Games to Watch
With No EPL this weekend attention turns to MLS with Nashville and the LA Galaxy battling for playoff position at 3:30 pm Sat on Univision. Sat AM does give us American Yanus Musah and Valencia traveling to Raya Vallecario at 8 am on ESPN+, followed by American Claudia Reyna and Dortmund traveling to RB Leipzig at 9:30 am on ESPN+. Champions League is back Tues with Sporting hosting Tottenham at 12:45 pm on Para+, along with Liverpool vs Ajax, Rangers vs Napoli, Leverkusen vs Athletico Madrid and the featured game Barcelona traveling to Bayern Munich all at 3 pm on Para+. Wed Milan host surprising first round winner Dinamo Zagreb at 12:45 pm para+, followed by Man City hosting Dortmund and American Reyna, Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig, Juve and McKinney hosting Benefica, Chelsea and Pulisic vs Salzberg and more at 3 pm on para+.
EPL Wk 5 – On Hold, Tuchel out at Chelsea
The EPL and all English Soccer clubs are taking the week off with the death of the Queen – no word on when play will resume. Finally the German coach is NO more at Chelsea. In a move long overdue in my mind – Thomas Tuchel is out as manager at Chelsea. Much like in ALL of his other jobs – his immediate results with other coaches’ players worked fine (including a Champs League win 2 years ago) when he was able to come in and shore up defensive issues with his double 6 midfield defender alignment. But just like every other job Dortmund, PSG – his days became numbered when he “got his players” in the squad. All Tuchel managed to do was take multi goal attackers like Romeo Lukaku, Havertz, Timo Werner, and American Christian Pulisic and reduce them to shadows of their former selves as he played them often out of postition and with little to no midfield support. I don’t think its crazy to say he’s the WORSE offensive minded coach in the world today. Brighton’s Graham Potter now takes over for American Owner LA Dodgers man Todd Boehly and we’ll see if this means more playing time for Pulisic. Or least playing time in his natural positions of underneath forward or left or right wing. Pulisic needs space to run –Frank Lampard gave him that – and he scored – Tuchel did not and he hasn’t.
Indy 11 Home Sat 7 pm / MLS has
Indy Eleven will carry a three-game unbeaten streak back into Carroll Stadium on Saturday, when it welcomes yet another team in playoff position in Birmingham Legion FC to the Circle City on Pride Night.
US Ladies Sign Equal Pay Bill along with dominating victories over Nigeria before England match Oct 7
The US Ladies returned to play last week and they dominated Nigeria “the best team in Africa” with 5-0 and 2-1 wins – Winger Sofia Smith showed her tremendous potential is being realized with 4 goals in the first game last week. In the 2nd game – a weakend US squad with plenty of rotation – found themselves in a 1-1 tie until Megan Rapinoe came in during the 78th minute and immediately sent a cross off the head of Portland teammate Rose Lavelle for the go ahead goal. The most eventful moment of the night was probably the first of its kind signatures on the bill featuring Equal Pay for the Men’s and Women’s National teams of the United States – the first for any country in the world. US soccer teams sign equal pay deal after USWNT’s victory over Nigeria NWSL Action Sat has Ashley Hatch, Kelley Ohara and Andi Sulllivan and the Washington Spirit hosting Alex Morgan and the San Diego Wave at 1 pm on CBSSN and a 7 pm show of NC hosting Racing Louisville at 7 pm on Para+. Sun has NY/NJ Gothem and Margaret Purse + Kristie Mewis hosting KC current and Sam Mewis and, Lynn Williams and GK Adrianna French at 6 pm on CBSSN and Houston hosting Angel City at 7 pm on Para”.
High School Local – CHS Girls host Pack the House Night, Mon 9/12
Carmel Girls rise to 3rd in the rankings after a couple of solid wins last week including this save of the week by CHS GK and former CFC GK Bethany Ducat. The Boys are up to #5 with 2 wins this past week including a huge 1-0 win over fellow powerhouse Columbus North on this spectacular goal by Josiah Shepson. A reminder the CHS Ladies will host Pack the House Night vs North Central, Monday 9/12 at 7 pm at Murray Stadium. Free admission for all Carmel FC and Carmel Dad’s Club players with their uniforms on. Bring a canned food item to benefit the Carmel Backpack Program. Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules
CHS Boys host Pack the House Night, Friday 9/16 7 pm
All youth players in their CFC or Carmel Dad’s club uniforms will get FREE admission,
American’s In Champions League this week
Porto v Club Brugge, 3p on Paramount+: Owen Otasowie hasn’t played for Brugge’s first team in over a month. He’s played in the last 3 games for their reserves in the second tier. (Champions League Group B).
Marseille v Eintracht Frankfurt, 3p on Paramount+: Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt are on the road in France (Champions League Group D).
- AC Milan v Dinamo Zagreb, 12:45p on Paramount+, TUDN, UniMás, fuboTV (free trial): Sergiño Dest made his Milan debut in their Champions League opener. They host Zagreb in matchday 2 (Group E).
- Shakhtar Donetsk v Celtic, 12:45p on Paramount+: Cameron Carter-Vickers and Celtic are on the road against Ukrainian opposition in Group F.
- Rangers v Napoli, 3p on Paramount+: Malik Tillman and James Sands lead Rangers at home in Group A.
