Women’s Euro’s Quarter Finals England vs Germany Sun 12 noon ESPN
In what should be a fantastic final – the two top scoring teams will go head to head in a sold out Wembley stadium on Sunday at noon on ESPN. Honestly this tourney has been fantastic – good Goalkeeping – some great goals and lots of fun to watch. The growth of the ladies game in Europe is taking off and the US is going to have to work hard to stay ahead as we look to next year’s World Cup. Tons of stories below about the game.
Indy home vs Tampa Bay Rowdies Tonight
Indy Eleven is home for the second of a three-match homestand tonight at Carroll Stadium against former NASL rival the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The meeting is the second between the sides this season, the first being a 2-0 home win for the Rowdies back on Matchday 2.The Boys in Blue broke a six-match losing streak and a five-match scoreless streak last Saturday night against Memphis 901 FC, its 1-1 draw helping the squad get back on track for playoff positioning as the final third of the season approaches. The Eleven sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, currently nine points outside the playoff picture but with two games in hand on both seventh place Miami (31 pts.) and FC Tulsa (25 pts.). A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets. Cool to see former Carmel FC GK coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr gets recognition , he returns home to face our Indy 11 Aug 27th.
MLS – US Open Cup Shocker
Awesome to see the USL Side Sacramento Republic get the huge shocking win over Sporting Kansas City at home to advance to the US Open finals in Sept. See final PKs. This marks the first time a non-MLS team has advanced to the finals in over 13 years. Now if the game was only on TV instead of ESPN+. They will face Orlando City in the Finals Wed, Sept. 7. LAFC continued its hold on the Western Conference with a win over Seattle last night as both Bale and Chiellini started.
The oleballcoach is on vacation this week – so a short write-up today – but next week we’ll have EPL and other Euro League previews, Euro ladies wrap-up and more. I do want to wish good luck to all our Carmel FC players trying out for high school teams this week- especially our GK’s – YOU GOT THIS!!
BIG GAMES ON TV
Sat, July 30
12 noon ESPN+ Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield
2:30 pm ESPN+ RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich Supercup
3 pm ABC Minn United vs Portland Timbers
7 pm myindyTV 23 Indy 11 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies (the Mike)
8 pm ESPN+ Cincy v Inter Miami
9 pm ESPN+ LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)
Sun, July 31
12 noon ESPN Euro Women’s Cup FINAL
5 pm ESPN+ DC united vs Orlando City
8 pm FS2 Santos Laguna vs Atlas
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Women’s Soccer Euro’s
Sarina Wiegman tells England to ‘forget history’ against Germany and prove they are the best
How England’s national team became a power in women’s soccer
Know your enemy: Where Germany are dangerous – and how they can be attacked
Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul to referee Euro 2022 final
Alex Popp – the qualified zookeeper who became Europe’s deadliest striker
Women’s Euro 2022 Soccer Championship Scoring With Audiences
Really Cool Story on Chris Richards from Birmingham AL to Crystal Palace in just 4 short years below.
EPL & World
England’s road to Euro 2022 final has been hard but they are driven by history and inspiring the nation
Tom Hamilton Senior Writer ESPNFC
TEDDINGTON, England — England‘s training session on Friday at the team’s base was the most competitive yet.According to veteran Jill Scott and others who were there, it was the most full-throttle of the past nine weeks. Tackles were flying in — Scott felt the full force of a one-on-one with Millie Bright, while Georgia Stanway also stuck one on her. “Her tackles this tournament have been phenomenal, so I’ll take a few stud marks for that,” Scott said.There is a major final on Sunday — the Euro 2022 final against Germany, to be exact (LIVE at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+) — and that means there are precious few opportunities to impress coach Sarina Wiegman and force her to rethink picking another unchanged side, so there’s little point in players keeping anything in reserve.
Scott, 35, is the most experienced of this group and personifies the team’s goals. She’s been on the bench much of the time but has been used as an impact substitute in what is her eighth major tournament, alongside two Olympic Games. The reception she gets is testament to what she’s done for the game.Many on this England team talk about the 2009 side that reached the final with reverence — they remember watching the broadcast of that final in Finland and seeing England fall to a 6-2 defeat. They’re the more recent legends of the women’s game — they’ve even got rooms named after them at their hotel in southwest London — the ones who are immortalised on YouTube and who influenced this current crop.But there’s this wonderful crossover between generations in Scott: she was there through the days of poor funding, sparse crowds for league matches and ill-fitting kits. When she talks about what it’s like to be an England player for the last 15 years — the experiences she’s been through, and how she’s seen the game develop leading up to the Sunday final — you listen. That goes for some of the younger players who have been picking her brains this week.”They want to learn about the history of the game,” Scott said. “I keep telling them that getting to finals isn’t the norm, it’s been a long time coming. But they are ready for it. The hunger and determination they show — the performances have been out of this world.” Then comes the qualification: “You don’t want to put too much pressure on them, though.”That’s the thing with this group — they are aware of their multilevel mission. Not only do they want to win Sunday and become European champions, but in the process they want to inspire the children watching, while building on the foundations set by previous generations — from those who fought to play back in 1972 when the ban on women’s football was lifted, all the way through the game becoming more mainstream and to the current group.Each of them is compelling in their own right and, when they talk about legacy, it isn’t corporate speak — you feel it’s inherent in them. They know the importance of looking up to role models, and being one themselves. Take Lotte Wubben-Moy. She hasn’t played yet in these Euros, but she too has contributed to this legacy. Within the camp, the likes of Wubben-Moy, Beth England, Ellie Roebuck and Hannah Hampton have not played yet, but all have been there for the “blowout sessions” on the day after the match. These players deep in the squad have been integral to preparing the starting XI.After the match Tuesday in Sheffield, as Wubben-Moy took part in the team’s celebrations, she spotted a group from the education and social inclusion charity Football Beyond Borders. She gave her match shirt to them, and asked them to give it to someone deserving. Elsewhere, super-sub Alessia Russo picked out 10-year-old Nancy from her old football club Bearstead and gave the youngster her match shirt. All are decisions made in the moment, but ones that will leave a huge footprint. It’s something the players spoke about before the tournament started.”The biggest thing that Sarina has said was at the start: ‘Play for the little girl that wanted to be in our shoes,'” Stanway said. “So I’ll play for the little girl who wanted to play at the start, went to training, loved it, dreamed to be in our position. Yeah, play for her.”Legends such as Scott can’t help but feel that pang of nostalgia for what has come before. Scott has experienced the heartbreak of that 2009 final, but more frequently plays back in her mind missed opportunities from their 2017 European Championship quarterfinal defeat to Netherlands and England’s semifinal exit in the 2019 World Cup to the U.S. women’s national team.This group? Well, she doesn’t want to compare generations and their quality, but she loves this group.”Talking about this squad solely, I see the likes of Keira Walsh and she’s such a talented player,” Scott said. “People say to me all the time when going into a tournament, ‘You’re playing against the best players in the world.’ But I’m playing alongside them every single day in training, I truly believe that.”What people don’t see is their dedication — their whole lives are focused on being better players. The mixture of experience and youth has been good as well, but we have a special group. The passion and joy we have for football unites us all.”Listening to the England team on Friday, you wouldn’t think they were under pressure. Stanway has been one of the stars of this tournament, and she has two thoughts at the forefront of her mind when she allows herself to dream of the final: firstly she wants to win, and secondly she wants to hug her parents for the first time in six weeks.Stanway’s thoughts are emblematic of the group — each member holds collective and individual motivations for Sunday. Collectively they want to end the wait. Individually they’ve all overcome their own on- and off-the-field difficulties and heartbreak to be here.Take goalkeeper Mary Earps. She once thought her international days were over. She was third choice in 2019, and then saw two other goalkeepers promoted ahead of her following that World Cup. She had those grim moments where thoughts of failure filtered through her mind, but she stuck at it — and here she is a resounding first choice.”I don’t think I really want to keep going back to the past,” she said after England’s win over Sweden. “I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now, I’m loving being part of this team and I’m loving every minute.”Beth Mead had the heartbreak of missing out on a spot in the Tokyo Olympics squad; captain Leah Williamson played just six minutes in the last World Cup. Neither were going to allow that to happen again.There are also off-field struggles which have been overcome, such as those of Fran Kirby, who in the last couple of years has had extended spells out of the game with a heart disease and then fatigue. Yet here she is preparing for a final off the back of her incredible semifinal performance against Sweden. Chloe Kelly spent 11 months out with an ACL injury but returned in time.And then there are those wanting to make amends for previous disappointment in an England shirt. For those who had experienced the heartbreak of previous tournaments such as Ellen White, the emotion became a little too much after Wednesday’s match.When Scott speaks about her previous experiences, you hear her voice slightly quiver as she talks about the importance of legacy and those who have worn the shirt before her, and will in the future. But then comes that competitive edge, and the focus on not letting this moment slip and what she can personally influence this weekend.”We really want to inspire the nation,” Scott said. “We’ve ticked all of those boxes. As I said before, all the players that have gone before, put on this shirt, the learning experiences we’ve had as players — this is for everybody, really, on Sunday.”Absolutely everybody. Volunteers that just went and helped out with the local girls teams, the ones that are still doing it, the ones that just love the game. I see reporters in here and I’ve seen them here for the past 16 years, and they just do it for the love of the game. I hope everybody knows that, on Sunday, if we are to lift that trophy, they’ve all got their hand on it as well.”We’ve earned the right for the team to go out there on Sunday and enjoy it. It’s been an incredible journey so far and hopefully there’s one big tick left to do.”
