3/6/23 Neymar is out, Champs League Tu 3 pm CBS Chelsea/Dortmund, Wed Bayern/PSG 3 pm CBS, MLS CC UCL Tue/Wed FS 1

Champions League Tues/Wed 3 pm CBS  

So we have arrived at the 2nd leg of the Round 16 in the Best Club competition in the World UEFA Champions League – these are the best players and the best teams in the World of Football. (Cool Lays Commercial).  CBS will kick off coverage at 2 pm with Pregame – on both Tues/Wed with Chelsea traveling to Dortmund down 1-0, while Wed features Bayern hosting PSG up 1-0. Mbappe missed the first 65 minutes of the first round before coming on and terrorizing Bayern for the last 20 minutes.  Can PSG turn the tide in Germany?  Can Chelsea and new coach Graham Potter save his job and his team’s season with a win at Dortmund (a team who has not lost a game in 2023)?   I have admit I don’t see Chelsea making it past the Big Yellow wall at Dortmund I see another 1-0 win for Dortmund and more misery for the biggest spending team in the world- Chelsea and their new idiotic American owners. On the other side I would love to see PSG make a run I have this feeling that a healthy Mbappe can help them carry a 3-1 victory with Messi driving the boat (Neymar is out for the season) at Bayern which would see them thru.  Must See TV for sure the big games on CBS and the others on Paramount plus including split screen coverage and post game coverage. Also Europa League on Thurs on Paramount plus.

Concacaf Champions League Tues/Wed/Thurs FS1 + FS2

Our MLS teams will head into CONCACAF Champions League Sweet 16 play this week as Austin FC, Philly Union and Orlando City will all travel to foreign countries Tuesday night at 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm on Fox Sports 1. Wed Night its Vancouver hosting Real Espana at 10 pm on FS2 and Thur gives us MLS Cup Winners LAFC traveling to Alajuelense at 10 pm on FS2. Of course my Seattle Sounders became the 1st MLS team to win the CCL last season. (see schedule below)

Indy 11 open Mar 11 @ Tampa Bay on ESPN+,

With the season starting this weekend – I am hearing good things about our Indy 11 on the national soccer shows I pay attention to – word is we will be one of the most improved teams in the Eastern Conference and that our Manager Mark Lowry is really good.  I am hopeful our 11 can turn it around this season.  Big preseason win this week and good news that Indy Acquires Adrian Diz Pe via Tranfer from FC Tulsa.  That and of course our USL Women’s team now has the 2023 Schedule.  Season tickets are still on sale and give you the leg up when the new stadium arrives.    Full Schedule   Promotions  Roster


Wow Liverpool just whooped Man United on Sunday the 7-0 win the largest in the history of the series. Tons of EPL stories below. Oh and happy Birthday to Timmy Howard – perhaps the best US Goalkeeper ever. (See great saves below)


(American’s names in Parenthesis)

Tues, Mar 7         Champions League  + CCL

3 pm Para+                         Club Brugge vs Benifica  

3 pm CBS                             Chelsea (Pulisc) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

6 pm FS1                              Violette vs Austin FC  CCL

8 pm FS1                              Alianza vs Philly Union

10 pm  FS2                           Tigres vs Orlando City 

Weds,Mar 8       Champions League  + CCL

3 pm Para+                         Tottenham vs Milan 

3 pm CBS                             Bayern Munich vs PSG  (Messi)

10 pm  FS2                           Vancouver vs Real Espana CCL 

Thurs, Mar 9       Europa  League  + CCL

1230 pm CBS SN                Europa League Wrap-Around

12:30 pm Para+                 Sporting CP vs Arsenal (Turner)

12:30 pm Para+                 Union Berlin (Pfuk) vs Saint-Gilloise

12:45 pm Para+                 Larnaca vs West Ham United

3 pm Para+                         Roma vs Real Socidad

3 pm Para+                         Man United  vs Real Betis

3 pm Para+                         Juventus vs Freiburg

3 pm Para+                         Shakhtar Donestsk vs Feyenoord

8 pm FS2                              Motagua vs Pachuca CCL 

10 pm  FS2                           Alajuelense vs LAFC

Sat, Mar 11

7:30 am USA                       Bournemouth vs Liverpool

9:30 am ESPN+                  RB Leipzig vs Mgladbach (Scaly)

9:30 am ESPN+                  Bayern Munich vs Ausburg 

10 am USA                          Leeds United (Adams, Mckinney, Aaronson) vs Brighton

10  am Peacock                 Leicester City vs Chelsea

10 am Peacock                  Man United vs Southampton

12 pm Fox                           Chalotte vs Atlanta United MLS

12:30 pm NBC                    Crystal Palace vs Man City

12:30 pm ESPN+               Schalke vs Dortmund

3 pm ESPN+                        Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla

7:30 pm ESPN+           Tampa Bay Rowdies vs INDY 11

7:30 pm Apple+                Cincy vs Seattle MSL

9:30 pm Apple TV             Portland vs St Louis

Sun,Mar 12                        

10 am USA                          Fulham (Ream, Jedi) vs Arsenal

10 am USA?                        West Ham vs Aston Villa 

12 N PEacock                      New Castle vs Wolverhampton

3:45 pm Para+                   Juventus  vs Sampdoria

4 pm ESPND +                    Athletic Club vs Barceloa

9 pm FS2                              Santos Laguna vs Tiajuana

10:30 pm Apple                 LAFC vvs New England

Indy 11 Schedule


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

Champions League 

UCL Power Rankings: Real Madrid on top

UCL bold predictions: Joao Felix to the rescue
Bellingham the key for high-flying Dortmund at Chelsea

Chelsea’s expensive recruits face Champions League moment of truth

Chelsea’s options to replace Thiago Silva

Real Madrid’s three biggest problems

Messi and Mbappe could be PSG’s UCL blueprint

Neymar to miss remainder of Ligue 1 season with ankle injury
Joao Felix admits Champions League will sway Chelsea future decision as new players risk pay hit

Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund: How to watch live, team news, 

Carragher: Liverpool defense in ‘shambles’

The Song


MLS clubs spread their wings in Champions League action

Which MLS Teams Could Win CC Champions League

What to Watch 4  CC Champions League
Chiellini on target for LAFC, Miami stun Philly, St.Louis triumph

MLS Panic Meter: Dishing out readings after Matchday 2


The worst performance I’ve seen on English football’s biggest stage

10 things we learned in the Premier League: Week 26

Liverpool’s new-look front three put Man Utd to the sword

7-0: Liverpool pummels mistake-riddled Manchester United

Liverpool condemn Manchester United to joint-heaviest defeat in their history

Ten Hag slams ‘unprofessional’ Man Utd after Liverpool humiliation

Liverpool vs Manchester United player ratings: Bruno Fernandes shows no leadership in defeat

Patrick Vieira wants Crystal Palace fans to trust the process – but what is it?

Arteta-time: How Arsenal became masters of late drama

How Liverpool 7-0 Man United ranks among biggest thrashings in Europe’s major rivalries
8hChris Wright

Liverpool crush Man United with historic 7-0 win that puts them on course for top-four finish


The VAR Review: Arsenal handball claims, Fernandes penalty, McTominay red
Dale Johnson
Nottingham Forest to make official complaint about standard of referees

Become a Licensed High School Ref


Timmy Scores a Goal at Everton

Timmy Howard at Everton

Timmy Howard Saves in MLS

Indy 11

Indy Acquires Adrian Diz Pe via Tranfer from FC Tulsa

Preseason Recap | IND 5 : 1 CF2

USL W League Announces 2023 Schedule

 All USL Championship Matches Available Live on ESPN Platforms

Indy 11 Learns US Open Cup Draw April 4-6 

Indy 11 Win over IWU 5-1

Indy 11 beats Butler 3-1

Indy 11 Recap Video

Indy 11 Schedule

Indy 11 Park

Indy 11 Promos 

Indy 11 Roster

Indy 11 W League Joins new League

Indy 11 Away Games can be enjoyed at Union Jack in Broad Ripple. Join the BYB for games.

