Happy Birthday yesterday to USMNT All-Time Leading Scorer & former Fulham star Clint Dempsey who turned 40. Here are all his US Goals , some Fulham Goals, Also GK Timmy Howard’s birthday was earlier in the week – see his great saves below in the GK section.
Indy 11 open Mar 11 @ Tampa Bay 7:30 pm ESPN plus
With the season starting next Saturday I am excited for our Indy 11– word is we will be one of the most improved teams in the Eastern Conference that should make a top 5 in the East run this year. Saturday offers a stiff first test for its new-look side against one of the Eastern Conference’s most steady and successful sides in recent years in Tampa Bay. While Head Coach Mark Lowry has preached during preseason that Week 1 will not look like a finished product, the insertion of veterans (Carmel’s own) Cam Lindley, Aodhan Quinn and Jack Blake in the midfield; one of the leading scorers in USL history Sebastian Guenzatti at forward; Adrian Diz Pe, Gustavo Rissi, and Younes Boudadi on the backline; and Yannik Oettl between the posts gives the Boys in Blue tons of added Championship experience Roster. Full season previews are below but here is the preseason power rankings, Season tickets are still on sale and give you the leg up when the new stadium arrives. Full Schedule Promotions
Champions League Tues/Wed 3 pm CBS
So Bayern send PSG home before the round of 8 and Chelsea made their way past Dortmund at home with Reyna getting 80 minutes due to an injury and even Pulisic returned albeit just ok for about 20 minutes at the end. This week Real Madrid should finish off Liverpool up 5-2 heading home to Madrid on Wed at 3 pm on CBS while Tuesday will most likely give US Man City sending RB Leipzig home while Porto has a 2-0 lead hosting Inter Milan.
Tues,Mar 14 Champions League + CCL
3 PM CBS Man City vs RB Leipzig
3 pm Para+ Porto vs Inter Milan
3 pm CBS Real Madrid 5 vs Liverpool 2
3 pm Para+ Napoli vs Frankfurt
MLS Wk 3 & Concacaf Champions League Tues/Wed/Thurs FS1 + FS2
MLS Week 3 features 2 of the top fan bases in Soccer as Charlotte looks to have over 78K in the house vs rivals Atlanta United at 12 noon on Fox and Apple TV. Free Apple TV will have my Seattle Sounders coming to Cincy – dang I can’t go – why so early in the year? At 7:30 pm, while Portland hosting undefeated expansion team St. Louis is at 10:30. Our MLS teams dominated the road phase of CONCACAF Champions League Sweet 16 play this week as Philly Union and Orlando City come home with 0-0 ties, while LAFC returns after a 3-0 blasting and Vancouver put 5-0 up on Real Espana they all return home Tuesday night at 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2 with only Austin down 2-0 not in control. Wed Night its Orlando City at home needing just a win to advance while Vancouver travels to Real Espana at 10 pm on FS2. Of course my Seattle Sounders became the 1st MLS team to win the CCL last season. (see schedule below).
Carmel FC Welcomes Jude Johannson as Club Administrator and Senior Team Director
Carmel FC is excited to welcome our new full-time staff member, Jude Johannson, as he takes on the role of Club Administrator and Senior Team Director. In his role as Club Administrator Jude will be supporting our team managers and the club in general with all administrative activities. As Senior Team Director Jude will be working with our 15u and above age groups and coaches in all areas of operations. Jude comes to Carmel FC with significant coaching experience in a variety of roles. Most recently he was an assistant coach for Taylor University Men’s Soccer. He coached club at Westside United for a number of years in the girls’ program. He also has coached high school and as a private trainer. Jude’s playing background includes playing at the University of Memphis (Division 1) and at Indiana Wesleyan University (NAIA). Johannson played semi-professional soccer with the USL A-League team, the Indianapolis Blast while also playing for the Indiana State Olympic Development Program team from 2004 through 2006. Johannson served as the assistant coach and junior varsity head coach at both Southport and Avon High Schools. His educational background includes a B.S. in Kinesiology and a Master’s in Clinical Exercise Science. He is currently finishing up course work to be Registered Dietician too.
General Manager, Jeremy Slivinski, shared this about Jude’s hire, “Carmel FC continues to evolve as a community club that rosters teams at almost every level of competitive play. Jude brings an experience we believe that will help support our senior teams and players. His role as Club Administrator also helps us fill a need as Ada Stumpf winds down her role with the club. We are really excited to have him on board.” Director of Soccer Operations, Juergen Sommer agreed. “Having Jude join our team will provide the additional support our teams currently need but also opens new opportunities for our senior teams moving forward. He has experience that can support our players looking at college playing opportunities.” Jude’s official start date is March 13th but he is already getting caught up to speed and visiting winter training activities.
Indy’s Sebastian Guenzatti set for Tampa Bay return | Week 1 News & Notes
11 Newcomers to Watch in the USL Championship this season
11 Midfielders to Watch in the USL Championship this season
How the USL Championship gave Aaron Long the platform to reach the World Cup
Champions League & Europa
AC Milan return to UCL quarterfinals as Spurs’ struggles continues
‘He rescued us’: Bayern’s Nagelsmann lauds defender De Ligt
Choupo-Moting helps Bayern past PSG, into Champions League last eight
PSG shows limits in yet another early Champions League exit
Losing culture? Mbappe’s PSG reflect on latest Champions League failure
Milan hold off toothless Tottenham to reach Champions League quarters
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte set to leave, with shortlist drawn up to replace him: report
Richarlison takes swipe at Antonio Conte’s tactics after admitting it has been a ‘s— season’
Countdown to Harry Kane’s Tottenham exit begins after Champions League damp squib
‘That’s our maximum’, admits Mbappe after latest PSG exit
Arsenal struggle without their spine but salvage draw against Sporting CP
Arsenal fights back to claim 2-2 first leg draw at Sporting Lisbon
Premier League top-four race: Current form, key fixtures, odds, predictions
Arsenal face Fulham test, Liverpool target top four
Determined Bruno Fernandes shows Manchester United’s character
Don’t do it, Poch! A Spurs comeback could end in tears
Manchester United’s hard reset after Liverpool horror: How did they look?
Daniel Levy has lost the Tottenham fans – he is under more pressure than ever before
Next Tottenham manager: the men who could replace Antonio Conte
Manchester United to offer £115m for Real Madrid wonderkid: report
Premier League sack race odds: Antonio Conte favourite to leave his post next
Whitecaps thrash Espana in CONCACAF Champions League
Chiellini on target for LAFC, Miami stun Philly, St.Louis triumph
David de Gea’s dodgy kicking shows why Manchester United are in the market for a goalkeeper
Saves of the Week Champions League
Pierluigi Collina criticises referee for ‘common sense’ in Liverpool’s 7-0 win over Manchester United
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
INDY 11 Tenth Season Kicks Off with Marquee Matchup in the Sunshine State
#TBRvIND Preview Indy Eleven at Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, March 11, 2023 – 7:30 p.m. ET Al Lang Stadium – St. Petersburg, Fla.
Local TV: n/a
Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe)
In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed
Live Opta stats: #TBRvIND MatchCenter at USLChampionship.com
Indy Eleven Watch Party at The AMP at 16 Tech
Brickyard Battalion Watch Party at Union Jack Pub – Broad Ripple
RSVP Here for Chance to Win a 2023 Away Jersey!