BEST USL OFFSEASON SIGNINGS: A QUALITY SHOT-STOPPER AND A DANGEROUS ATTACKER
Which USL offseason signings are having the biggest impact on the field this year? Let’s take a look at a pair of players who are shining with their new teams in 2022.
© Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Roster churn is a fact of life during the offseason for teams all around the world. The USL Championship is no exception. New offseason signings can have real value, especially if they hit the ground running. When a new face immediately provides all-league performances, it can make a team’s season.
Let’s talk about a pair of players who have done just that.
JORDAN FARR, GK, SAN ANTONIO FC
As it stands, San Antonio boasts the best defense in the entire USL with just 13 goals allowed this season. At the same time, they rank eighth in shots on target allowed per 90 minutes and a surprising 18th in shots allowed per 90 minutes. So they’re not perfect when it comes to denying shots in the first place.
Jordan Farr, a star goalkeeper signed after an emergency loan stint in the 2021 playoffs, has been the difference.Farr was a backup with Indy Eleven for years. He was always solid in relief but never had the opportunity to step up as the first-choice goalkeeper. After excelling on loan, he moved to Texas on a permanent basis. San Antonio began 2022 with three starting-caliber goalkeepers, and the 27-year-old could have faced more time riding the pine. However, week-one starter Cristian Bonilla retired after three matches, Farr claimed the starting spot, and the results have been Statistically, Farr rates in the 97th percentile for goals saved above average and in the 80th or better for goals against and save percentage. Alen Marcina’s team doesn’t spend much of any time in possession, so the defense bears the brunt of pressure in their own half. Without Farr’s brilliance and sharp distribution – he’s in the 90th percentile of goalkeepers for long balls as a share of his total passes – San Antonio wouldn’t be nearly as successful this year. Farr in Open Cup play
ENZO MARTINEZ, MF, BIRMINGHAM LEGION
A club legend with the Charlotte Independence, Enzo Martinez has been a constant attacking weapon after moving to Alabama. One of the top all-time assisters in the USL Championship, Martinez has six goals and four assists in 2022. The Argentinian operated as a deep-lying creator for much of his stint in Charlotte and in other stops with the Carolina Railhawks and Colorado Rapids, but his role has changed entirely for the Legion.Birmingham play in a defensive 4-4-2 off the ball, where Martinez operates as a striker alongside Juan Agudelo. He ranks in the top half of USL attackers for successful defensive actions per 90, constantly roving to bother opposing forwards while maintaining a cover shadow that limits passing lanes into the middle of the field. Martinez and Agudelo aren’t lightning fast, but their intelligent positioning makes the Legion hard to break down.Still, Martinez is best when he’s on the ball. His passing vision and audacious through balls are eye-popping, and those six goals paint the picture of a true scoring threat.
WATCH USMNT PLAYERS WITH THEIR CLUB TEAMS: SCHEDULE, CHANNELS & START TIMES
Here’s where to watch USMNT players from July 29-August 1
All Times ET
|Friday, July 29|
|Gio Reyna||DFB POKAL: 1860 Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund||2:45pm||ESPN+|
|LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders||11pm||FS1,|
|Saturday, July 30|
|Livingston vs. Rangers||7am||CBS Sports Network|
|Josh Sargent||Cardiff City vs. Norwich City||10am||ESPN+|
|Ethan Horvath||Luton Town vs. Birmingham City||10am||–|
|Kevin Paredes||DFB POKAL: Carl Zeiss Jena vs. Wolfsburg||12pm||ESPN+|
|Bryan Reynolds||OH Leuven vs. Westerlo||12:15pm||–|
|Middlesbrough vs. West Bromwich Albion||12:30pm||ESPN+|
|Richy Ledezma||DUTCH SUPER CUP:|
Ajax vs. PSV
|Eryk Williamson||Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers||3pm||ABC,|
|Gaga Slonina||Chicago Fire vs. Atlanta United||5pm||ESPN+|
|CF Montreal vs. New York City FC||7:30pm||ESPN+|
|DeAndre Yedlin||Inter Miami vs. FC Cincinnati||8pm||ESPN+|
|Nashville SC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps||8pm||ESPN+|
|Sebastian Lletget||New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC||8pm||ESPN+|
|FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy||9pm||ESPN+|
|Jackson Yueill||San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake||10pm||ESPN+|
|Sunday, July 31|
|Mark McKenzie||Genk vs. Standard Liege||7:30am||ESPN+|
|Joe Scally||DFB POKAL: Oberachern vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach||9:30am||ESPN+|
|George Bello||DFB POKAL: Engers vs. Arminia Bielefeld||9:30am||–|
|Justin Che||DFB POKAL: Rödinghausen vs. Hoffenheim||9:30am||–|
|Ricardo Pepi||DFB POKAL: BW Lohne vs. Augsburg||9:30am||–|
|Celtic vs. Aberdeen||11:30am||CBS Sports Network|
|Johnny Cardoso||Internacional vs. Atlético Mineiro||3pm||Paramount+|
|Sam Vines||Royal Antwerp vs. Zulte-Waregem||3pm||–|
|Nicholas Gioacchini||D.C. United vs. Orlando City||5pm||ESPN+|
|Monday, August 1|
|Jordan Pefok||DFB POKAL: Chemnitzer vs. Union Berlin||12pm||ESPN+|
ASN: 2022/23 Championship season preview: Dike, Steffen lead 10 Yanks in England’s 2nd tier
The Championship opens its 2022/23 season this weekend and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta previews the season with a look at the 10 Yanks (and possibly more) in the league and what to expect from them.
BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTED
JULY 29, 2022
THE 2022/23 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON opens this weekend and Americans are now increasing in numbers at all levels within England. The second-tier Championship, however, is booming with Americans. There are right now 10 confirmed Americans and more could very well be on the way before the transfer window closes. What is interesting about the list that only Zack Steffen, on loan for the season at Middlesbrough from Manchester City, is a lock to make the U.S. World Cup team in Qatar. The rest are either on the bubble and battling or are long shots. But national team implications are just one dynamic of the story. These players are at various stages of their careers – some more critical junctures than others. Some are fighting for promotion, and some are going to be fighting against relegation. Some are going to be important players for their teams, while others are going to be fighting for playing time. Here is a look at the American players in the Championship and what are the expecations for each this season compared with the stage of their career.
The potential starting goalkeeper for the U.S. national team is now with Middlesbrough on loan from Manchester City where he spent the last two seasons as a seldomly used backup. Before that, he was injured the second half of the season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf, when it was relegated out of the Bundesliga.
Steffen, 27, hasn’t been a starter at any level since 2019. Now is the time to re-prove his quality and this is absolutely necessary if he wants to start in Qatar. While the other potential USMNT No. 1, Matt Turner, is a backup at Arsenal, he has at least been starting regularly the past three seasons.
There is a lot of pressure on Steffen on many levels. He needs to play and play well at Middlesbrough to prove he is capable of being a top goalkeeper who can start at the World Cup. At Middlesbrough, he also has a team that wants to return to the Premeir League. The last two seasons, Boro finished seventh and 10th. Middlesbrough won four of five preseason games, including one over a strong Marseille team. This has Boro supporters optimisitc to start the season. The realistic goal for Middlesbrough this season is to finish in the playoff positions – after that, anything is possible. To do that, Steffen will need to be big.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: FORWARD
This month marks two years when Daryl Dike made his professional debut during the MLS Is Back tournament after the COVID layoff. For the first 17 months of his career, he scored 28 goals in 4,277 minutes between Orlando City and his loan to Barnsley in the Championship. By any measure, it’s been a strong start to a career.But Dike, now 22, suffered an injury that sidelined him almost immediately after securing a transfer to West Bromwich Albion in January. It was the only setback of his career, and it actually gave him rest that he never had since turning professional. Expecations should be high for Dike this season. He has shown he can score in the Championship, and he is on a more talented team than Barnsley. He’s also had a strong preseason despite indications of a sore groin last week.
West Brom is a team that should contend for promotion and Dike will have a big say as to whether the team succeeds. West Brom won four of six preseason games with the last coming over Hertha BSC by a 2-1 margin. From a national team perspective, Dike could be a darkhorse candidate to be on the plane to Qatar. While he is a well-known player, he was not part of any World Cup qualifying roster and attempted to play through a shoulder injury at last summer’s Gold Cup. His involvement with the U.S. team has been minimal, but he’s in a very good position to succeed to make a late push.
Of all the American players in the Championship, Dike has the most potential to succeed in 2022/23.