  • Champions League: Chelsea 0 vs. Dortmund 1, Tuesday, 3 p.m. 
    💰 THE PICK: Chelsea to quality-  Chelsea’s numbers have been better than their results recently, and that tension can only hold for so long. And on top of that, this is the last competition that really matters for Chelsea. If they can keep themselves alive for a deep run in the Champions League, it’ll erase a lot of other sins.
  • Champions League: Benfica 2 vs. Brugge 0, Tuesday, 3 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Benfica – This tie is effectively over. Benfica are the better team and come home with a two-goal cushion. So let’s bet on them to blow the doors off this one. They didn’t play especially well in the first leg and still scored two goals away from home. Not very hard to imagine things getting out of hand here when they face Belgium’s fourth-best side.

UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 UEFA Champions League round of 16 continues with the second legs of four matchups taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The remaining four matchups will finish up next week, after which time the quarterfinals draw will take place.

With all that in mind, let’s get to this week’s games.


Benfica vs  Club Brugge 

If Benfica (currently up 2-0 on aggregate) do manage to finish off Club Brugge, do they have any realistic chance of advancing further?

Paul Carr: Benfica will likely be in the weird spot of being the club everyone wants to draw in the quarterfinals, while still having as much of a chance as any of the bottom four teams in the quarters. The Portuguese league leaders have won eight consecutive games by multiple goals and, while they obviously don’t need to do that here, the price is too tempting to pass up against the weakest remaining team. Benfica dominated the first leg, outshooting Brugge 14-4 with 2.9 expected goals to Brugge’s 0.4. I’ll take Benfica -1.5 in the second leg at +120.

Dan Thomas: Benfica were so dominant in the first leg and I can see this being one-way traffic once again in Portugal. I think Paul has this spot-on. Benfica -1.5 +120

Chelsea Vs Borussia Dortmund 

If Chelsea lose this game against Dortmund, is Graham Potter out? If Dortmund (up 1-0 on aggregate) get past Chelsea should they be favorites to win the Champions League?

Carr: If Chelsea go out versus Dortmund, there’s not much reason to fire Potter now, given that Chelsea will be out of all three cup competitions and sitting 10th in the EPL. However, we all know that logic isn’t exactly running rampant in many front offices.

Anyway, Dortmund are running a little hot, as any club on a 10-match win streak does, but still have at least 1.5 expected goals in eight of those 10 games. Dortmund could easily get a goal here, and then Chelsea would need two, something the Blues haven’t done in any of their last 12 games, winning only twice in that span. I can’t imagine trusting Chelsea here, even at Stamford Bridge. Give me Dortmund on the double chance (-111).

Thomas: I think the fact they beat Leeds United gives Potter a little more breathing room. As always, their issues are going to be goals. Dortmund very much held on against RB Leipzig, despite the one-man advantage on Friday. This is really difficult to call. I’m going to go Chelsea under 1.5 goals (-115).


Tottenham Hotspur vs  AC Milan 

Milan won the first leg 1-0. Who currently has the worst form between these two sides?

Carr: The first leg was a pretty good microcosm of the recent form for both teams. Tottenham had 11 shots worth 0.4 expected goals, with only one shot of above-average quality. Milan was a little better, with nine shots and 1.9 expected goals, although most of that value was on the goal and a couple of late chances. Tottenham of course needs a goal but has only topped 1.5 expected goals in a match once since the World Cup. This should be a tight game with both teams happy to play for one goal. I’m taking under 2.5 goals at -115.

Thomas: Both teams are on a miserable run at the moment. I don’t think this game will be one for the purists. I’ll also take under 2.5 goals at -115.

Bayern Munich vs  Paris Saint-Germain 

With Neymar injured, how will it impact the game, and do you believe this is Lionel Messi‘s last chance to win a championship? Has João Cancelo made Bayern favorites to win it all?

Carr: In the first leg (won by Bayern 1-0) PSG presented almost no threat until Kylian Mbappe entered for the final half hour. Mbappe will be healthy for this second leg, but Neymar is out, and Bayern’s Sadio Mane will be available to run at what should be a stretched PSG back line. Bayern are still rolling, winning seven of their last eight and with the underlying numbers to match. The exception was a loss to Borussia Monchengladbach when Bayern got an early red card. Give me Bayern to win this game at -125, a price that would be closer to -150 were this not a second leg.

Thomas: Here we go then. I’m very much looking forward to this one. Mbappe is healthy and hungry for goals going into this match and what a price this is to go with Mbappe scoring two or more goals (+1000).

Champions League picks, predictions, odds: Experts split on Chelsea; PSG to get eliminated by Bayern Munich

Champions League returns to action and experts are split on some of the week’s biggest matchups

By Roger Gonzalez5 hrs ago•8 min readGetty Images

The journey towards European supremacy rages on with UEFA Champions League round of 16 second legs beginning this week. Tuesday will see Chelsea look to turn things around against Borussia Dortmund while Benfica aim to slam the door shut against struggling Club Brugge. On Wednesday, PSG and Bayern Munich face off on as Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and company have their backs against the wall, looking to overcome a 1-0 deficit in Bavaria, while Tottenham welcome AC Milan to London.

As always, CBS Sports and Paramount+ will be your home for all things UCL.

Here’s our predictions for each match and more:

Tuesday’s broadcast schedule

(All times U.S./Eastern)

  • UEFA Champions League Today, 2 p.m., CBS and Paramount+
  • Chelsea vs. Borussia Dortmund, 3 p.m., CBS and Paramount+
  • Benfica vs. Club Brugge 3 p.m., Paramount+
  • UEFA Champions League Post-Match Show, 5 p.m., CBS Sports Network and Paramount+

Wednesday’s broadcast schedule

(All times U.S./Eastern)

Coverage starts each day at 2 pm. with Champions League Today on CBS and Paramount+. Paramount+ will offer a multicast feature allowing subscribers to watch two matches simultaneously in a split-screen view. You can try one month free by using the code: ADVANCE.

Match picks

player headshotJames Bengeplayer headshotChuck Boothplayer headshotRoger Gonzalezplayer headshotJonathan Johnsonplayer headshotFrancesco Porzio
CFC-BVB3-1 (AET)0-21-11-11-2
FCB-PSG2-22-12-21-3 (AET)2-1
TOT-MIL1-0 (Milan on PKs)2-0 (AET)1-11-12-2

Chelsea vs. Borussia Dortmund

Featured Game|Chelsea vs. Borussia Dortmund

One matchup to watch: At the time of writing Chelsea are hopeful that Reece James will be back in time to take the field at Stamford Bridge but Graham Potter will need his most important defender to be at something approaching full steam if he is to match the in-form Marco Reus, assuming the German occupies the left wing as he did in Dortmund’s win over RB Leipzig. Reus’ own fitness is often fleeting but when he is available he tends to be worth the wait and has provided two goals and three assists. Equally if James can get motoring up the pitch, whether as a wing-back or full-back, he could force Reus into more defensive work than Edin Terzic might like.

Most likely to score a goal: Even if Chelsea as a team are starting to build greater attacking threat it is hard to find one particular name in their squad who is looking convincing in front of goal. The likes of Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling can often seem like they are searching for newer and more imaginative ways to miss, whilst the goals might eventually come it would be a mad man who predicted their source. Dortmund tend to share the goals around, their scorer could be anyone but with four in his last five Bundesliga games Julian Brandt seems a tempting choice.

Man of the Match pick: With the excellent goalkeeper Gregor Kobel expected to miss out, Dortmund’s defense will need to play well to protect Alexander Meyer even if the backup did make some smart saves against RB Leipzig. Perhaps the best performer in that game was Nico Schlotterbeck, whose sterling form has been crucial in Dortmund’s rise up the Bundesliga table.

Match prediction: Chelsea seem likely to dominate possession and territory and this could just open up the door for Borussia Dortmund to make them pay on counterattacks, even without Karim Adeyemi. But the subzero Blues have to heat up sooner or later in front of goal, why not when Graham Potter needs it most? It might go all the way to extra time but I have a feeling Chelsea could get a 3-1 win to advance.

James Benge

Club Brugge vs. Benfica

Featured Game|Benfica vs. Club Brugge

One matchup to watch: The midfield battle. With Benfica already ahead 2-0 heading into the deciding leg of the game at home, Florentino Luis and Fredrik Aursnes will have a lot of the ball during the tie. If they can pick apart Brugge with a patient attack, it’ll be an easy win for Benfica but if Kamal Sowah and the Brugge midfield can unsettle things, Benficia’s slower central pairing can be exploited. It’s certinaly a tall task for a Brugge team that is overmatched and away from home but winning the midfield battle is the only way to victory for Brugge even if they end up with a man advantage.