2022 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON RECORDS
Indy Eleven: 12W-17L-5D (-15 GD), 41 pts.; 9th in Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 20W-7L-7D (+40 GD), 67 pts.; 3rd in Eastern Conference
Last Sunday, the IndyCar circuit began its 2023 campaign by driving around Al Lang Stadium on the streets of St. Petersburg. Six days later, Indy Eleven will rev up its own 2023 season inside the venerable venue against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in one of the marquee match-ups of a crowded USL Championship opening night slate. For Indy Eleven, Saturday offers a stiff first test for its new-look side against one of the Eastern Conference’s most steady and successful sides in recent years. While Head Coach Mark Lowry has preached during preseason that Week One will not look like a finished product, the insertion of veterans Cam Lindley, Aodhan Quinn and Jack Blake in the midfield; Sebastian Guenzatti at forward; Adrian Diz Pe, Gustavo Rissi, and Younes Boudadi on the backline; and Yannik Oettl between the posts gives the Boys in Blue tons of added Championship experience and poise up and down the pitch – and the ability to take three points out of any contest, regardless of how it may look aesthetically for the time being. That’s not to discount the offerings of several key returnees, including a loaded corps of attacking players in MVP Solomon Asante, Jonas Fjeldberg (back from his loan with Rio Grande Valley FC), and Juan Tejada. Defenders Jesus Vazquez, Robby Dambrot (ruled out due to injury for the opener), and Mechack Jerome and goalkeeper Tim Trilk also provide experience in Lowry’s system, with all starting at least 11 contests during their debut seasons in the Circle City last year. Additionally, the return of Eleven Academy product Alann Torres from a season-long loan with USL League One’s Forward Madison FC and loan acquisition of Harrison Robledo from FC Cincinnati gives Lowry some young and versatile options to throw into the mix.If the preseason is any indication, the Boys in Blue will need fresh legs off the bench thanks to a defensive mentality to turn the ball over as high up the field as possible through swarming pressure that starts with the forward line. While Lowry admits the approach may concede space to the opposition at times, it’s a trade-off he’s willing to make since it should also result in an increased number of attacking chances for the Eleven. That will come as a welcome sign for a club that struggled to produce goals and shots a year ago – and bringing on board last season’s top-two chance creators across the Championship in Lindley (99) and Quinn (83) will go a long way on that front as well. For the Rowdies, Saturday will provide the first chance to overcome some early adversity caused by a preseason Achilles injury to forward Leo Fernandes that will sideline the reigning USL Championship MVP for the entirety of the 2023 season. However, Tampa Bay has plenty of pivotal new pieces of their own to incorporate into their squad, and three of those – Cal Jennings (11g/5a with Las Vegas in 2022), JJ Williams (12g/1a with Tulsa) and Ariel Martinez (9g/1a with Hartford) – with be tasked with picking up the considerable slack left by the absence of Fernandes’ 19g/9a output last year.
On the backline Tampa Bay welcomes a new/familiar face in Forrest Lasso, who rejoins the squad he suited up for in 2020 & ’21 after a stint with Swedish First Division side GIF Sundsvall last year. The two-time USL Championship Defender of the Year joins an already sturdy backline that included 2022 USL All-First Team performer Aaron Guillen and former Boy in Blue Connor Antley. Goalkeeper may be the most up for grabs position on the Rowdies roster, with former Miami FC backstop Connor Sparrow set to battle it out with Phil Breno, who parlayed a season-and-a-half stint with Forward Madison in USL League One into a loan with Tampa Bay for the second half of last year and a permanent contract over the offseason.
To say the Rowdies’ midfield is experienced would be an understatement, as Lewis Hilton, Yann Ekra, and Sebastian Dalgaard, have racked up 57 goals, 60 assists and over 600 appearances across a combined 25 seasons in the USL Championship. The 2023 campaign will mark their fourth season together in Tampa, while more recent additions Jake Areman, who joined the Rowdies last season, and Zach Herivaux, who alternated stints with San Antonio (2017, 2020) and Birmingham Legion (2019, 2021-22) before coming on board this offseason, will provide added veteran heft to that rock-steady troika.
SERIES VS. TAMPA BAY ROWDIES:
All meetings (2014-22): 3W-4L-8D (18 GF/20 GF)
at TBR: 1W-2L-4D (8 GF/11 GA)
USLC regular season (2018-22): 1W-3L-2D (5 GF/9 GA)
at TBR: 0W-2L-1D (2 GF/6 GA)
NASL regular season (2014-16): 2W-1L-6D (13 GF/11 GA)
at TBR: 1W-0L-3D (6 GF/5 GA)
Tampa Bay represents one of the Eleven’s most well-known foes, the squads meeting 15 times since Indy Eleven debuted back in the NASL in 2014; only Louisville City FC (19) and the Carolina Railhawks/North Carolina FC (16) have squared off more times against the Boys in Blue during their previous nine seasons on play.The Rowdies broke the stalemate in the all-time series in the previous outing last July 30 at Carroll Stadium courtesy of a 3-1 win. Raul Aguilera’s 24th minute opener pushed Indy into the lead, but that was offset by Steevan Dos Santos (32’) and Leo Fernandes (96+’) penalty conversions and a Jordan Scarlett backbreaker just before halftime in between.Their last meeting at Al Lang Stadium was another early-season affair last March 19, a 2-0 Rowdies victory that saw current Eleven striker Juan Tejada score inside the first minute and assist on Jake LaCava’s 51st insurance goal.
#INDvTBR FAMILIAR FACES:
The Eleven’s Sebastian Guenzatti, Juan Tejada, and Jack Blake have all suited up for Tampa Bay to varying degrees over the years.
The most notable homecoming will be for Guenzatti, who became the Rowdies’ career leading scorer with 65 goals (59 regular season, 6 postseason) from 2017-22, during which he also contributed 19 assists in 160 matches in official competitions. The forward led Tampa Bay in scoring in four straight seasons from 2018-21 and played a vital role in the Rowdies’ success in recent years, which included USL Championship Eastern Conference titles in 2020 and 2021, another Conference Championship game appearance in 2022, and the league’s top regular season mark in 2021.Tejada is no stranger to Al Lang Stadium either, as the Panamanian striker spent three-and-a-half seasons with Tampa Bay prior to his trade to Indy for Nicky Law last July. Tejada tallied 13 goals and 5 assists in 68 USL Championship regular season appearances for Tampa Bay from 2019-22 and also played in five postseason contests.Blake began his tenure in the USL Championship by originally heading on loan from Lowry’s Jacksonville Armada FC side prior to the 2018 season, a deal that ultimately saw Blake sign a permanent contract with the Rowdies at the start of the season. However, a midseason trade to Real Monarchs SLC saw his time on the Gulf Cost cut short, ending with a goal and two assists in seven appearances for the Nottingham native.On the flip side, Tampa Bay technically has two former Boys in Blue on their 2023 roster, although only one ever saw the field for Indiana’s Team. That would be defender Connor Antley, who suited up for the Boys in Blue 12 times during the squad’s COVID-shortened 16-game season in 2020. Meanwhile, the Cal Jennings era in the Circle City never got off the ground, as the forward signed with the squad in December 2020 but was turned around via transfer to Major League Soccer’s Los Angles FC in early March 2021.
ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: FW SEBASTIAN GUENZATTI
We could have been nuanced and subtle here, but let’s not overthink things out of the gate. The Uruguayan striker is the obvious choice, and you can’t help but think our friends USL HQ pounced on the chance for an early storyline by sending the Rowdies’ career leading scorer back to Al Lang Stadium for his Eleven debut (which, by all means, we’re here for!).
We’ve already listed Guenzatti’s impressive stats and contributions to Tampa Bay’s success above, so no need to rehash those here (although we failed to mention he enters 2023 tied for 10th place on the league’s career regular season scoring chart with 59 goals, alongside Birmingham’s Enzo Martinez and the retired Cameron Iwasa). The big thing to watch for on Saturday will be to see how quickly he has gelled with his new Eleven running mates … while the preseason offered glimpses, things are just different when you have to kick an opponent in anger for real and three points are on the line. Guenzatti always paired well with whatever firepower was stocked around him during his six seasons in Tampa, and one look at the Indy roster suggests that should be much the same.
USL Championship Power Rankings – Preseason
By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org, 03/09/23, 2:00PM EST
SAN ANTONIO STARTS THE SEASON ON TOP, WHILE PHOENIX AND INDY SIT IN TOP 10 AFTER OFFSEASON RETOOLS
Ah, the start of a new season.Optimism abounds.I’m reliably informed that Las Vegas Lights FC’s coaching staff is delighting in all our views on their playoff potential, so confident are they that this will be the year the club secures its first postseason trip.And who can blame them?
