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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BIG GAMES ON TV

(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

MLS

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

EPL

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’

World

Russia’s request to suspend World Cup playoff rejected

Giovanni Reyna sets up Witsel winner, BVB creeps up on Bayern 
Messi left to pick up pieces at PSG after jeers and Champions League failure

Juve try to rise to title challenge after being sunk by Yellow Submarine

 Goalkeeping Around the World

MLS Top Saves Week 3  

Best Saves NWSL Women’s League last Season

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

Top 10 Goalkeepers in the World

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.)

EDITOR’S PICKS

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

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

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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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

DATETIME (ET)HOMEAWAYTV
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
SemifinalFinal

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

EASTCENTRALWEST
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.

FOLLOW LIVE
Local/National TV: N/A
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)   
2022 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS 
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 

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

GAME NOTES (PDF DOWNLOADS):

INDY ELEVEN     TAMPA BAY ROWDIES    USL CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK 2 NOTES

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.

LAST TIME OUT

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.  

TWELVE MAKE DEBUTS FOR ELEVEN
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.

FAMILIAR FACES IN FLORIDA
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.

ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: DF NOAH POWDER
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’)

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