Most likely to score a goal: Goncalo Ramos. Benfica has a balanced attack but everything leads to Ramos at point of it. With 21 goals in all competiions, including five in Champions League play, Ramos has been someone that Benfica can count on. Even when he isn’t scoring, Ramos is able to influence a match by keeping pressure on the defense, but he’ll have a good chance to beat Simon Mignolet in the tie.

Man of the Match pick: Simon Mignolet. With Brugge under pressure during the match, Mignolet will do what he does best in keeping a match close that shouldn’t be. Only facing four shots on target during the opening leg in Belgium, he’ll have more to do during an away trip in Libson. 

Match prediction: Already having the lead coming into the second leg, Benfica will be able to take things at their pace passing their way to another 2-0 victory to echo the opening leg. While Brugge will crash out of Champions League in their inagural apparance in the knockout stage, it will be agianst a worthy opponent as Benfica are quickly rising to the tier of being one of the top clubs in the world. 


-Chuck Booth

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayern Munich

One matchup to watch: Dayot Upamecano vs. Kylian Mbappe — The two France international teammates are likely to see a lot of each other come Wednesday. Although Matthijs de Ligt might also be brough more central given Benjamin Pavard’s suspension, Mbappe will likely favor going up against Upamecano where possible given his knowledge of his fellow Frenchman. The first leg was all about Mbappe and he only came on as a second half substitute before ripping into Bayern with the help of Nuno Mendes. Expect 90 minutes of PSG trying to do just that again here.

Most likely to score a goal: Mbappe — The opening leg only really came to life when Mbappe came on and his introduction transformed PSG. With the French champions’ season effectively on the line here, expect Mbappe to at least have some say as Christophe Galtier’s men attempt to score their way to qualification. Given what we have seen from Les Parisiens against Lille and Marseille domestically, no Neymar in Bavaria could actually benefit PSG as it simplifies things in attack and maximizes the impact of Mbappe’s searing pace.

Man of the Match pick: Nuno Mendes — The Portugal international was sensational in the second half of the first leg and Galtier will try to replicate that showing as PSG really tested Yann Sommer in the Bayern goal. Whether it will be enough depends on how clinical Mbappe and Lionel Messi can be, but the LOSC and OM showings have been promising as far as goals are concerned. The only concern over Mendes might be his ability to go the full 90 and potentially beyond given his recent knock against Lille.


Match prediction: Bayern 1-3 PSG (after extra time) — Such a result would put the Ligue 1 leaders through and the Bundesliga giants out. Julian Nagelsmann’s men really should have buried Galtier’s side in Paris when they had the chance. Counterattacking suits this PSG side and Mbappe in particular who has already shown his ability to deliver at Allianz Arena in recent years. Gianluigi Donnarumma could be the difference in whether or not this one goes beyond 90 minutes, but do not be surprised if PSG fly out of the traps looking to erase Bayern’s first-leg advantage as soon as possible.

-Jonathan Johnson

Tottenham vs. AC Milan

Featured Game|Tottenham Hotspur vs. AC Milan

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One matchup to watch: Harry Kane vs. Fikayo Tomori – Tottenham will definitely need to score soon during the match if they want to have chances to make it to the quarter finals of this season. Harry Kane will play against Fikayo Tomori in what it’s going to be one of the most interesting duels of the game. Tomori is not playing particularly well this season and comes from a big mistake that led to the penalty scored by Nico Gonzalez against Fiorentina last Saturday. 

Most likely to score a goal: Harry Kane – I expect Kane to score at least one goal against AC Milan. This is going to be a big chance for him and Spurs will rely a lot on their club’s top scorer against the Italian side. Antonio Conte’s side are coming from a heavy defeat away against Wolves and need to react in the Champions League’s second leg this Wednesday. 


Man of the Match pick: Rafael Leao – There are a lot of rumors about his potential Premier League move in the future and this is a great opportunity for him to shine on such a big stage. The Rossoneri need Leao to be at the center of their project in the coming years, and are already talking to extend his deal, with the current one expiring in the summer 2024. 

Match prediction: Tottenham 2, AC Milan 2. I expect this one to be a more exciting game compared to the first leg when AC Milan won thanks to an early goal scored by Brahim Diaz. Antonio Conte’s side need to score if they want to have chances to go to the next round but will also likely expose themselves defensively. I expect the Italian side to go through. 

Champions League last-16 second legs preview: Where each tie will be won and lost

Champions League last-16 second legs preview: Where each tie will be won and lost

Thom Harris Mar 6, 2023 The Athletic

The narratives have changed since eight of Europe’s top sides went toe-to-toe just under three weeks ago.This week’s four Champions League ties now look very different than before those opening legs.The Athletic’s Thom Harris takes a deep dive into the last-16 fixtures coming up this Tuesday and Wednesday…

Benfica vs Club Bruges

(First leg result: Club Bruges 0-2 Benfica)


Things couldn’t be going much better for Lisbon giants Benfica right now.Eight points clear at the top of the Primeira Liga, and firmly in control of their European fate, perhaps the only blot on their copybook has been their penalty shootout heartache against Braga last month in the Portuguese version of the FA Cup, which was one of just two competitive defeats for them all season (Braga also beat them 3-0 in the league in the first game back after the World Cup break).Having dried their eyes with £106million of Chelsea’s finest banknotes after selling Enzo Fernandez, manager Roger Schmidt’s side have won three domestic games on the bounce since that cup exit and also looked impressive as they cruised to first-leg victory in Belgium against Club Bruges, a huge step towards securing a second consecutive Champions League quarter-final.

Bringing a 2-0 lead back to their Estadio da Luz, where they haven’t been beaten in 10 months, should leave Benfica confident in their abilities to see this one through.While Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario continue to write the attacking headlines, Benfica’s ferocious full-backs are giving them a forward thrust in wide areas.Particularly out on the left, where Alejandro Grimaldo — Alex to his friends — has been one of their finest creators, making more passes into the opposition penalty area than any other player in the Portuguese top flight, while contributing two goals and a league-high seven assists. And this is a full-back, remember.Having also received 272 progressive passes throughout the domestic league season — 66 more than any other player in the division — the flying Spaniard also represents a crucial outlet for his side, allowing Benfica to build up and establish themselves in opposition territory with a ball out to the left.The 27-year-old has been just as influential in Europe, notably sliding a pass through to allow Rafa Silva to sentence Juventus to a shock group-stage exit from the Champions League.

With two assists and two long-range screamers scored already in this season’s competition, don’t be surprised to see Grimaldo chomping at the bit for more tomorrow night.

Club Bruges

Bruges emerged battered and bruised from that first leg, and the data doesn’t look good for Scott Parker’s chances of masterminding a miracle in Lisbon.Only able to generate a 0.3 expected goals (xG) figure while conceding a massive 2.9 one at the other end, the Belgians now travel to a stadium that has seen Benfica accumulate over 2.0 xG in all but two of their 16 matches there this season.As if that wasn’t enough, of the 45 sides to have lost the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie by two or more goals in front of their own fans, only one has managed to progress to the next round — Manchester United, when they came back to beat Paris Saint-Germain at this stage four years ago on the now-defunct away goals rule.A worrying feature of former Fulham and Bournemouth manager Parker’s so-far troublesome Belgian adventure has been his misfiring strikers, with some of Bruges’ standout players in earlier rounds struggling to find the net since his appointment in late December.Bruges are without an open-play goal from a recognised centre-forward since October 29 — 19 games ago — when Ferran Jutgla volleyed home against struggling Ostend.The goalscoring burden has fallen to midfielders Casper Nielsen and Hans Vanaken, while wingers Andreas Skov Olsen, who hasn’t played since January due to injury, and Noa Lang have been the primary sources of inspiration.Lang was one of the few bright sparks in that 2-0 first-leg defeat, as he attempted 15 carries and won 18 ground duels in a spirited individual performance. However, he did not manage a single touch in the Benfica penalty area as he was marshalled safely into wide areas, unable to single-handedly provide the penetration he so often has, and that his side will so desperately need in Lisbon.