The slate is wiped clean. Everyone is 0-0-0 with everything to play for.We think we know things – the inevitability that has been Louisville City FC’s eight consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Final will do that for you.At the same time, this is the moment where everything is up for grabs.So, what if it isn’t LouCity or San Antonio FC’s year?What if it is Indy Eleven’s, a club that hasn’t been in the postseason since 2019? Or Lights FC, for that matter?We’re ready for the chaos – or not. How about you?
|1||San Antonio FC|
Week 1: v. OAK
|SAFC’s title defense begins on Saturday night, and Toyota Field should be rocking as numerous familiar faces take to the field for the first time since last November against a playoff foe in Oakland Roots SC.|
|2||Louisville City FC|
Week 1: @ OC
|The numbers at fivethirtyeight.com say LouCity’s the favorite to win the league title right now. If they do, they’ll become the first three-time title winner in the Championship’s history.|
|3||Sacramento Republic FC|
Week 1: @ ELP
|Russell Cicerone bagging two goals in the final game of preseason was exactly the sort of thing you’d like to see as a Republic FC supporter. Let’s see how he fares on Saturday night in El Paso.|
|4||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
Week 1: v. IND
|It’s going to be awfully strange to see Sebastian Guenzatti at Al Lang Stadium in another team’s colors on Saturday. High stakes for maybe the marquee game of opening weekend.|
|5||Birmingham Legion FC|
Week 1: v. PIT
|Legion FC’s attack looks explosive on paper. Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC’s return after last year’s playoff classic to open the season should be a good test for the hosts|
|6||San Diego Loyal SC|
Week 1: v. DET
|All the vibes feel right for SD Loyal going into Head Coach Nate Miller’s first season. Can they live up to the expectation against a solid Detroit City FC defense?|
Week 1: v. TUL
|Miami FC’s big challenge was picking up wins at home a season ago. Head Coach Anthony Pulis’ side will want to get out on the right foot against FC Tulsa on Saturday evening.|
|8||Phoenix Rising FC|
Week 1: @ CHS
|Is there a risk in putting Rising FC this high in the rankings this early? Sure. But it’s one we’re confident in, at least for the moment.|
|9||Memphis 901 FC|
Week 1: v. LDN
|901 FC was the revelation of the 2022 season, earning its first playoff win before an agonizing end against Tampa Bay. They’ll be eager to get out on the right foot under new Head Coach Stephen Glass.|
Week 1: @ TBR
|It’s still wild that we haven’t seen Indy Eleven in the postseason since 2019. Saturday’s visit to Tampa Bay is going to be a great test of Head Coach Mark Lowry’s new-look lineup.|
|11||New Mexico United|
Week 1: —
|It can be risky to read too much into preseason results. That said, New Mexico going undefeated is solid and bodes well for a positive start when they kick off next week.|
|12||Rio Grande Valley FC|
Week 1: v. LV
|The Toros have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but last season no-one notched more than seven goals for the side. Who’s going to be the breakthrough finisher this campaign?|
|13||Monterey Bay F.C.|
Week 1: v. HFD
|Monterey Bay kept hold of all its essential parts from 2022 and added some strong experience at the back in Alex Lara and up front in Alex Dixon. Saturday’s visit from Hartford Athletic could be sneaky-entertaining.|
|14||Orange County SC|
Week 1: v. LOU
|As many changes as Orange County has seen this offseason, getting Louisville City FC to open the season is a big challenge. Still, watch out for the kids – Korede Osundina and Bryce Jamison are ballers.|
|15||Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC|
Week 1: @ BHM
|The Hounds only allowed one goal in five preseason games. That sort of steely defense should help keep things moving while the attack finds its feet at Highmark Stadium.|
Week 1: v. PHX
|The Battery have the reigning Championship Coach of the Year at the helm in Ben Pirmann, and a squad that feels in a good place. Saturday’s visit from Phoenix Rising FC looks high in entertainment potential.|
Week 1: @ MB
|Hartford went out and made some big upgrades to its attack this offseason with Antoine Hoppenot and Elvis Amoh’s arrivals. If they live up to billing, Head Coach Tab Ramos’ side could quickly rise from this ranking.|
|18||Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC|
Week 1: —
|The Switchbacks got so much recruitment done right after the season ended, it’s easy to focus on the departures. We’ll see how the new boys do next week in El Paso|
|19||Oakland Roots SC|
Week 1: @ SA
|There are some nice additions to Oakland’s roster, but we just can’t quite trust the attacking third yet. San Antonio’s defense is going to offer a stern opening test for Anuar Pelaez and co.|
|20||Detroit City FC|
Week 1: @ SD
|Le Rouge look solid again, especially defensively with Nathan Steinwascher, Stephen Carroll and Devon Amoo-Mensah all back. Can the attack provide enough punch in San Diego?|
Week 1:@ MIA
|Head Coach Blair Gavin gets a trip to Miami for his first game at the helm in Tulsa. This squad feels solid, but did it get better in the way Charleston, Hartford and Indy seemed to? We’ll see.|
|22||El Paso Locomotive FC|
Week 1: v. SAC
|There’s players with nothing to prove in this league at Locomotive FC, led by Luis Solignac. This overall group, though? They need to show us something Saturday against Sacramento.|
|23||Las Vegas Lights FC|
Week 1: @ RGV
|Erick “Cubo” Torres’ arrival to be the headline act in Las Vegas was one rabbit out of the hat for Lights FC. Six road games to start the Championship season – broke up by one home Open Cup game – is going to be a challenge.|
|24||Loudoun United FC|
Week 1: @ MEM
|It’s a new era for Loudoun United FC and Head Coach Ryan Martin. There were flashes last year, but not enough consistency. Can they change that this campaign?|
Indy’s Sebastian Guenzatti set for Tampa Bay return | Week 1 News & Notes
By NICHOLAS MURRAY – email@example.com, 03/09/23, 11:00AM EST
PLAYMAKERS TEAM UP FOR HARTFORD, INDY; WEST HELD UPPER HAND IN 2022, WILL THAT CONTINUE?
The 2023 USL Championship season kicks off this Saturday, featuring marquee contests and compelling storylines across the 11-game slate of action which will air on ESPN+. Here our first edition of the weekly News & Notes column, where we take a look at notable storylines and the numbers you need to know going into the action. On top of that, we’ve got our regular upcoming milestones for players in the USL Championship, and the Week 1 Discipline Report. Let’s dig in.
NEWS AND NOTES
INDY’S SEBASTIAN GUENZATTI MAKES EARLY RETURN TO TAMPA BAY
After being the centerpiece of one of the major moves of the USL Championship offseason, new Indy Eleven forward Sebastian Guenzatti will face former club the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium this Saturday night in the opening game of the campaign for both clubs (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+).
A two-time Championship All-League selection for the Rowdies in 2019 and 2021, Guenzatti departed the club as its all-time goalscoring leader. The 31-year-old recorded 65 goals in 161 appearances across all competitions for Tampa Bay, also placing him second in club history in games played.
Of Guenzatti’s goals for the Rowdies, 59 came in the USL Championship regular season. That ranks him second in Championship history to only Cameron Lancaster, who has recorded 69 regular season goals for Louisville City FC in his career.
Most regular season goals for one club in USL Championship history
1. Cameron Lancaster, Louisville City FC – 69*
2. Sebastian Guenzatti, Tampa Bay Rowdies – 59
3. Cameron Iwasa, Sacramento Republic FC – 57
4. Solomon Asante, Phoenix Rising FC – 49
5. Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – 44
* – Current Club
WEST WAS BEST IN 2022, HOW ABOUT THIS YEAR?
Former INDY 11 GK and Carmel FC GK coach Jordan Farr and his San Antonio won the Championship last season. He and his wife welcomed a beautiful little girl during the off season.
San Antonio FC won eight of its nine regular season contests against Eastern Conference opponents in 2022 as well as the Championship Final. | Photo courtesy Davis Kuhn / San Antonio FC
The Western Conference held the edge in the interconference regular season games against its Eastern Conference counterparts in the 2022 USL Championship season, posting a 53-36-23 record in the 112 games contested across conference lines.
Among the standouts in interconference play, unsurprisingly, was defending Championship title holder San Antonio FC, which posted an 8-1-0 record against the Eastern Conference. Its lone defeat was to Indy Eleven, which marked SAFC’s only defeat in its final 14 games across the regular season and playoffs on the way to its first title.
Memphis 901 FC also shone, going undefeated with a 6-0-2 record against the Western Conference on its way to the best regular season in club history. That also made Memphis the lone club to post an undefeated record in interconference play over the course of the season.
