5/25/18 Champ League Final Liverpool vs Real Madrid Sat 2:45 pm Fox, USA vs Bolivia Mon 6:30 pm FS1, Indy 11 discount tix for home game Wed 7 pm, CDC College Summer Soccer sign-up, CFC Tryouts & Prez Cup Finalist

So the Champions League final – featuring the EPL’s Liverpool and rising star Mo Salah vs 2 time Defending Champions Real Madrid and Renaldo kicks off on Saturday at 2:30 pm on Fox 59.  For Zidane and Real Madrid – this is a chance to make history and become the first team since the 70s to win 3 Champions League Trophy’s in a Row.  For Liverpool and new manager Juergan Klopp a chance to duplicate the feats of past Liverpool teams and bring home a 4th UCL Trophy but the first since _____  (Read all the stories below on the Oleballcoach)  More people will watch this final across the world between 2 of the top teams in Europe – than the Superbowl, the NBA Finals and the World Series Combined, so enjoy!

The other high stakes game Saturday – The 170 Million Dollar Final – features Fulham (formerly Fulham America) vs Aston Villa in the English Championship.  These 2 teams will battle in Wembley at noon to see which team advances to the English Premier League next season.  (Watch on ESPN+)  Fulham of course used to have the most American’s on their team about 8 to 10 years back – when Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller and my favorite Carlos Bocenegra were battling to keep them in the EPL.  Now its US defender Team Ream – carrying the banner for Fulham and the US as defacto Captain of the squad.  Go Fulham!!

Wow what a youthful group the US National Team is bringing in for Monday’s Memorial Day match in Pittsburgh with Boliva.  Led by US budding star Christian Pulisic – the US has an average age of just 22 years old on this squad.  Should be fun to watch the youngsters play a pretty good Bolivia team Monday evening at 6:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh

Carmel FC Teams Advancing to President’s Cup Finals June 1-3 

 U13 – 2005 Boys Coached by John Barnes and Jeremy Slivinski 

cfcu13boys

U17 2001 Boys  Coached by Jennifer Cirrincione

CFCU17B

The 01 Boys defeated Dynamo 3-0, and Ft Wayne United 4-1 to Advance to the Semi-Finals on Sat. where they face Millieum Black 01 for a chance to go to Regionals.

Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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2018 Alumni/College Age SUMMER Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field. 

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

 

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

Sun, May 27h 

1 pm ESPN+          NY Red Bulls 2 vs Indy 11 

Union Jack PubJoin the BYB for the next watch party at Union Jack Pub in Broad Ripple for the next away game against the New York Red Bulls II.
Sunday, May 27 for a 1pm kickoff.

6 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Columbus Crew

Mon, May 28h 

1 pm  ???                         France vs  Ireland

6:30 pm fox Sport1   USA Men vs Bolivia

9 pm fox sport 1      Mexico vs Wales 

Wed, May 30h 

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery  

 June 2, 2018: IF: MNT vs. Ireland (Dublin, Ireland) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 9

IF MNT vs. France (Lyon, France) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

June 12

Women NT vs. China (Cleveland, OH) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

SUMMER CAMPS

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7

Carmel High Girls Middle School Soccer Camp  Ages middle schoolers – June 18, 20, 25, 27 July 16, 17, 18, 19 at Murray 3-5 pm $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Skills Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 8:30-10:30 am $85

Carmel High Boys Soccer Tactical Camp Ages 8-14 July 16-19 at Murray 11 am till 1 pm $85

 US Soccer

US Led 2026 World Cup Big nears Vote vs Morocco that’s Too Close to Call – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Its Not Just Pulisic on this youthful Squad for the US = Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Pulisic leads Young US Squad IS –

US Team led by Pulisic – Announced

Pulisic Becoming Quiet Leader of US Team and Dortmund – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Pulisic Master’s the Modern Game – special for SI by Grant Wahl –

US to Play Mexico on 9/11 in Nashville

Earnie Stewart Favorite for USMNT GM Job – MLS.com

Champions League Final – Sat May 26

Liverpool Fast Start – Mardrid Late Pressume – Can Decide the UCL Final – ESPNFC Michael Cox

Zidane isn’t known for Tactics or Style – Just Ability to Win – Sid Lowe ESPNFC

Which Trio of Scorers Will Win – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

Sergio Ramos – Real’s Big Game Player – Graham Hunter ESPNFC

Zidane Coy over Lineup

Lovren – Liverpool so Different from last Real – clash – Glenn  Price ESPNFC

Kroos Facing the Animals of Liverpool will be Tough – ESPNFC

How US Coach Bob Bradley Helped Mohomed Salah on his Accent to Global stardom – MLS.com

 

Marcelo’s 8 year old son completes head ball challenge in Real Locker room

Video How does this Real Madrid Team compare to the Legendary 3 time UCL Winners?

Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Detailed Look at the Matchup-

Champions League Final – too close to call – Dermont Corrigan EPSNFC

Liverpool to Recharge before the Final –says Klopp

WORLD

World Cup Teams Being Announced – Yahoo soccer

No One Was Better than Messi This Year – Power Rankings of Players ESPNFC

18 Things You May have Forgotten this EPL Season – ESPNFC

Stay Messi my Friend – ESPN Mag –

EPL 

Unia Emery Could Turn Things Around Quickly for Arsenal  – ESPNFC

EPL Club By Club Review for 2017 – yahoo

Fulham faces Aston Villa at Wembley to See who Moves up to the EPL

Why US Defender Tim Ream and Fulham might be the Favorite to return to the EPL for the first time in 4 years

Indy 11

A Message from the Coach – Coach Martin Rennie

Preview Indy 11 vs NY Red Bulls Sun 1 pm on ESPN+

Beats and Cleats – The Matt Watson Story – Indy 11

Time to Hit the Reset Button – Review of the Loss to Bethlehem – from Bloodyshambles.com

Keys to the Loss vs Bethlehem Steel

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

MLS

MLS Power Rankings – MLS

MLS Players Who Could Have a Great World Cup

How Bob Bradley helped Mo Salah’s star rise

Pulisic wowed by LAFC’s “unbelievable atmosphere”

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

—————————————————————————————————————————

2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

A MESSAGE FROM INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH MARTIN RENNIE

By IndyEleven.com, 05/21/18, 3:00PM EDT

A message to the fans from Coach Rennie

Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie addresses the fans following the “Boys in Blue’s” 1-2 loss at home against Bethlehem Steel FC.

“I feel like what I’ve seen since I’ve been here is we’ve got tremendous fans who are backing us so much and I want to thank them for that. “”We’re coming off two disappointing results and they’re still backing us, supporting us, chanting for us, and helping us. That’s inspiring for us to make sure that we get our home form really up and running. “”Clearly, we’ve done well for the most part on the road, but overall we’ve had some good games at home, but too many below the standard we expect, and our fans expect. They can be sure that all of our players and staff will be working to make that better and get on a run where we start winning consistently, and become much more consistent with not only our result, but the process of what we’re doing with the passing, the finishing, the movement and with the defending, which has been quite good so far.”I just want to thank the fans for being so supportive and helping us as we build the team. There’s been a few ups and downs but I’m very confident well be on the right track as we go forward.”“Indiana’s Team” will face New York Red Bulls II on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Days later, Indy Eleven will return home to take on USL mainstays Charleston Battery on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. Fans can get their tickets to the home matchup starting at just $15 at IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

PREVIEW | NYVIND

By IndyEleven.com, 05/25/18, 1:00PM EDTShareThe “Boys in Blue” travel to the Big Apple to take on New York Red Bulls II

PREVIEW:

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven @ New York Red Bulls II – #NYvIND
Sunday, May 27, 2018 – 1 P.M. EST   Red Bull Arena – New York City, New York 

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local/National TV: N/A
  • Streaming Video:  ESPN+($)

WEEK 11: TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE BIG APPLE

Indy Eleven aim to snatch three points away from New York Red Bulls II in a Week 11 matchup in Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are in search of a victory after coming off Week 10 defeats to Bethlehem Steel FC.Indy Eleven are currently seventh in Eastern Conference, with a 4W-3L-2D record. In their most recent fixture, the “Boys in Blue” faced Bethlehem Steel FC at home after coming off a mid-week Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss to USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC. Bethlehem Steel left Lucas Oil Stadium with three points after defeating Indy, 1-2, last Saturday Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger tallied his first goal of the season in the 70th minute. The former Butler Bulldog volleyed home forward Soony Saad’s square pas played to the center of the box, leveling the game at one, but the lead would be short-lived. Four minutes later, Bethlehem scored the goal that would secure three points for the visitors.New York Red Bulls II also enters Week 11 after falling to Bethlehem Steel FC, 3-0, in the Steel’s first of two Week 10 fixtures. They sit one spot below Indy Eleven in eighth with a 3W-2L-5D record. The Red Bulls II were shut out for the third time in ten games in 2018. They are currently tied for second in goals scored in the East with 16, but have only scored two goals in the last five games. The New York based team is also second in the USL in attempted shots, with 158, trailing only Western Conference’s Phoenix Rising FC. Red Bulls II are undefeated at home this season with a 3W-0L-1D record in Red Bull Arena.Indy Eleven defense’s, which currently average less than one conceded goal per game, will need to be on their toes against an attack minded Red Bulls II team. Indy Eleven will need Karl Ouimette to continue shutting down opposition forwards and Owain Fon Williams to come up with more big saves.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ZACH STEINBERGER

Indy Eleven midfielder Zach Steinberger scored his first goal of the season on Saturday night against Bethlehem Steel FC. Steinberger’s goal came in the 70th minute after Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad squared a pass into the box from teammate Jack McInerney. Saad’s ball found Steinberger in the middle, who struck a shot off the half-volley. A friendly bounce lofted the strike over Bethlehem keeper Jake McGuire and leveled the scores at one.This season marks Steinberger’s second stint with “Indiana’s Team” after spending his first on loan from Houston Dynamo in 2015. During the 2015 season, Steinberger made 12 appearances with the “Boys in Blue” and found the back of the net twice. The attack minded midfielder has nearly equaled his 12 appearances in 2015, having appeared in all nine games of the 2018 season. The Long Beach, California native has averaged an excellent passing rating, completing four-fifths of the passes he’s played, and found the back of the net one time.

NEW YORK RED BULLS II PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ANDREW TINARI

New York Red Bulls II midfielder Andrew Tinari is tied for second most goals on the team (3) heading into Week 11 against Indy Eleven. The American born midfielder has started all but one game for Red Bulls II. NYRB rely heavily on Tinari’s ability to navigate the ball through the midfield, as he’s played the most passes of anyone on the team with 475. Of those passes, he’s completed just over three-quarters.Tinari had a quiet game against Bethlehem Steel FC in their previous fixture, but expect the 22-year old midfielder to be more active in the match against Indy Eleven. The New York native is a threat in the box, where he’s scored his three goals and has also notched one assist in 2018.

MATCHUP TO MARK: FW JACK MCINERNEY VERSUS DF JORDAN SCARLETT

Finding the back of the net has been somewhat of an issue for Indy Eleven in their first campaign in the USL. The “Boys in Blue” have found the back of the net eight times in nine games. Two of those goals have been provided by Indy Eleven forward Jack McInerney.McInerney is currently tied with Indy Eleven outside back Ayoze and forward Soony Saad for oals scored. The former L.A. Galaxy forward has scored both of his goals from inside the box, where he has been most efficient. The target striker aims to find the back of the net againt a Red Bulls II side that has given up five goals in the last five games, three of which came last week against Bethlehem Steel FC.On top of finding the back of the net, McInerney has also been keen on creating chances for his teammates. McInerney has created 12 opportunities on net for his fellow “Boys in Blue”, tallying one assist. Indy Eleven supporters are eager to see the form that led McInerney to second on the list of most goals scored by the age of 23 in MLS, with Indy Eleven.One Red Bull II defender tasked with containing McInerney will be Jordan Scarlett. If one was searching for a complete defender, the 22-year old Jamaican may be as close as they could getScarlett has started eight games for Red Bulls II. He’s performed extremely well defensively, having completed all but two of his tackles in the defensive end. He’s also obliterated opposition passing lanes, while moving the ball extremely well himself. The young defender has completed 80 percent of his just over 300 passes.A spearhead from the back, Scarlett leads the team in every defensive statistic for New York Red Bulls II and is second in completed passes. Scarlett must sturdy up a leaky dam if the New York Red Bulls II intends to stop Jack McInerney and the IndyEleven from exploiting the cracks his team’s defense.All the action takes place on the road this Sunday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. Fans can watch the match LIVE on ESPN+! New users can sign up for a free 7-day trial at plus.espn.com.

Liverpool fast start, Madrid late pressure can decide UCL final

4:00 AM ETMichael Cox

Saturday’s Champions League final offers one of the most fascinating tactical clashes in recent memory: Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with their astute, intensive, counter-pressing approach, meet the more laissez-faire style of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, who concentrate upon possession play.It has all the makings of a superb match. Here are four key questions waiting to be answered.

  1. What formation will Zidane use?

The most remarkable thing about Real Madrid’s Champions League record under Zidane is the sheer number of matches they have won despite appearing to be outwitted in terms of game plan. Madrid have repeatedly seemed vulnerable in a certain area, yet individual magic in the final third has saved the day.In Kiev, however, they’re up against a side boasting a comparable level of individual brilliance upfront, and therefore, it feels essential that Zidane’s side are not second-best in a tactical sense. Liverpool will use their customary 4-3-3, so how will the European Cup holders respond? There are two obvious options.The first is using the diamond midfield that has generally been Zidane’s preferred system in the Champions League. Theoretically, that would see Madrid enjoy a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch, with Isco coming into the lineup alongside Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. There’s a danger, however, that such a narrow system will make it easier for Liverpool to press and box Madrid into the sides of the pitch when, for example, Real’s full-backs have the ball.Therefore, Zidane could use a 4-3-3 system himself. This would probably feature Karim Benzema upfront, with Cristiano Ronaldo as an inside left and Gareth Bale on the right (though Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez could also feature, while Ronaldo played upfront in this alignment at Bayern Munich in the semifinal). This approach would stretch play and target Liverpool’s full-backs, who have been excellent this season but nevertheless can find themselves isolated.

  1. Can Marcelo cope against Salah?

While capable of being a key player by pushing forward on the overlap to exploit Ronaldo’s habit of narrowing the opposition right-back, sometimes Marcelo’s defensive vulnerability costs his side. He was Brazil’s worst performer in their infamous 7-1 World Cup semifinal loss to Germany in 2014, and statistics suggest that an increasing number of Real concessions come from his flank.Salah’s form this season has been incredible, with the Egyptian forward breaking the Premier League record for goals in a 38-game campaign with 32. But while his strikes have come from a variety of positions, it feels like he’ll spend the majority of this match in a wide-right role — especially when Madrid have possession — waiting to pounce on the counterattack.In Liverpool’s semifinal win vs. Roma, Salah was happy to let the opposition left-back/wing-back Aleksandar Kolarov go free on the overlap, confident that he’d do more damage on the break than his opposite number. But Marcelo is a more dangerous attacking weapon than Kolarov — not just a mere crosser and shooter but a genuine playmaker in his own right.It is likely that Marcelo will need help from Sergio Ramos, Real’s left-sided centre-back. He has a habit of providing crucial moments in big games in the opposition penalty area but is also excellent in terms of doubling up against a wide player, relying on his experience as a former full-back. If Madrid are to stop Salah, it might be about Ramos’ display as much as that of Marcelo.

  1. Will Liverpool score early?

A fundamental part of Klopp’s game plan is for his side to put the opposition under pressure in the early stages. Liverpool effectively won their quarterfinal against Manchester City with three goals in the first 31 minutes, but those early exertions can cost them later in big games: They let Roma back into their semifinal with two concessions in the last 10 minutes of the first leg and twice conceded late in the return game.The 4-3 Premier League win against Manchester City in January was another telling example: Liverpool forced early pressure in both halves and scored in the ninth minute of the first period, then the 14th, 16th and 23rd of the second. City, though, netted five minutes before half-time, then again in minutes 84 and 90. Liverpool’s pressure dominated early, but City’s possession took over by the end.It’s easy to imagine something similar happening vs. Madrid, and it’s worth remembering that Klopp’s previous Champions League final appearance, in 2013, also fits the pattern. His Dortmund side took early control against Bayern Munich — the scoring sequence doesn’t quite tell the story of the game — but faded badly late and lost to a last-gasp Arjen Robben winner.An early goal for Liverpool would compel Real to push forward and leave Liverpool space — Klopp’s side are the best counterattackers in Europe — into which they can break. But if the English side fail to score in their expected period of early dominance and end up chasing the game, it will be extremely difficult in a physical sense to press aggressively later on.

  1. What role do substitutes have to play?

Arguably the greatest contrast between these two sides is the resources available on the respective benches. This factor is another reason that Real are likely to dominate the latter stages, which means Liverpool must strike early.Liverpool have suffered badly from injuries in recent months; Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez are all out, while Nathaniel Clyne, Emre Can and Adam Lallana lack match sharpness after periods on the sideline, and James Milner is a slight doubt.That means Klopp’s replacements will be the aforementioned players who have struggled for game time recently or the likes of Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke and Alberto Moreno, none of whom will strike fear into Madrid.Zidane, by contrast, has no absentees and no suspensions and therefore has options. With Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Ronaldo four surefire starters in midfield and attack, it means only two of Bale, Isco, Benzema, Vazquez and Asensio will start. The other three will be in reserve, alongside the gifted Mateo Kovacic.Real’s substitutes have proven crucial in recent final victories: Marcelo, Isco and Alvaro Morata helped overload Atletico in 2014. Then Morata, Bale and Asensio put the result beyond doubt against Juventus last year.

Real’s Zinedine Zidane isn’t known for tactics or style, just ability to win

1:40 PM ETSid Lowe

Zinedine Zidane smiled that Zinedine Zidane smile, the one that sometimes seems to disarm them all.”I’m not the best coach, and I will always say that,” he said. “I am not the best coach tactically. And, well, I don’t need to say that…” There was a pause, and that was when that smile crept across his face and he added: “… because you lot always say that, anyway.” They laughed, but they knew he was right. Many a true word said in jest and all that but beyond the smile, there was a hint of edge in his words, a point made.It was the Open Media Day at Valdebebas, Real Madrid’s training ground, out near Barajas airport, held because they were preparing for the Champions League final. For Zidane, it was the third time he’s sat there before the world’s media on the eve of the biggest club fixture in the world, the third time he has reached the European Cup final as coach of Real Madrid. And he hasn’t even been there for three full years. He has won a league title as well, plus two European Super Cups, two club World Cups and a Spanish super cup.In his first 18 months in charge of Madrid, Zidane won as many European Cups as Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. He has won two in a row just like Arrigo Sacchi; if Madrid win tomorrow night, he will have won three — as many as any one else, ever. Yet somewhere, somehow, it doesn’t always feel like it: this is as good an era as any in the game since Madrid won the first five, but it doesn’t always feel like an era and it doesn’t always feel like dominance.t is as good a managerial record as anyone anywhere too, but it doesn’t always feel like Zidane is one of them either. Which is odd, only it doesn’t feel that odd. And perhaps it should? At what point does a manager who has won it all get people say “this guy is pretty good?” How many European Cups does it take? Three? Four? Five, maybe? Or maybe never?”I’ve been at Liverpool longer than he has been a coach and he could win the Champions League three times in a row, that’s never happened before so either he’s lucky or he’s brilliant, I prefer to think he’s brilliant, like he was as a player,” said Jurgen Klopp, but another point was raised when discussing his accomplishments in Madrid.”He doesn’t get enough credit,” said Steve McManaman this week. “It’s always the same result: trophy, trophy, trophy. They would be shouting from the rooftops if Pep Guardiola did this.”That may not be entirely fair: Zidane has been credited, and often. He is admired and well-liked. Cases have been made for him, and not by him. “I’m not the best manager in the world,” he said a few months ago, “but nor am I the worst.” Many have dismissed suggestions that he’s not all that and McManaman is certainly not the only one to speak out for him, although he did so with rare knowledge, experience and incision, and there is something in what he says: a portrait of a resistance to recognition that is real. The very fact that those suggestions even exist says something.Zidane paused, flashed that smile again. “What matters is how you feel and I feel satisfie because I give everything. I can’t control what people think. And that doesn’t matter.”Being 17 points behind in the league doesn’t help of course, nor does getting knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Leganes. “That was a failure and it hurt,” Zidane admitted. Nor does having arguably the best collection of players ever assembled: it helps you win, but not be seen as the cause of that win.It doesn’t help that there have been moments of good fortune en route, either. This season, Madrid have had their share of them. This has not been an imperial march to the final; it has, though, been a difficult pathway and they have found a way past Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern. Somehow — goodness knows how, if you prefer — but they have. Zidane has always said that he felt like he had a “lucky star,” especially in this competition. But he would rebel against the suggestion that it was all about fortune, and he would be entitled to.It also doesn’t help that they had won the European Cup two years earlier when, incidentally, or perhaps not so incidentally, Zidane was assistant coach, as that reinforces the sensation that it didn’t take much and most things were already in place, even if McManaman insisted that Madrid were “dysfunctional” then.Maybe there is something else too, which Zidane was getting at. Something in the construction of Madrid and something in what it is coaches are expected to do. At heart, maybe that question is the key one: what is a coach there for? What does a coach do?”I’m not the best tactically,” said Zidane, “but I have passion and ilusion… and that’s more important.” Ilusion means hope, enthusiasm, the joy with which you work. It is more important, Zidane says, but for some it is not enough.That tactical point is a significant one; there is a sense (and there is something in it) that this Madrid team is not one that has been constructed or has a clear identity. That, to use the Spanish phrase, you can’t see the manager’s hand in the way it plays; there is not a tactical model. Asked for a view of Madrid, Real Betis coach Quique Setien talked of a kind of “anarchy.” It was not a criticism, and he recognised the value of that unpredictability, while there’s a case for valuing a coach’s willingness to embrace that, it was just a tactical analysis. But some will read it as a criticism and some will apply it as one.As Jurgen Klopp joked in his pre-match news conference, “If he’s not a good tactical coach, I’m not a good tactical coach either… and here we are in the final — with no tactics!””Vicente Del Bosque was not a screamer or a super architect with elaborate training sessions, but he kept the egos happy [and] Zizou appears to have the same approach,” said McManaman.That wasn’t meant as a criticism either — quite the opposite — but for some it falls short of what it is they think a coach should do. Even though there have been key tactical interventions too in this year’s Champions League — Marco Asensio and Lucas against PSG, Asensio in Munich, Gareth Bale out, Casemiro out, Karim Benzema out in key moments — it is not always enough. Some feel that to be considered a great coach, he should build something, create something. He should read the game and change the game.”Screamer” was another word McManaman used. It was also striking that the word Zidane used was “passion” — it is not one most would apply to him, although they would apply it differently to him. If there is a characteristic that most would apply to the coach, it is calm. Zidane doesn’t feed pointless controversies, doesn’t contribute to crises — given that he faces the media around 130 times a season, it is astonishing how rarely he puts a foot wrong — and isn’t a dominant figure, there have been no conflicts with his squad. As a player, he was quiet; as a coach he is too.And maybe that too is not what people think a coach is there for: to be talked about, to influence and (and maybe this is the point) to be seen to influence, some need to impose. Zidane doesn’t. He is calm… importantly, he also believes he should be calm. After the Bayern game, he admitted that he was suffering on the sideline but that he hid that from his players; what he transmitted mattered. They looked to him and took their lead from him, which says something in itself.”He is a leader,” said McManaman to El Pais, “but when people talk about leaders, they don’t normally think about that kind of leader. What kind of leader do you want? Do we want a shouter? Do we want an aggressive type? Do we want a communicator? Do we want someone like Del Bosque, who makes sure everyone is happy? There are lots of types of leaders and they can all lead if they have their players’ respect.”Zidane has that; he doesn’t need to invent it. As Sergio Ramos puts it: “Zidane was able to manage a difficult dressing room with sensitivity.”Again, you return to thoughts about perceptions and ideal types. Sensitivity, latitude, freedom: they’re not qualities with which great managers are often credited or associated. Good man-management is regularly presented as a backhanded compliment, offered up in the absence of anything else. But it does matter. And not everyone is able.Del Bosque won two European Cups and the World and European Championships with Spain. There are some parallels with Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley too — Paisley especially. Few really talk about Paisley as a manager who marked the game and few include him in those lists of great managers — a personality, a creator, a master tactician — but above all, coaches are there to win and the man who shuffled about in his carpet slippers won. A lot. There is a reason those two examples are significant.Ancelotti and Paisley are the only men ever to have won three European Cups as coach. Tomorrow night, Zidane may have something else in common with them.

Champions League: Salah and Liverpool’s heavy metal football face Madrid’s BBC starring Ronaldo

8:29 AM ET  Gabriele Marcotti

One group has been together five years, largely assembled through world record fees. They live in a perpetual goldfish bowl of endorsements, global tours and branding, much of it dutifully chronicled on social media. They are the established act, the aging rockers on their umpteenth victory tour and no matter if, for this last performance, one or maybe even two of them might make way for a backing artist. They remain the “BBC” — Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo — and they’re the blunt attacking force that could turn Real Madrid into European champions for the fourth time in five years. It’s something nobody has achieved since, well, Madrid themselves more than half a century ago.The other is a rising boy band who few would have even conceived of when the “BBC” super-group was assembled five years ago. Sadio Mane was in Austria and had yet to see a minute of European football. Roberto Firmino was playing in midfield for Hoffenheim. And Mohamed Salah, the last piece of the puzzle, had finished his first season in Europe, at Basel, mostly coming off the bench. There’s no catchy acronym but you’ll find plenty of the “heavy metal football” their coach, Jurgen Klopp, craves.These two attacking forces are set for a showdown in the Champions League final when Real Madrid take on Liverpool, the Establishment vs. the Upstarts.With these men, it’s not just about where they are; it’s about where they come from. Real Madrid’s trio are all blue-bloods who were tipped for greatness before they turned 20. Bale moved to Tottenham Hotspur at 18 for $10 million back when that was still a lot of money. Benzema had been capped by France and was the crown jewel at Olympique Lyonnais. Ronaldo was the apple of Sir Alex Ferguson’s eye in Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams.As for Liverpool’s trio, when they were still teenagers? Mane was at Metz in the French second division, where he scored a single goal in 19 games. Firmino was at Figueirense, helping them earn promotion to the Brazil top flight. Salah? He had made his first appearances for Egypt’s El Mokawloon but hadn’t been playing much at all since the Port Said tragedy in 2012 brought the league to a halt.Yet even pedigree must succumb to the passage of time. In terms of the “BBC,” this has been the toughest season yet. Bale, beset by injuries, missed chunks of the past two seasons and was dropped for the Champions League final last year. Benzema, once considered untouchable as the workhorse who made those around them look good — and sometimes to the chagrin of purists who judged him solely by his goals total — is by no means an automatic choice. He hasn’t played 90 minutes of a Champions League game in more than two seasons.Bale and Benzema’s roles as Ronaldo’s complements have diminished, too, as Ronaldo himself has changed with age. He’s not the fleet-footed wide man he once was, picking up the ball deep and mazily dribbling his way into the heart of the opposition defence. He is, essentially, a centre-forward who gravitates to the left. There is now a minimalist efficiency to his game; no ounce of energy wasted, everything geared towards scoring. This has allowed him to maintain his goal production even into his mid-30s, giving Real Madrid a forward reference point and in that sense, making Benzema somewhat less indispensable.They’ve all had to adapt. Benzema has to adjust his game to the areas Ronaldo now occupies with greater frequency while Bale can’t simply be the right-flank photo-negative yin to Ronaldo’s yang. With Zinedine Zidane having a wealth of forward options beyond the trio, from the playmaking Isco to the explosive Marco Asensio, Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo can no longer be the three divas with a backing orchestra of eight guys. They have to tailor their game to the symphony.Liverpool’s front three are far more choreographed in terms of movement. Salah may have scored the most goals but he is not the main terminus: He’s a cog in a harmonious trio where no part seems to operate independently of the other two. Firmino is the nominal centre-forward whose movements left or right cue Salah and Mane, and vice-versa.These aren’t three individuals, either, as the “BBC” can sometimes appear. This is a collective of three men with slightly different skill sets (albeit with a common theme of flat-out, gut-busting work), whereby Firmino’s altruism and vision, Mane’s quickness and trickery and Salah’s finishing and speed combine for devastating effect.The “BBC” have already made history. Now they hope they can conjure up one last masterclass performance, even though for two of them (Benzema and Bale) it’s not even guaranteed they will be in Zidane’s starting XI on Saturday or beyond this season. The Champions League final will determine whether their chamber music, perhaps with the help of a few stand-ins, can withstand the “heavy metal” of the upstarts in red who play louder and faster than they do.

Zinedine Zidane coy, respectful of Liverpool ahead of Champions League final

4:51 PM ETRobbie Dunne

Toni Kroos used four adjectives to describe Liverpool on Tuesday during Real Madrid’s media day ahead of the Champions League final. “They’re tough, competitive, aggressive and very strong,” he said while also suggesting that Real Madrid have better technique. It might be true regarding the overall quality of both squads, but Zinedine Zidane has to ensure his side don’t go out thinking they are facing a bunch of uncontrolled madmen on Saturday night in Kiev. Los Blancos will need to be hungry, savvy and balanced in their approach if they are to win their third Champions League trophy in a row.

It’s not the job of former managers and players to be diplomatic with their predictions in the days leading up to the final. Vicente del Bosque and Jose Antonio Camacho, who spent time playing and coaching on the sideline at the Santiago Bernabeu, have already had their say and predict easy wins for the Spanish side — both believe Real Madrid will win by three goals, 4-1 and 3-0. Diplomacy is left to managers and players so nothing they say can be used against them in the build-up to the game and so they won’t be ridiculed if they lose afterwards.It is, however, telling of what the general feeling is around the game, and it is obvious that Liverpool are seen as underdogs. Kroos delivered a particularly condescending comment: “It’s a great achievement for Liverpool to reach a Champions League final,” he said during the media day in Madrid as his side prepare to play their fourth UCL final in five years and third in a row. “It’s very difficult to play in one final,” he said. “Two is very hard, and three is just craziness,” he concluded with more than a hint of humblebragging.You can also tell, based on these news conferences, what kind of message the managers are trying to send. And for Zidane, the message is no surprise. He’s giving nothing away and said a couple of times during the question session that he wouldn’t say anything about his lineup for Saturday. He knows that his options and the variety in team selection during the year can give Real Madrid an advantage, and he plans to use it.Isco, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all started against Villarreal in a team that looked conspicuously like a trial run XI sent out for one last dress rehearsal. But during the chat that took place on Tuesday afternoon, Zidane assured everyone that “the BBC are the best as they have shown many times.” Zidane is sending out mixed messages to perfection because a team with Isco in it is an entirely different proposition than one without him.There is a notion that Liverpool are a crazy blend of players running around with no game plan, no tactics and are built entirely on energy. “They will be 11 plugged-in animals,” Kroos said about Klopp’s side. Zidane was keen to labour the point that Liverpool are more than just a team that press their opponents to within an inch of their lives in the hope of getting lucky.”All the talk is about the three up front or that they are weaker at the back. … No, they deserve to be in the final just like us, they are a close group,” Zidane answered when asked what he feared about his opponentThe Real Madrid manager seems to appreciate the task ahead of him. He knows he’s not the best tactician in the world and said as much during the same news conference. But he knows how to meld a dressing room towards a goal. In that way, he is like Klopp, who has often been accused of relying on emotion rather than systematically figuring out the best way to beat an opponent.But this will be a game of chess. Sergio Ramos said a couple of weeks ago that Real Madrid don’t need Marcelo for defending, though his absence in the left full-back position has caused problems before for his side. He’s not going to change now, though, and the Spanish international might be the man tasked with sliding over to stop the runs of Mohamed Salah, the most revered footballer in Europe at present.His absence in the middle might be the key as Casemiro will then have to slot in at the back. With the movement of Roberto Firmino, who much like Karim Benzema is a man who cannot be put into a singular category as a striker, Casemiro providing cover could prove decisive. He moves and drops out to the left, right and centre and causes headaches for opposition. This movement and everything that happens as a result could define what happens during the game.Nobody is more aware of the importance of a striker like this then Zidane, who has constantly played Benzema to baffle opponents. He needs to make sure he has his team ready for the tactical battle in store on Saturday. And he will, just don’t expect him to give too much away regarding preparations beforehand.

Real Madrid facing Liverpool’s ’11 animals’ in Champions League final – Toni Kroos

4:40 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Toni Kroos has said Real Madrid will face “11 animals” in Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool.Kroos said the constant pressing of Jurgen Klopp’s team — something he experienced against Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund during his time at Bayern Munich — would pose big challenges.”It is always tough, always difficult playing against Klopp’s teams,” Kroos said at Madrid’s media open day on Tuesday.”With Bayern Munich we had a lot of problems against Dortmund, always. That is what I expect on Saturday also.”They’ll be 11 animals, all really up for it. We’ll be better on the ball, but they’re going to put us under pressure for 90 minutes and will need to be at 100 percent or even more.”We’re expecting an aggressive Liverpool, who have a really quick forward line, but we can stop them and can win.”Madrid are looking to lift the trophy for a third consecutive year, something no side has been able to do since the Bayern Munich team of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller in the mid-1970s.Kroos, going for the fourth Champions League win of his career, said surpassing the achievement of such giants of the game “would be madness.””That I get the chance to surpass that generation with the match in Kiev sounds a bit scary, I admit,” he said.”Because of my age, I didn’t see that many games of the big players from that era. But the names alone have an unbelievable ring to them. When I pulled level with them last year, I could already hear them. But to better them would be madness.”Madrid also won the Champions League in 2014, the season before Kroos arrived, and winger Gareth Bale is among the players aiming for a fourth triumph in five seasons.”I came here to win the Champions League, play in the finals,” Bale told Real Madrid TV. “Obviously winning three, and having a chance to win a fourth, exceeds expectations.”It’s great to be in this situation, and I’m looking forward to making it four. Winning titles is the reason I came to this club.”Wales international Bale was a peripheral figure in the quarterfinals and semifinals amid speculation he could leave Madrid, but has made his case for a final place by scoring five goals in four La Liga outings.”I feel like I’ve been in good form for a while,” he said. “I’ve scored a few goals, so I’m hitting form at the right time.”

Dejan Lovren: Liverpool different in all but name since last Real Madrid clash

6:03 AM ETGlenn PriceLiverpool Correspondent

Dejan Lovren believes Liverpool have come a long way since the last time they faced Real Madrid, insisting “the only thing that is similar to that night is the name.”Lovren was part of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team that were beaten by Real Madrid 3-0 in the group stages of the Champions League back in 2014. However, the centre-back has stressed that Liverpool are now incomparable from that night at Anfield as they prepare to meet the European champions in the Kiev final on Saturday.”The only thing that is similar to that night is the name, Liverpool,” the 28-year-old told reporters. “I am so much more confident in the team now than I was then. I feel the team is ready to battle against every team in the world.”We showed that against Man City. Man City showed all throughout this season that they are one of the best teams in the world but they came up against Liverpool.”I wouldn’t say they play a similar style to Real Madrid but we are a totally different team and nobody played a team like us.”Real Madrid didn’t play against us [in 2014] like we play today. Maybe they are used to this team and they look at images from this game, but we are totally different now.”Lovren says appearing in the Champions League final on Saturday will prove he is on course to achieve his long-held desire to become one of the best defenders in the world.He has played a pivotal role, alongside side Virgil van Dijk in the heart of the defence, in helping Liverpool reach their first European Cup final in 11 years.The Croatia international has recalled writing himself a note at the age of 12 setting out his aims for a career in football.He said: “From day one when I started to play football I wrote it down — at 12 years of age I wrote it down: ‘One day I will be one of the best defenders in the world’.”People were laughing at me but… to reach the final… I think I showed [my quality] many times.”[I wrote it] underneath my table, out of sight, in my apartment back in Croatia where I grew up, the table where I would sit and do my homework.”There are some people still living there and the table was part of the room so I hope it is still there. I need to go and buy the table back!”Lovren has had to battle intense criticism and adversity in his four seasons as a Liverpool player since joining from Southampton for £20 million. But he insists he always shrugs his critics aside and uses them as a source of motivation.”When you say I am not good enough, I will just show you I am good enough, simple as that,” he added.”I struggled a lot in my life from day one, and you know there is belief within me and it will never go from me and it really was always there from when I was young.”I could write you a book. I will write it myself, don’t worry, this thick [placing hands wide apart].”There are many things, I don’t know where to start. People were mocking about me in school, mocking about as a teenager that I could not play like a defender, that I don’t have a left foot, that I am not quick enough.”You know all these small things, they always push me to be better: you say I don’t have a left foot? I will hit it better today with my left than my right.”To be honest, this is me, I always work on these situations. It helps me to be honest. And criticism, even if I don’t like it, I like to hear it — I know what to improve at the end.”Maybe of course you have one or two situations where you don’t play well but I don’t know which defender doesn’t make mistakes, and then maybe sometimes people make it bigger than it is.”When I have the confidence of the manager I don’t need anything more. I know how hard I worked and as a team how hard we worked, to achieve this so [getting to a final] is still an achievement for us, when you look back it is massive.”

How Bob Bradley helped Mohamed Salah on his ascent to global stardom

May 23, 20186:43PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Bob Bradley will be more than an admirer as he watches Egypt play in the FIFA World Cup in Russia next month. After all, the current LAFC head coach led the African country in the last World Cup cycle.Bradley, who talks freely about the crucible his Pharaohs team endured during his stint in charge, from a revolution in the country that overthrew the government to a massacre at a soccer match that shut down club soccer in the nation for nearly a year, did not make the 2014 World Cup with Egypt, as they lost in the final two-game playoff. But his time in charge helped bring through a generation of players who did reach the biggest global soccer tournament, including superstar Mohamed Salah.Salah, who has broken out in a major way this season with Liverpool, leading the English club to the Champions League final and earning the Premier League Golden Boot, made his senior debut for Egypt just prior to Bradley’s appointment in 2011, but the American helped bring the teenager along and get him ready for European soccer.“When the league stopped, we had to start to put together camps and friendly matches because World Cup qualifying was that June,” Bradley told reporters at LAFC training in recent weeks.“We started having opportunities to bring young guys into the camps and immediately you knew that Salah was special.”Salah moved to Swiss club FC Basel in 2012, beginning a swift rise through the ranks of top-level soccer, as he played at Chelsea, Fiorentina, Roma and then Liverpool, becoming more and more dominant at each stop from his forward position.“I was excited that we could help in some way when the moment came for him to go to FC Basel,” Bradley explained. “And then when he did well there, other doors in Europe opened for him.”When asked what he saw in Salah, now mooted to be the player to potentially break up the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly over the annual World Player of the Year award, Bradley said, “He was hungry, smart, he wanted to get better.”And now, Salah will help lead Egypt back out to the soccer world’s biggest stage in Russia. The Pharoahs will play in Group A alongside the tournament hosts, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, their first match coming on June 15.Bradley, who still talks to Salah regularly, is happy to see his one-time player succeed on the biggest stage.“Salah’s a great guy and I’m so happy for him because he was so determined to take his career and move with it,” he said.Futbol MLS’s John Rojas contributed reporting to this article.

 

 

 

U.S.-led 2026 World Cup bid nears vote vs. Morocco that’s too close to call

May 18, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

With the vote to secure the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup taking place on June 13 at the FIFA Congress in Moscow, the United Bid comprised of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. is leaving nothing to chance.The various bid directors and executives have been crisscrossing the globe in the hope of convincing the various member associations that the United Bid is best. For Carlos Cordeiro, the United Bid Committee Board of Directors co-chair, the approach reminds him of his successful run for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation back in February.”You’ve got to be in front of every voter,” he told ESPN FC via telephone. “There’s no substitute for in-person, one-on-one meetings, so that’s the strategy. I believe that will produce the result we’re looking for.”Based on the technical merits, the bid — with its tournament-ready stadiums and projections of $11 billion in profits — would seem to be ahead of Morocco, which will need to invest $16 billion in its infrastructure. But geopolitics have a way of shoehorning their way into a vote such as this one. As a result, the race has become complicated and looks to be too close to call.There is also the possibility that enough countries will abstain from voting to prevent either bid from reaching the 104-vote threshold needed to win the hosting rights. At that point, the whole bidding process would be reopened with none of the countries currently bidding allowed to compete.That hasn’t stopped the United Bid from projecting a confident veneer as the race heads into the final weeks.”We’re confident because we believe in what we’re delivering, and as we travel across the globe, we’re telling our story, which we feel is very compelling for 2026,” United Bid director and Canada Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli said.With Morocco likely to draw heavy support from its home continent of Africa, the United Bid has been focusing its efforts primarily on securing its home base in the Americas, while then attempting to extend its reach to Asia and Europe. Although the 10 CONMEBOL countries, as well as the six eligible voters in Central America, have publicly given their support to the Bid, making sure the Caribbean is secure has been a bigger challenge.The governments of St. Lucia, Dominica and Antigua & Barbuda have all declared support for Morocco. The United Bid has been quick to point out that governments aren’t voting — the football associations are. That fact was echoed by Antigua & Barbuda Football Association president Everton Gonsalves.”I know the president of the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association is not beholden by what the government thinks,” Gonsalves said via telephone.When asked if he would vote for the United Bid, Gonsalves stopped short of a formal declaration.”Suffice to say, I’m CONCACAF, so what else can I say?” he said. “I’m part of the confederation of CONCACAF, so you can read into that what you so choose.”The declarations by Caribbean governments should at minimum give the United Bid pause, though they also run the risk of violating FIFA’s provision on governmental interference. But the Bid is focused instead on the recent declarations of support from Jamaica and Grenada. The revenues that the United Bid could potentially generate figure to trickle down to smaller football associations such as those that make up much of CONCACAF, so the job of the United Bid is to convince CONCACAF members that the bid is not only technically superior but also financially in their best interest. Whether that will carry the day over government interests remains to be seen.”I feel very confident that by the end of the day, we will have virtually all of the CONCACAF nations and South America,” Cordeiro said.

Beyond the Americas, Asia is a critical piece if the United Bid is to find a path to victory. To that end, the Bid has been very Asia-centric for the past three months, having met with each of the five subgroups within the Asia Football Confederation. Cordeiro feels that having spent part of his life in Asia — he was born in the Indian city of Bombay, now known as Mumbai — gives him a way of connecting with the AFC’s leaders.The month of May has seen the United Bid’s focus shift to Europe. Bid representatives were in the French city of Lyon earlier this week meeting with European powerbrokers who were already in town for a gathering of the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Committee. Cordeiro and his cohorts soon moved on to Kiev, where the UEFA Executive Committee is meeting ahead of next weekend’s UEFA Champions League final.This is not to say that the United Bid is completely giving up on Africa. The vote among CAF countries during the most recent election for FIFA president was fragmented, and the Bid hopes to exploit similar divisions in this vote.The Donald Trump factor continues to loom large over the vote. The policies of the Trump administration have, at minimum, provided momentum to Morocco’s bidPresident Trump’s vague tweet that suggested retaliation against countries that didn’t back the United Bid verges on the kind of governmental interference that FIFA forbids.That has left the United Bid trying to shift focus to the statements of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, as well as how the three countries are working together. The Bid also pledged to FIFA that it would grant visas to visitors without regard to religion or national origin.”Our governments are working incredibly well together in putting this bid together,” Montopoli said. “We’ve been working with the White House and our federal government to ensure that we have the right guarantees in place.”There has been some talk that FIFA will kick Morocco out of the race on the grounds of failing the technical inspection, but the Bid isn’t counting on that. Nor is it worrying about abstentions potentially dooming both bids.”I think the other confederations accept that this was the turn for either CONCACAF or Africa,” Cordeiro said. “I think we’re all competitors in the most open and fairest sense, and I think it’s only fair that they pick one of us or Morocco.”

Pulisic leads U.S. but McKennie, Miazga also part of promising core

11:43 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

The future backbone of the U.S. men’s national team is taking shape.U.S. interim manager Dave Sarachan once again named a youthful side ahead of an international friendly, in this case a match against Bolivia on May 28. But one can already detect some common threads in terms of the players getting called in.It’s true that Christian Pulisic is back in the mix for the first time since that brutal night in Trinidad on which the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. But the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was already a mainstay by the time World Cup qualifying ended — perhaps too much of one given how so much of the U.S. attack went through him.Now as the U.S. rebuilds, some consistent names are beginning to emerge. You have the center-back tandem of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers that has been playing together since their time on the U.S. U-20 team. There’s Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie as well as New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams, the latter of whom isn’t on the roster for the Bolivia match but is expected to be added for games against Ireland and France.Not only are these players gaining valuable minutes for the national team, but they’re each doing the same at the club level, too. Miazga is coming off his second successful season on loan at Vitesse, one that saw him help the club qualify for the Europa League. Carter-Vickers amassed over 3,000 minutes during loan stints with Sheffield United and Ipswich Town. McKennie made 22 appearances for a Schalke side that will be playing in the Champions League next season. Adams is already a mainstay for the Red Bulls.Establishing a foundation at the club level might sound like an obvious requirement for progression at the international level, but one only has to look at the career trajectory of Julian Green to see that this hasn’t always been the case for U.S. players.It wasn’t until 2017 that Green amassed more league appearances than international matches, which is a bit stunning considering that this is a player who was taken to — and scored at — the 2014 World Cup. But even Green is beginning to accumulate that needed first-team experience. He made 24 appearances for 2. Bundesliga side Greuther Furth this season, and it was his goal on the final match day of the campaign that secured the club’s second-division status for another season. Green’s club future is uncertain, but at least there is a body of work now for teams to evaluate, and his ability to come through in a big moment will get him noticed.That said, Green’s path amounts to a cautionary tale as it relates to the expectations of rising U.S. players, and one that U.S. Soccer ought to heed when it comes to Josh Sargent.The U.S. youth international signed his first professional contract with Werder Bremen back in February. Given the acclimatization that has to take place when moving to another country and adjusting to the demands of the professional game, Bremen has quite rightly limited Sargent to time with its U-19 team. Now Sargent has been called into this camp, and it isn’t his first with the senior team, having also been called in last November for the match against Portugal.”I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” said Sarachan. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level; now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality.”The way [Sargent] stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”There is nothing wrong with bringing Sargent in, of course, or even putting him on the field against Bolivia. The same is true for players like Benfica’s Keaton Parks, Manchester United defender Matt Olosunde and Club Tijuana’s Alejandro Guido, though it seems more likely that the latter trio have been brought in simply to get a taste of how things work with the national team. But one thing holds true: Now is the time to take some risks and get a look at some younger players, even though the club level is where real progress is made. That base needs to be there if these players are to become consistent contributors for the U.S. moving forward.So for all of the excitement surrounding younger players, it is those performers who are excelling for their clubs who represent the future of the U.S. team and offer the biggest current source of hope.

Christian Pulisic headlines young U.S. squad to face Bolivia on May 28

11:10 AM ETJeff CarlisleSoccer

Christian Pulisic’s return to the U.S. men’s national team headlines the 22-man roster named by interim manager Dave Sarachan that will face Bolivia on May 28.The match, to be held at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, is the first of three that the U.S. will play over the next few weeks. The Americans will also face Ireland in Dublin on June 2 followed by the finale against France in Lyon on June 9.As has been his habit during his time in charge, Sarachan has emphasized calling in younger players. The average age is 22 years, 286 days, which is even younger than the group that was called in for a friendly against Paraguay back in March. All told, 15 of the players are under 22, with nine players who are age-eligible for participation in the 2020 Summer Olympics.”As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” said Sarachan. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well.”Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Plenty of attention will be focused on Pulisic, who will likely feature for the U.S. for the first time since its disastrous 2-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Trinidad and Tobago last October, a result that saw the Americans fail to qualify for the tournament for the first time since the 1986 edition.”It’s no secret that Christian has a very bright future for many years to come with the U.S. men’s national team,” said Sarachan. “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important not just for him personally, but for this group going forward.”It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix. It’s been a number of months and I think when you can add the quality he provides to any team, that’s a big bonus for the program.”Pulisic, who hails from nearby Hershey, Pennsylvania, will be joined by a passel of up-and-coming players who are expected to form the backbone of the squad going forward, including Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie and Chelsea defender Matt Miazga. The group also includes first-time call-ups for Keaton Parks of Benfica, Manchester United defender Matthew Olosunde and Club Tijuana midfielder Alejandro Guido.  The roster isn’t entirely bereft of experienced performers, though. Club America midfielder Joe Corona, Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj and Santos Laguna defender Jorge Villafana were also included. Lichaj and Villafana are the only players on the roster who were born before 1990, while Corona and Pulisic have the most caps on the roster, with 20 each.Julian Green, who will return to Vfb Stuttgart following a season-long loan at Greuther Furth, returns to the U.S. team for the first time since November 2016.Sarachan is also expected to make numerous changes to the roster ahead of the games in Europe. The alterations are expected to include the addition of European-based players as well as several MLS-based players.”When we put our roster together, we also took into account travel considerations for some of our players that have just finished long seasons in Europe,” said Sarachan. “While not everyone in Philadelphia will travel to Ireland and France, the players that are joining us this week are still getting an important opportunity as we move our program forward.”

U.S. roster to face Bolivia

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham, on loan at Ipswich Town), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City, on loan at KV Kortrijk), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club America), Julian Green (Stuttgart, on loan at Greuther Furth), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Telstar), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Christian Pulisic Returns as USMNT Roster Focuses on Youth for Upcoming Friendlies

By BRIAN STRAUS May 20, 2018  SI

Christian Pulisic returns to the U.S. national team after eight months away, and he’ll be joined by good friend and Revierderby rival Weston McKennie, teenage attackers Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, and long-lost World Cup 2014 veteran Julian Green on a youthful squad that’ll face Bolivia on May 28 outside Philadelphia.That friendly will be the first of three the USA will play before watching the World Cup from the sidelines. Coach Dave Sarachan, who’s now been running the program on an interim basis since the Americans were eliminated last October, said he will make “numerous changes” to his team before heading to Europe for matches against Ireland (June 2) and World Cup-contender France (June 9).None of the friendlies falls during a FIFA international window, so Sarachan’s access to MLS players will be somewhat limited (most European club campaigns have ended, and the Mexican season ends Sunday). There are only two MLS players on the Bolivia roster. Domestic veterans in frame to help the USA in Dublin and Lyon will skip the first portion of camp in order to reduce the number of league games lost. In addition, there may be players in Europe who were spared transatlantic travel immediately following their seasons.Meantime, a very young team will begin training in Philadelphia on Monday and then take the field May 28 at Talen Energy Stadium. The average age of this USA roster is below 23. That’s appropriate considering the importance U.S. Soccer should place on the 2020 Olympics (a U-23 competition), which would provide meaningful tournament experience to the prospects expected to lead a return to the world stage. There are nine Olympic-eligible players on the 22-man team announced Sunday, including Pulisic.“As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” Sarachan said of the roster, which includes seven uncapped players. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November, and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well. Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”Regarding Pulisic’s return, Sarachan said, “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important—not just for him personally, but for this group going forward. It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix.”

Here’s a closer look at the new USA roster:

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Hamid has been a regular during Sarachan’s three games in charge, seeing action in two and backing up Zack Steffen against Paraguay in March. Steffen will remain with the Columbus Crew this week, leaving Hamid as the most experienced goalkeeper in camp.Hamid, 27, made only three senior appearances for Midtjylland after joining the club from D.C. United in January. The most recent came April 26 in the Danish Cup semifinal, which Hamid and Midtjylland lost, 3-1, to Brøndby.

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United), Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)

Several of these players have just finished up loans and will hope to use their time with the USA as a springboard to minutes with their parent clubs next season. Among them are Carter-Vickers and Miazga, who could comprise a long-term pairing in the American central defense. Carter-Vickers, 20, had a good spring at Ipswich Town and just signed a new contract with Tottenham that’ll tie him to the Premier League club until the summer of 2021. Miazga, 22, was a crucial constant (and even an occasional captain) for a Vitesse Arnhem side that finished sixth in the Netherlands and qualified for the 2018-19 Europa League.Lichaj and Villafaña, who will try to win the Liga MX championship with Santos on Sunday, provide a more experienced presence on the flanks. Olosunde, 20, will make his senior camp debut not far from his hometown. The Trenton, NJ, and New York Red Bulls product spent time with United’s U-23 reserve squad this season.“He’s been on our radar as a young defender for a number of years, and obviously the club also saw something in him,” Sarachan said of Olosunde. “He’s a versatile defender that can play on either side. He possesses good size and strength, and now he’s a guy that has a number of minutes under his belt. He was available to be a part of this camp, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring him in.”

Midfielders: Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Julian Green (VfB Stuttgart), Alejandro Guido (Club Tijuana), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Keaton Parks (Benfica), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Rubio Rubin (Club Tijuana), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain) 

Sarachan has deployed his team in a 4-1-4-1 in each of his three games in charge, so it’s not surprising to see a midfield-heavy roster unveiled. This is where the depth is, and the primary storyline ahead of the Bolivia game will be whether we see Pulisic and McKennie paired for the first time.McKennie still has played only once for the senior national team, in the November friendly in Portugal. But it was a command performance, and it whet the appetite for a future in which his robust box-to-box presence complements Pulisic’s attacking flair. Corona, who along with Pulisic is the most experienced international in camp (20 caps), would make sense as the third member of a three-man central midfield, bringing a focus on ball movement and tempo.Weah, 18, returns after making his senior USA debut in March. He’ll be hoping to see more than five minutes of action this time as he comes off his first Ligue 1 start for PSG in Saturday’s season-ending draw at Caen. And Green returns to the fold for the first time since November 2016. The surprise World Cup scorer has had an uneven career since netting that goal against Belgium, going on loan from Bayern Munich to Hamburger SV, signing with VfB Stuttgart then going on loan again to Greuther Fürth. He made an impact there, however, starting regularly and scoring three goals—including one in last weekend’s season finale that kept Fürth in the 2. Bundesliga. Green turns 23 next month.

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich (Reading), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)

Sarachan has been using just one forward, and if he continues with that tactical trend he’ll have two untested ones to choose from against Bolivia. Novakovich, 21, spent the 2017-18 season on loan with Telstar in the Dutch second tier and scored an impressive 22 goals in 38 appearances. He made his senior U.S. debut with a second-half spell in the win over Paraguay in March.Sargent just turned 18 in February and was ineligible to play for Werder Bremen after signing with the German club (thanks to rules regarding foreign nationals transferring as minors). His potential is clear, however, and in 2017 he became only the second American male to play in U-17 and U-20 World Cups in the same year (he scored in both) and he finished up with an invite to Sarachan’s senior camp in November. “I’ve seen things in Josh where I felt it was a good moment to bring him into the senior team,” Sarachan said. “As a striker, he plays a position that hasn’t been all that deep and shown great promise at the higher youth levels in World Cup play and so on. I feel physically he has the power and strength to play at this level. Now it’s a question of can he adapt to the speed of play and physicality. The way he stepped into the U-20 squad just before the World Cup last year showed how he’s able to handle some bigger challenges, and so we thought this was a prime opportunity to give him an extended look with our senior team.”

Christian Pulisic becoming quiet leader for U.S. and Dortmund

May 22, 2018Jeff CarlisleSoccer

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It didn’t take long for Christian Pulisic to find his feet at both the club and international level. Finding his voice is proving more of a process.There is no doubt that Pulisic is the face of the U.S. men’s national team. By the end of the World Cup qualifying cycle, he was the player around whom the nationsl team’s attack was based. In the nine international matches he played in 2017, Pulisic was either directly or indirectly involved in 13 of 17 goals scored.If that sounds like an immense burden to put on a 19-year-old, well, it is.”It’s a lot sometimes, they like to put this label on you,” Pulisic told ESPN FC on Monday. “I’m just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can for myself and for my teammates, and that’s all I can really focus on.”Once Pulisic completes his club commitments with Borussia Dortmund following Tuesday’s friendly against LAFC, he’ll rejoin the U.S. for next Monday’s match against Bolivia. It will mark his first involvement with the U.S. since the World Cup qualifying debacle concluded last October, and it will be an opportunity for him to grow into more of a leadership role.A big NBA fan, Pulisic said he looks to LeBron James for inspiration.”[James] is just the best, the way he carries himself on and off the court,” Pulisic said during an earlier roundtable with reporters. “What he’s done for so many years, it’s just inspiring, so it’s pretty crazy how he keeps it up all this time.”It’s a role that doesn’t come easily to Pulisic. By his own admission, he’s “not the most outgoing person in the world.” But leaders can emerge in a variety of ways. There are quiet ones as well as more boisterous, vocal types. It is the former category that Pulisic falls into, one who sets an example in training in terms of what needs to be done every day. But one gets the sense that on a U.S. team whose average age is 22, Pulisic is ready to impart some wisdom.”I’m going to be there for all the younger players that are going through similar things as me,” he said during the roundtable. “Of course, I’m young, but I do have a lot of caps. I’m going to try to be there for all the guys and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help. “Just informing them about how CONCACAF can be, about some of the games, about how it’s not just always about who plays the best football, it’s about who wants it the most and just how to fight and do whatever it takes. That’s definitely what I learned in qualifying.” depth of experience is a trait most leaders have, and Pulisic has already accumulated a few professional scars, as well as some notable successes. He became more of a regular presence in the Dortmund lineup this season, amassing more minutes and appearances than when compared to 2016-17. But it was a season with considerable ups and downs, as Dortmund suffered through an inconsistent campaign that saw manager Peter Bosz fired in midseason, though the club ultimately recovered to qualify for a spot in the Champions League. The failure of the U.S. team to reach the World Cup had its effect as well.”Yeah, [Pulisic] was down, really down,” Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin said regarding how World Cup qualifying impacted Pulisic. “He’s more hungry now and I’m sure he will lead the U.S. to many tournaments.”Sahin added that he has been impressed by what he has seen from Pulisic, especially given that this was his first year with the club in which is father, Mark, wasn’t present.”At such a young age to play around 100 games in professional football is not easy. I know this from my time,” Sahin told reporters following a training session at UCLA. “As a human being, it’s his first year in Europe far away from family, but he has adapted very well to the German lifestyle. He’s one of us. It’s good for his development. What I expect is he has a bright future and the U.S. men’s national team can be happy to have a player like that.”Sahin can relate to what Pulisic is going through on other levels as well. The Turkey international came up through Dortmund’s youth system, and won a Bundesliga title under now-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. That got the attention of Real Madrid and Sahin later moved there, though he never settled and had a loan spell with Liverpool before returning to Dortmund.”Every football player has his dreams and one of my dreams was to play for Real Madrid because not many players in the world will wear the shirt,” he said.Pulisic has been the subject of many a transfer rumour but is attempting to keep any speculation at bay.”I’m still just finishing my season strong with Dortmund,” he said. “I’ve been happy here all season. I’m still enjoying the game, which is the most important. I’m just looking forward to having a good break this summer.”Following Dortmund’s friendly against LAFC on Tuesday night, Pulisic will have one more obligation with the U.S. and then it will be time for a rest. But his motivation is constant and the Bolivia match, which takes place Chester, Penn. some 100 miles from his home town of Hershey, will mark a welcome start to a new cycle.”It’s going to hurt for a long time until, pretty much, we qualify for the next World Cup is what I’m thinking. It was tough,” Pulisic said during the roundtable. “It was really tough for me going through that. But everything happens for a reason. I hope we can kind of now regroup and start over with some new guys and see what happens.”Pulisic wants, in his own style, to lead the way.

Masters of Modern Soccer: Christian Pulisic and the Craft of the American Midfielder

By GRANT WAHL May 01, 2018

The 2018 World Cup starts on June 14, and one of the greatest shames of the tournament is that Christian Pulisic will not be competing in Russia. Already the best American men’s player at the age of 19, Pulisic—an attacking midfielder for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund—was the lone bright spot of the U.S.’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, which left the Americans out of the world’s most popular sporting event for the first time since 1986. Pulisic’s talent is incandescent. He can blow by world-class defenders on the dribble unlike any American before him. Had he competed in Russia this summer, Pulisic could have become a mainstream American sports superstar.

Yet the summer of 2018 could still be momentous for Pulisic. Multiple English Premier League teams—led by Liverpool, but also including Manchester United and Arsenal—have shown interest in buying the young American from Dortmund for a transfer fee that could be worth around $80 million to $100 million, shattering the previous record for an American player. Pulisic’s potential is limitless, not just on the field but also off it, where the top clubs in Europe would love to use the preeminent American player to build their brand in the expanding U.S. soccer market.

As SI’s Grant Wahl discovered writing his new book, Masters of Modern Soccer—an analysis of the craft of soccer, position by position, through seven accomplished and insightful figures from the European game—Pulisic is also wise beyond his years about how he views his role on the field. In this excerpt from the book, Pulisic explains in granular detail how he plays his position of attacking midfielder.