- Chelsea v RB Salzburg, 3p on Paramount+: Christian Pulisic looks for a fresh start with Chelsea, as they take on Salzburg at Stamford Bridge (Group E).
- Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund, 3p on Paramount+: Gio Reyna and Dortmund face old friend Erling Haaland and Man City in Group G.
- Juventus v Benfica, 3p on Paramount+: Weston McKennie and Juve host John Brooks and Benfica in Group H.
Braga v Union Berlin, 3p on Paramount+: Jordan Pefok returned from injury for Union at the weekend. They face Portuguese side Braga in Europa League Group D.
BIG GAMES ON TV
Tues, Sept 13
12:45 Para+ Viktoria Plezen vs Inter Milan
12:45 Para+, Unimas Sporting CP vs Tottenham
3 pm Para+, Univision Bayern Munich vsBarcelona
3 pm Para+, Liverpool vs Ajax
3 pm Para+ Braga vs Union Berlin (Pefock)
3 pm Para+ Marseille vs Frankfurt (Chandler)
Weds, Sept 14
12:45 Para+, TUDN AC Milan (Dest) vs Dinamo Zagreb
12:45 Para+, Unimas Shakhtar Donestsk vs Celtic (Carter Vickers)
3 pm Para+ Rangers (Tillman, Sands) vs Napoli
3 pm Para+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs RB Salzburg
3 pm Para+ Man City vs Dortmund (Reyna)
3 pm Para+ Juventus (Mckinney) vs Benefica
Thurs, Sept 15
3 pm Para+ Braga vs Union Berlin (Pefok) Europa
Fri, Sept 16
3 pm USA Aston villa vs Southampton
3 pm Peacock Notingham Forest vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)
7:30 pm Para+ Racing Louisville vs Orlando Pride
Sat, Sept 17
7:30 am USA Wolverhampton vs Man City
9:30 am ESPN Dortmund (reyna) vs Schalke
10 am USA New Castle vs Bournemouth
12:30 pm NBC Tottenham vs Leicester
12:30 pm ESPN+ MGladbach vs RB Leipzig
3:30 pm Unimas Atlanta United vs Philly Union
6 pm FS2 Monterrey vs Atlas Mexican
7:30 pm ESPN+ Monterey Bay vs Indy 11
7:30 pm Para+ NC Courage (Murphy) vs Seattle Reign (Lavelle, Rapinoe, Huerta)
9 pm Univision America vs Guadalajara
10 pm Para+ San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Angel City
Sun, Sept 18
6:30 am para+ Udinese vs Inter Milan
7 am USA Bretford vs Arsenal
9:15 am Peacock Everton vs West Ham
9:30 am ESPN+ Union Berlin (Pefock) vs Wolfsburg
2:45 pm AC Milan vs Napoli
2:$5 pm bein Sport Lyon vs PSG
1 pm ESPN Columbus Crew vs Portland Timbers
3 pm ESPN+ Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid (Madrid Derby)
10 pm FS1 Tijuana vs Necaza
5 pm Para+ KC Current vs Portland Thorns (Smith, Horan, Sauerbrann)NWSL
Fri, Sept 23
8:25 am ESPN USMNT vs Japan in Germany
Tues, Sept 27
2 pm ESPN USMNT vs Saudi Arabia in Spain
Fri, Oct 7
3 pm FOX US Women vs England in London
Tues, Oct 11
2:30 pm ESPN2 US Women vs Spain (Pamplona)
Sat, Oct 29
8 pm CBS NWSL Championship Game
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YUNUS MUSAH’S EVOLUTION: HOW THE USMNT’S YOUNG STAR IS DEVELOPING WITH VALENCIA
With World Cup tests against England, U.S. on the horizon, what can returning Queiroz bring to Iran?
2026 World Cup venues selected: Which cities will host in USA, Canada, Mexico?
DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC); Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign),
Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
USWNT Big Board: Projecting the World Cup roster for 2023 ESPNFC hJeff Kassouf
SAM COFFEY’S DEBUT AND MORE ANALYSIS FROM THE USWNT’S LATEST WIN OVER NIGERIA
US soccer teams sign equal pay deal after USWNT’s victory over Nigeria
Q&A: PULISIC AND TUCHEL, USL TEAMS IN CCL, AND MUCH MORE
Orlando City blanks Sacramento to capture US Open Cup
Tuesday 6th September
Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 Chelsea
RB Salzburg 1-1 AC Milan
Celtic 0-3 Real Madrid
RB Leipzig 1-4 Shakhtar Donetsk
Dortmund 3-0 FC Kobenhavn
Sevilla 0-4 Manchester City
Benfica 2-0 Maccabi Haifa
PSG 2-1 Juventus
Wednesday 7th September
Ajax 4-0 Rangers
Napoli 4-1 Liverpool
Atletico Madrid 2-1 FC Porto
Club Brugge 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Barcelona 5-1 Viktoria Plzen
Inter Milan 0-2 Bayern Munich
Frankfurt 0-3 Sporting CP
Spurs 2-0 Marseille
Champions League Stories – ESPN
Napoli vs Liverpool: Reds run ragged in UCL opener (video)
Liverpool’s early-season flaws exposed by rampant Napoli
Ukraine’s Shakhtar power to Champions League victory at Leipzig
Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk romped to a memorable 4-1 Champions League win over RB
Q&A: PULISIC AND TUCHEL, USL TEAMS IN CCL, AND MUCH MORE
- We asked for your American soccer questions on Twitter earlier this week – and you delivered!