Opening weekend features four interconference contests, led by former title-winners Orange County SC and Louisville City FC squaring off at Championship Soccer Stadium. Elsewhere, the Charleston Battery play host to Phoenix Rising FC at Patriots Point, Monterey Bay F.C. welcomes Hartford Athletic to Cardinale Stadium, and Detroit City FC heading west to take on San Diego Loyal SC at Torero Stadium. We could get an early indicator of where the strength may lie this season.
PLAYMAKERS TEAM UP IN HARTFORD, INDY
2022 Championship Assists Champion Antoine Hoppenot has arrived at Hartford Athletic this season, where he’ll team up with fellow playmaker Danny Barrera under the mentorship of Head Coach Tab Ramos. | Photo courtesy Hartford Athletic
Four of the top five assist-men in USL Championship regular season will be teammates this season, with Hartford Athletic boasting Danny Barrera and Antoine Hoppenot in their ranks while Indy Eleven brings together Aodhan Quinn and Solomon Asante for their second stint as teammates in the Circle City.
With both closing in on 50 regular season assists for their careers, Quinn (48) and Asante (47) sit on 95 combined assists going into the new season for Indy with Barrera (50) and Hoppenot (44) sitting on 94 combined assists in their careers. With Hoppenot coming off a season in which he claimed the Championship’s Assists Champion award at Detroit City FC, both duos could lead potent attacks this campaign.
Asante and Quinn have both previously been part of the duos that have combined for the most assists in a Championship regular season. Asante’s league-record campaign of 17 assists for Phoenix Rising FC in 2019 also saw Junior Flemmings and Jose Aguinaga record seven assists apieces for a combined total of 24. The prior year, Quinn and former Orange County SC teammate Thomas Enevoldsen had combined to record 23 assists in the season they were both nominated for the Championship’s MVP award.
Most Combined Assists by teammates in a Championship regular season
24 – Solomon Asante (17) and multiple teammates (7), Phoenix Rising FC (2019)
23 – Aodhan Quinn (14) and Thomas Enevoldsen (9), Orange County SC (2018)
20 – Emmanuel Ledesma (16) and multiple teammates (4), FC Cincinnati (2018)
20 – Kyle Bekker (13) and Steven Miller (7), North Carolina FC (2018)
20 – Rodrigo da Costa (13) and Christhian Altamirano (7), FC Tulsa (2019)
20 – Oscar Jimenez (10) and Ilija Ilic (10), Louisville City FC (2018)
MEMPHIS, LOUDOUN, MIAMI, TULSA VIE FOR FIRST GOAL OF 2023
With 5 p.m. ET kickoffs on the opening day of the 2023 USL Championship regular season, players in the contests between Memphis 901 FC and Loudoun United, and Miami FC and FC Tulsa will get the first crack at becoming the first goalscorer of the new season.
Last year, Loudoun United FC’s Kimarni Smith claimed the first goal of the season in his side’s 1-0 victory against Indy Eleven at Segra Field.
USL Championship – First Goal of the Regular Season
2011 – Stanley Nyazamba, Richmond Kickers
2012 – Mike Seth, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
2013 – George Davis IV, Orange County SC
2014 – Jose Cuevas, Charleston Battery
2015 – Jordan Hamilton, Toronto FC II
2016 – Fabian Herbers, Philadelphia Union II
2017 – Florian Valot, New York Red Bulls II
2018 – Pablo Aguilar, Rio Grande Valley FC
2019 – Alec Diaz, Tacoma Defiance
2020 – Chris Hegardt, Tacoma Defiance
2021 – Paolo DelPiccolo, Louisville City FC
2022 – Kimarni Smith, Loudoun United FC
UPCOMING PLAYER MILESTONES
Louisville City FC’s Cameron Lancaster will become the third player to record 75 regular season goals in the Championship for his career when he opens his account for the 2023 campaign. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Approaching 150 regular-season appearances
Joaquin Rivas (MIA) – 148
Sebastian Guenzatti (IND) – 145
Approaching 100 regular-season appearances
Adrian Diz Pe (IND) – 99
Sebastian Velasquez (MEM) – 99
Jake Areman (TBR) – 98
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 97
Luis Felipe Fernandes (SAC) – 97 regular
Approaching 15,000 regular-season minutes
Speedy Williams (COS) – 14,674
Alex Tambakis (NM) – 14,657
James Musa (COS) – 14,639
Approaching 10,000 regular-season minutes
Marcus Epps (TUL) – 9,935
Joaquin Rivas (MIA) – 9,884
Malik Johnson (COS) – 9,777
Approaching 75 regular season goals
Cameron Lancaster (LOU) – 74
Approaching 50 regular season goals
Chris Wehan (NM) – 49
Lucky Mkosana (TBR) – 48
Alex Dixon (MB) – 48
Approaching 50 regular season assists
Aodhan Quinn (IND) – 48
Solomon Asante (IND) – 47
Approaching 40 regular season assists
Enzo Martinez (BHM) – 38
Approaching 30 regular season assists
Oscar Jimenez (LOU) – 29
Lewis Hilton (TBR) – 29
Justin Portillo (NM) – 28
Niall McCabe (LOU) – 27
Approaching 250 regular season saves
Trey Muse (CHS) – 241
Approaching 40 regular-season shutouts
Matt VanOekel (BHM) – 38
Approaching 30 regular-season shutouts
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 29
DISCIPLINE REPORT – WEEK 1
TAMPA, Fla. – The following is the USL Championship’s discipline report for Week 1 of the 2023 USL Championship season:
Miami FC’s Bolu Akinyode has been suspended for one game following the review of an incident in his side’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs by the Independent Discipline Panel. Akinyode will be unavailable for selection in Miami’s contest against FC Tulsa on Saturday night.
Oakland Roots SC’s Neveal Hackshaw has been suspended for one game following his red card incurred while playing for Indy Eleven against Birmingham Legion FC during their regular season contest on Oct. 12. Hackshaw will be unavailable for selection in Oakland’s contest against San Antonio FC on Saturday night.
Orange County SC’s Thomas Amang has been suspended for one game following his red card incurred while playing for San Diego Loyal SC against Oakland Roots SC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs for two cautionable offenses. Amang will be unavailable for Orange County’s contest against Louisville City FC on Saturday night.
San Diego Loyal SC’s Alejandro Guido and Grant Stoneman have each been suspended for one game following their red cards for two cautionable offenses against Oakland Roots SC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs. Guido and Stoneman will be unavailable for selection in San Diego’s contest against Detroit City FC on Saturday night.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s Steven Echevarria has been suspended for one game following his red card for abusive language during his side’s contest against San Antonio FC in the Western Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs. Echevarria will be unavailable for selection in Colorado Springs’ contest against El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday, March 15.
Will Lionel Messi come to MLS? In Miami, everyone has an opinion
Felipe Cardenas and Pablo MaurerMar 8, 2023
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida looks like it was designed by an eight-year-old on the back of a napkin. The locals here call the building the “guitar hotel,” and it’s easy to understand why – it is shaped, quite simply, like a massive electric guitar.Wander through the place on a Saturday night and you’ll hit sensory overload in a matter of minutes. There is a cacophony of noise: crying children, yapping adults and the continuous drone of a thousand slot machines.We haven’t come to the guitar hotel to bathe in second-hand smoke and lose our life savings. We’ve come here in search of something even worse for our health: the Messi burger.Several months before the 2022 World Cup, Lionel Messi partnered with the Hard Rock Cafe to produce a line of merchandise and a hamburger that would appear on Hard Rock menus everywhere. The deal was only supposed to be a limited engagement. Then Messi won his first World Cup and became immortalized as perhaps soccer’s greatest-ever player. The partnership was extended, and the food item enhanced.There’s no need to dive into the specifics of the sandwich, but it is about what you’d expect out of a $20 hamburger at a multinational concept restaurant: somehow filling and unsatisfying all at once.Nevertheless, our server informs us that the Messi burger is the restaurant’s most popular item. A quick scan of the dining room tells us that’s more than a sales pitch — Messi burgers are being eaten in every corner of the place. A few tables over, we see a party of five, and every single patron has a Messi burger in front of them.Since almost the moment the team’s founding was announced, MLS side Inter Miami has been linked to Messi. Everyone at the table of Messi burgers is keenly aware of this. The five are part of Miami’s sizable contingent of Argentine immigrants, and all have their own opinions about the players’ future.One of those diners is Germán, a 52-year-old who made the trip to Qatar this past winter to see Messi play in the World Cup final. His excitement is palpable. He has a friend close to Messi’s camp, he says, who tells him the club and player are close to an agreement. It’s the sort of statement that hardly seems believable, but here at this table, in this rapid-fire conversation over a half-dozen Messi burgers, it feels right.If you speak to the people who are actually close to Messi, or to sources close to Inter Miami itself, you’ll get wildly different viewpoints spoken with equal amounts of passion. One source, who was granted anonymity to protect his relationships with Inter Miami, told The Athletic last week that a deal with Miami was all but done, with Messi being promised a small ownership stake in the MLS club. Another bristled at the idea that Messi would ever come to the United States, suggesting he still wants to play at the highest level.In the end, the decision lies with Messi.It is not an easy one. Does he remain at PSG, at the highest possible level? Does he choose to return to Argentina, to a glorious homecoming at his hometown Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario? Does he imitate his generational rival Cristiano Ronaldo and take a Middle Eastern payday?Or, does he come to the U.S. in search of adventure?
Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville delivers a team talk (Photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville has dealt with his share of superstars as an assistant coach at Manchester United and as head coach of the English national women’s team. Even at Miami, an MLS club still in its infancy, Neville was handed a squad that included former Real Madrid great Gonzalo Higuain and France World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi.But Messi? In a way, managing the Argentine great and the circus that would surround him would be Neville’s greatest-ever challenge. Inter Miami’s reality would change entirely.“Things will be different,” Neville says. “The trees might have to be bigger (around the training ground). The security might have to be tighter. The walk the players have today over to that stadium, that might have to be different. The travel might be different. The hotels we stay in might have to be different. But really that might be what we’re aspiring to be like anyway. It’s exciting, but I think it’d be a massive challenge.”Neville is sitting at his desk on the upper floor of Inter Miami’s training ground, located just to the north of DRV PNK stadium, Inter Miami’s temporary home. The facility isn’t located in Miami proper, but rather in a somewhat unglamorous stretch of nearby Fort Lauderdale, surrounded by tire shops, a roofing supply company and a used car dealership. But even here, the wealth that defines so much of the Miami area is inescapable. Look out the large, glass windows of Neville’s office and you’ll see the other thing that borders the training facility: the local executive airport, where the city’s wealthiest residents park their private jets.More than any other city in the United States, Miami has become a destination for global footballers, particularly South Americans. Messi himself owns property in the city and has visited frequently. Argentina’s federation is building a training facility in the area. Owners and administrators at Inter Miami are very aware of all of this, and feel the city is a very strong recruiting tool.“When (players) land in Ft. Lauderdale,” says Neville, “or Miami, there’s places we can take them that will probably guarantee that they or their family will want to come to Miami. Whether they’ve got a wife and kids or whether they’re single. So that’s our biggest selling point.”Neville is thoughtful and careful when he talks about the club’s links to Messi. You get the feeling that many at the club would rather not discuss the potential deal at all, but not speaking about this particular player is simply not an option. On the very day David Beckham announced the franchise, Messi reached out on social media to congratulate him and stoked the flames of a potential move. “Maybe in a few years,” Messi said, “you can give me a call.”At the time, Messi was a Barcelona player and it seemed as though he’d retire as one. But after an acrimonious breakup, he left for Paris Saint-Germain.Beckham himself was dealing with his own struggles at the time, navigating the harsh realities of trying to get a stadium deal done amidst widespread backlash from locals. Even after getting that deal over the line (Miami is expected to move into a new, downtown stadium in 2025), the waters have remained rough for Inter Miami. They were penalized by MLS for flagrantly violating MLS’ roster rules and struggled to compete in their opening two seasons. The club was always intended to be one of MLS’ few truly glamorous clubs, but it has lacked some of that luster playing in a temporary stadium outside of Miami proper. In 2022 Inter Miami ranked last in the 28-team league in attendance.Those are all short-term problems that would be solved by a better venue and a more competitive roster (though the club did make the playoffs in 2022). At its core, Miami still feels like one of Major League Soccer’s most promising franchises. The club is owned by a pair of billionaires (Jorge and Jose Mas) and Beckham, maybe the biggest celebrity footballer in the history of the game. The ceiling for Inter Miami is higher than it is for clubs in smaller markets.
Beckham knows a thing or two about the effects a single star player can have on MLS. When he arrived at the LA Galaxy in 2007, the league was growing but still struggling for relevance. More than any other player in the league’s history, Beckham changed the profile of MLS and how it does business. He ushered in the era of the designated player – an MLS roster classification that allowed its teams to spend over their allotted salary budget on up to three high-profile stars.The league has added 16 franchises since Beckham’s arrival and continues to add rules that increase overall spending on players. However, it has not yet earned the global respect it so badly wants and needs. Messi would certainly push things in that direction.Yet in a vacuum, the idea of Messi playing for an MLS club feels farcical. The league has hosted its share of superstars — Beckham, Zlatan, Drogba and the like. But Messi? Just months removed from World Cup glory? Playing in Inter Miami’s stopgap stadium, in Fort Lauderdale? As big as those other players were, Messi’s signing would dwarf all of them, and be far more surprising.“I think this would be probably the biggest signing in history,” says Neville. “I can’t think of another star of that magnitude to come from a major footballing country to this place. This is maybe similar (to Beckham’s arrival), but maybe even bigger. I think you’re talking about one of the greatest footballers of all time. When you talk about Miami, we have to be in for players like that, you know?”Down the hall from Neville, Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson is similarly bullish. Henderson represented the U.S. at a World Cup and had a distinguished playing career in MLS. By the time he arrived in Miami in early 2021, he’d carved out his place as one of the more respected front-office figures in the league, a capable navigator of MLS’ web of roster rules. He speaks of Messi’s potential signing in the same business speak he’d use to talk about a college draft pick: Does the player fit the way Miami plays? What about the club’s philosophy?But even Henderson understands the realities of incorporating Messi into Miami’s roster. Unlike other destinations, Miami would need to maneuver around a soft salary budget in order to add Messi. Just last week MLS commissioner Don Garber was surprisingly candid about the pursuit, suggesting the league and Inter Miami would have to “think outside the box” to craft a deal for him. Some say Messi will be offered a piece of Inter Miami itself, while others say Miami could cut him in on some of the real estate surrounding their new stadium.“What’s the knock-on effect on the rest of our roster?” Henderson asks, hypothetically. “What moves do we have to make? I mean, you really have to look two windows ahead in all of this. And as you’re signing players, you’re still signing players thinking, ‘Okay, what if this happens? What if these two come? What if?’”
One thing that feels beyond question to Henderson is Messi’s potential impact.
“He would change sports here,” said Henderson. “Every stadium we went to, it would just be the biggest thing in the city at that time. It would just be amazing for our league. It would be like Michael Jordan, just would be the biggest thing imaginable.”
MLS has to make its own considerations. Like Beckham before him, Messi’s deal might change the calculus of every big-name signing from here on out. If Messi gets 5% of Inter Miami, a team that could potentially be worth over $1 billion when it moves into its new stadium, you’d have to think that other players who approach his profile will want a similar deal if and when they come to MLS.
There’s no precedent for any of this, but then again, MLS has always been fairly good at making it up as time moves along.
Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s first club, plays at the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)
In the early morning hours of March 2, shortly before 3 a.m., two armed men on a motorcycle stopped in front of a supermarket in Rosario, Argentina and opened fire. It was the latest instance of organized crime and gangland violence, which has led to over 50 homicides in the city this year. Rosario, the birthplace of Messi and where his parents and in-laws still reside, is currently Argentina’s most violent city. According to Clarín in Argentina, there were over 270 homicides in Rosario in 2022, a new record.
For locals, the news about fourteen bullets ripping through an empty supermarket in Rosario wasn’t a random shooting. The shooters’ target, Supermercado Único, is owned and operated by the family of Antonela Roccuzzo, Messi’s wife.
The Associated Press reported that the gunman left a sinister note which read “Messi, we’re waiting for you. Javkin is also a drug trafficker, he won’t protect you.”
That last line was a reference to Pablo Javkin, Rosario’s mayor, who immediately condemned the attack and said that Rosario is “a laboratory” for criminal activity. He also pointed the finger at local law enforcement for failing to protect the city.
