“Jesse is someone we identified a number of years ago during his time at Red Bull Salzburg, and we believe his philosophy and style of football aligns with that of the club and will suit the players very well,” Leeds director of football Victor Orta said when announcing Marsch’s appointment.For all of Bielsa’s laudable success in bringing Leeds to the Premier League as Championship winners in 2020 and then finishing ninth last season, his man-to-man marking system and lack of English fluency separate him from Marsch. The latter is a firm believer in communication and connection and so in that case, may have a bit of Ted Lasso in him. But Marsch said Thursday that who he is as a manager—not what he is—is the reason he’s been hired.“I will always be respectful of what has happened here in the past three-and-a-half years … but I can say that I think even after talking to Victor Orta, he felt like I was the right type of person to come here and take over the team and help it make the next steps,” Marsch explained. “I think that my way of communicating and having relationships … obviously we know we don’t have a lot of time and that we have to find success quickly, but it’s also I think so much more than that. It’s about the character of the players and it’s about the character of the people here. Again, that makes me optimistic.”Naturally, there’s usually ample optimism at the start of any journey. We’ll see what happens if Leeds drops a couple of games in a row, or if Marsch accidentally says “shutout” instead of “clean sheet.” There’s plenty of pressure already placed on a well-known club that spent 16 years trying to return to the Premier League, only to see its stay threatened in its second season back. But there’s more on Marsch’s shoulders, fairly or not, from a U.S. perspective. He’s been given an historic second chance to make a first impression at soccer’s highest level. He has a shot at establishing an unprecedented degree of traction for a U.S. coach abroad. He’s the first to be given some genuine benefit of the doubt. If Marsch is successful at Leeds, the powers that be finally might acknowledge that Americans can know the game.Marsch is embracing the challenge, and the opportunity, with his own brand of dedication, humility and confidence. He’ll try to balance deference with the personality and persistence that have brought him this far, perhaps establishing a blueprint in the process.”It takes me out of my comfort zone, every time,” he said of each stop on his coaching journey. “It challenges me to grow and develop and learn new things. I’m very open to that.”I’m very cognizant of the fact that I’m not perfect. and I don’t want to be,” he continued. “All I can say is that the only way I know how to do things is to go all in, to give everything I have, to believe in who I am, to believe in the people that I work with and to try to maximize what we are every day. And I find If you can do that effectively, that you can be incredibly surprised with the human spirit and what you can achieve. So that sounds like Ted Lasso, I think, from what I’ve heard.”



Analysis: Marsch takes a high risk/high reward opportunity in historic Leeds hire

The legendary Marcelo Bielsa was fired as the head coach of Leeds United on Sunday and American Jesse Marsch was hired as his replacement. Now Marsch has the opportunity to succeed in the Premier League and raise the bar for American coaching – but it won’t be easy. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks it down. 


 the RB Leipzig job on December 5, 2021, Marsch will be coaching his third team inside of a year. Last season he won his second straight Austrian Bundesliga title with Red Bull Salzburg. After the season, he was moved further up the chain of the Red Bull empire and took control of a Leipzig team that finished second in the Bundesliga.The team never looked in-synch under Marsch and in the Bundesliga it had a record of seven wins, four draws, and six losses before he stepped down.Marsch has been a groundbreaking American manager as he was the first American-born and raised manager to have a Bundesliga job, win a league title in Europe, and manage in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. He made the move after succeeding as a manger in MLS with the New York Red Bulls which he led to a Supporters Shield in 2015 and was the League’s Coach of the Year. In 2018, he left midseason to take the assistant job at Leipzig but the team would later finish the season with the Supporters Shield.Marsch will become just the second American born and raised manager in the Premier League behind Bob Bradley’s brief stint at Swansea City where he was hired shortly into the season but was fired before he even had a chance to improve the team in the transfer window. The only other American manager in the Premier League was David Wagner at Huddersfield. Wagner played for the United States national team in the late 1990’s but was born and raised in Germany.At Leeds, he will follow Marcelo Bielsa – who was very popular with the fans after having been the manager since 2018 where he oversaw their promotion in 2020. That effort ended the club’s 16 year absence from the Premier League.This season has been difficult for Leeds under Bielsa. The team has conceded 60 goals over 26 games (the highest in the league by five) and has lost four in a row. The team had been struggling immensely and the defense has been out of control – having conceded 20 goals over its last five games. Despite the struggles, Bielsa remained popular with the fans and his sacking was met with criticism among large segments of the fan base.Marsch has a huge opportunity and perhaps he can be the first American manger in the Premier League with staying power.Here are some thoughts on the move.