- What does Thomas Tuchel’s exit mean for Christian Pulisic at Chelsea? How do you make the USWNT even better? Are LAFC’s problems overblown? We’ll get to all that and more
© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
WANT MORE AMERICAN SOCCER? WE HAVE YOU COVERED.
This article was originally sent out via email. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future mailbags delivered right to your inbox.
We’re back with another midweek mailbag. I put out a call for your questions on Twitter and you delivered with a great mix about all sorts of American soccer topics.
Let’s get to it!
What chances would you give Sacramento Republic of winning at least one CCL match if they had won the U.S. Open Cup?
This would be fun, wouldn’t it? Whenever it happens, a USL team participating in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time after winning the U.S. Open Cup will be a great story.
When a USL team makes it to this region’s Champions League, I think they have a real shot of getting a win. USL teams don’t have nearly as much talent as some of the other teams they could face in the CCL. Most MLS teams and Liga MX teams participating in the competition would be bad matchups (upsets happen, though). But what about some smaller Central American teams? Or some non-MLS Canadian teams?
Those are winnable games. And when the Concacaf Champions League expands to 27 teams in 2024, a USL team, should they make it, will have an even better shot at picking up a win.
So, while it’s difficult for USL teams to qualify for the CCL, I could see some promising performances from second-division teams once they’re inside the competition.
What are some specific tactical changes Vlatko Andonovski could make for the USWNT to produce more goals consistently?
I love this question because it gets right at the heart of my biggest issue with the U.S. women’s national team right now: they lack discipline in the attack.
The USWNT is a team full of superstars. They have an absurd amount of individual quality in every line. But too often, the U.S. roll out a remedial tactical gameplan that leaves far too much to chance. They rely on individual quality instead of stitching that individual quality together into something more.
Now, it’s not that the U.S. can’t, or doesn’t, create chances in possession. They scored a combined six goals against Nigeria in their two friendlies earlier this month. But too often, the U.S. hit hopeful crosses into the box or look disjointed with their attacking spacing.
If I’m Vlatko Andonovski, I’m working on my kill patterns in the final third. This team is dynamite in transition, so my focus is on possession. I’m telling my wingers to get in behind, find the Manchester City Zones (those outer corridors of the box), and then cut the ball back to a runner inside the box. Pushing into those spaces and combining with teammates in the halfspaces and the edges of the box could turn this team into a virtually unstoppable attacking force, even against other top-tier competition.
We’ve seen glimpses of those final third patterns from the U.S., but I’d love to see more than glimpses.
Is the LAFC roster turnover narrative overblown, given that Ginella was a backup No. 6, Fall was fifth in center back rotation, and Rodriguez missed a huge chunk of the season?
LAFC’s biggest challenges have to do with their recent signings, rather than their recent departures. I don’t think they’re really missing any of Francisco Ginella (left on loan to Nacional), Mamadou Fall (left on loan to Villarreal), Brian Rodríguez (transferred to Club America).
But with so many new attacking players up front, there are some valid questions about how Steve Cherundolo is going to set up his team. How do you use Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale together and still maintain some sort of pressing identity (or at least some defensive solidity)? How do Denis Bouanga and Cristian Tello fit into this team? Can any of those players give LAFC the same aggressive off-ball running that Kwadwo Opoku gives them?
LAFC’s attacking shuffle is a problem for Cherundolo. It’s a Champagne problem, but Champagne problems are still problems. LAFC are probably still going to win the Supporters’ Shield, but things are more complicated in LA now than they were a couple of months ago.
Do you think Chelsea firing Thomas Tuchel will be beneficial for Christian Pulisic?
Define beneficial. Is playing for pretty much anyone else in the world other than Thomas Tuchel going to help Christian Pulisic’s confidence? Absolutely. But is playing for a manager that actually rates him and plays him going to be good for Pulisic’s health? I’m not so sure.
Pulisic’s injury record is miles long. He missed a big chunk of last season for Chelsea with injuries. He missed a stretch of the year before with injuries, too. He hasn’t played more than 2,000 league minutes in a single season since 2017-18.
Getting a new voice in the locker room will be a refreshing thing for Pulisic ahead of the World Cup. But if he ends up playing a bunch of minutes between now and November, I’m not optimistic that Pulisic will stay healthy before Qatar.
Has Sam Vines played his way into the backup LB spot behind Jedi?
Left back is a touchy subject for the United States right now after Antonee Robinson went down with an ankle injury with Fulham over the weekend. Regardless of the severity of the injury, finding a capable backup for Robinson is important.
Sam Vines is a regular starter in Belgium’s top division – and he even scored a goal the other day – but I don’t think he’s locked into that backup spot. Vines’ biggest competition doesn’t come from other potential left backs, though. It comes from the right back depth chart.