“It’s clear that causing harm in Rosario is easy to do and that Rosario doesn’t have any damn help at all,” Javkin said after the incident.
The shooting quickly became world news while simultaneously causing a political controversy in Argentina. When the nation’s defense minister Aníbal Fernández told reporters after the shooting that “the narcos have won,” it painted a ugly picture of the instability in one of Argentina’s most fabled football cities.
Rosario is home to Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central — two fierce rivals with rich histories who divide the city’s football loyalties. Newell’s home ground is named after legendary coach Marcelo Bielsa, with an upper tier of the stadium dedicated to Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, who starred as a player for the club and led Newell’s to a league championship as a manager in 2013. Rosario Central can claim World Cup winners Mario Alberto Kempes and Ángel Di Maria as club legends, among others.
Messi, however, is far and away Rosario’s most famous son. He joined Newell’s as a six-year-old in 1994, dazzling local crowds with hundreds of goals and silky dribbling until he departed for Barcelona five years later. Messi has never shied from talking about a romantic return to his boyhood club.
“Even as time has passed, my desire to (play for Newell’s) remains intact,” Messi told Argentina’s Sportia shortly before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. “I’ve always said that I’d love to play for Newell’s. It’s something that I still have left to do.”
During a recent interview with Brazilian outlet UOL, Messi’s former international teammate and close friend Sergio “Kun” Aguero swung the pendulum in Newell’s favor.
“He’s seriously considering the possibility of playing for Newell’s,” Aguero revealed. Maxi Rodríguez, a former Argentina World Cup hero who retired with Newell’s in 2021, was on hand for the interview and quickly intervened.
“Kun can’t stay quiet,” Rodríguez said. “We’ll see. It’s difficult to talk about this because it turns into a giant rumor. Let’s wait and see what happens.”
Before the supermarket shooting, Messi’s Newell’s return wasn’t entirely implausible. After leading Argentina to a Copa América title in 2021, Messi was finally hailed as a hero after years of disappointment with the national team. Argentina’s dramatic triumph at the World Cup in Qatar further elevated Messi to legend status. He had finally connected with the people of Argentina. So why wouldn’t Messi want to finish his career in his country?
This latest act of violence, however, may have prevented that from happening.
“This doesn’t only affect Leo’s return. It affects everyone,” said Newell’s manager Gabriel Heinze after the shooting. “There’s no doubt that this distances Leo (from Newell’s) and anyone else.”
Inter Miami’s DRV PNK stadium (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Ray Hudson is no stranger to the area around Inter Miami’s DRV PNK stadium, which sits about a mile or so from his home in Fort Lauderdale. In the 1970s, Hudson patrolled the midfield at Lockhart Stadium, the venue that was bulldozed to make way for Inter Miami’s current home. He had a front-row seat to American soccer’s biggest-ever boom, the delirium surrounding the arrival of Pelé to the North American Soccer League in the mid-70s. He witnessed the flood of other luminaries that Pelé attracted stateside: Johan Cruyff, George Best, Gerd Müller and more.
Hudson is also closely tied to Messi in his current career as a broadcaster. In the U.S., so many of Messi’s goals were accompanied by Hudson’s trademark commentary, that rapid-fire banter laced with similes and metaphors. Say the word “magisterial” in the U.S. and even many non-soccer fans know exactly who and what you’re talking about.
While it’s tempting to compare Messi’s potential arrival to that of Pelé’s, the Brazilian’s impact on club soccer in America was seismic mostly in the short term. His presence on the New York Cosmos for three years pushed the sport of soccer into the mainstream in the United States at a time when few gave it any thought, but a few years after his departure the entire NASL collapsed.
To Hudson, Messi’s potential arrival would be the biggest event in the history of the American game, and far more lasting.
“This would be the biggest bang of football in this country, ever,” says Hudson. “The business element of what David Beckham did was enormous. That was a quantum leap for the league. We all recognize that. But this is a footballer’s footballer, you know? This isn’t just Gareth Bale, (Steven) Gerrard, Lampard. Even when genuine geniuses have come here, like Thierry Henry and Zlatan, it really hasn’t taken that massive leap. This will be the quantum leap in all shapes and forms for anybody that’s followed the game.”
This does not mean Hudson shares Inter Miami’s confidence that they’ll land Messi’s signature.
“Within the last year he won the World Cup at 35 years old, and he’s going to come here?” Hudson asks. “It’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ stuff. It would be like the Mozart of our game. The Shakespeare of the arts arriving in Major League Soccer, and at his absolute peak as well. At his absolute peak … How could this possibly come about? What attraction is there for him? There are very, very good players playing within the league, but he’s playing with Mbappé now. He’s playing with f—ing Mbappé and Sergio Ramos.”
Historically, famous footballers have come to the United States in large part to escape the spotlight. Best cruised around Los Angeles and Florida in an open-topped Jeep and was barely recognized. Cruyff rode his bicycle from Georgetown in D.C. to RFK Stadium, a nice escape from his life in Barcelona. Even Henry took the train to Red Bull Arena for a game at least once.
That’s not an option for Messi, who at this point is one of the most recognizable humans on earth. During a recent Miami visit, every movement he made in the city was tracked by international media, and a massive crowd swarmed him at every opportunity. Hudson describes it as “Beatlemania all over again,” but in reality, Messi’s permanent arrival would be even bigger.
For now, Hudson will continue to try and find new ways to describe Messi’s brilliance remotely. He’ll be on the call in the U.S. for PSG’s Champions League appearance this week against Bayern Munich, as Messi seeks to engineer a little more magic.
“I’m going to be looking at Messi on the ball and thinking ‘There’s no f—ing way that he would be (in MLS),’” he says.
Argentina fans celebrate winning the 2022 World Cup at a party in Miami Beach (Photo: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Miami Beach. The brunch crowd has descended upon the trendier eateries around town, but the Buenos Aires Bakery & Cafe has plenty of tables open. We’re in Little Buenos Aires, where an ever-growing community of Argentine expats have made Miami home for over 20 years.
The locals here are enjoying Argentine delicacies like empanadas, facturas (an Argentine pastry), and a wide array of sandwiches and pizzas while they watch PSG defeat Lille 4-3. Messi’s clever free kick in stoppage time proves to be the decisive moment of the match.
On the outdoor patio, five grizzled old Argentine men quietly sip their lattes. Alberto, Diego, Jorge and two gentlemen named Cristián are deep in conversation when we approach their table and ask them where Messi’s career will take him next.
“He’ll stay at PSG,” Alberto says, repeatedly.
“I’ll bet you $5,000 that he’ll play one season with Newell’s,” belts out one of the Cristiáns, a burly fellow with tanned skin and thinning hair.
“The rumors are saying that he’s coming here,” says Jorge, who will later reveal his allegiance to Rosario Central, which skewed his opinions. “Leo is from Newell’s. So he’d be abandoning them if he doesn’t go there. I want you to put that in the story!”
The debate rages on. For Diego, a move to Inter Miami would jeopardize Messi’s preparation for the 2024 Copa América, because “he won’t take (MLS) seriously.” Argentina will defend its title when the tournament comes to the U.S. next summer.
“They don’t have passion here,” Diego continues. “The players in the U.S. lose a final and they go home like nothing happened. You can’t grow if you don’t feel football in that way. In Argentina a player loses a game and they’re sad for a week. Here they lose a game and it doesn’t matter. They go out and party.”
The other Cristián, the group’s voice of reason, chimes in.
“Messi has accomplished everything that he wanted to accomplish…How will he end his career? In peace and while he thinks about all of the incredible investment opportunities that he’ll have,” he says. “That’s where I think his decision is headed. I believe he’s thinking about where to end his career. And in the U.S. the investment outlook is impressive.”
What about Qatar or Saudi Arabia?
“Those are very good options in terms of financials,” Diego says. “I’d sign that deal today. Where do I sign?”
While the U.S. market is one Messi hasn’t played in, his brand stateside has arguably never been stronger. Argentina will be the top draw when the Copa América comes to the U.S. next summer, and he’s the big reason why. Unlike Pele, Messi doesn’t have to wear an Inter Miami uniform in order to be known and adored by the American public.