LUTON TOWN: GOALKEEPER
After four seasons as mostly a backup with Club Brugge and Nottingham Forest, Ethan Horvath is now with Luton Town on loan from Forest for the season. This summer, there was a need for a goalkeeper at Luton Town when James Shea suffered a serious injury towards the end of last season. Shea is not expected to return until possibly the end of this season. Horvath needs to play again. At 27, he’s in his prime for a goalkeeper and he needs to play for the sake of playing. Showing glimpses of a high level, like he did when he subbed into the Nations League final and played well, is not enough. Goalkeeping can only be evaluated with consistent play.
The good news for Horvath is that he should start at Luton Town – which is coming off a season where they made it to the playoffs and exceeded all expectations. The core of that team is returning, and Horvath should be part of a team aiming to make the playoffs again.
Horvath is firmly on the bubble to make the U.S. World Cup roster. He struggled in his one game in June in El Salvador while Sean Johnson performed well agianst Uruguay. If the World Cup were now, Johnson would likely be the third goalkeeper. The only way Horvath can change that is with a strong start to the season.
HUDDERSFIELD: ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
After nearly earning promotion to the Premier League before suffering a heartbreak in the playoff final to Nottingham Forest, expectations have declined for Huddersfield prior to the start of this season after the loss of top players and replaced with unknowns.Duane Holmes, 27, is one of the returning players and the Columbus, Georgia native scored five goals in the 2021/22 season where he made 28 starts over 40 appearances. In January 2021, he returned to Huddersfield, his childhood team where he broke into the professional ranks, and has successfully rebooted his career.
This season will be a challenge for Holmes. Huddersfield does not have the supporting cast around Holmes and Holmes will need to raise his game from supporting cast to impact player to help the Terriers remain in contention for the playoffs. But things are never easy to predict for Huddersfield as they tend to fluctuate between contenting for promotion and relegation.As for Holmes and the national team, it seems unlikely at this point. If Holmes wasn’t in the picture earlier in 2022, it seems like a bigger hill now with the addition of more central defenders to the pool.
SUNDERLAND: ATTACKING MIDFIELDER/WINGER
There is a lot to admire about Lynden Gooch and his relationship with Sunderland. Dating back to childhood summer camps, he has been affiliated with Sunderland since he was 10 years old. Since making his debut for the first team when it was in the Premier League in 2015, Gooch has stood by the club when it suffered two successive relegations and then as it fought for promotion out of League One.
Now 26, Gooch signed a new deal with Sunderland after last season when it finally earned promotion back to the Championship. Last season was tough for Gooch. He started regularly with 36 starts over 3,216 minutes.
Gooch should be expected to start regularly early in the season but he needs to show improved performances from last season to keep his starting job. Sunderland has a good chance of avoiding relegation since they have the resources to be competitive in the Championship. Our bet is that Gooch finds a way to be useful this season.
NORWICH CITY: FORWARD/WINGER
Josh Sargent, 22, is coming into a critical season. After a lackluster run at Werder Bremen which resulted in the club relegated from the Bundesliga, Sargent moved to the Premier League with Norwich last season but, outside of one game against Watford, didn’t produce. Now in the Championship, Sargent is eventually going to have to show he can produce somewhere.
This is the season for him to do it. It will be tough for Norwich to bounce back up again. Their “yo-yo” nature of the last few years was built on Teemu Pukki’s impressive goalscoring the last two Championship seasons. But he will turn 33 this season and maintaining that output is going to be tough. Sargent needs to pick up the slack. We will learn a lot about Sargent this year.
Sargent has also faded from the national team over the past year. He hasn’t been with the team since the first round of World Cup qualifiers in September. The forward position remains unsettled although there is a long list of candidates. If Sargent wants to keep his slim chances of making the roster for Qatar, he needs a strong start to the season.
NORWICH CITY: CENTRAL DEFENDER
In terms of young Americans who have an opportunity to both make their professional debut and impress, Jonathan Tomkinson is a good bet. The 20-year-old central defender has risen up the ranks within Norwich City’s system and last season he made the bench for the first team on several occasions but never appeared. Still, he was the captain of the U-23 team and is rated within the organization.
Coming into this season, Tomkinson will be the third or fourth central defender on the team. With the Championship having a 46 game season, he will get his chances and if he performs well, he will remain in the lineup as Norwich.
Internationally, Tomkinson is a strong contender for the 2024 U.S. U-23 team for the Paris Olympics.
BIRMINGHAM CITY: CENTRAL DEFENDER
Auston Trusty, who will turn 24 in 10 days, is set to embark on the European leg of his career. Last January he signed for Arsenal but was expected to go the “loan army” route. That started with a re-loan to Colorado and now a loan to Birmingham City.
Trusty has been inconsistent in his career. He played well in Philadelphia initially but then fell out of favor. In Colorado, he eventually returned to top form, including last season. But the first half of this season he struggled for the Rapids.
The good news for Trusty is that he should play at Birmingham City. He immediately was thrust into the starting lineup in preseason but the expectations for the club are low again this season. Last year Birmingham City struggled defensively and narrowly avoided relegation.
Birmingham City hopes Trusty will be able to help stabilize the defense and avoid another relegation battle. If he struggles it could be a long season for him and the club.
PRESTON NORTH END: RIGHT BACK
Matthew Olosunde, 24, has occasionally shown glimpses of being a good player in the Championship with Rotherham United, injuries and inconsistent playing time have hurt his prospects. Last season he played just 136 minutes in the Championship.
Olosunde simply needs to play and get his career back on track. If this season doesn’t pan out, he might have to look elsewhere. It’s tough to expect much from Olosunde but he has the talent and athleticism to succeed in the Championship.
WHO ELSE COULD JOIN?
There are rumors the number of Americans in the Championship could expand.
Matthew Hoppe is rumored to be joining Middlesbrough from Mallorca after a lost season in La Liga where he rarely played. At 21, he needs to find a place where he can play and has looked promising in the past – although it has been a over a year.
Middlesbrough wants to contend for promotion and they have four forwards, although none that are noticeable above average. Hoppe is unknown, but Middlesborugh needs more options.
Marlon Fossey has been linked to Championship teams after a successful loan from Fulham to Bolton in League One last season. He has done well when given the chance but he has struggled to stay healthy. At 23, he needs a full season to distance himself from his injured past.
Chris Richards’ unique path to Crystal Palace: From FC Dallas rejection to ‘surreal’ Bayern experience
Sam Stejskal Jul 27, 2022
Lost among the inked-on portraits of Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos is Chris Richards’ first tattoo. A simple Roman numeral, it’s easy to miss among the more striking art elsewhere on his arms: “VIII-VI-MMXVI” — 8-6-2016. August 6, 2016. The day Richards left home.
Richards was then only 16 years old. A couple of months before, he had decided to give up a promising basketball career so he could devote all of his time and energy to soccer. He was long on talent, but a bit short on imagination. Richards grew up in Hoover, Alabama, a sprawling suburb about 10 miles south of downtown Birmingham. Like the rest of Alabama, the town is football mad. Hoover High School has won 13 state titles; their games are periodically broadcast on national television; MTV even produced a couple of seasons of a controversial “Hard Knocks”-esque reality show highlighting the team and school in the mid-2000s.
In Alabama, soccer exists in the margins. When Richards was growing up, there wasn’t a single club in the entire state that fielded a team in the top US boys’ academy league. He could develop his skills and his dreams in his home state, but only to a point. To realise his full potential, to even understand that he had the ability to reach some of the sport’s highest levels, he had to leave.
His first choice was to go to FC Dallas. Home to one of the most productive academies in the US. By then, FC Dallas had already recruited a few Birmingham-area natives to their youth program. Richards arranged a trial through one of them. After five days of training with current US men’s national team players Weston McKennie, Jesus Ferreira and Reggie Cannon and the club’s under-18s, Luchi Gonzalez, then Dallas’ academy director and now a USMNT assistant coach, called Richards into his office.
He cut him.
Less than two years later, Richards was starting for Bayern Munich in a pre-season match against Manchester City. And now, at 22-years-old, Richards has completed a high-profile, $12million-plus move from Munich to Crystal Palace.
The Premier League — and, this winter, the World Cup — await.
“Summer 2016, I was packing my stuff, getting ready to move,” Richards told The Athletic at his parents’ home in Hoover. “Then, in summer 2018, I was playing in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in front of 50,000 people against Manchester City. I was like, ‘Uhhhh, what?’ If I had told myself two years before that I would’ve been doing that, it would’ve just been a straight ‘no.’ Nope. I will not be doing that. Hopefully I’ll be prepping for my freshman year at college. That was my hope when I left home. So all of this? All of this is surreal.”
Today, the perimeter of the Richards’ driveway in Hoover is lined with several wooden backstops. A few feet high and five- or six-feet across, the homemade barriers are a neat little home training tool, a convenient way for a developing player to work on their touch without the need for a practice partner.
The backstops weren’t around when Chris was a kid — they’re a newer addition, made for his 10-year-old brother Christian. Unlike some of his US team-mates whose parents played professionally or in college, Richards wasn’t really raised around the game. His parents, Ken and Carrie, were good athletes, but neither had any experience with soccer. Ken played basketball at Birmingham-Southern College in the mid-1990s and had a four-year professional career that took him to Iceland, Australia and Bolivia.
