10/25/22  CHS Girls to State Finals Sat  4pm, UCL Today/Wed, MLS/NWSL Playoff Finals,

Champions League Tues/Wed

We are nearing the final 2 games of the Group Stage in Champions League (Europe’s best teams) and Europa League with some big games this week featuring Americans this week on Paramount plus with Wrap-Around shows on at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network.  Tues at 12:45 pm Chelsea and Pulisic (who has started) still need wins to advance as they travel to Salzburg, while Celtic and Carter-Vickers must win vs Shaktar Donetsk at 3 pm. Dortmund and Gio Reyna are 2nd as they host Man City vs their former Talisman #9 Halland also at 3 pm. Wed Barcelona must win vs Bayern Munich to stay alive at 3 pm on Para+, while Liverpool needs to at least tie Ajax at home at 3 pm to secure advancement.  Rangers and Americans James Sands and Malik Tillman must win @ Napoli at 3 pm to stay alive.  Watch the Golazo shows on CBSSN at 3 pm on both Tues/Wed to see wrap-around coverage with pregame and postgame as well.  Thurs Arsenal’s American Goalie Matt Turner will look for his 3rd straight shutout vs PSV at 12:45 pm while Jordan Pefok and Union Berlin needs a home win or tie vs Braga to stay in contention at 12:45 pm in Europa League action on Paramount plus. Live Update Pulisic Asst vs Salzburg  Goal in Spanish as it should be. UCL Permutations.

MLS Conf Finals Sun + NWSL Final Portland vs KC Sat 8 pm CBS

Again wow – theMLS Playoffs continue to excite as we are down to the final 4 teams this Sunday.  The East has the Philly Union facing NYCFC on Sunday at 8 pm Fox Sports 1 Prime time.  While the West has Supporter Shield holders LAFC hosting Austin FC at 3 pm on ABC.  The NWSL Finals will feature the Portland Thorns (Crystal Dunn, Sophia Rodriguez, Sophia Smith) vs the Kansas City Current at 8 pm on CBS.   Portland’s Crystal Dunn a 2nd half sub scored the game winner vs Seattle 2-1.  Listen to that soldout Crowd in Portland – Soccer Capital of the US!  KC vs Seattle highlights, Portland vs San Diego highlights.

Indy 11 & USL

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan is headed to the playoffs with his #1 Seed In the Western Division San Antonio vs Colorado Switchbacks Saturday on ESPN+ at 8 pm.    Jordan was just edged out for GK of the Year.  USL Playoff Bracket

High School – #2 Carmel Girls to the State Finals on Sat 4 pm vs #1 Noblesville@ IUPUI (Indy 11 Michael Carroll Stadium)

The Carmel High Girls defeated Center Grove 1-0 to advance to a DREAM State Final match-up vs #1 Ranked Noblesville Sat at 4 pm.  For Carmel and Legendary Coach Frank Dixon its the 4th state title game if 5 years. Noblesville beat Carmel mid-season 3-1 at home but Carmel has certainly found their scoring touch over the last month of the season.  Carmel FC has a ton of current and former players on the that Carmel squad, also a player on Park Tudor – best of luck this weekend ladies.  Also Carmel FC coach Carla Baker is Asst coach for Park Tudor they play Fort Wayne Canterbury right after the Carmel game (6:30 pm).  If you are interested in going down to watch, tickets are $15 and should be purchased prior via GoFan.

A lot of Carmel FC Representation on this Carmel High Squad headed to State Finals vs Noblesville on Sat 4 pm @the Mike. CFC GKU all 3 GKs.

State High School Soccer Finals

Saturday, Oct. 29

Class 1A Boys

Greenwood Christian (11-7-3) vs. Park Tudor (18-2-1) | 6 pm ET / 5 pm CT

#1 – Derek Etherington / #2 – Michael Crump / #3 – Chris Smith

Class 2A Girls

Evansville Memorial (20-0-1) vs. Leo (18-4) | 8:15 pm ET / 7:15 pm CT 

#3 – Dottie Outcalt

Saturday, Oct. 29 

Class 2A Boys | Brebeuf Jesuit (16-4-1) vs. Mishawaka Marian (17-1-2) | 11 am ET / 10 am CT

Class 3A Boys

Columbus North (18-1-1) vs. Noblesville (14-3-3) | 1:30 pm ET / 12:30 pm CT 

#1 – Eric Bozeman

Class 3A Girls 

Carmel (18-2-2) vs. Noblesville (19-1) | 4 pm ET / 3 pm CT   

#2 – Chris Doerner / #3 – Jerry McClatchey

Class 1A Girls

Park Tudor (20-1-1) vs. Fort Wayne Canterbury (12-8-2) | 6:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm CT

#4 – Chuck Mayfield

If you are interested in going down to watch, tickets are $15 and should be purchased prior via GoFan. The names in Red are local referees who are doing these games – Congrats guys!!


Tues, Oct 24               CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

12:45 pm Para+           Salzburg vs Chelsea (Pulisic) 

3 pm Para+                  Benefica vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm Para+                  Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig 

3 pm Para+                  Dortmund (Reyna)  vs Man City

Wed, Oct 25

12:45 Para+                 Club Brugge vs Porto

3 pm Para+                 Barca vs  Bayern  Munich

3 pm Para+                  Tottenham vs Sporting

3 pm Para+                  Ajax vs Liverpool

3 pm Para+                  Napoli vs Rangers () 

Thur, Oct 26                        EUROPA

12:45 pm Para+           PSV vs Arsenal

12:45 pm Para+           Union Berlin (Pefuk) vs Bragga

3 pm Para+                  Man United vs Sheriff

3 pm Para+                  West Ham vs Silkeborg

Sat, Oct 29

7:30 am USA               Leicester City vs Man City  

9 am CBSSN                Napoli vs Sassuolo

9:30 am ESPN+                       Bayern Muchen vs Mainz

10 am USA                  Chelsea (pulisic)  vs  Brighton

11 am bein Sport         PSG vs Troyes

12:30 NBC                  Everton vs Fulham (Robinson, Ream)

12:30 ESPN+               Dortmund (Reyna) vs Frankfort

2:45 pm USA              Liverpool vs Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams)

3 pm ESPN+                Valencia vs Barcelona  

8 pm CBS                   Portland Thorns vs KC Current

Sun, Oct 30

10 am USA                  Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest  

10:30 am ESPN+         MGladbach vs Union Berlin (Pefuk)

12:15 pm USA             Man United vs West Ham

1 pm Big 10 Net          Indiana U Men vs Maryland

3:45 pm Para +                        Torino vs Milan

3 pm ABC                   LAFC vs Ausstin  West Con Final

8 pm Fox Sport 1        Philly Union vs NYCFC East Con Final

8:15 pm Univsion        Pachuca vs Toluca Mexico playoff

Tues/Wed Nov 8 &9   Champions League

Sat, Nov 5

4 pm Fox                              MLS Finals  

Sun, Nov 10

7 pm FS1                              USWNT vs Germany

Thur, Nov 13

5 pm ESPN                          USWNT vs Germany

8 pm ESPN2                        USL Finals

Sun, Nov 20

11 am Fox                            World Cup Starts

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Wales 

Mon, Nov 22

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th $100 (includes Tshirt)
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th $100
Registration Information coming shortly, gather teammates and be ready to play!

Also CFC Goalkeepers we’ll have Indoor Training at the Fieldhouse on Wed nights – U11 5:30, U13 6:30 and U14/Highschool 8:30 pm starting Dec 3.

Carmel girls soccer may not have a ‘star’ player, but Greyhounds are back in state finals

Lewis Bagley Special for IndyStar

SEYMOUR — For the fourth time in five years, coach Frank Dixon will take Carmel to the Class 3A girls soccer state finals. This time, however, his team is a bit different. Third-ranked Carmel netted the only goal it would need in the 31st minute and took down No. 7 Center Grove, 1-0, in the semistate contest at Seymour High School. It’s the 14th semi-state title for the program. 

IHSAA soccer state tournament: Semistate pairings, schedule  

Up next: Noblesville leaves no doubt with 7-0 win. Up next? Carmel for a state title.

Carmel (18-2-2) will meet top-ranked Noblesville in the title game at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. Date and time to be announced Sunday by the IHSAA. “What’s different with this team?” Dixon asked, pondering the question a second. “Well, what’s the same is that we have a lot of good players, but the difference is I don’t think we have a ‘star’ player. “Look at this game. It was a freshman that got us through. We’re not a star-studded team, but a hard-working team that gets the job done.” The “freshman” Dixon referred to was Adalyn Cameron, who notched the only goal. Cameron camped out to the left of Center Grove goalkeeper Sophia Gorall and picked up a corner kick from junior Megan Hamm and tallied only her second goal of the season. The assist for Hamm was her team-leading ninth of the season. The goal came on the north end of the field with a strong, brisk wind at Carmel’s back. That helped the Greyhounds stymie a Center Grove offense that was a victim of a 2-0 shutout loss to Carmel in their last meeting Sept. 21. Carmel had nine shots on goal in the first half, while CG couldn’t muster any on Greyhounds keeper Aubree Empie. Carmel also had a 7-0 advantage in corner kicks. With the wind at its back in the second half, Center Grove coach Myron Vaughn made an adjustment that helped his team mount more of a challenge,   “We added a couple more attackers going with the wind,” Vaughn said. “It helped us get some more set pieces (in our offense) and we’ve been able to score on those all year.” This time, Empie and the Carmel defense stood tall to complete the shutout. The loss ends Center Grove’s season at 17-3-2 and brighter days seem to be ahead for the program. “From August until now, it’s like night and day,” Vaughn said of his team. “This group really came together and bought in and that’s why we were here. We have 16 juniors on our roster and the experience of playing in the semistate will help them. Carmel, meanwhile, will be seeking its 11th state title (all under Dixon) and the first since 2018. Carmel finished as runner-up in 2019 and last season. “I thought we played Noblesville well last time, until the final minute,” Dixon said, referring to a 3-1 loss to the Millers Sept. 19. “I think we are a better team now, but they probably are, too.”   Bishop Chatard girls fall in Evansville No. 1 Memorial scored twice in the second half of a 2-0 win over No. 5 Chatard in the Class 2A girls semistate. Myla Browning opened the scoring with 35 minutes left. An Avarie Zeller cross was saved but Browning poked the loose ball over the line. Zeller netted the final goal, a header over the keeper, with 6:32 remaining. Memorial (21-0-1) will face the Mishawaka Marian-Leo winner in the state championship. Chatard finished with an 18-3-1 record. No. 1 Park Tudor girls advance in Class A No. 1 Park Tudor advanced to the state championship with a 1-0 win over No. 4 Mater Dei.Paige Dill recorded the only goal for the Panthers with 16 minutes left in the first half. The sophomore connected on a 40-yard free kick that hit the crossbar and deflected off the hands of the goalkeeper.Park Tudor (20-1-1) will face the Andrean/Fort Wayne Canterbury winner in the 1A state final. Mater Dei finished with a 14-8 record. Noblesville girls soccer leaves no doubt with 7-0 win. Up next? Carmel for a state title. Richard Torres Special for IndyStar KOKOMO – No. 1 Noblesville wasn’t taking any chances.A year removed from losing a shot at a potential third straight Class 3A girls soccer state championship, Noblesville opened up its offense during the Kokomo semistate and showed why its only lost two games in four seasons.The Millers (19-1) converted four goals in the first 28 minutes against No. 12 Crown Point Saturday and didn’t allow a shot until the 68th minute to win 7-0 with a chance to claim their third state crown in four years. ‘Always Find a Way.’Noblesville boys soccer does just that on road back to state finals.

Sophomore Meredith Tippner recorded a hat trick to give the Millers a 3-0 lead by the 24th minute, and she finished with four goals overall with her finale making it 6-0 by halftime.  “Honestly, you don’t get four goals unless you have people around you that can put in you that position,” said Tippner, who has 15 goals on the season. “I know at least two or three of those were gimmes based off a teammate and the team working up. Couldn’t ask for a better team to be with right now.”The Millers have won 15 games by shutout, including five consecutive state tournament contests. The only team to score against the Millers this postseason was No. 8 Fishers in the sectional quarterfinals on Oct. 4.“We have set the bar high for ourselves, but that’s what we keep looking to achieve. We knew this wasn’t our last game of our season. We knew we wanted to get another chance,” Noblesville coach Mike Brady said. “To get to the state final the way we’ve played all year, now, again, we’re going to have to play our best game of the season, if we want to bring home the trophy.”Noblesville’s seven-goal performance was its highest output of the season, and it came at the ideal time with No. 3 Carmel (18-2-2) sitting in between the Millers and another state title. “It’s the biggest stage you can be on, and I think we’re ready to compete,” Tippner said. “I’m ready and excited for it.”Tippner unveiled her focus with her first two goals coming off assist from senior Ava Bramblett in the 6th and 18th minutes. Her third goal was assisted by Atley Pittman, a sophomore, and her fourth was a header off a corner-kick pass by senior Victoria Goodwin in the 78th minute.Pittman increased the lead 4-0 in the 28th minute off an assist from senior Mia Brake. Bramblett made it 5-0 in the 36th minute on a pass from Tippner, which initiated the mercy-rule running clock in the first half.The Millers’ final goal was a putback by junior Stella Scroggin in the 43rd minute, wrapping up the program’s third semistate title in four years.“Last year, we lost to a great Homestead team, who ended up winning it all. We were all crushed and felt this was our season,” Tippner said. “I’m just glad that we’ve all come together this season and now get a chance to play a really good Carmel team. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”In 2021, Noblesville lost to eventual state champion Homestead in the regional semifinal, 4-2. Since the loss, the Millers have focused on redemption and will join the Noblesville boys team that will also contend for a state title enxt weekend at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium.“I still put that Homestead loss on me. For some reason, I feel like we didn’t play the way we were able to, and that’s kind of what we’ve done all year. There was one game earlier this season (against No. 4 Zionsville) we didn’t show up and we lost (2-1), but we learned,” Brady said.“We haven’t lost since. It’s an attitude that’s addictive in this program. And again, we’re all pushing ourselves because when you’re ranked No. 1, there’s only one goal you set for yourself and we have a chance to play for it.”

MLS Playoffs Sun 3 pm ABC, Sun 8 pm FS1

Austin join holders New York in MLS Cup conference finals

Austin FC Proves Doubters Wrong

Conference Finals Review Show Video Goals from the Conference Semi Finals

Dallas vs Austin Hilights

NYCFC vs Montreal Highlights

LAFC vs La Galaxy Highlights  

NWSL Finals Sat 3 pm CBS

Portland Thorns defeat San Diego Wave in NWSL playoff after wild final minute of stoppage time
Crystal Dunn sends Portland Thorns to 2022 NWSL Championship with stoppage time goal

Kansas City continues historic NWSL playoff run with 2-0 win over OL Reign
US Men Rounding Into Form Just in Time – Henry Bushnell Yahoo

USMNT World Cup preview: 22 questions about the U.S. at Qatar 2022, answered – Bushnell Yahoo MLS Players Gather for US Mens Pre World Cup Training Camp

US Women’s World Cup Draw ‘Signed, sealed, delivered’:

New stamp celebrates U.S. women’s soccer Chris Wright 
Women’s World Cup 2023 draw: Group-by-group picks, X factors, must-see games and more
Inside the United States’ Amputee Soccer World Cup campaign
  Tony Mabert    

Champions League

Champions League: Barça on brink of exit, Messi powering PSG
Dortmund vs Man City: How to watch live, team news, prediction

Dortmund put faith in teenage trio ahead of Haaland return

RB Salzburg vs Chelsea: How to watch live, team news, prediction

Hart adamant Celtic ‘not far away’ from European joy

Juve crisis continues as Champions League elimination looms


10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 13
Fulham keeps firing as Leeds fightback falls short at booing Elland Road

Mitrovic continues to prove Premier League quality

Villarreal’s Emery appointed Villa coach

Top PL goals and saves from Matchweek 13

Watch out, Emery: Are Aston Villa a toxic club?

Newcastle into top-four with win at Tottenham

Chelsea still struggling for goals despite Potter’s bright start

Saudi-owned Newcastle into CL positions amid speedy rise

Conte claims Spurs can’t stand the schedule as Newcastle move into 

Jesus urges Arsenal to ‘wake up’ after Southampton draw

PL Update: Late drama between Chelsea, Man United

Chelsea vs Manchester United player ratings out of 10


LaLiga’s refereeing hits low point: Ridiculous red cards, confusing calls  Graham Hunter  

Horrible VAR Decisions cost US Game vs England

Legendary Ref

You Make the Call – MLS  

The Ref Didn’t Even Blow his whistle


Saves of the Week MLS Orlando City SC’s Pedro Gallese wins 2022 MLS Save of the Year presented by Allstate fan vote  

LAFC down crosstown rival LA Galaxy to advance to MLS Western Conference final

Oct 20, 2022; Los Angeles, California, US; Los Angeles FC forward Denis Bouanga (99) celebrates with forward Cristian Arango (9) after scoring during the first half of the MLS Cup Playoff semifinal against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Banc Of California Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

By Paul Tenorio Oct 21, 202217

Somehow, someway, El Trafico always delivers.Thursday night’s rivalry game between LAFC and the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup playoffs delivered plenty of excitement, including three goals in the final 18 minutes of play, as LAFC downed its crosstown rival, 3-2, in a back-and-forth affair.The third goal of that crazy final stretch, scored by LAFC forward Chicho Arango three minutes into second-half injury time, set off the home crowd in a raucous celebration and eventually sent LAFC back to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2019.It was yet another thrilling chapter in this nascent LA derby.Arango’s 93rd-minute goal, scored from the doorstep after Dénis Bouanga’s volley was stopped by Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, provided an exclamation point on what was a frantic final 20 minutes.Bouanga netted his second goal of the night in the 80th minute after a beautiful sequence from LAFC. Diego Palacios found Arango near the top of the box, and the Colombian laid it off to an overlapping Ryan Hollingshead, whose cross just missed a sliding Kwadwo Opoku only to land on the foot of Bouanga at the far post. The designated player did not miss.Just five minutes later, however, the party at Banc of California Stadium was silenced.Dejan Joveljic was on the field just 86 seconds before adding to what was a legendary super-sub season. The 23-year-old scored his ninth goal as a substitute this year with a brilliant right-footed finish curled to the far post, seemingly saving the Galaxy’s season.Eight minutes later, however, Arango found the game-winner.Bouanga was the hero on the night for LAFC. When the Frenchman joined LAFC as a designated player in August on a reported $5 million transfer fee, there was some question about what type of impact he could make as a late addition to a star-studded squad.Doubts increased about the 27-year-old when he managed just one goal in seven games with LAFC in the regular season. But Bouanga made a huge impact in his first MLS playoff game.Bouanga opened the scoring in the 23rd minute by jumping on LAFC’s first big chance in the game. Carlos Vela dropped into space to get on the ball, then threaded a pass through the Galaxy back line to Bouanga, who showed his strength to stay in front of Douglas Costa, control the ball and finish to the far post.That 1-0 lead surely felt like a huge relief to the home side after the Galaxy had found the better chances through the opening 20 minutes.The Galaxy, though, snagged an equalizer just before halftime when Samuel Grandsir jumped on a poor clearance to power a shot to the far post and past LAFC netminder Maxime Crépeau.Grandsir’s goal set up a fantastic second half, and behind Bouanga and Arango LAFC was able to find its way to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2019. LAFC beat the Galaxy, 5-3, to get to that conference final before bowing out to the eventual MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders.LAFC will now await the winner of Sunday’s FC Dallas-Austin FC semifinal.

Philadelphia Union top FC Cincinnati on Leon Flach’s goal, advance to conference finals

By Jeff RueterOct 20, 2022

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the MLS Cup Playoffs quarterfinals, the Philadelphia Union overcame an FC Cincinnati side that was largely rebuilt by sharing its identity. Jim Curtin’s side withstood a worthy challenge by his former assistant and first-year Cincy head coach Pat Noonan, with Leon Flach proving an unlikely hero with his first goal since October 3, 2021.

With captain Alejandro Bedoya absent due to a hip flexor, 19-year-old Jack McGlynn took his place in midfield. McGlynn was part of the U.S. side which won this summer’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship but made just nine starts in the regular season. As for Cincinnati, Geoff Cameron was limited to a bench role due to injury and replaced by rookie Ian Murphy, while Yuya Kubo was omitted for family reasons.

While Cincinnati was the only team to win away from home in the first round, they hardly started the match as a distant underdog. The Orange and Blue were the aggressors for the first five minutes, keeping 70 percent of the ball in the early interval and working to pressure the Union backline. However, they struggled to turn the time into chances, and Philadelphia quickly worked back into the game.Although the match was evenly contested through 30 minutes, Cincinnati talisman and Best XI candidate Luciano Acosta fell to injury in the 34th minute. The playmaker caught his left foot in the grass and had it buckle underneath his weight as he tried to keep a ball in play under minimal defensive contest. Acosta was able to stay in the game but was visibly hobbled for several minutes after his return. Ultimately, the two sides headed to the locker room for halftime in a scoreless deadlock — although the half was anything but dull.The second half started much as the first had, with Cincinnati looking to force the issue. Andre Blake (who was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year earlier on Thursday) was forced into action several times, keeping the stalemate while his defense absorbed pressure. Finally, the Union was able to get the ball into the attacking third with intention in the 59th minute. While the ball bounced through the team’s attacking triumvirate of Mikael UhreJulian Carranza and Dániel Gazdag in the box, it spilled out to midfielder Flach.While the midfielder only managed one goal in 2021 and didn’t score during 34 regular season appearances, the former FC St. Pauli man didn’t waste a rare chance despite three Cincinnati defenders converging on him. Flach got his laces through it and sent the ball above a diving Roman Celentano, giving the hosts a breakthrough with half an hour remaining.Once again, Cincinnati was quick to respond with a convincing string of attacks. The visitors kept the possession battle at a near 50/50 split through the 75th minute, regularly moving the ball into the final third. However, the staunch Philadelphia defense kept its shape and ensured that the dangerous trio of Acosta (who appeared less hobbled after halftime treatment), Brenner and Brandon Vazquez was limited to shooting in less threatening areas. Even when they did make attempts, Blake was up to the occasion, with the Union faithful chanting “M-V-P” after his most impressive parries.Center official Timothy Ford let the two sides live up to the moment’s intensity, staying hesitant to show cards and allowing for persistent infringement by some of the matchup’s feistiest players. Philadelphia had a golden chance to put the game away just before stoppage time, but a corner kick bounced off several Union men before Cory Burke’s touch from two yards out went wide of the post.Burke had another chance to ice the game a minute later, but his looping shot went over the far corner of the goal. Cincinnati sent many players forward as they desperately chased an equalizer. A last-gasp shot by Álvaro Barreal was blocked before it could reach the goalmouth, and Ford blew his whistle as the rebound settled back toward the center circle. The Union will host the winner of CF Montréal – New York City on Sunday, Oct. 30.

NWSL Championship set with Portland Thorns screamers, Kansas City Current’s resilience

NWSL Championship set with Portland Thorns screamers, Kansas City Current’s resilience

By Meg Linehan and Steph YangOct 24, 2022

Portland Thorns FC and the Kansas City Current are heading to Washington, D.C. In the first match of Sunday’s duo of semifinals, the Thorns needed all 90 minutes plus stoppage time to dispatch the San Diego Wave, with Crystal Dunn providing the storybook ending. Portland is now back to another final to play for a third star. The Current went into OL Reign’s home stadium and walked away with a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Alex Loera and Kristen Hamilton, plus yet another clutch performance from Adrianna Franch in goal.There are so many narrative threads to follow leading into next week’s NWSL Championship: two first-year coaches, KC’s worst-to-championship turnaround, Portland’s players banding together for each other as the club faces huge systemic challenges following the Yates report. That’s in addition to more player-focused stories like Dunn’s incredible return to action after giving birth, Franch’s importance on this Current team and the role of rookies like Sam Coffey for Portland and Elyse Bennett for KC. Portland may be heading to the East Coast as the No. 2 seed, but as we’ve seen this season in the NWSL, there’s no such thing as a clear favorite this year. Before we fully turn our attention to next Saturday’s primetime final, let’s savor these two semifinals.

Portland: bangers only

That is not an exaggeration. Both of the goals Portland scored to close out the Wave on Sunday were absolute screamers. Let us relive them together. First: Rocky Rodriguez. After this game, the laces part of that boot should be preserved in a museum. 

And then the winner from Dunn, substituted into this game and hitting it sweet from almost the same spot as Rodriguez.The Thorns had about three weeks of rest between the last game of the regular season and Sunday’s semifinal, and they looked pretty good throughout despite going down early. Head coach Rhian Wilkinson hinted before the game that so much rest isn’t necessarily good for a team; too long between games and players can get antsy, go flat, and lose cohesion. But that rest ended up coming in handy as the Wave tired and eventually got pinned in their own box as the Thorns generated ever more chances. Credit to Wilkinson for setting the team up well, and for starting young Yazmeen Ryan with team captain Christine Sinclair on the bench. Wilkinson told the media after the game that she knew the matchup would probably be highly transitional, and she wanted Ryan’s ability to cover the wing.The game also featured a great crowd; something that clearly meant a lot to players at a club where there’s been a lot of understandable tension over attendance, with fans debating whether or not they want to boycott games, while players ask fans for their support. “I think when we heard that there were many, many people showing up today it really allowed us to get hyped for this game,” said Dunn after the game. “Our fans have been through a lot as well this year, along with players, and I think them showing up is exactly what we want for this community. We want everyone to obviously be able to voice their opinion and be able to share their feelings, but at the same time we also understand without the fans, I mean, the game is just not as fun. And being able to deliver that moment today for them was really special because it made me feel like we’re all in this together. It’s a tough year but we have lived and survived to fight for another game.” 

So long, San Diego

The mood in the Wave camp postgame was certainly down, but it was also pretty clear that head coach Casey Stoney — along with Taylor Kornieck and Naomi Girma — still had plenty to be proud of in their 2022 season. Stoney, once again with her kids beside her on the podium, credited the two amazing goals as well as Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby’s clutch saves for the end result. “My overriding emotion is huge pride in the team, the players and the club,” she said, “and what we’ve been able to do in a short space of time. Now we need to use this feeling to fuel us to get better.”Kornieck said multiple times how she could not wait for preseason to kick off in February; Girma was also already considering what the team would take away from this result to use in the future. “I think there’s a lot for us to learn as a group and for me individually from my rookie year,” Girma said. “I think the sky’s the limit for this group, so just really excited for next year.”Stoney expanded on a few specific areas where she thinks the Wave can improve. “This team has grown from week to week, strength to strength,” she said. “Now, how can we consistently, when we’re not playing well, get results? I think we struggled with that midseason. We’ll look at how we can be really hard to beat when we’re not necessarily on our game, and then when we are on our game, finishing our chances and being clinical in that final third is something that we’ll look at.”San Diego truly did set a standard for themselves — and the current NWSL teams and any future expansion team — in 2022. Stoney has lived through her first NWSL postseason and now gets a few months to figure out how to take her team to the championship next season. It’s almost a scary thought to think about how there’s still so much room to grow for year two.

End of the line for OL Reign 

Ohhhh, OL Reign. Another NWSL shield win, another defeat at the hands of Kansas City to show for it. This loss was obviously quite different than it was in 2014 and 2015, but this one might hurt even more in many ways. Thinking back to the tail end of the regular season, the three Reign OGs in Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock and Lu Barnes talked about this particular edition of the team — this was supposed to be the year that they broke through to the championship and won it all. There weren’t any excuses after the game. Both head coach Laura Harvey and Rapinoe dismissed any concerns about the bye week playing a role in the loss, especially considering the international travel that impacted so much of the team. “I don’t even really know if we deserved more out of the game. We didn’t really take our chances and impose ourselves on the game,” Rapinoe said. “Tough, tough moment for us, especially playing the way we’ve been playing and having the season that we’ve had.”Mostly, it seemed, it was having to face the fact that they simply had not been anywhere good enough on Sunday. “We lacked quality when we needed it, and that was the game really,” Harvey said. “That was my message at the end of the game. We’re a very honest group with each other, and at the end, I was honest with them to say that I truly believe that over the course of the season, do we deserve to get closer to that championship? Yes. On tonight’s performance, we didn’t show quality when we needed it.”It’s now been two years in a row where the Reign looked like they had the team on paper to win it all. And — to agree with Fishlock once again — winning the Shield does not get enough credit in the NWSL; it is a much harder task, especially this chaotic season. But the Reign showing up and simply not having it on Sunday night has to be one of the most painful ends of the season this team has ever had.