The Belgians have already won, heavily, on Portuguese soil this year — a 4-0 thumping of Porto in the group stage — but that was back in September and given their current struggles, they are probably odds-against repeating that feat down in the capital.

Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund

(First leg result: Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Chelsea)


Sometimes, for all the data analysis in the world, the most valuable conclusions are the most obvious.In that regard, The Athletic brings you an exclusive: If Chelsea are going to make the last eight, they’re going to need to score here.Graham Potter’s team nervously edged themselves to a 1-0 win against Leeds at the weekend but they still didn’t look as fluent as their manager would like.And with just five goals from 149 attempts since the start of the calendar year, representing an expected goals underperformance of 10.1, their shocking finishing run is surely due a turn in the road.

If anything, then, the key to a Chelsea comeback could lie amid the intangibles.Graham Potter’s side had eight shots on target in that 1-0 defeat in Germany on February 15 — their most without scoring ever in a Champions League match — showing that they clearly know the way through this Dortmund defence.Joao Felix skied two glorious chances in Germany, while Kai Havertz attempted four penalty-box shots to no avail, now 12 attempts and 583 minutes without a goal. Particularly for the high-volume shot-takers, plummeting confidence and belief could make all the difference.Breaking the duck may just be a case of sheer force of will. In front of a packed, supportive Stamford Bridge, with no option but to attack to save their Champions League lives, Chelsea certainly aren’t out of this tie.

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund, on the other hand, took another big step in their title tussle with Bayern Munich, winning their 10th game in succession across all competitions against RB Leipzig on Friday. The sides are level with 49 points each at the top of the Bundesliga table, though Bayern’s goal difference is way better.Scoring 27 times and conceding just eight in that remarkable run, they head to London with sky-high confidence, even though they are without a win on English soil in the Champions League since 2013 — the year they reached the final.



While Chelsea were caught out by the searing pace of Karim Adeyemi for the only goal of the first leg, it’s the form of Julian Brandt that has arguably been the biggest boost for head coach Edin Terzic this season, with the 26-year-old already just one goal away from matching his best goalscoring season in the Bundesliga.Also an inspired creator, averaging 4.9 shot-creating passes per 90 minutes in the domestic league, Brandt showed glimpses of his exceptional technical quality in that first leg. Silky-smooth as he relentlessly received the ball between the lines, he also tested Kepa Arrizabalaga with a low drive, and created four opportunities for his team-mates.In front of goal, only Erling Haaland of Manchester City and Leicester’s James Maddison are over-performing their expected goals numbers by a larger margin in Europe’s big five leagues, with Brandt finding the net eight times from an xG figure of 3.1. Such stats point to a clinical finisher in fine form, with his confidence reflected by a streak of 17 consecutive games in which the German has taken on a strike.

A side averaging over 2.5 goals per game in 2023 travelling to take on one averaging 0.42 means there shouldn’t be any reason for Terzic’s side to feel overawed. Looking to pounce on any confidence-related mistakes will surely be the Germans’ best route to their 10th appearance in the European Cup/Champions League quarter-finals.

Tottenham Hotspur vs AC Milan

(First leg result: AC Milan 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur)

Tottenham Hotspur

It’s been a typically up and down few weeks since Tottenham were defeated at San Siro, briefly recharging their top-four hopes with big wins over London rivals West Ham and Chelsea, but then being dumped from the FA Cup by second-tier Sheffield United and defeated 1-0 at Wolves on Saturday.Home comforts have certainly helped Antonio Conte’s side push on since derby-day defeat to visitors Arsenal in January, winning their last three games on their own patch (champions Manchester City were their other victims) with five goals scored and zero conceded, renewing hopes of a second-leg comeback against the Serie A champions.If Tottenham are to progress, they’ll need a plan B against Stefano Pioli’s aggressive back five, who aren’t afraid to hound and harry high up the pitch to close down the space for balls through to Conte’s forward-running wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min.

In particular, Simon Kjaer stuck to Harry Kane like glue in that first leg. Even if it did mean occasionally stepping onto the wrong side of the law, the Denmark international did not allow the England captain any time on the ball to turn and find his team-mates.

With fellow central defenders Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu able to track those runs, and wing-backs on hand if they tried to go wider, Spurs consistently ran into a five-man red-and-black wall.

Fouled six times on the night, Kane consequently recorded his lowest passing accuracy in the opposition half all season, seeing just 46.2 per cent of his 27 passes find their target.

Spurs will be expecting to have more of the ball on Wednesday as Milan look to protect their lead, so we’re likely to see more time in the middle third for Kane, and less space in behind for his forward runners.Without an early home goal, this has the potential to be a frustrating evening for Tottenham. Maybe Oliver Skipp has another thunderbolt up his sleeve after that goal against Chelsea last weekend?

AC Milan

After a mini-collapse following the World Cup break saw them concede three, four and five in successive outings during a run of seven winless games, solidity looks to have been restored across the AC Milan back line — even taking into account their narrow defeat at Fiorentina on Saturday.Serie A’s reigning champions may find themselves 18 points behind a rampant Napoli but the faint whiff of a first Champions League quarter-final in 11 years saw belief come flooding back to San Siro on an electric European night against Spurs.After keeping Kane quiet, Pioli’s men were almost faultless in a 2-0 win over Atalanta last weekend, conceding just three shots to Italy’s third-top scorers, allowing just 0.1 xG and zero shots on target. It’s the first time in seven years, and 318 competitive games, that Gian Piero Gasperini’s famous free-scorers from Bergamo have had so few goal attempts in a match.Behind this remarkable turnaround has been not only the switch to a trio of centre-backs, but the sudden emergence of a particularly promising one, in the form of Thiaw.Signed from Schalke at the start of the season having helped them win promotion from the German second division, the 21-year-old had only managed 232 minutes for his new club before being thrown in at the Champions League deep end against Spurs. In an unerring European debut, however, he made the most tackles by any player across the round of 16 to that point, winning the ball back seven times for his team.

Being hypercritical, the Germany Under-21 centre-back probably should have put the tie to bed too, but he headed a chance wide from six yards.

Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain

(First leg result: Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Bayern Munich)

Bayern Munich

Speaking of Germans and missed opportunities, perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern may be slightly dissatisfied with the slender advantage they take into the home second leg of their glitz-and-glamour tie with Pars Saint-Germain.Although Julian Nagelsmann’s side couldn’t carve out too many clear-cut opportunities, they were able to completely dominate the midfield battle, as Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka strode across the French turf without too much resistance from PSG’s flat 4-4-2.Kimmich in particular, attempting four shots on goal, switching the play 10 times, and creating four opportunities for his team-mates, conducted the passing procession with his usual elegance and precision.The Germans’ experienced No 6 hasn’t ever found his team-mates in the final third as often in a single Champions League game, with those 23 passes demonstrating the ease with which he was able to progress the ball through a passive home midfield and into his more-advanced attacking colleagues.

All in all, it was a composed, controlled performance by the visitors, although a terrifying late cameo from Kylian Mbappe, who didn’t start as he was coming back from injury, made it very clear Bayern might live to regret not killing this tie off while they had the chance.

Paris Saint-Germain

For Christophe Galtier’s side, the three weeks between the two legs against Bayern have been transformative.That 1-0 defeat extended an unprecedented three-game losing streak for the French champions, but they now head into the decider against the German champions off the back of three consecutive wins, taking a huge stride to what would be a record 11th Ligue 1 title with a 3-0 away victory over closest challengers Marseille last weekend.Mbappe’s return to full fitness — and to devastating form — has clearly been the catalyst, scoring four of their seven goals in seismic domestic wins over Lille and Marseille, including that thumping volley at the Stade Velodrome. He then scored an injury-time goal against Nantes on Saturday which took him to 201 for PSG, more than any other player in the club’s history.Also netting twice in 33 minutes off the bench in the first leg, before seeing both disallowed for marginal offsides, the France striker has emphatically underlined his intentions to blow this tie open.

One man who will be particularly pleased with the return of the 24-year-old will be Lionel Messi, having provided both assists for Mbappe in that destruction of Marseille while scoring the other himself.Almost the opposite of Kimmich, Messi sorely missed his partner’s verticality at home to Bayern, only able to move the ball into the final third nine times — the second-lowest tally of any Champions League match in his illustrious career.