Accordingly, when Chris was young, hoops was the main sport in the Richards’ household. Ken would devise basketball drills for Chris to perform in the driveway or the garage, movements that would help agility, ball handling and the jump shot of a promising young point guard who played on AAU teams and at Hoover High. Now listed at 6ft 2in, Chris was still just 5ft 9in when he quit basketball. Had he stuck with it, the elder Richards thinks his son had a real future on the court — a stance Ken said was backed up by ex-NBA executive and current University of Tennessee assistant coach Gregg Polinsky, a family friend.
“He was a true point guard, great ball handler, great vision, he was fast,” Ken said. “I most definitely think if he would’ve kept playing basketball, given he grew to the height that he is, he most definitely would have been a big-time Division I player.
“Chris used to go to Gregg’s basketball camps and Gregg would always say that he had some natural things that you couldn’t teach. He’d tell me back then: ‘Man, just the way he comes off the pick and roll, he does stuff that we have to teach NBA players. He does it naturally.’ He wasn’t saying that he was going to be an NBA player or anything, he just had a lot of talent, a lot of natural instincts for the game.”
Of course, soccer was a serious pursuit, too. Richards grew up playing for Hoover SC, one of the bigger youth clubs in Birmingham. Home games were mostly held on a set of fields adjacent to a water treatment plant. If the wind was blowing the wrong way, the whole complex would smell like sewage. He battled there against fellow Alabamians and future FC Dallas homegrowns Tanner Tessmann and Brandon Servania, who played for rival local teams. He even spent one season, in the spring of 2015, with Hoover High’s junior varsity squad, lining up in midfield — he wasn’t a centre-back until his final year in Alabama — and playing home matches in a tiny stadium in the shadow of the school’s football facility.
As he grew older, Richards eventually made his way to the South Region Olympic Development Program (ODP) team, which gave him the chance to travel to Argentina for a camp early in 2016. For USMNT players like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna or Tyler Adams, who grew up in US Soccer Development Academy programs and were selected to youth national teams from a young age, those kinds of chances were somewhat normal. By age 16, Pulisic and Reyna had already moved to Borussia Dortmund and Adams had already signed a pro contract with the New York Red Bulls. They were used to travelling the world and playing against top international opponents at the youth level. For Richards, the trip to Argentina was completely new. It would end up changing the trajectory of his life.
Chris Richards during the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup between Ukraine and the USA on May 24, 2019 (Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images)
“That was my first time being out of the country, my first time really seeing professional soccer and a professional environment up close,” he said. “We went to a big derby match between two Argentine teams, Velez Sarsfield was one of them. I remember pulling up in a charter bus and people were throwing stuff at our bus. It was scary but, for me, it was this amazing experience. I came back home and that was when I told my dad that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore, this is what I want — I want soccer.”
The family swung into action. Ken contacted Servania’s father, who helped arrange the trial with Dallas, where Brandon was already in the academy. Richards thought he performed OK, but Gonzalez and FC Dallas wanted more of a polished product at centre-back. They told him to keep working, that maybe he could come back in a year, but the denial was still devastating. When Richards called home to break the news, he was in tears.
“That was my first real rejection in soccer,” he said. “It wasn’t as if I didn’t think it was for me, but I was also wondering a bit if I was making the right decision just sticking to soccer.”
Thankfully, he quickly got thrown a lifeline. One of the coaches of the ODP team that Richards went with to Argentina had a full-time role at US Soccer Development Academy club Houston Texans SC. That coach, Carl Fleming, got word to Texans club director and under-18 head coach Eric Quill that there was a centre-back out of Alabama worth taking a look at. Quill had never seen Richards play, but Fleming’s recommendation was strong enough for Quill to bring him in for a trial on the heels of being cut by Dallas. He could play with the Texans holdovers, meet his potential host family and see if he might like to move to Houston. Ken and Chris made the 670-mile drive from Hoover not long after.
“He was still kind of gangly, but you could tell he was super athletic,” said Quill, who is now an assistant in MLS with the Columbus Crew. “You frickin’ saw what his body was probably going to turn into down the road. If that matched up with his technique and his brain for the game and his ideas, it was gonna be an interesting combination. So I decided to make the call and say let’s go for it. They obviously, on their part, did the same thing, and it kind of became this match made in heaven.”
Not that it was an easy decision for Richards and his family.
Christian, his younger brother, was three or four years old at the time. His younger sister, Mackenzie, was only 10 or 11. If Richards left home, he knew he’d probably be leaving for good.
In the world of high-level youth sports, leaving home at 16 to pursue a professional career or college scholarship has become somewhat standard. That doesn’t change the gravity of the situation for the people living it, though. Richards and his parents, naturally, needed a little bit of convincing.
Texans SC wasn’t FC Dallas. The team wasn’t as successful, the facilities weren’t as nice and Richards would be the first player in the history of the club to be brought in from out of the area to live with a host family. Thankfully, Quill had the off-field concerns covered. He’d lined up a host family that had a younger son playing at the club. They got on well with Chris and his parents, who still keep in touch with them. On the field, Quill didn’t harbour any illusions about Texans SC’s place in the soccer pyramid. He pitched Ken on using the club as a stepping stone for Chris, a place he could grow before moving to an MLS academy or college program. Quill made Chris feel comfortable right away, then appealed to his competitive streak.
“Eric was like, ‘We play FC Dallas twice a year’,” Richards said. “‘We heard that you might want to play them again’.”
It was enough for Richards, who moved to Houston later that summer.
He took a game or two to get used to the higher standard of play, but things soon started to move pretty fast.
Richards began shooting up, growing over the course of his season with Texans SC from 5ft 9in to 6ft 1in. His added height didn’t come as a detriment to his athleticism, and he began to improve technically, as well, with Quill lining him up as a left-sided centre-back so he could work on his weaker foot.
As the season progressed, Quill made it something of his own personal mission to help Richards and Texans midfielder Christian Cappis, now with Danish Superliga side Brondby IF, develop into pros.
“From him, at least at first, there was a sense that he was shooting to be a Division One college player,” Quill said. “But as time went on, after a few months went by, as you saw how fast he was getting better and what he was doing, I saw star power. I remember saying at the time that he’d start for the US in a World Cup. And I still believe that. His progress was just so fast.”
Texans SC started racking up positive results, beating FC Dallas during the regular season before making something of a Cinderella run to win the under-18 national title over an LA Galaxy team that featured current LA first-team starter and Mexico international Efrain Alvarez. Dallas had been eliminated earlier in the competition, but Luchi Gonzalez happened to be in LA at the time of the semi-finals and final. Quill saw him there and urged him to take another look at Richards.
“We were staying at the same hotel and I got with him and said, ‘Listen, Luchi, I know you had this kid a year ago, you didn’t see him in the cards for you, but you need to watch him. Take a look at him in the finals and if you want him, he’s yours’,” Quill said. “Coming back (to Houston) would have just stagnated his progress, in my opinion. So (Gonzalez) watched him over the course of a couple games and was like, ‘This kid is amazing. Are you sure we can have him?’ I told him, ‘Absolutely. Have the other one, too — Christian Cappis.’ I think that took them by surprise, but you knew these guys could be pros and moving to a team like Dallas was a step they needed to take.”
Richards had trained with Dallas again for a few days that April, but his performances at the finals in July sealed his invite. He felt a little conflicted about going back only a year after their stinging rejection —“I was like, man, y’all just cut me not even a year ago, I don’t want to come back and play with y’all.” — but Quill pushed him to make the move to North Texas.
Life in Dallas was significantly different than in Houston. Instead of living with a host family, Richards moved into an apartment that the club arranged for him, along with Cappis, who had also made the move from Houston, and two other players. They were mostly left to their own devices. FIFA and Fortnite were the main forms of entertainment; chicken fingers were a staple of their diet. Richards, who had by then verbally committed to play at the University of North Carolina, continued to progress, earning his first youth national team call-up in January 2018.
It was there that he first caught the eye of European scouts. German clubs Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim flew him over for trials that February; he said a couple of them wanted to offer him pro deals as soon as he turned 18 in March. That threw FC Dallas into a bit of a panic.
The club had lost McKennie for free to Schalke shortly after Richards’ initial trial in Dallas in the summer of 2016. They were committed to not having another big talent walk away for nothing. So, even though an MLS rule requiring homegrown signings to spend at least 12 months in their club’s academy before they debuted for the first-team meant Richards couldn’t play for Dallas in MLS until later that summer, the club inked him to a pro contract in April.
“I guess growing up in Birmingham, you never really think about playing professionally,” he said. “It was kind of one of those things where you would try to go to a Division One college and then see what happens afterwards. But then, playing in that Dallas environment, it kind of made me realise that if I wanted to play pro, this is the time to do it, this is the time to sign.”
Richards made sure to have a buyout clause written into the deal. If a European team offered Dallas $1.5million, he would be able to move abroad.
Sandwiched between Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key is not the kind of place an MLS academy team might stay on an away trip. Nor would an MLS team, for that matter. It is, however, the sort of hotel that a club like Bayern Munich might use as a base during a pre-season tour through the US.