With Sergiño Dest’s move to AC Milan, where he’ll get more playing time than he did at Barcelona, and Joe Scally’s time on the field for Gladbach in the Bundesliga this season, Gregg Berhalter has a couple of different options who can play on either side of the backline. And given that both Dest and Scally have played left back for the USMNT, it’s clear that Berhalter is willing to use a right-footed player on the left.
Now, if Robinson isn’t fit, I think Vines has the inside track relative to the rest of the left back competition. But if Robinson is ready to go, it wouldn’t surprise me if Berhalter brought just one true left back to the World Cup.
Chelsea’s new owners show ruthless streak in sacking Tuchel
Kieran CANNINGWed, September 7, 2022 at 9:29 AM
Chelsea are still adjusting to life under their new regime but the ruthless sacking of manager Thomas Tuchel shows the change of ownership has not ushered in an era of patience at Stamford Bridge.The German was well aware of the fate that befalls managers who stumble from the day he walked into the Premier League club, initially handed a contract for just 18 months despite his pedigree.”What does it change?” said Tuchel as he was unveiled in January 2021. “If they are not happy with me, they will sack me anyway.”A hire-and-fire culture became the norm during Roman Abramovich’s spectacularly successful reign, which ended in May when Todd Boehly’s consortium took over.Tuchel earned himself a two-year contract extension after winning the Champions League in May 2021, a triumph that came just four months after he inherited a squad that was under-performing under Frank Lampard.But less than 16 months after Chelsea overcame Manchester City in Porto, and after a big-spending transfer window at Stamford Bridge, he finds himself out of a job.Boehly’s group spent a world-record £4.25 billion ($4.9 billion) to buy Chelsea in May after Russian billionaire Abramovich announced he was selling the club shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.The following week Abramovich was hit with UK sanctions, with the government describing him as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.The new regime splashed out more than £200 million on a list of high-profile players including Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.And Tuchel appeared to have earned the trust of the new owners.He pushed for the signing of Aubameyang after their time together at Borussia Dortmund and reportedly cooled Boehly’s interest in Cristiano Ronaldo, who wanted to leave Manchester United.
– Erratic –
Yet, just seven games into the new season, the 49-year-old has been cut loose after damaging defeats to Leeds, Southampton and Dinamo Zagreb.In keeping with his time at Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, results have dipped after a bright start. Chelsea won the Club World Cup, reached two domestic cup finals and finished in the top four of the Premier League last season despite the difficulties caused by the sanctions imposed on Abramovich, which affected the club’s operations. Yet the expected Premier League title challenge following the club-record £97-million signing of forward Romelu Lukaku never materialised. Lukaku complained publicly of struggling to fit into Tuchel’s preferred system and has been shipped back to Inter Milan on loan at huge cost to the Blues. Reports in recent weeks suggested other attacking players were unhappy with Tuchel’s methods, frustrated that they were not given the freedom to shine.Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have all struggled to deliver on big transfer fees, while Timo Werner returned to RB Leipzig last month.Scoring goals has been a persistent problem and the defensive solidity that was the hallmark of Tuchel’s early success at the club has been absent this season.Tuchel can point to an untimely injury to midfielder N’Golo Kante, a loss of form for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and the need for time for the club’s new signings to bed in. But his own behaviour had grown more erratic as the pressure increased. He was sent off for two physical confrontations with Tottenham boss Antonio Conte in a 2-2 draw last month and lambasted his players for a “soft mentality” in losing at Southampton. A limp 1-0 defeat on Tuesday to a Zagreb side with a strikingly poor Champions League record was the final straw. “We are clearly not where we need to be and where we can be,” said Tuchel after the match. Boehly has made the bold call that a man who has reached two Champions League finals with two different clubs in the past three seasons was the problem. Now the pressure is on the American to make the right hire to turn his investment into results on the pitch.
2022 World Cup: Andrés Cantor discusses USMNT’s chances, player to watch
Logan Reardon Thu, September 8, 2022 at 8:49 PM Andrés Cantor discusses USMNT’s chances, player to watch originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea The 2022 FIFA World Cup is quickly approaching. After missing out on the tournament in 2018, the U.S. men’s national team is back in the field for 2022. Led by a group of talented young players, expectations are raised for the American squad. World Cup broadcaster Andrés Cantor sat down with NBC to share his thoughts on Team USA, their outlook for the tournament and one key player to watch in Qatar. Let’s take a look at Cantor’s preview for the U.S. team: What stands out about the USMNT? The World Cup roster for the USMNT hasn’t yet been announced. But we have a general idea of the players that will head to Qatar. There should be an exciting mix of youth and experience as the U.S. looks to advance through the group stage. Cantor sees the American team as having a good balance with young talent that has already started playing on the big stage in Europe. “I believe the U.S. team has a group of very young, but talented players,” Cantor said. “Many of them are mainstays on top European clubs. That experience is invaluable when it comes to the World Cup. “I have trust and belief that the U.S. can do well,” Cantor said. “Even though the team is, on average, very young, it doesn’t mean they don’t have experience. Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, (Yunis) Musah, you name it. They have European football under their legs.” How can the USMNT get out of the group stage? Following a random draw, the U.S. was placed in Group B with Wales, England and Iran. England is the favorite to top the group, as it is ranked No. 5 in the world in FIFA’s rankings. The U.S. is ranked No. 14, with Wales at No. 19 and Iran at No. 22. The USMNT will face Wales in its first match, before playing England second and closing out the group stage against Iran. “The most important moment of a World Cup, before the ball is kicked, is the World Cup draw,” Cantor said. “The second most important thing in every World Cup is the opening match. “So, what (does the U.S.) need to get out of the group stage? Obviously, beat Wales in the opening match and get to the England game with three points in hand. Then, battle it out (against Iran), at least with three points from the opening game. That’s the key, the opening match.” Who is the player to watch from the USMNT? When you think of the USMNT, one player immediately comes to mind. “I will go with the obvious choice, which would be Christian Pulisic,” Cantor said when asked which American player is the most important. “He is probably the most experienced player, a European champion. He plays at the highest level of all, and plays a very defined role at Chelsea.” Pulisic, 23, has been in the spotlight since he made his national team debut in 2016. He made the move to the English Premier League to play for Chelsea in 2019, where he has scored 19 goals in 80 career appearances. “He’s such a talented player, and he’s young. He can give you a couple of positions, he can play on the left, on the right or as a false nine.” “If you ask this question to 10 people that follow the U.S. team, I’m pretty sure nine out of 10 will say Christian Pulisic. He knows that all of the eyes are going to be on him. It’s good that he has the European experience, but this is different. He’s going to wear the captain’s armband, and that creates another level of pressure that he hasn’t had at Chelsea.”