The following is excerpted from Masters of Modern Soccer: How the World’s Best Play the Twenty-First-Century Game. Copyright © 2018 by Grant Wahl. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

It’s an undeniable fact: The United States has never produced a global men’s soccer superstar. Have there been solid American players good enough to qualify for seven of the last eight World Cups? Sure. Mainstay goalkeepers who’ve enjoyed long careers in the English Premier League? No doubt. Even a rare top scorer for a midlevel European team? There’s always Clint Dempsey and his 22 goals for Fulham in 2011–12. But for all the growth of soccer in America over the last two decades—in the popularity of the men’s and women’s World Cups, in the rise of domestic leagues, in media coverage of the planet’s most pop­ular sport—we have yet to find a U.S. men’s version of The Cho­sen One. Which is to say, a true superstar, the best player on one of the top 10 clubs in the UEFA Champions League.The reasons for this failure are many, we’re told, and mostly related to culture. The majority of our best athletes go pro in other sports, from American football to basketball to baseball. Our most popular spectator sport, American football, is more about following orders than about the individual creativity we see in the best soccer players. Soccer is a pay-to-play, middle-to upper-middle-class pursuit in the United States, unlike in the rest of the world, where the working classes produce the best players with the drive to rise to the top of a Darwinian global pyramid. What’s more, when it comes to youth soccer develop­ment, most experts will tell you the U.S. doesn’t have nearly enough qualified coaches at the vital early ages—and that the coaches who are in place tend to value strength and athleticism over skills.But there’s another factor, too. The U.S. has produced teenage soccer players with the potential to be world class, but the all too common result has been prospects who thought they had “made it” by simply signing a healthy contract or joining a European club. Coddled by youth coaches and handlers, pumped up by the leagues, and showered with premature accolades by media and sponsors searching for the elusive American Soccer Savior (always that word, savior), these putative Chosen Ones decided they had climbed Mount Everest when all they had done was reach base camp. No example of the phenomenon is more sober­ing than that of Freddy Adu, who joined D.C. United at age 14 as the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer in 2004 and headlined a national television advertising campaign that year with Pelé. Though Adu showed flashes of talent for U.S. youth national teams, he never earned the trust of a coach at club level, where he played for 14 teams in 15 years, and was last seen riding the bench in the U.S. second division, a cautionary tale of blind­ing promise unfulfilled.All of which brings us to a low-slung, redbrick residential building in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Dortmund, a former steel-and-coal city in western Germany’s Ruhr Valley. The two-story structure, fronted by evergreens and a small lawn, is the home of an American teenage soccer star, but it’s conspicu­ous not for what it is, but rather for what it isn’t. The place looks entirely ordinary from the outside. The windows—two rectan­gular slits on each floor—are usually covered by metal shades that give the building the appearance of a military bunker. The dead-end street is, well, pretty dead. There are industrial ware­houses, a modest health club, the administrative office for a gro­cery store. All things considered, the tableau could just as well be a bland suburb of Pittsburgh.And that’s the whole point if you’re Christian Pulisic, the 19-year-old Hershey, Pennsylvania, native who has emerged as one of the world’s most promising attacking midfielders for Borussia Dortmund and the best prospect in the history of U.S. men’s soccer. When Pulisic signed a new four-year contract in early 2017 and his father, Mark, moved back to the United States after two years in Germany, Christian could have decided he had arrived and splurged on his first adult apartment in the gor­geous new glass-and-steel buildings on Dortmund’s Lake Phoe­nix, a bustling hub of bars, restaurants and nightlife. Instead, he chose a street with no bars and no restaurants—and, truth be told, barely any neighbors at all—that’s a five-minute drive from Dortmund’s training facility.

MASTERS OF MODERN SOCCER

by Grant Wahl

How do some of the game’s smartest figures master the craft of soccer? By profiling players in every key position and management, Wahl reveals how elite players and coaches strategize on and off the field and execute in high pressure game situations.That’s not to say Pulisic’s apartment is shabby inside. In fact, it’s the dream dorm suite of any college freshman—which is ex­actly what Pulisic would be in the spring of 2018—if that fresh­man had ample amounts of discretionary income and a cleaning lady who came every week.“There’s a lot of space, but nobody had lived in this building for three years,” says Pulisic, welcom­ing me inside and giving me the grand tour two days before a game against Bayern Munich. Pulisic is renting, not buying, but he got permission from the owner to spruce up an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor with colorful tile work on the wall and a poolside hangout area. Upstairs, the main living room has enough space to toss 20-yard passes with an American football and features a pool table, a folded-up ping-pong table, and a big-screen TV for watching soccer, NFL, and NBA games. The walls are filled mostly with blown-up photographs of Dort­mund’s Signal Iduna Park, Germany’s largest stadium, where more than 81,000 adoring fans cheer on their team in a roiling sea of black and yellow. Once again: Think Pittsburgh. “You go out into the city and you just see black and yellow everywhere,” says Pulisic. “They’re wearing jerseys, jackets. I’ve never seen a town that’s so connected and so proud of their team and so passionate about the game. That’s what makes Dortmund stand out so much. The weather isn’t very good, but it’s just a great town to live in. It’s really known for the soccer.”Pulisic has thick eyebrows, a ready smile, and, now that he has graduated from adolescence into adulthood, a chiseled chin and cheekbones; if there’s ever a movie made about his life, he might be played by the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. In Germany, ev­eryone pronounces Pulisic’s last name POOL-uh-sitch, the way it would be in Croatia, the birthplace of his grandfather Mate. That lineage allowed Christian to acquire a Croatian passport and start playing for Dortmund at age 16, earlier than he would have been able to with his U.S. citizenship alone. When he’s in the United States, Pulisic asks people to pronounce his name the Americanized way: puh-LISS-ick.   Pulisic realizes he hasn’t made it to the pinnacle yet just be­cause he got to this point in his career. He has to do more. With the maturity of someone 10 years older, he’s studying the craft of an attacking midfielder. “Now that I’m at a higher level and playing in the Bundesliga, you think of it more as your job,” Pu­lisic says. “How can I become the best? How can I take a certain aspect of the game and improve that to make myself better over­all? Of course, we play because we always love the game. But it’s about figuring out what you need to take that next step. That’s what I think about now.”

In a case of perfect symmetry, Pulisic’s bedrock philosophy—a relentless pursuit of progress—also applies to how he plays his position on the field. Whether he’s starting out wide (as he often does at Dortmund) or centrally (as he does more regularly for the United States), Pulisic has a visceral distaste for touches or passes that go sideways or backward. “My coaches taught me a lot is about taking the first touch positive, and I think that’s what I’ve tried to base my game off of,” he explains. “A big part of it is being aggressive. It’s not just about getting the ball and figuring out every time how you can keep possession, because there are plenty of players who can do that. That’s just not how I view my performances. It’s about: What can I do to change the game and the attacking aspect of the game? That’s how I look at it every time. Every single play is just doing what you can to keep your defender off balance so he has no idea what’s coming next. It’s being positive and going towards the goal because that’s my position. I’m an attacking midfielder.”

The last four years of Pulisic’s life are a study in constant transformation. He moved first from his home in Pennsylvania to the U.S. Under-17 national team residency program in Bra­denton, Florida; then to Dortmund to live with his father; and then into his own adult apartment. He graduated from Dort­mund’s Under-17 team to its Under-19 team to its first team. He grew, physically and emotionally, from a child to a man. If you Google “2013 Nike Friendlies” and watch the highlights of Pulisic’s U.S. Under-17 team beating Brazil 4–1—the day he real­ized he could compete against anyone in the world—you’ll see a talented but still callow 15-year-old boy.Of all the things that have changed for Pulisic, however, at least one surprising aspect has not. “The funny thing is I’ve worn the same cleat size for the last, like, four years,” he says. “I feel like my foot has definitely grown, but I haven’t done anything about it.” Pulisic wears size 8.5 soccer cleats—the Nike Mercurial Vapor, his standbys since 2011—that are a full size smaller than his running shoes (size 9.5). Yet his cleats aren’t painful to wear, he says. He wants them that way. “You just feel like your foot is closer to the ball, like you have more control over it,” Pulisic explains. “If you have a big gap between your toe and the edge of your shoe, I feel like it’s not nearly as comfortable when you’re touching the ball.”The first touch is the foundation of an attacking midfielder’s relationship with the ball. You have to learn how to control the ball with your feet, as if they were hands, supple and cushioning, welcoming passes of varying weights without a second thought and setting up your next action. The task of a first touch be­comes harder when you’re under the pressure of an advancing defender. One easy way to tell the difference in the levels of pro­fessional players—and teams and leagues, for that matter—is in the quality of their first touches. If the ball clangs off players’ feet and legs with any regularity, you’re probably not watching a Champions League knockout game.The knock on American players is that their first touch isn’t, shall we say, cultured. During the 2016 Copa América Centena­rio, one snarky fan went so far as to post a YouTube compila­tion video—set to European trance music, like so many soccer highlight videos—of the U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes butchering first touches and losing possession of the ball. To his credit, Zardes has enough speed, determination, and finishing ability to at least partially make up for his control flaws, especially as an MLS player, but, at his age (26) as a professional, it’s impos­sible to perfect a first touch. Like so many other technical skills, it is best learned between the ages of 3 and 9, not 10 or 20 years later.Pulisic, for his part, began working on his first touch at an early age with his father, Mark, who was a professional soccer player and is now a coach. It starts when I’m 5 years old,” Christian says, “and my dad’s punting the ball in the air and I’m just bringing it down and working on my first touch with both feet.” Mark emphasizes that he wanted sports—including sports other than soccer—to be fun for Christian at that age, but that didn’t prevent the youngster from learning the fundamentals.First-touch work continues for Borussia Dortmund’s youth and senior teams in regular practice sessions and on the Foot­bonaut, a $3.5 million machine pioneered by the club that has its own building at the team’s training ground. (Mark Pulisic oversaw the Footbonaut during his two years as a Dortmund youth team coach.) The Footbonaut takes Teutonic efficiency to its fußball extremes. Built as an apartment-sized, cube-shaped cage, the machine fires balls from a range of 360 degrees at dif­ferent speeds and trajectories toward the player, who then has to control the ball with his first touch, raise his head to spot the destination (an electronically lit-up square on the perimeter), and pass the ball into the target. Coaches dial up the speed and reps and keep score of the participants’ success rate. Sometimes they add a defender to mark the player in the center circle.In a game situation, the first touch is never an end in itself. “As you get older, it’s about the movements,” Pulisic says. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it. A lot of times it’s not about stopping the ball under your foot and not having any options after that. It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.” Pulisic, in particular, has a talent for using his first touch as an attacking weapon to slice through defenses. As his teammate Nuri Sahin says, “He’s fearless. He has so much speed, but what I like the most is his first touch. When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”So much of modern soccer is about utilizing space and pres­sure. Pulisic has learned that he can’t take an attacking first touch all the time. If he’s in a central position deeper on the field, he says, he’ll sometimes be more conservative and hold the ball, not least because losing it in your own end can quickly lead to a goal by the other team. But if he’s higher up the field, his attack-first mentality is fully engaged, whether Dortmund has advanced the ball from its own half or has won the ball in the opposing end using its notorious defensive pressure. Dort­mund’s pressing requires every player, including forwards and attacking midfielders like Pulisic, to work together in unison. If one player slacks off, the pressure fizzles. The commitment is exhausting and requires peak fitness and concentration, but the rewards can be enormous.In transitions, the team that has just lost the ball is often unbalanced and exposed. It’s up to Pulisic and his teammates to take advantage of the opening as soon as possible. “When my team wins the ball or when I win the ball, your first look always goes forward,” Pulisic says. “That’s something our coach here in Dortmund [Thomas Tuchel at the time] stresses a lot. You don’t know: Someone could be peeling off and making a run forward, and you can slip a ball in. Anytime you can get to the goal as quick as you can, it catches the other team off guard, especially when they’ve just lost the ball.” On the other hand, when Dort­mund loses the ball, Pulisic has to make a decision in defen­sive transition. If he’s close to the ball, he says, he’ll put pressure on the ball carrier. If he’s farther away, he’ll retreat to defend a space. That’s modern soccer: Even as an attacking midfielder, Pulisic will always have defensive responsibilities. His attention to defense has helped earn him minutes on the field.

If you listen to Pulisic describe what he’s thinking about dur­ing a game as he plays the position of attacking midfielder, the word he uses most often is next. When Pulisic wants to pass the ball to a teammate, he takes into account several factors, chief among them what the player will do upon receiving the ball. “A lot of things go into it,” Pulisic says. “It’s the weight of the pass. It’s which foot you’re passing it to and which side of his body so that he can take it into a positive area. So it’s a lot of thinking about what he has to do with the ball next. And then it’s all about the direction and speed of the pass. There are so many types of passes that are about weight, and that’s what some of the best No. 6s [deep-lying midfield­ers] in the world are great at: They can just ping [the ball] across the field and hit it on a dime on the guy’s left foot. That’s a skill I’m definitely trying to develop, but I’m not there yet.”One aspect of Pulisic’s game in which he has nearly reached full maturity is beating defenders one-on-one with the ball. Wit­nessing him perform the soccer equivalent of “breaking ankles” on a basketball court and whoosh past seasoned European pros with a combination of speed, guile, and raw explosive power is a rush of pure adrenaline for anyone who’s watching in the sta­dium or on TV. You’re left with a slack-jawed sense of wonder: Did an American teenager just do that? In Pulisic’s confidence on the field and even in his appearance—maybe it’s that high-and-tight haircut—he’s a postmillennial version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick taking out the MiGs in Top Gun. You half-expect Pulisic to wear a bomber jacket, drive a motorcycle, and play beach volleyball bare-chested in jeans in his spare time.When Pulisic has the ball and advances on a defender from a wide position, his head is up and he’s observing his foe, process­ing what he sees millisecond by millisecond. “A lot of times you see which way he’s forcing you and which way his body’s turned,” Pulisic says. “If you can get him to swivel his hips and wrong-foot him, that’s the first step in taking someone on. You want to move the ball side to side and see what he’s going to do with it. Once he starts moving and switching sides, that’s when you have him. Use your pace and change direction and go.” Should Pu­lisic stay out wide or cut inside? Sometimes he knows what he’ll do from the moment he receives the ball. On other occasions, his decision depends on the defender. “If he’s giving you enough space to the inside and he’s cutting off that endline because he doesn’t want you to play a ball in, then you take it inside and explode by him,” Pulisic explains. “When I’m playing, I’m not even really thinking about it. It kind of feels natural when you start going at him. It almost seems like he’s telling you to go one way.”Yet Pulisic doesn’t want to be too predictable in one-on-one situations. Like a baseball pitcher, he’ll keep a defender guess­ing by mixing up his speeds. First, Pulisic might cut inside and turn on the jets. But when his opponent tries to catch up, Pulisic will stop in his tracks as his hapless foil overpursues and Pulisic moves in a different direction, the bamboozle complete. Unlike a baseball pitcher, Pulisic can also disguise his intent by being dangerous using both feet. He’s naturally right-footed, and he says he would shoot a free kick or a penalty with his right foot. If he has a lot of space and a simple shot that he needs to hit with power, he’ll probably go with his right peg. But he won’t change the direction of his movement to favor his right foot, he says. That’s why he has spent so much time improving his left foot since he started working on it with his father as a five-year-old. “Every day in training, even if it’s just a simple passing drill, I try to do as many with my left as I do with my right,” Pulisic says. If you ask Pulisic which skills he had before he went to Dortmund at age 15 and which ones he has done more to acquire since joining the club, he pauses to flash back in time in his head for a moment. “I think I had a good dribbling ability al­ways, starting even with youth national teams,” he says. “In tight spaces, I could kind of maneuver my way out of them and drib­ble, and I was always creative. A big part of my game this season has been trying to become more clinical—in front of goal, crossing, passing. I know I still have a lot of work to do, and that’s what people criticize the most. But one of the toughest parts of soccer is bringing a play to the end and finding the right pass, taking the right shot, or whatever it is.”We hear the word clinical so often in soccer discussions that it has become something of a cliché. But for Pulisic the term comes down to efficiency in the most important part of the field, the op­posing penalty box. The hardest thing to do in soccer is to score a goal, to have the judgment to know what to do in the box to produce results as consistently as possible. What’s the point of beating a defender one-on-one to burst into the box if you make the wrong decisions on passing or shooting once you get there?Learning to be clinical, Pulisic says, “is so many different things. It just comes down to your focus in the end, and how per­fect you want to make that pass or shot and just make it easier on your teammates and for yourself when you have to finish in the right times.” In his first full season in the Bundesliga, Pu­lisic studied the task of crossing the ball in the same way a high school senior (which is what he would have been in the United States at the time) might study calculus. Some of it was fairly basic: Once you beat a player, pull your head up to scan the land­scape for crossing targets.

But there’s a more advanced level to crossing, too, he says. “Something I’m learning now,” Pulisic explains, “is when you look up and you don’t have a lot of options there. You can whip in a ball at the proper speed, whether it’s a chipped ball to the back post or it’s just a driven one across the goal, right in front of the goalkeeper. Those are just very tough to defend. You figure out whether you want it on the ground or if you want it a little higher. If it’s higher, like waist-height, it’s much harder to defend.”

To explain, Pulisic breaks down a play from a Champions League game against Legia Warsaw. Racing down the left side on a five-on-four break, Pulisic receives a pass in the box from Emre Mor. His head up, Pulisic knows he’s going to hit a first-time cross with his left foot—this is no occasion for futzing around with multiple touches and losing the advantage—but he doesn’t see an obvious target. Three Dortmund teammates are in the box. He could dink a short cut-back pass to Raphaël Guerreiro. Or he could send a cross into the prime space between the goal­keeper and Aubameyang (in the middle) or Gonzalo Castro (rac­ing in from the right). Ultimately, Pulisic decides to aim for the space and not a particular player. His cross shadows the line of the six-yard box waist-high. Aubameyang is defended well and can’t reach the ball, but Castro beats his man to the cross for an easy finish. “This is all about just putting it in front of the goalie in a dangerous area,” Pulisic says. “I didn’t specifically see Castro on this play. But you know you’ve got runners in the box.”When it comes to clinical shooting, Pulisic explains, one of the best tips he ever received is something simple: Put the ball on target. If your shot has no chance to go in the goal, you can’t score. That said, you also have to be precise in your accuracy as a shooter, in much the same way that a baseball pitcher has to paint the corners of home plate for most of his strikes. The size of the goal—eight feet high by eight yards wide—has been the same since it was codified by the English Football Association in 1882. How much taller are goalkeepers today than they were in the 19th century? Well, one recent study revealed the average height of male army conscripts in the Netherlands—the home of 6-foot-5 goalkeeping great Edwin van der Sar—had grown by 8.3 inches from 1858 to 1997. The height increase of human beings over the last century was what led Major League Soccer to have serious talks about making the goals larger before the league started in 1996.

In the end, MLS kept its goals the same size, due to entreaties from FIFA, but the fact remains that 21st-century goalkeepers make it extremely hard to find open space in the goal for shoot­ers. “It’s just finding the corners and sides of the goal, taking what the goalie’s giving you,” says Pulisic, noting that placement is often more important than power on a shot. “Honestly, I don’t even remember a goal of mine yet in professional soccer where it’s just been a rip, a power shot, which is kind of interesting to think about. But you look at Messi’s two goals yesterday, and I don’t know how his little body gets so much power on his shots. It’s pretty incredible.”On the previous day, Lionel Messi was at his imperious best in Barcelona’s 3–2 win at Real Madrid, dominating the world’s biggest rivalry game and scoring two goals, his second one com­ing as the match-winner in the 92nd minute to silence the Esta­dio Bernabéu. Pulisic watched every second. He has had a special connection to the city of Barcelona ever since his first trip there at age 7 with his family and three separate training stints at FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, starting at the age of 10. While watching El Clásico—or any other game, for that matter—Pulisic doesn’t digest the scene the same way most viewers might.“You kind of put yourself in their shoes and you think, like, OK, if I’m in that situation, what could I do? You see what he does and then you’re thinking like, Was it a good play? What could I have done to really open that play up more or have done a little better? It’s just watching them and learning. Learning from some of the greats. Messi showed his magic yesterday, and he’s at another level than any player in the world. But I love watching a lot of the Barça players—actually that entire midfield, including Iniesta and Busquets—and what they do and how simple they play. And I love watching some of the other players around Europe, like [Paris Saint-Germain’s] Neymar and [Chelsea’s Eden] Hazard, because I do want to kind of model myself after their games.”It’s all coming so fast these days. When a gifted teenager makes The Leap, rising from complementary player to star, im­provement can happen in a matter of weeks and months, not years. When Christian Pulisic played in the Copa América Cen­tenario in June 2016, he didn’t start any of the U.S.’s six games. By the time he joined the U.S. camp five months later in Co­lumbus, he was the best player on the team. Getting better feeds on itself. If you realize hard work can take you to a new level, chances are you’ll keep the habit and not feel satisfied until you reach that level.Pulisic’s production in the Bundesliga has already been re­markable. Yet if you ask Pulisic to be honest about the aspects of his game that need work, you had better be prepared to listen for a while.“My crossing and finishing ability,” he says. “Being con­sistent and clinical in those situations, and specifically where to put the ball on passes and shots, and how hard to hit it, and the right direction. Growing as a player, becoming stronger, working on my dribbling and decision making in the right times. When to go by a player, or to make a simple pass, or to just pick your head up and find a ball in behind, like I did for Clint and I do for Aubameyang all the time.”Pulisic has the chance to make it (eventually) because he knows he hasn’t made it yet.

MLS Power Rankings: New York Red Bulls replace Atlanta United in top spot

May 21, 2018Jason Davis

  1. New York Red Bulls (+1)
    The Red Bulls caught a break or two, but they more than earned a win on the road in front of Atlanta’s big crowd. Bradley Wright-Phillips again lived up to the moment. A scary injury to Kemar Lawrencetook some of the fun out of the win.
  2. Atlanta United (-1)
    Atlanta has now lost two consecutive games at home by multiple goals. That seemed unthinkable before the season started. United won’t see the likes of the Red Bull press much this season, but that won’t stop other teams from trying to copy New York’s plan.

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  1. New York City FC (+1)
    City’s quality shined through against an overmatched Rapids side. The side’s focus was encouraging given Patrick Vieira’s future being a point of speculation.
  2. Sporting Kansas City (-1) 
    Sporting was certainly targeting a win in Minnesota, but a point away from home will do. Getting Khiry Shelton on the score sheet for the first time is a good tradeoff for a team in need of goal scorers.
  3. Columbus Crew SC (no change)
    Zack Steffen’s league-leading sixth shoutout helped Columbus to a narrow 1-0 win over New England on the road. The Crew has that trait successful teams need: capable of winning shootouts and low-scoring games.play
  4. Portland Timbers (+1)
    Samuel Armenteros’ first goal was worth the wait and the Timbers’ slow start is now a distant memory. Up to third in the West for Giovanni Savarese & Co., with all the respect that comes with it.
  5. LAFC (-1)
    Bob Bradley’s team acquitted itself well in Portland but fell victim to a rebound and a blast. Carlos Vela remains one of the league’s brightest stars thanks to another wonder goal.
  6. Orlando City (-2)
    The Lions were certainly missing Dom Dwyer in Toronto against the defending champions. With the striker, perhaps they might have taken advantage of TFC’s defensive frailty. Without him, the margin was too small to overcome.
  7. Toronto FC (+3)
    The Reds rode the efforts of local products to get a much-needed win in the absence of both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. It’s a start, but Toronto will need much more where that came from.
  8. FC Dallas (-1)
    Up two goals in the final 10 minutes against Vancouver, FCD dropped two points with a clunk in a 2-2 draw. Reggie Cannon continued his rise with his first MLS goal.

Time To Hit The Reset Button – Indy Eleven V Bethlehem Steel FC REVIEW

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend) A disappointing week – with an early exit from the U.S. Open Cup, the only open, true test of soccer champions offered in this country – morphed into a disappointing weekend for Indy Eleven with a 1-2 home loss on Saturday to Bethlehem Steel. In post-game comments, Indy head coach Martin Rennie was ready to push the reset button. His tired team was ready for a refreshment of minds, bodies, and spirits. He was the first to admit that the squad’s teamwork, passing and movement were off, that too many opportunities were given away because of rushed play. And, he said, he offered no excuses for himself or his team regardless of their recent grind of several games on the road with several talented players benched to injury. “The players are all here to play – to perform,” Rennie said, noting the hard truth that virtually every soccer player on the planet has faced before – that the evening’s match was not on. With three Steel players collapsed on the field in the 9th minute and one Indy player down, the theme of the night did appear to be ‘collapse’. The Pitch Bitch noted several plays where Indy men were in the right places, attempting the right things and the hand of fate just would not allow them the sweet sound of ball caressing net. Nathan Lewis worked his butt off attempting crosses and shots from the flank … and though his shots weren’t on, he earned a free kick and corners, which could have been better utilized.
Kevin Venegas dished a gorgeous free kick for Justin Braun. The subsequent header just wasn’t on, it was inches off, into the post. A deadly goal of such caliber would have given the game an entirely different flavor. Instead, it was missed by an inch. Soccer is a cruel mistress. Total bummer. But champions don’t cry. They move on and keep salivating for deadly strikes, they keep working, keep hunting. “Goal scoring has so much to do with confidence,” Rennie said. “If you hammer the players, you’re not really building the confidence, which they need to have.” The game plan moving forward, the coach said, is to have the players clear their heads, recharge their bodies and get back to work. Because, after all, with one fewer game played than arch rivals and current USL table leader F.C. Cincinnati, Indy sits just six points behind. Good leaders keep perspective on such matters. Parting shots from the Pitch Bitch game notes (please beware these will include a sexual reference.): Rushed play. What can we do about it? Look for time, space and your people. Think not just about speed, but change of pace. Remember, good soccer is like good sex: Sometimes we need to do it quick and dirty, capturing great effect in minimal time. This would be akin to a goal scored on a counter attack with minimal passing. But so often, we need to enjoy the anticipation, we need more foreplay, we need to enjoy the movement, the control we achieve when we’re working together and running our opponents around the field in patterns predestined to expose their vulnerable underbellies. After watching one too many squandered passes, the actual bitch notes say, “Don’t force it. Find some rhythm. Settle into it like a good, long fuck.” The game notes end on a sour note of two Bethlehem shots forcing Fôn Williams into action. But just prior, in what for Pitch Bitch on-the-spot, short-hand game notes is trés élégant cursive longhand, “even when all else is shit, Brad’s ninja stuff is fun.”

So, here’s to you Brad Ring and your more than 100 games you’ve played for Indy Eleven – and all your games as an Indiana Hoosier! – plus your MLS years and every other game that made you the man you are today! Keep up the good, solid, tough, dependable play. It’s a treat to watch you work! Thank you for your service, sir!
Thoughts by James Cormack…

My disappointment in our performance on Saturday is not easy to put into words. We had a short time to prepare coming off a Wednesday game but so did our opponents. As the game wore on our visitors could see we were lacking and they took advantage of it, they grabbed the game by the throat.e have players missing and that does not help, but the problems we can see in the way the team plays did not just develop on Saturday night. Our lack of bite in the final third has been the cause of repeating discourse for many weeks now and not wholly down to a lack of confidence in players. The issues are all over the park and it comes down to lack of quality delivery, creation, and poor decision making. All the stats in the world do not point to an improvement if those shots taken or attempted are pitiful or a result of ill decision.Last Wednesday against Mississippi Brilla we played route one football. Jack McInerney spent a lot of the game having to wrestle for 50/50 balls in the air. On Saturday it was the same again but this time Justin Braun was the wrestler and again we played way too much long ball. When we did get the ball down and play it into the width the ball disappeared into a vacuum most of the time and never came back.Lewis did not have a good game, we saw the same at Pittsburgh. There was just no end product, whether he was playing on the right as in the first half or for a spell on the left in the second when he received the ball in the corners or took it there himself it either was poorly delivered in and lost or was sent skywards with woeful attempts at shooting. If we want to have someone on the field just to look fast and dangerous we could sign Tony Kanaan, he’s in town. I am sure Nathan can do much better, but a player has to be given the incentive to improve, I really hope he does. Be more dangerous.
We rarely used the middle of the park behind the forward line to create opportunities, most times when we did it was long balls or short balls popped in the air for 50/50 challenges, I took over 1400 photos at the game and probably about 20% or more of them are Justin Braun having to wrestle in the air or on the ground for a ball. In contrast, if you look at Bethlehem and the way they played, Santiago Moar totally bossed the middle of the field in front of our back line, he was serviced well and he serviced his team around him well, he tore us apart. We need that in our play, we need a Santi Moar.The boys do need some rest, but all other teams are playing pretty much the same amount of games. The style of football we are playing, and I use the word style loosely is not good and its getting worse. In matches where we have had a healthy roster to choose from you can see the same things. Our strong defensive play has been remarked upon but even on Saturday against Bethlehem, we looked shaky. Will a couple of days rest change the way we are set up and the way we play football? Time to reset everything and look to see how we can approach matches differently in order to win regularly in this league. The problem isn’t really the strikers in my opinion.If this is the way we want to set up and play for the season, we may make the playoffs, but we probably will get found out quickly in the first postseason match. I am still optimistic, we have quality in our roster from top to bottom, it needs to shine.

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5/17/18 Indy 11 Discount Tix for Sat 8 pm game, FA Cup Man U vs Chelsea Sat 12:30 on Fox, Europa Cup winners Atletico Madrid , W2W4 on TV, CFC teams Advance to Finals -Tryout Dates Set

Saturday our Eleven Return home to face the Bethlehem Steel at Lucas Oil at 8 pm as the Eleven will battle to move into the top 3 overall in the East.  Great news if its rainy – its always 75 and comfortable in Lucas Oil.  Currently with 4 Wins, 2 losses and 2 Ties the Eleven have 14 total points – just 3 off the lead in the Eastern Conference behind Cincy & Charleston 17 pts, Louisville FC and the team we just tied 0-0 on the road Pittsburgh with16 pts. Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game and enter Indy2018 as the promo code. Saturday night is Student night as students with a Student ID get ½ priced tickets.  The 11 lost 0-1 at Mississippi Brilla to end their US Open Cup hopes.

The Europa League Final played out about the way I figured as my glorious Atletico takes home their first major trophy in 4 years.  Coach Diego Simeone’s men continued their defensive masterpiece as Diego Godin led a backline along with spectacular goalkeeper Oblak – that once again kept a clean sheet.  Honestly Marseille had the early advantage but when their talisman Payet went down – it was the counterattacking of Madrid with Diego Costa and Greizmann that opened the doors for Atleti.  Greizmann served the brace with 2 wonderful goals and Godin added the 3rd late for the Spanish squad.  Now we wait to see if Barcelona’s money will steal away another star (Griezmann or Oblak) from Atletico Madrid.  Funny I started loving this underdog club (3rd usually – 2nd this year in La Liga) during their spectacular runs during Champions League a few years back.  This underdog squad with half the spend of Real Madrid and Barcelona has continued to play toe to toe with the bigger clubs in Europe despite the lack of funds to compete at that level.  Here’s the thing though – as long as the man in black – Manager Diego Simeone is in charge – Atletico can be a power.  Why leave to be a back-up or battle for playing time at Barcelona when they can realistically battle for European Championships at Atletico?  They are 3 years removed from barely losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League Finals.  I just don’t understand players moving to uncertain situations unless they are 100% guaranteed to start.  This story may well play itself out with US youngster Christian Pulisic as well.  Why battle for a spot at Liverpool or Man United when you are starting at Borussian Dortmund – a legit contender and Champions League team in its own right – who – by-the-way provided you your big break at the tender age of just 17.  Bigger is not always better.  Anyway – catch all the stories below – and congrats to my Atletico !!  (PS – I went to a game at the Cauldron – Atleti’s home old home stadium – last spring and it was a religious experience – so much more intense than any US Soccer game or our visit to a Real Madrid game.)  Atletico is the working man’s team in Madrid – kind of like the NY Yankees vs the NY Mets.  Count me as an Atletico man!

With the Europa Final over and the Champions League Final pitting stunning superstar Mo Salah and Liverpool vs 2-time defending Champ Real Madrid and Renaldo set for next weekend (Sat 2:30 pm on Fox 59), we turn our attention to the FA Cup Final this Saturday 12:30 pm on Fox 59.  Chelsea is looking to save their season for Antonio Conte’s men while Mourino and Manchester United look to capture some hardware for the 2nd season in a row.  (check out the stories below in the Ole Ballcoach)  Obviously the FA Cup doesn’t have the romantic feel of yesteryear.  But with 2 massive clubs that hate each other in Chelsea and Man U and two managers that don’t like each other – this has a chance to be a really good game.

Finally the season’s wrap up for La Liga (Spain) and Serie A (Italy) this weekend.  Legendary Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon will be playing his last game in a Juventus jersey on Sunday at 12:30 pm on beIN Sport as Juve celebrates their championship.  Meanwhile Barcelona – having blown their chance at an undefeated La Liga season while losing without Messi last weekend – will look to close out their championship season with a win at home vs Real Sociedad at 2:45 pm on beIN sport.  In MLS Atlanta will host the New York Red Bulls Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 7 pm.

Carmel FC Teams Advancing to Challenge Cup Finals June 1-3 

 2004 Girls Coached by Bill Spencer (far Rt), Rene Moyer (L)  

The 04 Girls gave up just 1 goal en route to 2-0 win over Valpo, 5-0 win over Stuttgart, and a 2-1 win over Jr. Irish.

IMG_3001

2005 Girls Coached by Bill Neumann, Dustin Palmer

The 05 Girls did not give up a goal after a 6-0 win over Hamilton North, a 1-0 win over Indy Fire white, and a 0-0 tie with Sporting Southern Indiana.

Reminder CARMEL FC Goalkeepers – Coach Jeurgen Sommer will run a special Wed Night 5:30 – 6:30 pm training for the Youth Group U11-U12 at Badger Field.  The normal Thurs at Shelbourne with former Indy 11 & MLS GK Kristian Nicht and Jeurgen will be Thurs 5:30-6:30 youth/6:40-7:40 Seniors.  Also good luck to those in State Cup and President’s Cup play this weekend!

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Tryouts for Carmel FC – @ Shelbourne Fields

June 5 – Academy U8-U10 – 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm

June 11 & 12 (U11-U13 5:30 pm- 6:45 pm), (U14-U19 – 7:15 pm – 8:30 pm)

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2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.

Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

Wed, May 16

2:30 pm FS1          Atletico Madrid vs      – Europa League Final – Lyon, France 

Sat, May 19

12:30 pm FOX      Chelsea vs Man United FA CUP FINAL

2 pm ESPN3?         Bayern Munich vs Franksfurt German Cup

2:45 pm beIN        Villareal vs Real Madrid

8 pm Myindy23    Indy 11 vs Bethlehem Steel FC (Lucas Oil)  (College student tix just $7)

Sun, May 20th 

12 noon beIn Sport Juve vs Hellas Verona

1 pm ESPN News         U17 European Championship

2:45 pm beIN sport   Barcelona vs Real Sociadad

4 pm Univsion              Chicago vs Houston

7 pm Fox Sport 1        Atlanta vs NY Red Bulls

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

Sun, May 27h 

1 pm ESPN+, Youtube NY Red Bulls 2 vs Indy 11

6 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Columbus Crew

Mon, May 28h 

1 pm  ???                         France vs  Ireland

6:30 pm fox Sport1   USA Men vs Bolivia

9 pm fox sport 1      Mexico vs Wales 

Wed, May 30h 

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Charleston Battery  

 June 2, 2018: IF: MNT vs. Ireland (Dublin, Ireland) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 9

IF MNT vs. France (Lyon, France) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

7 pm Myindy23           Indy 11 vs Atlanta United

June 12

Women NT vs. China (Cleveland, OH) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

 indy11student

Click here for Discount Tickets for the Game

Indy 11

Indy 11 Host Bethlehem Steel FC Preview

If there is No Will – There is No Way – Open Cup Review- By: James Cormack Bloodyshambles

 

Indy Survive Battle of Pittsburg – 0-0 Tie at Pittsburg Riverhounds – James McCormick – Bloodyshambles

Indy 11 highlights vs Pittsburg 0-0 Tie

Indy 11 ties Pitt – Pittsburg Paper

Indy 11 Take Points at Pittsburg

USL Power Ratings – Indy 11 into 1st in the East – clubandcountry

Indy 11 Schedule

USL Standings

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

indy11cdccamp

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Fields June 4-7

FA Cup Final – Sat 12:30 pm on FOX

Chelsea and Manchester United Try to End Season on a High Note –with FA Cup Win – SI

Man U have Edge over Chelsea in all but Midfield – Nick Miller ESPNFC

Chelsea vs Man United – FA Cup Offers Chance to End Season on a High Contes Last Stand? – Scott Patterson and Mark Worral ESPNFC

Man U , Chelsea are Flawed and this 2nd Rate FA Cup Won’t Cover their Failings – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Antonio Conte and Jose Morurinho rivalry – A timeline of Hate – Liam Twomey – ESPNFC

Europa League Final Results

Atletico Madrid and Greizmann secure Europa League Trophy

Atletico Madrid need Greizmann and Jan Oblak to Stay – to Prove as Real Contenders – ESPNFC – Dermot Corrigan

Greizman, Gabi secure Europa League Title for Atletico Madrid SI –

Griezmann scores brace for 10/10 score in player ratings – ESPNFC – Joseph Walker  

How Atletico Won the Europa League Final – UEFA

The Antoine Griezmann Story – How did they find him?

 

Europa League Final News –  

All You Need to Know – Final

Meet the Finalist Marseille and Atletico

UEFA Cup/Europa League Records

Champions League Final – Sat May 26

Video How does this Real Madrid Team compare to the Legendary 3 time UCL Winners?

Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Detailed Look at the Matchup-

Champions League Final – too close to call – Dermont Corrigan EPSNFC

Liverpool to Recharge before the Final –says Klopp

Renaldo back on Track in Training

Final Will be Piece of Cake – says Real’s former Club Legend Gento

Tottenham Roots for Liverpool loss in finals to improve their  UCL Draw

Juve’s Gigi Buffon Charged by FIFA over Ref Comments

JUVE GK Gigi Buffon calls Press Conference for Thursday to Retire?

Marcelo’s 8 year old son completes head ball challenge in Real Locker room

EPL

Sir Alex Legacy Looms over Old Trafford

Mo Salah’s Record Breaking 1st Season at Liverpool

Man City’s 100 pts most ever

EPL Final Table

EPL final Day Wrap-Up

GK

Legendary Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon Set to Retire from Juve this weekend

Top Saves of the Week in the EPL

Best GK Saves of EPL 2018

Best Saves De Gea, Buffon, Ter Stegen, Navas – Saves in 2017/18 11 min

World

World Update –Barca Loses, Juve Wins Serie A Again – eSPNFC

World Cup Previews – ESPNFC

 MLS

Wayne Rooney Reconsiders MLS Move after Everton Sacks Coach Sam Allardyce

Power Rankings EPSN

Torontos Altidore to Miss 4 to 6 Weeks with foot Injury

LAFC and NYCFC Share the Spoils

Galaxy Lose 4th Straight as Ibra hits post on last shot

Bradley – MLS should show Discretion on Giovinco Red Card

 US

Klinsmann Says he Would Have Qualified the US – SI

Tottenham signs USAs Cameron Carter Vicker thru 2021 – SI

Who will the US Call Up Sunday

US Defender Tim Ream tries to lead Fulham back to the EPL – Washington Post

US Julian Green Future Uncertain after help Save Gruerther Furth in Bundesliga 2.

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 2018 Alumni/College Age Soccer Carmel Dad’s Club  

Players age 18-30 are eligible to participate. Game schedule to be announced shortly. The fee is 95.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Begins in early June games on Tues or Wed Eves at Shelbourne Field.  
Please click here  to register for this league. If you prefer to fill out a form please call the office for one to be emailed to you. 317-846-1663.  Registration is open May 9- June 5   Commissioner:  Alex Scott  scottaf2@gmail.com

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“Boys in Blue” hosts 2017 playoff side Bethlehem Steel FC

Saturday, May 19, 2018 – 8 P.M. EST  // Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Local/National TV: WNDY – Channel 23  Streaming Video:  ESPN+ ($)

 ENTERING WEEK 10

Indy Eleven will welcome Bethlehem Steel FC to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time on Saturday, May 19. The “Boys in Blue” aim to snag their third home victory of the season and three points against the Pennsylvania based team, and their second consecutive win at home.“Indiana’s Team” currently sits at fifth place in the Eastern Conference, with a 4W-2D-2L record, after drawing with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, 0-0, last Friday, May 11. Despite having seven attempts at goal, Indy Eleven was unable to unable to break the stalemate. The team’s stout defense on the road continued, as Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams recorded another clean sheet. The Welshman is now tied for the most clean sheets in the USL with 5 in 8 games.Bethlehem Steel FC head to Indianapolis for the first time after winning, 3-0, at home against New York Red Bulls II. The Steel surged into 9th in the Eastern Conference with a 3W-2D-4L record. Bethlehem midfielder Michee Ngalina opened his professional account, scoring the Steel’s first goal of the match in the 37th minute. Midfielder Fabian Herbers doubled Bethlehem’s lead in the 63rd minute with a shot from the top of NYRB II’s box.  Bethlehem finished the match in style as midfielder Adam Najem slotted another ball between the posts in the 94th minute of play.Both teams will be coming off mid-week fixtures. Indy Eleven enter Week 10 after bowing out of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against USL PDL’s Mississippi Brilla FC, 1-0, on Wednesday.

INDY ELEVEN PLAYER TO WATCH: GK OWAIN FON WILLIAMS

Indy Eleven goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams has been a rock between the posts for the “Boys in Blue” through the first eight games of the season. The Welsh goalkeeper has accumulated five clean sheets, a tally that has him tied for first in both USL conferences. The Wales International sits just under a 75 percent save rate for the season, saving 13 out of18 shots faced.Fon Williams has played a key role for “Indiana’s Team” between the sticks. Fon Williams and the Eleven defense has only conceded five goals this season, averaging one goal allowed for every two games played. With a high volume of games in the month of May and the squad rotating frequently, Fon Williams’ name will be the one to remain a constant on Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie’s team sheet.

BETHLEHEM STEEL FC PLAYER TO WATCH: MF ADAM NAJEM

Bethlehem Steel FC midfielder Adam Najem has been a staple in the team’s midfield. The 23-year old has started 7 out of 9 games for the Steel this season. The midfielder has helped to control the tempo through the middle of the park, averaging just over 80 percent passing accuracy in 2018. His ability to create chances for his teammates makes the midfield maestro dangerous. He’s tallied 12 key passes and created one goal for his teammates at Bethlehem Steel FC.Najem aims to continue his stellar performance after thrashing New York Red Bulls II at home. Last time out, Najem added his name to Steel’s stat sheet for the first time in 2018 and his third overall since joining the Steel last season. Additionally, the Clifton, New Jersey tallied four interceptions and created five chances, making him dangerous on the counter attack. The attack minded midfielder will attempt to deliver key passes between Indy Eleven’s backline to spring forwards into one-on-one scenarios.

MATCHUP TO MARK: FW SOONY SAAD VS DF MATT MAHONEY

Indy Eleven’s success in the front third against Bethlehem Steel FC will rely on the creativity of forward Soony Saad. The former University of Michigan forward has created the most chances, 12, out of his teammates in the 2018 campaign. The Lebanese International has also attributed two goals out of Indy’s seven this season. Both goals came from a two goal performance against Nashville SC.Saad’s ability to perform in dead ball situations makes the forward even more dangerous should Bethlehem commit fouls inside their own half. The second goal of Saad’s brace against Nashville was a free kick strike that earned him a spot in the SportsCenter Top Ten and named USL’s Player of the Week in Week 5. He nearly netted another dead ball goal in the fixture against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, but narrowly missed high right.Bethlehem Steel FC defender Matt Mahoney will be one of the men tasked with slowing down Saad. Mahoney has started and played every minute for Steel FC so far in 2018. He boasts a tackle success rate of 85 percent, having only missed three tackles during the eight games he’s started. On top of being a brick wall, the 23-year old’s ability to read the field and shut down passing lanes has led to his 25 interceptions on the season.Mahoney leads Bethlehem in both tackles won and interceptions. He directs a backline that allows just over one goal a game. The Buffalo, New York native will have to keep an eye on the creative Saad, who will attempt to keep Bethlehem from obtaining their first clean sheet of the season in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN ENDS U.S. OPEN CUP STINT TO MISSISSIPPI BRILLA FC, 1-0

By IndyEleven.com, 05/17/18, 12:30AM EDT

The “Boys in Blue” bow out of U.S. Open Cup play in the second round

Indy Eleven’s 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup participation ends as USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC win,1-0, off a late-game set piece.The first half didn’t see much action in terms of goal scoring opportunities with only four shots between the two teams, all of which came from the “Boys in Blue”. Indy had their closest first-half attempt in the 41st minute when Eleven forward Justin Braun was on the receiving end of a cross following a deep run to the right corner. The ball connected with Braun’s head just outside Brilla’s 6-yard box, but couldn’t convert as the ball flew over the crossbar.Despite a scoreless first half, Indy Eleven demonstrated their dominance. Over the first 45 minutes, “Indiana’s Team” retained 59 percent possession of the ball, and conceded one corner, four fouls and were found offsides a single time. Mississippi trailed in possession with 41 percent and conceded five fouls. Like Indy, Brilla was award one corner kick and called offsides one time in the first half.Indy continued to press as the clock ticked into the second half. The “Boys in Blue” made several deep runs into Brilla’s box, but each run was met by a home team defender before taking a shot. Indy’s best attempt at goal came in the 71st minute. A through pass from the center circle by Eleven forward Jack McInerney forced the ball to Braun’s feet, deep in Brilla’s defending half. Fighting to get forward, Braun managed to fire a shot at angle nearly 10 yards out from goal, but Brilla goalkeeper Jordan Bell jumped to tip the ball just wide of the far post. Braun came close again four minutes later with a shot within the 6-yard box that ultimately ended over the crossbar and called offsides.Brilla found their game-winning chance in the 82nd minute after several delayed minutes of play following a hard challenge. Brilla was awarded a free kick 30 yards out from Indy’s goal for the initial offense that saw Eleven midfielder Brad Ring and Mississippi forward Javen Palmer shown yellow cards. Brilla midfielder Oliver Brock stepped up and sent a cross to the far edge of the 6-yard box where defender Koray Easterling tapped the ball into the back of the net before it could touch the ground.Both sides continued to press for the remaining eight minutes, but neither side could find another goal, thus ending Indy’s stint in the U.S. Open Cup. It was a disappointing result for Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie, but a result full of takeaways.“The game can be cruel sometimes,” Rennie said. “It was one of those games we were in control and we couldn’t get a goal. I don’t think we deserved to lose that. Our attacking play has to be better.There’s no point in shying away from that. We need to work on getting our shape right and our quality right.”The focus now shifts to this Saturday, when Indy Eleven return home to take on Bethlehem Steel FC. The “Boys in Blue” currently sit in fifth place on the USL’s Eastern Conference table and just three points off of the top spot.“We’re in a good position in the USL and we need to take advantage of it,” said Rennie.Catch “Indiana’s Team” this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. as they take on Bethlehem Steel FC at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – Round 2    Indy Eleven 0:1 Mississippi Brilla FC  
Wednesday, May 16, 2018   Clinton High School – Clinton, Miss.

Scoring Summary:

MIS – Koray Easterling (Oliver Brock) 82′

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Ayoze, Brad Rusin, Karl Ouimette, Brad Ring (C); Nico Matern (Zach Steinberger 85′), Juan Guerra, Amass Amankona (Soony Saad 71′), Seth Moses (Jack McInerneny 71′); Ben Speas, Justin Braun  Indy Eleven bench: Jordan Farr (GK); Kevin Venegas; Zach Steinberger, Nathan Lewis; Jack McInerney, Soony Saad

Chelsea, Manchester United Aim to Close Season on High Note in FA Cup Final

 

Old rivals Chelsea and Manchester United go to war once again with the FA Cup the spoils for the winner. With both sides falling well behind Manchester City in the league and enduring last-16 exits in the UEFA Champions League, Saturday’s final represents a chance to end the season on a high, in what is likely Antonio Conte’s final game as Blues manager.After finishing fifth and missing out on Champions League qualification, the Italian seems destined to bow out at the end of the season, but first faces a fifth meeting with ex-Blues boss Jose Mourinho, with both managers holding two wins each in the past two seasons. Having lost the FA Cup final to a weak Arsenal side last season, Conte has unfinished business with the competition and will look to win the trophy.Mourinho, however, has not won the FA Cup since leading Chelsea to victory over United in 2007. With four Carabao Cup triumphs, however, the Portuguese has proven cup pedigree and will be a fierce opponent.Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s showpiece:

Recent Form

Chelsea had been the Premier League’s form team until the final week of the season, getting into a position where a once-futile pursuit for the top four seemed increasingly likely to be successful. A 1-1 draw to Huddersfield, however, meant the race was out of their hands going into the final day, and they submitted tamely to Newcastle 3-0 in the last game, fittingly capping off a disappointing defense of the title at Stamford Bridge.Man United have generally ended the season well, with losses to Brighton and West Brom not taking away from their brilliant away win at the Etihad Stadium. It has overall been a disappointing season however, despite Jose Mourinho delivering the highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, with a shock Champions League exit to Sevilla and finishing a distant 19 points behind record-setting Man City.

Team News

Ross Barkley returned from injury in Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Newcastle and is available, though is unlikely to start after a poor performance at St. James’ Park. David Luiz and Ethan Ampadu remain out through injury.United welcome back talisman Romelu Lukaku from injury with the Belgian likely to play some part on Saturday, having been on the sidelines since the 2-1 win over Arsenal three weeks ago.

Potential Chelsea Lineup: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian; Hazard, Giroud.

Potential Manchester United Lineup: de Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Sanchez.

Prediction

With Chelsea still smarting after missing out on Champions League qualification, the final may be United’s to lose, with the Red Devils in better form currently than their opponents.However, with this likely being Antonio Conte’s last match in charge, Chelsea are sure to turn up and fight to try and send him out with silverware, after a torrid season at Stamford Bridge. United possess the firepower to cause any team problems, but if the Blues sit back and hit Mourinho’s men on the counter, they can expose the weaknesses in the United defense and win the match, with Eden Hazard and Willian primed to capitalize on any mistakes.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Man United

FA Cup Final: Manchester United have edge over Chelsea in all but midfield

3:09 AM ETNick MillerESPN FC

The final game of a domestic season that has been rather underwhelming for both teams, the FA Cup offers a last chance at something tangible to show for 2017-18. Chelsea and Manchester United repeat the finals of 1994 and 2007 on Saturday, with the watching world hoping we aren’t in for a repeat of the latter, one of the most mind-numbing showpiece events in living memor

The problem is that this isn’t a final exactly regarded as life and death. The elite have long since relegated the old trophy to third, at best, in their list of priorities, so one would imagine the winners will be happy but the losers won’t cry themselves to sleep. Will this devalue the whole event? Possibly, but it remains a prize worth chasing, and for United a victory would draw them level with Arsenal as the most successful team in the competition’s history.

So who will come out on top?

Goalkeeper

This is a tricky one to assess, because it depends on which goalkeeper both teams play. Antonio Conte has used back-up stopper Willy Caballero in all of their FA Cup games so far, and Jose Mourinho probably would’ve done too had Sergio Romero not been injured for the semifinal victory over Tottenham. But will they return to Thibaut Courtois and David De Gea for the big occasion?

For now, let’s assume it will be the second stringers, in which case it’s a fairly close call, but Romero shades it. It’s a little odd to think that both men have been named in Argentina’s preliminary World Cup squad, but Romero is the more reliable of the pair, and will probably take the No.1 spot for the national team too.

Edge: United

Defence

Jose Mourinho is a kind-hearted soul, isn’t he? How accommodating he was to pick his defenders in the closing weeks of the season on the basis that some would be competing for World Cup places! That was his explanation for Eric Bailly kicking his heels in the closing games, and while Bailly got a start in a shadow team for the final game of the season, one wonders if he will play at Wembley.

That could be the tipping point: Bailly is probably United’s best defender, and with Chelsea’s own backline inconsistent — in both selection and performance — his presence might be the deciding factor. Who knows which back three Conte will choose: only Cesar Azpilicueta is assured of his place, the other spots should go to two of Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger.

Edge: United

pl

Midfield

The key element to this head-to-head might be which Paul Pogba shows up. We all know what the Frenchman is capable of: either brilliance that makes you purr or anonymity that makes you sigh. Mourinho has played him in the three-man midfield that should theoretically get the best from him in the latter part of the season, but still his form has been patchy. He could be a matchwinner, but also could do nothing.

Ideally Conte might want to matchup with a three-man midfield, but does he have the players for it? Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante are a fine midfield pair, but the options to augment them aren’t inspiring, and the performances of Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko against Newcastle last week won’t have done their causes much good. A close one, but Fabregas and Kante are more reliable than United’s midfield.

Edge: Chelsea

Forwards

On the assumption that Romelu Lukaku is fit, having missed nearly a month since getting injured in the semifinal against Tottenham, United’s forward options are more attractive. While Mourinho doesn’t trust Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, he still has Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata to choose from.

Chelsea have the best attacker on either side in Eden Hazard, but the choice of centre-forward is a toss-up between Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata, probably leaning in favour of the Frenchman, while Pedro and Willian have not been consistent this season. The Brazilian has been impressive in the second half of the campaign, but United still have the edge here.

Edge: United

Manager

Neither manager has looked particularly happy this season. Antonio Conte in particular had a face like a wet weekend at the best of times, and has frequently looked like he’s actively trying to get sacked. This will surely be his last game as Chelsea manager, so in that respect he might be motivated by wanting to go out with a bang, but equally you do wonder how much he actually cares.Mourinho, on the other hand, can at least view this as another attempt at a trophy as part of a wider plan. This has been a strange season for United, who improved their league position from last term by four places but have frequently looked absolutely terrible. Mourinho is responsible for all of that, and perhaps another trophy will provide some extra tangible evidence of progress.

Edge: United

Intangibles

Will we see any of the personal animosity between the two managers spill over? Insults batted back and forth between Conte and Mourinho, but the United manager told a Portuguese newspaper recently that the two actually buried the hatchet over a drink when the teams met in February. There is still the potential for fireworks: it will only take one incident, and you suspect that if either manager is going to start something like that, it will be Mourinho.Who needs this trophy more? In terms of the managers, it’s Mourinho, but for the fans winning the FA Cup, while not the most important competition they have played in, would provide a lift at the end of a fairly uninspiring season. So, will there thus be more pressure on Chelsea to win?

Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea — United will have too much for a Chelsea side who have looked too fragile in the latter months of the season.

Man United, Chelsea are flawed, and second-rate FA Cup won’t cover their failings

May 17, 2018Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer

Remember when the FA Cup final was a day of celebration, anticipation and glorious possibilities?It was the one fixture in the calendar, usually bathed in sunshine, which brought hope and excitement in equal measure, with even the unlucky runners-up able to measure their progress by at least making it to Wembley. The FA Cup still matters, and it will certainly matter to the supporters of whichever of Chelsea or Manchester United lifts the cup at Wembley on Saturday, but this final does not set pulses racing like it should.It is two of English football’s biggest clubs — when you add up the trophies won by English teams this century, United and Chelsea are way ahead of the rest — and the game also gives us a classic clash between two managers who have made it clear that they do not like each other.This FA Cup final, therefore, is a collision between two juggernauts, with a genuine rivalry on the touchline too. Could we have asked for more?The big problem about this final, though, is the mood music going into the game. Saturday should be about one club adding yet another trophy to their collection, but whoever ends up victorious, it will feel like a consolation prize.Added to that is the sense that both clubs and managers go into this weekend underneath heavy grey clouds, with neither United and Jose Mourinho or Chelsea and Antonio Conte meeting expectations this season.In the case of United, a win on Saturday would move them level with Arsenal as the competition’s most successful club with 13 FA Cups.

But with Manchester City cruising to the Premier League title, amassing an unprecedented 100 points to embellish their success, and Liverpool making it to the Champions League final in Kiev next week, an FA Cup will feel like small fry compared to what their biggest rivals could achieve.City and Liverpool have also played with style and ambition, in contrast to the more cautious, functional approach of Mourinho’s United, so there is no sense of celebration around Old Trafford in the build-up to the cup final.It may smack of arrogance or a misplaced sense of worth, but United are about winning Premier Leagues and European Cups. FA Cups are great, but they simply do not measure up when the bigger prizes are won by others.And as for Chelsea, their campaign has left Conte’s position hanging by a thread. With last season’s champions finishing this season outside the top four, Saturday will almost certainly be Conte’s final game in charge because even a win at Wembley is unlikely to be enough to save him.Next season will be about Thursday nights in the Europa League and attempting to build again under a new manager and winning the FA Cup won’t change that.But there is also an under-riding sense that this cup final is a clash between two teams who have no obvious forward momentum.A cup final can often be the launchpad for something bigger and better, and that would have applied to Tottenham had they made it past United to make it to Wembley this weekend.But both United and Chelsea are flawed right now. Chelsea are looking rudderless under Conte, while United’s team under Mourinho appears no closer to being the finished article, two years after he arrived to build it.United are a team that has beaten all of the top six at least once this season and finished a comfortable second in the Premier League, but they also lost to all three promoted clubs and dropped points against relegated Stoke and West Brom. They remain an enigma.But would winning the FA Cup save United’s or Chelsea’s season? That is often the comfort blanket thrown out for teams that have under-delivered, but it will not cover up the failings of either of them.They both want and expect to be challenging for the biggest prizes and neither has come close to suggesting they are anywhere near ready to win the league or European Cup any time soon.Winning an FA Cup and celebrating it in traditional fashion would ultimately be nothing more than a reminder of their shortcomings in the competitions which, to United and Chelsea at least, are the only ones that really matter.But that is the problem when clubs have gorged on success, as United and Chelsea have. When the big trophies end up somewhere else, games like the FA Cup final do not seem to matter quite so much as they used to.

Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho rivalry: a timeline of hate

3:12 AM ET–Liam TwomeyChelsea Correspondent

Tensions between Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have subsided in recent months, but the enduring contempt between the two men remains a key subplot heading into Saturday’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United.ESPN FC takes a look back at how such antipathy developed between two of English football’s most high-profile coaches.

October 2016 — Mourinho humiliated at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea won 4-0 on Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge return and Conte riled his opposite number by waving his arms to encourage the home fans to raise the volume for their team in the final minutes. Mourinho was reported as telling him in Italian: “You don’t celebrate like that at 4-0. You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”

Speaking to Sky Italia after the match, Conte insisted he had no regrets. “I’ve been a player too and I know how to behave,” he said pointedly.

March 2017 — Mourinho highlights Chelsea’s “privilege”

Ahead of another United visit to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals, Mourinho had a simple explanation for why his former club were 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. “The most difficult thing to have is time to work, and they have time to work,” he said, referring to Chelsea’s lack of Champions League commitments. “They have time so they are in a position of privilege, but I don’t want to say that they don’t deserve credit for it.”Mourinho also offered Conte a back-handed compliment for his team’s style of play. “They defend a lot and well, and they counter-attack and kill opponents on the counter-attack, similar to my Chelsea,” he added.

March 2017 — Conte riled by Hazard treatment

Chelsea beat United again, this time 1-0, in a game marked by heated touchline exchanges between Conte and Mourinho.The Italian was angered by the visitors’ persistent fouling of Eden Hazard that led to the early dismissal of Ander Herrera, interpreting it as a deliberate and cynical strategy. “This tactic, to play by going to kick the opponent, does not exist,” he insisted afterwards. “It’s not football for me.”

April 2017 — Conte belittles United spending

Shortly after a 2-0 defeat to United at Old Trafford cut Chelsea’s lead over Tottenham to four points, Conte pointed out that the failure of both Manchester clubs to compete for the Premier League title proved that spending big in the transfer market is no guarantee of success.”I think this season it’s very important to understand that it’s not always who spends more money who wins,” he said. “Otherwise, in this league, this season the name [at the top] would not be Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool.”

July 2017 — Conte out to avoid “the Mourinho season”

Flushed with Premier League title success, an emboldened Conte revealed he had warned his Chelsea players that he would not tolerate a repeat of the spectacular collapse Mourinho presided over in the 2015-16 season.”Two years ago, the team finished 10th place in the league and we want to avoid this,” he said during the club’s preseason tour of the Far East. “I want to avoid, and the players want to avoid, the last season with Mourinho.”

July 2017 — Mourinho aims hair dig at Conte

Mourinho couldn’t resist responding with athinly-veiled reference to the hair transplant that Conte reportedly underwent before embarking on his coaching career. “I could answer in many different ways but I’m not going to lose my hair to speak about Antonio Conte,” he said.

October 2017 – Conte warns Mourinho to stop talking about Chelsea

Mourinho poked at Conte again after United’s Champions League win over Benfica. “Other managers, they cry, they cry, they cry when a player is injured,” he said, referring to the Italian’s frequent mentions of the key absentees that were undermining Chelsea’s season. “If I want to moan and cry like the others, I can cry for the next five minutes. But I don’t.”

“I think he has to think about his team and start looking at himself, not others,” Conte bristled in reply. “I think that a lot of times Mourinho [likes] to see what happens at Chelsea. A lot of times, also last season.”

November 2017 — Mourinho and Conte blank each other

Chelsea beat United 1-0 again at Stamford Bridge, this time in a match that passed largely without incident. The tension between Conte and Mourinho was palpable, however, and the Italian strode on to the pitch at the final whistle without looking to shake his rival’s hand.”You want me to go and chase him into the middle of the pitch?” Mourinho saidwhen asked about it. “I was there. I shook hands with the people who were there. I think one of them was his brother, the assistant, so I feel that, by shaking the hands of his brother and the other assistants, I did my duty.””It’s not important,” Conte insisted to Sky Sports. “It’s important to win the game. You have to have the respect on the pitch, not outside the pitch.”

January 2018 — Mourinho makes “clown on the touchline” jibe

The latest escalation in hostilities was sparked by Mourinho, who insisted he retains his passion for football despite not acting like “a clown on the touchline” — widely interpreted to be a reference to Conte’s demonstrative style.Conte certainly thought so, and when the comment was put to him he suggested Mourinho had a memory problem that had made him forget his own past actions. He used the Italian phrase “demenza senile“, which translates as senile dementia, though Chelsea insisted he meant to say amnesia.

January 2018 — Mourinho brings up Conte’s match-fixing charge

“I don’t need the Chelsea manager to say I made mistakes in the past,” Mourinho responded when asked about Conte’s comments, before adding: “What has never happened to me and will never happen is to be suspended for match-fixing.”Conte was accused of failing to report match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena and banned for four months by the Italian football authorities while coach of Juventus in 2011, though he was cleared of wrongdoing five years later.

January 2018 — Conte calls Mourinho a “little man” and a “fake”

Conte did not react kindly to Mourinho bringing up one of the most traumatic experiences of his career, and renewed his attack after Chelsea’s goalless draw with Norwich City in the FA Cup third round.”In the past he was a little man in many circumstances, he is a little man in the present and for sure he will be a little man in the future,” Conte said of Mourinho. “You know him very well. The level is very low.”He also accused the Portuguese of insincerity. “When he was in Italy he offended [Claudio] Ranieri for his English,” Conte added. “Then when Ranieri was sacked [by Leicester City] he put on a shirt [with initials on it in support of] Ranieri. This shows you are a fake.”Conte concluded his extraordinary rant with a comment that will ensure huge anticipation ahead of next month’s meeting. “It will be the opportunity [to clarify things] in the game against United when we go to Old Trafford,” he insisted. “Me and him, face to face. I’m ready. I don’t know if he’s ready.”

February 2018 — A surprise truce is called

The hotly-anticipated touchline showdown did not materialise at Old Trafford. Having avoided any further incendiary comments in their prematch news conferences, Mourinho and Conte shook hands and co-existed peacefully as United beat Chelsea 2-1.”The handshake doesn’t need any words,” the United boss said afterwards. “Mourinho and Conte, they are not two ordinary persons in football. We have a history, we have an image and I’m really happy with that.”Conte’s take on the ceasefire was less enthusiastic. “We wanted to shake hands and we did this,” he said simply.