In the summer of 2018, the perennial German champions took it over. Bayern rented out entire floors of the hotel, implementing a strict security policy for any area in which team personnel were staying. If you wanted to get up to a floor that a player, coach or administrator was booked on, you had to get their express permission beforehand.
Richards learned that the hard way. He went on a 10-day training stint to Bayern, which formed a partnership with Dallas in February 2018, just a few weeks after he signed his MLS deal with FC Dallas that spring. The club liked him so much they invited him back in July. This time, Richards was going not on a training stint, but a six-month loan with their under-19s.
But with a number of Bayern stars given a break during the beginning of that pre-season after playing in the World Cup in Russia earlier that summer, Richards was included in the first-team squad for the trip to the US.
His parents made the trip down to Miami for the friendly against Manchester City, but as they waited in the lobby for an elevator, Richards, ignorant to the protocol, had to scramble to find a security person to get them cleared to come up to his room.
“There’s David Alaba, there’s Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, they’re all on the same floor as me. My parents are walking to the room and I have to go find security to tell them that these people are my parents. Like, what am I doing here?” he laughed. “It was kind of this awkward — it almost felt like I wasn’t there. It didn’t feel real at the time. My mom and dad come into the room and they’re like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever’. It was just amazing. Something you can’t even begin to fathom.”
A couple of nights later, Richards made his first start for Bayern against the reigning Premier League champs. Just a few months before, he’d been living with his academy team-mates in Texas, playing as his new team on FIFA while eating fast food from Raising Cane’s.
The rest of his journey at Bayern wasn’t quite as smooth. He did well in his initial foray with the under-19s, showing enough for Bayern to trigger the buyout clause he’d inserted into his contract with Dallas in January 2019. After a successful run with the US in the Under-20 World Cup that summer, he moved up to Bayern’s reserve team, making 30 appearances to help them to the German third-division title.
He was promoted to the first-team in the summer of 2020, once the Bundesliga returned to play following its COVID-19 hiatus.
That’s where things got a little bit sticky.
Richards after scoring for Bayern Munich II against SV Waldhof Mannheim on June 14, 2020 (Photo: Uwe Anspach/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
Clubs like Bayern rarely promote players from the academy through to the first team. There’s too much quality, too many incoming highly priced transfers and too little opportunities for unproven youngsters. Richards got caught in that tangled web. He made a few Bundesliga appearances in the opening half of the 2020-21 season, tallying an assist in his first-ever Bundesliga start in a 4-3 win against Hertha Berlin in October, but he spent the bulk of his time with the under-23s in the third-division. When the January transfer window rolled around, he asked for a loan move.
“I think the rejection at Dallas, in the academy, made me realise that not everything is going to be a straight-line path,” he said. “So once I got into the first team at Bayern, I kind of realised that I wasn’t going to get the game time that I wanted. I’ve never been so enamoured by the big name, I don’t want to be at Bayern just to be at Bayern. I want to go play and prove myself. So that’s what I did. I asked for a loan pretty quickly, they were kind of shocked, they were like, ‘You don’t want to play a game here, a game there, play Champions League?’ And I just thought it wouldn’t help me. I mean, it would, but to get to where I want to go, I need to be playing more regularly.”
It wasn’t too tough to find a destination. Sebastian Hoeness, who coached Richards in the Bayern under-19s and under-23s, had taken over as manager of Hoffenheim ahead of the 2020-21 season. He eagerly brought Richards for the remainder of the campaign, starting him at centre-back whenever he was healthy.
After the season ended, Richards, who missed the final few matches of Hoffenheim’s campaign and the US’s run to the CONCACAF Nations League title that June with an injury, returned to Munich to take his chances under new Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann. The young coach wasn’t the only new arrival. Nagelsmann brought centre-back Dayot Upamecano with him to Munich from RB Leipzig for a price of $47million.
“Because Nagelsmann came, they wanted him to see me, but when he brought in Upamecano, I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be the same situation’,” Richards said. “I didn’t take it personally, I just wanted to play. I didn’t care if it was at Bayern or Hoffenheim. I can’t just sit on the bench again. It was a World Cup qualifying year, I wanted to play with the national team and I knew they weren’t going to pick me if I wasn’t playing games.”
Palace made a move to acquire him on a full transfer late in the summer window, but Richards ended up returning to Hoffenheim for another loan, this time for the full season. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t call him up for the first round of World Cup qualifiers in September, in part so that Richards could remain in Europe to finalise the deal, but a run of Bundesliga games got him into the USMNT for the October contests against Jamaica, Panama and against Costa Rica. He made his first start of qualifying against Los Ticos, playing well in a 2-1 win in front of a good number of immediate and extended family members in Columbus, Ohio, near where his mom grew up.
He did well later in qualifying to contain Michail Antonio in a 1-1 draw at Jamaica in November and performed solidly again in a 1-0 win against El Salvador in January, but went down with a foot injury in the subsequent match at Canada. That kept him out for nearly a month, then he suffered a thigh injury in April that ruled him out for the final weeks of the Bundesliga season and prevented him from joining the US for their friendlies and Nations League matches in June.
Around that time is when the interest from Palace really began to heat up. Richards was hopeful that the transfer would be finalised in late June — he had already spoken with manager Patrick Vieira a few times at that point — but negotiations between Bayern and Palace were drawn out. Though he never really broke through with the Bayern first team, they liked Richards and didn’t want to let him go cheaply, especially just a few months before he’ll have a chance to raise his profile significantly at the World Cup in Qatar. Bayern considered loaning him again, but eventually reached an agreement with Palace for a base fee of $12million that could rise as high as $18million, depending on various benchmarks.
If he can stay healthy, he should have a good chance to break into the Palace line-up early in the season. He’ll have to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, but he’s a solid passer, capable of playing as a right- or left-sided centre-back, good in the air and a strong athlete.
He’s thoughtful, as well — a vocal campaigner against racism and, according to Quill, “the most coachable player you’ll ever find”.
Richards is confident that he’ll be able to manage the jump.
“It’s definitely faster,” he said. “Every week you’re playing two, three games, you’re playing against the best of the best. It’s going to be tough, but every time I’ve pushed to a new level, I’ve risen to it. I just think I’m ready for it.”
Even before the move, Richards had good odds to start alongside Walker Zimmerman as one of the USMNT’s two centre-backs at the World Cup. His speed could be particularly important, as Zimmerman isn’t the quickest player and the US likes to play with a high defensive line. If he performs well for Palace, where US head coach Gregg Berhalter played during the 2001-02 season, he’ll only bolster his case for minutes in Qatar.
“I’d love to see Chris go there,” Berhalter told ESPN’s Futbol Americas earlier this week, before the move was finalised. “I’d love to see that. Crystal Palace is a great club, great stadium, great fans. Patrick Vieira is a great coach. Love it from every side.”
Richards, of course, has his mind on getting off to a good start in London, but the World Cup looms large. He’s a young, inexperienced and talented member of a young, inexperienced and talented US team. He probably had a harder time imagining his journey than some of his international team-mates did theirs, but he’s now standing on the cusp of an incredible opportunity. If he can take it, the once-unknown kid from Alabama could wind up as one of American soccer’s biggest stars.
“People kind of laugh when they ask me, ‘How far do you guys want to go in the World Cup?’ And I’m like, ‘Damn, man, I want to win it’,” he said. “I don’t want to go into something and downplay ourselves, like, ‘Well, maybe we can get out of the group stage’. No, I want to win it. Same with (Crystal Palace). I want to win the league, win as many trophies as possible and just show out.”
Preseason notebook: Forwards producing, young Yanks seek minutes, & transfer watch
The preseason is winding down but ASN’s Brian Sciaretta offers up another preseason notebook to offer up how he sees things shaping up for a number of players ahead of the opening games.
PRESEASON IN EUROPE is entering into its final stages and, in some cases, the season is underway. The results are often to be taken with a massive grain of salt, but how players are used does offer a glimpse into what we can expect at the start of the season.
In short, it has been somewhat of a concerning preseason for top American players. There hasn’t been anything too much among top U.S. national team players. Yunus Musah has done well but in terms of McKennie, Pulisic, Adams, Weah, Dest, or Reyna – it’s been very quiet. Strangely enough, it’s been the forwards getting the most production.
Here is my notebook from the past week.
Bassett scores for Feyenoord
This is an interesting topic. Cole Bassett is at Feyenoord on loan from Colorado. Last month it was reported that Feyenoord were looking to loan Bassett, who turns 21 this week, Fortuna Sittard. These reports were accurate. But the problem, however, is that players on loan can’t be sent out on a subsequent loan. That decision must be made through Colorado.
Normally, it could be expected that Feyenoord would cancel the loan and then Colorado could loan him to Fortuna Sittard – one of the smallest teams in the Eredivisie. The problem, however, is that Feyenoord still wants to retrain its interest in Bassett, because it owns an option to buy with its current loan. It doesn’t want to give that up. But the minutes are probably not there yet at Feyenoord, which is one of the top teams in the Eredivisie. So how does Bassett find another club to play regularly and Feyenoord continues to hold the loan and option on him?
Bassett came off the bench today for Feyenoord in a preseason friendly today to start the second half. He scored in the 50th minute to give his club a 4-0 lead. Feyenoord ended up winning 6-1.