Kansas City!

What a statement game for Kansas City. They’ve grown into their roster and their tactics over the course of the season, showing a steadiness both in their gameplay and in their mental resiliency that has brought them to the brink of a championship. From their fourth-minute goal off of Alex Loera – who also had herself a goal-line clearance – to their direct team effort on Kristen Hamilton’s 63rd-minute follow-up, they just never looked rattled.“Alex loves to express herself on the attacking side of the game and she was allowed to do that a little bit more this evening,” said head coach Matt Potter after the game. Hamilton’s goal in particular was a great encapsulation of KC’s desire to always win the ball and the attackers’ ability to be disruptive with their movement It was also the result of a little bit of luck.“I was kind of fortunate enough to be on the sideline talking to Matt at the moment,” said Hamilton after the game, “Where we were talking about the subs coming in and what we were going to do from there. And I just happened to see (Franch) decide to play the ball early and I was like, ‘Well, I gotta go Matt’. Kind of in the perfect spot of the perfect time. So thanks, Matt.”Potter, Hamilton, and Franch expounded further on the way that KC has built a team culture together, something that perhaps carries additional meaning for a club going from last on the table to championship game in one season. “You have to come together to be a championship team,” said Franch after the game. “You have to have some type of togetherness and everybody on the same page and moving to where we want to go and wanting to get better every single day and wanting to achieve the things that we were achieving. And that’s every single person on the team, staff included, putting in the time and the effort to be here.”“The players that were here (last season), I’m so excited for them because they’ve worked hard as professionals in this league for a long time,” said Potter. “Some of the names you’ve talked about, you know, Lo’eau LaBonta, Kristen Edmonds, Desi Scott, Kristen Hamilton, AD, I mean, the list goes on. I’m so, so proud of them in many ways, but also so excited for them because they’re getting to experience something that brings so much joy in anybody’s life and I couldn’t be more delighted for them and for the new players. Hopefully, this becomes the norm for them.”

Other items of note

A note to the moms in the league

A notable moment from the Thorns-Wave postgame was Wilkinson being asked several questions about Dunn’s return to soccer after giving birth to her child in May, questions that both Wilkinson and Dunn have been asked in multiple press conferences. It’s obviously quite an achievement from Dunn and yet further evidence that Dunn is one of her generation’s greatest athletes. But Wilkinson also had a good point with this: 

“I’m not a mother and that experience with your body, unless you’ve had a child, I can’t speak to it. What I can say is that I tried my best to make everything possible for her and just see how she adapted, because some women might be like Crystal Dunn, and some might need a year and a half. I don’t know. But what I do know is we never pushed her. We supported her but we never tried to push any limits. And it just turns out that she’s ready for the end of the season. It’s such a unique experience for every mother…. I don’t also want other mothers in the league to now think they’ve got to do what Crystal Dunn did. It is incredible what she did. But it was done very carefully with a lot of very, very skilled people supporting her return to play.”

Goal line technology when?

Let’s revisit that aforementioned goal-line clearance from Loera for a moment. In the end, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome — but once again, we’re all struggling to have a definitive take on if this ball fully crossed the line using broadcast angles that ultimately tell us nothing definitive at all.

VAR is incoming next season (honestly, we’re still undecided on just how to feel about it but mostly think that the league could have prioritized other investments), and goal-line technology is not fully within every team’s control… but if there’s one big splurge in this area the league could choose to focus on, that might be the one.

One more thing

Let’s talk about attendance for these NWSL playoffs, and why it’s been so important for the continued success of the league — particularly at this complicated moment in time. Every single match surpassed 20K fans — and while that’s the capacity for Audi Field, a league spokesperson confirmed they’re trending well for a sell-out next Saturday at the championship (the stadium is currently around 70% sold).

The Houston Dash drew 21,284 fans for their quarterfinal against Kansas City last week, setting a new record for playoff attendance that was immediately surpassed in San Diego. 26,215 attended their quarterfinal victory against the Red Stars.This weekend, 22,035 fans filled Providence Park for the first semifinal between the Thorns and the Wave, then a new record at Lumen Field was set with 21,491 in the house for the KC upset.The four best NWSL playoff crowds all happened in the last four NWSL playoff games. The 21,144 who attended the 2018 NWSL Championship in Portland are now in 5th place.There is a virtuous cycle at play here. Full, loud stadiums for the biggest games means a better product on TV, which means more viewers, which means more coverage and sponsors. Sponsors and their money can apply pressure on the league and the teams, especially for better player health and safety — consider all those ad boards in Providence Park on Sunday, pleging their support to the players first and foremost.There’s power in showing up. Bella Bixby asked that of fans in Portland before the semifinal, and she got it on Sunday. It happened in Houston, in San Diego, in Portland, in Seattle. There’s energy here that needs to be carried through into DC, into 2023, through all levels of the sport.I (Meg here) can’t stop thinking about something Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing officer of Ally, said about her approach to the brand’s sponsorship of the NWSL, about the role she has to play for the league right now. She said in an interview that the players are “using their power to take their league back. I want ‘em to have a league to take back.” We’ll see you in D.C. next week.

How Portland Thorns fans balanced protest and support for the NWSL semifinal

Oct 23, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; San Diego Wave FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan (1) passes the ball during the second half against the Portland Thorns FC during the semifinals of the 2022 NWSL Playoffs at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

By Leo BaudhuinOct 24, 2022

The afternoon before the Portland Thorns battled the San Diego Wave for a spot in the NWSL championship game, a group of 20 people gathered outside the northeast entrance to Providence Park. They had three main goals: support the players, build community, and pressure Peregrine Sports LLC to sell its two pro soccer teams: The NWSL’s Portland Thorns and MLS’s Portland Timbers.The crowd held signs, declaring that “Thorns belong to us, not ‘good guys’” and “you knew.”The latter is a refrain that has echoed across the league this year, in the wake of allegations of abuse against multiple former NWSL coaches and staff.  Portland had its own reckoning when The Athletic published a story on former Thorns head coach Paul Riley’s sexually coercive behavior toward several of his former players in September 2021 and accounts of the Timbers covering up former player Andy Polo’s domestic violence emerged in February.

This week in NWSL chaos: Bangers only in Portland, KC Current upset OL Reign

Last year, the club temporarily suspended general manager Gavin Wilkinson from his Thorns duties, but many fans felt that his stepping away was not close to the restructuring that both PTFC teams needed. A collection of those fans started Soccer City Accountability Now (SCAN) in April. The organization has arranged protests, contacted club sponsors and media and demanded that Timbers and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson sell both teams.“The front office has just continued to give us reasons to keep coming out,” said Amy Cothron, who’s been a fan of both teams since 2018. “They’ve demonstrated time and time again their inability to treat people with respect and really support their employees.”At the start of October, former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates released a U.S. Soccer-commissioned investigation into the allegations of abuse in Portland and a handful of other NWSL teams, detailing the systemic failures to protect players across the league. Both Wilkinson and President of Business Mike Golub stepped away from the teams following the Yates report. Paulson resigned from his role as CEO soon after — though he remains financially involved as an owner of Peregrine Sports.For SCAN and other PTFC fans, Peregrine Sports’ continued ownership of the clubs meant Paulson’s removal wasn’t good enough. Hence, the demonstrations ahead of Portland’s semifinal match — the first Thorns or Timbers home game since the Yates report was published.For fans like Cothron, PTFC games are community events where she gets to spend time with friends who she may not see in other areas of her life. Paulson’s continued silence around abuses has “sullied” the idea of that community, she said, and he’s passed on enough opportunities to address abuse in his club that she thinks him leaving completely is the only way to ensure that those patterns don’t continue.For some fans, the solution is simple: transfer the clubs to the ownership of their supporters. They’ve started the Onward Rose City project, which has seen 65,000 pledged shares totaling around $7.3 million since Friday.SCAN member and Timbers and Thorns supporter Sofia Freja said she’s seen overwhelmingly positive responses to the group’s protests. But, she said, “tomorrow’s going to be about supporting the players” in their semifinal game.rs group, the Rose City Riveters — gathered outside the west side of Providence Park, across the street from the players’ entrance. By noon they’d grown to a crowd of 50, holding signs that read “Sauerbrunn is my hero” and “Christine Sinclair GOAT” and larger two-sticks that said “This club was made for you and me” and “Keep your eyes on the prize” accompanied by an NWSL shield drawing. As players showed up, they erupted into cheers.“We know that there are a lot of emotions and feelings,” Gabby Rosas said of the group gathered outside the stadium. Rosas is a member of the Riveters and board president of the 107ist, a nonprofit for Portland soccer supporters. She said she’s talked to people that don’t feel comfortable going into the stadium — some because they don’t want to give money to PTFC ownership, others because it’s a place of trauma for them — but the Riveters rally is a way “to be able to show the players we love you, we care about you, we want to support you.”It’s also about making sure that the players know that fans have their back, SCAN member Tina Ettlin said. Although SCAN planned a demonstration in the stadium — fans held up red “for sale” and “sell the club” signs in the 10 minutes leading up to kickoff — its members emphasized that once the ref blew the starting whistle, everyone’s attention would be on the players. After goalkeeper Bella Bixby urged fans to come show their support for players by packing the stadium, over 22,000 turned out for the match — the second-largest playoff attendance in league history. Their attention paid off. Despite going down early when an unmarked Taylor Kornieck capitalized on a header opportunity to put the Wave up 1-0, the Thorns were able to secure a victory with two brilliant goals.


Kansas City Current advances to NWSL final

Rocky Rodríguez leveled the play in the game’s 20th minute, getting on the end of the third ball off a Thorns corner just outside the 18 and hitting a rocket volley into the back of the net.

But, despite a handful of strong looks from the Thorns and a brilliant first-half save from Bixby, it would take until second-half stoppage-time for either team to strike again — through none other than 2015 NWSL golden boot-winner, new mom, and second-half substitute Crystal Dunn.In the dying minutes of the game, Dunn got on the end of another poorly-cleared ball from a Thorns corner and — as she put it in the postgame press conference — “literally hit it with all [her] might.” And it was enough to put Portland through to its first NWSL final since 2018.“Our fans have been through a lot this year, as well as the players,” Dunn said in the postgame presser. “I think them showing up is exactly what we want for this community. We want everyone to be able to voice their opinion and share their feelings. But at the same time, we understand that without fans, the game’s just not as fun.”The goal was “an explosion of emotions” for everyone in the stadium, Rodríguez said – a feeling backed up by those in the stands.“I wouldn’t do what I do for a millionaire,” said Ettlin, who also serves as a capo for the Timbers and Thorns. “I’m not doing this for Merritt. These players and non-male-centric sports are super important to me, personally, so making sure that people who are involved in that, centering them is all I want to do.”

Studying World Cup winners’ form reveals bad news for England, US, Germany and France

By Jacob Whitehead Sep 28, 2022

International football is a strange beast.

Bring together players who are not usually team-mates, ship them thousands of miles around the world, stoke expectations beyond all reasonable measure and let them play.It is little surprise that in such odd circumstances, surprise teams often reach the semi-finals and beyond — hosts South Korea in 2002, unfancied Uruguay in 2010, losing finalists Croatia in 2018.Could the World Cup be understood in isolation? A half-tournament, half-fever dream in which events rely more on randomness than destiny or logic? In short, does form matter?To clarify, this is not referring to individual form — whether a striker is in a purple patch or whether a goalkeeper is filled with confidence — in the days preceding the tournament.This is analysing the form of a team, ie, their collective results in the five games preceding the tournament.It is particularly pressing for sides such as England, the United States, Germany and France. The latter three nations have only won one game in their last five, and England have failed to win in their last six matches.On the other hand, sides such as BrazilArgentina and the Netherlands — who have not lost between them in their last five matches — will want to ensure the likelihood of their form being rewarded in Qatar.So, what do the results say?

For teams with designs on winning the World Cup, the importance of form is clear. Of the World Cup-winning sides of the 21st century, only one team — France in 2018 — lost a single match in their five games before the tournament.In 2002, Brazil won four and drew one. Italy, a more pragmatic side, won two and drew three. Vicente del Bosque’s Spain had a perfect record before the 2014 Germany side won three and drew two.Even that singular France defeat was followed by three successive wins before a much-changed side drew against the United States.Between them, those sides had a win percentage of 68 per cent. If you were to allocate league points to each team’s build-up, the worst form would be the 2006 Italy side, who still took nine points from a possible 15.The last occasion a team had a truly poor build-up and still won the tournament was in 1986, when a Maradona-inspired Argentina won the 1986 World Cup with a record of one win, two draws and two losses. That single win, however, was a 7-2 thrashing of Israel immediately before the tournament.

The worst pre-tournament record by a winning side? That’s Uruguay, from 1950, who lost four of their five games before the tournament. Two of these, at least, were against Brazil, who they shocked in the final. When England won, in 1966, they won each of their five games before the tournament.



England, France, and Germany will have to rely on events unprecedented for 72 years if they are to add to their tally in Qatar.

The importance of form is still evident, even for those sides who narrowly missed out on the trophy.

This century’s losing finalists average a pre-tournament win rate of 60 per cent. Croatia — with the worst record — still won twice and drew once in their five preceding matches.

Extend the parameters to semi-finalists and the pattern continues. In a small quirk, losing semi-finalists actually have a slightly better win rate than losing finalists — 62 per cent.

Belgium and England, who reached this stage in 2018, were both undefeated in the lead-up to the tournament.

In total, teams who reach the final four win 63 per cent of their pre-tournament matches. Of the 100 matches analysed, they only lost 12.

What does this mean for the upcoming tournament? The likely contenders can be roughly separated into three groups.Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands are all unbeaten in their last five games and will enter Qatar in sparkling form. Brazil, in particular, have produced some impressive results, albeit against slightly weaker opponents than several European nations. Nevertheless, 18 goals scored for only three conceded is nothing to be sniffed at.Five teams are in mediocre form, with a loss dotted here and there — Belgium, Spain, Uruguay, Portugal and Denmark.Then, at the bottom, are the aforementioned strugglers, which includes several sides for whom anything but victory will be a disappointment — France, Germany, England, Mexico and the US.Since 2002, no side has reached the semi-finals having lost more than two of their five pre-tournament matches. Turkey’s 2002 side and Croatia’s 2018 team have the poorest record, with two wins, one draw and two losses.Of the groups listed above, none of the struggling sides exceed Turkey and Croatia’s record. Their progression would be a significant outlier.

Looking at potential winners, 21st-century champions average 11.6 points from their five pre-tournament games, if matches were allocated the same points as league matches.

Want to place a bet on a World Cup winner? The only sides who have earned at least 10 points are Brazil (15), Argentina (13), Netherlands (13), Spain (10) and Uruguay (10). Victory for any other side would be unparalleled in modern tournaments.

The words of legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi ring true: it seems winning is a habit.

Premier League managers and referees: ‘What sort of message does this send?’

Liverpool, Klopp

By The Athletic UK StaffOct 22, 2022

After Jurgen Klopp was sent off in Liverpool’s ill-tempered 1-0 win over Manchester City last weekend, Dr Tom Webb posted an image on Twitter similar to the one above of the Liverpool manager screaming at assistant referee Gary Beswick.“What sort of message does this send to people watching?” wrote Webb, who co-ordinates the Referee and Match Official Research Network. “It’s images like this that make people think #referees are fair game… ‘if coaches and players in the Premier League are doing it, then it must be OK’… it isn’t and it certainly won’t help the trend of referee #abuse.”Klopp’s actions came in the Premier League’s marquee Sunday afternoon game on a weekend where Merseyside Youth League matches were postponed “following multiple incidents of inappropriate and threatening behaviour towards our league and match officials”.Klopp, of course, is not the only manager to lose his cool with an official this season and the abuse of officials is a problem throughout the pyramid — and in children’s football, too. So what responsibility do Premier League managers have to set a good example? Does the fish rot from the head down?“I know about our role in public and how difficult it is to be a ref,” said Klopp two days later. “Oh my god, I know all that. I am a ref five times a week in different situations in training and you can never do it right.

KloppKlopp on the sideline in Liverpool’s win over Manchester City (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

“But in the end, we are all human beings and you react how you react. For 99 minutes, in this case, it was pretty intense and always being the perfect version of yourself is actually not possible in life and in these moments (it is) more difficult.“I went over the top in the moment but I don’t think I was disrespectful to anyone. I apologised to the assistant, of course.”This is about much more than the Liverpool manager getting upset with referee Anthony Taylor’s decision not to give a foul on Mohamed Salah by Bernardo Silva. It is a problem deep-rooted in the English game and one that shows little sign of getting better any time soon.So, The Athletic asked Premier League managers whether they think they should set a better example and if it is something of which they are conscious.Do they ever look back at footage of themselves on the touchline and feel embarrassed about their ranting and raving? Or is it just part of the game now; the natural consequence of the pressure and scrutiny which managers find themselves under?

And what can be done to improve the situation?

Do Premier League managers have a responsibility to be role models on the sidelines?

“I think we all do,” said Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers. “That’s always been the notion for every manager. It is a very passionate game and obviously, from time to time, those passions and those pressures will come out on the side of the field. Sometimes that can spill over, but I think we all have that responsibility as managers, coaches and players to uphold the values of the game.“I was over in Belfast during the international break and I was watching a five-a-side tournament. I was laughing to myself because my own nephew was rolling about the floor and holding his knee and he’s only six. So it definitely does (translate from the professional game to grassroots). It follows through and it’s something that we always need to be aware and conscious of.”

LeicesterRodgers thinks what happens in the top flight translates to grassroots (Photo: John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

“I think we need to be role models,” agreed Brentford manager Thomas Frank. “We need to be very aware of what we are doing out there.“I think it’s important for, especially Sunday league or grassroots football, they play for fun. Here it’s a professional game and there is so much at stake. So much (media) focus, but even with all that said we still need to be calm and be role models.“I have also been on the touchline and watched my son play, but because I have got a professional career I never said anything. I understand it’s difficult out there because you just want your son or daughter to do well. People need to remember it is the most beautiful game, it gives everyone so much joy and we need to remember that when we are a little bit heated.”Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper has a unique perspective given his father, Keith, became a Football League linesman in 1975 and went on to referee in the Premier League before his retirement in 1996.“There are a lot of people watching, of course,” said Cooper. “You always want to be the best version of yourself and a good role model. But at the same time, being a good role model can be about showing that you care; showing that you are ready to stand up and be counted, particularly if things go against your team, which you don’t believe are right.“There are ways and means of going about that. That might sometimes mean a bit of animation or aggression and I think that is OK.”“We all have to act as a role model,” said Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira, who was sent off eight times in the Premier League as a player. “When I say all, I’m not just talking about managers, I’m talking about yourself (journalists). We all have an impact on youth so how we conduct ourselves is important.”

“For 90 minutes or a bit longer, it becomes an emotional game and maybe sometimes you can change your character from what your true character is,” said West Ham manager David Moyes. “If you were in Jurgen Klopp’s position you would probably do the same. But we’ve all got great respect for referees and the work they have to do. I hope, in their way, they will understand that for 90 minutes or a bit longer we can sometimes lose our heads here and there a little bit.“But I think if we stood there and did nothing then our supporters, the public, you (the media) would probably be questioning why not?”Everton boss Frank Lampard picked up this theme, highlighting how after former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel and Tottenham manager Antonio Conte had a skirmish in August, a lot of the rhetoric centred on the passion of Premier League football.

Tuchel, ConteThings boiled over between Tuchel and Conte in August (Photo: Getty Images)

“I remember earlier this season when Tuchel and Conte had this,” he said, “and afterwards it was ‘This is great! This is what the Premier League is all about, people showing passion and showing themselves!’ so you can’t have everything in one go.“We have a responsibility I understand that, but there is also a microscope on managers in the modern day where we’re in highly pressurised jobs. It’s easy for me to sit here in a calm moment and say we should be better, but the amount of pressure we’re under and sometimes the decisions that go against you can throw you.”Lampard also argued that it is more about everyone taking personal responsibility for their actions than Premier League managers acting as role models.He said: “If you’re trying to draw a line from (the Premier League) to a Sunday league game or someone going and physically attacking a referee, then that’s just the personal responsibility of someone who did that, as it would be if they did it on the street.“I understand our responsibility but I don’t draw the line directly from that. I don’t see it much. I see managers in our position handle themselves really well for 99.9 per cent (of the time) and sometimes that little bit comes out.”“We have a lot of cameras on us,” said Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola. “It’s happened to me as well many times (getting too emotional). I’d like to control my emotions but during those moments, in certain stadiums, sometimes it can happen. We want to respect the referees and everything involved in the game, but sometimes emotions are there.”

Pep Guardiola, Jurgen KloppKlopp and Guardiola at Anfield on October 16 (Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Are you conscious of the way you act during a match?

“I am very aware that I am going to be looked at by millions and millions of people, especially children,” said Newcastle boss Eddie Howe. “And I think you have an expectation to make sure the game is upheld in the right way and with the right spirit.“I am certainly aware of my demeanour and behaviour on the touchline. That’s not to say I don’t want to win and I don’t want to win with every fibre of my being, because I do, but I’ve always just had that inside me not to lose my discipline.“Also, my players are looking at me and what are they going to think of me? I’m not going to be able to help them in that moment if I’m not in control of my emotions.”Frank admitted he has reflected on his behaviour “a few times”.“I think in general the fourth official gets too much abuse,” he added. “What can they do? Sometimes it seems like they are only there for us to let the steam out and can say something and I’m definitely doing that myself sometimes. We need to be better in that aspect.”“It has always been my way to be calm,” said Rodgers. “There are obviously games that are more intense but it doesn’t take away your passion for the game. You don’t need to be running up and down the line and shouting, jumping and gesticulating to be passionate, you know. But I think we’re always aware of our conduct.”“I’m certainly conscious of it,” said former Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard earlier this week. “I’ve made mistakes previously on the side and it takes time to calm down. But it’s because we all want to win games and do as best as we can individually for our teams. We want to show our supporters that we’re the leader of those teams. We’re human and mistakes happen.”“We have to show, always, respect,” said Conte. “Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t agree with a decision. In the past, I was angry much more with the VAR, not with the referee’s decision, because the decision during a game sometimes is positive and you can take advantage. Sometimes it’s negative and you can argue.”

What can we do to change the narrative?

“Keep talking about it, keep being aware of it, try to create the relationship between each other,” said Frank. “Let’s say you and I went out for a drink every Thursday. We would create a relationship. Then I think that’s better.“If you have a very good relationship with a very good friend, it’s more difficult to be really angry with him. Of course, in the heat of the moment, we are all professionals, but I think it’s about creating a relationship which is most likely difficult because when do we have the time to do it?”“I can always live with good arguments,” said Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who suggested officials should explain their decisions more to help managers’ understanding. “It is not good when we are always jumping on referees. This is definitely not the way we should do it.“It should be always in a respectful way and the referee should explain what he thinks. The fourth officials should also explain the reasons why and then I can live with it.”“I think it’s constant reminders,” said Rodgers. “Behaviour is very, very important. You can be competitive, you can fight tomorrow, but there always has to be a level of behaviour. It’s sometimes harder to do that because there’s emotion, which at times wants to come out and explode but you try to remain calm and keep it inside but it has to come out somewhere.”“We have to try and use common sense in every moment,” said Conte. “I know it’s not simple — I live the game with a great passion and you’re totally involved in the situation.“The best is to find the right balance, for us to have great respect for the referee, the linesman, the fourth official. At the same time, it’s good (for referees) to understand the moment and to look at what happened and be intelligent.“The respect has to be there for them and the referees have to show respect for us. Honestly, in England, there is great respect, I see that.”“When we have our group chats as managers with the LMA (League Managers’ Association, the managers’ union),” said Gerrard, “and everyone is together with the referees — when we’re in a calmer situation — we make an effort to try and decide how we look as managers.“But we’re not perfect. If you feel hard done by, it hurts. We want to win football matches. We’re also professional as well and we’re aware that sometimes we can overstep the mark and it doesn’t look good. When the dust settles we understand and recognise that we need to stay on the right side of it.”

USWNT 2023 World Cup roster prediction 2.0

CHESTER, PA - APRIL 12: Catarina Macario #20 of the United States kicks the ball during a game between Uzbekistan and USWNT at Suburu Park on April 12, 2022 in Chester, Pennsylvania.

By Meg Linehan and Steph Yang Oct 24, 2022 The Athletic

The 2023 World Cup creeps ever closer. We now know the group-stage schedule for the United States, so all that’s really left to find out is what the final roster will be — a process that will be shaped by the seven to eight months of international and club form, and multiple players working their way back from significant injuries. There are two final tests on home soil against Germany that await in this calendar year before the pressure cranks up even higher at the start of 2023.We’ve made an attempt to guess what those rosters will (or should) look like, although there’s a healthy dose of personal wish-fulfillment in here, too. We’ve also assumed these will be 23-player rosters instead of an expanded 26, and that any players we include will be fully healthy and fit for the World Cup.

Steph’s USA World Cup squad

Goalkeepers (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), A.D. Franch (KC Current), Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns) 

Defenders (8): Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Naomi Girma (SD Wave), Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (KC Current)

Midfielders (6): Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6): Mal Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Alex Morgan (SD Wave), Christen Press (Angel City), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)

Meg’s USA World Cup squad

Goalkeepers (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), A.D. Franch (KC Current), Casey Murphy (NC Courage)

Defenders (8): Becky Saurberunn (Portland Thorns), Alana Cook (OL Reign), Naomi Girma (SD Wave), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)

Midfielders (6): Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville)

Forwards (6): Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Mal Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Alex Morgan (SD Wave), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)

Who is the one player the U.S. really can’t do without?

Yang: It’s such pressure to put on a young player, but in my mind it’s Naomi Girma. You’ll notice I left Becky Sauerbrunn off my roster just because, with a healthy Davidson, I don’t know that bringing a fourth center back makes sense. I still think Sauerbrunn is absolutely World Cup-caliber and, more than that, she’s a calming veteran presence. So you’d have to maybe displace Cook, or one of the fullbacks, to bring Sauerbrunn. But Girma is a must. If she’s healthy, she’s going to play so, so much of the World Cup. She’s the future of this squad and so far she hasn’t seemed fazed in the slightest by the pressure. 

Linehan: It feels a little scary to say, considering the rehab is ongoing, but I still think it’s actually Catarina Macario. I definitely agree with Steph that, defensively, it’s Girma — I was ready to crown her number one on my center back power ranking back in July. Offensively, Macario is the player who feels essential to build around, wherever she’s playing on the field.

Is there an area where you think the U.S. is light?

Yang: I’ve written about it before, but I think the U.S. needs to focus on its midfield. I think more time has to be given over to developing say, Jaelin Howell, or Coffey, whom I listed above. Maybe even Alex Loera from the Current, although I think part of that is hindsight being 20/20. But that’s also such a difficult question — these are all newer players who haven’t been around for a super long time, so how do you apportion finite resources between working with the players you’ve got and investing in the players who might not even be ready for this cycle, as opposed to the next one?

Linehan: If Sam Mewis’ injury continues to be a problem into 2023, then I think the U.S. does have an issue with options for another box-to-box midfielder. We’re going to get into the midfield (once again) more here in a second, but the USWNT has options to either double-pivot at the 6, or overload a team with two 10s. Providing a look beyond Horan at the 8 does not have an immediate answer as of October.

More midfield questions 

Linehan: After the trip to London, I have really come around on the USWNT opting for dual 6s in the midfield and shifting to a 4-2-3-1. We have all talked about it so much at this point, but trying to replace Julie Ertz and the role she played on this team is an impossible task. There’s no one-to-one solution, it’s simply a matter of trying to solve it with multiple players. The team has two young options ready to pair with Andi Sullivan: Sam Coffey (who has been so impressive during her rookie season in Portland) and Jaelin Howell (who has been around the national team program for longer, and has the physicality and bite that Ertz frequently provided). Start building that chemistry yesterday.

