Indy 11 Sign USL Leading Scorer Solomon Asante – home Sat at 7 pm
Indy Eleven’s new signing Solomon Asante has delivered in the attacking third beyond any other player since arriving in the league in 2018 Watch Solomon Asante’s Top Five Goals in the USL Championship so far
Fresh off their first win of the season a 2-1 win over Rio Grande the 11 return home to the Mike to play Atlanta United 2 on Saturday at 7 pm as they host Easter Egg Night. Tixavailable starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets. In other USL News former CFC GK Coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr was voted to the USL Save of the Week list for a second consecutive week last week for San Antonio.
Champions League – Final 4 – Liverpool, Man City, Real Madrid, Villareal
Wow do I love Champions League!! – who would have thought the Atletico Madrid vs Man City would almost match the fantastic Real Madrid vs Chelsea and Bayern losing to Villareal the day before. After Chelsea’s masterful comeback vs Real Madrid – scoring 3 goals to take the lead on aggregate 4-3 overall –they lose it when Real Madrid scored the final 2 goals to win it in extra time. Pulisic had 2 chances to win it in extra time – but missed both as a 70th minute substitute. I thought he was hugely active –and should have been on 10 minutes earlier – he was the most dangerious player on the fieild for Chelsea once he came in. (Chelsea vs Real Hilights) Of course the German Champs also laid an egg vs Villareal as a last minute goal put the Spanish thru 2-1 on Aggregate in Munich. (Bayern vs Villareal highlights) Atletico vs Man City was classic Atleti – as Simieone’s men battled and fought and certainly should have scored late to tie it vs Man City – but City held on with great late saves from Ederson to hold the 0-0 tie – advancing 1-0 on aggregate to a Semi-Final match-up with Real Madrid. (Man City vs Atleti video). The Atleti Crowd was spectacular even 20 minutes after the game – why I fell in love with Atletico when I visited 5 years ago and got to take in the Caldron. For the first night in the new Metropolitan Stadium – it sounded and felt like the Caldron – and this is good for Atleti – despite the heartbreaking loss to Man City who spends 3 times what Atleti does on salariers. Liverpool who held on to take it 5-3 on Aggregate vs Benefica will face Villareal.
FA Cup Semi’s, US Open Cup
Sat we get a rerun of last weekends Supermatch as Man City faces Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi’s at 10:30 am on ESPN+ I expect to see US GK Steffan between the pipes. Sunday gives us Pulisic and Chelsea vs West Ham United at 11:30 am. I look for Pulisic to possibly start in this one.. FA Cup Video Preview For You coaches out there Love this Chelea’s Tuchel’s Master Class on the 3-5-2
Games to Watch this Weekend/Week
Funny Fans from this past week – Europa League Games!! Honestly not much this weekend other than FA Cup Semi’s – Man United vs Norwich 10 am Sat on USA – but Man City vs Liverpool is on same time. Now Tues we get Liverpool vs Man United at 3 pm on USA – with Inter vs Milan on same time on Para+ in the Copa Italia Finals. Wed gives us RB Leipzig and Adams vs Union Berlin in the German Cup final – a chance for hardware for American Adams at 2:45 pm on ESPNU while at 3pm Chelsea and Pulisic host Arsenal. Also Wed we get US Open Cup games between USL clubs and MSL – (while its not the FA Cup – the US Open Cup has allowed some underdog teams thru – hopefully San Antonio with former Carmel FC GK Coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr hosting MLS Austin FC at 8:30 pm on ESPN+. Louisville City will host the team that beat our Indy 11 St Louis City 2 at 7:30 pm on ESPN+ (see full schedule below.)
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BIG GAMES ON TV
(American’s in parenthesis)
Fri, Apri 15
3 pm ESPN+ Real Sociadad vs Real Betis
3 pm Paramount+ Milan vs Genoa
3 pm ESPN+ Derby Cty vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)
8 pm CBS SN KC vs Houston Dash NWSL
Sat, Apr 16
7:30 am USA Tottenham vs Brighton
9:30 am ESPN+ Dortmund vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)
10 am USA Man United vs Norwich (Stewart)
10 am CNBC Southampton vs Aresenal
10:30 am ESPN+ Man City (Steffan) vs Livepool FA Cup Semi
12:30 pm Para + Juventus vs Bologna
3:30 pm ESPN+, Univision San Jose vs Nashville SC MLS
7:30 pm My TV 23 Indy 11 vs Atlanta United 2 @ the Mike
7:30 pm Para+ Racing Louisville vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL
10 pm FS 1 Seattle Sounders vs Inter Miami
9 am USA Leicester City vs New Castle
11:30 am ESPN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace FA Cup Semi
1:30 pm ESPN+ Leverkusen vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
2:$5 pm beIN Sport PSG vs Marsiele
3:30 pm ESPN+ Sevilla vs Real Madrid
4 pm ESPN LAFC vs Sporting KC
Tue Apr 19
2:45 pm ESPNU Hamburger vs Freiburg
3 pm USA Liverpool vs Man United
3 pm Para + Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)
US OPEN CUP = MLS vs USL
7 pm ESPN+ Miami FC vs Inter Miami
7:30 pm ESPN+ Detroit City FC vs Columbus Crew
7:30 pm ESON+ FC Cincy vs Pittsburg Riverhounds SC
8:30 pm ESPN+ Chicago Fire FC vs Union Omaha
10:30 pm ESPN+ LA Galaxy vs San Diego Loyal SC
Wed Apr 20
2:45 pm ESPNU RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Union Berlin German Cup
2:45 pm USA Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal
3 pm Para + Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)
US OPEN CUP = MLS vs USL
7 pm ESPN+ Orlando City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
7:30 pm ESPN+ Louisville City vs St Louis City 2
7:30 pm ESON+ Atlanta United vs Chatanooga
8:30 pm ESPN+ San Antonio (Jordan Farr) vs Austin FC
10:30 pm ESPN+ LAFC vs Orange County
Thur Apr 21
2:45 pm USA Burnely vs Southampton
3:30 pm ESPN+ Real Sociadad vs Barcelona
Sat, Apr 23
7:30 am USA Arsenal vs Man United
10 am USA Man City (Steffan) vs Watford
12:30 pm ESPN+ Bayern Munich vs Dortmund
Champions League & Europa
Villarreal show that smaller is beautiful in the Champions League
Bayern pick up the pieces after ‘bitter’ Champions League defeat
Villarreal fuelled to Bayern win by Nagelsmann remark, says Moreno
Liverpool survive late collapse to book Villarreal semi-final clash
‘Players only human,’ says Klopp as Liverpool survive collapse to reach semi-finals
Man City see off Atletico to set up Real Madrid clash
Stones praises City performance against ‘hostile’ Atletico as brawl mars tie
Tuchel ‘proud’ of Chelsea despite Champions League heartbreak
Tuchel praises Chelsea’s comeback even after it falls short in extra time
Villarreal’s Champions League run sinks another top side as Bayern waste key chances Mark Ogden
Real Madrid’s veteran thoroughbreds keeping European Cup dream alive
‘Hammer blow’ as Frankfurt stun Barcelona to reach Europa League semis
US Ladies & Men
USWNTwin 9-1 over Uzbekistan – S&S
Americans abroad analysis Reyna’s season is over, Musah injured, Haji remains hot in another tough weekend for Americans
Mexico plans pre-World Cup friendly tour in U.S. dCesar Hernandez
Former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr – USL Save of the Week list
Electric Ghanaian Forward Asante Brings Added Punch to Eleven Attacking Corps
INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, April 11, 2022) – In one of the biggest signings in club history, Indy Eleven added to its attacking firepower with today’s addition of two-time USL Championship Most Valuable Player Solomon Asante.Per club policy, details of the contract that brings the influential Ghanian forward to the Circle City will not be released. Asante is currently undergoing the immigration process necessary for his arrival in the United States, and while no exact timeline is available the club expects him to commence training in Indiana in approximately the next three weeks.“The USL Championship has always been a great place to play. For me, the challenge never ends and that’s why I chose this great club in Indy Eleven for a new challenge in my career,” said Asante. “With Coach [Mark] Lowry’s remarkable experience, I believe together with my teammates that history will be made. I look forward to meeting the great fans in Indianapolis and especially gaining the support of the Brickyard Battalion.”Asante joins Indiana’s Team after an accomplished four-year span with Phoenix Rising FC that included three All-USL Championship First Team nods from 2018-20 and back-to-back league MVP honors in 2019 and 2020, making him only the second player in league history to win the award twice alongside Kevin Molino. The 5’2” dynamo was simply the most productive player in the Championship during his run in the desert, scoring 54 goals and contributing 42 assists in 113 regular season (103) and playoff (10) contests.“To be able to add a player of Solomon Asante’s quality and caliber to our club shows the ambition we have,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry. “Building a winning team and a club that consistently competes for championships requires having strong characters and winning mentalities in the locker room, and Solo definitely checks those boxes for us.”Asante’s resulting 0.87 goals + assists per 90 minutes figure outranks any player in league history, and he is the only player in the USL Championship’s 40 goal/40 assist club during regular season play. His 41 career assists in regular season action are currently the fourth most in league history and place only six behind category leader Kenardo Forbes.A jaw-dropping 2019 campaign saw Asante record a league-record 17 assists while scoring 22 goals, itself ranking as the third highest in a single season. Those numbers contributed to team success as well, as Phoenix shattered Championship records in goals scored (89) and consecutive wins (20) en route to finishing the campaign with 78 points – one more than FC Cincinnati’s historic haul the season prior.“Solomon’s individual numbers speak for themselves, but it’s his ability to make his teammates better and raise the level of a squad that makes him a truly gifted player and one we sought highly,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO Greg Stremlaw. “We are thrilled to have him be an important contributor to the winning culture we are building under Coach Lowry moving forward.”Asante put the USL Championship on notice in 2018, when his 14 goals and nine assists helped Phoenix capture its first Western Conference title. The following season his streak of seven straight games with a goal tied him for the second-longest stretch in league annals, contributing mightily to Rising FC’s record form. In 2020, Asante again led the Championship with nine assists during the truncated season and helped Phoenix to a second Western Conference championship in what would be his second consecutive MVP season.Asante represented his native Ghana on the senior international level on 21 occasions between 2012-15, including six appearances in the African Cup of Nations continental championship and a trio in FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Asante was an accomplished player in a trio of African leagues prior to jumping stateside, suiting up for Ghanaian sides Feyenoord Ghana (2007-09) and Berekum Chelsea (2011-13), ASFA Yennenga in Burkina Faso (2009-11), and Congolese club TP Mazembe from 2013-17. Asante thrived with Mazembe, helping the squad to three league titles in four seasons as well as African Champions League (2015) and African Super League (2016) crowns. He ended his playing days in Africa by being named the Ghana Player of the Year in 2017.