It’s not often that one player can turn such a high-profile game completely on its head, but we’ve all seen Mbappe do exactly that before.The first leg might not have quite lived up to the billing, but don’t give up on this heavyweight clash just yet.

(Top image: designed by Samuel Richardson; Joao Felix by Stuart Franklin; Harry Kane by Matthias Hangst; Lionel Messi by Frank Fife/AFP; all via Getty Images)

Join the BYB for the opening game watch party this weekend https://www.brickyardbattalion.com

Jack Blake Tally Makes the Difference in Eleven’s Preseason Finale at Grand Park

Indy Eleven closed the 2023 preseason training slate with its first clean sheet of the five-game slate, allowing midfielder Jack Blake’s 10th minute blast to make the difference in a 1-0 victory over USL League One side Forward Madison FC this afternoon at the Grand Park Events Center.

The result gave the Boys in Blue a 3W-2L-0D record in spring exhibition play, all of which served as preparation for their 2023 USL Championship season opener next Saturday, March 11, at the Tampa Bay Rowdies (7:30 p.m. kickoff, live on ESPN+).

“Today the effort was fantastic, especially in the first half. The first 45 minutes is how it needs to look; the only critique I have was that it could have been 2-0 or 3-0 because we had the chances,” explained Indy Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry. “We had some great crosses and put ourselves in great situations attacking wise because we were really in control. All in all, a really good way to end the preseason with a clean sheet and a victory.”

Through long diagonal balls, Indy Eleven found early joy in the wide areas of their final third, with a few attacks resulting in corner kicks. The squad’s third corner of the opening 10 minutes helped Indiana’s Team find paydirt, as a clearance attempt went only as far as Blake, who gathered with a touch from 30 yards out and fired a sidewinding blast that found the upper right corner to put Indy in front.

Madison’s best looks of the half were bunched together around the quarter-hour mark, but Jayden Onen’s shot from just inside the area was blocked out for a corner, while Derek Gebhard pushed a 20-yard effort just wide right of frame. Madison appealed for a point to the penalty spot in the 26th minute when newly acquired Indy center back Adrian Diz Pe shouldered Onen off his run inside the area, but the challenge by the Cuban defender was deemed fair.  

Indy forward Jonas Fjeldberg was at the heart of a trio of quality chances in the last third of the half, starting with a finish of a Blake cross to the doorstep that was nullified when the offside flag was raised. The Norwegian saw his shot from 15 yards saved in the 39th minute, and he played provider three minutes later with a dangerous back post cross that just eluded forward Sebastian Guenzatti’s sliding attempt to redirect.

The second half sprang to life in the 50th minute when Eleven defender Jesus Vazquez tried to get his head to an in-swinging free kick by Aodhan Quinn, only to see a Forward defender step in front to get to the back post ball first. Just before the hour was crossed Gebhard nearly equalized after his run created a corner kick, the Madison attacker sending a low shot off the ensuing set piece off the base of the left post to keep the Flamingos off the board. Two minutes later it was Diz Pe nearly making his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball, but his header of a set piece service to the six was pushed high by mere inches.

Indy was content to control possession and kill off the game over the final half hour, which presented few looks of real quality for either side, a low effort from distance by the visitors in the 68th minute that sliced wide right marking the most dangerous chance. Indy’s stout defensive effort resulted in their first shutout of the preseason, a good sign of things to come as the Eleven get ready to see the results count for real beginning next weekend in the Sunshine State.

Following road matches at Tampa Bay and Detroit City FC (Saturday, March 25, at 4:00 p.m.; live on ESPN+), Indy Eleven will kick off the home portion of its USL Championship campaign on Saturday, April 1, when the Boys in Blue welcome Las Vegas Lights FC for a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff in the Circle City.

Single-game tickets for all home games at IUPUI Carroll Stadium along with 17-game Season Ticket Memberships, specially-priced group tickets, and an increased portfolio of hospitality options are available for purchase now via indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours (Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.)

2023 Spring Preseason Exhibition
Indy Eleven  1 : 0  Forward Madison FC (USL League One)
Friday, March 3, 2023
Grand Park Events Center – Westfield, Ind.

Scoring Summary:
IND – Jack Blake (unassisted) 10’

Indy Eleven line-up: Yannik Oettl; Gustavo Rissi (Bryam Rebellon 77’), Jesus Vazquez, Adrian Diz Pe (Mechack Jerome 70’), Younes Boudadi; Aodhan Quinn (^Guest Amboy 77’), Cam Lindley (Alann Torres 77’), Jack Blake (Diego Sanchez 77’); Jonas Fjeldberg (Juan Tejada 83’), Sebastian Guenzatti (Harrison Robledo 77’), Solomon Asante

^ guest player (aliases)

Forward Madison line-up (1’-60’): Nazeem Bartman, Christian Chaney, Mauro Cichero, Eric Conerty, Jacob Crull, Derek Gebhard, Timmy Mehl, Aiden Mesias, Jayden Oden, Mitch Osmond, Stephen Payne

Indy Eleven 2023 Preseason Exhibition Schedule
Friday, Feb. 10                Indy Eleven  1 : 3  Butler University
Tuesday, Feb. 14            Indy Eleven  5 : 1  Indiana Wesleyan University
Sunday, Feb. 19              Indy Eleven  5 : 1  Chicago Fire 2 (MLS NEXT Pro)
Saturday, Feb. 25           Chicago Fire (MLS) 3 : 0  Indy Eleven
Friday, March 3               Indy Eleven  1 : 0  Forward Madison FC (USL League One)

2023 USL Championship Eastern Conference Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY – nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 03/03/23, 5:00PM EST



Louisville City FC claimed the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference title a season ago, and are the projected favorite to win it all this year according to fivethirtyeight.com. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

The 2023 USL Championship season is here.

The stage is set for a new era for the clubs and players across the league.

Returning talent, new faces, rising youngsters, bright coaches?

They’re all here aiming to make an impact.

In advance of the big kickoff on Saturday, March 11, the USL’s Nicholas Murray and Backheeld’s John Morrisey have everything you need to know.

Here’s a look at every team in the Eastern Conference. You can find the capsules for the Western Conference’s clubs here.

Once you’re done, you can also take your chance to tell us how you think the standings will look at the end of the regular season here.

Now, dig in. The season’s arrived.


Head Coach: Tom Soehn
Venue: Protective Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 85%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 5% 

2023 Theme TuneMr. Highway’s Thinking About the End – A Day to Remember (@MCBrigade14)

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After last postseason’s dramatic elimination in a penalty shootout in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Birmingham Legion FC reloaded its attack to make it potentially one of the most potent in the league. Between 2022 returnees Enzo Martinez, Juan Agudelo and Prosper Kasim, new arrival Tyler Pasher and the return of a familiar face in Neco Brett – still the club’s all-time goalscoring leader after his one-year spell in New Mexico – Legion FC is looking for its attack to power an assault on breaking Louisville City FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ hold on conference supremacy.

Key Returnee – Enzo Martinez, midfielder: The quickest way to win over the fans who considered you Public Enemy No. 1 previously? Put together an all-time best season in your first year at the club. Martinez’s combined 23 goals and assists in the regular season were the most a Legion FC player has recorded in its short history, and he’ll be looking for more of the same this year.

Key Arrival – Tyler Pasher, forward: The former Indy Eleven man signed this offseason with Birmingham and figures to slot into the left side of the 4-3-3 formation the club has favored of late. The speed the Canadian brings fits right into the direct build-up favored by Head Coach Tom Soehn and could prove devastating for opposing defenses.

Key Number – 23: Enzo Martinez’s 23 combined goals and assists (15 goals, 8 assists) was the most in a single regular season in Legion FC’s history, and the highest individual single-season total in Martinez’s Championship career.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Birmingham might have the most star-studded attack in the USL Championship, but there’s a question of fit. Legion FC’s best moments in 2022 came from a spirited 4-2-4 high press which can’t accommodate this roster. Head Coach Tommy Soehn and assistant Khano Smith will find the balance, but a lot of pressure is going to fall on Anderson Asiedu to clean up in the midfield.