As I have mentioned, Bassett is a player who could have a big role ahead for the U.S. U-23 team as it prepares for the 2024 Olympics.The good news is that all parties are still talking to find a way to make this loan happen.
Busio likely to remain at Venezia
As the always reliable Tom Bogert reported this week, Gianluca Busio seems likely to remain at Venezia this season and is negotiating a contract extension that removes the financial incentives to loan him if the club remains in Serie B.
Last season, Busio made 29 appearances for Venezia as the club suffered relegation out of Serie A. Busio’s playing time dwindled, however, in the second half of the season as his starts became infrequent.
There are some substantial pros and cons. If Busio remains in Serie B, it hurts his chances of making the World Cup team this year. On the other hand, if he remains it will probably help his development in the long term.
Last year, Busio’s strengths remained the same as they were at Sporting KC. He’s an excellent passer and can move the ball well. But he needs work on defensive aspects of the game including handling the physicality of top-flight soccer and having a non-stop motor to close down on attackers for the duration of the game. In a relegation battle, it was risky to trust Busio in such situations.
But in a league where Venezia is among the better teams, the pressure on him won’t be as dramatic. Serie B isn’t a great league, but it is intense. He should be allowed to play to his strengths while working on his weaknesses. In the long-term, it will serve him well.
Internationally, Busio could be left on the outside of the World Cup team this fall. The team has more options in the midfield than it did during World Cup qualifying. Gio Reyna is slowly returning to health. Brenden Aaronson is likely going to be a midfielder at Leeds. Eryk Williamson was ahead of Busio last summer at the Gold Cup and he is returning to health.
Like Bassett, Busio is a strong candidate for the 2024 Olympic team and that could be a big transitional tournament for him to springboard into the national team when he is more ready.
Sands & Tillman at Rangers
In terms of Americans playing well, James Sands has been earning positive reviews for his first preseason with the club (while on loan from NYCFC). Both Sands and U.S. international Malik Tillman played the final 21 minutes for Rangers in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham over the weekend in their most recent game.
An important note on Sands is that while he was signed as a defensive midfielder, he has been playing almost entirely at central defense where he has potentially put himself in he mix as a starter alongside Connor Goldson. It will be competitive for Sands given that the Rangers signed centerbacks John Souttar and Ben Davies. But Sands has been effective with his passing and that fits the style of manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst who wants to play out of the back.
As for Tillman, he will be a regular for Rangers this season although it seems likely he is going to come off the bench to start the season while getting minutes in cup games.
Forwards keep scoring
In terms of preseason, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi, and Haji Wright are four players who all have a lot to prove early this season. Pefok is making the move up from Switzerland to Union Berlin the Bundesliga but the track record of top goal scorers in the Swiss Super League moving to a bigger league is mixed. Haji Wright will remain with Antalyaspor on a permanent deal. That will allow him to continue with his momentum. Daryl Dike is finally healthy after suffering an injury immediately after arriving with West Brom in January. Ricardo Pepi, meanwhile, needs his first goal for Augsburg soon (in a game that counts.
Three players scored in friendlies over the weekend. Pefok scored in Union’s 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Dike scored the winner in West Brom’s 2-1 win over Hertha BSC. Haji Wright scored in Antalyaspor’s dismal 6-2 loss to Bochum. Ricardo Pepi assisted Maurice Malone in Augsburg’s 3-2 loss to Rennes.
From a national team perspective, these four players seem to be fighting for one or two spots on the World Cup roster to take the roles as a pure center forward as opposed to a hybrid version of Jesus Ferreira. But they’re also not the only four. Josh Sargent probably is still in the mix even if his preseason isn’t going well. Brandon Vazquez has been in fantastic form for Cincinnati and might also get a look in September.
Of the players I mentioned, it seems like Dike is probably in the best position to succeed. He’s had success over a much longer time than Pefok or Wright and he is also extremely mobile.
“He (Dike) is someone that can attack the deliveries I’m going to put in the box,” said West Brom attacker Jed Wallace of assisting to Dike against Hertha. “I have played with some very good centre forwards that like to get on the end of crosses in my time. When I think of Millwall, I had Steve Morison and Matt Smith. Daryl falls into that category. But not only is he a big lad, he is very, very, mobile and you saw that with the goal. He got across his man really well. The cross is one thing but, for me, it’s all about the end product. Any good striker can make an average cross look a good one. That is what he did there. It was a really great header.”
Other notes on who played
Taylor Booth is another player firmly in the mix for the United States U-23 team. He started for FC Utrecht on Wednesday in a 1-0 loss to AEK Athens but nearly scored on a free kick.
On the preseason Americans tours for both teams, Barcelona drew Juventus 2-2 in Dallas. Sergino Dest played for Barca while Weston McKennie was not in action, despite the game in his home town. Dest played between the 34th and 77th minute and was hung out by poor position from his teammates on the first Juventus goal. Other than that, it was an uneventful performance.
Will Dest be a starter for this team at the beginning of the season? It doesn’t seem so.
As for McKennie, Max Allegri said the U.S. midfielder would return to the team tomorrow but didn’t say if it was for injury or personal reasons.
“He is an important player for us, tomorrow he will return with the team and on Saturday he will be able to play,” Allegri said.
It was a tough week for Yunus Musah. While he has been making big progress with Valencia in central midfield, he started for the club over the weekend in a rough 5-2 loss to a VfB Stuttgart team managed by Pellegrino Matarazzo.
Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson both started for Leeds United under Jesse Marsch in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace to conclude the Australian preseason tour. Both Americans were subbed out at halftime with the score 0-0 and both look like potential starters to begin the season.
Tim Weah started and picked up an assist for Lille in a 2-2 draw with Las Palmas. The USMNT winger picked off a poor pass from a Las Palmas central defender and quickly fed it towards goal for an assist. It will be interesting to see how Weah is used this year. It seems as if it is only a matter of time before Jonathan David is sold (Bayern are the latest interested) but that will certainly affect Weah and it will increase his responsibilities in the attack until further reinforcements are added.
Joe Scally started and played 75 minutes for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad. Scally was quiet in this one. Mexican-American Jonathan Gomez played the second half for Sociedad and it seems as if another season with Sociedad B could be in the cards.
Austin Trusty made his debut for Birmingham City (on loan from Arsenal) when he started in the club’s final preseason game, a 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. Trusty will wear No. 5 and will open the season this weekend against Ethan Horvath and Luton Town.
Will Trusty play for Birmingham City? It seems likely. Birmingham City were terrible defensively last season as the club finished 20th out of 24 in the Championship. That being said, Trusty struggled the first half of the season with Colorado.
Two leagues with several Americas which are already into their season are Belgium’s top flight and Germany’s 2.Bundesliga. Results have been mixed.Two top performers have been Sam Vines and Terrence Boyd.Sam Vines was strong for Royal Antwerp in its 2-0 season opening win over Mechelen on Sunday. There is an opening on the U.S. team for the backup left back spot as George Bello has been unconvincing.
Elsewhere in Belgium, it wasn’t good for Americans. Mark McKenzie was an unused sub for Genk in its 3-2 loss to Club Brugge. For McKenzie, his World Cup hopes seem to be fading quickly. Owen Otasowie didn’t get off the bench either for Brugge. Bryan Reynolds was an unused sub for Westerloo in its 2-0 win over Cercle Brugge while Griffin Yow is still finalizing his work permit to suit up. Kyle Duncan, meanwhile, was suspended for Oostende’s 2-0 loss to Anderlecht due to the red card he picked up in last season’s finale.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Terrence Boyd scored for Kaiserslautern in its 2-2 draw with Holstein Kiel while Nico Carrera is still not in Holstein Kiel’s lineup. Boyd now has a goal and an assist in the first two games of the season. Julian Green and Timothy Tillman each started for Greuther Furth in a 2-0 loss to Nurnberg. George Bello started and played 86 minutes for Arminia Bielefeld in a brutal 3-0 loss at home to Jahn Regensburg. Former Springfield college defender Ryan Malone started for Hansa Rostock in an impressive 1-0 away win over Hamburg.
From an international perspective, Bello was the big story and things clearly aren’t clicking for him at Arminia Bielefeld. While he was on the USMNT June roster, I would expect Berhalter to look at other options in September. Whether that be Sam Vines, John Tolkin, DeJuan Jones, or perhaps just moving Sergino Dest to the left, Bello has probably lost his grip on a ticket to Qatar.
There have been a lot of moves so far this summer including key national team players. Luca de la Torre moved to Celta Vigo, Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams moved to Leeds, Zack Steffen was loaned to Middlesbrough, and there have been several other smaller deals or loans. But Chris Richards is a big one and his transfer from Bayern Munich to Crystal Palace has now been announced.
I wrote about this last week in the preseason notebook, but this is a great deal. He will probably be the third central defender, but he is moving because manager Patrick Viera wants him and he will now have to raise his game to get on the field. He wasn’t challenged that way at Hoffenheim. It’s also great for FC Dallas, who could net nearly $5 million from this transfer if the bonus incentives are met.