On the heels of last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Rio Grande Valley FC, Indy Eleven will bring a three-game unbeaten streak home to IUPUI Carroll Stadium this Saturday, April 16, when it takes on Atlanta United 2. The 7:00 p.m. ET kick can be followed on MyINDY-TV 23, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/943exitos.com, and ESPN+. Tikets for all Indy Eleven home contests are available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets.
USWNT’s young players thrashed Uzbekistan but are they ready for tougher teams? It’s hard to tell
1:42 PM ET Julie FoudyContributor, espnW.com
Ahhh, Uzbekistan. I must admit, as I was calling the second of two friendlies the U.S. women’s national team played against Uzbekistan for ESPN, I did start to wonder 30 minutes in — after the U.S. had scored six goals — why Uzbekistan said yes to this two-game drubbing.Growth mindset, I get it. You’ve got to play the best to be the best. Yep. It just seems that you can sometimes extract a lesson less emphatically and in a less psychologically damaging way, no? Uzbekistan, at No. 48 in the world, is the lowest-ranked team the USWNT has faced in seven months. The U.S. is ranked No. 1.As I try to summarize what we learned over this April international match window as it relates to the USWNT, I keep finding myself saying “Yes, but …”The U.S. team scored 18 goals over two games vs. Uzbekistan. Impressive, indeed.
Yes, but …
The U.S. had nine different players score those 18 goals.
Yes, but …
Yes, but …
Yes, but … it was Uzbekistan. Herein lies the problem. You do not want to be taking 38 shots to your opponent’s zero (as in goose egg, nada, not one shot at all — not even off target), as was the case in the second game, a 9-0 win for the USWNT.
You need to get these younger U.S. players time, minutes, confidence, chemistry — all the above — but when it involves teams like Uzbekistan, Iceland, New Zealand and the Czech Republic (the USWNT’s opponents so far in 2022), it is hard to assess how much growth is even happening.
You can, for sure, check the confidence and chemistry boxes, but this level of opponent does not expose you enough to fully appreciate what needs to be tightened up technically and tactically. It doesn’t expose these young players to those critical moments of adversity that require you to slog your way through, find a way, lean on each other, eventually realize you can survive and most importantly, thrive, in those moments.And yes, to be fair to U.S. Soccer, I appreciate how hard it is to schedule teams right now. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc with long quarantines required upon return for some countries. World Cup qualifiers in April meant all competitive European teams were not available in this window. The Euros in early July mean the June FIFA window will be tough to schedule as well.But all I know is that these opponents must be stronger (there, I solved world peace) to fully assess how these players are doing. It is why Vlatko Andonovski and his staff will be so intently watching the National Women’s Soccer League and other professional leagues across the globe this April, May and June. That is what will give them their best read on where these players are.Now to the younger players vs. veteran players debate: It is difficult to predict what that mix will look like for the summer. If anyone tries to, I ain’t buying what they are selling because of the rant above and because we haven’t seen the rest of April, May and June — all huge months for the veterans trying to get back into the fold.
USMNT weekend viewing guide: Cup clashes
Man City take on Liverpool while Celtic and Rangers also face off again, this time in the Cup semi’s
By jcksnftsn Apr 15, 2022, 11:01am PDT Stars and Stripes
Injuries to key USMNT contributors are putting a damper on the end of the season, as there are fewer premier games to watch this weekend. However, Zack Steffen could get a chance for Manchester City and others look to avoid relegation or make an impression for a potential summer transfer.
Derby County v Fulham FC – 3p on ESPN+
Things are a bit slow on Friday afternoon, so if you’re looking for some action, head over to the English Championship and catch Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson in action as Fulham take on Wayne Rooney and Derby County. On paper, this one looks like a mismatch. Fulham are running away with the title, up 10 points with six matches to play, and they are all but mathematically guaranteed promotion to the EPL next season. Meanwhile, Rooney and Derby County are almost certainly going to be relegated as they trail Reading by 9 points for safety. It remains to be seen whether Ream and Robinson will continue the yo-yo process with Fulham. Ream has started every match for Fulham this season, including wearing the captain’s armband in most of those fixtures. But, he is also 35 years old and his contract with Fulham runs out in June. Robinson has also started the majority of matches for Fulham, but has repeatedly been the subject of rumors to move elsewhere.
Manchester City v Liverpool – 10:30a on ESPN+
Zack Steffen has again been the keeper for Manchester City’s FA Cup matches this season, and with the team still alive in Champions League action and in a fight with their opponent this weekend for the league title, it seems a good bet that Pep Guardiola will stick to his approach. If he does this, it should give Steffen a chance to go against one of the world’s top sides, though they may also feature a rotated side. It’s not all been smooth sailing for Steffen recently, so it would be good to see him show well this weekend.
- Josh Sargent and Norwich City get an opportunity to play spoiler against Manchester United this weekend. Norwich are all but relegated, but Man U still have a shot to qualify for European play next season. This match will be at 10a on USA.
- The San Jose Earthquakes face Walker Zimmerman and Nashville SC at 3:30p on Univision and Twitter.
- Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders face DeAndre Yedlin and Inter Miami at 10p on FS1 in Saturday’s nightcap.
- John Brooks, Kevin Paredes, and Wolfsburg will look to stretch the gap between themselves and relegation when they face Borussia Dortmund at 9:30a on ESPN+. BVB’s Giovanni Reyna has been shut down for the season so will be unavailable for this matchup.
- Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart currently sit one point ahead of Arminia Bielefeld for the relegation playoff position. This weekend the club faces Mainz at 9:30a on ESPN+.
- Augsburg have a six point gap between themselves and relegation and can do themselves a real favor this weekend by defeating relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin when the clubs meet at 9:30a on ESPN+.
- Matt Miazga seems likely to move again this summer, but for now his Deportivo Alavés side face Rayo Vallencano at 10:15a on ESPN+. Alaves are seven points back of safety with seven matches yet to play.
- Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia also look headed for a drop. They are three points back of safety though at least they have a game in hand. They’ll face a tough Fiorentina side that still has a shot at Europa League. The match will be played at 10:30a on Paramount+.
- Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach look like they have secured their position in the Bundesliga next season, and Scally has been getting more minutes again lately. They face a Köln side that still has a chance to qualify for Europa league. The match can be seen at 12:30p on ESPN+.
- Yunus Musah and Valencia are solidly middle of the La Liga table, as is their opponent this weekend Osasuna. This match will be at 12:30p on ESPN+.
- Tim Weah returns from his two match red card suspension as Lille face Lens at 3p on beIN Sports. Lille are three points back of Europa Conference League qualifying with seven matches to play.
MLS Matchups (all on ESPN+):
- CF Montreal ( Djordje Mihailovic) and the Vancouver Whitecaps get the MLS weekend started at 3p.
- Atlanta United (Miles Robinson) takes on FC Cincinnati at 6p.