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK – Matt VanOekel; D – Gabriel Alves, Alex Crognale, Phanuel Kavita, Mikey Lopez; M – Anderson Asiedu, Enzo Martinez, Prosper Kasim; F – Tyler Pasher, Juan Agudelo, Neco Brett

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 3rd, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Ben Pirmann
Venue: Patriots Point
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 51%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: <1%

2023 Theme Tune: Mr. Brightside – The Killers

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After suffering the worst season of their 30-year history, the Battery set out on a mission. They began by hiring the 2022 USL Championship Coach of the Year, Ben Pirmann, who over the past two-plus seasons engineered the sort of turnaround the Battery are looking for. Then they added free agents including goalkeeper Trey Muse, defenders Deklan Wynne and Juan Sebastian Palma, midfielders Chris Allan and Emilio Ycaza, and forwards Tristan Trager and Handwalla Bwana. The Battery might be back, and quicker than you’d think.

Key Returnee – Augustine Williams, forward: The Sierra Leone international was voted to the Championship’s All-League Team for a second time in his career with 16 goals amid the club’s overall struggles. If Williams maintains that level with a better supporting cast, he could be a Golden Boot candidate this season.

Key Arrival – Deklan Wynne, defender: The 27-year-old played his way back into the squad for his native New Zealand with eye-catching performances for Detroit City FC a season ago, notching eight assists from then left flank. That sort of service and two-way play should be a great addition for a Battery side looking for upgrades at multiple positions.

Key Number – 6: The Charleston Battery recorded only six victories in the 2022 regular season, the club’s lowest total in a season in its history, dating back to the 1993 campaign.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Ben Pirmann teams press hard and dominate possession, and the new Battery manager has built a deep roster to do just that in Charleston. The defensive group and attacking options have taken a huge leap in terms of skill and versatility, but I have questions about central creation. Still, if Emilio Ycaza or Aidan Apodaca steps up, the Battery doesn’t have any real holes.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Trey Muse; D – Deklan Wynne, AJ Cochran, Leland Archer, Derek Dodson; DM – Robbie Crawford, Emilio Ycaza; AM – Fidel Barajas, Aidan Apodaca, Tristan Trager; F – Augustine Williams

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 8th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Trevor James
Venue: Keyworth Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 55%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: <1%

2023 Theme Tune: Knockin’ Em Down (In the City) – Iggy Pop (@SpartanDE)

What’s Happened This Offseason?

First and foremost, Le Rouge retained a lot of the key defensive and midfield parts that helped it earn a playoff berth at the first attempt in the Championship in 2022. Goalkeeper Nathan Steinwascher is back after a tremendous campaign, as are stalwarts like Stephen Carroll, Maxi Rodriguez, Connor Rutz and Devon Amoo-Mensah. There were departures as well, though, and with Antoine Hoppenot, Pato Botello Faz and Deklan Wynne all joining new clubs the big question for Head Coach Trevor James is where the attacking firepower might come from to book another playoff berth.

Key Returnee – Nathan Steinwascher, goalkeeper: The local standout quickly grabbed a place as one of the Championship’s top shot-stoppers in his first season in the league. According to American Soccer Analysis, Steinwascher led the league in prevented goals with a -6.27 G-minus-xG mark. The 29-year-old could be a contender for All-League honors this year.

Key Arrival – Skage Simonsen, forward: The Norwegian headed to Detroit this offseason after notching two goals and seven assists for Loudoun United FC this past campaign. At 6-foot-3 it feels as though the 24-year-old is going to get deployed a little further up the field this season than the midfield role he took last year, which means he’ll be needed to deliver in the final third.

Key Number – 67: Detroit City FC received the fewest yellow cards in the Championship during the 2022 season. It was also one of two clubs alongside Miami FC to not receive a red card during the campaign and suffered no player suspensions for the duration of the campaign.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Detroit took a step back in attack, and there’s no two ways around it. Still, Trevor James’ team burst onto the scene last season on the back of a brilliant five-man defensive line and the heady play of midfielders like Maxi Rodriguez and Laye Diop in the pivot. Even if the goals are less plentiful in 2023, Le Rouge are going to be brutally difficult to break down, especially at Keyworth Stadium.

Projected Starting XI (3-4-3): GK – Nathan Steinwascher; D – Devon Amoo-Mensah, Stephen Carroll, Jalen Robinson; M – Richie Ballard, Maxi Rodriguez, Adrian Billhardt, Rhys Williams; F – Skage Simonsen, Ben Morris, Connor Rutz

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 10th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Tab Ramos
Venue: Trinity Health Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 57%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 1%

2023 Theme Tune: Brass Bonanza – Jack Say (@HAGreenMonster)

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After Athletic Head Coach Tab Ramos’ sojourn as an analyst for Telemundo during the World Cup, Hartford got to work aiming to build on the momentum it had built under the U.S Soccer Hall of Fame member late last season. To that end, in came 2022 Championship Assists Champion and longstanding attacking standout Antoine Hoppenot and forward Elvis Amoh as two major pieces for the club’s attack. There are other new arrivals, and that could result an opening day lineup that includes plenty of new faces.

Key Returnee – Danny Barrera, midfielder: As exciting as some of the new faces are, the fact that Danny Barrera is back at Trinity Health Stadium for a fourth season is just as important. Now sitting second in the Championship’s all-time regular season assists list, the 33-year-old still has magic in his feet going into the new season.

Key Arrival – Elvis Amoh, forward: The Ghanaian striker gives Hartford the one thing it hasn’t truly had in its history – a consistent threat for double-digit goals. Amoh has scored 26 goals across the regular season and playoffs the past two years at Rio Grande Valley FC and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – putting him in the Top 10 in the league in goals over that span – and he’ll be expected to deliver with Barrera and Hoppenot providing the service.

Key Number – 3: Hartford Athletic gained only three points from losing positions in the 2022 USL Championship season, tied for fewest in the league with Loudoun United FC, and failed to win a game in which it conceded the opening goal (0-13-3).

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Tab Ramos struck gold in 2022 by using Andre Lewis and Danny Barrera as dual No. 10s, but Hartford lacked defensive quality and a goalscoring forward to help them out. With Elvis Amoh up top and a reshaped back line, the club may have solved those problems. Hartford’s defense is a step slow to run Ramos’ press, but they’ve made a big leap over the winter.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Richard Sanchez; D – Triston Hodge, Tulu, Niall Logue, Matt Sheldon; DM – Beverly Makangila, Andre Lewis; AM – Antoine Hoppenot, Danny Barrera, Prince Saydee; F – Elvis Amoh

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 9th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Mark Lowry
Venue: Michael A. Carroll Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 50%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: <1%

2023 Theme Tune: I’m Still Standing – Elton John (@SoccerWithBrian)

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After a late-season run of six wins in the last nine games – including one against eventual title winner San Antonio FC – provided some hope for the future in Head Coach Mark Lowry’s first season, Indy flexed its muscles this offseason and added some big names to its roster, both in free agency and the transfer market. Forward Sebastian Guenzatti and the midfield trio of Cam Lindley, Aodhan Quinn and Jack Blake are all Boys in Blue now. On paper that means the minimum expectation is for a first postseason trip since 2019, and the sights will be set much higher internally and externally.

Key Returnee – Solomon Asante, forward: The two-time Championship Most Valuable Player produced his lowest numbers in the league since his arrival in Phoenix in 2018 – yes, even in the shortened 2020 season he had eight goals and nine assists in 17 games. The spotlight will be firmly fixed on the Ghanaian as he aims to deliver the sort of performances we’ve seen in the past alongside his new teammates.

Key Arrival – Cam Lindley, midfielder: The Carmel, Ind. native will return home after being acquired from Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC via transfer for a second stint in Indy’s colors. Lindley was superb in leading the Switchbacks to a Western Conference Final last season, leading the Championship with 99 chances created across the regular season and playoffs, and his two-way play will be crucial in Lowry’s system.

Key Number – 155: Solomon Asante and Sebastian Guenzatti have recorded 80 and 75 combined goals and assists across the regular season and playoffs since the start of the 2019 season, making them the top two players in that category in the league over that span.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Indy’s lineup is stacked from top to bottom, and it’s skillful enough to execute the Mark Lowry system with aplomb. Lowry presses with a front three and breaks you down with a diamond-shaped midfield flanked by aggressive fullbacks. The Eleven are built for that style. Age is the only question in a young and fast USL Championship, but this Indy team is here to play ball.