In other moves, former U.S. U-20 international Charlie Kelman has been loaned from Queens Park Rangers to Leyton Orient in fourth tier League Two.
Jordan Bender last fall saw the option on his homegrown contract declined by Orlando City and now he will return to his parents’ native Cape Town City FC which finished last season in second in South Africa’s top tier. Bender was called up to the only U-20 camp of the previous cycle in January 2020 before Covid cancelled the 2021 U-20 World Cup.
As mentioned, Cole Bassett could rework a situation where he goes on loan to another club, likely in Holland.
Justin Che could be in a different situation as he does not appear to be in the plans right now at Hoffenheim. He is at Hoffenheim on an 18-month loan but based on reports, it doesn’t seem like Bundesliga minutes will be there for him soon. He might remain at Hoffenheim but moving on loan to another club is certainly in the mix.
Tyler Boyd has been starting for Besiktas this preseason but hasn’t stood out. It seems unlikely that he will make their roster for the Super Lig season and Besiktas will probably settle for any decent offer.
The quiet nature of the John Brooks saga has been very interesting. There are reports of teams interested (we’ve seen Marseille, Union Berlin, top Turkish teams, and others all rumored) but then things go very quiet. It seems like it will be resolved soon but Brooks has been able to sign a contract with any team since January and still has yet to put pen to paper.
Richard Ledezma is a bigger story to watch and this one is going to come down to the wire – but it is a positive story. He is still in the plans at PSV and is performing well but Vitesse wants him on loan. PSV will likely wait for a few more weeks to determine if Vitesse is a possibility.
Matthew Hoppe is coming off a lost season at Mallorca and hasn’t been involved in preseason. Tom Bogert reported that an offer from Middlesbrough has been made. But would Hoppe play at Middlesbrough? There is a lot of heavy turnover in the Championship. Duncan Watmore and Josh Coburn are returning from last season. Watmore had seven goals and three assists last season, which is lackluster for a player in his prime (but still far beyond what Hoppe accomplished last season), and Coburn is only 19, but is highly rated with four goals last season.
Chuba Akpom, 26, returns to Middlesbrough from a loan to PAOK in Greece but has five goals in 39 games for Middlesbrough. Uche Ikpeazu also returns to Middlesbrough after a positive loan to Cardiff City where he scored three goals in 13 games (but started only once). That loan was due to an emergency need at Cardiff and Ikpeazu was popular in Wales.
For Hoppe, there is competition but none of the existing options seem unbeatable.
PAXTEN AARONSON: PHILLY’S SPECIAL YOUNG ATTACKER WHO IS DIFFERENT THAN HIS BROTHER
After winning the Concacaf U-20 Championship with the United States, Paxten Aaronson is playing games again in MLS
- Many know the Aaronson name from Paxten’s older brother Brenden, but the younger Aaronson has plenty of talent
© Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports
The Paxten Aaronson hype is building.
First, that hype came in whispered terms after his brother, Brenden Aaronson, broke out with the U.S. men’s national team. Then it grew louder as he signed his own first professional contract and made his debut with the Philadelphia Union in May, 2021. After a run with the U.S. at the Concacaf U-20 Championship, it’s still growing. Now back in Philadelphia, Aaronson is trying to establish himself in the Union’s first team to follow the same trajectory that led his brother, Brenden Aaronson, to Europe and the national team.At the U-20 Championship, Aaronson staked his claim as the best player on the team. Opposing defenses couldn’t cope with his movement or his skill on the ball. When the games became more difficult, the 18-year-old attacker raised his game to match the level: of his seven goals in the tournament, five of them came in the quarterfinals or later. He finished as the leading scorer and won the Golden Ball. While being the leading scorer for the U.S. at the Concacaf U-20 Championship hasn’t been historically meaningful – the last four leading scorers for the U.S. at that tournament have combined for two senior team caps and zero goals – Aaronson is clearly a talented young player. Let’s take a look at his skillset to learn more about what makes him tick and what his future might hold.
THE AARONSON COMPARISON
After Brenden Aaronson exploded onto the scene in 2020, lighting up MLS before a move to RB Salzburg and now Leeds United, it was easy to get excited about a younger version of him climbing up the professional soccer ranks. After all, if the “Little Brother” effect is true in other sports, why wouldn’t it be true in soccer?
Of course, as anyone with an older sibling knows, people often fall into the trap of treating siblings like they’re the same person, with the same abilities and weaknesses. It’s tempting to do that with the Aaronson brothers. They look similar, with their shaggy hair and slim builds. They have a similar frenetic approach to the game, which fits in nicely with the way the Philadelphia Union play.
Despite these similarities, at their core, they’re different players.
The difference starts with how they’ve progressed so far in their careers. Here’s a look at how Paxten has performed over the first years of his professional career. This chart is just the sum of Goals Added (G+), a popular possession value metric by American Soccer Analysis, across both MLS and the USL Championship.
Paxten is ahead of where Brenden was at a similar age, which is an encouraging sign. For Brenden, the 2020 season was a breakout year, earning him first place on MLS’s 22 Under 22 list. With a strong end to the 2022 season, Paxten could establish himself as a first team starter and have that same kind of rise in 2023. There’s also the very real possibility that his breakout season could take place in Europe if a team decides to make a move for him.
Looking towards the field, the positional breakdown between the two brothers is different, too. Here’s a visualization of the various positions that Paxten and Brenden have played during their time in MLS and the USL.
Brenden split his time between the wings, the No. 10, and the No. 8 during his time playing in the United States. He even played a game as a center back (according to Stats Perform) back in 2019. We’re not buying that one, but nice try data provider. Paxten, on the other hand, tends to play higher up the field. He’s almost entirely coded either as a striker – really, a second striker when you watch the tape – or as an attacking midfielder.
The younger Aaronson can play multiple roles in possession, but he has a tendency to assert himself in the attack more than his brother.
PAXTEN THE SOCCER PLAYER
If Paxten isn’t just Brenden 2.0, then who is he?
After running his (admittedly limited) MLS numbers through a player matching algorithm, two European comparisons stand out: Leicester City’s Ayoze Perez and Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa. That’s not to say that Aaronson is as good as these two players, but his style of play is similar to that pair. Paxten’s energy and activity on the defensive end is one of the biggest reasons the comparison fits.
Despite his listed height and weight sitting at a waifish 5’9” and 139 pounds, he shows a complete lack of fear on the defensive end against larger players. As an undersized, but aggressive player, Aaronson fits well into a system that requires pressing through the middle third.
As a ball progressor, Aaronson puts his relatively limited overall involvement to good use. He tends to touch the ball less than most midfielders or forwards, but he plays forward with a large percentage of his passes. The teenager is the most dangerous in the final third and around the box. He consistently moves into open spaces and creates shots either for himself or for his teammates with that movement and his skill on the on-attacker-special-different-than-his-brother.Aaronson is comfortable playing in tight spaces, but he doesn’t have the pace or acceleration to consistently beat players on the wing. He works better through the middle of the pitch.
Even though Aaronson has some real skills, there are still some deficits in his game that must be ironed out for him to truly shine in MLS and beyond. His overall usage rates are quite low, which means he doesn’t get on the ball very much. A low usage rate is not necessarily an issue, but it might indicate that Aaronson isn’t going to demand the ball and take over a game as a playmaker. Instead, he will find his spots and take advantage of his movement to try to take the final shot or make the penultimate pass in an attacking sequence. Aaronson is willing to dribble at players one-v-one, but his success rates leave much to be desired and he currently lacks the speed and strength to differentiate himself. That should change over the next year or so as he continues to mature.
The rest of the 2022 season could be key for Aaronson’s development.
With the Union on top of the Eastern Conference, minutes have been hard to come by Aaronson: he’s sitting just shy of 400 minutes this year. That said, he has been playing this month. Since rejoining the team after the Concacaf U-20 Championship, Aaronson has played in four straight games. It helps that he’s on a Philadelphia Union team that uses two strikers and a No. 10 and is committed to playing the kids.The 18-year-old can play any of the three attacking positions in Jim Curtin’s 4-4-2 diamond: as one of the two forwards or as a replacement for Gazdag in the space between the midfield and the strikers. Gazdag doesn’t get many touches either and his game could provide the blueprint for how Aaronson could impact play as an unconventional No. 10. Aaronson’s flexibility in this area is an asset, one that should contribute to increased playing time going forward.Despite reports of European attention, Aaronson still needs some seasoning before he’ll be truly ready to impact a good team across the Atlantic – and that’s okay. He’s only played around 2,000 MLS minutes in his career. Regardless of what happens on the transfer front over the next 12 to 18 months, Philadelphia Union and USMNT fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about Paxten Aaronson. His skill on the ball and relentless defensive work could make him a valuable player in a modern soccer landscape that prioritizes both of those attributes over almost anything else.If Aaronson continues to mature physically and gets more on-field reps, he could develop into quite the player.