April 2018 — Conte defends Chelsea record

When it was pointed out that Mourinho won 72 of his first 100 matches as Chelsea manager compared to Conte’s 65, the Italian was keen to point out the context of his own achievements.”We are talking about a great manager,” he said of Mourinho. “[But] don’t forget that the first 100 games with Mourinho were many years ago. Now it’s not so simple, I think, to have this type of results in this moment, in this present Chelsea.”

May 2018 — Conte references ‘the Mourinho season’ again

Facing criticism for missing out on the top four and with many predicting his exit, Conte stressed that Chelsea will begin next season in a stronger position than when he arrived in the summer of 2016, only months removed from Mourinho’s disastrous title defence.”Last season, after a 10th place, we won the Premier League,” he said. “It was difficult. We worked very hard, but we won. After a 10th-place finish. Now, probably, you can finish fifth and start with a bit of an advantage compared to when you finish 10th.”

Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid deliver trademark performance to seal Europa League glory

5:12 PM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

LYON, France — Three thoughts on Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the Europa League final.

  1. Atletico win first trophy in four years

Antoine Griezmann’s double and captain Gabi’s late goal secured a 3-0 victory for Atletico Madrid over Marseille in Wednesday’s 2018 Europa League final — with Diego Simeone’s side deserved winners both on the night and of the competition.A spirited Marseille team gave it their all, but Atletico were just too streetwise and also just too good. Both of Griezmann’s goals were superbly finished after naive mistakes from the French side, while Gabi’s late clincher came just after substitute Clinton Njie had butchered his side’s last chance to make a game of it.Cheered on by what seemed to be about 80 percent of the 59,000 in the crowd at the Stade de Lyon, Marseille made by far the better start — only for a crucial error on 20 minutes from young midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa to be punished ruthlessly by Atletico’s No. 7.The mood inside the stadium swung completely with the goal, and things fell even further Atletico’s way when Marseille’s best player, Dimitri Payet, was soon forced off injured. Rudi Garcia’s team had two-thirds of the possession in the first 45 minutes, but Atletico scored their only real chance.Simeone’s side scored their first opportunity of the second half, too, as just four minutes in Saul Niguez was quickest to a loose ball near the halfway line, and within seconds Koke released Griezmann to exquisitely lift the ball over Steve Mandanda and into the net. Marseille kept trying, but the breaks kept going Atletico’s way, and substitute Kostas Mitroglou’s deft late header beat Jan Oblak but not the post.Gabi then wrapped up the scoring late on, and celebrated like a man who would prefer to forget he called this competition “s—” when his side dropped into it from the Champions League last December. However, they quickly refocused their campaign around this relatively achievable target. In truth the semi-finals against Arsenal provided a bigger challenge for Simeone’s side, who did not even need to be at their very best here.Winning the Europa League was not how Atletico planned their 2017-18 season to end, but they proved Wednesday night that they were clearly the best team in this season’s competition, and a four-year wait for another major trophy is finally over.

  1. Griezmann delivers potential parting shot on big stage

If this is to be Griezmann’s final big game for Atletico, then the France international delivered in a huge way — making a case that he could well be the world’s third-best individual player.

The Rojiblanco side’s build-up to the game was dominated by talk over Griezmann’s future, with a €100 million summer move to Barcelona reportedly lined up. He was then among the Atletico players who did not seem quite right through the opening stages, as just minutes before the game’s key moment he uncharacteristically lost possession deep in his own half. But when Anguissa’s error was anticipated and pounced upon by Gabi, the locally born, boyhood Lyon fan was super cool as he tricked his France teammate Mandanda and rolled the ball nervelessly into the net.Even with Diego Costa back, Griezmann has clearly been Atletico’s most important player through this season — with his dip in form at the start of the campaign a major reason they ended up in the Europa League in the first place. But he has been excellent through 2018 and decisive in each round of this competition, scoring the key away goal in the semi-final first leg and assisting Costa’s clincher in the return leg against Arsenal.That brings Griezmann to 29 goals and 15 assists for 2017-18, and you can see why even teammate Filipe Luis considers his €100m release clause a steal. Maybe winning a first trophy alongside the teammates with whom he has suffered so much in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals might make him decide to stay. But if he does leave this summer, he will at least go having delivered the team major silverware.

  1. Pain for Marseille, and potentially for France

Tonight was Marseille’s 19th Europa League fixture this season, and realistically this one was a step too far against an opponent ranked 44 places above them by UEFA at the start of the season.Not that OM did not make a real go of it. Their fans made a real racket inside the stadium pre-game, smuggled-in flares and firecrackers included. The white and light blue majority were bouncing up and down throughout the opening stages, with their team quicker into challenges, and Valere Germain missing a great chance to really shock Atletico after just three minutes.But then reality settled in — with both Mandanda’s pass and Anguissa’s first touch just not of the standard for a major final. Payet soon succumbing to injury was another huge blow, as the France international was his team’s most likely to magic a way through the super-tight Atletico defence. Conceding a second so soon after half-time realistically meant all was over bar the singing, which continued right until the end.Marseille (ranked 46th by UEFA preseason) were aiming to be the first Ligue 1 team to win any European trophy since Paris-Saint Germain won the 1995-96 Cup Winners’ Cup. In the end, they could not quite deliver what would have been a real boost for French football — while Payet’s injury could be a further problem for Les Bleus with the summer’s World Cup now less than a month away.

Atletico Madrid need Antoine Griezmann and Jan Oblak to stay to buck leaving trend

6:02 AM ETLYON, France — Dermot CorriganESPN FC   Before the last of the red and white confetti had fallen to the ground after Atletico Madrid’s Europa League winning celebrations on Wednesday evening, the issue of whether the team’s two most important players — Antoine Griezmann and Jan Oblak — would still be at the club next season returned.It has been ever thus at Atletico, where the list of recent past Europa League winners to move on has included David De Gea, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Thibaut Courtois (on loan), the last four all leaving directly after celebrating a trophy. Griezmann, who put in a matchwinning performance with his two goals in a 3-0 win, was clearly delighted to have finally won a major competition at the end of his fourth season as an Atletico player. But the 27-year-old, linked with a €100 million move to Barcelona, was controlled enough to bat away questions at the postmatch news conference about whether he would be the next to be tempted away.”This is not the moment to talk about my future, I must enjoy having won a trophy,” he said. “The truth is this was a dream for me, to win something with Atletico, with [coach Diego Simeone] and my friends and teammates. My relationship with the fans, the people at the club, gets stronger every year, which is why I give everything on the pitch.”Griezmann’s commitment and contribution to Atletico’s victory in the tournament has been clear. After the team dropped down to the competition after failing in the Champions League group stages, he scored in each Europa League round, including the key away goal in the semifinal at Arsenal, and a coolly-taken double which set up a comfortable victory over Marseille in the final.Goalkeeper Oblak has been arguably just as vital — with a string of outstanding saves when the 10 men were defending for their lives at the Emirates, and clean sheets kept in his other five Europa League appearances this season. Unlike Griezmann and other teammates including Koke and Saul Niguez, the Slovenia international has not had a payrise since joining from Benfica in 2014, and clearly feels one is due.

“I’ve a contract here, and I don’t know what will happen in the future,” Oblak said in the Stade de Lyon mixed zone Wednesday night. “It does not depend on me. I’m not thinking about anything else but Sunday, when we need a point to finish second [in La Liga].”The 2017-18 season has been a challenging one for everybody at Atletico. Even before it started the mood was badly affected by Griezmann spending most of last summer flirting with Manchester United. A FIFA transfer ban meant new arrivals Diego Costa and Vitolo could not be used for the first six months. And the move from their much loved Estadio Vicente Calderon home to the shiny but impersonal Wanda Metropolitano took a lot of getting used to.ll of that contributed directly to 2014 and 2016 Champions League finalists exiting the competition by December. And that meant money had to be quickly raised — with five players leaving in January and February. The Europa League was not where Simeone and his team wanted to be, but their achievement in refocusing their objectives was impressive.The hope now among many at the club — verbalised by captain Gabi after the game — is that such tangible reward for their efforts will persuade Griezmann and Oblak to stay one more season at least. The extra prize money and commercial benefits from winning a major European trophy might also help club CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin find a few extra million euros for both too. It would be useful if Atletico do get at least a point at home to Eibar on Saturday evening, to finish ahead of Real Madrid in La Liga for only the second time the last 21 years.Simeone himself regularly maintains that his most important goal is constant incremental year on year improvement. But the Argentine had to accept that having something concrete to celebrate was really important on Wednesday night.”We had to keep going,” Simeone said. “The best way to win is to keep insisting. We had already lost two Champions League finals, one in the last minute, and then penalties. But these kids are the living history of Atletico, they are marvellous. We have won again, which was what we needed.”The much sought after coach has been firm in maintaining that he has no plans to leave Atletico any time soon, and speculation he might be interested in taking over at Chelsea or Arsenal this summer looks wide of the mark. The Champions League remains the Holy Grail for Simeone and this side, and not losing their two best players is vital to their chances of making it back to the 2018-19 final, which just happens to be hosted at their Wanda Metropolitano stadium.Neither Griezmann nor Oblak appeared to be swayed by their feelings however, even amid the emotional party scenes on Wednesday night. Simeone, Gil Marin, Gabi and others were all doing their best to persuade the pair to stay, but the silence over their future plans suggests both are still leaning towards leaving.

Antoine Griezmann scores brace, earns 10/10 in potential Atletico send-off

5:56 PM ETJoseph Walker

Atletico Madrid secured Europa League glory as they swatted aside Marseille 3-0 in Lyon on Wednesday night.Antoine Griezmann hit a classy double while Gabi put the icing on the cake late on, however it was not all plain sailing as the French side put Los Rojiblancosunder pressure from the off.After weathering the storm, Griezmann opened the scoring before adding a second after the break in a stunning individual display. While they may have wanted to win the Champions League, the Europa is not a bad second.

Positives

A trophy in the cabinet, a clean sheet and a memorable night for the fans. Plus Fernando Torres has finally won a major trophy with his boyhood club! Hoorah!

Negatives

How can you pick any holes on such a night?

Manager rating out of 10

8 — The suspended Diego Simeone would have suffered in the stands but he got his team selection spot on.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 6 — Could not have dreamed he would have had such an easy night. Will have done well not to catch a cold, mind

DF Sime Vrsaljko, 5 — Struggled. Marseille targeted him and he was booked early on as he struggled against Lucas Ocampos. Hooked at the break.

DF Diego Godin, 8 — The leader at the back. Did everything that was required of him both in the air and on the ground. Went close at the other end, too.

DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 7 — See above. Won all his individual battles and helped keep the fluid Marseille attack at bay. A good night at the office.

DF Lucas Hernandez, 7 — Does such a convincing impression of a natural full-back. Atleti mainly attacked down the other flank, meaning he was free to concentrate on his defensive duties.

MF Angel Correa, 6 — Not quite his day going forward but he put in a mammoth shift as he worked tirelessly for the team down the right-hand side defensively. Always offered help to his full-back.

MF Gabi, 8 — Chastised himself for some misplaced balls in the first period, but made no mistake as he fed Griezmann for the opener before smashing in the third to put the cherry on the cake. Captain’s goal

MF Saul Niguez 8 — A tireless performance. He covered every blade of grass and was great in the build-up for second. Looked as if he was about to collapse at the end.

MF Koke, 8 — Another who was a bit off colour in the first 45, but came alive after the break. It was his brilliant pass to play in Griezmann for his second that helped seal glory, while he later teed up Gabi, too.

FW Diego Costa, 7 — Enjoyed a running battle with Adil Rami that he largely came out second best in. Having said that, it was his terrific decoy run that created the space for Griezmann to fire in the second.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 10 — Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Showed brilliant composure for both his goals, sending Steve Mandanda the wrong way for the first before producing a sublime little dink for the second. Best player on the park by a long, long way. If that is his goodbye to the club, then what a way to sign off.

Substitutes

DF Juanfran , 7 — Looked far more solid than the man he replaced Vrsaljko. Gave the side another dimension after the break.

MF Thomas, NR — Replaced the tiring Correa late on to help see out the win.

FW Fernando Torres, NR — Given a run out to the delight of the Atleti faithful. Lifted the trophy alongside Gabi in a classy touch from the skipper.

Real Madrid-Liverpool Champions League final too close to call – Rafa Benitez

4:30 AM ETDermot CorriganESPN FC

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez told Marca the Champions League final will pit Real Madrid’s experience against Liverpool’s advantage in intensity.Benitez had a turbulent six months in charge at Madrid during the 2015-16 season, having previously won the Champions League in 2005 while managing at Anfield from 2004 to 2010.He said Madrid had come through awkward moments to get to the final on May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine, while Liverpool’s ability to blitz opponents was shown in their semifinal against Roma.”It will be a very interesting final,” Benitez said. “Watching Madrid against Juventus and Bayern [Munich], you a realise they have experience and quality, know how to manage difficult situations in games. … That is a plus.”Liverpool, by contrast, have a lot of tensity, quality, rhythm. … The rhythm in the Premier League is above other leagues, and you saw that against Roma.”Benitez, then, doesn’t see a clear winner ahead of the game.”Both could win,” he said. “The first goal will determine how the game develops. … I have a lot of respect for both sides. May the best team win.”Benitez was fired by Madrid president Florentino Perez in January 2016 having had a difficult relationship with some players. Zinedine Zidane replaced him and immediately guided the team to the Champions League title, and they then won the Champions League and La Liga double in 2016-17.”In my final stage at Madrid, those who understand and analyse a little what goes on around the club know why what happened happened,” Benitez said. “It was not as bad as people think, as things were done very seriously and professionally. In any case, I have many years of good memories at Madrid.”Meanwhile, Vicente Del Bosque, who won the Champions League at Madrid in 2000 and 2002, told El Pais that the key to the current side’s success is the midfield management of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.”They have two in centre of the field, Kroos and Modric, who are perfect,” Del Bosque said. “They are the ones who hold things together. They have two excellent full-backs. And up front: Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Gareth] Bale, [Karim] Benzema, Lucas [Vazquez], [Marco] Asensio.”

Barca’s PR mess after defeat, praise for Allegri as Juve win Serie A

10:18 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

How about that for a boomerang? In the binary world of Spanish football, this was the sort of gaffe that does double damage. Right now, Barcelona should be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of a Double-winning campaign that saw them go undefeated in La Liga. Maybe send their old rival from the Bernabeu a few postcards ahead of Kiev, too, just to ratchet up the pressure.Instead, they’re dealing with a PR disaster after the dramatic 5-4 defeat away to Levante (a team with nothing to play for) and, above all, the decision to “rest” Lionel Messi ahead of a friendly match in South Africa on Wednesday.This is a situation where optics matter and from Barca’s perspective, they are frankly atrocious. To the world, it looks as if they threw away the chance to make history by agreeing to play a friendly match before the end of the season so that they could rake in some extra millions. But because it’s halfway around the globe, they rested a bunch of players to do it, including their star asset. And they paid a heavy price for their money-grubbing greed. We may never know who exactly decided what and when, so let’s stick to what we do know. Messi was rested and Gerard Pique left on the bench (although he came on after half an hour). Those two factors signal the reality that Ernesto Valverde thought this game, or at least the draw, was going to be close to a gimme. As for the greed argument, it’s not as if Jose Maria Bartomeu is going to pocket whatever appearance fee (which, by the way, probably isn’t going to be enormous like a trip to the Gulf) Barca earns.Friendlies like this one often do have stipulations about who makes the trip and who plays and, for the biggest stars, how many minutes they are on the pitch. So it’s entirely possible that this is what happened with Messi. On the other hand, Barca have one game left, at home to Real Sociedad. If he was rested, it’s rather hard to believe that it was Valverde’s idea — not unless he’s suddenly become Jorge Sampaoli’s assistant with Argentina and is looking ahead to the World Cup.A more plausible explanation — and this is purely speculation — is that Messi asked to miss the trip and when Barca found that contractually it would not be possible, he was given Sunday off instead. Either way, it’s not a good look.All that said, it doesn’t change the fact, as Valverde pointed out after the match, that Barcelona contrived to give up five goals. Or that they’ve kept one clean sheet in the past two months, giving up an average of nearly two goals a game after having, for much of the season, the best defence in La Liga.

Give Allegri serious credit for Juve’s latest title

Juventus’ 0-0 draw away to Roma means they’ve sealed their seventh consecutive Serie A title. Chief executive Beppe Marotta said it was the toughest of the streak, and he’s right. Napoli pushed them hard for much of the campaign, as evidenced by the fact that they too may yet break the 90-point barrier.Staying hungry and motivated for so long is no minor feat either. As Rocky Balboa likes to say, “time is undefeated” and there were moments when it looked as if this old prizefighter was going to wobble and collapse.We sometimes overstate the importance of managers, but in this case, a whole load of credit has to go to Max Allegri. He didn’t just win his fourth straight Serie A crown with Juve; he also won his fourth straight Coppa Italia, making it four Doubles in four years. And while it’s true that Serie A isn’t as deep and competitive as it was once upon a time — and the continued underperformance of the Milan clubs, who have the financial clout to challenge Juve, favours them — it’s equally true that his European performances speak for themselves. In four years, he reached two Champions League finals, and on another two occasions, he was twice knocked out with virtually the last kick of the game (against Bayern and Real Madrid). That makes it pretty clear that he and his team belong at the top table.

Juventus have the most resources in Serie A and the best squad, but it still takes a certain character to keep everything together. Allegri navigated the acrimonious loss of Leo Bonucci in the summer (again, now it doesn’t seem so important, although at the time everyone was going all Chicken Little), he had the courage to bench Paulo Dybala (who nevertheless scored 26 goals) when he deemed it necessary, he found the right balance in midfield, he coaxed performances from the old legs of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic and Gigi Buffon.Cheering against Juventus is a national sport in Italy — it happens when you’re dominant, just ask Bayern or, back in the day, Manchester United — but this season he also had to contend with a Napoli side that were a genuine feel-good story, as well as some of his best performers from past years taking it down a notch or two (Stephan Lichtsteiner and Alex Sandro are exhibits A and B). And he did all this while being linked, again, with a move away from the club.This being Italy, we’ll always wondered what would have happened if Miralem Pjanic had received that second yellow against Inter, and it’s fair to do that. But equally, take nothing away from what Juventus achieved this season.

Man City’s remarkable 100-point mark

Gabriel Jesus’ late, late goal at Southampton meant Manchester City became the first team to reach the 100-point mark in Premier League history. How rare is it for a team to reach triple figures in a 38-game season in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues?Exceedingly so. If you account for the fact that the Bundesliga plays a 34-match campaign and include Bayern in 2012-13 (they had 91 in 34, which projects past 101), then it has only happened three times: Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona (2012-13), Antonio Conte’s last Juventus side (2013-14) and Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid (2011-12). But then you realize that all of this took place since 2011 and that the Ligue 1 record (96 points for Paris Saint-Germain in 2015-16) also happened in that time frame and you wonder what the proper context for it is.This is by far the most polarized period in the history of the game, where the gap between the haves and have-nots is as great as it has ever been. It doesn’t diminish any of these achievements, but it’s simply a matter of fact and it doesn’t looks as if it’s going to change any time soon.

What does Mourinho, Faria split mean?

The thing about assistant coaches is that from the outside, it’s really tough to judge what they contribute or even how they contribute. If they’re attached to successful coaches, you assume they’re an important part of their success, especially if they’ve been around a long time. But equally, it’s very tough to draw conclusions about how they might handle a job on their own or how much of an impact their departure would have. (Sir Alex Ferguson famously cycled through assistants every few years and scarcely missed a beat.)The fact that Rui Faria and Jose Mourinho are splitting up after 17 years together — and amicably, by all accounts — is tough to read and any predictions will, invariably, be guesses. What you can say quite confidently, having spoken to players and coaches who have worked with both of them, is that Faria was a key component of the “Mourinho package” and that his knowledge and understanding of the game, while not always completely aligned with his boss, runs deep.

Real’s big win creates Bale dilemma for Zidane

It was classic “end-of-season, school’s out” stuff when Real Madrid hosted Celta Vigo on Saturday, and the 6-0 home win was perhaps more about avoiding injury and helping Zinedine Zidane figure out how his pieces might fit together in Kiev.Achraf Hakimi turned a fine performance at right-back and is a fair alternative to jack-of-all-trades Nacho should Dani Carvajal not recover. But it was Gareth Bale, who notched two goals and offered another reminder (after his strike in the Clasico) that he too can take it to another level. You wonder whether Zidane might not be tempted to ride form, and nostalgia, and go back to the “BBC” against Liverpool.You wonder too how his future will pan out. Last season Bale missed half the campaign and Real Madrid were often better without him. This year he’s up to 18 goals in 37 appearances, which is a tidy total given who he plays with and that he rarely lasts 90 minutes. Conventional wisdom has it that, at 28 years old, and with Marco Asensio and Isco on board plus possibly another attacking superstar on his way in, the club should cash in on him.On the flip side, he earns north of $17 million a season, is on the hook until 2022, and because of his style of play, any club he joins will likely have to adjust to him, more than the other way around.

Salah sets a Premier League record

Following his record-breaking season, the FC crew debate whether Mohamed Salah has surpassed Neymar as the best player after Messi and Ronaldo.

Mohamed Salah scored the opening goal for Liverpool against Brighton thereby breaking the Premier League era record for most top-flight goals in a 38-game season, previously held jointly by Luis Suarez, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo. (The overall Premier League record is 34, held by Shearer and Andy Cole, and that was in a 42-game season.)Regular readers will know that I don’t like the concept of Premier League records since football didn’t begin in 1992, so let’s get this out of the way: Dixie Dean scored sixty (yes, sixty) in 42 games in 1927-28. But in the past 50 years, only four men have scored more than Salah in a single English top-flight season, whether it be 42 or 38 games: Francis Lee, Clive Allen, Shearer and Cole. And that on its own is remarkable before you even get to the fact that Salah is not a traditional center-forward.

Hamburg finally suffer relegation

You draw more than 50,000 fans a game. You’re from the second biggest city in Europe’s biggest economy. No German club (other than Bayern Munich) have been in more finals than you have. You’re one of only three Bundesliga clubs to have been European champion. In terms of revenue (despite not benefitting from European football, because you haven’t had that in ages) you’re in the top half of the table. And you’re middle of the pack in wages.ou really should not be getting relegated. Instead Hamburg, who went down on Saturday, have found themselves in relegation dogfights almost every season of late. This is more than mere underachievement; this is failure on a grand scale. And it’s likely systemic because they’ve had 13 different managers (excluding caretakers and counting Bruno Labbadia’s two stints separately) since February 2007.The club’s hyper-democratic statutes probably don’t help — nobody is allowed to own as much as a quarter of the club — but the issues go well beyond that. If you make foolish choices time after time eventually you get punished.

Time for Balotelli to get Italy recall?

Mario Balotelli continues to divide opinion. The pro-Mario faction in Italy suggest that it’s time for the Azzurri to welcome him back into the fold (he hasn’t played since that defeat against Uruguay in 2014) and they cite his 18 Ligue 1 goals this season and how it’s “just one less than Neymar”.Well, yes. But if you take penalties out of it, it’s actually three less than Neymar. And Neymar appeared in seven fewer Ligue 1 games. So maybe let’s leave the Brazilian out of this, shall we?A more compelling argument is that Balotelli’s behaviour has been far more consistent, both on the pitch and off it. He has 26 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions, which is a pretty good total and the highest of his career by some distance. Throw in the fact that the likely new Italy boss, Roberto Mancini, knows him very well and that the Azzurri front line isn’t exactly packed with talent, and yes, at the very least it’s worth giving him a shot.After all, Italy don’t have much else going on this summer.

Neymar exit saga begins early at PSG

Neymar won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year award in the week that PSG stumbled to a 2-0 home defeat to Rennes in one of those classic end-of-season games in which the team that needs the points gets the points. You can scoff at the French league all you like, but when you’re third in goals and top in assists and have only played 20 league matches — well, that tells its own story.PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi says that the Brazil star will “2,000 percent” be with PSG next season, and Neymar himself, although stopping short of committing, said the transfer speculation is annoying. That may be the case, but there are plenty of elephants in the room, and that’s why he continues to be linked in the media with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United. Not to mention the fact that everybody remembers that this time last year he would have called speculation about a move away from Barca “annoying” as well.The other sticking point is financial fair play. In the next few weeks, PSG will find out if they’ve breached FFP requirements in signing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and whether they’ll be sanctioned for it. The range of punishments goes right up to exclusion from the Champions League, fines, squad restrictions and a freeze on transfers. It’s unlikely they’ll be kicked out — although if guilty, they would be two-time offenders — but the fact remains that until that is sorted, nobody can definitively say what will happen.This might explain why Neymar simply calls the speculation “annoying” rather than joining his boss in throwing out mathematical impossibilities.

Conflict of interest for De Vrij?

By all indications, Lazio’s Dutch center-back Stefan de Vrij, whose contract is running down, has signed to play for Inter next season. It puts him in a rather curious position since Lazio and Inter are competing for Serie A’s final Champions League spot and face each other next weekend: Inter need to win to qualify.Talk about conflict of interest. Take all ethical considerations out of it and look at it purely from a rational Ayn Randian perspective and de Vrij should intentionally underperform against his new club. Doing otherwise might cost him a chance to play Champions League football (and with it, money and glory) while also costing Inter tens of millions of dollars.Of course, thankfully, we live in a world of principle as well. De Vrij showed what he’s made of Saturday by turning in a monster performance for Lazio against Crotone, including a goal-line save. It will be curious to see whether Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi (there have been conflicting reports) trusts him against Inter next week.Either way, the obvious conclusion is that no player should even find himself in this position, and yet it happens time and again, particularly in Germany and Italy.

And finally…

Bas Dost scored for Sporting in their 2-1 defeat away to Maritimo. The loss means they finish the season in third place, 10 points behind the champions, Porto. He finishes the league season with 27 goals in 30 league matches. Overall, he has in 33 in 46 games in all competitions.This concludes this instalment of #BasDostWatch.

Tim Ream and Fulham one step from promotion to Premier League

By Steven Goff May 15 at 7:06 AM Email the author  Washington Post

While we await more news about D.C. United and Wayne Rooney, you should know that …

>> U.S. defender Tim Ream and Fulham are one step from promotion to the Premier League after defeating Derby County, 2-0, at Craven Cottage to advance to the Championship’s playoff final on 2-1 aggregate. Fulham will face Middlesbrough or Aston Villa on May 26 at Wembley, the Cottagers’ first visit to the iconic stadium since the 1975 FA Cup final. They are seeking to return to the top flight for the first time since 2013-14.

>> Another American defender, Matt Miazga, is involved in a playoff as Vitesse faces Utrecht over two legs for a Europa League berth from the Dutch Eredivisie. The first match is today at Vitesse.

>> In Israel, American forward Aaron Schoenfeld and Maccabi Tel Aviv are home against Beitar “Trump” Jerusalem.

>> The U.S. national team isn’t going to the World Cup, but several MLS players are headed to Russia. Federations submitted their provisional lists Monday and have until June 4 to finalize their 23-man squads. In a bit of a surprise, D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura was not chosen by Costa Rica.

>> U.S. interim boss Dave Sarachan on Sunday will name his squad for the May 28 friendly against Bolivia in Chester, Pa. Following that match, he will announce about 10 roster changes ahead of tests against Ireland on June 2 in Dublin and France on June 9 in Lyon. U.S. camp will open Monday at the University of Pennsylvania.

>> Concacaf this week is rolling out the identities of the U.S. venues for the 2019 Gold Cup. On Monday, LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium and the University of Phoenix Stadium were introduced. The expanded tournament — 16 teams instead of 12 — will also include venues in Central America and the Caribbean. Organizers will unveil those locations at later dates.

MLS Power Rankings: Toronto tumbles seven spots, Atlanta leads unchanged top four

12:47 AM ETJason Davis

  1. Atlanta United (no change)
    Wednesday’s loss to SKC came down to a combination of factors, including a bit of bad luck, but it showed that United is vulnerable. The win against Orlando set the ship right and keeps Atlanta on top of the overall standings.
  2. New York Red Bulls (no change)
    The finest of margins helped the Red Bulls grab three points on the road in Colorado when Derrick Etienne’s goal was ruled onside thanks to VAR. Close decision or not, New York deserved the win and looks like a contender in the East.ADVERTISEMENT
  3. Sporting Kansas City (no change) 
    Sporting earned a lot of admirers with a 2-0 win in Atlanta on Wednesday night. Tim Melia’s work in goal and a red card to Brad Guzan were major factors in a win that puts SKC squarely among the league’s elite.
  4. New York City FC (no change)
    In a wild, back-and forth affair against the new team in Los Angeles, NYCFC escaped with a well-earned draw. The draw on the other side of the country helps salve some of the wounds from last week’s 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls.
  5. Columbus Crew SC (+3)
    Circumstances matter when it comes to a talented player’s production. Just ask Gyasi Zardes, whose switch to Columbus has him leading the league in goals through 11 weeks with eight — including three in two games this week.
  6. LAFC (+1)
    Two home games during the week delivered LAFC four points and kept the unbeaten run going. It wasn’t all that Bob Bradley wanted, but as the club adjusts to life without Marco Urena, it wasn’t a bad pair of results.
  7. Portland Timbers (+2)
    On the occasion of the 100th edition (through various leagues) of the Cascadia Derby, the Timbers managed to find a late winner on a brilliant finish from Sebastian Blanco. Maybe better was the ball from Samuel Armenteros that set up Blanco for the goal.
  8. Orlando City (-2)
    The Lions’ six-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday, a disappointing result for a team clamoring for respect. Losing to Atlanta doesn’t mean Orlando isn’t good, but neither can Orlando claim to be among the league’s best clubs.
  9. FC Dallas (+3)
    Two weeks and four points from matches against the Los Angeles sides means FC Dallas now has an unbeaten run. Mauro Diaz proved his worth with a pair of assists on his return from a short injury layoff.
  10. New England Revolution (+3)
    Two goals in the first half gave the Revs the edge they needed to hold off the defending champs at Gillette Stadium. The win was another example of New England’s pressing game working to perfection and creating scoring chances.
  11. Houston Dynamo (-1)
    Houston was thisclose to exiting Vancouver with a crucial three points in the battle for a Western Conference playoff spot when Kendall Waston struck for late equalizer. It will feel like two points dropped rather than one point earned.
  12. Toronto FC (-7)
    The idea was that TFC would get back its swagger fairly quickly following the disappointment of the Champions League. Two losses in four days spells trouble, with the Red still languishing in 10th place in the East.

Indy Survive Battle Of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Riverhounds V Indy Eleven REVIEW

By: James Cormack  Bloody Shambles

Indy Eleven hit the road for a Friday night match this week against the only remaining undefeated team in USL, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The Boys in Blue entered the game undefeated away from home. At the end of the night, the song remains the same, Pittsburgh is still the only undefeated team in the USL and Indy have still not been beaten on the road nor have they conceded a goal.Indy Eleven notched their fifth clean sheet of 2018 and picked up one point in a very hard fought 0-0 draw at Highmark Stadium. All respect should be given to the home team for making this match a very difficult one for Indy Eleven, they will be sore for not finding the net after their efforts. They attacked well and defended even better but also failed in scoring.The first 20-25 minutes of the first half was somewhat cagey, both sides probing but not able to find a way to unlock their opposition, there were purple patches and scary moments for either side. From about halfway through the first half the tempo picked up and it did not cease for the entirety of the game.Pittsburgh pressed Indy Eleven very well and as the second half wore on Indy found it harder and harder to settle into any kind of rhythm, Riverhounds controlled the pace of the game and they made it very hard work. It was an incredible feat of survival really for Indy’s normally calm and collected defense, at times they looked shell-shocked and confused but still managed to hold down the clean sheet.

Martin Rennie again made slight changes to the starting lineup going with what looked like a 4-1-4-1 with Matern holding down the defensive midfield and Jack McInerney the lone striker. Kevin Venegas, who left the Louisville game late through injury was rested and Brad Ring again stepped in at right back. Justin Braun started to give us another attacking option and Watson was again rested.

Starting Lineup: Fôn Williams, Ring, Mitchell, Ouimette, Ayoze, Matern, Lewis, Braun, Steinberger, Saad, and McInerney. Subs: Farr, Rusin, Watson, Amankona, Speas, Guerra and Moses.It was enough of a shuffle to expect Indy to require a little time in this game to find themselves in a new formation. At a point in the game where Indy looked like they were settling, they were dealt a hammer blow when Carlyle Mitchell had to leave the field in the 35th minute. The pack was shuffled again and Brad Rusin stepped in alongside Ouimette.

As we know Indy has that luxury of roster depth and Rusin is a more than capable replacement and played a large part in Indy not conceding a goal. Indy was dealt another injury blow in the 62nd minute when Nico Matern also had to leave, replaced by Juan Guerra. Mitchell and Matern are a critical part of Indy’s defensive steel, credit to our team for still keeping the Riverhounds shut out for the remainder of the match.For the second consecutive away game, Martin Rennie chose not to use all three subs, the same happened in Charlotte, I am sure there is a good reason but I am not sure what it is. In both matches, Indy has a following Wednesday game.
I guess one could be forgiven for expecting a 0-0 draw, as mentioned Indy has not given up a goal on the road this year and Pittsburgh arguably have the best defense in the league having only conceded 3 goals in 8 matches. Neither side can be described as prolific in front of goal, although the Riverhounds have notched up 10 goals compared to Indy’s 7 for the season so far. goalless draw it was though, not much in the way of highlights but over the course of 99 or so minutes, Pittsburgh definitely looked like the team most likely to break the deadlock. Most of Indy’s attacks were opportunistic at best in the times between having to defend against a determined Pittsburgh attack. The Riverhounds back line has been touted as the best in the league, and on the evidence of this game, you can see why.

Positives: Indy again showed they are a difficult team to break down, they came under intense periods of pressure in this game and still did not concede a goal. We know we are defensively strong and in this game probably more than most they really had to endure and after losing two critical players who make up that defensive mettle Carlyle Mitchell and Nico Matern. Indy was pressed very hard and had to think on the fly, at times it was not pretty but they survived and denied Pittsburgh a win.Jack McInerney can probably be given the man of the match award, despite Indy being determined to throw 50/50 balls up front, McInerney despite not being the tallest player on the field won a lot of them and also created great scoring opportunities with clever distribution for Braun and Saad among others but they couldn’t be finished. He was trying to make things happen.

Negatives: Unfortunately for Indy again, thinking on the fly was not a strong point in their attack building, they can be forgiven for losing the ball or being thwarted when Pittsburgh put them under pressure, but there were plenty of moments with space and time in the game where the Eleven wasted it. Indy has more than enough ability to play a great passing game, but again poor decision making in possession stopped them from creating enough clear-cut scoring opportunities.

Examples of this, in the second half Brad Ring playing out of a tight spot and passes up the line to Lewis who back heels to set himself up but spins and loses the ball, rather than try a fancy trick control the ball, pass back and move, maintain possession. Soony Saad hammering a ball goalward from distance when he had space and time and players in front of him. Many moments in this game we took the hardest road or the least sensible decision to try and force a scoring opportunity instead of using the easiest pass. Decision making, thinking on your feet.The guys on the left and right width in our attack need to produce more and we still are failing many times and we won’t improve as an attack until we get this figured out.It’s okay to go back in order to go forwards but it seemed the intensive pace of the game set by Pittsburgh caused Indy to feel they had to do the same thing and too much of our play was rushed instead of trying to shift the tempo, slow it down and create good chances. Trying to quick counter an extremely solid defensive team at home with long balls did not work.

Tottenham Signs USA’s Cameron Carter-Vickers thru 2021

By 90MIN May 17, 2018

Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers has signed a new contract with the Premier League side, extending his current deal by one year to 2021.Taking to their official Twitter account, the north London club proudly announced the United States international’s new deal, confirming that he will remain with the club for at least the next three seasons. However, it is unclear whether the 20-year-old will go out on loan again next season, or will have his chance to fight for a first-team spot under Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.The powerhouse defender impressed during loan spells in the Championship last season – representing both Sheffield United and Ipswich Town, as both teams went on to produce solid mid-table finishes. Carter-Vickers is believed to be prepared to return to the Tractor Boys next season, but could find himself providing cover for the Spurs first-team, if they part ways with Toby Alderweireld.The Belgian international’s contract standoff has left his future in the open, and Spurs may well need Carter-Vickers to forgo regular first team football next season and become a squad rotation option. Given Pochettino’s reputation for developing young players, the starlet could well be given the opportunity to earn his place at the club during their preseason campaign.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN COLLECTS POINT AGAINST PITTSBURGH RIVERHOUNDS, 0-0

By IndyEleven.com, 05/11/18, 11:00PM EDT

The “Boys in Blue” remain undefeated on the road following scoreless bout

Indy Eleven share points in a 0-0 draw on the road against the undefeated Eastern Conference side Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The “Boys in Blue” remain undefeated on the road in 2018 with an overall 4W-2L-2D record.The two teams ran back and forth in the midfield for much of the first half as they searched for goal scoring chances. Both sides found their first looks at goals minutes apart just before the half-hour mark. The Riverhounds saw their first opportunity in the 23rd minute as defender Jordan Dover crossed inside the box to forward Neco Brett, but the attempt was forced out by Indy’s backline. The Hounds returned two minutes later with a shot from Dover inside “Indiana’s Team’s” 18-yard box that was blocked by Eleven defender Ayoze, which resulted in a corner kick for the home side. After another 60 seconds, Brett returned for Pittsburgh’s third attempt from distance that ended with the ball several feet wide of Indy’s post for a goal kick.Indy was quick to answer. In the 29th minute, Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad tallied his first attempt after he received a long pass from midfielder Nathan Lewis near the top of Pittsburgh’s box. Saad slammed the ball towards goal, but the hit sent the ball just over the crossbar. A minute later, Saad got his second shot off at the top of the box that slid a tad to the left of the post and out of play. Indy’s third chance came in the 32nd minute when forward Jack McInerney nearly tapped the ball in from close range from a corner kick by Saad. Much like Saad’s previous attempt, McInerney’s hit also landed just to the left of goal off his ankle.The Riverhounds would make a final run at goal in the last minute of the first half. Pittsburgh midfielder Christiano Francois shot the ball inches outside the 6-yard box near the edge of the field when Indy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams registered a quick block to hit the ball from play.The first half came and went as both sides remained level heading into the second half. The remainder of the match mirrored the first half with each side only finding one near attempt at goal.In the 59th minute, Francois came close again for Pittsburgh, this time directly in front of goal. PGH midfielder Kenardo Forbes lobbed a low cross from the right edge of the field to the center of 6-yard box, where Francois had ran in. Right before the Haitian could hammer the ball in, a diving clearance from Indy’s first-half substitute defender Brad Rusin slammed the ball over the crossbar. aad came close to netting for his side seven minutes later after winning a free kick nearly 40 yards out from goal. Similar to free kicks the forward has hit as distance in previous matches, Saad’s ball went curling towards goal. Unfortunately, the attempt barely over the frame. Both sides carried on with the match, but neither team could find the winning goal.Indy Eleven take to the road once more next Wednesday, May 16, to face off against USL PDL side Mississippi Brilla FC in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Then, “Indiana’s Team: will return home to Lucas Oil Stadium next Saturday, May 19, at 8:00 p.m. to take on Bethlehem Steel FC. Fans can get tickets for as low at $15 at www.IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

 

Atletico Madrid’s good and bad experience will help in Europa League final – Simeone

May 9, 2018Dermot CorriganESPN FC

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says his team’s good and bad experience in recent finals should be a big positive ahead of next Wednesday’s Europa League decider against Marseille.Simeone has now guided Atletico to four major finals [not including Supercups] during his six-plus years in charge — with his team having won the 2012 Europa League against Athletic Bilbao and 2013 Copa del Rey against neighbours Real Madrid, but losing to their neighbours Real in the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals.The Argentine coach told reporters at the official media day ahead of next week’s final that all of these had been learning experiences, and his team now knew the difference between being on the winning or losing side on the final whistle.”I always say that having the opportunity to play in finals give you the experience of things you have lived through,” Simeone said. “You take positives and negatives away, but the important thing is you were there. You know what it is like when you win, when you lose…”Finishing what had been such a challenging season with a trophy would be extra special, the former rojiblanco player suggested.”Not being able to sign anyone at the start of the season, then two arriving and five leaving [in the winter window], exiting the Champions League, now we are in the Europa League final, second in la Liga,” Simeone said. “It is a good season in terms of work, and winning a trophy would bring us to a higher place.”But then you look at the day-to-day work, and youngsters who have made a step up — Thomas [Partey], Lucas [Hernandez] and [Angel] Correa. The consistency of Koke, Saul’s improvement, another year for Gabi, [Antoine] Griezmann, [Diego] Godin, [Jan] Oblak.”We know we have done things that were not the best, but always looking for the best for the club. Six years ago I said I wanted a team that annoyed people, and I still want to be even more annoying….”Another big challenge this season has been dealing with constant speculation over Griezmann’s future, with the “open day” being dominated by this week’s developments in his potential €100 million summer move to Barcelona.

Simeone declined to comment directly on the Camp Nou outfit’s public courting of his player, but suggested he was not impressed by the behaviour of blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu in admitting this week to having met the France international’s agent last October.”I was taught that you should choose to behave in one way, and everyone else would choose their own,” he said. “Each person behaves as they believe is best. We just think about ourselves, trying to always manage ourselves in the same way.”All the talk about Griezmann’s future would not divert the team from its objectives over the final two weeks of the season, Simeone maintained.”I am like a racehorse looking straight ahead at Getafe [on Saturday in La Liga] and the final,” he said. “I don’t listen to anything, am only concerned with the games and the team. Griezmann seems fine to me, training as always.”

Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann can prove his status by delivering Europa League

3:47 AM ETGraham HunterESPN.com freelance columnist

On the wall of Antoine Griezmann’s beautiful villa in the exclusive Madrid suburb of La Finca, there are two David Beckham shirts: one bearing the crest of Paris Saint-Germain and the other in the colours of LA Galaxy.The London-born midfielder who became a legend for Manchester United — leaving home young, coping with the fight that a southerner had to show to be accepted in the gritty north, letting his talent speak more loudly than his words — was, and remains, Griezmann’s primary hero.The Lyon-born striker who had to shuck off homesickness after moving south, move to a new country, learn a new language and fight off the stigma of an ill-advised choice of when and when not to fiesta in Paris discos if you are on international duty could have chosen much worse than the former England captain in his search for inspiration. It’s also true that Griezmann’s passion for the NBA is as fundamental, as much of an obsession, as Gareth Bale’s for golf or Gerard Pique’s for tennis. If the Frenchman had been born taller, then who knows, basketball’s gain could easily have been football’s loss.He’s such a fan that he has regularly travelled to the United States to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors, but his team is the Chicago Bulls — always has been, always will be, good times and bad.On Wednesday, Griezmann returns home. Lyon, the club where he was told he was too small, that they had no faith he’d even make it as a professional footballer, never mind into their youth academy, which was about 40 minutes’ drive from his front door.You know, already, that this is feasibly the Frenchman’s last important game for Atletico Madrid, the club where he has been taken from raw, untamed talent and turned into one of Europe’s superstar strikers.

Exceptional at what he does, still burning with the passionate need to win more trophies and earn more recognition and of an age that the queue for his services is understandably huge. Barcelona have made no secret of their willingness to pay, at least, €100 million — possibly as much as €115 million — for his talents.Atleti have made no secret of their fury that this subject has become so noisily public in advance of their Europa League final against Marseille.Leaving aside the narrative about whether Atletico are about to add to their rich vein of strikers who in recent years soared and then flew away (Diego Forlan, Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa), Wednesday isn’t simply a trophy opportunity for Griezmann. It’s a chance for him to settle his Rojiblanco account properly, leave evidence as to whether he’s good or great and mimic his two great inspirations: Beckham and Michael Jordan.Griezmann at Atleti has been a success, no question.The club has benefitted in points, in reputation and financially, in terms of Champions League revenue (one final, one semifinal, one quarterfinal since he joined), and the 27-year-old heeded Diego Simeone’s plea to stay and help fill the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium last summer instead of, as planned, joining Manchester United. If he’s sold for his buyout clause (which drops to €100 million on July 1) then Atleti will profit by €70 million.But there are provisos. In each of his seasons in the Spanish capital, there have been gaps to show that he isn’t yet the finished article: scoring droughts, dips in intensity, occasional clips round the ear from Simeone and one penalty in particular.Two years ago in Milan, the Champions League final was a Madrid derbi for the second time in three years. Madrid, winners the last time, led again. Then, a penalty for Atleti. Griezmann stepped up to take it and sent Keylor Navas the wrong way, but his overly powerful shot cannoned back off the bar and away to safety.Fate dictates that had that gone in then, all other things being equal, Yannick Carrasco’s subsequent goal for Atletico would have made them European champions for the first time. Fate also dictates that Griezmann, for whatever reason, had absolutely no problem in subsequently burying his penalty in the spot-kick shootout that his team lost, thanks to Juanfran’s heartbreaking miss.From that painful night in Milan, until he faces Marseille at Stade Lyon this week, two years have passed in which Griezmann helped steer France to the final of Euro 2016 with seven goals, including two beauties against Germany to eliminate the world champions in the semifinal. But the final, again, wasn’t his moment.A clear-headed chance, set up by Kingsley Coman, fluffed. Another bouncing off the post from Andre-Pierre Gignac’s shot but slithering away from Griezmann because, well, sometimes that’s just what fate has in store for you.He looks youthful, boyish in countenance and slender rather than all muscle and power. He acts youthfully too; funny in person, full of boyish and witty enthusiasm when he scores and celebrates with a dance, a stance or even, back at Real Sociedad, by occupying a car parked just behind the goal and encouraging his teammates to come and join him for a drive.But he’s not a kid. Twenty-seven already and without a major senior trophy to his name. Time is ticking.Wednesday beckons. In theory, Atleti have the advantage over Marseille — in fact, almost all of the advantages. They have a better squad, more quality man for man, far more experience in big finals — and in winning them — and against French opponents who are likely to lose at least one of their stars to injury.The fact remains, however, that this is time for Griezmann to dig deep within the well of his own ability, his own determination to win big. If, and even if he’s not fully decided it’s clearly at the forefront of his mind, this feels to him like the moment to leave Atletico Madrid and to line up with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and his countryman Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona next season, then he needs to sign off like his heroes did.Take Beckham, for example.Having fallen foul of Sir Alex Ferguson (they made up in due course), Beckham’s last Champions League game for Manchester United was a two-goal performance in a 4-3 win over Real Madrid at Old Trafford. That same season, Beckham scored in his final home game in a victory that would clinch the Premier League title for the wearer of that famous United No. 7 shirt.But, his being Beckham, there was more.At Madrid, again, his relationship with his manager fractured because he admitted that he was going to head to Major League Soccer and to Los Angeles that summer. Fabio Capello stopped using him and told him that he wouldn’t play again.Departures, as Griezmann needs to realise, are not often harmonious. But Beckham produced “the right stuff.” He trained harder, began to be trusted and picked, and helped inspire Real Madrid to one of only four Liga titles in the past 15 years.His last game for Los Blancos? A title decider won 3-1 at the Bernabeu.For the Galaxy, he played his last match in an MLS Cup final against the Houston Dynamo in December 2012, and lo and behold, the right stuff surfaced again, and so did the winning score line: 3-1, glory and goodnight.Jordan, too, didn’t merely have apparently perpetual greatness during his trophy-littered career; he knew what the all-time golden goodbye should look and feel like.Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals — you remember, right? Five-point-two seconds left, Bulls losing, Jordan from 20 feet for the winning points in his last competitive action for the team Griezmann adores.Two things we can say about Griezmann: He’s special, and we don’t yet fully know whether he’s great.Whether he opts to stay and take on the challenge of taking Atletico to the Champions League final in their own stadium in June 2019 or jumps ship to try to help Messi & Co. get there is completely up to him.Either way, now, against Marseille on a night when some of the ghosts of Milan 2016 can be laid to rest, is the time for him to show how much in common with Jordan and Beckham he possesses.

Dimitri Payet: Marseille’s man of the moment

Sunday 13 May 2018

A genius when the mood takes him, Dimitri Payet may be hitting his pinnacle with Marseille.

“I had to come back here, maybe because I’m crazy too, but I like places that are a bit wild.” So says Marseille playmaker Dimitri Payet, flourishing since his return to the club from West Ham last year and now preparing for Wednesday’s UEFA Europa League final. UEFA.com looks over the 31-year-old’s eventful career.

Rudi Garcia, Marseille coach, on Payet
“I know him well, as I signed him at Lille [in 2011]. That’s why I knew he had to come back to Marseille. He loves Marseille and he loves Marseille’s fans. True, he was doing great things in England at the time, but Marseille needed him and I knew what he could bring us.”

“He’s been at peak physical strength since January 2018, so he’s been able to offer the full extent of his talents. He’s been a role model as captain. He’s often managed to raise the overall level of the team in the Europa League and that has enabled us to reach the final.”

Current tally

International: 37 appearances, 8 goals
UEFA club competition: 41 appearances, 6 goals
European domestic competition: 452 appearances, 91 goals

Payet’s progress

  • Born in Reunion – a French island in the Indian Ocean – Payet followed in the footsteps of Florent Sinama Pongolle and Guillaume Hoarau in 1999 by being sent to Le Havre, aged 12, to join the Normandy club’s youth department. But he returned to Reunion in 2003 amid claims he had a difficult character.
  • Having sparkled in local football for AS Excelsior, Payet was brought back to mainland France by Nantes in 2005. The club found him hard to handle yet could not doubt his quality. “Dimitri was a player with indisputable talent despite his natural nonchalance,” said youth boss Stéphane Moreau. “He could make team-mates play and destroy opponents.”
  • Transferred to St-Étienne in 2007 following Nantes’ relegation, again he sparkled and aggravated in equal measure. Payet had an on-field altercation with skipper Blaise Matuidi on 8 May 2010, during a loss to Toulouse. He was substituted and sanctioned by the club.
  • He first linked up with Rudi Garcia at LOSC, who signed him in 2011. Initially, Payet shadowed Eden Hazard, before taking the playmaking mantle in his second term after the Belgian’s 2012 departure. “He scored 12 goals and made 12 assists that season – a ‘Double 12’!” Garcia recalled.
  • Payet struck twice inside 15 minutes of his Marseille debut after joining in 2013 – in a 3-1 win at Guingamp. He blossomed under Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinian coach’s assistant Jan Van Winckel saying: “Bielsa was the first to recognise that Dimitri is a playmaker, not a winger. Dimitri is probably the best player in the world, together with Andrés Iniesta, with his back to goal.”
  • He made a high-profile move to West Ham in 2015 and registered some stunning goals for the Londoners, but rejoined Marseille in acrimonious circumstances in January 2017. Yet Payet said West Ham’s defensive tactics left him “bored”, adding: “The most important thing is that I am where I wanted to be. The best is yet to come.”
  • He starred for France at UEFA EURO 2016, although the hosts’ final defeat by Portugal left its mark on the Payet household. Payet admitted his children “love Ronaldo and Messi” but said that since Les Bleus lost the decider “they have no right to pronounce the name of Ronaldo!”.

“You play football to be involved in these big games. It’s not a normal match; it’s a final, so you have to try to play like you usually do while also giving a bit extra because we’ll be up against a great side that has been put together to try to win the Champions League. They’re in the Europa League now and they’re the favourites. We’re the underdogs but we’ll give it everything.It’s similar to EURO 2016 when we were at home. We can feel that passion from the French people. That’s how it is. I think it’s for the best and it can really benefit us.”

How brilliant is Atlético’s Antoine Griezmann?

Saturday 12 May 2018

“Antoine is one of the best players in the world,” says Marseille’s Adil Rami; UEFA.com gives Atlético’s star forward his due.

What they say

“Antoine has improved in every area – fitness, tactical awareness, personality, aggression, intensity, ball recovery, attacking threat – and it’s all his own doing.”
Diego Simeone, Atlético coach

“Antoine is one of the best players in the world. He’s an intelligent, cunning and very talented footballer. He’s also really good in the air. You have to keep a close eye on him because he has the ability to lose you at any moment. We have to keep track of his movement if we want to win.”
Adil Rami, Marseille defender

“‘Grizou’ will obviously be danger number one for us, and their main offensive weapon.”
Dimitri Payet, Marseille playmaker

“He’s always happy, he’s a delight to have as a player. Despite the pressure on him, he’s always smiling, looking to have fun, and it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Philippe Montanier, former Real Sociedad coach

“He’s very ambitious, and if you have talent and ambition, and everything goes your way and you have a bit of luck, you can go as far as you want.”
Emilio Nsue, former Real Sociedad team-mate

Current tally

International: 51 appearances, 19 goals
UEFA club competition: 55 appearances, 22 goals
Domestic competition: 353 appearances, 140 goals

Claims to fame

Real Sociedad
• Griezmann had already been turned down by several French clubs when Frenchman Éric Olhats, a Real Sociedad scout, spotted the 13-year-old at a tournament near Paris. “I saw him control and pass the ball – it looked so easy. So I asked myself: ‘How good could he be once his body develops?'” Olhats duly took him to San Sebastian.

  • He received an interesting Zinédine Zidane souvenir after a Real Sociedad v Real Madrid game when he was a ball boy. “I asked for his shirt but he had already swapped with an opponent,” Griezmann wrote in his 2017 autobiography. “Seeing my disappointment, he said: ‘Follow me.’ I walked with him into the belly of the stadium. I thought he would give me a photo or autograph, something like that. But no – Zidane handed me the shorts in which he had played. I couldn’t believe it!”
  • He celebrated his first Liga goal – a spring-heeled header against Deportivo on 25 October 2010 – by dashing into a car located pitchside and pretending to drive it away.
  • By featuring in a 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano on 14 April 2013, he became the fifth youngest player to make 100 professional appearances in Spain’s top flight – aged just 22 years and 24 days.
  • Match winner in the 1-0 success at Deportivo on 1 June 2013 which earned La Real’s UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, Griezmann promptly sealed their return to the group stage – for the first time since 2003/04 – with an overhead kick against Lyon (whom he had supported as a boy). His first club goal in his home country. • Atlético triggered Griezmann’s €30m buy-out clause to entice him from San Sebastian in summer 2014, coach Simeone saying: “Antoine is a brilliant player. He’s really quick and he’ll give us lots of options in attack.”
  • Griezmann never scored a UEFA Champions League group stage goal for La Real but did so at the first attempt for Atleti, in a 3-2 defeat at Olympiacos on 16 September 2014, 30 minutes after emerging as a substitute.
  • His 22 Liga goals in his first Atlético campaign was a record for a French player in Spain; he matched it in 2015/16, but Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema took his record with 24 goals. Simeone was not concerned, saying of ‘Grizi’: “For me, he was the best player in Europe this season.”
  • He caught Luis Aragonés as the Rojiblancos’ top marksman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup when netting his 12th Atlético goal in the competition in a 2-0 scalp of PSV on 23 November 2016.
  • The forward eclipsed Sergio Agüero as Atleti’s leading scorer in all UEFA competitions by notching his 21st continental goal in Atlético colours against Arsenal in the recent UEFA Europa League semi-final.

France
• Griezmann claimed his first international honour when France triumphed as hosts in the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, though he came off injured at half-time in the 2-1 final win against Spain. “That was a big moment for me,” he recalled. “But I said to myself, ‘OK, you’re in the U19s now but you need to push on to the national team, keep working hard and keep believing in the big dream.'”

  • He was suspended from all France squads from November 2012–December 2013 after joining four other players – Yann M’Vila, Chris Mavinga, Wissam Ben Yedder and M’Baye Niang – on an unauthorised trip from the team hotel in Normandy to a Paris nightclub three days before a U21 play-off against Norway. “My father reminded me that a footballer’s image is very important and I mustn’t damage the family name,” he said later. “I’m lucky my parents raised me well.”
  • He picked up his first Les Bleus cap in the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on February 2014, his first national service after the ban was lifted.
  • His six goals secured the golden shoe at UEFA EURO 2016, though it was a bittersweet experience as hosts France lost the final 1-0 to Portugal. “Maybe later I can feel proud,” he said.
  • Griezmann was the first player to lose a EURO final and a UEFA Champions League decider in the same summer, the Portugal defeat following Atlético’s shoot-out reverse to Real Madrid (in which Griezmann converted from the spot). Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo were on the winning side in both games.*

What you might not know

  • Football is in his blood. His maternal grandfather Amaro Lopes played for local team Paços de Ferreira in his native Portugal before moving to France for work. His mother, Isabelle, was born in France but the link to Portugal remained, Griezmann spending summer holidays back in his grandfather’s home town.
  • His big sister Maud was the young Antoine’s goalkeeper whenever he practised shooting as a child. She remembers her brother repeatedly battering a ball against the garage door of the family home to perfect his touch, noting: “My parents did not always like this.”
  • Having been in Spain since he was 13, Griezmann says he has taken on certain Spanish traits, explaining: “I think in French but get angry in Spanish.”
  • While he loves football and frequently comments on social media about matches he is watching, soccer is not the only sport Griezmann is crazy about. Despite his relatively modest height, he is a huge basketball fan and often plays in his spare time.
  • Griezmann’s tattoos include an Arabic translation of a line from Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (“make your life a dream, and make your dream a reality”), images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, his parents’ initals and ‘FAME’, the title of a Chris Brown album – the initials stand for Forgiving All MEnemies and Fans Are MEverything.
  • Rapper Drake inspired a Griezmann goal celebration: the ‘two mobile phone’ move derives from the Hotline Bling video, though Griezmann did not use it consistently at UEFA EURO 2016. “I forgot to do it after my goal against Albania because I was too emotional.”
  • He has had a special affinity with his South American club-mates, notably sipping a cup of regional hot drink ‘mate’ wherever he goes. “It’s like tea or coffee,” he said. “I drink it all the time before training. It wakes me up.”

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What he says

“I try to be a complete player – in attack and defence – and to improve every year. I’ve already got more assists this year and that’s the most important thing.””When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself and try to give my all. My team-mates, the boss and the fans want more from me and I’m pleased about that. It’s like when you played on the street with your friends. Now every time I score, I turn into a little boy again. It’s impossible to explain how happy scoring makes you.” “If I want to be the next Falcao or the next Agüero at Atlético, I know I’ve still got a lot to do. But the coach gives me a lot of confidence and tells me I’m an important player. He also says I have to do better than I’ve ever done before!”

What he might achieve yet

  • Break the 22-goal barrier: he had his best domestic campaigns with 22 goals in 2014/15 and 2015/16 but has been unable to hurdle the 20 barrier since. Griezmann has netted 19 so far this season, with one more Liga fixture (v Eibar) to follow the UEFA Europa League final.• Win a major trophy with Atlético: to date, his biggest achievement is lifting the 2014 Spanish Super Cup.
  • Make up for the disappointment of UEFA EURO 2016by winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France.
  • Become France’s all-time leading scorer: he is joint-15th in the rankings with 19 goals. Thierry Henry’s record of 51 seems a long way off but Griezmann is a player who likes a challenge.
  • Henry’s other French goalscoring records are not beyond the realms of possibility. The ex-Arsenal ace is the top-scoring Frenchman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup (51) and all UEFA club competitions (59); Griezmann has hit 18 in the fo

 

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5/11/18 Indy 11 Discount Tix for Sat 7 pm game 5/19, Rooney to MLS?, EPL Season End Sun 10 am on NBC networks, German Bundesliga end Sat 9:30 am on Fox 1&2, Champions League & Europa League Recaps, W2W4 TV Game Schedule

 Our Indy 11 travel to undefeated eastern foe Pittsburg tonight for a FRIDAY Night affair at 8 pm on ESPN+ and Youtube I think.  I know the BYB is hosting a watch party at Union Jacks in Broadripple – so if you want to be sure to see the game – head on down to Broadripple for that! Of course our Elevem return to Lucas Oil next Saturday night for an 8 pm showdown with the Belthehem Steel.  Its student night so all students with ID get discounted tickets also discounted tix are available by clicking here and entering the code 2018Indy.

WORLD

As I watched El Classico – Real Madrid vs Barcelona (delayed on Mon AM) not only was it a Classic as always – even though Barca has already wrapped up the title – I was reminded about the viewship of soccer worldwide – the Superbowl just had around 150 million watching worldwide – El Classico was seen by more than 500 million world wide this weekend.  Interesting. Back to the game – it was a good one -with lots of interesting calls/no calls a sending off and of course Renaldo and Messi both scoring – as the final was 2-2 which means Barca are all but guaranteed of being the first Spanish Team team since 1931 to go thru the league season unbeaten.  Congrats to Barca for that – of course Real Madrid has a chance to take home all the marbles May 26th vs Liverpool in the Champions League Final on Fox.

EPL

The mid-week EPL games dripped with Drama as teams played for their League lives – sorry West Brom – you join my Stoke City and American defender Geoff Cameron as Relegated – meanwhile Swansea didn’t help their chances – but man Huddersfield Town hung on for dear life at Chelsea to eek out a 1-1 win that keeps them and American Danny Williams and former US National Team player David Wenger (their Manager) alive in the Premier League for next season.  The loss puts a damper on Chelsea’s desperate come from behind attempt to make the Top 4 Champions League spot and takes a little excitement out of this weekend’s matches.  It’s the final day of play Sunday in the EPL as the 10 matches will all be on live on all the NBC Networks – (see below TV Schedule) Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen – I am not even sure what channels they are – but hey they will all be on TV at the same time so enjoy this final day as the battle for Top 4 Champions League spots and the fight to not be relegated down is hot and heavy as Liverpool needs to win or draw at home to stay in the top 4, but if they lose Chelsea can past them for 4th with a win.  Speaking of Relegation – moving up – Cardiff City Advances to the EPL along with Wolverhampton on the final day of the English Championship ahead of my Fulham and Aston Villa.  Fulham (who used to be Fulham America – with the most US Players on 1 team back 6 to 8 years ago and Aston Villa of US GK Brad Guzan fame – will be in the playoffs to possibly move up by the end of next week.