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK – Yannick Oettl; D – Younes Boudadi, Adrian Diz Pe, Jesus Vazquez, Robby Dambrot; M – Jack Blake, Cam Lindley, Aodhan Quinn; F – Solomon Asante, Sebastian Guenzatti, Jonas Fjeldberg

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 6th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Ryan Martin
Venue: Segra Field
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 26%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: <1%

2023 Theme Tune: Changes – David Bowie

What’s Happened This Offseason?

The biggest offseason news for Loudoun United came off the field with the club’s acquisition by Attain Sports and Entertainment. Hello to independence, hello to a berth in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this season, hello to the playoffs? That is going to be the goal for a retooled squad led by Ryan Martin that has added a lot of new faces to reach that goal. As Loudoun sets out on its new pathway, the climb to the playoffs might be too much to ask this year, but the foundation could well be set for where this team heads in the next five seasons.

Key Returnee – Houssou Landry, midfielder: You could flip a coin as to who this would be for United – 17-year-old Isaac Espinal is the only other returning player as of now from 2022 – but Landry could have a solid impact after making 30 appearances for the side a season ago. He ranked third in interceptions with 38, won 32 of 41 tackles and had an 81.3 percent passing accuracy rate, and figures to continue to contribute for United in the center of midfield.

Key Arrival – Tommy Williamson, forward: The biggest step forward Loudoun is going to need to show to become a playoff contender is in the final third. Williamson is going to need to be central to that after scoring 15 goals in his first two professional seasons. At a strike rate of a goal every 152 minutes, there’s the potential there, but the 23-year-old is going to be aiming for a breakout season.

Key Number – 38: Loudoun United FC conceded 38 goals in the final 30 minutes of games in the 2022 season, the most in the league, and more than the club conceded in the opening hour of contests (36).

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Ryan Martin always runs an organized high press and oversees a positive offensive style whether or not the results come for Loudoun at the end of the day. This year’s team is built to do much the same. Koa Santos and Kwame Awuah are going to wreak havoc and drive counterattacks from the fullback spots, but there are too many questions about goalscoring and midfield steel to fully buy in on this Loudoun squad.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Hugo Fauroux; D – Kwame Awuah, Bryce Washington, Yanis Leerman, Koa Santos; DM – Cole Turner, Houssou Landry; AM – Kalil ElMedkhar, Panos Amenakas, Zach Ryan; F – Tommy Williamson

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 12th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Danny Cruz
Venue: Lynn Family Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 99%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 22%

2023 Theme Tune: Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After reaching the USL Championship Final for a fourth time in club history, LouCity went about securing almost all the players that got it there. Twenty-two players return, either previously under contract, having had options exercised, or on new deals, an unprecedented number in USL Championship history. Among the new deals was one handed to 2022 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year and 2022 USL Championship Young Player of the Year finalist Joshua Wynder, who may be following Jonathan Gomez to Europe sooner rather than later, but there are also a couple of new faces that can freshen up a deep squad.

Key Returnee – Joshua Wynder, defender: There’s no question whom the biggest spotlight will be on this season as LouCity’s season starts. The 17-year-old Wynder might be the most prodigious talent produced by a USL Academy program thus far, and the intrigue over a potential mid-season move after the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May is a storyline that will be followed closely. There are no sure things, but Wynder’s got the temperament and game to live up to the expectations being placed on him.

Key Arrival – Dylan Mares, midfielder: The former El Paso Locomotive FC playmaker is an example of the rich getting richer, if ever there was one. Mares has recorded 21 goals and 19 assists in the past four seasons and his passing accuracy rate (84.8%) and chances created per 90 rate (1.96) seem like another great cog to drop into Cruz’s passing heavy system.

Key Number – 22: Louisville City FC has retained 22 players from its Eastern Conference title-winning squad from a season ago, accounting for 30,471 minutes of action across the regular season and playoffs in 2022.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Danny Cruz compresses space with a high defensive line and sharp front-line press, pinning opponents back to keep Louisville on the front foot. That formula will continue to bear fruit in 2023, and Dylan Mares – a veteran of a similar style in El Paso – will supercharge its efficacy. Throw in growth from the Elijah and Joshua Wynder and healthy starts for Cameron Lancaster and Jorge Gonzalez, and you’ve got a terrifying Louisville team to contend with.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Kyle Morton; D – Amadou Dia, Joshua Wynder, Sean Totsch, Manny Perez; DM – Tyler Gibson, Niall McCabe; AM – Jorge Gonzalez, Dylan Mares, Brian Ownby; F – Wilson Harris

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 1st, Eastern Conference

Memphis 901 FCMEMPHIS 901 FC

Head Coach: Stephen Glass
Venue: AutoZone Park
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 84%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 4% 2023

Theme Tune: Roll with it– Three6Mafia (@ChrisFilmTakes)

What’s Happened This Offseason?

The most successful season in 901 FC’s history brought accolades, and awards. What followed was an offseason that saw plenty of continuity on the field, but a major change on the sideline. The appointment of former Atlanta United FC and Aberdeen FC manager Stephen Glass to replace the departed Ben Pirmann – who claimed the Championship’s Coach of the Year award before heading to the Charleston Battery – was the biggest move of the offseason in Memphis, with Glass now tasked with keeping the club among the Eastern Conference’s elite.

Key Returnee – Aaron Molloy, midfielder: The 2022 Championship MVP finalist and All-League First Team selection is back for his second season and will be aiming to add to an already stellar resume that is almost certainly getting attention in bigger circles. Molloy’s all-around game made him central to Memphis’ success last season and he’ll retain that role this season in the heart of the club’s midfield.

Key Arrival – Bruno Lapa, midfielder: The Brazilian traversed the Southern Harm divide after his departure from Birmingham Legion FC and if at his best will add plenty to an already-strong 901 FC attacking contingent. Lapa has seen ups and downs since his brilliant first campaign in 2020, but he feels like a great fit for his new surroundings and will make one of the league’s best rivalries even more of a must-see.

Key Number – 17: Memphis 901 FC led the Championship with 17 headed goals in the 2022 season, four more than its closest rival, with returning leading scorer Phillip Goodrum leading the team with seven headed tallies among his 22 goals in the regular season and playoffs.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Stephen Glass has been a pragmatist at past coaching stops, but his Memphis lineup can beat you in a million ways. From Jeremy Kelly’s inverted dribbling to Aaron Molloy’s set pieces to Phillip Goodrum’s poaching, this offense is lethal. Replacing a few key names in the back line will be the difference-maker, and I do expect this team to play with more conservatism in the Glass era.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Drew Romig; D – Akeem Ward, Graham Smith, Jelani Peters, Rece Buckmaster; DM – Aaron Molloy, Leston Paul; AM – Laurent Kissiedou, Bruno Lapa, Nighte Pickering; F – Phillip Goodrum

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 5th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Anthony Pulis
Venue: Riccardo Silva Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 83%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 4%

2023 Theme Tune: Moving on Up – M People

What’s Happened This Offseason?

It was a pretty low-key offseason in Miami, with a lot of key faces from last year’s playoff team set to return for the new season. The side secured All-Championship selection Paco Craig to a new deal, and also brings back the likes of forward Kyle Murphy, attacking midfielder Florian Valot and midfielder Bolu Akinyode. There are gaps to be filled – goalkeeper Connor Sparrow departed to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Jamaican international Speedy Williams to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – but Miami should be a solid playoff contender again and could take a big step forward if it can find the same consistency at home this season as it did on the road in 2022.

Key Returnee – Paco Craig, defender: One of the most-decorated defenders in the Championship’s history, Paco Craig signing a new multi-year deal to lead the club’s back line was important business for the club to get done. Craig helped marshal a defense that quietly matched the Championship’s single-season shutout record last season alongside San Antonio FC and will be key again as the side looks to take a step forward this season.

Key Arrival – Adrian Zendejas, goalkeeper: Losing a goalkeeper of Connor Sparrow’s quality hurt, more so when it was to your biggest rival in Tampa Bay. Getting a player with Adrian Zendejas’ pedigree – even if it’s on loan from Major League Soccer’s Charlotte FC – to fill that spot is certainly a good replacement. A former USL Championship Final starter from his days at Sporting Kansas City II, the veteran will look to fill some big gloves here.