 Jesse Marsch must come in right away and fix the team’s defense. That is by far the biggest problem for Leeds and the team is bleeding goals every single game over its past five. He won’t have the ability to make any roster changes until the summer so he must make do with what he has.

Injuries have hit Leeds United hard this season with central defender Liam Cooper, midfielder Kalvin Phillips, and top forward Patrick Bamford all out with long-term injuries.But what Bielsa had with the players at his disposal were not defending. In earlier season with Bielsea, the team had speed in transitions, and could defend as a unit. Lately, the team was terrible getting back into defensive shape once it lost the ball.Marsch will have to implement a system that focuses more maintaining defensive shape and might not be as aggressive offensively.


 Leeds is technically two points clear of the relegation zone (ahead of both Everton and Burnley by two points) but has played two more games than both of those teams. By all metrics, Leeds United is in worse shape than it looks in the standings and it is trending in the wrong direction.Here is the key takeaway: Leeds United has a manageable schedule over its next five games. After that, it will become more difficult. Over its next six games, Leeds does not have to play a team inside the top seven while it will also get to play twice against teams in the relegation zone (Leicester, Aston Villa, Norwich, Wolves, Southampton, and Watford).fter those six games, three of the next four will have games against Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal. The final two games will be manageable against Brentford and Bright & Hove.But clearly, the best prospects of survival will be determined in those next six games. If his team is in the relegation zone come the portion where three of the four games are against top teams, they’re going to be in trouble.If Marsch is going to succeed, he is going to need to be successful right away.


 If Marsch can keep Leeds United in the Premier League, it will be successful, and he will likely be in the good graces of Leeds fans at least to start 2022/23. There will always be some who won’t warm up and he will unfairly be surrounded by Ted Lasso jokes. Even if he succeeds, he will always be a few losses away from a hot seat – which is true for most Premier League managers.Marsch is an American trailblazer but to do that, he will need to take risky jobs. He is doing that here. He is replacing a legend and will need to get a team to reverse course after spiraling out of control defensively.It is a high risk/high reward job. The risk is two unsuccessful stints inside of a year while trying to carry a torch for American coaches in Europe. Any failure he has will be magnified. But any success he has will be amplified as a breakthrough for American soccer.
It should also be noted that Marsch is not used to controversy. Every job he has ever taken has been met with a wave of skepticism. That famously started in New York when he replaced a club legend in Mike Petke (who won the Supporters Shield the year before) and it started a revolt among the club’s supporters. His initial hires in Salzburg and Leipzig were not viewed favorably at the time.But a big part of what will determine Marsch’s success in Leeds will be showing that he learned from his struggles at Leipzig. He managed big players in New York and in Salzburg – Tyler Adams, Thiery Henry, Dominik Szoboszlai. But at Leipzig, there were egos to manage, and the overall talent was a step-up. It wasn’t just having an individual star or two. Leeds isn’t a Champions League team like Leipzig (or even Salzburg), but this is the Premier League.Can Marsch get players in the biggest league to buy into what he wants to do? If not, does he have a Plan B? Can he adapt to different situations? Marsch is smart and is a student of the game, and any student will tell you that you learn more from mistakes and struggles than from successes.This is a defining exam for Marsch as a student.  

USMNT weekend viewing guide: second chances

A second week of MLS and a debut in the EPL

It’s the second weekend of the MLS regular season as players across the US continue to round into form but across the pond is the real second chance as Jesse Marsch begins his second Top Five stint of the season as he looks to guide Leeds United out of playoff relegation beginning Saturday morning. All that and more as we roll through the weekend.