Yang: So we have a midfield question. And I think a lot of people are clamoring for the answer to be Crystal Dunn, especially seeing that she’s getting time in the midfield for the Thorns. But I do want to note that her beautiful, beautiful goal for the Thorns actually wasn’t a result of her playing out of the midfield — it was off a set piece, and Dunn was following up on an improperly cleared ball. She easily could have been in that position as a left back, too. I am not arguing against Crystal Dunn’s efficacy and talent in midfield, but I think if you want to play her there instead of fullback, where she’s now had several years with the USWNT, you then have to ask who gets pushed out of the formation. 

Where does she go in the 4-3-3 — does she displace Rose Lavelle? She can’t displace Sullivan or Horan unless you want to ask her to play more of a 6 or 8, which would be a waste of her enormous talent. In a 4-4-2 diamond, is she at the tip? That’s probably Catarina Macario’s place and, again, on the wings, maybe she could work on the left side? But that’s maybe where you want a Mal Pugh or a Christen Press, and you pair Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith up top. In a 4-2-3-1, where does Dunn go if Macario is back? The USWNT has developed its midfield based on the premise that Dunn is now a fullback for the national team, and asking her to again switch back into a midfield role causes ripple effects that ask the whole team to adjust in ways that could impact the efficacy of other players, like Lavelle, Macario or Pugh. 

The answer is to go back in time and keep Dunn in midfield and develop the WNT around that, but barring a slingshot maneuver around the sun, the reality is that she is an extraordinarily good fullback, too — a testament to her ability to think about the game multi-dimensionally from different areas on the field.

Linehan: BRB, need to go build a time machine. More seriously though, I do think if the game state calls for it and the USWNT is desperate to throw numbers at goal, Dunn is at the top of the list of players who are on the field and able to step up in a critical moment.

How do injuries play a factor in squad selection? 

Yang: The list of injured players right now includes Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Catarina Macario, Christen Press, Abby Dahlkemper, Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams. Some of these players are more likely to be included than others. For example, it really looks like Sam Mewis’ injury rehab is going to be a lot longer and more complicated than anyone would want. If she’s not back with the Current by the start of their season, then she may not have the time needed to get World Cup match fit. I think maybe the biggest players returning who could change how the squad looks are Macario and Press, with O’Hara right behind them. 

Linehan: The worrisome part is that we’re talking about injuries that have already been sustained and timelines for players to come back. I’m a nervous human being who’s watching all the injuries currently happening on the men’s side ahead of their World Cup, and just wondering what potential fresh hell awaits us between now and next July.

Are there any bubble players you think will make a case for themselves in the next nine months?

Yang: I would absolutely love to see Trinity Rodman cement a place in this squad. I included her in my World Cup lineup for a reason. If you’re searching for a ruthless 9, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to put more eggs in that basket. I’d also enjoy seeing a Midge Purce resurgence, no matter how slim a chance she has due to the depth of the forward pool. Really, so much of that will rely on her having a good NWSL season, and…well…Gotham. 

Linehan: There’s absolutely a battle ahead for the final forward roster spots — Christen Press, Midge Purce and Lynn Williams are leading that charge, but Ashley Hatch, Mia Fishel, Morgan Weaver… I mean, the depth here remains ridiculous. (I also think there should be zero question about Rodman on this roster.) 

But the player I’m absolutely watching is outside back Carson Pickett (NC Courage). She’s been rock solid in the league for a long time, but her contributions from the wing are what might finally get her called up more regularly rather than being added to a roster as an injury replacement. 

How far will your squad go at the World Cup?

Yang: Why did we include this question? It’s a jinx question. It’s dependent on so many factors that are TBD, like injuries and upcoming friendlies and maybe even NWSL preseason. If everyone is truly healthy and the vibe in camp is good, it’s a squad that reaches the final. If the same weird problems from the Olympics follow them? Quarters.

Linehan: No matter what’s happening in terms of results before the World Cup, the talent is here to make it to the final. But ask me this question again after the two Germany friendlies, and I might have a real answer (I won’t have a real answer, just a better read on what actual level of panic we should maybe be at.)

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup draw: Group picks, predictions, more

Oct 22, 2022 ESPN

England, who beat Germany in the final of Euro 2022 at Wembley, could face co-hosts Australia in the round of 16 if they top Group D as expected, after being paired with China, Denmark and the winners of the Chile/Senegal/Haiti playoff path.

– 2023 Women’s World Cup full bracket and fixtures schedule

New Zealand will face 1995 world champions Norway in the opening game of the tournament at Eden Park, Auckland, on July 20, with Australia kicking off their campaign against Republic of Ireland at the Sydney Football Stadium later the same day.In other stand-out pairings, France will meet Brazil in Group F, with Sweden and Italy pitched together in Group G.How will it all play out? ESPN’s Marissa Lordanic (Groups A, B), Mark Ogden (Groups C, D), Sophie Lawson (Groups E, F) and Becky Thompson (Groups G, H) have assessed each group to predict the big games and the teams who will advance.


New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland

If ever there was a time for New Zealand to nab their first-ever Women’s World Cup win, 2023 is surely it.


July 20New Zealand vs. Norway
July 21Philippines vs. Switzerland
July 25New Zealand vs. Philippines
July 25Switzerland vs. Norway
July 30Switzerland vs. New Zealand
July 30Norway vs. Philippines

The perks of hosting are such that the Football Ferns may never have a better chance at creating a little bit of Kiwi history. Standing in their way, however, are Norway, Switzerland and the Philippines.

Norway’s Euro 2022 campaign was nothing short of a disaster so redemption will be front of mind for Hege Riise’s side. Switzerland, meanwhile, will be enjoying their return to the world stage for the first time since 2015 but will likely be just as disappointed at their group stage exit from this year’s continental tournament. The Philippines are one of a number of countries who will taste World Cup football for the first time. Alen Stajcic has big-tournament experience, after his stint with Australia, but can he impart that wisdom into his side and get a historic first win as well?

Must-see match: New Zealand vs. Norway

Is it a little bit of a cop out to put the opening game as the must-watch one? Maybe so. But opening matches truly are something special.

In countries like Australia and New Zealand, who don’t get to experience moments like these in football very often, if ever, the enthusiasm of a home crowd will be worth the price of admission.

X factor: Can Hegerberg do it on a cold night in Auckland?

Ada Hegerberg had long been the asterisk when it came to Norway’s chances at big tournaments, but her return to the national team certainly didn’t go to plan in England for the Euros. In what will be her first Women’s World Cup since 2015, Hegerberg will once again be the focus of a Norwegian team which has plenty of big-name players but has yet to put in a big-team performance on the world stage.

Predicted finish: Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Philippines


Australia, Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, Canada

Australia’s hopes of a best-ever result at a Women’s World Cup will be dependent on how Tony Gustavsson’s team navigates Canada, Republic of Ireland and Nigeria.


July 20Australia vs. Rep. Ireland
July 21Nigeria vs. Canada
July 26Canada vs. Rep. Ireland
July 27Australia vs. Nigeria
July 31Canada vs. Australia
July 31Rep. Ireland vs. Nigeria

Canada’s gold medal at the Olympics signified progress from Bev Priestman’s side, though the team will undoubtedly be disappointed that they could not best the United States in the CONCACAF W Championship final this year.

Republic of Ireland’s historic run will see them take part in a Women’s World Cup for the very first time, while Nigeria are a perennial presence at the biggest tournament in women’s football. However, Nigeria will enter this tournament without a WAFCON title behind them, failing to win the competition for only the third time.

Must-see match: Canada vs. Australia

This clash, the final one of Group B, could well determine who finishes top and who finishes second. The teams have a history at major tournaments, most recently at the 2016 Olympics, as well as in friendlies, with Canada earning two wins on Australian shores in the September window. Only six places separate the two sides in the world rankings and this closeness is replicated on the pitch. With Sam Kerr vs. Christine Sinclair, it is sure to be a knockout contest.

X factor: How will Sinclair’s (assumed) swan song play out?

An undisputed GOAT in world football, the all-time leading international goal scorer, Sinclair’s legacy is already secured. The Canadian gold medal in Tokyo ensured that Sinclair would always end her career with some level of international success, but a World Cup is a different beast. A fourth-placed finish is Canada’s best-ever result but there is no doubt they will want to send Sinclair out a little better than that.

Predicted finish: Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland


Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan

Spain had been tipped to win Euro 2022 before losing to hosts England in the quarterfinals, but with 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas likely to be back in action after missing the Euros with a cruciate knee ligament injury, they will be among the favourites at the World Cup.


July 21Spain vs. Costa Rica
July 22Zambia vs. Japan
July 26Spain vs. Zambia
July 26Japan vs. Costa Rica
July 31Japan vs. Spain
July 31Costa Rica vs, Zambia

But an ongoing dispute between several players and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) over the management style of coach Jorge Vilda — the RFEF claimed 15 players said they would refuse to play for the team last month unless Vilda was removed — remains unresolved and could yet affect Spain’s prospects.

But with Japan the only likely threat to claim the top spot in Group C — Costa Rica and World Cup debutants Zambia complete the group — Spain should progress comfortably, despite their problems.

With a second-round clash against the winners of Group E — likely to be the U.S. — waiting for the runners-up, the key for Spain and Japan will be to avoid that by topping the group for a more favourable route through the latter stages.

Must-see match: Japan vs. Spain

It’s all about Japan vs. Spain in the final group game on July 31.

If this group goes to form, the two teams are likely to meet at the Wellington Regional Stadium with top spot up for grabs and the need to avoid a possible meeting against the USA.

While both Japan and Spain are capable of testing the world champions, it is a tie that neither would choose, so the stakes will be high when they meet in New Zealand.

Japan, ranked 11th in the FIFA World Ranking, will be outsiders against Spain, but could take advantage of problems within the Spanish camp to win this game.

X factor: How will the group’s minnows perform?

The group lacks the unpredictability and tension that we are likely to see in Group B, F and G, but with the World Cup expanding into a 32-team tournament, the focus will be on how the likes of Costa Rica and Zambia shape up against two heavyweights in Spain and Japan.

During their first World Cup in 2015, Costa Rica claimed surprise draws against South Korea and Spain in the group stage and were only denied a place in the second round by a narrow defeat against Brazil.

Measuring Costa Rica’s progress on the big stage will be fascinating, while Zambia are making their debut in the tournament after finishing third in the Africa Cup of Nations this year.

But having suffered a 10-3 defeat against Netherlands in 2021, the World Cup could be a steep learning curve for Zambia.

Predicted finish: Japan, Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia


England, Group B playoff, Denmark, China

While this group looks to be a routine section for European champions England, the Lionesses will be wary of the strength of China, despite their relatively low world ranking of 15 going into the tournament.


July 22England vs. Playoff
July 22Denmark vs. China
July 28England vs. Denmark
July 28China vs. Playoff
Aug. 1China vs. England
Aug. 1Playoff vs. Denmark

The Chinese are seasoned performers at the World Cup, finishing as runners-up in 1999, and will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages for the eighth successive tournament.With Denmark ending a 16-year absence from the World Cup next year and the final spot in the group to be taken by the winners of the Chile vs. Senegal/Haiti playoff, this section should be a straightforward path for both England and China.But with the group winners and runners-up facing the teams who finish first and second in Group B, there is no clear advantage to topping the section with a likely encounter against either co-hosts Australia or highly rated Canada in the round of 16.

Must-see match: China vs. England

England’s clash with China at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium on Aug. 1 should be the fixture which decides the winners of the group.The two nations have met just four times previously, with China winning 2-1 in their most recent encounter in 2015.Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses will be favourites to top the group and beat China, especially after ending England’s long wait for major tournament success at Euro 2022.But China, nicknamed the Steel Roses, are a well-established power in the women’s game and could pull off a shock win if England aren’t fully focused.

X factor: Can England live up to the hype?

Having won Euro 2022, England have established themselves as one of the box office teams in the women’s game and are arguably the biggest threat to the USA’s hopes of achieving a World Cup “three-peat.” So all eyes will be on how the Lionesses cope with the pressure of being one of the favourites to win the tournament.But they passed a big test of their new status by beating the U.S. at Wembley in October, and Sarina Wiegman’s team will want to build on that during the early stages of the World Cup.

With world-class talents such as Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp, and emerging youngsters such as Alessia Russo, every game they play in the tournament will attract huge attention.

Predicted finish: England, China, Denmark, playoff winners


United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, Group A playoff

Containing both the winners and the runners-up from the last Women’s World Cup, Group E has the scales firmly tipped in favour of the seeded teams; four-time winners, the U.S. are so far ahead of the rest in terms of ranking and women’s football development.


July 22Vietnam vs. USA
July 23Netherlands vs. Playoff
July 27USA vs. Netherlands
July 27Playoff vs. Vietnam
Aug. 1Playoff vs. USA
Aug. 1Vietnam vs. Netherlands

For Vietnam, who will play their first-ever World Cup match against the U.S. in Auckland on July 23, there were certainly kinder draws out there for a team ranked 34th in the world.

Even against the winners from playoff A (Cameroon, Portugal or Thailand), Vietnam might have a mountain to climb — as do the Netherlands, who find themselves in another period of transition having only just brought in a new coach, and would be right to be fearful of a Cameroon or Portugal team who could make it through the playoffs.

Must-see match: United States vs. Netherlands

It’s the obvious one, with the top two seeds clashing midway through the group stage in Wellington on July 27.

These two teams didn’t just meet in the World Cup final in Lyon back in 2019, they also played out a memorable quarterfinal tie at the 2020 Olympics. With both teams struggling to put their best football on the pitch, anything could happen when they meet in New Zealand next summer.

X factor: Which U.S. will turn up?

The back-to-back champions, who are going for a “three-peat,” have been far from convincing in recent years and when many expected them to switch into tournament mode at the Olympics, they did just the opposite, looking a shadow of themselves. With the weight of expectation on their shoulders, the U.S. may well sink rather than swim; yet in a group that should be navigable, there is still the chance to tread water.

Predicted finish: U.S., Netherlands, playoff winners, Vietnam


France, Jamaica, Brazil, Group C playoff

It’s very easy to call Group F on paper, but when you actually get to a tournament, things don’t always go to plan — as Jamaica could tell you, with the Reggae Girlz being without key player Bunny Shaw for their debut four years ago.


July 23France vs. Jamaica
July 24Brazil vs. Playoff
July 29France vs. Brazil
July 29Playoff vs. Jamaica
Aug 2Playoff vs. France
Aug 2Jamaica vs. Brazil

France, who have a history of peaking too early at major tournaments, will like their chances of having a strong group stage, wrapping up with a match against one of Chinese Taipei, Panama, Papa New Guinea or Paraguay — all four nations potential debutantes.

But Brazil are not to be taken lightly by anyone, the ever-presents with a glut of young talent coming through.

Must-see match: France vs. Brazil

It’s the obvious one, the clash of the top two seeds in Brisbane on July 29, and it should be a litmus test for where both nations are at and just how likely either are to go the long yards at the World Cup.But it is worth noting that should a team such as Panama qualify for the World Cup through the playoffs, the clash with Jamaica could be one to watch for sheer fun on the pitch.

X factor: Will the real France please stand up?

We have long talked about France as a dark horse or even one of the favourites to win major silverware. Yet, for a multitude of reasons, it has yet to happen. Les Bleues started so well at the Euros and there was a rising belief that it was finally their time to shine, but the team looked less assured with each passing match.Even without a banana-peel draw, it’s hard to know just which France will turn up and whilst they have the ranking to best anyone they face in the group stage, there are pitfalls everywhere for a team that have historically shown a mental fragility.

Predicted finish: Brazil, France, Jamaica, playoff winners


Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina

Sweden have played in every edition of the tournament and have made the semifinals on four occasions. The Olympic silver medallists will be hard to match in this group with their experience in major competitions.


July 23Sweden vs. South Africa
July 24Italy vs. Argentina
July 28Argentina vs. South Africa
July 29Sweden vs. Italy
Aug 2Argentina vs. Sweden
Aug 2South Africa vs. Italy

Sweden’s biggest challenge will undoubtedly be in fellow European nation Italy, who are playing in their third World Cup and have been building momentum in recent years. The Italians topped their group in 2019 and will be looking to replicate that success.

South Africa are playing in only their second World Cup, while Argentina have played in three — and neither have registered a win. They face what seems to be a nearly insurmountable task against Sweden and Italy to get out of the group. However, a Cinderella story for either of these nations cannot be completely ruled out.

Must-see match: Sweden vs. Italy

Who will take the top spot in Group G? It’s a rematch from the Euro 2022 group stage, which saw Italy win in a five-goal thriller 3-2.

Italy had a dominant qualifying campaign, only conceding one goal, to Switzerland. Meanwhile, Sweden, who finished third in 2019, boast experience and will be looking for revenge after their Euros defeat this year.

Sweden have one of the best defenses in the world, led by Chelsea star Magda Eriksson, while Italy’s attacking power is equally exciting with players such as Cristiana Girelli.

X factor: Can Argentina find their first win at the World Cup?

In 2019, Argentina had their best-ever performance at the World Cup. Despite not making it to the knockout rounds, they notched two exciting draws — a 0-0 against Japan and a thrilling 3-3 with Scotland; their only loss was a narrow 1-0 defeat to England.

Four years later, the youth in the squad from 2019 have gained tremendous experience and will be ready to take on the challenges in front of them. While it is hard to imagine Argentina making it out of the group, a win would mark continued growth and success for this team.

Predicted finish: Italy, Sweden, Argentina, South Africa


Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea

Germany will be hard to match in this group. The depth and talent of this squad carried them all the way to the final of Euro 2022, falling just short to England. Germany have qualified for all eight editions of the Women’s World Cup and have topped their group in every appearance. Their route to the top spot here seems locked in; barring any major breakdowns, they should wrap this one up easily.


July 24Germany vs. Morocco
July 25Colombia vs. South Korea
July 30Germany vs. Colombia
July 30South Korea vs. Morocco
Aug 3South Korea vs. Germany
Aug 3Morocco vs. Colombia

Colombia’s best World Cup performance was in 2015 when they qualified for the knockout phase, but they failed to make it out of the group in 2019. Group H is well-poised for them to make another run into the elimination rounds, with a key game against South Korea in their way.

South Korea follow the same history as Colombia in the last two editions, making it to the round of 16 in Canada but failing to get out of the group in France.

Morocco will be making their first appearance in the Women’s World Cup. When they take the field in Melbourne, they will make history as the first Arab nation to compete in the tournament. While it’s next to impossible to see a way out of the group, this history-making moment will be another mark of growth for the women’s game and the success of African women’s football.

Must-see match: Colombia vs. South Korea

It’s simple. This match will decide who will progress and who will go home. Both nations will be battling hard with something to prove after not qualifying for the elimination rounds in France. South Korea, led by former Chelsea player Ji So-Yun, boast the depth and experience, while Colombia are full of energy and creativity.

These sides have only met a few times in history, with South Korea beating the Colombians in the Olympic group stages in 2016. However, It has been many years since their last meeting and with everything on the line, this match is an unmissable watch for the tournament.

X factor: Lena Oberdorf

One of the most exciting players at only 20-years-old, Oberdorf is ahead of her time and has been nominated for countless awards this year after marshalling Germany’s midfield at the Euros.

Oberdorf’s expansive and creative play kick-starts Germany’s attack and is a pleasure for any football fan to watch. This young star will be one to watch throughout the tournament next year.

Predicted finish: Germany, Colombia, South Korea, Morocco

My 3 Thoughts on the World Cup 2023 Draw

Grant Wahl Oct 22

At the World Cup 2023 draw in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday, the U.S. drew Vietnam (July 22 in Auckland), the Netherlands (July 27 in Wellington) and the winner of an upcoming playoff (Portugal, Cameroon or Thailand; August 1 in Auckland) in Group E. Here are my three thoughts on the draw:

• There are plenty of reminders of recent tournaments for the U.S. here. USA-Netherlands is a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final (won by the U.S.) and the 2021 Olympic quarterfinals (also won by the U.S.). Both teams will be heavy favorites to be the two to advance from the group, though the Netherlands will have a relatively new coach in Andries Jonker (who has replaced Mark Parsons). Opening with Vietnam, a first-time World Cup team from Asia, has several similar characteristics to opening against Thailand in that infamous 13-0 game from 2019. And look, there are the Thais again as a possibility from the playoff (though Portugal will be the favorite). If the U.S. advances from its group, its Round of 16 opponent would come from Group G (Sweden, Italy, South Africa and Argentina) and take place in Australia (Sydney or Melbourne).

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

• In most groups, there are two clear favorites on paper to advance. The women’s World Cup is a 32-team tournament for the first time, which is a good thing overall with more countries getting opportunities and thus the chance to grow the women’s game globally. But there will be more mismatches in the group stage and likely a significant gap between the top two teams in most groups and the rest. That would include Group B (Australia and Canada), Group C (Spain and Japan), Group E (USA and the Netherlands), Group F (France and Brazil) and Group G (Sweden and Italy). However, that’s not the case in other groups like Group A (New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland), Group D (England, Denmark and China) and Group H (Germany, South Korea, Colombia and Morocco).

• There are nine teams capable of winning this World Cup. For me, those are USA, Australia, Canada, Spain, England, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Germany. (I’m not including Japan, Brazil or Norway.) Australia wouldn’t be on that list if it wasn’t hosting the tournament. But nine is a reflection of how much the women’s game has gotten better in more countries, as well as the growth in Europe in particular. Spain, the Netherlands and France have significant coaching issues that may put their campaigns in peril, but what are likely to be unsurprising group stages will be rewarded with knockout rounds that should have some phenomenal matchups. I’m fired up to be in Australia and New Zealand for this tournament next year.

Friday Newsletter: Which Players’ Lives Are About to Change at the World Cup?

The sense of possibility before a World Cup is one of the best parts about it. Which players have the best chance to break out when the tournament starts in 30 days?

Grant WahlOct 21

May 13, 1986: The power of imminent possibility (Photo by RENZO GOSTOLI/AFP via Getty Images)

I love this photograph.

It captures the sense of possibility in the month before a World Cup. The image was taken by Renzo Gostoli of Diego Maradona in the Argentine training camp at Mexico’s Club América on May 13, 1986, 18 days before the start of the World Cup that transformed the sport of soccer itself.

Was Maradona, then 25, globally famous at the time? Of course. He had just finished his second season at Napoli and was the most expensive player in the world. But truth be told, at this point he had been something of a disappointment compared to the enormous expectations placed on himMaradona’s first World Cup, in 1982, had been a disaster, with defeats to Belgium, Italy and Brazil, the last of which saw Maradona sent off for a kick to the groin of Brazil’s João Batista. Nor had Maradona’s tenure at Barcelona (1982-84) gone well, which led to him being sold to Napoli.By the time Argentina arrived in Mexico for the World Cup, expectations for the national team were so low that Maradona made sure to point out the negative things that had been said when their fortunes changed. We all know what happened in that tournament: Maradona dominated a World Cup like no other player in history and cemented his legacy, becoming a mythical figure in the game.But this photograph catches something special: The player at the moment when he is on the verge of something magical, something that will change his life forever and alter how the world perceives him. When limitless talent meets a global launchpad possibility: That is an intoxicating moment. That is the power of the World Cup. We are in those last days before a World Cup again.It is possible that no player ever again will lord over a World Cup in the way that Maradona did in 1986. But there are a few players out there who could break out in a big way: Either to help win the tournament or to take their careers to the next level in front of billions watching on TV. Here are some possibilities from my perspective:

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid


England: Phil Foden (22), Bukayo Saka (21). Foden has become one of the most potent attacking threats for perhaps the world’s best club team (Man City) and a reliable choice for England boss Gareth Southgate. Saka is heating up at the right time and could become the same for the Three Lions.

Germany: Jamal Musiala (19). Hansi Flick already trusts the Bayern Munich attacking midfielder, and why shouldn’t he? He’s ready to become a global household name.

Netherlands: Jurrien Timber (21), Cody Gakpo (23). Louis van Gaal has no problem going with youngsters, and he’s already choosing Timber to start on his back line ahead of Matthijs de Ligt. Meanwhile, PSV’s Gakpo, an attacking central mid, is on the purchase list of all the top clubs and will get the chance to shine in Qatar.

Portugal: Rafael Leão (23). He’s already the best player on reigning Italian champion AC Milan. The question is how much he gets to show as long as Cristiano Ronaldo is on the field.

Spain: Pedri (19). Wise and talented beyond his years, Pedri made a significant impact on Euro 2020 and should again at the World Cup.

Argentina: Julián Álvarez (22). There’s a reason the Man City player didn’t get loaned out by Pep Guardiola—and a reason he’s getting starts for Argentina as Lionel Messi prepares for one last ride at a World Cup.

Brazil: Vinícius Júnior (22). We’ve been watching Vini Jr. for so long at Real Madrid that it’s easy to forget he’s still just 22. But he could be the difference-maker as Brazil tries to win its first World Cup since 2002.


Ecuador: Moisés Caicedo (20). The Brighton midfielder is already making waves in the Premier League, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he did so at the World Cup.

Uruguay: Darwin Núñez (23). Yes, the Liverpool striker can be “agricultural,” but he’s also a chaotic force of nature.

USA: Yunus Musah (19). The Valencia central midfielder creates all sorts of danger carrying the ball up the gut, and he’s the most likely U.S. player to break out in Qatar.

Canada: Jonathan David (22). We all know who Alphonso Davies is, but if David lights up the scoring chart the way he’s done at Lille, he’ll do even more to set up the big transfer that’s inevitable.

Ghana: Mohammed Kudus (22). The Ajax forward has been tearing it up at club level, and Ghana would be smart to ride him as far as it can.


What do you think is the best way to move the needle on the abuses in Qatar? I don’t know if I’m strong enough to boycott watching the World Cup—when it comes to the USMNT, I’m a good example of why fan is short for fanatic. But I’m seriously considering it. If fans don’t act, FIFA will have no motivation to change, and I can’t think of anything that will get their attention other than the bottom line.


I have no issues with anyone who wants to boycott watching this World Cup, but honestly I don’t with anyone who decides to watch it either. When it comes down to it, I have a deep understanding of anyone who has conflicting emotions about this particular tournament. I do too. As I reported in my recent story, public pressure has already caused some change in Qatar, which adopted new worker laws in 2019 that haven’t been adopted in other Gulf states. The big questions are whether those laws are being observed on the ground and whether there will be a rollback after the Qatar World Cup. But there has been some much-needed progress. I certainly hope there will be more.

What’s wrong with Leeds: America’s team in the EPL?

richard greene

I watch every Leeds game, so I have some thoughts. The club knew it needed to buy a striker and left back in the transfer window, and it didn’t end up pulling the trigger. Those two spots have been a real issue. The central defense hasn’t been good enough, the cutting edge to score goals hasn’t been there often enough, and there hasn’t been as much advantage on set-pieces (attacking and defending) as I would have expected from a Jesse Marsch team. The Americans, Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, have actually been among Leeds’s best players, so it’s not their fault. But I do feel a lot is riding on this weekend’s game at home against Fulham. LUFC needs a win.

What group stage games at the World Cup not involving the U.S. are you most looking forward to?

Doug Steiger

Senegal-Netherlands. The Dutch are good enough to win the tournament, and Senegal has a chance to go deeper than we’ve ever seen an African team go at a World Cup. Plus one of these teams could be the U.S.’s opponent in the Round of 16.

Belgium-Canada. The Belgians will be favored, obviously, but we’ll get a sense early in the tournament if the young Canadians will be able to hang with an older heavyweight. (Chance No. 2 comes against Croatia.)

Portugal-Uruguay. A rematch of the 2018 elimination game won by Uruguay. Lots of big names on the field for two soccer nations that punch way above their weight.

France-Denmark. Four of the last five defending men’s World Cup champions have gone out in the group stage of the subsequent tournament. If France does a pratfall, this game will likely have something to do with it.

Argentina-Mexico. We’ve seen plenty of Argentina-Mexico matchups in the World Cup over the years, so why not one more?

Spain-Germany. The 2010 and 2014 champions will want to make a statement here.

What role will fatigue and rest play in the World Cup? Both for the USA and for all teams? I’m thinking of the Soccernomics chapter that explains how much fatigue plays a role in the World Cup because teams like England whose players play in the Premier League and have many more games do worse than teams that don’t have so many fatigued players. That comes even with one month off before the start and in a longer tournament.