- The Houston Dynamo and the Portland Timbers face off at 6p.
- The New York Red Bulls (Kyle Duncan, Caden Clark) face FC Dallas (Jesús Ferreira, Paul Arriola, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, et al) at 7p.
- The Columbus Crew (Gyasi Zardes, Aidan Morris) and Orlando City kick off at 7:30p.
- DC United (Moses Neyman, Griffin Yow, Chris Durkin) face Austin FC at 7:30p.
- The New England Revolution (Matt Turner, Sebastian Lletget, DeJuan Jones) and Charlotte FC face off at 7:30p.
- Toronto FC (Michael Bradley) and the Philadelphia Union (Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan) also kick off at 7:30p.
- The Chicago Fire (Gabriel Slonina) take on the LA Galaxy at 8p.
- Minnesota United (Wil Trapp, Hassani Dotson, Chase Gasper) and the Colorado Rapids (Auston Trusty, Jonathan Lewis) round out the schedule when they kick off at 8p.
Celtic FC v Rangers FC – 9a on ESPN+
Cameron Carter-Vickers scored the match winner two weeks ago for Celtic in their 2-1 Old Firm victory over Rangers and now the two clubs will go at it again, this time in Scottish FA Cup action. The win over Rangers gave Celtic a six point lead for the title race as they head into the final five matches, all against the top six in the league as the Scottish Premiership enters its “second phase.” It was a huge victory for Celtic, and CCV’s goal silencing the home crowd will be one he remembers for a very long time. The Cup match this weekend is the semifinal, but you can bet that the two sides will treat it as though it were for the silverware.
Chelsea face Crystal Palace in FA Cup action this weekend 10:30 am on ESPN+
. Christian Pulisic was a second half sub midweek as Chelsea were bounced from Champions League play by Real Madrid.
- Kellyn Acosta and LAFC take on Sporting Kansas City at 4p on ESPN. LAFC lead the Western Conference but are coming off a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy, while Kansas City have lost five of their last six.
- Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes face Strasbourg at 9a on beIN Sports. Troyes are currently six points out of relegation, while their opponent Strasbourg is in fourth place and fighting for a place in the European competitions.
- George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld have a tough matchup against Bayern Munich this weekend at 9:30a on ESPN+, which will make their attempts to stave off relegation more difficult, currently they sit in the relegation playoff position and trail Stuttgart by one point for safety.
- Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Julian Green and Greuther Fürth at 11:30a on ESPN+. Fürth are as good as relegated, while Richards and Hoffenheim are clinging to sixth place and Europa Conference League qualifying.
- Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig meet up in top four clash Sunday afternoon at 1:30p on ESPN+. Tyler Adams unfortunately has just one start since January.
MLS Matches (on ESPN+):
- NYCFC and Real Salt Lake meet at 1p. NYCFC have won just one game so far this season while RSL currently sit third in the West.
Hit the comments section below and let us know what you think of Steffen’s performance, the relegation races, or who you think should be showing off for a summer move.
Champions League talking points: Liverpool-Man City final? Should Simeone go? Greatest Cinderella story?
Apr 14, 2022 ESPN
The Champions League semifinals are set after Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Villarreal made it through following a set of quarterfinal second legs that featured thrills, upsets, brawls and plenty of goals.
Julien Laurens, Alex Kirkland and Tom Hamilton give their views on the big questions as just four clubs remain on the road to Paris.
What caught your eye from the quarterfinal second legs?
Laurens: I love how Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann got taught a lesson by Unai Emery and Villarreal, who beat them 2-1 on aggregate in one of the biggest upsets of recent years. Tactically, he was outsmarted by the Spanish manager. Just because you field five forwards doesn’t mean you will inevitably create a lot of chances and score many goals. And if you neglect your defensive transitions because you take the game for granted then you will get punished, and he did. Talking of punishment, Nagelsmann got it totally wrong as well with his comments after the quarterfinal draw was made and again before the match: He disrespected Villarreal and didn’t take them seriously. He is still a young manager, so let’s hope he learns from the mistakes he made this time around.
The other big one for me, of course, is another special moment from Karim Benzema, who scored the decisive goal that sent Real Madrid to the semifinals. It is his 12th goal in nine Champions League games so far this season. At 34 years old.
Kirkland: Two LaLiga teams in the semifinals: not bad for a league that’s supposedly in decline. It could have been three if Atletico Madrid had been a bit more clinical in the last 15 minutes against Manchester City at the Wanda Metropolitano, before the match descended into chaos with Felipe‘s red card. Atletico were on top at that point, and if they’d managed to score and level the tie you would have fancied their chances in extra time. But the brawl that followed the sending off (and reignited after the final whistle) robbed the game of any momentum, allowing City to progress 1-0 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s inexplicable run in this competition continues. They were comprehensively outplayed by Chelsea for 75 minutes at the Bernabeu — just as they had been for an hour by Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 — before digging deep once again to go through 5-4 on aggregate after extra time. There are plenty of things to criticise about this team, but you can’t fault their character and mentality. With the quality of Luka Modric and Benzema, there’s always a chance.
Hamilton: Hands down, the moment of the round was Modric’s assist for Rodrygo‘s goal. The Croatian magician was exceptional against Chelsea and that ball with the outside of his foot to tee up the Brazilian’s volley was an incredible piece of skill.
Liverpool’s strength in depth is also paying dividends. Jurgen Klopp has built a formidable squad, and he was able to rotate for their second leg against Benfica with one eye on their FA Cup semifinal against City at the weekend. Having taken the first leg 3-1 in Lisbon, he was able shuffle his pack for the return leg as they went through with a 3-3 draw at Anfield. The ability to rotate will prove to be absolutely essential as they are still chasing three trophies, but it also reinforced (again) what a brilliant job they’ve done in the recruitment department. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were both rested against Benfica, while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were second-half substitutes. Klopp’s judgment on rotation will be key in the run-in.
At the other end of the scale, Bayern Munich’s wastefulness against Villarreal was alarming. Nagelsmann is a wonderful manager, but you feel like one way or another, there will be some change at the Bundesliga champions this summer amid reports Barcelona are keen on their star man Robert Lewandowski. I agree with Juls: They don’t look as settled as they did under Hansi Flick, their midfield was picked apart on Tuesday, and the aggressively high line was a recipe for disaster against Villarreal — the masters of football frugality. Despite having a lethal attack, just four of their 23 shots were on target. Villarreal managed one and scored from it. Under-pressure sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic chuckled when interviewed about the quarterfinal draw on German TV. He’s not laughing now.
Is it time for Diego Simeone to leave Atletico? If so, which club would suit him?
Kirkland: We’ve often asked this question during Simeone’s decade in charge — in 2016 after a second Champions League final defeat in three seasons, in 2020 when they looked like dropping out of LaLiga’s top four — and the answer is always “no.” This is a manager who won the league last year ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona, has inspired famous away victories over Liverpool and Manchester United in recent seasons, and had them in this tie with Manchester City — arguably the best team in the world — until the very end. Simeone has become so identified with Atletico now that it’s impossible to picture how one would look without the other. For example: can you begin to imagine how it might have gone for Simeone if he’d taken the Manchester United job in 2016? Simeone is Atletico, and Atletico is Simeone. He should stay as long as he wants to, and leave on his own terms, when he sees fit.
Hamilton: Well they certainly still love him at the Wanda Metropolitano. The last few moments of that second leg were affirmation of how much they still adore Simeone, as he stood on the sideline clapping away with the fans (at least that’s how it looked, much to the bemusement/frustration of the much-maligned officials). But his football does grate on the European stage. The potential is frightening in that squad. While it managed to secure him LaLiga last term, watching Joao Felix chase down blind alleys all evening against Man City was frustrating. But it’s certainly a team built in his own image, and whoever takes over would take several seasons to shift the philosophy to how they’d want the team to play. It is time to shift away from the street-fighting mentality — their loss of discipline was shocking in the final stages, and was a poor look for the club.
Laurens: His time was up a while ago. Atletico are paying him a fortune, they are backing him up hugely on the transfer market and this is how they are rewarded! The two games against Manchester City were embarrassing. Koke & Co. showed they could play if they wanted, and they put City under pressure in the last 30 minutes of the game, but the rest of the time, they were so defensive, so anti-football that it hurt to watch them. Simeone is stuck in the past. With the squad that he has, his team could and should play in a more attacking way, with swagger and class. Instead, it’s street battles, ultra-defensive tactics and the negation of football. He is such a guru at Atletico that they are too scared to sack him. So he will stay until he decides to leave. Where could he go next? I don’t know and I don’t care (although I hope nowhere). The less I see his prehistoric tactics, the better!
Now that the final four is set, who will reach the final, and who will lift the trophy?