MLS

Turning to the MLS Sunday gives us a triple header of national games as the Cascadia Cup battle features Portland and Seattle playing for at Providence Park in Portland at 4 pm on ESPN – if you have not seen a Portland Game you must tune in to see one of America’s top soccer locals as they host Seattle for the 100th time in America’s most heated soccer rivalry.  Next up is Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United hosting Orlando City who is shooting for their 7th win in a row at 6 pm on FS1. Finally top East contenders NYCFC travel across the country to face LAFC at 8:30 pm on FS1.  Sat we get the LA Galaxy trying to break a 3 game losing streak at surprising FC Dallas and former Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel High star Matt Hedges at 3 pm on Univision.  Of course all the talk is about Wayne Rooney possibly leaving Everton and coming to DC United – I still think Rooney is a quality player if they don’t overpay for him – it will certainly make waves off the field even if its not the best fit on the field.  I think we proved with Gerald and Pirlo that these old retirement guys can’t necessarily handle the travel and hot days that MLS provides compared to European leagues but we’ll see.  Heck much like Zlatan Ibra – I wpuld pay to see him play at Columbus or Chicago.

Local

Finally Congrats to 2 of our Carmel FC 04 Gold and 05 Blue teams for moving forward in Challenge Cup and some CFC are still playing in State and President’s Cup competition – but please take heed to our Indiana Director of Education Steve Franklin’s Message – about proper coaching techniques and teaching our kids how to play  (click to visit the link)

 GAMES ON TV

 

Fri, May 11

2:45 pm    NBCSN        Swansea vs Southampton (Relegation battle)

8 pm youtube             Pittsburg Riverhounds vs Indy 11   

Sat, May 12

9:30am Fox Sports 1? Bayern Munich vs Stuggart (Final Day of German Bundesliga)

9:30 am Fox                   Hoffenheim vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

9:30 am Fs2                    all games on Whip- Around FS2

12:15 pm ESPN+          Middlesborough vs Aston Villa – Semi-Final – Championship Playoff will face Fulham vs Derby Winner

12:30 pm beInsport Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo

Sun, May 13

10 am NBC                     Liverpool vs Brighton (Final day of the EPL)

10 am NBCSN                Newcastle United vs Chelsea

10 am Oxygen              Crystal Palace vs West Brom

10 am OC                      Burnley vs Bourmouth

10 am Bravo               Tottenham vs Leicester City

10 am MSNBC            Huddersfield vs Arsenal

10 am USA                  Man United vs Watford

10 am SyFy                 Southampton vs Man City

10 am CNBC                Swansea vs Stoke City

10 am E                        West Ham vs Everton (Rooney last game?)

2:30 pm NBCSN           Premier League Match-Day in Review

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Roma vs Juventus

4 pm ESPN                       Portland vs Seattle FC

6 pm FS1                          Orlando vs Atlanta

6 pm ESPN+/Utube    Nashville vs Louisville FC USL

8:30 pm FS1             LAFC vs NYCFC

Wed, May 16

2:30 pm FS1            Atletico Madrid vs      – Europa League Final – Lyon, France 

Sat, May 19

12:30 pm FOX      Chelsea vs Man United FA CUP FINAL

8 pm Myindy23    Indy 11 vs Bethlehem Steel FC (Lucas Oil)  (College student tix just $7)

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

 Indy 11

Indy 11 vs Pittsburg Riverhounds Preview

Keys to the Game – last 3 matches – Indy 11

Ayoze Named to USL team of the Week

Indy 11 hand Louisville FC first Loss 1-0 Indy 11

Indy 11 Defeats Favorite on Derby Daywww.Bloodyshambles.com

Photos from Indy 11 win over Louisville compliments of permanentrelegation.com

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

MLS

Wayne Rooney Signs with DC United? ESPNFC

What to Watch 4 – MLS Weekend Ahead

Wayne Rooney to MLS – good or Bad? – Andrew Wiebe- MLS.com

Iniesta to MLS yes – best place to land?  Greg Seltzer MLS.com

Longtime MLS Keeper and Former Indy 11 GK Jon Busch Hangs Up the Gloves

 

WORLD

El Classico – Barca Rides Luck to Fiery, Controversial draw with Real Madrid – yahoo

Barca vs Real Still Delivered Drama, While Liverpool vs Chelsea Underealms – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

Atletico Furious over Barca pursuit of striker Griezmann – we will not sell says Simeon

 EPL

What to Watch 4 – Liverpool/Chelsea battle for UCL, Swansea seek a miracle

Huddersfield Town with US Ties Stays Alive after 1-1 tie @ Chelsea

Liverpool Klopp still proud dispite loss to Chelsea

Arsenal Bids Farewell to Arsene Wenger with 5-0 win

Championship Playoff Preview –

US Soccer

Bruce Arena Writes Book Talks about Why we Failed

Pulisic has transcended his Nationality – Video – Alexi Lalas

GK

Huddersfield GK makes $150 million dollar Save

Best Saves 2018

Best Saves 2018 1st Week of May

Saves of the Week – USL

50 Players to Watch in WC – Thibaut Courtois

Longtime MLS Keeper and Former Indy 11 GK Jon Busch Hangs Up the Gloves

CHAMPIONS & Europa League Finals

Expect Real Madrid vs Liverpool to be a Goal Filled Final

Why Liverpool is the Perfect Challenger to Real Madrid’s Champ League Throne

Liverpool roar into Champions League final

5 things we learned as Liverpool reached the final

Liverpool celebrate making the final in pictures

All you Need to Know About the Europa League Final tween Atletico Madrid and Marseille in Lyon

Guide to Lyon, France Site of the Europa League Final

International Champions Cup

Tix in the US go on sales May 1st to the General Public but I have a special Link to allow you in the PRE-SALE.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

Man City vs Borussia Dortmund – Fri July 20 9 pm Chicago Soldier Field

Man United vs Liverpool  – Sat July 28 5 pm Michigan Stadium (tix on sale now)

ICC Full Schedule

Big ICC Games Coming ESPNFC

“Boys in Blue” to take on last undefeated team in the East in Week 9Indy vs Pittsburgh

Indy Eleven @ Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – #PGHvIND  Friday, May 11, 2018 – 7 P.M. EST Highmark Stadium—Pittsburgh, PA

Watch/Listen Live:Local/National TV: N/A  Streaming Video: ESPN+ ($)

Week 9: Chasing the Top Five

Indy Eleven continue an action packed month of May this Friday as the “Boys in Blue” seek out three more points on the road against the last undefeated team in the East, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.The “Boys in Blue” sit at sixth in the table after playing three games in a seven day span, earning 4 out of a possible 9 points. The most recent match for the Eleven was a victory against former Eastern Conference table leaders Louisville City FC. The 1-0 victory against the “Boys in Purple” came from a penalty converted in the 78th minute by Indy Eleven defender Ayoze.  The win was crucial for “Indiana’s Team” after a scoreless draw against Charlotte Independence in Week Seven and falling to FC Cincinnati, 2-3, at home in the first fixture of Week Eight. Pittsburgh Riverhounds enter Week Nine sitting at third in the Eastern Conference table with 15 points. The Riverhounds are the last undefeated team in the East after Louisville’s loss to Indy in Week Eight. Pittsburgh defeated Toronto FC II in their Week Eight game, 2-1, with goals from forward Neco Brett and Captain Kevin Kerr. Brett was named Man of the Match after he scored the first goal and assisted the second.Indy Eleven’s form on the road remains an integral part of their success this season. “Indiana’s Team” has accrued 7 out of 9 points on the road in their inaugural USL campaign. The “Boys in Blue’s” stiff defense has been the key to their road success, keeping three clean sheets in three road games.

Indy Eleven Player to Watch: MF Nico Matern

Nico Matern has been a consistent presence in Indy Eleven’s midfield through the opening weeks of the season. He has appeared in six of seven games for the “Boys in Blue” in 2018, all of which have been in the starting XI. . The FC St. Pauli youth product has completed nearly four-fifths of the almost 270 passes played. The “New in Blue” midfielder also has the ability to read passes before they are played with 15 interceptions in the midfield.The Buxtehude, Germany native spent last season with Indiana Wesleyan University, where he earned NCCAA All-Team honors. Before moving to the States to play soccer, Matern spent most of his youth career with several German fourth and fifth division sides.”A guy like Nico (Matern) does an amazing job,” said Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “As a coach, you really, really, really appreciate that. He’s filling gaps; he’s taking the ball under pressure all the time, playing it out of pressure. He’s got a strong body, strong physical presence. He organizes and keeps people close to him.”

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Player to Watch: MF Kevin Kerr

Midfielder Kevin Kerr has found himself in the starting eleven for Pittsburgh quite often, starting six of seven games he’s played in so far in 2018. Kerr has had a stellar year with the Riverhounds accumulating two assists and holding 86 percent passing accuracy inside his half.Last time out, the midfielder completed just over 90 percent of the passes he played, along with an impressive 83 percent in the attacking half against Toronto FC II. On top of moving the ball with ease, Kerr assisted teammate Neco Brett in finding the back of the net in the 12th minute. Brett returned the favor 24 minutes later, setting up Kerr for a strike that would find the bottom left corner of the net.This is Kerr’s sixth year with the Riverhounds. He is fourth in games played for the Pennsylvania team and first in minutes played.

Matchup to Mark: DF Carlyle Mitchell vs. FW Neco Brett

Indy Eleven defender Carlyle Mitchell will be tasked with slowing down Riverhounds forward Nico Brett in Saturday’s matchup at Pittsburgh. Mitchell has been an integral piece of the backline for the “Boys in Blue”, earning him a starting position every game so far in 2018. The Trinidad & Tobago International has boasts a nearly 90 percent tackle rate, missing only one so far this season. Additionally, Mitchell has won two-thirds of his aerial duels thus far, keeping opposition forwards from getting on the ends of crosses.Mitchell returns to a Coach Rennie’s squad after previously lining up under the Scotsman during stints with Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps and Korean second division side Seoul E-Land. He’s also made 35 appearances for Trinidad & Tobago, scoring three goals.Brett will be attempting to break through Indy Eleven’s backline on Saturday, as he did last week where he scored and assisted in the game against Toronto FC II. Brett has found the back of the net an impressive five times in seven games, making him the leading goal scorer in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, the Jamaican has also collected two assists, tying him for the most assists on his team so far this year.Mitchell will have to deny passing lanes into the box to slow down Brett, who has scored all of his goals from inside the 18-yard box. On top of being a presence in the box, Brett possesses the ability to hold up play and create chances for his teammates making oncoming runs.All the action takes place on the road this Friday, May 11, at 7:00 p.m. Fans can watch the match LIVE on ESPN+! New users can sign up for a free 7-day trial at plus.espn.com.

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

Everton’s Wayne Rooney agrees to deal in principle to join D.C. United – reports

May 10, 2018ESPN staff

Everton’s Wayne Rooney will join D.C. United for £12 million after agreeing to a deal in principle with the Major League Soccer side, according to multiple reports.The BBC claims Rooney’s representatives have been in the United States to discuss the finer details of a move away from the Premier League. Sky Sports adds that this move has been in the works for as long as seven weeks. Sources have told ESPN FC that Rooney, who joined Everton on a two-year deal last summer, has the option of a third year on that contract, and a move away from Goodison Park is yet to be confirmed.Everton manager Sam Allardyce has said he wants Rooney to stay and dismissed suggestions England’s record goal scorer will leave, but added that the attention on the former Manchester United player makes his situation different than others.It was reported on Tuesday by The Washington Post that Rooney “is in serious talks” about a summer move to D.C. United, adding that he “has grown frustrated” at Goodison Park.The 32-year-old was injured for Saturday’s last-gasp draw at home to Southampton. He has occasionally shown signs of annoyance, most notably when he was substituted during a goalless draw with Liverpool a month ago.

Outsider Defeats Favorite On Derby Day – Indy Eleven V Louisville City FC REVIEW www.bloodyshambles.com

 

Many bumps and bruises in this game, but only one winner – Indy Eleven

It wasn’t silky, it wasn’t pretty, but when you have a chance to knock off an undefeated current league champion you take it. These are the results that make a difference later in the year.Indy Eleven entered the game coming off the back of a 3-2 home defeat to FC Cincinnati and faced a team that had yet to be beaten with five wins and one draw in six matches. The league table and league position matter not at this stage of the season, when you start the game on 10pts and your opponent has 16 and you close that gap by 3, that matters.Ayoze Garcia was the difference maker on Saturday, not only by scoring the only goal but he along with the rest of his team made sure Louisville could not find the net. Clean sheets are not easy to come by and for sure Ayoze and Mitchell can take a lot of credit for the three points won on Saturday.Ayoze Garcia has pretty much staked his claim as penalty taker extraordinaire for Indy Eleven. He almost closed the game with a 2-0 result in the 86th minute with a 30yd rocket if it were not for the quick reaction of Louisville City keeper Greg Ranjitsingh.  The first 45 minutes were cagey and very evenly matched. As much as each team gave no ground, neither could find any real spark in the final third. Soony Saad probably had the best chance of the first period with a great look and a header over the goal in the 34th.It looked like one of those days where 0-0 was written all over the low clouds visible through the open roof of Lucas Oil Stadium but the tempo and eagerness did pick up in the second 45 minutes. Substitutions Ownby and Spencer for Louisville definitely gave them more threat, ironically both of those players would miss clear chances in front of goal in injury time to level the game.stin Braun made his way on to the field offering a new dynamic in Indy Eleven’s attack and the field started to open up for Indy. A deft pass from Watson down the line to Nathan Lewis saw the winger’s cross connect with the hand of Paco Craig. As already mentioned Ayoze Garcia almost split the corner seam of the net slamming home Indy’s goal into the top left.Indy Eleven again were able to call on their roster depth to add defensive steel late in the game and we saw for the first time another great talent in Seth Moses who replaced Nathan Lewis in 83rd minute. Indy battened down the hatches to seal the three points in the closing minutes Brad Rusin was supposed to enter the game but after a necessary exit for Kevin Venegas, Brad Ring entered the field of play for his 100th competitive appearance for Indy Eleven.  A high boot and unintentional contact with the face of Carlyle Mitchell from Ownby in the 92nd minute meant Indy Eleven finished the remaining five minutes of added time with only 10 men. Mitchell can take applause for his part in this game, solid throughout the 90 in the 88th minute Owain Fôn Williams was beaten by a Spencer header but denied a goal after composed defending by Carlye in the middle of the goal mouth. The Welsh keep might owe the big fella a beer.Indy Eleven took a lot of knocks, it was a very aggressive game through tough football and no ill intent, two teams determined to win. The lads will look forward to this recovery day more than any other this year, and they deserve it.

Match reaction from James Cormack…

As far as the negatives go I can hark back to my reaction to the Charlotte game. We have not found our feet yet or a good combination as an attacking force, the skill is there we know the players can produce it, but time after time we let ourselves down in the final third. We have to work on this.
Not only delivery from open play, whether from the width or from the center of the park is rushed and not really thought out. Free Kicks and corners, although we had some good ones, the majority are poor, this is the hardest part to swallow, in open play there is an intensity but from dead balls, you have time to think and we know the players are better than this.Keep the ball on the ground please, again too many times we saw long balls played from deep in our own half and hopeful ships in the final third, if a player is pressured I can understand clearances but these were hopeful balls that at the end of the day are a waste of time. There needs to be a significant decrease in the number of times we present 50/50 situations, we lose possession. Take your time, make good decisions if you don’t have a good pass forward, turn around and play it back, start again and try a different angle of attack.That being said, we defeated the reigning champions who came into the game as league leaders, they should be saying the same things about themselves, but never let that be an excuse to not seek improvement. I always remind myself we almost completely overhauled our squad, we are still finding ourselves and we played against a team that has changed very little after winning the USL Championship in 2017. Also, Tyler Pasher was nowhere to be seen.These problems in attack will sort themselves out, and imagine what we will be like when they do!  Our defensive abilities in every single inch of the field from Jack Mac back to Owain continually amazes me. Carlyle was phenomenal yesterday as was Ouimette and they get stronger together each match. Ayoze was probably man of the match even if it ended 0-0 and Venegas coming back in never missed a beat. Matern and Watson looked like they breathed defensive mindedness as soon as they woke up in the morning. This back four is probably the one we will see most, and look at who we have to come in Rusin, Ferriera, Ring, Moses… excuse me for salivating.  After yesterday I am giving Jack McInerney the nickname of Geronimo, brave, fearless, tireless, afraid of nothing. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly is mine. Each to their own but I like a tough player with an attitude, and especially one who works as hard as him. That’s also why I like Brad Ring, I am so proud he got his 100th game and I hope also Jack reaches that milestone in a blue shirt as well.

Match reaction from Caleb Ramp…

It feels wrong to disparage three points against the reigning champions and a team which – up to yesterday – had been undefeated in 2018. The importance of the squad’s impressive defensive performance should also not be overlooked. Three days removed from conceding three, Rennie’s men buckled down and secured their first clean sheet at Lucas Oil Stadium – doing so against the highest scoring team in the USL. It may have been a fortunate victory, but a victory it was nonetheless.  A win against the league leaders coming into the game is certainly something the Indy Eleven can be proud of, but there is undoubtedly room for improvement – especially in the final third. The 2018 version of the Indy Eleven is more reliant on isolating a defender and attacking them in a 1v1 off the dribble than any version of the team we’ve ever seen. There seems to be very few one or two-touch passes with penetrating off-ball movement. When we are unable to get around a defender, our next move is to almost always look for a foul. While there’s something to be said for wanting to set up a Soony Saad free kick, this style of play is neither sustainable nor entertaining. Statistically, Indy is 27th in the USL in total number of passes, and 25th in passing accuracy. That’s not nearly good enough.That isn’t to say there aren’t flashes of attacking brilliance, nor should Indy fans be concerned with their spot in the league table. I would, however, like to see a focus on more ball movement, more off-ball movement, and significantly more Justin Braun.

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Liverpool, Chelsea battle for Champions League; Swansea seek a miracle; Wenger’s goodbye

5:53 AM ETMatthew Stanger

It’s the final day of the Premier League season, with Champions League qualification, a relegation miracle and some notable goodbyes to watch for.

Will there be nerves at Anfield?

Chelsea’s unexpected slip at home to Huddersfield has eased the tension at Liverpool, but Jurgen Klopp’s side must still avoid defeat to Brighton to be certain of a place in the Champions League next season. That seems a straightforward task, given that only Manchester City have lost fewer matches than the Reds, but the final day has a habit of producing strange results. Klopp will want to ensure his side stick to the script after seeing their 10-point lead over the Blues evaporate in the last few weeks.

To do that, Liverpool must put the Champions League final to the back of their minds. They have looked distracted in recent performances, failing to win any of their previous three Premier League matches around the two-legged semifinal against Roma.It is hardly ideal preparation for facing Real Madrid, and a late tumble outside the top four could be disastrous for the team’s confidence.It is an unlikely scenario, of course, but Brighton proved they are a threat in their 1-0 win over Manchester United last week. The Seagulls also stand a chance of a top-half finish with a victory; it’s something worth fighting for at the end of their debut Premier League campaign.After dropping points against West Brom and Stoke in April, Liverpool know what they have to do. A couple of early goals, and the pressure will be off. But if Brighton score first, it could be a long afternoon against the eighth-best defence in the division.

Chelsea’s slim hopes

All Chelsea can do is keep to their side of the bargain.After four successive victories, including a crucial 1-0 win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, Wednesday’s draw with Huddersfield was a sucker punch.Despite commanding 78 percent of possession, and having 22 attempts compared to just three for the Terriers, the Blues couldn’t find the winning goal they so desperately needed. There is no guarantee they will recover to win at Newcastle.This is surely the last time Antonio Conte will lead Chelsea in the Premier League, and the manager seemed resigned to his and the club’s fates following the Huddersfield game.After a season fraught with conflict behind the scenes, it would be almost bizarre for the Blues to sneak fourth place on the final day. But while the possibility still exists, you can be certain the players will continue to fight.

Swansea’s search for goals

After scoring only twice in their last nine matches, the Premier League’s lowest scorers, Swansea, go into Sunday in search of a 10-goal swing. If Chelsea’s Champions League hopes appear slim, then this is mission impossible.Still, a 5-0 win over Stoke and a 5-0 defeat for Southampton at home to Manchester City would do the trick. It couldn’t happen … could it?

City target 100 points

Pep Guardiola was proud of the champions’ record-breaking achievement on Wednesday as victory against Brighton ensured they smashed Chelsea’s highest points total set in 2004-05.In that first season with Jose Mourinho at the helm, it looked as though the Blues would go on to build a dynasty under the manager. That they didn’t, despite winning another title and finishing second in the next two seasons, signalled a changing era in the game. Top coaches are now very much guns for hire, with the reigns of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger unlikely to ever be seen again.City should enjoy Guardiola’s tenure while it lasts, then, and reaching 100 points would highlight the remarkable impact he has made since arriving in England. The champions have raised the bar with the scintillating football they have played this season; Guardiola might not stay for long, but his legacy could be lasting.

Time to say goodbye

The final day of the season is always an opportunity to bid farewell to departing players and staff, but this year will be more significant than most. Among other exits, it will be the end of Wenger’s 22-year reign at Arsenal and Wayne Rooney’s last match in the Premier League before a reported switch to MLS side D.C. United.It will be strange to begin next season without two of the league’s most influential figures over the past two decades, and Sunday affords the chance to reflect on their achievements. Wenger and Rooney have brought so many iconic moments to the English game and, despite waning success in recent years, they will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.Michael Carrick is also hanging up his boots and will say goodbye to Old Trafford as player this Sunday. Mark Ogden sat down with the Manchester United stalwart ahead of his farewell.

Barca vs. Real still delivered drama, Chelsea vs. Liverpool underwhelms

11:48 AM ETGabriele Marcotti  ESPNFC

Next season, La Liga will adopt VAR and while it may still divide opinion, Sunday’s Clasico was a strong argument in favor of the move.Referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez made a string of poor decisions in the 2-2 draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid but what we can be most grateful for is that, in the grand scheme of things, it mattered little. Other than Barca’s pursuit of an undefeated league season — it’s nice but when you step away and realize they lost in other competitions, it pales a tiny bit — the only things that mattered here were pride, tradition and rivalry.The game itself is still hugely important, of course, but it’s also the sort of thing that, when there aren’t leagues or cups at stake, you can move on from relatively quickly. Barca have a Liga title to celebrate, Real Madrid a Champions League final to prepare for. Plus neither Zinedine Zidane nor Ernesto Valverde are the types to complain and dredge up the past.As for the officiating, it was uneven throughout. The most egregious errors? Luis Suarez clearly fouled Raphael Varane en route to setting up Lionel Messi’s goal, Real Madrid should have had a penalty when Jordi Alba upended Marcelo in the box and Gareth Bale’s assault on Samuel Umtiti merited a straight red or a yellow at the very least (he got neither). There were other incidents too, as what many had predicted would be a “decaffeinated Clasico” proved to be anything but.It’s always special when you see “skill” players turning up the intensity in physical terms and this game certainly delivered that, which made it harder to officiate albeit more entertaining for the neutral. But it’s obvious the referee will look back on this match as a bad day at the office and it’s equally obvious that VAR would have made his job easier.On the bright side, we saw some real moments of sublime skill as you’d expect. Messi did his thing, Cristiano Ronaldo too, until he was hit hard in scoring his goal (a nasty whack to the ankle from Gerard Pique… we’ll know more about his condition this week but knock on wood, he’ll be ready in Kiev). Both Sergi Roberto’s goal and Suarez’s goal were picture perfect, as was Bale’s finish for the equalizer.You just wonder whether we couldn’t have the same sort of rip-roaring game — with the snarling intensity and tough tackles — albeit with fewer craven errors. Maybe next season…

Chelsea vs. Liverpool a damp squib

Chelsea hosted Liverpool on Sunday and, in many ways, it was the polar opposite of the Clasico. There was something at stake — Jurgen Klopp’s crew could lock up a Champions League spot with a draw, Chelsea needed a win to hang on to their hopes of a top-four finish — but the game was a flat affair.Blame the heat, blame a Liverpool side that were emotionally drained and physically decimated from the midweek Champions League efforts and blame a Chelsea side that focused solely on the result (as they should). Olivier Giroud’s header was the difference between the two sides as Liverpool couldn’t find a way past Chelsea’s low defensive block. (Mohamed Salah was booked for diving along the way, one of the few blots on his stellar season.) Chelsea’s chances of making it remain wafer-thin, and maybe they’ll reflect on the fact that if they come up short, they can blame the home defeat to Tottenham on April Fool’s Day. They need to run the table and hope that Spurs and/or Liverpool drop points. But at least it’s not ending with a whimper. As for Liverpool, they have bigger fish to fry…

Juve’s toughest title win ever?

Juventus took another giant step towards the Serie A title, coming from behind to beat Bologna 3-1. It’s easy to be snide and take things for granted but Juve went a goal down to the sort of penalty that, supposedly, never gets called against them. And the equalizer came only via a screwy own goal by Sebastian de Maio. All this, by the way, against a Bologna team with zero to play for, which most expected to mean “on the beach.”Max Allegri says this title, if it comes, will be the toughest he’s won. He’s right. Juventus were pushed hard by Napoli, they had to hit the highest points total of the Allegri Era to win it and they did it while undergoing a transition in key areas.All they need is a point away to Roma (who also need a point to be sure of a top four finish) to win it next week. And if that doesn’t happen, they can get the point the next week at home against Verona. Or maybe, even if they don’t win out, Napoli will drop points.It’s just about in the bag.

The Emirates says goodbye to Wenger

The Exploding Heads take you through wild relegation permutations, Claudio Bravo dropping the trophy and a naked Arsene Wenger.

Arsene Wenger said goodbye to the Emirates crowd in an emotional and touching 11-minute speech on Sunday, as Arsenal walloped Burnley 5-0. Given the circumstances of his departure, he showed dignity and class.The odd thing is that this wasn’t his last game. Arsenal have two more matches left, away to Leicester and Huddersfield. They’re bound to feel more than a little flat, particularly since Arsenal have absolutely nothing to play for — they will finish sixth regardless — and really, neither do Leicester, while Huddersfield may well be safe by the time Arsenal play them.In some ways, it would probably be more fitting if Sunday had been his final match. Leave the last two to Steve Bould or whomever and get on with the next chapter, for Wenger and for Arsenal.

Tedesco works his magic at Schalke

Schalke locked up second place in the Bundesliga this weekend, their highest league position since 2010. That they’ve delivered it with a 32-year-old manager who, at that point, had all of 11 professional matches under his belt is all the more remarkable.We’re used to German clubs doing things their own way, chucking extremely young managers into the fray and often turning to people who never played professionally. Still, what Domenico Tedesco has achieved at one of Germany’s three biggest clubs in his very first top-flight season is nothing short of remarkable. And he did it while losing his record signing, Nabil Bentaleb, for three months and having his best player, Leon Goretzka, announce in mid-season that he was leaving on a free transfer to join Bayern.Kudos to him: The challenge now is coming up with an encore.

Napoli’s season is fizzling out

Napoli’s 2-2 home draw with Torino was their likely farewell to the title. But more than the game — twice ahead, twice pegged back — it was interesting to note the fans’ reaction to manager Maurizio Sarri and the club owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis.The latter had appeared critical of Sarri in interviews that appeared the previous day, noting that the team were tired because he didn’t rotate them as much as he should have and lamenting the time he did rotate, against Leipzig in the Europa League. He also implied there was a “chicken-and-egg” thing going on: He couldn’t provide him with a deeper squad because players didn’t want to come if they knew Sarri wasn’t going to play them.It was a bit of a jibe and the backstory is that Sarri has a €8 million ($9m) release clause in his contract, and as you’d expect he has plenty of suitors. De Laurentiis went on to say he’d be happy if he stayed but equally, if he wanted to leave, he’d let him go — as long as someone ponied up the money.The San Paolo crowd left no doubt as to where they stood. Sarri was greeted with an ovation while there were murmurs against De Laurentiis. Given what the club have achieved this season, it only makes sense.

Mourinho goes in hard on his squad again

Jose Mourinho could have taken Friday night’s Brighton defeat on the chin, pointed to the league table (with Manchester United in second place) and the FA Cup final in two weeks’ time and simply told his critics that results proved him right. But instead, he went further.”Media in general [should be disappointed] because for many months you are always asking me why this player doesn’t play, why that player doesn’t play, why this player is on the bench, why always Lukaku?” he said. “Probably I know my players best than you and probably you don’t know them so well to be always with these questions.”Mourinho knew exactly how that answer would be read: an indictment of Marucs Rashford and Antony Martial. All season long, some have questioned why they didn’t get more playing time. Against Brighton, both played and both were poor.We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: Things rarely happen by accident with Mourinho, and if he’s going to throw one of his guys under the bus, he has to be confident he’ll get the right reaction from him. Evidently he must think this is the best way to get a reaction out of Rashford — and, to a lesser degree, Martial — though at this stage you wouldn’t be surprised if he had written him off completely.Time will tell whether he got it right. Either way, it’s jarring to hear.

A moment of praise for a “football God”

Alexander Meier is the epitome of the provincial cult hero, evidence that great men, great footballers and great stories exist away from the uber-hyped big clubs.The man they call “Fussball Gott” (“football God”) is in his 14th and likely final year at Eintracht Franfkurt, for whom he has scored 118 goals. That’s not a bad total for a 6-foot-5 attacking midfielder who was the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer three years ago.Successive foot injuries and a bout of Lyme disease meant he hadn’t played since the German Cup final last May. He made his return on Saturday when Eintracht hosted Hamburg, coming on with four minutes to go and scoring to make it 3-0. His deal is up at the end of the season and it’s not clear whether we’ll see him again.But many of us will remember him as a wonderfully unorthodox and inspirational player who did things men of his size don’t generally do. And we’ll be left to wonder: what cruel national team boss (yes, I’m looking at you, Jogi Loew) can’t even find a single cap for a legitimate “God?”

Spurs stumble yet again

Tottenham don’t like it when people joke about being “Spursy” as a euphemism for collapsing under pressure or make reference to Saint Totteringham’s Day — which, to be fair, Arsenal fans haven’t been able to celebrate in several years — but this is turning into a veritable late-season free fall.The dramatic 1-0 defeat to West Brom means they’ve taken just four of a possible 12 points in their last four games. The gap over Chelsea, which stood as high as 11 points a month ago (albeit with an extra game played), is now down to just two points.Harry Kane doesn’t look fully fit but more than that, they’re simply not playing well. Whether it’s exhaustion or rumors surrounding Mauricio Pochettino’s future (ones he fuels when he talks about somebody else being in charge of the “project” one day), it’s turning the end of Tottenham’s campaign into something far nervier than it ought to be.

VAR mess hampers A-League’s Grand Final

It’s no secret that of all the leagues that have adopted VAR, Australia’s A-League has had by far the worst experience. From what I can tell, a lot of it has to do with poor application (and poor referees) that only makes the natural price we pay for VAR — delays, loss of spontaneous celebrations, etc. — that much stiffer. But this past weekend, the A-League managed to stray into new VAR territory, and in the Grand Final no less: They somehow lost pictures, which meant they couldn’t go back to review Melbourne Victory’s opening goal. As it happened, the goal was offside.

I think VAR is worth pursuing and that a technological blunder — the first one that I’m aware of in more than a thousand VAR games, anyway — shouldn’t change that. Still, it’s hugely disappointing that there was no contingency to deal with this. And it’s not something you can simply argue away by saying that without VAR, the goal would still have stood and we would have accepted the error. That’s because assistant referees are instructed to give the benefit of the doubt on close offside in these situations since an incorrect offside call can’t be called back, but a goal scored in an offside position can’t be disallowed.

Real Madrid is singlehandedly drowning other European superclubs in disappointment

Henry BushnellFC YahooMay 1, 2018, 7:30 PM

There is no precedent. No historical equivalent for Real Madrid’s reign. The most successful club in European soccer history held off Bayern Munich on Tuesday to advance to its third consecutive Champions League final, and its fourth in five years. It has won 17 of 18 knockout round matchups in that time, and could soon win a fourth title. Never before has Europe’s top club competition, in its current form, seen this level of unrelenting dominance.And as a result, never before has European success been this elusive for others. Never before have failure and disappointment been this widespread.Nor has the Champions League ever been as highly regarded or valued as it is today. Madrid has supplemented its continental crowns with just one domestic league title, meaning there are still trophies to win. And the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, PSG and Juventus have won plenty of them.But the widening gap between superclubs and muggles has placed increased import on intra-elite battles. Outside of England, it has devalued domestic success. It has heaped esteem into the continental competition, onto one prize – a prize that only one team can claim. And a prize that only two clubs have claimed over the past half-decade.That’s why thoroughly impressive season seasons get deemed failures. Titles aren’t sufficient. Bayern Munich and PSG could win a combined seven trophies this year. And yet a few days after Bayern lifts the last of the seven, in the DFB Pokal final, both fan bases will look back on the past nine months with dissatisfaction.And the culprit, as it so often has been over the past five years, will be Real Madrid.Madrid has been the source of a sensational amount of Champions League heartbreak, and by extension an extraordinary amount of disappointment. It has on three occasions left Bayern bereft, and once left PSG peeved. It has taken out four Italian teams in three years, and could yet topple a fifth.It is the primary reason Bayern will soon move on to its fourth manager in four seasons, and PSG its third. It has exacerbated PSG’s flirtations with Financial Fair Play. It has twice killed off Gianluigi Buffon’s Champions League dreams, and almost singlehandedly kept Serie A as a second-rate league. It has ended Manchester City’s deepest European run, and watched as other English clubs around it self-destruct.Real’s unabating success on the continent has even wreaked havoc at Barcelona, despite the Catalans’ superiority in head-to-head matchups between the two. Barca’s 2017-18 season, by almost any objective measure, has been excellent. It has won its third La Liga title in four years. It lifted the Copa Del Rey. It could become the first team in Spanish history to complete an entire 38-game league season unbeaten.It has achieved all of this, however, in the shadow of Madrid’s European dominance.So despite it, first-year manager Ernesto Valverde is under pressure. The double is insufficient, just like PSG’s soon-to-be 18 French trophies over the past five years, or Bayern’s 10 (and counting) in Germany, or, to a lesser degree, Juventus’ nine (and counting) in Italy.On one hand, the concentration of European success at one central location in the Spanish capital has exposed the absurdity of expectations elsewhere. When a single trophy, and oftentimes a single game, defines success or failure, virulent frustration and displeasure are inevitable. Such is the nature of zero-sum games, though those experiencing the displeasure refuse to admit it.But when zero-sum games are repeatedly won by the same contestant, expectations don’t change; the frustration simply intensifies. Pressure heightens. Failure, because of its recurrent nature, becomes all the more crushing. And Real Madrid, by monopolizing success in a competition previously impervious to this type of exclusivity, continues to flatten the souls of its superclub brethren around Europe

Why Liverpool is the perfect challenger for Real Madrid’s Champions League throne

Henry Bushnell,FC Yahoo Wed, May 2 5:14 PM EDT

The day after it advanced to a fourth Champions League final in five years is no time to belittle Real Madrid. It is no time to suggest that the most prosperous team in the history of the competition, in the midst of that competition’s most dominant run, is anything less than spectacular. It is no time for defamation or aspersions, nor suggestions that Madrid doesn’t deserve its success.But after Liverpool dispatched Roma to lock in a date with Real in Kiev, it is time to talk about vulnerability.It is time to talk about vulnerability, because when Madrid goes for a third Champions League title in a row, and a fourth in five years, on May 26 at Ukraine’s Olympic Stadium, it will have to overcome an opponent that might as well be engineered to end its run.Liverpool is the Kryptonite. It is the nemesis. Its style is Real Madrid’s Achilles Heel. Frame the final however you want, with whatever metaphor or cliché. Just don’t scoff at the notion. Don’t assume that Real Madrid’s past triumphs ensure one more.Liverpool has a real chance to prevent the three-peat, because its up-tempo, “heavy-metal football” is the exact type to which Real has become susceptible. Against worthy opponents this year, Madrid has staggered like a king fighting with waning might to maintain control of his kingdom. It has survived, but shown more signs of weakness than ever.A once-great midfield has become a liability. Its beautiful lack of structure has become a problem as players like Luka Modric have lost an ounce or two of physical ability. Never before in the Modric-Toni Kroos era has Madrid’s midfield line been so easy to break, and never before has it so often failed to seize control of games.Los Blancos struggle, in particular, in transition. Kroos and Modric require freedom and options ahead of them. But their use of that freedom is problematic when they lose the ball. And those are precisely the times when Liverpool excels. Its high press forces turnovers. Its front three explode forward with menace. Wherever Madrid loses the ball, whether in the middle of the park or in the attacking third, it will have trouble cutting off supply to Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. It will therefore have trouble stemming Liverpool’s counterattack.There are possible alterations, available countermeasures for Real manager Zinedine Zidane to employ. He could play Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez as defensive wingers in a classic 4-4-2, with either Isco or Karim Benzema partnering Cristiano Ronaldo up top. But in that case, central channels would still be wide open.He could go even more conservative, to a 4-5-1 with the two defensive wingers, Casemiro behind Modric and Kroos, and Ronaldo up top alone. But in that case, Real Madrid wouldn’t be Real Madrid. In theory, Madrid might prefer a slow, defensive slog. But such a game is so out of the ordinary for a club accustomed to superiority and attacking flair that it might not be feasible.Zidane has sought this balance – between solidity and proactivity – throughout the European season, but hasn’t really been able to find it. Score lines have been deceiving. Real was on the back foot for at least half of its ties against PSG and Juventus, and all of its semifinal matchup with Bayern Munich.The defending champs have won Champions League games at either end of the field. They have scored more ridiculous individual goals than anybody else, punished mistakes with more ruthlessness than anybody else, and saved themselves with more last-ditch defensive interventions. Ronaldo has been Ronaldo. Sergio Ramos, when not suspended, has been Sergio Ramos. Keylor Navas has been Good Keylor Navas.Some would call Madrid’s success lucky. And they wouldn’t be wrong. It’s been a combination of luck and skill, just as almost all success is. Madrid has made use of opponent mistakes whereas others haven’t. And we should keep in mind that Liverpool has been prone to the very defensive slip-ups off of which Real has profited.But Liverpool can also force errors at the other end as well as anybody in the world. The Reds have done it against Man City, soccer’s most domineering attacking unit. If they have their way – and there is little to suggest they won’t – they will turn the Champions League final into chaos. And they are far more equipped to win a chaotic, helter-skelter game than Real Madrid.

Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp warns Real Madrid: ‘We will be on fire in final’

Andy Hunter at Stadio OlimpicoThe Guardian3 May 2018, 02:05

A beaming Jürgen Klopp told his Liverpool side they must go and finish the job in Kiev by winning the Champions League after surviving their Roma scare. Liverpool were beaten 4-2 at Stadio Olimpico, their first defeat in Rome, but advanced 7-6 on aggregate to the final where they will face Real Madrid.

And the Liverpool manager warned the holders that his team will be “on fire” in Ukraine having weathered another Roma recovery in the second leg of the semi-final. Klopp, who re-emerged from the tunnel to celebrate with the 5,000 delirious away fans half an hour after the final whistle, admitted his team had suffered and under-performed in the Italian capital. Not that he cared. Having guided Liverpool from the Champions League qualifiers to their eighth European Cup final appearance Klopp insisted his only focus was on ending a run of near-misses in finals and Real’s hold on the trophy on 26 May.“We were in a League Cup final and didn’t win it,” the Liverpool manager said. “People don’t tell me in the street since then: ‘Thank you for bringing us to the final.’ We were in the Europa League final too. Nobody tells me thank you. I see no trophies after these games. They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood. That’s a pity, but that’s the game. There’s still a job to do. “Going to a final is really nice but winning is even nicer. We will be ready but it is Real Madrid. You cannot be more experienced in this competition than Real Madrid. I think 80% of their team played all these finals. They are four times in the last five years and still together. They are experienced, we are not, but we will be really on fire.”Klopp joined his players in prolonged celebrations with the Liverpool supporters at the Stadio Olimpico. He later came back out to continue the revelry alone. He explained: “Seeing all these happy faces is the best thing that football can do. These people followed us all over Europe, come to Anfield, create an exceptional atmosphere, and we all know how big the desire is to come back on the winning track. They had such a big part in the season so far so if they want to see me, they can see me, no problem.”The Liverpool manager said his team were made to suffer by Roma because they did not capitalise on several counterattacks. “A big compliment for Roma,” added Klopp. “What a performance, what a comeback, what a great football game. In the high-intense moments we had brilliant counterattacks but not enough to finish them. There was a few penalty situations but I didn’t see them back so far. It was first time we were not as good as we can be.“We needed luck, that’s what we had, and over the whole campaign it’s deserved. It would have been deserved for Roma too. For both teams it would have been crazy to play extra time. So it was 7-6 on aggregate, which sounds crazy because it is crazy.“We came as a qualifier and are now in a final. I’m really happy for the boys, the club, the fans. It’s been a fantastic ride so far; now we go to Kiev, which sounds crazy but it’s the truth. We will go to Kiev.”The Roma president, James Pallotta, was livid with the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, insisting his refusal to award a penalty for handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold or dismiss Loris Karius for a foul on Edin Dzeko made the introduction of VAR an imperative in the Champions League.  Pallotta said: “It is very clear VAR is needed in the Champions League because you just can’t let stuff like this happen. El Shaarawy potentially [in]the 49th minute wasn’t offside and he [Dzeko] gets taken down by the goalie, the 63rd minute was a handball that was obvious to everyone probably in the world except people on the pitch, the 67th minute [Patrik] Schick gets taken down in the box.“I know it is difficult to ref but it is really embarrassing that we lose on aggregate like that. By the way, it should have been a red card which would have been 10 men in the 63rd minute. Liverpool are a great team, congratulations going forward, but if they don’t get VAR in the Champions League, stuff like this is an absolute joke,” Pallotta said.

Kick Off: OCSC-ATLUTD and Cascadia derby highlight Week 11 weekend slate

May 11, 201811:04AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

Here is everything you need to know about MLS and North American soccer this morning:

Ready for Week 11? You can be, with the all-new MLS App

With a full weekend slate opening Friday, make sure you’re set for the soccer onslaught with the the all-new official MLS app, available on iOS or Android . Set your favorites and follows to stay notified, and even if you can’t catch the action live, we’ve got you covered with exclusive access to condensed matches after every MLS regular-season game. iOS APP STORE | GOOGLE PLAY

‘Caps welcome favorite guests Houston

Vancouver will kick off the weekend menu of matches by hosting Houston under Friday night lights(10:30 pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info). The Caps, who are holding on to third in the West despite dropping four of five, have never lost to Houston at BC Place (6-0-1). PREVIEW

Derby doubleheader set for Sunday

Sunday out Cascadia way, Portland and Seattle will meet for the 100th time across their shared history at Providence Park (4 pm ET | ESPN – Full TV & streaming info). The Timbers, who enter on a three-game win streak, will hope Fernando Adi can extend his home derby scoring run; the striker has seven tallies in the last five. WATCH VIDEO | PREVIEW

That’s followed by the fourth southern rivalry duel between an Orlando City crew shooting for their seventh win in a row and visiting conference leaders Atlanta United (6 pm ET | FS1 – Full TV & streaming info). Both of these teams are among the top five most improved clubs this season, and one of them tops the list. READ MORE | PREVIEW

LAFC braces for NYCFC visit

It will be an interesting matchup when East beasts New York City FC make their first visit to LAFC (8:30 pm ET | FS1 – full TV & streaming info). Bob Bradley’s expansion outfit has opened their Banc of California Stadium tenure by allowing just one goal in a 2-0-1 start. PREVIEW

Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy will try to break the trends and a three-game losing skid in Saturday’s away match against FC Dallas (3:30 pm ET | Univision – full TV & streaming info). Not only are the Galaxy currently in a 1-3-9 road swoon (dating back to last season), but they’ve also gone winless in their last four clashes with FC Dallas. PREVIEW

Weekend travels for TFC, Red Bulls

What promises to be an ornery Toronto FC side will strive to get back to usual business when they invade New England for a Saturday tilt (7:30 pm ET | TSN – Full TV & streaming info). The Revs are 4-0-2 in their last six home games against the reigning but wounded champs. PREVIEW

Colorado will try to snap a three-game slide when they host a guest they’ve beaten three straight times at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the New York Red Bulls (9 pm ET | TV & streaming info). It may seem like a longshot and they don’t actually appear to need him, but we still made the Red Bulls one of two sensible landing spots if impending Barcelona freebie Andres Iniesta opts for an MLS switch this summer. READ MORE | PREVIEW

Crew SC, Impact host Eastern duels

Columbus will try to get revenge for last month’s defeat in Chicago when these old rivals lock horns at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info). Both teams are coming off slim midweek wins, with the Fire’s keyed by a man-marking master class from rookie Mo Adams. READ MORE | PREVIEW

In advance of Saturday’s home contest with East rivals Philadelphia (3 pm ET | CTV, TVAS – Full TV & streaming info), Montreal boss Remi Garde has taken the time to pour ice cold water on a transfer rumor. The Impact tactician has implored reporters to abandon all thoughts of a swoop for Atletico Madrid star Fernando Torres. READ MORE | PREVIEW

RSL, Loons aim to extend home runs

Real Salt Lake will wager a three-game Rio Tinto winning run when a D.C. United outfit with four straight road losses comes to town on Saturday (9 pm ET | TV & streaming info). Of course, the big news swirling around the capital these days regards their reported pursuit of Wayne Rooney, which the guys at ExtraTime Radio happily kicked around on Thursday. LISTEN TO ETR | PREVIEW

MInnesota United will try to log their first ever three-game home win streak when San Jose drops by for Saturday’s contest (2 pm ET | TV & streaming info). To do so, they will need to turn the tide on a Quakes side that has taken all four meetings (three in league play, one in the Open Cup) between the two to date. PREVIEW

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN DOWN LOUISVILLE CITY FC, 1-0

By IndyEleven.com, 05/05/18, 4:45PM EDT

The “Boys in Blue” end the “Boys in Purple” undefeated steak

Indy Eleven secure three points in a 1-0 win against Louisville City FC at Lucas Oil Stadium, handing the 2017 USL Champions their first loss of 2018.The action in the first 45 minutes of play was primarily contained in the midfield as both sides fought for scoring opportunities. Louisville had the first run at goal in the 14th minute when midfielder George Davis IV fired a shot high over Indy’s goal from the right edge of the field. Indy Eleven midfielder Nathan Lewis retuned the favor six minutes later with his run into LCFC’s 18-yard box. Louisville defender Paco Craig did well to clear seconds before the Trinidadian international was able to get a solid shot off. “Indiana’s Team” had another close look at goal in the 34th minute when midfielder Zach Steinberger lifted a cross into the center of LCFC’s box to forward Soony Saad’s head before his attempt ended up over the cross bar.The match continued on to the next 45 minutes. Indy would come close to scoring once more six minutes into the start of the second half. Saad sent the ball to the top of LCFC’s box from the corner to meet the head of striking partner Jack McInerney. The former LA Galaxy frontman nodded the ball towards goal, only for it to fly just over the frame. The “Boys in Purple” retaliated in the 58th minute when midfielder Brian Ownby hammered a ball from the upper left of Indy’s 18-yard box on target. Thankfully, “Boys in Blue” goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams stopped the shot as he dove to the ground, quickly collecting and restarting play seconds later.The dicey play continued on until the 78th minute when LCFC’s Craig was given a yellow card for a handball within their own box, awarding Indy Eleven a penalty kick for the offense. Eleven defender Ayoze Garcia stepped to the spot and buried the game-winning goal into the upper left corner of the net. Indy would retain this lead for the remainder of the match.Although Indy would walk away victorious, Louisville would have two more close chances at goal in a seven minute window. In the 80th minute, LCFC’s Sean Totsch nearly nodded in a header from the center of Indy’s box after receiving a cross from teammate Paolo DelPiccolo, but the ball was tipped over the bar by Fon Williams. Seven minutes later, LCFC’s Ownby took his chance with another close-range header that was eventually cleared out of danger by Indy defender Carlyle Mitchel, midfielder Matt Watson and Ayoze.The match carried on through eight minutes of stoppage time, but that wouldn’t be enough for the I-65 visitors to find the equalizing goal. Indy Eleven tallied three points on the afternoon, securing four-of-nine points from the three games in the last seven days. The “Boys in Blue” move into third place in the USL’s Eastern Conference standings, but much remains to be seen as the remaining Week 8 fixtures wait to be played out.Indy Eleven will return to action on the road Saturday, May 11 at 7:00 p.m. against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. “Indiana’s Team” will return to Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. to take on Bethlehem Steel FC. You can get tickets for as low as $15 at www.IndyElevenTickets.com or by calling (317)685-1100.

SL Regular Season
Indy Eleven 1:0 Louisville City FC
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:

IND – Ayoze – 78′
Indy Eleven lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Ayoze Garcia, Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette, Kevin Venegas (Brad Ring 90+1′); Nico Matern, Matt Watson, Zach Steinberger, Nathan Lewis (Seth Moses 83′); Soony Saad, Jack McInerney (Justin Braun 73′) Indy Eleven bench: Jordan Farr (GK); Brad Ring, Brad Rusin; Juan Guerra, Seth Moses; Justin Braun, Ben Speas

Louisville City FC lineup (4-4-2, L–>R): Greg Ranjitsingh (GK); Kyle Smith, Paco Craig, Sean Totsch, Oscar Jimenez; Paolo DelPiccolo, Devon Williams, George Davis IV, Magnus Rasmussen (Brian Ownby 45′); Cameron Lancaster, Ilija Ilic (Luke Spencer 66′)Louisville City FC bench: Tim Dobrowolski (GK), Chris Hubbard (GK); Alexis Souahy; Brian Ownby, Niall McCabe; Luke Spencer

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Carmel Dad’s Carmel FC Soccer Camp June 4-7 Badger, June 11-14 Shelbourne

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

5/4/18  Indy 11 Host Louisville 12 Sat – Discount Tix, El Classico Sun 2:45 pm, Champ League Final Liverpool vs Real Madrid, W2W4 Games on TV

I lead with the Indy 11 this week as I attended the Wed night match-up with Cincinatti FC a tough 3-2 loss to the defending USL Champs.  Cincy continues to be 1 goal better than the 11 right now unfortunately as they completely overran our midfield.  I do have to say again – the atmosphere at Lucas Oil really changes the Indy 11 experience – man the roof was open Wed night and it was just spectacular.  Comfortable, a little breeze in the air – tons of concessions, tons of bathrooms, no lines – it was just fantastic.  Listen soccer fans in Indy – you need to get to a game.  The excuse that the stadium stinks no longer apply’s as this is darn near the best stadium in soccer if the fans of Indy care enough to fill the stadium.  Ticket prices are lower than ever and the seats are good.  Heck the BYB is so big now – you can actually sit on the corners and not have to stand with the fantastic crazies in the middle (helps old guys like me who want to be in the fray but can’t stand all game anymore). Whether you are after a family atmosphere or a 20 something group of crazies drinking beers all game – the new Indy 11 set-up at the LUKE has it all.  But as a city we have to put more than 7 or 9 or 15 thousand in the stadium to make soccer work in Indianapolis?  Listen Cincy FC averages 25,000 a game in a college stadium in a town that has a pro Baseball team going head to head with soccer.  If we in Indy can’t average 15-20K a game in a spectacular stadium like the LUKE – we’ll we don’t deserve Professional Soccer at all – must less MLS.  While this Saturday’s match-up with league leader Louisville is a tough to make 12 noon kickoff also on MyIndy TV23 – our 3 home games in June and 1 in July are all 7 pm kickoffs – we need to fill the lower bowl Indy or soon we might not have a team to call our own. Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Indy11open roof
It was open roof pregame for the Indy 11 Wed Night vs Cincy at Lucas Oil  wow!

Champions League

The Champions League semi-finals did not disappoint as a fantastic 20 goals were scored over 4 games as each team pushed for away goals and 2 of the teams won big at home.  It was end to end drama – with horrible reffing again, great goalkeeping mixed with a horrific gaff by Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich that was the 1 goal that Bayern lost by eventually.  Liverpool hung on for a 7-6 Aggregate win at Roma on Wednesday despite the 4-2 loss on the road their 5-2 first leg lead was too much for the Italian squad to overcome.  Real Madrid moves into their 3rd straight Final after surviving Bayern Munich at home 2-2 to win 4-3 on Aggregate despite being outshot and outpossessed 2-1 at home. Its sets up a fantastic final between 2-time Defending Champions Real Madrid and Renaldo vs Liverpool and Player of the Year Candidate Salah on Saturday afternoon 2:45 pm, May 27th on FOX 59 that should feature lots of goals as these are the top scoring teams in Champions League.

Europa League also gave us fabulous Semi’s as Athletico Madrid won 1-0 at home to advance past Arsenal 2-1 on Aggregate as Arsene Wenger’s chance for a dream European Title in his last season for the Gunners was not to be as a Diego Costa goal ended it all for Atletico at home.  Salsberg meanwhile made up a 2-0 deficit at home vs Marseille to tie it at 2-2, but lost the game in overtime setting up Atletico Madrid vs Marseille for the Europa League Title in Lyon, France on Wed, May 16 at 2:45 pm on FS1.

EL CLASSICO SUN 2:45

While Barcelona has already won the La Liga Title – EL CLASSICO is always important as Real Madrid will travel to Camp Noa this weekend for the 238th edition .  On the line is Barcelona’s chance to have the first Unbeaten season in La Liga since 1932.  Of course Real Madrid is just 1 win away from winning their 3rd Straight Champions League title – but it is Barcelona who have dominated the Spanish League this season.  The game is this Sunday 2:45 pm on beIN Sport.

EPL

All eyes turn towards the Relegation Zone in the EPL now that Man City has celebrated their title, Man United has settled in at 2nd and Liverpool and Tottenham have all but solidified their Champions League slots.  The bottom 4 teams are sent/RELEGATED to the next lowest division. Unlike in the US where the worse teams get the top draft positions – in Europe if you suck – you get sent down to the lower divison while the top 4 teams in the lower division move up 1 league.  Imagine the Cleveland Browns or Colts being sent down to the Arena League after a bad season.  That’s how it works in Soccer in every other country in the World except the US of course.  If it did – our Indy 11 might have moved up to MLS after winning the title 2 season’s ago.  While I would love to see Relegation in the US – I never seeing it happen. So we get to enjoy these life or death matters in the European Leagues.  I think the # is well over $150 million now the difference between being in the EPL and being relegated to the Championship second division.  A few years back US star Clint Dempsey scored a goal in Extra Time as Fulham won on the last day to keep them in the EPL – it was called the $100 million dollar goal. Of course the next season he left for Tottenham and Fulham did get relegated and now 3 years later they have a chance to possibly move back up.  Ok back to this year – the EPL Table has West Brom (28), Stoke City (30) with US player Geoff Cameron, Southampton (32), and Swansea (33) – who prematurely fired former US Coach Bob Bradley at the bottom and going down.  They are chasing Huddersfield Town (35) -with US D-mid Williams, West Ham (35), Brighton (37) and Watford (38).  Saturday’s slate gives us a whole slew of games with EPL survival on the line as Stoke City hosts Crystal Palace at 7:30 am on NBCSN, followed by Bournemouth vs Swansea on NBCSN at 10 am and West Brom vs Tottenham at 10 on CNBC. Sunday gives us Chelsea vs Liverpool at 11:30 am on NBCSN as Chelsea desperately battles for a top 4 slot – its preceded by Man City hosting Huddersfield at 8:30 am on NBCSN and Arsenal vs Burnley on CNBC at 11:30 am.  Here’s a look at all the European Leagues standings.

MLS

Not much on TV in the MLS this weekend but we do have the New York Derby with the Red Bulls hosting Top Ranked NYCFC Sat 1:55 on ESPN.

 

GAMES ON TV

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

Fri, May 4-

3:05 pm NBCSN        Brighton vs Man United

Sat, May 5

7:30 am NBCSBN       Stoke City (Cameron) vs Crystal Palace (Relegation battle)

9:30 am Fox ???        Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Mainz

10 am CnbC              West Brom vs Tottenham

10 am  NBCSN          Bourmouth vs Swansea (Relegation battle)

12 noon beIN sport   Milan vs Verona

12:30 beIN Sport      Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBC                  Everton vs Southampton

1:55 pm ESPN            NY Red Bulls vs NY City FC

2:45 pm BeIN Sport  Juventus vs Bologna

12 noon My IndyTV   Indy 11 vs Louisville  – Lucas Oil 

Sun, May 6

8:30 am NBCSN        Man City vs Huddersfield

11:30 am CNBC            Arsenal vs Burnley

11:30 am NBCSN      Chelsea vs Liverpool

2:45 pm beIN sport  Barcelona vs Real Madrid – El Classico

5  pm                                  Orlando vs Real Salt Lake

Wed, May 9

2 pm beIn Sport          Barcelona vs Villarreal

2:45 pm NBCSN           Leicester City vs Arsenal

3 pm GOL TV        Juve vs Milan – Italian Cup

7:30 pm FoxSport1    Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

8 pm ESPN 3                  Fresno FC vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (ESPN3)

Sat, May 12

9:30am Fox Sports 1? Bayern Munich vs Stuggart

9:30 am FS1                    Hoffenheim vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

Sun, May 13

10 am                                 Newcastle United vs Chelsea (Final day of the EPL)

10 am                                 Tottenham vs Leicester City

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Roma vs Juventus

4 pm ESPN                       Portland vs Seattle FC

6 pm FS1                          Orlando vs Atlanta

8:30 pm FS1             LAFC vs NYCFC

Sat, May 19

12:30 pm FOX      Chelsea vs Man United FA CUP FINAL  

Sat, May 26th 

2:45 pm FOX 59   Liverpool vs Real Madrid – Champions League Final

June 2, 2018: IF: MNT vs. Ireland (Dublin, Ireland) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 7, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Sandy, UT) – Tickets (Avail. 4/13) –

June 9, 2018: IF MNT vs. France (Lyon, France) – Tickets – United – AO Hotel – Events

June 12, 2018: IF: Women NT vs. China (Cleveland, OH) – Tickets – United –

Thur, June 14        World Cup on Fox

MLS TV Schedule

Indy 11

Indy 11 Fall 3-2 to Cincy face Louisville Sat at 12 noon – Indy Star Kevin Johnson

Rough Ride vs Cincy – Rebecca Townsend Bloody Shambles

Indy 11 Recap of 2-3 loss to cincy – Indy 11

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB –Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club –Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate TEN BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate TEN is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate TEN—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Real Madrid Crushing the Hopes of all other European Clubs with its dominance – Yahoo

Bayern is own Worse Enemy as Real Madrid returns to Final – SI Jon Wilson

Bayern Stars are Pissed at Ref Decisions

Marcelo Admits Hand Ball not Called on Him – ESPNFC

Liverpool Snuff out Roma Comebaack

Goals A Plenty makes Roma vs Liverpool a Semi to Sing about – Telegraph Paul Heyward

Liverpool finds a Way to hold on vs Roma – SI

Liverpool Sneaks into Finals – yahoo

Liverpool Trio Sets Champs League Scoring Record vs Roma – SI

Salah Struggles – Player Ratings Liverpool

Roma Ratings

Liverpool Karius outshines Roma’s Alisson to Reach UCL Final

Roma Should be Proud

Medias Response

Champions League Team of the Week –

Real Madrid Wearing 13 Shirts irk Liverpool Fans

 

Arsenal must Clear Rubble of Fallen Empire

Athletico Madrid Stands Alone as Defensive Team in Champions or Europa Action

Marseille Score in Extra Time to Advance to Final

WORLD

Could Club World Cup Change the Game for FIFA? Matt Scott EPSNFC

Juve Take Charge of Serie A, Barca Celebrate La Liga Title, Liverpool’s Stress – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

Barca wins the La Liga Title

Germany’s Hamburg and US Bobby Wood have 2 games to stave off Relegation

USA

DeAndre Yedlin Proud that US Fans are Upset at World Cup Miss – ESPNFC

Pulisic to Play for US in Pittsburg Game

Liverpool Eyes US Pulisic – SI

Dortmund not Away of Liverpool Interest for US Pulisic

Trump Tweet supporting US World Cup breaks Ethics Rules

US World Cup Bid gets Trumps Backing – Grant Wahl – SI

John Brooks makes Return for Wolfsburg

US to Play England Nov 15

EPL

Liverpool Wins the Month, Southampton Loses it – Adam Hurrey ESPNFC

Klopp and Liverpool Lead new Tatitical Era – leaving Mourinho and Wenger Behind – ESPNFC

Goalkeeping 

Liverpool Karius outshines Roma’s Alisson to Reach UCL Final

Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas saves vs Bayern Munich

In Any Language Keylor Navas was Spectacular

Navassaves180502
Real Madrid GK Keylor Navas Saved Madrid vs Bayern with 6 spectacular Saves !

Navas Saves Real vs Bayern  Footbie Video

Saves Atletico’s Jan Oblak vs Arsenals Arsenal’s David Ospina 

Oblak’s Brilliance Highlights Arsenal’s Need to Upgrade Keeper

Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas shows Character in Win over Bayern

Pregame – Navas & Steven Ulreich Great Saves

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

NY Derby to be tough

We have Respect for NYCFC says RB Tyler Adams

Deadline sends Lee Nguyen to LAFC

Warshaw – Nguyen Trade Gives Bob Bradley Options – MLS.com

International Champions Cup

Tix in the US go on sales May 1st to the General Public but I have a special Link to allow you in the PRE-SALE.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

Man City vs Borussia Dortmund – Fri July 20 9 pm Chicago Soldier Field

Man United vs Liverpool  – Sat July 28 5 pm Michigan Stadium (tix on sale now)

ICC Full Schedule

Big ICC Games Coming ESPNFC

Indy Eleven begin Rivalry Week with loss to FC Cincinnati

Kevin Johnston, Special to IndyStarPublished 10:36 p.m. ET May 2, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Perhaps the most enticing perk of the Indy Eleven’s move to the United Soccer League (USL) is on full display this week: the regional rivalries.Indy, FC Cincinnati and Louisville City FC – three of the best sides in the league – are all nestled within two-hour drives of one another. This week, the Eleven get to host both regional foes within a four-day span.Indy started off its official Rivalry Week with a high-octane 3-2 loss against FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The setback was only the Eleven’s second of the season, the other also having come at the hands of Cincinnati. “It was an exciting game,” Eleven head coach Martin Rennie said. “It was a slow start from us. I thought we came back into the game well.”The visitors wasted little time striking first. After an Indy foul inside the penalty area, Cincinnati captain Kenney Walker scored in the seventh minute to grab a short-lived lead. Oddly enough, Walker was also culpable for Indy’s equalizer soon thereafter.n the 24th, Indy forward Jack McInerney leveled it 1-1 after pouncing on a bad giveaway by Walker. McInerney missed his initial effort, then slotted home the rebound.
Another penalty call, this time in Indy’s favor, allowed the hosts to snatch a lead. Forward Soony Saad went down during a rough challenge and left back Ayoze converted the penalty kick.FC Cincinnati  midfielder Corben Bone and forward Jimmy McLaughlin linked up on a respective pass into space and finished just minutes before halftime to tie it.The second half wasn’t quite as eventful, but Bone added a winning strike in the 54th minute to go with his assist to put Cincinnati up for good, 3-2. The Eleven brought on a few subs — Nathan Lewis, Matt Watson and Justin Braun —  in search of another equalizer. All three turned in active shifts, but a tying goal didn’t come.”We just wanted to make sure that we got a little more attacking zip,” Rennie said. “Nathan gave us that, and I thought Justin gave us that as well. Matt Watson controlled midfield a lot more.”FC Cincinnati generally looked better, mostly controlling the midfield while getting more out of its ventures into the final third. FC Cincinnati won the possession battle and connected on more passes, but the Eleven held a narrow edge in shot statistics.Disappointed with the final score, Indy right back Brad Ring took responsibility, explaining that his main focus was to be solid defensively.”Obviously, we didn’t do a great job of that as a team, letting in three goals tonight,” he said. “It’s a disappointment. We’re not going to win, or even get results out of games, letting in three goals. Getting two goals, for us, should be enough to get some sort of result, so it’s on the defense.”The Eleven will return to Lucas Oil for a noon kickoff Saturday against defending-champion Louisville City FC.