Joseph Radosevich

Well, you could say that players won’t have a full club season, so it may not be as big of an issue this time around. The main thing to be concerned is injuries, especially of the kind that don’t heal in the week off between club and World Cup games that might heal in the three weeks we usually see between the club season and World Cups. I will say that important U.S. players like Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson have incredible stamina from their typical Leeds workload, so those guys are not to be worried about.

Will you put out your projected USMNT lineup (aka, what lineup do you think Berhalter will go with, at least for the first match) and your preferred USMNT lineup (if you were the manager/coach)?

Chris Stowell

Me: Turner; Dest, Zimmerman, Carter-Vickers, Robinson; Adams, McKennie, Musah; Pulisic, Pefok, Aaronson.

Berhalter: Steffen; Dest, Zimmerman, Long, Robinson; Adams, McKennie, Musah; Pulisic, Ferreira, Reyna.

Who do you like for the MLS playoffs? LAFC seem bound for the final, but Supporters Shield winners rarely make it to (let alone win) the final. Philadelphia has been on the bubble for years and probably would’ve made the final last year had half the starting lineup not been out of the conference final because of COVID protocols. What are the odds this is their year? Or do you see someone else lifting the cup in the end?


I actually think we’re going to see a No. 1 vs No. 1 matchup with LAFC and Philadelphia in L.A. for the final. Which would be a great occasion. And I’ve seen Philadelphia impress me enough over the last couple seasons that I’d like the Union to win it.

Free to Read: My 3 Thoughts on Chelsea-Manchester United

An unexciting game for neutrals heats up in the final minutes. my thoughts on Pulisic.Grant WahlOct 22

Casemiro was a difference-maker in the end for Man United (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Manchester United got a 94th-minute equalizer on a header from Casemiro that barely got over the line and came away with a 1-1 draw in Saturday’s marquee match. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• This was a deserved point for United to cap off a really good week overall. In a game that only got exciting in the final minutes, Casemiro’s equalizer was a just reward for a United team created more non-penalty chances over the course of the match. Chelsea looked like it was heading for three points against the run of play after Armando Broja essentially baited Scott McTominay into wrestling him down in the penalty box on a corner kick. But after Jorginho converted the penalty, United threw everything it had forward in the final minutes and was rewarded by Casemiro’s first goal with the club, which ended Kepa Arrizabalaga and Chelsea’s remarkable 623-minute scoreless streak. This has been a big week for United coach Erik ten Hag, who got four points from games against Spurs and Chelsea (taking United to within one point of the Premier League top four) and established new levels of control with his suspension of Cristiano Ronaldo. United did just fine without Ronaldo this week, which sets a tone that Ten Hag needs in his dressing room. After a miserable start to the season, United has a better tone these days.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

• Christian Pulisic didn’t start, but he did play a role. The American came on in the 74th minute and had some solid moments on the ball, including doing good work to earn the corner kick that Chelsea got its penalty on. If you’re looking at things purely from a USMNT perspective, I would have thought Pulisic would get more starts during Chelsea’s extremely busy seven-game schedule since the international break. Instead, Pulisic had had just one start (a game in which he scored) and his minutes since the break have been (starting most recently): 16, 29, 0, 0, 72, 0, 6. I still think it’s possible to be 1) surprised Pulisic hasn’t played a bit more, and 2) not buying the Twitter conspiracy theory that coach Graham Potter’s choices are somehow anti-American. In fact, there’s a wide gulf between those two things. But Potter doesn’t operate from a purely USMNT perspective, obviously, and the fact is Potter hasn’t lost yet in eight games, five of them wins, as Chelsea has completely turned things around in the Champions League. That said, this Chelsea performance at home wasn’t great (the Blues now have two points from their last two league games), and maybe that will open the door to some extent for Pulisic.

• Injuries in the final days before the World Cup are just gutting to see. United centerback Raphaël Varane looked to be in tears after pulling up and coming off with a non-contact injury in the 60th minute. We’ll have to wait and see if Varane’s situation is serious enough to put his World Cup hopes in danger, but it could be yet another blow for defending champion France—which is already without N’Golo Kanté and likely Paul Pogba in Qatar due to injuries. The unique timing of this World Cup in November and December during the middle of the club season means that injuries that could have been overcome during the two to three weeks between the club season and the World Cup in the past won’t have that opportunity this time when there are just seven days between the end of club games and the start of the World Cup. What’s more, there is an absolute glut of games during this month before the World Cup as the top clubs are playing on weekends in the league and in mid-week Champions League games as that tournament completes its six-matchday group stage in just nine weeks before the World Cup. Sadly, Varane will hardly be the last image we’ll see like that. Which is why I can put in perspective that while it’s a bummer for U.S. fans that Pulisic hasn’t been playing as much as expected, at least he’s not injured ahead of the biggest tournament of his career (knocking on wood heavily).

10/20/22  CHS Girls to Semi States Sat, MLS/NWSL Playoffs Sun Austin vs Dallas 8 pm, UCL Tues/Wed, 1 Month to World Cup  

MLS Playoffs

Wow what a first round of knockout games in playoff action this past weekend – as NYCFC, Cincy, Austin and Dallas all won home games to advance.   For Dallas former Carmel Dads Club and Carmel High School star Matt Hedges scored on his PK to help Dallas advance.  Sunday we get Montreal hosting defending champs NYCFC at 1 pm on ESPN while 2nd year squad Austin FC hosts Dallas and Matt Hedges at 8 pm (see Austin story below).  Playoff Conference Semi’s Preview. El Traffico Playoffo did not disappoint Thurs night – the 3-2 instant classic won in the 94th minute by LAFC in front of the 3252 as a packed house looked on. Here are the Hi-lights. Spectacular Save  by the Galaxy keeper (see GK Saves below). Cincy’s 2nd season ends in Philly 90 second hi-lights,

NWSL Semi’s Are Sunday on CBS Sports Network (not streaming 😊) starting 5 pm with Portland Thorns hosting Alex Morgan and the San Diego Wave followed by Seattle Reign vs KC Current at 7:30 pm.  NWSL Preview  

Indy 11 

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr win the Player of the Month award for his new team San Antonio – they are headed to the playoffs as the #1 Seed In the Western Division next week as they got a first round bye.  The USL Playoffs start Sat/Sun of this week on ESPN+.  Jordan is up for USL GK of the Year.  BYB announces year end awards for Indy 11

Games to Watch

Big games this weekend include Saturday’s Man United traveling to Chelsea and Pulisic on Sat at 12:30 pm on NBC I suspect Pulisic might get the start after his good showing midweek in 30 minutes.  While Christiano Renaldo stormed off (full story below) after being unused Sub in huge Man U win over Tottenham earning him a suspension for this weekend’s game.  Sunday at 9 am if you have CNBC (can’t believe USA network isn’t showing this ALL-AMERICAN Game) you can watch Leeds United States of America managed by American Jesse Marsch and Adams and Aaronson running the midfield hosting Fulham America with what should be the left side of the US defense Jedi Robinson and Tim Ream.  (See Fulhams win highlights) vs Aston Villa leading to Aston Villa’s Steven Gerard being fired.  Champions and Europa League action will return on Tues/Wed/Thurs with Chelsea and Pulisic facing Salzburg Tues at 12:45 pm on Para+, Dortmund and American Gio Reyna will host Man City and their former striking superstar Halland (the leading scorer in the world for Man City) Tuesday at 3 pm on Para+.  Wed we get Barcelona in a must win game vs Bayern Munich at 3 pm while Liverpool will travel to Ajax at the same time on Para+.  Thurs Arsenal will travel to PSV at 12:45 pm, while American #9 Pefuk and German Leaders Union Berlin vs Bragga at the same time all on Para+.   Was listening to Rocky Ray Hudson announcing the Arsenal game today and reminded me of some of his great Messi calls – magisterial.  

High School – Carmel Girls 17-2-2 travel to Semi-State on Sat 1 pm vs Center Grove 17-2-2 @ Seymore

The Carmel High Girls defeated Cathedral 4-2 at home to advance to a Semi-State match-up vs Center Grove in Seymore Sat at 1 pm.  Good luck to our former and current CFC’ers still alive in playoff action! The Carmel High School boys lost a heartbreaker – the year after they reached the finals as they fell in a shootout after a 1-1 tie at home to Cathedral last weekend. 

Carmel High Girls defeat Cathedral 4-2 advance to Semi State vs Center Grove Sat 1 pm @ Seymore

‘She’s just been on fire.’ Megan Hamm leads suddenly-potent Carmel girls soccer to semistate

Brian Haenchen  Indianapolis Star

CARMEL — The Carmel Greyhounds have discovered their scoring touch and in junior striker Megan Hamm, they seemingly have a go-to attacker for their well-balanced (and suddenly, very potent) offense. Hamm scored twice and added one (potentially two) assists Saturday afternoon, leading Carmel to a 4-2 victory over Cathedral in the Class 3A regional championship game. The Greyhounds scored 30 goals in 16 regular-season games, and were limited to a goal or less in five of their final seven regular-season games. They have 19 since the start of sectionals and have tallied multiple goals in all five games, including three against Zionsville (a season-worst for the Eagles) and four against a Cathedral outfit that had allowed just 14 goals all year.  IHSAA girls soccer regionals: Scores, schedule, updated pairings

“We watched a lot of tape and we saw the mistakes we were making,” Carmel coach Frank Dixon said. “We were creating stuff and then we wouldn’t make the extra pass or settle for a bad shot. Even at the end there, Megan could have taken the shot there and instead she laid the ball across to the other player to take the shot. It’s just that one more pass so you can get that free player to take the shot.” We’re finding players to-feet more and playing together as a team more,” Hamm added. “Today we focused on breaking (the Fighting Irish) down, like splitting them, and going through gaps and just playing the ball to get them unorganized.” Hamm was the catalyst vs. Cathedral. She opened the scoring midway through the first half, deftly dribbling around her defender near midfield and into the box, where she held off another incoming player before blasting a shot past a diving Kate Phillips from a few yards out. Hamm helped double the lead with seven minutes remaining with a corner kick into the box that was eventually headed in by Adalyn Cameron, then made it 3-0 in the final minute, dribbling the length of Cathedral’s side, before sliding a pass to Greta Heyl for the finish. “She’s just a very dynamic player on the ball and technically she’s very good,” Cathedral coach Marc Behringer said of Hamm. “She has what I consider a rare characteristic of really looking to take people on with the ball and she showed in this match that she’s confident and able to take people on and beat people. And that’s going to create a lot of problems for anybody they face.” No. 20 in blue added another goal in the second half to negate Cathedral’s first score, giving her two on the day, four for the tournament and 12 on the year. Hamm has looked unstoppable and her well-time emergence has coincided with the entire Carmel attack catching fire. Yeah, last year’s Class 3A runner-up has something cooking. “She’s just been on fire and she’s just made up her mind that she’s not going to lose,” Dixon said. “Obviously everyone’s playing well right now, but she’s carried us a lot of times. We struggled all through the year scoring goals but eventually it’s worked itself out — and she’s taken charge of that, too.” Follow Indy Star Brian Haenchen on Twitter 

GSOC: Carmel (17-2-2) vs. Center Grove (17-2-2), 1 p.m. at Seymour

This one should be a doozy.  Center Grove had not allowed a goal in seven straight matches prior to last weekend’s 4-1 win over Evansville Reitz, while Carmel is averaging nearly four goals over its past five games after struggling offensively through most of the year. The Greyhounds’ attack has been led by Megan Hamm and a fully healthy Olivia Cebalo; the Trojans have been bolstered by the return of senior Kayli Farmer, and bring a similarly potent attack led by Emily Karr, Ali Wiesmann, Taylor Wert and Molly Tapak. Carmel beat CG, 2-0, on Sept. 21 — and I guess that gives them a slight edge entering the rematch? — but after watching both teams in regionals last week (Center Grove vs. Roncalli; Carmel vs. Cathedral), this game feels way too close to call. The Noblesville girls, ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps, have not allowed a goal since the opening round of sectionals. They play Crown Point at 6 p.m. at Kokomo.

Carmel FC Home Grown Sophomore Olivia Cebalo will hope to help lead The Carmel High School Girls to the State Finals Sat.

CARMEL FC PLAYERS : Winter Players League (WPL) – Badger Indoor Fieldhouse
As the fall season comes to a close over the next month, we wanted to let you know that we will be launching an indoor soccer league over two six week sessions within our new Badger Fieldhouse. Games will be played on either Friday night ( 6pm to 10pm) or Sunday afternoon (1pm-5pm) depending on age groups: U8s, U9&U10, U11&U12, U13-U15 and U16+ (Coed Teams allowed). Referees for each game, 50 minute games, 5v5, 7v7 and 9v9 matches.
Session One (6 weeks): Jan 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th / Feb: 3rd, 10th
Session Two (6 weeks): Feb 17th, 24th / Mar 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th
Registration Information coming shortly, gather teammates and be ready to play!


Thur, Oct 20

1 pm Para +                 Arsenal vs PSV  Europa

2:30 pm USA               Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs  Aston Villa

3 pm ESPNd +            Barcelona vs Villareal

3:15 pm Peacock         Leicester City vs Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams)

8 pm FS1                     Philly vs Cincy MLS Playoffs

10 pm FS1                   LAFC vs LA Galaxy 

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am USA               Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool 

9:30 am ESPN+          Dortmund (Reyna) vs Stuttgart

10 am USA                  Everton vs Crystal Palace 

12:30 NBC                  Chelsea (pulisic)  vs  Man United

3 pm ESPN+                Real Madrid vs Sevilla

7 pm Univision Club American vs Toluca Liga MX Playoffs

Sun, Oct 22

9 am USA                    Leicster City vs Wolverhampton

9 am Peacock              Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams) vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)

9:30 am ESPN+                       Bochum vs Union Berlin (Pefuk)

11:30 am NBC                        Tottenham vs New Castle United 

2:45 pm CBS Sportsnet  Roma vs Napoli

1 pm ESPN                  CF Montreal vs NYCFC PLAYOFFS

5pm ET: CBSSN Portland Thorns (Sophia Smith) vs. San Diego Wave (Alex Morgan)

7:30pm ET CBSSN Seattle Reign (Rapinoe, Huerta) vs. Kansas City Current (CBS Sports Network)

8 pm ESPN                  Austin vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) PLAYOFFS

9 pm FS1 Monterrey vs Pachuca Liga MX Playoffs

Mon, Oct 23

3 pm USA                    West Ham vs Bournmouth

Tues, Oct 24               CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

12:45 pm Para+                      Salzburg vs Chelsea (Pulisic) 

3 pm Para+                  Benefica vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm Para+                  Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig 

3 pm Para+                  Dortmund (Reyna)  vs Man City

Wed, Oct 25

12:45 Para+                 Club Brugge vs Porto

3 pm Para+                 Barca vs  Bayern  Munich

3 pm Para+                  Tottenham vs Sporting

3 pm Para+                  Ajax vs Liverpool

3 pm Para+                  Napoli vs Rangers () 

Thur, Oct 26                        EUROPA

12:45 pm Para+                       PSV vs Arsenal

12:45 pm Para+                       Union Berlin (Pefuk) vs Bragga

3 pm Para+                  Man United vs Sheriff

3 pm Para+                  West Ham vs Silkeborg

Sat, Oct 29

8 pm CBS                             NWSL Championship Game

Sun, Nov 10

7 pm FS1                              USWNT vs Germany

Thur, Nov 13

5 pm ESPN                          USWNT vs Germany

Sun, Nov 20

11 am Fox                            World Cup Starts

Mon, Nov 21

8 am FS1                              England vs Iran

2 pm Fox                              USA vs Wales 

Mon, Nov 22

11 am Fox                            Mexico vs Poland 

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

===================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 


Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church & Badger Field on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

MLS & USL Playoffs


MLS Cup Playoffs 2022: Live stream, game times and dates, odds, how 

LAFC’s transformation into MLS Cup title contenders comes with a $10-million price tag

“The dream is over” says Higuain after final match

NYCFC knock out Miami, Dallas edge Minnesota

Tonight’s El Tráfico feels like the biggest MLS rivalry game ever


Arsenal dominate Europa League, but American Matt Turner has little to do in final pre-World Cup reps
USMNT’s Ferreira wins MLS best young player
Christian Pulisic ‘to earn my position’ under Graham Potter at Chelsea

Tottenham report: Juventus will listen to Spurs offer for Weston McKennie


Ronaldo ruining his Man United legacy with walk-off from bench before match was over  EPSN FC ark Ogden
Gerrard out as Villa boss after 3-0 loss to Fulham
Christian Pulisic ‘to earn my position’ under Graham Potter at Chelsea

Tottenham report: Juventus will listen to Spurs offer for Weston McKennie

Manchester United report: Erik ten Hag says David De Gea’s future is undecided

PL RAW: Salah lifts Liverpool to massive victory

Aston Villa report: Mauricio Pochettino tops list of potential Steven Gerrard replacements

Jurgen Klopp explains what made him ‘snap’ for red card: ‘I lost it, I’m not proud’

Liverpool-Man City has become England’s ugliest rivalry
Man City stumble gives Spurs, Chelsea hope of Premier League title fight

Aston Villa fires Steven Gerrard


Benzema wins Ballon d’Or as Putellas retains women’s prize
Every Ballon d’Or winner: A complete list of every men’s player to have won the award

Ballon d’Or 2022 rankings: The full men’s and women’s lists revealed

Barcelona’s Gavi wins Kopa Trophy for best youngster at Ballon d’Or gala

Ballon d’Or winner Benzema is ‘more of a leader’, says Ancelotti

El Clasico: Real Madrid bosses Barca, propelled by an age-old rivalry’s new stars
Manchester United report: Diego Simeone says Cristiano Ronaldo has never been close to Atletico Madrid – and never will be

Ballon d’Or-elect Karim Benzema leads Real Madrid to El Clásico win over Barcelona

World Cup

World Cup 2022 rankings: Who are the favorites?

World Cup 2022 Group D: France, Denmark, Australia, Tunisia schedule, fixtures, rankings

World Cup 2022 Group B: England, USA, Iran, Wales schedule, 

Portugal forward Jota ruled out of World Cup with calf injury

Kante to miss France’s World Cup defence after hamstring surgery

Qatar’s glitzy World Cup is ready and expensive

Qatar’s eight World Cup stadiums

Euro kings Italy nursing World Cup wound as another rebuild begins

Mexico’s World Cup fans told to leave tequila at home


Women’s World Cup Draw next Summer on Saturday

Fallout from Yates report as NWSL playoffs begin: How are the players feeling?

2022 NWSL Playoffs: Schedule, how to watch, results

Here’s why England and Spain made the USWNT look so bad, and how the USWNT can respond

San Diego Wave clinch first-ever club win in playoffs on Sunday
Hope Solo Fights USWNT Settlement Over Lawyers’ Fees, Payout Details



LA Galaxy Goalkeeper with a fantastic save in El Traffico

Andre Blake Great MLS Saves for Philly Union

Best Saves of the Year MLS

Best Saves Oct Week 2

Gigi Donnarumma’s Miracle Triple Save

NWSL Saves of the Year

MLS Cup playoffs conference semifinals preview: Who’s primed for an upset, and who will be kings of LA?

Oct 19, 2022 ESPN

The opening round of the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs lacked some of the drama we’ve come to expect from the postseason; after all, there was only one upset. Nevertheless, we were still treated to two penalty shootouts, some raucous crowds in Austin and Montreal and a table set for an appetizing final four.

So, with the conference semifinals kicking off on Thursday, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Dan Hajducky and Austin Lindberg preview the matchups, predicting which clubs will be moving on to the final four and which players will join the league’s other 20 clubs already watching the playoff drama unfold from the comfort of their living rooms.

Jump to: Philadelphia-Cincinnati | Montreal-NYCFC | LAFC-Galaxy | Austin-Dallas

Eastern Conference

1. Philadelphia Union vs. 5. FC Cincinnati (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET)

FC Cincinnati weren’t just bad during their first three years of existence in Major League Soccer. They almost redefined how spectacular a team can get everything wrong, from an on-field perspective, as it entered the league. It came at a time when first-year success had become common and several, replicable blueprints for success had been established around the league. So when things spiraled out of control, the club took a step back, looked around and finally decided to ask itself: What has worked?And there it was, one state over: the Philadelphia Union. Cincinnati appointed longtime Union executive Chris Albright as their general manager, he hired Union assistant coach Pat Noonan as head coach and … voila, here are Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference semifinals (after beating the New York Red Bulls in the first round), ready to play spoiler to the Union after their historically dominant 2022 season.That’s an oversimplification, of course, but the speed in which Cincinnati turned things around speaks to the importance of a front office and coaching staff that has experience in the league. Only the wins tiebreaker prevented Philadelphia from winning the Supporters’ Shield during a season in which they were the best team by almost every way to measure it. With the league’s best defense, the Union should be considered heavy favorites Thursday night at home, where they didn’t lose during the regular season. However, there is something to be said about familiarity as an equalizer, so it will be interesting to see what tactical wrinkles Noonan rolls out. — Bonagura


FCC have done well to change the trajectory of the organization, but the Union seem to be a bridge too far, and should prevail over their former apprentices in Cincinnati GM Chris Albright and manager Pat Noonan. — Carlisle

The Union were the best team in the league during the regular season (certainly during the second half), have a historically dominant defense and were undefeated at home. There is no logic in picking against them. — Bonagura

Sure, I’ve said I was a sucker for an underdog, but that Pollyanna notion has an expiration date when Philadelphia is on the opposing half. The Union allowed only 26 goals all season. Twenty-six! Their plus-46 goal differential was the second-best tally in a decade. Andre Blake, who’ll win his record third MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award, is an MVP finalist. The Union and Blake’s storybook season doesn’t end with the Orange and Blue. — Hajducky

The most prolific attack in MLS, the stingiest defense in the league, an MLS-best goal differential nearly twice as good as their nearest rivals, Philadelphia just have too many ways in which they can beat opponents. — Lindberg

2. CF Montreal vs. 3. New York City FC (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN)

NYCFC are the defending champions, they’ve won five in a row, and they looked back to their best in their Round One win over Inter Miami CF at Citi Field on Monday night. And yet, they still look like a long shot to beat Montreal at Stade Saputo on Sunday.

CFM have lost just once in their past 16 games, dating to the middle of July. In that stretch, they’ve earned 36 points (plus a playoff win) from 45 available. For context, Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC and level-on-points Philadelphia took 27 and 34 points, respectively, over the same stretch.

In the two meetings between the Bronx Blues and Montreal this season, it’s the former who took four points but the latter who outplayed their opponents in each game. The Quebecois won the xG battle, 3.2 to 1.99 — despite the aggregate scoreline reading 4-1 in favor of NYCFC — they outshot their rivals 26-15 and outchanced them 16-13.

This is a Montreal team that, if not for the glitz and glamor of LAFC or the model-franchise designation of Philadelphia, would be the talk of MLS in these playoffs. — Lindberg


The Blues seemed to regain some of their championship swagger in eliminating Inter Miami, but Montreal’s consistency means they rarely get flustered, and with Ismael KoneDjordje Mihailovic and the ageless Kei Kamara clicking, CFM should get the win. — Carlisle

Neither team has lost in more than a month and both looked the part in decisive first-round wins, but Montreal get the edge playing at home. — Bonagura


It’s a testament to how good NYCFC are, top to bottom, that they lost 2021 Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos to Girona and still made the conference semis. But New York stumbled to the playoffs, winning only four MLS matches from Aug. 6 to season’s end. The offensive trio of Montreal’s Romell Quioto, Kamara and Mihailovic — each with at least nine goals and six assists — will be too much for the Bronx Blues. — Hajducky

Since the middle of July, Montreal have lost just once, demonstrating consistently impressive play, contrasted against NYCFC’s stretch of one win in ten that preceded their current five-game winning streak. CFM may lack the pedigree and glamor signings, but it’s been one of the best teams — in the truest sense of the word — in MLS all season. — Lindberg

Western Conference

1. LAFC vs. 4. LA Galaxy (Thursday, 10 p.m. ET)

Plenty has changed since LAFC defeated the LA Galaxy 3-2 on July 8. The Galaxy’s midfield has been completely revamped with the additions of Ricard Puig and Gaston Brugman, and Martin Caceres has been brought in to stabilize the back. LAFC haven’t been idle either, bringing in six new players, including Gareth BaleGiorgio Chiellini and Denis Bouanga.

The new arrivals didn’t quite have the desired effect for LAFC, who endured a 1-4-1 stretch before righting themselves late in the campaign. But while the Black and Gold are largely playing the same, the Galaxy look a different outfit, with the additions of Puig and Brugman having a ripple effect on the rest of the lineup. Douglas Costa can stick to the wing instead of shouldering the creative burden that now belongs to Puig. As a result, the Galaxy’s possession and passing have improved, as has their finishing.

So what does this all mean for Thursday’s Western Conference semifinal? It means a battle royale in the center of the park, with LAFC’s Ilie Sanchez, along with Jose Cifuentes and Kellyn Acosta, tasked with stopping Puig, Brugman and Marky Delgado. Whichever team prevails in that area will then be able to feed their potent frontline, that being Bouanga, Carlos Vela and Cristian Arango for LAFC with Costa, Samuel Grandsir and Javier Hernandez for the Galaxy. — Carlisle


The Galaxy seem to be jelling at the right time, especially with Puig and Brugman operating in midfield. That makes for another Supporters’ Shield winner to fall short of an MLS Cup double. — Carlisle

Who will come out on top in El Trafico?

Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez predict the winner of LAFC vs. LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Black and Gold fixed something that wasn’t broken by adding Bale, Chiellini and DPs Bouanga and Cristian Tello during the regular season. The moves all made sense on paper, but it hasn’t worked out according to plan. Meanwhile, the Galaxy turned things around in the second half and appear to be peaking at the right time. LAFC are on notice, but talent should still win the day. — Bonagura

Another conference semifinals El Trafico, the first since 2019. Does the Supporters’ Shield curse — only seven winners have also won an MLS Cup — rear its ugly head? Or do LAFC finally hoist the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy? It’s LAFC’s — and Carlos Vela’s — year. — Hajducky

In the 11 games since Puig’s arrival, the Galaxy have been playing at a 1.81 points-per-game pace, a level of play that extrapolated across a full season would’ve made them a No. 2 seed in the West. Meanwhile, LAFC have lost five of their past nine. — Lindberg

2. Austin FC vs. 3. FC Dallas (Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN)

Only two teams in MLS scored more goals than Austin in 2022. Only one conceded fewer than Dallas. This is a classic power-vs.-power matchup, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Nico Estevez organizes his FCD side to try to contain the Texas capital club.

In the Round One shootout win over RSL, Austin got little in the way of chance creation from attackers Maximiliano UrrutiEthan FinlayDiego FagundezMoussa Djitte and Emiliano Rigoni, which suggests that Dallas could match up favorably. However, that would ignore MVP candidate Sebastian Driussi, who scored both the Verde‘s goals in that win, on top of the 22 he netted in the regular season, and has a knack for running into pockets of space and conjuring opportunities from deeper starting positions.
• Montreal vs. NYCFC (1 p.m. ET)
• Austin vs. Dallas (8 p.m. ET)

No one in MLS has figured out Driussi. Whoever lines up at the base of midfield for Dallas, be it Facundo Quignon or Edwin Cerrillo, they’re going to have their hands full shadowing the 26-year-old River Plate academy graduate.To sweeten an already appetizing pot is the atmosphere in Q2 Stadium. It was loud and rowdy in the city’s first-ever professional playoff game, now add the tension that will arise from Dallas supporters driving 200 miles to the south for a postseason Texan derby. And with Formula One in town for the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday (1:30 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC), fan excitement won’t be higher anywhere in the world than it will be in Austin. — Lindberg


There isn’t much separating the two teams in this all-Texas matchup, but in Driussi, the Verde have just a smidgen more quality, and that should prove to be enough to get Austin the victory. — Carlisle

This should be an incredible atmosphere at Q2. In fact, maybe one of the best MLS has ever had in the state for this Texas derby. Austin is the pick based on their explosive offense, despite FC Dallas owning the best defensive goal-scoring record in Western Conference this season. — Bonagura

Last time, I said the MLS Cup playoffs might be a fitting farewell to Jesus Ferreira before he gets poached by a European club. Well, Ferreira won the Young Player of the Year award on Tuesday, and everything seems to be bouncing right just weeks from Qatar. Austin beat LAFC 4-1 in late August and then won only once the rest of the season, allowing twice as many as they scored in that span. The ingredients are there for something spectacular for Dallas. — Hajducky

As hypnotic as Driussi’s play is, Dallas’ organization and their deep and variable attack will present Austin with problems that Josh Wolff will struggle to solve. — Lindberg

Valencia’s Yunus Musah is thriving under Gennaro Gattuso. That’s great for the USMNT’s World Cup hopes.