Leicester City v Leeds United 7:30a on USA

We don’t often highlight managers but it isn’t often that an American manager is making his Premier League debut. Four months after getting sacked less than halfway through his Bundesliga managerial debut Jesse Marsch is taking the wheel at Leeds United. Marsch has some large shoes to fill, taking over for club legend Marco Bielsa who led the club up from relegation in 2020 and drove them to a ninth place finish in the Premier League last season but has been unable to maintain that level this year as Leeds have fallen to 16th place and are just two points out of the relegation spots. They have also played more matches than the two teams just below them in the standings so could be passed and drop into 18th without losing. Marsch will certainly have his hands full both in terms of needing quick results, dealing with the stigma of being an American manager, and replacing Bielsa but he seems to be taking it all in stride and has a solid mentality.

Marsch will make his Premier League debut Saturday morning as Leeds face Leicester City who currently sit in 12th place but could jump up the table several spots as they have a number of games in hand relative to those around them in the table. Leicester are coming off a 2-0 win over Burnley.

Broadcast matchups:

  • Christian Pulisic appears to be rounding back in to form for Chelsea but minutes management seem to always be an issue so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t start against relegation threatened Burnley on Saturday, the match will be played at 10a on USA.

Streaming overseas:

  • Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN in a massive match for Champions League qualification. The two teams are tied with 40 points, with Leipzig currently edging out Freiburg for fourth place based on goal differential.
  • John Brooks will reportedly be moving on from Wolfsburg when his contract runs out this summer but for now he remains with the side who currently sit in 12th place and face Union Berlin at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Julian Green, Timothy Tillman and Greuther Furth have (very) quietly pulled four points from their past three matches which brings them to 14, still five points behind their closest competitor for bottom of the table. They take on Bochum at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt visit Hertha Berlin at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Josh Sargent picked up another assist midweek in his teams FA Cup loss to Liverpool. Norwich will be looking for their first points in four weeks when they face Brentford at 10a on Peacock.
  • Joe Scally has found minutes hard to come by in the second half of the season, his Gladbach teammates take on Pelegrino Matarazzo’s relegation threatened Stuttgart at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah continues to get significant minutes for Valencia who face Granada at 12:30p on ESPN+. Valencia are pretty comfortably middle of the table at this point.
  • Jonathan Gomez was included in Real Sociedad’s bench for their midweek victory over Mallorca on Wednesday but did not see the field, it was his first inclusion on the bench. His team face Real Madrid at 3p on ESPN+ which would be a pretty shocking time to make your debut but he does seem to be inching closer to making a first team debut and we’ll be keeping an eye on this.

MLS Streaming Matchups (all games on ESPN+)


Elche v Barcelona – 10:15a on ESPN+

Sergino Dest looks to be reestablishing himself under new manager Xavi as he has now started four of the last five league matches for his side. Barcelona have won four of their five matches over that stretch as well and now sit in fourth place in the La Liga standings. Fourteen points back of Real Madrid, any hopes of challenging for the league title have disappeared this season but there is some fierce competition for those Champions League qualifying spots with the teams in 3rd through 7th place separated by just four points.

Broadcast matchups:

  • DeAndre Yedlin and Inter Miami take on Austin FC at 4p on ESPN. Miami played to a scoreless draw with Chicao last weekend while Austin took advantage of a hapless Cincinnati side to pickup their first win, 5-0.
  • Kellyn Acosta and LAFC look to continue their hot start when they face the Portland Timbers at 10p on FS1 to close out the weekend. Eryk Williamson continues to recover from his ACL injury though indications were he had hopes of an early season return.

Streaming overseas:

  • Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia have some work to do to get out of the relegation spots, currently trailing Cavliari by three points for safety. They face 10th place Sassuolo at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Timothy Weah and Lille face Claremont at 11:05a on beIN Sport. Weah has been bouncing back and forth between starts and bench appearances since his return from injury in January.
  • Chris Richards remains out for Hoffenheim who face Koln at 11:30a on ESPN+.
  • Matthew Hoppe saw 22’ off the bench for Mallorca in their 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad, it was his first appearance since early January. His club take on Celta de Vigo at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Konrad de la Fuente has not made the matchday squad for Olympique Marseille in league play since January. This is in part due to injury but he did appear in the teams two Europa League matches in late February but still failed to make the team bench for Ligue 1 since. His team face Monaco at 2:45p on beIN Sport.