GET READY TO TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate TEN is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate TEN—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

RECAP | INDY ELEVEN FALL IN 2-3 THRILLER AGAINST FC CINCINNATI AT HOME

By IndyEleven.com, 05/02/18,  EDT  “Boys in Blue” fall for the second time in 2018

A tough night in the Circle City as Indy Eleven fall 2-3 to FC Cincinnati at home for the second time in 2018. This marks the second time the “Boys in Blue” have dropped points this season, and the first time the team has conceded more than one goal in a match.The evening started with Indy trailing in the opening minutes. FC Cincinnati frontman Emery Welshman went down in front of Indy’s goal in the 5th minute after charging into the box. It was contact with “Boys in Blue” defender Carlyle Mitchell that led Welshman to go down gripping his head leading the official to award the visitors a penalty kick. Two minutes passed before FCC captain Kenney Walker stepped to the spot and buried the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal off his right foot. FC Cincinnati 1, Indy Eleven 0.Both sides continued to ask questions of each other. Indy Eleven forward Soony Saad got his first good look at goal in the 15th minute from a direct free kick a little over 30 yards out from the “Orange and Blue’s” goal, but the ball skidded just missed to the right of the post. Indy would find, and capitalize, on their game-leveling chance 11 minutes later. A pop ball outside of FCC’s 18-yard box fell to feet of Walker, but a bad first touch saw the ball deflect to the path of Indy Eleven forward Jack McInerney. A short dash and a shot from McInerney was deflected out of goal by Cincinnati goaltender Spencer Richey. Lacking power, the ball landed back at the feet of “Jack Mac” before he sent it into the back of the net for Indy’s first goal of the evening.The goal count continued to climb for Indy. A myriad of attempts from the “Boys in Blue” in the 29th minute forced Cincinnati into a defensive corner before Saad was eventually brought down in front of goal. The official blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot once more. This time, Ayoze stepped up and registered his first Indy Eleven goal with a shot in the lower left corner. The good guys were in the lead.Cincinnati weren’t going down without a fight as they leveled the score once more in the dying minutes of the first half. In the 41st minute, FCC midfielder Corben Bone chipped the ball high over Indy’s defensive line deep in the home sides own half. The ball took a single bounce in front of FCC midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin before he shot the ball from outside the box and sent it into the bottom left corner of Indy’s box. The score was tied as the first half came to a close.The second half started strong as both sides looked for their chance to take the lead. In the 54th minute, FC Cincinnati’s latest signing, midfielder Michael Lahoud hit a short pass forward to Bone at the top of the box. Bone hit the ball from the top of Indy’s 18-yard box after a controlled first touch and found the back of the net. Indy Eleven continued to look for chances throughout the second half, FC Cincinnati was back in the lead where they would remain for the rest of the evening.“It’s always disappointing to lose,” said Indy Eleven head coach Martine Rennie. “I think it’s a little bit frustrating that we lost goals at the start of each half. It was certainly an exciting game for the fans. From a coaching perspective, I would expect that it’ll be an improved performance when we come back to it on Saturday.”  Indy Eleven will finish their three game stretch this Saturday at 12:00 p.m as defending USL champions Louisville City FC travel to Indianapolis. Fans cans grab tickets to the early afternoon match for as low as $15 at www.IndyElevenTix.com or by calling (317)685-1100. Scoring Summary:

 Scoring

CIN – Kenney Walker (PK) – 7′

IND – Jack McInerney – 24′

IND – Ayoze (PK) – 30′

CIN – Jimmy McLaughlin (Corben Bone) – 41′

CIN – Corben Bone (Michael Lahoud) – 54′

Indy Eleven lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R): Owain Fôn Williams (GK); Brad Ring, Ayoze Garcia. Carlyle Mitchell, Karl Ouimette; Tyler Pasher, Ben Speas (Matthew Watson 60′), Juan Guerra (Justin Braun 78′), Zach Steinberger (Nathan Lewis 60′); Soony Saad, Jack McInerney

Indy Eleven bench: Jordan Farr (GK); Brad Rusin, Kevin Venegas; Nico Matern, Matt Watson; Justin Braun, Nathan Lewis 

Pleasure And Pain Aplenty, Parting Shots From A Rough Ride – Indy Eleven V FC Cincinnati REVIEW

Ayoze from the spot gets his first goal for Indy Eleven (Photo: Clyde Townsend)

By: Rebecca Townsend

Minute 5, Cincy’s Corben Bone is not shut down as he streamed into Indy’s left defensive channel and launches a cross into the box where his striker Emery Welshman escaped a brief interaction with Brad Ring, somewhat akin to a do-si-do, before what looked from the press box to be rather incidental, off-balance contact with Carlyle Mitchell. To the ref it looked like a PK. Cincy midfielder Kenney Walker nails his shot. 1-0.The hosts redoubled their efforts to regain the upper hand. It did not take them long.Hungry Indy striker Jack McInerney worked for his meat, feasting on his interception of a Cincy pass in the 24th minute, Cool Jack Mack drives a shot toward Spencer Richey that sent the visiting goalie into full panic mode. In diving to block McInerney’s first effort, Richey set his rival up for a rebound shot. McInerney, a veteran of MLS and the U.S. Men’s National Team, embodied cool, calm, collected focus and, with ease, guided the ball into the net. 1-1.The loins of Indy’s collective fan base grew moist because in that moment Cool Jack embodied such a lovely balance of hard and smooth, a truly delicious combination for a striker. Yummy!McInerney’s example can serve as inspiration as the team reflects on moments when more patience is warranted once control and possession are established.
Soony Saad awarded the penalty that would put Indy Eleven a goal in front (Photo: Clyde Townsend)

Salivating hunger for goals and the willingness to work for them is a trait shared by Indy’s entire strike force. Justin Braun looked hungry Wednesday, as did Soony Saad, who managed to draw a PK in one of his drives into the Cincy box.Indy defender Ayoze took the shot and launched Indy ahead 2-1.The host’s euphoria did not make it to halftime.Welshman (the same one who headed in a goal for FC Cincy the last time they were in town) set up Corben Bone’s sweet chip to a speedy, wily Jimmy McLaughlin who opened Indy’s defense with an arching run across the 18 from left to right, only to demonstrate artful control by receiving the chip and executing a decisive, one-touch strike from back across the face of goal, past all of Indy’s defense and into the far, left net. Plenty of material for the team to review in terms of marking strategies on this one. 2-2.Around minute 55, Mike Lahoud’s dish to Corben Bone yields an undeniable cannon of a shot into Indy’s lower left corner for the game-winning strike. The Bitch congratulates Cincinnati, as abhorrent as it may feel. Indeed, Indy deserved it. When all the video review is said and done, it’s likely Indy will find that it has the potential to stop goals like Cincy’s. 3-2.Marking strategy is something worth considering in greater detail. Several examples could be seen Wednesday of the team communicating about marking needs, which, in short order upgrade from low to high priority. Perhaps the “bitch” of the night could involve the dissatisfaction felt when one witnesses – on at least two occasions – the communication becomes a distraction, meaning players are pointing fingers about who should be where while, meanwhile, those very opponents slide by.Here’s coach Townsend’s golden rule: the pecking order starts with the goalie, whose word trumps everyone else’s on the field. The defensive line has the second most power: when a defender points to a player and tells a midfielder or striker to get there, the recipients of that message need to shut up, listen and move to shut down the identified opponent. Wait: one more bitch. This one for the refs. If I were to choose one goof, perhaps it would be that time around minute 75 when you called a foul against Jack McInerney. From the press box, it’s a bet that McInerney was the victim of that altercation.

Notes from the game’s final minutes: “Saad could be concussed from the whiplash he’s probably getting from being pushed in the back so hard. Justin was taken down from behind…”

To counter the bitchiness, some positive notes:

High five to Carlyle Mitchell for a nice, hard committed tackle to prevent a Cincy one-on-one against Fon Williams in the 74th minute. Also to Matt Watson for great presence in stopping a threatening counter-attack as the game was winding down.The Pitch Bitch once soaked up some wisdom from a dear friend with a lifetime of professional soccer playing experience that pertains to the next few days for Indy. It’s about holding your head up and moving forward.“What do you do to help keep your head up in hard times?” she asked, as they commiserated about the heartlessness of the business of soccer — of deals made and broken — of salary dreams and salary realities.“Win,” he said. “It always helps to win.” Indy lost this battle, but the war is not over. To win, when we are knocked down, we get up and keep fighting harder. Even though the Pitch Bitch has confessed an irrational expectation that her teams win all games, she accepts reality — for the most part. So, if games must be lost, let one (or two) be lost early on — and let the victories come later. We have one more regular season match against Cincinnati — and they will host it at 7:30 on Sept. 29. (Road trip anyone?) Indy Eleven has 28 games remaining in 2018, 14 at home. We’ve got what has to be one of the greatest stadiums in the league. We’ve got 70,000 seats. Let’s party like soccer players and win a damn championship! Then maybe the powers that be will deem it feasible to give Hoosiers the world-class grass they deserve for the world-class players performing for our entertainment and education.Thanks to the Indy Eleven communication team for the following information:

“It’s always disappointing to lose,” said Indy Eleven head coach Martin Rennie. “I think it’s a little bit frustrating that we lost goals at the start of each half. It was certainly an exciting game for the fans. From a coaching perspective, I would expect that it’ll be an improved performance when we come back to it on Saturday.”

Indy Eleven will finish their three-game stretch this Saturday at 12:00 p.m as defending USL champions Louisville City FC travel to Indianapolis. Fans cans grab tickets to the early afternoon match for as low as $15 at Indy Eleven Tix or by calling (317)685-1100.

Report: Klopp, Liverpool in Contact With Dortmund, Eye Pulisic Transfer

90MIN May 03, 2018

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is reportedly eyeing a raid on former club Borussia Dortmund for highly rated American winger Christian Pulisic in a story that will no doubt excite Reds fans.According to Bild, Klopp has twice tried to take Pulisic, who was drafted into Dortmund’s Under-17 squad shortly before Klopp left Dortmund in 2015, to Liverpool.The 50-year-old is apparently unwilling to give up, although a deal would cost him as Bild put a figure of €60m (£53m) or more on any potential move. Whether Liverpool would want to pay that much remains to be seen, but the interest appears unlikely to drop.Bild actually contacted Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc for his take. Zorc revealed that he is in ‘constant contact’ with Klopp. But whatever those talks are about, it’s apparently not Pulisic as the Dortmund official denied having any knowledge of a possible deal.Keen Liverpool fans may choose to believe that Zorc isn’t telling the whole truth. Or they may simply hope that one day soon Klopp formalizes his long standing interest in Pulisic and brings up the subject as part of that ‘constant contact’ he has with former colleague Zorc.The 19-year-old Pulisic will not be going to the World Cup this summer after the United States failed to qualify for the first time since 1986, but he’s enjoyed another promising year at club level.The youngster has managed 12 combined goals and assists in 40 appearances in all competitions for the club this season, starting 25 times in the Bundesliga as Dortmund battle to secure Champions League football for next season.He played a full 90 minutes in Champions League games against Tottenham and Real Madrid earlier this season, but a bout of illness ruled him out of the Europa League last 16 second leg against Red Bull Salzburg as Dortmund surprisingly exited the competition. 

champions League semifinals were fraught, flawed, frenetic and fun

4:00 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

Football loves its conventional wisdom as much as any other endeavour. For a long time, there was this belief that semifinals were necessarily tight, tactical affairs, particularly in Europe.I’m not sure if it was ever based on anything other than anecdotal evidence or observation bias, but the thinking went something like this: The away team would be conservative because the first leg was really only the first half of a match lasting 180 minutes, and the home team would be terrified of conceding that “all-important away goal” (another trope). Whatever the case, this Champions League season was different. And it’s not just about the number of goals scored — 20 over four semifinal games — but rather the way the ties unfolded.Nobody parked the bus. Everybody spent most of their 180 minutes either playing on the front foot or trying to win the ball back so they could attack. When teams took the lead, it didn’t seem to occur to them to manage the advantage in the traditional way: making the pitch big by spreading the passes around, controlling the tempo, dropping the team’s centre of gravity so as to suck them forward and create space behind. And when they tried, they often came up short.Most of all, these four games were marked by mistakes. Plenty of them.You had tactical ones, like Roma’s absurd high line against Liverpool’s roadrunners, which turned Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus into twin Wile E. Coyotes, or Real Madrid’s pigheaded insistence upon trying to play through the Bayern press each and every time.You had technical ones; too many to count, so let’s just name those who made the most egregious missteps on the defensive end (one per team, to be equal): Radja Nainggolan, Sergio Ramos, Dejan Lovren and Sven Ulreich.You also had poor finishing. Lots of it. The result, for those who like their expected goals, are xG maps that look like this and this.That is a ton. And we might have had even more if not for some distinctly disjointed refereeing, from unseen handballs to — for me anyway — the biggest blown call of all: Ramos’ bodycheck that sent Robert Lewandowski flying.Expect think pieces about the “lost art of defending” in 3, 2, 1, but perhaps it’s a little bit simpler than that and, maybe, drawing massive conclusions based on four matches is premature.There are plenty of other reasons for what we saw. These four teams might have reached the final four, but there’s a reason three of them are third in their respective leagues and the fourth, Bayern, have a 24-point lead at the top and haven’t really had to break a sweat too often since February.These are imperfect entities; three of them simply do not suffocate opponents and kill games consistently, while Bayern, which probably could, have elected to spend the past three months chopping and changing personnel, losing chemistry and edge in the process.All of that leads to mistakes, and so too does in-house philosophy.Jurgen Klopp — by choice — is an attacking manager. So is Zinedine Zidane, though perhaps less by choice. Jupp Heynckes, who knew he was retiring (again) at the end of the campaign, restored Bayern to the Guardiola Era mindset: two wingers and a centre-forward, plus James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller.And Eusebio Di Francesco, while perhaps not as obsessively attack-oriented, is nevertheless one of the most daring, roll-of-the-dice coaches out there, a manager whose style adheres to the Kenny Rogers credo: “Every hand’s a winner/And every hand’s a loser/ And the best that you can hope for/ Is to die in your sleep.”Press high up the pitch and you force mistakes while exposing your defence; it’s as simple as that. There’s always a trade-off in football. These teams can beat you in different ways, but what really gees them up is luring opponents into areas where they can hunt the ball down and then, with one or two passes, shoot on goal.It’s true that, broadly speaking, there are more teams across Europe looking to play attacking football and defending higher up the pitch. But there are also some who view it differently. Replace these four semifinalists with, say, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Borussia Monchengladbach, and maybe our experience would have been distinctly different despite the fact that, as a group, these four aren’t far worse than the other four (and some might say they’re even better).In fact, that probably also explains the lost art of defending narrative. Sure, there aren’t many Paolo Maldinis around, but there weren’t too many when he was in his prime, either. Defending is a whole lot easier when you’re 30 yards away from your goalkeeper, your full-backs are actual defenders and not recycled wingers, there are two holding midfielders protecting you and you don’t have a bunch of wild-eyed forwards hunting you down every time you have possession.Throw in the fact that every defensive error is scrutinized like never before and you can see why defenders so often are treated like cannon fodder. (Not to mention that the good things they do often involve the sort of stuff that doesn’t make for good highlights.)Put all this together and maybe these semifinals weren’t the chaos that they appeared. In fact, unless you’re a Bayern or Roma fan — in which case you’re wondering what might have been and how you didn’t overcome far-from-unbeatable opponents — you probably enjoyed these games.There were gross mistakes — yes, from referees, too — but there were also moments of wonderful skill and two ties that remained in doubt until the very end (OK, in Roma’s case, the last five seconds, but still).Mistakes are part of the game, and error-strewed ties do not mean the sky is falling. More likely, they’re a one-off. And a welcome, fun one at that.

Goals aplenty make Roma vs Liverpool a semi-final to sing and dance about

Paul Hayward,The Telegraph 7 hours ago

To understand it you just had to look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19 and Liverpool born, celebrating in front of the away supporters with his shirt off. Jurgen Klopp’s right-back was surrounded by kindred spirits but also in a world of his own.Mark Lawrenson recalled that the Roma manager knew his side were beaten in the 1984 final here when Liverpool’s players walked round the pitch beforehand singing a Chris Rea song. No team that confident was going to go home without the European Cup. Klopp’s side are still a leap away from being European champions, but Alexander-Arnold, who comes from West Derby and joined the club aged six, is one of several in this squad who are turning from boys to men.Thus Liverpool are already winners in the developmental stakes: Champions League finalists in Klopp’s second full season in charge, with individual improvement all across the field. Back in 84, Liverpool had class, history, aura, built up over two decades. This time they came to Rome as revelations. And they came with goals. If this year’s Champions League semi-finals have resembled basketball at times, you can hardly ask Liverpool to apologise for being the first team to reach 46 goals in a single Champions League campaign. Their prolific scoring is only partly explained by the defensive frailties in front of them. The biggest cause is their irresistible movement and finishing.Sadio Mane can be the least celebrated of the trident and still open the scoring stylishly. Georgi Wijnaldum can start the game badly and still head Liverpool’s second en route to a 7-6 aggregate victory. This was not a semi. It was an arms race.Who fizzed and who flopped in the Champions League semi-final decider?Liverpool, of all clubs, know the value of not giving up, from the final in Istanbul 13 years ago. Eusebio Di Francesco’s team also know it well. They fought to the end, almost chasing another lost cause down, until the final whistle released Liverpool from their “suffering” as Klopp called it.

A minority of Roma’s fans had displayed dark the power of dysfunctional tribalism, turning the Stadio Olimpico into a security compound, a week after the appalling injuries suffered by a Liverpool supporter, Sean Cox, outside Anfield. But the majority brought a more benign kind of pressure to bear on Liverpool, the new hot ticket in European football.There was a strange kind of madness about this tie, with Liverpool losing their No 2 coach, Zjleko Buvac, who left the party just as it was getting really good, Steven Gerrard being courted by Rangers and away fans having to observe elaborate travel plans to ensure their safety. Outside the ground, the notorious bridges over the Tiber stood like crossing points from a nightmare, even with the swarms of carabinieri.Sadio Mane scored the first of six goals on the night This kind of tension sits badly with the beauty of Rome, but maybe the two are indivisible. Turmoil  is expressed in every Roman street, some of it merely emotional, other parts of it political and much darker. Football feeds this need for melodrama, but Roma were trying to feed it from an impossible position, against opponents who were also expected to fall long before this stage. Liverpool in Europe: Finals ranked and ratedThe script was that Virgil van Dijk’s defensive unit would pick up where Mo Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino left off at Anfield. Liverpool would probably pinch an away goal to ease the pressure, but the main aim was stopping Roma doing what they did to Barcelona in the last-round. Roma’s fans came here thinking a second miracle was possible. Liverpool fought against their own belief that a 3-0 Roma win was impossible, given the effervescence of their own front-three, which reflects the modern cult of forwards working in gangs of three.Seldom has a 5-2 starting point felt so tantalising, and Liverpool could never relax on their seemingly commanding position. The threat was always there. Salah, meanwhile, now knows the pointlessness of not celebrating goals against former clubs. At Anfield, Salah was apologetic about his two first-half goals, raising his palms and avoiding the group hug. His reward was to be jeered by Roma fans on his old hunting ground – a more rational approach, if a little ungracious.Roma have been derided as semi-final impostors. But you could hardly question their spirit. They pressed and hustled, hounding Liverpool’s two young full-backs, Andy Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, and giving Van Dijk the biggest test of his Liverpool career, four months in. Roma went direct, whipping diagonal balls forward and trying to create mayhem in Loris Karius’s penalty box.With eight minutes left, Klopp sent Ragnar Klavan on as a fifth defender in place of Mane, but even then the tension was maintained – and intensified when Radja Nainggollan struck from long-range with five minutes left, and then scored from the penalty spot. Desperation, of different kinds, gripped both teams. Football ceases to be academic at this point. It becomes a ferocious battle of wills. You either stand or break. Purists will say that no tie with so many goals can be hailed as a classic. But it’s too early in Liverpool’s return as European heavyweights to be throwing academic caveats at them.They were forged by fire in this tumultuous semi-final, which propels them into a final against another team, Real Madrid, who made it to Kiev the hard way. Liverpool earned another stroll round the pitch and a song.

Liverpool Stumbles at Roma But Finishes Job to Reach Champions League Final

By JONATHAN WILSON May 02, 2018

Liverpool will face Real Madrid in the 2017-18 Champions League final after a 4-2 defeat away to Roma confirmed a 7-6 aggregate victory in their entertaining semifinal.Jurgen Klopp’s side was never entirely convincing, despite twice taking the lead, first through Sadio Mane and then Georginio Wijnaldum, but Roma never got within three goals on aggregate until it was entirely too late. The advantage Roma had of scoring two away goals in the first leg was wiped out with 25 minutes gone in the second.An own-goal from James Milner and an eighth Champions League goal of the season from Edin Dzeko kept Roma in the tie, but the hosts only moved to within two goals with Radja Nainggolan’s 86th-minute drive. A powerful penalty shot from Nainggolan in the final minute of injury time made it look far closer than the series really had been, and Liverpool is back on the final stage for a rematch of the 1981 title clash, which was won by the Reds in Paris.

Here are three thoughts on their semifinal second leg triumph:

ROCKY REARGUARD UNDOES ROMA AGAIN

Roma had been undone again and again at Anfield by simple balls over the top and understandably sat much deeper here, trying to restrict the space in behind the defensive line. But the problem with doing that is that it makes the team as a whole far less compact, increasing the area in which the midfield has to operate, particularly when the focus, as it had to be, is on the attack. Roma threatened early on, but as soon as Nainggolan gave away possession in the ninth minute, the problem was clear. Roberto Firmino had space to run at an exposed back line, and it was then a simple task of timing his throughball for Mane, who finished with rather more confidence than he had shown at Anfield.That was the first goal Roma had conceded at home in this season’s Champions League which, frankly, seemed barely credible. This was not a side that inspired much confidence. The sloppy marking that led to Virgil van Dijk nodding in the fifth goal from a corner at Anfield could be explained by the state of the game and the daze into which Roma had sunk by that stage. Here, it was harder to understand.Roma found itself back into the game with a 15th-minute equalizer on a bizarre own goal, but 10 minutes later a great surge and cutback from Andy Robertson brought a corner as Alisson blocked Mane’s low effort. Roma struggled to clear, with Dzeko eventually being pressured into heading the ball back towards his own goal. From there, Wijnaldum headed it down past Alisson, and the tie was essentially settled.

ROMA’S 4-3-3 CAUSES PROBLEMS

Roma had caused Liverpool problems late on at Anfield after switching back to its familiar 4-3-3, and it was no surprise that manager Eusebio Di Francesco reverted to that shape Wednesday. That gave Roma greater attacking width, and there was a clear early strategy of trying to get the rapid Stephan El Shaarawy in behind Trent Alexander-Arnold. The young right back was given little support by Mohamed Salah, who stayed high up the pitch, essentially playing a game of chicken with Roma left back Aleksandar Kolarov. But the Roma equalizer came from the other flank, just as its opening goal had in the first leg. This time it was Alessandro Florenzi with the cross, and as Lorenzo Pellegrini returned the ball across goal, Lovren’s slightly panicky clearance smacked into Milner’s face and back into his own goal.But for all Roma’s efforts, it didn’t manage a shot on target in the first half–although it did hit the post as El Sharaawy’s shot deflected off Milner to leave Loris Karius scrambling across his goal.The route down the left proved profitable for Roma seven minutes into the second half, though. Alexander-Arnold missed a through-ball, allowing El Shaarawy into the box. Karius had his shot covered but rather than pushing the ball clear, he patted it tamely into the center of the box, where Dzeko gratefully accepted the gift. The goalkeeper, just a couple of minutes earlier, had been fortunate not to concede a penalty when Dzeko was wrongly ruled offside. For all of Liverpool’s success, Roma created its share of opportunities.

CAN LIVERPOOL STAVE OFF PANIC, LAPSES IN THE FINAL?

Liverpool, going forward, is a team that plays in surges, regularly scoring two or three goals in rapid succession. But it also is a team that is prone to defensive lapses. The arrival of Van Dijk has made it more solid than it previously was, but this is still the team that let a 3-0 lead against Sevilla slip earlier in the competition.The warning was there in the final 10 minutes of the first leg and the sense of anxiety was there throughout the second half of the second. There was a tentativeness to its attacking play, as though Liverpool was caught between the all-out assault that can blow sides away and holding possession. The result was a number of attacks that ran out of momentum around the edge of the Roma box. That unease spread throughout the side.Karius has made the goalkeeping position his own in the second half of the season, but he had a skittish night, and it was revealing that Jordan Henderson yelled at him to be more decisive after he had stayed on his line as substitute Cengiz Under got on the end of a lofted ball over the top. Alexander-Arnold, too, was very fortunate not to concede a penalty for handball as he blocked a close-range El Shaarawy shot. The 19-year-old is a player of huge promise, but he had a difficult night.Roma’s pressure did bring a win on the night as Nainggolan smashed in a late drive and then a penalty after a baffling handball decision against Klavan. It wasn’t enough to really threaten the lead given the timing of it all, but it did highlight Liverpool’s struggle to control the game.Roma could not fully take advantage, but a punishing side like Real Madrid might come their final showdown later this month.

Liverpool snuff out Roma comeback as Karius outshines Alisson to reach UCL final

4:51 PM ETMark OgdenSenior Football WriterROME — Three quick thoughts from Roma’s 4-2 Champions League semifinal second-leg win over Liverpool, which sees the Reds advance 7-6 on aggregate, setting up a final date with Real Madrid in Kiev.

  1. Liverpool move on to reach eighth European Cup final

Georginio Wijnaldum scored his first away goal for three years to help Liverpool secure their eighth Champions League final appearance with a 7-6 aggregate semifinal victory against AS Roma.Wijnaldum, whose last goal away from home came in PSV Eindhoven’s colours in May 2015, banished any fears of a Roma fightback Wednesday in the Stadio Olimpico by putting Liverpool 2-1 ahead on the night after a James Milner own goal had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s ninth-minute opener. Edin Dzeko’s equaliser on 52 minutes gave Roma an outside chance of repeating their quarterfinal heroics against Barcelona, but Liverpool resisted heavy pressure from the home side — and rode their luck at times — to snuff out the Italians’ hopes before Radja Nainggolan’s late brace gave Roma a 4-2 win on the night.Liverpool’s 5-2 victory at Anfield in the first leg was the key to their progression to the final, but their second-half defending in Rome will be a concern to Jurgen Klopp ahead of the final against Real Madrid in Kiev.Roma created countless chances and were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after a Trent Alexander-Arnold handball that pushed Stephan El Shaarawy’s close-range effort over the crossbar. On another night, Liverpool could have conceded more, and their frailties cannot be repeated against Real on May 26 if they are to win a sixth European Cup.But Klopp has guided the club to the final, and their forward line of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino ensure they will travel to Ukraine with confidence. It might turn out to be a case of the team with the best defence on the night winning this season’s Champions League.

  1. Karius might have seen off the threat of Alisson

This semifinal has been a tale of two goalkeepers, but the script hasn’t quite turned out as many would have anticipated.Ahead of the first leg at Anfield, much of the talk surrounded Roma’s Alisson Becker, the Brazil No. 1 who has been linked to both Liverpool and Real Madrid in recent months. Good enough to be keeping Manchester City’s Ederson out of the Brazil team, Alisson was highlighted as one of Roma’s strong points — a key factor if they were to make it to the final.In contrast, Liverpool’s Loris Karius was the man under pressure, with Alisson’s shadow looming over him at Anfield. The German has seen off Simon Mignolet to become Liverpool’s first choice, but he is still prone to errors and that is why Klopp has been urged to sign a proven replacement.On the evidence of the two legs of this semifinal, though, Karius is improving rapidly and growing in confidence. Although he could have done better with the shot that he palmed out to Dzeko for Roma’s second, Karius was otherwise commanding and assured.Alisson, meanwhile, did little to stem the Liverpool tide and did not cover himself in glory at Anfield or in this game. The Brazilian does not command his area as a keeper of his stature should, and he commits himself too early, which might have been a factor in Mane’s opener in this game.His film-star looks might remind one of a matinee idol, but as a supposedly world-class goalkeeper his performance has been decidedly B-list.

  1. Roma can be a force, but they aren’t yet

Roma overachieved by reaching the semifinals of the Champions League, and the Stadio Olimpico will never forget the incredible win against Barcelona in the quarterfinals. But their exit against Liverpool exposed the Giallorossi‘s limitations and highlighted the work that needs to be done to make them a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League.The noisy, passionate atmosphere inside the stadium is a big advantage that Roma can play to in future campaigns, but the team is not yet on the same level.Eusebio Di Francesco’s squad is too old to challenge for the European Cup. They have the ability to pull off a result like the one against Barcelona, but sustaining that throughout a season is beyond this crop of players.Yet with their vocal supporters and the money raised from this Champions League campaign, Roma can grow stronger and aim to mount a genuine threat to Juventus in Serie A. That will become a real target once they build their proposed new stadium.Once they become a title-winning force in Italy, Roma can become a European heavyweight, but it will take time.Their run to the semifinals will have given Roma a taste for more glory nights, and they certainly have the capacity for growth in the coming years.

Bayern Munich Its Own Worst Enemy as Real Madrid Returns to Champions League Final

Real Madrid earned its way to another Champions League final, but Bayern Munich offered plenty of assistance over the course of two legs, making costly errors and missing gilt-edged chances in their tense semifinal.  By JONATHAN WILSON  May 01, 2018

Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid drew 2-2 with Bayern Munich to seal its place in a fourth Champions League final in five years with a 4-3 aggregate victory.Yet again this season, though, Madrid was left clinging on, reliant on attacking excellence to overcome defensive shortcomings, and it went through more because of a dreadful error from Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich than because of anything it had worked to create.Like in the opening leg, Bayern had gotten off to the perfect start, taking a third-minute lead through Joshua Kimmich, but Benzema headed in a Marcelo cross to level eight minutes later.But in the first minute of the second half, Ulreich missed a back pass from Corentin Tolisso, presenting Benzema with a gift for his second. James Rodriguez, who is on loan to Bayern from Real Madrid, did level the score on the night–and ostentatiously refused to celebrate–but Madrid held on and will face either Liverpool or Roma in the final on May 26 in Kiev.

Here are three thoughts on the semifinal thriller:

BAYERN ITS OWN WORST ENEMY AGAIN

Again, Bayern was its own worst enemy. It was a shocking error from Rafinha that gifted Real Madrid the winner in the first leg, and it was an even bigger mistake from Ulreich that handed Madrid the lead 20 seconds into the second half. Tolisso’s back-pass perhaps wasn’t the best but, still, Ulreich had plenty of time to clear. He started to go for the ball with his hands but then, as though realizing that would concede an indirect free-kick, he tried to adjust and missed the ball entirely, presenting Benzema with an open goal. That left Bayern needing two and as it desperately sought them, the game became incredibly stretched with both sides’ defensive structures, never entirely convincing, disintegrating. Cristiano Ronaldo, with a chance to settle the tie, blazed another Marcelo cross over an empty net, but Bayern still had more than enough chances to win. It did get one as James tucked in after his initial shot had been blocked, but Madrid, wasting time and breaking up the game, held out.Bayern was thwarted by Keylor Navas, who made a number of fine saves, none better than his remarkable reflex block to keep out a deflected David Alaba shot. Bayern will also look to referee Cuneyt Cakir’s decision not to give a penalty for a clumsy challenge by Sergio Ramos on Robert Lewandowski. But Lewandowski’s odd sluggishness didn’t help and both he and Muller squandered presentable opportunities. Across both legs, two terrible mistakes and a general wastefulness cost Bayern.

MARCELO REMAINS INFLUENTIAL–FOR BETTER AND WORSE

Last week, Marcelo made up for the defensive laxity that cost Madrid the opener by volleying in an equalizer and again both his strengths and weaknesses were on display. The Brazilian is a very modern fullback at an elite side, which is to say that he takes the attacking part of his job rather more seriously than the defensive. That is fine in the vast majority of games Madrid plays, when it dominates the ball and territory and doesn’t have much defending to do, but it does make Madrid vulnerable against sides that are capable of attacking.Although Bayern’s opening goal, scored after three minutes, was primarily the result of an error from Sergio Ramos–who attempted a needlessly spectacular clearance and fluffed it to Kimmich, who slammed in–Thomas Muller’s ball into the box was only possible because of Marcelo’s failure to close him down–a starting basic lapse.But eight minutes later, Marcelo found space at the other end of the pitch, took down a superb long pass from Mateo Kovacic, the last in a sequence of 28, and crossed for Benzema, unmarked at the back post, to head in.

REAL MADRID BACK IN THE FINAL BUT REMAINS VULNERABLE

To widespread surprise, Casemiro was left on the bench as Zinedine Zidane reshuffled his midfield. Lucas Vazquez operated at right back, as he had late on last week after the injury to Dani Carvajal, using his pace against Franck Ribery, while Kovacic came into the center of midfield alongside Toni Kroos with Luka Modric moving out to the right flank. Vazquez found it very difficult to contain Ribery, though, as like in the first leg, Bayern dominated in midfield. This is a recurring issue for Madrid and one of the reasons Zidane’s side seems so incapable of controlling games.In truth, shuffling personnel is never going to solve the problem, which is structural. The 4-4-2 perhaps gives greater stability than the 4-3-3 Madrid has often played under Zidane, but Madrid keeps falling into the same trap that undid Barcelona away to Roma. If the two forwards don’t track back, if they perform little or no defensive function, it means any defender stepping forward will create an extra man in midfield. With Alaba back after his back injury and Kimmich as attacking as ever, Madrid struggled badly.Even Mats Hummels was encouraged into a slaloming dribble midway through the first half, leading to the chance James fired over from four yards with the goal gaping after Navas had saved from Lewandowski.Real Madrid is back in the final with a chance at a fourth trophy in five years and a third in a row, but it is far from unbeatable.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah gripped by homecoming nerves in Champions League semifinal

5:39 PM ETSteven Kelly

Liverpool reached their first Champions League final in 11 years, but once again made it far harder than it needed to be in a 7-6 aggregate win over Roma after falling 4-2 in the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday. Throughout the tie, two iffy penalties and an own goal made it closer than it really was.

Positives

They did excellently to pick off Roma when the home side had to push forward and easily got the goals they needed to make the result secure — but only just.

Negatives

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Once again defence and game management emerged as the Reds’ only real weaknesses. It’s almost as though retaining possession is just too boring for them and a Roma side not on their level were allowed to come back into it.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — The team, for better or worse, is what it is and where it is thanks to Jurgen Klopp. Very few teams could go through after conceding six goals, but Liverpool managed it because few teams can handle this exceptional attack.

Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 7 — Catching was mostly excellent, and considering Roma put in plenty of crosses, it needed to be. Poor effort for the hosts’ second, when he palmed a shot straight to danger man Edin Dzeko, but other saves were needed. Lucky not to concede a penalty, too.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 7 — Early nerves were understandable but kept his head and passed well throughout, always supporting his forwards. Roma focussed most of their pressure on his side of the pitch, and with support from midfield he just about managed to do his job.

DF Dejan Lovren, 6 — Not a great clearance for Roma’s first, but he was unlucky to hit James Milner in the face with his clearance for an own goal. Good on crosses and clearances but couldn’t get near Dzeko all night and gave away a dangerous free kick, for which he was rightly booked.

DF Virgil van Dijk, 7 — A mostly calm display, but he has lapsed into the Liverpool habit of continually searching for a killer pass when quiet, methodical possession could have thwarted the Italians’ comeback. Great on headed clearances once again.

DF Andrew Robertson, 8 — The youngster charged forward on every occasion and created one or two great opportunities that should have been converted. Roma attacks rarely came down the left, but credit the Scot’s current form because they probably viewed that as a waste of time.

MF Jordan Henderson, 7 — Good captain’s display. Rarely did anything flashy but was doing all the right things Liverpool needed to ease pressure and lower the temperature of the game. Unfortunately, few of his teammates did the same.

MF James Milner, 7 — Unlucky own goal but did his work diligently and effectively. Carried the ball forward well late on, but others were tiring by then and could not take advantage.

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 8 — An away goal at last for the Dutchman, and what a time to get it. Did his usual hard work and tried to protect Alexander-Arnold when Roma began putting on pressure. In the end, his goal put Liverpool through.

FW Sadio Mane, 9 — Missed big chances in the first leg but took just a few minutes to get a goal on Wednesday when it truly mattered. Lots of intelligent running and dribbling, he was a constant thorn in defenders’ sides. Probably shouldn’t have come off, as Roma just couldn’t cope with him.

FW Mohamed Salah, 6 — A rare off night for the Egyptian as a long season and homecoming nerves seemed to take their toll. Rarely shot well, though he tried more often than he probably should have, and didn’t link up well with others. He’s done so much to get Liverpool into this final that it was about time others covered for him.

FW Roberto Firmino, 7 —Handed the ball on a plate to set up Mane’s opener but was still exceptionally calm at such an early stage of this vital game. Did his normal work but just couldn’t summon enough guile to help make the game secure and tired late on.

Substitutes

DF Ragnar Klavan, NR — Brought on to stiffen up the defence but nearly caused havoc by conceding a very harsh penalty. Luckily it was the last action of a tense game.

FW Dominic Solanke, NR — Klopp needed fresh legs to take the ball into the corners and waste time, but Solanke rarely got the chance.

DF Nathaniel Clyne, NR — Put on to waste precious seconds and took no part in the action.

Champions League: Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, Keylor Navas, Edin Dzeko in team of the week

6:51 AM ETNick AmesESPN FC

Liverpool will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final, but who starred in the semifinal second legs? Here’s the best XI from the last four.

Do you agree? Have your say in the comments below.

GK — Keylor Navas (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid rode their luck against Bayern Munich and could be grateful that Navas, sometimes a maligned figure, produced so spectacularly between the posts. Navas made a string of superb saves — eight in total — which is more than any Real Madrid goalkeeper has produced in a Champions League knockout game this decade. His handling was outstanding and when he plays like this, nobody can doubt his place in the top bracket.

RB — Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

There is a sense Kimmich is wasted at right-back and he showed his goalscoring instincts for the second time in the semifinals when he put Bayern ahead early on at the Bernabeu. His strength in defensive duels could sometimes be better but on the front foot he is a top-class performer and would have been a worthy competitor in this year’s final. After the first leg Kimmich had been disappointed with Bayern’s naivety but there could be no such complaints this week.

CB — Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

It needed a heroic showing from Ramos — as well as his central defensive partner Raphael Varane — to see Real through to the final. His celebrations with the Bernabeu support afterwards were well-earned; in a match that saw Real stretched time and again his leadership was crucial and he came up with a number of well-timed interceptions and blocks, particularly in the second half.

CB — Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Van Dijk has rapidly become an inspirational figure for Liverpool and was vital again amid waves of Roma pressure on Wednesday night. The centre-back’s towering presence in the opposition box contributed to Giorginio Wijnaldum’s goal but his best work came further back, where his mixture of physique and composure — and his knowledge of when to apply both — stood out.

LB — Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

Robertson was up against a tireless performer in Roma’s Alessandro Florenzi but dealt with his threat well, also getting forward well to assist with Sadio Mane’s lightning sorties. The former Hull man has been one of the success stories of this Champions League season and looks more than comfortable at this stage. Now his biggest test lies ahead in Kiev.

CM — Giorginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

He came up with the goal that, ultimately, gave Liverpool the cushion they needed but Wijnaldum’s performance against Roma was about much more than that. Alongside Jordan Henderson and James Milner he harried Roma’s midfield and disrupted when necessary, but also showed the kind of cool head needed to pick passes and afford his team moments of respite in a hurly-burly encounter.

CM — Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich)

When Alcantara plays like this it is a reminder that, when on top of his game, he is one of the best midfielders in the world. He helped Bayern set a formidable tempo from the off at the Bernabeu, moving between the boxes tirelessly and setting numerous dangerous moves in motion. He deserved better than to be on the losing side having comfortably outshone the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

CM — James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)

He would not admit it but James had a sizeable point to prove on his return to the Bernabeu and, accordingly, performed like a man possessed. He should have scored in the first half, skying over from close range, but his goal after the break — a piece of following-up that epitomised the hunger he showed throughout — gave Bayern fresh hope and he was an indefatigable creative force throughout against his parent club.

LW — Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Jurgen Klopp promised Liverpool would not sit back in Rome and they kept to their word, with Mane outshining Mohamed Salah as their most threatening outlet this time. There was never any sense he would miss when confronted with Alisson Becker after Roberto Firmino’s early pass; he duly converted the goal that sent Liverpool on their way, his ninth of this Champions League season, and was at times electric thereafter when leading rapid counters.

CF — Edin Dzeko (Roma)

Roma may have fallen just short but it was not for lack of trying by Dzeko, who scored seven minutes after the break to give the Italians fresh hope and was their best player overall in the two legs against Liverpool. The striker was excellent throughout and can reflect on a fine personal Champions League campaign; he scored eight European goals this season, five in the knockout stages, and played some of the best football of his career.

RW — Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Benzema’s third and fourth goals at Champions League semifinal level were crucial — particularly considering the manner in which Real struggled elsewhere. His close-range header settled them down after a whirlwind start from Bayern and while Sven Ulreich’s mistake handed him what proved to be the decisive goal on a plate, the chance still arose from his hunger to chase down Corentin Tolisso’s backpass. And that is the essence of Benzema — a striker who can sniff out a big goal from absolutely nowhere.

Juventus take charge of Serie A, Barca celebrate, Liverpool’s Buvac stress

11:21 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

If Saturday night at the San Siro really did the decide the Serie A title — and it sure as heck looks that way — then neutrals could not have asked for much more in terms of drama, emotion, incident and controversy.Juventus took the lead with a deflected Douglas Costa goal, and inside 20 minutes they had the man advantage too, with Matias Vecino’s stamp on Mario Mandzukic earning a VAR-assisted red card. Juve had another goal disallowed (with help from VAR) before Mauro Icardi’s header levelled matters shortly after the break. Just inside the hour mark came the call they’ll be talking about all week: Miralem Pjanic, already booked, collides with Rafinha and isn’t shown a second yellow.A furious, undermanned Inter nevertheless took the lead as Andrea Barzagli turned Ivan Perisic’s cross into his own net. Inter were taking massive step towards the Champions League, and Napoli, who played the following day, could almost feel their third scudetto in club history.Then came Luciano Spalletti’s changes, specifically sending on David Santon (a defender) for Mauro Icardi (a striker). And then came Juve’s wild comeback with two goals after the 87th minute. First came a Milan Skriniar own goal off Juan Cuadrado’s cross, and then Gonzalo Higuain, who had done close to nothing until that point other than squandering a sitter, popped up at the very end with the winner.

You get exhausted just writing the above.Referee Daniele Orsato is obviously in the eye of the storm, and given Juve’s history with referees, even more than a decade after Calciopoli, there’s an ugly tinge to the criticism. As I see it, not showing Pjanic a second yellow for the sort of play a safety might make on a wide receiver over the middle was simply wrong. Orsato does have a reputation of being a guy who lets play run and doesn’t call niggling fouls or hand out cheap cards, but this was tough to swallow.That said, before we get carried away with conspiracies, he was lenient in real time on Vecino before VAR (and the grisly post-match photos) confirmed it was a cast-iron red. A different official might have sent Barzagli off for going above the ankle on Icard, but letting it slide in some ways is in keeping with Orsato’s approach, and ultimately what is asked of refs is consistency.But there are also some basic takeaways that ought not be overshadowed by the Pjanic (non-)decision. Inter were heroic in fighting back with 10 men for some 70-plus minutes. Icardi, Rafinha and Marcelo Brozovic were outstanding: when they’re in this form, they are clearly Champions League knockout material.Luciano Spalletti’s changes altered the game. He got hammered and rightly so for the Santon-Icardi substitution, not just because Santon was complicit on Juve’s equaliser (mistakes happen) but because football is also about emotion and momentum and removing your captain at that stage deflated the side. What’s more, his first substitution only came nine minutes from time. When you’ve spent most of the game with 10 men and your players are clearly exhausted, as many were, why not act earlier, just not with Icardi? It’s true that Inter don’t have a deep bench but neither do they have Real Madrid-calibre starters. Some fresh legs earlier on might have made a difference.As for Juve, much praise is given for the nine lives they seem to have in terms of pulling out late winners. But the sterling performance at the Bernabeu seems far away. Allegri is backing in towards the title. For much of the game, they seemed to play with fear and insecurity, incapable of imposing themselves and making the extra man count. It’s true that he sent on Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi to change it, but that was in a moment when he had few alternatives.Perhaps peak Allegri was reached after Higuain’s winner. Worried that his players were celebrating too much and wouldn’t be concentrated enough after the restart, he ran on to the pitch to shout at them — and got himself sent to the stands as a result. You can admire the attention to detail, but the confidence we’d seen in in him in past seasons simply wasn’t there.

Meanwhile … Napoli implode

Some 10,000 Napoli supporters gathered to give the team a send-off before Sunday’s match against Fiorentina. You can only imagine how deflated they must have been on Saturday night watching Juventus come from behind to beat Inter, restoring the four-point gap atop Serie A.Did that carry over into their performance at Fiorentina? Who knows?It’s more likely that the red card for Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s hero the previous week, after just six minutes had a bigger impact. VAR played a key role. Originally, the referee had booked Koulibaly and awarded a penalty but replays showed the foul was outside the box. That meant no penalty, but a straight red and you’d imagine Napoli would have preferred it the other way around. Maurizio Sarri sacrificed a midfielder, Jorginho, to send on a defender and in one fell swoop, Napoli lost both their best center-back and their midfield playmaker.Giovanni Simeone’s hat trick sent Napoli crashing to a 3-0 defeat. And while the game was closer than the scoreline suggests, it did feel as if the club ran out of steam. It’s not over yet, of course. But Napoli need to run the table while hoping that Juve drop points not just against Roma away (possible) but also either against Bologna or Verona at home. The likelihood of both outcomes happening appears decidedly remote.

Finally, Barcelona can celebrate their title

Assessing Barcelona’s title-winning season

The ESPN FC crew explain why Barcelona’s La Liga title triumph is especially significant, given their ‘roller coaster of a season’ so far.

Barcelona locked up La Liga by defeating Deportivo La Coruna, who are desperately trying to avoid relegation, by going 2-0 up, getting pegged back to 2-2 and then winning 4-2. Along the way, Lionel Messi notched a hat trick, taking his seasonal total to 43 goals. Thirty-one of those came in La Liga, making it the seventh year that he passed the 30-goal mark in La Liga, which is simply absurd, like most of his career.Plenty has been written about this Double-winning season. It’s worth reminding ourselves how it started: the traumatic departure of Neymar, calls for Jose Maria Bartomeu’s impeachment, Ousmane Dembele’s long-term injury, Philippe Coutinho only arriving in January — whichever way you spin it, Ernesto Valverde deserves massive credit in squeezing the most out of this team. The fact that he screwed up so royally against Roma (and, perhaps, was fortunate against Chelsea the round before) doesn’t change his body of work. Managers get things wrong; the clever ones, though, learn from their mistakes. The fact remains that this Barca side, starting at a very low ebb, won the Double and is undefeated thus far in the league.Conventional wisdom has it that Valverde took Barca in a different direction, making them more solid and efficient. That may be true but they’re still on pace to finish with 96 points, which would be their third-highest total ever. That defensive solidity might also be a bit of a myth depending on your vantage point. They’re on pace to concede just 23 goals, which would be their third-lowest total in the past decade. But in terms of expected goals conceded, they’ve given up nearly one a game, which is marginally worse than the past two seasons and substantially worse than 2014-15.Their priorities now seem pretty obvious. Lock up Samuel Umtiti to a long-term deal. Continue to figure out how to best integrate Dembele and Coutinho. Develop a succession plan for Sergio Busquets. Another striker and another central defender for depth wouldn’t be bad either.Whichever way you put it though, few would have predicted this nine months ago…

Buvac situation comes at awful time for Liverpool

Liverpool were held to a scoreless draw by Stoke on Saturday morning, but the real news from Anfield this weekend came on Sunday, with news that Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand man, Zeljko Buvac, would not be involved with the club for the rest of the season. Buvac is a former teammate of the Liverpool boss and the pair have worked side-by-side for most of the past 17 years. Klopp himself said on several occasions that Buvac was the “brain” of the operation.The club said Buvac was spending time away for “personal reasons” and dismissed reports of tension between him and Klopp.It’s always tough from the outside to judge how important an assistant coach is to a team. What we do know is that Buvac wasn’t just the guy with long, jet-black hair who sat next to Klopp; he had a big role on the training pitch, often running sessions directly. We also don’t know the circumstances: “personal reasons” can mean just that or they can be PR-speak for something more serious and some media were speculating that he had grown distant from Klopp in recent weeks.Whatever the case, we’re 72 hours away from Liverpool’s biggest European game in a decade, the return semifinal against Roma, and the club need this like they need a hole in the head right now.

Wenger’s final game at Old Trafford

The ESPN FC guys react to the pleasantries exchanged between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho before the encounter between Arsenal and Man United.

With Manchester United having pretty much locked up second place (and thinking ahead to the FA Cup final) and Arsenal with little to play for (and thinking ahead to the Europa League semifinal), Sunday’s 2-1 home win at Old Trafford was almost as anticlimactic as any clash between these two that you can remember.I say “almost” because it was Arsene Wenger’s last appearance at the home of United. Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, two guys with whom he’s had tons of acrimony in the past, greeted him warmly. I’m not a mind-reader; I don’t know what they really think of him. When you’re as fierce a competitor as those two, odds are the past sticks.Cynics will be cynical, but I like to think those poses were genuine. Those three are in a very special club of men who have worked in football at the highest level in the most exposed jobs. They may not like each other, but there’s a common bond that remains unbreakable.

Real take it easy against Leganes

Real Madrid only have eyes for the Champions League at this stage, which is why we saw a team chock-full of reserves (with Casemiro at center-back no less) defeat Leganes on Saturday. It finished 2-1 with goals from Gareth Bale and Borja Mayoral.The only real question is who will join Cristiano Ronaldo in the front three on Tuesday night, especially now that Karim Benzema doesn’t feel as indispensable as he once did. It’s anyone’s guess, but if Isco is fit (he returned to training Sunday), I’d imagine he’d go with Isco and Marco Asensio.

Where does Unai Emery go after PSG?

Last week, Unai Emery announced he will step down as Paris Saint-Germain boss at the end of the season. He will leave the club having won five of six major domestic trophies. (OK, technically he hasn’t won the French Cup yet. PSG are in the final against a third-tier side called Les Herbiers. I’m assuming they’ll win given that Les Herbiers actually beat just one team above them in the French pyramid on their run to the final. That and the fact that if he loses this game, he may as well retire).You wonder what’s next for him and how the marketplace sees him. After all, he’s still the guy who won three straight Europa League titles at Sevilla, and while those Champions League exits hurt him (as does the title not won last season), it’s worth noting they came against Real Madrid and Barcelona, the latter with rather controversial officiating.My guess is he’ll have to dial it down a notch with his next job, which may actually suit him just fine. Some people struggle working at the very top.

Can Chelsea get into the top four?

Antonio Conte picked Olivier Giroud ahead of Alvaro Morata (not for the first time) and Chelsea squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Swansea, their third straight away win in the Premier League.The victory does keep alive their (flimsy) hopes for a top-four finish. They will obviously need to run the table: beating Liverpool and Huddersfield at home and Newcastle away. Tough, but not impossible. They’ll also need Liverpool to drop points against Brighton at home on the last day of the season, and that’s where things get interesting.On paper, Brighton are relatively safe and might have nothing to play for, but given that their next two games are against Manchester City and Manchester United, they may need a point at Anfield. Equally, Liverpool may want to rest players ahead of the Champions League final.

Depay is the man in Lyon

Lyon are absolutely on fire in Ligue 1, driven by a Memphis Depay who is back to where he was ahead of the 2014 World Cup. The Dutch international has scored in each of the past six games, and Lyon have won seven in a row.Too often we mistake bad performances for lack of talent. Talent was never Depay’s problem at Manchester United: it was consistency and decision-making. This is the player Louis Van Gaal bought and that United fans didn’t get to see.

Man City’s attack takes many forms

In some ways, it’s perhaps self-fulfilling. Manchester City scored more goals than everybody else in the Premier League so it stands to reason that there would be more City players near the top of the assist table.But still, it’s pretty remarkable to see this list, with the top four spots all occupied by City players (Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling). It speaks to City’s scoring, sure, but also to the way they play and spread the chances.

European league champions and European qualification 2017-18

:13 AM ETDale Johnson

A comprehensive list of all the possible European qualifiers and relegated teams across the major leagues.

PREMIER LEAGUE
Champions League: Manchester City (champions, Carabao Cup winners), Manchester United (also FA Cup finalists), plus two of Liverpool (also Champions League finalists), Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea (also FA Cup finalists).
Europa League group stage: Two of Liverpool (also Champions League finalists), Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea (also FA Cup finalists), Arsenal
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Arsenal, Burnley, Everton
Relegated: Three of West Brom, Stoke, Southampton, Swansea, Huddersfield, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton, Watford, Bournemouth
Promoted to top flight: Wolverhampton Wanderers, plus one of Cardiff and Fulham. Aston Villa and Middlesbrough in playoffs along with one of Derby, Preston or Millwall; one then promoted to the Premier League

LA LIGA:
Champions League: Barcelona (champions, Copa de Rey winners), Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid (also Champions League finalists), plus one of Valencia, Real Betis
Europa League group stage: Two of Valencia, Real Betis, Villarreal, Getafe, Sevilla, Girona, Real Sociedad
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Real Betis, Villarreal, Getafe, Sevilla, Girona, Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Eibar, Alaves
Relegated: Malaga, Las Palmas, Deportivo La Coruna
Promoted to top flight: Three teams to be promoted (five games remaining plus playoffs)

BUNDESLIGA:
Champions League: Bayern Munich (champions, also in DFB Pokal final), plus three of Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt
Europa League group stage: Two of Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt (also in DFB Pokal final), Stuttgart, Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt (also in DFB Pokal final), Stuttgart, Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, Augsburg
Relegated: Cologne, plus one of Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Freiburg, Mainz. Also one of Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Freiburg, Mainz and Hannover in relegation playoff.
Promoted to top flight: Fortuna Dusseldorf, plus one of Nurnberg and Holstein Kiel. Arminia Bielefeld, Jahn Regensburg and VfL Bochum outside chance of making playoff.

SERIE A:
Champions League: Juventus (also in Coppa Italia final), Napoli, plus two of Roma, Lazio, Inter Milan
Europa League group stage: Two of Roma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Atlanta, AC Milan (also in Coppa Italia final), Sampdoria, Fiorentina
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Inter Milan, Atlanta, AC Milan (also in Coppa Italia final), Sampdoria, Fiorentina
Relegated: Benevento, plus two of Hellas Verona, Chievo Verona, SPAL, Cagliari, Crotone, Udinese, Sassuolo
Promoted to top flight: Empoli, plus one of Parma, Frosinone, Palermo, Venezia, Bari, Cittadella and Perugia. Six teams also in playoffs for one place in Serie A

LIGUE 1:
Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain (also Coupe de la Ligue winners and in Coupe de France final), plus one of Lyon, Monaco, Marseille
Champions League third qualifying round: One of Lyon, Monaco, Marseille
Europa League group stage: Two of Lyon, Monaco, Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Nice, Les Herbiers (if Coupe de France winners)
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Nice, Montepellier, Bordeaux, Nantes, Guingamp
Relegated: Two of Metz, Lille, Troyes, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Caen, Angers. Plus one other in relegation playoff
Promoted to top flight: Reims, plus one of Nimes, Ajaccio. Two other teams will enter promotion playoffs

EREDIVISIE:
Champions League third qualifying round: PSV Eindhoven (champions)
Champions League second qualifying round: Ajax
Europa League third qualifying round: Feyenoord (KNVB Beker winners)
Europa League second qualifying round: AZ Alkmaar, plus one of FC Utrecht, Vitesse, Heerenveen, PEC Zwolle and ADO Den Haag via playoffs
Relegated: FC Twente, plus Sparta Rotterdam in relegation playoffs along with one of Roda JC Kerkrade, NAC Breda
Promoted to top flight: Fortuna Sittard. In promotion playoffs: NEC, De Graafschap, Telstar, Emmen, Cambuur, Almere City, MVV, Dordrecht

PRIMEIRA LIGA:
Champions League: One of FC Porto, Benfica, Sporting CP (also in Portuguese Cup final)
Champions League third qualifying round: One of FC Porto, Benfica, Sporting CP (also in Portuguese Cup final), Braga
Europa League group stage: One of FC Porto, Benfica, Sporting CP (also in Portuguese Cup final), Braga, Desportivo das Aves (if Portuguese Cup winners)
Europa League third qualifying round: One of FC Porto, Benfica, Sporting CP (also in Portuguese Cup final), Braga
Europa League second qualifying round: One of FC Porto, Benfica, Sporting CP (also in Portuguese Cup final), Braga, Rio Ave, Maritimo
Relegated: Two of Estoril, Pacos de Ferreira, Vitoria de Setubal, Feirense, Desportivo das Aves, Moreirense, Belenenses
Promoted to top flight: Two teams promoted, four games remaining. Nacional favourites to be promoted

RUSSIAN PREMIER LEAGUE:
Champions League: Two of Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Krasnodar
Champions League third qualifying round: One of Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Krasnodar
Europa League group stage: One of Tosno or Avangard Kursk as Russian Cup winners
Europa League third qualifying round: One of Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Krasnodar
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Krasnodar
Relegated: SKA-Khabarovsk, plus one of Tosno, Anzhi Makhachkala. One of Amkar Perm, Rostov, Dynamo Moscow, Akhmat Grozny, Rubin Kazan also in relegation playoffs
Promoted to top flight: Two of Yenisey Krasnoyarsk, Orenburg, Krylia Sovetov Samara. One of Tambov, Baltika Kaliningrad also in promotion playoffs

UKRAINIAN PREMIER LEAGUE:
Champions League: One of Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kiev (both in Ukraine Cup final)
Champions League third qualifying round: One of Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kiev (both in Ukraine Cup final)
Europa League group stage: One of Vorskla Poltava, Zorya Luhansk, FC Mariupol
Europa League third qualifying round: One of Vorskla Poltava, Zorya Luhansk, FC Mariupol
Europa League second qualifying round: One of Vorskla Poltava, Zorya Luhansk, FC Mariupol, Veres Rivne
Relegated: One of Stal Kamianske, Chornomorets Odesa, Zirka Kropyvnytskyi. One of Karpaty Lviv, Olimpik Donetsk, FC Oleksandriya could also be in relegation playoffs
Promoted to top flight: One of Arsenal Kiev, FC Poltava, Inhulets Petrove, Desna Chernihiv. Two teams will also enter promotion playoffs

SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP:
Champions League first qualifying round: Celtic (champions, also Scottish League Cup winners and in Scottish Cup final)
Europa League second qualifying round: Two of Aberdeen, Rangers, Hibernian, Motherwell (in Scottish Cup final)
Europa League first qualifying round: One of Aberdeen, Rangers, Hibernian
Relegated: One of Ross County, Partick Thistle, with the other in relegation playoff
Promoted to top flight: St Mirren, plus Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee United, Livingston in promotion playoffs

DeAndre Yedlin ‘proud’ United States fans so upset after World Cup miss

:00 AM ETDan KilpatrickTottenham Correspondent

NEWCASTLE, England — DeAndre Yedlin has told ESPN FC that he is proud of the way U.S. fans reacted toward the team after its shock failure to qualify for the World Cup, even though much of the response was extremely negative toward the squad.The Newcastle full-back said the “disappointed and confused” response to the disastrous 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago in October showed fans care about American football, which, he feels, is exactly what the country needs. Yedlin also supported his former Tottenham teammate Harry Kane, who has accused English fans and media of having a “weak mentality” and wanting the national team to fail following criticism aimed at himself and his England teammates.”Obviously everyone gets criticism — that’s life, that’s just the way it is and not just in sport,” Yedlin said, when asked about Kane’s comments. “But as a supporter, your role is to support.”Straight from the get-go, you shouldn’t be speaking negatively about players and speaking negatively about the team. I understand if you’re disappointed about certain things but at the end of the day you’re a supporter of the team and you should be supporting them.”In the U.S., I haven’t experienced anything bad except after [failing to qualify for] the World Cup,” he added. “After that, I got what you’d expect. People were disappointed. People were confused.”It was more on social media than in person. But you expect that and it shows they care. I’m proud — not that we didn’t make it to the World Cup — but I’m proud they showed that kind of reaction. It shows they’re interested in it, they care, they’re invested in it and that’s what we need in America help grow the sport.”The defeat to Trinidad — along with Mexico’s victory over Honduras and Panama’s late winner against Costa Rica — pushed the U.S. out of fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, ensuring they will miss a first finals since 1986.Now the dust has settled on that devastating night in Couva, Yedlin believes the U.S. were simply complacent against the island nation they are accustomed to beating.He said watching this summer’s World Cup would be painful, before throwing his support behind his country’s joint bid with Mexico and Canada for the 2026 tournament.”I don’t think we were on our game [against Trinidad],” Yedlin said. “We all thought that the chances of us not going through were so slim that we could do whatever we wanted.”Obviously that wasn’t the case. Some other things happened that we couldn’t control in other games. You could say it was unlucky but in the end it was down to us. We didn’t do the job and ended up paying the ultimate price for it.”I’ll definitely watch the World Cup. It’ll hurt, for sure, but I love the sport so it’s not like I’ll kick it off. It’s the World Cup, the biggest event in football, so obviously to not be there hurts but I still have friends and teammates playing in it that I’ll be supporting, so I’m excited to see them play.”I’ll tend to watch the game with guys I know that are playing, but I’m not going to watch every single game.”It’ll be great to have it in America [in 2026] — not only for the players to have a World Cup in their own country but for the country to help build the sport. It’s a sport growing rapidly in America and, although it’s hard to see it from over here, being there and speaking with people like ex-teammates, they say it’s unbelievable how quickly it’s growing.”It’ll be great for the country to help raise the attention to football — or soccer — in the U.S.”The U.S. national team is still without a permanent coach following Bruce Arena’s resignation in the aftermath of the Trinidad defeat, with interim boss Dave Sarachan set to continue until the end of June, taking charge of the friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France.Having worked under both Jurgen Klinsmann and Arena, 50-cap Yedlin is aware of the positives that both foreign and American coaches can bring to the role.”With foreign coaches, it’s no secret that the leagues over here — Germany, Spain, Italy — and cultures have been around for a while,” he said. “Historically, they know the game and they have different ideas of the game.”An American coach will usually be coaching in MLS, so the good thing is they’ll know most of the players they’re working with and bring the culture of an American as well.”The stereotype we get is that we’re hard-working, blue collar — and that’s exactly right. We’re a hard working team that tries to put in a shift every game.”