Hamilton: It’s going to be an all-English final, with Pep Guardiola up against Klopp, Salah against Kevin De Bruyne and a repeat of that brilliant 2-2 draw we saw at the weekend. Klopp won’t underestimate Villarreal like Bayern Munich did, while Guardiola has the nous to contain Benzema and knock over Real Madrid. It’s been a long time coming for Guardiola — this will be his second semifinal as City boss, and if he gets through that, then it’ll be his second chance at winning the trophy at this club. Klopp has already won the trophy with Liverpool back in 2019. And I have a feeling that whoever wins the league won’t win the Champions League. So for that reason: It’s Liverpool’s Champions League this year.
Laurens: I know mainland Europe will not like it, but I am betting again on a full English. For the third time in the past four seasons, we will have a final with two English clubs. After Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 and Chelsea defeated Manchester City last season, it will be Man City vs. Liverpool on May 28 at the Stade de France. It is the dream final: the two best teams in the world right now, the two best managers, the two best attacks, the two best defences, Salah against Kevin De Bruyne, eight goals in two amazing Premier League matches this season, and surely more when they meet at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal (stream LIVE at 10:30 a.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.). The final between these two might not be as open, but I feel it will be City’s triumph this time. They have learnt a lot from the disappointment of losing to Chelsea last season and will get their first, long-awaited Champions League trophy.
Kirkland: I’d love to make the case for an all-Spanish, Real Madrid vs. Villarreal final … but I don’t think I can. Madrid’s luck will surely run out at some point, and Manchester City are a better, more reliable team than PSG or Chelsea. As for Villarreal, anything is possible — who would have backed them to eliminate Juventus or Bayern Munich, and Unai Emery’s European record is exceptional — but I would worry about their defence up against Liverpool’s stacked forward line. I think we’re in for yet another all-English final, and City to win it.
After Villarreal, a team from a town of 50,000 people, reached the semifinals, what is your favourite Champions League Cinderella story?
Laurens: Monaco reaching the semifinals in 2016-17. What a team, and what a journey! They also won Ligue 1 that season but, maybe more impressively, they defied all the odds in the Champions League. We got to see the making of a new star in Kylian Mbappe who, at only 17, blew away everyone. He scored against Manchester City at the Etihad in the first leg of the round of 16, his first-ever start in the competition. He did it again in the second leg, and in the two quarterfinal matches against Borussia Dortmund, and in the semifinal second leg in Turin against Juventus. Mbappe was on fire alongside Radamel Falcao, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho and Thomas Lemar. It was a golden generation and manager Leonardo Jardim made the most of the incredible talent at his disposal. They were a bit naive and unlucky against Juventus in the semifinals and fell short, but nevertheless it was a beautiful Cinderella story.
Kirkland: How about the last time Villarreal reached the Champions League semifinals? Their 2005-06 team was packed full of gifted, must-watch players — Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan, Marcos Senna — and came within a missed Riquelme penalty of making the final. Staying on the LaLiga theme, the Isco-inspired Malaga of 2012-13 is another personal favourite. They reached the quarterfinals on their debut in the competition and were only eliminated thanks to a baffling double-offside call in added time that went the way of Klopp’s Dortmund. The best, though, has to be 2003-04 semifinalists Deportivo La Coruna. Depor eliminated both of the previous year’s finalists — Juventus and AC Milan — before being cruelly beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Porto (the ugly sister to Depor’s Cinderella, if you will). The win over Milan was one for the ages, following a 4-1 loss at San Siro with a legendary 4-0 second-leg comeback at Riazor.
Hamilton: If I can shoehorn them in as a Cinderella story (perhaps they’re more like Jack and the Beanstalk), then it has to be Ajax’s run to the 2019 semifinals. They were a matter of seconds away from a spot in the final, until Lucas Moura broke Amsterdam hearts with that perfectly placed shot from the edge of the box to seal his hat trick put Tottenham through at the expense of Erik ten Hag’s side. That team was wonderful to watch, playing ambitious football with that young Dutch core of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek. They were brought together on a comparatively tiny budget to their European rivals, but a squad brimming with homegrown talent managed to knock out Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semifinals. That run then (inevitably) triggered a mass dismantlement of that generation, but they were a joy to watch.
Chelsea debate: Thomas Tuchel costly Christian Pulisic Real Madrid call prompts FA Cup question
Did Thomas Tuchel get it wrong with his decision to sub Christian Pulisic on against Real Madrid? (Image: Getty Images | Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images)
With under 15 minutes to play, it appeared Thomas Tuchel’s Madrid miracle was actually going to happen. Timo Werner’s mazy solo run had unravelled Carlo Ancelotti’s already rocked defence to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead.
Then Tuchel opted to take the confident Werner off for Christian Pulisic to add fresh legs to Chelsea’s intense attack. The move altered the game, with the American missing two guilt-edged chances in added time after Rodrygo had levelled the tie on aggregate.
Pulisic’s display was disappointing, losing the ball too easily and failing to offer the same dynamic movement the German had before coming off.
Football. london’s esteemed panel of Chelsea writers combine to give you their take on the sub, if it was the one wrong and what Tuchel should do heading into this weekend’s huge FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace, and you can voice your thoughts as well.
As the ball dropped into the path of Pulisic, it felt like the American star’s moment. Hit the target, and Chelsea would almost certainly secure their place in the Champions League semi-finals. Unfortunately, the winger put his effort from close range over the crossbar and repeated that unfortunate trick moments later.
They were two huge misses from the only substitute Tuchel made in normal time. Pulisic replaced Werner, who had scored Chelsea’s third and been a general nuisance throughout. It didn’t pay off, but that wasn’t for want of trying. And it’s very easy to deride the change after the fact. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
However, I wouldn’t start Pulisic in the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at the weekend. In the past two games, we’ve seen the return of last season’s front three – Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Werner – and it has clicked straight into gear. The movement, the rotation, the interplay, it just seems to come together with that trio. It’s why I’d go with Werner on the left of the Chelsea attack against Palace. It’s another chance for him to impress and save what appeared to be a Chelsea career drifting toward a disappointing end.
It probably wasn’t the best move to make in hindsight. However, I understand why Tuchel had made the call. Chelsea needed something different, and looking onto the bench, Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were the only game-changers to call upon.
At the time, I agreed with the switch, but Pulisic did not have that Captain America moment to bring Chelsea to the win. I cannot in a good mind blame him for the result at all. He did what he could do. We can only leave the game saying, “if only he had buried one of the two chances presented to him.
It’s always tempting to look at the outcome over the process. Pulisic has shown some lethal finishing in the past, and you don’t have to look further away than the Champions League last 16 to see the injection of pace he can bring and Tuchel would have expected the US international to have an impact on tiring legs.
Pulisic may have missed the opportunities that fell to him, but his introduction was always likely to come as one of few game-changers on the bench. The question is if Timo Werner needed to come off at the moment. The German international was a goal to the good and had tactically troubled Carlo Ancelotti’s backline throughout the evening at the Bernabeu.
There may be a question of ‘what if?’ but on the whole, Chelsea were brilliant bar some finishing and still managed three goals. Crashing out of the competition comes from the first leg failures. Nevertheless, Werner has done enough to earn another start if he is in condition to play at the weekend.
Pulisic always seems to be on the verge of something great at Chelsea, and then something happens that rains on his parade. Though I think he could be a great asset for the Blues moving forward, and he certainly has the potential to be such, it’s so hard to deny Werner a start ahead of the American international now.
As Scott said, there may be a question of ‘what if?’ but football is about performing and stepping up in the big moment, and unfortunately, the game was swept by Pulisic at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is by no means the end of him, but should he want to cement a role in Tuchel’s side, then he must become a consistent seven out of ten performer at the very least, with a sprinkle of magic.
Football is a game of fine margins, and I think we are too quick to blame a coach for a decision purely on its result. In 2021, Pulisic was a devastating sub against Real Madrid’s tiring backline in the second half. Here, he wasn’t, but that came down to the American’s poor finishing in added time.
American coaches (not Ted Lasso) trying to make it in Europe: ‘It’s almost impossible for us to get you hired’
Apr 6, 2022 Noah Davis ESPN
Mike Keeney embodies a certain type of American soccer story. You know the one: a young man packs a bag with some clothes and a dream, stuffs a couple hundred dollars into his pockets, hops a plane to Europe and dives into football on the continent. He struggles and works, embracing any opportunity while battling negative perceptions and reality. Eventually, he finds a place, making himself indispensable and building a career.”Those first few years, I was scraping by trying to make make a living,” Keeney told ESPN over Zoom. “I was sacrificing a lot of time and energy to train three, four or five teams. I joke around, if two kids were kicking a bottle in the carpark I probably went over there and tried to make them better. Why? Because I wanted to show my ability, and I think in a country like Finland, they reward you for this.”Keeney is nearly 15 years into this journey, a veteran with experience at a dozen clubs including HIFK Helsinki and FC Samorin, and a Finnish passport to boot. He’s built a reputation, a good one, with connections throughout Europe. Keeney’s story is one of success, but the Antioch, California, native isn’t a player. The 48-year-old is a manager, one of a small but growing number of Americans who are making it in the European coaching ranks, forging paths not just for themselves but for the people who will come after them.The American-in-Europe coaching fraternity includes some big names. U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter previously managed Sweden’s Hammarby IF, while Bob Bradley had stints at Swansea City and Le Havre. Jesse March is with Leeds United after a successful run at FC Salzburg and less successful one at RB Leipzig. Pellegrino Matarazzo and David Wagner boast Bundesliga experience, with LAFC‘s Steve Cherundolo previously working in an assistant capacity at Hannover. Others, such as Kenney, Enochs and former University of Connecticut and Temple assistant Brian Clarhaut — now with GIF Sundsvall in Sweden, which just signed MLS stalwart and former U.S. international midfielder Joe Corona on loan — don’t have the name recognition, but are forging a path others can follow. In football, success begets success, and a chance taken creates another opportunity for someone else.That said, just as American players had to (and continue to) deal with prejudice and prevailing perception about the quality of soccer in the United States, coaches do, too. Bradley drew the ire of the fans for saying “PK” and “road games,” and mispronouncing Premier League. Marsch caused a collective commentator meltdown after holding a postmatch team huddle on the pitch, while Manchester United assistant Chris Armas can’t get away from the Ted Lasso comparisons. (We’ll get to the Richmond FC boss in a bit.)But while there’s a negative connotation of the U.S. as a backwater football culture, leaning into the stereotype of being “an American” can have its benefits.”I didn’t try to downplay it — I tried to embrace it,” said Clarhaut, a brash and proud 35-year-old New Jersey native. “That type of leadership, that type of aggression is one of my biggest strengths. It’s like, ‘OK, who is this kind of crazy American guy?'”American managers might be crazy (at least some), but are they any good? It’s a decidedly mixed bag.Twenty First Group pulled together a list of how American coaches had fared during their tenures, using their World Soccer League ratings to determine how much better or worse a coach’s team got during his first 30 matches in charge. Matarazzo and Marsch made their teams “much better.” (In fact, Matarazzo’s time at Stuttgart rated as the most improvement of any of the 771 manager tenures tracked.) Enochs, Wagner (at Young Boys) and Bradley (at Le Havre) rated between “slightly better” and “slightly worse.” Berhalter, Bradley (at Swansea City) and Wagner (at Schalke and Huddersfield) checked in as “materially worse.”Not horrible, but not exactly Ted Lasso, either.
Speaking of that streaming phenomenon, while Americans coaching in Europe mostly have similar stories about their paths, they have vastly different opinions regarding everyone’s favorite affable football-turned-football coach.”They did a great job,” Cherundolo said. “It’s a great show.””We just got sort of hooked on it,” said Enochs, who binged both seasons with his wife. “It was funny. I enjoy it. I know it’s only entertainment, though.” He also said that none of his assistants in Germany know anything about it — a boon when it comes to avoiding the dopey-American-coach stereotype.Keeney, on the other hand, isn’t a fan. “The little bit I’ve seen, I don’t think it does favors for the image of an American abroad,” he said. “It undermines some of the work that myself and some of the other guys have been doing, the guys who actually come over to Europe and work and battle.”One issue not covered in a fictional show that’s very real for flesh-and-blood Americans is the fact that U.S. Soccer coaching licenses are not valid in Europe. Without a UEFA Pro License, one cannot manage a team in a top-tier league for more than 12 weeks. Getting one requires successfully completing the B and A Licenses, and getting approved for a Pro course, which happens at the discretion of national federations.”These are very selective spots,” Clarhaut said. “So that’s a huge, huge disadvantage for American coaches. It’s a problem.”While this wrinkle isn’t unique to Americans as all non-European managers can have difficulty earning their UEFA badges, it dramatically limits the opportunities available for coaches coming from the United States. (And, perhaps, the lack of reciprocity indicates the low standards in which the European governing body holds the USSF coaching-licensing program.) Before moving to Europe, Keeney worked at Hoover Soccer Club in Birmingham, Alabama, which had a coaching- and player-exchange program with Celtic. While he impressed the Scottish club’s coaching staff, getting a job with them was a nonstarter.”They told me, ‘You’re an American guy with no UEFA badges, no coaching licenses,'” Keeney said. “‘It’s almost impossible for us to get you hired, let alone get you the work permit.'”When an opportunity presented itself in Finland, Keeney jumped at it, and even then, constantly applying and reapplying for visas and work permits took a good deal of his time.In the future, more American coaches will find their way to Europe, but it’s not happening yet. In his capacity as chief intelligence officer at Twenty First Group, Omar Chaudhuri helps teams perform due diligence on lists of coaching prospects and also creates lists of potential coaching candidates for clubs. He said there’s never really been an American on the shortlists, although he did note Marsch’s hiring at Leeds. While he (and others interviewed for this piece) have noticed an improved perception of American players in Europe, the same isn’t true of coaches.”If a coach is doing very well in MLS, I think in Europe, it’d be dismissed more readily than if a player was doing well in MLS,” he said.Conversely, American managers are on short leashes when they do get top jobs. The masses turned against “Soccer Bob” Bradley almost immediately — perhaps before he even fielded his first starting lineup. Marsch and Leipzig parted ways just four months into his first season, with both parties admitting that it was the wrong person in the wrong situation.This isn’t an unknown phenomenon. In the recent past, American players wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt, pulled from the lineup or buried on the bench after a few mistakes, whereas their counterparts from more “respected” soccer cultures would earn more chances. As more Americans succeed on the field, that reality is changing.”The dialogue is much different today,” said Cherundolo, who has experience both as a player and a manager helping to change the perception. “It’s: ‘No, he’s good. Let’s give him some time and get to know the team.’ Respect and credit has certainly grown over the years. It’s only a matter of time before that happens for coaches. But there are always going to have to be some trailblazers who go through difficult stretches first.””We have to prove ourselves first,” he said. “We have to go through that. It’s just a lengthy process, but it will happen.”The goal, of course, is to get to a place where Americans aren’t “American coaches” and just “coaches.” The best way to do that is to win.”They don’t look at your passport, they look at your ability,” Keeney said. “If you’re not winning games, if you’re not developing players, if, on a professional side, you’re not selling guys for profit, they don’t care who you are or where you’re from. It’s a business.”eeney continued: “It’s an interesting pathway. If you would have asked me 15 years ago, when I first left, would I be down this road, I would say, ‘You’re crazy.’ But you know, the journey has been fantastic.”
The Making of American Coach Jesse Marsch – From his MLS Days to the EPL
The making of Jesse Marsch in MLS predates the league’s inception. It goes back to when he was in college.
Marsch, a boy from a small Wisconsin city called Racine, was recruited to play soccer at Princeton University under head coach Bob Bradley, among the country’s most decorated male soccer coaching minds and someone who would become a trailblazer. He’d spend the better part of the next quarter-century with Bradley – from Princeton to D.C. United, then Chicago Fire FC and Chivas USA before getting his first coaching job as an assistant under Bradley with the US men’s national team.
Along the way, Marsch learned and developed his own ideas, made his own connections and a ton of his own memories, as a hugely successful MLS player and then a Supporters’ Shield-winning head coach with the New York Red Bulls. From there, he embarked on a coaching career in Europe with RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig.
Now at Leeds United, Marsch follows a path first forged by Bradley, who was the first American-born head coach of a Premier League team when he (briefly) was in charge at Swansea City. Marsch inherited a sinking ship at Leeds but has steered it immediately, doing things his way and leading the group away from the relegation zone. They are currently on a four-game unbeaten run after a commanding 3-0 win over Watford last weekend.
MLSsoccer.com spoke with a number of folks who knew Marsch best at various stops in MLS, from his playing days to his first coaching job with the Montréal Impact (now CF Montréal) and then becoming a household name with the New York Red Bulls.
Chicago Fire competitiveness and scuffles
Jesse Marsch’s professional career began with D.C. United during MLS’s inaugural 1996 season, but he made his name in Chicago with the Fire. Bob Bradley was an assistant under Bruce Arena at D.C. United for the league’s first two seasons, then was named head coach of Chicago for their expansion season in 1998. He brought Marsch there.
Marsch would go on to make 200 appearances for the Fire, in an atmosphere that suited his fiery, competitive nature.
“We got under each other’s skin,” Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said. Curtin joined the Fire in 2001, where he was Marsch’s teammate until 2005, then again in 2008-09 with Chivas USA. “There were fistfights all the time, that was a common occurrence. Jesse had a way of competing, it wasn’t uncommon that punches were thrown. Let’s just say we’ll leave out some details, but, yeah, that wasn’t uncommon.”Austin FC head coach osh Wolff, a fellow original member of the Fire with Marsch and his first roommate, recalled those details, including a one-punch knockout by Ante Razov.
“Yeah, plenty of good stories,” Wolff said. Wolff played for Chicago from 1998-2002. “Jesse got knocked out by Ante in training in one punch; He got thrown out of a training because he took a cheap shot. There was plenty of animosity between players. Jesse didn’t back down, other players didn’t back down either.”
Training altercations were left between the white lines of the pitch, quickly forgotten and moved on from in that ultra-competitive group. In fact, the morning after that fight with Razov and Marsch, the pair were in the same car heading to training together.
“In hindsight, it was a good thing,” Curtin said. “It made us all so competitive, it was a really cool locker room to be part of.”
It was like that from Curtin’s first day.Curtin arrived with the team in 2001 fresh out of college, after the Fire’s three-year run of two US Open Cup titles and one MLS Cup. It was a bit of a jump in quality and pace for the former Villanova star, and his first training session didn’t quite go to plan.
“You get thrown off a plane off that, and you might be a good college player, but you learn pretty quickly you’re not at their level,” Curtin said. “And it was probably the beers I had the night before, but I timed a challenge – let’s just say very poorly – on Piotr Nowak. It was so bad, Bob ended the session. I walked away with Jesse, sat in the van and I turned to him – and I didn’t know Jesse at all – and said, ‘Well, at least I can say I fouled Piotr Novak before my career ended.’ I’m thinking that was the end of things. He laughed and appreciated I was self-deprecating, and a friendship was born from that.”Curtin and Marsch carpooled together during their time in Chicago and Chivas. They remain close to this day, with a lifetime of memories on and off the field.
“Thank god there were no cell phones in those days,” Curtin said with a laugh.
Marsch remained that way through the twilight of his career. It’s just who he is; you can’t really turn that off.
From Chicago he went to Chivas USA, as did Curtin, where they played with rising rookie Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan was taken fifth overall at the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, was a finalist for 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year and would be destined for a successful career in MLS, Europe and with the USMNT. His first stop was as Marsch’s midfield partner with Chivas.
“I’d say for the majority of my rookie year, I didn’t really like Jesse that much,” Kljestan said. “He was always on me. He was the old guy who had been around the block and I was the rookie who thought I knew better.”
The pair spent four years playing together, with Kljestan crediting Marsch for aiding his development.
Kljestan would go on to Anderlecht, becoming a fan favorite as an integral part of Belgian league-winning sides, then join up with Marsch as a centerpiece of those New York Red Bulls teams he coached.
Bob Bradley’s impact
To say that Bob Bradley’s coaching tree was plentiful, particularly in those Chicago days, might be an understatement. In different variations of that team with Marsch a centerpiece – including after Bradley had departed – the culture he laid lived on. It was a perfect breeding ground for future coaches and sporting executives.
Bradley was at the helm, regarded as one of the best American coaches of all time, and has since cycled through the USMNT, Egypt men’s national team, Swansea, LAFC and now Toronto FC. Denis Hamlett was an assistant on that staff and he’s now the sporting director at the New York Red Bulls.
The playing rosters featured:
- Current MLS head coaches Curtin and Wolff
- Former MLS head coach and current Manchester United assistant coach Chris Armas
- Current MLS assistant coaches Razov, CJ Brown, Frank Klopas and Zach Thornton
- Current MLS front-office executives John Thorrington, Carlos Bocanegra and Amos McGee
- Former MLS manager Piotr Nowak
- Former Bulgaria international manager (and Barcelona star) Hristo Stoichkov
“The film session arguments, sharing of information,” Curtin said. “I’m 21 years old, my head is spinning in this locker room with Bob, Stoichkov, Piotr, Jesse and Chris all disagreeing and giving points of view. You couldn’t help but learn. I was lucky to be in that environment.”
“Landing in Chicago was very instrumental in my development,” Wolff added. “Those were good players and every player held each other accountable. That’s Bob as well. Nobody got away with anything, the competing was real. There were plenty of scrappy days, the feistiness. It was a very connected group. Bob Bradley’s ability to keep connecting to players and families, to keep them together, I take away those things from that group.”
Given how long Marsch spent with Bradley from college through the pros and even his first coaching job as an assistant with the national team, it’s easy to lump them together, particularly now with Marsch at Leeds six years after Bradley went to Swansea.
“They share ideas, no question. But the great thing about soccer, you can learn from the best and evolve with your own ideas,” Curtin said. “They’re their own people, they’re both appreciative of each other and both incredible at what they do. As someone who learned from both of them and owes a career to both of them, I can step back and say they’re different, and that’s okay. Both are incredible leaders. Maybe the best way to put it, they’re both incredibly brave and didn’t stay in their comfort zone. Bob took Egypt, Bob took Swansea. Jesse, same thing. He’s coached all over the world and has had success. They both find ways to win because they’re both winners.”
Playing against Marsch? “A lot of whining, pissing and moaning”
Between D.C. and Chicago, Marsch won nine major trophies in the league’s first eight seasons: Three MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields and four US Open Cups. His teams won, simply put.
A tenacious defensive midfielder, Marsch was no stranger to contact, the type of player all successful teams need. He committed 450 fouls over his career and picked up 57 yellow cards.
“When you talk to people about Jesse outside of his teammates, they say ‘I hated him on the field,’” Curtin said. “No kidding, because his teams always won!”
Wolff spent five seasons with Marsch and the Fire before being traded to the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City). He got Marsch as a teammate, then had extensive experience playing against him for the better part of the next seven years, too.
“A lot of whining, a lot of pissing and moaning,” Wolff said with a laugh about playing against Marsch. “But again, there are these players who want to antagonize. … When he did something well he let everybody and anybody who could hear him know. This is Jesse, you see it, it’s right on his sleeve every single day. It’d be a boring world if we didn’t have personalities.”
Marsch didn’t win any trophies in the final act of his career at Chivas USA, but the correlation between the club being competitive and not with or without him is remarkable.
Chivas missed the playoffs in 2005, their inaugural season. Marsch joined ahead of 2006 and the club made the playoffs each of those four years from 2006-09. He retired after the 2009 season. From 2010 until the club’s final season in 2014 before ceasing operations, Chivas missed the playoffs each year.
Kljestan departed the club during the 2010 season, signing for Anderlecht. Marsch’s impact on the way he trained every day stayed with him throughout his career, still thriving with the LA Galaxy today.
“When you saw Jesse train, he wasn’t the best player but his team always won,” Kljestan said. “He always had the guys ready to play. I took a lot of that with me when I went and played with him at Red Bulls.”
Off the field, “the most humble, down-to-earth, family guy”
While Marsch wears his heart on his sleeve both as a player and coach, he’s a different human outside of the game. Most people are, anyway.
“Of course he was a different person off the field,” Curtin said. “He’s the most humble, down-to-earth, family guy from Wisconsin. He’s a great person, his mom and dad are amazing people. There’s no coincidence he’s developed into this leader.”“He’s fun off the field. We’re all self-deprecating and take shots at ourselves – he’s as open as anyone,” Wolff said. “He’s a good dude, a smart guy. He’s comfortable being uncomfortable, you’ve seen that over his career. He and his family have done things to experience life, that’s an incredible quality.”
Marsch coached in the United States, Canada, Austria, Germany and now England. In the years between Montréal and the Red Bulls, he took his kids out of school so he and his family could go on a six-month trip around the world to experience the globe’s different cultures together.Most people wouldn’t take that sort of leap.“To have a beer with Jesse, he’s one of the best storytellers,” Curtin said. “He makes everyone feel welcome. I’ve had many nights where you’re just laughing. I got to see the other side of Jesse. He’s very serious about his soccer, but he’s a down-to-earth guy.
“He’s actually hilarious, but don’t tell him I said that part,” Curtin continued. “Well, he can get repetitive with his stories, you can write that. He has five or six amazing ones where he’s like a world-class storyteller, but I’ve heard them a lot. His wife will back me up on this. I say that in the nicest way.”“You know all coaches, they think they’re funny. He’s got a few terrible jokes,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. Wright-Phillips was the star forward for the New York Red Bulls during Marsch’s entire tenure. “But, nah man, I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about Jesse. He was quality, especially for me.”When Kljestan joined the Red Bulls in 2015, as pushed and orchestrated by Marsch, Kljestan played one more game with Anderlecht on a Tuesday night as a sendoff to a successful run at the club whose fans affectionately called “Mr. USA”. He took an overnight flight to New Jersey to complete his medical, then at the end of the day hopped on another plane to Florida to join up with his new teammates in preseason camp.In the middle of the night, as Kljestan stumbles into the hotel in a jetlagged fog, he sees a familiar, smiling face.“I got into the hotel at like 1 in the morning and Jesse is just standing in the lobby waiting for me to give me a big hug,” Kljestan said. “That meant a lot to me. It made me feel so welcomed to the group.”