By Indy Eleven Communications, 02/28/22, 12:45PM EST

Indiana’s Team Returns to U.S. Soccer’s National Championship Versus MLS NEXT Pro Side on Tuesday, April 5 at IUPUI Carroll Stadium

CHICAGO/INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Soccer has determined the pairings and possible pairings for the Second Round of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – U.S. Soccer’s National Championship. Twenty-three Division II and 23 Division III pro teams will see their first tournament action, joining 16 First Round winners in a week that will feature a modern record of 31 matches in a single round.Among that group of teams entering in the Second Round is Indy Eleven, which will now host its 2022 USOC opener against MLS NEXT Pro side St. Louis CITY 2 on Tuesday, April 5. Kickoff at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET; broadcast information for the game will be announced in the coming weeks.Tickets for the match will be on sale exclusively to 2022 Season Ticket Members through this Friday, March 4 at 11:00 a.m., when they will go on sale to the public via indyeleven.com/tickets; Season Ticket Holders should look for details on how they can purchase via email this afteroon.Seats for the match in the Brickyard Battalion (West Stand) and Corner Sections will cost only $5, while tickets in the Sideline, Midfield, and Premier Sections will cost $11. In addition, Premium Hospitality options are also available and can be secured by calling 317-685-1100.“The U.S. Open Cup offers our club the valued opportunity to compete for a trophy for our fans and make an indelible mark on the American soccer landscape,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry. “We are glad to have the opportunity to begin our Cup run at home in April and look forward to our fans supporting us throughout this prestigious tournament.”After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup returns for its 107th installment in 2022. Indy Eleven’s last U.S. Open Cup run in 2019 started with a 1-0 victory over USL League One side Lansing Ignite FC in the Second Round at Butler University’s Sellick Bowl before Indiana’s Team suffered defeat by the same scoreline at fellow USL Championship side Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the Third Round.The 46 professional teams debuting in the Second Round include 23 from the USL Championship (Division II), two from MLS NEXT Pro (Division III), 10 from the National Independent Soccer Association (Division III) and 11 from USL League One (Division III). They will be joined in the Second Round by the 16 Open Division winners from the First Round, set for March 22-23.As a result of competition parameters and the hosting draw for the Second Round, eight games of the 31 matchups will see First Round winners against Division II clubs, eight First Round winners taking on Division III sides, while Division II vs. Division III will be on the marquee for 15 contests.More details surrounding the tournament, including a full listing of Second Round pairings, can be found at ussoccer.com/us-open-cup.Competition rules for the Second Round require First Round winners to be paired against either a Division II or Division III club. Further, the tournament has a universal provision to preclude teams from the same qualifying pool playing their first Open Cup game from facing each other. Each pro division is considered a unique qualifying pool regardless of the number of leagues in the division.Pairings were made on a geographical basis within the parameters listed above. If three or more teams/pairings were from the same proximity, matchups for these teams were made by random selection. Instances where a logical geographic fit did not exist were resolved by random selection. Home teams for each round are determined by random selection among those who apply to host. Clubs whose venue meets minimum tournament standards are given priority. Seventeen lower-seeded U.S.-based Division I Major League Soccer clubs will enter in the Third Round, which will be played April 19-21, while the remaining eight MLS sides will take the field in their first Open Cup action in the Round of 32, which takes place May 10-11.

 April 8                                 Third Round Draw

April 19-21                        Third Round (17 lower-seeded Division I teams enter)

April 22                              Round of 32 Draw

May 10-11                         Round of 32 (Eight higher-seeded Division I teams enter)

May 12                               Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw

May 24-25                         Round of 16

June 21-22                        Quarterfinals

July 26-27                          Semifinals

Sept. 6, 7, 13 or 14         Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final

 The full range of ticket offerings for Indy Eleven’s 2022 season at IUPUI Carroll Stadium – starting with the home opener on Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II – are now available, including Season Ticket Memberships, single game tickets, special multi-game packages, and an increased portfolio of hospitality options.  To get full details and purchase tickets, visit indyeleven.com/tickets, or call 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.

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