9:39 AM ET

  • Sam Marsden Barcelona correspondent

As a player, Valencia coach Gennaro Gattuso, a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, was tenacious and fiery. He was once sent off for slapping Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the face with the back of his hand. Then there was the time he squared up to Tottenham Hotspur coach Joe Jordan, pushing him in the throat and later admitting he “lost control” after being provoked.Gattuso was also a talented player. He added bite to an exquisite AC Milan midfield that boasted Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka, three of the best of their generation. As a coach, Gattuso has had spells with Milan and Napoli and is now in charge of developing an exciting crop of players at Valencia, including the young United States midfielder Yunus Musah, who insists Gattuso is calmer than he was as a player.”He’s not like on the field when you saw him,” Musah told ESPN’s Alexis Nunes in an exclusive interview. “When he played [the idea was] he was always angry and stuff, you know. With us, he gets angry as well, but you see that he’s just trying to help you, encourage you, so you take it in a good way. He is great to work with. He’s a good person, a friend.”

If Gattuso has been good for Valencia since taking over in the summer — they have 15 points from 10 games — he has been especially good for Musah.


Born in New York to Ghanaian parents, Musah was raised in Castelfranco Veneto near Venice, Italy, before moving to London, where he spend seven years at Arsenal‘s academy. He joined Valencia in 2019 at age 16, and after a season with the B-team is now in his third season in the first team.

It is only this season, however, that he has become a regular. He was in and out of the starting lineup in his first two seasons, often playing out of position on the wing. Under Gattuso, who knows a thing or two about playing as a central midfielder, Musah is back in the middle — and it helps that the two have a language in common.

“When he was first appointed, he actually called me a few times to tell me how he works,” says Musah, who speaks Italian, English and Spanish. “We spoke in Italian. Obviously, that connection helps sometimes because we communicate easier and things like that.

– Stream LIVE: Valencia vs. Mallorca, Sat. 10/22, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+ (U.S.)

“When he came in, I did think this is an ex-midfielder coming in to help us, so it has been a natural transition [back to central midfield] because I spent my whole youth playing in the middle. Obviously, whenever I go to the [U.S.] national team I play in the middle as well, so it’s been a good transition and it helps the style of play in the team as well.”

The focal point of the Valencia side is veteran Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani — “Just get the ball to him in the box, man, and he’ll do the magic,” Musah says — but in general, this is a young Valencia side looking to get the stories club back into European competitions for the first time in three seasons.

Musah, who will turn 20 during the World Cup in Qatar, is competing for a spot in Valencia’s midfield with Nico Gonzalez (20), Ilaix Moriba (19), Hugo Guillamon (22) and Andre Almeida (22). The team’s young core also includes Samuel Lino (22) and Justin Kluivert (23), among the options to flank Cavani.

“We’re a young group that just wants to do well,” Musah says. “That’s why we try to play every match without thinking about expectations. We know the stakes, but we have the same mindset all the time and we’re always driven to keep going.”As a team, we’re really confident right now. We’re in a good mood. We’re enjoying the way we’re playing, we have a lot of the ball with the way the coach wants us to play and we enjoy that. It’s still early days, but even the matches we’ve lost, we’ve still been in the game. And the fans are loving it as well. I’m feeling positive.”

USMNT vs. England at World Cup will ‘be special for me’

It is not just Valencia that Musah’s feeling positive about. He also has high hopes for the U.S. men’s national team in Qatar. Since making his USMNT debut in November 2020 and then officially switching in March 2021 after representing England at the youth level, Musah has become an increasingly important part of Gregg Berhalter’s side. He helped the U.S. win the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League title over Mexico in June 2021, and then played a key role during the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Under Berhalter’s watch, there has been an emergence of a so-called golden generation. Along with Musah, the U.S. count on several Europe-based youngsters such as Chelsea‘s Christian PulisicJuventus‘ Weston McKennieLille‘s Timothy Weah, AC Milan’s Sergino DestBorussia Dortmund‘s Giovanni Reyna, and Leeds United duo Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson.

“It basically is a brotherhood. When I had my first camp [in November 2020], things just clicked,” Musah said. “It’s just a thing that — I don’t know — something about the group that is right. Whenever we are on the pitch, we click. When we are off the pitch, we’re great friends, and as Weston said, we’re a brotherhood.”Musah adds that the team can live up to lofty expectations set upon a side that’s returning to the World Cup after missing the 2018 edition in Russia.”I feel like being [called the golden generation] is a compliment because [the USMNT has] a lot of players in the top teams in [Major League Soccer]. … There are a lot of players in Europe right now, and young players that are playing week in, week out at the top level, playing Champions League, playing in the top five leagues.”In Qatar, the USMNT’s group-stage opponents will be Iran, England, and Wales. But it is that match against the Three Lions that Musah is most looking forward to.”This game is going to be really special for me,” he says with his London accent. “I played for England and I lived there. So that match is special because I have to win that match, you know.”Musah believes work still needs to be done in the final third for the team to come together — “When we get there, sometimes we get stuck,” he says — but he is already looking forward to facing some familiar faces.”I know some people from the team, [Bukayo] Saka and [Jude] Bellingham, so I am going to have to go toe-to-toe with them in that match and smash them, really, because it’s pride, you know! I told some of my friends back home as well that if we win that match, they have to celebrate, in the English pubs and everything they have to celebrate, that would be nice.”

On USMNT perception: ‘We deserve more respect’

A minor injury kept Musah out of friendlies in Spain last month — a defeat to Japan and the draw with Saudi Arabia — but there is a case that Musah will be the U.S. player in the best form heading into the World Cup. As his fortunes at Valencia under Gattuso have improved, the same can’t be said about some of his U.S. teammates: Pulisic has had limited game time at Chelsea, Dest has failed to make his mark at Milan after being pushed out by Barcelona, and Reyna is still making his way back from injury problems at Dortmund.

Why is USMNT’s Musah not on ESPN FC’s top youngsters list?

Gab Marcotti doesn’t understand why USMNT and Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah is not on ESPN FC’s list of the top players under the age of 21.Despite those concerns, Musah believes the USMNT — who have not reached the quarterfinals since 2002 — can make a run in Qatar.”Just getting out of the group isn’t good enough,” he says. “I feel like we’ll be quite disappointed if we don’t get out the group, but if we just get out of the group and then get knocked out, I feel like it would be disappointing.”We’re a team that can go to the latter stages. We have to be on our game all the time. You can’t slack, basically, and that’s hard to do, but we’re capable of doing it. I really believe we can. We have to get to the latter stages of the competition to feel like we’ve achieved something. If we go out earlier, it will feel disappointing for sure.”

– World Cup stock watch: Tim Weah rising for USMNT?

With lofty ambitions in the camp perhaps not reflected across the world, is it fair to say the USMNT still aren’t given due respect?”I would say they’re respecting [us] a bit more, but still not where I think it should be,” he adds. “I feel like we deserve more respect, but we have to go out there and earn it this time because this is the stage to show it and to change the way the world views it.”And having that in your team in the U.S. is huge. Gregg has put together that young group and to be able to perform the way we do in the World Cup qualifiers, in a Gold Cup, CONCACAF Nations League, we’ve been doing some big things, and the group is so mature and they’re willing to go that step ahead all the time. The ambitions and the drive that we have is so high. And should the USMNT advance far into the tournament, there is a remote chance of them facing Ghana, the country where Musah’s parents were born.”My mum could do something like that, but my dad would just be like, ‘Nah, don’t do that, come on,'” he smiles when asked if his family would split their allegiances in that scenario. “They will probably have U.S. shirts on or something.”

The Interview: Javier “Chicharito” Hernández

The Mexican superstar on Thursday’s LAFC-LA Galaxy MLS elimination game, his relationship with Carlos Vela, his favorite teammates in his career, whether he’ll retire from the national team & more.

   Grant Wahl Oct 19

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and I go back a long ways. We did a series of long interviews in 2016 and 2017 that formed the chapter for my last book. He has gone into minute detail explaining to me how he plays the game. And on Tuesday we had another long one-on-one interview, which is below. Paid subscribers to GrantWahl.com can read all of it today, and the audio version will be on the Fútbol with Grant Wahl Podcast on Thursday.

The entirety of the written interview below is reserved for paid subscribers. As always, you can still get the entire free audio version of my podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you like to go for your pods.

Grant Wahl:

The LA Galaxy meets crosstown rival LAFC in an MLS quarterfinal on Thursday night at 10:25 PM Eastern on FS1 and Fox Deportes. Our guest now is Javier Chicharito Hernández of the LA Galaxy. Javier, it’s great to speak to you again. Thanks for coming on the show.

Javier Hernández:

Thank you, Grant.

Grant Wahl:

So I am legit excited about this game on Thursday. I was at the U.S. Open Cup game earlier this year between your two teams, LA Galaxy and LAFC. It got really nasty during the game and after the final whistle when your team won. How much do your two teams dislike each other?

“I haven’t retired from the national team. I will see in the future.”

Javier Hernández

I mean, it’s a way of putting the question, but I don’t care how much we dislike or not. We just want to win. They are in our way to the sixth [title]. So it doesn’t matter who’s going to be in front of us, we want to go in and try to win. Fortunately we’re going to play in LA. It’s not in our home. It’s not in our stadium. But we’re going to play in our city. So we’re glad about that. But yeah, the rivalry, you know how intense it is, so we’re very happy that everyone, same as us, we’re going to live that experience.

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.

Upgrade to Paid

Grant Wahl:

So there is a famous photograph of you and LAFC’s Carlos Vela together at the Chivas academy in 2003. You are 15 years old in the photograph. He is 14. What do you remember first thinking about Carlos Vela in those days when you were 15 years old?

Javier Hernández:

Yeah, he was going to be one of the greatest for sure. The way that he was playing, he was playing with all these players like myself and against other teams. And his talent and everything was just amazing. And even difficult to describe that he was with so much composure, so much talent. The IQ about the game that he had since then, it’s been amazing. That’s why the career that he had already and why he’s, from my point of view, one of the greatest Mexican players ever.

Grant Wahl:

Now that you and Carlos Vela have played in World Cups together, now that you are the two biggest soccer stars in Los Angeles, how would you describe your relationship these days?

Javier Hernández:

Great. Same. Good. I think it’s been a little bit complicated because of Covid. Because when I arrived over here, all the Covid situation, then he has his kids, or his son and his daughter. Then yeah, we haven’t spent that much time that we would love to, but we’ve been in contact so much time. And then in the last three games that we played against each other, after the game, we catch up over here like 10, 20 minutes just chatting after the games. 

And that relationship is going to last forever, because we admire each other. We love each other. And we know how much we both experience in our own careers and as well together. But you said it, in the World Cups and then in the national team and then as well here. Even though we are rivals, the admiration, the respect is going to be there always.

Grant Wahl:

I always like asking this question: In your opinion, what is the identity of this LA Galaxy team?

Javier Hernández:

I think the identity of this team is resilience, for sure. I want to use that word because it’s one of our most important values inside our team. Because last season we couldn’t draw so many games because, as you see as an example only, because we didn’t have that resilience. That maturity of when someone’s comes first, it’s still as much time as is left in the club to try to maintain our style of play, maintain our mindset, maintain our focus, to try to come back from those games. You can see in the last run of the 11 or 12 games that we had in this season with a lot of draws, with a lot of victories, and just one very difficult and painful loss in Vancouver.

So yeah, that’s what I think the identities are there. And I think as well, a lot of teams see us like that, because they all know that we have a lot of talent. They all know that we can have a good day. But yeah, last season, in the beginning of this season, they knew that if they didn’t score first, probably they will win the games. But now it’s completely the opposite. Now we can come back, as you can see in Houston and the last games that I mentioned before. So yeah, I think that the identity is about resilience, about that character and consistency we want to show.

Grant Wahl:

It really seems like Riqui Puig in particular has made a big impact on this Galaxy team since arriving this summer. What have you learned about Riqui so far?

Javier Hernández:

Sure, and Gastón [Brugman] and Martín [Cáceres], I think that center line that we said in Mexico, that we spoke before the World Cup. How do you say it in English?

Grant Wahl:

The spine.

Javier Hernández:

Yeah, the spine, exactly, of soccer. With the goalkeeper, central defender, central midfielder or number 10, or just a striker or strikers. So those are very important ones. And I think these guys came to glue us inside and outside the field as well because the character that they brought with them. It’s amazing. We have so much fun. Even though they don’t speak so much English yet. But with the Spanish speakers over here, we joke a lot. 

We take accountability in a better way. Their European experience as well. And international as well is very big. So yeah, same as Riqui, Martín, and Gastón, and as well, someone that I mentioned as well before the other game in Nashville that I wanted to mention is Douglas Costa. The way that he’s been improving, the way that he’s committing to the cause because people think that it’s very easy to come here and just start scoring and making it is very easy. And we all realize that it’s not that easy as a lot of people want to portray it. So yeah, I think Douglas Costa has been improving a lot and he’s giving us a lot of his talent and working.

Grant Wahl:

Now, as someone who played for Manchester United and Real Madrid, the world’s two biggest clubs, during the satellite television era, you are, I would argue, the most recognizable Mexican person in the history of the world to more human beings. What is it like for you?

Javier Hernández:

I don’t know about that, but thank you.

Grant Wahl:

Think about it. Who else would be? I mean, these are the two biggest clubs in the world. What is that like for you to live that? Being the most recognizable Mexican person basically in the history of the world?

Javier Hernández:

With a lot of calm, with a lot of humbleness. Not fake humbleness. What I mean with humbleness is like I don’t feel that I have more value or less value than any other human being. I don’t care. Fame, I realize, thankfully with my grandfather and with my dad, that fame is a tool. Fame is something that you can utilize with good causes. Create good impact. It’s only about that because then in the end, you need to be yourself. You need to be authentic. You need to live your life in the way that you want to live it, regardless if people like what you do, what you decide or not. So yeah, speaking about my profession and my job, I think I had a lot of very solid foundations from my family that they teach me all the things that a lot of soccer players don’t learn. That is more in the outside of the game.

A part of my grandfather and my father that they were very focused on the inside of the field, but as well outside of the field. Those two and then the feminine side of my family, they were crucial. They were crucial to just make me feel that it doesn’t matter how many goals I scored, it doesn’t matter how many people know me, like you mentioned, I’m still Javier Hernández, Chicharito, whatever you want to call me. And this realization that I got after I played with those teams and stuff, it’s like, yeah, what’s next? It’s just what’s next. Because after those teams, even when you retire, what’s next, you know? You are a soccer player for just a period of time. So yeah, we need to be very focused, and don’t forget that we’re human beings. That we play soccer. Not the other way around.

Grant Wahl:

So how is the human being Javier enjoying Los Angeles? You’ve been there for almost three years. Are there some things that you do in Los Angeles that you maybe didn’t do when you lived in Europe?

Javier Hernández:

No, it’s not about doing things. It’s the consciousness that I realize this city brought me my daughter as well. She was born over here two years ago. I had the opportunity to be in the biggest organization in the MLS, in the way the MLS trust in me as well as does this organization. The way that they want to make this league more exposed internationally. And they want to grow a lot. So man, I’ve been just enjoying a lot of my life. It’s not about how much I do, how much I don’t do, because honestly the price is to try to be one of the best players over here. 

It’s my dedication and the professionalism. It is the time that I spend apart after trainings over here in the way that I have to take care of my body, in the way that I train double sessions in the afternoons, in the way that I try to organize my life so the main focus is just soccer. My mental training, my emotional training as well. So yeah, I mean this city brought me a lot of consciousness about myself, what I want to do with my life. And that’s the same that I’ve been doing just with all the maturity and with all the decisions and with more self-esteem, I can say that, yeah, I want to enjoy. I want to give all every single day. I want to push myself beyond those limits that my mind sometimes tells me, to just keep growing and to try to be the best version of myself every single day.

Grant Wahl:

You’ve had a great season, 18 goals in MLS this season. You’re Mexico’s all-time leading goal score. Mexico needs goals. Tata Martino says he will not bring you to the World Cup next month. What is the feeling that you have because of this?

Javier Hernández:

I mean, the feeling is like I wish them the best. I hope we as a country can break that taboo kind of thing about the fifth game. So they can just go through that and then they can qualify, they can go as far as they can. And yes, as a soccer player, obviously you always want to play World Cup, you always want to be involved with the national team, but as well you need to respect it when you are not taken in consideration. So we need to move on. I need to be focused on myself, and I need to keep playing in the best way possible if I want to be calling up in the future.

Grant Wahl:

I guess that was one question I have. You have not retired from the Mexican national team. And I figured that’s for a reason. So where do you stand on that?

Javier Hernández:

Same, that I haven’t retired from the national team. I will see in the future. Yeah.

Grant Wahl:

Okay. Moving on here. In terms of if this game against LAFC, which is going to be watched by many people, if this game goes to penalty kicks, would you consider taking a Panenka?

Javier Hernández:

Taking a Panenka?

Grant Wahl:


Javier Hernández:

We’ll see as well. We’ll see. [laughs]

Grant Wahl:

I guess my question for you is you’ve had so much success in your career, but in soccer itself, the sport itself is about so many little failures by everybody, right?

Javier Hernández:

Life is about that. Life is about what do you do with your mistakes? And you can see the Mamba mentality. You can speak with LeBron James. You can speak with Derek Jeter that I’m watching his documentary now, with Tom Brady. With a lot of people that are just the greatest of the greatest in their sports. It’s what do you do with the mistakes. That’s the thing. It’s not about what you do with the success, because success is not infinite, as well as the mistakes. You’re going to keep making mistakes. The problem is how you learn from them. 

And another thing that I learned a lot since I was a kid that my family, I think it’s a very good way as well to see about mistakes and stuff is: Try to make different mistakes. What does that mean in the context? If I don’t repeat the same mistakes. Because if not, you are not growing. At least in that mistake, try to learn as possible. Don’t make that mistake and learn different mistakes. Do different mistakes. So I think mistakes aren’t failures, that’s a word that people are very scared to say it. And for me it’s very dramatic because there’s no failures. For me it’s just mistakes, mistakes, and mistakes. And as well, you can see, I’m going to use one of the greatest of all time in my sport, a lesson that sometimes soccer or football is like that. Remember the 2008 Champions League final, it was Chelsea against Manchester United. Who scored the first goal? Cristiano Ronaldo? Who was the MVP? Who was the golden ball, and I think golden boot as well of that year? Cristiano Ronaldo. He misses a penalty, and they still won.

Soccer is like that. Soccer is not about, again, heroes and stuff. We need to learn that this sport the same as others, it’s about grace areas. Grace, grace, grace. We’ll like in this society and then make those systems to just be polarized. You are green, or you are blue. You are completely just to mention the other color, but it’s like that. You need to be on the left or in the right, like man, you can take good things from each side and each side has their flaws. Like all of us. 

There’s even Lionel Messi, he is the GOAT of the GOATs of the GOATs. And then he has things that he needs to improve, but he knows. He hasn’t won the World Cup, for example. So there’s going to be always something, nothing is enough. So I’m very tired of listening to those words about failure and success and stuff. Even though competition brings that because, of course, if I do an interview after Thursday and I’m eliminated, I’m going to be completely frustrated, sad, angry, and I’m going to tell you that it was a complete failure for this organization and next year we need to bounce back. But that’s what competition gives you, is how much you can grow.

Grant Wahl:

You’ve informed us that you are coming back to the Galaxy in 2023. How much longer do you want to keep playing this sport? And do you want the Galaxy to be your last team?

Javier Hernández:

As long as my body answers to my mind, that’s something as well that I learned from my father and my grandfather, is as long as your body still reacts in the correct way, when the mind tells the orders, the commands, you can keep playing of course in a very high level. So yeah, we’ll see. And of course, being here in this organization, I’m completely happy. I’m very committed to the cause. I’m very grateful. I’m very responsible about my situation. Then we’ll see. We’ll see. Of course, I want to maintain my relationship with this organization as long as we can.

Grant Wahl:

I want to finish up here the last couple of minutes with something I call the Rapid-Fire Quiz. And I only do this with the very best players I have ever interviewed. So I’ve done this with Ronaldo Fenómeno, with Zlatan, with Paolo Maldini, and I love doing this. So I hope you enjoy this as much as I will.

Javier Hernández:

Thank you for considering me one of the best.

Grant Wahl:

First off, what have you achieved in soccer that you are most proud of and why?

Javier Hernández:

Showing that you don’t have to be the most talented to be in the top of the top of the top.

Grant Wahl:

Who is the player that you have most admired in your career and why?

Javier Hernández:

That’s a very good question because my favorite player ever was Ronaldo Fenómeno, but in admiration, I’ll say Cristiano Ronaldo, for sure.

Grant Wahl:


Javier Hernández:

Because in the way that he has pushed himself to be on the top, and still people don’t want to give him credit because he’s not the most talented. There’s another one that is more talented in certain ways, in different ways. But for me, talented is not only what you do with the ball, it’s what do you do with this [points to his head] and with this [points to his heart]. And people don’t want to recognize that because yeah, if Cristiano shows you that he can be on the top and there’s a lot of people they don’t want to push themselves to be that great. 

It’s like pointing out the failures that Cristiano did. Another example, like Roger Federer is my favorite tennis player ever. But someone that I admire a part of both difference more is Rafael Nadal as well, in the way that he has competed, in the way that they create that legacy between each other. It’s like they live from each other. That’s why you saw when Roger Federer retired how Rafael was very devastated because they feed from each other. So yeah, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Grant Wahl:

What is your favorite goal that you have ever scored in your career and why?

Javier Hernández:

I always answer to that question the debut, because without the debut none of this wouldn’t happen. And not everyone can say that in their professional debut they score a goal. It’s not normal. It’s not common. And the other one that I’m going to mention for sure is the goal that I scored in my first World Cup against France, because of my family history that my granddad scored a goal against France as well in the World Cup.

Grant Wahl:

Who is the best defender you have ever faced and why?

Javier Hernández:

I’ll say Thiago Silva.

Grant Wahl:


Javier Hernández:

Because of the intelligence that he shows. He has the aggressiveness and the defensive skills, don’t get me wrong. But the intelligence about reading the game, he’s one step in front of you. And that’s one of my skills as well because I’m not the quickest, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the fastest. I try to be always one step in front of someone to try to score, but he was like in the same way or even ahead of me. So that intelligence, it was the toughest for me. Because then you can face very tough and strong defenders, but they’re not as intelligent, so you can just take an advantage. But for him, in the few times I played against him in Brazil, he was very, very difficult.

Grant Wahl:

Who is the best teammate you have ever had and why?

Javier Hernández:

It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult. But names that come to my mind, I will just throw names. It’s Ramón Morales, Patrice Evra, Miguel Layún, Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Pepe, Iker Casillas. Yeah, I think with those.

Grant Wahl:

Is there any particular common thread in those players that you say them?

Javier Hernández:

Yeah, because all of them, they all had a very big influence. Personal. They took their time, and even though probably with some of them it wasn’t like a long relationship, but they took their time to try to help me in certain ways, in certain moments in my life, those players in particular.

Grant Wahl:

Who’s your favorite player in the world today and why?

Javier Hernández:

Today? My favorite player today. My top three will be Luka Modric, Kylian Mbappé and Kevin De Bruyne.

Grant Wahl:

Any particular reason?

Javier Hernández:

Because I like watching them play. They play very good. I will buy a ticket to go and watch them play, for sure.

Grant Wahl:

Javier Hernández and the LA Galaxy meet crosstown rival LAFC in the MLS quarterfinal Thursday night, 10:25 PM Eastern on FS1 and Fox Deportes. Javier, thank you as always. That was a really enjoyable conversation.

Javier Hernández: Thank you very much, Grant. Take care.

Austin FC: The changes, continuity and welcoming atmosphere behind their rapid rise

Mar 6, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA;  Austin FC midfielder Ethan Finlay (13) celebrates with Austin FC forward Diego Fagundez (14) and Austin FC forward Sebastian Driussi (7) after scoring a goal against Inter Miami in the second half of a MLS game at Q2 Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

By Jeff RueterOct 15, 2022 The Athletic

Austin FC wasn’t a disaster in 2021. While they finished second to last in the West and had the conference’s worst goal differential (-21), it was far from as porous a defensive showing as Minnesota and Cincinnati made in their debut seasons. Still, it may have been difficult for head coach Josh Wolff to pinpoint a time when his team delivered an ideal performance in that inaugural campaign. Fast-forward to October 2022, and Wolff has an answer ready as soon as the question is finished.“I think the LAFC game was a fairly complete game,” Wolff told The Athletic last week. “I think from the offensive side and the defensive side, it was a very strong performance. Consistency is always something that you’re looking for. Having clear ideas of how you can hurt the opponents is something that we talk about a lot. You know, between lines, around them and over them are things that we talk about a lot. You also have to defend; eliminate some of the options for the opposition..”Hold on… LAFC? The side that won the Supporters Shield, that managed to fold Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini into their salary budget after firmly gaining control over MLS? That LAFC? 

Perhaps even more surprising to an hypothetical (and, frankly, unambitious) time traveler from late 2021 would be the follow-up that Wolff’s answer required: which win over LAFC this year? The 2-1 win from May in California, or the 4-1 September showing on home soil? “Oh, sorry,” Wolff said with a chuckle. “The one at home. The one there had a different approach. You respect opponents, you really do, and they are loaded with talent. I think (we used) two different approaches given the location and the game, but the good thing is we showed we could win in two different ways. That also shows the character and certainly the resilience in our group.”A casual MLS fan would be forgiven for wondering how Austin got there so quickly. But in a league with a myriad of roster mechanisms to make acquisitions and a host of players with option years to allow teams greater flexibility when things to south, it really didn’t take much for Austin to rise up the charts in its second year — and they’ve loved every minute of the task at hand, too.

Despite their initial difficulties, Austin finished their first season with several players who could be part of a winning core. In Brad Stuver, they’d acquired a domestic goalkeeper who had been stuck on other teams’ bench, but was a dependable shot-stopper (and a great human being). Even if the defense needed a rework, Julio Cascante looked the part and was worthy of another year in the lineup. The first pick of the 2021 SuperDraft, Daniel Pereira, quickly looked like a tidy addition to the midfield alongside club captain Alexander Ring. Perhaps the two most promising holdovers were in the forward line. The first, Sebastian Driussi, is one of two bonafide MVP candidates this season. With 22 goals and 7 assists, Driussi earned the endorsements of past MLS MVPs and fellow Argentine greats Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Diego Valeri. Even more impressive is his all-around game. While a player with those attacking credentials could be forgiven for being allergic to defensive responsibility, Driussi makes a regular point of tracking back and helping fortify the midfield. “I think the first thing with Sebastian is his work ethic,” Wolff said. “I mean, it’s not hard to motivate Sebastian Driussi, which is an incredible quality. The reality is teams are gonna key in on you and want to take you away; let’s have some other ways of getting you involved directly or indirectly.”Many of the scoring chances he converted were dished out by the second holdover attacking standout: Diego Fagúndez.Fagúndez will forever live in league lore as one of the first MLS homegrown players to become a regular in the league. He debuted for the New England Revolution at age 16, and by 2020, Fagúndez had spent a decade playing on the turf in Foxborough. Though he only turned 26 months before the 2021 season kicked off, he felt his team had decided he was on the decline.

“I think sometimes people think that your career is over,” Fagúndez said this week, “and then you go somewhere else and you pop off and you have good years. I think for me, that’s what they thought of me. I think people thought that I was done and I wasn’t gonna be the same Diego  I was in 2013, 2014 and stuff, but I wanted to come here and prove everybody wrong. Having the confidence, playing my position, scoring goals, assists, having fun — that’s what it’s all about.”