Report: USA “serious candidate” to host FIFA Club World Cup It would take place in February 2023. By Donald Wine II@blazindw Sep 9, 2022, 12:45pm PDT
The trophy for the greatest club team in the world could be lifted on American soil. According to Spanish outlet AS, the United States is “a serious candidate” to serve as hosts for the next FIFA Club World Cup.Because of the 2022 FIFA World Cup taking place in November and December, if the Club World Cup takes place, the targeted dates are February 6-12, 2023. The tournament involves the champions of every FIFA confederation plus the winner of the host nation’s domestic league.That would mean that Major League Soccer could have two representatives for the first time ever at the Club World Cup. The Seattle Sounders became just the 3rd MLS team to win a Concacaf confederational trophy when they won the Concacaf Champions League in May. Should the United States host the Club World Cup, this year’s MLS Cup champions would also book a trip to the tournament.AS reports that Abu Dhabi and China were also under consideration to host the tournament, but that FIFA couldn’t reach an agreement with either, which put the focus onto the United States. The matches would likely be played at a NFL stadium that could allow for huge crowds. The normal FIFA World Cup tournament format: Entering in Playoff Round: 2022 OFC Champions League winners (Auckland City), 2022 MLS Cup champions (TBD) Entering in Quarterfinal Round: 2022 AFC Champions League winners (Urawa Red Diamonds/TBD), 2022 CONCACAF Champions League winners (Seattle Sounders), 2021-22 CAF Champions League winners (Wydad AC) Entering in Semifinal Round: 2022 Copa Libertadores winners (Flamengo/Athletico Paranaense), 2021-22 UEFA Champions League winners (Real Madrid)
Grant Wahl –My 3 Thoughts on the U.S. Open Cup Final MLS’s Orlando City raises its first major trophy after beating USL’s Sacramento Republic 3-0
Grant Wahl Sep 8 Orlando City won the U.S. Open Cup final in a 3-0 victory over the Sacramento Republic on Wednesday.
Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• The biggest move in this game came when Benji Michel subbed on in the second half. Facundo Torres ended up scoring the decisive goals in the 75th and 80th minutes, which deserve plenty of recognition, but it was Orlando coach Óscar Pareja’s move to bring on Michel up front not long before that that made the biggest difference in the game. Suddenly, Orlando had more unpredictability in the attack, and it was Michel who fed Torres for the breakthrough goal (after Iván Angulo’s great work to win the ball in Sacramento’s end) for a tougher-than-it-looked finish after 75 minutes of deadlocked play. Michel coming on for Ercan Kara was huge; Kara was more static and beginning to get into an unnecessary personal battle with Sacramento keeper Danny Vitiello. Pareja recognized that and changed the game. The result: Deserved history for Orlando. Michel’s late goal to finish things off only sealed the deal.
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• Sacramento showed that non-MLS teams have tremendous value. Sacramento had a chance to become the first non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup since the Rochester Raging Rhinos in 1999. And while it didn’t complete the feat, Republic acquitted itself well for the vast majority of the final and throughout the tournament. A first-half scoring chance went tantalizingly just wide, and the fight from Sacramento kept things even for more than 70 minutes. Republic may or may not end up in MLS, but there is a great soccer story happening there nonetheless, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this team back in this position before too long.
• The Open Cup is a sleeping giant. I’m thrilled that the U.S.’s century-plus-long knockout tournament has continued unabated, and that it has been possible in recent years to see every game live. I’m also looking forward to U.S. Soccer finally getting things right and starting a women’s tournament to match the men’s. But there is even more growth to be had in a nation that has spent billions on other prominent knockout tournaments (the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tourneys). We love underdog stories in the U.S., and what could be a better underdog story than a lower-league team like Sacramento making the final? Let’s hope that Turner Sports, the new U.S. Soccer broadcast rights holder, can take things to the next level starting next season as the U.S. Open Cup (men’s and women’s) so surely deserves.