Dortmund “not aware” of Liverpool interest in Christian Pulisic

Matt Reed,NBC Sports 43 minutes ago

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s biggest star has been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League, however, an English side continues to remain coy on the situation.Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund have had an up-and-down campaign in the Bundesliga this season, however, the USMNT winger remains one of the most notable young players in Europe.Liverpool — who reached the UEFA Champions League final on Wednesday — has been one club rumored to have a strong interest in Pulisic due to manager Jurgen Klopp‘s relationship with the America, but Dortmund says it is “not aware” of any such interest.“I am in constant exchange with Jurgen Klopp, but I am not aware of this,” BVB sporting director Michael Zorc said.The Reds currently boast one of the top attacks in Europe with Mohamed SalahRoberto Firmino and Sadio Mane spearheading Liverpool’s front three, so a move for Pulisic could cost the young player playing time on a regular basis.The 19-year-old has scored five goals in all competitions this season, including four in the Bundesliga.More importantly though, Pulisic has appeared in 40 matches for BVB as a regular starter, which likely wouldn’t be the case for him in England.

Insider: USA’s Joint World Cup Bid Likes Trump’s Backing; Real Madrid Not Convinced by Salah

By GRANT WAHL May 02, 2018

President Donald Trump issued a tweet last week supporting the North American World Cup 2026 bid and threatening countries that don’t vote for it. But if you think the unified bid had to do damage control afterward, a high-ranking bid official says that is not the case.Officials from all the North American bid countries are traveling internationally this week, and they say the response to Trump’s tweet from voting countries has been positive, because it shows that the White House wants to host the World Cup and will work with FIFA’s requirements on allowing visas to foreigners coming to the U.S. for the tournament. While the official said they would prefer Trump not threaten other countries, they like the fact that he’s engaged and that he brought up the World Cup bid in Monday’s press conference with the Nigerian head of state.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?7:39 PM – Apr 26, 2018

Trump’s tweet came after U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro and other bid officials met last week at the White House with officials, including Jared Kushner. FIFA also issued a warning regarding the use of political influence in the bidding process, though did not mention Trump by name.Elsewhere around the soccer world:

REAL MADRID NOT ENTIRELY CONVINCED BY SALAH

I recently reported that a top Real Madrid source said Mohamed Salah would not be going to Madrid this summer. Part of the reasoning, I’m now told, is that while Madrid is intrigued by Salah, there are still some questions being asked at the club on whether Salah is having a career year that might not be repeatable—and whether Salah might be less like Lionel Messi and more like Riyad Mahrez during his career season for Leicester City when it won the title.The sense inside Real Madrid right now is that it would like to see Salah do this again next year if if the club is going to commit in the range of $200 million on a transfer for him.

UEFA NATIONS NOT OPPOSED TO EXPANDED CLUB WORLD CUP

The big topic of conversation between top club executives in Madrid and Rome this week has been about the proposed $25 billion bid from Chinese and Saudi Arabian investors to take over an expanded FIFA Club World Cup that would take place once every four years. The main question is whether UEFA and the big European clubs and leagues will agree to participate in the event.I’m told the sense right now is that none of the top European stakeholders are saying they will refuse to do it, which likely means that if the price is right this new marquee event could end up happening. In fact, some are saying that hosting it might be a good consolation prize for whichever World Cup ’26 bid, the North American bid or Morocco, ends up losing out on that World Cup.

Club World Cup raises serious questions as FIFA considers big-money offers

May 2, 2018att Scott

Nothing calibrates the overwhelming global popularity of football like the sums of money involved, the multi-million dollar transfers and salaries for its superstars or the billion-dollar broadcast deals. But for all the breath-taking amounts being dropped on the game, none of it compares with the seismic $25 billion FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino told the FIFA Council he has been offered by investors interested in the FIFA Club World Cup rights.These suggestions, first revealed in the New York Times last month, corroborated by several senior voices in football and eventually admitted to by FIFA, would potentially be transformative for the organisation’s finances.In the current World Cup cycle, from 2015 to 2018, FIFA budgeted for less than $1.8bn of expenditure on football development, education and governance. The opportunity to raise 14 times that sum at a stroke is understandably attractive to Infantino, who will be standing for re-election in 2019.As such, this is surely a good thing, right? Well, FIFA’s most senior decision-makers — the Council — were far from convinced and gave him short shrift. So Infantino turned instead to a different group of stakeholders. He invited all members of the FIFA Bureau, the presidents of the six continental confederations, to discuss next steps in Zurich on Monday. It is perhaps telling that reportedly only one, Alejandro Dominguez, president of the South American confederation CONMEBOL, turned up. The others delegated the detail to executives instead.

So why haven’t they jumped at the chance?

First there are questions around process. While conveying his suitors’ anxiety for a swift response to their offer — he claimed they had given him 60 days for an answer — Infantino refused to divulge their identities, telling the FIFA Council he is bound by confidentiality agreements. This is a little alarming: good governance dictates that the head of any organization should first consult with his senior stakeholders before making any commitments to third parties, whether around disclosure or otherwise. Binding himself to them while withholding information from his executive board is very poor form.There are also questions of motive. Why would anyone pay $25bn for a competition that has raised $22 million or less in each of the past five years for FIFA, a revenue multiple of 1,000 times?Although the Financial Times has reported that Softbank, the deep-pocketed, tech-investing Japanese bank, is among the entities in the consortium Infantino is talking to, the Club World Cup would never provide anything approaching a return on investment under its current structure. When Softbank paid $34.6bn for ARM holdings, a smartphone chipmaker, in 2017, it was buying a business with annual revenues of $85bn: that investment was worth not 1,000 times current revenues but 0.4 times. Understandably, Softbank has chosen not to comment on the FIFA reports.There are undoubtedly certain properties on the world football landscape that would justify enormous valuations. UEFA generated $5.6bn from its Euro 2016, Champions League and Europa League competitions in 2016. In 2017, the Premier League’s total revenues were $4.4bn. But the Club World Cup is a football and financial irrelevance by comparison.If successful serial investors like Softbank are attracted to it, it is not because they like what they see but because they like what it might become. And that means a wholesale restructuring of the world football landscape, one that would put FIFA’s club competition at the very apex of the pyramid. At least this is what we must assume, because FIFA has been very light on details so far.It said in a statement on Monday: “Today’s discussion took place in a friendly and positive environment with a decision being taken to task a working group to analyse further the relevance and feasibility of staging both competitions. The working group will be composed of the general secretaries of the six confederations and FIFA.”Perhaps Infantino believes the confederations and their general secretaries to be more malleable than the FIFA Council, which had initially been somewhat hostile to his proposal. Indeed, the greatest hostility emanated from the Europeans on the Council: under Infantino’s plan, UEFA’s Champions League competition risks being superseded as the world’s preeminent club competition. Yet as a former general secretary of UEFA himself, Infantino can count on one friendly face at UEFA. His former deputy, Theodore Theodoridis, who masterminded Infantino’s election to the FIFA presidency, will be the loudest voice among the general secretaries on the new working group.Understandably, the European clubs that would have most to lose have expressed profound concerns about the direction FIFA is taking football. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s executive chairman and chairman of the World Football Leagues lobby group, has already put his misgivings in writing to FIFA. It is extremely rare for Scudamore to be exercised about anything that does not directly affect his competition, so it does feel like there is a lot at stake here and the reason for that is the perverse structure of the world football economy.Any economic landscape has three basic elements, or factors of production: land, labor and capital. In football, the labor element consists of the players, the capital comes from broadcasters and sponsors while the land resides in the clubs and their stadiums. All well and good. Except that in football there is also a fourth major element: the regulator, FIFA. And at the same time as being the regulator, FIFA is also an economic actor.For four weeks every four years, FIFA prevents most organized club football taking place and takes the best of the labor element contracted to clubs, using them for its own commercial ends in the FIFA World Cup. This is akin to the Federal Communications Commission closing down all media channels in the U.S. for a month every four years while cherry-picking the best shows from Netflix, HBO, NBC and wherever else it fancied and broadcasting them entirely for its own commercial gain. We all love the World Cup, of course, but from the standpoint of economics, that’s what is going on.What if that regulator were to intervene in the football economy to act not in its own interests as, ostensibly at least, the not-for-profit custodian of global football development, but in the interests of commercial third parties? What would that mean for the integrity of the game?These are big questions. If savvy investors are offering FIFA $25bn for what is currently little more than a sporting irrelevance, it is because they believe in the power of FIFA as regulator to shift football’s tectonic plates in its own favor. And should it start down that path, there will be some almighty earthquakes along the way.

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4/27/18   Indy 11 Discount Tix Wed/Sat, Champs League Semi’s, ICC Tix on Sale, Toronto loses CCL

Wow – I do love Champions League Soccer – our Liverpool and Mo Salah (2 goals/2 assist) were spectacular as they scored 5 goals and were routing Roma as Anfield was rocking – then boom – the last 10 minutes Roma scored 2 goals.  Still a 3 goal lead going  back to Roma – while exactly the same deficit that Roma overcame against Barcelona in the last round – will certainly be a high hill to climb. In the other semi-final between heavyweights’ Bayern Munich and 2 time Defending Champs Real Madrid – it was again Renaldo’s group that came out on top 2-1 despite being outshot almost 2-0 in Germany and ending Renaldo’s record breaking consecutive UCL game scoring streak at 11.  Bayern suffered injuries to Robben and allstar center back Boateng in the process making the return leg to Madrid all that more daunting for the squad that has been knocked out by Real in 3 straight seasons.  See the return leg times for both next week below.  Hugely sad to see fan attack they took place around the Liverpool game on Tuesday – Klopp was beside himself describing his emotions after the big win then finding out about the attack.

Europa League

So I have to admit I found myself rooting for embattled Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger to win his 1st Europa League title despite his European Trophy snide in this his final year with the Gunners.  Was it time for Wenger to step down yes – he should have probably stepped away before last season – but still lets not forget his revolutionized the English game when he arrived 21+ years ago forging the only team to go undefeated in the EPL since the 1850s back in 2004 with the Invicibles. But honestly when the ref sent an Atletico Madrid player off with a 2nd soft yellow in the 10th minute and then kicked out the Man in Black – Athletico manager Diego Simeon in the 20th minute after his team received ball call after bad call.  I admit I flipped jerseys at halftime and though Arsenal pounded top 5 Goalkeeper Jan Oblak who was spectacular – the 1-1 tie was fitting as Antoine Griezmann made the solo run with 10 left to gain the ever important away goal at the Emerates.

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille 

So the International Champions Cup times and locations have been announced as the top European Clubs including Dortmund and US star Christian Pulisic, Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Roma, AC Milan, and more.  I have the special code to get you EARLY ACCESS to order Tickets before they go on sale to the general public on May 1.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

TV Games

Man United will travel to Arsenal on Sunday at 11:30  am on NBCSN and looks to spoil Wenger’s farewell tour.  They follow West Ham vs Man City which kicks off at 7:30 am.  Also Sunday Dortmund and American Christian Pulisic travel to Mainz looking for points as they battle for top 4 (champions League spots). Saturday gives us Liverpool hosting relegation threateed Stoke City and American Geoff Cameron at 7:30 am on NBCSN, followed by Swansea and Chelsea at 12:30 on NBCSN as well.

MLS

MLS Champions Toronto FC – came surging back on the road behind Altidore and Giovinco goals and beat CD Guadalajara 2-1 but it wasn’t enough to win the CONCACAF Champions LeagueTrophy as the Mexican side won the penalty shootout 4-2 to take the Crown. Disappointing for both Toronto and MLS – but some serious guts shown by Toronto as Michael Bradley was forced to play center back do to injuries – of course he missed his penalty kick again – the loss leaves MLS never having won the UCL Title.   Looking ahead to this weekend LAFC opens their spectacular new stadium on Sunday night on Fox Sports 1 at 9 pm after Colorado hosts Orlando City and former Carmel Dad’s Club player Cameron Lindley at 4 pm on ESPN.

As we come to the end of the European season with every major league title winner basically decided except Italy’s Serie A, the eyes go to relegation battles and advancement.  In England Wolverhampton will move up to the EPL next season – battling out for the other 3 spots are one of my favorite teams Fulham (who once had 4 American’s starting about 8 years ago), Cardiff and Aston Villa (former home of US keeper Brad Guzan). Moving down is Sunderland.

Indy 11

The next two weeks will be the most difficult for the “Boys in Blue” thus far this season. Indy Eleven will face Charlotte Independence away from home on April 28. A short week follows as “Indiana’s Team” seeks revenge against rivals FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, May 2, who defeated Indy Eleven 0-1 in Indy’s home opener. Three days later, the “Boys in Blue” face Louisville City FC at home for the first time this season. Special Ticket Prices can be found here – (code indy 2018) or for just $10 per game – you can get tickets to both games.

Carmel FC – Goalkeepers – Remember we are training with former Indy 11 Goalkeeper Kristian Nicht on Thursday night not Wed next week – at Shelbourne same times.  OBC

International Champions Cup

Tix in the US go on sales May 1st to the General Public but I have a special Link to allow you in the PRE-SALE.  Just click here and use code ICCVIP.

Man City vs Borussia Dortmund – Fri July 20 9 pm Chicago Soldier Field

Man United vs Liverpool  – Sat July 28 5 pm Michigan Stadium (tix on sale now)

ICC Full Schedule

Big ICC Games Coming ESPNFC

Champions League

Liverpool Goal Threat will See Roma Off & can beat Bayern or Madrid Mark Odgen

Liverpool’s Chaotic – Awesome Attack undermined by defensive misshaps – Steven Kelly ESPNFC

Liverpool Dazzles but leaves Roma a chance – eSPNFC Mark Ogden

Player ratings Liverpool – Salah 10/10 ESPNFC

Reckless Roma Makes it Too Easy for Liverpool – Michael Cox ESPNFC

Livepool Routs Roma – Avi Creditor – SI

Salah, Liverpool overwealm Roma, Leave door Open for UCL comeback however – SI Jon Wilson

Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to be out for year

Klopp Can’t Describe in Emotions over Fan Attack in Liverpool

We should Embrace Real Madrids Nonsense Run While it Last – Joey Gunlino FC Yahoo

Real Madrid Put 1 Foot in Final as Bayern Munich rue Missed Chances – Nick Ames ESPNFC

Bayern Have Lost the Winning Edge ESPNFC Nick Ames

Mueller – we didn’t Take our Chances Well –

This the Highest Scoring Champions League Season

 

Mistakes Define Arsenal Again – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Arsenal Squander Chance as 10 Man Atletico make them Pay – Mark Ogden SEPNFC

Indy 11

Charlotte vs Indy 11 Preview – Bloody Shambles – Rebecca Townsend

Indy 11 Bye Week Tidings

Indy 11 Two Pack – $20 for a ticket to 2 games Wed and Sat

Soony Saad puts bow on 11 Victory  – soctakes

Indy 11 Discount Tickets for Wed & Next Saturday’s Game!   (Code 2018Indy)

Flex Packs: Discount Indy 11 Flex Pack Tickets
Soccer Saturday – Radio Show 9-10 am on 1070 the Fan

Watch the Away Games for the Indy 11 and All USL Games on YouTube

Indy 11 Banner

https://www.indyeleven.com/two-pack

TAILGATE WITH THE BYB – Brick Yard Battalion Indy 11 Soccer Fan Club

Park and Tailgate for indy 11 Games with the BYB – Parking in the Gate 10 BYB Section is $4 cheaper per game than the stadium’s South Lot- and OBVIOUSLY more fun! Located at 343 W McCarty Street, Gate 10 is just across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium. Gate 10—the 2018 official home of the BYB–is convenient and affordable. Parking is $11 per car for single games, $150 for the season!  Click HERE to purchase your pass today and get the $11 rate its $15 at the game. You Won’t want to watch the game in any other section after standing, screaming, singing, dancing, and partying with the BEST SUPPORTERS SECTION in the US – the BYB.

GoalKeeping

Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas shows Character in Win over Bayern

Can Regular folks off the Street Score on an MLS Goalkeeper?

Every shot faced by Barcelona Ter Stegan and Roma – Becker in UCL Game  

Navas great saves vs Juve

Top Saves of the week around the World

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

Toronto does Everything Right in CCL Final but Win – Bobby Warsaw MLS.com

3 Thoughts on TFC painfull CCL Final Loss – Matt Doyle – MLS.com

Chivas ensure MLS Wait for 1st CCL Title Continues – Tom Marshall ESPNFC

Gutting Loss for Toronto – SI – Brian Straus

Seattle hoping to Ruin LAFCs First Game at Home

Day in Training with NYCfC

How long with Giovinco be with Toronto NBCSN

Zlatan’s Return Ruled out by Sweden for WC

2018 MLS Ambition Rankings – Which Clubs Raise the Bar the Highest at the League Grows – SI Grant Wahl / Brian Straus

EPL

Arsenal Fans Excited for Times after Arsene Wenger

Why Arsene Really Left – ESPNFC

Man U out ot spoil Arsenal’s Farewell Tour

Wenger greatest Manager to Never Win a European Cup – UK Yahoo Sports

Fulham America – in contention for Promotion to EPL

Relegation Battles all over England

USA

Christian Pulisic to Make USMNT Return in Late May

US Coach Dave Sarachan Unlikely to Bring in Old Guard right now

Morroco World Cup Bid Faces Scrutiny – USA Today

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN              Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

Fri, May 4-

3:05 pm NBCSN  Brighton vs Man United

Sat, May 5

7:30 am NBCSBN         Stoke Citdy (Cameron) vs Crystal Palace (Relegation battle)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Mainz

10 am NBCSN              West Brom vs Totteham

12 noon beIN sport     Milan vs Verona

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN              Everton vs Southampton

2:45 pm BeIN Sport   Juventus vs Bologna

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

8:30 am NBCSN          Man City vs Huddersfield

9:30 am FS1              Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN       Chelsea vs Liverpool

5  pm                                  Orlando vs Real Salt Lake

Wed, May 9

2 pm belin Sport        Barcelona vs Villarreal

2:45 pm NBCSN           Liecester City vs Arsenal

Soaring Like Eagles, Indy Eleven’s Power Animals Emerge – Charlotte Independence V Indy Eleven PREVIEW 4/28/2018

By: The Pitch Bitch (Rebecca Townsend) Bloody Shambles Blog

Today’s soccer story is not about individuals. It is about a team. About vision. About internalizing identity. Today’s soccer story is about what Indy is — and what it aspires to be.Thanks to an upbringing among the hippies and woodland folk of Bloomington, Indiana, and the surrounding country, the Pitch Bitch is inclined to look toward her natural environment for signs and signals — for messages.

Today, the message was power — in the form of first an eagle and then three hawks. These magnificent creatures will bookend this soccer story.Driving to Grand Park, looking forward to watching professionals coach and train on a beautiful, sunny spring morning, the feeling of gratitude pervades. Not everyone is so lucky to breathe fresh air and spend quality time immersed in their greatest passion. Let those of us who do, never take that for granted. A quarter mile from the field, an eagle rises above a retention pond, scoping out its breakfast opportunities.It is strong, swerving … observant, deadly.he eagle is a power animal. We can adopt its characteristics. “How high will we soar?” is the question. And after today’s practice, the Pitch Bitch answers, “As high as we keep pushing each other.”The Indy Eleven squad was on the field on time, organized and warming up in a spirit of professionalism. By being on time and ready to go, players are saying they are serious. And when it came time to work, they were working. They were finding the balance between being tough with teammates but not too tough (aka breaking) teammates as they sharpen attacking maneuvers and accelerate defensive response times.We are heading into a massive week — an away game in Charlotte, North Carolina, this Saturday followed by two home games in four days: a grudge match on Wednesday against nasty FC Cincy (which had the audacity to steal from us victory in our first home game) and our first taste of Louisville City FC on Saturday.  Not wanting to be like a dimwitted war correspondent, telescoping the intentions of her troops ahead to enemy spies, the Pitch Bitch will not prognosticate at this point on lineups and formations, but instead on the team’s characteristics as a whole. In this spirit, she approached assistant coach Phillip Dos Santos after practice with this question: “How do you want this team to represent itself against the other teams in the league? How will you set yourselves apart?”He responded, “We want to win. What we’re bringing to practice every day is a competitive environment — that carries through to games. We have a quality roster that allows for us to win every game — at home and away. That’s what championship teams are about. We work for that every day.”

That’s a straightforward answer. It says: We are driven to push harder. We work with the intention of succeeding. If the eagle could speak English, it would say something like that: “I am strong. And I fly quick, decisive patterns to disarm — and then slay — my prey. I don’t work in vain. I don’t starve. I feast!”Our opponents will see quick pressing, sprinting attacks from all angles, commitment to possession. They will see movement off the ball, slicing open their defenses, they will feel our penetration, they will watch with paranoia as our runners slip behind them, they will struggle and (more often than not if all goes according to plan,) fail to keep up with our relentlessness. Confidence is stoked by the words of keeper Owain Fôn Williams spoken with resonant confidence from his line, “Keep working, boys! Keep working!”Returning to the city to find a heavenly perch in the sun overlooking a sea of trees and flowers in glorious expressions of long-overdue spring in Indiana, the Pitch Bitch begins to compose her report and review her photographs of training when her attention is at once stolen by the shriek of a nearby hawk.he looks up to see not one — BUT THREE — hawks flying a circular pattern just 30 feet directly above her head. The message of power is cubed!!! The birds played with their flight patterns like a group of midfielders supporting each other as they work their way up the field, dropping, overlapping, drifting wide, pushing higher, higher, higher …

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Liverpool goal threat will see off Roma and can beat Bayern or Madrid

6:25 PM ETMark Ogdenenior Football Writer

LIVERPOOL, England — Nobody knows better than Liverpool that a three-goal lead is not always a guarantee of success in the Champions League.They will never forget the “Miracle of Istanbul” at Anfield — that night in May 2005 when Rafael Benitez’s team overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit against AC Milan to win the club’s fifth European Cup on penalties — but there have been more recent reminders that such an advantage is not enough to be certain at the highest level of European competition.Back in November, Jurgen Klopp’s team surrendered a 3-0 lead against Sevilla in Spain to emerge with a draw in Group E and there was, of course, Roma’s remarkable 3-0 victory against Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this month, which saw the Italians eliminate the Liga leaders, despite suffering a 4-1 first-leg defeat at the Nou Camp.So Klopp’s men will certainly not travel to the Italian capital next week with any thoughts of their job being done as they attempt to defend a 5-2 lead in order to book a place in the Champions League final, on May 26 in Kiev.”There would have been work for us to do when we win 5-0 because Roma would have tried everything to strike back anyway, so that’s not a big difference,” said Klopp. “What I learn tonight is that we can win the second game as well, even when it will be different. Roma needs to score goals against us.”Liverpool have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to a three-goal lead, while Roma will go into pitch next Wednesday believing they can repeat the heroics of their Barca fightback. The Stadio Olimpico will be infused with belief and hope after seeing Lionel Messi and co. dumped out in sensational fashion.But while Liverpool only have themselves to blame for allowing a five-goal lead to be cut to three as a result of Edin Dzeko’s late strike and Diego Perotti’s penalty — Klopp said “the Liverpool way is always a little bit harder” — they can take comfort in the fact that they have more goals in them than any other team in Europe.That firepower should be enough to get them through next week’s test and will also give them confidence that they can defeat either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in Ukraine to take the European Cup to Anfield for a sixth time.Barcelona failed to score in Rome earlier this month and that was their downfall, but Liverpool have 38 goals in this season’s Champions League group stage and knockout rounds — 11 more than second-highest scorers Paris Saint-Germain — and have hit the back of the net in every one of their away games, dating back to an August playoff win at Hoffenheim.KIopp’s men may have faced some of the weaker teams in this season’s Champions League but they hit seven away to Maribor and netted five against Porto in Estadio do Dragao during the Round of 16, not to mention the three they scored in that crazy draw in Seville.Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring even more regularly in this competition than Mo Salah, who managed two against his former club on Tuesday, have only managed 26 goals so far this season, while Bayern, their opponents in the other semifinal have scored 23.Ronaldo, who is the competition’s leading scorer this term with 15, will always pose a unique threat for Real, while Bayern will expect Robert Lewandowski to deliver, despite the fact he has just five European goals in 2017-18.Liverpool have been ruthless and their cutting edge has been sharpened as a result. It is why they travelled to Manchester City earlier this month confident of adding to their 3-0 first-leg victory. They did so, winning 2-1 the Etihad Stadium against the Premier League champions, with goals from Salah and Firmino.Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane have hit 23 goals between them in the Champions League this season and Roma must find a way to stop them adding to their combined total to have any hope of another shock next week. If they do not, the mountain facing Eusebio di Francesco’s players becomes even more imposingAt the other end, Liverpool have conceded nine goals in 11 games, but the £75 million addition of Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the defence has contributed to tightening up at the back, which has seen Liverpool concede just three times in five knockout-round games.Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain’s injury could be serious and will further stretch a squad without Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Joel Matip but, if Liverpool advance to face either Bayern or Real, they will go into the final knowing that they have the forwards and attacking game to win.

Chaotic Liverpool’s awesome attack undermined by more defensive mishaps

:45 AM ETSteven Kelly

Liverpool’s semifinal tie with AS Roma should be over.They can still reach their ninth European Cup final — their third in the Champions League format — and probably will, but instead of absolute certainty there is doubt once again.With any other team capable of such breath-taking attacking football — and there’s just a few in the world, club or international level — it would be over, but this is Liverpool; specifically, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Exhilarating and infuriating.Can you name another team that could score five goals and whose fans then end up whistling furiously for the referee to end the game?Yes, it was only a first leg and everyone knows what Roma are capable of on their own ground, but such was the nervousness triggered by the Reds’ late stumble that it was obvious supporters expected a previously timid Roma to score every time they came forward.It happens too often for comfort. Last season, Bournemouth won a match 4-3 after being 3-1 down with 15 minutes to go. This season Liverpool were three up at Sevilla and ended up drawing the game. There are other examples.Over the next week fans will rev up the confidence and go into the second leg convinced it can be won.It’s all a smokescreen. In the back of everyone’s mind is the knowledge that Liverpool could blow this. As exciting as this team clearly is, they really put their fans through the wringer.The levels in Serie A may not be what they once were but such a hammering rarely happens to an Italian side in Europe. They were taken apart and if Sadio Mane had been on top of his game there might have been a record Champions League score-line.Given this was a semifinal against a team that just knocked out Barcelona, it was an extraordinary performance.People may say Roma also conceded four at the Camp Nou but there were moments of fortune for the Catalonian giants. ESPN’s Gab Marcotti tweeted as much, claiming this was a completely different game although the score was similar.Now, Roma can go through again with another 3-0 win. You can say lightning doesn’t strike twice but this is a chaotic, whirlwind Champions League tournament where anything can happen and already has.Liverpool’s Fab Three forward line scored all the goals again. Together they’ve racked up an incredible 88 in all competitions. Even Paris Saint Germain’s magical trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani cannot match that, despite playing in a weaker league.An individual season like Salah’s happens once in a generation and yet incredibly Liverpool might still not be playing in the Champions League next season. It’s insane, and so exasperating.A lack of defensive solidity is clearly to blame. There were warning signs on Saturday against relegation certainties West Brom and this isn’t the first time Liverpool have come under the cosh late in games.Injuries are tying Klopp’s hands in terms of rotating the squad and an early knock to Alex Oxlade Chamberlain on Tuesday did not look good. Using the same players continuously must surely be tiring.Liverpool are still favourites to get a top four place in the Premier League while also reaching the Champions League final.Over confidence in how this team can just get whatever goals they require could be damaging however, as it was during Brendan Rodgers’ title surge in 2014.Few cared if the Reds conceded two, they’d just score three. There were few qualms if they let three in, they could even score six as they once did against Cardiff City.When it mattered most however, costly mistakes took a long-awaited title away from Liverpool.Can Klopp fix these lapses? Does he even want to? The big money defensive signing Virgil van Dijk is already having moments of carelessness so it cannot be blamed on the personnel, although those who do so saw yet another error from Dejan Lovren against Roma as more proof.Some may regard it as the price worth paying for such tremendous excitement at the other end. Others will claim such brilliance simply cannot camouflage the unreliability at the other end forever.All forwards have an off day. Everyone in Liverpool’s forward line had one against Manchester United recently, though some praised Jose Mourinho’s so-called masterplan as the cause.If they were to fire blanks at the Stadio Olimpico in a week’s time it wouldn’t generally matter if your team already leads by three goals.That’s if the rest of the team is fully capable of doing their job. The team that conceded three goals in one half against Sevilla, Arsenal and West Brom in the FA Cup has needed rescuing by its forwards countless times.It would be nice if defence could return the favour in Rome next week but few would bet on it.

Liverpool dazzle but give Roma small chance in CL semifinal second leg

4:50 PM ETark OgdenSenior Football Writer

LIVERPOOL, England — Three thoughts from Anfield as Liverpool raced to a 5-0 lead vs. Roma only to let in two late goals in their Champions League semifinal, first leg.1. Liverpool could face anxious night in Roma after late slump

Liverpool need to avoid a three-goal defeat in Rome next Wednesday to reach the Champions League final, but Jurgen Klopp’s team should have already booked their place in Kiev after building a 5-0 lead before conceding two late goals against Roma.Having scored two late goals through Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti, Roma gave themselves hope of another Champions League miracle, having stunned Barcelona in the quarterfinals. But Liverpool will still travel to the Italian capital as favourites to make it to the final having dominated this tie for over an hour.Two Mohamed Salah goals, another two from Roberto Firmino and one from Sadio Mane gave Liverpool what seemed an unassailable lead. But Dzeko’s late strike and a Perotti penalty left Eusebio Di Francesco’s team needing to win next Wednesday’s return leg 3-0 to make it to the final — the same score that saw the giallorossi eliminate Barcelona in the last eight.Can Roma do it again? Well they will need to perform better than they did at Anfield, when they allowed the Liverpool forwards far too much time and space to run riot.Liverpool were sublime at times, tearing holes into the Roma defence, with Salah in particular giving his former club nightmares. But the defensive frailties that always threaten Liverpool’s progress returned in the final stages and only time will tell how costly the late Roma goals will beKlopp’s team, who lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a first-half knee injury, remain most likely to make it to Kiev for the Champions League final, but they ill travel to Rome knowing that they could be in for a torrid time at the Stadio Olimpico next week.

  1. Salah just goes on and on

When Mo Salah was announced as PFA Player of the Year on Sunday, there were many who believed that Manchester City’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne should have claimed the award. But even the most ardent City fan must now accept that the Liverpool forward has enjoyed such an exceptional season at Anfield that not only was he deserving of that award, he is now a strong candidate for the Ballon d’Or trophy that’s been the property of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the past decade.At some point, their stranglehold on the award will be broken and Salah’s incredible season makes him the most obvious challenger to take it off them.The Egypt international’s double against former club Roma took his tally for the season to 43 goals. He also set up two for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, just to show that he is more than a guy who simply puts the ball into the back of the net.Salah has been in majestic form for months and if he stays fit, Liverpool will have a fantastic chance of winning a sixth European Cup against either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in Kiev next month if they can see the result out next week. His goals are all similar, either a curler into the top corner or a chipped effort over the keeper, but nobody has yet found a way to stop him.Neither Real or Bayern would fancy facing Salah in Kiev, especially with the underrated Firmino and Mane alongside him. And if he can help inspired Liverpool to glory in the Ukraine capital, Salah may just move himself into pole position for the Ballon d’Or.

  1. How did Barcelona lose to Roma?

Roma’s quarterfinal success against Barcelona, when they overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit against La Liga’s leaders, will go down as one of the most memorable fight-backs in Champions League history, but it now looks like a freak result that will haunt Barca.Roma started well enough at Anfield but once 20 minutes had elapsed, they had surrendered the initiative to Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp’s team set about destroying them with a ruthless display.Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez up front, are arguably even more potent than Liverpool going forward, so their inability to score in Rome is inexplicable judging by the Italian club’s performance at Anfield.Roma were shambolic at times. The hapless Juan Jesus had a night to forget while goalkeeper Alisson did little to justify his reputation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers. In midfield, Daniele De Rossi played like an old man while Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan could not get close to the home team in the centre of the pitch. Perhaps Barca’s defeat in Rome was an example of what can happen when teams take their foot off the gas and pay for their complacency.Roma’s two late goals give them hope next week but if they go out, it will be their awful performance for an hour in this game that will cost them.

Roma make it too easy for Liverpool in Champions League with reckless tactics

5:43 AM ETMichael Cox

Come the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Liverpool’s 5-2 victory over Roma on Tuesday will probably be remembered as the greatest night of the club’s campaign — depending, of course, upon whether they go one better and win the final itself.It was almost the archetypal Liverpool victory, one of those famous European nights at Anfield where they blow away the opposition with almost illogical levels of pace and power, nights that would be mythical if they didn’t happen quite so frequently.Yet in terms of performance, it probably won’t even rank in Liverpool’s best five of the campaign. Forget, for now, about the two late Roma goals that cast a peculiar shadow over the overwhelming victory — Liverpool’s performance wasn’t one of their best, simply because it didn’t need to be. It was just so easy for Liverpool to penetrate Roma’s defence repeatedly because of the staggeringly naive tactics used by Giallorossi boss Eusebio Di Francesco.Yet Di Francesco’s approach must be considered in the grand scheme of things, and in relation to Italian football’s position in Europe over recent years. For over 15 years now, Italian football has been mocked for two separate reasons. First, because it’s still seen as slow, defensive and overly tactical. Second, because their clubs have consistently underperformed in European competition.The two are, in a sense, related: football has shifted towards teams being more proactive, attack-minded and possession-based, and Italian sides have largely been left behind.There has, however, been something of a backlash. Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli aren’t simply overwhelmingly popular amongst neutrals because they’re the underdogs, but also because of their style of play. Napoli press well, pass well and, more than anything else, they play at an extremely high tempo.This has been Italian football’s major problem over the last decade in European football — they’re not tactically or technically inferior, but they’re completely unable to cope with the speed of the opposition. Think, for example, about the way Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon ripped apart both Inter and Milan for Tottenham back in 2010-11, or the way Juventus were pressed out of the game by Bayern Munich in 2012-13.Sarri is the leader in something of a revolution, and Di Francesco is on board too. Roma weren’t expected to progress from their Champions League group, up against both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, but provided a surprise in terms of both results and tactics.Away at Stamford Bridge, they pressed aggressively and cohesively in a manner barely seen from Italian clubs in recent years. In their famous 3-0 victory over Barcelona they completely outplayed the Catalan side. And suddenly it seemed Italian football had, at last, risen from the ashes. A title fight between Juventus and Napoli, both excellent sides, and a third team into the semifinals of the Champions League; Serie A hadn’t seen anything like it for years.In simple terms, Roma got carried away with their all-out-attack approach, and tried to play against Liverpool the same way they’d played against Barcelona. But the two are entirely different sides. Barcelona are now a structured, narrow and slightly one-paced outfit that can be “got at” through aggressive midfield pressing. Lionel Messi plays just behind Luis Suarez with no threats from the flanks, and therefore a narrow three-man defence made sense.When the teamsheets were revealed at Anfield, Di Francesco was clearly using the same system. But surely it would be interpreted differently against the speed and width of Liverpool’s front three, with Roma effectively using a back five rather than a back three?It seemed that way in the opening stages, but when Roma pushed forward, so did the wing-backs. Not one at a time, as you might have expected — with the opposite wing-back tucking inside into a four-man defence — but both at the same time.Roma briefly caused problems with overloads on the wings, but more than anything they exposed their three-man defence to the speed of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. There are very few defenders in Europe who could have played that way. Kostas Manolas, Juan Jesus and, in particular, Federico Fazio aren’t in that number.Liverpool had space everywhere: space for Firmino to drop into between the lines, space for Mane to speed into in behind, space on the outside for Salah to collect the ball on the flanks, and even space for Salah to cut inside into for his outstanding opening goal.The second was typical of Liverpool’s approach, Firmino dropping into a classic false No. 9 position to poke through for Salah. It’s the Egyptian who gets the Messi comparisons, but Messi’s old false No. 9 role is now being played expertly by Firmino with assists like that.The third was the simplest goal, with Trent Alexander-Arnold tossing the ball into 40 yards of space, Salah sprinting onto it and then ambling almost casually towards goal. Firmino and Mane actually did poorly here, making almost the same run, but Roma’s defence was in such a state that they couldn’t cut out the pass to Mane. The fourth was very similar, Salah in acres of space and Firmino with a tap-in. Then Firmino added the fifth from a set-piece.It was a tactical disaster, and the irony is that Di Francesco has spent much of his period at Roma talking about how 4-3-3 is the “ideal formation.” There would have been no guarantees that Roma would have coped with Salah and Liverpool better in that system, but it wouldn’t have resulted in this complete collapse. Roma essentially played exactly the way Jurgen Klopp would have wanted them to: half-pressing up the pitch.The two late goals, scored by Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti with a lovely penalty, added some respectability to the scoreline. Perhaps, considering the comeback against Barcelona, it means the tie is still on.But in the wider scheme of things, those two goals might have a significant impact upon tactical thinking in Italy, a country which is still largely sceptical of the kind of attacking approach Roma showed at Anfield. A 5-0 thrashing may have dissuaded others from following that template, the performance unintentionally promoting the merits of a deep defensive line and a spare man.Di Francesco got it wrong on Tuesday night, but it’s important to remember that Roma’s performances have largely been excellent this season, and his approach is in keeping with the continent’s more progressive, modern and successful managers. Roma are on the right path; Italian football is too.However, there’s a time and place, and pressing heavily with a high defensive line — leaving three-on-three against Europe’s quickest attacking trio — was a hugely counter-productive approach. For Liverpool, it was almost too easy.

Salah, Liverpool Overwhelm Roma, But Leave Door Open for Another UCL Comeback

By JONATHAN WILSON April 24, 2018

Mohamed Salah struck twice against his former club as Liverpool took a huge step towards the Champions League final with a 5-2 win over Roma in the first leg of the semifinals at Anfield, but the end result was not as one-sided as it should have been.The Egyptian took his tally in all competitions for the season to 43 with two brilliant first-half goals, and then set up goals for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to become the first player to register two goals and two assists in a Champions League semifinal.Firmino headed a fifth from a 69th-minute corner to become the second, but just as the game seemed to be drifting to a conclusion, Edin Dzeko snatched an away goal.A Diego Perotti penalty then gave Roma real hope. Having overturned a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona in the last round, a 5-2 deficit means a 3-0 win would be good enough again–and a 4-1 win would do the trick as well, leaving the tie unsettled as it heads to Rome.Here are three thoughts on another high-scoring night at Anfield:

ROMA’S BOLD APPROACH BACKFIRES

Only twice before this season had Eusebio Di Francesco gone for a back three: in the league game away at Lazio and in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Barcelona. His use of it here was something of a surprise when it had seemed a specific tactic to combat Barcelona’s slightly pedestrian 4-4-2. The danger against Liverpool’s 4-3-3 was twofold: that Daniele De Rossi at the back of midfield would be swamped by the Liverpool press, and that the spaces behind the two fullbacks would be a vulnerability ripe for exploitation by the pace of Mane and Salah.As Roma pressed high, an unexpectedly bold and ultimately flawed approach, what transpired was a game of chicken, with Liverpool allowing the Roma wingbacks, Alessandro Florenzi and Aleksandar Kolarov, to push on, gambling on being able to break 3-on-3. But Liverpool seemed unsettled by Roma’s aggression and struggled for rhythm early on, a problem exacerbated when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was forced off early on with a knee injury. As Loris Karius fumbled an Aleksandar Kolarov drive against the bar, it even seemed that Roma might cause an upset. But as the first half wore on, those transitions did begin to develop and Roma disintegrated.

LIVERPOOL SURGES BEHIND SALAH

Liverpool is a side that plays in pulses, suddenly upping the tempo and ripping into opponents. At its peak, there are few sights like it. Perhaps the intention was always to begin slightly cautiously, or perhaps the lack of an early charge was a result of Roma’s press, but once Liverpool got going, Di Francesco’s side had no answer. A game that had seemed tight, that Roma was perhaps even having the better of, suddenly tipped Liverpool’s way.The endless string of chances was faintly ridiculous, and if Mane had shown a little more composure in front if goal, the tie might have been settled by halftime. Then again, were it not for the finishing brilliance of Salah, signed from Roma for $48 million last summer, Liverpool might have ended up without a lead at all.Mane, set clean through, blasted over in the 28th minute and Liverpool had begun its onslaught. Mane then fired a Firmino cross over, and then Alisson was forced into a diving save to deny Salah, followed by Mane having an effort ruled out for offside. Seven minutes after that first Mane chance, Roma, understandably reeling, allowed Salah a couple of yards inside the box, allowing him to cut into his left foot. His finish was deliciously precise, just kissing the bar in its way into the top corner, though he neglected to celebrate the vital goal against his former side.But the surge continued. Dejan Lovren headed against the bar form a corner, Mane failed to control a chance in the box, Georginio Wijnaldum had a shot beaten away by Alisson and Firmino had a shot deflected wide. Then, with Roma clinging on desperately for the halftime break, Salah, again, ran onto a Firmino through ball and gently lifted the ball over Alisson for his second of the night and a backbreaker going into the locker room.

ROMA MANAGES TO HAVE HOPE

The tie should have been over, as Liverpool increased its lead to 5-0, but two soft goals conceded in the final 10 minutes breathed new life into the series.Halftime should have been an opportunity for Roma to regroup, to accept that there is a good reason why Premier League sides do not play with a high line against Liverpool. But the only change Di Francesco made was to bring on Patrick Schick for Cengiz Under and switch from 3-4-2-1 to 3-5-2. That, though, did nothing to solve the basic problem of a back three playing high against a much quicker front three. Poor Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio had nowhere to turn, vulnerable to the simplest ball over the top.Perhaps Salah was offside as he laid in Mane for the third, but then Mane hadn’t looked offside a couple of minutes earlier when he had been called back chasing another through pass. The fourth goal came from the same source–a long ball flicked on with his heel by Trent Alexander-Arnold for Salah, who jinked by Jesus and crossed for Firmino to tap in his 50th Liverpool goal.By then Roma seemed dazed, player after player approaching Di Francesco seeking advice. But the issue by then was psychological as much as tactical, nobody picking up Firmino as he headed in a right-wing corner from James Milner to make it 5-0.That should surely have cemented Liverpool’s place in the final, but Dzeko gave Roma hope, just as he did in the first leg against Barcelona. He fired in after Lovren misjudged the flight of a Radja Nainggolan cross. Liverpool, suddenly, was the team panicking and as the game began to resemble the end of the 4-3 win over Manchester City in the league when Liverpool, having gone 4-1 up, was left to hang on, Perotti made it 5-2 from the spot after Nainggolan’s drive had struck Milner’s arm. Roma is in an unenviable spot, but at least it’s one it has confronted before.

Mohamed Salah a perfect 10, Roberto Firmino 9/10 for rampant Liverpool vs. Roma

6:52 PM ETDavid Usher

Liverpool’s wild ride in this year’s Champions League got a little wilder on an almost surreal night at Anfield. Mohamed Salah tormented his old club with two goals and two assists to put the Reds in dreamland as they raced out to a 5-0 lead. Liverpool ran out of steam late on, though and Roma snatched the faintest of lifelines to just about remain in a tie that should have been well beyond them. There’s never a dull moment watching Liverpool.

Positives

Everyone connected with the Merseyside club would have taken a 5-2 victory prior to the game so that should not be overlooked. This was a Champions League semi-final, usually tense, tight affairs, yet Liverpool completely blew their opponents away with a display of pace, skill and power that few sides on the planet are capable of. The late wobble should not overshadow that fact, as the Reds have put themselves in a great position to reach the final.

Negatives

First and foremost, the injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which looks like it could be serious. Beyond that, the worrying drop-off after 80 minutes should be a concern as it is not an isolated incident. Everton, Bournemouth and West Brom have all put Liverpool under pressure in the final 10 minutes of recent games too.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Jurgen Klopp undoubtedly won the tactical battle as the Reds went very direct and blitzed Roma with runners to absolutely shred their high defensive line time and again. Liverpool scored five but it could, probably should, have been double that. The substitution of Salah was a big turning point but Klopp should not be criticised for that as a manager should be able to sub his star man with a 5-0 lead and not have to worry.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Loris Karius, 5 — Made a complete hash of a first-half shot from Aleksandar Kolarov and was very fortunate to see it come back off the crossbar. Had no chance with either of Roma’s late goals.

DF Trent Alexander-Arnold, 8 — Another strong showing from the youngster who did not let an early yellow card impact his play. Defended well and showed glimpses of what he can do going forward, not least with a lovely flick to set Salah away to create Liverpool’s fourth goal.

DF Virgil Van Dijk, 8 — Cruised through the game and was rarely stretched as his defensive partner tended to be the one doing battle with the powerful Edin Dzeko. Comfortable in possession and showed a nice range of passing at times.

DF Dejan Lovren, 7 — It was all going so well for the Croatian until he got caught under an exquisite pass from Radja Nainggolan and allowed Dzeko to score. Until that moment he’d been outstanding and his aggression in attacking the ball was a big reason why Liverpool were able to play on the front foot so often.

DF Andrew Robertson, 8 — Typically accomplished and energetic display from the Scot. Delivered one brilliant, late cross that should have been converted by Georginio Wijnaldum and had a shot of his own blocked after a lung-busting run.

MF Jordan Henderson, 9 — Inspirational performance from the captain. Pressed intelligently and relentlessly and stopped potential Roma counterattacks at the source time and again with great strength and determination.

MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, NR — Started brightly and had an early shot from distance that he didn’t quite catch as he would have liked, but his evening — and possibly his season — was ended prematurely as he left the field on a stretcher.

MF James Milner, 9 — As he has been all season in Europe, the experienced Milner was top class. His use of the ball was excellent, his work out of possession inspirational. He became the first player in Champions League history to record nine assists in a single campaign but then unluckily conceded a penalty late on when a shot struck him on the arm. How he was expected to get out of the way is a question for the referee to answer.

FW Mohamed Salah, 10 — Wow. Just wow. If anyone was in doubt as to whether his PFA Player of the Season award was deserved, they surely can’t be now. An incredible performance from the Egyptian. Two fantastic goals took his tally to 43 for the season and he then added a couple of assists just for good measure. Seems to reach new levels of excellence each week now.

FW Roberto Firmino, 9 — Outstanding yet again. Led the line masterfully, laying on both goals for Salah in the first half while also scoring two goals himself after the break. That saw him equal Adriano’s record for the fastest player to reach 10 Champions League goals, having done it in just 11 games. A great night’s work for the Brazilian.

FW Sadio Mane, 6 — If the Senegal man had been at his best then this tie would be over already. Whereas Salah and Firmino both brought their “A game”, Mane was wasteful and hesitant. Two terrible misses in the space of a minute seemed to knock his confidence, but he did find the net later when he converted a Salah cross from close range. An off night, but expect him to deliver next week.

Substitutes

MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 9 — The Dutchman’s introduction for the unfortunate Oxlade-Chamberlain helped the Reds overcome a wobbly start. He kept the ball well and showed good strength in possession, but it was his surging runs off the ball that repeatedly opened up the Roma defence and created space for his teammates. One of his best performances for the club.

FW Danny Ings, NR — Replaced Salah and the game started to drift as Liverpool’s intensity dropped. Had little chance to attack and spent most of his time tracking back as Roma grabbed a late lifeline and went hunting for more goals.

Embrace Real Madrid’s glorious Champions League nonsense while it lasts

Joey GulinoFC Yahoo•April 25, 2018

I know, I know. Real Madrid is mega-rich, mega-successful and mega-annoying.But here’s some bad news you almost certainly know already: Unless you root for one of maybe 10 clubs in the world, yours is never winning the Champions League. Soccer is as top-heavy as any sport, so you have to find someone or something to root for at the highest level.You could analyze the tactics and pour over the match film and still come up well short of reasonable answers for why Real Madrid has put together the most unprecedented dominance in the history of club soccer. It doesn’t make sense. So isn’t it sensible to just embrace it?Take Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal leg against Bayern Munich, for example. The Allianz Arena is a cauldron for 99 percent of Europe. Not Real Madrid, which plays with such reckless abandon that it’s now won three straight times at Bayern’s home stadium in the Champions League knockout stages.And perhaps the key is that abandon is completely self-conscious. Real Madrid absolutely knows how good it is, and it absolutely fills the side with confidence every time it takes the pitch.That’s why Marcelo, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez put away Bayern Munich. It wasn’t a multi-goal showcase from all-time great Cristiano Ronaldo. It was supporting players punishing mistakes with ruthless efficiency (and making upfor their own).This team isn’t simply bought and paid for, either. Vazquez is from Real Madrid’s academy. The club identified young stars-in-waiting like Asensio and Isco early in the transfer market, and beat others to their signature. Same with Marcelo. Real Madrid developed all of them into match-winning talents, as it has with others in this current squad.Then there’s Zinedine Zidane, who was a phenomenal player but also a big risk as a manager. That didn’t stop Real Madrid’s brass from hiring him to oversee the club’s B-team without the necessary experience, nor did it stop them from sackingthe vastly more experienced Rafa Benitez after half a season in charge to make way for Zidane.The reward? An incredibly well-tempered leader who’s never for a single moment looked overwhelmed by the toastiest seat in soccer. A man who hasn’t wavered in supporting a volatile defensive spine, nor hesitated to bench established stars. A club legend who fought to get defensive midfielder Casemiro into the Starting XI on a regular basis, a move which paid off tenfold.And boy, does Real Madrid work hard. What they may lack in strategic acuity they make up for in effort, abundance of quality and some decidedly dumb luck. And it won’t last forever. The core players have been around awhile now, so the reality is they’re about to get old or get sold. But three Champions League trophies have rained down thanks to their time together.Remember all the talk being about when Real Madrid would win a 10th European title, aka La Decima? They’re on the verge of La Decimotercero just four years later. They’ve trademarked winning Champions League games they shouldn’t, getting results when it makes zero sense that they would.So no, this last half-decade of Real Madrid isn’t soccer at its purest. It doesn’t need to be. It’s glory, and more endearingly, it’s glorious absurdity.Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

Real Madrid know-how shows Bayern Munich have lost their edge

7:04 PM ETNick AmesESPN FC

MUNICH — In an interview earlier this week, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that he has never brought himself to watch again the 2013 Champions League final. An all-German affair, played before a rapturous Wembley crowd, ended with Arjen Robben’s winner dampening the exuberance of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, who could hardly have done more in attempting to upset the odds.Bayern, though, that distillation of cockiness and knowhow, found a way to win yet again that night and outgoing manager Jupp Heynckes was able to hand the incoming Pep Guardiola a Treble-winning team that sat proudly on top of the world.If that game still makes agonising viewing for Klopp, then perhaps what has gone since is an awkward watch for Bayern. While they remain dominant in the Bundesliga, similar moments in Europe have been elusive in the half-decade since that glory night in London.Whereas Dortmund sparkled but fell short at Wembley, it is now Bayern — still laden with quality — who find the fine margins going against them. Next Tuesday, they will walk out at the Bernabeu in hope rather than expectation and kick off their Champions League semifinal second leg trailing Real Madrid 2-1.But it should never have been that way: Decisive errors at either end of the pitch aside, Bayern were better than Madrid during the tie’s first meeting at the Allianz Arena. The problem, though, is that that is becoming a familiar lament when they reach the competition’s latter stages and, this season at least, it will take something special to break the cycle.”We weren’t clinical enough,” admitted Heynckes, now back in the Bayern dugout, on Tuesday. “I haven’t seen something like that [from us]; it doesn’t happen very often.”But while that may be true domestically, where Bayern rattle out almost three goals a game on average and nobody minds too much when opportunities to add garnish go begging, it is a repeat occurrence in Europe and especially against Real.Bayern should have put the eventual winners to the sword in last season’s quarterfinals but, instead, contrived exactly the inconvenience they face now and lost the first leg at home, 2-1, having opened the scoring. Three years earlier, Madrid overwhelmed Guardiola’s side 5-0 in the semifinals.Only five of the players who were involved in a chastening second leg, which saw Bayern concede four times at home, were in action on Wednesday but it is pertinent to wonder whether something snapped that night in 2014. Bayern are not quite the force of old and there is a sense that past disappointments are weighing them down.It is the opposite for Real Madrid, whose winning instinct is so fine-tuned that they can turn in what was — despite Zinedine Zidane’s post-game insistence that, “overall, we controlled the game very well” – an average performance and still emerge, not only as winners but as resounding tournament favourites. Their sense of certainty was the one with which Bayern walked out at Wembley five years ago.Perhaps Zidane was watching a match in which Robert Lewandowski did not fluff free headers and shoot wide when put through on goal, or one in which Franck Ribery never had the chance to lose his footing with the goal gaping, or one that did not allow Thomas Muller an air shot from a matter of feet away.But maybe that sense of assuredness simply comes from being Real Madrid: There are few modern-day demons to haunt them, no unwanted ghosts to surface during moments of tension and minimal neuroses to tilt the balance. Real play a European tie and Real eventually win; why, in an era of dominance that has seen them win three of the last four European Cups, should it be any other way?”The match showed Real can be harmed in defence and, if you look at their home match against Juventus, it was the same,” Heynckes said. “We can take hope out of it.”It is that speculative word again: “Hope.” They had plenty of it last year when they went 2-1 up in the second leg and forced extra-time, only for Arturo Vidal’s red card to spark a Cristiano Ronaldo-led onslaught by Madrid.Bayern is a club where second-best cuts no ice but has become force of habit; at this rarefied level, they have become a team for whom the hard luck stories can be reeled off. Consider the semifinal against Atletico Madrid two years ago, when Muller’s missed penalty at 1-0 allowed Diego Simeone’s side a way back into the game and, ultimately, to the final.Beyond Heynckes’ laments about his team’s profligacy there was the observation that Bayern created chances “in a very nice way, I have to say.” Nobody would dispute that; Ribery showed throughout that he is no faded force at 35 and Thiago Alcantara was a formidable creative force in the first half after replacing the injured Robben.James Rodriguez, meanwhile, was full of purpose and intent and showed some fine touches. One set up a goal for Joshua Kimmich, who was so effective going forward, though questionable when asked to defend.The German champions were fluid, easy on the eye; Real, by contrast, bordered on the stodgy. But therein lies the catch: Nice teams rarely win Champions Leagues. Perhaps a Bayern group viewing of that magical London afternoon of five years ago might serve to underline the point.

Real Madrid put one foot in Champions League final as Bayern Munich rue missed chances

5:05 PM ETNick AmesESPN FC

UNICH — Three quick thoughts from Real Madrid’s 2-1 win Wednesday over Bayern Munich in their Champions League semifinal first leg at the Allianz Stadium.

  1. Madrid put one foot in Champions League final

Real Madrid have one foot in yet another Champions League final, although they might wonder how. Superb finishes from Marcelo and Marco Asensio overhauled the advantage Joshua Kimmich had given Bayern Munich, who missed a host of chances, and Jupp Heynckes’ side have it all to do if they are to conduct a second-leg turnaround.An attack-minded Bayern side almost broke through within 23 seconds when Robert Lewandowski wriggled free on the left before volleying a cross-shot that was too strong for Thomas Muller to turn home. Toni Kroos centred beyond everybody after finding space behind the defence, and at that stage, an open encounter looked on the cards.It was 20 minutes before either side had another serious sniff at goal, though, with Jerome Boateng intercepting a dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo cross after a clever dummy from Luka Modric had sent him away. Then Dani Carvajal rifled straight at Sven Ulreich after the ball had bounced kindly on the edge of the area.But it was Bayern, whose threat had been present but hardly convincing, who struck first. James Rodriguez’s slide-rule pass sent Kimmich into acres of space down the Bayern right and, with Keylor Navas setting himself for a cross, the right-back fired inside the exposed goalkeeper’s near post.Soon afterward it would have been two if Ribery had not miscontrolled when set up by substitute Thiago Alcantara. Mats Hummels headed over at the far post before half-time and Muller saw a shot deflected over. Real looked grateful for the whistle; then Marcelo, taking aim at the edge of the box, unleashed his bolt from the blue with an equaliser that whistled into Ulreich’s far corner. There was still time for Robert Lewandowski to miss a headed chance at the other end.A cagier start to the second half was blown open when Real completed the turnaround. It was a calamity for Rafinha, who gave the ball away to Lucas Vazquez and set in train a move from which Asensio, who replaced Isco at the break, coolly lifted over Ulreich.Still Bayern made chances: Navas beating away Ribery’s shot and tipping another around the post; while, with 23 minutes to play, Muller somehow failed to make contact from two yards out with the goal gaping.Ulreich saved from Karim Benzema on a rare Real counter, but Bayern’s final chance fell to Lewandowski, who, incredibly for a striker of his ability, slotted wide with only Navas to beat.

  1. Real somehow find a way to win

Somehow this Real Madrid side finds a way when it matters. The three-peat is well and truly on, and while they rode their luck at times here, they will go into Tuesday’s second leg as firm favourites after a display that relied more on know-how than any explosive attacking quality.Zinedine Zidane’s selection was surprisingly conservative, with Benzema remaining on the bench while Vazquez started on the right. There was no place in the starting lineup for Gareth Bale, either, and in the first half, Real struggled to muster any kind of concerted threat. At times, they had to hang on, and they certainly were fortunate when Ribery and Lewandowski spurned chances to double Bayern’s lead.Real clearly have not looked invulnerable this season: their unsatisfactory domestic campaign is testament to that, and their near calamity against Juventus a fortnight ago confirmed the impression. But Marcelo’s raking volley was a reminder that they have cold-blooded winners all over the pitch, and it had the effect of emboldening Zidane, who replaced Isco with the more direct Asensio at the break.He was rewarded with a superb finish by the 22-year-old, who stood up on a night when more-experienced campaigners were quieter. Modric and Kroos never really had control of the midfield, while Ronaldo, scorer of two goals here last year, hardly had a sniff this time — skewing one wild effort out for a throw-in. Their star performer over the 90 minutes was Raphael Varane, who put in an imperious display at the back; it said plenty for the way in which Real had to dig deep, but they will not be too worried about the manner in which such a seismic victory was achieved.

  1. Bayern left to rue profligacy again

How painful this was for Bayern on a night when nobody, on the balance of play and chances, would have begrudged them a first-leg lead. Instead, they need a gargantuan performance at the Bernabeu. And it was impossible, as this match unfolded, to shake off the memory of the last time these sides met at the Allianz Arena.Then, in a quarterfinal first leg just over a year ago, Bayern took the lead and missed a number of chances — including a penalty — and were punished twice, eventually falling short in the second leg despite a spirited comeback. They will need to go one better this time and will wonder how they came away losers here.It was a particularly chastening night for Lewandowski, who missed at least two clear opportunities and might have done little for his prospects of the move to Real that has been mooted in some quarters. Bayern did little wrong for long periods of this match and will also reflect that, had it not been for Rafinha’s error, they might yet have gathered themselves to regain the lead.What a blow it had seemed when Arjen Robben, who surely cannot have many more Champions League ties left in him at 34 and with his contract expiring, departed through injury with just eight minutes on the clock. Bayern had started at a high tempo, clearly looking to involve Robben and Ribery as quickly as possible, and although the Dutchman’s exit appeared to check their stride, they rediscovered that vim after taking the lead.The 15 minutes before Marcelo’s goal were not quite a spell on a par with Liverpool’s whirlwind evisceration of Roma on Tuesday, but Bayern looked convincing: Thiago’s radar was set perfectly; Ribery fizzed with the menace of someone half his age; and with James also on song against his parent club, the chances arrived regularly. They continued to flow even after Real struck against the run of play; this was a good, exciting performance from Bayern, but it might not prove to be enough.

Christian Pulisic to make USMNT return

By Joe Prince-WrightApr25, 2018, 11:16 AM EDT

It was announced on Wednesday that Christian Pulisic will return to the U.S. national team and he is heading home.The Hershey, Pennsylvania native will play for the USMNT on May 28 against Bolivia as the friendly takes place at the Philadelphia Union’s Talen Energy Stadium.Interim USMNT head coach Dave Sarachan revealed in a press conference that Pulisic will be involved against Bolivia after the youngster was left out of the past few U.S. squads to let him rest up after a busy season in the Bundesliga and Europe with Dortmund.Pulisic, 19, hasn’t played for the USMNT since their 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago in October 2017 which sealed their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup this summer.The teenage sensation (who has nine goals in 20 games for the USMNT) has played 39 times in all competitions for German giants Borussia Dortmund this season, scoring five goals. The game against Bolivia will mark two years to the day that he scored his first USMNT goal, also in a friendly against Bolivia.Pulisic said the following about heading home.“I’m really excited to play in Philadelphia,” Pulisic said. “Obviously it’s close to my home and a lot of my family will be there and I’m super excited to put on the U.S. jersey again.”Speaking about Pulisic’s return, Sarachan was delighted to have him back on board and revealed he hasn’t quite made his mind up about the make-up of his squad for the upcoming friendlies.“We are excited to have him back with us,” Sarachan said. “We are still forming what make sense in terms of balance between Major League Soccer players and players from elsewhere.”The USMNT will arrive in Philly on May 20 for a training camp at the University of Pennsylvania before the friendly against Bolivia, while Pulisic is also expected to travel with the team to play in their friendlies at the Republic of Ireland and France in early June.The kid is back.

USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan unlikely to bring in old guard right now

April 25, 20185:13PM EDTDave ZeitlinContributor

HESTER, Pa. — For the past decade, players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradleyand Jozy Altidore have been rocks of the US men’s national team.But after last year’s World Cup qualifying disaster, is it time to move on from the old guard?Speaking with reporters Wednesday at a media roundtable at Talen Energy Stadium ahead of next month’s match vs. Bolivia, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan offered a delicate take on a tricky situation.“It’s a no-brainer at this point to allow these matches to be served by a lot of young guys,” said Sarachan, who will need to pick rosters for the friendly vs. Bolivia in Chester on May 28, followed by European road tilts vs. Ireland on June 2 and France on June 9. “They need these games. Jozy, Michael, Tim, Clint, you can go through a list of veteran guys, I know them well, we know them well, so it’s not like we need to see them moving forward. “The next real competition is down the line. But I do think those guys will factor in, in terms of the [2019] Gold Cup, in terms of the next round of [World Cup] qualifying. At some point, I think it will be important to bring some of those veteran guys back.”Given that the US won’t be able to play in a World Cup for another four years, there are those that might argue to pull the plug entirely on the aging veterans and focus exclusively on developing young talent. But Sarachan said it’s important to have experienced players around the program to help ease the transition as the USMNT attempts to navigate a difficult crossroads.”The national team isn’t just a given or a gift to anybody,” he said. “Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean we just throw you in and play. There’s a process I think that is critical in terms of understanding what it really means to be a part of the national team.”For example, Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, who was busy practicing right next door while Sarachan spoke, is a veteran that the USMNT coach decided to bring along to Portugal last November in the first game after the team’s World Cup flameout in Trinidad and Tobago. The 30-year-old midfielder, Sarachan noted, is a “good leader” and part of a “pool of guys who down the road can still offer something.”And Sarachan has tried to stay in constant touch with the longtime USMNT vets, whether by text, email or in-person talks.“The feedback has been good,” Sarachan said. “They understand. They also have a love of the program and they really want to be a part of things, especially since it didn’t go so well, leaving that taste in their mouth. The general sense I’ve gotten, talking to those guys, is: We trust what you’re doing, we get it, but we really want to be a part of things if the opportunity comes. That’s a good thing.”Sarachan insisted there’s been no discussion as to whether to bring in Dempsey, the 35-year-old Seattle Sounders striker, for an opportunity to break Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT goal-scoring record. They both have scored 57 international goals,“I haven’t even thought about that,” Sarachan admitted. “Honestly, that’s not my job. What I would say is guys like Landon and Clint, the older guys, they’re valuable in the succession of everything — to mentor, to show these young guys what it really takes to be a part of just a national team. That’s just a valuable piece.“But as far as that [record] goes, sometimes a tie is all right, right? Share the spoils?”

Warshaw: Toronto FC did everything in the CCL they needed to, except win it

April 26, 20181:30AM EDTBobby Warshaw

Current LAFC and former USMNT head coach Bob Bradley has a line he uses often these days. It’s one his son, Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley, can be heard invoking, as well:“That’s football.”Toronto went into Wednesday night’s 2018 Concacaf Champions League final Leg 2 needing to win and score two goals to secure at least a shot at penalties.They had to do it in Mexico, where only three MLS teams had ever won before in CCL play.They had to choose a starting XI from a group that was missing five regulars to injury, including four defenders.They were playing a team with an unorthodox style that MLS teams rarely see.Toronto won. Toronto scored two goals.They watched Chivas de Guadalajara hoist the trophy after the game.There lies a space in the world between good and not good enough. It’s possible to do everything right and fail.“That’s football.”Toronto did so much right in Guadalajara. Head coach Greg Vanney produced a creative, intelligent game plan. Michael Bradley stepped in to play an unfamiliar position. Jozy Altidore started Toronto’s rally with a double-meg goal. Sebastian Giovinco scored the type of shot we’ve come to expect from him. Nicolas Hasler dribbled two players to play a pinpoint pass for an assists. Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio combined marathon running with thoughtful positioning. Alex Bono made the big saves when Toronto needed them. You couldn’t point to a Toronto starter that didn’t have a good game.Toronto didn’t choke. They didn’t blow it. They did everything right … or almost everything, at least. They were good. They just weren’t good enough.It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. It’s sad. It’s maddening. Yet I can’t find it in me to be mad at Toronto.Unfortunately, it feels like these moments in American and Canadian soccer have come too often, too recently. But I’ll still come back tomorrow. Toronto will, too.TFC were great tonight. They just happened to not be good enough.That’s football.

Chivas ensure MLS wait for a CONCACAF Champions League title continues

Apr 26, 2018Tom MarshallESPN FC

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Chivas defeated Toronto 4-2 on penalties to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy on Wednesday in Estadio Akron.Toronto won the second leg 2-1, equalling the aggregate score 3-3, to take the game to penalties, with U.S. international Michael Bradley missing the final spot kick to hand Chivas the title.Here are three takes from a tense night in Guadalajara:

  1. Chivas scrape by as the MLS wait goes on

Twelve long years have passed since a non-Mexican team has won the CONCACAF Champions League. None in that time has come closer than Toronto FC, but Chivas were crowned champion for the first time since 1962 and will play at the Club World Cup in December for the first time in the club’s history.It was Bradley sending the final penalty high that probably will make the front pages, but Toronto midfielder Marky Delgado had a golden opportunity to win the game for TFC with the clock almost up. Sebastian Giovinco had twisted and turned down the left and set up Delgado right in front of goal, but he blasted the ball high and wide.It’s easy to reduce games to one moment and it would be unfair to put all the blame on Delgado’s shoulders, but in matchups as tight, tense and epic as the one in Guadalajara on Wednesday evening, it was huge.The wait for MLS teams to win this tournament for the first time since 2000 continues. Greg Vanney’s side produced some historic moments along the way, getting past Tigres and Club America and redefining to a degree the perception of MLS in Mexico.The performance in Estadio Akron was again impressive, getting the victory on the night in another assured display.But credit to Chivas. Coach Matias Almeyda made attacking substitutions in the second half, chased the game and the players took the penalties with authority. He has managed to motivate a team that has been desperately struggling in league play.It’ll be an all-Mexican team at the Club World Cup, while Toronto’s space for the CCL cup in its trophy cabinet will remain empty.

  1. Final lives up to hype

The build-up to the final was marred by tragic events in Toronto and Chivas players protesting the club’s directors over lack of payments. It isn’t supposed to be that way. But the players put the other issues to the back of their mind and put on a classic CCL final.Toronto was missing Chrys Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta and Justin Morrow, and Vanney slotted in central midfielder Michael Bradley alongside full-back Greg Van der Wiel at center-back.Chivas coach Almeyda sprung a surprise in his starting lineup by playing center backs Carlos Salcido, Jair Pereira and Oswaldo Alanis, but veteran Salcido played in central midfield alongside Michael Perez in a structure not too dissimilar to the usual 4-2-3-1.Chivas started the game the better team and Orbelin Pineda finished from Rodolfo Pizarro’s defense-splitting pass to give Chivas the lead in the 19th minute. The mood in Estadio Akron became one of celebration. It was premature.Toronto’s equalizer was a blow for Chivas. You expect that a player like Giovinco will make you pay at some point over the 180 minutes of a two-legged series, but Jozy Altidore’s tap-in in the 25th was shambolic from a defensive point of view and the atmosphere changed.Chivas had only conceded twice all tournament and within a shoddy 20-minute spell at the end of the first half, the Guadalajara side had let all the good work disappear.The second half was tense. Jesus Godinez hit the post for Chivas, while Giovinco went close late on for Toronto and Delgado had his golden chance.In the end, this will go down as one of the best CCL tournaments and finals in recent years. There was so little between the teams. Added to that, the importance clubs handed the competition, the quality on display and — most important — the shock to the Liga MX system of seeing Toronto take Mexican teams to the wire all added to the excitement.Next year’s will take some living up to and the Liga MX vs. MLS rivalry will grow naturally through these types of finals.

  1. Giovinco vs. Perez defines series

Almeyda told a white lie when he stated in the pregame news conference that he wouldn’t be assigning any of his players to man-mark Giovinco. Given the way Perez had limited the Italian by shadowing him in the first leg, why wouldn’t Almeyda try to same tactic?Perez, 25, was again handed the sizable task of dealing with Giovinco. He was the difference-maker in the quarterfinal against Tigres and against Club America in the semi.Perez was supreme for most of Wednesday night. Giovinco struggled to make an impact, with Perez following like a shadow. There were signs of frustration in the 43rd minute when he fouled the Mexican near the center of the pitch. Giovinco was booked for his protests.But the Italy international doesn’t need much time or space to make an impact. And when he received the ball inside the penalty area with Perez unusually not right on his back, it was all Giovinco needed. He took a touch and placed the ball inside Rodolfo Cota’s near post to make it 2-1 — one sniff was all Giovinco needed. Perez was taken off in the 68th minute because of an injury and Pineda took over marking duties.Chivas was pushing for the goal to tie the score, but Giovinco had more left in the tank. He produced some skill down the left with just seconds left to hand Delgado the kind of chance he’ll have nightmares about missing.The battle between the two ended in stalemate and with both deserving of credit.

Armchair Analyst: Three quick thoughts from a painful CCL final

April 26, 201812:37AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

I’m too spent to really think more clearly or eloquently than that. Toronto FC just made an epic Concacaf Champions League run, beating the greatest Liga MX team in history (Club America) and then the best Liga MX team in recent history (Tigres UANL) in succession in the knockout rounds. That’d be the equivalent of offing the Lakers and then the Warriors in back-to-back playoff games.Then they played Chivas – for the sake of this analogy, we’ll call them the Celtics – and became only the fourth MLS team ever to win a game in Mexico. They actually did it! They won the second leg, in Mexico, in the knockout rounds, in the final, getting the result they needed to at least give themselves a coin flip.All of that was… well, it would’ve been a lot to believe just two months ago. But here we are.And what wasn’t hard to believe is how it ended. Chivas lost 2-1 in the game, drew 3-3 on aggregate, and won 4-2 on penalties. TFC’s epic CCL run ended in disappointment.

Here are three quick thoughts:

1. Man-to-Man all over the Pitch

What RBNY coach Jesse Marsch meant two weeks back when he said that Chivas played a unique style, and that said style called for a unique approach that almost obviated formational concerns is that Matias Almeyda has his team play man-marking all over the field. Wherever you go, they stay with you.And so that made playing Michael Bradley at center back an actual advantage for the Reds, as it forced Chivas to come higher up the pitch to get pressure to him. TFC took advantage of that space by using Bradley to hit diagonals, overloading the flanks and then providing room for their midfielders to cut across the middle and create chances.It’s not how they got the first goal (that was off a penalty), and it’s not how they dominated possession (they didn’t, and didn’t really want to). But it’s how they got Sebastian Giovinco’s goal, and how they created multiple chances in the second half.Several of those could’ve – should’ve – been the winner.

2. Having the Ball is Dangerous

Chivas are not a team with any attacking ideas. The two times when they create danger are either off of set pieces, or when they turn you over while you try to play up the middle. That’s how they got the only goal in the series against the Red Bulls, and it’s how they got their only goal tonight:That’s it, man. That’s it.

3. No Shortcuts

One of the things I’ve kept saying on our analysis shows is that there are no shortcuts to the top. You take it one rung at a time, and this spring certainly marked significant upward progress.RBNY became the first team ever to win both legs of a knockout round, pounding Xolos. TFC, as I mentioned at the top, beat America & Tigres. And then they went on the road in the CCL final and got a 90-minute win. Anyone who looks at that and says it’s not progress is lying to you, because reality causes them to question their dogma, and is thus painful to them.But as progress is painful as well. Just as TFC had to lose the 2016 MLS Cup final to become what they wanted to be in 2017, my guess is that they will treat this as another rung on the ladder/evolutionary moment for the franchise. It was both a misstep and a step forward.On a grander scale, TFC (and the Red Bulls) showed what it takes to really compete for this title. You need significant investment in local players, and in your USL team, and in top-end DPs, and in depth everywhere. You also need to have elite, tactically flexible coaches – Greg Vanney deserves some major credit for how his team came out and played, game after game, this spring.Unfortunately, you also need at least a little bit of luck. TFC didn’t have it tonight and Chivas did.The free space is disappointment, until it isn’t.

2018 MLS Ambition Rankings: Which Clubs Raise the Bar Highest as the League Grows?

By GRANT WAHL AND BRIAN STRAUS April 23, 2018

1. ATLANTA UNITED (LAST YEAR: 2)

In 2017, Atlanta ranked second based largely on potential, promise and the hiring of manager Tata Martino. This season, it takes the top spot thanks to near-flawless execution and a clear commitment to pushing the MLS envelope. There doesn’t appear anything owner Arthur Blank won’t do to make his team the league’s standard bearer. Since the release of last year’s ranking, Atlanta set attendance records at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opened a $60 million training facility, launched a USL team, won the U16 Development Academy championship, and signed the aforementioned $15 million man, Ezequiel Barco. Atlanta will host the MLS All-Star game this summer against Juventus and this fall, will be expected to make a run at an MLS Cup title in only its second season.

2. TORONTO FC (LAST YEAR: 1)

TFC didn’t fall as much as Atlanta rose. But there’s little separating the two and in winning the first domestic treble and then ousting Tigres UANL and Club America on its way to the CCL finals, Toronto has demonstrated what’s possible with a commitment to investment and stability at all levels. The emphasis put on the CCL, which included using available TAM funds on the likes of Gregory van der Wiel and Ager Aketxe and spending extra time in Mexico ahead of the quarterfinal and semifinal deciders, will be the MLS model going forward. DP spending is static, but that’s because Toronto chose wisely. TFC is a case study in what’s achievable when ambition marries intelligence. GM Tim Bezbatchenko, coach Greg Vanney and captain Michael Bradley may not possess the glamour of their Atlanta counterparts, but they’ve got the silverware.

3. LOS ANGELES FC (LAST YEAR: N/A)

LAFC’s entry already has been remarkable. Considering the obstacles clubs in other top 10 markets have encountered trying to build new homes, the fact that Banc of California Stadium is set to open this weekend in such an iconic part of Los Angeles is an MLS miracle. The $350 million, privately-funded facility is the crown jewel of a project that already includes a $30 million training facility, the appointment of coach Bob Bradley and the signing of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. Some have wondered whether the five-time champion LA Galaxy would have to fight to stay relevant. That’s a sign of real ambition at LAFC. The only things missing are a track record and trophies (and perhaps some build-out on the USL and academy side), and the only place LAFC appeared to cut corners was the uniform. Everything else stands out.

4. LA GALAXY (LAST YEAR: 4)

About that bit concerning the Galaxy’s fight to stay relevant: A last-place finish will raise those questions. And LA answered a bunch of them with the blockbuster signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He may not be a DP, but ambition isn’t just about the price tag. And it’s the Galaxy, not LAFC, that’s been the talk of the league as a result. Meanwhile, the club’s DP spending rose by more than $5 million over the past year to around $17.3 million. The Galaxy are trying, as evidenced by those singings, as well as by the $4.2 million invested in 2017 in youth development and the $20 million put toward StubHub Center upgrades.

5. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (LAST YEAR: 3)

There haven’t been many significant upgrades over the past 12 months in Seattle. Remaining somewhat static may result in a slight slip in the Ambition Ranking. But the Sounders still do enough to be one of the league’s elite clubs, and they’re a two-time conference champion with six major titles in nine MLS seasons. They set the standard for expansion teams back in 2009, and now must respond to the escalation that’s happened since. To that end, the club said it more than doubled its investment in player development since 2016. It’s exploring an expansion of its Starfire training complex in suburban Tukwila, and has partnered with the Tacoma Rainiers AAA baseball team to build a new facility for its USL side. Offseason reinforcements were modest and injuries, fatigue and poor form doomed the Sounders’ CCL campaign.

6. PORTLAND TIMBERS (LAST YEAR: 5)

The Timbers are a small-market club with a big-market following and mindset, and they continue to impress pound-for-pound. Among DPs earning under $3 million annually, it’s tough to find a better one than reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri, and Portland’s commitment to investing throughout the club is notable—from the $4 million in annual red ink related to its USL and youth development programs to the remarkable success of the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, who win championships and attract record crowds. The club didn’t break the bank to replace departed coach Caleb Porter, but very few didn’t believe Gio Savarese had earned his chance. Instead, the Timbers are spending some $60 million on the expansion of Providence Park, which will include more than 4,000 new seats, and another $5 million on upgrades to its training facility.

7. REAL SALT LAKE (LAST YEAR: 12)

SL takes a big jump in the Ambition Ranking thanks to its massive investment in a $78 million training facility in Herriman, Utah, the club’s outstanding youth development and the launch of a NWSL team, Utah Royals FC. RSL is an example of how ambition can be defined by different organizations in different ways. There may be no big-ticket, big-name stars joining the first team. But top-to-bottom, it’s as complete a club as there is anywhere in the USA or Canada. In addition to the Herriman facility, which includes a residence hall and a high school, RSL plans to open six regional training centers in Utah and Arizona for youth players ages 7-14. The first, a $6 million venture, opened in December in North Logan, Utah.

8. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (LAST YEAR: 6)

Peter Vermes continues to reload. Although SKC missed out on retaining homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who left for Manchester City and a subsequent loan deal with Belgium’s KV Kortrijk, the club says the signings of French midfielder Yohan Croizet and Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez have resulted in a record amount of DP spending. Like Portland, the big upgrade at SKC is about brick and mortar. The new $75 million Pinnacle training center, which also will house U.S. Soccer Federation programs and the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine Center, opened in February. Sporting values the U.S. Open Cup more than most and won its third title in six years in 2017. It hasn’t solved its late-season swoon issues, however, and has bowed out in the MLS Cup knockout round for four consecutive years.

9. NEW YORK CITY FC (LAST YEAR: 8)

Spending a bit less on DPs has been good policy in the long run, as the club that made a lot of noise with the inaugural-season signings of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard has been much better off with Villa and a team of better, more complementary players behind him. Blind ambition isn’t always the answer. Until NYCFC finds an escape route from Yankee Stadium, however, it’ll always be just behind the ranking’s top-tier clubs. But it’s doing a lot right in the meantime, from the investment in coach Patrick Vieira—who’s the league’s highest paid—to the state-of-the-art Orangeburg, New York, training facility it moved into last month. The Etihad City Football Academy sits on a 17-acre site and includes a 24,000-square-foot building and 1.5 grass fields.

10. ORLANDO CITY (LAST YEAR: 7)

Kaká’s departure altered the face of the franchise and had a significant impact on the salary structure. Orlando’s DPs are now Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan and Josué Colmán, who are decent players but cost a whole lot less. The club said it’s spending around $8.5 million in DP money and TAM this year. That’s far from miserly, but it’s a level down from the league’s top teams and helps lead to a three-spot drop in the Ranking. None of that will matter to City fans, of course, if their club can make the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS in 2015. Orlando City Stadium has been a big success, and although the club shut down its USL outfit this season, it deserves credit for its very good NWSL team, the Orlando Pride, which features Alex Morgan and Marta.

11. D.C. UNITED (LAST YEAR: 18)

The biggest leap in this year’s ranking is made by MLS’s original flagship club, which has languished in recent years while losing loads of money at antiquated RFK Stadium. In July, DCU’s two-decade wait for a home of its own finally ends with the opening of Audi Field, a $400 million project that should transform both the club and the Buzzard Point area of the nation’s capital. United also is working toward establishing a new $50 million training facility and USL team in suburban Loudoun County, Virginia. All of this long-awaited infrastructure reportedly has attracted the interest of potential new owners, whose investment will be necessary to upgrade a squad that finished second-to-last in MLS in 2017. Paul Arriola currently is the team’s only DP, although two more may be on the way this summer. Among the potential targets is Italian striker Mario Balotelli.

12. FC DALLAS (LAST YEAR: 9)

FCD’s youth development and “busca la forma” culture was considered the gold standard for some time. But it may have taken the club as far as it can go in 2016, when the run toward a potential treble was derailed by Mauro Díaz’s Achilles injury. Since then, Dallas has been searching for stability. DP spending is around $3.5 million this year—a little above the club average but still far from the league’s elite. New DP Santiago Mosquera, a Colombian midfielder, hasn’t yet found his MLS footing. Regardless of whether Oscar Pareja’s first team has hit its ceiling, the organization has made headway elsewhere. FCD said it’s spending around $58 million on upgrades to Toyota Stadium and the Toyota Soccer Center that’ll include a new National Soccer Hall of Fame, new locker rooms and more.

13. NEW YORK RED BULLS (LAST YEAR: 10)

Red Bull Arena remains a fantastic place to watch a game, the club’s facilities are first-rate and the talent pipeline, which has produced a USL champion and newly-minted USA midfielder Tyler Adams, is among North America’s best. But it’s also the case that more star players seem to leave than sign, and that NYRB’s annual playoff faceplant is getting old (not that losing to TFC last year was anything to be ashamed of). As the years go by, it feels like the club is less appreciated in New York, and that New York is less appreciated at Red Bull HQ. NYRB rarely seems to be ambitious and competent at the same time. Among the positives are last year’s run to the U.S. Open Cup final and the club-record signing of Argentine midfielder Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, who’s still integrating into coach Jesse Marsch’s side but may yet bring some sizzle back to Harrison.

Is Arsene Wenger the greatest manager never to win in Europe after failing on all three fronts?     Richard JollyYahoo Sport UK26 Apr 2018, 07:36

MoreThe chances are that Jose Mourinho would have a phrase for it. The Manchester United manager stands alone in winning both the Champions League and the Europa League twice. Arsene Wenger, in contrast, has never won a European trophy. And the Portuguese is the man who once branded an old enemy a “specialist in failure”.Another argument is that Wenger may be the greatest manager never to win a European trophy; certainly the greatest club manager of the last six decades who has worked at major European clubs. That could all change: sandwiching perhaps his final clash with Mourinho on Sunday is the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. He could exit Arsenal in both fitting and uncharacteristic fashion, securing silverware on the continent at the last and finding a way of qualifying for the Champions League that, unlike fourth place, actually is a trophy.

READ MORE: Where next for departing Wenger?  READ MORE: Exclusive – Pochettino considers future as Real circle

Or maybe the Frenchman will finish will an exercise in bittersweet Wenger-esque consistency: a 19th consecutive season of playing European football after Christmas without actually claiming the eventual prize. Wenger has been the unrewarded constant, the byword for last-16 departures from the Champions League.All of which feels a little cruel. Wenger has a unique and unwanted distinction, one which, as the Cup Winners’ Cup no longer exists, he will retain. He is the only manager to lose in the finals of all three European competitions.His Monaco were beaten by an arguably less gifted Werder Bremen side in the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup final. His Arsenal were defeated on penalties by 10-man Galatasaray in the 2000 Uefa Cup final. His 10-man Gunners took the lead against Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final and were 15 minutes from glory. Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti had other ideas.All of which means Wenger has conquered Europe fewer times than Tony Barton or Roberto Di Matteo. They had one-off triumphs, he a career of seismic significance, but lacking that crowning glory on the continental stage. There are managers who have disappeared into the mists of history who have won European trophies: not Wenger, though, the man with the historic achievement of producing England’s only unbeaten champions since 1889. He has managed 248 games in European competitions, 201 of them in the Champions League, a huge body of work that has produced some memorable victories and generated vast revenues, but not delivered the game’s essential purpose of glory.And it does matter. There is a case for calling Arsenal the biggest club, or the most prominent, or the wealthiest, or the most constant presence among the elite, never to win the Champions League. Wenger has been one of the finest and most influential managers of the last 30 years. He has built some of the most watchable, most accomplished sides. His peers include men such as Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, Marcello Lippi, Louis van Gaal, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Vicente del Bosque, Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes and Rafa Benitez. They are all Champions League-winning managers. He is not.And if it is both simplistic and wrong to define greatness simply because of Champions League wins, it is nonetheless a measure. By many criteria, Wenger is France’s greatest managerial export. Yet the rookie Zinedine Zidane could win his third Champions League in as many seasons in May. Wenger’s achievements lie in other fields.His place in posterity is likeliest to be preserved in France and England. It should be indisputable in his native country and adopted homeland that he is a great; those elsewhere whose are fixated on the Champions League may need more persuasion. But once the animosity of recent years has died down, memories of his 1998, 2002 and 2004 title winners, teams who combined solidity with modernity, pace with power, the physical with the technical, should remain. And yet they may not get sufficient recognition elsewhere, for one fundamental reason: they were not Champions League winners in an era when that became the measure of greatness.Wenger’s first champions were slow to adapt to Europe. In 2003-04, however, they were arguably the continent’s finest side. They were knocked out by Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea. A brash newcomer called Mourinho instead became the Champions League winner that year.Wenger reinvented Arsenal, but was defined by his era, when the elite managers were in the Champions League every year, where one outstanding team – and he kept facing Barcelona or Bayern Munich – could end his chances on annual basis. In that respect, he could be a trailblazer. Some of the finest managers of the younger generation – Jurgen Klopp, Massimiliano Allegri, Antonio Conte – have domestic titles but, like Wenger, no European crown. He had a team that, for over a decade, was one of the 10 best in Europe but, if the law of averages suggested he should have been rewarded with a Champions League win, the laws of knockout football dictated otherwise.Now Wenger may be one aggregate defeat from the end of another European adventure, a three-decade odyssey that has deprived him of silverware. And, perhaps, the status he deserves.

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4/23/18 Champions League Final 4, Europa Semi’s, MLS Toronto trails in CCL Finals

Anyone want to join us at Scotty’s downtown Carmel for the Tues Liverpool game?

Thought I would post another blog for the huge Champions League and Europa League games this week on Tues/Wed & Thurs.  For those who don’t know European League soccer –  Champions League is a competition that matches the 32 top club teams in the European Leagues (England EPL, Spanish La Liga (think Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Mardrid), Germany Bundesliga (think Bayern Munich, Dortmund), Italy Serie A (think Juventus, Roma, Napoli, AC or Inter Milan), France Legue 1 (PSG, Monaco), Portugal (Porto), Russia (Zennit), Holland (Ajax) – you get the picture.  When we say the best players on the best teams in the world – when you get to the Knock-out stages especially the final 16 – this is where the stars play.  Usually these are the teams that spend the most.  There is no salary cap in soccer in most countries.  So the top teams often outspend most of the other teams – its why Real Madrid has Renaldo, Bale, Marcelo, Ramos – how Bayern Munich basically buys the best players from each team in Germany – Robert Lewandowsky, Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery,  Gotze.   The teams will play both home and away where the total goals are added up but away goals count more.  So if you can score an away goal – on the road – it means more – this makes teams battle to score the vital away goal and not just pack it and play 11 behind the ball (unless you are Man U’s eclectic Jose Mourinho.

So about the Final 4 – Italy’s Roma shocked the world when they came from behind to knock off favorites Barcelona and one of the world’s best players Messi in the last round.  After losing 3-1 at Barcelona – Roma needed a 3-0 victory at home to crash the Semi-Final party. And crash is they did – as the player who gave up an own goal @ Barca scored the 3rd and final goal in the last 5 minutes to send Roma thru.  Roma will face another surprise team in Liverpool from England.  Liverpool is just 2 years in to new German coach (formerly of Dortmund) Juergan Klopp’s rebuild of the once proud franchise which had fallen on tough times landing out of the top 4 over the few years before his appointment.  Klopp has installed a high pressing attack with England’s Player of the Year and the world’s leading scorer Mohomad Salah, along with Mane and Fermino leading the attack.  This is the Cinderella side of the bracket.

The other final is the powerhouse – think UNC, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State – this features German powerhouse Bayern Munich vs the 2-time defending Champion Real Madrid (they call them the Holders) with the legendary Cristiano Renaldo – (the man who just broke the record for most consecutive games with a goal in the history of Champions League play).  Do yourself a favor and tape these games Tues/Wed on Fox Sports 1 or better yet take a late lunch and catch them live.  Or at least come home and watch the replays on FS 1 and FS 2.  See the full schedule below.

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Chivas vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

Champions League

Liverpool and Roma’s Boston Connections

Liverpool primes for Tough Test in UCL vs Roma

Why Roma’s Semi with Liverpool has Special Significance

Bayern can Beat Real Madrid this time – Mark Lovell ESPNFC

Who Will Win Champions League now at Final 4 – Mirrror

Who’s gonna Win – Video SI – Real vs Bayern

Strikers might Determine the winner tween Bayern & Real say Alonso

Bayern’s Muller says Real vulnerable

Carvajal of Real eyes 3rd Straight UCL Trophy

Real Madrid at Full Strength for Semi

Liverpool vs Roma gives us Romance – Real vs Bayern is Royalty – Simon Evans – Washington Post

Semi’s Rife with Storylines – SI

Battle of Heavyweights Bayern vs Real

Roma vs Liverpool should have Goals – SI

Toronto Resolute in CCL Final vs Chivas

Toronto FC total Concentration on Chivas in CCL Final

WORLD

Marcotti’s Musings – Napoli stun Juve, Iniesta Inspires Barca, FA Cup – Gab Marcotti ESPNFC

Top Players in the World this Week

Is this the End of Juve’s Italian Dominance after losing to Napoli 1-0 ESPNFC

EPL

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah Wins EPL Player of the year

Arsenal Free to Dream of Brighter Future Now – Mick Hornby  

Wenger’s Reception at Emirates Shows the Relationship with Fans is Broken

GAMES ON TV

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                 Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Indy 11 Banner

 

Indy 11 vs FC Cincinnati (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Why Roma’s semifinal with Liverpool has special significance

1:22 PM ETTerry Daley

So it’s come to this. An inconsistent, at times frankly dreary season comes to an unexpectedly thrilling climax, a trip to one of the citadels of European football and a chance to avenge perhaps the most painful night in Roma’s history — one that many say contributed to the tragic end of one of the club’s greatest heroes.On May 30, 1994, Agostino Di Bartolomei, not yet 40, was found dead at his home in the southern town of Castellabate in southern Italy, lying in a pool of blood after a gunshot to the heart with his Smith & Wesson that woke his dozing wife, Marisa. It was 10 years to the day that Roma captain Di Bartolomei had taken to the Stadio Olimpico pitch in front of a frenzied crowd of 70,000, a Serie A champion one step away from winning his boyhood side’s first-ever European Cup. Born and raised in the working-class district of Tor Marancia in South Rome, an area that has long stood in the shadow of its more ornate, tourist-friendly neighbour Garbatella, and which had once been the site of a post-war shanty town so dangerous it was called “Shanghai”, Di Bartolomei wasn’t just captain of Roma, he was the fans’ — and in particular the Curva Suds’ — presence on the pitch. Today, the housing estates that dominate his home area are covered in impressive if somewhat bourgeois “street art”, but among them you can still find murals dedicated to the one they called “Ago”.

He, alongside Bruno Conti, Falcao and Roberto Pruzzo, was one of the stars of probably the most loved Roma team, the winners of the 1983 league title and three Coppa Italias. He scored the penalty that saw Roma come back from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the semifinal 3-2 on aggregate, a tie that was subsequently mired in scandal after accusations of second-leg referee Michel Vautrot being bribed £50,000 by Roma, something that then-chairman Dino Viola’s son Riccardo said was true in 2011.Roma lost the final, of course, the capital city of the land of pasta foxed by Bruce Grobbelar’s spaghetti legs and beaten on penalties by Liverpool. That summer, Di Bartolomei left Roma after being ditched by incoming coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and soon after went from hero to villain, celebrating wildly after scoring against his old team for AC Milan.Afterwards, he slipped down the leagues and into obscurity. No one from Roma ever called to offer him a role at the club and after finishing his career he moved south, running a football school that slowly ran out of money until he decided to take his own life. Later, Marisa found a note written by her husband that read: “I feel shut in a hole.”That defeat, and its dark epilogue, adds another layer of significance to this semifinal with Liverpool. Arriving at the 1984 final was the last — the only — time that Roma had ever really made an impact on Europe’s biggest stage, and the thought of drawing the Reds gave fans of a certain vintage flashbacks to that fateful day.One, who now works for the club in a semi-official capacity, had barely digested the incredible victory over Barcelona when this writer suggested Liverpool might be the best draw for the semis.

“Don’t … My heart.”

Roma go into their biggest game in 34 years with a full squad and high spirits, having built on the battering of Barca by maintaining their leading spot in the race for next season’s Champions League. Leading the charge will be Daniele De Rossi, outstanding against the Catalans at the Olimpico alongside Edin Dzeko, who is looking to establish a club record European Cup goals total after equalling the six Pruzzo scored in 1983-84 with his opener a fortnight ago.De Rossi, the latest in a line of captains that goes Di Bartolomei, Conti and Francesco Totti, has always said that his greatest regret would be not to win the league title with Roma. At 34 years old, he’s too young to have seen the ’83 Scudetto and was still a youth team player when Totti fired them to the title in 2001.What if, as his career heads towards what looks like its final year, he was to go one better than the kings of Rome that came before him?

Bayern Munich can beat Real Madrid in Champions League this time: Here’s why

3:38 AM ETMark Lovell

Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal first leg this week, aiming to avenge their painful 6-3 aggregate defeat at last season’s quarterfinal stage.Here are six reasons why the German champions are better placed to reach the final this time around in their quest for a sixth European crown.

Heynckes has united the team

The most obvious change since last time out is the fact Jupp Heynckes has returned to replace Carlo Ancelotti, after the Italian was dismissed the day after Bayern’s 3-0 group stage embarrassment in Paris. For his fourth spell in charge, Heynckes inherited a fractious unit amid high levels of discontent with Ancelotti’s laid-back coaching methods. In 2017 there were cracks and they showed in this season’s campaign as Ancelotti lost the dressing room. But with his supreme man-management skills, Heynckes almost immediately revitalised Sven Ulreich, James Rodriguez, Javi Martinez, Arturo Vidal, David Alaba and the reportedly disgruntled trio of Franck Ribery, Jerome Boateng and Muller.Heading into the business end of the season, this is now a united squad focusing on the treble.It is also easy to forget Heynckes knows how to get the job done in Europe’s top club competition. His Bayern side disposed of Real at the semifinal stage on penalties at the Bernabeu in 2012, and in three previous seasons he has reached the final each time: winning in 1998 with Real and leading the Bavarians to the showpiece event in both 2012 and 2013.While the recent 0-0 against Sevilla broke a record run of 12 consecutive Champions League wins for the 72-year-old, almost 20 years on, Heynckes will no doubt still be smarting from being rewarded with the sack eight days after leading Los Blancos to their seventh European Cup.

Robert Lewandowski is fit and raring to go

Bayern’s main goal threat injured his shoulder ahead of last season’s quarterfinal. Without their prolific striker, an out-of-sorts Thomas Muller was handed a more advanced role but Bayern remained toothless up front and slipped to a meek 2-1 defeat — following 16 successive Champions League home wins — in Munich.Inevitably rushed back from injury for the second leg at the Bernabeu, Lewandowski was largely anonymous in the first half, enjoying only 14 touches of the ball — the fewest of anybody on the pitch. He did convert from the spot — his eighth goal in nine Champions League games — to give Bayern a precious advantage on the night but was forced off with just two minutes left after his injury flared up and could only watch on as Real went on to win in extra-time.Lewandowski has been handled carefully by Heynckes since the end of the winter break, after he initially struggled to shake off a knee injury, and hasn’t started an away Bundesliga fixture all year. Now fit, fresh and firing, the Poland star has notched 39 goals in 43 games this season, including a first half double as 18-time winners Bayern reached their 22nd DFB Pokal final with a 6-2 hammering of Leverkusen on Tuesday.Off the pitch, Lewandowski’s recent switch of agent has led to an inevitable surge in transfer speculation, with Real Madrid most heavily linked. That may mean extra motivation for him in this game.

Missing Manuel Neuer is not the calamity it might seem

After breaking his foot in September, Neuer has been out for most of the season and back-up goalkeeper Ulreich endured a horrible series of lapses under Ancelotti. However, Ulreich has undergone a remarkable transformation under Heynckes and has been key to Bayern’s impressive run of form in three competitions.Normally the absence of the world’s best goalkeeper would be a crushing blow for any side’s Champions League chances but Heynckes immediately backed Ulreich as his No. 1 and has been rewarded.The latest in a long line of matchwinning performances came in the cup on Tuesday with Heynckes hailing his back-up keeper as “exceptional” and a “godsend” after pulling off a host of fine saves to keep Bayern’s slender lead intact in Leverkusen.Last season, Neuer almost single-handedly kept 10-man Bayern in the tie with at least 10 top class saves in Munich, excelling in the return too at the Bernabeu before letting in three goals in extra time.A few weeks into his spell as No. 1, Ulreich told ESPN FC “It wasn’t easy to replace Neuer,” but he has grown in confidence and has been one of Bayern’s standout players this season. He can harbour genuine hopes of going to the World Cup as Germany’s third keeper behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the soon-to-be recovered Neuer.

Martinez has impressed as a defensive midfielder

Heynckes’ decision to restore Martinez to defensive midfield has proved another masterstroke.Once Bayern’s record signing at €40 million from Athletic Bilbao in 2012, Martinez had been used predominantly in central defence under predecessors Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola (when fit).He is far from the quickest but his ferocious tackling and ball-winning skills have provided Bayern with great solidity and a robust shield in front of what was a creaking backline. Once again, in similar fashion to the 2013 treble winning season when regularly partnered with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Martinez has become one of the first names on Heynckes’ teamsheet and the unheralded key to their treble hopes.

Boateng and Hummels’ partnership at the back is solid

Last season, Mats Hummels missed the first leg (like Lewandowski) through injury and both of Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning duo were still hampered by injury and far from 100 percent for the return as well. With Martinez suspended, Boateng and Hummels bravely played through the pain barrier as Bayern put up a stirring fight with to take the tie into extra time, but it was not enough.Statistically speaking, if Boateng plays Bayern do not lose. He is the only Bayern regular not to have tasted defeat this season in 29 appearances and did not feature in any of the German champions’ losses to PSG, Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Gladbach.Hummels oozes class and composure alongside the more robust Boateng, while together they represent a reassuring presence at the heart of the Munich backline. Finally fit, Bayern’s rocks at the back have a much better chance of keeping Ronaldo and company quiet this time around.

There should be no red card

One of Heynckes’ biggest coaching beliefs is to do everything in his power not to risk a dismissal in the Champions League. He always, when possible, takes off a player who is walking the red card tightrope and in danger of crossing the line.In last season’s second leg against Real, Vidal went into the referee’s notebook after only five minutes for a clumsy foul on Isco. A red card seemed inevitable the longer the combative Chilean remained on the pitch and he was duly dismissed for a foul on Casemiro in the 84th minute.With Bayern a man down, Cristiano Ronaldo clinically took advantage by adding a couple more goals to seal his hat trick and Ancelotti was heavily criticised postmatch for his blatant oversight on Vidal.Back in October, Heynckes recalled his very first game in charge of the player he calls “my Arturo” at Leverkusen in 2009. “Arturo picked up a yellow card after only two minutes,” Heynckes said. “In the 10th minute, he made another crazy challenge. In the 20th minute, I had to show him the red card myself. I knew from training how impulsive and aggressive he is. You simply must react.”Vidal certainly won’t be getting a red card this time around anyway — he’s been ruled out until the end of the season with a knee injury — but Heynckes will ensure that Bayern aren’t left with a disadvantage again.

 Real Madrid vulnerable ahead of Champions League semifinal – Bayern’s Thomas Muller

8:07 AM ETStephan Uersfeld

Bayern Munich captain Thomas Muller has said Real Madrid “are vulnerable” ahead of the Champions League semifinal first leg between the teams in Germany on Wednesday.Having sealed a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern are eyeing a second Treble and have lost only two of 36 matches since Jupp Heynckes returned as coach in October.And Muller said they were confident that they could deny Real a third consecutive Champions League trophy. “We’re aware of Madrid’s qualities. We must attack them, must score goals and make use of the weaknesses Real have,” he told reporters after Bayern’s win at Hannover on Saturday.”They lost the second leg against Juventus 3-1, and that means that they are also vulnerable. We’ll go into this match with a lot of confidence.”Bayern were knocked out of the Champions League by Real in both 2013-2014 and last season, but Poland striker Robert Lewandowski told kicker they could beat them this year.”It’s a Champions League semifinal. If you play with fear, you stand no chance,” he said.”You must be convinced that you can beat Real, don’t take it too easy but, in a certain way, remain relaxed.”It was just a different situation last year. I wasn’t fully fit, not at 100 percent, and trudged through it. We were unlucky to crash out.”I don’t care who scores the goal. Our priority is to reach the final.”Winger Arjen Robben, who scored the winner in the 2013 Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund, added: “It wasn’t Lewy [struggling with fitness]. We had many problems last year, especially in Madrid.”We played with a team in which three, four players were at 50 percent. We still fought until the last minute. This year, we are all fit.”Bayern will be without Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal and Corentin Tolisso, while left-back David Alaba also faces a race against tim

Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal targeting third straight Champions League trophy

:38 AM ETPA Sport

Dani Carvajal is confident Real Madrid can make history and become the first team to win the Champions League three years in succession.The Spanish giants became the first side to retain the European title in the Champions League era last season and are now aiming to go one better. Zinedine Zidane’s side face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their semifinal at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.”Nothing is impossible, we’re going to fight for it,” Carvajal told the club’s website.”We’re working hard and, if we’ve done it twice, why wouldn’t we go for that third consecutive Champions League?”Since I’ve been here, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to reach the semifinal every year. Every year has something special and this season more so, due the teams we’ve come up against. We’re happy and looking forward to playing the game.”Real Madrid’s record extends to three triumphs in the past four seasons and 12 European titles overall.Last year’s success came after victory over Bayern in the semi-finals.Midfielder Dani Ceballos was not a member of the side then but is hoping history can repeat itself.”This team is used to these matches in the semifinal of the Champions League,” he said.”We’ve also played games against Bayern Munich at this level and we’ve come out on top. We hope that these semifinals are like previous years and we can make it to the final.”

Never-say-die Napoli stun Juve; Iniesta inspires; Mourinho, Conte rewarded

11:04 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

The last title race in a major European league is alive and well and owes a huge debt of gratitude to a 6-foot-5 Franco-Senegalese tower of power (who also has plenty of timing, grit and brains) named Kalidou Koulibaly.On Sunday night, during stoppage time at the end of Juventus vs. Napoli, the center-back rose into the Turin sky to power a header past Gigi Buffon, breaking a scoreless deadlock and giving his team a huge victory that cuts Juventus’ lead at the top of the table to a single point.Napoli had spent much of the previous 89 minutes attacking, as you’d expect from a side for whom a draw was, realistically, no good. Juventus, the Serie A leaders by four points, spent most of the game defending, deep and in numbers. You sensed a familiar verdict, had it not been for that last-ditch goal.The visitors would have been patronized for their willingness to go for it, despite lacking the quality to win away to the six-time defending champions. And the hosts would have been praised for knowing how to win ugly and grind out results. Instead, a single moment changed everything and ought to serve a warning to be less obsessed with results and, instead, pay more attention to what happens on the pitch.Napoli played the way they always do, albeit with less pace of thought and execution and less of a cutting edge in the final third, which may have been down to nerves or to Juve’s deep defending. But Juve, simply put, got too many things wrong and needlessly so. And all the praise they would have received if they had hung on would not have changed that. Max Allegri lost Giorgio Chiellini to injury after 11 minutes and reacted by shifting Benedikt Howedes — making only his third start of the season — into central defence and introducing Stephan Lichtsteiner at right-back.It didn’t help, but it can’t be an alibi for what we saw: a Juve side whose center of gravity was well in their own half. To make matters worse, Paulo Dybala had a horrendous first half, while Douglas Costa’s runs disappeared into blue-shirted cul-de-sacs, meaning Gonzalo Higuain was left alone up front, which goes some way towards explaining why Juve did not manage a single shot on target.This wasn’t a case of organized, counterattacking football. It was poor execution, and it’s tough to believe that this same group beat Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu earlier this month. Whether Allegri set them up to play like this — he said he didn’t — or whether they just found themselves pushed back, it was a hugely disappointing night.Allegri has spent most of the past two years talking about instilling an attacking identity in this team and taking the game to the opposition as the only way of going to the next level. The fact that Juve still cannot do it consistently, even as they could yet win their seventh Serie A title, ought to be a concern.The good news if you’re a Juventus fan is that Allegri excels in calming the ship and managing his personalities. Momentum may have shifted, and they may have the tougher run-in — with trips to Inter and Roma — but they still control their own destiny. If experience and that “winning mentality” matters for anything, now is the time to show it.As for Napoli, the victory and doggedness shown cannot mask the fact that they have lost a step compared to earlier in the season, possibly because of the lack of depth and the minutes played by key men. Maurizio Sarri isn’t going to change his philosophy but you wonder if, perhaps in certain situations, the more direct approach with Arkadiusz Milik — even at the cost of sacrificing one of the front three — might not serve them better.

Nicola Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Napoli’s season must be considered successful

We had a bit of a disagreement — unusual, I know! — on ESPN FC TV last week: I said that whatever happens in the title race, Napoli’s season has been an unqualified success, while the boys in the studio suggested it wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t become champions. I get why folks talk about trophies and silverware, but on three different counts, Napoli have already won, even if they fall short of the scudetto.First, they have played some of the best football in Serie A, if not Europe. Doing that consistently in Italy, while also getting results, is hugely difficult and it’s one of the reasons Serie A has fallen behind other leagues: To be successful on a European level — as Allegri has pointed out — you need to attack and create in the opposition half as a matter of course.Second, Napoli are on pace to finish with more than 90 points which in most years would be more than enough to win the title, and wherever they finish will be one of the highest points totals in history. That shows the style of play wasn’t just entertaining, it works. If Juventus finish with more, well done to them, but it doesn’t change the fact that, statistically, Napoli have delivered one of the most successful seasons ever.Third, the “winning-is-everything” metric might make sense when the playing field is level, but in Serie A, like in most of Europe, it’s not. Napoli have the fifth-highest wage bill, and it is less than half that of Juventus.Finishing second in those circumstances and with one of the five-highest points totals of all time is a success. Period. Don’t be surprised, then, that more than 10,000 Napoli fans showed up at the airport just before 2 a.m. to greet the team charter from Turin. They have plenty to celebrate, even if they do not go on to win the title.

Mourinho, Man United find a way to win

The big guns fired Manchester United into the FA Cup final, with Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba each turning in one of their better performances since coming to Old Trafford. But the second-half display by Jose Mourinho’s men was as much about his foot soldiers, including the center-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, plus Ander Herrera and others.Football folk — and sportsmen in general — often talk about “killer instinct,” “winning mentality” and getting a team “over the line.” It’s not something you can rationalize or define, and the sample size, in any case, is small, so you’re tempted to dismiss it. However, having seen the reaction in this game after a first half that saw them outplayed by Tottenham — and in the recent Manchester derby — you’re tempted to think there’s something in it.

Mourinho has played 14 cup finals and won 12, with his only two defeats coming in extra time. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether that’s down to coincidence, natural variance or something else, but what is evident is that his teams tend to stay in the game. And when you keep it close and have difference makers to step up, sometimes that’s all it takes.

Assessing Pochettino’s post-match comments

When, in the aftermath of Tottenham’s defeat, Mauricio Pochettino spoke of the club in the third person — “they” rather than “we” — and about how the club “need more time with me or with another” manager, what he said was bound to draw scrutiny.

Some saw a coded message to the owners suggesting more investment was needed: After all, the club’s net spend over the past two seasons has been just over £40 million, which is rather paltry if you buy their line about wanting to compete.I honestly don’t know what was behind it, but if that’s what Pochettino wants to get across, there are more effective ways of doing it. I tend to think it was just because of the disappointment at yet another in-game collapse and, perhaps, a shred of self-doubt and second-guessing.

Iniesta rolls back the years

It wasn’t his final game for Barcelona, nor was it his final big game for Barcelona — there’s a Clasico vs. Real Madrid in less than two weeks — and nor was it his last game with silverware at stake — the Liga title isn’t mathematically sewn up — but Saturday’s Copa del Rey final did come amid talk that Andres Iniesta would be moving on.He walked away with a trophy: No. 31 of his Barcelona career, to go with two European Championships and the World Cup he won with Spain. Not only that, Iniesta turned back the clock in the 5-0 pounding of Sevilla, from the goal he scored from an nonexistent angle to the array of touches, intuition and movement he put together.And the fact that it’s all packaged with his trademark melancholy gait and balding-accountant demeanour makes it all the more memorable. Whatever happens in the next few games — don’t rule out one last masterclass — we can always remember Iniesta like this, with all his essential, understated magnificence.As for the match itself, Sevilla got everything wrong early, and Barca punished them. It was 3-0 at half-time and could have been twice that. From Jordi Alba to Luis Suarez to Philippe Coutinho — what a difference an extra playmaker makes against an opposition’s’ press — pretty much the whole Barca side came to play.

Giroud display vindicates Conte

For a long time, Olivier Giroud was probably the most henpecked man at Arsenal not named Arsene Wenger. There’s something about big center-forwards that invites criticism — Romelu Lukaku and Sandro Wagner are others that come to mind — and Giroud is no different.Given that, you’d have to be pretty hardhearted not to feel pleased for the French international, first at being selected ahead of Alvaro Morata and then when he opened the scoring in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Southampton in the FA Cup semifinal. Especially given the twinkletoes nature of his goal, something few would have thought Giroud had in his locker.Antonio Conte’s selection decision was vindicated, and if the manager does leave in June, as still appears probable, he’ll do it having won a league title and reached two FA Cup finals in two years. Which is not a bad return, given he inherited a traumatised side that finished 10th the previous season.

Milan’s problems resurface

And suddenly, the bottom has fallen out. Gennaro Gattuso’s remarkable run since taking over as Milan manager has hit a tailspin: They haven’t won in a month and have gone from being five points away from the Champions League places to 13 back after Saturday’s home defeat to Benevento.Given the club’s ownership situation, the imminent threat of financial fair play sanctions and the fact that, in less than six months, a $350 million loan to Elliott Management needs to be repaid or refinanced, they’re not in a good place.That said, there’s no reason to go “Chicken Little” all of a sudden. The truth is that, while the run stoked optimism and showed that there are some very good players at the club, it wasn’t going to move the needle vis-à-vis Milan’s balance sheet. That situation remains critical and won’t change unless owner Li Yonghong suddenly finds the money or they extinguish the Elliott loan with some longer-term financing.

A word on Benevento, too. You struggle to praise a relegated team because you don’t want to sound patronizing, but what they’ve done is remarkable. Having been promoted, they lost their first 14 games before picking up 17 points from their next 20 matches. All the while playing brave, attack-minded football. If you’re going to try and upset the big boys despite scant resources, that’s the way to do it.

Heynckes prioritises Europe …

Bayern Munich warmed up for their Champions League semifinal first leg vs. Real Madrid by beating up Hannover away, 3-0. With the Bundesliga title already in the bag and a place in the German cup final secure, Jupp Heynckes did some tinkering and rotating.

A debut was given to 18-year-old Lars Lukas Mai at center-back, while Niklas Sule pushed further forward. With bigger games ahead, the likes of like Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martinez, Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller were left out of the starting lineup.

… as does Simeone

Atletico Madrid’s home draw with Betis effectively confirmed what we already know: The title is going to the Camp Nou. What’s interesting is that Diego Simeone didn’t even put up much of a fight, resting the likes of Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann and Koke with an eye towards Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg with Arsenal.  It was the rational decision: Live to fight another day. An Atleti win would still have left Barca nine points clear with a game in hand. Kudos must go to Betis, though, and manager Quique Setien — not so much for Sunday, but for what they’ve done in the second half of the season, in which they have risen 13th to fifth and taken 29 points from 13 games, while playing some of the best attacking football in La Liga.

#BasDostWatch

Bas Dost scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Boavista, which leaves Sporting third in the Portuguese league, three points behind leaders Benfica. Dost has 26 goals in 27 league matches, putting him on pace to score 28 this season. Overall, he has in 32 in 43 games in all competitions.

Toronto FC resolute in CCL focus despite last-place start to MLS campaign

April 23, 201812:21PM EDTJesus Acevedo Jr.Contributor

HOUSTON – With nearly a quarter of the 2018 season in the books, Toronto FC sit alone in last place in both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings with just three points from their first five league games.But the defending MLS Cup champions still aren’t too concerned about that at the moment.What is on the Reds’ minds: The second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final at Estadio Akron on Wednesday, where they’ll try to overturn a 2-1 aggregate deficit against Liga MX side Chivas de Guadalajara (9:30 pm ET; TSN in Canada | UDN, go90.com in US).With that massive game clearly taking precedence, TFC chose to field a reserve-heavy side in MLS play for the second weekend in a row, dressing only 16 players in Saturday’s visit to the Houston Dynamo while the rest of the team prepares in Mexico.The 5-1 rout administered by Houston was the Reds’ fourth league loss of the season; one more and they will match their entire loss total from last season.Does Toronto head coach Greg Vanney think his side can get back to their winning ways once their CCL run is over? Vanney is sure of it, adding that after Wednesday, his side’s attention will be squarely on the MLS regular season.“I think we have a good team. Last year, at the end of six games we had seven points, and won the league by 13 or 14 points, so it’s doable. It’s not something we had planned for, but sometimes when you play games in between CONCACAF finals, you have to do what you have to do,” Vanney said. “We were fortunate enough that the league was able to move some of the earlier games around but somehow not in the stretch here in the final, so we prioritized trying to win the final for the CONCACAF, and it is what it is.”While he didn’t field his usual starting 11, the team that Vanney did put out on the pitch gave him something to consider when the Reds’ attention does shift back to the league.Vanney considered it an opportunity to see players that might not typically get a chance to see the field, adding that he could assess their progress.Did any player impress him?“Liam Fraser continues to show that he understands his role and is competent with the ball, a very good passer, composed, and I think he did a nice job,” Vanney said, while also singling out the play of Jason Hernandez, 17-year-old Julian Dunn-Johnson and Ryan Telfer.As for what he expects for Wednesday’s game against Chivas, Vanney said he’s confident his side can get the result they need to lift the trophy in Guadalajara.“I think we can score goals and we left a lot of opportunities on the table in the last game. We made two or three mistakes in the whole game, and it costs us two goals,” Vanney said. “I’ve watched the game back twice now, and for anyone who doesn’t think we should’ve won that game didn’t watch the same game – and I think I’m pretty critical with our team.”For TFC, it’s all or nothing on Wednesday night, and only after that will their full focus return to the regular season. And that could be bad news for every other MLS team.

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4/19/18 FA Cup Sat/Sun, Champ League Semis’s Tues/Wed, Indy 11 Win at home, Arsenal Coach Wenger steps down

Indy 11

I went to the Indy 11 2-0 win over Nashville on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium and WOW.  What a beautiful setting for futbol – ah Soccer.  I thought the field was fine, the Brick Yard Battalion was loud and proud and the over 10,000 person crowd (while no nearly as large as the first game) – was active and interested. Honestly – the concessions and bathrooms are fantastic and plentiful – the parking was fine, and with the upper level curtained off – If the Indy 11 can do 17-20K for games – it will make it look and feel pretty full  It will be interesting to see what an open roof will be like – as the roof kept the sounds of the BYB in pretty well.  As for the play of the almost completely new team – they were active, they hustled and they basically controlled play in this match-up with potentially one of the better teams in the USL Eastern Division in Nashville.  The 11 got off to a good start with a spectacular long pass from Indy 11 defender Ayorze Garcia to 11 leading scorer Soony Saad. His sprint thru and finish in the 15th minute was clinical. A second goal was actually #5 on ESPN Sportscenter Sat night as Saad took a pass from Jack McInerney off a free kick and sent this Bender from 35+ Yards out on a dime curling past a wrong footed goalkeeper in the 34th minute!  Overall the game day experience is light years ahead of what is was at the Mike. Now we just need to put 17 to 20 thousand in for every game and show we belong in the MLS discussion someday.

Champions League

So I have still not recovered from the worse red card I have ever seen in Pro Soccer – the tossing of my beloved Gigi Buffon of Juventus vs Real Madrid 2 weeks back – but I am ready for some Champions League football next week and the week after.  We are down to the – the top 4.  Bill’s Liverpool will open at home vs surprise semi-finalist Roma (anyone want to join us for the game??) on Tuesday on Fox Sport 1 – should be a hugely entertaining game as both teams can really score!  Followed by Powerhouses Bayern Munich hosting 2 time defending Champs (Holders – they call it in Europe) Renaldo’s Real Madrid on Wednesday on Fox Sports 1.  I will of course be rooting like heck for anyone but Real from this point going forward as I feel they ripped off my Juve (especially with the sending off of Buffon right before he would have saves Renaldo’s PK).  Anyway these are the top 4 teams in Europe folks – at these the Semi-Finalist  – Enjoy – set those DVRs, watch the replays, catch the replay shows – soon it will be over.  Also don’t forget MLS’ top team Toronto FC will be going for broke on the road down 2-1 in the CONCACAF Champions League vs Chivas of Mexico (Liga MX) Wed night at 9:30 pm on Univision. Of course Europa League Final 4 also plays on Thursday Fox Sports 1 & 2 as well known squads Arsenal and Athletico Madrid are still alive and looking for that automatic qualification for Champions League next year.

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Chivas vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille

I caught the Dortmund game at Schalke on Sunday as 2 of our top American’s overseas battled.  Christian Pulisic started and was dynamic for Dortmund – crossing many balls and taking guys on and doing his thing.  He helped with the build-up of Dortmund’s goal to take what looked to be the winner.  But Schalke inserted Weston McKinney at D-mid at the 70th minute mark and all he did was deliver his normal energizer bunny pace in the middle but he also drew a PK on a spectacular give and go – a PK that allowed Schalke to take the lead and eventually win the battle of 2nd (Schalke) and 3rd (Dortmund) in the oldest and most intense Derby in the German Bundesliga.  It means Schalke have all but wrapped up a top 4 (Champions League) spot while Dortmund and Pulisic have more to do. You can watch Pulisic and Dortmund Sat at 12:30 vs Leverkusen on Fox Sports 1 and McKinney and Schalke on Sun @ 12 noon on FS1 as well. In Spain it’s the Copa del Rey Final as Barcelona will look to complete the double vs Sevilla on ESPN News at 3:30 on Saturday.

EPL

Late Breaking news today that Arsene Wenger the longtime coach of Arsenal will step-down at the end of the season.  The tributes have begun to pour in on one of the greatest coaches in EPL history.  Unfortunately it was before I was a fan of the EPL and a sort of Arsenal fan. Still his undefeated team of 2004 the Invincibles might well be the greatest team of all time according to many.  It was past time to go – but honored he should be. I would love to see them win the Europa League and send him out with more honor!  (see full coverage below) So Man City wraps up the League title with like 5 weeks left in the season when Man U choked at home last weekend to West Ham. Man U will have a chance to reverse fortunes this weekend in FA Cup Semi-Final action vs Tottenham live on Fox 59 at 12:15 pm, Sunday FA Cup Semi-Final #2 has Chelsea facing Southampton at 10 am all at Wembley of course.

US Soccer

Interesting Story in the Washington Post this week about Mexico (El Tri) being “America’s Team” – especially this World Cup.  The Truth is Mexico plays to much larger crowds in the US than our national team has ever drawn.  Sad – but the truth is when the US plays in Columbus – how many of you actually tried to go to the game on a Tues night at 7 pm?  I did and a few friends – but trust me when I say there are many more Mexican American’s in Indy who would make the drive over than US National Team American’s.  I have always defended the US crowds by saying hey if I lived in France and the US came to play within a 3 hour drive of me I would certainly make the trek to the game – and it’s the same for Mexican-American’s in the US.  But honestly its more than that when Mexico routinely packs our best 80,000 seat stadiums in Dallas and LA and Atlanta and we can’t put 20K in a soccer only stadium for the US games.  Maybe Mexico is “America’s Team.” Funny the battle between Arena and Klinsy about who’s fault it was and how far back the US will be missing this World Cup. (see stories below).  I think we are all devastated and the TV ratings will reflect it this summer for Fox – but both coaches have a lot of blame for the failures.  Klinsy is right –they have to tie or win 1 game – at Trinidad and Tobago.  Our U19 Travel team would give them a game!! There is NEVER and will NEVER be an excuse for the US LOSING that game – for that Bruce Arena and every single player on that team will have answer for the rest of their lives.  I like Bruce – but to say I think he blew it would be an understatement of a lifetime.  Not starting Dempsey and Cameron will go down as one of the most questionable moves in the history of US soccer.

MLS

Stunning result and disappointment for Toronto FC in their 2-1 loss at home to mid-level Mexican league side Guadalajara in the Concacaf Champions League leg 1 final.  They take to the road for leg 2 and must score at least a 2-0 or 3-1 victory or greater to win the Championship.  Zlatan and the LA Galaxy came out on top of the battle of former European Superstars as his goal in the 46th minute of his first start knocked off Bastian Schweinstiger’s Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon in front of a nationwide Fox broadcast. NYCFC used a last minute goal to tie Atlanta 2-2 on the road in a battle of the top 2 teams in the MLS Eastern Division.This weekend MLS gives us two bottom feeders in Min United and Seattle Sun at 4 pm on ESPN, meanwhile the LA Galaxy and Zlatan hosting 2nd ranked Atlanta United is on ESPN+ Sat night at 10:30 pm (good job guys!!)  We do get an improving Portland hosting top ranked NYCFC on Sunday night at 6 pm on Fox Sports 1 – Portland games are ALWAYS worth watching with the cutting of the log, the Gang Green TIFOs, Timber Joey and one of (if not the best) supporter sections in the US – TIMBERS ARMY – do yourself a favor and get there early to catch the National Anthem sung by the ARMY – its bonechilling!