The change of scenery has done wonders. He followed a seven goal, five assist debut in 2021 with a career year in 2022. His 15 assists were tied for second best in MLS, while he added six goals to set a new career high for combined goal contributions. The Driussi effect here is undeniable, but it goes beyond Fagúndez being the right guy at the right time. 

“I think having a player like Sebastian who makes me a better player, and I can make him a better player, I think it’s awesome,” Fagúndez said.

Indeed, what may have looked this offseason like Austin running a rag and bone wagon ended up being the secret to flip their fates from second-worst in the conference to second-best. Like Fagúndez before them, several MLS veterans headed to Texas over the past year. Ethan Finlay had worked with Wolff in Columbus and was a rotational figure with Minnesota in 2021. Felipe Martins played for four sides in his first decade playing in MLS, most recently languishing with a poor D.C. United team. Maxi Urruti was even more nomadic (five MLS clubs in nine years), often miscast as a deep-lying forward or a pressing striker due to his passing ability and athleticism. The process of bringing more out of players who other teams felt were past their best is something that Wolff enjoys tremendously.“The players that you have need to believe that you can make them better,” Wolff said. “That’s a real piece of what we do as a coach — I’m a teacher. I think there’s always satisfaction in helping players achieve more than they did previously, but much more about them getting better and achieving what they truly believe they can achieve. Whether you’re 20 or 30, being coachable, having a growth mindset, isn’t a given. Those are things that we really talk about a lot and our guys really responded to that, and they’re gonna need to continue to do that next year. We’re gonna have new ideas, subtle things, but maintaining hunger and maintaining an open mindset to learn is important.”Rounding out the fresh faces are Ruben Gabrielsen, a Norwegian center back who’s become a beloved figure in the locker room, and Emiliano Rigoni, a designated player and former teammate of Driussi’s at Zenit. Each had to learn the intricacies of Wolff’s system of positional play, which increasingly looked like a well-oiled machine during the dog days of summer.“We just tweaked a few things positionally to give us a little more balance,” Wolff said of changes made from year one to year two. “Really specified a little bit more (about) how we want to attack while being able to capture second balls or score goals, but they weren’t significant changes. It was a number of things that really helped us and at the end of the day: winning games, scoring goals, that’s what’s going to validate all the players. You have to validate the work. Last year, there wasn’t enough validation. Some of that lack of quality. Some of that’s just the lack of performance and we were able to correct some of those things early this year and it really, really kicked in for our guys as the season went on.”

Along the way, the players found outlets to get closer off the field. Cookouts became a regular occurrence, with Felipe and Urruti finding another way to become indispensable at their new club by manning the grill. Steaks and sausages are the main course, Fagúndez said, supplemented by various side dishes and small bites. 

The good vibes have spilled onto the club’s social platforms. Driussi, Fagúndez and Urruti launched a series called “Maté Con Vos,” a discussion show where the trio banter while enjoying the caffeine-heavy South American staple beverage.To Wolff, that level of camaraderie doesn’t just make away days a little more enjoyable — it helps improve the on-field product to a great extent.“I think it’s more self-evident in our country and our league — probably with our national team — than probably anywhere else in the world, the chemistry and camaraderie,” Wolff said. “We’re a welcoming community, a welcoming society, as Americans. It’s different going abroad. It can be cold, it can be a little standoffish, and you got to prove your value and your worth when you’re stepping inside of a European locker room. It’s a little different, I think, in Austin. We typically bring guys in pretty freely. I mean, you really got to screw up in order to get kicked out of the circle of trust, so to speak.”

Both tactically and in terms of culture-building, Driussi had plenty of praise for Wolff, who was hired by Austin ahead of their launch for his first head coaching role. 

“Each one of us knows what we have to do, and that we have to always perform at our best, which is a very good thing,” Driussi said. “He’s a great coach, he’s making his first steps and he’s on a good path.” 

The Argentine is also loving his time in Austin, and has deservedly become a favorite among fans. Understandably, he isn’t in a rush to leave — though he does hope to return to Europe someday.

“I hope so,” Driussi said. “It’s still one of my dreams. Obviously Zenit was in Europe, but I’d like to play in one of the five most-known leagues in Europe. I’d like to take that step, it’s a dream that I have.”

The regular season couldn’t have gone much better for Driussi and Austin alike. Up next is the team’s postseason debut at the friendly confines of Q2 Stadium (Sunday, October 16, and 2:00 p.m. Central on ESPN), pitting the hosts against Real Salt Lake. While Austin won at home against RSL in September, the latter club also famously advanced in last year’s postseason against Seattle without taking a single shot. If any team can revel in crashing a good party, it may be Pablo Mastroeni’s side.

Maybe the occasion will require a special cookout on Saturday. Maybe it’ll take an extra cup of maté. Expansion teams haven’t historically fared well in their playoff debuts. Of the five teams which have played postseason soccer and debuted in 2017 or later (Atlanta, Minnesota, Los Angeles FC, Nashville, Miami), only Nashville won its first playoff match — and that was against Miami, a matchup which guaranteed a trend-busting result.

Whatever the case, the moment won’t faze Gabrielsen. After overperforming compared to preseason expectations, it’s safe to guess that his peers in the locker room will share a similar mentality. 

“It’s not that new,” Gabrielsen said. “There are sort of playoffs in Europe. Whether that’s Champions League or Europa League or World Cup or European Cup, it’s just a playoff game. Either you win or you go home. This is the passion that we like to have as a football player. 

“It’s the same no matter where you do it: when you lose, you go home and you’re sad and you want to start the season all over again. So we just want to win, of course.

Cristiano Ronaldo – banished from a United squad ready to leave him behind

Oliver KayOct 20, 2022 The Athletic

Cristiano Ronaldo is the one Manchester United player who knows how it looks and how it feels inside the dressing room when a legendary player burns his bridges.He was there, as a 20-year-old, when Roy Keane eviscerated several of his team-mates, assistant manager Carlos Queiroz and, finally, Sir Alex Ferguson before the captain’s contract was terminated in November 2005. He was there six months later, when Ruud van Nistelrooy clashed with Ferguson once too often and stormed out of the Old Trafford dressing room, never to return.And, on both occasions, the young Ronaldo breathed a huge sigh of relief — just as several of his team-mates will, along with Erik ten Hag, when the Portugal forward’s unhappy second spell in Manchester comes to end.It is less than 14 months since Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford in a blaze of glory, scoring two goals against Newcastle United in his first game back, but the feelgood factor faded within weeks as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure unravelled.Barely a year on, Ronaldo finds himself banished from United’s first-team squad following another show of dissent. He will train on his own for three days and will not be part of United’s squad to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.Perhaps the most damning thing about Ronaldo’s miserable trudge down the touchline on Wednesday evening is that the Old Trafford crowd barely noticed.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester UnitedRonaldo cut a frustrated figure on Wednesday night (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The majority of the 73,677 in attendance were far too wrapped up in United’s performance, the best they had witnessed for a long time, to see Ronaldo slipping away into the night as his relationship with the club moved towards breaking point.

The exception was a gaggle of wide-eyed youngsters sitting on the front row next to the tunnel, holding their hands in the hope of a high-five. But Ronaldo walked straight past them. By the time the final whistle was blown a few minutes later and the crowd erupted in celebration of a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, he was on his way to his car.

Ronaldo looked stony-faced as he walked down the touchline and into the tunnel, as if insulted by the thought of spending another second watching from the bench, seeing Marcus Rashford starting ahead of him and Anthony Elanga preferred as a substitute.He can always count on the sympathy of his enormous fan club, who will feel that the disrespect he showed to his team-mates and to Ten Hag was more than justified by the lack of respect shown to a player of his status. But there was precious little sympathy elsewhere — even before it emerged on Thursday evening that he had refused to come on as a substitute in the closing stages of the game.

One pundit after another lined up to say it was disrespectful to his team-mates, his manager and the club. Ten Hag told Ronaldo as much when, having been substituted, the forward left the stadium during a pre-season game against Rayo Vallecano in July. On that occasion, Ten Hag described the player’s behaviour as “unacceptable”. In defiance of that, Ronaldo walked off again on Wednesday night.

But this time, Ronaldo’s team-mates didn’t seem to notice. Or if they did notice, they didn’t care. The post-match mood in the United dressing room was buoyant, such was the players’ exuberance at the display against Tottenham. They didn’t miss him on the pitch and they didn’t miss him afterwards.

Ronaldo cast a shadow over United during the first weeks of Ten Hag’s tenure: agitating for a transfer in the summer, missing the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia (after being given time off for personal reasons), walking out on that friendly game against Rayo and then performing dismally (along with everyone else, it must be said) in that abject 4-0 defeat at Brentford before losing his place.

BrentfordRonaldo was not the only one to perform poorly against Brentford (Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

His United career has not recovered from that show of dissent. Indeed, it has not recovered from his lost summer of disillusionment and solo training.

He has started just two Premier League matches under Ten Hag. The first was away to Brentford in August, when the coach was so appalled by the team’s lack of spirit and work rate that he ordered them all to report the next day and complete the 13.8km they had been outrun by their west London opponents. The manager joined in for good measure, too. The second was the 0-0 draw with Newcastle on Sunday, in which United looked short of ideas until Ronaldo, shaking his head, made way for Rashford in the closing stages.Ronaldo has started games in the Europa League, converting a penalty against FC Sheriff, and has at times looked lively as a substitute, coming off the bench to score the winning goal at Everton recently. But he looks increasingly like an uncomfortable bit-part player in a team where the centre-forward — as Ten Hag explained with reference to Rashford both before and after Wednesday’s game — is required to bring dynamism, speed, energy and work ethic as well as a goalscoring threat.United, by contrast, have slowly but surely begun to recover under Ten Hag. Their supporters have seen enough false dawns in the post-Ferguson years to exercise caution — and there hasn’t yet been a great deal of the fast-paced, free-flowing football Ten Hag wants them to play — but in terms of organisation, resilience, spirit, energy and attacking verve, the performance against Tottenham was a real step forward.

And here we come back to Van Nistelrooy. United fans still revere the Dutch forward, lauding him from the terraces more than 16 years after he left the club, but the point here is less about the goalscoring phenomenon he was and more about the sullen, divisive, fractious figure he became during his unhappy final months in Manchester.

Van Nistelrooy was still a prolific centre-forward, scoring 21 Premier League goals in that 2005-06 that season, but he had become a problem. The team was in a state of transition and, rather than inspire his younger team-mates, he was felt to be undermining them. His attitude towards Ronaldo, in particular, was troubling.

United’s supporters caught glimpses of it on matchdays. They would see Van Nistelrooy vent his frustration when Ronaldo dallied too long on the ball or tried one trick too many rather than delivering the crosses. Many of those fans shared that frustration, as did some of his team-mates. The young Ronaldo, all fancy footwork and stepovers, had that effect on most people in those days, but Ferguson felt that Van Nistelrooy, in particular, inhibited him.

The tensions between Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo bubbled over on the training ground and in the dressing room. The pair traded insults and very nearly exchanged blows in training in January 2006 in the unhappy aftermath of a derby defeat by Manchester City, in which Ronaldo was sent off. Van Nistelrooy thought his young team-mate was all style and no substance. And he wasn’t afraid of letting him know.

Eventually, it became untenable. Ferguson felt Van Nistelrooy slowed the team down and had begun to have an adverse effect on team spirit, so he sold him to Real Madrid and built a new forward line around Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha. Almost overnight, Ronaldo began to blossom into a world-class forward and, ultimately, one of the greatest players to play the game.

Even now, in the twilight years of his career, Ronaldo can do things that Rashford cannot dream of. But even at the peak of his powers, he was not the high-pressing, defence-stretching, all-action centre-forward that this United manager requires. And he certainly isn’t at the age of 37, discontented, without a proper pre-season behind him and struggling to build up any kind of rhythm or match-fitness.

Disrespectful as it was, Ronaldo’s petulance on Wednesday night didn’t hurt United. It overshadowed the victory to a degree but, if anything, it underlined how, having been terribly reliant on his goals last season, they are finally beginning to look like a football team without him.

If it was intended as a challenge to Ten Hag’s authority, it looked like pretty ill-conceived. The manager’s authority has never looked stronger.

This was a point Rio Ferdinand missed in a post-match debrief on his YouTube channel Five. Ferdinand seemed bewildered that his former team-mate had been left out — “My only thought could be that Cristiano is being saved for the weekend against Chelsea” — and suggested Ten Hag had given himself a problem by keeping Ronaldo against his wishes in the summer and then failing to pick him regularly.

Ferdinand’s interpretation overlooked one inconvenient truth: Ten Hag was willing to let Ronaldo go in August, once he had begun to appreciate the tactical and man-management challenges of trying to reintegrate a fading superstar who appeared either unwilling or unable to grasp what Ten Hag (like Ralf Rangnick previously) was telling him about counter-pressing. This view solidified with Ronaldo’s performance in the 4-0 defeat at Brentford on August 13.

The timing didn’t help, late in the transfer window, and neither did the United hierarchy’s concern about losing such a high-profile player and commercial asset, particularly as they were struggling to land their own top targets in the transfer market. But by mid-August, they were open to offers.

Long before the Brentford tipping point, Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes had been offering him to leading clubs across Europe. The Athletic revealed a meeting with Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in Portugal in June. As well as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, the agent approached Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and even Sporting Lisbon, where Ronaldo began his career. Some conversations went further than others, but the only firm offer came from Saudi Arabian champions Al-Hilal.

This can be hard to accept for those — which include some of Ronaldo’s former team-mates, like Patrice Evra — who accuse Ten Hag of disrespecting the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo was not exactly a player in demand this summer.

The mind goes back to that video of a Real Madrid fan confronting club president Florentino Perez in a hotel lobby in August, urging him to re-sign Ronaldo. “Again?” Perez asked. “Thirty-eight years old.” With that, he raised his hand dismissively as he walked off.

In fact, Ronaldo is 37 — and few elite footballers have appeared more immune to the passing of time — but you could see Perez’s point. Real had just won another Champions League title with Luka Modric (then 36, now 37) in the team, but the Croatia midfielder is high-output, low-maintenance, less likely to be personally affronted if the coach substitutes him or prefers a less established player in the starting line-up.

Ronaldo is different “because of how big he is, how much an icon he is, how much of a superstar he is,” as Ferdinand put it. But that is part of the difficulty. He is no longer the player whose performances won five Ballon d’Or awards, but he still appears to expect the status that those achievements gave him.

Never mind the respect United showed him by presenting him with an award at the weekend for scoring his 700th goal at club level. Ronaldo left Old Trafford that day indignant at being substituted.

RonaldoRonaldo and Ferguson celebrate the Portugal striker’s 700 club career goals (Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

It was Ferguson who gave him that award on the pitch, smiling as he did so; no doubt recalling happier times at a club which has endured nine largely miserable years since his retirement.Like many others, Ferguson was seduced by the thought that Ronaldo’s return last year would herald a new golden era, but it hasn’t.If anything, it has underlined another truth from the glory days: that no player is bigger than the club.There were instances when Ferguson would push certain boundaries in support of one star player or another — and that certainly included Keane and Van Nistelrooy at the height of their powers — but as the years passed and their on-pitch contribution faded, their mood darkened, tensions rose and their position became untenable.That seems to be the stage Ronaldo is at now: lobbying for a move, performing indifferently, resorting to petulant behaviour and now banished from a first-team squad that seems ready to leave him behind.His statement on Thursday night evoked his early days at Old Trafford. “I started very young, the older and most experienced players’ examples were always very important to me. Therefore, later on, I’ve always tried to set the example myself for the youngsters that grew in all the teams that I’ve represented. Unfortunately that’s not always possible and sometimes the heat of the moment gets the best of us.”“Giving in to the pressure is not an option. It never was. This is Manchester United, and united we must stand. Soon we’ll be together again.”Ferdinand suggested that Ten Hag would have a big decision to make in January or at the end of the summer but, barring a dramatic change of mood, it appears Ronaldo has made the coach’s mind up for him — just as Van Nistelrooy did for Ferguson with his treatment of a young Ronaldo a generation ago. Maybe it’s all part of the circle of Old Trafford life.

USMNT fan confidence index: Dismal pre-World Cup window magnifies worries

By Jeff RueterSep 29, 2022 The Athletic

In the interest of providing another data point to assess the U.S. men’s national team’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup, The Athletic presents the fifth installment of the USMNT fan confidence index. After the final whistle in Murcia, we asked readers to fill out a form ranking their confidence in each position group over the past two windows, as well as their confidence in the team’s preparedness for the tournament. For each position, we also asked for the name of one player who wasn’t involved in the last six qualifiers that they would like to see in November. Readers were asked to rate their confidence on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 representing “not at all confident” and 5 meaning “extremely confident.” These totals were converted to corresponding percentages: 1 getting 0.01%, 2 at 25%, 3 at 50%, 4 at 75% and 5 a perfect 100%. The mode will also be highlighted to showcase which rating was most common among the 868 USMNT fans which took the survey. You can revisit the previous edition from April to see just how much the mood has changed after 282 scoreless minutes. Full results at the bottom. 


Sean Johnson, Gabriel Slonina, Zack SteffenMatt Turner

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN. ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode4 (566/932)4 (286/453)4 (412/637)4 (277/654)4 (469/868)

Goalkeeper has been one of the least volatile groups of the entire pool this cycle, both in terms of the players selected in the squad and fans’ assessment of their performance. However, there has been plenty of change with the starting role. The U.S. entered this World Cup qualification cycle with Zack Steffen fastened to the top of the depth chart. However, injuries and form opened the door for Matt Turner, who impressed in his opportunities. Now, even with Steffen unavailable due to injury in September, the fans’ rating of the group seemed unbothered by his absence. 

For most of qualifying, it seemed like these finals months would find Steffen and Turner in a dead heat to start in Qatar. Now, the only close shave may be if Turner embraces tradition and shaves his head before the tournament.As for the rest of the depth chart, Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson figure to be in a dead heat for the third goalkeeper spot if Steffen is healthy in November. Having been sold to Chelsea this summer and remaining with the Chicago Fire on loan this year, Gabriel ‘Gaga’ Slonina led the write-in ballot with 190 votes — with many adding a note that the exposure to a World Cup would be beneficial to the anointed goalkeeper of the future.

Right back

Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN. ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode4 (493/932)4 (234/453)4 (329/637)4 (370/654)4 (369/868)

There are two ways you can look at the steep drop which this group suffered in the latest poll, and both feel entirely fair.

The first would say that given the team’s poor form in the final matches before the tournament, just about every position group would look worse. The numbers bear this theory out: the only position which didn’t see a significant dip in its confidence rating is the goalkeeper corps. 

The second is that all three players who featured prominently in qualifying (Cannon, Dest and Yedlin) have arguably seen their club situations get less favorable over the past twelve months. Dest was essentially forced out of FC Barcelona and is a rotational figure at best with AC Milan. Cannon had a difficult first full year with Boavista and is now playing as a wide center back in a back three. While Yedlin is finally getting regular starts again with Inter Miami, it required him to end an eight-year stay in Europe as he left Galatasaray.

Even overlooking the club situations, this group did little to alleviate the concerns about this team’s chance creation. If Antonee Robinson is ruled out for any reason and Dest is needed to log significant minutes on the left, neither Cannon nor Yedlin has provided a similar forward threat for the national team. Scally represents the relative unknown, as he’s been seldom used under Berhalter despite strong regular play with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Shaq Moore led the write-in ballot with 52 votes, as he made a similar move to Yedlin’s by joining Nashville SC over the summer. 

Center back

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, Chris Richards, Walker Zimmerman

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN. ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode4 (401/932)4 (222/453)4 (304/637)4 (336/654)2 (371/868)

Woof.While it wasn’t as positive as other position groups, few areas of the pitch received as consistent of marks during qualifying as the center backs. There wasn’t a ton of experimentation throughout the fourteen matches, as Berhalter mostly entrusted a core anchored by Chris RichardsMiles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman.Since March, Robinson suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. Richards made a move to Crystal Palace, where he’s been out with an injury and wasn’t making starts before his absence. Zimmerman is still at the heart of Nashville’s backline, but has made some crucial mistakes with his passes for club and country alike. As it stands, only Zimmerman is a certainty to make the World Cup roster.

Aaron Long started each of the September friendlies, but experienced issues with his distribution and struggled to cover wider areas of the back line whenever the right back was making a recovery run after a turnover. Mark McKenzie somehow looked even shakier, perhaps desperate to make his case after being left low on the pecking order throughout much of the past year. If Richards isn’t 90-minutes fit by November, Tim Ream would appear to be the top option based on current form and received 186 write-in votes. However, his lack of mobility next to Zimmerman would be a serious liability against nimble opponents. 

There are so many questions left unanswered, but unlike most of those, few have arisen so late in the cycle as the United States center back crisis. Perhaps James Sands and Cameron Carter-Vickers will help alleviate concerns with strong play in the Scottish Premiership. However, it’s one of the program’s two biggest problem areas heading into November, and the survey respondents know it. 

Left back

George Bello, Antonee Robinson, Sam Vines

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN. ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode4 (386/932)3 (198/453)4 (307/637)4 (298/654)3 (378/868)

While most folks left the September window having more questions than answers about this team, one thing was abundantly clear: there isn’t a dependable second option behind Antonee “Jedi” Robinson

As neither George Bello nor Sam Vines have made convincing cases at the international level after moves abroad, this situation could enhance the odds of Scally making the roster. The former New York City FC academy product can play on either side of the backline and has become a regular starter for Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga. Scally was the only write-in option to get even modest consideration, notching 21 votes. All told, Dest may be the backup option on the left, as Cannon, Scally and Yedlin have all seen more run-out on the right. 

To paraphrase Max von Sydow, ​“Without Jedi, there can be no balance in the defense.”

Defensive midfield

Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Johnny Cardoso

OCT. 21NOV. ’21JAN. ’21MARCH ’21SEPT. ’21
Mode4 (414/932)4 (233/453)4 (313/637)4 (332/654)4 (365/868)

As was the case throughout qualifying: this group’s rating rises and falls due to Tyler Adams’ performances alone.

This group’s rating rose in each successive window, as Adams stayed healthy and in form while Kellyn Acosta assumed the mantle of capable understudy. Adams played all 180 minutes of the September friendlies; while he proved adept at timing and weighing the through ball over the Saudi Arabian back line, he was also caught out of position far more often than usual against Japan. Having debuted for the U.S. back in 2017, Adams will enter the World Cup with 32 caps to his name. Acosta got his minutes further up in the midfield, while Johnny Cardoso didn’t play up to the level in his cameo against Japan.

James Sands led the write-in ballot with 28 votes. It’s Hhrd to imagine anyone but Adams or Acosta playing the role in the World Cup.

Central midfield

Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Cristian Roldan, Malik Tillman

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode4 (428/932)4 (250/453)4 (321/637)4 (370/654)4 (397/868)

Yunus Musah was certainly missed, with Luca de la Torre trying to emulate his more progressive midfield role in the loss to Japan. While the Celta Vigo midfielder was tidy at times, he did little to create chances or advance the ball to the attackers ahead of him. Acosta started against Saudi Arabia, enabling Weston McKennie to run into the attacking area more often to keep the ball further up the pitch. 

As has been the case throughout the past year, Musah and McKennie will start with Adams in the ideal Berhalter midfield. Worryingly, however, few of the auxiliary options have looked as strong over the past few months as they did last year. Leading write-in vote getters Eryk WilliamsonGianluca Busio and Djordje Mihailovic (each between 20 and 25 nominations) have each had success at various points of the past six months, but none are obvious upgrades over de la Torre. 

Cristian Roldan is returning from a groin injury at the right time to see the field in Seattle’s final two regular season matches and could return to roster contention for the U.S. Still, what once appeared to be a deep area of the field is worrying thin on impact performers.


Brenden Aaronson, Paul Arriola, Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Giovanni Reyna, Timothy Weah

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode5 (504/932)5 (267/453)4 (344/637)5 (396/654)4 (449/868)

Similarly to the midfield, the USMNT’s wide attackers have had a brighter gleam in past windows. The lone positive here may be Brenden Aaronson, who has handled the transition from RB Salzburg to Leeds better than many could have reasonably expected. He (like the rest of the team) was unable to catalyze much against Japan, but his work rate was a sight for sore eyes in an otherwise languid performance by the U.S. Paul Arriola had some nice interplay with Jesús Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi after coming off the bench against Saudi Arabia, and has had a fine season with FC Dallas. 

From there, we’re back to the list of players in difficult club situations. Christian Pulisic didn’t get his desired loan away from Chelsea, and while there’s a clear role for him in Graham Potter’s system, Potter has preferred Raheem Sterling there in his first couple of matches. Gio Reyna was forced to exit the Saudi Arabia match in the 30th minute with a muscle strain. While that injury alone shouldn’t hamper his World Cup hopes, we just haven’t seen enough of him over the past year to know where he’d fit best in Berhalter’s team — or if he starts at all. 

Timothy Weah missed this camp with a foot injury, but should return soon for Lille. Jordan Morris struggled to make an impact against Japan (may as well turn that phrase into a drinking game) and was overlooked from the bench when Reyna was injured. It could be reading too much into one change, but it feels as though Arriola has the inside track on a roster spot over the Seattle homegrown. 

No alternative received more than Konrad De La Fuente’s 15 votes, despite the winger having been a bit-part player thus far at Olympiacos.


Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent, Haji Wright

OCT. ’21NOV. ’21JAN. ’22MARCH ’22SEPT. ’22
Mode3 (484/932)3 (223/453)2 (287/637)2 (337/654)1 (460/868)

The trend is, to say the least, not great. While they may not be scoring goals, the strikers have extended their own record for the lowest confidence rating of any group in the exercise’s five installments.

The United States won’t be facing Grenada in this World Cup, which makes it hard to transfer Jesús Ferreira’s four-goal glut against the Spice Boys to the biggest stage. Haji Wright buried a penalty against fellow qualifier Morocco, but wasn’t called in for the September friendlies. Ferreira led forwards with 76 minutes this past window, while Ricardo Pepi had 59 and Josh Sargent played 45 minutes after a year-long absence from the national team. None looked particularly threatening, though Pepi at least kept the Saudi Arabian defense honest as he is less likely to track back and join into the midfield than Ferreira. That spacing may be vital for a U.S. team which looks likely to be dared to beat a low defensive block, as they’ve struggled to break one down for much of the Berhalter era.

Leading all vote-getters by a comfortable margin, Jordan Pefok (a staggering 412 mentions from 868 total ballots) was left on the outside of this camp. This, despite logging three goals and two assists for Bundesliga-leading Union Berlin after making a summer move away from Young Boys. Given the younger trio’s struggles at the international level, it’s hard to grasp just why Pefok wasn’t given another look in the September camp.

At this stage, fans and writers alike can be forgiven for expecting that any goals at the World Cup are likely to come from other areas of the pitch.

Preparedness and predictions

Ready or not, here the World Cup comes. The United States doesn’t have another tune-up friendly between now and the opener in Qatar against Wales on November 21, leaving other factors to play a role in deciding Berhalter’s final roster. 

Before we look at a pair of “state of the program” questions, it’s worth remembering what the expectations for this World Cup were among the 654 fans surveyed in the immediate aftermath of qualifying. 

Expectations for World Cup as of March ’22

Qualifying was enough30.5
Narrowly miss the knockout213.2
Out in Round of 1635253.9
World Cup champion10.2

Even after a bleak defeat against Costa Rica in what was essentially a dead rubber matchup, 96.3% of readers expected the team to advance. Granted, the poll was conducted before the U.S. was drawn into a balanced group alongside EnglandIran and Wales. Still, the talent and performances after the initial window left the fanbase with hope.

Now, let’s look at the current state of things…

Do you think the U.S. is prepared for the World Cup?

Hard to say19.80%

Needless to say, the September window left fans with few happy feelings.

There’s been a statistic floating around that the United States had won its three most recent send-off matches before the draw against Saudi Arabia. The unspoken part: the most recent defeat had come in…2002, ahead of the quarter-final run which is the program’s greatest World Cup performance in the modern era. Mere weeks before the tournament kicked off, the United States hosted the Netherlands at Gillette Stadium and were on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline. (Another fact from that game: Berhalter came off the bench in the 41st minute, replacing Jeff Agoos.)