With Arlo And NBCSN Gone, Here’s How To Watch Premier League In U.S. In 2022-23
AMERICANS WILL HAVE SOME CHANGES TO GET USED TO FOR THE 2022-23 PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON. The Premier League is back for the 2022-23 season, and that means it’s time for us Americans to set those weekend alarms for way-too-early a.m. and get the TV ready for the world’s most popular soccer league. There will be a few changes to this year’s EPL TV lineup, so here’s a quick refresher on how to watch Premier League in the U.S. for 2022-23. After eight years of Americans watching the Premier League on NBC’s family of networks, the EPL’s U.S. TV rights went up for grabs last year. Despite heavy competition (including a surprising second round of bidding), NBC shelled out a reported $2.7 billion to retain the rights for another six years in both English and Spanish. For a bit of comparison, ESPN paid $1.4 billion for a similar eight-year deal with LaLiga, while JetBlue will spend $3.8 billion to buy Spirit airlines. (I’m not sure which company got the better deal, but it’s not JetBlue.)While the network owning the Premier League TV rights will not change, fans will notice a few major differences. The first major change is the loss of NBCSN, but fans should have already adjusted to this. NBCSN shuttered at the end of 2021, so if you’re still trying to find the cable channel in August 2022, that’s on you.The second major change is the loss of announcer Arlo White. NBC announced in May that White was being replaced by the excellent Peter Drury as the network’s lead soccer announcer. While many will miss White’s velvety voice, I think most Americans will grow to appreciate Drury’s intelligent, poetic and appropriately enthusiastic calls.Enough with the changes, here’s how to watch Premier League matches in the U.S. in 2022-23.
How To Watch Premier League In USA 2022-23
- TV: NBC, USA Network, CNBC, Universo, Telemundo
- Streaming: Peacock Premium
- Third-Party Streaming*: fuboTV, Sling TV, DirecTV Stream, YouTube TV, Hulu+ Live TV
How To Watch Premier League In USA For Free
- Hope for a match on over-the-air NBC
Premier League matches will once again be split between three primary outlets in English: network NBC, cable USA Network and streaming Peacock Premium. The only free one is NBC; USA requires a cable subscription (as does the occasional match on CNBC) while matches on Peacock will come with a $4.99-per-month price tag. The song remains the same in Spanish, with matches on Telemundo, Universo and Peacock Premium. On a typical weekend, you’ll see a few games on USA, one or two on NBC and the rest on Peacock. This means to watch every Premier League match, you’ll need both a cable subscription and a Peacock subscription. This is less than ideal, but at least Peacock is one of the cheapest streaming services around. And with the loss of NBCSN, more and more matches have been placed behind the Peacock paywall, so you’ll probably want to pay for that subscription anyway. For instance, on opening weekend, NBC decided to air two matches on USA and the other eight on Peacock. Now that you know how to watch Premier League matches, catch up on all the Americans playing in the league here. And if you need help naming your Fantasy Premier League team, we’ve got you covered, too.* — Third-party streaming refers to streaming services through which you can gain access to live TV channels such as NBC and USA.
Boys in Blue Seek to Cool Down Red-hot Rowdies Side Saturday
Indy Eleven vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, July 30, 2022 – 7:00 p.m. ET
IUPUI Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind.
Local TV: WISH-TV
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)
Radio (Spanish): Exitos 94.3 FM / exitos943.com
In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers
Live stats: #INDvTBR MatchCenter on USLChampionship.com
2022 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS
Indy Eleven: 6W-10L-4D (-7 GD), 22 pts.; 9th in Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 12W-6L-3D (+22 GD), 42 pts.; 2nd in Eastern Conference
COMMUNITY HEALTH NETWORK SPORTS MEDICINE INDY ELEVEN INJURY REPORT
OUT: Aris Briggs (R shin), Bryan Meredith (R hand fracture), Stefano Pinho|
* IND’s Raul Aguilera & Sam Brown will receive a one-game suspension from USL for caution accumulation (eight) should they receive a yellow card in any game up to and including Aug. 27 vs. SA
Indy Eleven is staying in the Circle City for the second of a three-match homestand this Saturday night at Carroll Stadium against a former NASL rival in the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The meeting is the second between the sides this season, the first being a 2-0 home win for the Rowdies back on Matchday 2.
The Boys in Blue broke a six-match losing streak and a five-match scoreless streak last Saturday night against Memphis 901 FC, its 1-1 draw helping the squad get back on track for playoff positioning as the final third of the season approaches. The Eleven sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, currently nine points outside the playoff picture but with two games in hand on both seventh place Miami (31 pts.) and FC Tulsa (25 pts.).
Two new Boys in Blue made their IXI debuts last week in Sean Lewis and former Rowdies striker Juan Tejada, and two more could do the same on Saturday. On Monday, defender Jesus Vasquez was added to the squad from RGV Toros FC in a loan exchange for Jonas Fjeldberg, and 18-year-old Orlando City forward Wilfredo Rivera also joined Indy for the remainder of the season on loan. The match will allow for some quick reunions for Tejada and ex-Eleven midfielder Nicky Law, as the duo will face their former squads just nine days after being traded for each other last Thursday.
Across the pitch, the Rowdies have been one of the top performers in the league all season long – but especially so since the calendar hit May. Tampa Bay currently sits second in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind top of the table Louisville City FC, and is undefeated since an April 30 loss to San Diego Loyal. Since then, the Floridian side has rattled off a 9-0-2 unbeaten run, including five straight wins overall and four consecutive road wins heading into this weekend.
A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets.
LAST TIME OUT
Indy Eleven garnered its first point since mid-June via a 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC at Carroll Stadium. Two-time USLC MVP Solomon Asante scored his first goal in an IXI shirt just nine minutes in, making him the 17th player to score 50 regular season goals in the Championship’s 12 seasons. The fastest goal of the 2022 campaign to this point for Indy allowed the Boys in Blue to stretch their now two-year undefeated streak when scoring first to 25 games.
Indy goalkeeper Sean Lewis tied an Eleven season high with seven saves in his debut for the Boys in Blue, including a club-record tying six in the first half, but he couldn’t deny Phillip Goodrum’s 23rd minute tally that gave him an Eastern Conference best 12th goal of the season.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 : 1 Atlanta United 2
Sat., July 23 | Stats
The Rowdies continued their winning ways Saturday night at home against Atlanta. Darwin Matteus put the visitors up 14 minutes in, but Steevan Dos Santos notched a first half brace, scoring in 25’ and 38’ to put the Rowdies up by the break. Leo Fernandes’ 11th goal of the season in the 68th minute from the penalty spot all but sealed the proceedings, which saw Tampa Bay take a USL Championship season-high 28 shots on the evening.
SERIES VS. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
All meetings: 3W-3L-8D (17 GF/17 GF)
USLC regular season (2018-current): 1W-2L-2D (4 GF/6 GA)
USL Championship at home: 1W-0L-1D (1 GF/0 GA)
NASL regular season (2014-17): 2W-1L-6D (13 GF/11 GA)
Few teams have as much history with Indy Eleven as the Tampa Bay Rowdies do. The two clubs have met 14 times since 2014, and the series stands dead even at 3W-3L-8D and 17 goals for each team across both USLC and NASL competition. The teams met once previously this season, a 2-0 victory for the Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium on March 19, a match that included a first-minute game-winner and the assist on the Rowdies’ insurance tally by now-Eleven forward Juan Tejada.
Their first meeting at Carroll Stadium took place in Indy’s second-ever match on Apr. 19, 2014, a 1-1 draw in which Erick Norales equalized late for Indiana’s Team. The rivalry took a hiatus in 2020 or 2021 due to scheduling changes due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last contest between the two in the Circle City came on Oct. 12, 2019, when Sebastian Guenzatti (45’) and Dane Kelly (72’) traded tallies in a 1-1 draw at Lucas Oil Stadium.
#INDvTBR FAMILIAR FACES
We’ve touched up the Juan Tejada (13 goals, 5 assists in 65 games with Tampa Bay from 2019-22) and Nicky Law (4 goals and 5 assists in 49 games from 2021-22) angles, but there remains one more current link to the two squads in Rowdies defender Connor Antley. Indy Eleven’s acquisition of the Atlanta area native from South Georgia Tormenta FC on Nov. 21, 2019, made USL history, as it marked the first time a Championship squad paid a transfer fee to a USL League One side for a player’s services. Antley spent the 2020 campaign in the Circle City, playing 12 of the squad’s 16 games during the COVID-shortened season before joining Tampa Bay in 2021.
ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: FW JUAN TEJADA
Didn’t see this one coming, did you? However, we choose Tejada for good reason, as his boundless energy both on and off the ball in attack and in the high pressure defensive set-up that head coach Mark Lowry likes to implement was on full display in his Indy debut last weekend. The Eleven’s scoreless drought broke last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC, and if the goals start rolling with some consistency for the Boys in Blue as they did across April, May, and early June, it seems more and more like Tejada will be a reason why.
While we have no reason to think there’s any grudges between Tejada and his former side, the fact remains Tejada’s primary role for the Florida side ever since his standout 2019 rookie season had been coming off the bench – and just two days after arriving in the Hoosier State, Lowry gave him the full 90 minutes to show his stuff. We’ll selfishly hope there’s a little added motivation for Tejada to open his Eleven account in his first meeting against his former side on Saturday – and a duplication of his goal and assist output against Indy back in Week 2 would be even better.
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