“Lived and learned” in a season with the Montréal Impact
It’s easy to forget Jesse Marsch’s one year as manager of CF Montréal, then still known as the Impact. It was his first foray as a head coach.
Montréal were set to begin play in MLS in 2012. Canadian international Patrice Bernier, who began his career in 2000 with Montréal when they played in the A-League, was enjoying a successful period in Europe, currently in Denmark.
Marsch helped convince him to come home for his hometown’s inaugural season in MLS.
“I had no plans of coming back to Montréal already when the team was announced,” Bernier said. “Then Jesse came to Europe to watch players and wanted to see me. He was able to convey his philosophy and guided me to say, okay, I might come back home. He was a guy who had ideas, wanted to bring his flavor to MLS. That message conveyed.”
Bernier played for Montréal until retirement following the 2017 season. He is second all-time in MLS matches played in the club’s history.
“Jesse is someone who works hard,” Bernier said. “Even though me and him had our rough patches, he always communicated. Some coaches when you’re out of the mix, you never talk. He was at least honest. He took a decision, you might not like it, but the communication line was always open.”
Marsch lasted just the 2012 season with Montréal before moving on due to “differences in coaching philosophies with management.”
“When he was at Montréal, he lived and learned,” Wolff said. “He got a new pathway, got introduced in different ways. He was comfortable knowing he needs to learn. It’s a life of learning until the day you die and he knows that.”
“This guy is f—king crazy”: Marsch’s RBNY revolution
Jesse Marsch became a national name while with the New York Red Bulls from 2015-18. Expectations were low at the onset. In fact, things were hostile.
The Red Bulls were transitioning out of the Thierry Henry era with a plan to revamp the playing and recruitment styles. Mike Petke, a former player with RBNY and then their head coach, was a fan favorite and enjoyed success at the club. He was surprisingly let go in favor of Marsch that offseason.
Leaders at RBNY held a town hall for fans to voice their opinions in that first offseason and it went very poorly. The fan base was still firmly behind Petke and angry at how things played out. Marsch was there fielding questions and angry comments, taking the criticism and ill-will in stride, saying he loved the passion.
Though preseason was rocky, it didn’t take long for Marsch to win them over.
“That first game at home we played D.C. United,” Kljestan said. “I remember the fans were not happy. They did a thing where they weren’t going to cheer in the first half. But Bradley scored two goals and they started cheering again. Winning is all that matters, and we won a lot, so the fans came around very quickly.”
They did it with the now-standard Red Bull high-pressing way. While it’s a hugely popular system today, it wasn’t quite so normal around the globe and that rang true for MLS.
The players were in for a shock that preseason.
“That was tough, that was crazy, oh my god,” Wright-Phillips said. “We’re out in Florida (for preseason), even just the warmup was so difficult. I was like what the hell, I’m not the fittest guy. If you’re asking me to run at training, I’m going to struggle. It was tough, man. I remember Roy Miller looking at me like what the hell is going on. The first week of preseason was tough.”
Kljestan missed that first week of preseason as he was still playing for Anderlecht and finalizing his transfer to RBNY. The first morning at the hotel, after arriving at 1 a.m. the night before, he’s having breakfast. Marsch comes over to start to familiarize Kljestan with the tactics.“I’m still all jetlagged, but at breakfast he pulls me over and he’s drawing on a piece of paper how we’re going to play and how we’re going to press,” Kljestan said. “He’s explaining it to me, how our outside backs will press their outside backs. No one ever pressed that way. I was like: ‘This guy is f–king crazy.’”
Kljestan didn’t mind that Marsch saw him as a No. 10 after he played mostly as a box-to-box midfielder with Anderlecht. Wright-Phillips didn’t mind that a lot of the transition tactics had the players looking quickly for “Option A” when possession was recovered. Wright-Phillips was “Option A”.“He told us we were going to be the fittest team. I was thinking: ‘Me? I think you got the wrong guy, man,’” Wright-Phillips said. “He had to teach us the style in the beginning, it was like Pressing for Dummies.”
“If this doesn’t work, we’re going to be bad,” Kljestan said.
It did work out, for the team and most individuals. Wright-Phillips and Kljestan were two of the three finalists for the 2016 Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. Kljestan had 16g/51a in his three seasons under Marsch, BWP had 78g/21a in four seasons under Marsch (well, technically three-and-a-half seasons).
In Marsch’s first year in charge, 2015, the Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield and he was named Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year.
“When he went over to the Red Bulls, I joke, but it was like the Montréal Impact 2.0 for Jesse Marsch,” Bernier said. “He had a younger team, he had clearer ideas from what worked and what didn’t in Montréal. He had his convictions. I’m sure they didn’t change, but he took an approach to the Red Bulls that worked so well. It was not a surprise the success he got.”
Meanwhile, Marsch’s former teammates and friends were embarking on their own coaching careers. Wolff was an assistant under Gregg Berhalter at the Columbus Crew, Razov an assistant under Sigi Schmid in Seattle and Curtin the head coach of his hometown Philadelphia Union, to name a few.
“It was strange coaching against him,” Curtin said. “You look across the sidelines, there’s Chris Armas, who you had a great relationship with too, and there’s Jesse. There’s always something extra in those games, you want to do well against your peers. You care about what they think of your team. It was like when we were players, we wanted to win every day in training sessions against each other. That’s normal. Afterward, we’d have a drink and joke about the old times, tell the same 10 stories, and we’ll laugh.”
The Red Bulls never did win MLS Cup during Marsch’s reign, though they were probably the best team in the league over that period.
“Jesse is my favorite manager I had,” Wright-Phillips said. “I had coaches who liked me, but I never had a manager before him who taught me how to play well. Just the way he spoke to me, even the first phone call. He told me he wanted me to be a leader, but I wasn’t that kind of person, I’m more of a soldier. Tell me what to do and I’ll get it done. He said no, you have to change that. That responsibility really helped me.”
The Red Bulls won another Supporters’ Shield in 2018, the year Marsch left midseason for Germany’s RB Leipzig. Armas – Marsch’s former teammate and assistant coach – took the team the rest of the way, though stalwarts from the previous Shield-winning team like Kljestan and Dax McCarty had already left the club. Those exits, and lack of MLS Cup silverware, are the only real blemishes to Marsch’s time with the Red Bulls.
McCarty has publicly said he didn’t love how Marsch handled his exit after the 2016 season, while Kljestan said he felt shocked at his departure after 2017 as well.
“I know Dax went through the same thing,” Kljestan said. “It’s been no secret what’s happened with bigger players at the Red Bulls over the years, like Bradley going to play elsewhere is just sh*y to see. Luis Robles, Sean Davis. It is what it is, the Red Bulls have their way.”
“It was tough, it was the Red Bulls putting in place their vision,” Wright-Phillips said. “We know they want to go younger. But to hear you’re getting traded by someone you respected and played every week, it’s not easy to take. I understand their frustration, it happened to me too a couple years later.”
Marsch moved on during 2018, taking a leap of faith to move midseason from head coach of the Red Bulls to become assistant at RB Leipzig. A year later, he was named manager of Austria’s RB Salzburg, where he enjoyed tremendous success both domestically and in European competitions.
That success gave him a chance with Leipzig last summer, but he didn’t last long as Marsch was gone from that job by December. He didn’t have to wait long for Leeds to come calling.
Handling pressure, breaking American stereotypes at LeedsMarsch has had a few viral moments at press conferences since taking over at Leeds, dealing with the infamous English media that is dubious of Americans. He’s only the third American manager in the Premier League (Bradley at Swansea, David Wagner at Huddersfield Town) and only the second to have made his name in MLS following Bradley.
Bradley lasted at Swansea City for less than two months.
“They are unfairly tough on Americans, they disrespect MLS a bit,” said Wright-Phillips, an Englishman himself. “It just takes time. They’re going to have their little jokes. But me knowing Jesse, I don’t think it bothers him very much. If they’re going to try to wind him, they’ve got to be prepared to take what comes back.”
Marsch grappled with jokes about his American accent and “Ted Lasso” references, the Jason Sudeikis-led show about an American college football head coach taking charge of a Premier League team. He also took a shot back at the media.
“Knowing Jesse like I do, I know that laugh that he did,” Curtin said. “He took time to eyeball certain guys in the room. He commands respect because he deserves respect.”
It seemed like a press conference version of a late challenge that might result in one of his 57 career yellow cards or spark one of those training ground altercations in Chicago.
Marsch has currently got Leeds flying, moving further away from the relegation zone with each passing match.
“Jesse Marsch is a winner… and always will be.”
Marsch took over at Leeds following the hugely respected Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine manager who brought Leeds back to the Premier League and is a coaching icon. Stepping in for that type of figure in the middle of a season, with the team hemorrhaging results and staring down relegation, isn’t quite the ideal job to take over.
“You know with Jesse, he’ll do it his way and a way the players embrace,” Curtin said. “You’ve seen that already, they fight to the very last second for him. I’m not surprised. It’s not surprising he’s found ways to get results even with a team that was struggling.”