Still, it would be a folly to assume that history will repeat itself. At this point, fans are wondering if there will be a knockout round match to stress over at all.

Where do you think the United States will finish in World Cup Group B (USA, England, Iran, Wales)?

Where will the U.S. finish in Group B?


Say what you will about the importance of friendlies — even after missing the 2018 tournament, there are few fond feelings among the fanbase’s diehards heading into the World Cup.


OCTOBER 19, 2022 BY JOHN MORRISSEY Backheeled.com

  • It’s time for the postseason in the USL Championship! Not all playoff teams are created equal, though
  • Ahead of this weekend’s opening round of games, we’re dividing the playoff field into tiers

© David R. Lutman/Special to Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal 


It’s time for the postseason in the USL Championship, but not all playoff teams are created equal. Who’s for real, who could make a run, and who’s just lucky to have made the cut?Let’s talk about that.


San Antonio FC: Champions of the Western Conference and the overall points leader in the regular season, San Antonio boasts an elite defense a great goalkeeper in Jordan Farr and a deep group of forwards. Their conservative style of soccer is built for a single elimination format. They’re the favorites.

Louisville City FC: Home-field advantage until a potential title game means a lot for Louisville; no club had a better record at home in 2022. Their new back three is sharp, too, and it just might be this team’s year after a title drought that dates back to 2018.

Tampa Bay Rowdies: Last year’s Eastern Conference champions finally have their star striker Sebastian Guenzatti scoring goals again and they’ve settled on a consistent backline. No team in the entire USL had a better goal difference in the regular season than the Rowdies.


Memphis 901 FC: This club nearly nabbed the East’s top seed, finishing four points behind Louisville. They’re well-organized in a 4-2-3-1, underrated forward Phillip Goodrum nearly won the Golden Boot, and the defense has been good even while dealing with injuries. Still, Memphis needs to prove they’re elite.

San Diego Loyal: The Loyal have the most dangerous offense in the USL and their midfield trio of Alejandro Guido, Jack Blake, and Charlie Adams is wildly creative. San Diego’s defense is suspiciously leaky, but they beat San Antonio in the regular season and could repeat the trick.

Sacramento Republic: Having reached the U.S. Open Cup final, Sacramento have proven their tournament mettle. Attacking is a red flag, but a flexible 4-2-3-1 that Mark Briggs debuted in the final week could help the final third play finally match the quality this team has consistently shown in defense.

Birmingham Legion: The Legion have a self-defeating tendency to play elite defensive midfielder Anderson Asiedu out of position as a winger and they’ll often sit back instead of pressing defensively. But when they do go aggressive, they’re a very formidable team. Enzo Martinez is a game-changer; he can win a match in a single moment.


New Mexico United: Head coach Zach Prince regularly changed systems in 2022, but the 4-4-1-1 that he landed on towards the end of the year balances attacking talent and conservative fullback play. The expected goals data hates New Mexico, but their hard-nosed style leaves the door open for a playoff run.

Rio Grande Valley FC: No team in the USL earned more points than RGV in the last ten games of the season. Midseason pickups like forwards Christian Pinzon and Jonas Fjeldberg and fullback Akeem Ward add electricity in front of a stingy defense, and H-E-B Park is a fortress.

Detroit City FC: Le Rouge allowed the second fewest goals in the East, and Antoine Hoppenot can be the man for a team making a playoff run. Defensive injuries and general offensive inconsistency hold Detroit back, though.


Pittsburgh Riverhounds: The Riverhounds have struggled against elite competition this year and regularly underperform with the most talented roster in the East. Bob Lilley has a sterling reputation, but he needs to prove his tactical chops in 2022.

Miami FC: Anthony Pulis has done a great job to get Miami in the playoffs in his first season, but the offense is lacking with just 47 goals in the regular season. Their defense is strong, but a first round Rowdies matchup is brutal.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks: The Switchbacks’ defense is the worst in the playoff field by a distance and their offense has been gutted since Hadji Barry’s transfer to Egypt.

Oakland Roots: Noah Delgado taking charge in the middle of the season and taking the Roots to the playoffs is a lovely story, but Oakland doesn’t have the balance to make a run. The midfield is dangerously thin.

10/13/22  CHS Sectional Finals Sat at Murray, MLS/NWSL Playoffs, US lose 2-0 to Spain

US Women lose to England then Spain 2-0. 

Just in case we thought it was an accident – the USMNT put a bow on their European trip with an EMBARASSING 2-0 loss to Spain’s B-team.  Now the US is without some key starters and contributors as Coach A gave the ball to the kids and well they dropped it  – big time.  This as a B team – depleted by Spanish player defections due to complaints about the coaching and federation of Spain from the Spanish starters – most of which start in Champions League on strong European teams.  The US of course was missing our top 2 #9s I Alex Morgan, along with our top defenders.  But the team they put out managed to get blown out by this depleted Spanish squad – putting into question just what the heck is the US and Coach A doing?  Is he setting up for next summer’s World Cup by making the US ladies – #1 in the World despite playing absolutely NO ONE of quality since the Olympics?  To say the rest of the world has caught up is one thing – the get blanked by the #10 team in the World missing 9 of 11 starters is another.  Is it time to panic – oh I think so. 

Indy 11 

Great to see former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr win the Player of the Month award for his new team San Antonio – they are headed to playoffs as the #1 Seed In the Western Division they play this Saturday?    Also huge congrats on a personal level as he and his lovely wife Ale welcomed their first child into the world this week.  A healthy baby girl named Ivy Jean.  Oh the Indy 11 lost their last game of the season to finish 8th in the East. 

Games to Watch

Big games this weekend at El Classico with Barcelona fresh off near elimination in Champions League this week will travel to Real Madrid trying to right the ship at Sat at 10:15 am on ESPN+.  Sunday gives us Liverpool hosting Man City at 11:30 am on USA.  That’s right after Leeds United and the American’s travel to top seated Arsenal at 9 am on Peacock., while Man United host New Castle on USA at 9 am.  Sun at 11:30 US players in Germany’s top 4  Union Berlin (Jordan Pefok) and Dortmund (Gio Reyna) battle on ESPN+.  While MLS and NWSL Playoff action gets underway this weekend. 

High School Local back to back games Sat at Murray – #2 CHS Boys host Regional Final 4:30 pm, #3 CHS Girls host Regional Final at 2 pm Sat

The Carmel High School boys host the Sectional Finals tonight at 7 pm at Murray Stadium.  Here’s the shootout from Thursday night where long time Carmel FC forward Will Latham hit the winner. 

Goals from former Carmel FC players Olivia Cebalo and Claire Swigart carried the CHS Lady hounds to the Sectional Championship last week.  They defeated Brownsburg 3-0 and host the Regional finals Sat at 2  pm at Murray vs Cathedral.   The Carmel High Boys won 1-0 win over Pike  to advance to the Sectional Finals at home vs Cathedral at 4:30 pm at Murray Stadium.


Sat, Oct 15

7:30 am USA               Leicester City vs Crystal Palace

10 am USA                  Wolverhampton vs Nottingham Forrest

10 am Peacock          Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs  Bourmouth

10:15 am ESPN+       Real Madrid vs Barcelona EL CLASSICO

12 noon unimas           Cincy vs NY Red Bulls – PLAYOFFS

12 noon Paramount+   Torino vs Juventus  (Mckinney)

12:30 NBC                  Tottenham vs Everton

Sun, Oct 16

9 am USA                    Man United vs New Castle

9 am Peacock              Arsenal vs Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams)

11:30 am USA              Liverspool vs Man City

11;30 ESPN+               Union Berlin (Pefuk) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

12 noon CBS Sportsnet Napoli vs Bolonga

3 pm ABC                   Austin vs Real Salt Lake  PLAYOFFS

5 pm Para+                  Houston vs KC Current NWSL Playoffs

 8 pm ESPN                 Montreal vs Orlando City PLAYOFFS

10 pm CBS SN            San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Chicago Red Stars (Saubraun) NWSL Playoffs

Mon, Oct 17

7 pm FS1                     NYCFC vs Inter Miami MLS Playoffs

9:30 pm FS1                Dallas (Matt Hedges) vs Minn United

Wed, Oct 19

2:30 pm USA               Brentford vs Chelsea (pulisic) 

3:15 pm Peacock         Man United vs Tottenham

Thur, Oct 20

1 pm Para +                 Arsenal vs PSV  Europa

2:30 pm USA               Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs  Aston Villa

3 pm ESPNd +                         Barcelona vs Villareal

3:15 pm Peacock         Leicester City vs Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams)

8 pm FS1                     Philly vs Cincy MLS Playoffs

10 pm FS1                   LAFC vs LA Galaxy  

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am USA               Nottingham Forest vs Liverpool  

9:30 am ESPN+                       Dortmund (Reyna) vs Stuttgart

10 am USA                  Everton vs Crystal Palace  

12 noon unimas           Cincy vs NY Red Bulls – PLAYOFFS

12:30 NBC                  Chelsea (pulisic)  vs  Man United

3 pm ESPN+                Real Madrid vs Sevilla

Sun, Oct 22

9 am USA                    Leicster City vs Wolverhampton

9 am Peacock              Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams) vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)

9:30 am ESPN+           Bochum vs Union Berlin (Pefuk)

11:30 am NBC              Tottenham vs New Castle United  

2:45 pm CBS Sportsnet  Roma vs Napoli

1 pm ESPN                  CF Montreal vs NYCFC PLAYOFFS

8 pm ESPN                  Austin vs Dallas (Matt Hedges) PLAYOFFS

Mon, Oct 23

3 pm USA                    West Ham vs Bournmouth

Tues, Oct 24               CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

12:45 pm Para+                      Salzburg vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

3 pm Para+                  Benefica vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm Para+                  Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig 

3 pm Para+                  Dortmund (Reyna)  vs Man City

Wed, Oct 25

12:45 Para+                 Club Brugge vs Porto

3 pm Para+                 Barca vs  Bayern  Munich

3 pm Para+                  Tottenham vs Sporting

3 pm Para+                  Ajax vs Liverpool

3 pm Para+                  Napoli vs Rangers ()  

Thur, Oct 26

12:45 pm Para+                       PSV vs Arsenal

12:45 pm Para+                       Union Berlin (Pefuk) vs Bragga

3 pm Para+                  Man United vs Sheriff

3 pm Para+                  West Ham vs Silkeborg

Sat, Oct 29

8 pm CBS                     NWSL Championship Game

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

US Ladies 

US Women lose 2 in a row – should we be worried ?  Yahoo Sports – Bushnell

US women stunk

What the US Ladies Need to Do next  



MLS Playoff Upsets are Coming
10 players to watch in 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs

FIFA’s World Cup Club Fund Offers Tidy Windfall for MLS Teams


Barca to wear Drake Jersey in El Classico

Chelsea’s James, Kante could miss World Cup due to injury


PL Mornings Live Fan Fest hits Philadelphia

EPL betting preview: Liverpool needs a win at home against Manchester City

Box office Erling Haaland’s persuasive power stretches far beyond pitch for Man City

The sweet history of Everton’s ‘Toffees’ nickname

Why this season’s duel for the USL Championship’s Golden Glove is one for the ages

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 10/14/22, 12:51PM EDT


San Antonio FC’s Jordan Farr and Louisville City FC’s Kyle Morton are separated by 0.001 in goals-against average going into the final game of the regular season on Saturday for their respective clubs.

San Antonio FC’s Jordan Farr and Louisville City FC’s Kyle Morton have been two of the best offseason acquisitions of the 2022 USL Championship season.

Now, they’ve got 90 minutes – and a margin of 0.001 in goals-against average – separating them from the USL Championship’s Golden Glove on Saturday night in one of the major storylines on the final day of the regular season.

Farr currently sits with a goals-against average of 0.737 in 30 appearances this season for San Antonio, having played a key role for the side that could claim single-season records for wins, points and shutouts this weekend. Narrowly behind him is Morton, who is at a goals-against average of 0.738 in 28 appearances for the two-time USL Championship title winners and No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s a margin that even in the closest races in past Championship seasons is unprecedented.  

Because make no mistake, there have been narrowly decided Golden Glove honors in the past. The closest of all came two years ago in the abbreviated 2020 regular season when Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Danny Vitiello edged out San Diego Loyal SC’s Jon Kempin by a margin of 0.004 for the award. The closest full-season race? That was in 2018 when FC Cincinnati’s Evan Newton defeated Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s Dan Lynd by 0.005 for the award.

And yet, there’s a strong argument that this is the best race for the Golden Glove we’ve ever seen in the Championship’s history. For one, both Farr and Morton have been at the top of their games for a full season and are almost certainly sitting 1-2 in most people’s minds when it comes to this year’s Goalkeeper of the Year award. More importantly, they’re both currently leading their sides on the field.

(The irony of Newton’s Golden Glove in 2018 is by the end of the season, he was no longer FC Cincinnati’s starter, replaced by Spencer Richey. He won the award after Lynd conceded in second-half stoppage-time of Pittsburgh’s final game of the regular season against the New York Red Bulls II, qualifying for the award having previously started 20 of FCC’s 34 regular season games, above the 50 percent of a team’s minutes threshold.)

As slim as the margin is between the two going into LouCity’s game against Hartford Athletic at 7:30 p.m. ET and San Antonio FC’s clash with Orange County SC an hour later, one goal – especially that of the kind conceded by Lynd and Pittsburgh four years ago – could make all the difference.

A shutout by Farr – which would clinch the Championship’s single-season record as well – would end the race.

If Morton posts his 14th clean sheet in a campaign that has seen him yet to concede more than two goals in a game, then the second half at Toyota Field will have even greater intrigue.

On a night where there’s plenty at stake for teams and individuals, this duel across time zones and venues should have your close attention.



Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

30 appearances
2,686 minutes
22 goals conceded
0.737 goals-against average
15 shutouts
72 saves
76.6 save percentage
-1.41 G-minus-xG


Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

28 appearances
2,439 minutes
20 goals conceded
0.738 goals-against average
13 shutouts
52 saves
72.2 save percentage
-2.85 G-minus-xG

Grant Wahl friday Newsletter: Why I Love the MLS and NWSL Playoffs

The U.S. Division I pro leagues still need to figure out ways to make their regular seasons matter more, but the playoffs are awesome.

Grant WahlOct 14
Why do I love the MLS and NWSL playoffs? Because we get moments like Orlando defender Rodrigo Schlegel putting on the goalie gloves and leading his team to a shootout victory (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This is a huge weekend in the soccer world, with the planet’s most storied club rivalry game (Real Madrid-Barcelona), the most compelling club rivalry in recent years (Liverpool-Manchester City) and three other dynamite matchups in Europe (Leeds-Arsenal, Union Berlin-Dortmund, Bayern Munich-Freiburg). If it feels like club soccer is trying to get everything done in October ahead of next month’s World Cup, including the Champions League group stage, that’s because it is.

But I want to save some love for the MLS and NWSL playoffs, which are also taking place starting this weekend (earlier in the calendar than usual due to the World Cup). Say what you will about the not-always-high-stakes regular seasons in both leagues, but all that goes out the window once the single-elimination playoffs get going. From Saturday to Monday, I will be watching eight playoff games: six in MLS and two in the NWSL.

Why do I love the MLS and NWSL playoffs? Let’s break it down:

GrantWahl.com is reader-supported. Free and paid subscriptions are available. This is how I make a living, and quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.


Upgrade to Paid

• Desperation soccer is compelling soccer. Too often regular-season games don’t feel like the stakes are very high. That’s not the case in the playoffs. In fact, things can get downright wild when teams know their season is over if they lose the game. And crazy things can happen, like Roy Miller taking a decisive free kick instead of Thierry Henry or teams melting down once they realize things aren’t going to go their way.

• The games are more appealing to a national audience. MLS and the NWSL have had success building local interest, but they have yet to become attractive to national audiences, at least in the regular season. The playoffs are different; it’s all one national tournament, so MLS fans in, say, Orlando should have more interest in LA Galaxy-Nashville than they might during the regular season.

• Dumb little storylines get magnified into big deals. Which, frankly, is always kind of hilarious. My favorite this week is everyone at Inter Miami getting so worked up about New York City switching the location of their playoff game to Citi Field.

• You never know who might become a playoff hero. Also known as the Rodrigo Schlegel/Trinity Rodman Rule.


The latest pod discussion with Chris Wittyngham mentioned that it is unlikely that Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis will return to the national team. I’ve heard that hinted at elsewhere, but there never are any details provided. Ertz is now a mom and Mewis has an injury that doesn’t seem to be improving. Are you hearing that neither is ever going to play soccer again at all—club or national team? Can you provide any more details on either of them?

Jo Wilhelm

I totally understand the importance of your question: Ertz and Mewis were integral parts of the World Cup run in 2019—and, in Ertz’s case, 2015. It’s kind of crazy that in ESPN’s Top 50 global players list just 19 months ago Ertz was No. 8 and Mewis was No. 1.

I tend to err on the side of caution, so what I would say is that it is impossible that 2019-quality Ertz and Mewis will be part of the U.S. World Cup campaign in 2023, and right now I do not expect they will be on the U.S. World Cup team. With Ertz, I wonder if her situation might be similar to the players from Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team, so many of whom retired from the sport at an unexpectedly young age. Did that career triumph change your goals and how you saw the end of your career playing out? In Mewis’s case, there are real questions now being asked whether her playing career is in jeopardy due to her injuries. I’d love to see them dominating on the field again, but I don’t really expect it at this point.

What’s holding up more info on the 2023 MLS/Apple+ deal? The price point is critical to success. When is the optimal time for the league to announce the package specifics?

Dan Skinner

I don’t have any inside information on this, but I wouldn’t expect there to be much coming out until after the men’s World Cup and the winter holiday season are over. The focus for MLS right now is the playoffs, and then everything is about the World Cup, and then people will be busy with Christmas and New Year’s. So I’d look for something in January as the ramp-up to the new season starts.

It seems very optimistic to imagine the Paulsons selling the Portland Timbers and Thorns during this offseason. But what are the odds of a sale happening in the next 365 days?


From what we’ve seen, it’s very clear that Merritt Paulson does not want to sell either team. And from what we know about MLS rules, it does not look like the framework or support from fellow owners is in place for the league to force a Timbers sale like we saw with Dell Loy Hansen and Real Salt Lake. The questions from my perspective are: 1) Would public and sponsor pressure force the Paulsons to sell the Thorns or both teams? 2) Would NWSL owners push them to sell?

Any chance Vlatko Andonovski will be replaced before the World Cup?

Abby Howe-Heyman

I don’t think it’s impossible, but I do think it’s highly unlikely. My sense is it would require shambolic USWNT performances against Germany next month, which I don’t think will happen at home. If Andonovski wasn’t going to be let go after the disappointing Olympic performance, then U.S. Soccer was basically saying: We’re giving him the World Cup and will make a decision on his future after that.

Of the Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and the EPL, which do you think is the most likely to end up with a surprise winner this season?


It depends what you mean by “surprise winner,” because I’m inclined to say Serie A based on the view that Napoli would have been seen as a “surprise winner” before the season. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go in all these countries, and current Bundesliga leader Union Berlin would certainly be viewed as a surprise after Bayern Munich has won the last 10 league titles. That said, I’m still convinced Bayern will win in Germany, PSG will take France and Man City will win the Premier League. That leaves Serie A, where the two teams that wouldn’t be surprises are Milan (currently fifth) and Inter (currently seventh). Can they rebound? Of course. But the way first-place Napoli is playing is absolutely glorious right now.

With the controversial World Cup approaching, how have you found your more “independent” journalistic status changes your ability to cover it? Have you spoken to other journalists (off the record) about hurdles they are encountering that you have not (or vice versa)? Is there a big change in the broader approach after lessons were learned (rather late) about how sportswashing helped Putin maintain control and advance his violent and dangerous goals after the 2018 World Cup?


Great questions. I’m definitely independent on the writing side now compared to when I was at Sports Illustrated. But I would also say that in my years at SI (when it was under prior ownership) I was never prevented from doing any journalism for political reasons, not wanting to offend an advertiser, etc. Where things are different is I’m my own assigning editor now, so I don’t have story pitches turned down. I’m not sure that today’s Sports Illustrated—whose current owners are literally running the brand of David Beckham, who has a lucrative deal with Qatar—would have approved my story about going to Qatar and interviewing migrant workers about the new laws there.

One thing I never had to worry about at SI was being credentialed by FIFA to cover the World Cup. It’s a little more up in the air when you’re independent like I am now, but I got confirmation of my World Cup credential this week. U.S. Soccer recommended me to FIFA for a credential in large part because I spent the money to report on the ground for all 14 U.S. World Cup qualifying games.

I don’t know of other U.S. journalists who are facing any particular hurdles covering Qatar. However, we did get confirmation on Thursday that Fox Sports, the U.S. English-language broadcaster for the World Cup, says it will not be covering anything connected to Qatar’s migrant workers, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, etc.

Grant Wahl @GrantWahl

World Cup broadcaster Fox Sports says it won’t cover Qatar’s migrant workers, LGBTQ concerns, etc. Not surprising given how much money Fox is making from state-owned sponsor Qatar Airways, but still embarrassing sportswashing. I wrote about it recently: grantwahl.substack.com/p/friday-newsl…


10:26 PM ∙ Oct 13, 2022


It’s not surprising that Fox is ignoring the elephant in the room, but it’s also one of the reasons I chose not to extend my contract with Fox in 2019 after what I had seen at Russia 2018 and at other points in my time there. That company is just not a good fit with journalism.

Some great games to see this weekend. Enjoy!

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Playoffs and Returns

MLS Playoff action starts and several players have returned from injury across the ocean

By jcksnftsn  Oct 14, 2022, 8:46am PDT  

CA Osasuna v Valencia CF - LaLiga Santander

We’re making a slight modification to the viewing guide over the next month or so as we’ll try to expand coverage a bit to include matches outside of the Top Five and MLS where there are streaming options available that allow you to watch a match of a player who seems like they have a solid chance to make the World Cup roster, you can call it the Josh Sargent exception (though perhaps more importantly it applies to a couple goalkeepers as well). In addition this weekend in Europe we have some players returning to health and stateside we have the MLS playoffs starting this weekend with two matches a piece Saturday through Monday. It should be a full weekend so let’s get to it.


Valencia v Elche – 10:15a on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+

Yunus Musah also returned from injury last weekend to get 28’ off the bench as Valencia secured a 2-1 win in their midtable clash with Osasuana. The club face an Elche side this weekend that has managed just two points through eight matches and currently sit solidly at the bottom of the table. Valencia are in seventh place, just three points back of Atletico Madrid for fourth and Champions League qualification though it looks like it’s already a two horse race for the La Liga title with Barcelona and Real Madrid tied on 22 points, five points ahead of the next closest competitor.

Other notes:

  • Chris Richards has yet to return from injury with reports that he has yet to return to group training. Crystal Palace face Leicester at 7:30a on USA Network
  • The New York Red Bulls and Cincinnati kick off the MLS Playoffs at Noon on UniMas and TUDN. Aaron Long and John Tolkien will start for the Red Bulls while Brandon Vasquez will lead the attack for Cincinnati.
  • Walker Zimermann and Nashville SC travel to Los Angeles to take on the Galaxy at 3p on Univision and TUDN.

Streaming overseas:

  • Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Kevin Paredes and Wolfsburg host Joe Scally and Borussia Monchengladbach at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Pellegrino Matarazzo has been dismissed from Stuttgart so we won’t be tracking the club moving forward. They do face Bochum at 9:30a on ESPN+ this weekend.

Antonee Robinson also returned to the field last weekend but Fulham fell to West Ham 3-1. Robinson, Ream and Fulham now face aOther Bournemouth side whose only loses have come to Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool this season. The match will be at 10a on Peacock.

  • Weston McKennie and Juventus continue to flounder, their most recent dissapointing result being a 2-0 loss to Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa in Champions League play midweek with McKennie getting pulled at half-time. Juventus will now face Torino at Noon on Paramount+.
  • Some of that bonus Championship action as Josh Sargent’s Norwich side will face Watford at 2:45p on ESPN+.


Leeds United v Arsenal – 9a on Peacock

Jesse Marsch, Tyler Adams, and Brendon Aaronson need to get things back on track as they have just two points from their past five matches but they’ll have their work cut out for them as they face first place Arsenal. Leeds have fallen to fourteenth in the league standings just three points out of the relegation zone. It’s not a terrible position for a team that narrowly avoided relegation last season but it is a bit disappointing after their hot start to the season that included a 3-0 win over Chelsea. Unfortunately, that defeat of Chelsea was the sides last real positive result.

Other notes:

  • Austin FC host Real Salt Lake in a first round playoff matchup at 3p on ABC and ESPN Deportes.
  • Djordje Mihailovic and Montreal take on Orlando City SC at 8p on ESPN.

Streaming overseas:

  • Celta Vigo and Luca de la Torre face Real Sociedad at 8a on ESPN+.
  • Christian Pulisic got the start and scored a nice goal last weekend but didn’t see time off the bench midweek for Chelsea. They face Aston Villa at 9a on Peacock.
  • Erik Palmer Brown and Troyes face Ajacio at 9a on beIN Sports.
  • Jordan Pefok and Bundeslgia leading Union Berlin take on a Borussia Dortmund side that scored in the dying minutes to draw with Bayern Munich last weekend. Giovanni Reyna made his return from injury on Tuesday, playing 30 sharp minutes in BVB’s 1-1 draw with Sevilla.
  • Sergino Dest is looking to break his way back into the starting lineup for an AC Milan team that face Hellas Verona at 2:45p on Paramount+. Dest came on as a first half substitute in Milan’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea with his team already down by two and playing with 10 men.


Monday bonus action:

What will you be watching this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.

USWNT loses consecutive games for first time in 5 years. Is it time to worry?

Henry Bushnell  Tue, October 11, 2022 at 4:28 PM

Three days after the U.S. women’s national team lost to England, and as it readied to meet a Spanish team devoid of 17 top players, U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski came to a pre-match news conference prepared with some basic math.He knew he’d be asked about those missing Spanish players, who’d temporarily resigned in a dispute over working conditions; and about the Roja remnants that, surely, we all assumed, the U.S. would beat. And he repeatedly made a point that the American narrative seemed to be missing.”They can say the same thing about us,” Andonovski argued, almost preemptively. Unprompted, he rattled off the names of 15 players whom his team was missing, and whose absences severely weakened the USWNT on their European tour.Without them, the U.S. lost 2-0 to Spain on Tuesday. The Americans put zero shots on goal until late in the game, and looked disjointed going forward. They were physically superior to a Spanish side missing roughly nine of 11 starters, but tactically and technically inferior. They conceded a sloppy first-half goal, and never recovered.They dropped a second consecutive game for the first time since 2017, and naturally, worries spiked. The World Cup is nine months away. The team’s only major tournament so far under Andonovski ended in disappointment. Preparations for the next one are going far worse. As Esther Gonzalez volleyed home Spain’s second goal, a fan base wondered in unison: Is it time to panic?But the answer, according to Andonovski and to common sense, is an emphatic no.  Among the names that Andonovski rattled off on Monday were Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Fox and Tierna Davidson. He initially forgot to mention Catarina Macario, arguably his best player. All of them are currently injured or otherwise absent. All should be in Australia and New Zealand next summer.Without them, the USWNT still should have been better than a Spanish B-team. That they weren’t was less a cause for alarm, and more a reminder of longstanding flaws. Even with Pugh and Morgan present, their attack has often been inefficient. Its structure and rhythms don’t generate the type of chances that such a talented front six should.

But without half of those six — and especially in the context of a “heartbreaking,” emotionally draining week after the release of the Yates report — the USWNT’s performance really isn’t worth overanalyzing.”There’s no excuse with the team that we have, because I think we have incredible players,” Andonovski clarified Monday. “And I think every single one of them has earned the spot on the team.”But he knows that half of his starting lineup is missing. He knows that he could’ve added Crystal Dunn, who remains on a minutes restriction five months after giving birth, to his list. He knows that they all have the better part of a year to get healthy, and that he and the entire team have the better part of a year to fix their flaws.And there are flaws, certainly, even beyond the incoherence of the attack. The defensive personnel is unsettled. Given the spate of injuries and pregnancies, on-field chemistry is lacking. The USWNT is very much not a finished product.But the one certainty is that it will be far more of a finished product at next summer’s World Cup.The last time it lost two consecutive games, in 2017, it went on to lose only two of its next 78. Among the dozens of wins was a 2019 world championship.The loss to Spain will give renewed rise to the narrative that Europe has “caught up.” But that was the narrative four years ago. “The rest of the world caught up 15 years ago,” Andonovski said. “But the U.S. always figured out a way to stay a little bit ahead, or find a way to get on top.”And it can do so once again in 2023. Two tight losses away from home, with its roster and emotions both tattered, aren’t reasons for doubt.