EPL BONUS

Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger to Step Down at End of Season – Mattias Karen ESPNFC

Arsene Wenger to Quit Arsenal with Tarnished Legacy by Respect Will Return – Mark Ogden ESPNFC

Wenger’s Exit was Overdue but his Tenure Revolutionary – Jonathan Wilson SI

Arsene Wenger’s Best Moments as Manager of Arsenal – Nick Miller ESPNFC

Wenger: “I feel it is the right time”

Sir Alex Fegurson Pays Tribute to the Great Arsene Wenger – SI
Karen: Wenger right to leave Arsenal but fans must show respect

Conte – Wenger’s Longevity won’t be Matched

Mourinho – on Arsene – we Respect Each other – ESPNFC

Social Media Reaction

Social Media Reaction SI
Candidates to replace Wenger at Arsenal

GAMES ON TV 

Sat, Apr 21

9:30 am FS2                    Frankfurt vs Hertha

9:30 am FS1                    Hannover vs Bayern Munich

10 am NBCSN                Watford vs Crystal Palace

12:15 pm Fox 59        Man United vs Tottenham (FA Cup Semis)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 1Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Leverkusen

3:30 pm ESPN News Barcelona vs Sevilla (Final Copa del Rey)

7 pm ESPN3+Utube Cincinatti FC vs Pittsburg Riverhounds (USL)

10:30 pm ESPN3?       Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Sun, Apr 22                   

8:30 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs West Ham

9 am beIN Sport          Milan vs Napoli

10 am FS1                    Chelsea vs Southampton (FA Cup Semis)

11:30 am  NBCSN       Man City vs Swansea

12 noon FS1                  koln vs Schalke (McKinney)

4 pm ESPN                    Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota United

6 pm FS 1                      Portland Timbers vs NYCFC  

Tues, Apr 24- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Liverpool vs Roma (semi-finals)

Wed, Apr 25- Champions League

2:45 pm FS1              Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid (semi-finals)

9:30 pm Univision Guadalajara vs Toronto FC  (Finals CCL)

Thur, Apr 26- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs Athletico

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Olympic Marseille vs Salzburg

Sat, Apr 28

7:30 am NBCSBN         Liverpool vs Stoke Citdy (Cameron)

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                 Huddersfield Town vs Everton??

12:30 beIN Sport        Real Madrid vs Leganes

12:30 NBCSN                 Swansea vs Chelsea

12:30 Fox Sport 1       Leverkusen vs Stuttgart

7 pm ESPN+ Utube   Charlotte vs Indy 11

Sun, Apr 29

9::15 am NBCSN          West Ham vs Man City

9:30 am FS1                    Mainz vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am NBCSN      Manchester United vs Arsenal

12 pm FS2                       Werder Bremen vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

4 pm ESPN                       Colorado vs Orlando City

6:30 pm YES net          NYCFC vs Dallas (Hedges)

9 pm Fox Sports1     LAFC vs Seattle Sounders (opening of LA New Stadium)

Tues, May 1- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich (semi-finals)

Wed, May 2- Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1 Roma vs Liverpool (semi-finals)

7 pm Myindy23   Indy 11 vs FC Cincinnati (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Thur, May 3- Europa League

3:05 pm Fox Sport1  Athletico vs Arsenal

3:05 pm Fox Sport2  Salzburg vs Olympic Marseille 

Sat, May 5

12 pm MyIndy23   Indy 11 vs Louisville City (@ the Luke) discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

2 pm ESPN                       NY Red Bull vs NYCFC

 Indy 11

Soony Saad Brace Carries Indy 11 over Nashville at the Luke  – Bloody Shambles

Indy 11 Wins First at Lucas Oil – Indy Star – Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Ends Nashvilles Scoreless Streak

3 Keys to the Win over Nashville

Indy 11 Forward Soony Saad is Week 5 Player of Week

USL Power Rankings Has Indy 11 ranked 9th overall

Indy 11 Banner

Indy 11 Discount Tickets here (code -2018indy)

Champions League

Liverpool vs Roma gives us Romance – Real vs Bayern is Royalty – Simon Evans – Washington Post

Semi’s Rife with Storylines – SI

Battle of Heavyweights Bayern vs Real

Roma vs Liverpool should have Goals – SI

Barcelona’s Double Feels Tarnished after Champ League Failure

Salah’s Goal Voted Goal of the Week

Juve – Gigi and Real must move past Conspiracy Talk – ESPNFC – Marcotti

A Guide to Kyiv 2018 Site of the Finals

GK

Every shot faced by Barcelona Ter Stegan and Roma – Becker in UCL Game

Navas great saves vs Juve

Top Saves of the week around the World

Saves of the Week – USL

MLS

What Toronto Must Do in Guadalajara to Comeback –Charles Boehm

What to Expect in CONCACAF Champions League Final Toronto vs Chivas

Toronto Falls on Face at Home In 2 -1 loss to Chivas

NYCFC Salvages Point with late goal at Atlanta  (Video)

Zlatan Scores Winner in 1st Start vs Chicago

Zlatan is on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Zlatan –my chance of WC return Sky High

This is Zlatan’s Galaxy – Get used to it – Washington Post

Power Rankings MLS ESPN

EPL

Tottenham needs FA Cup Win but Mourinho Wants It More for United ESPNFC

Man U has the Talent to Win vs the Spurs

City Celebrates Championship after Man United Flop

Wenger Must Go for Arsenal to Return to Top

Who’s going to Be Relegated

Rating the Best Managers in the EPL – ESPN FC

ICC

International Champions Cup announces Teams and Cities – Chicago & Ann Arbor

Real Madrid, Atletico, Juve, Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City

USA +_ World Cup

Is Mexico Really America’s Team ?  They Draw Better Crowds – Steven Goff  Washington Post

Arena and Klinsmann Disagree on US World Cup miss – ESPNFC

Klinsy – WC Failure Sets US Back Years – ESPNFC

Former NT Player Ernie Stewart & Ali Curtis

US Fans 2nd to Only Russia in WC Tix purchased

Ranking the Top 25 US Players under 25

Osario’s Online Approach to the WC

Dos Santos brothers – Ready for WC !

Neymar Recovering Well on Course for WC Return

Belgium and Dortmund forward Batshuayi’s May miss World Cup

Great Day For Indy, Saad Day For Nashville – Indy Eleven V Nashville SC REVIEW (4/14/2018)By: James Cormack  http://bshambles.blogspot.com/

After all the pre-match worries of injuries and selection issues, they became null and void on Saturday as Indy Eleven defeated Nashville SC and claimed their first home win of the 2018 USL season.Carlyle Mitchell returned to the starting lineup alongside Brad Rusin and over the whole Indy’s backline played comfortably and confidently conceding only one goal in the first half. We’ve talked about the strength in depth of our roster many times and Brad Rusin is a great example of that.The result of the game itself was crafted in the first half and credit should be given to the entire team for a second-half defensive performance that kept Nashville from finding a way to a second goal. In the few short weeks of the season, we’ve had many great plays to talk about and there were several in this match including Zach Steinberger’s 89th-minute clearance of a ball that was going to find back of the net.
Indy Eleven may be accustomed now to shuffling their lineup and the first eleven was eagerly anticipated heading into this game. Carlyle Mitchell proved too strong to keep down and we started with three of the back line that began the match against North Carolina, Mitchell, Ring, and Ayoze. Brad Rusin replacing Karl Ouimette this time.Probably the biggest surprise was Matt Watson starting the game on the bench, not a bad trick to be able to bring in a captain late in the game to help clinch the three points. 4-2-3-1 has been the most frequent formation we have seen for Indy thus far, Zach Steinberger started in place of Watson alongside Nico Matern in front of the back line and Soony Saad took the middle of the three between Pasher and Lewis. Jack McInerney returned to the starting XI as the lone striker.onsidering the potential for a makeshift backline I had expected Nashville to come out strong and press for an early goal but it was Indy Eleven who controlled possession in the early stages and throughout most of the first half. Thanks to a pass of un-earthlike quality from Ayoze Garcia deep in his own half to connect with Soony Saad in the 15th minute, Saad found himself one on one with Matt Pickens and buried the ball left past the Nashville keep to open the scoring.Saad wasn’t finished finding the back of the net and some fifteen minutes later scored a second goal that will have every other team in the league playing catchup for the goal of the week. After a foul on Jack McInerney by Liam Doyle 35yrds out from goal, McInerney slid the free kick sideways to Soony Saad who rifled a shot with the outside of his right foot that swerved around the outside of one defender before swinging back to wrong-foot Matt Pickens and put Indy Eleven two goals up.Roberto Carlos would have been proud of that strike!A tough blow for Nashville but to their credit, they picked themselves up and finished the half strongly. Michael Reed came close to pulling one back a few minutes before halftime with a neat turn just inside the 18, his shot had the beating of Owain Fôn Williams but not the crossbar.Nashville was not done yet and right at the end of the regular 45 minutes a lay off pass to Lebo Moloto was taken to the end line and slipped back to find Ropapa Mensah advancing on the edge of the 6 who he poked home a poachers goal past Williams to give the visitors a fighting chance going into the break.That was the scoreline that took the three points for Indy Eleven. The second half was goalless. Nashville stepped up their game and probably took the lion’s share of possession in the second 45 but couldn’t find a way to goal. Alan Winn had a good opportunity in the 63rd minute but was foiled by Fôn Williams. Not to be outdone in the shot-stopping tally Matt Pickens pulled out big saves to deny Tyler Pasher twice.  With the final minutes winding down Nashville almost found the back of the net from a set piece on Indy’s left. The free kick was floated into the back post and found the head of Bradly Bourgeois. From my position behind the goal, this ball was almost certainly going to find its own way in, if not Robin Shroot would have helped it in but Zach Steinberger stepped up with with a huge clearance to prevent Nashville from tying up the game.I mentioned Matt Watson earlier. When your team is trying to nail down the three points and the opposition comes out in the second half determined to turn things around its more than just a luxury to be able to bring in three players with huge experience as we did with Watson, Justin Braun, and Juan Guerra, this is something that could prove critical for Indy Eleven over the course of a full season.
It’s important to stay grounded and not get over excited, but as a supporter, it’s very difficult. I re-watched the entire match again and pretty much everything Greg Rakestraw and Brad Hauter says about this team is on the money. Considering we are at the beginning of a season when you can expect a stuttery start, even with injuries and constant changes this team has never looked to be lacking in confidence on the field or uncomfortable. After the win in North Carolina, this was already our best start to a season in the history of the club.  If I were to criticize the team in any way at all it would be for us to use a little more creativity in set pieces and provide better delivery. This is something that will improve with time but when we get opportunities with free kicks in the width and corners we need to start making those count. We seem to be okay from central positions, Soony’s strike from the free kick pass this weekend and also his direct free kick against Cincinnati show we can take chances from there, but with big players coming up from the back which always risks a counter attack, we need to be more creative and more accurate on our delivery in these situations.That is based on observations from four league games and one preseason match and it is still very early. Maybe I am also being a little selfish but I’d like to see some cheeky plays crafted at the training ground on free kicks from the left and right and from corners. We have a confident and skillful squad of players so why not?
Indy Eleven has a couple of weeks break now, hopefully enough for us to see all of our players recovered and fit for the match against Charlotte Independence, if we can bring a good result from there we can ride confidently on the back of it into two very important back to back home games against FC Cincinnati and Louisville City. The result of those matches could be critical in the long run despite coming early in the season.

Soony Saad carries Indy Eleven to first win at Lucas Oil Stadium

Kevin Johnson, Special to IndyStarPublished 3:34 p.m. ET April 14, 2018 | Updated 3:37 p.m. ET April 14, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — Usual Indy Eleven starting center back Reiner Ferreira was out injured. Another defensive starter, Karl Ouimette, was handed a three-match suspension after getting sent off last weekend at North Carolina FC. Carlyle Mitchell, a regular starter at center back, hobbled off the pitch late in that match.With a patchwork defense that might as well have been held together with a piece of gum, the Indy Eleven downed Nashville SC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon for the club’s first-ever win at Lucas Oil Stadium in front of 10,188 fans. All it took was a cohesive performance from the defense and a masterclass from forward Soony Saad.Saad buried two goals in the first half, the second of which was worthy of Sportscenter Top 10 consideration.”He played extremely well,” said strike partner Jack McInerney of Saad. “Hats off to him. He put in the work and was rewarded with both goals.”The Eleven didn’t twiddle their thumbs waiting around to open the scoring. In the 15th minute, left back Ayoze played a low, dangerous ball into space that was misplayed by an off-balance Nashville defender. It resulted in Saad finding himself alone behind the defense with Nashville goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Saad calmly slotted the ball home to put Indy up 1-0.Saad doubled Indy’s lead about 20 minutes later on an absolute screamer from 35 yards out. Fellow striker Jack McInerney tapped the ball to Saad on an indirect free kick, who’s rifled shot dipped and dived like a righty’s two-seam fastball past Pickens.Just before the half in stoppage time, Nashville SC midfielder Lebo Moloto connected with forward Ropapa Mensah to pull one back for the visitors. But the 2-1 scoreline held up after a fairly evenly contested second half.For a ragtag defense featuring converted midfielder Brad Ring at right back and a guy who hadn’t seen the pitch much over the past couple years in starting center back Brad Rusin, holding Nashville to a lone goal felt like an accomplishment. Rennie was impressed with how his back four stepped up.”I thought overall we handled it,” Rennie said. “Obviously, Brad Ring is playing right back. Brad Rusin is coming back. He’s not really played for a while because he was in Miami and they had their team kind of set and he wasn’t in the lineup. But I know how good a player he is, so it was great to see him playing with confidence and really doing a great job back there. And Mitchell has done that I think every game for us. He’s been very, very good.”After laboring off the field last week, Mitchell’s availability in the starting 11 definitely provided Indy a huge boost. Led by their anchor, Mitchell, an in-sync defensive performance combined with Saad’s brilliant finishing ultimately carried the Eleven to victory.Indy will get a week off before hitting the road for an April 28 meeting against the Charlotte Independence.

6 Questions 4 an 11 – from the Brick Yard Battalion
Soony Saad, Forward
Hot off a 2 oal game against Nashville, we speak with Soony Saad to get to know him a bit better.
What was your age and the name of the first team you played on when you first started playing soccer?   I was about 3 maybe when I first started playing. My brother was 1 year ahead of me so I played with his team called the Thunderbirds.

Which player (from any era and any league) would you want the opportunity to face on the pitch?   Zidane. Already played with him actually for an Adidas ESP All Star camp back in 2008.

Do you have a pre-game food or ritual that you indulge in?   I normally make sure to get a good breakfast with fruit, hashbrowns, eggs, possibly smoked salmon and for lunch I just make a standard pasta.

Favorite team?   Liverpool is my first love and Real Madrid because of Zidane.

What’s your go-to phrase for expressing displeasure on the pitch?   Ahhhhh

What is your favorite thing about Indianapolis and Indy XI?   I love the group of guys we have. Not one player is bigger than the team and most importantly we know the importance of keeping a lead. I love the fans and look forward to produce on the pitch and can’t wait to see where soccer in Indianapolis goes. Hopefully MLS one day.

Liverpool vs. Roma gives us romance; Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich is royalty

By Simon Evans April 13

The Champions League semifinal draw on Friday gave us romance on one side and a clash of titans on the other. It’s a mix that injects fresh life into a competition that had been criticized for becoming too predictable while maintaining a marquee matchup.

Few experts expected Liverpool and Roma to be in the last four of this competition but having fought so impressively past Manchester City and Barcelona, respectively, they will meet each other in an encounter that immediately recalls the 1984 European Cup final, which the English team won in a penalty shootout at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.There is an air of nostalgia about the fixtures — the ’80s were a glorious period for both clubs, with Roma winning one of its three Serie A titles in 1983 and reaching its only European Cup final the following season. Liverpool’s triumph in ’84 was its fourth in eight seasons but it had been a decade since the Merseyside club reached this stage of the competition.A further twist is that both clubs are owned by Bostonians: John W. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group is the parent company of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox while Roma’s James Pallotta has also a minority share of the Boston Celtics.On top of that, the tie creates a fascinating reunion, with Liverpool’s Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah, who has scored 39 goals in all competitions this season, up against the club he left for Anfield in the summer.[Champions League draw: Bayern Munich to face Real Madrid, Roma to play Liverpool]And how each team got to this point has energized the competition. Liverpool stunned Premier League leader Manchester City with a 3-0 first-leg victory at Anfield, followed up by an impressive 2-1 win at City’s Etihad Stadium on Tuesday as its manager, Juergen Klopp, again got the better of Pep Guardiola.

Roma’s quarterfinal achievement was even more impressive. After being somewhat unfortunate to be on the receiving end of a 4-1 result in Barcelona, the Italians pulled off one of the biggest surprises the competition has ever seen with a 3-0 win at an ecstatic Olimpico, an outcome that led Pallotta to jump in a fountain at Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, earning himself a fine of 450 euros (about $550).

While Liverpool, with its devastating and speedy attack, will likely start as the favorite, Klopp said Roma’s win over Barca speaks for itself.“If anybody think this is the easiest draw then I cannot help this person; they obviously didn’t see both games against Barcelona,” he said.“The second leg was outstanding, it was outstanding what they did. They should have probably won four- or five-nil. I was really impressed,” he said.It is no surprise for either Bayern and Real to be in the last four — anything less would have been measured a failure for clubs that will meet for 25th and 26th times in Europe, making it the most-played UEFA competition tie.

While Bayern got past Sevilla in their quarterfinal without too much stress, Real was moments away from a shock exit to Juventus. Having won the first leg in Turin 3-0, the Spaniards conceded three goals at home on Wednesday before a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kept their campaign alive.

Real is looking to become the first club to win three straight European Cup titles since Bayern’s hat trick between 1974 and 1976. The pair are level on 11 wins each from their previous encounters, including the Spanish club’s 5-0 aggregate win in the 2014 semifinals. They also met in last season’s quarterfinals, when Real triumphed, 6-3, on aggregate.Real badly needs European success this year to compensate for its disappointing campaign in La Liga, where it sits in fourth place, a full 15 points behind leader and archrival Barcelona.

On the other side, Bayern can focus on its tie without much distraction, having wrapped up its sixth straight Bundesliga title last week. It also has an emotional boost: The German club announced on Friday that former player Croatian Niko Kovac will take over as coach next season from 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes, who is stepping down.It could be an emotional end to the season for Heynckes, who led Real to the 1998 Champions League title but was nonetheless fired at the end of that season, then came back to win the trophy in 2013 with Bayern. With Real looking vulnerable despite Ronaldo’s extraordinary performances, Bayern has a chance to provide their coach with the perfect send-off — and even provide a little bit more romance.

Arsene Wenger to quit Arsenal with tarnished legacy but respect will return

Mark OgdenSenior Football Writer

Arsene Wenger was ahead of his time when he arrived at Arsenal in 1996, but he leaves, almost 22 years later, out of time and out of step with the game he helped to transform during the first half of his reign as manager.So the Frenchman’s announcement of his decision to step down at the end of the season, halfway through the two-year contract he signed last summer, is a bittersweet moment for Wenger and Arsenal.To suggest that now is the right time for change at the Emirates would be to overlook the reality that that time actually came perhaps four or five years ago.It is a harsh assessment of the final years of Wenger’s spell in charge considering he has won three FA Cups in the last four seasons, but the Arsenal that Wenger built into the most formidable team in English football was about more than winning FA Cups.It was a team which ended Manchester United’s lengthy dominance of the domestic game; an outfit which blended flair and steel, determination and the breathtaking brilliance of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.That Arsenal team made waves, but the one Wenger leaves behind has been treading water for too long and change is overdue.Deep down, it is difficult to imagine that Wenger does not know this too.The 68-year-old is one of the most driven men in football, a winner to the core, and he will surely have looked at his current side with dismay when compared to his previous teams.Yes, he was the architect of both good and bad, but the qualities which made the 1998 Double winners and 2004 “Invincibles” stand out from the pack have been absent from his Arsenal squads for the best part of a decade.The financial burden of the move to the Emirates in 2006, combined with the game-changing takeovers at Chelsea and Manchester City, conspired to weaken Arsenal at a time when financial power became the primary ingredient of the best teams.Prior to the arrival on the scene of Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, Wenger’s ability to manage, spot talent and build great teams without breaking the bank saw him become the most direct threat to Sir Alex Ferguson’s standing as the greatest manager in the game.Former United chief executive Martin Edwards revealed earlier this year he had identified Wenger, and spoken to him, as the ideal successor to Ferguson when the Scot originally announced his decision to step down in 2002.Wenger rejected United’s advances and stayed at Arsenal to build the Invincibles, but it underlines his early achievements at Arsenal that he was the first choice to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford back then.The rivalry between Wenger and Ferguson in the late-1990s and early-2000s was so hard-fought and acrimonious that it defines the both of them.They built fiercely competitive teams — which remain arguably the best the Premier League has ever produced — but while Ferguson timed his United exit to perfection in 2013 after guiding the club to a 20th league title, Wenger stayed on too long.Ferguson left United wanting more, and the five years since his departure have shown just how much he has been missed, but Wenger will leave with many Arsenal supporters celebrating his decision to step down.In time, the fondness and respect he has earned will return, but as of now, his failure to move with the times and keep Arsenal competitive has tarnished his legacy.nited fans still mourn Ferguson’s departure, but the emotion of the Arsenal supporters is different and that is a great shame for a man who will go down as the club’s greatest manager.His request within his statement, which urges “our fans to stand behind the team and finish on a high,” is a pointer towards the dissatisfaction in the stands at the Emirates.But perhaps by going public now with his decision to leave, Wenger can inspire a successful end to his reign — something befitting a man who has turned Arsenal into one of Europe’s super clubs.They have a tough Europa League semifinal looming against Atletico Madrid, but with the final in Lyon next month, it would be the perfect end for Wenger to lift a major European trophy in France and hand his successor a passport back into the Champions League.If the football gods are smiling on Wenger — and they don’t seem to have been in recent years — they will allow him to leave next month with the Europa League trophy as a leaving present.

Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal Exit Was Overdue, But His Tenure Was Revolutionary

  • Arsene Wenger is leaving Arsenal after 22 seasons in charge, and while the recent past has clouded his accomplishments, it’s clear that the English game owes a debt of gratitude for his contributions.By JONATHAN WILSONApril 20, 2018

Football had waited a long time for this moment, but when Arsene Wenger’s departure from Arsenal was finally confirmed Friday morning, it still came as a shock. There will be something very strange about turning up at the Emirates next season and seeing somebody else in the dugout. And yet, along with the inevitable sadness and the memories, there is also a sense of relief.The time had come for him to go. In fact, the time probably came a few years ago. The sense of drift at the club was palpable. This season, Arsenal will probably finish sixth, which would be its worst finish under Wenger. It hasn’t picked up so much as a point away from home since the turn of the new year.When Wenger signed a two-year contract last summer, the suspicion always was that the club would look to ease him out this summer–even if there were major doubts as to whether it would actually go through with it. By announcing now, with a month of the season still to go, Arsenal has ensured that the anger and frustration, the apathy even, that has characterized recent home games, will be transformed into nostalgia and support. For what he has done for the club, and indeed English football, Wenger deserves to leave with fans cheering his name rather than to a backdrop of boos and jeers.And there may even be a glorious finale if Wenger can, at last, win a European trophy by seeing off Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semifinals and then winning the final against either Salzburg or Marseille. Football is not prone to dispensing sentimental favors, but there is something appropriate about the fact that the final is being played in his native France.Contrary to popular belief, there never was an “Arsene Who?” headline on the back of the London Evening Standard when Wenger was appointed in 1996, but that was the general attitude. Appointing a manager who had been successful in France and then gone to Japan was an extraordinarily bold move by Arsenal, but its wisdom was instantly apparent.Wenger replaced the booze culture that had dominated the club, promoted what at the time seemed an outrageous diet based around steaming fish, chicken and broccoli, and used his knowledge of the French leagues to strengthen his squad with signings who in retrospect looked like unfathomable bargains: Patrick Vieira, Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry…He won the double in 1998, and for the six years that followed played a full part in an entertainingly acrimonious rivalry with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson. His sides were capable of beautiful, rapid football, but also had a toughness, mental and physical, at their core.

It was only hindsight that would invest it with enormous significance, but the moment when the trajectory took a downward turn came in the Champions League quarterfinal in 2004 when Wayne Bridge scored the winner for Chelsea. Arsenal went on to win the league as the first unbeaten champion since Preston in 1887-88, but the environment had changed.Arsenal had realized that to keep up with United, it needed to increase its revenue, and so had set in motion plans that would result in the club leaving Highbury for the Emirates Stadium in 2006. The problem was that by the time they moved into the larger stadium, Chelsea, funded by the seemingly limitless wealth of Roman Abramovich, had changed the financial rules. Making a profit and generating income suddenly mattered far less than just having a wealthy owner. Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal in the Champions League in 2004 was the moment when it replaced Arsenal as London’s leading team.Arsenal kept battling, of course, and the decline was not precipitous. It won the FA Cup in 2005 and reached the Champions League final in 2006, but the trend was downward. Wenger at times became self-parodic, insisting on packing his teams with diminutive creative players, focusing always on aesthetics and neglecting the muscle that had underlain his best sides.Keeping Arsenal in the top four for as long as he did while keeping the spending under control was an achievement in itself, if not one that ultimately was enough for Arsenal fans. Last season, Arsenal finished fifth, and nothing much has changed. The appointment of a new head of scouting, Sven Mislintat, against Wenger’s wishes, signaled a change of tone. Preparations were being made for his departure. The suggestion is that he was told that if he did not walk he would be pushed.The question remains of what he will do next. He has little or no hinterland. Football is his life. Asked on his 60th birthday what he intended to do to celebrate, he said he would be watching that evening’s mid-table Bundesliga game. Faced with incredulity from the media, he eventually agreed to place a candle on the television to make it feel special. It’s hard to believe that he will not seek another role in the game, and it may be that the France job will become available after the World Cup.There have been FA Cups, a record seven of them in Wenger’s reign, but the last decade has been tinged with disappointment and the last couple of seasons have reeked of stagnation. But Wenger is one of the greats, not just of Arsenal but of the Premier League as a whole. He was the first really successful foreign manager, and he revolutionized thought about nutrition. English football owes him an enormous debt.

Arsene Wenger’s best moments as manager of Arsenal

5:20 AM ETNick MillerESPN FC

Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal at the end of the season, after over 21 years and 10 major trophies. Nick Miller rounds up the manager’s 10 best moments in more than two decades with the club.

This article was first published in September 2016.

10. Henry’s first goal versus Southampton

A single goal in a relatively routine league victory might not seem like a highlight of 20 years at a club, but this one was different. One of the great triumphs of Wenger’s reign was the purchase of Thierry Henry from Juventus in 1999, then his subsequent transformation from a flighty, speedy winger into one of the best strikers in the world. Yet in his early days at Arsenal, Henry looked lost, leading author Nick Hornby to wonder if Arsenal had signed “the French Perry Groves.” But after starting his account against Southampton a few weeks into the season, the floodgates opened, and Wenger’s judgement was proved sound.

9. Always finishing above Tottenham

In tangible terms, constantly finishing above one other Premier League team is nothing particularly special and not something to be especially pleased with. But again, this is different: This is Tottenham. For Wenger’s entire time in London, Arsenal have always finished above their local rivals, leading to mirth aplenty on the red side of town and, of course, the ever-popular chant “It’s happened again.” Indeed, since last topping Arsenal in 1995, at some point or another Spurs have finished above every single other team to compete in the top flight. Perhaps the nadir/peak (delete according to allegiance) came last season, when Tottenham were fighting for the title but then collapsed, and Arsenal pipped them to second on the last day. Or perhaps it was 2006 and “Lasagnegate,” when Spurs looked on to finish in the top four only for their stricken side to be overhauled again. If all else fails, there’s always local pride.

 

8. Thrashing Inter at the San Siro

Arsenal have arguably underperformed in the Champions League under Wenger. Their qualification in so many consecutive years is often held up as a defence of his methods, but one final in 19 attempts isn’t great. Still, they have a few standout, glorious performances under him, perhaps most notably the 1-0 underdog victory over Real Madrid in 2006. But the most devastating of all was the 5-1 hammering of Inter Milan in 2004. Having not won their first three group games (including a 3-0 home loss to Inter), they needed a win in Milan and got one with some gusto. Henry’s opener was cancelled out by Christian Vieri, but a second-half blitz from Edu, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Henry again sealed a remarkable win. Arsenal went through, but the result would cost Inter, who drew their final game and were eliminated.

7. The 2014 FA Cup

There’s a very persuasive argument that suggests Wenger should have probably called it a day at Arsenal after this victory. It would have allowed him to go out on a high, winning their first trophy in almost a decade and wrestling a significant monkey from his back. This was a hugely important and arguably quite sentimental victory for Arsenal. At the start, it looked like it might be another calamity, with Arsenal going 2-0 down to Hull inside eight minutes. But Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny heaved them back into contention, and Aaron Ramsey scored an extra-time winner. It could have been a fitting exit, but Wenger is the most stubborn of men. Realistically, it was never going to be.

6. The move to the Emirates

Highbury, with its marble halls and rich history, was a fine ground, but pretty early on, Wenger recognised that to compete financially with the best in England and Europe, they would need something more modern. The Emirates is very much the house that Arsene built, overseen by him and still one of the slickest and most modern stadiums in the country. Perhaps the atmosphere isn’t what it could be, and you could say that paying for the thing hamstrung Arsenal at the worst possible time, but the Emirates will perhaps be Wenger’s most gleaming, tangible legacy.

5. The 1998 Double

Back in the late 1990s, the Double was very much an achievement talked about in hushed tones. Before Manchester United did it in 1994, only five teams had managed to win the FA Cup and the league title in the same season, so for Wenger to manage it in his first full campaign in England was a hugely notable thing indeed. This was Wenger’s first great team, with Marc Overmars tearing down the left, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira establishing themselves as the most fearsome midfield partnership in the league and the old back four still in place. Manchester United were edged out in the league and Newcastle beaten in the cup final, and Wenger was hailed as a revolutionary. He was.

4. The six FA Cup wins

Only two managers have ever won the FA Cup six times: One is George Ramsey, who won it with Aston Villa between 1887 and 1920, and the other is Wenger. He’s rightly proud of his record in the old competition, one area in which he has outdone his fierce rival Alex Ferguson and, well, virtually everyone else who has ever managed in England. From the first win in 1998 to the most recent in 2015, the FA Cup has been a constant in Wenger’s career, and he would have won the thing one more time were it not for Michael Owen’s late intervention in 2001. You can criticise Wenger for many things, but his record in the FA Cup is not one of them.

3. The 2002 Double

Being the first foreign manager to win the double is impressive, but doing it twice is a marvel. This was arguably Wenger’s best side to watch, with Pires at his peak and Henry close to his. The season started in fine style for Gooners everywhere, as Sol Campbell infuriated Spurs fans by moving across north London on a free, and after a so-so opening (Arsenal only won five of their first 12 games and were fifth at the end of November), they went on an incredible post-December tear. Arsenal didn’t lose any of their last 21 games, dropping just six points in the process, and beat Manchester United to the title. Indeed, they sealed it in the perfect manner: Sylvain Wiltord’s goal at Old Trafford confirming Wenger’s second Premier League title, as Ferguson seethed close by.

2. Arsene who?

The unfamiliar is — or perhaps was — often treated with suspicion in English football. So when a Frenchman not many had heard of arrived from Japan, heads were scratched and scorn was poured. “Arsene who?” ran the headline on the back of London’s Evening Standard, an opinion widely held in the days when information about foreign football (Wenger had of course won the French title with Monaco in 1987-88) was much more limited. Wenger proved wrong those who doubted him because of unfamiliarity, and soon enough, everyone knew exactly who he was.

1. The 2004 Invincibles

You can pick holes in the achievement; you can say that plenty of those games were draws, that other teams achieved greater points totals and aren’t as feted. You can say Manchester United’s treble in 1999 was more impressive. But going a full season, 38 league games home and away, without defeat is a most remarkable thing. It started with a 2-1 win at home to Everton and ended with a 2-1 win at home to Leicester, and between those two there were 24 wins, 12 draws, no defeats and some often-astounding football. Perhaps the team of two years earlier were a more exhilarating watch, but the 2004 side will always go dow

Sir Alex Ferguson Pays Tribute to ‘Great’ Arsene Wenger in Honor of Arsenal Exit

April 20, 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson has paid a glowing tribute to old rival and ‘friend’ Arsene Wenger after the Arsenal boss announced he will leave at the end of the season.Wenger and the legendary Manchester United boss locked horns from 1996 until Ferguson retired from management at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, and were regularly at each other’s throats on the sidelines as they eyed wins for their respective sides.However, underlying their rivalry was a close friendship and the duo got on swimmingly out of the dugout, as Ferguson alluded to in an interview with United’s official site.Indeed, the Scot explained why he had so much respect for the veteran Frenchman and believed that his longevity – Wenger has been at the helm for 22 seasons – was down to his professionalism and hunger to win every game that he could.Ferguson revealed: “I am really happy for Arsene Wenger. I have great respect for him and for the job he has done at Arsenal.”It is great testament to his talent, professionalism and determination that he has been able to dedicate 22 years of his life to a job that he loves. In an era where football managers sometimes only last one or two seasons, it shows what an achievement it is to serve that length of time at a club the size of Arsenal.”I am pleased that he has announced he is leaving at this stage of the season, as he can now have the send-off that he truly deserves. “He is, without doubt, one of the greatest Premier League managers and I am proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man.”Perhaps the greatest contest between the two teams was the 1999 League Cup semifinal showdown, while other notable clashes between United and Arsenal included the infamous ‘Pizzagate’ saga after the October 2004 game and the September 2003 encounter that saw tempers flare after Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s penalty miss.

 

What Toronto FC must do in Guadalajara to mount a CCL final Leg 2 comeback

April 18, 201812:19AM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

Toronto FC suffered a nightmarish start to the Concacaf Champions League final, surrendering a 2nd-minute goal to Chivas Guadalajara and eventually falling 2-1 on their home turf in the first leg.It leaves the Reds with a daunting task in Leg 2 at Chivas’ Estadio Akron home next Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN in Canada, Univision Deportes, go90.com in US). Not only did the Mexican heavyweights bag a road victory, they scored two away goals, raising their odds of victory significantly, with away goals serving as the first tiebreaker should the two-legged series finish tied on aggregate (total) goals. So just what are TFC’s routes to an against-the-odds comeback?First off, and obviously, only a victory will do in Leg 2. The easiest way for Toronto to win the series at this point is a 2-0 win in Guadalajara, which would give them a 3-2 aggregate series win.Should they mirror the Leg 1 result by winning 2-1, the two sides would be level on both aggregate and away goals, meaning that the two sides would go straight to a penalty-kick shootout to decide the next champions of Concacaf. (Yes, that means CCL is not using extra time; a 2-1 TFC win at Estadio Akron would be immediately followed by PKs.)If Chivas score more than once in Leg 2, TFC’s job gets even harder. The Reds would have to either win the second leg by a margin of two goals or more, or win Leg 2 by one goal while scoring more away goals than the two that Chivas bagged in Toronto.TFC are 1-1-1 in CCL away legs during this tournament. They won 2-0 at Colorado in the first leg of their opening round, lost 3-2 at Tigres in the second leg of their quarterfinal series (a series that ended 4-4 on aggregate, with Toronto advancing via the away-goals tiebreaker) and drew 1-1 with Club América in the second leg of their semifinal clash.

Armchair Analyst: Toronto FC fall on their face in first leg vs. Chivas

April 17, 201811:17PM EDTMatthew

DoyleSenior Writer

The obvious comparison that sprang to mind in the immediate aftermath of Toronto FC’s 2-1 home loss to Chivas in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final was the US national team’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago back in October. The gap between the two teams wasn’t that large, of course – the US should beat T&T 29 times out of 30, and TFC should obviously not be favored like that over Guadalajara.But they still should’ve been favored. They were the better team, and they were playing at home. They had the wind at their backs, metaphorically speaking. They shouldn’t have been on the wrong side of the scoreline.And yet, here we are. The free space in CCL Bingo is always disappintment.

Here’s how it unfolded:

Part of the above was because TFC were so flat, they just kept losing 50/50s and failed to track runners and/or simple combination play. Obviously the best (worst?) example of that was on the game’s opening goal, which came inside of two minutes.Chivas accomplished that by sliding their own central midfielders – usually Orbelín Pineda, who was excellent – into the gap wide on their own right (TFC’s left), which always provided them an outlet and meant that Ashtone Morgan was always outnumbered.

It set the tone, and obviously a goal inside of two minutes is a dream start.

The goal came in the 19th minute. Jozy Altidore slipped Marky Delgado through, and Delgado’s low, hard cross to the back post was slid home by Jonathan Osorio. It was nice, and it felt like it worked the Reds up.

The other contributing factor to TFC waking up is their own switch to a diamond-ish 4-4-2 in the immediate aftermath of that equalizing goal. That prevented the type of overloads that had killed them in the game’s first 20 minutes, and while it sacrificed some of the central midfield, they compensated for that by 1) holding possession more out wide, and 2) having Altidore drop back deep while keeping a Chivas defender on his back.It was the right switch from Greg Vanney, and one that should’ve paid off with a goal. It didn’t in part because TFC didn’t execute as well as they should’ve in the final third, and in part because Goats goalkeeper Miguel Jimenez had a blinder of a game.• Alex Bono did not have a blinder of a game

Bono’s been great during this tournament, but that second goal feels like a back-breaker. He’s largely right. At worst, TFC should be going down to Mexico at 1-1.But they’re not. A 2-1 result is not the very end – another way this night was different from that USMNT loss to T&T – but it gets the Reds most of the way there.The free space, year after year, is disappointment.

Portland Timbers make leap, top four remain same in Power Rankings

:27 PM ETArch Bell  The Portland Timbers were the big movers this week, while the top four stay unchanged.

  1. New York City FC (no change)
    NYCFC impressively had Atlanta pinned back at certain stages of Sunday’s 2-2 draw. Patrick Vieira keeps showing his coaching chops each week.
  2. Atlanta United (no change)
    Ezequiel Barco finally made his MLS debut in the 2-2 draw with NYCFC, albeit for just 20 minutes. Buckle up for the Barco-Miguel Almiron-Josef Martinez trio.
  3. New York Red Bulls (no change)
    After Saturday’s 3-1 win over Montreal, coach Jesse Marsch said it’s time to unleash Kaku. Too bad he couldn’t have realized that three days prior.
  4. Sporting Kansas City (no change)
    With Seattle desperately seeking its first point, Sporting KC rallied nicely in the second half to salvage a 2-2 home draw against the Sounders on Sunday.
  5. LAFC (+4)
    After the nightmare of the previous 120 minutes (outscored 9-0), LAFC responded big-time with a 2-0 win in Vancouver thanks to their big stars: Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi.
  6. Columbus Crew SC (-1)
    There was simply no way past former Crew GK Steve Clark in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United. Columbus didn’t help themselves, either, by conceding inside the first minute.
  7. Toronto FC (no change)
    Yes, they lost 2-0 to Colorado, but it was a reserve-heavy side with the CONCACAF Champions League final in mind. TFC has bigger fish to fry right now.
  8. Vancouver Whitecaps (-2)
    A bad display from the ‘Caps in Friday’s 2-0 loss to LAFC. Not enough touches for Alphonso Davies and poor defending on the Diego Rossi goal.
  9. LA Galaxy (+2)
    Must-Swede TV ended with Zlatan’s team winning 1-0 in Chicago on Saturday thanks to Zlatan’s goal. Zlatan’s teammate Jonathan dos Santos was the unsung hero in midfield.
  10. Orlando City (+2)
    Dom Dwyer is en fuegowith four goals in three games after Friday’s 2-0 win in Philly, and it’s no coincidence that Orlando has now won three straight.
  11. New England Revolution (-3)
    New coach Brad Friedel has the Revs playing better this season, but a late defensive lapse proved costly in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to FC Dallas.
  12. Houston Dynamo (-2)
    Wilmer Cabrera’s side just can’t seem to shake the road woes. For the second straight road game, the Dynamo conceded an equalizer in the final 10 minutes in their 2-2 draw in San Jose.
  13. FC Dallas (+2)
    In very quiet fashion FC Dallas are unbeaten through their first five after Saturday’s 1-0 victory in New England. The fewest goals conceded thus far? Believe it.

This World Cup, ‘America’s Team’ is Mexico

By Steven Goff April 16 at 7:00 AM Email the author  Washington Post –

El Tri — as the Mexican squad is known because of the three-colored flag — enjoys a U.S. fan base crossing a continent and unifying generations.(Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

ARLINGTON, Tex. — It’s a Tuesday night in March, 2½ months before the World Cup, and almost 80,000 ticket-buyers are dashing through a day-long thunderstorm to attend an inconsequential soccer match under AT&T Stadium’s closed roof.As part of preparations for this summer’s spectacle in Russia, the Mexican national team has swept into town for a friendly against Croatia. Crowds begin arriving hours before kickoff, jamming Tom Landry Freeway and Cowboys Way.Vendors fly flags, scalpers pitch prime seats.The massive venue is home to “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys, but in the original form of football — or, in this case, futbol — Mexico has, in some ways, become America’s team.The U.S. national team picks up millions of casual followers during the World Cup, but among hardcore fans of the sport in an increasingly diversified nation, Mexico turns out bigger crowds at U.S. venues.On this night, while the Mexicans fill an NFL facility, a U.S. team that will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986 continues its reconstruction with a friendly against Paraguay before a sellout crowd of 10,000 in suburban Raleigh, N.C.    El Tri — as the Mexican squad is known because of the three-colored flag — enjoys a U.S. fan base crossing a continent and unifying generations: An estimated 36 million people of Mexican descent live in the United States (11 percent of the population), and many are passionate admirers of the team.“It’s the only national team that can draw 70-75-80,000 people in Mexico but can do it as well in the United States,” Coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “I don’t think that happens to too many national teams.”Nope. Only to Mexico and only in the United States.

‘We’re becoming mainstream’

For 15 years, through a business deal between Mexico’s soccer federation and a marketing company owned by U.S.-based pro league Major League Soccer, El Tri has played between four and seven friendlies annually at U.S. locations.In fact, since 2008, Mexico has played more than four times more friendlies in the United States than at home (61 to 15), an unprecedented arrangement in international soccer. And that total does not include El Tri’s quadrennial appearances here for World Cup qualifiers against the United States and the biennial regional championship, known as the Concacaf Gold Cup.“We’ve been in this market for a long time, and recently we see we’re becoming mainstream,” said Guillermo Cantu, the Mexican federation’s general secretary. “Before, it was a lot of Mexicans working very hard to have the American Dream, Mexican-born. Now, it’s second, third and fourth generation. This is a unifying thing — the Mexican national team.”Annual average attendance the past four years has ranged between 40,000 and 60,000. Last month, in a four-day span, El Tri played friendlies at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and at AT&T Stadium in front of a combined 148,000 fans. Neither game fell on a Saturday or Sunday.On May 28, 20 days before facing defending champion Germany in its World Cup opener in Moscow, Mexico will play a friendly against Wales that is likely to sell out the 90,000-seat Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.On June 2, it will finally play its first game of the year on home soil.To counter the Mexico factor in World Cup qualifiers, the U.S. Soccer Federation scheduled the past five home matches at a 21,000-seat stadium in Columbus, Ohio, where, through advance sales to U.S. fans, it ensured a partisan crowd.El Tri’s popularity is not limited to cities in California and Texas with large Mexican communities. Over the years, the tour has hit Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Orlando, even Nashville.This year’s circuit — which also included San Antonio on Jan. 31 against Bosnia and will make at least one stop this fall at a venue to be determined — coincides with the decline of the U.S. team. After gaining an edge over their bitter rivals in recent years and making the World Cup seven consecutive times, the Americans failed to qualify last fall because they couldn’t manage a draw at last-place Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of the regional race.Mexico is among the countries with strong U.S. ties vying for the support of Americans left without a team to back at the World Cup this summer.“Just follow the guy in green,” Cantu said with a smile. “And you will have fun. You will enjoy having that encounter with people who really care about the game and many other things. You will find very nice people cheering for one common team.”Despite the rivalry, he said he takes no joy from the U.S. failure. After all, four years ago, Mexico failed to earn an automatic berth in the Concacaf region and needed to go through an intercontinental playoff to claim the last ticket to Brazil.“It was a fluke they did not make it,” Cantu said of the U.S. program, a 2002 World Cup quarterfinalist and round-of-16 participant in 2010 and 2014. “It’s not something I wish on anyone. In football, it’s death.”

A ‘massive machine’ of a tour

Fervent U.S. supporters would never root for Mexico, not after the fiery encounters between the teams since the 1990s. But casual fans might swing to Mexico’s side — for a few weeks, anyway.The Mexican federation is making a play to broaden its base, launching English versions of Twitter and Facebook accounts this year.“We are speaking English now — not because of us, but the people following us,” Cantu said.Language often separates generations.“Going to some of these games, the parents are pro-Mexico and wearing the Mexico shirts,” said Alfonso Mondelo, MLS’s director of player programs. “And then the children are wearing the USA shirts. So when the Mexican fans say, ‘Si, se puede’  [‘Yes, we can’], the kids will answer, ‘No se pueda’ [‘No, it can’t’].”Many current Mexican players have forged greater name recognition in the United States than their predecessors because they’ve left the comforts of their domestic league (Liga MX) for clubs in MLS and Europe. Three high-profile figures are employed in MLS: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC) and brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos (Los Angeles Galaxy).Visits to the United States are perfectly comfortable for El Tri’s coach: Osorio is Colombian but played, coached and started his family here.The Mexican tour is “this massive machine,” said Gabe Gabor, a senior international communications consultant for Soccer United Marketing, the MLS entity that owns the rights to Mexican friendlies played in the United States, except those against the U.S. squad.In the early years of the Mexico-SUM deal, fans typically bought tickets at the stadium box office on the day of the match. Now, online pre-sales leave few seats available for last-minute purchase.During the team’s Dallas stop, fans had learned where the delegation was staying and lined the entry to the Westin hotel, two or three thick in some places.Tour sponsors include Delta, Adidas and Coca-Cola. The Mexican team has its own sponsorships, such as Movistar (mobile phones) and Citibanamex (banking).Live TV broadcasts are shot from opposite sides of the field: One displays advertising signboards for Mexican broadcasters, the other for U.S. outlets.The full-time press corps following the team numbers more than 50, and media requests total several hundred in big U.S. markets. The day before the game against Croatia, five Spanish-language TV outlets carried Osorio’s news conference live. More than a dozen other cameras taped his comments.The friendly against Iceland on March 23 in Santa Clara attracted 2.4 million TV viewers in the United States, almost all on Spanish outlets Univision and Univision Deportes (as well as 57,000 on Fox Sports 1).Four days later, 2 million watched Mexico vs. Croatia on UniMas and Univision Deportes, with another 195,000 on FS1. The U.S.-Paraguay match logged 588,000 on UniMas and Univision Deportes, plus 337,000 on FS1 for a total of 925,000.El Tri’s popularity is an extension of Liga MX’s weekly status. TV coverage of league matches on Spanish outlets dominates the list of televised soccer in the United States.On March 10-11, for instance, 1.25 million watched Club America vs. Leon on Univision. Tigres vs. Tijuana on Univision was next at 931,000. The Premier League showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool on NBCSN and Telemundo drew 594,000, while D.C. United at Atlanta on ESPN garnered 576,000.“The old adage at Univision was the five most popular sports for the Hispanic audience are soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer and boxing,” said David Neal, Fox Sports vice president for production, who worked for the Spanish outlet in 2011-12. “It’s a passion. It’s a family tradition.”

Going bilingual for the World Cup

Neal is the executive producer for Fox’s coverage of the World Cup this summer. Without a U.S. team to center on, the network will focus heavier coverage on Mexico, even though Telemundo, which owns U.S. Spanish rights for the tournament and features famed announcer Andres Cantor, is the natural choice for Mexican fans.Fox Sports won’t concede the audience. It will carry Mexico’s matches (in English) with three Latino announcers well-versed in all things El Tri.“What we’ve learned in audience research, an increasing percentage of Hispanic households are language agnostic,” Neal said. “They’ll go where they are getting the most information, the most enjoyment. For us, it comes down to delivering the best news and information about El Tri.”To MLS — which has 23 teams in 21 U.S. and Canadian markets and has struggled to gain ground on Liga MX in quality and popularity — the public’s admiration for El Tri has helped grow the sport here.“We are at a point where anything that is good for soccer in this country is good for MLS,” said Mondelo, the MLS official. “There is a huge base of Mexican fans here, and hopefully that will translate to some of them following MLS as well.”For the Mexican soccer federation, the fan base here has provided a second home for the national team.“Wherever we go,” Cantu said, “they will follow.”

Bruce Arena disagrees with Jurgen Klinsmann over U.S. World Cup miss

6:10 PM ETAssociated Press

Bruce Arena called the United States’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup a “wake-up call,” but didn’t go as far as his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann did about the ramifications of the Americans’ failure to reach the tournament in Russia.On Wednesday, Arena, who presided over the catastrophic end of the U.S. bid to qualify for an eighth-consecutive World Cup, said in a lengthy interview that missing out on soccer’s greatest competition was a disappointment but not a tragedy.”We are not the first country not to qualify for a World Cup,” Arena said. “There’s going to be days when England doesn’t qualify, as Italy didn’t this time around, or Chile or Holland.”Those are countries well ahead of us. That’s all a part of it. And it allows you to reflect a little bit. You re-examine what you’re doing and you try to make things better. So it’s not a crisis, but it’s a wake-up call.”It is no coincidence that Arena’s remarks came just days after Klinsmann, in an interview with German soccer publication kicker, gave a far gloomier prognosis.”It’s been set back by several years,” Klinsmann said, when asked about the state of soccer in the country. “That was a huge disappointment. The qualification really was never in doubt, but then the lads had a blackout versus Trinidad and Tobago.”They only needed a point, were too sure of that and underestimated that final match.”There are differing opinions on who should shoulder most of the blame for the qualifying debacle. Klinsmann was fired after appearing to have lost the trust of the players and suffering a home defeat to Mexico and a 4-0 drubbing in Costa Rica to begin the final phase of the CONCACAF regional qualification process.Arena took over and sparked an initial revival, before four points from the final four games — capped off by a shocking defeat in Trinidad — ended the team’s hopes of going to Russia this summer.”When I took over the program, we weren’t fooled by the fact it was going to be a long road,” Arena added. “We really knew it was going to come down to the last game. On another day, perhaps we win [against T+T] but we didn’t.”Would we do many things a whole lot differently? No, in all honesty. We got ourselves back into the thick of things and had everything in our hands on the last day, and we fell short.”As we look around, we have no one to blame but ourselves. On the day nothing went right, and we fell short. We had the control of things. If we got a result, we would not have to depend on anything else.”Overall coaching standards, from grassroots to elite level, are often blamed for the U.S.’s inability to become a major world power in soccer. Arena has a different take.”Our system needs to get better,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be changed radically. Typically, people look at [soccer in America] as lacking in coaching, lacking in player development. I disagree with that. I think the administration and management of the sport has to improve greatly.”

Juventus, Gigi Buffon and Real Madrid must close officiating can of worms

11:29 AM ETGabriele Marcotti

How about we all take a step back and keep the hell away from that Pandora’s Box?That means you, Marca, who saw fit to devote Tuesday’s front page to the following concept: the accusations of pro-Real Madrid refereeing bias might hurt Zinedine Zidane’s team against Bayern Munich.And you, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, who accused UEFA head of refereeing Pierluigi Collina (who happens to be Italian) of being so obsessed with appearing transparent and unbiased that he ends up penalizing Serie A clubs. You too, Medhi Benatia, who compared events at the Bernabeu last week to a “rape” and, when an Italian comedian called him out on it, replied “if you’d like to try it out, I’m at the [training ground] every day… you can put it wherever you like.”And, as much as it pains everyone who has admired your career, you too, Gigi Buffon, who — while saying on Sunday that the way you expressed yourself was over the top — stood by your basic concept: that calling a match-deciding penalty when the game is about to go to extra time is wrong because you should “let the pitch do the talking.”As for the pond scum who littered social media as well as the offline world with threats and abuse toward referee Michael Oliver and his wife, Lucy, they don’t need to take a step back. Instead, they need to be identified, exposed, named and shamed to their wives, children and employers as well as face criminal charges where applicable.But back to the folks who really should know better. Amid the chaos, Max Allegri said it best on Tuesday.”Let’s not waste energy on this stuff,” said the Juvents manager. “This is life, we’re part of the show. It’s over. I don’t want to hear one more of my players go back to this. It’s been a week. We’re done.”He’s right. Not just because lost amid the chaos of the penalty and the red card was one basic fact: Juventus had roundly defeated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, putting three goals past them. That matched Madrid’s heaviest home defeat in a European knockout tie. (Spartak Moscow beat them 3-1 in the 1990-91 European Cup quarterfinal, except unlike Juve, they weren’t 3-0 down on aggregate when the match kicked off.)That’s what we should talk about, not vast conspiracies. I say this as someone who, more than most, isn’t averse to discussing conspiracies if (key point, here) there is logic behind them to make them plausible.So let’s do some deconstructing, shall we?Yes, referees have been accused of favouring Real Madrid in the past. Just last season, they got some huge calls in the return leg against Bayern. But guess what? It happens to most big clubs who do well in Europe. Or have we forgotten those hilarious “UEFAlona” jibes already?Simply put: If favouritism exists, it’s not clear why it should suddenly end. If there is no favouritism — and you’d tend to believe that if there was a big pro-Madrid plot, they wouldn’t leave it until six seconds from the final whistle to spring into action against Juventus — then you wonder why they would suddenly overcompensate. Or, indeed, how it would benefit Juventus given that they’re out of the competition.Agnelli’s logic is equally twisted. He accuses Collina of not wanting VAR in the Champions League, which is a bit odd since he’s pushed VAR in his other role as head of FIFA’s Referees Committee. It’s also bizarre because under the current VAR protocol, Oliver would not have overruled himself.The other part of the argument is that in his desire to appear impartial, Collina sends weaker and less experienced referees to officiate the Italian sides. Now, it’s true that Oliver, age 33, isn’t particularly seasoned compared with some UEFA officials. But with Mark Clattenburg (who would have gone to the World Cup) decamping to Saudi Arabia, Oliver is probably the top Premier League referee. The way to get experience is to actually officiate Champions League knockout rounds. Had the first leg been closer, you’d imagine that somebody else might have received the call, but with Real Madrid coming off a 3-0 away win, the appointment made sense.What about the theory that Collina penalises Italian clubs? When he took over at UEFA, Serie A was fourth in the country coefficient rankings. Now it’s third and Juventus have reached two of the past three Champions League finals, which suggests that if Collina is leading a big anti-Italian plot, he’s not doing a very good job.Agnelli, rather ominously, spoke about replacing Collina. If he were just a club president you could understand it. But he’s also the chairman of the European Clubs Association and a member of UEFA’s Executive Board, which makes the statement rather ominous and ill-advised.Benatia needs some counselling if he thinks comparing Oliver’s penalty to rape is appropriate.Buffon’s situation is complicated by all the extraneous smoke and mirrors around it. He says he’s being honest about how he feels, how moments like that make him feel alive, how he’s not going to hide behind conformist niceties. Great. But strip it all away and what is his basic point? That a big game should not be decided by a contentious penalty in injury time.It’s true that most neutrals and all Juve fans would have enjoyed extra-time. Let them settle it on the pitch, sure, but a referee has to call what he sees. Buffon should know that, because the shoe has been on the other foot in the past.Remember this? When Lucas Neill brought down Fabio Grosso deep in injury-time in the Round of 16 game between Italy and Australia at the 2006 World Cup, nobody remembers Buffon running after the referee saying you couldn’t possibly award a penalty in those circumstances. If Buffon had been in goal for Australia, maybe he would have reacted exactly the same way. But it still would not have been right.Complicating everything are the folks (usually neutrals) for whom the referee is always right, regardless. They’re also the ones who tend to view referees like some sort of collective entity, a bit like the Borg from Star Trek: they are to be respected and never questioned… at least unless their team is playing.It doesn’t work that way in real life. If you talk to most high-level referees, they’ll tell you it shouldn’t. They are individuals, they are uber-competitive, they take pride in their work, they are self-critical (away from the cameras) and they don’t hesitate to critique the work of their colleagues.We witnessed a thrilling Champions League quarterfinal and an outstanding performance from a Juventus side devoid of (arguably) their best player, Paulo Dybala. Now take Allegri’s advice and move on.

CONCACAF Champions League final: Do Toronto or Chivas have the edge?

Apr 12, 2018Jeff CarlisleTom Marshall

The CONCACAF Champions League final will be a battle of Major League Soccer vs. Liga MX, as Toronto FC and Chivas will do battle over two legs, with the first game on Tuesday at BMO Field. How did these two teams get here, and what are their chances of going on to win it all? ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle and Tom Marshall take a first look ahead of the final.

1. How did each team reach the final?

Jeff Carlisle: After disposing of the Colorado Rapids in the round of 16, Toronto has taken out two Liga MX heavyweights in Tigres and Club America. The team did so by staying true to its style of keeping the ball on the ground and rarely bunkering in. TFC manager Greg Vanney has been tactically flexible, using both four-man and three-man backlines, depending what the situation called for.Of course it helps to have players such as Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore delivering the goals at critical moments, but this has been a true team effort. Supporting players such as Jonathan Osorio have popped up for vital tallies, while Marky Delgado has provided a steady two-way presence. The defense led by Drew Moor has done its part as well, and Alex Bono has delivered some superb saves when called upon, in particular during the second leg of the semifinal series against America.Michael Bradley continues to be the hub around much of what TFC does. He’s the player to initiate the attack, and he provides some overall steady defense so long as he has help nearby. This is a Toronto team that is deep in all positions and is already being hailed as the best team in MLS history. A victory in the final against Chivas will put that claim beyond any doubts that might still linger.

Tom Marshall: Chivas reached the final thanks to their solid defense, grit and determination. It hasn’t been at all pretty, and at times the team has looked like a shadow of the one that swept to the Liga MX 2017 Clausura title, memorably overcoming Tigres in the final.Chivas’ approach has been more cautious than is usually associated with coach Matias Almeyda, which has been a surprise. There was a distinctly pragmatic feel to the team in the semifinal second leg against New York Red Bulls, as players wasted time early on. Almeyda’s pregame comments about wanting to play with three center-backs and on the counter — before he learned of Jair Pereira’s suspension — said a lot about how the Guadalajara manager is thinking.But putting the aesthetics to one side, Chivas haven’t conceded in 282 minutes during the competition and deserve praise for finding a way past two tricky opponents in the Seattle Sounders and the Red Bulls. It has been a case of getting the job done for Chivas and against the odds, given that the team has been poor in league play this year.

2. How can they plot their way to victory in the final?

JC: More than anything, TFC needs to regain a bit of health. Toronto’s aforementioned depth is a key reason that it has progressed this far. At one stage against Club America, TFC was down five starters, with Chris Mavinga, Victor Vasquez, Ager Aketxe, Gregory van der Wiel and Altidore all sidelined. TFC hasn’t missed a beat, as the likes of Ashtone Morgan, Nico Hasler, Tosaint Ricketts and Osorio have filled in capably and at times spectacularly.But one wonders if the possible loss of Altidore for the first leg might be a case of Toronto sustaining one injury too many. It’s one thing to rely on Ricketts with a multi-goal lead in the second leg and quite another to be depending on him for goals heading into the series. The backline needs to heal as well, as Bradley was forced to drop into defense during the second leg against Club America when van der Wiel was sidelined.Otherwise, TFC just needs to play its game. Chivas isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, and the Reds have shown they can get goals against Liga MX’s best teams. But Chivas have proven themselves a defensive force, so falling behind isn’t an option for Toronto.

TM: You could argue that Chivas have the ability to make Toronto’s task even more difficult than Tigres and Club America, at least given what we saw from the Guadalajara team against the Sounders and Red Bulls. In the second leg of both the quarters and the semis, the Mexican sides were chasing the series and leaving space between the lines for TFC to exploit. A player such as Giovinco needs no invitation when space is on offer.The losses of suspended center-back Pereira and goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota for the first leg in Toronto represent a big blow for Chivas. It’ll likely be a game not too dissimilar to the one Chivas just played against the Red Bulls: respect Toronto’s attack a little more than Tigres and America did, sit back, let the MLS champion come at you and restrict the space that Giovinco and Osorio try to burst around the box.

3. How much would victory mean to each team?

JC: History beckons for Toronto. While MLS teams have twice claimed a continental title, both wins came back in the days when the tournament was held in a single, U.S.-based venue. Performing in front of hostile crowds at altitude wasn’t required. In fact, both D.C. United (1998) and the LA Galaxy (2000) were able to stay close to home in claiming the title, then known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup.Since then, MLS teams have failed to make much headway in the competition, with only Real Salt Lake (2011) and the Montreal Impact (2015) reaching the final. There have been some blowouts against Liga MX sides along the way, and with MLS aiming to increase its international profile, having one of its teams claim the CCL would be a tangible sign of the progress it is making.

A Toronto victory would also raise the bar for the rest of the league as well. Sure, some teams such as the New York Red Bulls have found success focusing on the academy and USL pipelines, but if the rest of MLS wants to compete at Toronto’s level, it needs to devote considerable financial resources both on and off the field and maximize the various player acquisition mechanisms.

TM: Chivas haven’t won a CONCACAF trophy since 1962, and for an institution that considers itself the biggest and greatest in Mexico, that fact isn’t very glorious.

A lot of the talk about Chivas in the CCL has surrounded the club’s poor form this Clausura and the 2017 Apertura. While obviously true, that narrative has negated their pedigree and ability to reach finals since Almeyda took over in September 2015. This is Chivas’ seventh final in that time, making it (aside from the campeonisimo team of the 1950s and 60s) one of the most successful periods ever for Chivas.Problems inside the club have also seemed to create a divide between the players and coaching staff on one side and certain directors on the other. The positive is that the friction seems to have brought unity and even more incentive for the players to win the title in spite of the alleged lack of bonus payments and subpar traveling conditions of late.Let’s not forget the nationalistic sentiment here. Chivas point out at every opportunity that only Mexicans can play for the club. Winning the regional tournament would be a source of a lot of pride for fans.

4. Early prediction for the final

JC: For the first time since the round of 16, Toronto enters the series as the favorite. If the Reds can get some of their injured players back, that sentiment only increases. But Chivas have proven to be a tough team to break down, conceding just a solitary goal in six CCL matches. Much will depend on Altidore’s availability. If he can go, look for TFC to prevail with a home win and a draw on the road. Otherwise, the margins will shrink, with penalties deciding the outcome. Even then, I like Toronto to come out on top.

TM: Usually the question of which team is “favorite” for a game or series is pretty boring, but in this case, the opposite is true. Do you go with Toronto, which has already gotten past two Liga MX sides better than Chivas on paper? Or do you go with the team representing a nation that has won the past 12 editions of this tournament and closes out the series at home?Given the resilience and focus it has shown so far, I’d have to go with Toronto, but it’s likely to be tight.

 

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