Key Number – 10: Miami FC won 10 road games during the 2022 regular season, compared to five home victories. The club’s road success placed it tied for second in away wins in the Championship overall and tied for first with Memphis 901 FC in the Eastern Conference.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: At times in 2022, Miami was caught between a slower, defense-first system defined by Speedy Williams and a rip-roaring offense built around Joaquin Rivas and Mark Segbers. This offseason moved Miami towards the latter style. Gabriel Cabral, signed after captaining a USL League One title-winning club at South Georgia Tormenta FC, adds tremendous skill in the midfield, and Michael Salazar’s movement will open up the attack. These improvements around the edges could let Anthony Pulis’ team make the leap.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): GK – Adrian Zendejas; D – Moises Hernandez, Paco Craig, Callum Chapman-Page, Mark Segbers; DM – Bolu Akinyode, Gabriel Cabral; AM – Joaquin Rivas, Florian Valot, Joshua Perez; F – Kyle Murphy

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 4th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Bob Lilley
Venue: Highmark Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 67%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 2%

2023 Theme Tune: Two Year Plan – Such Gold

What’s Happened This Offseason?

In what’s becoming somewhat familiar for Hounds fans, the two-year cycle of a standout forward departing for another club continued. Russell Cicerone – who scored 31 goals in 67 games across the regular season and playoffs – followed the path of the only player who’s scored more than him for Pittsburgh in the USL Championship era in Neco Brett and signed with Sacramento Republic FC. There is a solid core of returnees to build around, though, with all-time Championship assists leader Kenardo Forbes re-signed and forward Albert Dikwa coming off his best season in the league so far. There’s also, of course, Head Coach Bob Lilley, who always seems to find the right pieces to keep the Hounds in playoff contention.

Key Returnee – Robbie Mertz, midfielder: The Pittsburgh native returned to the Hounds after a season-and-a-half with Atlanta United 2 midway through the 2022 campaign and quickly slipped back into his midfield role. Mertz recorded five assists in 16 appearances while also notching one goal and will need to be at his best throughout the upcoming campaign to continue Pittsburgh’s postseason streak.

Key Arrival – Joe Farrell, defender: Hounds Head Coach Bob Lilley is calling on a familiar face to help stiffen the spine of his team with Farrell arriving via transfer from Phoenix Rising FC this offseason. The veteran center back worked with Lilley at the start of his career with the Rochester Rhinos and will play an important role in front of emerging goalkeeper Jahmaili Waite this season.

Key Number – 36: Since the start of Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley’s tenure in 2018, the Hounds are tied for the league-lead with 36 road victories in the regular season alongside Louisville City FC.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: Bob Lilley teams are always well-drilled in defense and patiently lethal with the ball. That ought to hold true in 2023, but the Riverhounds lost a lot of talent this winter. They lack a defensive midfielder that can serve as a linchpin, and they aren’t deep enough to accommodate Lilley’s trademark experimentation with formations. Pittsburgh isn’t bad, but they feel stagnant in an Eastern Conference that got a lot better in the offseason.

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK – Jahmaili Waite; D – Dani Rovira, Joe Farrell, Arturo Ordonez, Nathan Dossantos; M – Marc Ybarra, Kenardo Forbes, Robbie Mertz; F – Edward Kizza, Albert Dikwa, Tola Showunmi

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 7th, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Neill Collins
Venue: Al Lang Stadium
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 94%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: 10%

2023 Theme Tune: Going for Gold – Shed Seven

What’s Happened This Offseason?

It’s been an offseason of changes at Tampa Bay, with the potential that only five players who started the 2022 Eastern Conference Final against Louisville City FC could be in the starting lineup for its season-opener against Indy Eleven on March 11. The new arrivals include some familiar faces, however, with three-time Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso and midfielder Jordan Doherty back for second stints with the club. What may be most interesting to watch, however, is the new attacking group featuring Cal Jennings and JJ Williams, who will need to step up to the mark after the season-ending injury suffered by 2022 Championship Most Valuable Player Leo Fernandes this preseason, particularly after the departure of all-time leading goalscorer Sebastian Guenzatti to Indy.

Key Returnee – Lewis Hilton, midfielder: Since he came into the USL Championship in 2016, no-one has made more appearances across the regular season and playoffs than Lewis Hilton. Now entering his fourth season with the Rowdies, the midfield general has been a crucial player for the side in its run of three consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, both as a distributor in open play and one of the best dead ball takers in the league.

Key Arrival – Connor Sparrow, goalkeeper: After a rotating cast last season due to form and injury, the Rowdies napped Sparrow from Florida rival Miami FC to ostensibly serve as its new No. 1 this season. Sparrow brings plenty of experience with 30 shutouts in 94 appearances across the regular season and playoffs and at 28 years old could be entering his prime years in Rowdies colors.

Key Number – 3: Returning Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso is the only player in Championship history to have won the league’s Defender of the Year award multiple times, claiming the honor in 2018, 2020 and 2021.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: The Rowdies are known for a fiendishly strong back three, and that won’t change with Forrest Lasso returning at center back. Neill Collins’ offense is the real area to watch. At times, Tampa Bay was the Leo Fernandes or Jake LaCava show and lacked variety with the ball. With JJ Williams’ hold-up play, Cal Jennings guile in transition, and a miles-deep attacking midfield, this team can beat you in a million ways, even with Fernandes’ absence due to injury.

Projected Starting XI (3-4-3): GK – Connor Sparrow; D – Aaron Guillen, Forrest Lasso, Freddie Kleeman; M – Sebastian Dalgaard, Lewis Hilton, Charlie Dennis, Conner Antley; F – Dayonn Harris, JJ Williams, Cal Jennings

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 2nd, Eastern Conference


Head Coach: Blair Gavin
Venue: ONEOK Field
FiveThirtyEight.com Playoff Odds: 51%
FiveThirtyEight.com Title Odds: <1%

2023 Theme Tune: No Easy Way Out – Robert Tepper

What’s Happened This Offseason?

After concluding the season under interim Head Coach Donovan Ricketts, the Blair Gavin era officially arrived in Tulsa with the former Phoenix Rising FC and Columbus Crew SC assistant taking the reins. The second-youngest Head Coach in the league behind only Louisville City FC’s Danny Cruz, Gavin will take control of a side that has looked to reinforce at all levels, with experienced heads like defender Brett Levis and midfielder Collin Fernandez joining a solid core including Bradley Bourgeois, Rodrigo da Costa and Dario Suarez. After missing out on the playoffs last season, Tulsa will be hoping it’s enough for a turnaround this campaign.

Key Returnee – Rodrigo da Costa, midfielder: Coming into his fifth season in Tulsa, the Brazilian playmaker remains an essential piece for Tulsa in the attacking third. Now the club’s all-time leader in both goals (33) and assists (24) across the regular season and playoffs, da Costa is going to need to be at his best to help drive Tulsa back up the standings this season.

Key Arrival – Siad Haji, forward: There was plenty of expectation around Haji when he was selected by the San Jose Earthquakes with the No. 2 pick of the 2019 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Four years and 14 top-flight appearances later, the 23-year-old gets a chance at a career reset in Tulsa. Haji should get plenty of opportunity to show why he was such a hyped prospect coming out of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Key Number – 19: FC Tulsa tied for the league-lead with 19 goals in the final 15 minutes of games in the 2022 season, accounting for 40 percent of their overall goals total, but didn’t score more than 10 goals in any of the other five 15-minute segments of games.

John Morrissey’s Tactics Corner: FC Tulsa has built Blair Gavin a young and hungry roster with pace and aggression for days on the flanks. This team will be pesky at a bare minimum, and they can challenge for the playoffs if Rodrigo Da Costa and Dario Suarez can convert in front of goal. Christopher Pearson is a potential breakout in the pivot, and he’ll be the backstop that allows for aggression in the press.

Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK – Austin Wormell; D – Brett Levis, Bradley Bourgeois, Ruxi, Justin Malou; M – Collin Fernandez, Christopher Pearson, Rodrigo da Costa; F – Dario Suarez, Moses Dyer, Siad Haji

USLChampionship.com Prediction: 11th, Eastern Conference

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