Free to Read: Grant Wahl 3 Thoughts on Spain-USWNT

The U.S. women’s national team lost to Spain 2-0 on Tuesday in Pamplona, Spain. It marks the first two-game losing streak for the USWNT since 2017. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• The U.S. midfield is a huge concern and needs a formation change now. You can say all you want about the missing U.S. players from this game, but if we’re being honest 2015-era Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis aren’t walking through that door ever again, and Vlatko Andonovski needs to change his midfield set-up ASAP. Specifically: He has to go to a double-pivot, at least against top competition, because a single D-mid in Andi Sullivan just isn’t going to work. No single D-mid can do what Ertz used to do, including Ertz herself. The U.S. needs to switch to a 4-2-3-1 and use the added stability to help create the conditions for Rose Lavelle to do what she does best as a No. 10 in a central role. Right now the U.S. midfield isn’t controlling possession and isn’t creating the chances for whomever is on the front line to score goals. Spain’s B-team midfield outplayed the U.S., which can’t rely on forcing turnovers as the only way to create scoring chances. It’s that simple. Time for a change now.

GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter, and this is how I make my living. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now.


Upgrade to Paid

• There is time for the U.S. to right the ship, but not much. Several players missing from these losses to Spain and England should be back in the picture as we get closer to the World Cup, including Catarina Macario, Mal Pugh, Alex Morgan, Tierna Davidson and perhaps Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett and Midge Purce. And it’s unlikely that future U.S. games will have the debilitating emotional context that surrounded the team over the past week in the wake of the Yates Report release. I’m glad the U.S. scheduled two away games in Europe against difficult opponents—although a Spain team missing 15 striking players was obviously far from full strength—in part because it shows us exactly how much the U.S. needs to improve in the coming months. Playing Germany twice in November will help as well. But the vibe around the USWNT right now feels a lot like it did during the disappointing Olympics run, and recognizing that is necessary if things are going to get better.

• This result won’t help the cause of progress with the Spanish team. Beating the World Cup champion 2-0 (after tying Sweden 1-1) without the 15 prominent players who refuse to play for Jorge Vilda will only give Vilda and the Spanish federation more ammo in their refusal to listen to the concerns of those players. Obviously, there’s a giant problem there, and the Spanish federation’s strategy of infantilizing the players and refusing to meet with them is of a piece with the unwillingness to engage serious matters that we saw from American soccer officials in the Yates Report. This has to stop. Spain got a good result today, but it’s remarkable to me how much turmoil several European World Cup contenders are in just a few months before the tournament, whether it’s Spain, France (which has somehow retained coach Corinne Diacre), the Netherlands (which just fired coach Mark Parsons) or Norway (which replaced its coach after the Euros). That may be a saving grace for this U.S. team: things aren’t quite as bad for the Americans as they are for several other contenders.



The USWNT beat Mexico 1-0 on Monday night, finishing the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship

  • With a semifinal game against Costa Rica coming up later this week, let’s talk about what the U.S. still needs to accomplish in this tournament

It wasn’t pretty, but the U.S. finished the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship with a 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday night. That result helped the USWNT secure the top spot in Group A and set up a semifinal match against Costa Rica on Thursday.Now that the group stage is over, what does the United States still need to do at the W Championship?Let’s talk about that.


Simple, right?

Qualifying for the Olympics was always one of the two results-based goals for the USWNT heading into this tournament down in Mexico. The other goal was to qualify for the World Cup, which the United States did after two games. To qualify for the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. needs to make it past Costa Rica in the semis and then take down their next opponent, likely Canada, in the final.With all of the USWNT’s quality players, they’re more than capable of winning the W Championship and earning that auto-qualification spot for 2024. But being capable of winning this tournament isn’t enough. Making it to the final – and then winning it – is a must for the United States. After finishing third at the Olympics last summer, these next two games are two of the biggest of Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure. Because the U.S. underperformed in Tokyo, it’s critical that they improve and get results over this next week. Unfortunately for the U.S., Monday’s game against Mexico doesn’t give them much momentum. It was the worst of their three group stage games by some distance: there were far too many sloppy touches, poor passes, and questionable tactical choices. The United States’ only goal came late in the game once Mexico had already gone down to 10 players.Overall, the game felt eerily similar to the USWNT’s matches at last year’s Olympics, albeit with much lower stakes. The U.S will need to be sharper and more consistent in the knockout rounds if they want to win this tournament.


It’s becoming increasingly clear that the United States’ new guard is ready to change games. That new guard includes an immensely talented group of young forwards (see: Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith). It also includes creative midfielder Ashley Sanchez and up-and-coming center back Naomi Girma. 

At least one, if not both, of the USWNT’s young wingers is going to start however many games the U.S. has left in Mexico. But setting the forward group aside, I think Andonovski should continue to start Sanchez in the midfield and Grima in the back in the knockout rounds. 

Girma was strong defensively in both of her group stage starts, one against Jamaica and one against Mexico. Her patience and quick reads help her elevate the United States’ backline. More than that, she looks like an upgrade over Becky Sauerbrunn in pretty much every phase of play. I’m not sure if Andonovski would be willing to start Girma over Sauerbrunn, a U.S. legend, in big games at this tournament, but I think he should consider it.

And then there’s Sanchez. Sanchez tries stuff, people. Her ambition on the ball, creativity in the attack, and defensive mobility make her an extremely valuable presence for the USWNT. She’s appeared in all three games for the U.S. so far, mostly playing as a No. 8, but also playing some as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 against Mexico (more on that later). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the U.S. had their best attacking performance against Jamaica when Sanchez and Rose Lavelle started together in central midfield. At this point, Sanchez has shown that she should be starting as one of the No. 8s.


Before this tournament, Andonovski mentioned that the United States might play with a “double six”. They did just that for long stretches against Mexico on Monday, with Andi Sullivan and Lindsey Horan sitting deeper in midfield.The U.S. had the edge on Mexico, but they didn’t play well. The 4-2-3-1 shape (or, at the very least, a super lopsided 4-3-3 with Horan playing lower on the left and Sanchez playing higher on the right) and the USWNT’s execution in that shape was poor, to say the least. With both Sullivan and Horan sitting deep, there was a massive gap between the back four/double pivot and the front three/No. 10. That gap forced Sullivan into too much distribution. In general, she struggled to control the game and her errant passing hurt the USWNT. As the game wore on, the U.S. primarily advanced the ball through long balls over the top from Sullivan and Horan, which didn’t lead to many meaningful chances. You can see that gap in midfield in this image, with Horan setting up for a ball over the top.Looking a little higher up the field, Sanchez didn’t get enough touches playing as a No. 10 or even as a second forward next to Alex Morgan. Finally, because Andonovski flipped the central midfield shape and because the fullbacks were very reserved, there weren’t as many FB-CM-W combinations. As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, the U.S. reverted to hopeful long balls and scattered play even against a 10-player defense.With all of those attacking issues in mind, the United States should stay away from the 4-2-3-1 and go back to the 4-3-3 against Costa Rica.If the U.S. can find their attacking rhythm and create consistent chances with the possession that most opposing teams give them, they’ll be in great shape. If not…we’ll all be reliving last summer’s Olympics.

10/8/22  US lose 2-1 to England – Spain Tues ESPN2, Indy 11 home Sat 7 pm, CHS Sectional Finals today 2 pm/tonight 6 pm, MLS Final Day Sun, CFC Socctoberfest Winners

US Women lose to England, play Spain Tues 2:30 pm

The US ladies lost a heartbreaker to England on Friday 2-1 after some questionable calls which included a PK for England and a US goal called back by VAR.  Coach V – took a young squad to Europe, with Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn among others missing due to injury.  Sophia Smith was sensational along with Trinity Rodman and Megan Rapinoe up front.  Alana Cook playing centerback for the injured Sauerbrunn – gave up the pretty bad 2nd goal.   The US pushed down the stretch but couldn’t find the net in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium in England.  The #2 team in the world played well at home over our #1 US squad.  The US will travel to Pamplona to run with the Bulls vs #9 Spain on ESPN2 at 2:30 pm on Tuesday.  Hey Refs – What do you think of this offsides call that cost the US a great goal?  More Ref stuff below.

Indy 11 Last Home game Sat 7 pm

The Indy 11 wrap up the home season tonight at 7 pm at the Mike, An 8W-6L-2D overall record at home this season has put off mostly good vibes, and the impetus this weekend for the squad falls on leaving the Eleven faithful with a good impression of what could come at Carroll Stadium in 2023. Tickets start at $15 at indyeleven.com/tickets or watch MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+. Be Sure to Vote for former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr Player of the Month in the USL.   His San Antonio team is first seed in the USL West. More GK stuff below.

High School – #1 CHS Boys Sectionals Final 6 pm at Murray, #3 CHS in final vs North Central @ Westfield 2 pm

The Carmel High School boys host regionals tonight at The Carmel High School boys host the Sectional Finals tonight at 6 pm at Murray Stadium.  Here’s the shootout from Thursday night’s 4-4 (5-4) win where long time Carmel FC forward Will Latham hit the game winner. The #3 CHS ladies knocked off Zionsville 3-1 and now play North Central in the Finals at 2 pm at Westfield. Best of wishes to former Carmel FC GK Bethany Ducat who injured her kneecap and will miss the playoffs – fortunately another CFC GKU former keeper Aubrey Empie is there.

Congrats to these Carmel FC Socctoberfest Champions from last weekend.

U13 Gold Boys went 4-0 – with 3 4-0 wins in Group play at a 2-0 win in the final. Coach Mark Stumpf (right) Asst Coach Shane Best (left)
U12 Boys Gold Champions Coach Jim Ruden
2013 Gold Team Champions


Sat, Oct 8

10 am USA                  Wolverhampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10 am Peacock            Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs New Castle United

12 noon Paramount+   AC Milan vs Juventus  (McKinney)

12:30 pm ESPN+        Bayern Munich @ Dortmund (Reyna)

12:30 NBC                  Brighton vs Tottenham

Sun, Oct 9

9 am USA                    Crystal Palace vs Leeds United (Aaronson, Adams)

11:30 am USA                Arsenal vs Liverpool

12 noon Big 10 Net     Rutgers vs Indiana

1:30 pm ESPN+          Stutgart vs Union Berlin (Pefok)

2:30 pm FS1                Orlando City vs Columbus Crew

 5 pm ESPN2               Real Salt Lake vs Portland Timbers

Mon, Oct 10

3 pm USA                    Nottingham’s Forest vs Aston Villa

Tues, Oct 11               CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

12:45 pm Para+          Maccabi vs Juventus (McKinney)

2:30 pm ESPN2            US Women  vs Spain (Pamplona)

3 pm Para+                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs AC Milan

3 pm Para+                  PSG vs Benifica

3 pm Para+                  Celtic vs RB Leipzig  

3 pm Para+                  Dortmund (Reyna) vs Sevilla (Musah)

Wed, Oct 12

12:45 Para+                 Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid

3 pm Para+, TUDN      Barca vs Intermilan

3 pm Para+                  Tottenham vs Frankfurt

Thur, Oct 13

12:45 pm Para+            Bode vs Arsenal

3 pm Para+                  Union Berlin (Pefuk) vs Malmo

3 pm Para+                  West Ham vs Anderlecht

Sat, Oct 29

8 pm CBS                             NWSL Championship Game

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

US Ladies  

US loses to England 2-1

US Loses @ Wembley

England’s Hemp bosses US


GK Matt Turner Man of the Match vs Japan

Be Sure to Vote for former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr  

Best Goalkeeper Saves this Past Week

Be Sure to Vote for former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr  

MLS Saves of the Week

Can a Keeper be MVP


What do you think of this offsides call that cost the US a great goal? 

Was absolutely thrilled to do Girls Academy Games last weekend with these fine refs.

USWNT falls to England in friendly at packed Wembley Stadium

Oct 7, 2022; London, ENG;  United states forward Sofia Smith (11) scores a goal against England at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

By The Athletic StaffOct 7, 2022

The U.S. women’s national soccer team fell 2-1 to England on Friday in a packed Wembley Stadium in London, snapping a 13-game winning streak by the U.S. The result of the friendly between two top-four teams in FIFA’s world rankings didn’t end in the Americans’ favor, but it provided a chance for younger players to test themselves against a formidable English side.

Forward Sophia Smith provided the only goal for the top-ranked U.S. in the 28th minute on a play set up by veteran Lindsey Horan, who muscled the ball away from England as they played out the back. Smith finished with a hard shot to the lower left corner past England’s goalkeeper Mary Earps.

Lauren Hemp opened the scoring in the 10th minute for the Lionesses, ranked fourth in FIFA standings heading into the match, who took the 2-1 lead with a penalty kick netted by Georgia Stanway in the 33rd minute.

The U.S. nearly leveled the score minutes later when Trinity Rodman sent a ball into the net off a pass by Smith, but it was overturned with Rodman called offside.The match also saw defender Crystal Dunn return to action for the national team after the birth of her son in May. The absence of star forward Alex Morgan, who was ruled out of the trip due to a knee injury, was notable, but 17-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson saw her first minutes on the senior squad.“I can literally be her mom and like not her team mom,” forward Megan Rapinoe said. “I asked her a couple times: are you just like, What the fuck is going on? You’re playing in this massive game. It’s such a young age.”The USWNT is set to play in a friendly against Spain on Oct. 11 in Pamplona.

USWNT’s loss to England was a major test, and an exercise in clinging to joy

Meg Linehan

Oct 8, 2022

Last summer, one of the main themes of the U.S. women’s national team’s performance at the Olympics centered around joy. Or rather, the apparent lack of it. Whether it was the strangeness of lockdowns and empty stadiums, or the lack of time to build chemistry, or the adjustment period with head coach Vlatko Andonovski at his first major tournament, or some other reason or a combination of all of them, the USWNT looked flat and uninspired for significant spells of their time in Tokyo. The door opened significantly to the creeping fear that the world was catching up ahead of the 2023 World Cup and an attempted three-peat.On Friday night, four days after the release of the full findings from U.S. Soccer’s independent investigation led by former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates, joy wasn’t just an important ingredient for the potential success of the team; it became a concept to cling to, to find a moment’s respite from an extraordinarily heavy week.“I’d be lying if I said we were doing well,” Crystal Dunn told assembled reporters on Wednesday before training. “We’re getting through it. I think a lot of us are trying to find joy in playing this game.”



England and the USA sent out a message that can’t be ignored

Every player on the team was navigating it differently, she said — some were able to separate the work from the news, to focus on one training at a time. Dunn said she personally tried to navigate everything at once. “I find joy in playing the game, but I also know that there are things bigger than training and this game coming up, that really matter and they deserve our attention as well.”

Friday’s 2-1 loss to England was supposed to be one of the major tests of the calendar year for the USWNT, after the CONCACAF W Championship final against Canada, and followed by another away match against Spain, before a double test against Germany in November. The narrative was simple, and billed like a heavyweight title fight on the half-and-half scarves sold outside Wembley at the bootleg merch stands: the world champions vs. the European champions.

Emerging from the Jubilee line outside Wembley on Friday night, fans were greeted by banners honoring every single player on the Euros roster (and, of course, head coach Sarina Wiegman), changed over at some point between Thursday’s pregame press conference and Friday’s match. A sea of ecstatic England fans flowed and crested below, before orderly filing into Wembley where the final count would prove to be less than the expected full capacity, but impressive nonetheless: 76,893 strong and loud.

England defender Lucy Bronze promised a moment of solidarity with the USWNT ahead of the match. “Every single one of us is in solidarity with all of those players,” she said on Wednesday. “Particularly the ones who have spoken out and told their truths because I can imagine — well, I can’t even imagine — how hard it must be to have gone through it, and then to speak out.”

On Friday night, players from both teams wore teal armbands in solidarity with sexual violence survivors. The lights of Wembley stadium also became a wash of teal. The two teams gathered for a pre-match photo behind a banner reading “Protect the Players.”

Moments like these are not the true work, but there can still be power in a symbol if that solidarity continues and builds.

“Any time teams come together like that, any time any team, really, takes a stand, I think it galvanizes everybody,” Megan Rapinoe said after the match. 



England 2 – 1 USWNT: Hemp’s No 9 audition, Sophia Smith and players stand together

She mentioned the team’s next opponent, Spain, where 15 of the team’s most prominent players are embroiled in their own battle against their federation; Rapinoe said the USWNT was behind those players “100%.” While there are other, bigger reasons for the Spanish players to essentially boycott their own national team, consider this smaller detail: until 2019, they could not lock their own hotel room doors at night while traveling with the team. They had to wait for manager Jorge Vilda to check on them at night and meet his standards. Only then could they close their door and go to bed.

“Without the players, you don’t have anything,” Rapinoe said. “You don’t have a game, you don’t have a sport at all. If we’re not protected in the right ways, then nothing really else matters. For us to come together, and take a moment on a night like this, I think is really important and powerful.”

This week has largely been an exercise in still trying to comprehend the scale of the problem, the depth of the systemic abuse: sexual, emotional, verbal, racial, and homophobic. How those intersect with each other, how they extend with many tendrils to other parts of the game and other parts of the globe. There has been some progress on the accountability front in certain markets, even greater pressure from the public, media and sponsors, but we are just scratching the surface — even with a 171-page report. The true work still lies ahead. 


Investigation: U.S. Soccer, NWSL didn’t provide safe player environment

“The scope of (the NWSL and NWSLPA) joint investigation includes every instance of inappropriate conduct towards players by individuals in positions of power at every existing NWSL club since 2013 and seeks to trace it back to its origins,” a statement from the players’ association (issued on Wednesday) reads. “While the findings of and recommendations in the Yates report are significant and disturbing, it is not the end of the story.”

There is still yet more light that needs to shine brightly into every corner of the sport. As much as the Yates report has been painful, the account is not yet complete. We may now have a much better sense of the scale, but we are still waiting to see the true extent. We have not yet seen the bottom of this hole.

On Friday night, though, the match provided a moment to hold all of this at once, to grapple with the highs of a massive crowd at Wembley with two top teams battling it out, existing right alongside the sobering context of the last week, the last year, the ten-year history of the NWSL. It was an opportunity to see everything that this game could be, but also to know the cost of reaching this moment, to feel a twinge of guilt for enjoying a world-class football match but to embrace that inner conflict, or even recharge thanks to the electric atmosphere.

England vs. USA was a time to hope that there is not just a way out of the darkness, but a way that reimagines a night like Friday as the norm, rather than the remarkable outlier.

England, USWNT

England beat the USWNT as both teams send out a message that can’t be ignored

Charlotte Harpur Oct 8, 2022

Fireworks flew and lights flashed as the pre-match show to England against the USA foreshadowed the lightning talent on the pitch.It was a fitting celebratory atmosphere as the European champions looked to make a statement against the champions of the world in front of a 76,893-strong Wembley crowd. England did just that, defeating the icons of women’s football for the first time in five and a half years and the first time on home soil since 2011.Juxtaposed with that carnivalesque feel, however, was an important message. Before kick-off, every player, wearing teal blue armbands, stood behind a banner which read “PROTECT THE PLAYERS” while the Wembley arch also shone in the same colour.It was a show of solidarity from the two squads after the report published on Monday — commissioned by US Soccer and led by former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates — that found allegations of abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct in America’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).



Investigation: U.S. Soccer, NWSL didn’t provide safe player environment

There is a tension between the joy of playing on the pitch and the “horrible situations”, in Sarina Wiegman’s words, that many players experience off it. Both exist side by side, a reflection of the state of the women’s game.“We celebrated lots of things but also when this happens, you can’t let it go,” said Wiegman after the match“The timing is now. We used this momentum to spread the word that this is unacceptable. We are all behind it and supportive, but then we can play a very intense game. You could see lots of respect.”

So what does this victory mean for England? A 2-1 friendly win over the USWNT — “a good measure” and a “test”, according to their manager Wiegman — extends England’s winning streak to 15 games, a run which includes victories over the world’s top three ranked sides, plus the Netherlands and Spain. They are undefeated in 23 games and have never lost under Wiegman. The World Cup is 10 months away and this was another step in the right direction.“We took this moment to take another starting point to see where we are and we will take it from there,” said Wiegman.Since her appointment in September last year, the England manager has cultivated an unshakeable self-belief. The focus is not on their opponents’ strengths but their own.“As English people, we are the first to point out opposition and say, ‘They’re unbelievable’,” said Georgia Stanway. “Whereas now, we look in the room and we think we’re unbelievable.“This is us — this is what we’re here to do, that is how we play, this is our crowd, this is our home.”Before kick-off, captain Millie Bright, in the absence of the injured Leah Williamson, said she told her team “to put the stamp on our game”. The US are quick, physical, and make darting runs in behind. England didn’t choose to sit back, though, and restrict the space behind the defence. They set out with a high press and went at their opponents; a team they, and the world, had once feared.England reaped the rewards with Lauren Hemp, filling in for Alessia Russo at No 9, poking home from close range in the 10th minute.England’s performance, in the first half in particular, was dominant. They reduced the US’s possession to 31 per cent, the lowest number recorded since 2016. Of course, it’s not all about possession but it’s what you do with it, but England looked strong offensively, despite Russo’s absence, registering an expected goals (xG) total of 1.89.The all-conquering US put England under pressure, however; a much-needed test to see if they could adapt.“There were moments that were challenging, especially when we’re trying to build up and play out from the back,” said Stanway, who, hassled by Lindsey Horan, conceded possession in front of goal. Sophia Smith found the equaliser with a razor-sharp finish.In previous times, England may have crumbled but this summer’s triumph has established an unwavering confidence. For Stanway to step up and convert a penalty five minutes after five minutes after she was dispossessed, leading to the US’s equaliser, is symbolic of this side’s resilience.“We had already overcome that (mental) barrier before this game,” said Bright. “The summer proved to ourselves the level that we can play. Winning a major trophy, you’re on an equal ground almost; two top teams coming together.”“We proved to ourselves that we can beat anyone,” added Wiegman. “We just have to do what we can control and stick together, communicate with each other at all times. We need to have the freedom to make our own choices. We are doing well in that.”



Banned, ignored… adored: How England’s women fought to became champions of Europe

There are “extra gears”, in Stanway’s words, to be found and that counts for both sides. Of course, the caveat is the US squad is missing key players and come the new year, their team will look very different. Wiegman, as is her trademark, made few substitutions compared to her US counterpart, Vlatko Andonovski. Lauren James’ 91st-minute appearance is a nod to her progress so far.Just as this is not cause for panic for the US, Wiegman is not getting carried away. “It’s now October and not July yet,” she said. “You are the best team in the world when you have won the World Cup. We didn’t.”It was a display of two of the top teams on the biggest stage but Megan Rapinoe wrapped it up best.“Without the players, you don’t have anything. You don’t have a game, you don’t have a sport at all,” she said.“If we’re not protected in the right ways, then nothing else really matters. So for us to come together and take a moment on a night like this, it is really important and powerful.”

Leeds have a difficult balancing act to provide Gelhardt a pathway to the first team

By Phil HayOct 7, 2022

The first episode of Leeds United’s Academy Dreams documentary starts with a question-and-answer session for their under-21s. Sam Greenwood is the best finisher in the squad, or so says Nohan KennehCharlie Cresswell is the player who cannot keep out of the gym. Sean McGurk is most in need of a haircut and Crysencio Summerville is promising (or threatening) to drag McGurk to his barber.Lewis Bate gets onto talking about Joe Gelhardt and cuts to the chase, saying Gelhardt has it in him to be an England international, to go to the top, to be whatever he wants to be. Gelhardt hears that said about him a lot and he is one of those footballers who will end his career with his reputation lying one of two ways: either promise fulfilled or promise which should have been. No one could look at him and pretend that the faculties were not there in the first place, ready to be mined.

So sold are Leeds on him that he was used as part of the justification for the club’s inclination to let the last transfer window close without signing a forward. To quote their chief executive, Leeds — prior to hastily summoning Wilfried Gnonto from FC Zurich at the last minute — were content with their choices up front because those choices included someone “widely regarded as the best young striking talent in the league” and it is hard to be any more effusive than that. Gelhardt, for a snip from Wigan, was the sort of signing which could hardly go wrong; the sort of signing which could, quite easily, earn a club a killing competitively or financially.

LeedsGelhardt was signed from Wigan in 2020 and has already made an impression in the Premier League (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

They talk constantly about pathways at Leeds because pathways are essential bargaining chips in negotiations with any young footballer of any real value who is not simply chasing the dollar. Academy players with a brain and a clue want to know that the first team exists as an entity they have a reasonable chance of reaching. Clubs in the market want to be able to show that they do. Gnonto is a thinker, an intelligent cove, and it is almost inconceivable given his previous career choices that he did not ask that question or do some homework on what academy dreams at Leeds actually entail.He must have thought about Gelhardt because, to some extent, they are in direct competition: emerging, admired, looking to push themselves and working on establishing the exact type of forward they are. Gnonto likes to play a little deeper than a No 9 and moves into wider roles with Italy’s national side. Gelhardt can be highly effective off a striker too, but compared to Gnonto, looks more vibrant and more of a handful in central areas, congested or otherwise. Moving at speed, his touch and balance makes him difficult to contain but Gnonto has that air about him too, a player who wants the ball at his feet.In analysing strikers in the transfer market this summer, Leeds said more than once that they were mindful of avoiding any signing that, in style or ability, would cramp Gelhardt’s pathway. Despite everything, Gelhardt was able to turn last year into something of a break-out season, which made him a focal part of selection discussions.

It invited Leeds to push him further again. But on Sunday he was the spare part at Elland Road, the player omitted as Jesse Marsch picked his 20 for a goalless draw with Aston Villa. The fitness routine Gelhardt went through before the warm-up told the crowd he was available, simply because it was obvious from the running drills that he was fit. This is what players sometimes do when they are about to watch from the stands.Marsch and Leeds have options up front which, in the context of the year behind them, is a welcome and necessary novelty. What is yet to establish itself on his watch, though, is a clear or complete pecking order in which people know their place.There is a sense that if Marsch had all of his cards to play, Patrick Bamford would start up front but Bamford suffered another knock last week so the game of persistence continued with Rodrigo. Marsch doubted at first that Gnonto would be primed for the Premier League straight away but it turns out that he is, to some degree anyway, and a seat for him on the bench meant no seat for Gelhardt.

“It’s not based on performance because I think (Gelhardt) is playing well,” Marsch said. “We have a lot of other guys performing well right now. Please don’t take that as a negative on Joffy.” Which is fair enough and Gelhardt knocked in two goals for the under-21s two days later. But omitting Gelhardt on Sunday touched on something Marsch found himself discussing 48 hours earlier: how best to manage those players who are caught in the grey area where under-21s football is easy bread and butter but first-team football is not fully in their grasp? How to keep pathways open when the laws of choosing a squad dictate that a coach cannot maintain pathways for everyone? Who has to suck up the reality of hard numbers?Those numbers ebb and flow, dictated by some things Marsch cannot control. Luis Sinisterra’s impending one-match ban will open up a space in the squad for Sunday’s game at Crystal Palace. Gelhardt, in any case, is good enough to prove the theory of cream always rising to the top. But it is not a secret that he would have liked more minutes last season and that certain occasions when he wasn’t used, particularly as a substitute, confused him as much as others watching. Every appearance he makes in Academy Dreams says the same thing: that he wants to play, any time, anywhere.That the door is not open quite so wide is not inherently a bad thing for the club. It was incumbent on Leeds over the summer to move beyond the stage where players were in the squad by default or where naming a squad meant making up the numbers. Whereas last season Gelhardt had no guarantee of starting, now there is no guarantee of who will make the bench.It is on him to take up the challenge and on Marsch to keep the pathway clear.