Still, it is not hard to imagine why Messi would be seduced by the idea of coming to the U.S. The same romanticism which could drive him to Newell’s may well bring him to Miami. The idea that he could come to a still-developing soccer nation and play his part in mainstreaming a sport that still sometimes feels like it operates on the fringes. Pelé tried to do it. Beckham tried to do it.
Messi may just make his own attempt.
ST. LOUIS MLS STADIUM BRINGS NEXT-GEN TECH TO SCALED-DOWN SOFI
Jacob Hester Sportico
When fans walk into Citypark on Saturday for St. Louis City SC’s home MLS debut, few will likely draw comparisons to SoFi Stadium, where the onetime St. Louis Rams now play.
SoFi Stadium, in Inglewood, Calif., cost more than $5 billion to build; Citypark came in under $500 million. SoFi can expand to seat 100,000; Citypark hosts just over 20,000. SoFi has regularly been referred to as an interplanetary vehicle; Citypark was designed to fit into a midwestern city’s Downtown West neighborhood.
But!, inside those two venues—deep inside—there are more similarities than fans might expect, according to AmpThink founder Bill Anderson. He would know, given his company helped each team integrate key tech functions, from stadium Wi-Fi to concourse TVs to scoreboard controls.
“When we finished SoFi, every conversation that I had afterwards was, ‘Yeah, that’s really cool, man. If I had five-and-a-half billion dollars, I would do the same thing,’” Anderson said. “What’s neat about St. Louis is it’s not a five-and-a-half-billion-dollar project. And we did exactly the same thing.”
Besides tech infrastructure designs, SoFi and Citypark share another similarity: a purpose, which is getting people back to the stands after a pandemic.
Citypark is open in all four corners, and the pitch sits 40 feet below ground level, giving passersby a view from the street. The venue is accessible from all four sides as well, after architects worked to hide the staging area for security, broadcast and food-related equipment. Much of that was even moved into an underground tunnel.
“We didn’t want to create a backdoor,” Snow Kreilich Architects cofounder Julie Snow said. “It’s just like a dead corner of a stadium.”
At the gate, fans will present their phones rather than paper. Leaning into trends accelerated by COVID-19, Citypark is ticketless and cashless. The team has spent the run-up to its debut educating fans about the tech, hoping to hit 100% mobile app adoption for its season ticket holders.
The goal is to create a seamless experience from sidewalk to concourse, from concourse to seat, from seat to bathroom and back again (with key fan data being collected along the way).
“Youth has never been less interested in live sporting events,” City SC chief experience officer Matt Sebek said. “It’s up to venues and up to teams to create memorable and impactful ones.” He added that it was critical those in-person experiences be comprehensive—enjoyable from end to end.
Snow and Sebek are among the many involved in Citypark who previously spent time outside the confines of sports business. (Sebek spent much of his career working with fast casual restaurants, while Snow has designed rail stations, museums and hotels). Chris DeVolder and Eli Hoisington from global design firm HOK also played key roles in laying out the grounds.
Over the last three years, Sebek’s team visited other stadiums, but they also studied Panera and Papa John’s. Today’s stadiums are not just theaters for athletic competition, after all. They are also food halls, shopping malls, offices and wedding venues.
“A lot of our front office, this is their first gig in sports,” Sebek said. “We’ve always borrowed a lot of those cues from consumer industries.”
With days to go before the debut, the team is busy. Are there enough TVs in the press area? Are local restaurant partners happy with their setups?
But just getting to kickoff won’t be enough on Saturday. The real test starts at halftime.Soccer is particularly tough on venue designers, given the supply and demand dilemmas presented by a single 15-minute stoppage. To keep things moving, City SC has added MLS’s first checkout-free stores, this time taking inspiration from Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and working with cashierless store developer Zippin. The grab-and-go markets use tracking technology to automatically charge customers and cut down fan visits to as short as 10 seconds. “We’re really taking physical spaces and turning them into computers,” Zippin co-founder Krishna Motukuri said. “The whole purpose of technology is to disappear into the background.”Elsewhere, St. Louis has broken down traditional concession stands into roughly 50 stations powered by remote kitchens. Fans can order from kiosks, though Sebek is hopeful that mobile ordering adoption will eventually render those unnecessary, too. Through a combination of order tracking and personalized recommendations via the team app, City SC hopes to make the halftime experience even more efficient week-over-week. “We are trying our damnedest to really spread the lines out,” Sebek said.Touching ticketing, food, wayfinding and merchandise, the team’s app is nearly a venue unto itself, another piece of invisible infrastructure built in parallel with the real-world sportsplex.“One of the things that I think is so extraordinary about sports venues is how much of the stadium the spectator doesn’t see,” Snow said. “And if that isn’t working smoothly, then they’ll begin to see it.”Snow was on hand for the stadium’s soft launch in November for a friendly against Bayer Leverkusen. The game was fun, but she also remembers the thrill of leaving. She felt surrounded by people, though never crowded. “It was kind of a revelation,” she said.Now, the hope is fans departing Saturday will have a similar reaction and decide to come back soon. “This is an MLS stadium, and it’s one of the most tech-savvy, tech-advanced stadiums in the world,” says Ken Martin, Cisco’s sports and entertainment solutions group general manager. “St. Louis is a great example of how you can take a world-class architecture and deploy it into a smaller venue.”
Spurs make shortlist to replace Antonio Conte – with Luis Enrique a lead contender
By Jack Pitt-Brooke Mar 9, 2023
Tottenham Hotspur have compiled a shortlist of candidates to replace Antonio Conte as their next permanent head coach.Chairman Daniel Levy has tasked Fabio Paratici, his under-fire managing director of football, with the job of producing a list of suitable possibilities for the role when Conte leaves, as now seems inevitable.At the top is likely to be Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona and Spain manager, whom Paratici has long admired. The plan is that Paratici will work on the list for Levy this month.Tottenham are very keen to get their succession planning right and avoid a repeat of the embarrassing summer of 2021.After sacking Jose Mourinho in the April, they took 10 weeks to find his replacement, failing to land Hansi Flick, their former manager Mauricio Pochettino or Conte and eventually having to appoint Nuno Espirito Santo on a two-year deal just before the players returned for pre-season. Nuno lasted 10 league games before Conte was finally persuaded to replace him.
The difference between then and now is that Tottenham do still have a head coach in place.Conte cut a miserable figure after Wednesday night’s Champions League last-16 elimination by AC Milan, though, and even admitted in an interview with an Italian broadcaster that Spurs “could get rid” of him before the end of the season. His contract expires on June 30, talks over an extension are dead and so he has at most 12 games left before he leaves the north London club.
Even though many Spurs fans audibly turned against Conte’s decisions during Wednesday’s game, he remains in charge for now. The 11 players who started against Milan came in today for recovery work, while the rest of the first-team squad had a normal training session.Conte is due to be at his press conference on Friday lunchtime before Saturday’s home league game against Nottingham Forest. If Spurs lose that, and Liverpool win away to bottom of the table Bournemouth in Saturday’s early kick-off, Jurgen Klopp’s men will overtake them in fourth place.
Richarlison: ‘This season has been shit’
Luis Enrique is greatly admired by Fabio Paratici (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)
But even if these are the final days of Conte’s tenure, the club are determined that they are going to have a plan in place for what comes next. Levy wants Paratici to oversee the process of finding Conte’s replacement, just as he did with the appointment of Nuno. (Conte’s hiring was driven by Levy himself rather than Paratici.)
This represents a show of support from the chairman for Paratici, whose position has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. Paratici was given a 30-month ban from Italian football in January following an investigation into accounting practices at former club Juventus while he was employed there, which Paratici has appealed against. But the 50-year-old is still highly rated at Spurs and is popular with staff and players.
Paratici’s ‘black book’, Chiellini’s WhatsApps, Ronaldo’s wages: Inside Juve’s crisis
Top of Paratici’s list is likely to be Luis Enrique, a coach he has admired greatly for years. The Spaniard is most famous for his three seasons in charge of Barcelona, from 2014 to 2017. He built a team with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar as the front three that swept all before them, winning the treble in his first season — the last time Barcelona lifted the Champions League. They also won the European Super Cup and Club World Cup, and retained the La Liga title the following year.