USWNT Big Board: Projecting the 2023 World Cup roster, who joins Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle?
9:56 AM ET ESPN FC
This is the point in the four-year cycle when the World Cup starts feeling real. The major continental tournaments of summer are in the books, teams have qualified, rosters are starting to get more consistent and opponents for friendlies are becoming more challenging. The 2023 Women’s World Cup begins in just over nine months. The draw? That’s six weeks from now.
Now, the pressure will ratchet up for players in the coming months as they try to make their dreams reality and position themselves higher up the depth chart with strong performances for club and country — or else, they will fall out of roster contention if form dips.
The U.S. women’s national team head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, spent the past year overturning the core of a roster that won the past two World Cups to usher in a new generation. So which Americans will be on the plane to Australia and New Zealand in search of a three-peat?
ESPN will answer that question on a rolling basis throughout the next nine months, starting now with our USWNT Big Board, Vol. 1. A team loaded with so many bona fide stars offers some certainties, but the recent turnover within the team leaves plenty of roster spots up for grabs on the 23-player team. Add in the handful of potential starters who are recovering from injuries, and the field is further clouded.
How we’re doing this
Let’s start with the obvious: The team of 23 going right now will not be the team of 23 going to the World Cup (and for all we know, this could become a 26-player roster like the men’s edition in Qatar).
- Should Andonovski be rotating USWNT squad more ahead of 2023 World Cup?9dJeff Kassouf
- Why USWNT legend Heather O’Reilly came out of retirement for an amateur team in Ireland9dGwendolyn Oxenham
- NWSL playoff race: Portland Thorns are Shield favorites but Kansas City, San Diego and more are still in it16dJeff Kassouf
Injury situations guarantee impending changes, but form will also ebb and flow, the team’s needs will change, and other injuries could take place. Basically, nothing is official until it is on paper in FIFA’s hands and the roster deadline has passed.
This is a ranking, by position, of how things stand right now. That means players with long-term injuries would not be on the roster if the World Cup started today. Plenty will change in the coming months as some of these players face competition unlike any they’ve faced before, including an Oct. 7 showdown with European champions England at Wembley.
Within each position, we’ve made tiers of players to add nuance to where things stand:
- Tier 1: Roster locks. These players are either clear starters or pushing to be one, and as of today, would be on the plane for the World Cup.
- Tier 2: The bubble. Players on both the right and wrong side of it, because if you aren’t a lock, you are part of the bubble where nothing is certain.
- Tier 3: Outside looking in. Players who have had a passing look with the team without tangible progress, players performing well for club but who haven’t gotten a look, or players who were once integral but no longer seem part of the plans.
- Wait and see: Former locks racing against time. This is a special category to account for injuries and absences — these are players who were once locks, but now need to recover quickly enough and regain their status for a spot on the plane. There are enough of them that it needs its own category because an injured starter can’t be Tier 1 right now, but we expect they should have a clear path to return to that tier — if they get back to 100% in time.
- Roster locks: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy
- The bubble: Aubrey Kingsbury
- Outside looking in: Adrianna Franch, Jane Campbell, Bella Bixby, Phallon Tullis-Joyce
- Wait and see: None
The No. 1 goalkeeper job remains Alyssa Naeher‘s to lose. Casey Murphy made a strong run at it earlier this year on the heels of some stellar performances in 2021, but she has struggled at times this NWSL season for the North Carolina Courage, a team whose erratic form frequently allows multi-goal thrillers — not exactly a goalkeeper’s dream game.
If anyone is going to challenge Naeher, it’s Murphy, but there is work to be done. Naeher is a two-time World Cup champion and was the starter for the 2019 triumph. After that, Aubrey Kingsbury is in a bubble of her own as the choice No. 3 right now, a position which she has had locked down for the entire calendar year.
Bella Bixby and Jane Campbell are the last goalkeepers to receive call-ups outside of that trio, and those came for relatively experimental games in Australia last November. Adrianna Franch hasn’t played for the U.S. in nearly a year following her emergency duties at the Olympics, where Naeher got hurt in the semifinal. Andonovski spoke on multiple occasions this year about learning from that moment, which is why Murphy has earned significant minutes this year, including at World Cup qualifying. Kingsbury still only has one cap.
Andonovski wants two options who are ready to be the No. 1 come the World Cup and right now, his trio is as set as it could be.
On the plane right now: Naeher, Murphy, Kingsbury
- Roster locks: Emily Fox, Kelley O’Hara, Sofia Huerta
- The bubble: Hailie Mace
- Outside looking in: Carson Pickett, Imani Dorsey, Caprice Dydasco, Kristen McNabb, Merritt Mathias
- Wait and see: Crystal Dunn, Casey Krueger, Emily Sonnett
Ah, full-back: The position of eternal questions for the U.S. men’s and women’s teams alike.
Emily Fox is clearly the starting left-back right now and has been all year. Andonovski tabbed her for that role last year, when she was an NWSL rookie, and he said he would spend the year building up her minutes to get her ready for the World Cup. That is exactly what happened and Fox offers the U.S. pace to go with a unique attacking profile in the position.
Of course, left-back was previously the position held down by Crystal Dunn, who gave birth to her first child in May and has not played yet this year. She trained with the USWNT in the most recent camp and expects to play some minutes for club and potentially country before the end of the year. Yes, she can play in the midfield, but her services are of greater need for the USWNT at full-back. At her peak, Dunn is the best the team has at the position.
By the time the World Cup kicks off, the question might not be Fox vs. Dunn, but rather who gets which side? As for now, Dunn is still trying to get back on a pitch during a game, so we’ll revisit that.
Right-back is where were find more questions. Kelley O’Hara (recently, but not significantly injured) is the incumbent there and continues to show why when healthy. The health caveat is an important one that has been a factor for some time. Emily Sonnett‘s injury is significant enough to have been season-ending for the Washington Spirit, or she would otherwise be Tier 1 based on how she has rotated into Andonovski’s lineups.
Huerta’s beautiful cross helps USWNT gain 4-0 lead
USWNT’s Sofia Huerta crosses the ball in that Ashley Hatch capitalizes on to up their score to 4-0 over New Zealand.
Sofia Huerta has earned her most extensive trial as a U.S. international after making the one-time switch from Mexico, a dream she thought she had lost after blowing her initial opportunity in the previous cycle. Huerta continues to make her argument as the best crosser from wide areas in the entire USWNT pool, and her defensive game has largely improved.
She did misplay the ball that led to Nigeria’s goal on Tuesday and ended the USWNT’s 880-minute shutout streak, but she was stellar on both sides of the ball and played a role in two goals in the first game against Nigeria, a 4-0 win. Whether Huerta is the starter remains a question, but right now she is solidly part of Andonovski’s plan. How she plays against England will tell how ready she is for a World Cup.
Casey Krueger also gave birth to her first child and has not played this year. She was used semi-frequently as a reserve full-back in 2021. The wild card, though, could be Hailie Mace, who only joined the USWNT for games against Nigeria as a replacement for O’Hara, but impressed enough in training to earn looks off the bench in both matches. Mace is in her best form ever in the NWSL as a wing-back for the Kansas City Current, who play a 3-5-2, but she had not been in camp in over four years prior to last week.
For all of the above players, there’s still time to get on the roster — especially at this position.
On the plane right now: Fox, Huerta, O’Hara
- Roster locks: Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Naomi Girma
- The bubble: Abby Dahlkemper
- Outside looking in: Sam Hiatt, Alex Loera, Sam Staab, Emily Menges
- Wait and see: Tierna Davidson
Center-back is also a curious position right now. Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook and Naomi Girma have been the three players rotating into those two spots almost exclusively since Tierna Davidson tore her ACL in March. Cook is the preferred starter alongside Sauerbrunn, who is the captain, but Girma has the skillset to claim the starting role.
Is there even a bubble after that? The most likely candidate for that is Abby Dahlkemper, but since returning from broken ribs earlier this spring, she has fallen out of favor as the starting center back alongside Girma at San Diego Wave FC, and the calls from Andonovski have stopped, too. Dahlkemper needs to get back in the XI for San Diego before she gets back into a USWNT camp, and does have the potential. She played every minute for the USWNT at the 2019 World Cup and has a passing range to rival any center-back.
From there, the rest of the talent pool is inexperienced, with Cook and Girma still early into their international journeys. A peek at the 55-player preliminary roster for the CONCACAF W Championship suggests that any of Alex Loera, Sam Hiatt, Emily Menges or Sam Staab are in Andonovski’s peripheral thoughts. Combined, they have zero caps.
Davidson’s return will be the most important to this position, and she could double as an emergency No. 6. Sonnett and even Mace also provide versatility between full-back and center-back, which is always a helpful trait when deciding on bubble spots. As it stands today, the USWNT is one more injury away from a major depth problem.
On the plane right now: Sauerbrunn, Cook, Girma
- Roster locks: Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan
- The bubble: Ashley Sanchez, Kristie Mewis, Taylor Kornieck, Sam Coffey
- Outside looking in: Morgan Gautrat, Savannah DeMelo, Jaelin Howell, Lo’eau LaBonta, Vanessa DiBernardo, Mikayla Cluff, Emily Madril, Dani Weatherholt
- Wait and see: Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz
Midfield features the most interesting bubble section. Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Andi Sullivan are Andonovski’s starting trio as the Nos. 10, 8 and 6, respectively, but there are at least three spots behind them wide open for the taking, although Ashley Sanchez is looking more likely and should claim one of those reserve spots. Plus, what happens when Sam Mewis returns?
Lavelle is undroppable and in form, and Horan is best as a two-way midfielder when asked not to shoulder too much of the defensive responsibility, which can also be said for Mewis. Catarina Macario might also be part of this conversation, but we’ll get back to that.
Sam Coffey earned her first cap on Tuesday and played the entire match in the No. 6 role. As debuts go, it was solid if not necessarily spectacular, which is about as much as anyone could ask for in a thankless role. As wild as it seems to go from first cap to World Cup, Coffey’s case for inclusion right now is as good as anyone else’s in the position, especially on form.
Julie Ertz previously defined the No. 6 role, so much so that it has been difficult for observers to evaluate any of her replacements. Ertz gave birth to her first child earlier this year and her playing future is unclear. Andonovski might know more about that, but for now, he must plan for life without Ertz.
Lindsey Horan on stepping into a greater role as leader for USWNT
Lindsey Horan credits Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara’s experience in helping her grow as a leader with the USWNT.
Kristie Mewis has filled in at the No. 6 in a pinch, but it has largely looked forced. NJ/NY Gotham FC is rounding out an awful season, which has not helped her club form. Still, her ability to play in any of the three positions is to her benefit. Morgan Gautrat played her best club season to date in 2021, earning a recall to the USWNT, but she only played 45 minutes at February’s SheBelieves Cup and has not played for the Chicago Red Stars since April 2 due to injuries.
Savannah DeMelo will have something to say about all this, and Racing Louisville FC teammate Jaelin Howell might still, too. For now, though, it’s possible the final midfield spot comes down to Coffey and Taylor Kornieck. Given current injuries and the numbers game of roster composition, they both go as of today.
Also, at what point does Lo’eau LaBonta‘s NWSL form warrant a look in camp? She played for Andonovski at FC Kansas City, so there is familiarity there and a precedent set by Kristie Mewis’ return to the USWNT following a great league campaign.
On the plane right now: Lavelle, Horan, Sullivan, Sanchez, K. Mewis, Coffey, Kornieck
- Roster locks: Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh, Megan Rapinoe
- The bubble: Margaret “Midge” Purce, Trinity Rodman
- Outside looking in: Christen Press, Morgan Weaver, Tobin Heath, Ally Watt
- Wait and see: Lynn Williams
Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh are NWSL MVP candidates and have the starting winger positions on lock for the U.S. national team. There really is not a debate. Both reiterated against Nigeria how dynamic they can be and why they are threats to any defense they come up against. The largest remaining criticism is their conversion rate at times, but that’s also a matter of setting realistic expectations for any forward — each is averaging better than a goal every other game in 2022.
Megan Rapinoe is also a lock as far as Andonovski’s plans go. Such a firm position sparked controversy when she returned to the team ahead of World Cup qualifying, which Andonovski said was always going to be the plan. There were some external concerns about that being too much of a choice based on leadership and not form, but those have since been squashed.
Rapinoe continues to affect games off the bench, as she did on Tuesday when she assisted Lavelle’s game-winning goal only 73 seconds after entering the match, and she is back to being a 90-minute player for OL Reign, notching four goals and three assists in four games in August. In short, Rapinoe is going to a fourth World Cup with sights set on winning a third straight.
Rapinoe makes instant impact with assist on Lavelle’s diving header
Right after Megan Rapinoe comes onto the pitch, she crosses one to Rose Lavelle for the header.
Trinity Rodman might be next in line off the bench. In 2021, she put in an NWSL Rookie of the Year campaign that nearly doubled as worthy of MVP talk. She hasn’t quite had a sophomore slump, but the Washington Spirit’s generally horrible form has not helped Rodman’s case. Smith and Pugh are also playing extremely well, so Rodman’s role remains that of a reserve.
Margaret “Midge” Purce is in the mix after missing out on last year’s Olympics. Lynn Williams is the player who could disrupt the depth chart upon her return, but that likely won’t be until 2023. Elsewhere, Morgan Weaver will need a solid stretch run with the Portland Thorns to push her name back into the conversation, as would Tobin Heath, who was once a sure starter on the USWNT’s World Cup-winning teams but hasn’t been in the picture in nearly a year.
Christen Press‘ absence from the CONCACAF W Championship roster was the most surprising given her form. She tore her ACL two days before the public announcement of the roster, but had already been informed she would not be on the roster. The necessary recovery time for that injury likely puts her back on the field around the start of the 2023 NWSL season, which would make for a tough timeline to get back into the mix for a third World Cup.
On the plane right now: Smith, Pugh, Rapinoe, Purce, Rodman
- Roster locks: Alex Morgan
- The bubble: Ashley Hatch
- Outside looking in: Mia Fishel, Bethany Balcer, Kristen Hamilton, Cece Kizer, Jessica McDonald
- Wait and see: Catarina Macario
Alex Morgan is once again the clear No. 9, as if nothing changed at all. That is not true, of course. Earlier this year, Andonovski began building the team around Macario as the false nine who seamlessly interchanged with Lavelle in the attacking midfielder role, which left Morgan on the outside, not earning call-ups.
The results with Macario were brilliant at times even if they featured growing pains against lesser competition. But Macario’s injury coincided with Morgan’s career-best form, and Morgan handily beat out Ashley Hatch in the competition for the starting role in the meantime.
Assuming Morgan stays in this form and Macario picks up where she left off, Andonovski has a champagne problem. He is not going to move away from the 4-3-3, and he isn’t going to drop Lavelle. So one of Morgan or Macario would have to sit, and they would rotate as needed in the World Cup (how’s that for a super-sub in either case). Otherwise, Macario could become part of a “double-10” alongside Lavelle — that would trigger a question of who as a pure No. 6 would then carry the defensive load, all while Macario would take a spot in an already crowded midfield depth chart.
Meanwhile, Mia Fishel remains in top form for Tigres as one of the best forwards in Liga MX, but Andonovski said last week that he has not had any conversations with her. Given the general lack of depth right now at the No. 9 position, and that Liga MX plays through the winter (when the NWSL is off), there remains an opportunity for her to change that.
On the plane right now: Morgan, Hatch