Leeds have pulled nine points clear of the relegation zone at time of writing, with six matches left to play. The teams behind them have two games in hand, though, so they’re not out of the wood just yet.
But three wins and a draw from their last four games have given them ample and unexpected breathing room. A big part of their squad is former NYCFC winger Jack Harrison.
“You can see his players will fight for him,” Wolff said. “That’s a real good starting point.”
Anything can happen in the last six games; Leeds still have to face powerhouses Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in succession. But Marsch is already turning heads and proving naysayers wrong about his decision to take the gig and Leeds’ decision to entrust their top-flight survival to an American from a small city in Wisconsin.
“I can say with confidence: Leeds fans should know they’re in the hands of someone who wants nothing more than to win,” Curtin said. “He wants nothing more than to improve the players. I have no doubt he can keep them up and I have full confidence he’ll do it. The biggest compliment I can give is that Jesse Marsch is a winner, he has been from day one, and always will be.”
“It’s going to be massive”: Seattle Sounders look ahead to CCL final vs. Pumas
By Charles Boehm @cboehm Thursday, Apr 14, 2022, 02:36 PM
There they will face Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM in a two-legged series on April 27 and May 4, with the first leg set for Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City and the second leg at Seattle’s Lumen Field, thanks to the MLSers’ superior record thus far in the competition.
“It’s a trophy that the club certainly covets,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer after Wednesday’s result, which gave his team a 4-2 aggregate win over the defending MLS Cup champions. “I think that’s something that we have made public. I think Garth [Lagerwey, Seattle’s president], when he came here, said it was a goal of ours.
“The constant theme throughout this club, the culture of the club, is to win every game, every trophy, every competition. We take all the games seriously. We don’t buy the excuse where if you commit to one tournament, you can’t proceed or do well in the other. We don’t buy that.”
Here’s a breakdown of what’s gone before, and what lies ahead.
Though it’s become more common in recent years, the Sounders are in rarified air, historically speaking.
The Rave Green are just the fifth MLS club to reach the final in the tournament’s modern incarnation, which began in 2008, and none of their four predecessors in that regard won the title. D.C. United and the LA Galaxy do hold the honor of Concacaf champions, however, having won its forerunner, the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, in 1998 and 2000, respectively.
While clubs from seven nations in all have earned that honor over the decades, Liga MX has long held CCL in a stranglehold, winning every single edition of the current format. Current champs CF Monterrey are the most decorated winners with five continental titles during that time.
It’s become something of a white whale for MLS, considering that the league’s dramatic growth and progress since 2008 have yet to be matched by a Concacaf championship, to say nothing of the high-profile berth in the FIFA Club World Cup that it grants. The awkward timing of the tournament kicking off during MLS preseason has sorely tested fitness, sharpness and depth, while the high concentrations of elite talent on top Liga MX rosters has been a trump card for its contenders. And there have also been some agonizing near misses.
Real Salt Lake looked like solid contenders to break the duck in 2011. Back then the tournament ran along a fall-spring schedule, with a group phase, then a knockout stage stretched across two MLS seasons. Powered by Jason Kreis’ tiki-taka 4-4-2 diamond, RSL outlasted the Columbus Crew and Saprissa in the quarterfinals and semifinals. But even with a 2-2 draw in Mexico heading into the final’s second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium, Monterrey proved a bridge too far, edging the Utah side 1-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate via Humberto “Chupete” Suazo’s winner.
In 2015 CF Montréal, then known as the Montréal Impact, played the Cinderella role with distinction. Despite finishing dead-last in the 2014 league table, the Quebecois club advanced out of the CCL group stage and upset Pachuca, then Alajuelense in the knockout rounds to face mighty Club América in the final. A 1-1 first-leg draw at the vaunted Estadio Azteca put IMFC in good position for the decisive second leg in front of a large, raucous home crowd at Stade Olympique, only for a second-half hat trick from Dario Benedetto to cruelly extinguish Montréal’s dreams.
Three years later, their fellow Canadians Toronto FC came even closer, vanquishing the Colorado Rapids, Tigres UANL and América en route to a final date with Matias Almeyda’s Chivas Guadalajara as Sebastian Giovinco’s stunning exploits earned him player of the tournament honors. A pulsating final clash across two legs ended 3-3 and had to be decided by a penalty-kick shootout, where Alan Pulido and the Goats triumphed 4-2 at Estadio Akron.
LAFC, too, felt like a team of destiny in 2020 as they dispatched three quality Liga MX adversaries – Club León, Cruz Azul and América – on their march to the final, with Carlos Vela playing some of the best soccer of his Black & Gold career. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that edition of the tournament was paused during the quarterfinal stage and completed in a bubble situation in Orlando, Florida that December, with the remaining ties streamlined to one-game series. LAFC carved out a 1-0 lead over a stacked Tigres squad via a Diego Rossi goal, only for Los Felinos to pull off a late comeback win via strikes from Hugo Ayala and Andre-Pierre Gignac.
The 2022 Matchup
Though Liga MX’s mastery has led some observers to conclude that a hex of some sort has been cast over MLSers in CCL, the current Sounders side have shown themselves eminently capable of breaking new ground. In fact, they’re already being tabbed as favorites by many on both sides of the Mexico-US border.
Lagerwey, who was instrumental in the construction of that 2011 RSL team, has built one of the most talent-rich rosters in MLS history. Designated Players Raul Ruidiaz, Nico Lodeiro and winter free-agent capture Albert Rusnak top a long list of proven performers that also includes Joao Paulo, Jordan Morris, Stefan Frei, Nouhou Tolo and brothers Cristian and Alex Roldan, augmented by a surging academy pipeline and impressive depth pieces like Fredy Montero and Kelyn Rowe stepping up at key moments in their run to this point.
They’ve been flexible and intelligent in tactical terms, often soaking up pressure for long periods and striking with precision and menace on the counterattack. The club’s culture of ambition and success has also been evident, and they’ve taken seriously the chance to be CCL pioneers, even when it required fielding young, rotated lineups in league play.
“We want to be part of history. We want to be the first team to win Champions League, the first MLS team,” said Cristian Roldan after Seattle’s quarterfinal defeat of Club León. “Look, one way or another, there’s going to be an MLS team in the final and for us to be potentially one of them, that just makes us really proud and hopefully we get a lot of support from our people in the States.”
Some would say they’re fortunate to be facing a Liga MX opponent from outside Mexico’s traditional elite. While they can boast seven league titles, Pumas’ last such achievement was over a decade ago and they’ve scaled back spending in recent seasons, prompting a number of value-oriented acquisitions from across Latin America. But that risks slighting the outstanding work of their Argentine manager Andres Lillini and his players, who are thriving in CCL while treading water in the league this spring.
UNAM held off a spirited challenge from Saprissa in the round of 16 to advance 6-3 on aggregate. Then they mounted an incredible comeback to stun the New England Revolution, who won the first leg of their quarterfinal in snowy Massachusetts 3-0 only for Pumas to match that scoreline in Ciudad Universitaria before besting the Revs on PKs.
Lillini got his tactics spot-on to top a talented Cruz Azul side in the semifinals, goosing the throttle to win 2-1 at home, then battling La Maquina to a 0-0 stalemate with tenacious pressing and box defending in Tuesday’s second leg. Striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno has terrorized opposing defenses to the tune of a CCL-best seven goals, while veteran goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, marauding fullback Alan Mozo, RSL academy product Sebastian Saucedo and other contributors have made them a tough proposition across the pitch.
As rock-solid as they’ve been in CCL, Seattle will probably have to find another level to take this final, particularly in a treacherous first leg at CDMX’s lung-searingly high altitude.
“One thing that we know is that we cannot play a second half that we played today, in Mexico,” said Frei after Wednesday night’s wild draw with NYCFC at Red Bull Arena. “We’re going to run out of juice very quickly.
“I think we put in a lot of effort, but if we’re going put ourselves under so much pressure in Mexico City, it’s going to be very, very difficult. So they have a good side and we’re going look at what makes them tick, and also maybe what we can exploit or what we want to target. But it’ll be a good final.”
Perennial trophy hunters under Schmetzer, the Sounders understand what will be required, and even after all their domestic success, sound hungry to gain one-of-a-kind bragging rights via Champions League glory.
“Since 2016, I think there’s been one year that we were not participating in a final of some sorts. So that’s what you play for. That’s, I think, why players come to this organization, because ultimately you want to play for trophies,” said Frei.
“The fact that I was able to be part of [Seattle’s first MLS Cup in] 2016 is a historic moment in the franchise,” he added. “There’s very select few opportunities to make history, alright? That one is gone. There’s still one elusive one for the MLS. If you can be that one, it’s going to be massive for your career, for the franchise, for everybody involved. And what a massive opportunity.”