Luis Enrique then took over Spain’s national team, guiding them to the European Championship semi-finals in 2021, where they were knocked out on penalties, before going out on penalties again in the round of 16 at last year’s World Cup, to Morocco. He stepped down from the job after that defeat.
Paratici’s list is also likely to include Oliver Glasner, the Austrian who won the 2021-22 Europa League with Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. Paratici is also a big admirer of the work of Ruben Amorim, the Sporting Lisbon coach who won that club’s first Portuguese league title in 19 years two seasons ago, and of Luciano Spalletti, who is on the brink of guiding Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years.
‘He will be an unavoidable name in European football’ – Ruben Amorim, Europe’s next supercoach?
Oliver Glasner, head coach of Eintracht Frankfurt, is admired at Tottenham (Photo: Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images)
Of course there is no guarantee that the job will end up going to someone on their initial list, as Spurs found out when they tried to replace Mourinho two years ago. Their early contenders then included Flick, Erik ten Hag, Graham Potter, Roberto Martinez and Ralf Rangnick.
Many fans will wonder where former boss Pochettino, currently clubless after being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season, is in Spurs’ thinking.
He is unlikely to be one of Paratici’s preferred choices for the role, for the reasons outlined by The Athletic earlier this week.
There has been no approach from Tottenham about the upcoming vacancy, but it was the Argentinian’s name that some fans were singing as they left the stadium in the rain last night after seeing their team limply exit the Champions League.
AC Milan have won back dignity – place in Champions League last eight is seismic
By James HorncastleMar 9, 202340
Under shafts of bone-chilling rain, the Milan ultras turned their backs on the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, pulling off their black T-shirts to reveal red, goose-pimpled torsos against a pitch-black sky. “Bandiiiiiitoooos!” they sang, adapting the Muchachos song that was the soundtrack of Argentina’s barras bravas at the World Cup. “Una vita accanto il diavolooooo.” Bandits! A life by the devil’s side.In good and in bad.“Reaching the last eight would be an incredible result,” Milan’s technical director Paolo Maldini told Sky Italia moments before kick-off in north London, which remains a strange thing to hear a five-time winner of this competition say. Incredible, it wasn’t in one sense at least. For a start, it did not have to be against an insipid Tottenham team who, to borrow a phrase from the lore of Italian football, gave a performance evocative of a ‘coniglio bagnato’, a wet rabbit.Maldini’s comment instead alluded to the journey this Milan team has been on since his return to the club as an executive. Specifically, a night in Athens in the Europa League comes to mind when his former team-mate Leonardo, Milan’s then-sporting director, blamed elimination against Olympiacos in 2018 on the noise in the stadium. “I don’t know if it was a flute, a machine, or a claxon. Every time we attacked, all half,” he said. “There’s a rule forbidding noise that can be off-putting.”
It was a low point, a moment of genuine despair when going far in the Champions League as Milan used to in Maldini’s playing days felt further away than ever. “It’s worth remembering where we started out,” Maldini said on Wednesday. Not the seven Champions League trophies in the Casa Milan museum. But the seven years spent outside the competition. Lest we forget, Milan made it back to the Champions League only last season and finished bottom of their group. Out of Europe altogether, they focused on the league and won it for the first time since 2011. That achievement came ahead of schedule and if the scudetto came too soon, winning the Champions League does not figure as a realistic short-term objective. But Milan wanted to make progress and honour the history of the club in this competition with greater ication.“We have to take our chance,” Maldini said.As champions of Italy, Milan made the most of being top seeds in their group and reached the knockout stages, something they had not done since Massimiliano Allegri was in charge. Some will turn up their noses at the football they played against Tottenham but Milan are under no illusion as to who they are at the moment. The revenue generated by reaching the quarters is huge for the club.Anyone who looks down on this team and compares it with the last Champions League-winning vintage from 2007 need only survey their surroundings at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. If Milan are to take another step towards a definitive reawakening, the club needs a ground like the one Spurs call home to bring in the transformative money San Siro, unfortunately, does not. It’s why Milan spent Tuesday showing the Italian press corp around Tottenham’s avant-garde home to make it clear what the club’s future could look like.In the meantime, Milan have to grind and edge ties like this last-16 encounter. “It’s a big deal,” Olivier Giroud said, soon after scrunching up his shirt and tossing it into the out-stretched arms of the away support.
Pioli celebrates progression to the quarter-finals (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
“I told the lads we deserved it. We wanted to go on a good run in the Champions League this year.” And here Milan are in the quarter-finals for the first time in 11 years. The concern about the team’s recent form on the road (which flared up in Florence at the weekend), the anticipation Tottenham would suddenly turn it on like other Premier League sides have done against Milan and the question marks over Fikayo Tomori (who gave away another penalty on Saturday) washed away like the London rain.
It was an indictment on Tottenham that Milan did not even have to be that good on the night. Giroud and Rafa Leao did not click. Junior Messias’ crossing was wayward and his shooting worse, underlining Milan’s need for an upgrade on the right side.
A poor victor for this stage of the Champions League, this young Milan team were at least mature. Leao and Giroud did not score but still managed to get Cristian Romero and Clement Lenglet booked early. Milan’s flawless back-three frustrated Tottenham enough for the crowd to boo the home side off at half-time.
After marking Dejan Kulusevski out of the first leg, Malick Thiaw moved from left centre-back to the middle and did the same job on Harry Kane. When Kane out-leapt Rade Krunic in stoppage time to belatedly record only Tottenham’s second shot on target, the returning Mike Maignan made a clutch save. Theo Hernandez’s afterburners led to Romero’s reckless red. “The lads didn’t surprise me,” a soaked Pioli said. “They’ve got quality. We played with character and showed we were the better team and deserved to go through.” After all, Messias skewed a well-worked free kick wide, Thiaw put Leao through on goal, Divock Origi hit the post. Add in Thiaw and Charles De Ketelaere’s misses at San Siro and there can be little doubt Milan merit their place in the quarters.Afterwards, Antonio Conte played the football heritage card, arguing the difference between Tottenham and “champions of Italy” AC Milan with their seven Champions League titles, is ‘abissale’, so deep it’s like staring into an abyss. A cultural mismatch. But when you consider Pioli makes a third of what Conte does, San Siro turns over €70million (£62.4m, $74m) less than the Tottenham stadium and Milan’s gross summer transfer spend as “champions of Italy” was less than what Spurs paid for a substitute like Richarlison then Maldini is right to call it “incredible”.Bandiiiiiiito. Una vita accanto al diavolooooooooooooo.
|Alyssa Thompson sparkles in Angel City debut|
|COURTESY OF ANGEL CITY FOOTBALL CLUBNo. 1 draft pick Alyssa Thompson wasted no time making her mark on Angel City’s preseason.She scored her first goal for the L.A. club on Wednesday, just five minutes into a friendly against Club América.Still a high school senior, Thompson went through her normal school day before scoring in front of over 15,000 fans.“I went to school, had English, then I went back home and I was getting more nervous and as time progressed, I was trying to not think about it that much,” she said.The 18-year-old has already appeared with the USWNT first team, earning her first cap in October 2022.“Her goal she took so coolly, like she had played in a hundred games in this stadium,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said.Bottom line: Angel City went on to win 3-0, building momentum and getting their young star acclimated before the NWSL regular season begins on March 25.|
|France coach Diacre fired after player revolt|
|FRANCK FIFE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Corinne Diacre has officially been ousted as head coach of the France women’s national team after six years at the helm.Her firing comes after three prominent players, led by captain Wendie Renard, said they would not play in the 2023 World Cup under “the current system.”The “very significant divide” within the team “has reached a point of no return,” the French Football Federation said. B ackground: Renard publicly resigned from the national team in February, citing the need to protect her mental health.She was followed in quick succession by Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani, who said they would not return unless changes were made. Diacre refused to voluntarily resign despite public pressure, calling herself the victim of a “smear campaign.”“My detractors have not hesitated to attack my personal and professional integrity without bothering with the truth,” she said in a statement this week. Bottom line: France now only has months left to prepare for the World Cup, a tournament they have never won.The FFF has given the team a short runway to solve internal issues, but moving forward without Diacre should bring their starters back into the fold.|
=================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ======================
AFTER YOUR PRACTICE or GAMES AT
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 meal. https://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!
=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================
Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools
Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com – CLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX
American Outlaws http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite